Tuesday, I tweeted a cry for help.
My photographer friend, Tanya, responded within minutes. She told me to put an ice cream truck into my current sentence.
Seriously? An ice cream truck?
My first reaction was to dig my heels in. My characters were traipsing through a dense forest in Faerie. An ice cream truck would be stupid. It would be ridiculously out-of-place. It would throw off the whole mood of the scene. What a dumb suggestion! My friend didn’t know anything about my novel and her ideas couldn’t help me at all. She didn’t understaaaaaaaaand.
I whined just like that. In my head, of course.
Maybe it was that mental whine that made me rethink. When you’re a grown adult and hear yourself sounding like a petulant teenager, even in your head, it’s time to reevaluate your reactions.
I thought about an interview I’d read recently with Tina Fey. She noted that, in improv theatre, where she got her start, one of the cardinal rules is to answer other actors with, “Yes, and…” Nothing kills a scene faster than saying “no,” and saying “yes, but” isn’t a whole lot better. It’s “yes, and…” that opens up new possibilities. “Yes, and…” allows you to build on the unexpected. It takes you places you didn’t know you had the ability to go.
So I said yes, and I sat down at my keyboard and rolled an ice cream truck right over my main character.
I’ll admit, the truck didn’t stay in the scene. It only took a few sentences for me to go back and edit it out, but while it stayed, it did its job. It knocked me out of my rut and gave me someplace to take my story when I didn’t know where to go.
Next time you get stuck, give the ice cream truck a try. Or maybe you’d rather try to work in a cruise ship?