I don’t get writer’s block.
No, seriously, I don’t. My life stays full of inspiration, and my head crammed with words, scenes, characters. There’s never a dull moment in my imagination. What I don’t have enough of is time (and often energy) to get it all down in a way that’s coherent and something I can expand upon later. Imagine <–see what I did there? my surprise when I find a tool that helps me cut to the chase of character and plot development. And better yet, it was in my own backyard.
For years my partner, Rob, has been developing a technique to more thoroughly yet gently open dialogue with his clients. He’s a Licensed Professional Counselor, and he found that by engaging people through descriptors rather than a dry interview process, they talk more easily about themselves, others, and life dynamics. As a result he created a deck of cards called Describe – Perspective Exploration. Describe is a collection of adjectives, one per card, with three questions related to the adjective on the card. The questions are open-ended prompts stimulating exploration and discussion.
Rob created the deck with therapists and counselors, teachers, school counselors, life coaches, camp counselors, families, or any individual or group wanting to explore how they view the people and world in mind. As I sat with it, another function emerged.
You know I’m all about decks as oracles and curious forms of divination. I sometimes also cast Runes and cards of various tarot decks to flesh out plot dynamics or characters. Generally speaking, I will use anything as an oracle, and there’s a place for Describe in that realm. Practically speaking, I realized that Describe is a fabulous tool for artists or writers who need external direction for where to go on a project. I wasn’t necessarily stuck–or blocked as we tend to say–though I wanted to color in my current projects more fully.
Using them different ways stimulates different thinking, with regard to my writing. Knowing a character pretty well in broad strokes is good, though the refinement of it to feeling real and personable is what makes a character stand out to readers. Describe works well for that, as I can flip through the deck to pull adjectives that generally round out my character, though the reading of the questions for each adjective gives me further ground to demonstrate how that trait manifests in the character’s actions and behaviours. It’s the difference between saying she’s curious about the paranormal, and she’s relentlessly spent from chasing werewolves.
They’re useful even in a nonfiction dilemma. When I hit points in the project that I don’t know how to take the material deeper, I pull from Describe the adjectives that indicate how I’m feeling about writing that material. Again, emphasizing the answers to the questions on those cards, I’m able to work through my process in the writing, and refine where the project needs to go.
Not only is it a resource for moving through creative development, it’s therapy in a box, you could say.
Check it out. He’s currently Kickstarting the expanded release of Describe. There are varying reward levels for support, including a reduced price for your own deck. There are also options for a deluxe deck, and handmade reproductions of the cover art.