Tag Archives: writer’s advice

Gone Missing

Your character has been kidnapped!

What is his/her first reaction?  Is it a scary situation or just confusing?  Maybe it was a pleasant aside that turned sinister, or maybe your character knows the kidnapper and doesn’t even realize what is happening?

Try to create a beginning, middle, and end to the situation…if it ends.  Does the character lose his/her identity or sense of what is real?  Does s/he dream about her “real” life?  Does your character try to escape?  How? 

Or…switch it…

Your character has kidnapped someone!  Who? Why?  What happens?

Even if you don’t use this writing exercise in a story, thinking about your character’s reactions and choices can really help shape them into a more “real” entity with a better-defined personality.  And, if you can really take yourself into such a scenario, you might just have a new story on your hands! Good luck!

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Writing on the Wall

Once, when I was traveling through Arkansas, I stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break.  Graffiti in such a place can always be entertaining in some fashion, although sometimes it is just childish and/or repulsive.  I happened to find a note, however, written with what looked to be a yellow highlighter on a mustard yellow door.  It went something like this:

“PLEASE HELP! My name is Brandee Johnson and I am 9.  My mom’s boyfriend has kidnapped me.  I can’t get away, but I want to go home.  My mom is Carla Johnson and live in St. Louis.” 

It was written in a child’s big scrawl and very hard to read.  I was terrified for her.  There were no bathroom attendants or anyone else to ask about the date of this message appearing.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I called the state police and told them about the message.  I also called 1-800-THE-LOST in case the missing girl had been reported as lost.  I also wondered if it was just a childish prank and I was a fool to think it was real.  Or perhaps it had been there for months and Brandee was long gone. 

Fifteen years later, I still sometimes think about what might have happened to her, and if it was a real cry for help, or a prank. 

Write a scene that includes graffiti and what it might or might not be trying to say.

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Go Through Any Door

On “making it” into the world of comedy.

Sage advice from a comedienne who started her career writing bits for a puppet (Topo Gigio on the Ed Sullivan Show).  You cannot afford to wait around for the perfect situation.  Get your foot in the door and then your elbow and then, like the hokey pokey, your whole self.  I’ve been waiting for a very long time for the stars to align, my writing room to be completed, my favorite pencils to be on sale…yadda, yadda, yadda.

Once you have decided that you aren’t going to wait around anymore, be vigiliant for those cracked doors just waiting for you to insert yourself.  You are the only one who puts limitations on you.  And, likewise,  you are the only one who can strip them away.

Get to stripping, do the hokey pokey, and get in the door!

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Everything Great

From one of my favorite authors, the creator of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren

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Desire Defines Us

Advice from a master

It keeps me up at night…trying to figure out what a character wants.  They are born and living only in my brain until I relinquish them to the world at large.  I think this snippet of advice from Mr. Vonnegut is true.  And as simple as it sounds, actual human beings are pretty complex and often times have no idea what they really want.  Our friends may be better at knowing what we want than we do ourselves.  I say I want a different job, but what do I *really* want?  More money? More security? To be my own boss?  To not have anyone to tell me what to do? Freedom?

Consider what your character(s) want/s.  If it isn’t clear to you, workshop that character until they have it:  desire.  For something…anything.  If they do already “want” something and it is something simple (like a glass of water), why is this simple thing so important?  Does your character get what they want or not?  Do they even understand this about themselves, or are they, like most of us, oblivious to this driving force?  If they DO get it, is it everything they hoped it would be?

After pondering these questions…write for 15 minutes and see where you, and your character, end up.  Good luck!

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“Write What You Know”

From Astrophel and Stella, 1591

I cross-stitched this in fancy script once upon a time.  Framed and matted, it hung over my bedside table so I would see it when I woke up in the morning and when I went to bed at night.  What a sappy romantic, right?

It reminds me that I have something important to write, and where to look to find my source.  And I don’t mean that in a lovey-dovey way, of course.  One of the things you will hear from other authors and teachers is to “write what you know.”  When I was younger, I had a real problem with that advice because I was at least self-aware enough to understand that I didn’t know much.  And how do sci-fi, fantasy, crime thriller, etc. writers write what they know when what they want to write about requires time-travel or alternate universes or to BE a murderous phychopath?  And if I’ve had a pretty crappy life, that is quite frankly, the LAST thing I want to be writing about. 

For me, it means, “write your truth.”  And when you strip your life’s experiences down to the nuts and bolts, whatever this life has taught you is what you should be writing about.  Of course, you can apply it literally, which will add the richness of first-hand experience to your craft, but again, that is because it is true. 

For me, these truths are stored in my heart, and that is where I should look when I am wondering, “what do I write next?”

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A simple quote…

From a dream I had.

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