Tag Archives: advice on writing

Story Weaving on Steroids: Real People Create Real Characters

22 Oct

This is part of a series of post that gives you tips, tricks, and dirty little secrets that will help pump up your plot, and make your story an irresistible read! Today’s trick:

Using real people to make real characters.

A question authors are often asked is “are your characters based on people you know?” most of the time the author will answer no, but let’s be honest the answer is probably yes, because if there is one thing authors are good at it’s cheating at writing.

Basing characters off real people is cheating, and it’s also genius!

Using a real person as a base for a character much like you would use white as a base for paint leads to amazing things. How so? After all, real people generally don’t have lives that are spicy enough for fiction.

Well, take a person I know. Let’s call him “John”

John’s older now, but his whole life while living in the mid-west he struggled with a drinking addiction. He’s been divorced once, and had two kids with the woman, but he has now remarried and his kids grew up with his new wife and their mother. After his remarriage he found help with his addiction and now lives happily.

Okay, that’s all well and fine, but there is no plot to John’s life. You can’t just write THAT story. But you CAN write one with someone like him. Now comes the imaginative part.

Change John’s life. Make it more tragic, more weird, or more adventurous.

For instance lets pull John out of the mid-west and stick him in England. He’s a young 23-year-old drunken Englishman in (instead of the late 1980’s) (the early 1900’s )lets say 1910. His wife didn’t leave him because of his drinking, he killed her in a fit of rage during one of his many drunken bouts. Now he can’t stand the sight of blonde women. He placed his young daughter (instead of daughters) into an orphanage to cover up the murder. He dumped his wife’s body in the river and now slogs about the bar near the river’s bridge often looking out at the water pondering suicide, until…. he meets an extraordinary woman who….

Who what?

From there you take the story where ever it may please to go.

But, just from that paragraph you have an excellent idea about who your MC is. Granted, we embellished John’s life almost to the point of  being in-recognizable, but John is still real and still very much there, and that is what makes the character seem real!

I am totally in favor of stealing people’s lives for novels. Are you?

My First True Love(s)

25 Sep

From the time I was little I was in love with stories. Movies, plays, books anything that wasn’t kindergarten napping and hopscotch I was into. I desperately wanted something exciting to happen to me, something that happened to characters in books. I wanted to sprout wings, or find out I was a missing princess like Anastasia.

Naturally then, I had my favorite stories, and my favorite characters. I had particularly bad little girl crushes on Peter Pan and Dickon from The Secret Garden.

To This day I’m not sure what the appeal of these two were as compared to the princes of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Maybe it was the fact that Peter Pan was utterly wild and incredulous, while the Princes of Disney had little else but their title.

Oh Golly! If you don’t find this adorable you’re on crack!

Peter Pan always held a special place in my heart. He was unruly and lets not forget musical (pan pipes). Not to mention an excellent leader (he could rally 12 boys under the age of 13 and that’s a tough job for anyone). Besides that he was an extraordinary fighter (beating up a  pirate 3 times his age and half his wit). And boy was he witty. Even at 7 years old I  couldn’t help but falling in love with people’s wit and Peter Pan’s was no exception.

Then there was the fact that he was utterly magically, and could freakin’ fly! If that wasn’t reason enough to want to marry him then i don’t know what is. So there is my explanation for being in love with Peter Pan. Makes sense.

Then there was Dickon. Oh Dickon, sweet, adorable, animal charmer Dickon! That should be enough to make any girl swoon right there. Let’s not even MENTION the fact that he has an accent (an adorable little scots-irishaccent)! Plus he’s all in love with animals and the wind in his hair and stuff like that and as a little suburbs

It’s like The Notebook for 10 year olds! 😀 *I’m squealing on the inside*

girl I wanted so badly to run out on the ‘Moore’ with him. Plus, he could tame a WILD PONY. Every little girl wants a pony and if a boy could tame a wild pony and give it to me I’m pretty dang sure I would marry him to this day. Nuff said.

Oh and on top of that he would Push Mary on the swing in the garden and that was just too cute! He was a perfect little gentleman, which is the complete opposite of Peter. Who in retrospect was a total player who flirted with Mermaids, and probably joked around with Wendy way too much. He will just never grow up. So immature (haha)!

What do my fictious love interests have to do with writing.

Well, just recently I realized that right there (those two characters) are excellent examples of how to make love interests interesting. They (even as children) had the makings of great men. And so I will now got pat myself on the back for discovering that I have great taste in fictitious boys. Their characters would be excellent models to form an MC or a secondary character with! Now, don’t you feel like you learned something?

Did anyone else have kiddie crushes?

Sorry this post is late… Microsoft is lame and windows live didn’t post it for me! UGH! Technology 😦

Ally on: Being a Teen Writer

20 Sep

I feel like it’s time for a little heart to heart here guys. I just need to get this situation off my chest, because everyone else seems to have an opinion about it and so here’s my two cents on teen writers, and being one.

First off, we get a bad wrap. At least I thinks so. We can’t write anything ‘good‘, were shut ins, we drink large amounts of tea, and on top of all of this people seem to think that were just writing for fun. FUN? Whomsoever thinks writing is fun has obviously never done it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to people and when I tell them I’m a writer they’ll say over exuberantly  “Oh that’s cute!” or dreadfully, “you aren’t going to college for that are you?”. With either response you might as well of just spit in my tea and walked away.

I’m not taken seriously, and i know it. Heck, everyone knows it!

If you’re between the ages of say… 13 and 20 and drop the ‘W’ bomb you’re whole ship is sunk. You automatically become the out in space, unrealistic dreamer who obviously doesn’t have his/her head on straight and clearly, ever so clearly needs to be steered in the right direction. I can’t tell you how often my Grandmother has throw out the topic of engineer, or chemist, or (if you absolutely must) biologist when I bring up writing. And it isn’t that those aren’t good jobs, or that I couldn’t do them (or don’t want to) it’s the fact that you don’t even give writing a second thought.

No one has EVER said to me (other than fellow writers) “Why Ally, you should keep writing! You could have a future there.”

And I’m not asking for handouts, or compliments, honestly. If you want to tell me I suck at writing and am a failure and that I’ll never amount to anything in the field… fine. But don’t just skim over it like it isn’t even worth a comment, like since its worthless to you it’s worthless to me, because it’s not.

And i think that’s where the big misconception is. People think this is just something I do. They think that it’s worthless.That it’s all the papers you throw away at the end of the school year (sure you used them once, they meant something once. But no one else will want them, and eventually you’ll realize you don’t need them, and you’ll just toss it out with the trash)

But it ISN”T LIKE THAT.

Writing is something that you have to commit to. ESPECIALLY as a teen! School, sports, friends, family, clubs, a part-time job, applying for college (if your a Jr./Senior), and church (if your into that) is all on a teen’s plate. Add writing to that and, well, you could just about drop dead at the end of the day. At least I could. I suppose this isn’t just teens, but every writer with a life. (haha, what life?). What I’m saying is it’s easy as a teenager to steal every spare moment of  the day to just catch your breath, but teen writers don’t and that’s what people don’t get.

Most of the time writing isn’t fun, and we have to MAKE time to do it. We have to force ourselves to do a lot of days. And anybody who writes will tell you that isn’t easy. You have to take yourself very seriously to do it.

I take myself seriously, and I just wish other people would to. I’m not asking you to tell me I’m amazing. I’m just asking you to give me chance.

How to Break Writers Block (REPOST)

19 Sep

I know I promised a real post today, but I’m swamped with AP History homework! Big test tomorrow so in the meantime enjoy this informative post from writing-world.com! (Hey at least I’m posting I shan’t recant on my promise!)

by Jacob Myers

Writer’s block. All writers suffer from it at some point during their writing career. Some can bypass it pretty quickly, but for others, it takes time, time, and more time. Writer’s block can hit a writer at any time. You could have the best intentions to sit down and spend hours writing. You have a strong desire to write something new, refreshing… something meaningful. Yet, when you sit at your desk and put your pen to paper, your mind draws a blank. That void is simply writer’s block, and though it often seems to come at the worst time possible, thankfully, there are ways to break it.

While some see writer’s block as a sign of true weakness, an indication of doubt, or a sign that the imagination is truly failing, the fact is that writer’s block is not only common, but shows just how complicated and complex writing of all types, including fiction writing, can be. Here are some tips, tricks, and ideas to help break your writer’s block. Not all of them will work for everyone. Pick and choose which ones to try, and see how effective they are for you. If one doesn’t work, move onto the next.

1. Realize. Sometimes, as writers, we tend to drift into our stories more than we should. We tend to leave the real world and go to another. When writing, it’s important to realize that you’re only human, and while you may push and push to be the greatest fiction writer out there, the fact is that when we lose this sense of realization, our works suffer. Your imagination flags, and before you know it, there’s a huge void of nothingness floating around in your brain. There are times when, as a writer, you have to step back and realize that things won’t always go as planned. Make mistakes; they only make you a stronger writer. This just may get your brain out of a certain mindset and into one that allows you to explore and write.

2. Give yourself a break. Remember that nothing and no one is perfect. Your writing isn’t perfect, you’re not a perfect artist, nor is any other story or any other author. The point is that, as a writer, it’s not rare to set goals that are too high. High standards are great to have, but when they are too high, writer’s block can easily set in, as you’re too focused on finding that one detail that seems like pure perfection. The goals and standards you have for yourself should be attainable. Out-of-reach goals are merely that: out of reach, stressful, and frustration-inducing. Cut yourself some slack. It really does help. 3. Bend your structure. The most important part of any piece of literature, especially fiction writing, is structure. Writers tend to stick to this structure, but they often stick to it a little bit too much. Just because your story needs strict structure doesn’t mean that your ideas and imagination do as well. Restricting yourself too much can cut off your creative thinking. With so much structure, your imagination isn’t able to run wild. Instead of creating your structure out of steel, turn it into rubber — something flexible that allows you some leeway. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a one-idea mindset.

4. Try freewriting. Freewriting allows you to take your mind off the project at hand and focus on something different. Stream-of-consciousness writing seems a bit weird to some writers, as we like to have structure and coherence, but sometimes writing something as it comes along gives our mind the freedom it needs. Freewriting is truly a gift to writers, as you’ll think of many new things you’d otherwise never consider writing down. No matter whether you’re stuck beginning a piece of work, trapped in the middle, or struggling to create a great ending, freewriting gives you the chance to think without any sort of boundaries or restrictions.

5. Think! Take some time alone, sit down, and just think. Think about the things that interest you. Think about a story or article that caught your mind recently. Think about things that always seem to catch your attention but that you don’t give much thought to. Consider your past, or future events. Think about your secrets. When you think of all these things, write them down, write about them. The point is to think about something new so that you can take your mind off the project you have it set to. Minds need and enjoy freedom, and sometimes as a writer you have to give it that. Take some time and think about something OTHER than your story, and before you know it, you’ll think about the perfect idea that brings you back to your story again.

Try these suggestions, and see which ones help to break your writer’s block. Don’t stress if your writer’s block doesn’t go away as quickly as you’d like. Give yourself and your imagination some time. Allow your expectations to settle, give your mind some rest, and soon enough the writer’s block will be a thing of the past.

Copyright © 2012 Jacob Myers

Genius and Thievery!

16 Sep

Hi everyone! I have been super busy today, and still have a ton of homework to do before I head into school tomorrow. So, for today’s post I’m totally cheating and re-posting an awesome idea from Brigid’s blog My Life as a Teenage Novelist. After you read her awesome advice below go ahead and check out her site!

Fun with Wordle

Howdy, y’all!

So, if you don’t know what Wordle is, let me briefly explain how it works. It’s a nifty little website, where you can enter a bunch of text, and then it creates a “word collage” based on what you enter. The more frequently you use a certain word, the bigger it is in the collage. Fun, right?

But not only is it fun, it’s also a useful tool for writers––because it shows you what words you might be using too much.

For example, here’s what happened when I entered the entirety of my book UNRAVELING:

 
Uh wow, the word “like” is freakin’ HUGE! Same with the word “know” … and there are a lot of other words that are relatively large. 
 
Now, this is what happened when I entered six of my books at once:
 
 
The results are actually pretty much the same. Looks like no matter what I’m writing, I use a lot of the same words. Particularly “like” and “know,” for some reason.
 
Well, I take this as a sign that I should go back through my manuscripts and take out some of those words that I’m using way too much. 
 
So, my question of the day is: What are some words that you use too much? Have you ever used Wordle to find out––and if so, did the results surprise you?
Isn’t she a genius? Check out her site!
Re-posted from My Life as a Teenage Novelist

When You have a Pile of Sawdust: BURN IT.

11 Sep

Day 1/17

The pathetic side of my life exists when I find myself at my desk staring at a color-coded planner and eating whole grain pop tarts. Why I even bother to get the whole grain I don’t know, because there’s no way they actually have nutritional value even with the added saw dust fiber. So, as I pathetically sit at my desk eating pop tarts I have decided to talk about keeping things real up in here, at Novel Ideas. After all, if I can’t be honest with you all who can I be honest with?

Honestly I haven’t written in over a month. Sad. Sad, sadness. *cries* The last thing I worked on was ABLAZE and oh god it’s terrible. It’s really, really ,really abominable and dreadful and.. ugh. Bad. I know I say this every time I write a first draft, but oh god it’s just THAT bad. But since I sad I would finish it, I’m going to, dreadful as it is. Now that I have that slime wiped off my chest we can get on with what to do when you have a large pile of ugh… saw dust (lets go with that since it ties in with my first paragraph which really had nothing to do with anything).

Saw dust is a messy substance. Difficult to create with, usually the product of work that makes you all sweaty, and on top of this it has the annoying tendency to blow up in your face. (Oh gee this is actually a very apt metaphor!) So, at this point I am knee deep in saw dust (ABLAZE) and it’s looking rather like… well saw dust. How do you get through the rest of the saw dust; that  if you see this project through (which you should) will surely bury you? Here are my tips:

1: Expect the Expected

That is to say don’t be surprised at the fact that there is so much terribleness in your novel. Its going to be terrible, and somehow everyone (even me) at the beginning of a new project expects this fundamental truth to suddenly evaporate and that glittery rainbows will ribbon from the skies and your manuscript will be all glittery and fantastic. NO. Don’t kid yourself, no matter how great the idea will seem it will eventually reach suck-age. Thus you will always end up with a pile of sawdust. Granted (depending on the level of planning) sometimes the pile will be smaller than usually, but it will still exist. Expect it.

2. Wear Goggles

Having things, particularly saw dust or a manuscript blow up in your face is a rather terrible experience. A good way to provent this is to have a fall back (or some goggles) to help you see straight. In other words have another manuscript to refresh your vision when you are are tired of the wind blowing the dust up in your face.  Having another manuscript to work on will keep you fresh. Hacking through parts of a novel will only lead to the accumulation of more saw dust. Take a break, wipe off your goggles and breathe.

3. Burn It

At the end of the novel just burn it. Toss the match over your shoulder and watch it go up. If it’s really that bad at least you learned what NOT to do, and you can just start over. Besides saw dust burning is rather fun. you can laugh manically and roast marshmallows! It’s fantastic and I look forward to doing it when I finish Ablaze.

So, sawdust. opinions? Anyone in the midst of the stuff?

 

Make Me Sway: Emotion on Rails

9 Aug

I think we’ve all heard it. That one piece of music, something about just gets you. A line, a melody, the ache in a singers voice. At some point or another you will find yourself swayed by the power of a song. Your body will automatically initiate a reaction. Swaying, tapping your foot, smiling, and on occasion crying.

Just like music books should sway a readers emotion. SOMETHING about the book needs to be powerful enough to intiate a physical reaction. Who hasn’t found themself laughing, sighing, kicking your feet impatiently, or crying on account of a book? Today I’d like to talk about a scene that caught me off guard and why it’s the perfect example of how to infuse emotion into a scene so deeply that your readers find themselves swaying to your current.

I’m going to be looking at the first chapter of Beth Revis’ novel Across the universe. So no spoilers! Though I do reccommend that you read the first chapter for free HERE to get the most out of his post.

Anyway if you read that or have read the book you know that the first chapter consists of Amy (the MC) getting ready to be chronologically frozen and put onto GODSPEED the spaceship with her parents. And I’m not going to lie to you I started having a minor panic attack during the FIRST CHAPTER! I actually cried a little bit, and this deeply disturbed and stunned me at once. I couldn’t understand why I had been so moved and upset without any back story. After-all, how could I possibly care enough to be crying when I’d only met Amy something like 10 pages ago?

It didn’t make sense. So I read it again. And again… and one for time just to make sure I knew what I was talking about.

And that’s when the light bulb went on.

All my writing life I’ve been told that creating emotional investment in a novel is entirely dependent upon characters. you must make characters we care about, they say. You must make them relate-able, that’s the key!

But reading this scene I realized that characters are just the train on the tracks of making emotional connection. Sure thats the part everyone pays attention to but what about the tracks themselves? The stop lights and stations?

And Beth Revis puts the tracks to the test in this first chapter.

Let me explain.The ‘tracks’ are our basic human fears and feelings. This whole chapter is so full of them that I could just

The rails are deeply grounded in all of us

choke and vomit and they all wouldn’t be able to come up at once! (sorry gross) Anyway, this chapter confronts several fears, some smaller ones being the fear of needles, cold, and small spaces. All of which Amy has  to watch her mother go through as she is put into a tiny freezing box of cryo-liquid, her blood painfully pumped out, KNOWING she will have to do this in a few moments. This anticipatory fear is also a factor in the sheer genius that Revis presents. (As anticipation of pain is often worse than the pain itself, remember shots when you were little? Kicking and screaming for a pinch!)

Basic human fear. Something we can relate to.

Amy also faces the fear on loneliness another ‘track that great emotional characters run on”. Many people are afraid to be alone.  Humans are naturally social creatures (yes even writers we are not a separate species despite some outsiders opinions! haha). Amy is forced with a decision (a stop light) of staying on earth or leaving with her parents her dad telling her before he is frozen that :

“I’m going next. Your mother wouldn’t agree to that—she thoughtyou’d still back down, decide not to come with us. Well, I’m giving youthat option. I’m going next. Then, if you’d like to walk away, not be frozen,that’s okay. I’ve told your aunt and uncle. They’re waiting outside; they’llbe there until I’ve. After they freeze me, you can just walk away. Mom andI won’t know, not for centuries, not till we wake up, and if you do decideto live instead of being frozen, then we’ll be okay.” (Revis, 6)

Not only is there a HUGE decision, but it is riding on the rails of loneliness. Amy must decided if she can live a life without her parents knowing she will die long before the realize she has left them (and live her whole life knowing this) or go with them and leave all her other family and friends behind. leave the safety and comforter of everything she is familiar with behind. She can not avoid an empty loneliness no matter which way she turns. Even if she chooses her parents she is forced to choose the icy slumber of centuries, perhaps a loneliness even worse than a life without her parents. It makes your heart sink doesn’t it?

Applying basic human fears, is the key to making emotionally strong characters.

Because we are all afraid of something and loneliness, Pain, and responsibility are all basic fears that Amy faces in just chapter one of the novel.

Learning how to use the rails of writing great characters is one of the most important tools a writer can have. What do you think? Do you know of a scene that shares rails with this one? What’s your most emotionally moving scene?