We have all hit the writing wall, the place where we are faced with a lackluster character. However, we have a storehouse of materials that can solve this dilemma.
Does he/she need to express the pain of first heartache in a young adult novel? Read back through your journal from your teen years. Need to tap into the pure joy of new friendship experienced from a nine year old’s perspective? Close your eyes and recall how you felt when you met your first friend.
Between journal entries, memories and convserations with people who have known us for decades, we can harvest emotions that infuse life into our characters.
Go ahead, stroll down memory lane but pause along the way to take notes.
I was a preschool teacher, have tried sky-jumping and I’ve repo(ed) a car. Most of us have the played the game called Two Truth and One Lie. This ice breaker is an ideal way to develop a complicated character and plot filled with twists.
Imagine a person who is perceived one way by the world but who is hiding a secret. Beyond what strangers, friends and loved ones see is the secret identity. The househusband may be a paid escort while the kids are in school and spouse is at work. The retired serial killer could be the sweetest volunteer at animal shelter. Beyond its sweet charm, a Midwestern town is home to the largest pack of werewolves in the US.
Stir mischief into your plot by adding a dash of deception.
We love our characters. They are a combination of our imagination, friends, loved ones with a dash of our own personalities. It’s natural to limit the dangers they face or the heartache. This protective urge can be toxic to our stories.
Time to push our characters and ourselves past the comfort zone. Increasing the jeopardy or exposing their heart strengthens the readers’ connection to the story. Vulnerability allows the author to share the essence of the character. As in real life, difficult situations reveal the best or worst of their nature.
It’s time to get messy, bare your hero/heroine’s soul and push them into harm’s way.
Stop exactly where you are. It’s time to backtrack. Yes, I realize that your muse is shooting a dirty look. Let’s ignore her/him and get ready to enhance your story. Open the characters’ bio. Perhaps you didn’t write one, well it is time to do so.
In order to enjoy the plot, the readers need to feel the people. Who are the characters? What makes them unique? What are their physical and emotional characteristics?
Readers will not care about your plot if they can’t intimately connect with your characters. A good novel is a marriage of a compelling story to fictional people who feel real. Case in point, the novels of Stephen King. Yes, we cringe or flip on the lights as terror deepens with each page turned. However, our pulse only increase because we have merged in some way with the main character. We are the little girl lost (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). We are the youths terrorized and yet strong enough to battle a supernatural, serial killer in IT.
The quarks, fear, backstory and even body language of characters gives them life. It is the transformation of a writers’ ideas into heartfelt people that creates magic. Revisit or create character bio. Your story is worth the effort.
Due to recent events in Charlottesville, this post will focus on using your gift of creativity to bring hope.
If the hate group that proudly stomped around caused you pain or created doubts abouts mankind’s humanity, good. You are tasked with bringing a measure of healing balm to a hurting nation.
Nonfiction Writers: Interview someone in Charlottesville. Share their concerns about the ramifications of the hate march or speak to someone who recalls segregation and voice their views of the recent event.
Fiction Writers: Spin us a tale of hope. Create in digital or print a world where bigotry is crushed.
Children Lit. Writers: You have the role of bringing comfort to frayed nerves of our youth. Now is the time to write for kid magazines, complete and submit PB/MG/YA manuscripts with diverse characters. You have the ability to show inclusion, ripping away the label of “other”.
Writers, sit down at your computers and spread a healing balm.
Can’t sleep because of the heat? Get up, that’s right climb out of those sweaty sheets. Consider the uncomfortable temperature as Mother Nature’s way of nudging you to write. Now grab your laptop or notepad and pens. Find the coolest spot possible in your house or if you’re able to sneak out, head to a 24 hour diner. Grab a cold drink, pop in ear plugs and plant your butt into a chair.
Write anything. This is the ideal space to stretch and creatively warm up by complaining about the temperature. Describe the discomfort in great detail, whine as much as possible on the page. Got the grumpiness out of your system? Great! Now, let’s get to work. Open the file and work on your story. As you get into the piece and the word count rises, the level of discomfort will decrease.
By the time you have completed several pages and downed a half gallon of liquids, one of two things will have occurred. Either the weather will have cooled a bit as it is now the wee hours of the morning or you will be so tired the bed is screaming your name.
Hot nights were made for writers and night owls. Make friends with Mother Nature and write your way through the blistering heat.
YALLWEST was a day packed with swag (goodies provided by publishers), panels (discussing creativity, the writing process, the publishing industry, ) free pizza and inspiration. Daniel Jose Older blew the roof off the venue with his honest and bold style on panels like “Write the Resistance” covering the topic of writing realistic characters that are standing up to injustice. Danielle Paige and Victoria Aveyard’s discussion on women who influenced their writing and on the importance of strong female characters was brilliant. Tracey Baptiste showed her creative chops by sharing a story from her childhood, inspiring writers in attendance to dig into their own childhood for tales to re-spin.
If you are a fan of middle grade or young adult literature, you should attend YALLWEST. Writers of MG or YA need to come to this an annual event and get an infusion of creativity.
What do you get when you mix thousands of readers and tons of middle grade and young adult authors from all over the country? YALLFEST! This annual event connects fans with literary stars and offers panels on topics such as fantasy, research, mythology and publication of children’s literature (but that’s just a sample, stay tuned for the main course in part two)..
Arrive early and mingle with fellow writers in line. Step onto the campus of Santa Monica High School and check out swag from major publishers. Grab a schedule of events and hop into line for the events that you have tickets for.
Keynotes spotlights the humor and brilliance of authors such as Cassandra Clare and Daniel Jose Older. The fun inspirational day had just begun.
Part 2 : Inspiration & Insight Gained From YALLWEST…….
Have you ever had an idea for a novel written in verse or a character with a obscure medical condition? Did you think it to unconventional to try? Well, dust off those ideas, it may be time to rock the page!
Middle grade or young adult novels can be amazing in lyrical form. Case in point, Crossover by Kwame Alexander. This middle grade novel is about a twelve year old basketball player who deals with sibling rivalry and a crisis that nearly brings his family to its knees. Did I mention that it is written in brilliant, flowing lyrical format? Okay, maybe you think that Kwame’s book is a fluke. Consider Ellen Hopkin’s young adult novels. Her poetic lines touch teens across the globe in stories of pain, addiction and drama.( Go ahead and order their books or put them on hold with the library. )
Maybe lyrical format is not your style. Okay, let’s shake the magic eight ball for another creative idea. Here’s one: rare medical condition. Perhaps you have heard about a middle grade book called Wonder or the young adult novel, Everything, Everything. They have three thing in common: the main character is living with a physical challenge that society considers to be abnormal, they long to be out in the world and to live like everyone else, and both books have being turned into movies.
Why write in lyrical mode or have a character that suffers from a physical challenge? Lyrical is an option if poetry is your strength or if the story demands to be told in that way. And characters with physical challenges reflex the fears we all face of being hurt or rejected by society for being less than perfect. Most of all, imperfect characters remind readers that we are all the same inside and encourage them to embrace all forms of diversity.
Up to the challenge of trying to write in the above mentioned ways? Go for it.
I owe you a third Goodie Bag Post. Here it is…
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (Deadline 4/1/17)
Mother Jones Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program (Deadline June & December)
AWP Scholarship (Deadline 3/30/2017)
Writer-In-Residence Boston Public Library (Deadline 4/14/17)
Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grants (Submission closes 5/1/17)
The Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship (Deadline 3/30/2017)