Regardless of whether you happen to like the songs Barry Manilow writes, you have to admit they are hugely popular. That's Barry on the left--somebody's gone overboard with the cheek implants. Anyway, do the songs just flow out of his pen easily? Apparently not.
In a recent interview he said, “Writing pop songs is actually very difficult. It’s agony to sit down and just write a song that says ‘I miss you’ or ‘I love you.’ If you give me an idea, a person, a situation—that’s easier.”
Therein lies a lesson for any writer who is stuck. It’s always easier to write in reaction to something. When I get stuck on a plot, I look at a list of random words and brainstorm how they might relate to the situation in the plot at that point.
For instance, I’m working on a script about a dying former criminal who wants to find out who took the money he stole and hid. I’m trying to figure out what kinds of traps he can set for the people he suspects. Here are a few randomly chosen words:
- New York
I drew a blank on New York but for the other three, these ideas came up:
Waiter: he bribes a waiter to let him have access to the person’s credit card when he pays for dinner; by accessing all the recent transactions he can tell whether this person has been spending a lot of money.
Date: he hires a ‘honey trap’ woman to date the suspect and get information about his spending and lifestyle.
Traffic: he has a computer expert hack into the suspect's computer to enable him to follow the suspect's web traffic, which may give him clues.
It’s a method you may want to try the next time you get stuck. Start with a big list of random words; when you draw a blank just go on to the next one.
(You'll find lots more tips in "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey and available from your local independent book shop or via Amazon and other online and offline book stores.)