Keep Your Eyes Open

Okay, guys, I’m soundtracking this one. In 3… 2… 1…

Why this theme? For one simple, very good reason.

The best piece of writing advice I have ever gotten came from a book I read recently. What was this sage piece of wisdom? Let me share it with you: “Don’t look away.”

Three simple words that changed my story method forever.

Why, you ask? Because until that point, I had been looking away. Away from embarrassing moments. Away from painful moments. Away from moments that could make you cry they’re so wonderful or could make you cry for other reasons. I had been stopping before I hit reality. And what’s the one thing every writer must bring a touch of to their story? That’s right. Reality.

As writers, our first and most important job is to tell a story. But our second most important job is to not look away from those everyday moments that make life… well… life. How are we supposed to bring readers to their knees or make them swoon or laugh or cry if we look away before the full effect takes place?

I’m not just talking about when we’re researching, either. Yes, it’s good to watch an entire moment play out before you, but the whole point of keeping your eyes open is so you can write it accurately. What does the audience gain if you end a touching (thrilling, tear-jerking) scene before its full conclusion, or if you skip the parts you think are “too emotional”.

Answer: nothing.

I know it’s difficult to write and it drains you emotionally, but I beg of you to put in those raw emotions. That’s what makes your characters real.

Is she heartbroken? Show her sobs.

Is he angry? Show his rage. ALL of it.

Study body language and psychology. See what makes your characters tick and how they react to a situation that throws them out of their comfort zone. It’s okay to do this! You know why? Because the second best piece of advice I’ve gotten is: “Kill your darlings.”

Don’t be so attached or so fearful for a character that you just can’t hurt them. Reality, remember? Everyone gets hurt, that’s the horrible truth. Hearts break, people lie or miscommunicate, and everyone has bad days. Just look around you. That girl sitting in the corner Starbucks booth all alone? What’s her story? That busboy in the restaurant that you pay absolutely no attention to – Why does he work there? The mom with three little kids in the grocery store – Is she alone or did she choose to be by herself?

Why?

That is the biggest question you should ever ask yourself. Why do things happen around you? Why are people where they are at this moment. Listen for the stories and when you find them: Don’t. Look. Away.

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What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

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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 Power of Daydreams

Tomorrow I will be attending an Olde English Faire. YAY! Why am I so happy? Because it’s a place where you can daydream all you want and no one second guesses you. You know what another place is where you can totally daydream all you want? Your story.

“But, Megan, I thought the purpose of writing fiction is to tell the truth in a new way?!”

It is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t daydream. People read books to escape, so escape with them. I’m pretty sure it’s a rule that if you’re a creative type, you have to daydream. So make the most of it!

“But, Megan, I don’t know how!!!”

Yes, you do. Don’t give me that excuse!

What do you think about when you’re all alone? Do you romanticize things and think about your first kiss? Do you think back on that movie and wonder how you would have done it differently and why? Do you make up jokes and imagine people laughing hysterically at them?

All of these count as daydreams. And all would make a great book/movie. One of the greatest books/plays of all time is titled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Heard of it? Yeah, I thought so. It’s all about a dream. (Just a daydream without the day).

So what’s stopping you from writing your daydreams?

“It’s not realistic enough. People will laugh and stop reading/watching.”

This is called fear, and it’s very easy to overcome. I’ll teach you. Follow me. 1) Take a deep breath. 2) Tell yourself “I can do this!” 3) Put your fingers to the keyboard or pick up that pen. 4) WRITE!

It’s just that easy.

“It’s stupid.”

This is called an excuse, and it’s very easy to overcome. 1) Take a deep breath. 2) Tell yourself “I am a writer!” 3) Pull yourself together and put your fingers on that keyboard. 4) WRITE!!

Seeing a pattern? Good! All obstacles can be overcome by simply DOING. Don’t let anything push you down and don’t let anyone tell you that your daydreams are impossible or dumb. Daydreams often come from your heart or your passion. Don’t let anyone kill that. Embrace the dream. Write the dream. You’ll be a better person for it, trust me!!!

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What’s your favorite daydream? I’d love to know!

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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

Memorable Moments

Memorable moments in a book or movie are the things that keep people talking about it for years to come. My family and I divide them into two (unspoken) categories. 1: Great Scenes. 2: Quotables.

Great scenes are those moments in a movie or book where no one is speaking, but awesome things are going on. It’s the scene from Up! where you learn Ellie and Mr. Frederickson’s entire life story without a single word. It’s the tear-jerking scene in Becoming Jane where she leaves her true love so his family won’t starve. It’s the scene in Sahara where Rudy smuggles himself back over the border.

Scenes that make you laugh, cry, or throw things. Yet they usually don’t say a word. They are completely visual.

These kinds of scenes are important for movies, but they are SUPER important for books too! If you don’t have something that’s going to capture attention, people will stop reading/watching. And no one wants that.

An example from one of my works-in-progress:

Arkin runs across the brown, rocky surface, heading for the ledge on which Boden stands. A warrior leaps for him, but Arkin draws his broadsword and cuts him down.

Several more follow.

Boden leaps from his ledge and lands deftly on the ground before Arkin.

Swords entangle. Armor creaks as they battle.

Colors flash in the air behind Arkin, sparking and subsiding, quicker with every second.

Boden drops to one knee.

A round, shell-like disc falls from Arkin’s belt and clatters on the rocks at the same time the colors behind him become constant.

Arkin is pulled backward, through the wormhole. A small, bug-eyed creature on the ground is sucked up as well.

How do you create a great scene like this? I don’t have one specific answer. I can tell you that it should be detailed, and use emotion! Anger, hurt, humor. Great scenes are often those that break the tension surrounding people in the story. On the other hand, they can also be the scene that turns someone down a mistaken path. Maybe they get too angry at that best friend who’s telling them their boyfriend is an idiot. Maybe they don’t like to be told what to do, so they do the opposite and it’s entirely stupid. Whatever you choose, make it pivotal. Make it something your fans will talk about for eternity.

Quotables are just that. Quotable. Lines that we sit around and spout to each other, discuss, or even throw into everyday conversation. Some examples from other’s work:

“Please be a secret door, please be a secret door, please be a secret door!” (Door opens from wall) “Yay!”

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“I’ve got some bad news about your boat sir…” (explosion noise)

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“You think you can mess with my mother?” (As he’s totally beating the crap out of his arch nemesis)

I’ll admit, these are kind of lines mixed with action, but that’s because those are usually the best. Exemplar:

Arkin presses the button on the toaster down, and Emma applauds.

EMMA

                     You made toast!

She hugs his neck. Arkin tosses his head back and laughs. The sound fills the entire apartment.

(Background: he doesn’t cook. Anything.)

Making something quotable is the fastest way to get people to tell others about your book or movie. Why? Because if it’s quotable, they’ll quote it. Then their friends will ask what it’s from, and they’ll get the answer “This awesome book/movie about (your plotline here). Oh my gosh! You haven’t read/watched this? You should totally read/watch this!”

I’ll give you, it’s hard to just come up with something quotable on the spur of the moment. Usually it arises from the situation in your story. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s totally worth it. So what are you waiting for? Go write something quotable today!

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I want to know either your favorite quotable or one you wrote yourself. Ready?… GO!

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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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Writers are Weirdoes

Is it just me, or do people think writers are really weird?

Point and case:

“…and then, (insert character name here) just turned on him. And I was like ‘whaaat’?!”

“Wait, who’s (character name)? I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Oh, s/he’s my newest character.”

“…But don’t you control what they do?”

Silly normal person! They should know better, right? Which is why we have friends that are also writers because we can talk like that with them and they UNDERSTAND! This is why it is important to have those friends. (Also point and case, my friend Amy L. Sauder has a blog where she is asking her characters how to solve life’s problems. You should check it out.)

Another dilemma: our overexuberant love for notebooks and pens. We see the aisle, we get distracted, we come home with fourteen sacks full of writing tools. It’s a thing, and I know I’m not the only one who does it. I have it narrowed down to the best kind of pen and the perfect width of lined paper.

Still more writerly quirks: Our excessive and often unfettered adoration for all things both lyrical and well-writ.

To be honest, I can probably blame Shakespeare for this one. I love to write with big words and in Old English. I understand the meaning of words such as “anon”, “Heretofore”, and “wherewithal”. Seriously, I sometimes read Shakespeare’s plays for fun. Because I love them. Call me crazy, do what you will, but it’s true. (Shout out to “Much Ado About Nothing”, especially Beatrice’s “if I were a man” speech. And the “dear lady disdain” argument! Anyway, moving on.)

I’ll write about one more insane quirk. Here it comes… The things we’ll do for research.

“Why are you jumping out of a plane with a parachute full of holes?”

“… … … -shrug- Research.”

OR

“Is that a leech in your refrigerator?”

“No, don’t touch that!”

“Why?”

“Research.”

We are worse than Sherlock Holmes when it comes to research experiments. We will subjugate ourselves to terrible pain and sorrow to find out what it’s going to be like for the characters we love so dearly. Oh, and did I mention that the more you love that character, the more you torture them (and, by proxy, yourself)?

Some wacky (not as bad as the examples) things I’ve done for research:

1. Googled “how to make a bomb”, “how to make poison look like an accident”, “how to commit the perfect crime”… seriously, if anyone looks at my Google history, it will be questionable.

2. Stood on the edge of a table to see how it feels to be on the edge of a roof.

3. Used Nerf guns to try out a theory I had for a fight scene. (My brother was the guinea pig)

4. Played with knives in the kitchen.

5. Other extraneous questionable methods.

So, writers are weirdoes. So what? Be weird. Do the zany stuff that makes you stand out. One day people will speak of your genius! (Again, I’ve been watching Shakespeare)

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What crazy things have you done in the name of research?

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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

How to Write a Narcissist (And, Quite Frankly, Why You Should)

Narcissism: extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

The term comes from the story of Narcissus, a Greek mythological god who disdained those who loved him and fell in love with his own reflection. (Which, by the way, led him to his death. Let’s not use him as a role model, okay?)

I’m writing this today because I recently found myself writing a narcissistic character in a novel I’m working on. (Also, because I’ve been watching a lot of Marvel movies lately – including Age of Ultron – and, let’s face it, Tony Stark is my perfect example for this post.)

So what’s the big deal about narcissism? And why should I be using it in my novel/movie/short story? And how am I supposed to write a narcissist?

Great questions!

1 – How to write a narcissist

It’s a lot easier than you would think.

Narcissists are completely self-centered. They can take ANYTHING and bring it back around to be about them. You say you’re tired, they talk about how tired they are. You say you ate some Ramen noodles, they tell the story about the time they almost choked on Ramen. Everything is about them and what they like.

I’ll give you one thing: this sounds like it could get really annoying to write. And maybe it can. I don’t know yet, as I actually kind of like my narcissist. (Weird.)

You can use their narcissism to your advantage too. My character works as a Personal Protection Specialist (not something I’d recommend a narcissist for), and it works because he likes the attention he gets when he does his job right. Play with their narcissism. Readers/watchers will love you for it.

2 – Why You Should Put a Narcissist in Your Story

Sub-section A:

Because it’s funny.

Anyone who has watched a movie in which Iron Man/Tony Stark appears knows that narcissism is entertaining. Mix it with a little bit of sarcasm, and it becomes an unforgettable character. Technically, no one should like a narcissist, but it can be done. Stark is a prime example of this.

Sub-section B:

They’re annoying to the other characters.

And everyone knows that annoyance creates conflict between your characters. Conflict is good. Conflict keeps people reading. Can you imagine trying to tell a narcissist something important? For the most part, they’re horrible listeners, and often very impetuous.

“We need a plan of attack.”

“I have a plan. Attack.”

Point. And. Case.

This can be used for the perfect “Divide and Conquer” scene. Use the narcissist to tear your characters apart (but only for a few scenes. We want people to like him, remember?)

Sub-section tres:

They are an automatic candidate for change by the end of the story.

Example: Iron Man

He starts out as a complete narcissist that doesn’t care how business is done. He’s in it for himself, and collateral damage is just that: collateral damage.

But then he changes.

He starts to see what his weapons are doing to other people, and a funny thing happens. He starts to care. He starts to look beyond himself and see that his actions affect everyone around him. And he changes to help those people out. He tries to break out the scientist that helped him build the first suit, and he stops to go back for him when he’s injured.

This doesn’t fit classic narcissism. And it shouldn’t. This is compassion, and everyone is capable of it. Even your narcissist.

Narcissists are fun, but remember they are people too. Despite their outward demeanor, they feel things deeply. And they ARE capable of change. Everyone is. They’ll probably end up being your tearjerker character. Use wisely.

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So, two things this week. 1) Do you love Iron Man as much as I do? And 2) Have you used a narcissist before, and if not will you do so in the future? Why?

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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.

Meet the Muse

Have people ever asked you how (or where) you got the idea for your story, and all you could say was “I honestly do not know”? Perhaps this is because you were visited by what we writers affectionately dub “The Muse”. “The Muse” is a helpful, often unexpected guide that shows us exactly the direction our story should go. Like a guiding angel for us writing-obsessed mortals known as “authors”.

As I’ve written and written and written and then talked to others about writing… and written some more, I have noticed some interesting things about “The Muse”. First of all, “The Muse” is almost always unexpected, as though we don’t think it can happen twice. Secondly, it usually comes in a “lightbulb!” moment where you suddenly know exactly what to write and how to do so. But the most interesting thing I’ve learned about “The Muse” is that it often comes in the form of each individual writer’s learning style.

For those of you who don’t know about learning styles, I’ll explain as I go along.

There are 3 major learning styles, and then variations that mix those three. “The Muse” can show up in any of them. I will use digital props to illustrate my point. (You’re welcome.)

“The Muse” #1 – Visual

Prop1 Prop2

(photos courtesy of my Pinterest account, the original owners are specified in the links there)

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If you are a visual learner, more than likely “The Muse” just visited you. A visually inspired person will see pictures, such as these, and immediately their brain will fly into action. “That’s my character!” “What if _______ did _______ there?” “I bet she’s looking at/for/toward ________.”

Congrats! I am proud to say I am one of these wacky people known as visual learners. I see pictures of film and think “What if?” Which generally leads to a fantastic new story idea that I can’t get down on paper fast enough.

If pictures are your muse, don’t fight it. Storyboard EVERYTHING! Trust me, it helps.

“The Muse” #2 – Audio

If you listened to this and immediately got a ton of story ideas for something really epic, “The Muse” visits you via what you hear! Be it a conversation overheard in a restaurant or a song that sparks a novel, you’re an audio learner!

Congrats again! I also belong to audio learners. (I am almost exactly 50/50 audio and visual.) When you hear a song and want to write a story based on it, don’t be shy! You won’t get sued. It’s “based on” not word-for-word.

My advice to you: soundtrack everything. Every time you’re writing have a playlist with music that fits the tone and message of your book and have it on shuffle and repeat. You won’t regret it, and it will actually make your writing better in the long run.

“The Muse” #3 – Kinesthetic

I will admit, I do not belong to this camp so it is hard for me to pin down what inspires you. I can hazard a few guesses though.

Since Kinesthetic learners need to be DOING something in order to learn (walking, dancing, tapping thier toe, rubbing their earlobe) chances are you’re inspired by actions in other people, or something you do yourself.

Exemplar gratis: Someone does an awesome parquour move and you think “what if my character did that in order to _________?” You’re probably Kinesthetic. You overlap into audio and visual depending on what you’re doing at the time, but you’re always cool and have a unique sense of how you see the world.

In conclusion, embrace “The Muse” and let it guide you. Don’t shy from doing things that help inspire the story within you. And always, ALWAYS, be yourself.

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So, which one are you? Or are you an example of a crossover? I’d love to hear your “Muse” experiences.

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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.

The Correction Bug

In my family, we have this beautiful, horrible thing called “the correction bug”. Allow me to explain with an exemplar story.

My brother is talking to me and he says, “you do that really good.”

“Well,” I correct him.

Later, we’re talking about a movie line. “Nobody kissed me, did they?

“Actually, it’s please tell me nobody kissed me.”

There is nothing more annoying than the correction bug when you’re on the receiving end, so we have worked hard to rein it in instead of letting it roam free. When someone gets on a roll correcting someone else, either they or the person they are correcting will slap their wrist/arm/shoulder/leg and say “correction bug” to remind that person that it isn’t always wise to correct other people.

Writers tend to get this way when reading other people’s work. We see a tiny mistake and we pick it apart. This can be both good and destructive. We have to be careful to not harm another writer’s feelings or resolve by picking apart everything they just did. On the other hand, it’s good to know that there is the possibility for you to be able to pick apart your own work and make it better.

Another fun part of the correction bug is that you can read or watch something and pick out what you like and how you would have done it. This is fodder for future works. Write it down. If you find yourself saying, “I would have…” then write down how you would have done it. There’s no telling when it will come in handy.

The correction bug is also good for first draft edits. You sit down, you read your work, and you tear it to pieces to fix it. It’s brutal work, and it hurts, but it is necessary. So, correct correct correct! (Anyone else have a flashback to Charlotte’s web here? “Double T, double E, double R, double I, double F, double I, double C”. I love that goose.)

Unfortunately for us, correction is a part of writing. Grammar, plotline, misspellings. I, for one, hate having to cut up the good work I’ve already done. It’s like tearing out my own heart and soul.

So, how do we deal with this?

Well, my first instinct is to sit down — just me — with a giant bundt cake and a fork. Unfortunately, if I did that every time I had to edit, I would be very, very fat. So I set up a reward program for myself (or, at least, I would like to). Here’s the general idea.

Edit first ten pages = piece of chocolate for me.

Edit first half of book = piece of cake/cheesecake or a giant cookie.

Edit all grammar and misspellings = a piece of jewelry for me.

COMPLETELY edit entire manuscript, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and fix all plot holes = BRAND NEW PAIR OF SHOES!!!

I’m not quite there yet, but I do reward myself with varying desserts and it seems to get me over the hump. Editing isn’t quite so menacing anymore. In fact, sometimes I actually (gulp) enjoy it.

So, even though the correction bug can be a bad thing when used too much, it can be a good thing for our writing. Keep it in its container until the time is right to let it out. (Kind of like those caterpillars you used to catch that never actually made it to butterfly stage).

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Need help editing or have questions about how it should be done? Comment or contact me! I’m giving out free advice this week.

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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.