Beat Writer’s Block With CHSL Cards

Written by David Brooks on January 7, 2016 1:07 am

Writer’s block (often called “creative block”) is one of the biggest obstacles that stands between you and your published novel. But you’re in luck! The first, and most obvious way we use CHSL Cards is to fight writer’s block.

My Personal Strategy Against Writer’s Block

I’ve written about how I deal with writer’s block, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But, if that’s of interest to you, you can read about it on my fantasy writing blog. The summary of that article is that I throw a bit of randomness into the scene I’m working with. Randomness can come in a lot of forms and may or may not be comical. What I mean is to step back, and do something to your scene or characters that may not be related to the plot. It might disrupt your flow for a minute, and you may trash it, but sometimes that jolt will make you think about your scene differently. It’s like jump-starting a battery on a car.

The interface of CHSL Cards - The App built to fight Writer's Block

How CHSL Cards Breaks Writer’s Block

We created CHSL Cards to give you a little bit of that randomness, and some channeled application.

We’re not going to write cards that say things like “Duck!” (though in hind-sight, that could have been fun to write.) The cards are more about throwing a single word at your scene. As I’m writing this, I’m going to draw a card. (No, I am. And no re-draws.)


At first glance, that word might seem a bit off in the story you have in mind. But there are dozens, if not hundreds of ways it might apply with a little bit of thought.

Using the “Thought Provoking Application”

After the word itself, we have a paragraph about how that particular word might be useful to your scene.

In this case, on a surface level, everyone has to eat food. Well, better said, everything needs energy. For humans and animals that’s food. If you’re writing about robots, ”food“ is a bit different, too. Dave wrote this card, so I’m not hyping my own work here, but his last two sentences nail the spirit of CHSL Cards.

“Not all food need be physical either. Sometimes people need emotional and spiritual nourishment too.”

The Writer’s Prompt

If after you’ve read the first paragraph you’re not inspired, there’s a writer’s prompt.

“Explore the dietary habits of different cultures in your story. How and why did they develop, and what impact do they have on the culture?”

This won’t always apply, and sometimes it won’t mean anything to you at all. In my own work, I often ignore writer’s prompts. (Don’t shoot me, please.) But even in reading that a second ago, it made me consider something I had never thought about before. What you eat affects everything about you. Your health, your mood, even how you (and your breath) smell. But nobody writes that into their story. Have you ever read a book where someone pulls out a tuna sandwich and annoys the rest of the group? Yet that exact scene happens daily in break-rooms across the world.

Or, let’s take this one into consideration. My dad is from a place where they have this food called “Ramps.” I’m not making this up. The kids look forward to Ramps because they know that when they eat it, they won’t be allowed in school the next day. Something about the way it’s cooked in that region makes everyone who eats it smell awful. At least it did back when my dad was a kid. But there’s an application here for food that I wouldn’t have considered if I were writing my scene.

Storytelling Flavor Text, Or, A Piece Of A Story Taken Out Of Context

The last thing on each CHSL Card is a piece of a made-up story. It’s a bit abstract, but there are some occasions where it just clicks. In this case it reads,

“Melton wasn’t sure what was in the cage with him, but he wasn’t about to become it’s dinner.”

Again, I didn’t have a scene in mind when I started this article. But there may be cases where the idea of being trapped, or even left as food for something else apply. Maybe a fight is broken up, Jurassic-Park-style when something else shows up for lunch. There are any number of ways that even that sentence could jar you out of writer’s block.

And the beauty of the system is that if “food” doesn’t help, you can draw another card.

Still with us? Read how CHSL Cards can help shape your story.