Reading & Writing

NaNoWriMo Writing Prompt: Get Your Protagonist in Trouble

IMG_0659Here you are, typing away, the words flowing out of you because you are a writer and you’re devoted to your craft and you are going to be the next Pulitzer Prize winner and this might be the novel to do it when—


You hit a writer’s block.

These things happen. Normally, you might move on to another project or wait a few days or take in a movie or read a book–whatever you need to get inspired again. But it’s NaNoWriMo. You made a promise to yourself. You’ve got a word count to fulfill.

Enter: ME! (You can picture me wearing a cape and cool boots, standing in a gentle breeze with my hands on my hips–I mean, if you want to.) I’m here to help you move forward.

Here’s what you’re going to do: You’re going to get your protagonist in trouble. I don’t care where you are in the story arc or if it makes sense with what you’ve been writing. If you need to open a new Word.doc, fine, but this will count toward your ultimate word count because it is part of your book, whether you end up keeping it or not.

Maybe your character does something illegal. Maybe she can’t pay a bill. Maybe he’s stuck by the side of the road with a flat tire. A girlfriend is angry about something, and your character is probably guilty. A parent calls to say they found out about something in your character’s past, like that time she threw a mega party or that he was in a naughty movie in his twenties.

This is your deus ex machina. Maybe not your character’s, because he or she will be getting into sticky situation, but you, the writer, will now have somewhere to go. And even if you don’t keep this stretch of prose in the long run, it will help you develop your character and it will KEEP YOU WRITING.

I’ll post mine in the comments, and as usual, encourage you to share in the comments, too!


2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Writing Prompt: Get Your Protagonist in Trouble”

  1. As promised:
    Ellen stepped into Grayson’s truck without being asked and he smiled, turning the key in the ignition. It was starting to feel normal: his truck, the thunk of his boots, the smell of his hair gel. She had never been so comfortable with anyone, outside of her own family; even then, things were complicated. But Grayson accepted her and enjoyed her company. It was a strange thing, to have somebody like you. Ellen had rarely experienced it. It made Grayson that much more appealing.
    “What do you want to do?” he said.
    She didn’t have an answer for that. She was new to this business of going out and having fun. Whatever he wanted would be fine, she supposed.
    He drove for a long time, out to the beach and down Pacific Coast Highway, where the sun was already low in the sky. He found a parking lot and they sat, watching the water in silence.
    “Are we waiting for something or do you just like sunsets?” she asked.
    He laughed. “I thought it was romantic,” he said. “Watching the sun dip into the sea.”
    “That’s a very inaccurate way to describe it, but I suppose poetry isn’t about accuracy.”
    He patted his nose with his fingertip. “You’re starting to get it,” he said. He put his arm around her and unbuckled his seatbelt, scooting closer on the bench seat. She wondered how old this truck was, and where he’d gotten it. Also, how much it weighed and its mileage and how he afforded all that gas.
    And then he kissed her. No pretense, no build-up: just a kiss. And then, of course, it was more than kissing—they were young, hormonal, and though Ellen was not fond of the expression, they seemed to be in love—and she wondered if this was spontaneous or if they’d come to the beach for this purpose, and whether it might have been more comfortable to lose her virginity at home.
    These thoughts didn’t last long; after a few minutes, she stopped thinking all together, and then she snapped back to herself to marvel that she hadn’t been thinking, and then she stopped thinking again.
    It was amid this not-thinking that she heard a tap on the passenger’s side window, and once they’d both buttoned up and wiped away some condensation—all of the truck’s windows had fogged—they saw the stern face of a police officer, making her rounds.
    “Good evening, officer,” Grayson said as Ellen cranked the window down. “Everything all right?”
    “I was about to ask the same thing,” she said, smirking.
    “Oh yes, it’s a lovely evening,” Grayson said. He was smiling too wide. Ellen had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. “We were just watching the sunset, you know, and playing our evening game of cards. We get very excited when we’re playing cards. Just look how we fogged up the windows!”
    If Ellen had been this officer, she would have beaned him with her nightstick. “Cards, huh?” She shined her flashlight into the car. “I don’t see any cards.”
    Grayson slapped his palm to his forehead and practically shouted, “Ellen! Do you believe it? I told you we were playing the game wrong!”
    Ellen put her face in her hands, half laughing, half humiliated—hiding was all she could think to do, that elementary school impulse to shut out the world and pretend it can no longer see you.
    “All right,” the officer said, sounding mildly amused. “You kids go home. And be safe, huh?” She nudged Ellen with her flashlight and Ellen felt all her blood rush to the tips of her ears. She nodded, but did not remove her hands from her face. “Be safe,” the officer repeated.
    Grayson started the truck and Ellen buckled her seatbelt. She looked out the back window as they pulled away; the officer was sitting in her car, drinking a cup of coffee. It was dark now, and the sea foam looked bright white in the moonlight. Ellen smiled to herself; she’d had a poetic thought. She’d have to write it down, if she could remember it later.
    “What are you thinking?” Grayson said.
    “Nothing at all?”
    Ellen leaned her head lightly on his shoulder. “That is my reputation,” she said. “Airhead Ellen. Never thinks about anything.”
    “Let’s just drive for a while. We’ll talk later.”


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