Saturday, September 30, 2017

Writing Problems

Writing problems. We all have them – blocks, ideas that just aren’t working, words that won’t come or don’t sound right, lack of time, energy, etc… This gig, by which I mean writing, it isn’t for the faint of heart, or the half-hearted. It’s funny, but more and more lately I’ve wondered that writing is a lot like life. It’s a balancing act of finding time vs. making time. A battle between having the right words and forcing any words out. It’s a struggle between knowing the right thing (or way or road or whatever) and having to guess.

And it is a constant series of wondering if what you’ve done is good enough, if it was done fast enough, long enough, enough, enough, enough

Having 4 kids, one only 4 months old, means it takes either a lot of scheduling to get time where I can simply sit at my computer and write, or it takes sacrificing of sleep. Some times it takes the scheduling of sacrificed sleep to get myself in front of this computer. And alright, full truth, sometimes it’s just a matter of luck too. (Right now, for instance, I’m able to sit at my computer writing this because the baby fell back to sleep after it’s morning feed, the girls are at my parents, and the boy had a couple friends sleep over and they tried to stay up all night and are still in exhausted slumber. See – luck!)

When I do get to the computer I’ve got about a dozen projects on the go between work, my sister’s wedding, and other personal ideas that I’ve been working on. Writing, some times is simply not at the top of the list. And other times I’m just burnt out enough from everything else going on in life, that when writing is at the top I just can’t, or don’t feel like I can.

It’s been that way for me for a while now. That feeling of can’t.

I hate it.

Yet, at the same time, I know that I’m simply not the type of writer that can sit down and force a story. I mean, I could, but I’ve done it before and, well, it was horrible. The writing was horrible. The story that came from it was horrible. I’m talking: even my 13-year old daughter thought it was bad, horrible. Everything was stilted, one-dimensional, tired sounding, and honestly just plain painful to read. So yeah, forcing out a story – not really my thing.

Lately though I’ve been feeling the need to write again. The whispers in the back of my mind while I go about my day. The familiar tones and voices of my characters as they’ve once again began asking me to tell their stories. The sensations are wonderful, my dreams are again colourful and coming to life, and I’m looking forward to some quality time with my keyboard. Or pen and paper. Or my phone’s voice memo app. (Like I said time is a crunch with 4 kids.)

So writing problems… What have yours been lately?   


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Building Characters & Giving Them Life

Creating characters that are full of life, personality, well-rounded and real is far harder to do then you might think. It’s more then describing them, more then giving them names, history and physicality. It takes more then rich colorful language and a strong handle of how to use it.

And honestly, characterization is one thing that I have often struggled with. Creating diverse settings that pulse with a life of their own – that I’m generally good with, it doesn’t faze me. But doing the same for my characters… simply not the same.

One trick I have learned is to not sweat those descriptions during my first draft. (Simply put: during that first draft it’s perfectly fine to simply say “she has green eyes” or “he has dark brown hair.”) If you’re like me and struggle with your characters, in the first draft just focus on getting the story down first. Once you’ve got that done then you can go back and add more. 

With story down on the page you can go back and focus on the characters – describe their looks; give color and depth to their personalities. (“His rich brown hair was so dark, in moments of fantasy it sparked images of having dipped him in lush dark chocolate.”) Give them quirks. (“I discovered that she had this annoying habit of lifting her dark brows and opening her brilliantly green eyes wide, making them appear even more like highly faceted emeralds set into the fine setting of her face.”)

Once you do that you’ll discover that suddenly they’re alive and you’ll better connect with them. Then you build them emotionally – give them strengths, weaknesses, fears and dreams. And that’s when you find that now they have that pulsing life that you need from them. 

That’s when they become real.

It takes time. Patience.

But the more you write, the more often you’ll find that without even focusing effort on creating real, life-like characters that you’re writing that spark into them thoughtlessly. Some characters will grow easily, organically on the page and some are frustratingly more difficult.

The bottom line is to find a method that works for you, whatever that may be. But also remember that sometimes your method will change, with certain stories or characters you may go about their creation differently. And that’s okay.

So what are some methods you use for creating, building and bringing your characters to life?