Some Write It Hot

February 23, 2011

The Cure For Writer’s Block by Amber Green

Sometimes I sit and stare into midair, trying to figure out what my character will do next. If the answer doesn’t come easily, and a simple mechanical exercise like changing the scene’s POV character doesn’t provide any solutions, I move to another scene. When more than a few such cloudy episodes have been left suspended in mid-air, though, they tend to form to a head-clogging substance that stops all forward motion. My favorite remedy for this situation is to run each of the characters—but especially the one who seems to be a problem—through a free online personality test.

As best I can tell, the test won’t work until I’ve wrestled with the character long enough to have several problems hanging in the air. Some of the ten-question pop quizzes give surprisingly useful insight, but my favorites are the 60- to 75-question Briggs Myers test, with or without a secondary Jungian analysis. The outcome of the test provides an archetype, says who this character has turned out to be, based on decisions I’ve made for and about him, as opposed to the character archetype I had planned to use for my story.

Say I plan for a scientist/thinker sort, an INTP. (After a few quizzes, this acronym will make perfect sense.) But as I write the scenes that come most easily, my decisions about this character’s preferences and instincts actually point toward an INTJ. Okay, so what’s an INTJ? Another professor/thinker type, but less of a goof and more sarcastic, less likely to get elbows deep in goop and more likely to come up with fifteen ways (on paper) to turn goop into poog, less likely to be the 25-year-old who makes a brilliant invention or discovery that no one can replicate and more likely to spend a lifetime discovering (and documenting) all the steps toward that brilliant outcome. Okay, so I have an INTJ character—what does that mean in terms of my unresolved scenes? The INTJ archetype has recognized strengths, like an INTJ’s ability to see the big picture and mental flexibility as far as accepting input. The archetype also comes with recognized weaknesses such as an INTJ’s insensitivity to other people’s feelings and tendency to react to extreme stress by focusing on minutia and repetitive activities. The archetype even comes with concrete details like an INTJ’s tendency toward sarcasm. Knowing these factors make my writing flow much more smoothly and easily.

Running all the primary characters through the same test (or a parallel test from another site) lets me use all kinds of canned wisdom about how this personality interacts with that personality, what conflicts they will face, and what action they (or the one of them who is most interested in cooperation) will have to take to work together. Say you have an INTJ trying to deal with Lucy from Peanuts, a classic ESTJ. To get any number of ideas for how the characters would clash and mesh, open your search engine’s bar and type in INTJ ESTJ.

By the way, if this reads like useless crap to you, your personality is unlikely to end in J.

January 21, 2011

The Importance of Proofreading by Lauren Fraser

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
Tags: , , , ,

Now we’ve all heard how important it is to proofread your writing before you submit. I’ve heard numerous editors say the worst thing an author can do is not proofread their submission and query letter before they send it.

That being said we’ve all seen those headlines in the newspaper that just make you stop and go huh? The funny thing is even though you know it’s wrong you still feel the need to go back and read it again just to make sure LOL

Check these headlines out…

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter
Wow, how’d he manage that?

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Tiger Woods plays with his own balls, Nike says.
Hmm, good to know.

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Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
Now that goes above and beyond the call of duty.

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Statics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after 25 .
Go figure!

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Caskets found as workers demolish Masoleum. “We didn’t know anyone was buried there.”
Huh, what did you think it was for?

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Missippi’s literacy program shows improvment
Apparently that doesn’t extend to the paper. LOL

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Federal Agents raid gun shop, find weapons
I’m shocked

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Never Withhold Herpes Infection from Loved One
Ummm, yeah you can keep that.

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Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Deade
Yikes, how’d that happen. LOL.

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Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
Where can I buy that tape?

———————————————————–

Well it’s official proofreading is important. LOL

Read more from Lauren on her website

November 23, 2010

What, no conflict? by Lillian Grant

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
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I was working on an idea for NaNo the other day. (NaNo is a special kind of torture where writers go insane and sign up to write fifty thousand words in thirty days.) Anyway, I was working on plot ideas and my eldest wandered into my office and asked what I’m doing.

“Plotting,” says I, “My story needs conflict.”

His response. “Is it a war novel?”

Nooo, it’s romance of course!

So, why do you need conflict? Poor delusion child. I explained how it goes. Girl meets boy, or vise versa, they feel attracted, fall in love, something happens to pull them apart (conflict), they overcome the obstacle and live happily ever after.

He grins at me. “I’ve got a conflict for you. How about your hero is abducted by aliens. They probe him and when he returns to earth he’s gay. Now the heroine has to either get herself changed into a man or find the aliens to reverse the procedure if she wants to save their relationship.”

I do apologize for him. I gave birth to him and after that I have no idea what went wrong.

Funnily enough, around the same time as my son was regaling me with even more ridiculous ideas, a whole discussion opened up on Romance Divas about novels being contracted with no conflict in the plot and didn’t readers want conflict anymore.

I myself have a novella that has been tossed back at me by a publisher because it has no conflict. But I actually don’t mind stories without conflict. Hell, my favorite book of all time doesn’t even have a plot. I defy anyone to read Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary and find the purpose of the book. Just when you think it’s about to get to the reason, the bit that ties it all together, it ends. Despite Hunter’s massive oversight in writing a book that has no real point, other than to meander through the life of journalist Paul Kemp as he lurches from drink to drink and from one apparent disaster to another, it’s a brilliant book.

Let’s be honest, most people don’t have romances with conflict, most relationships are not all Romeo and Juliet with calamity around every corner. Unfortunately my own romantic history has been full of conflict and hand wringing. Maybe that’s why I can accept a story where it’s all love and laughter because it’s not my experience of real life. How about you? Do you want conflict in your romance?

Read more from Lillian Grant at her website

October 15, 2010

First Drafts By Ellie Heller

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
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First drafts suck.

Even though I spend a fair amount of time day dreaming – I mean thinking through my characters and plots – it’s not until I start writing that I can begin to get a handle on who is on the page, why they are there and where they are going.

No matter how much I’ve thought about it, first drafts are never, ever quite right. When editing time comes I very often end up pitching huge chunks of what I wrote in my initial draft.

With any new story a lot of what I pitch is character background which comes to me as I write (and I do tend to write character driven stories so this makes sense). Yeah, I need to know the ex-boyfriend was a troll (literally) but I don’t need to share with the reader the paragraph I wrote on her relationship with him and his perfidy.

Or the following one on how and why this screwed up her life. I’ll keep them, cut and paste them into my ‘cut from current story’ document in case I do decide to use bits later, but info-dumps like this plague my first drafts.

I think this was one of the hardest things to hear as a new writer, i.e. that I simply could not keep everything I wrote down about the characters. So much time and effort wiped off the page, particularly since, for me, learning about my characters is part of the process of writing. Discovering what I, as the author and holder of all the information, need to know as well as what (and when!) to share tantalizing tidbits with the reader is a skill I had to acquire.

So I’ve learned to go ahead and write it down, I do need to know it, but I also understand that I will be cutting and my 500 word progress tonight will be mostly gone by the end of the week.

On the other hand, lack of depth of characters also plagues my initial pass on telling the story. I don’t really know my characters yet, how they think, how they will react. It’s usually not until the second or third chapter, sometimes even later that I know them well enough to go back and add in their internal (and sometimes physical) reactions. Adding words, instead of cutting them, always a pleasure!

All of this means that I can spend a lot of time on the first two to three chapters, revising, editing, getting to know my characters and the world around them. And it’s only after they are truly set on the page and in my mind I can see if the story will gel and hold together. The more I write, the more often the story line resolves into something useful. However I still have starts which I discard as the characters and/or plot and/or world do not morph into the needed whole.

When they do morph, though, and the seed of an idea has bloomed into a story, the characters known and the plot clear ahead of me, writing becomes much easier. The info dumps become less frequent (although there’s always some when I have an alternate reality I’m developing the structure for). The need to go back in and add depth/reaction lessens. I am now in a beautiful time when the characters are clear and there and charging forth through the story.

Okay, it’s not quite that copacetic, but things do become much easier.

But until then, first drafts suck. They really do.

September 17, 2010

Voice By Ali Katz

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
Tags: , , , ,

My face-to-face crit group picked up a new member about a month ago. He’s fresh out of college, has been writing for a long time, but never tried to have anything published. The first chapter he presented for crit was a well-crafted bit of writing but typical for a beginner: lots of flowery descriptive passages, no action, no concept of character, not a clue to what the story was about.

One of our older members, who’s been around a while and has a few novels with a major print publisher, commented. “This voice might work for a literary piece, but it won’t fly in genre fiction.”

His reply, “What’s voice?”

People keep slinging that word around. I had to look it up.

Voice is a combination of a writer’s use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc….Voice can also be referred to as the specific fingerprint of an author, as every author has a different writing style. ~~Wikipedia

OoooKaaaay.

One thing I know about voice is how elusive it can be.

Hard to find, easy to lose. Usually, when I feel myself slipping, or more often locked up, I pick up a piece of fiction by an author I enjoy reading and start analyzing paragraphs. Lately, I’ve been reading poetry.

O for the dropping of raindrops in a song!
O for the sunshine and motion of waves in a song!

~~Walt Whitman, A Song of Joys

In a half dozen articles, I kept reading these words: song, poetry, sound, rhythm, color. Color?

A writer’s voice is his song. The magic of words strung together to create an image only he can show us. It’s a living breathing thing that changes as characters, scene, emotions change, but beneath every line lies the unique voice of the individual telling his story.

Can we learn it? We can learn to do it right. Study syntax, accept the rules, learn to use them to your advantage, but your voice is within you waiting to be found. It forms from all you have experienced, all the people you’ve met, all you have read, all that makes you who you are.

So, how do you find it? By writing, and rewriting, and writing again. And, in my case, I write, and rewrite, write again and read poetry. At some point, the words fall into place and you see magic happen. Voila, exactly what you wanted to say, said clearly and beautifully.

I did not know how to differentiate
between volcanic desire,
anemones like
embers
and purple fire
of violets
like red heat,
and the
cold
silver
of her feet:
I had two loves separate;
God who loves
all
mountains,
alone knew why
and understood
and told the old
man
to
explain

the impossible,

which he did.

~~HD Doolittle, The Master

Thanks for reading.

ali

Read more from Ali on her Blog, Love Songs or her Website, Passion In Spades

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