Posts Tagged With: fiction writing

The Daily Duty of a Writer

If you want to be a successful writer, you need to make sure you are doing two things that are so detrimental to your career, you should consider them your duty. Without these two things, you will never be able to progress your skill, and you will be hard-pressed to expand your ideas. What are these two things, you ask? They are writing and reading. Every day.

Writing Every Day

In order to improve your skills as a writer, you should write every day. The old saying “Practice makes perfect” is a mantra that is applicable to every aspect of life, including writing. There are several ways that writing every day helps you build your skill level, and I can testify to them:

  1. Writing every day helps you figure out how you can improve. If you write every day, you’ll quickly learn the strengths and weaknesses of your abilities. You might be a pro at writing dialogue, but you can see that your imagery usage is sub-par. You can work on being more descriptive if your writing. Do you find yourself drawn to only one type of character so that your story seems flat? Now that you’ve identified a weakness, you can strive to make it stronger. Learn how to make diverse characters, and use them. Have you noticed that you have a common theme in everything that you write? Good! Central themes in writing can help give you the drive to write by giving you ideas of what should happen in your stories, so why not trying to expand that theme? Did you realize that your word usage is very mediocre? Amp up your internal thesaurus and use powerful verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Don’t settle! There is a very big difference between “Susie caught the ball” and “Susie plucked the ball out of the air” or “Susie snatched the ball just before it hit the ground.” If you write every day, you’ll be able to see what you are doing that is awesome and what you are doing that needs work. Now that you’re able to identify what needs help, you can improve!
  2. Writing every day helps you overcome writer’s block. Yes! It’s true. The most annoying and life-sapping phenomenon in which aspiring writers are unable to express their ideas can be beaten by a simple task. By giving yourself 20 minutes a day to freely write, your brain will become less inclined to ‘freeze’ when you really need it to run smoothly. There are a few ways you can do this; you can journal, you can blog, you can freewrite, etc. Just as long as you give yourself time to write, you can train your mind away form writer’s block.
  3. Writing every day helps you focus on your goals. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I plan on letting writing be my main source of income one day. By writing every day, I am reminded of my ultimate goal. I know that every time I pick up a pen (or open a blank page in a program) to get my writing in for the day, I am helping myself towards who and what I want to be.
  4. Writing every day confirms who you are. We all know of those ‘writers’ who claim that they have hundreds of story ideas and thousands of character designs and aspirations of making it big, yet…they have nothing to show for it. The ones who are willing to tell the world of their current story’s plot, goals, themes, etc. but don’t have hardly anything written down. I’ll admit it. I used to be that person. I used to jot down story ideas, map out the plot, design amazing characters and then blather about it to anyone who was willing to listen. The only problem was that I never wrote anything downSure, I wrote the idea and detail stuff down, but I didn’t actually have a manuscript saved to my computer with the story neatly typed up inside it. Most of the time, I didn’t even have anything other than a few scribbled notes inside my binder. I found myself telling people, “I want to be a writer.” By not actually writing, I felt that even though I had all these ideas, I wasn’t a writer yet. And that’s the truth. I wasn’t a writer! I was a talker, a dreamer. To be a writer is to be a person who writes! If you want to be a writer, you have to write! Now that I make sure I write every day, I can honestly tell people, “I am a writer!”

Even though this might seem a little hard to add to your schedule if you’re working a 9-5 job or if you’re in school, or if you have children, just remember that with a minimum of 20 minutes a day, you can reap these benefits. It also helps if you look forward to your own personal writing time. If sitting still with some paper and a pen or a computer seems a little boring to you, make it interesting. For example, since I get distracted easily, I use a leather bound notebook and a dip pen—you know, the old fashioned ones that you actually have to dip into ink. Give yourself some unique, intriguing pizzaz. If you like the outdoors, set up a little writing area on a patio. Not enough? Get a lap desk and lounge under a tree. Pen and paper too old school? Grab a computer or an iPad. Make your writing time fun for you so that you look forward to it every day.

Reading Every Day

Before you jump the gun and declare that reading is a waste of time for a writer or that daily reading negatively impacts your own writing style (yes, some people use these arguments), here is a really important and interesting fact: When you read something that does not have pictures, your mind instantly uses your imagination to envision what is going on. The more you read, the more you utilize your imagination. This is something I learned while reading How to be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play by Barbara Baig. (This book was so influential to me, I added it to my Recommended Readings and Doings page.) When you exercise your imagination daily, it becomes easier to envision and create your own world through detail and description—even if the setting is an area that you made up 100%! So, it is crucial to all writers to read everyday in order to exercise your imagination and enable you to imagine your own stories. I know that this has helped me in several ways:

  1. I find myself more able to accurately describe action scenes cohesively. There was a time when I read back over some stories I had written in junior high when the flow of the scene went something like this: Samuel glared at Scarlet, his knife gripped in his hand. He made the first move and suddenly, she was on him. He pushed her to the floor and climbed off the table… Yeah. It was that bad. I wasn’t able to envision what was happening, so I tried to throw things together in the hopes that the reader would figure it out. Now, however, I would be more inclined to write something like this: Samuel glared at Scarlet, his knife gripped in his hand. He sprinted forward in the hopes of killing her quickly, but she pushed his weapon aside and flipped him onto a nearby table using his momentum against him. As he struggled to catch his breath, she threw herself on top of him, grabbing at his throat. He pushed her to the floor and climbed off the table… Much better. Now that I am able to imagine the event, I can describe the sequence of it without confusing the reader.
  2. I am able to describe things that do not exist. What does a city that is underground and made completely out of crystal look like? I can tell you (using a city from an old story of mine) that the city is fashioned like a giant stalagmite. It reaches up to the cavern ceiling as the people who live there continue to build up and out. Firelight flickers everywhere as it is reflected off of the crystal walls and doors. You can tell the wealthy from the poor, because the wealthy have cut and shaped crystal supports that fracture the light into thousands of gleaming rainbows, but the poor are left with the dirty, uncut raw crystal used to initially build their city. See? I can envision this place even though it does not and probably never will exist.
  3. I am able to incorporate clothing details that I’ve never been able to incorporate before. This one might seem like an odd one, but bear with me. When a person runs in my mind now, I can see not only their form running, but I can see their hair blowing out behind them and their clothing flapping in the wind. I used to only write my characters as running through forests without so much as a scratch. However, now I’m able to see them running and their hair getting caught in bushes and branches. Their clothing catches on the underbrush and tears. Depending on how fast they are going, they will have green wispy lines across their bodies and their faces due the  the leaves smashing against them, releasing their chlorophyl.

Hands down, reading every day helps my imagination be more active, which helps me when I write my stories. If this seems tedious to you as well, read things that you enjoy. I find that when I read books the same genre of what I am writing at the time, I get a better understanding of how that particular genre operates. You don’t like that? Read what interests you. Bring out the YA novels or the steamy romance. Crack open an adventure novel or slink into the shadows of a mystery. Make sure you’re reading things you want to read because you enjoy them, and not because it’s just for work or just for writing. I don’t call my reading time my “I-need-to-read-so-I’ll-read-something Time.” I call it “Relaxation with a Book Time.” Read what interests you, and make sure it’s enjoyable. Just be sure that there are no pictures. Don’t cheat your natural ability to imagine what people and places look like by looking at someone else’s representation of it.

That being said, it’s important that a writer both writes and reads every day in order to hone your skills to be the best you can be.

Thanks for reading!

Do you get these two things in a day? How do you write every day? What do you read?

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey, Freelancing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reader’s Choice Survey

Since I’ve finished the three part series about the 3 acts in writing, now it’s your turn to choose what post you want to see next! Just a reminder: this poll will only be open for 24 hours.

EDIT: The poll is now closed. The next post I will be creating for you guys will be about Flashbacks!

Thanks for taking the time to click and submit!

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plotting the Plot

Plot and character go hand in hand no matter how you look at it. Why is this? It’s because a plot is the direct result of an event (or many) happening to your characters and how they react to it/them. Think of it like this: After you’ve created Character X and can put yourself in his shoes and therefore know his inner workings (hopes, dreams, goals, etc.), you can figure out how he would react to an event. For example: Sally is a nice girl who has lived in high society her entire life and hasn’t had to lift a finger to do anything. Sally is driving to the mall in her Porsche and all of a sudden BAM! Her tire blows. Would she get out to fix the problem? No! She would sit in the driver’s seat and fret that the pair of stilettos that would go perfectly with her outfit is going to be sold before she can get to them. What does she do now? She would probably call her dad or her boyfriend to come fix her tire so she can go get the shoes! Now we have a plot and two plot points. The plot points are that 1) her tire blew, and 2) she has to call someone to fix it for her.

Plot is all about the characters. How they react to events–but also how they react to people. Let’s say that Sam, a long-time friend of Sally just so happens to drive by and recognizes her car on the side of the road. Since he knows Sally and likes her, he would pull over and see if she’s okay. What happens now is up to you: is Sally upset? Is she peeved? Is she scared? You would know the answer to this since you are the one who created her. If she were upset, she might fling herself into Sam’s arms and cry that her tire had blown. If she were mad–how DARE the tire to blow on her!–she would probably snap at Sam and demand that he fix the tire.

This example is for a character based plot that is spiderwebbing towards all sorts of endings (I say this because as of right now, you wouldn’t know exactly how Sally would react and interact with others). She could be so grateful to Sam, she goes on a date, falls in love, and marries him; He could be so hurt by her remarks, he might just leave her on the side of the road. This type of plot making is great for you writers who like to sit down and write non-stop, letting it flow. You may have a general idea of what you want, but you let the characters decide.

I tend to use a more structured approach and have a detailed account of what I want to happen. Character X will come across this and do that which will lead to this and that, etc. However, since I use a less flexible way of forming the plot, I have to be sure that I have characters that would react to the events in the way I want them to. I wouldn’t want an anti-cat person fall in love with a cat-lover unless I was planning on having that character change. It is never wise to have a character do something out of character. If you have a plot in which a young woman is always subjected to her family’s whims when it comes to ideas, you wouldn’t have that character be strong-willed. You would have her be insecure and unsure of herself so that she WOULD be subjected to her family’s whims.

Now that you know your characters inside and out, you can begin to make a plot. What do you want to happen? Do you want Character X to fall in love with Character B? Okay. How? Well, he’s going to do this, which will lead to that, etc. The plot is all up to you and your characters. Let them lead you through the story–it’s about them, anyway! A fun thing that I like to do as an exercise is have any two characters that I have developed and pit them against any one random event while interacting with the other, even if they would never be subjected to the event or other character in the story you created them for.

The key to a working plot is to listen to your characters and let them be themselves.

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creating a Character, Part 1

Characters are the single most important aspect of your writing. They are the vessels that transport the reader into your imaginary world; if they aren’t well developed or well thought out, they may wind up dropping your readers into the sea of forgetfulness. Think about it. What is your favorite book? Your favorite part of the book? Odds are that you chose this particular instance because of the characters. For example, my favorite book is Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and my favorite part is when Vidanric makes a wager with the protagonist, Meliara. The stake of the wager: a kiss. I don’t love this part merely for the idea that two people will be racing against each other for a single kiss. I love this part because of how the two of them react to each other. Vidanric stated the wager and the stake just to spark Meliara’s personality, and she, in turn, accepted knowing that if she won, she wouldn’t have to kiss him.

Now that you have your favorite part in mind, think about the characters. What makes them so memorable? Is it their personality? Their quirks? As you create your story, you must have the proper characters to keep the plot flowing. How can you do that? How can you write about a character that your readers will actually know only by what you choose–or not–to write about? Simple. Know your characters from the inside out.

My favorite way to do this is, when I have an idea for a character, to plot out who they are in a character bio. You can follow this link to the bio sheet I created to flesh out my individual characters –> Blank Character Bio

The trick isn’t just to “fill it out” and move on. You want to explain your character. It doesn’t have to be in depth, but anything but a shallow answer will do. For example, one of the blanks to fill in the bio is favorite food. Instead of just saying “sushi,” explain why. “Character X likes sushi because her father used to take her to sushi bars before his car wreck, so Character X feels closer to her father whenever she eats it.” It doesn’t have to even be that detailed. You could just say that “Character X likes sushi because her father treated her to it often as a child.” I just feel that the more detailed, the better. Why is this? Because you won’t be describing every single thing about your characters to your readers. You’ll be writing and leaving things out, yet, since you know your characters so well as you write about them, your readers will feel as though they know your characters just as well and can infer for themselves that “Character X would like sushi because of…” They would get all of this without your specifically saying that Character X liked sushi.

This results in the idea that most readers have after they read a work and talk about the characters as if they were real people.

“Meliara wouldn’t have ever agreed to the wager if someone else had given it!”

“Really? I think she would have just to prove that she could best anyone on horseback.”

“Well, I think she only agreed to it because she likes being in the fresh air and was looking for a reason to race her mount across the hills.”

And all of these are true because the readers would have known how Meliara was through how Sherwood Smith had written her through personality and actions.

Now it’s your turn! Don’t forget to check out Part 2!

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Elements of a Scene, Part 3

We have talked about the basic structure of a scene and what it should do in Part 1 and have looked at a few important types of scenes in Part 2.  Now, since you are starting to get a pretty good idea of what you are planning to do with your scenes, let’s go even deeper into the scene and look at how it works in three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end.

The Beginning

A writer’s greatest weapon, in my opinion, is the ability to start writing in medias res. That is, writers can begin writing in the middle of the action where there are no lengthy descriptions, and the author chooses to show, not tell. Why do I think that this is the greatest weapon? Because readers who are suddenly thrust into your created world and things are already going on feel compelled to keep reading. It gives them a sense of “catch-up” when everyone else knows the information that they crave to know as well. I’m not saying that it’s a terrible idea to begin a scene with the description of the surroundings or a character or the author’s musings about life. I’m just saying that the reader has to make more of an effort to feel engaged within the story.

In the beginning of a scene, characters should be introduced by the second paragraph. This is vital if this scene happens to be the opening scene to your novel. Sure, action is great, but readers will be less interested in the goings-on if there aren’t characters that propel them.

The Middle

Remember back to Part 1 when I was comparing a scene to a plot and how it had rising action, climax, and falling action? While the beginning of a scene will have subtle rising action, the middle of the scene will have demi-climaxes. These are instances that build tension in the scene that translates to the overall plot. Think of these demi-climaxes as hurdles your characters will have to face in order to get to the end of the scene or story. Depending on what type of scene you are writing, the demi-climax may be completely internal, or it may be a part of the action that effects the characters and pushes them down the plot line.

In the middle of the scene, the characters must come into contact with conflict. It doesn’t have to be as big as a character dying or deciding to kill off a group of people (though it could be); it just has to be an obstacle hindering the characters that builds up tension for the big climax that the characters have to overcome in some way, shape, or form.

The Ending

Depending on how the character will be able to overcome the demi-climax and if he is able will define how you end the scene. It may end in a nail-biting cliff hanger and then jumps to a different type of scene, leaving the reader thirsting for more, or it may be resolved in a way that changes a character’s original plan of action (usually how a plot is created, anyway).

You don’t have to completely resolve the demi-climax either. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend having a definite ending unless it is the last scene in your story. That way, the readers are compelled to continue reading since they don’t have a sense of closure after just a couple of scenes.

I know that this has been a lengthy post, and I thank you for seeing it through until the end. This concludes my Elements of a Scene series.

Thanks for reading!

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