I went back and refreshed this post about my novel, describing the process that led me to writing one in the first place. If you’re toying with the idea of writing your own novel but just can’t seem to get started, check out my post for inspiration–after all, I never thought I’d be a novelist, either!
I went back and added quite a bit more to this small article about a surprising little subplot I came up with for my novel. Now there’s advice on how to work in a crazy little twist to your own stories! 😀
For the next little while, I’ll be focusing primarily on redoing older posts instead of trying to come up with completely new content for Crooked Glasses.
Mainly, I want to bring all my posts up to par with my current writing/formatting style, but I also want to have more time to focus on my novel, which is about 70% complete and needs some TLC. I’m hoping that not having to generate completely new blog content every two weeks will give me the time I desperately need.
For now, redone posts will be featured every day as has been usual (1 per day except Sundays), but I might do a double-Redo week if I have enough brain energy. There are a LOT of “hidden gem” articles here at Crooked Glasses, and I’m doing my best to polish ’em up! 🙂
Lots of tweaking, rewording, and reshaping for this week’s redone creativity post, about working together with other writers to improve your writing and get inspired to start again. Check out the new and improved article!
My first post about my novel now makes about 200% more sense, with better organization/title lines and less silly off-target rambling. (Also, I fixed the long-dead link in the post as well! WOO!)
As a writer, my largest hang-up has always been finding the perfect names for my characters. I’m very picky–I don’t like to name my characters after real people if I can help it, nor do I want to copy another author’s name choices. But I usually don’t get good ideas for characters’ names as I’m developing the concept; names are always the last thing to come to me when I’m crafting a fictional person.
If you’re a fellow writer with this same problem (or if you’ve ever tried your hand at making a unique fictional character for a role-playing scenario, video game etc.), you know how frustrating this can be. I stayed frustrated a long time, until I figured out something pretty simple to help:
Baby Name Websites: A Writer’s Best Friend
It might seem silly, but baby name websites have given me more ideas for character names than I can count over the last several years.
Some websites give you more history and meanings for the name so that you can decide if it’s a good fit or not; others allow users to submit original names (which sometimes ends up in utter strangeness getting added to the database, but is mostly okay). I don’t necessarily gravitate toward popular names when I search–I instead browse through the database one alphabet letter at a time, seeing which names catch my eye and noting those as I go. (This works fastest if you’ve already got an idea for what your character’s name starts with, but even if you have NO clue what you want their name to be, this helps.)
Get Help with Surnames, Too!
If I’m bad about selecting characters’ first names, I’m even worse about their surnames. Thankfully, there are a few websites, mostly based in genealogy and ancestry, which have helped me select characters’ last names. (Like when I search for first names, I usually search by alphabet letter, writing down the ones that strike my fancy.) Investigating the surnames’ meaning is also a great tool for matching up surnames to types of characters; you may not wish to make it match perfectly, but a loosely linked name can be fun.
Also Try: Altering Interesting Words
If none of the names seem to fit, try taking a descriptive word you like the sound of, and changing or deleting some of the letters to make it sound more like a name. (Examples off the top of my head: “Whitha” from the words “white” or “with”; “Sentyn” from the word “sentimental”; “Tunar” from the words “tune” or “thunder”.) This trick can help especially if you’re trying to create more high-fantasy or mythical-sounding names, or if you’re really, REALLY stuck on a character name.
Coming up with character names can feel daunting, but some Internet research plus a little old-fashioned creativity can help you name your heroes (and villains) at last! Try one or more of these tips for your next novel, short story, or game!
As I’ve been writing my novel, I’ve been developing characters to hang like ornaments along the continuing plot threads I’m working on. Unfortunately, there have been a few “ornaments” that ended up more two-dimensional than three-dimensional–they were characters which somehow lacked humanity, even as hard as I tried to inject it into their dialogue and actions.
Well, they lacked humanity, that is, until I figured out a little more unconventional way to think about the situation.
The Problem: A Flat Not-So-Minor Character
This post all started as I was writing the most recent episode in my novel, which involves a female character who behaves very nastily toward my hero pretty much all the time. The nasty behavior was just fine–it worked well in the subplot and I was okay with it overall. But as I kept writing and revising, I kept thinking, “Even I don’t understand why this character is behaving this way…and I’m the one writing her!”
This character lacked humanity, the three-dimensional nature I was looking for, because her actions were not understandable. She was just a really flat character, which would have been okay if she didn’t appear quite so much in these few chapters of the novel. But since she was in a lot of scenes, so to speak, I wanted to make sure the character was worth reading about. (In some cases, the conflict between this character and my hero was almost boring because of this!)
The Solution: Getting Into Her Head
I struggled with this for several days…until one night, it hit me, as I kept asking myself “why would this character behave this way?” That was the answer: I needed to see the novel’s events–and my hero–from this character’s perspective! I needed to understand her thought process, her logic, her worldview.
So I quite literally flipped the script on myself, and began to study the unfolding plot through this character’s eyes. How would she view my hero’s introduction to her world? How were her actions and reactions based on her past experiences? More and more details and explanations emerged, as I fleshed out a possible backstory…suddenly, she became a lot more realistic and believable.
My English-professor boyfriend says that what I did was a bit of Deconstruction literary criticism on my own novel, as I imagined the story from several vantage points rather than staying solely focused on my hero’s point of view. Taking the time to develop this character’s backstory and mindset, even though she isn’t a major villain, helped me understand her better and present her as a believable, human character. (I certainly like developing her dialogue more now, even if she is a bit stuck on herself!)
If you’ve got a character who just doesn’t seem “real” enough in your book or short story, try getting into the character’s head, developing their life story a little bit, enough to where you can understand where they’re coming from. Who knows–you might just get a whole new perspective on your own story, and write a better character to boot!
Have you ever been hopelessly stuck on a creative project? I sure have. For all the times I bragged about how I never got writer’s block, I’ve sure endured it enough times now to be sick of it. It’s such a frustrating feeling, KNOWING you want to create and yet feeling stymied by your own brain.
While blundering about trying to solve my latest writer’s block, I found an unexpected solution–try writing something completely different. Think it sounds crazy? I did, too, until it worked for me.
Writer’s Block from Heck–but Just on My Novel
I had been spinning my mental tires for nearly a month on my novel. I felt increasingly silly about continuing to write it; I was beginning to lose faith in my ability to write it, and in the strength of the novel’s themes and ideas itself. Some days, I couldn’t even bring myself to open the file.
But, it seemed, I was perfectly able to do other creative stuff…like the hilariously teenagerish fanfiction story that was simply busting to come out of my head. It was like a hyperactive bunny in my brain–it would not leave me alone. I resisted working on it for a while because I wanted to use that awesome energy to write my novel…except that the hyperactive energy all drained away when I tried to work on my novel. I had no idea why this was happening; I was bewildered.
Last Resort: An Unusual Writing Binge
Finally, I began to write the fanfic instead, feeling guilty all the while–but it was like eating a bag of chocolates after a month of trying to force veggies down my throat. The fanfic progressed by leaps and bounds, in the way that my novel had in the early days; it was exhilarating. I hadn’t written like that in what felt like years.
Eventually (about 40 PAGES in!), I came to a point in the fanfic where I wrote a character development piece similar to one I had done in my own novel. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just plagiarizing myself or falling back on a cliche, so I went back, found the similar development in my novel file, and started reading.
…And reading. …And reading. Page by page, I began to fall back in love with my own novel.
Wait, What Just Happened Here?
It was an “OMG!” moment, a “Eureka!” moment. It was like I was rediscovering why my novel was awesome all over again. What I had effectively done was to take my brain out of the infinite loop of “gotta write this novel–ugh, I’m afraid this novel stinks–gotta write this anyway,” simply by focusing on a completely different creative project. The fanfic, as crazy and silly as it was, was also so very different in scope that it allowed the “noveling” part of my brain to shut down and restart.
Letting my brain go wild and write what it so desperately wanted to write (even if I had first deemed the project “not worth my creative time”) was the key. It got me writing again, after being horribly stuck. Like being towed from a muddy ditch, I emerged from my month-long struggle quite disheveled, but ready to go on the novel again. It just took remembering that yes, I COULD write well, and no, writing did NOT have to be an uphill battle.
The Moral of This “Novel” Story…
…If you’re absolutely stuck on one creative project, it is not a sin to start another one. Do whatever you can to get the treads of your creative mind running again!
Another week, and another almost-week of stalling in my novel. I went without writing in it for a month, kept away by illness and real life issues, and just flat not feeling like “writing.” Meanwhile, I kept staring at my to-do list, which did admittedly get smaller and smaller as the week went on.
What was wrong with me? I wondered. How am I able to get all this real-life stuff accomplished, but can’t be bothered to open a simple file and edit anything?
THEN…then I took a look at my to-do list, and had an epiphany.
My To-Do List: Before
Everything else I had written out to do was specific–for instance, on “Monday”, it says to write a post about HTML5 and clean off bathroom countertops, and on Wednesday, it says to make notes on the Sunday School lesson for the week and mop the kitchen floor.
But for my novel? All it said was the vague instruction of “write 1,000 words”. No other clues, no real indication as to where the story was to go next…NOTHING.
I had gone to the trouble of writing in time to novel on my to-do list, but I had not made it a specific goal. Nor had I left myself any clues or seeds of ideas to build off of. Therefore, I was continually baffled as to what to do next, making it harder and harder to write.
So, instead of making a detailed entry in my everyday to-do list, I made out a whole new to-do list, just for my novel.
My Separate Novel-List
This is an example of the specific to-do list I’m talking about. With this, you’re making an outline of your book before you write it, kind of like our teachers wanted us to write outlines before we wrote our papers in school (and we wrote the outlines after writing the paper, right? *wink*).
With my specific to-do list, I’ve mapped out exactly where the story is supposed to go, almost like a diary entry of each “day” in the novel. And I’ve already been able to go a little further ahead in my story, where I had been stuck for a month before. Even though I still may get stuck, and it still may be slow going, at least I’ll be going!
If you’re currently working on any creative project, and you know where you’d LIKE it to go but can’t seem to get inspiration, try a to-do list like this, mapping out the way for yourself. Seeing it all planned out visually, like an itinerary for your project, may just spur you on!
Sometimes…*sigh* ideas just don’t come out of your pen (or flow from your fingertips into the computer keyboard) as easily as you might wish. Sometimes, you sit for hours trying to write; sometimes, you even bore yourself with the text you’re producing. Like the scene I’d been trying to write for the last six weeks in my novel: true, my computer’s been out of commission and I’m trying not to hog the family computer, but I found myself at a loss as to how to go on with the scene. It was stuck in dreary mundane details, and yet I felt I simply HAD to write those details in order to explain the scene properly.
I’m sure, as writers, we all face that type of difficulty–it’s not exactly writer’s block, but it’s something akin to hating what you’re producing and not understanding how to proceed. But how do we get around it?
…How about actually trying to DO the event you’re writing about?
Sounds novel (pardon the pun), and maybe a little strange. “You mean I should act out what I have the character doing?” No, not just acting it out–actually get up from what you’re writing and change your activity. If you’re writing a cooking scene, get up and whip something up in the kitchen, even if you’re only a master of the microwave. Being in the kitchen, preparing the food, smelling it cooking, can jog your senses and remind you of what’s really important in the scene. What scents arise from the food in your story? Are they pleasant or repulsive to your character? If they’re actively involved in cooking, how does the process of cooking feel to them (are they slaving over a hot stove, etc.)?
What about an action scene? Well, if you’re not afraid of knocking over priceless artifacts in your home, you can try out some of the kicks, punches, and dodges you’ve scripted for your character. See if that Chuck-Norris-esque roundhouse kick works for your character to do, or if it’s simply too awesome for your novice fighter to try at this point. And if you can’t do the motion for yourself, try watching some videos or asking knowledgeable friends. If you’re working with an unfamiliar weapon in your story, research is especially important, so you know the “proper” way the weapon is held, how it is used in combat, etc.
The point of engaging with your story’s events in a physical way is to pull yourself out of the mental rut you’ve gotten yourself into. If you’re this stuck on a story, something’s got to change, and actively trying out the event you’re writing could reveal just what it is about the event that is bothering you.
In my novel, for instance, the part of the story that dragged was a “packing up and leaving” scene; I tried tidying up my cluttered mess of a room to try to reproduce the event, and found that I was not writing about the FEELING of packing up–the feel of the items passing through my hands as I packed them, the heaviness of the bags in my hands and looped around my arms. The event felt dead to me because there was no physical sensation involved in the telling of the event. Once I added some sensory elements, the event of packing up came alive; it felt more involved than ever, and no longer was I so bored that I wanted to cry while reading the paragraph. It was a small change, but it helped get me over a hurdle!
Doing what you’re writing about can help you keep your interest in the story, as well as lend some real-life experience and sensory elements to your scene. While you might weird a few people out (especially if you try out that roundhouse kick in public), you’ll be doing yourself a favor if the act gets you out of sitting fruitlessly at your computer for hours!