12 Ways to Fix the Boring Part

You have a brilliant opening paragraph. I mean Pulitzer Prize brilliant.*

But somewhere around page [insert number here], the story begins to drag. I mean dead-body-up-a-steep-hill drag. Never fear, I’m here to help. (Not with the body-dragging. I have a bad back.)

Step One: Get a 12-sided die. (Ask your table-gaming friend. If you casually refer to it as a d12 he’ll invite you to join him next Friday in his parents’ basement for a rousing game of Pokéthulhu. You’re welcome.)

Step Two: Roll the 12-sided die. Note the number.

Step Three: Choose the associated item from the Action List below and incorporate it into your novel.

Step Four: Enjoy your Pulitzer Prize.

Action List:

1 – Take something from your protagonist. I mean something he really cares about. Like his home. (Fires happen. Faulty wiring, mostly.) Or his mother. (Death happens. Like when fires happen.) Or his right hand. (Sith happens.)

2 – Incur God’s wrath. Send a tornado into the story. Or some other act of God, like a flood or a hurricane. Or Obamacare.**

3 – Reveal a deep dark secret. I don’t mean your deep dark secret (like the fact that you love Justin Bieber – I’ve seen your browser history), I mean your protagonist’s secret. Have one of her friends break her trust by telling a mutual friend about the skeleton in her closet. (It’s a squirrel skeleton wearing Barbie clothes. I can explain.)

4 – Cousin Oliver it. If you get the reference from that alone, you don’t need to read any further. If you don’t get the reference, Google it. Just make sure you Oliver it up in a believable way. Cousins rarely show up on your doorstep without good reason.

5 – Downsize. Look, your protagonist has been doing really well and all with the grave digging. I mean, when I look at those sharp lines and perfectly-defined spaces all I can think of is Frank Lloyd Wright. But he’s got to go. The cemetery can only keep one digger on staff and Barney has seniority.

6 – Get lost. Send your protagonist on a quest to get something mundane. Like a folding chair for the back porch. But have him go to an unfamiliar store in an unfamiliar part of town. Maybe he finds himself in the middle of a gang war. Maybe his car breaks down. Maybe he asks for directions at a gas station that’s being robbed. Or maybe he ends up on an island with a bunch of other people who don’t know how they got there.

7 – Find something. Have your protagonist uncover something unexpected while doing something mundane.  Like a corpse in the flower garden. Or a cache of love letters in the attic from a famous actor written to her mother. Or a doorway to a magical land in the back of the coat closet. Or a solid surface at the back of the coat closet that doesn’t lead anywhere at all.

8 – Get infected. Give your protagonist a disease. Something that comes on all of a sudden and really screws with his current plans. Preferably something that causes temporary blindness and/or paralysis.

9 – Drop a piano. Put your protagonist in the path of a random accident. Does he escape unscathed? I think it depends on the wind.

10 – Run. Give your protagonist a reason to leave right away. Maybe he owes a mobster lots of money and that mobster has just rung the doorbell. Maybe his house is on fire. (See #1 above.) Or maybe his planet about to be  destroyed by Vogon Constructor Ships.

11 – Mail a package. Send your protagonist something that will make him  get out of bed. A key to a storage locker. Or a map to a storage locker. Or a box of spiders.

12 – Go crazy. Mix your protagonist’s medications. Have a neighbor give him the wrong kind of mushrooms for his chicken marsala. Turn the neighbor’s stereo up to 11 while it’s playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on repeat.


*No, I haven’t actually seen your opening paragraph. It’s entirely possible it sucks. If it does you should probably fix it.

**Yes, it’s a cheap joke. But I enjoyed it and that’s what matters. For the record, Obamacare is the only reason I have health insurance today. I’m now fully covered for when the one-percenters invoke a plague to destroy the rest of us.

3 thoughts on “12 Ways to Fix the Boring Part

  1. Loved this post. You always make me laugh. And because you have seen my opening paragraph, I will take the compliment and accept my pulitzer with grace and poise. My future pulitzer novel is going well, thanks for asking, and all of your help with it. I hope your story is making great progress too. All the best!

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