Notes 2016.07.04 – Breaking through a Bottleneck



As a writer, I do not normally agree with such a notion as writer’s block. Writing is like flowing water. You cannot completely block it. Something always leaks, drips, seeps through or oozes out. There is always humidity in the air.

With that said, I do like the idea of writer’s bottleneck. It is like traffic jam – however long it takes, you will eventually get there. All you need is patience.

More interestingly, although the idea of a bottleneck implies traffic both ways, it seems that whenever we think of a breakthrough, it is only to break out. It makes me wonder if there can be a situation in which we are required to break in a bottleneck.

I recently went through a bottleneck in the writing of Chance Encounter. It took a month, but I got through it indeed. I believe the problem appeared when I tried to murder one of my major characters, using a killing method that is not commonly recognised in our society. Was this a matter of self-censorship? Should I try to appease my future readers? These are not ideal issues to consider when one is trying to develop multiple yet interacting storylines.

Luckily, inspiration often arrives from unexpected sources. In my case, it is when I watched the 2010 film Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief that a possible solution surfaced. While the appearance of “Mick Jagger” is highly amusing (you have to watch the movie to know what I mean), my attention was drawn to Persephone, a character I have known and studied since reading Stephen King’s Duma Key (2008). I was also interested in Charon, the ferryman of hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers that divided the world of the living from that of the dead.

A study of Charon led to the discovery of the Lethe, one of the five rivers of the Underworld. Remarkably, Charon and this “River of Forgetfulness” in Greek mythology share plenty of commonalities with various figures I know in Chinese folklore. Bingo!

So I got through the bottleneck, and by now you probably would have guessed which way I chose to go. The key is to clash two seemingly irrelevant concepts together, to create sparks. Would you like to give it a try?


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