Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Editing Tips

I can't believe it's almost the end of September already! Time flies when you're busy. Speaking of which, I have exams this week, so I don't have as much time to write and blog as I would like. That being said, today's post is quick and to the point.

Some tips to keep in mind when Editing:

  • If possible, give yourself some time between drafts. A fresh pair of eyes are always strongest. 
  • Pay attention to grammar. In other words, make sure it "sounds natural." Try reading it out loud, printing it out, or changing the font so it looks different. 
  • If you see/hear a word to often, try to vary it with something else that means the same thing, or vary the sentence structure. (For example, a lot of times it's hard to write in first person with out starting with "I" a lot," you can very this by changing phrases like "I twirled my ring" to something like "Twirling my ring around my finger...")
  • Pay attention to transitions. If something seems jarring or confusing, chances are the transition needs to be a little smoother.
  • Always have someone else read over your work. It's hard to catch things that are missing when you know the whole story- you might know the main character is a female, for example, but if you forgot to mention that, it wont effect your reading of the story as it would someone else who assumes she is a boy. 

Any other advice? Anything you usually have trouble with?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dreaming about Dreams

Do you dream each night? Do you keep a dream journal? Can you control your dreams (a technique called "lucid dreaming")? Have you ever written anything inspired by a dream before?

In my non-fiction class, another student wrote his piece on how he tried to learn lucid dreaming. In order to do so, he started a dream journal and wrote down his dreams in order to look for patterns in them.

After reading it, I found myself thinking a lot about my own dreams, or more, my own process of dreaming. Sometimes, I know I'm dreaming and I can control what happens, but I'm not always aware of it. In fact, many times, I'll be going along wherever the dream takes me, believing it, until something happens that I don't want to (for example, I'll be hiding from someone and they'll find me) and I'll be, like, "Nope, that didn't just happen" and "undo it." This only worked so long until my brain eventually figured it out, and now most of the time when I change something, the next thing I know I'm "waking-up" in my dream, only to realize I'm still dreaming because the room isn't the right one, I'm not in the right place, clothes, etc. Once, I "woke-up" six times before I woke-up in real life. It's a lot like the movie inception, only I can't do into other people's dreams, just my own :P

As a psych student, I hear a lot about dreams and dreaming and all the different theories of what they are and how (or even if) you can interpret them. The truth is, all they really know is that, even though everyone dreams, it is a unique, individualized process and no one knows for certain what they mean... but if anyone could figure one out, it would be the person who dreamt it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rainy Friday

So it's friday, which means it's time to relax, write and (in my case) do homework. It's been stormy the past few days here, so I've been finding myself snuggled under a blanket on the couch a lot, which brings me to my question: What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

Read? Uplifting fantasy books or hardcore dramas? 

Write? Those heart-wrenching emotional scenes, or some fast-paced action?

Something else? ...I need ideas... the forecast is saying the rain will be here all week....

Here are my favorite things to do:

Watch a movie I've never seen before
Drink tea/coffee/hot chocolate
Read a mystery/suspense novel
Call up a friend I haven't talked to in a while
....I feel like I'm forgetting something?... oh yeah, write! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Animals in Writing

Everyone loves playful puppies and cute kittens, right? Here's how they can provide much more than simple adorableness in a story:

  • Characterization: yes, you can give the animals character (in fact, I hope you do) but they can also reveal things about your main character. What kind of pet does she have? What did she name it? How does she treat it? How does she treat her neighbors pet? How does she respond to other characters interacting with her pet?
  • Comedic Relief: so, it wasn't the evil stalker vampire sneaking in at the middle of the night this time, but the puppy getting tangled in the sheets?
  • Plot devices: "..... what's that strange thing Furball has in his mouth? Is it a magic amulet? Evidence from a crime scene?"
  • Motivation: Yes, so it might be a bit far fetched to have the bad guy kidnap the hero's trusty pet, but if the cat gets out, would the kid not be more likely to approach the scary forest he had promised never to go into?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Personality through storytelling

If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, or been fresh out of story ideas, there was probably a time you turned to a picture for inspiration. While it’s common knowledge this often is a helpful creative writing technique, who knew it was also a psychological study as well? 

The Thematic Apperception Test is a projective psychological test where a subject is shown a picture of an individual, asked to describe how the character is feeling and make up a story based on it, that must include a beginning, middle, and end. It’s used for the psychologist to get to know the individual better, as it’s said to reveal personality and outlook on life.

We were shown a few samples in one of my psychology classes, the other day. The professor would randomly call on certain students to try the exercise, and would then show how their answered differed from those that may come from more psychologically disturbed individuals, whose answers would be much darker or "less realistic".

Humm… I wonder where a creative writer would fall in this? Especially someone who, like me, loves to add a bit of fantasy or surrealism to everything. Take this picture for example: 

What is the boy doing? Why, obviously he’s trying to move the violin with his mind. And does he succeed? Well, it wouldn’t be as interesting of a story if he didn’t…

It's probably a good thing my professor didn't call on me. I think this test may be a bit biased against creative writers :P

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I could be anyone, I'd be...

In honor of Talli Roland's new book becoming available electronically, she's hosting an online "if I could be anyone party" here, where you basically sign up and tell the world, if you could be anyone, who you would choose.
So, I'll start off by saying I really do like being me, but that aside, if I could be someone else, I'd be someone fictional. Now, that's kind of hard considering most of my favorite characters lead very depressing lives. I thought about maybe Hermione or Ginny, since, though bad things do happen to them, they do end up happy and still made a difference in the world. But since comic books have been on my mind (with the new X-men movie released on DVD over the weekend) I'm going to choose Kitty Pryde:

She's funny, witty, can walk through walls, and is part of the X-men (what teenager doesn't want to go to school in a mansion?). She's got all the perks of being a superhero and, though she still has to deal with the stereotypes of being a mutant, doesn't have any of the overwhelming drawbacks that could cause her to accidently harm someone. Plus, she has a pet dragon, which is pretty freaking cool :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Boys Vs. Girls

One of the things we talked about in my psychology class today was how many of the behavioral differences between boys and girls (ie, boys tend to be more aggressive, strong, dominating, while women tend to be polite, calm, caring) are not hereditary, but learned.

There was an experiment (and probably more, since then) where they took a small child, dressed him up as a girl, and filmed adults interacting with him. Then they made the child look like a boy and had the same people interact with him (they thought it was a different child) and, without a doubt, the treatment was different.

In essence, we teach boys and girls to act different, because we think they already are.

I always get annoyed when I meet guys who think girls are naturally less intelligent than them, or girls who think it’s OK for their boyfriends to lash out because “that’s what guys do.” We’re more a like than we're different!

Any male/female stereotypes you hate to hear (or love to write about)?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Super Friday

It's friday (yay!) and it's also the day X-men: First Class comes out on DVD, so tonight, after a long day of classes and writing, I will be sitting down with some friends to watch it in our cramped but awesome apartment.

In honor of such excitement, I thought I'd pose the question: If you had a super power, what would it be? 

I've thought about this a lot, for some reason, and yet I can't seem to make up my mind. I think it would be neat to have telepathy, but I'd feel too bad using it on anyone that it'd rarely come in any use. I've also wanted to walk through walls, but that was more because I liked Kitty's character rather than I actually wanted the power. I hate driving, so teleportation would be useful. I'd take pretty much anything that didn't come with an extreme drawback (ie, Rogue, who can't touch anyone without sucking the life out of them, or Scott, who can't ever take off his sunglasses) if I could go to the X-mansion.

Happy Friday :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Best Scenes are Multitaskers

There are many things that make a scene entertaining, including outstanding dialogue, well-placed description, unique characters, and a fascinating subject. But even a beautifully written scene could get in the way if it doesn’t serve any purpose to the story. On the other hand, a plot essential scene can come across as an information dump if it’s not carefully sculpted.

As with anything, our goal as writers is to find a balance: a balance between being entertaining and informative (or moving the story forward).

Have you ever written something that was way over the word count? Maybe a short story for a contest, or a novel you’re hoping to get published. A great way to condense is to look for scenes that serve only one purpose. Sure, maybe it’s entertaining, but do we really learn anything about the characters? Does anything change during/because of it—a relationship, character, society? In essence, we’re really asking: does it move the story forward, or does it slow it down? I’m sure you know which one we’re going for.

So, once we recognize a scene as a problem (though we hate to admit it), how do we fix it? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. You have a few options.

  • Scratch the scene entirely—I know it’s hard to hear, but sometimes, it really is the best option

  • Merge the best parts into another scene—it can be as small as a single, great line of dialogue, to an entire conversation. Or perhaps you keep the setting, and replace the third conversation that takes place in the dull school cafeteria to the local arcade that was so greatly described in your problematic scene.

  • Make up for what it’s lacking—If you absolutely love the scene, you can try to build it up. Was it mostly just fluff, but the sweetest scene you’ve ever written between two characters falling in love? Why not make that into a crucial moment in their relationship. Make that the first time he kisses her, or the moment she realizes she likes him as more than a friend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why can't we all be like Peter Pan?

When did it stop being OK to dress up? To say what we really think? To play on playgrounds? To pretend to be someone else for a day?
When did we stop singing at the top of our lungs? Stop dancing in front of others?
When did they take away craft day? Nap time?
When did we start caring that our clothes had to be anything more than comfortable? That our meals have to be more than tasty?
Why was it that, when we were little, we wanted to do anything to be grown up, but once we got there, it didn't seem quite as fun as we thought?

Let's start out the week right: I challenge you to do something child-like this week, whether it's as simple as finger drawing in the shower or as complicated as building a fort (or, if you're really in the writing mood, have a character do something child-like). Happy Monday :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When reality gets in the way

Do you ever get so wrapped up in a story you’re working on, that when it comes to real life, you just can’t seem to focus? Your thoughts keep wandering back to that scene you were writing, or pondering what’s going to happen next.

Simply put, you’re daydreaming.

This is one of my personal favorite times of writing, when it occurs when I’m safe at home, but it’s one of the most annoying times when I’m preparing for a hectic day. As with anything, there’s a time and a place for day dreaming… it just isn’t while you’re driving down the highway or sitting in math class (as much as I tend to forget that second one).

Has this ever happened to you before? If so, what do you?

I’ve found scheduling time to sit and think about my work, even just ten or fifteen minutes between obligations, and scribble down notes will usually satisfy my imagination to go back into hibernation for a while. But sometimes, I just can’t seem to get it to be quiet. Maybe that’s just one of the side effects of being a writer.