From Your Mind to the Page

You see a writing prompt (or, for those with a SERIOUS writer’s mind, any given picture) and a scene instantly plays out in your head. Characters leap into action, and suddenly you have an idea for your next book.

But, how do you get that idea from your head onto a piece of paper without totally mutilating it?

And what if you don’t have anything nearby to write on?

1 – Write it down AS SOON AS YOU THINK IT

These days, even if you don’t have paper nearby, chances are there’s a phone or computer. Phones have these lovely things called “notes” that are basically an electronic notebook. Use them. I do. In fact, I had to clean out my notes the other day because my phone told me there was no room for more. Point being: remember to write them on something solid that ISN’T electronic at a future date.

If you write things down as soon as you think them, you’re more likely to get it down on paper without destroying how you see it in your head. It still may not be pretty, but at least you’ll have the idea on something where you won’t forget it.

2 – Write it down EXACTLY HOW YOU THINK IT

Be literal. If you see something, write it down, no matter how small the detail. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll “remember it”, because chances are you won’t. I’ve done that. “And then, I know that she gets kidnapped by (insert character name here) and he says ‘_____’, but I’ll definitely remember that.”

Spoilers: I didn’t.

So, take a long look at the scene in your head. Study the characters. See their quirks. Study the setting, notice the details. Find noises and smells and tastes.

Example: Stale air. You can both taste and smell that.

Be sure you get down EVERYTHING you see in your head. Everything.

3 – Keep a Writing Journal

I call mine my “Inspiration Notebook”. It’s a simple composition notebook that my sister decoupaged for my birthday, and it goes everywhere with me. If I’m on the move (even from upstairs to downstairs) that book is in my hand. Why? Because then I can write down every single little idea that comes to me. I’m talking everything from “Something about a girl/guy that does _____” to a very intricate detailed scene from my latest endeavor.

I found this tip in a writing article a few years back, and let me tell you this has been one of the most helpful things I have ever done. I find myself thinking farther into a story before sitting down to write it. I write down one idea, and others present themselves. It has increased my efficiency 100 fold. You should really try it.

4 – Don’t delete anything

I know people say this a lot, but it’s true. If a scene (or name or action or settings) doesn’t work for your immediate story/script just set it aside. Don’t discount it as unusable. Maybe it doesn’t fit now, but maybe it will fit in your next work of art.

I know, personally, I have a list of names I want to use, and some of them I haven’t had the gut feeling that they FIT yet. But they will. One day. Same with settings and scenes. I have some things I want to do that sound really cool, but the scene doesn’t fit the story yet.

Don’t give up. You can write better than you believe you can. Get those ideas from the movie screen in your head onto a blank piece of paper. Say it after me: “Blank page, I thwart thee!”

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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The Procrastination Factor

You know the feeling. “I should write, but I don’t want to get up/move/start the computer/turn off the TV/stop this game.” (Or any other plethora of excuses.)

How can you be expected to write a novel or complete a screenplay when half the time you should be writing is spent online? (Yes, I understand, the internet is more distracting than life itself. Been there, done that.)

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In fact, the reason we’re talking about this today is because I am such a fantastic procrastinator. Really. I try to write these posts early, but this week I find myself sitting down at the computer at the last minute, feeling harried. Not the best way to write.

I know you can understand. My downfall is usually Pinterest. While it is great for writing inspiration, it is also great at stealing writing time. I have had to learn to balance.

We’re not talking ying-yang, fen-shui type of balance, no sirree. We are talking vegetable to sugar ratio, H2 to O type of balance.

And, believe me, you will feel so much better after you’ve actually written something.

Tip #1 – Ration yourself

Do you mean 2-cups-of-sugar-per-week-during-WW2 type of ration?

Yes. Yes I do. As you get on the internet (or go to bake that cake, or turn on the television), force yourself into submission. Set a time limit and stick to it. You shouldn’t need more than 2 hours to do everything you need to do, and generally anything beyond that is self-indulgence and leads to procrastination. So, repeat after me.

I will set limits for my time spending. i WILL set limits for my time spending.

Budget your time wisely, my friends.

Tip #2 – Set a schedule

(To instantly make it more fun, set a SHED-ule)

I do this and I’ve found it’s really helpful. It’s easy, too.

Okay, I’ll walk you through this slowly.

If you are someone who needs everything written down so you can see your life in print, take out your day planner. Come on, take it out, I know you have one. If you’re someone who loves to socialize and generally fill up your time with parties, dates, and outings, pull up the alarm on your phone. If you’re someone who has to have control of everything or you go bonkers, and heaven forbid that someone else tell you how to live your life, write this down. If you are someone who really does just procrastinate because, hey, why stand when you can sit? You’re my people and you need to get your mind ready to be boggled.

People group A: find a few hours of completely free space in that day planner. In this blank space, write “Writing Time”. You’ll stick with it, so that’s all I need to tell you.

People group B: Set a new alarm to go off once a day. In this alarm, write the amount of time you will spend writing. Do it.

People group C: Write down when you will write every day and stick with that schedule. Don’t let people pull you away. It’s YOUR time.

People group D: Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Picture a normal day for you and find the time you usually crash for several hours in front of the TV. Subtract 2 hours and use those two hours — same time every day — to write. Stick with it, even when it’s hard.

Tip #3 – Unplug

Craziness. I speak craziness. Does this mean what I think it means?

YES.

On most computers there is a little button that will disconnect you from the internet. On ALL televisions and remotes, there is this little button labeled “off”. Heck, unplug the TV from the wall if you need to. MAKE TIME to write.

Do you think your favorite author got to where they are right now because it was easy for them? No. They made sacrifices. What makes you better than they are?

Turn off those devices that distract you. Set the timer for the cake in the oven and come back later. Make time. You’ll find that making that time gets easier the longer you do it.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

A Place of Their Own

How important is setting to your story? Let’s take a look at some very famous tales, in which the setting is vital.

“…so Little Red Riding Hood set out through the woods to take provisions to her grandmother. Along the way, she came across a wolf…” (“Little Red Riding Rood”, my paraphrase)

Think about it. What if Little Red Riding Hood had come across a wolf in a town? The outcome of this story would have been very different. If the Big Bad Wolf had ambled into town to speak with Little Red, don’t you think the townspeople would have backed her up and taken the wolf down? They have to have some weaponry somewhere in Little Red’s town, right? I think so.

“…A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

A LOT of people know this intro. Star Wars, right? And what would Star Wars be without Outer Space? A lot more boring, let me tell you.

So, why do we need good settings? Why are they so important?

Setting targets genres

This may seem a little bit confusing, but trust me, it isn’t. Oftentimes, genre is determined by where you decide to set your story. Post-apocalyptic, Science-Fiction, Historical, etc. They all have to do with your setting.

Choose your setting wisely, and let the readers in that genre KNOW you chose well. Make it fit.

Setting sets the mood

Some settings, like the “post-apocalyptic-but-still-eerily-familiar” world in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, give a quirky, strange feel to the story. You can use a setting to enhance your characters, lending a mood of change. Settings are diverse, nearly unlimited, and they are as important to your story and mood as your characters and plot.

How do I know where to set my story?

Usually, your setting should be the one that feels right. An epic swordfight in the middle of New York City is highly improbable, unless your New York has backslidden and now has no way to make modern weapons. (Or if your character is Henry from ABC’s Forever, but that is highly unlikely)

So, take a long look at your characters and ask yourself where they would fit. Where they would seem natural. Look at their talents and fears and throw them into a world where their story makes sense.

One last tip

Your characters deserve the perfect setting. And I believe you’ll know if your setting is “off”. If you find yourself in a story that you love, but it seems like something is wrong, look at your setting. Maybe it should change.

Be creative with your setting. Underwater fist fight (James Bond). A giant, villainous home base under the Polar Icecap (G.I. Joe). Someone came up with these, and people loved them. You can come up with something just as good, probably better! Let your creativity roam. Expand your horizons. Think outside the box.

Are your characters in Boston? Did you know there are underground tunnels beneath that city?

Are they in space? How about some wacky, new-fangled spaceship?

Settings are as vast as your imagination. So go out there and write some crazy awesome stories!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Let’s Talk Plot…

Plot. The heart of story. The lifeblood of any good book. Or movie. Plot is vitally important to the forward propulsion of the known universe. Without plot, the entire entertainment world would cease to exist. Books, movies, songs…

You get the point. Plot is important. Very important. But, what makes up plot?

I’m so glad you asked!

Plot can technically be broken down into 2 parts: Rising action and falling action. However, I never did like to fit into the cookie-cutter writing mold, so my favorite way to explain it contains several key points in the story. 5 to be exact.

Inciting incident. Turning Point. Point of no return. Crisis. Showdown. (Bonus 6th: Wrap-up.)

So, what I plan on doing today is to walk you through a successful plot piece by piece. Don’t worry, I’ll explain how each piece of the puzzle fits.

Inciting Incident:

First, let me tell you what this literally means. Incite = to encourage or stir up. Incident = an event or occurrence.

So, the Inciting Incident is literally an event that stirs things up. It’s the part of the story (generally very, very close to the beginning) where everything is tipped off balance. It is what makes the character(s) have to go on that quest. The event that changes everything.

The inciting incident in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is introduced in the first pages. “My dear Mr. Bennett, have you heard the Netherfield Hall is let at last?” (It’s paragraph 3, people. That woman knew how to throw you in at the exact moment everything changes.)

This is most definitely the inciting incident because it is the moment we know something different happened in their life. Before this sentence, they were just minding their own business, going about their own life. After this sentence, Mrs. Bennett spends the entire book talking about Netherfield and Mr. Bingley. (Anyone who doesn’t know what happens at the end of this book is not a true book nerd.)

In the hilarious and widely popular movie The Princess Bride, the inciting incident is a little farther in, but not much. Did you guess it? Yep, the inciting incident is when Buttercup hears that Westley has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. (Eek! Not the Dread Pirate Roberts! No, he can’t die! Is this a tragedy? But, I digress…)

Turning Point

 This is usually my favorite part (I will say this a lot, don’t pay attention. My favorite part changes from hour to hour) of the story. This is when everything turns upside down. The unthinkable happens! Suddenly, there is no choice but to set out on the journey that will propel us to the end of the story. Something has to be done.

A good example of an epic turning point can be found in the movie National Treasure. The turning point comes the instant Ian declares he is going to “borrow” the Declaration of Independence and then proceeds to accidentally blow up the Charlotte.

Turning point? I think yes. That is the very moment that Ben Gates knows he has to do something. He can’t let Ian steal the Declaration! It propels him to begin his epic journey/continue his treasure hunt. It ups the stakes. That, my friends, is what a turning point does.

Point of No Return

Sounds pretty ominous, right? It is.

The Point of No Return comes usually about halfway through the story. This is literally what it says it is. A point where something happens that won’t allow the character to go back to where he/she was before. It makes them change and forces them to finish what they’ve started, even if they don’t want to. They no longer have a choice.

In my novel, Rose-Colored Glasses, the point of no return is when someone starts to meticulously target the main character (Rosie Callahan). The second main character/love interest knows that he can’t back out. He has to help her. He no longer has an option to leave or to let it go.

Same thing with one of my favorite movies, Next. The instant the government and the villains pull the love of his life into their twisted schemes is the instant that Cris Johnson decides he can’t NOT help the government. His point of no return is that he refuses to endanger the woman he loves.

Crisis

Pretty self-explanatory. Crisis. A point when all is lost.

This is usually achieved when everything has gone wrong. The plan has backfired, the bad guys are hot on the main character’s trail, and the love interest usually hates him. The world seems upside down and you’re actually afraid this character might not come out of this.

Then, right as that first tear builds in your left eye, something else terrible happens. Something that you never expected. Yet another aspect of the story goes completely berserk! Someone dies, or is kidnapped. The main character has an emotional break. SOMETHING! And you just want to scream at the page. Or the screen.

This is a crisis.

Showdown

Showdown is what people usually call a climax. The final battle.

This is when Thor faces Loki in Thor. It’s when Emma and Mr. Knightley finally communicate in Jane Austen’s Emma. Any time someone is finally getting somewhere, through words or fisticuffs, and it’s the most intense part of the book or movie, it is definitely the showdown. This is where everything will be resolved. Where someone determines whether this story is a tragedy, or if it has a happy ending.

Showdown demands an element of suspense. It demands intensity. And it should always be rewarding to your readers/watchers.

Bonus 6th: Wrap-up

Where we resolve all our storylines and write “they lived happily ever after”. The wrap-up is essential for a good read. If you don’t wrap it up, people will feel like you ripped them off. Let them know what happens, and they’ll thank you.

The only exception to the rule? When you’re writing a series or sequel, it’s okay to let a few storylines hang open, so that you can use them later on. Still, wrap up as much as you can and your fans will thank you later.

And this is PLOT.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

A Compelling Story

Have you ever read a book you literally CANNOT put down? How about a movie during which you refuse to budge from your seat, because you don’t want to miss something? Have you ever noticed how it seems to take so little to make a fan out of you? Books and movies like this generate tons of fans because of one very specific thing.

They have a compelling story.

If you’re a writer, you know that everything I’m about to say in this paragraph is true. You’ve read “that” book, and you’ve seen “that” movie. You know the ones I’m talking about. You think to yourself “I can never write something as good as that! Listen to that dialogue! Look at those descriptions! Nope. I’ll never be that good.”

I have good news and more good news for you. The very fact that you want to write something that good means you care. And if you care, maybe a reader will too. The second piece of good news is that you CAN write a compelling story. All you need are a few simple tools.

TOOL #1 – Strong Plotline

What is a strong plotline, you ask? Let me explain a thing.

Plot (or “plotline”) is simply your story itself. It is “Once upon a time…”, “The End”, and everything in between. It is “Fade In”, “Roll credits”, and everything in between that, too. Plot is story, and if you don’t have a strong plot, you’re in deep trouble.

A strong plot consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Beginning consists of your set up and inciting incident (more on this later). Middle consists of everything that moves your hero/heroine toward the climax. Middle is a freight train pushing your hero/heroine farther than they ever wanted to go and bringing them situations they should not reasonably recover from. End is your darkest point, through the climax, and into the wrap-up. I have found that the easiest way to divide these is as follows: 1/4 beginning, 2/4 middle, 3/4 end.

(NOTE: If you are writing a novel, it’s easiest to go by word count. Say you’re writing a 60,000 word novel. That makes it a 15,000 word beginning, 30,000 word middle, and another 15,000 words for the end. Screenplays go by pages. A typical Screenplay is approximately 120 pages. Therefore… 30 page beginning, 60 page middle, 30 page end. Got it? Good!)

TOOL #2 – Strong Characters

Let’s face it. If you don’t have a character that people love (or love to hate), then you’re already dead in the water. People read books because they care what happens to the people. Yes, plot is important, but without strong characters your story won’t go anywhere.

For me, strong characters are flawed characters. Also known as relatable characters.

For the sake of sanity, let’s take some notes from those crazy, wacky Tumblr groups known as FANDOMS!!! (*gasp*! NOOOO! NOT THE CRAZY PEOPLE!)

Yes, the crazy people. Think about it. Why are they crazy? Because they love those characters (or that one character) and they have to tell the world about it. They love them so much that they write their own stories to move the character forward. They literally put that character in their own life. And those villains? Oh, yeah, they have split followings. People either want to marry them or want to kill them.

So, what makes these crazy people fall in love with the characters?

They’re flawed. They have issues, and quirks, and they don’t get along with everyone, and people can relate to that.

(More of character development and how to write flawed characters is coming in the following weeks)

TOOL #3 – Passion

Honestly, this is the third and greatest essential tool you need. Without passion for your story, you’ll never finish it. You’ll start and let it die. So be sure you are passionate before you begin.

How do you know if you’re passionate about it?

Do you think about this story day and night? Does everything you see, experience, or read correlate back to it? Do you see your characters in fashion photos and your setting in travel guides?

If you answered yes to any of these, you are passionate about your story. Don’t give it up. Keep moving, keep writing, keep dreaming. The world needs more dreamers, and the world needs your book.

You are the only one who can write your book, your way. Don’t let it go.

Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.