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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:

build-something

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

movieposter

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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What are you reading/writing?

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted and, dang it’s good to be back!!! So what are you all writing and reading?

What are you writing?

I’ve started out the year by going through my yearly review. For the past month I’ve been going over all of my old notebooks full of old story ideas I had massed through the years. I gave the old idea tree a shake, and I found a few stories and outlines from years ago that I’d completely forgotten about. There was one story about a young girl who’s trying to solve a mystery in a Gothic mansion sometime in the 1800’s. The story as I had written it in college was a bit of a shambles so I think I might try to rewrite it as a play. I got started with creative writing during a playwriting course in high school, so I think it might be nice to get back to my roots. 

Getting back to my playwriting roots!! 🙂

What are you reading?

For the past few weeks I’ve been working through my ever expanding  to-read list. I’ve read the first 8 books in the Phryne Fisher murder mysteries series by Kerry Greenwood, Girl on the Train, and I’ve just started on Philip K Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle’. I’ve also started on my 2017 Reading Resolution List. Every year I give myself a challenge to read certain important books which I think I might have read but never actually have. This year I intend to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, and Team of Rivals. I’ve become more interested in writing mystery stories so this year I decided to read the stories which laid the foundations for the genre. The Sherlock stories introduced a lot of the principles of forensic investigation (some of which are still in use today) and The Moonstone has been cited as the very first detective story ever written. 

Thanks for reading and commenting!!! I really appreciateI’ll see you soon!!!

Exercise of the day- Clearing the Cobwebs

We all get into ruts at times. Our minds start feeling sluggish and it seems that the world is speeding past without us. What does your character feel or think when they get into that mindset? What situations made them feel that way? What would they do to get their minds back into fighting form? Write a journal entry for your character which answers these questions.

Have fun with this!! 

 

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Best New TV Shows of 2015-2016?

What New TV Show for the 2015-2016 Season is the Best?

I’m glad to be back and posting!! I’ve been down with health problems for a while, but I’m finally starting to feel better!!! During the time when I was ill I couldn’t read as much as I would normally have done because of migraines so I spent a lot of time watching television. While there are some, myself included, who are continually dragging television and its writing through the mud I realized that there a lot of shows whose script quality surprised me.

Let’s start out with a brief recap of some of the new shows which came onto the scene in the 2015-2016 season. For all of the shows I list I’m going to sort them from what I think are the worst to the best. Just as a side note, I’m only talking about the four major networks because they’re the only stations I get in my area.

For CBS-

3. Limitless – While the story is interesting the main character is written as such a smug and entitled jerk than I could not get invested in his story. This show did something extraordinary in that it created a reboot which was better than the original source material, the way its main character is written made me lose all interest.

2. Supergirl – I have seen a few versions of Supergirl in the past but to me they all had the same problem. All versions of this superhero have made her seem too much like a whiny little girl who happens to have super powers where I would prefer her to be shown as a superhero who just happens to be a young woman. While I enjoy that this character is being used as a positive role model for young girls but I would liked to have seen her written as a little more mature.

1. Life in Pieces – While some have said that Life in Pieces with its form of showing four short stories which center around one family is merely riding on the coattails of Modern Family, I have found it to be a completely refreshing take on the family sitcom (which I actually like better than Modern Family). The main thing which I like about this show is its realistic characters. In watching this show I have been reminded of my own family and the families of my friends, which adds a level of genuinely to its laughs.

Life In Pieces

Best CBS show of the new season

For NBC-

2. The Player – This show…what to say about it? It is difficult to find the right words to describe it because, even though I watched a few episodes I still have no idea what the story was actually meant to be about. There were explosions, sexual innuendo and bravado but that is all I can call to mind. Unfortunately this is a show which relied so heavily on its FLASH BAM elements that it fails to come up with a believable or interesting story.

1. Blindspot – This has easily been my favorite show of the entire year. It has some of the same FLASH BAM elements which I mentioned in The Player, I mean I don’t think an episode has gone by without an explosion or gunfight of some kind, but its multi-faceted characters and multilayered plotlines offer it more substance than flash.

Blindspot

Best NBC show of the new season

For ABC –

2. The Muppets – As a fan of the Muppet movies of the past and the ones which have been released in recent years I was very excited to hear that ABC was planning on making a Muppets TV show. My excitement completely wore away as I watched the first episode. I was hoping for a return to the Muppet Show of the past but was instead greeted by a combination reality show mockumentary with inappropriate innuendos. This show just feels wrong and to my mind isn’t an accurate representation of what the Muppets are.

1. Quantico – Like many ABC shows Quantico relies a bit heavily on its steamy elements (ala Grey’s Anatomy). However its time jumping element combined with its terrorism and government conspiracy storylines have set it apart from the soap opera mold and have made it what I consider to be the best new show on ABC for 2015-2016.

ABC-Quantico

Best CBS show of the new season

For FOX-

2. Scream Queens – This show combines together all of the most annoying elements of the horror movies of the 90’s and blends it all together into a weird mashup. I really couldn’t tell if they were trying to make a horror or comedy show. The writing of this show is unfunny and so formulaic that it had no chance of holding my interest.

1. Lucifer – To be honest I actually don’t like this show, but it was at least a little better written than Scream Queens. In recent years the FOX network has been grinding out shows of this nature with suave antiheros, Empire being the most successful of these. When I heard the initial premise for this show I could imagine every character and almost hear the smugness of the main character. It’s better written than Scream Queens but I’ll still pass.

lucifer

Best FOX show of the new season

Best show of the 2015 – 2016 Season: BLINDSPOT

I am a big fan of spy/government conspiracy shows and am particularly fond of ones with a female driven cast. In the early 2000’s there was the JJ Abrams show Alias and more recently there has been Person of Interest, but that’s been about it. When I first heard the premise for Blindspot, a young Jane Doe with no memory of her past dropped off in Time Square and her entire body is tattooed with complex puzzles? Yup…I was intrigued. I hate it when a show is so predictable that I feel, even if I’m watching a new episode, like I’ve seen it all before. I also don’t care for shows that throw in random twists which don’t seem to fit any of the characters or the feeling of the series. You see I like it when a show has twists but I want those twists to feel like they arose as a natural progression of the story and weren’t just randomly thrown in to tick fans off (*cough*cough*Game of Thrones*cough). Blindspot has an intelligent script, and some of the strongest female characters I have seen on television in years.

blindspot2

Best show of the new season

How about you? What did you think about the new crop of shows from the past year? Sound off in the comments!!

Even though this post was all about television, that does not mean that I have forgotten about writing!! One of the biggest factors which for me separates a good tv show from a bad one is the writing. Most importantly as I mentioned above I love when shows can avoid overly predictable plots without adding in twists which feel forced and the same is true with writing. I do not like it when I read back through my stories and particular plot twists feel out of place, like I just threw them in for laughs. So long for now!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Escape at any cost

Imagine a character who is trapped in some way. Perhaps they are trapped in a menial job, maybe they’re stuck in a bad marriage or perhaps they are the captive of an alien life form. How does the character respond? Do they try to escape their situation? Imagine what lengths your character might go to in order to achieve their freedom. If they are successful in escaping their situation what do they do?

Have fun with this and I will see you later!!

P.S. IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK!!!

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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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10 Reading/Writing Resolutions to Kick-start 2015

 

Welcome to a new year!!! Gosh, it has been a while since I posted, but with working retail during the holiday shopping season I went into writing hibernation and have just now started reemerging into the writing scene. I found that I was getting so batty with work, that when I tried to write I would write a page or two and spend the rest of the night nursing a migraine and a bad attitude. But, the holiday shoppers are on their way home and it is time for me to get back to work! YAY!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The time has come, once again, to make resolutions and set goals for the next 365 days. Instead of making resolutions about losing weight or some other such nonsense I like to make a list of books that I am going to at least try to read in the next year. Last year’s list included Dickens’ Bleak House, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a few others. I actually ended up finishing my entire list!!! Now it’s time for a new list and this year I’ve decided to read books that I had started but never got around to finishing. Like I’ve mentioned before I have a tendency to be a bit of a distracted reader but I am really working on overcoming that habit. I am hoping that working through this year’s reading list will offer me plenty of chances to conquer my reading problems.

So here’s my 2015 Reading Resolutions List

  1. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy – I’ve read the first two or three books in this series but I never got around to finishing.
  2. Finish reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – I just recently finished re-reading The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring but I haven’t finished the rest of the series yet.
  3. 1776 by David McCullough
  4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  5. I have to read the 4th book in the Millennium Series (title unknown) – I am not sure what the series will be like now that Steig Larsson is dead and the series is getting passed on to a ghost writer. I am not sure I will like it, but this is one that I have to read.
Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

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

Every writer needs to be a reader, so I decided to give myself a reading and writing resolution list for the new year.

Writing resolution list for 2015

  1. Turn off the internet on my computer when I write to cut down on distractions. The internet can be very helpful to writing when it comes to gathering information for any research that you need to do, but it is also chock full of distractions. Best idea is to save your internet usage for research/editing time not writing time.
  2. Write more. I know this seems a bit obvious but it’s really something I need to do. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it can make me become a better writer. I think the best way to accomplish this is to work on at least two new writing prompts per week.
  3. Create more diverse characters. I’ve noticed that my characters have become a bit one dimensional so I think I need to work on making them more diverse. I don’t think that it is enough to make them more culturally or racially diverse, I must also make them more psychologically diverse as far as their ways of thinking.
  4. Explore different plot and genre elements. Research the plot elements and plot differences between different genres of literature. Going back to the basics when it comes to plot has helped my before when I’ve needed help generating ideas. A bit more research couldn’t hurt.
  5. Finish something. One of my major problems hasn’t been starting new projects is has been finishing my old ones. I need to make a better effort to finish my projects.
Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Most Prized Possession

A character of your own invention finds a note which reads

Hello you slimy piece of filth,

I know who you are and what you did. I have taken the thing that you value most in the world. Either bring me what I want or face the consequences. You have one day.

Signed,

You know who

Using this note as your starting point write a story. You must decide who your character is and the reason for the note. Who wrote it and why? What did they take? What are they planning to do if their needs are not met?

So long for now!! Hope to hear from you soon!!! Please feel free to comment with any questions or concerns.

Author’s note- I might be MIA for the next few weeks. We’re expecting now in my area for the next few days and when there is snow I have no internet. I will post as much as I can though. Later!!!

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Movie Adaptations of Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I posted this last year but I thought of some new additions to my list!! Feel free to comment!! 🙂

thewriterscafe247

Through Hollywood’s history there’ve been a great many movie versions of books which have seemed like perfect companions to their literary counterparts. However, for every good movie there have been at least three movies that make the fans of the novel want to hurt someone. We’ve all had that moment when we remember how good the book was and then we get all excited (and in some cases horrified) when we hear there’s going to be a movie. We buy our tickets and watch the movie hoping for something fantastic and in the end when the credits roll all we want to do is scream and throw popcorn. Well fasten your seatbelts movie fans, here’s my least favorite versions. (I know I posted this a while ago but I just re-read/re-watched a few movies and thought of some new additions to my list)

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliette (1996 adapted from the William Shakespeare play)

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Writing Update and a Bit of Character Work

AKA - Me whenever I try to do a nanowrimo

AKA – Me whenever I try to do a nanowrimo

 

 

Well another November has rolled around and again writers all around the country are getting their plots lined up and trying to reach that seemingly astronomical word count of 50,000!! For my own part I don’t really get too invested in this yearly event. I like the concept of having a measurable goal to hold myself to, but in practice it’s just never worked for me. I’ve spoken about this before but for me whenever I have tried to do a nanowrimo I go a bit daft and start putting too much thought into the number of words and less into whether or not they’re the right words. If writing this way works for you then HAVE AT IT!!!! All writers have their own systems and things that work for them, if nanowrimo leads you to productive writing and good stories well then I wish you good luck!!!

Slow-Progress-Is-Better-Than-No-Progress

I am still working on my Gothic mystery story, but the progress has been slow. That doesn’t really bother me because even slow progress is progress. Last month I really started getting stuck on who Liz, my protagonist, is and how her mind works. If I as the writer can’t get a clear picture of who my characters are then my readers aren’t going to be able to either! That was a major problem and to fix it the only thing I could think of to do was to rewrite my entire story from Liz’s perspective as if the whole story was her diary. Because I wanted my story to have a Gothic vibe, it made sense for mw to imagine what the plot would look like if I wrote it out in epistolary format, where the story is told via letters and journal entries, because that was really popular in Gothic lit. Dracula, one of if not the most famous Gothic novel of all time, was written like that so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a go.

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

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

To be truthful it was grueling and slow work to change the format of my entire story, but in the end I had a very distinct picture of who Liz was and how her mind worked. Using that knowledge I went back to my original manuscript and added bits of narrative from Liz’s diary into it so that I could flesh out her character. I think that the next time I write I will try to keep a running diary for all of my main characters so that I can keep better track of their character and psychological development. I know this post is a bit short, but  I have to dash to my day job now. So long!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Aversion Exercise

For this exercise I want you to think of a character who in absolutely repulsed by something which is considered to be harmless or innocent i.e. handholding, puppies, a child skipping, toy sailboats. Why does your character have such a negative view of something so innocuous? How would their aversion show itself? Would your character become agitated or violent?

Think about that and I will see you later!! If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or just want to vent have a go!! I’d love to hear from you!

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Deciphering the Masks: Another Step Towards Character Development

Well dearie me!!! It’s been HOW long since I posted?! Dang. LOL!!!! Well unfortunately, for my writing that is, for the past month I’ve been trying to settle into a new job. I’ve had to brush up on my people skills because I’m in a retail sales position at an athletic store so nearly 100% of my day is spent talking to other people. I’ve worked in positions like this before but it’s still hard to switch my mind over to the sales side. In order to make customers believe that I’m not just some commission hungry maniac I have to alter my personality so that I seem like someone they can trust. That’s one of the hardest things about sales. Every customer is different. They each have a particular set of desires and expectation and so I have to, in a shirt time, assess them and figure out how I can present myself so that they will believe that I am the person best qualified to help them. It’s sort of like I have to wear a different mask for each customer so that they’ll trust me to help them. That got me thinking about my characters.

In order for customers to trust me I have to change my personality so that I present myself as a person they can trust to help them.

In order for customers to trust me I have to change my personality so that I present myself as a person they can trust to help them.

All characters have their own distinct personalities and it got me thinking of how they might change their personalities, or what masks they might wear. The first thing I had to do was to understand who the character’s ruse was intended to fool? The next question I had to answer was what my character would do to create this illusion? Finally I had to know the main purpose or why they had gone about the whole process. For example I had a character once who didn’t want her father to know that she had crashed his car. In that case the character put on the mask of the adoring daughter. She changed her voice so that it sounded infantile and called her father “daddy”. So with that all of the questions were satisfied:

  1. Who was the mask intended to work upon? The character used this particular mask to fool her father.
  2. What personality changed occurred? The character attempted to transform herself into a vision of how she had been in her youth. She speaks in a high pitched infantile voice and uses the name “daddy”.
  3. Why did the character do this? The character created this personality change so that she could emotionally manipulate her father. She is hoping that by toying with his heart he will not find out that she had wrecked his car.

 

What parts of your characters' personalities would they be willing to hide? Why would they go through the effort to create their mask or illusion?

What parts of your characters’ personalities would they be willing to hide? Why would they go through the effort to create their mask or illusion?

In my post “3 Methods to Add Emotional Tension to your Plot” I talked about how every character needs a goal or a desire and that you as the writer need to figure out what they’d be willing to risk in order to get it, but you also need to figure out how they might need to change their personalities in order to obtain their goals. For example if you have a character named Bobby who wants to get married to a lady named June and is willing to die for this goal you also must decide what version of themselves they are going to use in order to make June fall in love with him. Everyone likes to present the best versions of themselves that they can to win people over, whether you’re like me who does it for a sales job, or like Bobby who does it for love. You need to decide what parts of your characters’ personalities they’d be likely to suppress and what mask they’re going to put on instead. Maybe at a particular part of your story you character’s mask will fail letting the world know their true selves. What could be the emotional impact from that? Did someone say PLOT TWIST?!

 

 

 

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Character Assessment

I used to have to do this exercise all of the time for my theatre class in high school. There would be a pair of us performing a particular scene and we each had to write a journal entry as our character which detailed our characters’ goals and also their mental status. That is what you need to do for this exercise. I want you to take your protagonist and antagonist and to write journal entries for both of them in which they detail their problems, psychological situation, and goals. Are you pro and antagonist fight? Why? What is one’s problem with the other? Do they believe their actions are justified? One of the hardest things writers face is that they don’t just have to figure out what their characters do or say but why they do or say them. This exercise can really help you to come to a better understanding of who your characters are and why they’re acting the way they are.

 

So long folks! Feel free to comment with any question, complaints, or even suggestions for writing prompts! It’s always nice when writers can have a place to go and pick up a few extra prompts to get the creativity flowing!

 

 

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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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3 Methods to Add Emotional Tension to your Plot

Know what really puts a damper on writing? FEVERS!!!!! GAHHHHHH!!!!! You might have noticed I’ve been a bit radio silent for the past few weeks and you can blame it all on a fever. For nearly a week I was trapped in my bedroom, waylaid by a 103 degree fever. When I first started feeling sick I thought to myself  ‘ah well, a few days in bed will give me extra time to write’ but after the first few days had gone by and I wasn’t getting any better all writing plans went out the window. I tried to write through it, but honestly my head was such a muddled ocean of heat, medications and sweat that most of what I wrote made no sense whatsoever. I started out writing a nice little short story about a little girl but by the time the fever kicked into overdrive the little girl had become our first ninja president…not sure why but she did. So after that debacle I figured it was a better idea to give my brain a chance to get stronger before I tried to write anything. Well now that my brain has had ample chance to cool off I am back!

Trying to write with a fever? I don't recommend it

Trying to write with a fever? I don’t recommend it

While I was sick, as I mentioned before, I didn’t get much writing done but I did do a good deal of reading. I re-read one of my favorite book series, The Millennium Series by Steig Larsson. Though I’d read the books before a part of me wondered ‘why do I enjoy this series so much’? My taste in books is usually eclectic but I don’t usually read books that are quite as gritty and dark as this series was. After I thought about it I came to the conclusion that the thing that really drew me in was the level of tension. It was one of the first book series I had read where the plot tension actually got me breathing harder and made my heart feel like it was beating though my chest. Then I started wondering, ‘how does a writer go about creating emotional tension in their plots’?

NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!

NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!

Method #1- The Little Kid

Anyone who has spent any time around a small child knows that the moment they learn to say (or scream) the word “NO” it becomes one of their favorite words. If you’re babysitting a kid who’s going through the “no phase” it can make you want to pull out your own hair, but it can be an effective way to add emotional stress into your plot. The basic method is that whenever your character finds that they want something, in some way or other you tell them no. Say your character wants to go on a road trip, and then you as the writer tell them no by having that their car not start. Think about it, if your character always ends up getting their desires then it can get a bit dull. No real person ever gets what they want right when they need it so adding obstacles that stand between your character and their goals adds both to the tension and realism of your stories.

In Gothic novels the setting adds such a big level of the creep factor it becomes another character.

In Gothic novels the setting adds such a big level of the creep factor it becomes another character.

Method #2- Using Your Setting

Some writers remember to use their plot twists, dialogue, and characters to create emotional stress in their stories but they forget to give their settings that same consideration. If your setting is real enough it can act as another character. Think about it, the setting is the world in which your characters exist. If you want the characters’ lives to create a palpable level of tension then the setting is one of the greatest tools you can use. For example, in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo most of the dramatic action is centered on a remote, rundown, and snowy island which feels detached from the rest of the real world. That sense of detachment, in combination with the danger the reader senses from the plot, makes the reader feel a sort of Gothic desolation. In traditionally Gothic novels such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula the dangerous, creepy, or otherworldly elements of the story almost always occur in a dilapidated, remote and, isolated environment. Your setting as the world of your story is one of the largest elements at your disposal and so it is one of your greatest tools for creating a sensation of emotional apprehension or tension in your story.

Figure out what each character wants and what they'd be willing to risk in order to get it.

Figure out what each character wants and what they’d be willing to risk in order to get it.

Method #3- The Poker Game

In order to keep an eye on how much tension is in your story you need to figure out what is at stake for each of the characters. In order to do this it’s a good idea to imagine that all of them are playing poker. Figure out the main goal for each of the characters and decide how much they are willing to risk in order to obtain it. This trick really helps to decide the possible consequences for every character. Have you ever read a book and it had a character that didn’t really seem to gain or lose anything by their actions or even presence in the novel? It almost feels like one of those situations where two friends are having an argument and then a stranger who is not connected their argument tries to get in on it. If your character doesn’t have anything to gain or to lose from the events of the novel then the reader can wind up thinking ‘why are they even in this story’. By imaging each of your important and central characters are in a poker game it can really aid you in figuring out what’s on the line for each of them.

Alrighty well I hope these few tips helped you out, if you have any additional pointers feel free to comment below and I will see you next time.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Writing Exercise of the Day: Physical Emotion

For this exercise I want you to imagine one of your characters is having emotional response, positive or negative, to some even but do not name the emotion. Instead I want you to describe the emotion by only using the physical impact that it has on the character. How does their breathing or pulse change? Do they start sweating? Write a bit and then re-read what you have. Is the emotion made clear?

Have fun with this and I will talk to you later!! Feel free to comment below with feedback, complaints, questions, or anything else that might pop into your head. 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.

dictionary1

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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