Tag Archives: Writing Exercise

Getting Ready for a New Adventure with an Old Friend

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

Getting back into playwriting aka my first love!!

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

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

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

Exercise of the Day: The Scar

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

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

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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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Best New TV Shows of 2015-2016?

What New TV Show for the 2015-2016 Season is the Best?

I’m glad to be back and posting!! I’ve been down with health problems for a while, but I’m finally starting to feel better!!! During the time when I was ill I couldn’t read as much as I would normally have done because of migraines so I spent a lot of time watching television. While there are some, myself included, who are continually dragging television and its writing through the mud I realized that there a lot of shows whose script quality surprised me.

Let’s start out with a brief recap of some of the new shows which came onto the scene in the 2015-2016 season. For all of the shows I list I’m going to sort them from what I think are the worst to the best. Just as a side note, I’m only talking about the four major networks because they’re the only stations I get in my area.

For CBS-

3. Limitless – While the story is interesting the main character is written as such a smug and entitled jerk than I could not get invested in his story. This show did something extraordinary in that it created a reboot which was better than the original source material, the way its main character is written made me lose all interest.

2.  Supergirl – I have seen a few versions of Supergirl in the past but to me they all had the same problem. All versions of this superhero have made her seem too much like a whiny little girl who happens to have super powers where I would prefer her to be shown as a superhero who just happens to be a young woman. While I enjoy that this character is being used as a positive role model for young girls but I would liked to have seen her written as a little more mature.

1. Life in Pieces – While some have said that Life in Pieces with its form of showing four short stories which center around one family is merely riding on the coattails of Modern Family, I have found it to be a completely refreshing take on the family sitcom (which I actually like better than Modern Family). The main thing which I like about this show is its realistic characters. In watching this show I have been reminded of my own family and the families of my friends, which adds a level of genuinely to its laughs.

Life In Pieces

Best CBS show of the new season

  

For NBC-

2. The Player – This show…what to say about it? It is difficult to find the right words to describe it because, even though I watched a few episodes I still have no idea what the story was actually meant to be about. There were explosions, sexual innuendo and bravado but that is all I can call to mind. Unfortunately this is a show which relied so heavily on its FLASH BAM elements that it fails to come up with a believable or interesting story.

1. Blindspot – This has easily been my favorite show of the entire year. It has some of the same FLASH BAM elements which I mentioned in The Player, I mean I don’t think an episode has gone by without an explosion or gunfight of some kind, but its multi-faceted characters and multilayered plotlines offer it more substance than flash.

Blindspot

Best CBS show of the new season

For ABC –

2. The Muppets – As a fan of the Muppet movies of the past and the ones which have been released in recent years I was very excited to hear that ABC was planning on making a Muppets TV show. My excitement completely wore away as I watched the first episode. I was hoping for a return to the Muppet Show of the past but was instead greeted by a combination reality show mockumentary with inappropriate innuendos. This show just feels wrong and to my mind isn’t an accurate representation of what the Muppets are.

1. Quantico – Like many ABC shows Quantico relies a bit heavily on its steamy elements (ala Grey’s Anatomy). However its time jumping element combined with its terrorism and government conspiracy storylines have set it apart from the soap opera mold and have made it what I consider to be the best new show on ABC for 2015-2016.

ABC-Quantico

Best CBS show of the new season

For FOX-

2. Scream Queens – This show combines together all of the most annoying elements of the horror movies of the 90’s and blends it all together into a weird mashup. I really couldn’t tell if they were trying to make a horror or comedy show. The writing of this show is unfunny and so formulaic that it had no chance of holding my interest.

1. Lucifer – To be honest I actually don’t like this show, but it was at least a little better written than Scream Queens. In recent years the FOX network has been grinding out shows of this nature with suave antiheros, Empire being the most successful of these. When I heard the initial premise for this show I could imagine every character and almost hear the smugness of the main character. It’s better written than Scream Queens but I’ll still pass.

lucifer

Best CBS show of the new season

Best show of the 2015 – 2016 Season: BLINDSPOT

I am a big fan of spy/government conspiracy shows and am particularly fond of ones with a female driven cast. In the early 2000’s there was the JJ Abrams show Alias and more recently there has been Person of Interest, but that’s been about it. When I first heard the premise for Blindspot, a young Jane Doe with no memory of her past dropped off in Time Square and her entire body is tattooed with complex puzzles? Yup…I was intrigued. I hate it when a show is so predictable that I feel, even if I’m watching a new episode, like I’ve seen it all before. I also don’t care for shows that throw in random twists which don’t seem to fit any of the characters or the feeling of the series. You see I like it when a show has twists but I want those twists to feel like they arose as a natural progression of the story and weren’t just randomly thrown in to tick fans off (*cough*cough*Game of Thrones*cough). Blindspot has an intelligent script, and some of the strongest female characters I have seen on television in years.

blindspot2

Best CBS show of the new season

How about you? What did you think about the new crop of shows from the past year? Sound off in the comments!!

Even though this post was all about television, that does not mean that I have forgotten about writing!! One of the biggest factors which for me separates a good tv show from a bad one is the writing. Most importantly as I mentioned above I love when shows can avoid overly predictable plots without adding in twists which feel forced and the same is true with writing. I do not like it when I read back through my stories and particular plot twists feel out of place, like I just threw them in for laughs. So long for now!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Escape at any cost

Imagine a character who is trapped in some way. Perhaps they are trapped in a menial job, maybe they’re stuck in a bad marriage or perhaps they are the captive of an alien life form. How does the character respond? Do they try to escape their situation? Imagine what lengths your character might go to in order to achieve their freedom. If they are successful in escaping their situation what do they do?

 

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

P.S. IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK!!!

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3 Changes that Made my 2015 Nano more Successful than Ever!!

Nanowrimo 2015 has officially come to a close!!! Well I didn’t quite hit the mark. I got to 30,000 words, which isn’t quite as much as I wanted to write, but it’s way better than I have ever done before.

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Reading = Worth the stuggle

Change #1– Stop Editing! All I did differently was to write without a censor. In previous years I would write a bit then go back over what I had done to make sure it made sense. This year I looked at Nanowrimo in a new way. I viewed it like a very long rough draft. When I was writing research papers in college I would just use the rough draft I wouldn’t spend much time editing, I’d just try to throw some ideas into pile to try and see what my thesis could be.  So this time I tried shut the editing section of my mind off while I was writing. Now that I really feel like I have a grip on the form and shape of my story I am going to put the editorial phase of my story on hold until the new year. I’m using the next few weeks to rest my brain, get some reading done, and also get ready for Christmas.

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Sure it's good to clean up your writing, but hold off on it until you've actually written something. Write first, edit last.

Change #2– Sleep More- I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but sleep is one of a writer’s best friends. Well it would seem I needed a dose of my own medicine. In recent months with working two jobs I had let my sleep schedule get really messed up and I was trying to juggle everything on just a few hours of sleep. During that time I was also trying to work on my writing, but for some reason I wasn’t having any luck at developing ideas. Then one day I was going back over something I had written in a notebook a few years before. There in big red letters were the words “If you don’t sleep your brain does not work properly”. There it was!!! I wasn’t sleeping so of course I couldn’t think straight!!! I’ve told so many people that in the past, but I never thought I’d be the one who needed to be told that!! So now I make sure that I am in bed by 11PM at the very latest and I try to get a solid and consistent 8 hours a night.

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I felt such a dope!!! I've been telling people for year's how important sleep is to the writing process!!! A more consistent sleep schedule made all the difference!!

Change #3– Diary Entries- Before I had ahh thought of what my story was I started out with a list of my characters with some of their personality quirks. With that list as my starting point I wrote a short diary entry from each of the characters’ perspectives. It really gave me a fun way to envision who the characters are, how they think, and what they sound like.

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Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Just a few little changes to my thought process and writing techniques led me to greater success than I have ever achieved before. How did you all do? What did you do to relieve stress?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Pet
For this exercise you are going to think of one of your favorite characters and imagine their pet. What type of pet do they keep? What do they name it? Does the pet’s personality reflect their owner?

I’ll see you around!!!

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Another Nano, Another Year!

Well another November has come and writers all throughout the world have joined together to attempt the seemingly impossible, to write a novel in a month. I personally have tried a few times before to complete a nano but found the process to be far too chaotic and stressful to work with my writing style.

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However, I never like to give up on anything without giving it my all so I’m going to give it another chance. This time I think I have acquired enough techniques to cope with the stress that nano had always placed upon me. I have a vague plot I’ve been developing in recent months which I’d like to use as the basis for my nano so the only thing I need now is time. That’s the real struggle isn’t it? I truly wish that the person who had originally thought of the idea of nanowrimo has selected another month.

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Prepare for battle!!!!

November and December are like my own personal Battle of Badon Hill except instead of a field of warring Britons and Anglo Saxons I will spend that time drowning in a faceless mass of holiday shoppers.

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They're heeeeeeeeere...

I hope that I have the fortitude and the strength to give my nano everything I have without collapsing. I am going to give myself a bit of leeway when it comes to the week of Black Friday though. I am planning to skip any writing on that week so I can rest up. I am already scheduled to work nearly 20 hours on Thursday and Friday combined so I am pushing the last week of my nano until the first week in December. That way I can get my writing in, but also avoid a complete mental collapse.

What do you do during nano to help you handle stress? It can be a rigorous process so we all need to find ways to cope with the mental strain. I think this time around I need to create a greater support system for myself. I am going to spend more time talking to my writer friends who are also attempting nanos so that we can all vent our frustrations and perhaps even help each other with idea generation. I have to get back to work but I’ll be around later with status updates, etc. So long!!!

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Exercise of the Day: The Debate
For this exercise you need to select two characters who are enemies and imagine that they are both running for president. Write a statement for both candidate explaining their respective stances. You will need to think of what they believe, why they believe it, and also what they would say to convince voters to join their cause.

So long for now!!!

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10 Reading/Writing Resolutions to Kick-start 2015

 

Welcome to a new year!!! Gosh, it has been a while since I posted, but with working retail during the holiday shopping season I went into writing hibernation and have just now started reemerging into the writing scene. I found that I was getting so batty with work, that when I tried to write I would write a page or two and spend the rest of the night nursing a migraine and a bad attitude. But, the holiday shoppers are on their way home and it is time for me to get back to work! YAY!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

RETAIL STRESS!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The time has come, once again, to make resolutions and set goals for the next 365 days. Instead of making resolutions about losing weight or some other such nonsense I like to make a list of books that I am going to at least try to read in the next year. Last year’s list included Dickens’ Bleak House, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a few others. I actually ended up finishing my entire list!!! Now it’s time for a new list and this year I’ve decided to read books that I had started but never got around to finishing. Like I’ve mentioned before I have a tendency to be a bit of a distracted reader but I am really working on overcoming that habit. I am hoping that working through this year’s reading list will offer me plenty of chances to conquer my reading problems.

So here’s my 2015 Reading Resolutions List

  1. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy – I’ve read the first two or three books in this series but I never got around to finishing.
  2. Finish reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – I just recently finished re-reading The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring but I haven’t finished the rest of the series yet.
  3. 1776 by David McCullough
  4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  5. I have to read the 4th book in the Millennium Series (title unknown) – I am not sure what the series will be like now that Steig Larsson is dead and the series is getting passed on to a ghost writer. I am not sure I will like it, but this is one that I have to read.
Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Every writer needs to be a reader, so I decided to give myself a reading and writing resolution list for the new year.

Writing resolution list for 2015

  1. Turn off the internet on my computer when I write to cut down on distractions. The internet can be very helpful to writing when it comes to gathering information for any research that you need to do, but it is also chock full of distractions. Best idea is to save your internet usage for research/editing time not writing time.
  2. Write more. I know this seems a bit obvious but it’s really something I need to do. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it can make me become a better writer. I think the best way to accomplish this is to work on at least two new writing prompts per week.
  3. Create more diverse characters. I’ve noticed that my characters have become a bit one dimensional so I think I need to work on making them more diverse. I don’t think that it is enough to make them more culturally or racially diverse, I must also make them more psychologically diverse as far as their ways of thinking.
  4. Explore different plot and genre elements. Research the plot elements and plot differences between different genres of literature. Going back to the basics when it comes to plot has helped my before when I’ve needed help generating ideas. A bit more research couldn’t hurt.
  5. Finish something. One of my major problems hasn’t been starting new projects is has been finishing my old ones. I need to make a better effort to finish my projects.
Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Most Prized Possession

A character of your own invention finds a note which reads

Hello you slimy piece of filth,

I know who you are and what you did. I have taken the thing that you value most in the world. Either bring me what I want or face the consequences. You have one day.

Signed,

You know who

Using this note as your starting point write a story. You must decide who your character is and the reason for the note. Who wrote it and why? What did they take? What are they planning to do if their needs are not met?

So long for now!! Hope to hear from you soon!!! Please feel free to comment with any questions or concerns.

Author’s note- I might be MIA for the next few weeks. We’re expecting now in my area for the next few days and when there is snow I have no internet. I will post as much as I can though. Later!!!

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Writing Update and a Bit of Character Work

AKA - Me whenever I try to do a nanowrimo

AKA – Me whenever I try to do a nanowrimo

 

 

Well another November has rolled around and again writers all around the country are getting their plots lined up and trying to reach that seemingly astronomical word count of 50,000!! For my own part I don’t really get too invested in this yearly event. I like the concept of having a measurable goal to hold myself to, but in practice it’s just never worked for me. I’ve spoken about this before but for me whenever I have tried to do a nanowrimo I go a bit daft and start putting too much thought into the number of words and less into whether or not they’re the right words. If writing this way works for you then HAVE AT IT!!!! All writers have their own systems and things that work for them, if nanowrimo leads you to productive writing and good stories well then I wish you good luck!!!

Slow-Progress-Is-Better-Than-No-Progress

I am still working on my Gothic mystery story, but the progress has been slow. That doesn’t really bother me because even slow progress is progress. Last month I really started getting stuck on who Liz, my protagonist, is and how her mind works. If I as the writer can’t get a clear picture of who my characters are then my readers aren’t going to be able to either! That was a major problem and to fix it the only thing I could think of to do was to rewrite my entire story from Liz’s perspective as if the whole story was her diary. Because I wanted my story to have a Gothic vibe, it made sense for mw to imagine what the plot would look like if I wrote it out in epistolary format, where the story is told via letters and journal entries, because that was really popular in Gothic lit. Dracula, one of if not the most famous Gothic novel of all time, was written like that so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a go.

Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

To be truthful it was grueling and slow work to change the format of my entire story, but in the end I had a very distinct picture of who Liz was and how her mind worked. Using that knowledge I went back to my original manuscript and added bits of narrative from Liz’s diary into it so that I could flesh out her character. I think that the next time I write I will try to keep a running diary for all of my main characters so that I can keep better track of their character and psychological development. I know this post is a bit short, but  I have to dash to my day job now. So long!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Aversion Exercise

For this exercise I want you to think of a character who in absolutely repulsed by something which is considered to be harmless or innocent i.e. handholding, puppies, a child skipping, toy sailboats. Why does your character have such a negative view of something so innocuous? How would their aversion show itself? Would your character become agitated or violent?

Think about that and I will see you later!! If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or just want to vent have a go!! I’d love to hear from you!

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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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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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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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