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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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Filed under Books, Creative, Creative writing, Fiction, Imagination, Literature, nano, Nanowrimo, non fiction, Novel Writing, Novels, Plot, Reading, Screenwriting, Uncategorized, Writing, writing prompt, writing tips

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

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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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Filed under Characters, Creative, Creative writing, Drama, Fiction, Ideas, Imagination, non fiction, Novel Writing, Novels, Playwriting, Plot, Uncategorized, Writing, writing prompt, writing tips

Getting Ready for a New Adventure with an Old Friend

Like I mentioned before, after almost 8 years of silence, I’ve gone back to the one form of writing which really was my gateway into the creative world, playwriting!! I spent my senior year of high school in a playwriting course and I absolutely adored it!! I expected to enter into college, major in english or communications and spend my professional career as a playwright. Unfortunately things didn’t turn out exactly as I would have wished.
As I was driving to school for my last day of senior year I was t-boned. I suffered numerous injuries, most devastatingly a traumatic brain injury. All of my dreams for my future were shattered. I was shattered. Eventually I got back into writing but I never got back to playwriting. I think the time is right. 

Getting back into playwriting aka my first love!!

Right now I am writing a sort of experimental theatre piece. It’s difficult to explain, but I want to show the type of cognitive disconnect between the mind and body a person with TBI experiences. Right now i have it set up that there are two characters which represent one person. One of the characters is the patient who suffered the tbi, and the other is their inner self. For example during one moment the patient gets a shot but doesn’t have the mental capacity to voice their reaction, the other character acts as a characterization of the patient’s reactions to their experiences. 

In a sense this play will do two things, it offers me a way to write plays again, and it also gives me a way to write about my own experiences with brain injuries. I’ve tried to write about my injury before, but it was just too emotional for me. I was just too close to that story so I couldn’t write it without making it maudlin or over the top. By writing it this way it gives me a way to write my story subjectively. 

What I’m writing: Right now I’m drafting a possible plotline of my play and some character profiles. I’m writing diary entries for each of my characters so I have a more grounded idea of their mental states. I’m also sketching some ideas for the set so I have at least a vague idea of the world my characters live in.
What I’m reading: One of the things I wanted read this year was the complete Sherlock Holmes and I just finished Hound of the Baskervilles. I have to get through a few of the short stories and I will be finished!! Oh and I’m about halfway done with A Dance with Dragons, the 5th Game of Thrones book. After I’ve finished that I’m planning on reading The Godfather by Mario Puzo. 

Exercise of the Day: The Scar

A lot of people in the world have scars. I have a circular scar on my hand from when I burned myself baking a pie. Take one of your scars  and create a character who has the same scar, but create a new story for how the character got that scar. For example I created a character who had a scar on his hand just like my own, but they got theirs from a dog bite and not from baking a pie.  Did their scar change them? Did the scar alter their appearance or personality? 

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

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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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Creating Characters: The Writers First and Best Tool

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Ok so I’ve gotten a good start on my nano. Like I mentioned before it’s not something I normally do. In all the times I’ve tried it before the whole nano process just never seemed to click for me. So far I have been pleasantly surprised with how things have gone so far. When I first started out I didn’t try to think of a plot, I wrote down a list of some character ideas. I wrote down a list of characters, gave them each a few distinctive personality quirks and then I wrote a journal entry from each of their perspectives. It gave me a way to envision who the character was and also how they sounded. After I had a few characters I started thinking of some ideas for situations I could put them in and how they might react and before long I had the layout for my plot!!  Journal

I decided that my story will be a mystery/suspense novel. So far I have a few thousand words down and things are looking alright so far. Right not I’m trying not to worry about my plot while I’m writing. I just want to write write and write some more!! I think I need to approach my nano like it’s a first draft. Don’t analyze every word just get the story out, save making it pretty for later.

I started my nano off by thinking about the characters because in my mind they are the most important piece of any kind of story. I think a piece of fiction (novel, play, tv series etc) can still be entertaining and good even if its plot is only so-so if the characters in it are strong enough to hold the audiences’ interest.Mad_Men_season_5_cast_photo

The characters in the show Mad Men were the main reason I never watched it. A few of my friends recommended it to me so I added it to my Netflix queue and gave it a go. In general when I watch a new show I’ll watch about three or four episodes just to see if I like it, but if it hasn’t caught my interest after that I give up. So I watched the first four episodes of Mad Men and at the end of that time I hated all of the characters. I found the majority of them to be whiny, manipulative, or stupid and so I was never really interested in their lives or stories.  For one reason or another all of the characters had gotten on my nerves to the point that I found it impossible to watch because there wasn’t a single character I was rooting for. The problem wasn’t the plot or the story itself because I love a good period piece. The ideas and stories which made up the show had the potential to be highly entertaining however the general attitude of the characters was so depressing that it made it impossible for me to get involved or even interested in any of it.

What about you? Are their many tv shows/movies/books which had interesting plots that you’ve not liked because of the characters?

A story can survive a few plot holes, however having characters who are strong enough to hold onto the readers or audience is paramount to writing a successful story. Right now I think I am going to go run off and think of some more characters which I can add to my story later. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail with them yet but I want to think of how the characters I already have would react if a new person suddenly appeared on the scene.

So long for now!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Memories of the House

For this exercise I want you to imagine that the family home of one of your characters in a sentient being with thoughts and feelings. What does the house feel about its residents? What does it remember about its previous occupants? Did the past of the house in some way shape its present personality? Does the personality of the house have any impact on the life of your character? Have fun and I will see you later!!

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A Few Steps to Help Your Characters through Personal Trauma

All people, the real ones and the fictitious ones, are going to have some kind pf physical or psychological obstacles thrown at them at some point in their lives. In order to make your character’s  journey seem more believable it is important that you work through precisely how your character would respond to a particular trauma and also to think of how they might adapt themselves to deal with whatever the trauma is. In a sense it’s almost like you have to write out a 5 step program for your characters to work through their problems because if you just said *poof* EVERYTHING’S ALL BETTER, it would seem a bit hard to believe. It would be great if we could all summon “hang-up fairies” to help rid us of all of our troubles, but that just isn’t how things usually work out for normal people so if you want to make your characters seem more relatable to readers it’s a good idea to figure out how to have them sort through their problems.

Sometimes you feel like your character's creator AND therapist!!!

Sometimes you feel like your character’s creator AND therapist!!!

Sometimes when you’re writing you feel like your characters therapist. You know all their troubles and have listened to all of their desires and dreams, but there will come a time when your character is faced with a dilemma of some sort and you must decide how they should face it and get on with their lives. I like to go step by step through these five stages every time one of my characters is attempting to deal with some sort of trauma, injury, or loss.

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  1. 1. Acknowledgement: The first step for both the character and the writer both is to acknowledge the problem for what it is, and to accept its consequences. It is best when starting out for your character to get a clear picture of what their trauma entails. Think for example, if you were injured in a car accident before you would go about getting over your injuries you would first have to come to a full and complete understanding of what your injuries were.
  2. Thought/Reflection: In most cases after bad things happen the human mind tends to play them over and over again. Do not shy away from it, use it. When your characters relive their trauma what do they think? What do they learn from it? Does your character alter their memory in any way? Do they invent scenarios to generate sympathy or to justify their behavior? This can also be dangerous, both for fictitious people and real ones, because it can lead to fixation or obsession. You might find that your character is the type who doesn’t really want to get over their emotional trauma and would rather remain tangled in a web of obsession and regret, and if that is the case you might use this step to determine how their obsession would manifest itself.
  3. Action: Thinking can only get your characters so far. So they have taken time and fully thought through their problem, what do they do then? True, they could have just remained at step number two and assed their situation and feeling again and again, but if your characters have a problem in their lives they are eventually going to have to figure out a way to try and solve it. Have you ever had one of those friends who, whenever you try to offer them a possible solution to a problem they’re venting about they blow up in for face with something like “just let me have my feelings!!”? Well get so caught up in expressing our emotion we never figure out what action we’re going to take to solve the reason we had those emotions in the first place the problem will never be solved. The same thing is true for our characters and in some cases if we let them stew in their emotions for too long their problem will only have the time to get worse.
  4. Help/Trust: In many cases our characters will find they can’t deal with their problems alone and so they might need outside help. You need to figure out who they would trust to help them. In doing so you’ll need to decide how this person will make your character trust them and also what they’re going to do to help.
  5. Resolve: Ok so your character understands their issue, has accepted to extent of its fallout, has figured out an action to take, and has gotten some people over onto their side? Now you need to decide how easily your character makes it through these steps. Do they have the will power to see it through to the end? Do they stumble? Do they fall? If they fall, what do they do to keep going? If your character does give up, what will that meant for their psychological and emotional growth?

Have to dash, spring is here and with that comes a huge list of spring chores. See you next time!!!

Spring cleaning ahoy!!! First on my list is my desk!!! It'll take me all week but it's worth it!!! :)

Spring cleaning ahoy!!! First on my list is my desk!!! It’ll take me all week but it’s worth it!!! 🙂

Exercise of the Day: The Grab Bag

Exercise of the Day

For this exercise I want you to make three piles of paper scraps. Each pile should have 10 piece of paper in in. On the first pile write the names of some of your favorite characters from movies and books. On the second pile write a list of your least favorite characters from movies and books. For the third pile write a different genre on every scrap of paper. When you are done randomly select a piece of paper from each pile and write a story based on what you come up with. For example I had to write a mystery starring Jo March from Little Women and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. LOL!!!!

Have fun and I will see you next time!!!

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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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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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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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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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