February 13, 2013 · 4:18 pm
Maybe this is particular to a certain subset of the population, but I know more than one person who has another name for who they become when they are…er…drunk.
One friend becomes “Dwayne,” a bullish, brute of a redneck. Another turns into “Kitty,” who purrs and swishes an imaginary tail. And me? Well, I’m Lola.
And it’s definitely a farce for me. I don’t get so drunk that I don’t KNOW that I’m pretending to be Lola. Lola who has red hair (even though mine is really blonde) and speaks in a terribly hit-or-miss (and shame on me, stereotypical) Puerto Rican accent. Who dips her fingers into other people’s drinks (usually just my significant other’s), and dances way more provacatively than I ever would. Who sometimes bums a cigarette from a perfect stranger and takes a few puffs, but mostly lets it burn down, so she can flick ashes like punctuation marks in her conversations. Ha ha, right? Ahem.
But Dwayne, he borders on being my friend’s alter ego. Like a “Jeckyll and Hyde” alter ego. Like “The United States of Tara” alter ego. Dwayne likes to fight. My friend does not. Dwayne likes to smash things. My friend has zero idea how his knuckles got busted up. Dwayne doesn’t talk much. My friend makes a living by talking. Okay, so my friend might have a drinking problem, but it is still interesting how much a person can change “under the influence.”
This scenario can lead to a variety of exercises…here are the ones that come to my mind:
- Who is your alter ego? (If you don’t have one, make one up now!) Who are they and what do they do that is different than you? What does this “person” do that you would never do? Create a new character based upon this “alter.”
- Does one of your characters behave differently when they are “under the influence?” Do they transform into a monster or a pussycat? Do they like to drink? Do they never drink? Why or why not? Or, conversely, are they even more themselves when imbibing.
- Create a situation where a character encounters a Dwayne or Kitty. Are they amused, frightened, disgusted, indifferent? Do they set up Dwayne to get into a fight? Do they play along with Kitty and her imaginary tail? Are they completely bewildered, demanding that the “real” person answer them? Does the “real” person oblige, or continue to hide behind Dwayne’s fist or Kitty’s purr?
Have fun with this one. Use one or more of these exercises to explore a new character or create conflict in a scene. Deepen a relationship between two characters, or create a giant rift.
Lola is off to paint her nails, now (I have a date for Valentine’s Day). Good luck!
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Tagged as alter ego, character development, characters, creative non-fiction, creativity, fiction, imagination, Jeckyll and Hyde, non-fiction, novel, personality, writer, writer's advice, writers, writing, writing exercise, writing life, writing prompt
February 1, 2013 · 11:48 am
If you have read “Like Water for Chocolate,” by Laura Esquivel, or “Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously,” by Julie Powell, or “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien, or…I could just keep going…you know how important food can be to a story. We have it around us every day, we all have our partiuclar favorite dish, idiosyncratic flavor combinations, and favorite (or least favorite) family recipes. If your house is anything like my house, the food I make is what makes it smell like “my” house.
Since taste and smell are two of the five senses, including a food description in a scene can help bring it alive and place your reader into your story. This is a good way to “show, don’t tell” that will make most scenes more relatable. You can also set mood and tone with cooking smells and flavors. You can explain a whole culture by its food. And you can use it in negative or positive ways. Too much, too little, too rich, too salty, or…just perfect.
For an exercise, put food in a scene. It can be prominent or mere background. It can be the focus of a character’s emotion, or a way that two characters relate to one another. It can be life or death.
- If you have trouble finding your way into this one, try thinking about a favorite food from your childhood and how that food made the moment perfect–how do you react now when you have, or even just smell, that same food today?
- Or, think about your favorite food now. Do you go the distance to make it perfect for yourself? Or do you make a special trip to that restaurant to get it once a week? What would happen if you introduce this deliciousness to someone else? Would they think you are crazy for liking it? Would they share your enthusiasm and demand the recipe? Would you share it?
- Or, think about a trip you took and how the food made it an even exceptional experience, or how the food ruined everything for you. What did it smell like? Where where you? Why was it so amazingly good or bad? What did you find yourself “homesick” for?
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Tagged as advice for writers, character development, CNF, creative non-fiction, creativity, fiction, food for thought, food writing, imagination, memoir, non-fiction, novel, poet, poetry, poets, show don't tell, write what you know, writer, writer's advice, writers, writing, writing exercise, writing prompt