Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writer's Websites Wednesday - The Ivory Tower

A great website website with links to many markets, The Ivory Tower  offers a great resource for free. At last count 1140 active market listings in fantasy, horror, mystery, romance sci-fi, articles and more. It's keep pretty current so if you're submitting your work and looking for markets check it out.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Discover Paths To New Writing Ideas

Many writers are so brimming with ideas it’s hard for them to know how to choose one and continue on. Others are great at the writing part, but are hard pressed to come up with that first idea. And writers who are published or screenwriters produced are forever being asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Here are a few ‘ideas’ on how to come up with them.

Where a writer gets his or her ideas can be challenging...or it can be easy. What you need is to be a bit easy on yourself.  It'll take a bit of time, you'll need to focus your attention, use your imagination, go equipped with a notebook and pen and trust your creativity.

Easy, right?

Well, in a way, yes. Most good writers are curious. They’re forever asking “What is it?” or “What could it be?” or “What if?” From this curiosity comes wonderful ideas, and those ideas come at all times. Day or night. The trick is to get them down on paper to trapped on a recording device. Keep a note pad at your bedside, in your pocket, in your purse is pretty easy, as is having one of those tiny recording devices handy - you may even have one already in your cell phone.

Now. stories don’t generally spring forth full-blown. Usually an idea or a premise precedes them. A word can spark an idea. Jot it down, more words will follow. When I say 'jot it down' I mean I find it most productive for my way of writing to actually drop words on paper or type into a computer. There's just something about seeing words progress across the page, be it computer screen or notebook, that triggers the flow of more words. For me, that's how it works.  If you have another method, by all means, use that.

So where do the actual ideas come from?

“What if” is one gate to a magical world.



 “What if” vampires were not dark and evil, but good, strong and protectors of the human race? Check out Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series of romances. What if a young boy in winning a video game wins the war against aliens attacking earth? Check out Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and the series that follows. What if Bears once ruled the earth and the conscious memory of that time is returning to them – hey go write that one for yourself.

Remember the seed of an idea can be a beginning. Some writers need to map out their entire book or script before they begin. Others work best on the fly. Writing, generating a story, creates many of its own surprises. If you’re the kind who works best on the fly you’ll find your characters will take on lives of their own and they’ll surprise you with where they take the story you begin. This happens with those who ‘map their course’ as well. There's no escape from imagination. Try to cage it and it just gets unruly on you.

You might see a photo in a magazine or the newspaper that triggers some ideas. Clip it out. Put it where you can see it. See what ideas might come.

You might overhear a phrase spoken in public. Write it down. Think about what it might mean, who said it, what the context is. Does it make you feel there is something going on there, something not visible on the surface? Pursue it. Jot down notes. Some of the most disjointed notes come together to form ideas and from ideas spurts of creative inspiration. Ideas are everywhere, just open your eyes - observe people, daydream, read--a lot. 

Here are a couple of sites to give you a hand. Need a prompt, something to give you a shove - visit Creative Writing Prompts. Or visit the blog of the Story Ideas Virtuoso.   You might get a bit of a shove there.

As Ray Bradbury once said, “You don’t build a story, you allow it to explode.” I’m kinda with Ray.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Word Zeal

It's that time again and this week I bring you Wordzeal, a blog posted by Lindsay Oberst. A great little blog that offer info and tips on many writing topics along with links to contests and more. It's fun, upbeat and a boost for writers. Stop on by and check out her blog.

 click photo for myEbook for writers - Out Of Thin Air

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Discover Your Fictional Characters' Personalites

Story and Character – the two primary elements entwined in the writing of your story. If you like writing short stories and novels, you probably get ideas at the weirdest times – like in the shower or walking down the street, or picking up a box of cereal at the grocery store. Hopefully you’ve taken my advice in previous blog posts, you have some way of getting that idea down; a voice recorder, your phone that will record notes, or just a note pad. Make note of it or you'll lose it. Simple as that. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Then comes the hard part: character – figuring out how this person respond to situations, how he feels, what his background is and what might motivate him to do what he does. 

There isn’t room here to talk about all the aspects of personality – may I suggest you study up a bit on psychology, perhaps visit your library and read a few copies of something like Psychology Today?  Read the newspaper to see what the interesting folk in your are ae saying and doing and what seems to motivate them. Visit Wikipedia's entry on 16 Personality Factors and branch out from there.

With those suggestions on the side-burner, we can hit some of the highlights and hopefully get you thinking in the right direction.

Is your character more of a follower or a leader? Does he (we’ll continue to call the main character ‘he’ here for simplicity’s sake) act or react? Forceful and assertive or more reserved?

And that leads to shy or bold? Does your character have to be drawn out, or is he the sort to thrust out his hand and introduce himself? Is he one to observe more or participate? Sip a drink alone or socialize?

Think about whether your character is a perfectionist, can tolerate disorder in his life, or initiates it! Does the character realize where he stands in this regard and have some kind of internal dialog about how it affects him? If his apartment is littered with clothes, magazines strewn about and old take-out containers gooey with former contents, does it bother him or is it just part of his life?

How about tension? Is your character relaxed or stressed? Is he hyper to the point of driving away girlfriends and social friends? Or is he so laid back he gets himself fired from a job he likes?

Does he like change and spontaneity or does he avoid last minute dates?

Is he self-reliant to a fault – unwilling to consult or partner with others, but rather doing things ‘lone-wolf’ and getting himself into many sticky situations?

As writers we need to recognize it’s the small things that make the character breathe with life. What is hisr favorite drink?  Does he dress predominantly in one color? Is your character afraid of snakes ala “Indiana Jones”?  Does he love high speed or skydiving? Does he enjoy crowds or solitude?

It helps to reflect on your own thoughts and personality, but don't make that the only template for developoing your characters.

Having a hard time coming up with character traits from the ground up?  You might try thinking about close friends and casual acquaintances - what is it about their personalities that makes one a close friend, the other not so much? How do they match or complement you? How are they opposite you?  It can help to sit down and do a short writing excercise in which you describe the inner workings you perceive of that person as well as what shows on the outside. We're all human, we all hide a lot and even in that hiding, expose ourselves.

The next time you sit down to write a story, flesh out your characters in your mind at the beginning and you’ll find that story opening up in ways you wouldn’t have thought of before.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WritersWebsites Wednesday - InkyGirl

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is an active writing presence online.  At her site she offers tips, tools, inspiration and links for writers of all abilities and kinds. She tweets at twitter and she's one of Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

5 Steps to The Writer As God

One thing about us writers is we get to play god. (I'll use a small 'g' here out of respect - and small 'g' or large 'g', you know what I mean.) We do it every day. Write a book, write a screen script, write a TV pilot and you're creating your own world with your own rules; all of it, your way and all you have to do is make it believable.

And of course it will no doubt take you a bit more time and God took to create the world (depending on your beliefs). I mean the generally accepted week thing probably won't work for you.  Afetr all, you have many more distractions like getting that second cup of coffee, maybe going to your day job, remembering a friend's birthday or playing with Wii.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  - Lao-tzu

So, for starters, number one, decide what your story is meant to be - is it a book, a script, a TV pilot or Movie of the Week? You can change your mind later, but just to get things going, which is it to be?

Now if we're going to think in terms of 'faith' as opposed to scientists who say it took  a couple of billion years to create the world (I'm sure you can accomplish your writing project faster than that) then think about the WORD. Because you're a writer the word won't echo across the universe - you  must in fact write it down or your new world won't spring into being .

So, Number two, write something down. Something. Anything. Begin with whatever you already have in your head about the project. A location? A character's name and/or info? Some plot twist?

Just as an example, do you have a character in mind? A main character or one who will be major in a subplot?  You do.  Great. Write down that character's name, make him or her real.  No name?  Make one up knowing you can always change it later - more than once if you like. Be original. Make the name ultimately fit the character, but don't go crazy and don't name him or her after yourself.  Got that name written down? Now, add something you know about the character. Anything. Age? Married? Buddhist Monk? Capable? Confused?

Not you confused, your character. Anyway, make it something definite. If you're struggling with too little information that should get you started.  If you're excited to begin and overwhelmed with what you think you know, that should help you pin things down and shuffle lots of less relevant material to the background for now. Not that that surplus of information isn't important, it just can't be part of the mix right now.

But on to Number three - suppose you don't have a character yet, supposed you just have an idea.  Okay, start there. Where does the story take place? Another dimension? The downtown supermarket? A retirement home? Focus in on that for the moment. Yep, I'm gonna say it again. Write it down. Then do the same as I mentioned for character. Write down something you know about the place where the story is set.  Is the dimension parallel to ours in time or is it future or past? Are the people the same as us or something entirely different? Is the supermarket clean an dtidy or a mess? Is it close to everything or isolated?  Is it open 24 hours or less?  Is the retirement home an excellent environment, the setting for a good-natured comedy, or is it grim and sad - like something from a horror story?

So hopefully you've taken a couple of steps here: writing things down!

Now, number four, you can begin combining your elements.  Just as an example, Jason Smith works down at your local home improvement store and he's just fallen through a fairy pothole into a parallel dimension. Or, Eleanor Reems is 87 and lives in a delightful retirement home where her children have put her, but she hates it and is plotting her revenge.

You've got a few things established and while it may not seem like a lot, it is a solid beginning, something you can add to and build upon.

Okay, step number 5. Think about a problem for your character. What might it be? Review what you've already written down. What kind of problem could spring from that? For example. If Jason Smith is in another dimension can he get back?  Is there a time constraint wherein after it the pothole will colse? Is there someone on the other side he sets out to rescue to bring back with him before the pothole closes?  Or what about Eleanor Reems - is she 'dead' serious about revenge as in the ultimate ancient black widow?  Or is she set on petty retaliation? How does she get out of the retirement home? She's not a prisoner, but she is watched. Or maybe she doesn't get out - maybe she sets traps there for her unwary children.

Whatever it is write it down.  It doesn't have to be good yet - that comes later - just play god, create your world and write it down!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday- Being Healthy

It may seem less than exciting, but today's website is dedicated to healthy writers.  If you wanna write you have to keep healthy and keep that brain clear of fog. So today we visit Healthy Writer.  It's a blog dedicated to the idea of writing and health. They offer resources and articles, ideas to keep fit and combine it with the link to writing world. Oh, and it's written by "healthy writers".

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Few Words On Horror Writing

The horror genre isn't really mine, but writing is my thing and I do enjoy reading some of the horror genre.  One of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz because he handles it so well; a great blend of suspense, mood and spook all mixed up in the real world.

Many folks think horror is just gory, bloody, violent and not at all to their taste.  I can understand that since some books and movies are filled with meaningless violence and bloodshed used for shock value. That can make it pretty horrifying - but I doubt it's in the way the author or screenwriter actually intended. That kind of work is more shock and nausea than anything else.

However, true horror writing is about suspense, atmosphere, character emotion and how they've been developed. It offers plot twists and dialog consists of more than screams.

Let's face it, fans of the horror genre read that genre for heart-pounding chills, but in order for it to be more than blood, gore and splatter, the writer has to give his or her readers a great story as well.

Keep in mind that readers - all genres - are there for the ride. They're willing to suspend disbelief and their first hand experience of the real world (in fact there's a name for it - the reader's trance), but the writer has to give them a reason to read other than fountains of blood (that never got me to read anything).

So if you're of a mind to tackle writing in the horror genre remember you need to start off with a really great hook - give your readers that reason to read.

Pick up a few good (emphasis on 'good') horror novels and read the first paragraph or two.  Hooked?  Want to read more?  What was the hook that got you? Some begin with a strange, perhaps spine-tingling occurrence; others start out in 'normal' world and bring in the horror elements so quietly you hardly know they're there until Wham! you get your socks knocked off.  That's why Dean Koontz is one of my personal favorites. He's a master at slipping up on you from behind.  It's sort of like starting a small snowball rolling down hill go discover it's an avalanche at the end.

As a writer you have to realize as well that though your characters may well be ghosts, ghouls, witches or werewolves and vampires, they still have to be possessed of characteristics with which the reader can identify. They don't all have to be lovable or heroic, they can be out and out jerks, but something for the reader to get a hold of is imperative. Give them emotions and human characteristics. Give them names, mannerisms, actions and a way of speaking that makes them stand out to your reader. Think about names: How would you name your 'hero' and what kind of names would you give to a vicious villain? And apply the same standard for horror as for any other genre: don't give similar sounding names to our characters. Don't confuse your readers. Don't make them puzzle so hard over who is who that it distracts them from your story.

Think about descriptions as well.  Remember you're aiming for atmosphere, tension and suspense. Less is more. Dole out details that tell  your reader something about the character, but don't go crazy and fill your book with them. Let your reader get into the skin of your characters and use their own imagination to fill in some of the details. Point them in the right direction and let go. You don't want to stop the flow of your novel. Keep in mind all of your senses and bring them into play. Smell, taste, sight, sound and feel. Think about them as they apply to your characters, then pluck out the best ones to build  your horror tale.

Breath life into your characters by making them real.  Let them make mistakes. Let them think inappropriate thoughts - like how fat his business partner has gotten since he started spending all his time behind a desk.

And think of the detail in your story. If you are indeed using werewolves as main characters, how do they look?  If they're completely normal as human, what happens when they transform? Do they  have enough time to shed their clothes? What happens to their shoes? Are they naked when they change back (one would think so - but you may have an original take). Whatever you create in your world you must make it believable. Let your reader identify with the world you create, then give it some fantastical twist.

And, needless to say, in addition to character and setting, you need a really great plot and conflict. You can't just string together 'horrifying' scenes and expect it ti be a readable book.

Read a lot in the horror genre if you want to write in it.  Find exceptional writers to analyze their storytelling. Don't think it will be an 'easy sale' to just do what's been done. Stretch yourself, grow. Read articles on the craft and books by great authors. Then, when you dream up something that seemingly could only exist in nightmares, you'll be well equipped to create a great novel from it. 

You might also want to check out the Horror Writers Association.

Enjoy those things that go bump in the night.

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