Where My Characters Come From

One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is developing real and believable characters. They are the story. Without them, your story will have a hard time getting off the ground and just really won’t have very much substance to it. You can have a great plot, but without great characters to lead the charge, a great plot will do you next to nothing in keeping the readers’ interest.

Having come up with dozens and dozens of characters over the past decade of my writing career, I’ve gone through many good characters… and bad ones too. Today, I’m going to try and enlighten you on some key factors I’ve used over the years to help create real and effective characters that your readers are going to believe.

1) A lot of writers do a brilliant job of physically describing their characters, but they forget to describe the other aspects of them to their reader. What’s their favourite colour? How do they react to a certain situation? What do they feel? To make a character believable, you need to know everything about them, down to the stuff that won’t even make it into your book.

2) Your characters have to have faults too. No one in the real world is perfect, so your characters shouldn’t be too. This goes the other way too – your characters can’t be all bad either. That won’t be believable either.

3) Try to not have your character be passive. It’s very easy to slip into that rhythm, but to create a compelling story, you need to have active characters with their own agency. Yes, it’s okay for a main character to start off as a passive character, but at some point in your story, they need to take charge and start to make their own decisions. Without this, readers will get bored rather quickly.

4) Conflict is another thing which is key to creating a believable character. Internal conflict (or conflict between the character and themselves) is important for a character to have. Without it, they won’t question themselves. External conflict between characters is also needed. People naturally fight, so your characters should fight too. No one gets along and agrees about everything.

So there are a couple of ideas that you can use when dreaming up your characters. I hope they help. In the next few days I’m going to try and get some more character suggestions out there in another entry – I’ve still got plenty of suggestions for you all.

As always, keep writing everyone! And for those of you who will be participating in CampNaNoWriMo in the month of April, good luck in your prepping month.

Until next time.

 

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Creative Writing Prompts and How To Use Them

Sometimes, the words just don’t flow.

Writer’s block is something that unfortunately every single writer will come across in their writing career. In the past, I’ve written about ways to overcome writer’s block, touching on a few different techniques I’ve used to help jolt the creativity in my system. You can find those here, here, and here. I have another suggestion for you all… and I honestly can’t believe I’ve never thought to share it before.

Writing prompts are a great way to get your mind going and in the mood for writing. Sometimes (and this has actually happened to me before) it can even be the beginning of a whole new project.

There are many different places you can go to if you’re looking for writing prompts. Of course, Googling it is a solid approach. From there, you’ll find dozens of websites with hundreds of prompts out there for your perusal. I personally find the Writer’s Digest writing prompt webpage helpful, as well as ThinkWritten’s prompt page, found here. Both of these sites provide broad ideas to help push through that tough bout of writer’s block and get writing again.

Pinterest is also a super helpful site when it comes to searching for writing prompts. Just type those key words into the search bar and you’ll find tons of stuff to release your creativity. Through Pinterest, both dialogue prompts and general prompts will appear in your search. Dialogue prompts are great – they give you a (usually) single sentence a character would say, and then you have to go with it from there, making the piece your own. Sometimes, these dialogue prompts can be a couple of lines, even a small amount of banter between two characters. I personally find dialogue prompts extremely helpful, as they can get the brain firing with all creative cylinders again. They even can help out with current projects you’re working on – sometimes the dialogue provided for you sounds exactly like something one of your characters would say and that’s all you really need to get going again.

Now that you’ve found a writing prompt that you like, what do you do with it?

Like I mentioned before, writing prompts can turn into their own piece of work. Short story, full-length novel, poem, script… the sky is the limit. The thing about prompts is that they’re there to spark the creativity which has become stagnant in your brain. Sometimes that’s all they’re good for, and once you’ve harnessed that creativity again, you don’t need the prompt anymore. But sometimes that prompt turns into something much, much more. And I personally think that’s when things get really interesting. All of a sudden you’ve got a new project on your hands. New characters, a new setting, new conflicts that need to be resolved. Isn’t that what every writer looks forward to? Working on a new piece?

So there you have it: writing prompts. Another way to help keep the creativity flowing or get it jump-started again. I hope this suggestion is useful for your writing. As always, if you have any other websites you use for writing prompts, or have any other suggestions on the subject, please feel free to put it in the comments section below.

Keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

How I Stay Creative

Being a writer is a difficult occupation. Finding work – a struggle. Making ends meet – even more so. Coming up with idea after idea – depending on who you talk to, this task may actually be the most difficult. For some reason, creativity can be a real issue for a lot of writers. It’s not that the ideas aren’t always there – most of the time they are. It’s just that the process from which the ideas go from the head down onto the piece of paper or word document doesn’t always translate very well.

Over the years that I’ve been writing, I’ve found there are certain things which hinder my creativity, and help it too. For your assistance, I’ve decided to compile a short list of a couple things I do which can sometimes make the creative process a little easier.

  1. Go for walks. For some reason, I’ve always felt that nature tends to relax the mind and body and allow for the creative juices to get flowing again. Maybe it’s the calmness of leaves blowing in the breeze, or maybe it’s because you’re escaping from civilization for even just a short little while. But whatever the reason, nature walks (or even just going to a park and sitting someplace quiet) tends to help rejuvenate any sort of creative thoughts I’ve been stuck on.
  2. Take public transportation. Sometimes I need to unwind from a busy day – or a frustrating writer’s block session. If I’m going somewhere, public transportation can help give me time to think. That’s the problem I find with driving. The little times I actually do use a car, I find my brain has to focus so hard on the actual driving (which it should be doing) that I can’t think about anything else, writing included. When you’re on a bus or a train, you don’t have to focus on traffic – you can just focus on the task at hand (writing) and forget about everything else.
  3. Listen to music. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have a writing playlist (or writing song) which instantly gets me in the mood for some solid writing time. Try doing this for yourself. Music has a wonderful way of helping your brain clear out day-to-day thoughts and issues and let you forget about them. It’s yet another way to refocus your mind on the writing you should be doing.
  4. Go people-watching. I know, this one might sound a little weird at first, but honestly it totally helps out with the writer’s block. Go to a public place: the mall, the park, the local university. From there, do nothing but observe. You’d be amazed what you might see which will spark your creativity. For me, I know I’ve watched someone do something, or react in a particular way that I found interesting, and that’s ended up working its way into one of my novels. People-watching is a great way to work on character and plot development. You can always count on people to do crazy things that are novel-worthy.

So there’s a few suggestions to help keep the creativity flowing. I hope some of these ideas will help you all out with your writing endeavours. If you have anything else that works for you, please comment below. I’m always up for learning new ways to keep the words flowing onto the page! Keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

Writing Distractions and How to Deal With Them

Writing distractions are the worst.

Given the fact that we’re in the midst of another session of Camp NaNoWriMo, a time when unwanted distractions are the absolute worst, I figured I’d give you all some suggestions to avoid these distractions and allow your mind to stay productive. I know I have issues keeping distractions at bay while I write – it’s a problem all writers continue to face throughout their writing careers. Hopefully with these tips and suggestions I’ve used in the past it can help you battle the constant nagging of writing distractions too.

Instrumental music: For most people, complete silence doesn’t help them concentrate fully. The quiet actually causes your mind to drift and get you off task. If this is you, you’re going to need some type of noise in the background. Music is a good thing to fill that emptiness. Try to choose some sort of instrumental music as your background noise. Lyrical music won’t help much – your brain will subconsciously try and interpret the words, distracting you from your writing.

Writing playlist: As a side note to my above point, a writing playlist is always something good to have stowed away in your iTunes account. Having a designated list of songs means you spend less time searching for music to listen to, and more time doing actual writing. For some people, myself included, I use one song and simply put it on repeat. And this is where I’m going to contradict what I’ve said above. The song I listen to, Let Me Go by Avril Lavigne, is lyrical. The reason why it doesn’t seem to distract me? Well I’ve listened to it so many times now my brain has no need to interpret the lyrics anymore. It’s incredible what repetition can do for a writer’s brain actually. The instant I hear this song, my fingers start itching for a pen or for my keyboard. I find that I just have to write. Now I don’t know if this will help for you as well, but it may be worth a shot.

Avoid technology: I know that technology has become inherently ingrained in society and almost everyone’s life, but if possible, try shutting off the world around you. For starters, leave your cell phone on silent and in another room. Yes, I realize that most writers use a computer to write their stories, but there are ways you can avoid using the distracting features on it. There are tons of programs and apps out there which can essentially make your computer minimalist, only offering you the few tools an author may need while writing while disabling everything else. If that’s too much for you, internet-blocking apps exist as well. Or, if you’re like me and don’t like tons of programs on my computer, you can simply turn off the WiFi, either by unplugging your router/modem or disabling it on your laptop.

Set a schedule: Most writers complain they never have enough time to write. Believe it or not, but that can actually be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, having too much time can be a problem and in turn, become a distraction. Without a deadline, writers can get complacent and let their writing go dormant. To solve this? Make a routine. Get up every morning and write five hundred words. Or do it in the evening. Or even tell yourself that it doesn’t matter when it gets done, but by the end of the day you have to have x-number of words written. Trust me, it helps. You’ll find that setting a deadline forces your brain to stop procrastinating and lets you get work done.

Now these are only a few tips and tricks of many that are out there for overcoming writing distractions. At the very least, I hope they help to open your mind and get you on your way to writing distraction-free. As always, if you have anything to add, please leave a comment below.

Keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

 

 

Why Pinterest May Be The Greatest Website For Writers: Part 2

A couple days ago, I posted an article on how the social media site Pinterest is extremely useful for writers and the visualization of characters, settings, clothing, etc. As a follow-up, I want to now get into the ways Pinterest can assist writers in a more general fashion. What do I mean by this? Things like writing prompts, suggestions, guidelines… you know, all that jazz.

Like many other writers out there, I’ve suffered from writer’s block. Well, one of the more recent ways I’ve discovered to help out with this issue is using Pinterest. Just simply search “Writing prompts” and you’ll receive hundreds of ideas to get you unstuck from whatever writing dilemma you’re currently facing. Sometimes it may be something entirely unrelated to what it is you’re working on – and that’s totally okay. Taking a break from your current project is sometimes exactly what you need to rejuvenate and recharge your writing batteries. Other times, you may actually find a writing prompt that works with whatever it is you’re writing. I’ve had both of these circumstances happen for me and they work just the same. They get me writing again, which is all that really matters.

Pinterest also has a ton of writing advice out there that authors and writers should really take advantage of. I’ve got a whole board of pins dedicated to writing tips and suggestions that I really do use when writing. Sometimes they can be as simple as a reminder on how to notice when you’re writing in a passive voice or active voice… or how to tell when a bilingual character has been written by a non-bilingual person. Other times, they can be far more detailed and explain different ways to include prologues into your writing. A lot of these tips are things you may not necessarily think of, or maybe it’s something that you didn’t know. Pinterest is wonderful for that reason – you get to read a wealth of information from experts in their own fields and then can save it to a board for later reference.

Using Pinterest for writing motivation is another way I find the social media site extremely helpful. Sometimes, when the writer’s block has hit and you just need a pick-me-up, motivational quotes are the way to go. Or maybe you’re someone who needs a list of other books that have been published in your genre as a means to spur you on. Pinterest can help with this. Having a board completely dedicated to motivation is sometimes exactly what a writer needs to get going and pick up that pen, or put their hands on those keys again.

Again, these are just a few different ways Pinterest can help an author out in a more general writing fashion. I know there are many authors out there that also use Pinterest for marketing purposes – but since I don’t have any experience in that particular area, I think I’ll leave that for someone else to explain.

If you have any more suggestions or ways you use Pinterest to help out with writing, please feel free to add it into the comments section below. Differing opinions and ideas are always welcome – in no way to I pretend to know all.

And as always, keep writing everyone! I hope you’re all gearing up for the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo!

Until next time.

 

Why Pinterest May Be The Greatest Website For Writers: Part 1

There are countless social media sites out on the internet, each of them offering us different means to share our thoughts and life with other people. For authors, social media can help us out in many different ways. Book promotion, connecting with fans, networking with other authors… and that’s just to name a few.

A little while ago I was introduced to a site called Pinterest by a fellow author and let me tell you, I will be forever grateful to her for it. In this post, along with another one I shall be putting up in a couple days, I hope to give you a few reasons why I believe Pinterest is so useful for authors. Right now, I’m going to focus on the private side of Pinterest, and what it can do for you and your specific writing.

Character depictions, settings, random quotes that mesh with your story… Pinterest is full of pictures and photos just waiting to bring out your creativity. And once I was shown all of these possibilities, I became hooked.

When I write, I’ve always found it rather difficult to conjure up an image of my characters in my mind. Vague ideas? Yes, that I can do, but full-fledged representation? No chance in hell. And I know that I’m not the only author who suffers from this problem. I’ve chatted with others who also find picturing characters difficult. It’s a problems that can have devastating effects on work in progress writing projects and wreak havoc. Sometimes, if it’s really bad, it can stunt my writing and cause a serious case of writer’s block.

This is where Pinterest works wonderfully. For example, let’s say you know your character is female, blonde, and has hazel eyes. Type that into the search bar on Pinterest, hit Enter, and voila! Dozens upon dozens of pictures of blonde females with hazel eyes for you to search through and find your character. Now, it’s not always that simple – sometimes Pinterest requires a little more keyword refinement or tweaking, but it’s there. Something physical and tangible that you can pin to a board and have for reference sake.

I also use Pinterest for fashion-related dilemmas in my writing as well. Recently, I was writing a scene where my high school-aged characters were attending their prom. Of course, when you write a prom scene you need to know what your characters are wearing. Since I have difficulties picturing things in such detail in my head,  I needed to find visual representations of everything. Hair, makeup, dresses, suits, ties, shoes… See? I’m not lying. Literally everything.

Pinterest made my life so much easier for this as well. I spend hours searching through its contents, pinning anything and everything I thought might possibly work for what I was looking for, and eventually ended up with pages of images to choose from and form my magical evening for my characters. And it helped. When I sat down the next time to work on that prom scene, I had a clear head to write. No barriers or questions arose about the visual and what everything looked like. All I had to worry about were the actual words being written down on the page.

As I’ve mentioned before, I write collaboratively with one of my friends for a series of short stories. Separately, we created a number of characters, each with a set description of the way they look, and since then, have thrown those characters into short stories together. Sometimes I will write a story involving her character, or she’ll write one involving mine. During these moments, descriptions can get rather challenging, since I am not the creator of her character, nor is she of mine. This is where Pinterest takes on yet another form of usefulness for us.

Pinterest has two types of boards: public and secret. Public boards are pretty self-explanatory I think. Secret boards are too – they can only be viewed by the creator of the board. Now Pinterest has a way that you can share a board with others and make them collaborators of it. This is what me and my writing friend do. Boards that involve characters we need for our collaborative project are shared between the both of us, and pins are added of physical representations of all things necessary for us to know. So with a couple of clicks of my mouse, I can have access to a picture of her main character, or the school that she goes to, or the outfit she was wearing for a particular scene of a short story. All of this information which is crucial for the continuity of our stories, I can see without having to bother my co-collaborator every single time I have a question. It makes writing so much easier, I can say that with entire confidence.

So there are just a few reasons why I think Pinterest is extremely useful for writers. Of course, this is only Part 1 of my reasonings – in the next few days I’ll post some more, this time focusing on the more public side of Pinterest and what it can do for writers in a more general fashion.

As always, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

Why Being a Writer is Like Riding a Rollercoaster

Being a writer is both the most exhilarating thing and the most terrifying. Writing is full of so many ups and downs that sometimes (more frequently than not) it’s hard to keep straight what’s going on in your emotion department. There’s nothing like finally putting the finishing touches on a manuscript and saying to yourself, “Hey, look at what I did. Look at what I created.” But, on the other hand, some of your lowest points can come as a writer too – like when you get a terrible review, or you’ve been rejected for the millionth time.

Writing is my passion, it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. And there’s nothing like that feeling when you realize someone else has enjoyed something you’ve written, and you’ve maybe even helped them figure something out. Positive comments, reviews, even someone offering to re-post or re-blog something you’ve worked on, all give off this euphoric sense and suddenly you’re on Cloud Nine. It feels like nothing will be able to tear you down from the high you have.

Until you receive a nasty comment from someone on the internet. Or that person you’re catching up with scoffs at you when you inform them you’re a writer. Or a thousand other scenarios – if you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about.

So then you have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, tell yourself that what you’re doing does have worth, and start over. Soon you find a new idea – a great idea – the idea that’s going to send you over the top. And you pour yourself into it over the next few months (or years, depending on how fast/slow of a writer you are). The plot, the characters, the setting – they all become a part of you. You feel as if you’ve given everything to this piece, every ounce of your soul. Suddenly, you’re on Cloud Nine again, with a finished piece and confidence booming.

I think you know what’s coming next. More rejections, more negativity, more self-doubt.

Does it feel like a roller coaster yet?

The key to this never-ending cycle is to find ways to keep bringing yourself back up. Pep-talks (from either yourself or people close to you), rewards, even just simply pausing to reflect and realize that not everyone in the world can do what you’ve just done. You’ve created something entirely from your mind. Yes, you may have borrowed little ideas here and there, but the words, they’ve come from you. No one can take that from you and don’t ever let anyone think that they can.

Even with all the bad that’s been thrown into the occupation, I still wouldn’t change a thing. To be writer is more important to me than most people understand. It allows for my brain to think up possibilities that wouldn’t normally exist, or walk in the shoes of someone I know I will never meet. Writing gives me the freedom to be who I want to be and not have to apologize for it. When I write, I have no boundaries.

People say that birds are the luckiest animals, because they have the ability to fly freely in the air and go wherever it is they want to go without limitations. Well when I put my pen to a piece of paper, or my fingers brush against the plastic of my keys, I feel like a bird.

So even though it’s like I’m constantly riding on the Leviathan roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland, with moments where it feels like I’m hurtling towards the ground about to meet my demise, I’m prepared to stay on this ride for the remainder of my life. Because if that’s what it takes to be a writer, I’m there.

Until next time.