If you've ever been part of an office, faculty, or team, you've participated in energizers. These are quick activities that motivate or bond members of group. Funny thing is, many of them can be used to help you build your characters.
Consider: Two Truths and a Lie.
In this activity, members write down three facts about themselves. One is a lie. During the course of a meeting, day, or term, members get to know each other. After time, they might be able to pick out each other's lies. It's also a way to bond. You learn about things you have in common, or you learn things you simply didn't know about each other.
In your story, you can play this with your characters. Every character has a lie he believes about himself.
I'm incapable of love.
I am not a good friend.
I am perfect.
I cause trouble wherever I go.
As you develop your characters, think about what are the truths and what are the lies. Give life to each. See where they take the story and character. Who believes the lies? Who can't believe the truths? This will help develop other characters.
Know your characters before the story begins. What kind of lies would this type of person need to believe in order for the plot to develop the way you want it to? This helps build a real arc that develops naturally alongside the plot.
Study other novels. What lies did your favorite characters believe until they learned their lesson? FIGHT CLUB is probably one of the best stories where a character carries his lie deep into the story.
Share your thoughts. What are you working on now, and what lie does your character believe?
Every writer has a different routine or ritual that motivates her or keeps her in the zone. I didn't think I had one, but after closer scrutiny, I realized I do. Of course, I do. You do, too.
The question remains: is your routine working?
If you consider the following six categories, you will discover your routines. You might notice an area that needs help.
After I completed this blog, I realized that I'm not as consistent about taking breaks. Now, I set a timer to go off hourly. If it goes off, I haven't taken a break.
Here are my routines.
1. Quiet--I need minimal activity going on around me. That means I get up early and write before the household awakes.
2. Light--I've noticed that I work best near a window. Natural light activates my creative brain cells.
3. Background--I need music playing while I write. The music or sounds that sit in the background vary. It depends on what I'm doing: planning, writing, editing, re-working a scene, etc. The music must be instrumental
4. Tools--I know many writers prefer longhand; if the pen doesn't touch paper, they can't access their creative juices. For me, I need my Mac, Scrivener, and access to Internet for quick research. When I'm not seated at my desk, I write ideas and research in a variety of notebooks or tap them into Notes in my cell phone.
5. Nourishment--Water, coffee, fruit, nuts, chocolate. I keep all of this nearby. I don't eat while I'm writing, but when I need a brain break, I get up for a nibble. I don't drink too much coffee because it makes my mind work too fast. I need a slow methodic mind to write.
6. Scheduled breaks--Besides walking to the kitchen for snacks, I might walk around the block or stand on the porch for some sun. I get up at least once an hour. The outdoor breaks do wonders when I'm stuck or feeling lethargic.
I would love to hear your creative routines that help produce juicy good work. Please share them below.
With summer winding down, so go my writing routines. No more waking at a reasonable 7 or 8 AM, brewing coffee, and settling into four or five hours of writing. No more lounging in the sun and working my way through my Goodreads' list. No more taking breaks to check Twitter or stalk agent MSWLs.
The school bell is ringing, and it rings for me.
Beginning tomorrow, I need to transition to my school year writing schedule. That basically consists of: writing in the afternoon or early evening if the kids haven't melted my brain; getting up a few days at 5:30AM to write for an hour; getting up at 7 on the weekends to write until I can't. I've been known to write from 7AM until midnight when I really have my groove on.
Of course, we can't schedule creativity.
Here's are six things I might do during my writing time.
This summer, I rediscovered another great way to make the most of my precious time. I gave myself homework and deadlines. I said, if I want to read five books, I need to read thirty pages a day. Fortunately, I don't cringe at this kind of homework. I love to read, and this way, I had a goal. I finished my five books. (Read my reviews here.)
This also freed up more writing time, and it gave me more inspiration for my writing. Reading before writing is like doing stretches before a run. It makes the run easier and more fun.
What do you do to make the most of your precious writing time? Please share below.
People say writer's block is a myth conjured up by over-dramatic artists. Maybe. However, it's all relative. Some call the day partly cloudy; others say it's partly sunny. No matter--there are clouds, and there is sun. It's not a perfectly disastrous overcast day, nor is it an absolutely gorgeous sunny day.
You either need an umbrella, sunglasses, or both.
You either can write fluidly for hours, or you encounter road blocks along the way.
When you get stuck in the middle of your writing, what do you do? Everyone has a favorite go-to for unsticking their creativity.
Here are my three favorites.
Find your team. That's No. 1.
Imagine if a doctor got surgeon's block; people might die. Doctors can't stop and say they're stuck. They need to keep going. Doctors--surgeons--also have a team there to support and guide.
Writers need a team, too. Who do you turn to when you feel stuck? Your mom? Critique partners? Best friend? Cat? The postman?
No. 2: write in blocks. Write for ten minutes (Natalie Goldberg style). Don't hold back. Go for the jugular. Stop for two minutes. Write again for ten. Do this for an hour or until you can write for longer than ten minutes at a go.
No. 3: close your eyes and have a conversation with your main character. Ask her what's about to happen next. Ask her what she really thinks of (a specific character). Get your character to do some work for you.
There are many exercises to try to unblock your creativity. These are three I use.
What are your tips for moving through writer's block or moments where your creativity has taken a nap? Share them in the comments below.
I was a poet before I wrote stories. When I was in elementary school, I thought I might make my living by writing text for greeting cards. Then someone suggested I'd never succeed. It's a cutthroat, nepotistic industry. Write books, they said. It'll be easier, they said.
They were wrong.
There is no easy.
However, I do love telling stories, and I love writing books. I have not given up on my love of poetry. In fact, I've noticed I include verse in all of my novels. Sometimes the poems are my own; sometimes they are snippets and lines of other dead poets.
Why not living poets? Most poetry by deceased poets is public domain. This means, you can use it without permission (as long as you assign credit).
Here's a run-down of the poetry in my novels:
THIS GIRL CLIMBS TREES - my protagonist shares her own poem.
BIRDS ON A WIRE - I quote J.M. Barrie.
ON THE ROAD TO MARTY MCFLY (not yet published) - I quote William Blake.
STARS IN MY POCKET (work-in-progress) - I quote Mary Elizabeth Frye, Paul Vance, and others.
Poetry can offer much to your story:
1. It infuses your writing with whimsy, depth, and symbolism.
2. It connects your reader to a world beyond your story.
3. It can introduce your reader to unknown poets, ideas, and language.
4. It can add magic, light, darkness, or surrealism by quoting maybe a single line or phrase.
If you want to add poetry to your writing, here are five resources to get you started:
Academy of American Poets - a wonderful catalogue; sign up for "Poem of the Day".
Poetry Foundation - more about what's going on today; get their app too!
Poets & Writers - maybe you've seen their magazine; interviews with all who play with words.
PennSound - listen to writers share their words. Start with the birthday girl: Emily Dickinson.
TweetSpeak - I love this site; I always find something new (hey, teachers, look here).
I would love to know where you find verse or how you use it to spice up your writing. Share with us!