Just for Fun: Bad Mornings

We’ve all had bad mornings where things simply kept going wrong.  Today let’s put our characters into that situation and write about a morning which leaves them wanting to just go back to bed and start over. Share your ideas of how your character would deal with a morning like this or even share some of your writing for the scenario here in the comments or over in the forums.

 

 

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Just for Fun: Halloween

Pick a character from a current work-in-progress, a past story you’ve written or one you’ve thought up but never used.  In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, imagine someone has invited this character to a costume party. What do they dress up as and how do other people react to their costumes? Write a quick scene with them at the party. You can do this in the comments here or write a quick story and leave a link to it here in the comments.

The Writers Circle: Incorprating Nonfiction into Works of Fiction

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Works of fiction often use elements of nonfiction. For example, Stephen King’s recent novel 11/22/63 borrows Lee Harvey Oswald, Marina Oswald, and JFK, and interweaves elements of their lives (both real and imagined) into a fictional narrative. How do you feel about this kind of appropriation? Do you think anything is fair game, even if the people you use or the events you reference are being changed for your own story-telling purposes? Do we owe anything to history to leave nonfiction out of our fiction?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

 

Do you have an idea you think would be a great topic for a future The Writer’s Circle post?  Do you have a question you’d like to ask our authors?  Fill out the form on our Contact Us page to share your ideas and questions.

 

Just for Fun: Holidays

Pick a character from a current work-in-progress, a past story you’ve written or one you’ve thought up but never used.  In honor of the upcoming Labor Day holiday, think about what this character does when they have a day off from work or school for a holiday. Do they go somewhere or follow any traditions?  Describe your character’s favorite holiday and how they spend it.  You can do this in the comments here or write a quick story and leave a link to it here in the comments.

The Writers Circle: Technology

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

There is a point where the types of technology included within your story can “date” it or limit its appeal to future readers (think rotary phones or flip-style cell phones or VCRs). Some types of fiction will benefit from such technological references, but other styles may be hampered by it.  Do you avoid specific technological references in your stories? What pros and cons do you see about including technology as part of your storytelling?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

 

Do you have an idea you think would be a great topic for a future The Writer’s Circle post?  Do you have a question you’d like to ask our authors?  Fill out the form on our Contact Us page to share your ideas and questions.

 

Just for Fun: Vacations

Pick a character from a current work-in-progress, a past story you’ve written or one you’ve thought up but never used.  Where do they go on vacation? What do they do while they are on vacation?  Do they go alone or bring their family with them? Describe the vacation in the comments here or write a vacation scene or story to get to know your character better.

Just for Fun: Traveling

Pick a character from a current work-in-progress, a past story you’ve written or one you’ve thought up but never used.  Stick this character in an airport, bus station, train station, space dock or other transportation hub where they are awaiting their departure time.  Now cancel their flight/train/bus/etc.  Describe in the comments here where they were going, how they felt about going there and how they react to this change in their travel arrangements.

Just for Fun: The Playing Field

There are many occasions in history when the world comes together to compete in sporting events (The Olympics, World Cup, etc.).  These events have many reasons for existing, of course, but the end result is that teams or individuals who differ ideologically come together to compete in sport.  How might such an event be held in your current (or past) works of fiction?  Describe what you’ve done in your works here in the comments, or put together a quick paragraph or two giving an example of how sports or other competitive events (spelling bees or chess matches, for example) might level the playing field amongst your characters and their societies.

What Have We Learned from Our Stories?

imageToday marks the 2/3rds point for NaNoWriMo.  Day 20. 33333 words. However you slice it, folks who are doing NaNoWriMo are in the final stretch of days for their 2013 novelling adventure. It seems to be as good a time as any to:

1. Backup your novel! (go do it right now, I’ll wait…)
2. Take a moment to see what we’ve learned from our current writing efforts.

This is my 8th year doing NaNoWriMo. I have won each year (my kids said the other day, “Winning NaNoWriMo is just what you do, Dad. Like breathing and eating.”) I lamented earlier this month that it wasn’t going well for me in the early stages this year. And it wasn’t going well. I started over about 10 times. I changed ideas and genres, then changed back, then changed again (and again). I was truly spinning my wheels. The advice I received on that post was tremendously helpful in terms of thinking about the next 50 words instead of the 50,000th word, or thinking about the current scene instead of the next or the last.

Ultimately, the problem really was that there was a different story that wanted to be written, one which I didn’t really feel like writing. When I finally threw my hands up in the air and stopped fighting it, the words started flowing.  I am now at 37,226 words (so far) for NaNoWriMo 2013.  The prose is choppy at best. The dialogue is stilted and quite likely predictable. But the framework for a decent novel is there. So, at the 2/3rds mark, I’d say I’m seeing at least some success with this novel.

As I mentioned, my kids say I always find a way to win this event.  And while that may be true (so far), there is always something I learn about my writing each time I participate in NaNoWriMo and, in fact, each time I write anything at all.  This year, I’m learning several things. One thing is that I can’t fight against the words that want to come out if I want any words to come out. NaNoWriMo 2013 has taught me that I need to recognize that if a story wants to be told, that’s the one I should write.  But another thing I’ve learned is that I am becoming more and more a character-based writer.  I come up with characters and let them create and participate in their own adventures.  If I try to force these characters into plot lines in which they don’t fit, the characters rebel. They proclaim that they are on strike, sit down stubbornly and refuse to do anything at all.

It has been remarkably true this year. For one scene in this novel, I needed my character to go into a political rally and essentially get riled up to the point that he decides to run for office.  Unfortunately, this character has absolutely no desire to run for office. None whatsoever.  As a result the scene stalled, even before it had a chance to start.  There was no way I could change this character into someone who could be driven to run for an office, no matter how bad I made the political situation he faced.  I ended up bringing in another character – his fiancé – who had a deep, repressed desire to have that kind of power and she was able to step into the role I needed. In addition to allowing me to finish the scene, this new character and relationship opened up new possibilities for storylines and conflict.

Writing is something I feel we never stop learning how to do. We can learn by reading, of course, and I believe we learn by writing. Whether you do NaNoWriMo or not isn’t the point – if you are writing, you can be learning from your stories and your characters.  So, what have you learned from your work-in-progress recently? Have your characters gone on strike as mine did, or are they more compliant and willing to work with you? Have you found yourself writing into a plot twist you didn’t expect? Have you backed yourself into a corner in your storyline and can’t find a way out?  What challenges are you facing with your writing this month and what have you learned as you’ve overcome them?

Stuck in a Rut!

In the past few years, I’ve been really struggling with completing my novels. I have at least four that I really believe in, that have great characters and fun plots, that I want to see published. The problem is, I never finish. Even when I do, I am dissatisfied by the ending. In one case, the novel randomly ended when I least expected it, and I couldn’t figure out why.

I’ve also been struggling with some pretty major depression, and one very late night, while staring at the ceiling, listening to my husband snore and my two girls talk to themselves in their sleep, I had an epiphany.

The problem I’ve been facing has not been that I don’t know how to finish a novel. The problem is that all my novels have the same basic, flawed premise where I take great characters and neuter their ability to help themselves.

If I’m good at anything, it’s that I create interesting, flawed characters with strengths, weaknesses and great backstories. I tend to write about women; what with me being a woman and all, my main characters tend to be female. I enjoy writing my men, but my women tend to be my main characters.

The problem is that my novels tend to be a bit relationship-focused. It’s not romance, but they all follow the same basic pattern.

  1. Female is living an independent life on her own.
  2. Encounters male.
  3. Female is challenged or captured (at least two have an imprisonment)
  4. Male rescues female.
  5. Story stalls and has more to go, or ends and is lackluster.

In short, in none of my stories is the female main character anything other than a victim who must be rescued. Given that I actually write strong, independent females, this is distressing. The only one who does not need rescue? She is literally not what I would consider a strong female. However, she’s also the most interesting character I’ve written, in my opinion. She’s a sheltered priest who is sent on a quest, where she partners with the evil male character at the behest of her god. It’s a story about corruption and the definition of evil.

I’m in such a rut of bland plot development. There is no impact. These women have no impact on their world, not in any recognizable way. The world and its villains act upon them, they are victimized in some way, and are rescued. They are captured, imprisoned, rescued, just like a good little damsel in distress.

Boooooring.

No wonder I get tired and don’t want to finish them. They’re all the same story.

So I need to stop this. No more will I write victims. I’ll let one (the original) keep her imprisonment, because it really is interesting, but she doesn’t need to be rescued. Not completely. Yeah, she’ll need help, but she must be instrumental to her own escape, not just rescued like a damsel in distress.

I want these women to make noise. They need to make a mess. They need to leave the world changed, unsettled, even broken in some way if I have to. What’s the point of a protagonist who affects no one but the one bad guy?

My favorite stories have always been about characters who may come from humble beginnings, but by the end the world knows they’re there, for better or worse. They make waves, they disturb the status quo. And that’s my problem; all of my novels are a bunch of Freudian navel-gazing, tiny microcosms where the tale ventures no further than a few dozen people. If I want to break this rut, these women need to start making some noise.

So tell me, what are your biggest plot flaws? Are you, like me, able to hand your manuscripts to psychiatrists so they can analyze them for the inner workings of your own psyche? What hangs you up when you write stories?