Here we are, Novelteers. For better or for worse, we’ve reached the midpoint of our climb to the top of 50,000 words! Congrats for making it this far!

But let’s get real. This is the phase of the journey when those middle-section blues are known to kick in. So here’s a rather simple little tip to help you strike back & take back control (with baby steps), should you become infected…

Don’t forget the law of Stimulus & Response! 

Sound a bit too much like stating the obvious? Thinking, “Hello, Mez! I’m a fiction writer. I kinda get that stuff has to happen in response to other stuff in my story. That’s why I spent all those nail-biting hours working out my character’s background and motivation!”

I hear you. But first, let me clarify that by Stimulus & Response, I mean something different to background & motivation. Background gives us context while motivation provides the goal your character is driving at. But Stimulus & Response is more immediate, more nitty gritty that those broad (but necessary) ingredients. And it might just stop your tires spinning in the mud.

Here’s how it works:

First of all, it’s externalWe’re not talking about internal monologues or random whims. Stimuli need to be concrete & external for the response to be believable.

So, within a given scene, your character interacts with another character (or perhaps a setting). Wherever you’ve gotten up to in your story (*Don’t go back to correct – we’re moving forward, people!), pick up the action there, and let it play out simply on the logic of stimulus & response.

What will your character’s response be to A’s suggestion.On stage. Right now.

How will your character react to a sudden clapping thunderstorm. On stage. Right now. Think ping pong!

 

You are the theatre director here. Start the scene & let that ball ping-pong. It may sound painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised just how easy & how common it is for us writers to pass over the nitty gritty Stimulus & Response action because we are so caught up with the Big Picture plot. 

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the vast, complicated mess that is the rest of your story, narrowing your attention to Stimulus & Response will help you take the next small step to moving forward. Also, it’ll bring your characters to life if they’re getting just a little blasé.

This principle applies to story telling on page or on stage. As I once heard the legend Alan Rickman tell an interviewer when asked his secret to acting,

“I watch what the other actor is doing. Then I respond.”

The beauty is in the simplicity. Now go & do likewise!