I just discovered this wonderful article, “Steal This List,” by Janis Hubschman (featured in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin). It features advice that’s worth saving over a period of years—the kind of advice that’s critical to planning, writing, and revision. Here’s a taste:
When the story stalls, ask: what is the character thinking now? Is she thinking anything? If not, why not? Characters need to learn something about themselves, about their values and assumptions.
To gain insight into a character, consider her history: Think about what happened before the story, what tortuous path led the character to this particular moment?
Allow the character to misinterpret another character’s words or actions. In life, we often misread a situation, jump to conclusions. Interesting things can happen when characters make presumptions or project their own hang-ups onto others.