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Reveal your characters through their circle of friends

Experts say we are most like our five closest friends. I think that’s true. Our friends usually have similar interests and values as we do. Looking at someone’s friend circle can tell you a lot about them.

I’ve started using a friendship circle to track my friendships as a way to see where people belong in my life—this helps me keep clear boundaries which is something I always need to work on.

Recently, I wondered what would happen if my main character Caitlin filled this out. Who are her friends, and how do they reflect who she is to my reader? I had her fill out my friendship circle and the results really helped me get a clearer sense of who she is deep down inside.

I’ll share my experiment with you, but first a bit about how to use the friendship circle. Read more

Creativity begets creativity: How to build your creative muscles

In my 20s I was busy working and raising a family. I had no time for anything else, much less any creative endeavors. But one day I realized that part of me was missing—my creative self. I knew I needed to do something to fulfill that emptiness within but I didn’t know how to start.

Literally, the next day I was browsing in a book store and a book fell off the shelf and landed on my foot! Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK became my inspiration for designing my creative life. I don’t think I even finished the book, but I read enough to make a list of creative projects I wanted to pursue. I chose one—writing—and thus began my creative journey.

What I’ve learned over the years is that creativity begets creativity. Practicing creativity in any form exercises and strengths our creative muscles. Think of your imagination as a muscle for a moment.

When I had ankle surgery and couldn’t walk on my right leg for three months, I was amazed at how quickly I lost muscle tone. When I measured my calf muscles in both legs, my right leg was one inch smaller! Your imagination is like this—if you don’t use it, you lose it. And when you do exercise it, you gain momentum over time. Read more

How to use the six basic human needs to make your characters come to life, part 1

The key to writing strong, believable characters is to really know and understand your characters as if they’re living, breathing human beings.

You want to know your character’s background, what makes them tick, what has happened to them to make them who they are today, what they dream about for the future, and more.

You need to know all this even if it’s not in your story. I keep separate journals for each of my main characters so I can write about them and write from their point of view.

One tool that has helped me delve deeper into my characters’ motivations comes from human needs psychology which has defined six basic human needs.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has written a great article on these needs, “Tony Robbins: 6 Basic Needs that Make us Tick.” The six needs are: Read more

Find your flow with writing prompts — part 2

As mentioned in part one of this post, writing prompts can help get us into the flow of our writing. Poetry prompts are easy. Pretty much anything can be a poetry prompt. But what if you’re working on a longer project like an essay, short story, or novel? Learning to develop your own prompts for a specific project can be a powerful tool in your writing practice.

The more we practice developing prompts and writing from them, the better writers and storytellers we will become.

Think about the word practice for a minute. Practice is defined as to do something habitually and also as to pursue a profession such as law. But, really, anything can be a practice.

I’m currently doing a 30-day yoga challenge courtesy of “Yoga with Adrienne” on YouTube. I don’t have a naturally flexible body, so I have to modify many of the poses. This is one of the things I love about yoga—it’s flexibility to fit any body type. It’s called a “yoga practice” for a reason. I love saying the words “yoga practice” because they remind me that I don’t have to be perfect. In order to get better at anything, we have to practice it. Read more

Find your flow with writing prompts—part 1

I love to write and I especially love to write poetry, but I also go through long periods where I don’t write. I get busy with work and life. Or roadblocks appear that zap my time and energy and leave me with little creative mojo. 2018 was one of those years. It was a rough year. One thing after another ate up my physical and emotional energy and left me with no extra creative juice.

I didn’t write a single poem from February until the end of November. I was beginning to wonder if I even remembered how to write a poem. I started a few times, but the poems felt forced and contrived.

Then I happened upon a book my friend and writing partner gave me several years ago. “The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop,” by Diane Lockward is an incredible book with poetry prompts, essays, and articles on the craft of poetry and much more. What I love about the book is that it gives you a poem, dissects the poem, and gives you a writing prompt. After the writing prompt, you get two more sample poems based on the prompt. Since then, Diane has published “The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop.”  Read more

Generate new ideas by letting your mind wander

Everywhere you look, people are glued to their phones—in the elevator, in restaurants, and unfortunately while they’re driving down the road.

Phone preoccupation has a cost. For one thing, it limits time and the opportunity to mine your subconscious for ideas. If you’re looking for ways to supercharge your creativity, set your phone aside and let your mind wander. Comedy writer David Evans shared this tip on a weekly teleseminar hosted this month by Stephanie Chandler, CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association.

If you want to generate more ideas, devote time to accessing your subconscious where much of the creative process is at work. You’ll think of ideas, plot twists, and answers to your writing dilemmas by letting your mind wander, says Evans. He calls it, “wandering time.”

Evans talked about what makes comedy—An element of surprise for one thing. But to get there, you need new ideas. Evans started out writing greeting cards. His first big job in comedy was writing for “The Monkees,” a 1960s television show, in which he won an Emmy Award for Best Comedy. He went on to write 19 “Love American Style” television scripts, as well as other shows.

Embrace your wandering mind
Once you divert your attention to your phone, email, texting, or social media, you’ve kicked yourself out of your “wandering mind.” Take advantage of opportunities to let your mind roam: on the bus, at the doctor’s office, or while waiting in lines.

Chandler, who writes about book marketing and publishing, has experienced the power of wandering time. She was struggling to come up with a title for one of her books. “It hit me when I was standing in line at Starbucks,” she said. “If I was on my smart phone, I wouldn’t have thought of it.”

Access magical thinking
The creative process is magical and mysterious. Does it ever seem as though sentences and ideas pop up out of nowhere? Your ideas will bubble to the surface. You just have to create a connection to your subconscious, Try these techniques: Read more

Using your grief and other emotions to deepen your characters

It’s difficult to write about deep painful emotions, even in our characters, unless we’ve experienced them. And, even then, it’s not an easy task.

Strong emotions can be overwhelming. Sometimes we numb ourselves or run away in order to avoid our feelings. I used to do that until I realized on some level that the emotions would fester inside me until I actually did the work of processing my feelings and healing myself. The advantage of doing this when you’re a writer is that you can use what you learn about your emotions to deepen your characters. I wrote about this earlier in “Draw on personal pain to write believable characters.”

But I want to delve deeper into this subject today because I’m working on a scene in my novel where I’m trying to understand the complicated grief my antagonist has about his sister’s death and how it motivates him to do bad things.

Grief is one of the most complicated emotions because it can have shades of guilt, shame, anger, and other feelings mixed in. Read more