“A) An expletive, which writers classify as a four-letter-word. B) A malady of the soul which presents as an irritation of the “author bone” – the physiological anomaly exclusive to writers – and which stimulates the use of four-letter-words.”
As prevalent as it is, the diagnosis of Writer’s Block is all-too-often a misdiagnosis of very different problem. PACS.
Passive Aggressive Character Syndrome.
In fact, in self-diagnosing my own writing-inhibiting ailments, I have oft misdiagnosed PACS as Writer’s Block. Not until later, when the coffee and sleep have done nothing to remedy the problem do I realize my mistake.
PACS is a very serious condition. But rest assured, PACS is treatable.
The treatment for PACS is really more akin to therapy than it is to allopathic medication, and the approach must be holistic, or it will never work. The writer has to confront the passive aggressive characters and talk out the problem. Of course, at first the characters will deny any sort of problem, but eventually they realize that PACS treatment is really best for everyone involved. Therapy continues.
There’s argument. And there’s usually more denial in the mix. The characters claim the writer doesn’t know them at all, that the passive aggressive behavior was merely a means of attracting the writer’s attention. The writer claims the characters are just plain stubborn, and he/she threatens to erase them completely, which, in terms of fiction, is something akin to murder. Understandably, the characters become irate, leading the writer to mischievously poke at the delete button and to consider more seriously what he/she previously threatened. My words to the writer: Just stay calm, and don’t hit that button. Murdering characters won’t solve the problem. And once you’ve realized this, treatment can progress.
Keep in mind at this point that PACS treatment can be a painful process – what with the inevitable paper cuts and all. The writer is now forced to look back over the manuscript to determine exactly when the early symptoms of PACS began, when the characters’ words and actions first seemed ill at ease. Then comes the challenge of discovering what the writer did to offend his or her characters. At this stage, self-doubt is to be expected.
Did I try to make my character say something he would never say? Was this situation too peculiar for my character to handle? Would my character have reacted in a completely different way than I described? Did I force my character drink decaf drip coffee, when we all know that she prefers a double-shot of espresso to start her day?
Believe you me, this thinking will not help, because the writer will never be able to simply guess his or her way out of PACS. The characters must be included in every step of treatment, especially at the delicate point at which the writer is establishing the crux of the PACS. If the writer is open to characters’ suggestions, they’ll help the writer through it. They really do want what’s best for the writer and for the story. Rather than trying to single-handedly ascertain where he/she went wrong, the writer should rely on those little character voices that exist one step away from schizophrenia. Those voices will not steer the writer wrong.
Ladies and gentlemen, the important thing to remember is that PACS is completely curable. With the help of your characters, the writer can overcome it. If you know a writer suffering from PACS, be understanding and patient. Collectively, we tend to be a little slow on the uptake, and you may notice long before the writer does that he/she is showing classing symptoms of PACS. And writers, don’t live in denial, claiming with ever increasing fervor that your inability to continue your writerly endeavor is the result of Writer’s Block. The first step to treating PACS is acceptance.