Posted in Exercises

Scene Unsticking Questions

It happens to the best writers. Even in the middle of a draft that’s going well and with a well-detailed outline, sometimes we get stuck on a scene. It might be that we’ve opened a huge plot hole we don’t know how to close. Or, we’ve written our characters into an impossible situation and were hoping to have a clever answer to get them out of it again that just isn’t coming.

Hopefully some of these will help. Instead of trying to push through and write your way out, take a couple of minutes and answer these questions about your current sticky scene. When you’ve answered them all, come back and see which answers spark more ideas and use those ideas to continue the current scene.

Remember! There are no limits to the answers here, even if they seem ridiculous or don’t fit your current genre conventions. You can edit or come up with a reasonable explanation for it later. Right now is just for unsticking your scene.

  • What would happen if you killed your current PoV character?
  • What clichés fit your protagonist and how can you change them?
  • How would your supporting characters react to their biggest fears appearing in the current scene?
  • Which supporting character has a reason to defect to the other side?
  • Which family member’s death would affect your protagonist the most?
  • Which character has most recently told a lie and what was it?
  • What stereotypes fit your antagonist and how can you change them?
  • What would happen if your protagonist’s mother came in on the current scene?
  • What would happen if your antagonist’s mother came into the current scene?
  • How would your antagonist react to your protagonist revealing their darkest secret?
  • What would change about the current scene if you set it in a busy mall? An abandoned house? A thick forest? An open plain?
  • What would make your Love Interest fall for the antagonist?
  • How would your current scene to change if you switched the protagonist with a supporting character?
  • What’s one threat that would make the antagonist and the protagonist work together?
  • What one thing would make the antagonist give up?

If none of these work, consider skipping ahead to the next scene. You might find hints and clues about how your stuck scene resolved as you develop the next.

 

 

Posted in worldbuilding

Worldbuilding: Language

If you’ve decided to include fictional languages in your fictional world: congratulations and good luck.

Language itself is an altogether different beast than any other type of worldbuilding. The evolution of language is a little bit of a convoluted process. It’s not always logical and in some cases, it’s outright insane and seemingly impossible—English being the prime example of how very bizarre some of our language rules can be.

When it comes to creating a language, you do however have a couple of options.

You can, of course, create an entire lexicon for your language. This includes things like grammatical rules, conjugations, subject-verb agreements and yes, the dictionary of your language. While it might seem like a lot, this can be a rewarding task because you’re able to see how your characters would naturally communicate and what might be stumbling blocks for those who learn it as a secondary language.

Alternately, you can shorthand this and keep it to a few of the more common phrases or words. This makes it easier to keep track of, which in turn makes writing easier.

Either option is valid and fully dependent on what you as the creator and writer feel like tackling. The biggest question you might have is where to start.

Alphabet. I highly recommend starting with your alphabet. It can strongly inform how the language sounds, especially if you’re pulling letters in or out of a real-world language. Case in point: the z sound most English speakers are familiar with isn’t the same in Spanish. Z there tends to be softer—more of an ‘s’ than our buzzing ‘z’ sound. Think about what would happen to your language if you dropped similar sounding letters like b, p or d from its alphabet. How would those words change and sound?

Common phrases. Often starting with the common sayings, idioms or even endearments your characters might use is a good starting point.  This gives you a handful of words to work with and start forming the core rules of your language. What’s something someone might call their lover? How would someone address a respected authority figure instead of sir or ma’am? How do you say ‘I love you’? What’s a common greeting?

Grammatical Rules. Even if you’re only using your language for a few phrases or names, it can help to have grammatical rules established. This isn’t just about comma placement, this also includes things like spelling—i before e and all that. This in turn helps you establish how most words are supposed to be spelled. Be careful here though, as grammar can get tricky. English is again, the worst and best example of how complicated even simple rules can get when applied to individual words. Again, i before e unless you’re leisurely heisting eight beige sleighs from a caffeinated foreigner.

What are some of your favorite tricks for creating a new language? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Exercises

Character Description Crawl

Describing characters isn’t always easy, so to help out, I present the Character Description Crawl.

Name. Count the letters in your character’s first name and multiply by ten. Write that many words.

Hair Color.

  • If your character has black hair write 50 words.
  • If they have brown hair write 75 words.
  • If they have blond hair write 100 words.
  • If they have gray or white hair write 125 words.
  • If they have an unusual hair color (pink, green, vines instead of hair, etc.) write 150 words.
  • If they’re bald sprint for 5 minutes.

Eye Color.

  • If your character has blue eyes write 50 words.
  • If they have brown eyes write 75 words.
  • If they have green eyes write 100 words.
  • If they have grey eyes, write 125 words.
  • If they’re blind or are missing eyes, sprint for 5 minutes.
  • If they have mismatched eyes, complete both challenges for their eye colors.

Height

  • If they’re shorter than average, sprint for 5 minutes.
  • If they’re average height, write 10 minutes.
  • If they’re taller than average, sprint for 15 minutes.

Notable Features

  • If they have notable scars or injuries, write 25 words for each one.
  • If they have piercings or jewelry, write 50 words for each piece. (Earrings only count as 1 piece if they are matched pair).
  • If they have additional features (horns, wings, robot characters, animal characters, etc.) sprint for 5 minutes for each feature.
  • If they have tattoos, write 75 words for each tattoo they have.

Personality

Rate their traits on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being the lowest. Complete each assignment that number of times. For example, if a character is a 3 on the honesty scale, complete the sprint 3 separate times.

  • Honesty: Sprint for 5 minutes.
  • Calmness: Write 50 words.
  • Generosity: Write 25 words.
  • Responsibility: Sprint for 10 minutes.
  • Respectful: Sprint for 5 minutes.
  • Aggressiveness: Write 100 words.
  • Clumsiness: Write 25 words.
  • Timidity: Write 50 words.
  • Gullibility: Sprint for 5 minutes.
  • Sloppiness: Sprint for 10 minutes.

Protagonist or Antagonist

If your character is a protagonist or supports a protagonist, sprint for 15 minutes.

If your character is an antagonist or supports an antagonist, write 250 words.

 

Finished? Let me know how many words you ended up with!

Posted in General

Music as Inspiration

Music is a universal force. No matter where you go in the world, part of the culture includes songs, instruments and the like. Which is why it should come as no surprise that music can also provide a lot of inspiration.

Music, like literature, breaks down into genres. Folk, R&B, country, classical—genres in music as extensive as genres in literature. Each one is earmarked by content and style differences. Sometimes they can bleed together in unexpected ways—again, something literature does as well. Consider your style and genre. What sort of music fits the way you write?

In many cases, lyrics can also tell a story. Whether it’s rock’n’roll or jazz, the words often tell of a situation, event or even a full-blown story. Try it with some of your favorite songs. What stories do they tell?

One way to help use music to inspire your storytelling and worldbuilding is by creating a playlist for a given story or set of stories.

Character Playlists. Think about what your characters might listen to themselves? What are their favorite songs to sing? Which ones make them dance around when they think no one is watching? Also consider which songs reflect their internal conflicts and personal feelings about a situation. What sort of lullabies would they have heard as children?

Scene Playlists. If you’re having trouble getting a scene to work properly, think about what sort of music you’d want playing in the background during the movie version. For action scenes, it can also help you by giving you something to choreograph the scene too. Listening to those songs as you’re writing can help you set the mood and tone by matching the mood you want for the scene.

Inspiration Playlists. When all else fails, think about what you’d want as the theme song for your characters, the TV-adaptation, or even what sort of music video your characters would make for the song in question.

I’m curious. What songs are on your playlists? Let me know in the comments!