Michaeline: Let’s Have Fun With Writer’s Block! Strategy #3

Playing with puppets was a little bit awkward, but it paid off.

Two children in the ocean playing with dolls in a toy boat.

All at sea with your work in progress? Try finding a friend to play off of. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My writing buddy came over for lunch on Sunday, and fortunately, she’s the kind of bright, cheerful person who is willing to try anything. So even though I felt like a fool for asking, I knew she’d probably give the puppet play a work.

Anyone who has played dollies in the past (or with figurines) knows how it goes. I had my friend read the prequel to my current WIP so she’d get a feel for Thom and Nixie, the characters who were giving me problems. Then I said, “You be Thom, and I’ll be Nixie.” And we played.

After one slip-up, I gave her free reign with the character – it’s not productive to say to your partner, “No, he doesn’t act like that.” The point is to figure out things your own brain can’t think up. I can play the scene later by myself and make the character “do it right”. But my friend was very kind. After her short joke about, “That’s not how you play dollies,” I tried to stuff my judgement (my inner censor) back into its box.

And, so we played for a few minutes, until the scene ended. Then we watched some TV, had a snack, and traded roles.

My friend asked, “Is this really helpful for you?” Twice. The first time, I wasn’t sure. I said, “I don’t know, but it was fun. Thank you for helping me!” The second time, I knew I’d gotten some insight into my characters. I discovered that even my leprechaun attaches a special cultural significance to gold (and it might even have some biological roots) that doesn’t match the way other species feel about gold. And I discovered that Nixie’s feelings for gold were about honor and promises – gold was a signifier and a symbol, but not particularly valuable in itself.

And lo and behold, I woke up on Monday, enthusiastic and ready to write. I’m still struggling with some problems (some of them logistical – why does December have to be so jam-packed full of things to do?), but I am moving forward. The writing block is starting to shift!

Got any ideas for naming these characters? Oopsie and Poopsie just won't cut it. (photo by Michaeline Duskova)

Got any ideas for naming these characters? Oopsie and Poopsie just won’t cut it. (photo by Michaeline Duskova)

Speaking of busy Decembers, my husband brought home two puppies this week. A multi-colored, shy little boy with charming eyes, and a curious and active black-and-white little girl. My suggestion of Rex and Priscilla was shot down immediately. My youngest said, “Let’s name them Momoe and Kenji!” Which just didn’t ring any bells for the rest of us.

Right now, we’re calling them Nana (a girl’s name, and #7) and Hachi (a unisex #8). Phillip and Angelica? Max and Daisy? Oopsie and Poopsie? (God, I hope they grow out of the Oopsie and Poopsie stage soon!)

Our oldest won’t be home until almost New Year’s Eve, so we’re trying to wait until then, but I’m finding it very difficult to have family members with no names . . . . Got any ideas? Share ‘em in the comments! I’ll let you know what we decide in 2017.

Bonus puppies, just because. (Photo by Michaeline Duskova)

Bonus puppies, just because. (Photo by Michaeline Duskova)

Hey . . . the thought just occurs to me. Maybe I can get my husband to play Puppy Theater with my next story problem. “Oh, Poopsie, you’ve brought the gold! Darling, thank you. But where’s the rest of it?” “Well, Oopsie, maybe we could sneak in and widdle all over Jack’s share until he doesn’t want it anymore.” “Kind and brilliant! Poopsie, I love you your scheme.” (Aside from Poopsie: “Hah! It’s a short step from ‘I love your scheme’ to ‘I love you’! My plan is working!”)

Hmmm, now, all I have to do is figure out the translation of “widdle” from puppy-ese to Bae-World.

LOL, there you go, strategy #3: playact your parts out loud and see what happens. Tear down the block, build up the love!


If you missed it, here’s the link to Strategy #1 (haiku and limericks! Feel free to leave some in the comments — we’re still reading them). https://eightladieswriting.com/2016/12/03/michaeline-lets-have-fun-with-writers-block-strategy-1/ And here’s the link to Strategy #2 (making finger puppets — combine the visual with the emotional aspects of your imagination). https://eightladieswriting.com/2016/12/10/michaeline-lets-have-fun-with-writers-block-strategy-2/

6 thoughts on “Michaeline: Let’s Have Fun With Writer’s Block! Strategy #3

  1. Love the idea of you playing dollies, Michaeline 😀 . Glad it worked out well! I don’t think I’d ever try this myself, but then, I thought I’d never collage and that turned out to be incredibly useful. So maybe one day, if I’m really stuck…

    You did remind me that many (all?) theatre and opera set designers create scale models of their sets, with tiny props and characters. There are some wonderful examples on display in the public areas of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and I’ve also been to a couple of talks by Bob Crowley. Ask the interwebs to show you images of ‘Bob Crowley Set Design Models’ and prepare to be amazed.

    Can’t wait to find out what you decide to call Oopsie and Poopsie. They are very cute!

    • (-: Generally, the story is all there in my mind, but I did need that extra boost this time around.

      Those Crowley set designs are incredible. I wish I were a visual artist! (My puppets made me realize that I can’t draw, and my play-acting reminded me that I am no actor; there’s a certain amount of embarrassment that must be cast aside when using techniques like these . . . and a certain amount of secrecy. There’s no way I would video-tape the Dolly Dialogues and put them on the internet! (Well, unless they were scripted and crafted a WHOLE LOT. And maybe acted by someone else . . . .))

  2. Michaeline, that’s great that acting out your story helped trigger new ideas. Sounds like a good strategy to keep in your tool box. I’m wondering if this strategy would be a good way for me to get a better feel for my characters. Right now we have a rather “distant” relationship; I don’t really have a strong visual image of any of them. Will give this some more thought.

    Your new puppies are adorable. Not sure I can be much help on the names; “Nick” and “Nora” were the only things that came to mind when I saw them. Our previous animals all got their names courtesy of the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon. When those names ran out, it was on to mythological monsters.

    • Natasha and Boris would fit those guys rather well! I’m not sure how the rest of the family would feel about it. I neglected my children’s education by not showing them Rocky and Bullwinkle (it was in the house, but they had to choose it themselves, which they didn’t).

  3. How wonderful that the finger puppets helped you figure out some of your character issues! And your friend was brave to try it with you. I’m not sure any of my friends would, but it’s a technique worth thinking about when writer friends are assembled and brainstorming is underway.

    What darling puppies. I have no name suggestions, either. I had two cats, one at a time, before my parents realized how allergic I was, and we named them the same thing, “Couda,” which I think might mean something in a language I don’t speak. A friend of mine had two animals named “Berkeley” and “Stanford” after the California universities. Tristan and isolde? Mutt and Jeff? Captain and Tenille? All so American!

    • I’m not sure why it required bravery to play, but it really did. It was insanely silly, and a complete abandonment of control and adulthood. Which is fine and dandy inside one’s own head, but a little bit harder when risking one’s dignity with a friend! We just never know what’s going to pop out in that kind of improv.

      You know, Captain and Tenille is oddly fitting, but I don’t know if anybody we know here will get the reference. The boy dog is a bit silent, while the girl dog is a bit of a diva . . . until they loosen up, and things even out a bit.

      Nobody is named Tenille these days. What an odd thing . . . . I have no idea where that name comes from! OK, off to google!

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