Tag Archives: writing

Much Ado about March

Hello everyone!

Dr. SeussDid you know that Dr. Seuss, Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Big Bird, and Barbie were all born in March?

Both Coca-Cola and the rubber band were invented in March.

Uranus was discovered in March, and the first spacewalk happened in March.

St. Patrick's Day 3From a holiday standpoint, March hosts St. Patrick’s Day, Purim, and sometimes Easter.

And best of all, March is the month in which spring returns to the northern hemisphere.

March is a pretty exciting month.

You’re writing challenge for the next two weeks is to take one or more March related people, things, or events and write a story.

Happy writing!

Katie

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How do your characters grieve?

Hello everyone!

My grandmother recently passed away, and one thing that really stood out to me in the aftermath of her death was how differently everyone in my family grieved the loss.

I’ve learned that there’s no right way to grieve.  The grieving process varies from person to person based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, personality, the relationship between the deceased and the surviving person, and the circumstances surrounding the death.

grief 2Some people want to pack everything up and move on.  Other people need time to look at photos and objects that belonged to the deceased.  Some people talk about the loss, while others joke about ironic parts of the situation.  Some people cry buckets, and others don’t shed a tear.  Some people focus all their energy on taking care of others’ needs, and other people curl up in bed or in front of the TV.  Some people want to do something to honor the deceased’s memory, and others don’t want to think about the loss.  Working through grief is incredibly individualized, and everyone grieves at their own pace.

Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is to write a scene in which your protagonist loses someone close to him/her and/or to write a series of scenes covering the week after the death.  Below are some things to consider when writing.

  1. What was the protagonist’s relationship with the deceased?
  2. How does the protagonist handle his/her grief?
  3. Was anything left undone or unsaid between the protagonist and the deceased?
  4. What else is happening in the protagonist’s life (e.g. finals, an upcoming move, layoffs at work, etc.)?
  5. How are other people with whom the protagonist comes in contact grieving the loss?
  6. Make sure some sort of conflict arises as a result of the death.  It could be as simple as two people’s grieving styles conflict (e.g. one needs to clean up and move on and the other needs time to process the death).  It could also be that a longstanding feud or slowly building irritation comes to a head or that deceased had a secret that now comes to light.

Happy writing!

Katie

IMG_2279P.S.

I would like to dedicate this post to my grandmother, Margaretha Betz.  Thanks for everything, Oma.  I love and miss you.

The Wonder of “Why?”: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Hello everyone!

In my last post, I talked about how to ask your way though plot and character development.  In this post, I want to talk about my favorite question of all: Why?

Why 7The reason I like why so much is because the answer to that question provides the motivation or foundation for all of a character’s actions.  For example, think about your story’s antagonist.  It’s easy for the protagonist to observe or hear about the antagonist’s actions (what he/she does).  A smaller group of characters, which may or may not include the protagonist, knows the process or methods the antagonist uses to execute those actions (how the antagonist does it).  But why the antagonist does something can only be speculated about unless the antagonist himself/herself reveals the reason to another character.  The reader might never find out the antagonist’s motivation.  In some cases, even the antagonist might not even be able to explain why he/she does something, but you as the author should know.

In other words, Why? gets to the heart of an issue and reveals the true motivation of a character.  Check out the sample questions and answers below to see what I mean.

Why don’t two characters get along?

  • Prejudice
  • Bad or inaccurate first impression
  • Personality clash
  • Opposing ideologies
  • Past history

The answer to this question determines how hard or easy it will be for those two characters to reconcile their differences or if reconciliation is even possible.

Why does a supporting character steal?

  • He/She doesn’t have money for food or other necessities
  • Revenge
  • In his/her (country, family, or friend) culture, stealing is socially acceptable
  • Attention seeking
  • Boredom
  • Sabotage – He/She deliberately steals what someone else needs for a plan to succeed

The answer to this question makes the supporting character likeable, pitiable, reprehensible, or daring.  The reason he/she steals is far more interesting than the fact that he/she steals.

Why 9Why is the protagonist having recurring nightmares?

  • Past trauma
  • He/She has been poisoned and hallucinations are a side effect
  • Fear or anxiety about an upcoming event
  • He/She watches scary movies before bed
  • The dreams are divine warnings

Each potential answer gets to the root of the problem, revealing to you as the writer what the protagonist must change or overcome to resolve the conflict.

I hope you have a better idea of why Why? is so important and that the examples help you to apply this essential question to your own writing process.

Happy writing!

Katie

Asking Your Way through a Story Idea

Hello everyone!

Writing a book is a lot like exploring.  You start with a vague idea and discover the rest as you go.  For me, the most important part of the creative writing process is asking my way through plot issues and character inconsistencies.

stop watchWhenever I run into an underdeveloped point in the plot or a behavior in a character that I can’t justify, I try to summarize the problem as a question.  Then, I write down the question and brainstorm answers for about ten minutes.  (Think of this process as a structured free write.  No idea is too crazy during those ten minutes.)

When the ten minutes are up, I choose the potential answer that I like best and explore it further.  (Sometimes, this involves doing another guided question free write.)  If the answer I selected solves my problem, great.  If the answer doesn’t fix the issue, I look back at my list of potential answers and choose a different one to explore.  I do this until I have the answer that works for the story and that satisfies me as the writer.

Below is a list of question words with some sample questions from my own writing projects:

What if…? (What if the crystals had power?  What if the villagers were wary of 21st century technologically?)

Who? (Who betrays the group?  Who stole the sheep?)

What? (What is the ultimate insult for a fairy?  What is my protagonist’s deepest desire?)

When? (When did the elves and humans start attacking each other?  When does my protagonist start trusting authority figures?)

Where? (Where do they fight the soldiers?  Where does my protagonist’s grandmother work?)

Why? (Why won’t the dwarf take them into the caverns?  Why does my protagonist want to befriend the new kid?)

three paths*Which? (Which route is safest?) (*I personally don’t use “which” as often as I do the other question words.)

How? (How do I get them out of the fight alive when they are outnumbered ten to one?  How do I get my protagonist to be more respectful to adults?)

I hope this gives you some good ideas for how to ask your way through your own stories.

Happy writing!

Katie

Character Flaws

Hello everyone!

dogEver read a book or watched a TV show or movie where a character was just too sweet, or too good, or too, well for lack of a better word, perfect?  Those characters are boring to read about and watch because they aren’t relatable and don’t have room for growth.

I have found three activities to be especially helpful when assigning a flaw to a character:

  1. I go to the core of who a character is by identifying his/her deepest desire, strongest belief, and biggest fear.  I then select a flaw that fits that type of person.
  2. I look at a character’s strength(s) and then ask myself, “What is the negative side of this strength?”  For example, a compassionate character could be overly sensitive.
  3. I delve into the character’s past and look for any event that could count as traumatic.  I then assign a flaw that developed in response to that trauma.  For example, a character who was robbed might be paranoid or have trouble trusting.

If you’re looking for more ways to give your characters a much needed flaw, I recommend that you read Now Novel’s article “Character flaws: Creating lovable imperfections.”  It covers three different types of (perceived) flaws: physical, emotional, and ideological.  It also talks about how those flaws could repel and attract different characters and how a flaw could cause a character’s feelings about another character to change, for better or worse, during the course of the story.

For a great writing exercise for finding a character’s flaw, read Gail Carson Levine’s blog post “Nobody’s Perfect.”  She uses the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” to demonstrate how to do the exercise and has three writing prompts at the end of the post.

The Negative Trait ThesaurusFor an extensive list of personality flaws, check out “123 Ideas For Character Flaws” by Writers Write or get a copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

Happy writing!

Katie

A New Spin on Things

Hello everyone!

A few weeks ago, some writer friends and I watched an animated movie musical together.  The music was not original, and the plot and characters felt like they had been created to showcase the songs instead of the songs being used to move along the plot and character development.

The movie inspired us to do a just for fun writing prompt to kick off 2019.  Each of us wrote down the titles of five of our favorite songs.  We put the slips of paper into a container and then each picked out five songs.  We said that we would each write something that incorporated our five random songs in some way.
th3bkrvmed

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to take five unrelated songs and work them into a piece of writing as seamlessly as possible.

Writing Prompt Guidelines:

  1. You can write whatever you want (a short story, a musical, a poem, etc.), but it must contain all five songs.
  2. You may incorporate the songs however you would like (song titles, lyrics, themes, etc.).

Ideas for How to Choose the Five Songs:

  1. Ask a friend or relative to name five songs.
  2. Turn on the radio and write down the first five songs that are played.
  3. Pick five of your favorite songs.

copyright symbol*Warning: Songs are copywrited, so do NOT publish the result of this prompt.  This prompt is just for fun and to get you thinking outside of the box.

Happy writing!

Katie

How to Grow from Past Mistakes

Hello everyone!

So, I have been reviewing my writing goals for 2018.  At the beginning of the year, my plan was to take my novel The Four Crystals from a rough draft to a polished draft by the end of the year.  I had a plan to accomplish the daunting task (breaking the editing process into weekly segments and tracking my progress); however, I made a few mistakes.

The first one was thinking I could take a rough draft to a polished draft in one edit.  It took longer to edit the first fourth of the novel than I had been anticipating.  Then, I realized that due to all the changes I had made to the first fourth of the book and all of the plot changes I was planning on making to the remaining three-fourths, it would be quicker to re-write the remainder of the book than it would be to edit it.

Fairy Tales 3My second mistake, which I technically made years ago when I started writing The Four Crystals, was not reading a variety of fantasy books before I started writing one.  Up until this year, I didn’t understand that there is a difference between fantasy and fairy tales.  After all, they both have magic, fairies, elves, dwarves, and quests.  Some of my writer friends kindly alerted me to the fact that The Four Crystals, which I wrote to be a fantasy novel, read more like a fairy tale – probably because I have read so many fairy tales and fairy tale spinoffs.  Once I learned that there was a difference, I started reading fantasy novels to get a feel for what beats I would need in my novel.  I also needed to figure out which fantasy clichés I had accidentally put in my novel.  (The wise old mage working with the know-nothing teenage boy might have been one of them.)

Mistake 11.jpgThings I have learned from this year’s mistakes:

  1. Read a minimum of five books in the genre you want to write before you start writing (ten is more advisable).
  2. Do multiple edits and focus on one thing per edit (e.g. characters, plot, dialogue, etc.).
  3. Set a goal, but if everything falls apart, DON’T GIVE UP! Learn from your mistakes, regroup, and try again.  (The failure rate for people who give up is 100%.  I will not be one of them.)

My goals for 2019 are to complete a new draft of The Four Crystals and to write at least the first book in the mystery chapter book series I started brainstorming and researching during the second half of 2018.  (Don’t worry, I already read over 20 mystery chapter books to make sure I understood the genre.)

Happy writing and happy New Year!

Katie

P.S.

I would like to shout out a special thank you to the two people who most supported and encouraged me after I discovered that I needed to do a major re-write to The Four Crystals: my brother and creative consultant, Gregory, and my friend and author, Olivia Berrier.  I don’t know what I’d do without the two of you!