Tag Archives: literature

What are you reading/writing?

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

What are you writing?

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

Getting back to my playwriting roots!! 🙂

What are you reading?

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

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

Exercise of the day- Clearing the Cobwebs

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

Have fun with this!! 

 

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Filed under Creative, Creative writing, Fiction, Ideas, Literature, nano, Nanowrimo, Novel Writing, Novels, Playwriting, Plot, Uncategorized, Writing, writing prompt, writing tips

Creating Characters: The Writers First and Best Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

So long for now!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Memories of the House

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

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A Few Steps to Help Your Characters through Personal Trauma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise of the Day: The Grab Bag

Exercise of the Day

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

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

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Writing Update and Plot Issues: My Problems Wordiness and Vocabulary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Sinking Ship

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

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

 

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

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

thewriterscafe247

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

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

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Deciphering the Masks: Another Step Towards Character Development

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Character Assessment

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Moving Box Exercise

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

 

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

 

 

 

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3 Methods to Add Emotional Tension to your Plot

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

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

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

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

NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!

NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!

Method #1- The Little Kid

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

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

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

Method #2- Using Your Setting

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

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

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

Method #3- The Poker Game

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Writing Exercise of the Day: Physical Emotion

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

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

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The Art of Creating Villains

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

Evil is as evil does

Evil is as evil does

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

 

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

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

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

Nils Bjurman- the epitome of the malignant narcissist

Nils Bjurman- the epitome of the malignant narcissist

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: A Lesson in Context Exercise

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

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

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Is “meanwhile” the Magic Word of Writing?

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

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

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

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

Give your scene shifts a smooth rhythm

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

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

Meanwhile= The Writer’s HOCUS POCUS!!

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

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

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

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Keeping your Plot Interesting

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

dictionary1

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

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

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

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

In life questions are a guarantee but answers are not.

In life questions are a guarantee but answers are not.

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Way You Walk Exercise

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

Bye for now!!

 

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The Times and Trials of a Bookworm

I’ve said before that the vast majority of writers begin first as readers which I still think is true, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. One of my younger cousins was complaining about having to read a boring book for class and when I told them the list of books I had to read for my lit courses she said “well that’s different! You like reading!!” True, I do enjoy reading but that doesn’t make it any easier.

For me, my struggles with reading started in kindergarten. For some reason I just couldn’t get the hang of reading. I knew my letters because of the alphabet song and the like, but I couldn’t make sense of written words. They told me “This is an A, this is a B, and this is a C”, to which I would reply “No it isn’t!!! That one looks like a funny hat, that one’s a snowman, and that one is a squiggle!” After literally months of these little episodes my teacher was thinking I had something like dyslexia and I just thought I was stupid. I would sit for hours holding my books in my room and would try to piece together the mystery of what they meant. For almost an entire year I saw my classmates breezing through books while I was still stuck on page two. Finally someone had the thought “maybe there’s something wrong with her eyes”. EUREKA!!!!

As easy as ABC? I WISH!!! :)

As easy as ABC? I WISH!!! 🙂

I went to the eye doctor and after my exam I remember that he told my mother “I’m not surprised she’s having trouble reading!! She really needs glasses.” So finally after almost an entire school year the mystery of my “reading problems” were solved. For a long after kindergarten I absolutely hated reading. Whenever I picked up a book I remembered the struggles I had and how stupid they made me feel. For nearly 13 years I avoided reading whenever I could but slowly I learned to let go of those negative feelings and let myself fall into the wonderful world of books. Now that’s not to say reading isn’t still a struggle. Even with glasses every once in a while I get terrible migraines and more often than not my mind starts wandering and by the time it wanders back to the book I can’t even remember what page I was on. So for me reading is wonderful and I really enjoy it, but it’s a struggle. But when I finally reach the end of a book I feel like I’ve just won a massive battle. So yeah for me reading is a struggle, but that doesn’t mean it is not worth it!!!

Reading = Worth the stuggle

Reading = Worth the struggle

 

Exercise of the Day:  The Lesser of Two Evils Exercise

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Imagine a situation where your character must choose between sacrificing two things, both of which are important to them. Describe the situation itself, the two things your character is deciding between and also the thought process they would use to come to a decision. How would the situation resolve itself? How would the character feel at the end?

Weighing the options

Weighing the options

 

Have fun with this exercise!! Feel free to comment! I love feedback!

🙂

 

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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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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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