uthor: “So here’s the setup, kid. You know that the count locked in his castle has been cheating his workers. You passionately argue the point, win over the peasants, and lead an attack on his castle. Got it?”
Baronet Mergenstein Von Graftin: “How will I do that? What do I say?”
Author: “You’ll figure it out. Okay, ready on the set? Lights! Camera! Action!”
And that’s rather what happened to me over the last few days. As noted, a character had to convince flunkies that they were being taken advantage of, that they should rise up and lose their chains. Should have been easy. But Mergenstein opened his mouth and suddenly I had no idea what he should say.
I typed a couple of misstarts – I tried this angle and that. Closed Word and played a short game. No good. Called my buddy Greg and chatted for a bit. No good. Went to a movie with my wife – their dialog wasn’t any better than mine. What to do?
For two days I looked at this dead page, wondering how to proceed.
Finally it came to me that Mergenstein was talking into a vacuum. With nothing but a ring of nameless peasants, there was nobody he could get clever with. They were all background, too distant to be a good sounding board. I needed something to ring clever speech against, something that showed how dense and dumb the bogmen where.
So I introduced Tred (I thank Jenessa Gayheart’s Eidolon: The Thousand Years Ghost for the idea for the name), a huge bogcutter who was a big and broad as he was dumb and slow. Originally a threat to our quick-talking baronet, he becomes a clever tool to work around, to say “what?” and “huh?” in critical moments (rather like Dr. Watson). And next thing I knew, keytaps were sounding in my writing room like raindrops following a drought. Tred could make his objections, which Mergenstein could counter. It gave him someone to be funny against. And Tred, of course, was dumb enough to be the first to turn, a living example of the formation of the mob.
“Wha’ keeps me, boy, from tent-pegging ya’ll through th’ floorboards ritch now?
Mergenstein’s eyes dropped to where frying pan hands balled up into sledgehammer fists.
“Kill me,” he replied, “And you kill the golden goose.”
“The golden goose. Opportunity. Prospect. Good fortune.” Mergenstein regained his step back, pushing closer to Tred. “Your one shot.”
And off he goes. Problem solved.
So that’s a possible trick. Next time you stall, think of describing the action in a different way. Introduce a character. Change the POV. Make it implied, even have it described by others at some later date. If your angle doesn’t work, go at it from another.