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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“Return to Go”

The all-mighty rejection letter.

You know the one. The one that starts “We regret to inform you” and goes downhill from there. The one that crushes your soul (like a grape) every time you get a new one. And it seems they’re all the same, right? All telling you that you haven’t made it.

Do not pass “Go”.

Do not collect 200 dollars.

I know the feeling, because I’ve been there. Every writer has. Some are lucky enough to get someone who will walk them through the process of rejection until they’re finally accepted. Others, notsomuch.

What does one do with a crushed-grape soul?

First, I fully believe in going to the kitchen, finding a pan of brownies or an entire cake, and eating them. Something about it gives just the right amount of comfort for a grieving writer. It soothes the nerves and definitely boosts your endorphin level… Not really, but I’m trying to give you some hope here.

After you’ve gorged yourself on Marie Antoinette’s final piece of advice (“Let them eat cake”), It gets a little tougher to deal with. Because the next thing you have to do is return to go. Sweep aside your shattered plans, pick up the intact pieces of your dreams, and begin again. Grab that notebook. Turn on your computer. Put your fingers to the keyboard. And let it all flow out onto the page.

Writers work magic with words and emotion. No better time to write emotion than when you’re swimming in a sea of it.

Thirdly, stop thinking of them as “rejection” letters. Sure, the editor/agent/friend/magazine didn’t like that particular piece of work, but they’re not rejecting you as a person. Choose to turn that lie on its head and think of them as “not yet” letters. Most famous writers got hundreds — some thousands — of those letters before they hit their big break. All it takes is one person who believes in you enough to give you a shot.

The name of the writer game is Perseverance! (and a lot of determination) Don’t spend valuable writing time moping about the contract you didn’t get. Return to go and start the race toward the best finish line ever. The contract you have YET to get.

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I’m interested. Worst rejection letter you’ve ever gotten and best rejection letter you’ve ever gotten. What are they?

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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