WTT: Blocked?

It’s Writing Tip Tuesday (and I almost forgot it was Tuesday!). Let’s talk about writer’s block.

Writer’s block isn’t any fun. When it happens to a writer, they’ll tell you it feels like they can’t put anything on paper at all. But that’s the precise moment you must! Even if it’s just a few sentences, you must write. Keeping those creative channels open is very important. Keep that pen moving!

Wr.Tu.Th: Character Development

It’s Writing Tutorial Thursday. Today we’re talking about creating really awesome characters.

Writing Tutorial: Character Development

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is based on what I, personally, have learned in my educational and professional careers. This tutorial is simply meant to offer some helpful tips.

INTRODUCTION:

What keeps us coming back to a story? It’s probably not the creepy house in chapter three (even though it was a damn good description). It’s the characters. Your story wouldn’t be anything unless there was a protagonist to relate to, root for (sometimes against), commiserate with, and follow.

So what makes a good character? How do you make one “come alive?” Well, I’m here to help answer those questions.

1) Know your characters. This doesn’t just mean what they look like. You should have detailed back stories for your characters—even the minor players. Make sure they’re well-developed. Yes, describe that they’ve got hair the color of cornstalks waving in the fall sunlight, but also describe who they are as a person. What are their dreams? Beliefs? Likes? Dislikes? Family history? Quirks? Eccentricities? Mannerisms? Think about who you are. How would you describe yourself or someone you know? That’s how you should be describing your characters.

Note: Don’t forget about your secondary characters. Giving life to many “background characters” is just as important. They might not need as detailed of a back story as your protagonist’s, but their existence needs to be just as believable.

2) Don’t pile it on. Think about character development like a five course meal. You wouldn’t want to eat all courses within the first ten minutes. That’d be crazy. Similarly, you don’t want to bombard your readers with every detail about your character in the first chapter (or paragraph).

Instead, pepper (get it? I’m continuing the food metaphor.) details about your characters throughout your story. Perhaps in the first paragraph you open with basic physical features, but it is not until chapter two that you reveal what your main character does for a living.

You may even choose to point out details as they pertain to the plot. For instance, maybe your story is centered on familial betrayal, and it isn’t until chapter ten that you let your readers know how many secrets your main character keeps from her family!

3) Make your readers care. It’s one thing to make your characters sound out-of-this-world attractive; it’s an entirely other thing to make them relatable to your readers. Ask yourself the question: “Why should my reader care about my character?” What’s your character’s objective? How do they get to that goal/point?

That’s usually where conflict comes in. (After all, if your story hasn’t any sort of action, it’s about as interesting as a used piece of gum.) How do your characters face internal and external conflict? You need to show how they overcome struggles and challenges. This is important in not only helping your characters to grow, but also in furthering your plot.

4) Remember dialogue. I love writing dialogue, so of course I’d put it on the list. But it’s true that it’s also very helpful in character development. How does your character talk? What does he/she sound like? Practice writing out things they would say. Do they have an accent? Do they have poor grammar?

(For more about writing convincing dialogue, stay tuned for next week’s tutorial!)

5) Pay attention. The best advice I can offer is to think about a favorite character from a favorite book. Why do you like that character so much? Is it because of his/her personality? Pay close attention to how the author presented him/her. Read, read, read. Take notes.

Do you have any other suggestions? Questions? Let me know!

And don’t forget: practice!

Happy writing!

Prompts, anyone?

I keep forgetting about prompts. I had these typed up and was meaning to add them but it just slipped out of my head. Sorry.

Anyway, if you are just plain stuck and need something to jump-start your thinky parts, here are few prompts to get the gray matter in your skull sloshing.

  • You wake up to find that you are a cat. What do you do? (Alternatively, choose whichever inanimate object or animal you want.)
  • The clock on your wall is still ticking despite the fact it’s out of batteries. Is it a poltergeist? Are you in a haunted house? Is it just faulty wiring?
  • Write a poem that is one sentence long, but challenge yourself to make it as long as possible without losing any meaning.

I don’t half fancy the cat one, myself. I might do that one of these days. 😉

Wr.Tu.Th.: Beginnings

Welcome to the first installment of Writing Tutorial Thursdays. With these tutorials, I hope to help answer some of your most nagging writing questions; from how to write a great main character to what makes a great setting. (If you have any requests, let me know and I’ll be happy to come up with a tutorial just for you.) Today’s tutorial is all about beginnings.

 

Writing Tutorial: How Do I Begin?

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is based on what I, personally, have learned in my educational and professional careers. This tutorial is simply meant to offer some helpful tips.

INTRODUCTION: So you have the raddest idea for a novel. Sweet. Okay, how do you start writing one? Have no fear; I’m here to help you get started.

1) There are many ways (and none of them is the “right way”) to begin a novel. Many authors will tell you that a story just “comes to them.” (It does for me.) If that seems insane to you, a good way to start the creative juices flowing is to brainstorm. Create a mind map. Throw all your ideas about your story onto paper. This way you can get everything out into the open.

2) Be sure you have all elements needed for your novel. I am talking about fiction novels, so that means, specifically, character, plot and setting. You can also add in other details such as, genre, theme, point of view, length, etc. Get out your mind map and organize your thoughts into categories:

  • Characters
    1. secondary characters
  • Plot
    1. subplots
  • Setting

3) Create a killer opening line. The biggest, most important sentence you will write in your novel is the first one. It is what needs to hook your reader and keep them holding on. To write a great opener, here are some things to remember. I’ve used all of these in past stories.

  • Jump in. Start in the middle of action or dialogue. This creates a sense of urgency and creates excitement for your reader.
  • Be eccentric. Nobody says you have to write exactly like everyone else. You just have to get peoples’ attention. If that means opening with a 10-line sentence, then so be it. Just make sure it’s AMAZING…and not a run-on.
  • State it. Nothing grabs someone’s attention like stating a fact. It “slaps you in the face,” so to speak. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a great example: “It was a pleasure to burn.” Genius.

4) Let it flow. In the beginning, you have so many ideas you just can’t stop writing… So, don’t! Seriously, just keep writing. Let your ideas flow, no matter how weird they sound. Even if everything is jumbled on paper, write it down. You should see the scrawled handwriting in my notebooks when I first start working on something. But that’s part of the idea! The editing process comes later. The point in the beginning is to get it all down.

5) Don’t stop. Sometimes the dreaded writer’s block sneaks in. Don’t be discouraged. The best advice I can give you (that I’ve been given countless times) is to keep writing! It might seem like there’s “nothing in the tank,” but you mustn’t give up. Force yourself to sit at your computer, or open up that journal, and write. Even if it’s just to jot down a few ideas, write!

These are some ways that help me get started writing a novel, or even a short story. Hopefully they’ll help you, too. Do you have any other suggestions? Questions? Let me know!

Don’t forget: the way to better writing is by practicing!

Happy writing!

WTT: Pens

Welcome to the first installment of Writing Tip Tuesday, where I drop random hints, tricks and tips to help you on your writing path.

Tip 1: People often say to bring a notebook with you wherever you go. That’s good advice, but I think the better advice is to bring a pen wherever you go. If you come up with an idea, you can always write on a napkin, a scrap piece of paper, or even your hand. It doesn’t really help if you have a notebook and no pen, though. ;P

Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share? Let me know!