Category Archives: Imagination

Using Senses to Add Realism to Your Characters


I have never been that talented of a cook, so I am awed that there are people in the world who can take a few simple ingredients and transform them into delicious food. Food is a part if the life of every member of the human race. There may be some who are more interested in food than others, but we all need its nourishment and our characters are no different. It amazes me sometimes when I read a novel I get maybe 200 pages in and suddenly realize “huh, none of these characters has had anything to eat or drink the entire time…that cannot be healthy.”

When I smell waffles I remember warm family moments!!

If we want our characters to seem human then we must give expression to even their most primal of desires, food, and drink. The human body, depending on health, can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without a drink. The need for food and drink is a biological imperative, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use your character’s selection of meals as a way to say who they are. Is your character poor? Where did they grow up? Say your character lives away from home, what types of food do they crave when they become homesick? When I was away at school I proved my mom’s biscuits and gravy….yum.

In addition to your character’s selection of meal, you can also play around with their reactions to food/drink. Do they have particular feelings associated with the scent or tastes of a particular food? Are those good feelings? For example, whenever I smell or taste cinnamon buns I think of family Christmases so I feel warm and loved, but when I smell vinegar I have the urge to vomit. I became very ill while eating something with vinegar when I was a child and now 30 years later the scent still makes me feel queasy.

The scent of vinegar makes me feel ill, does your character have that type of reaction to anything?

The sense of smell is one of our most powerful memory triggers, the and scent is half the of taste so put together it is one their most simplistic tools you can use to add realism to your characters. For example, I had a character who grew up so poor that once a week dinner for his family consisted entirely of a scant bit of ground beef, and when he grew up the scent of beef cooking reminded him of the poverty of his youth. Use your descriptive powers not only to show how the food looks, but go deeper and describe how the sensations of smelling or eating the food make your character feel. As I mentioned before when I smell vinegar I immediately get the urge to vomit. Does your character have that type of reaction to any scents or tastes? Is that reaction due to a painful memory of some kind?

Homemade bread….*chorus of angels sings*

Even if you’re doing something like writing a fantasy or sci-fi novel and your characters aren’t human, you can still use their senses to add a level of realism or believability to them. It might make it easier for your audience to relate to your characters if you were to expand your descriptions of how they react to certain tastes or scents.

Exercise of the Day: The Antique Trunk

For this exercise, you will need to create a character who inherits an old trunk from an unknown relative. When they open the trunk they discover pictures of themselves from various times of their life. They begin to wonder who this relative was and why had they been stalking them? What else is in the box?

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3 Simple Tips to Make Writing Your 1st Draft Easier

Writing is difficult, but starting your first draft can seem like the most daunting task of all!! After you get a concept in your mind and begin to develop your story it can feel like you are beginning a new adventure which is both exciting and scary. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to make the process easier on yourself.

1 Think Small:

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Start small and build from there

When I first started writing I was so eager and excited that I tended to overdo everything. My love scenes were so maudlin they were almost laughable and my antagonists were so overdone they read like badly written fairy tale characters. When you start writing your story, go simple. In some cases when I am first drawing up the concepts of my stories I don’t even name the characters. I write the basic outline of the story with a few simple character ideas but I leave the big details for later. By keeping my story and characters small to start with it keeps me from running wild with my imagination. In the end, building my story bit by bit helps to make my finished products read like they developed naturally because I slowed down a built every aspect of my story from the ground up.

2 Don’t be afraid of filler

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When writing your first draft, don’t be afraid of what I like to call “stand in phrases”. The last time I started a ten minute play I was attempting to write a joke but the only punchline I could think of to finish it off was “where’s my wandering parakeet” which is actually a quote from the film The Philadelphia Story. I knew that was not the line I actually wanted in my play, but at the time I was on such a role I knew that if I slowed down and actually tried to create my own original punchline at the moment I would lose my momentum. I highlighted the phrase in question and by the time I had gotten around to the second draft I had thought of a punchline so I could take out the stand in.

3.Use freewriting as a sort of meditation

meditate

It has been scientifically proven that meditation can help to improve focus. I decided to experiment to see if I could use the concept of meditation as a kind of writing exercise. When I was experiencing writer’s block I decided to take this concept for a test drive. I first used a few breathing techniques I had learned in a yoga class in order to achieve a sense of mental stillness. After that, I took out a sheet of paper and I wrote for five minutes. After the five minutes were up I was amazed. At the time I had been in a sort of creative slump, but by silencing my metal chatter I was better able to access that part of my mind.

There are probably thousands of methods you can use to make your drafting process move more smoothly but in truth, you just need to experiment and see what works for you.

Exercise of the Day

The Exercise of the Day

The Vessel

Foor this exercise you need to imagine two things. First, you will need to create a character and second, you will need to imagine a mode of transportation. Does your character enjoy traveling on their vessel? Where are they going? Do they want to go wherever they are headed? What do they see? How does their emotional state alter their perception of their surroundings?

Have fun and I will see you later!!!

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Trying to Overcome my Shortcomings as a Writer and as a Person

In the past few months I have been dealing with self-doubt and a desire to know myself better. In order to truly know myself I had to first come to terms with my shortcomings. In order to overcome my own failings I first had to realize what those failings were. After some meditation, a few tears and a lot of thinking I became a more confident person, and I realized that I could apply that same theory to my writing!!

Unfortunately, many of my ideas wither away because I cannot create a story in which they can flourish.

Problem #1: Too Many Ideas, Not Enough Stories
For me, generating ideas has never been a problem. I can develop an interesting concept for a story, but developing that idea into a story is where I fall short. Once I had a three page flow chart outlining a concept for a sci-fi story, but I could not go any further than that. My ideas are well rounded and interesting, but lately I cannot seem to hit on the story which is best for my ideas. It is almost as if I am a gardener with healthy seeds, but I cannot cultivate healthy soil in which to plant them.

As a person with an awful attention span, I think it will help me focus if I attempt to work on one project at a time.

Problem #2: Working on Too Many Projects at Once
Having too many ideas circulating in your head at once can be just as frustrating as having n ideas at all. In order to be more productive, I think I need to regulate myself to thinking about or working on one project at a time. That way I can give all of my attention and devotion to turning every single one of my ideas into a strong story. In the past few years I have noticed that my tolerance for distraction as decreased significantly while at the same time my laziness has shot right up. For goodness sake I haven’t even posted on my own blog in a year!!! Ew.

What to do next?

I feel as if my laziness as a writer and as a person is linked to my overindulgence in television. If I want to get on track in life I need to limit the amount of time I spend in front of a tv.

Step 1: Turn off Streaming Services
A few months ago I moved away from a rural area with limited internet. For the first time in years I had access to the entire Netflix and Hulu library. I watched show after show, episode after episode. I felt so free, but after a while I started to feel my IQ and my will to write getting smaller and smaller. So I have decided to limit my television and streaming to a few hours a day. Less TV, more reading. I think that limiting my television can help my creativity and also lessen possible distractions which could pull my focus away.

Enough saying “if I don’t write who am I hurting?” I need to give myself goal and deadlines to meet!

Step 2: Give Myself an Achievable Goal (not based on word count)
When I am writing now there is no pressure, nothing on the line, in fact there is nothing. I do not write for a career, I simply write because I have found that I have a certain talent for it. In th,at respect there are no consequences if I do not write at all. While I may feel some personal shame for abandoning whatever talent I may have, I am disappointing no one by falling behind in my creative pursuits. I need to say to myself “you need to write for at least half an hour a day”. It will be almost like giving myself a deadline. That is one thing I really miss about being in school. I miss the pressures of a teacher telling me “you only have a week to finish that research paper”. I have always had a problem finishing what I start so I think I need to give myself an internal teacher who can say to me “You only have thirty minutes to finish this chapter”.

I am hoping that by being more honest with myself both as a person and a writer that I can develop myself from a young woman who writes occasionally, into a woman who writes because it would be impossible not to.

Thanks for stopping by!! I hope to see you soon!!!

Exercise of the Day: The Dance
We all have particular songs which make us want to get up off of our feet and dance!!! For me whenever I hear the opening to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries I feel happy, safe, and I also have to make sure that no one is in the way because MAMA’S ABOUT TO CUT A RUG!!!!! For this exercise I want you to insivion a song and a character. How does that song make your character feel? Why did those feelings come up? Did something in the past happen to your character which is someway connected to that song? What happens to your character’s body that songs comes on? Do they cry? Do they tap their feet to the beat?

This song always gets me dancing!! What would your character do if they heard it? would they dance? What would that look like?

So long for now!! Feel free to comment below!!!

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3 Changes that Made my 2015 Nano more Successful than Ever!!

Nanowrimo 2015 has officially come to a close!!! Well I didn’t quite hit the mark. I got to 30,000 words, which isn’t quite as much as I wanted to write, but it’s way better than I have ever done before.

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Reading = Worth the stuggle

Change #1– Stop Editing! All I did differently was to write without a censor. In previous years I would write a bit then go back over what I had done to make sure it made sense. This year I looked at Nanowrimo in a new way. I viewed it like a very long rough draft. When I was writing research papers in college I would just use the rough draft I wouldn’t spend much time editing, I’d just try to throw some ideas into pile to try and see what my thesis could be.  So this time I tried shut the editing section of my mind off while I was writing. Now that I really feel like I have a grip on the form and shape of my story I am going to put the editorial phase of my story on hold until the new year. I’m using the next few weeks to rest my brain, get some reading done, and also get ready for Christmas.

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Sure it's good to clean up your writing, but hold off on it until you've actually written something. Write first, edit last.

Change #2– Sleep More- I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but sleep is one of a writer’s best friends. Well it would seem I needed a dose of my own medicine. In recent months with working two jobs I had let my sleep schedule get really messed up and I was trying to juggle everything on just a few hours of sleep. During that time I was also trying to work on my writing, but for some reason I wasn’t having any luck at developing ideas. Then one day I was going back over something I had written in a notebook a few years before. There in big red letters were the words “If you don’t sleep your brain does not work properly”. There it was!!! I wasn’t sleeping so of course I couldn’t think straight!!! I’ve told so many people that in the past, but I never thought I’d be the one who needed to be told that!! So now I make sure that I am in bed by 11PM at the very latest and I try to get a solid and consistent 8 hours a night.

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I felt such a dope!!! I've been telling people for year's how important sleep is to the writing process!!! A more consistent sleep schedule made all the difference!!

Change #3– Diary Entries- Before I had ahh thought of what my story was I started out with a list of my characters with some of their personality quirks. With that list as my starting point I wrote a short diary entry from each of the characters’ perspectives. It really gave me a fun way to envision who the characters are, how they think, and what they sound like.

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Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Just a few little changes to my thought process and writing techniques led me to greater success than I have ever achieved before. How did you all do? What did you do to relieve stress?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Pet
For this exercise you are going to think of one of your favorite characters and imagine their pet. What type of pet do they keep? What do they name it? Does the pet’s personality reflect their owner?

I’ll see you around!!!

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Writing Update and Plot Issues: My Problems Wordiness and Vocabulary

AT LAST I HAVE RETURNED TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Forgive me if I seem a bit overdramatic, but I feel like I have just come out of a three month long hibernation. After endless bouts of power outages, snow shovels and sub-zero temperatures I am ecstatic to say that SPRING IS HERE!!!!!!! *applause and fireworks*

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

When I was at college during my freshman year I got stuck for ideas when I was working on an essay and I gave myself five or ten minutes to work on a freewriting prompt which was completely unrelated to my essay. When my time was up after the first time I had about three pages of a story started, Through all of my years at college and the time after whenever I would find myself mentally stuck I go back to my old standby and add to it. This one writing prompt, which by this point feels like an old friend, has been slowly growing on my computer for 8 years. A few months ago I realized that my prompt was so long that it could be the starting block for a novel. So I’ve spent the past few months in editing, reworking, and tinkering around with it. It’s not finished yet, but the editing process gave me ample opportunity to exercise my brain during the winter freeze.

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! :)

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! 🙂

One of the problems I have found in my own writing is that I tend to use more, or in some instances more complicated, words than I need. For me half of my editing time consists either of cutting down words or going to my trusty thesaurus and trying to find simpler versions of certain words. As I mentioned in a previous post in the past reading was something I never wanted to do because it made me feel stupid. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen were really the first books I read that got me excited about reading. Because the beginning of my life as a bookworm started with those books I have always been drawn to books of that nature and I think that might have had an influence on my writing style. When I first starting writing some of my friends thought my style was overly wordy, pretentious and over the top and they were right.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The simple truth is that if you use too many words your reader may have the urge to yell ‘just get to the point already!!!’. On the other hand if you use words which are too flowery your readers will think that you are a conceited snob. The rules that I have made for myself are to make sure that I never use more words than I need to get my point across, and also to keep my vocabulary restricted that that it’s appropriate to the story and my characters.

Well I hope this will be the first of many more posts to come for this year!!! So long Winter!!!!!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Sinking Ship

Create a story that begins on a sinking ship. Each of your characters is allowed to save only one of their possessions. Write about the item they choose to save and also what they are willing to do to protect their treasured item. Is it something sentimental like a photo album or something like an iPod? What goes through their head when they are trying to select which item to take with them?

Have fun and I will see you soon!!!!!

 

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The Importance of Will Power for Writers

This quote from Neil Gaiman sums up why writing is so freeing and also so frightening. There are no rules.

This quote from Neil Gaiman sums up why writing is so freeing and also so frightening. There are no rules.

Some people will have you believe that there are rules or steps you must take to write a novel (in a lot of cases they’ll tell you that so you’ll buy their self-help book), but the plain fact is that there are no rules. The lack of rules is part of why writing is so hard. There are no real or concrete rules you must abide by or lines you must stay within to be a writer, or to be a successful writer, and so you’re only limited by your own will power and imagination. We, as writers, can’t look at the establishment and complain that it’s trying to “box us in” or “strangle our creativity”. Most of the time when we fail it is our own faults. That’s why writing is such a struggle to begin with. No matter how much anyone else tries to help us, in the end it is in our own hands whether or not we fall or accomplish our goals. There are, as I have pointed out before, certain steps you can take to help your editing or brainstorming processes, but there is no such thing as a roadmap to success when it comes to writing. It is a hard road but the only thing you need to do is to find the story you want to tell, and tell it with conviction.

Will power trumps fate, luck, and chance.

Will power trumps fate, luck, and chance.

I know this post has been a bit different from my others but it’s just something that struck me the other day at work. I’ve been working at Under Armour for the past few months and right now one of our product lines is called the “I Will What I Want” line. The whole line of shirts has sayings that are based on getting what we want through will power and determination. My favorite one was a tank top that said “Don’t Wish for It, Work for It”. I know the product line was intended for athletes but the sayings they had apply to writing as well. If you’ll excuse me I am going to do some freewriting, the writing equivalent to a 50 yard dash!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Local News

Go to the local section of any newspaper and pick three separate stories. Using a person from one story, the setting from another and the conflict from a third create a story. For example I found a local newspaper and wrote a story using Harold Johnson, who lived in Lubbock, Texas, and the conflict in the story was over a lover’s quarrel. Have fun with this and I will see you later.

dont-wish-for-it-work-for-it

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Discussion: Do you listen to music as you write? Why or why not?

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

So happy to be posting again!!!!!! I know my posts have been a bit sporadic lately and I apologize for that. I’ve just spent the past few weeks job searching and also working in some time to travel cross country. I spent 12 hrs yesterday in airports, on planes, and in turbulence…yeah my stomach did not like that. I tried to get some reading done but it’s a bit nauseating when the book you’re reading is bouncing in your hands every second. Since I finally got to my destination I’ve gotten some writing done, but didn’t get the chance to post. Now I have returned!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!

For this post I’d like to open a discussion. Do you like to listen to music as you write? Why or why not? If you do like to listen to music as you’re writing, what kind of music do you listen to?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

For my part I usually listen to music as I write but I have a very specific playlist that depends on my mood and what I need. For example I am an easily distracted person so I only listen to low key things when I write, otherwise I’ll get so wrapped up in the music it will pull my attention away from what I’m writing. It also helps if what I’m listening to is tied to what I’m writing in some way. For example last year I wrote a ten-minute play that was centered in West Virginia, and so to get into that mindset I created a Pandora station that played a mixture of old southern gospel songs and bluegrass. The music was reminiscent of what I was writing so it helped me to envision the world of the story, and the songs themselves were slow paced ballads so they didn’t pull my distraction away.

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it's also really good music!!! :)

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it’s also really good music!!! 🙂

As I mention a few posts ago I was working on turning an old freewriting exercise of mine into a novel. Well the novel itself is set some time in the 1800’s in England so it really helped me to picture how that world looked by listening to classical music from that time. By listening to the same types of music that would have been popular during the time period in which I set my story it gives me a way to envision how that world might sound. I already had an idea of how the world looked, but the music gave me a way to picture how the world would sound, offering me a tool to engage the readers’ senses.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

So that’ my rigmarole! Do you have specific music that you like to listen to when you write? Or do you like to write it total silence? Why? Post in the comment section below the writing exercise!!! If you have any questions or concerns feel free to let me know.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Moving Box Exercise

Imagine that you’ve moved into a new home. You know nothing about the previous owners. When you enter the house you see a box on the floor that belonged to the previous owners. Open it and describe what you find. From the items you find inside the box create a story for who the previous owners might have been.

 

Have fun with this exercise and I will talk to you again soon!!! Bye!

 

 

 

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The Art of Creating Villains

As we grow up we come to realize that life is not like an episode of Barney and that not everyone in the world is going to love us or want to be our friends. Some people are just plain mean, but how do we translate that into fiction and still make those characters seem real? If we just write someone who is mean and nasty 24/7 in the end they will seem boring. It would almost feel like every time your antagonist appears your reader will say “oh let me guess, (insert antagonist name here) is going to say something mean and stupid”.

Evil is as evil does

Evil is as evil does

Part of what makes villains seem so interesting is that their motives and goals are hidden in many cases and so they have the ability to keep the readers guessing. Also, as many antagonists are not lead by traditional moralities it gives you as the writer more options when it comes to character choices. However, like many things in writing it’s a balancing act. If you write an antagonist who constantly behaves in wildly amoral ways in every scene it defies the imagination of most readers. Most real people are made up of both good and bad parts and so if you try to make it seem as if your antagonist is 100% bad than it can make them seem unbelievable. You could really only make a character like that work if you found a way to make that type of behavior seem natural for the character.

 

Iago's nature is not hidden from the audience but is hidden from the protagonist.

Iago’s nature is not hidden from the audience but is hidden from the protagonist.

For me Iago from Othello is one of the greatest antagonists in history because he has the ability to hide his evil motives from the protagonist. He cannot hide his evil nature from the audience because, by the usage of asides and soliloquies, the majority of the action is told through his inner monologue. He could be described as being totally evil, but because his true nature and motives are hidden from all of the other characters it only serves to give him an added level of intrigue.

Nils Bjurman- the epitome of the malignant narcissist

Nils Bjurman- the epitome of the malignant narcissist

One of my favorite villains in modern literature is Nils Bjurman from Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The character puts the protagonist through numerous scenes intense physical and mental abuse  which could make him seem unbelievable. Larsson combats this by hiding Bjurman’s motivations so his vile nature is connected to a mystery and by giving the character the hallmarks of at least two legitimate and recognizable psychological disorders. Nils Bjurman is one of those characters that the reader thinks could exist, but is really glad they don’t.

Who are some of your favorite antagonists? Do they attempt to hide their motives from the protagonists or are they more open about their dark side?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: A Lesson in Context Exercise

For this exercise you need to take the first line of dialogue from your favorite film and create a whole new story with that as the first line. Totally change the context of the line with new characters and a new plot.

Have fun with this one and I will see you next time!!!

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Is “meanwhile” the Magic Word of Writing?

Hey there!! It feels like forever since I’ve posted! Sorry about that but life…ugh…don’t you just hate it when life interrupts your blog time? LOL!!! Ah well. Luckily I have been working on my novel…well I call it a novel but actually it’s more like a massive writing exercise I’ve been doing for five years.

It started as a free writing exercise I did about five years ago and during times when I don’t have any projects going on I pull it out and add to it. It’s gotten so long now I’ve realized that it is practically a novel in and of itself so I’ve been going back through it to see if I can make it work as a novel. It’s actually a really interesting exercise but one of the hardest things for me to write are the transition pieces that connect scene to scene and chapter to chapter.

Sometimes I just say “forget the transitions” and start a new chapter, but you can’t do that too often or your book will end up being 100 pages filled with 300 chapters. I like for my transitional pieces to be smooth and for one scene to just sort of flow naturally into the other but in many cases it just feels wrong to me. I read an article somewhere that said that the best way to combat a difficult transition is the usage of the word “meanwhile”. The basic principal was to use the word “meanwhile” when you were undecided as to how to move from one scene to the next.

Making my scene shifts have a workable rhythm is one of the hardest parts of writing for me

Give your scene shifts a smooth rhythm

Example:
Chad didn’t know where to go from here. His father was dead, his home a pile of rubble. The only things he had left were an old scorched picture and a goldfish.
Meanwhile in a shopping center across town Kerri wondered if life could get any better. She had a sweet ride, a credit card, and a father who didn’t ask questions.

Without the word “meanwhile” in between those two bits of scenes, it would’ve felt a bit slap-dash and there wouldn’t have been much of a flow. However, that one word added in it allows for a fluid movement between the scenes and also adds an interesting thematic juxtaposition between the characters’ lives.

Meanwhile= The Writer’s HOCUS POCUS!!

Some might say that “meanwhile” is the magic word of writing and true, there is something a bit magical in the word’s ability to pack so much practical usefulness and potential thematic depth in one word but you can take it too far. When I started off using “meanwhile” to help with my scene shifts I felt great…but then I read back over what I had written and…oh dear. I realized that I had used the word so much that it was almost laughable. A small part of my mind half expected to turn the page and read MEANWHILE AT THE LEGION OF DOOM (I tried to just add a pic of the Legion of Doom headquarters but my computer wouldn’t let me, the video was all I could find)!!!

How do you like to transition? Do you use “meanwhile”? Do you like to add a chapter or page break? What are some techniques you’ve found?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Looking for a Haunt
For this exercise I want you to imagine that you or one of your characters has just died and has become a ghost and are now looking for a place to haunt. How would you decide which place to haunt and what would you do to haunt the house? Are you a poltergeist (a playful ghost? Are you a friendly ghost? Are you a vengeful ghost? Why?
See you around!

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Keeping your Plot Interesting

Sorry for the long absence but life’s been a bit hectic lately what with job searching and all that. Alrighty, time to get back into the swing of things. For today I want to talk about how to keep your plot from getting too flat and predictable.

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In general I have found that predictable plots lend nothing to the story because they only serve to slow things down or put the readers to sleep. Have you ever read a book and you got maybe halfway through it and could already tell how all of the characters were going to end up? BORING!!!! If you can already see the end what’s the point of reading? You as a writer need to be wary of this because there is a fine line between foreshadowing something that will or might happen to the characters and putting up a huge road sign that says THE STORY WILL END THIS WAY. Have any of you read or heard of The Strain trilogy by Guillermo del Toro? The final book in this series is a prime example of how NOT to formulate your plot. When I was halfway through the book I could already tell how each of the characters was going to end up so it took all the mystery and enjoyment out of reading. I mean I didn’t know what plot twists would get the characters from point A to point B but that didn’t matter. I no longer cared about the characters’ journeys because I already knew how they’d end up.

There's a difference between foreshadowing and mapping out the entire plot for the reader!

There’s a difference between foreshadowing and mapping out the entire plot for the reader!

I’ve really had to think about how to keep my plot and characters captivating a lot because right now I’m working on a mystery. A mystery is all about intrigue and figuring out the answers to questions. While writing my mystery I’ve realized that the best crime/detective/mystery stories out there always leave at least a few questions unanswered. I think that’s a major key to keeping the readers interested even after they’ve finished reading. When confronted with unanswered questions the reader is compelled to let their imaginations go find possible answers. When you can get your readers’ imaginations involved in your story even after they’ve finished reading? HOT DANG!! You’ve got them in the palm of your hands! But as in all things in writing the unanswered questions must have balance. You cannot leave so many unanswered questions that your reader feels cheated, or feels that the resolution was nothing more than a huge anti-climax. Even if you’re not writing a mystery there are usually major plot questions which will pop up from time to time. My best idea for keeping track of the questions that might appear in your plot is to make a note whenever one shows up, and also whenever one is answered. That way you don’t lose track.

In life questions are a guarantee but answers are not.

In life questions are a guarantee but answers are not.

What are the best ways you’ve found to keep your plot interesting to your readers? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Way You Walk Exercise

For this exercise I want you to write a short piece where you describe the way you walk. Every person in the world has a different way of walking. Some people have flat feet, some are pigeon toed. Write about how you  move, but also think of why move the way you do. For example I tend to limp a bit because of a hip injury I had when I was a kid so I could write that  “my walk makes me look like a cowboy loping across a field, sore after a long day’s ride.” Just have fun with this and really get into how you can best describe your movements when you walk.

Bye for now!!

 

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Plot Outlining: Mapping the Journey

Writers have gotten a reputation of being a roguish band of disorganized dreamers who relish chaos, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The ability to organize your plot and sort through your ideas is an easy way to make the entire writing process develop better. Outlining is the best method I have found to make organizing my plot points a faster process. I am of the opinion that writing is difficult enough in itself so I will attempt anything that I can to make the creative process smoother.

Writing is chaotic enough!! Save you sanity and make it easier on yourself

Writing is chaotic enough!! Save you sanity and make it easier on yourself

The moment I get an idea for a story I take out a sheet of paper and plot out a potential plotline. The outline I use is fairly general. I use the headings from the plot triangle we all learned about in school (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax etc.) and then I fill in the events for every section.

Example:

This is an example of the type of outline I like to use (note: this is a vague outline I drew up a few years ago before I started a rough draft for a 10 minute play):

I. Exposition
1. Introduce Daughter (protagonist) and Mother (antagonist)
a. Introduce conflict between Daughter and Mother- Mother wants Daughter to get married to jerk.
b. Mother is tight lipped and rigid, Daughter is restless and wants to rebel.
2. Daughter plans to run away
a. Describe what problems she has with Mother/Fiancé.

II. Rising Action
1. Mother wants Daughter to stay and avoid scandal
a. Further development of conflict between Mother and Daughter.
2. Introduce Fiancé.
a. Fiancé is smug and entitled.
b. Daughter insults Fiancé.

III. Climax
1. Fiancé slaps Daughter
a. Daughter stands up to Fiancé.
b. Fiancé exits.

IV. Falling Action
1. Mother shifts from antagonist to protagonist
a. Helps Daughter leave.
b. Starts understanding.
2. Daughter Leaves.

V. Resolution
1. Re-enter Fiancé
a. Fiancé threatens Mother.
b. Mother stands up to Fiancé.

This outline wasn’t set in stone by any means. As I created the characters and came to a better understanding of their mental situations and goals the story shifted but this outline really helped me to organize my ideas and to envision how my story was going to play out. If when I was writing the rough draft I found out that something from my outline didn’t work I’d change it, but the outline gave me a simple and streamlined way to sort through my ideas.

Outlining for me is a simple way to navigate the chaotic world of writing

Outlining for me is a simple way to navigate the chaotic world of writing

It’s like mapping out your route for a road trip. You start out with what you think is the best road to reach your intended destination and you start down that way, but while you’re on the way you find out that a section of the highway is covered in potholes so you change your planned and take a smoother road. That’s the mindset I have when I write my pre-rough draft outline. There may be some bumps in the road as I make my way towards the end, but at least I have an idea of where I’m going.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Lost Senses
Imagine that you woke up one morning and could not hear or speak. Describe the sensations you might feel as you try to figure out what happened to you, why it happened and how to deal with it. How would you learn to communicate with the world without using your ears or your voice? This exercise allows you to explore the world of body language. Imagine what types of facial and body movements you would use to communicate with the world.

Have fun with this one and I’ll see you next time!!!

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Writing Plans for Nov and Dec

Alrighty well I’m sorry to be saying this, but I’m afraid this will likely be my last post for the next few months. I’m heading away for the entire holiday season and where I’ll be going has limited internet access…BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😥

Well since I’ll be offline for most of November and December I can tell you my plans for my writing. For the next few months I’ll be work shopping an idea I had for a sci-fi novel. Since I haven’t really worked with this genre before I think I’ll start by reading some classic sci-fi like Ender’s Game from the 70’s. Whenever I write something that’s genre specific I like to read things that are similar to my idea, and then also read things that are the polar opposite to my idea. That way I don’t pigeonhole myself as far as generating new ideas.

Planned reading:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I’m going to read this because this is apparently one of the best books concerning aliens and technology which are going to be big parts of my story. I read a bit of it and WOW, Card was writing about things very much like the internet and blogs in the 70’s.

 

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle– I don’t think I’ll be able to finish all of the novels of short stories in 2 months’ time, but I’ve always been interested in Holmes. A lot of the deductive reasoning and science Doyle uses in his Holmes fiction laid the groundwork for advancements in forensic science. I am going to read this because I like the combination of mystery and science.

 

The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad by Homer (translated by Robert Fitzgerald) – I’m going to read this because I like the combination of the battle and adventure elements and the mythical religion of the ancient Greeks.

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen– The first three books I’ve listed are similar in their own ways to the story that I am trying to write. This book is the polar opposite of the story as I have envisioned it thus far so if I get stuck and none of the other books help me generate ideas, I’ll go to this one. You never know what can give you a new idea so don’t rule anything about.

 

Movies can also be a great way to get you in the writing mindset. Over the next few months here’s what I think I’ll be watching.

 

Planned Watching:

Inception - 2010

Inception – 2010

Inception: I’ll be watching this movie because the thematic elements I am hoping to put into my story are similar to the ones in this movie. Also my story is going to have a lot of neurological and psychological portions so I think the storyline of Inception might generate some ideas for those parts of my story.

 

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring– This was the first fantasy movie I ever saw that really made the otherworldly or mythical elements come to life in such a way that made them seem like they could have been real. Previous generations had things like Star Wars, mine had Lord of the Rings.

V for Vendetta- 2005

V for Vendetta- 2005

V for Vendetta– I am going to be watching this because I like the depiction they used of England as this sort of dystopian Hell. I think I might want to use the sort of post-apocalyptic/Orwellian feeling from the movie for inspiration.

After the Thin Man- 1936

After the Thin Man- 1936

After the Thin Man– As you might be able to tell, for both the movie and book section I’ve selected 3 that are similar to my story and 1 which is the polar opposite. This movie, a murder mystery rom/com, could not possibly be more different than the idea I am working on. Perhaps I will pick out something from the mystery aspect, perhaps the romantic. Who can say? That’s the point. You can never tell what will help you to generate ideas so try everything!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Fear Exercise

Write a story that explains an irrational fear you or one of your characters had as a child. Was it an irrational fear monsters under the bed? Or was it something more real like a car accident? Why do you think the fear started? Did you ever get over it? How did you get over it? Imagine how your world might have shaped or influenced your fears, or the fears of your character.

So long for a while!!! Don’t worry readers I am right now trying to see if I can get access to a better and more reliable internet connection. In the mean time please feel free to comment with questions or feedback. I will most definitely see if I can manage to respond.

 

 

 

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Discussion: What Popular Books Annoy You?

Discussion: What Popular Books Annoy You?

annoyed

We all know that there are a lot of books in the world, more than an average human could read in a lifetime, but have you ever read a book that other readers/critics fawned over and just not seen the big deal? Well now’s the time to let your opinion be heard!!!

Here’s a list of some of my least favorite:

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My problems with this do not come from its religious implications,  but from its flawed storytelling. This is one of those books that gets super-hyped because of its controversy and not because it’s actually a good book. The writing used in this book, despite some of its more “adult” moments, felt like it was written with a 5th grader’s vocabulary. Bottom line: Interesting concept + over hyped controversy + poor execution = a book that’s just not worth the time.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

I know this is a classic the majority of us had to read freshman year of high school, but see that’s the point. This one gets on my nerves because it is over-taught. I guess it also winds up on this list for me because it’s one of the plays that when I say I like Shakespeare, people just assume I love. Bottom line: It’s not that it’s actually bad, it just annoys me that all the schools near me think that this is the only one of Shakespeare’s plays that’s worth teaching.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This book is considered by some to be one of the greatest romances of all time…I just don’t get it. All of the characters are so wildly unlikable that I really had to force myself to finish it. I found no redeeming qualities in any of the characters which really made reading this book a struggle. Bottom line: The characters in this book were so mean to one another and just so generally stupid that I hated them and didn’t care what happened to them.

What are some popular books that for one reason or another annoyed you? Feel free to comment below!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Last Meal

Imagine a scene where one of your favorite characters is on death row. Imagine how they feel about their impending death. How do they feel? What do they think of? What do they have as their last meal? How does the meal reflect on the personality of the character?

Have fun with this and I’ll see you next time!!!!!

 

 

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Character Choices for Writers: How to Find What Works

Before you writer ask yourself if your choices make sense for the characters mindsets

Before you writer ask yourself if your choices make sense for the characters mindsets

Everything in writing has to happen for a reason and I have found that what works best is to have everything be determined by the characters. I usually start with the dialogue. It helps me to figure out what my characters need to say by first discovering what their voices sound like. The character’s voice has to make sense!

Crazy is as crazy does

Crazy is as crazy does

For example, in Stephen King’s novel Misery the character Annie Wilkes instead of using swear words says words such as “oogie”, “cockadoodie” and “fiddley-foof”. For most readers these words are very uncommon words in their lives so those words could be a bit hard to swallow. The thing that makes them work is the mindset of the character. In the book Annie feels that swear words have a sort of moral “dirtiness” and so she, with her form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, over-compensates to keep herself “clean”.  It’s like being an actor, when you are playing a character with a “questionable” grasp on reality it opens up your options for character choices because you can go outside of the realm of “normal” behavior. So when your write your characters, be sure that the choices you make as the writer are in line with the characters’ voices and mindsets. Change your mindset

In order to open your mind to different ways of thinking, and different mindsets, it helps to do some research into psychology and sociology. If you’re stuck on what kind of person your character is, or how they think knowing a bit of psychology can really help you generate ideas.

Short post, but I hope you got some useful tips out of it! Bye!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Logic vs Philosophy

For this exercise you’re going to imagine a conversation between 2 characters. A proposes a classic philosophical question such as “If a tree falls in the forest and one is there to hear, does it make a sound” and B argues either for or against it based on the principles of logic.

Example:

A: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

B: Of course.

A: But how can you know that? You were not there to hear it?

B: The existence of the sound is not dependent on my having heard it. I might not be able to confirm that I heard the tree fall, but does that mean it didn’t happen?  

A: Um…

B. Bazinga!!! I win!!!!

Hope you have fin with this and I’ll talk to you later!!! Feel free to comment!!

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Bad Language in Your Writing: Yes or No?

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

Too many writers today have decided that in order for their work to have an “edge” then all of their characters have to swear like sailors or teenage boys. I am not saying that everything that you write has to read like an episode of Leave it to Beaver, but if you are going to use profanity you must make sure the words have their own flow.

All words need rhythm, even "bad" ones

All words need rhythm, even “bad” ones

In order for profanity to seem natural it has to have a purpose besides making your writing seem more edgy or adult. It needs to begin and end with the characters. In my daily life I at least try not to swear like I’m in an R rated movie but if I do something like drop a hammer on my foot all bets are off. That being said, my characters are not me and have their own unique voices. Any time my characters uses swear words it is because it sounds like it’s something natural for the characters to say. While swear words do not have a “classy” vibe, they can have a rhythm. If you’re ever worried if the types of swear words sound like they have rhythm it’s a good idea to read your passages aloud. If you reading your work aloud can’t make what the character is saying sound natural, you might need to rework the line.

Self-Censorship

Self-Censorship

One thing you need to keep in mind, especially if you plan to be published, is who your intended audience might be. If you are trying to get a kids book published then you can look forward to a lot of rejections if ever other word out of your characters’ mouths is eff this or eff that. You need to tailor your work to your audience, or more specifically to the publisher. I’ve said this before but if you want to be published then it is a good idea for you to research the kinds of things that the publisher has come out with before. If they normally publish things that are so clean they read as if they had been dipped in bleach, then they most likely would not be the best bet to publish a book with gratuitous language.

STOP TALKING ABOUT THE MAN!!! LEARN TO CENSOR YOURSELF!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Describe a Christmas

For this exercise you’ll need to create a character who lives in a country that is not your own. Do they celebrate Christmas? If so, what do they do? If not, how do they view Christmas? This exercise gives you a chance to research the cultures of other countries and to think of how they celebrate and view the holiday season.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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