Tag Archives: writers block

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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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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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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Writing Plans for Nov and Dec

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

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

Planned reading:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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

 

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

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

 

The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad by Homer

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

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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

 

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

 

Planned Watching:

Inception - 2010

Inception – 2010

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

 

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001

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

V for Vendetta- 2005

V for Vendetta- 2005

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

After the Thin Man- 1936

After the Thin Man- 1936

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

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Fear Exercise

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

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

 

 

 

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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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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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How to Write a Believable Story: Being an Illusionist

How to Write a Believable Story: Being an Illusionist

Illusions to fool your readers

Illusions to fool your readers

When you’re writing, it’s kind of like you’re creating an illusion. It’s sort of like being an actor on the stage. Actors are illusionists at heart. With the costumes they wear, the voices they use, and the way they use their bodies they are attempting to fool the audience in the believing that they are their characters and that the world they live in, is real. Authors have to do the same things when they write. You have to, with a few well-chosen words, make the audience believe in your story and your characters. With some things that’s easier than with others. It’s really when you get into certain things like historical dramas, period pieces or fantasy that the creation of the illusion must go deeper. Say you’ve written a fantasy story, but the characters are so outlandish and the story is so bizarre that they sound incredibly fake, you’re reader probably isn’t going to get invested in it. Think about it, when you were reading a book didn’t it make the story have a greater emotional impact on you that you could almost see it? And when you can get your readers hooked emotionally, then you’ve got them in your pocket.

 

If you’re trying to write a historical drama one of the best things you can do to achieve the illusion of realism is research. Have you ever taken a class with a teacher who didn’t really know what they were talking about? It makes it a lot harder to learn when the person who’s supposed to be teaching you is learning the material right along with the class. The same concept goes for writing. If you’re writing about a specific era or even a specific emotion, then you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. I was writing a 19th century drama that was centered in England a while ago, so I had to learn as much about that time as I could. If I was going to make the reader believe in the 19th century world I was attempting to create would I have to make every aspect of that world as genuine as possible. If you need any help in the research department, I suggest going down to your local library and checking out the reference section. Also, read other authors of that era. For example, if you’re interested in the Gothic literature of the Romantic Era (late 1700’s – 1850) you might try reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or John Pollidori’s novella The Vampyre.  That leads me to another point, if you’re writing anything it’s a good idea to read other pieces of literature that are similar to yours. If you get blocked or just want some help generating idea might help you generate some more ideas.

Exercise of the Day:

Today's Special

Today’s Special

If you’re in a bit of a slump, one thing you can do to perk up those creative juices is watching movies and reading books. For this exercise you should pick one book or movie and pick a small character from that piece (for example, Meg Giry from “Phantom of the Opera” or Maria Lucas from “Pride and Prejudice”) and write a new story with that character as the central figure. This one’s really fun because you get the chance to create a whole new backstory for your character using just the little bit of info from the original story. Have fun creating and I’ll talk to you next time!

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