The Writer's Block Buster app for iPhone (and iPod touch) is designed to get those creative juices flowing for a writer who may be experiencing writer's block -- the inability to come up with an inspirational idea that carries the script. It has some interesting elements, but, given the limitations of an iPhone app, it can't do the complete job.
Almost every writer experiences a time when the essential seed of an idea is lacking, and the author can't proceed. It's a time of great frustration. The goal of Writer's Block Buster is to carry the writer through the process of creating people, places and things and then let the app suggest interactions that might trigger the writer's imagination.
For example, in testing, I created two people: Susan, a writer and Brad, a publisher. The app, in the scenarios section then started suggesting some random interactions. For example, Susan fights with Brad. Maybe there's a stabbing with a letter opener. (Maybe he rejected her latest novel.) From there, the author/user may start to think about a storyline. How and where does she do it? How does she cover it up? You can see how the seed of a simple proposal for an interaction may lead the writer down a new path, tickle the fancy, and perhaps lead to a viable mystery story that would be the envy of Richard Castle.
The app isn't limited to just fiction. There are a series of questions that can also help the technical writer plan better.
The app has four tabs at the bottom. Questions start the writer thinking about what the voice of the story teller might be. (First or third person.) What idiosyncrasies or habits does each character have that makes them special? (Think Monk, Psych, White Collar.) The next tab creates muses/characters that can interact with each other, things or places in the third tab, Scenarios. For example, I created a place called Mars, a colony. The app suggested in a random selection: "Brad sets up a counterfeit operation on Mars." That may not be what you're looking for, but it might lead you down a new alley: How will counterfeiters fare in a very technical Martian colony that has no concept of paper money?
The last tab is Help, which explains the operation of the program. It's fairly complete compared to some iPhone app efforts.
While the app certainly does everything it claims to do, I couldn't help but feel that the app was the wrong environment for this kind of think. I don't mean that one couldn't play with it on the beach or on the commuter train. Rather, considering all the hundreds of expert books* out there that provide considerably more information, detail, experience and thought, one might be better served by a more serious personal study approach rather than dabbling with an iPhone app.
After all, the writer's professional goal is to make a living. Breaking a block could be as easy as using this app, but my guess is that conversations with friends and colleagues, geting out and having life experiences, and reading really, really good books is a better way to go.
With Nanowrimo upon us, this recently released app comes to mind. But if you're in writer's block mode now, it's likely too late, and the outlay of US$3.99 probably isn't going to save the day. It'll merely serve to decrement your pocketbook.
Writer's Block Buster from Socially Conscious Software, LLC is priced at US$3.99. It requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later.
* For example, these books are awesome:
- On Writing Well, William Zinsser, Harper Collins
- Making a Literary Life, Carolyn See, Random House
- The Comic Toolbox, John Vorhaus, Silman-James Press