Tag Archives: Inspiration

Using Senses to Add Realism to Your Characters


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

When I smell waffles I remember warm family moments!!

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

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

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

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

Homemade bread….*chorus of angels sings*

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

Exercise of the Day: The Antique Trunk

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

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3 Simple Tips to Make Writing Your 1st Draft Easier

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

1 Think Small:

build-something

Start small and build from there

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

2 Don’t be afraid of filler

movieposter

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

3.Use freewriting as a sort of meditation

meditate

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

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

Exercise of the Day

The Exercise of the Day

The Vessel

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

Have fun and I will see you later!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to do next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deciphering the Masks: Another Step Towards Character Development

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Character Assessment

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

 

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

 

 

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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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Plot Outlining: Mapping the Journey

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

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

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

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

Example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

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

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

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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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Discussion: What Popular Books Annoy You?

Discussion: What Popular Books Annoy You?

annoyed

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

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

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

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

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Last Meal

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

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

 

 

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Character Choices for Writers: How to Find What Works

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

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

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

Crazy is as crazy does

Crazy is as crazy does

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

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Logic vs Philosophy

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

Example:

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

B: Of course.

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

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

A: Um…

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

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

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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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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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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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Is there Such a Thing as an Original Idea?

One of the biggest questions any writer faces is “where do my ideas come from?”, or “how to I come up with original ideas?” Well there’s not really an answer to the first question, but as for original ideas let me offer this little piece of advice DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING ORIGINAL! Most writers who’ve been in the business long enough know that whenever they write anything, no matter how groundbreaking they think it might be, someone somewhere in the world at some point in history has probably written something like it if not the exact same thing. My old writing teacher used to tell us that there haven’t been any truly new plots since Greek theatre. If you get too tangled up worrying about how inventive your idea might be you’ll never get anywhere. Look it’s true that there aren’t a lot of plotlines or characters that haven’t already been written, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them anyway. Even though a certain idea may not be “new” or “revolutionary” but the way you handle it can be.

Take the idea of the dysfunction family, this setup has been done thousands of times over the years from Sophocles’ “Antigone”, Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” and even Maris Puzo’s “The Godfather”, but writers continue to keep things interesting by changing the characters and the worlds they exist in. The dysfunction in your story could be a father with a drug problem, and even if someone else also wrote a story about a father with a drug problem, the stories would still be different because the drug problem is happening to two different people and under different settings. So sure, the stories might have the same starting block but they’d still end up in different places. That’s one of the fun things about writing, how even if you give two writers the exact same starting points chances are they will end up in totally different places.

As writer, your only job is to come up with rich and interesting characters, a story and write. Let the critics argue about whether or not it’s “original”. That being said, I should also mention that there is a difference between getting “inspiration” from another writer and “stealing” from them. When you get inspiration from another writer you’re really just taking a few aspects or notions and reforming them into an entirely new story, when you steal from another writer you simply take what someone else created and attempt to pass it off as your own. That book that came out a few years ago by Seth Grahame-Smith, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” could have been said to have stolen from Jane Austen, but with the fact that the writer was upfront that his book was only meant to parody “Pride and Prejudice”, Grahame-Smith makes it quite clear that he was not attempting to take credit for work which was not his own.

Exercise of the day:

The three word exercise: Write a short scene between two characters in which they are only allowed to say 3 words each per line. This exercise teaches you how to focus your ideas without rambling. An example of this exercise (this isn’t in proper playwriting format, but the blog formatting won’t let me put it the way it’s supposed to be.)

A: You got it?
B: I said so.
A: How much dude?
B: What you got?
A: It’s all here.
B: Not enough money.
A: I’ll get it.
B: Maybe later then.
A: I need it.
B: Too bad bro.

In this short scene, even without stage directions or all that much dialogue, you as the reader can still tell that these two characters are doing business with one another, and there are allusions to the fact that they might be dealing in something illegal like drugs. That’s what this exercise really teaches you to do. It’s helping you to hone in your dialogue.

Ta-ta for now!!!

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