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!

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

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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

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!

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

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

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.