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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Think, Think, Think

I feel a little like Shia Labeouf’s character in Disturbia sometimes. I’m not under house arrest — even if I did anything that could result in that, I wouldn’t get caught, pah! 😉 — but I’ve been spying on my neighbors. You would too if strange things were happening across the street. Trucks in and out of the gates, police cars, noises at night, moving vans, etc. It’s a situation just begging me to concoct wild ideas.

The house now appears empty, but you never know…

One of these days I’m going to wake up to discover that a strange family has moved into the house overnight. They’ll keep to themselves and they’ll have a large black dog that sits at the gate and just stares at you, curling its lip while it growls viciously. I’m sure they’ve made a few slasher movies like that.

I should probably talk about writing, eh? What I really want to talk about is the thinking you do before you put a pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or typewriter, or chisel to stone. Whatever your preference. Some like to dive head first into a story, deciding that they’ll figure out the twists and turns along the way. Others might find that this sort of method simply takes them in circles and into dead ends. I’m one of those people, to be honest.

Instead, I spend a lot of time thinking about the story, though mostly my thoughts dwell on the characters. I’ve always had the habit of “figuring out” people, and I do the same with many of the characters that pop into my head. I might as well be sitting across a table from them, going “hmmm” and “aha”. 

I feel, however, that if I can understand the character better I can then understand their motivation and the sort of situation they might find themselves in for a story. Even though occasionally I have a scene come to mind that I desperately want to write, sometimes I have to put it aside for another time when I find that the characters I currently have don’t have the motivation to see them through. I might as well be trying to make a jellyfish walk, if I tried to force the wrong character into the wrong situation.

Thinking over the situation, the characters and the story before you actually start writing it can help tie up loose ends too and make the writing process easier in the end. It’s much like editing in that sense. You can kind of think of it as making mental mark-ups and notes.

And there we go, something about writing. I do have to mention that the thinking part before the writing can sometimes be troublesome. I more often than not get my head stuck in the clouds when I’m around other people and, while I’m thinking about a character or plot, those around me want to talk instead. (The audacity!) So, they’ll strike up a conversation while I’m still half out of it.

I know, I know, it wouldn’t hurt to be more social and in the moment. Therefore, I suggest finding time to be alone while you think. And, screw up your face in deep concentration if you have to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mentally busy with a story, only to have someone interrupt because they thought I wasn’t doing anything. If you have to, say you’re really tired and go take a “nap”. Even if you do fall asleep, at least you won’t likely be interrupted. Dreams can be inspirational too.

So, keep on writing, even if it’s just in your head for a while. I’m going to go think now…

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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Books, Life, Writing

 

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Archetypes

There should be a limit to how many life plan questions you can ask in a day. I’ve been asked about graduate school, employment, my writing, and my love life all within eight hours. If this keeps up I’m going to have to have a T-shirt printed up that says, “Stop Asking” in big, blocky letters.

Within that pile of precarious questions I was also asked if there was any formula to writing. My thoughts came to a halt and then I thought, “Formula? If there was any single formula to writing I would have used it a long time ago!” I then said something about how I had heard of a woman who was quite successful with romance novels, who had simply formed her own formula for writing them. I also kind of jokingly and dumbly said, “Well, it’s gotta have a beginning, middle and an end.”

Then, I mentioned archetypes and I was finally getting somewhere. You have to understand that out of the millions of stories that you may come across in your lifetime, there are character types that will repeat. There’s the unwillingly hero, the broken hero, the wise man/woman who will guide the hero along their path, and if you continue to analyze the stories you’ve read you’ll eventually be able to separate every character into a category. Though your story may be unique, it is never completely original. We like to think that it’s original, and if no one comes along and points out that, let’s say, vampire romance has actually been done before we can continue on being blissfully unaware.

And there’s nothing wrong with not being completely original. Take the Harry Potter series, for example. Hippogriffs, giants, wizards, centaurs, etc. They’ve all been around in stories and folklore for years but Rowling created a new world for the readers to discover despite that.

So, archetypes. I think that if you are more aware of the archetypes you can, I suppose, develop your own “formula” for writing books. I don’t really like the idea of following a formula though, since it suggests a constant, identical result. If you can take out the character names and find that what you’ve written looks dangerously similar to another story, that may be a sign that you need to continue editing and writing.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Books, Life, Writing

 

Have Some Character

Let’s just pretend that I haven’t been absent for days and days… *sweat-drop*

The Camp NaNo challenge is over. I almost made it, but instead of a 50,000 word novel I found myself with a few lessons instead.

Story, story, story. Why did I focus so much on story while ignoring the all important character development. That was my biggest obstacle. Because I was so concerned with the number of words I was able to crank out each day, I just started writing and found myself getting lost. If writing was like climbing a mountain then characters would be my gear. Without them I wind up lost, starving and running from angry, rabid raccoons.

I went into this “expedition” with low-quality gear, which is why I found myself faltering close to the end. I finally stopped and decided to think. Yes, thinking is one of my worst habits but it is also my best. It might get me into a lot of trouble, but it eventually helps me work through all of that. In this case, it brought me to the story of someone’s past, specifically a character who had popped into my head a couple of months before as I was making my first attempt at the writing challenge. He had intrigued me then, and I’d known that there was more to him than I was seeing. This hiatus that I’ve taken helped me see a little more of what that was. He now has a past, which means that he can now have a future.

So, my new goal has been made. Before I start writing again I’m going to get to know the characters more. I should have done this from the beginning, and I should have remembered to do it since I’ve had so many teachers and resources tell me to create a character driven story and not simply a plot driven one.

I have one character now, and while he’s quite the eye candy (or, rather, mental eye candy) all by himself a single character does not a very long story make. 🙂

Now, this is where I pump my fist and let out a battle cry. Onward to victory, yaaaah! 😀

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2011 in Life, Writing

 

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