Stumbling across inspiration

I’m having a hard time getting anywhere with my writing this week. I’m probably burned out on most of my projects, but just not writing isn’t an option for me. I’d go stark raving mad.

So yesterday, I decided to shift perspective on one of my stories and write a bit from a side character’s point of view. It was refreshing and led to some great character development, which in turn influenced how I’m seeing this plot unwind.

AND it made me realize:

I’m telling one of my other stories from COMPLETELY the wrong perspective.

And so, this morning, one of my stories changed from adult to middle-grade. An extremely lame plot arc has turned into an exciting and emotional adventure. It’s gonna be good.

Sometimes, all we need to push out of a slump is a new way of looking at the old, tired things spread out in front of us.

Have you ever had to completely change who is telling your story?

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Boggarting your character

Remember meeting boggarts way back in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? A creature that shapes itself into whatever you fear the most. How terrifying is that?

But what a brilliant creation! Forcing the characters to face their fears and showing their reactions not only developed the characters better, it humanized them, brought them a little closer to our hearts. Fear is a universal emotion, but everyone deals with it differently. Therefore, fear is a great way to make your character more relatable, but also to give your character more distinct traits.

So for this week’s challenge, ponder:

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Put your character up against what he/she fears most. What is it? How does your character respond? What does fear feel like to your character?

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Happy writing!

Stories within your story: Creation

It was a beautiful Easter weekend! I spent time with family, listened to leaders of my church speak at a general conference, and ate a lot of food. Scout wasn’t super into the egg hunt, but she was more than happy to eat the candy Daddy found for her.

I was explaining to someone this weekend that, although Easter is now widely viewed as a religious holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, many of the widespread Easter traditions (e.g. Easter eggs, Easter bunny) come from its origins as a pagan festival.

It took me back to my days at Intercultural Outreach, where I read and researched about all kinds of cultural traditions, both modern and ancient. The most common cultural tradition touched on was the creation myth. We all came from somewhere, and every culture has its own explanation of where that somewhere was.

The same should hold true in the worlds that you create in your writing. So as you create your own cultures and worlds within your stories, consider this:

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What is the prevailing creation myth in your novel’s culture? What does your character believe regarding this creation myth?

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Hearing voices everywhere . . .

Last week, I talked about the importance of giving your characters distinct voices. It takes a lot of work to find your character’s voice without completely overdoing it, so here’s another challenge to help you develop distinct voices:

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Rewrite part of a scene several times in first person, each time narrating the scene from a different character’s point of view.

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Finding whose voice?

When I started to get more serious about my writing, one piece of advice I frequently heard was, “Find your voice.” Like most advice, it’s nebulous and somewhat misleading.

Writing is not just about finding your voice, because books are about so much more than the author. Beyond finding your “authorial” voice (whatever that is), you have to find the voice of your narrator and each of your characters.

It’s amazing how much characterization can be done solely through the way your character talks—the words, the tone, the speed, the volume, and so forth. Good voice characterization makes each character distinct and memorable.

So here is my writing challenge for you this week:

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Write an exchange between two (or more) of your characters with no dialogue markers whatsoever. Make it clear from the voice alone who is talking.

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Wherein coloring M.O. predicts the future

Every Sunday, I spend an hour and a half with five three-year-olds at church. It’s an adventure, let me tell you. I’ve listened in on a lot of jabbering conversations about camping, marshmallows, death (I can’t believe how many discussions they’ve started about death), and the correct way to color.

Yesterday, as I was watching them color a page about the Holy Ghost, I noticed how different their coloring methods are. One scribbles over the entire page with several different colors. Another colors in certain parts, like the eyes or the mouths, with a single color and then flips it over and draws something on the back. Another colors in everything very carefully (well, as carefully as a three-year-old colors) in the right colors. Another rarely gets around to the coloring, as it takes him twice as long as the others to eat his snack.

I was joking with the husband after church about what a kid’s coloring M.O. says about future life prospects. Of course, you can’t predict what a three-year-old’s adult life with be like; but you can’t deny that kids have a very developed personality by three years. So, translating that into the writing world, here’s your writing challenge for this week:

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Write a scene showing a character’s traits as a young child that translate into a distinct aspect of personality later on in life.

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Irrational Fears

Do you know how many times you press the Ctrl key on your keyboard in a day? I never thought about it . . . until mine stopped working. You know, right after I had replaced my power cord. Sheesh. But now I have a fabulous new wireless keyboard and mouse, and I’m wondering why on earth I’ve been using that stupid little touch pad for my mouse all these years. This is amazing!

With all these little wonky things going wrong with my computer, I’ve been growing insanely paranoid about losing all the pictures, digital scrapbooking, and family history books I’ve been working on lately. (But not my writing. That’s already backed up in four or five different places, don’t worry.) So I’ve been coming up with all these crazy schemes to back up those files several times, until my eternally patient husband reminded me that all of these files are also on his computer and our external hard drive, and many of the pictures are on my family blog and other family members’ computers as well. So I guess even if my computer does go crazy and corrupts all my picture files, I won’t lose ALL of my baby’s pictures. (You know, all ten billion of them.)

I still maintain that my fear of losing our photos is not completely irrational, but it got me thinking about those amusing irrational fears that crop up at the most unexpected times. I knew someone who was afraid of stickers. Another, onions.

Me? Play-Doh. I cringe when I’m in the same room with it. I can’t tell you how much I hate the smell and the feel of it. If it’s fresh homemade play dough, I do okay–it doesn’t smell as bad, and it doesn’t feel quite as soul-shudderingly horrifying. But even homemade play dough starts to get gross when it’s been sitting a week or two.

What are some of the weirdest irrational fears you’ve come across? Or some of your own?

And, for your Monday writing challenge:

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Write a humorous scene where one of your characters’ irrational fears comes into play.

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