Conversations with the people in your head.

My tried and true method of getting information, motivations, and potential golden nuggets from my characters is the conversation writing exercise. You know the one, where you sit down say something like…

“So, what do you think about mmc? Hot huh?” says author smirking.

Fmc raises an eyebrow and replies, “Are you kidding me? He’s a self absorbed dog. I wouldn’t go near him with a ten foot pole…”

Sighs… “I thought you’d say that. Well, have you got any better ideas?” 

“Yeah actually, put that bartender back in my path and I’ll get cozy.”

“You can’t do that, he’s your brother.”

“What?! No he’s not. I would know if I had a brother.”

“Not if he was given up at birth and hasn’t been seen since.”

Fmc narrows her eyes. “Really. Why? Why does it have to be the bartender? If no one has seen him since my mother gave him up, then why can’t mmc be my brother?”

“’Cause then, I couldn’t annoy, infuriate and ruin your every waking moment, by sicking mmc on you.”

… “You weren’t going to do that before…”

Smiles wickedly. “I am now. Thanks for the idea. Oh and by the way. You can break the whole brother news thing to the bartender. He’s coming over here right now.”

“Wait what-”

Waves lazily. “Good luck!”

At no point in the next ten projects I have planned did I intend to include a bartender or this fmc or mmc, but I may have just started a new wip…

Regardless, this is one of my favorite writing exercises. It’s something that no matter where you are in the process, planning, writing, editing, it can do wonders. Haven’t tried it? Well, despite, how awkward it may seem at first, you should give it a try. The key is to use it when you have questions to answer, either about relationships, background or motivations in your character’s world. Of course it doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

More often than I’d like to admit when using this method, the first question I ask, is something huge and unanswerable. So let your mind wander.

“So, how exactly do you plan to defeat the evil queen? You have no weapons, no friends, and the entire royal guard is out looking for you.”

“Not my problem.”

Mmc crosses arms. “Actually it is your problem. The whole point of the book is for you to defeat the woman who killed your father and stole your kingdom.”

“My father was an ass, and I don’t want to rule. Send someone else to do it.”

Exasperated author grunts. “I can’t do that, I won’t have a book if I do.”

“Don’t care. I’m going to go back to the village to open a bakery.”

Raises eyebrows. “Yeah? And do you know anything about cooking? Have you ever baked anything in your life? Do you even have funds to open a business?”

MMC glares… “Fine. I’ll go to the village and apprentice somewhere. Anything is better than being king.”

“What’s the real reason you don’t want to do this?”

“That is the real reason. Besides, you dangled that beautiful baker’s daughter in front of me in chapter three. I’m gonna see about putting a bun in her oven.”

“Ugh.”

“What, did you see her breasts? I mean damn.”

“Enough, enough.” says author, pinching bridge of her nose…

Mmc shrugs. “Plus everyone loves her. She’s a real sweet young lass and I could use some of that in my life. Compared to being banished, having my father killed, and my kingdom corrupted, a shack and bit of ass is just the pick me up I need.”

Smirks. “And if the queen heard of your new love interest?”

“Why would that happen? She doesn’t even know where I am.”

Shrugs. “In a village that size, someone’s bound to notice a strapping young lad such as yourself flirting with the village beauty.”

“Well-”

“And it would be a shame if the guard plucked her from your grasp and used her as bate.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I?”

“Aw come on…”

“And the whole village would blame you for her disappearance. News of what happened to their sweet young lass, is bound to travel. You’d be a pariah in your own land.”

“Fuck you.”

“Hmmhmm. And in order to restore your good name, you’d have to get her back.”

Mmc throws his hands in the air. “And how do I do that?”

A grin breaks across the authors face. “By defeating the evil queen of course.”

“Of course. I thought we already decided that I can’t do that.”

“You can if the whole village wants their girl back. I’m sure all the other wiry gents would hate to see such a beauty lost. I sincerely doubt your the only one looking to get in that oven.”

“Why I oughta-”

“Plus, that’ll give you a whole band of eager companions to fight with.”

“Which is exactly why this won’t work. They’ll hate me!”

“Oh yeah, they’ll hate you I’m sure, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to screw up and redeem yourself. You might even live to rule the kingdom.”

“You know on second thought, I don’t think I want to go back to the village. I’ll find another lass in another place.”

Author grins. “Too late.”

So, again, not something I was planning or gave any thought to at all before starting this post. This sort of exercise can be massively helpful and I encourage you to try it the next time you’re stumped. It’s also worth noting, that it aids tremendously in developing a separate voice for each of your characters so don’t just use it on your mmc or fmc. Try it out across any of your major players, and you’ll get results. Plus it’s sort of a stress/tension relieving exercise because it’s whatever you make of it.

Enjoy!

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How to write. A tale of cash flows and story woes.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails recently for writing classes. Classes on character development, hole proofing your plot, revising your novel, creating a best seller, etc. The thing is, they’re a load of crap. For 300 bucks we can perfect your novel. For five easy payments of 24.99 you can have the magical secrets of great writing. For your soul and hard earned cash we can trick you, the poor, naive writers of the world, into thinking that a novel is so easily quantifiable that one ridiculous class can change your future.

I mean honestly. If these assholes had the secret ingredient to producing novels that would make you as rich as Rowling, or as famous as Steven King, don’t you think they’d be out there, cashing in on their novels instead of widening the pool of writers with a million  perfect manuscripts? 

I find it all rather infuriating. Everything included in all the various how to write books and classes of the world, can, with a few dedicated hours on Google, be found and learned for free. There is tons of advice about how to plot, how to create memorable characters, how to edit and publish, that no matter who you are and how you want to do it, you’ll find something, eventually, that works for you. 

Now aside from all the lovely articles out there on hundreds of thousands of various blogs and writing forums of the internet, you could always just go to your local library. If you really need guidance about writing, or editing, or whatever, libraries are the perfect place to not get sucked into this cashing sucking machine that takes advantage of inexperienced writers. 

Now you may be thinking to yourself, hold up, wait a minute. Just because you pay for one of these classes instead of spending hours skimming web pages doesn’t mean you’ve been duped. And yeah, as much as I hate paying for anything I don’t have to, that is true. If you want someone to give you all their tips and tricks, whether they work for you or not, fine. You’re not a bad person or a bad writer for having a go at it. But let me just make one more point. 

The biggest reason why I personally think writing courses are a load of shit is that no matter what they tell you, you will never be able to write a successful or meaningful book just by following their instructions. Why? Because these class teach all of the things you need to know about writing except the most important thing. Heart. The soul of your story isn’t in a bullet pointed list. It’s not in the dictionary or a grammar guide. The single most important part of your work, is you. 

 

If you want to write stories, and you like reading, but you have no idea what your doing and need someone to tell you where to start, I personally don’t think you’re gonna make it. 

 

If you need to write stories, and you love reading and you had no idea what you were doing and didn’t care and followed your heart to write a tale that meant something to you, and once you finished, took the time to learn about perfect grammar and spell checking, and cleaning up your dialogue and cutting out some of the fat from your world… Well, the most important thing for your story is already there. And no one else could have given that spark to your writing.

 

You can learn how to write. But you can’t learn passion or love for telling a tale. 

 

So save you cash and just write. Please. Just write. All you need is your thirst for the story and some paper. 

 

Happy scribbling.