Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 17, 2015

Where Do We Go from Here?

I published a post similar to this a couple of years ago. As a writer who has recently had to use these ideas, I thought these techniques might help.


Those of us who’ve pounded a word processor for many days, telling the stories of our heroes, heroines and villains know the syndrome—sitting there, staring at a blank document page and asking ourselves “What now?”

We know where the story ends but we’ve lost our map for the next waypoint. When our local writer’s group addressed the problem, my answer was, “Ask the characters.”

The logic to that approach depends on the writer knowing his/her characters and their places on the narrative. If the writer does know the people, then asking them to describe the next logical move is appropriate.

There’s a side benefit to the approach described. If you, the writer, cannot get the characters to tell you what happens next, you may need to redefine, or more closely refine your knowledge of those people you created.

Another approach:

One of the members of the group is an experienced sailor. He’s spent countless days on the inland waterways of America. Navigation has not always been as sure and simple as it is in the digital, GPS, day.

He said that, if a sailor gets on a broad river with multiple branches and is unsure of his/or her location. Turn around. Go back to a point at which everything was certain; check your charts/maps and proceed.

As writers, we can do the same. I would suggest a synthesis of the two approaches: go back with your principal characters to a point in the story where you, the author, knew everyone’s status. That often means rereading your manuscript and finding where events became unclear or unmotivated and the people are stumbling about, mumbling to one another, find the exact moment when you fell off your literary map and then, ask the characters what comes next.

Often, if you have a strong antagonist, that person will drive the protagonist to action. Reacting to the deeds, or plans, of the antagonist provides the tension and interest you need in the story.

Good writing!


  1. PS: I read this a few weeks ago it seems and then I went on a 2800 mile driving adventure all by my lonesome. I got lost in the Spanish Forks area of Utah and took your advice. I went back a few miles to where I knew my eight digits and figured out where I was. Thanks.

  2. Grandpa Domme was born in a town called Pfeiffer Russia, 1889, fifty miles north of Stalingrad. In Nov. 1942 the ‘Greatest Battle’ in the history of mankind took place on their doorsteps. There’s nothing left. My story is about the church that stood in the town, the priests, a treasure of unimaginable fortune, and my two heroes. They pull out of Pfeiffer in February 1941 in a 46 foot fishing boat and head for America. They save the Struma, meet Gen. Montgomery in Africa, Menachem Begin in Israel and finally meet Gen. Patton in Gibraltar. How do you tell someone about a book? I’m running out of time and don’t even know how to write an introduction. I will need lots of help. Thanks, craig.

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