Tag Archives: Dialogue

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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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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Thoughts on Nanowrimo

Well another year, and another dreaded Nanowrimo, is in the books. I say dreaded Nanowrimo not because I don’t like seeing people get excited about writing but more because I dislike the feeling that I get when I try. I have tried many times to plow through and reach the word count but it has never worked. When I first started trying I liked the idea of having a measurable goal to keep myself to because I thought it would give me more motivation, but instead it only added to the already palpable stress of the writing process. I actually reached the word count goal the first time I tried. I sat down every day, even days when my level of caring was below 0, and pounded out the words. I thought that I’d spend November writing, and then December and January editing and polishing. Well by the time I reached January and was in the process of editing I realized a major problem. Somewhere along the way I had become so obsessed with reaching the word count I had placed the higher value on the quantity of the words and had completely stop caring whether or not they were the right words. By the end of that January I had edited away over half of what I had done in November. I still like the overall concept of Nanowrimo and having a measurable goal but I dislike the idea of limiting myself to one month or word count.

Finding the best word

For me Nanos always end up with me placing a higher value on the number of words and not worrying whether or not they are the right ones.

This year I decided that I wouldn’t even attempt to do a Nanowrimo. In the beginning of the month I started a new seasonal retail sales job and I thought that working retail through Black Friday and all of the rest of the shopping seasonal would make for enough stress. Luckily things in the sales world have calmed down enough to let me write this post, but I think things are going to pick up a bit as it gets closer to Christmas. As you might remember from my last post I had set up some reading/viewing goals for the holidays and I wanted to give you a bit of an update. As far as the viewing plans I can happily say that I was able to watch all 3 movies on my list (Inception, The Fellowship of the Ring, V for Vendetta and After the Thin Man) but I didn’t do quite as well with the reading. I was able to find time to read 2 Sherlock Holmes novels (A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four) and Ender’s Game but that was it. I am afraid that I underestimated the level of exhaustion I’d feel working retail during the holiday season.

 

RETAIL STRESS!!! HAHAHA!!! :)

RETAIL STRESS!!! HAHAHA!!! 🙂

 

I would love to just sit here and continue writing a Moby Dick-esque post but I am afraid that I just got called into work…and it just started snowing…yay. Hahahaha!!!! Angry shoppers wait for no man!!

Sorry for the long wait in between my posts, but I very recently got some much needed technological advancements so I have much better inter access. Pardon me for a moment while I do my happy dance. *DANCES* I hope to post more in the future, but I might get a bit caught up in holiday madness.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

The Exercise of the Day: The Travel Exercise

For this exercise you will need to picture someone who is about to travel. Describe the clothes they wear, their destination and method of travel. Do they drive a car? Take a bus/plane? What do they pack? Are they excited about their impending trip or are they scared? Take this construct and build a short piece of fiction around it. Have fun with this and I will see you around!!

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Writing Plans for Nov and Dec

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

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

Planned reading:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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

 

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

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

 

The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad by Homer

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

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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

 

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

 

Planned Watching:

Inception - 2010

Inception – 2010

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

 

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001

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

V for Vendetta- 2005

V for Vendetta- 2005

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

After the Thin Man- 1936

After the Thin Man- 1936

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Fear Exercise

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

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

 

 

 

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Character Choices for Writers: How to Find What Works

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

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

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

Crazy is as crazy does

Crazy is as crazy does

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

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Logic vs Philosophy

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

Example:

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

B: Of course.

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

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

A: Um…

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

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

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Bad Language in Your Writing: Yes or No?

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

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

All words need rhythm, even "bad" ones

All words need rhythm, even “bad” ones

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

Self-Censorship

Self-Censorship

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Describe a Christmas

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

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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5 Essential Pieces of Equipment for Writers

We all know that in fact you don’t really need any special equipment to write except for your brain and perhaps a pen and paper, but there are things which can make writing easier.

Write like the Wind

Essential #1: A portable notepad and pens/pencils: Inspiration can strike at any time so it pays to keep some notepads handy at all times. A portable laptop can be helpful but is by no means essential. Of course, most writing in today’s world occurs with a computer but computers, no matter how portable they are, are always going to be somewhat less portable than the humble and low-tech notepad. Also you don’t need to buy an ornate or overly expensive journal. You can go down to your local drug store and buy a slew of pencils, pens and notepads for the same price as one expensive leather bound journal. You can buy a leather bound journal if you want, but it is not essential.

Finding the best word

Finding the best word

Essential #2: A Dictionary and Thesaurus: When you are a writer words are your life so it pays to keep words near you at all times. If you want to be sure your readers understand what you are trying to say it’s a fantastic idea to be sure you are using the best words possible, or that you are using them properly. Have you ever read a book where the writer used a lot of posh words but rarely used them correctly? It’s like Amy from Little Women. She was always trying to speak with really grown up words, but she usually got either the pronunciation or meaning wrong. Writing works the same way. A handy dictionary and thesaurus are the best tools to help with this. (Note: If you are using Microsoft Word and you want quick access to a thesaurus take the word you want to find a new version of, highlight it, and then press the shift and f7 keys at the same time. A window on the right-hand side of the screen should pop up giving you access to Word’s thesaurus.)

Technology for the win!!

Technology for the win!!

Essential #3: USB Drive(s) or a portable hard drive: Most writers know that in today’s world of technological advances that most writing is going to occur on a computer. Like I said before, cheap pens and notepads are a great and simple way to jot down ideas whenever they happen to pop into your head, but in most cases the finished product is going to be written on a computer. USB drives can hold a massive amount of data and these days are relatively inexpensive. I caught a sale and was able to purchase a 15 gig USB for under $10. Portable hard drives are more expensive than USBs but they are another great way to backup your digital data. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of utter abandonment you get when your computer crashes and you lose your work.

 

Essential #4: An expansive library: All writers begin first as readers so having a large library of books at your disposal is an essential tool for generating ideas. You don’t need to break the bank to do this either. One of the best ways to do this is to gain access to your local library. Many libraries are now allowing their patrons to check out Ebooks as well as paper books. All you need is one little card and you have access to as many books as your heart desires. I spent my entire college career working in my school’s library and my hometown one as well so libraries will always feel like home to me. I say again, always remember that all writers begin as readers.

Virginia Woolf ~  A Room of One's Own

Virginia Woolf ~ A Room of One’s Own

Essential #5: A space of your own: Virginia Woolf once wrote that since the 1800’s in order for a woman to feel the freedom to write she must have at least €200 to herself and her own room. If she had those two things she would not have to be afraid of whatever other people may think of her and she could write as she saw fit. The same type of thing is still true today and not just for the female writers. If you want to write it is key that you have your own space in which to do it. Maybe your space is just a desk in a dorm room, maybe it is an office in your house, but the important part it that the space is yours. For my own part I like to write either at my desk in my room or on my bed, and I usually have either music or a movie playing. All of those things added together equals a place where I feel comfortable enough to write whatever may pop into my head. Writing is hard enough, give yourself a break and give yourself a comfortable place to do it.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Fortune Teller

Take a character from one of your favorite books and write a story that takes place before the events of the book where they meet a seer and get their fortune told. The fortune teller lets the character know what will happen to them at the end of their story. Imagine how the events of the original story would change if the character had known what would happen to them at the end. For example, how would Othello had been different if Cassio or Roderigo had known about Iago’s intended treachery from the start? Would Nils Bjurman from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have betrayed Lisbeth the way he had if he had known how that would turn out?

Have fun with this and I will talk to you later. Feel free to comment, I love feedback!!!

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5 Bad Habits for Writers and the Lessons they Teach Us

Bad Writing Habits

It's only human to have bad habits, but that doesn't mean we can't overcome them!

It’s only human to have bad habits, but that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome them!

We all know that everyone has bad habits and writers are no exception. The trick to becoming a better writer is the ability to recognize your issues and address them. These are just a few of the habits I’ve recognized in my own writing and the ways I’ve tried to overcome them.

 1. Too many repetitions:

Over and over and over and over and over...

Over and over and over and over and over…

There is absolutely no problem with using key words for emphasis, but if you use the words too many times in a short span it can be a bit confusing for a reader. Have you ever read something where one word gets used too many times in succession? I used to have a job editing research papers for college students and a lot of the students had that habit. One student was writing a short 100 word paper on society and used the word “sociology” approximately 40 times. Trying to read that paper was very difficult because it felt like a swirling vortex of chaos centered on that one word. Lesson learned from this bad habit: Emphasis is one of the central dramatic tools of writers but it cannot be achieved by constant repetition. Use a thesaurus to help you find new words and expressions.

 2. Arrogance:

You get further talking to people than at them.

You get further talking to people than at them.

In order to be a great writer you need to set your ego aside. How can you ever attempt to edit your work if you’re so wrapped up in your ego that you think everything you’ve written is golden merely because you wrote it? Humbleness also helps you to keep your sanity through things like getting rejected by publishers and negative reviews. Also your readers are most likely not going to respond well to your writing style if they feel like you are patronizing, belittling or speaking down to them. Ego is one of the writer’s worst enemies. Lesson learned from this bad habit: It’s a fact that not everyone is going to like your writing and putting your ego aside really helps you survive the entire process of writing.

 3. Trying to sound like other writers:

Trying to copy another writers voice doesn't work. You are not them. You are you. OWN IT

Trying to copy another writers voice doesn’t work. You are not them. You are you. OWN IT

A lot of writers when they first start writing attempt, whether consciously or unconsciously, to tailor their words to sound like other established writers. In order to have a long and productive career as a writer you need to establish your own unique voice and to make it strong. Assert it! Be proud of it! It is your writing, written in your voice!!!!  Lesson learned from this bad habit: Though you can look to older and more established writers for some advice, you cannot attempt to copy or reproduce their voice in your work. It is your work. Own it.

 4. Getting too defensive about criticism:

criticism

I know I’ve spoken about this before but this is one of the worst habits for a lot of writers. When you’ve finished writing something it feels like you’ve given birth to something and even if you try to detach yourself a bit, you feel like it’s your baby and that can make you blind to its faults. Too you your book’s perfect so when it gets criticism, you run the risk of getting angry and defensive because it feels like your baby is being attacked. It’s a fact of writing that not everyone is going to like what your write or get your message. Learn to deal because sometimes the critics are right. Lesson learned from this bad habit: Criticism can be hard to hear but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. If you listen to the negative critics all the time you will never get anything written because you will think everything you write is awful. If you never listen to the “haters” you will think everything you write is great even if it has serious problems.

 5. Refusing to learn:

learning2

No writer, no matter how many books they’ve written, can say they have learned it all. To learn is to live and to grow. The moment you decide to stop learning that is also the day you should stop writing. Do research, experiment and be open to discovering new facts, emotions and characters. Lesson learned from this bad habit: To learn is to live. For writers to live is to write. The moment you stop learning your writing withers. I like to use my local library’s reference section to do research and discover new and interesting things I am not that knowledgeable about.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Science Experiment

Write a scene where you and your best friend are working on a chemistry experiment. Something goes wrong with the experiment and though you look and feel fine, something is going wrong for your friend. Write about what is happening to them. What is happening? How do they look? Does it hurt? Are they changing? If they are changing what are they changing into?

 

Have fun with this exercise and I’ll talk to you later!! Feel free to comment/like/reblog.

 

 

 

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What is Your Favorite Writing Exercise?

What’s the BEST Writing Exercise

Writing Takes a lot of muscle and you cannot be afraid to EXERCISE!!

Writing Takes a lot of muscle and you cannot be afraid to EXERCISE!!

Writing exercises are one of the best ways to keep your “idea generating muscles” in shape. If you want to hone any skill what do you need to do? You need to practice practice practice!!!!!  Loyal readers of this blog will know, I like to put a little creative writing exercise at the end of every post. I wanted to ask all of you, what are a few of your favorite exercises? What writing prompts have you found really get your juices flowing? Comment below!!!

"The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude" ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Thanks a lot! I want you to know I appreciate every blog like, every comment, reblog, and follower I get. You rock!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Accent Exercise

Write a description of a place or an object with an accent that is NOT your own.  What turns of phrase and weird pronunciations does that character use? The trick with this exercise is to not make the character seem cartoon-ish. This exercise trains you to think in a way that is unlike yourself without mocking.

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How to Use Drama to Connect with Your Audience and Further Your Plot

Write like the Wind

No matter how much they say they hate it, human beings love drama and do everything they can to create it. Think about it, if someone is trying to tell a story, either verbally or in stories, they try to bump up the drama of even the most mundane events. Writers use the exaggeration of ordinary events as a way to impress a sense of drama onto the readers. When writers do that they are offering the readers a little slice of drama which, because of it innately commonplace nature, offers the readers something they can easily relate to their own lives. Being able to give your readers something which is easily relatable gives them an easy way to connect to your story.

DRAMA MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND

DRAMA MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND

Let’s say that your main character had to wait fifteen minutes to get a table at a restaurant. They might say something like, “I can’t believe I had to wait a whole fifteen minutes just to get a table”. With the words “I can’t believe” and “a whole fifteen minutes” the author lets the reader know that while a fifteen minute wait isn’t outside the realm of possibility, it is long enough for the character to have decided that it was too long. Also, since having a fifteen minute wait at a restaurant is something which could happen any day of the week to anyone so your readers might read that and go “oh yeah I had to wait a long time to get a table last week too” and that way your reader has an easy way to connect the story to their lives.

Bad Drama = Dead Weight

Bad Drama = Dead Weight

Although human beings enjoy dramatizing events writers have to remember that there is good drama and bad drama. Good drama has a point and a purpose. It is created for a specific means like furthering the plot or adding levels of character development. Bad drama has no real purpose like an over the top sex scene or violence. Bad drama may get your story publicity or hype but if it doesn’t move the story it really has no place. To dramatize our lives is only human but as for writing if the drama doesn’t advance the plot or help to develop the characters chances are it is only going to be a dead weight.

Timing is Everything!!

Timing is Everything!!

The real trick of knowing when to use dramatization is learning when it’s appropriate. Drama, in order for it to sound natural, has to be formulated around the story. If the dramatic isn’t based on a strong foundation it’s sort of like an author who puts a joke in his book just because he thinks it’s funny. Think about it, that joke might be funny on its own but if it doesn’t fit that particular scene, the character or the tone of the book as a whole it is most likely going to seem out of place.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Alien Visitor

Imagine that your narrator is an alien visitor from outer space. Write a short story which describes the alien’s experiences when they first land. What would the alien think of Earth? How would they describe the Earth and its inhabitants?

Fellow Sci-Fi Lovers Unite!!! THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!!!

Fellow Sci-Fi Lovers Unite!!! THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!!!

Have fun with this alien inspired exercise and I will talk to you next time!!! Feel free to comment, follow, or share this post!!

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3 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Post Anything Online

Write like the Wind

“It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanisms of friendship” ~ Colette

In today’s digital age where you can post anything you want across a variety of media, Facebook, widgets, chat rooms, in a matter of seconds many are falling victim to their own posts. In today’s digital world everything seems to be centered on speed. We’ve got to get the tech faster so we can live our lives faster. FASTER!!! FASTER!!! FASTER!!!! The issue is when people can communicate faster they often times do not send their intended message clearly. Taking more time gives people more time to think and to answer some essential questions. If you want to avoid awkward encounters with friends, bosses, coworkers or anyone else in your digital world please do yourself a favor and ask yourself these three questions before you post anything online.

There are no emoticons to accurately translate SARCASM

There are no emoticons to accurately translate SARCASM

1. Does this need to be said (Am I really saying what I mean)? 

Sure you theoretically can write a comment or blog post where you trash talk your boss but just being able to do something does not mean you should. If you’ve gotten though the first half of this question and decided that yes, your message is one that needs to be put out there, you had better take at least a moment or two and make sure that you are delivering it clearly. Oh and for all of my friends who are fans of sarcasm remember that without the usage of emoticons sarcasm never comes across well online.

hyopcrisy

2. Does this need to be said by me?

Sure certain messages might be needed, but you might not be the one to say it. For example, if you constantly post pictures of yourself getting drunk and partying, you might not be the one to tell your friend that they need to go to AA meetings. The message there might be a good one, but in that situation chances are your friend wouldn’t take it seriously because it came from you.

Timing is Everything!!

Timing is Everything!!

3. Is my message something I need to say now?

If you gotten though the first steps and have come to the conclusion that yes the message needs to be said you you’re the one to do it, you need to remember that timing is key in every aspect of communication. For example say your friend’s grandmother just died and they’ve been posting about it all day, that is probably not a good day to post a funny joke onto their Facebook wall. Maybe the joke is good and on most days your friend would enjoy it, but you’ve got to think of what kind of mental/emotional state your friend is in and if they’re likely to take the joke well.   “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny.” ~ Octavia Butler

If you keep these few questions in mind when you attempt to communicate online, you will be far less likely to say something you don’t mean and you’ll also be more capable of saying the things you mean clearly.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day:  The 20 Years Exercise

Pick your favorite romantic couple from literature, film, television etc, and write a short story describing their lives 20 years after the end of their story. For example if we ignore the things that happened in Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind, what might Rhett Butler and Scarlett’s lives be like? Would they have gotten back together? If Romeo and Juliet had lived would they have stayed in love? Just pick a pair and have some fun with it!

So long for now folks!!!!

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BAD Advice for Beginning Writers and How to Avoid It

Though some can make it seem like they can sit down and in one afternoon POOF, they’ve written a novel, the actual act of writing is a challenging task. When you first start out it’s natural to look to people who’ve been writing a while for advice, but sometimes the “helpful” advice you get is the thing that’s holding you back. If you’re just getting into writing you might hear one or two of these little pearls of so called wisdom, please take them with a grain of salt!

Bad Advice 1: Eliminate ALL clichés

Fiddle-Dee-Dee!!

Fiddle-Dee-Dee!!

Look unless your characters are beat poets from outer space, chances are they are going to say at least a few adages, sayings and other forms of cliché the thing is not to have so many of them in the dialogue that the character sounds fake. A few well-placed clichés gives the audience a bit of something familiar to relate to. They could read it and think ‘I know a lot of people who talk like that all the time’ which gives the characters an added dimension of reality. That is not to say your characters can’t say random words or have a few catchphrases which are outside of the world of the clichéd. For example Scarlett O’Hara’s “fiddle-dee-dee” was not a common phrase during the civil war but Mitchell made it work because it sounded like something which was natural for the character to say. That’s the key, when you want to explore with dialogue the words have to fit the characters.

Bad Advice 2: Put ALL protagonist’s thoughts in italics

Italics
I actually heard this a few times from some established writers when I first started out but I’ve found out that it really depends on the publisher. Unless the publisher says that the protagonist’s thoughts should be in italics don’t worry about it. For me I place any bits of “inner monologue” from my protagonist in single quotation marks like this: ‘I never thought something like this could happen’. It is NOT a cardinal rule of writing that your main characters thoughts HAVE to be in italics, that is a formatting issue and is really something you’d need to talk over with the publisher.

Bad Advice 3: Use as much detail and descriptive language as possible

Leave something to the imagination!!

Leave something to the imagination!!

Details are sort of like cats. Having a few of them is nice, but having 50 of them is kind of crazy. That isn’t to say your work can’t be detailed, but the trick is to not have so many details that your reader feels smothered by them. Descriptions work the same way, if you have tons of overly descriptive language the reader can easily get bored. A lot of writers get lost in this when the first start out. They remember that writers are supposed to “show not tell” their stories and they go overboard and start giving even things which are not really important to their stories long and overly detailed descriptions. The key is to describe what you need to, but leave some room for the reader’s imaginations to fill in the blanks.

In general, if you find writing advice that says the words ALWAYS or NEVER, take it with a grain of salt. The real trick is just to write and find your own system. You won’t find a handbook with the 101 laws for how NOT to write so just relax, find the story you want to tell and find the system works best for you. What is some of the worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten? Comment below!!! Thanks for reading!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Life and Times of a Dollar Bill

For today I want you to write something from the perspective of a dollar bill as it gets passed from person to person. Tell the story of the bill fromt he day it leaves the press at the mint until the present. What does it think about the world? What does it think about the people who have had it? Have fun with this and I’ll talk to you later!!

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How to Write Useful Stage Directions

Playwriting 101

Playwriting 101

Oh my gosh!! I CANNOT believe it has been so long since my last post! Sorry about that but I’ve been a bit busy. For the past few months I’ve been in the process of moving cross country and I guess I lost track of my blog. Well let’s get cracking shall we?! For today’s post I’m going to talk to you about playwriting and specifically about stage directions and how not to use them.

Usually in the development and performance stages of a play there are three creative components; there’s playwright, the director, and then the actors. All three of parts are important but if they don’t find a way to work together, that’s when things usually go amiss.

Respect your positions as the writer and do not try to be the director/actor

Respect your positions as the writer and do not try to be the director/actor

The playwright has a lot of creative freedom while they’re trying to create the world of their play, but there are some limits particularly with stage directions. Stage directions are a great tool for the writer, but they can be used in a bad way. When writing a play the writer should shy away from using too many stage directions to spell out how every single line is supposed to be said and everything that’s supposed to happen during every moment of their scenes. If they do that they are taking away from the creative opportunities of both the director and the actors to make character choices. One of the most fun things about theatre is that the same play with the same lines can be performed in two completely different ways depending on how the directors and actors choose to interpret the script. I remember once my acting teacher gave my class a scene that was just dialogue and had no stage directions or anything. There was no setting, there were no characters, there were just lines. We split into five groups and even though we all had the same lines we came up with five individual and unique scenes.

EXAMPLE OF WHAT NOT TO DO WIT STAGE DIRECTIONS (note WordPress formatting won’t let me put this in proper playwriting format but if you check my Pages I going to put some links to guide you through formatting your play):

MAN (looking at his watch) I’m late.

WOMAN (yawning) Late for what?

MAN (grabbing his coat) I don’t know that. If I knew that I wouldn’t be late.

WOMAN (sarcastically) Well have fun then

Even though this scene was very short every single line had either an action or an emotion tied to it. A lot of playwrights overuse stage directions because they’re an easy way to get the director/actors to see exactly how they envisioned their play to look and sound, but if you write your dialogue well enough then they should be able to see what you’re aiming for without too many directions. I tend to keep my stage directions down to a minimum. My general rule is to only use them for:

1. Character entrances/exits

2. An action sequence like a fight

3. Sound and light cues

Shakespearean cats make everything better!!!

Shakespearean cats make everything better!!!

It’s important to remember that stage directions offer the writer no guarantee the directors/actors will even listen. The stage directions aren’t set in stone, there’s not law which says that they have to listen to you. My one friend wrote a play which was about thirty pages, but nearly half of those pages were stage directions. Our playwriting teacher looked at her and said “I am telling you this as a person who has directed a lot of plays in the past, but if I was given this as a director I the first thing I would tell my actors would be to ignore nearly all of your directions because you’ve reached past your position as the writer.”

If you have play that is heavy on the technical elements then you might have to give the director a few more notes but just remember your place as the writer. Your job is just to set the scene; it’s up to the director and actors to decide what to do with it.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Seven Deadly Sins

Create 7 characters using the 7 deadly sins as inspiration. The sins are:

Pride

Sloth (laziness)

Lust

Greed

Wrath

Gluttony

Envy

Write a scene with all seven characters. Think of the sin that the character is based on and how that will inform their behavior, also think of how all of the sins would interact with one another. This scene can be comedic, dramatic or whatever you decide to make it.

Have fun with this and I will see you next time!! Feedback and comments are more than welcome! Oh and try giving this writing exercise to some of your other writing friends and see what they come up with!

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Writer’s Block: How it Happens and How to Make it Stop

block

The fear of the block is something most writers in history have had to contend with, some better than others. A lot of writers have no idea what to do when they get blocked so they decide to “write through it” but there’s a major problem with that approach. How is writing through your block supposed to help you if you never understood why you got blocked in the first place? Understanding a problem is the first step is learning how to overcome it. If you take the time to understand the issue that got you hung up in the first place you have a much better chance of fighting past it.

From what I have found from my experience and from talking to other writers here are the three most common reasons that writers get stuck:

1. Not Having Enough Detail or Information:

Research can save the day!!!

Research can save the day!!!

Like I mentioned in a previous post, writing is a form of illusion. You are attempting to create a fictional world within your work that is able to captivate and hold your readers’ interest. If you do not having enough descriptive detail in your piece, or if the detail you have is lacking, then you might find it difficult to generate ideas. Say your main character is schizophrenic, if you don’t know that much about the syndrome chances are going to run out of ideas. A great idea is to hit up your local library’s reference section and do some research. Research will help you both to create a world that your readers will buy into and to generate more ideas if you get stumped.

2.Not Being Interested:

Yaaaaaaaaaaawn

Yaaaaaaaaaaawn

Coming up with ideas is a daily struggle even when you are interested in your story, but if you have gotten to the point where the plot no longer holds any intrigue for you, what do you think a reader would say about it? If you get bored by your story go back through it from the start and see at what point you began to lose interest and what you could change to make it better. Say for example your character goes off on a long speech which has some crucial plot details in it, but goes on for so long that your readers’ interest begins to dwindle. In that case the best thing to do would be to find a way to break the speech into sections so that the reader is still getting those key plot details from the original speech, but in installments so it does not feel like too much at once.

3. Not Getting Enough Sleep!!!!!

Give your brain a rest...SLEEP!!!

Give your brain a rest…SLEEP!!!

Despite the picture some people have in their heads of writers as some sort of vampiric creatures who avoid sunlight and live on coffee, writers are still human beings. Humans need adequate sleep in order to function. Your brain needs rest in order to think, because if you can’t think, you can’t write…or at least you can’t write well.  Have you ever written something when you were exhausted and then read over it later and had absolutely no idea what you were talking about? Well chances are if you can’t understand it, neither can your readers. Give your brain a break, get some sleep.

Alright, now that we’ve gone through some of the traps writers fall into that get them stuck, here are just a few of the little tricks that I have found helpful through the years.

1 – Take a Break:

Breaktime!

Breaktime!

If you get obsessed with whatever it is that has you stuck, you run the very real risk of over thinking it. If you think about your issues too much you will drive yourself INSANE!!! One of the best things you can do is to go for a walk. You need a little time everyday where you can just clear your mind and relax. Even though the stereotype of the “crazy writer” is popular even to this day, if you want to be able to have a long career as a writer you’ve got to protect your sanity!

2- Read a Book:

reading

Reading books and watching movies is a fantastic way to help you generate ideas. Just pick a random book and start reading. Pick a random movie and start watching. Sometimes I like to pick a book or movie that’s similar to what I’m trying to write and then right after that I pick one that’s totally different. You never know what can give you inspiration! Keep your eyes open for any little thing, the setting, the characters or just a few little phrases. Just a few little pieces can give you an idea or two to get past writer’s block.

3- Learn Something:

To live with purpose, is to learn with vigor!!!

To live with purpose, is to learn with vigor!!!

A writer can never stop learning about their world. Go watch a documentary, take a class or read a magazine article about something you don’t know that much about. The world changes every day and if you want to write about it or to get new ideas, you’re going to have to learn as much as you can.

4- Don’t throw away your ideas-

Save your ideas like a packrat!!

Save you ideas like a packrat!!

Whenever you write anything, even if it doesn’t work, don’t throw it away. Store all of your old work and go back over it later. For example, I save all of my writing that didn’t work in a flash drive labeled “ideas”. A few times there have been poems and short stories that I was able to take off of the flash drive years after I had first written it. Some of them I was able to finish and others I was able to use as inspiration for something else. The thing is, when you’re a writer you need to be able to grow. If something doesn’t work the first time, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get inspiration in the future.

5. Changing Perspective-

Change prespective

One thing that I like to do when I get stuck it to shift the perspective of the story. If I am writing a novel or a short story and I get a bit jammed I like to take some time and to think what one of the other characters in my story would say if they were the narrator. Sometimes I even shift formats. I was writing a novella once and I wasn’t sure where my story was going so I went back through and rewrote the entire thing as a stage play, and then again as a screenplay. Trying to transform the written words of the novel to incorporate the visual aspect of the stage and screen worked like a charm to get my creative juices cranking.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Rooms

People say that a person’s bedroom reflects their personality. Keeping that in mind, describe the bedrooms of the following characters in as much detail as possible.

1. A faded movie star with alcohol issues.

2. A person who is paranoid (now this paranoia can be real or imagined, like it can be a person it witness protection or even a person who thinks Elvis is after them.)

3. The arch-nemesis of a superhero.

4. A poor grocery store cashier who won the lottery.

Every writer is different so my techniques might not work for you but you never know, give them a shot. If you have different methods or exercises that you use to overcome blocks be sure to comment. I’d love to hear from you!

 

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