Posted by: oneyearbook | September 27, 2009


This last week I’ve spent a lot of time in waiting mode:  once, an hour at an umbrella-covered table outside a little coffee shop, drinking tea and waiting to give someone a ride, and then once for almost eight hours between dropping the car off for a new tire (it got a flat … more than a flat, a major hole in the side, and it made a noise like a jackhammer  while I was driving it, and now I have learned how to deal with the obnoxiously overtightened nuts on the tire when trying to change it) and going to an interview, eight hours which I spent in a) a coffee shop b) the library and c) a table in the middle of a mall concourse. Thankfully, I made at least some of this time productive – in the second coffee shop I just read a twenty-year-old National Geographic with an article about the future of Labrador, which probably means I now have a really skewed view of what it’s like out there – and tried to work through my stupid novel plot block.

Well, I’m here to say that I didn’t work through it, but I did come up with an exercise that I think is going to help me do so: I call it, what if this novel was actually a … <name a different type of media here>. Yes, the name of the exercise is a little unwieldy. Let’s move on. So, like the name (sort of) says, you take the mish-mashy of plot and ideas that the novel currently is, and you say, “what if it was a TV show?” and then you take the original concept and whatever else you’re attached to of it and try to imagine what it would be like if it had to fit within the confines of a TV show. For example, obviously the concept would have to be introduced a lot earlier, and the various season-long arcs put in place faster. No dallying at the beginning. And if it’s going to have a magic realism element, it should probably have more than one, otherwise it’ll be hard to classify, genre-wise. And there needs to be an antagonist for audiences to root against … and there would need to be certain repeatable plot actions that could provide an A-plot each week – like, a mystery of the week, a villain of the week, etc., something like that …

Then, having exhausted the brain-expanding possibilities of television, the next step is, “what if it was a movie?” (more obvious three-act structure? would that be helpful?) “what if it was a short story? a series of linked short stories?” “what if it was a play?” and so on. Whatever type of media you can think of, preferably one that you know a little something about the structure and tropes of. Then try to see how you could shoehorn the novel into, and if there’s somthing to be learned from the success/failures it might have in that realm.

I’ve only just started on the television question and already I’m feeling creatively energized.


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