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
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
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
Writers often hear the advice, “write what you know,” but my philosophy is, “write what you WANT to know.” A good way to begin discovering your story’s theme is to ask questions because we come to understand who we are and our place in the world by asking questions.
In the 12-minute video below, the creators of the animated movie “Inside Out” share how the theme of their story emerged for them over time as they went on a quest of discovery.
Ok, I lied. This post isn’t really about writing advice from a Tasmanian cave spider—more like life advice.
Hang with me for a moment. You’ll see what I mean.
After taking nearly a year off from writing poetry, I had an idea to kick start 2015 with the goal of writing two to three new poems a week for the month of January. But I wasn’t feeling very inspired. Some pretty heavy stuff was going on in my life, and I felt drained.
Then, a gift arrived in the mail.
My blogging partner Carly sent me The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockward (I hadn’t even mentioned my goal to her…scary how we think alike, isn’t it?)
Now, I’m normally NOT a “prompt” person but being the good friend that I am, I felt I should at least flip through the book so I could extend my sincere gratitude to her. (Wink. Wink). Late one night, I dragged the book to bed with me and the strangest thing happened—the pages reached out and grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
Hands down, best poetry craft and prompt book. Ever. Nine of the ten poems I’ve written so far this month were inspired by the book.
But what does this have to do with a Tasmanian cave spider? Read more
Do you ever feel a bit of restlessness about writing? It’s as though an idea or epiphany is dancing at the edge of your brain. You know you want to write but can’t quite settle down to do it.
Those are times when I like to pick a prompt and freewrite. The prompts put me in a groove and help work out the fluttery energy that’s holding me back.
If that sounds like something that might help you, check out the five prompts below. Set a timer and see what your writing reveals. You might turn your ideas and images into an essay, a poem, a short story, or a scene in a novel.
1. Write about something you lost. Don’t you hate it when you misplace something? I feel so out of sorts. Maybe it’s not a possession you lost, but a relationship or an opportunity. No matter what the loss, it can be painful in its own way. Note your emotions about the loss. What are the consequences of the loss?
2. Write a letter. Is there someone you want to reach out to? Maybe there’s something left unsaid to someone important in your life. Maybe you want to write a mash note to someone. Go for it.
3. Write about something that made you angry in the past week. Are you stewing about something that happened this week? What small or large injustice needles you? Write it out.
4. Describe the backyard of your childhood. What kind of games did you play. Did you have a vegetable garden? I remember my sister and I opening the windows and turning on the stereo in the house and dancing in the yard with our girlfriends.
5. Write about the place you love most? If you could live anywhere you wanted, where would it be? What is your definition of home? Where do you most feel at home? Where do you feel most at peace? Whether you’re there now or long to be somewhere else, write about it.
Sometimes I get into a writing funk. It’s as though I’m frozen in place.
Maybe this has happened to you. You’ve gone through a stressful event, you’re not sleeping well, or you’ve been consumed by work deadlines. Stress and fatigue are known to affect creativity and inhibit the brain from generating creative ideas.
I find that the harder I think when I’m in my slump, the more I blank out. I’ve learned that I need to think differently. I need to activate the part of my brain that comes up with new ideas, instead of the part that is sparked by stress.
One of the things I do to re-energize myself is read good works of literature. I also find that doing a few writing exercises helps me out of my rut.
One of my favorite books for this is The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano. If you’re in a slump, try this prompt from The Daily Poet.
Choose a color. Now write a poem only using images of that color. For example, if you chose white, your poem might include clouds, snow, yogurt, angels, paper, ping-pong balls, or plastic bags. The poem may or may not evoke an emotion associated with your chosen color.
Here are two more prompts from another of my favorite writing books, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg. This book is geared towards writing memoir but the prompts are equally good for writing essays and poems and even coming up with the seed of an idea for a short story or character. Here are two sample prompts from the book:
Knew. What did you know that you didn’t want to know? Go. Ten minutes.
Repair. What have you tried to repair? Write for 10 minutes.