Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

You’re avoiding yourself.

(Today’s prompt is a quote from the book Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren.)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Writing Wednesday: Character Interviews

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This is my first Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, and I’m very excited! It is also a post for my own weekly feature that I call Writing Wednesday. So let’s get to it!

WW

In my writing past, I remember hearing other writers talk about their characters haranguing them. Complaining about their lack of page time, about unpleasant things that happened to them, or about who knows what else…but they always seemed to be complaining. I remember always being a mixture of jealous and certain that those writers were making it all up. While I didn’t believe that it was very likely that their characters just jumped into their thoughts out of nowhere to start talking to them, now I can see the plausibility—the writer might have been thinking about their story at that time, or just letting their mind wander in general. And now, I have seen the amazing benefits of talking to my characters.

There are likely many different ways people refer to this phenomenon. For me, it usually involves a discussion that is led along by me asking questions of my characters. Thus, I use the term “character interview.” And understand that the way I go about having these discussions with my characters are by no means the only way to do it. It is what works best for me, and you should definitely figure out what works for you (if this method works for you at all).

I will dispense with the history of how I came to utilize this technique in my writing, and just explain how helpful it can be. In the different stages of writing (which I would break down into dreaming, planning, writing, and revising), character interviews have been most useful to me during planning and revising stages. During the dreaming phase, you likely wouldn’t even have characters very clearly in mind. If you have enough to start talking to your characters about, you might be more in the planning stage. During the writing stage, well…you’re writing. Unless you run into a block and decide to stop and hash it out, you won’t likely be stopping the prose to have a chat.

So now you may be wondering how to start. Or what kinds of things to talk to or ask your characters about. Usually at the point that I decide it’s time to start one of these discussions, I am struggling with some kind of plot hole, or a question about how to proceed in a scene, how to get something to happen that I really want to see happen in the story, how to fill out a story, or even which character should actually be the protagonist or main character in a story. And then I literally just pose these questions to the characters I think can help me the most, and go from there.

The next question might be how you know which character(s) would be the best to talk to for the questions you have in mind. Sometimes it’s obvious, but sometimes it requires thinking outside the box. Earlier this year, I was struggling to rework the plot of one of my books, which has a murder-mystery element to it, and when I wrote the first draft, it came out incredibly weak. I had a long conversation with the main character of that book, but still couldn’t figure out what I was missing in the middle of that story. I was considering setting it aside for a while, but decided to talk to a different character instead first—the antagonist. By the time I was done (a week and a half later), I had not only filled in that saggy middle, but realized that this person was not the main antagonist. Such a productive interview!

Now for the tangible question—where/how to conduct the interview. I’ve done them multiple ways—all in my head, recording myself audibly in some way, typing the conversation on a computer or my Neo, and writing it in a notebook. I don’t recommend doing it only in your head unless you have a great memory; I prefer to be able to look back on it somehow later. I recorded myself with a headset and Audacity one time, but decided that listening to the conversation later was just too weird, so I’m not doing that again. Typing it out works, as long as you make sure to clearly designate who is saying what. My preferred method is to write the conversations out longhand, though, and even a step further, I like to use a different color pen for each person talking (including myself). It makes it so much easier to read over again later, which I do a lot. Plus, I really like the tactile element of writing by hand.

A few more tips about conducting these interviews:

  • Give yourself the freedom to explore without worrying about accuracy. I have had interviews where, by the time I got to the end, things we discussed at the beginning were obsolete, because the plot took a turn during the discussion. That’s okay.
  • I use the term “interview,” but often I don’t ask questions for a while, instead just carrying on an actual conversation. But since the basic idea behind this (for me, at least) is that the characters know more about their story than I do, because it’s their story, I am generally coaxing the truth out of them.
  • If you have more than one character involved, they might start talking to each other, instead of you, and that’s okay too.
  • Don’t get too caught up in the nebulous world your characters are inhabiting for these interviews. They are outside of the time and space bubble of their stories. And yet, I find that it helps me to think of the times that I interact with them as a continuation of time in itself, and even reference back to previous discussions (like having one character say I’d just yell at him again if he told me his theory about something in particular, because yes, I’d gotten frustrated with him in a previous interview).
  • It might feel weird at first to do this, because of course you know these characters aren’t real, but they really can feel real. And in truth, if you don’t think of your characters as their own people (rather than just part of you), then maybe they won’t come across as real to the reader.

If you think talking to your characters might help you with your own writing, but still aren’t sure how to start, pick a character that you think might have some helpful insight, and just start out by asking, “What do you think of the story so far?” or “What would you change if you could?” You might be surprised what comes out.

In case anyone is interested in what most of my interviews looks like, below is a picture of the beginning of one of them, the one I mentioned above with the antagonist of the murder-mystery story (and an example of one where what I wrote at the beginning became incorrect by the time I was done). Purple is me, red is the antagonist. It took me to the end of the page to get past her refusal to help (which was totally true to her character), but after that, I immediately started to gain insight into the story. I’ve blocked out a few spots due to possible spoilers. Also, I use erasable pens, which are just amazing!

character interview

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Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a trick.

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

NaNoWriMo Rebels

NaNo handouts

Many people who are new to the world of NaNoWriMo only know it as National Novel Writing Month. And of course, at its heart, that’s what it is. But let me tell you about the wonderful world of NaNo Rebels.

When I first did NaNoWriMo in 2007, the rules were more strict. You write a new piece of lengthy fiction, and if you reach 50,000 words, you win. Though rebelling did happen, I don’t think it was as prevalent or as acknowledged as it is now. In the time since then, the people who run the event have opened their arms to those who want to join in the fun, but don’t necessarily want to (or somehow aren’t able to) write a new, lengthy work of fiction. (And actually, they’ve even changed the standard “rules” to say that continuing a previous story is no longer rebelling, but only new words added in November count.)

So, what can you do as a NaNo Rebel? Almost anything you want to. For example:

  • Write non-fiction
  • Write short stories (though if the stories are related to each other, it’s not rebelling)
  • Write a script or screenplay
  • Revise a previous work

All of these things and more are acceptable for NaNoWriMo. Some of them may require a different way of tracking your work done (for example, for revision, you may track time instead, and equate an hour to 1000 words). If you’re curious about what is or isn’t considered rebelling, you can find more information here.

And if the month of November just really doesn’t work for you, consider participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which takes place during April and July.

**Note: The website & forums have very recently relaunched with a lot of changes, so some things aren’t working quite correctly. I understand kinks are still being worked out, but be aware that what you see now may not entirely be accurate or permanent.

Are you participating in NaNo this year? Will you rebel or stick with the normal format?

For anyone out there who is participating, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

Combine the following 3 elements into a scene, short story, story synopsis, etc:
safety deposit
hospital room
dog catcher

(These elements were 3 randomly drawn cards from my Storymatic deck.)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

NaNoWriMo Community

NaNo handouts

I remember the first time I met someone who already knew about NaNoWriMo. It was in May of 2013, and she recognized the shirt I was wearing as a NaNo shirt. I get a shirt every year that I participate, and wear them a lot, especially in September through December, so they tend to start conversations when people ask me about it, and also identify people who know what it is. It was years before I met more people who already knew about NaNoWriMo, and in more recent years, I’ve met several (even my doctor had heard of it).

I am happy that NaNoWriMo is becoming more well-known and more wide-spread. It wouldn’t be what it is without the amazing community that comes together every November. And this is coming from someone who is very introverted and socially awkward. I won’t pretend that I participate in the NaNo community nearly as much as I could, but it’s there and it’s inviting.

Socially awkward or not, NaNoWriMo is one thing I can talk about with relative ease. I am very passionate about it. I like to tell people what it is, how awesome it is, and if they show an interest, why they should give it a try. So when the opportunity came up for me to sit at a local authors’ table during a festival in my hometown, it didn’t take long to think past the book-related things I should bring and realize that this is the perfect opportunity to spread the news about NaNoWriMo to people in my community. We have write-ins at the library in my town during November, so maybe I can drum up some more participants!

I have some stickers and buttons (shown above), and I will hand them out to anyone who might be interested. I’m almost as excited about talking to people about NaNo as I am about selling my book or talking about my soon-to-be-releasing book. And really, talking about NaNo will be easier than trying to promote myself.

If you’re considering participating in NaNoWriMo, and you’re curious about what kind of local community might be near you, check it out for yourself! You’ll have to make an account, but it’s free, and no one will force you to participate once you’ve signed up. Maybe you’ll find just what you need to decide to give it a try!

For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

Include all of the following words in a scene:
sigh
south
demon
night
telephone

bonus: spiky

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

NaNoWriMo’s Coming!

I used to love the old Coca-Cola Santa Packs commercials. They marked the beginning of the holiday season! Now, right about this time every year, I start to sing, “NaNoWriMo’s comin’!” to the same tune, and I’m just as excited (maybe more so).

First, a quick explanation for those who don’t know what I’m even talking about: NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is an event that has been around since 1999, becoming more of what it is today in 2005. At its heart, it’s a personal challenge–write 50,000 words in 30 days during the month of November. Signing up and participating simply gives you somewhere to track your progress, goodies if you win, and a huge community of like-minded people, cheering each other on.

I am such a NaNo fangirl, seriously. October is widely referred to as “Preptober” by many Wrimos, as those of us who plan ahead for what we’re going to write like to spend the month before it starts prepping. But for me (and still plenty of others), the real season starts in September.

The last few years, I was too busy with work to enjoy the lead-up to NaNoWriMo. A few of those years, I barely managed to participate, then slunk back into my depressing no-time-for-writing life until the next November. Though those times were difficult (writing has long been a huge stress relief for me), I am so incredibly grateful to NaNoWriMo for at least giving me the push, and the vehicle, to do some writing for that one month.

In the coming months, I’ll post more about NaNoWriMo, but I will probably never again post as much as I did in 2015, where I posted an entire series about how to prepare for NaNo, as well as tips for planning a story, and tips for the actual writing in November. All of those posts, including some I’ve added since then, can be found here: Prep for NaNoWriMo

So who else is excited? Are you participating? Thinking about it? Never heard of it before but can’t help but be intrigued? I’d love to hear from you!