Creative Writing, Writers, Writing, writing tips

How To Unleash the Power of Setting In Your Writing

I’m all about trying to improve my writing skills. The stacks of books, both virtual and physical, take up more than one shelf of my bookcase and four bookshelves in Kindle Fire. So, it is with great expectation that the new Urban and Rural Settings Thesaurus (I wonder if it’s ‘thesauri’) are now available.

As we storytellers sit before the keyboard to craft our magic, we’re usually laser-focused on the two titans of fiction: plot and character. Yet, there’s a third element that impacts almost every aspect of the tale, one we really need to home in on as well: the setting.

How would you describe this place to someone who’s never been here?

village in Italy, photo by Lou Levit,
Italy, photo by Lou Levit, unsplash.com, cc

The setting is so much more than a painted backdrop, more than a stage for our characters to tromp across during the scene. Used to its full advantage, the setting can characterize the story’s cast, supply mood, steer the plot, provide challenges and conflict, trigger emotions, help us deliver those necessary snippets of backstory…and that’s just scratching the surface. So the question is this: how do we unleash the full power of the setting within our stories?

Well, there’s some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Rural Setting Thesaurus: Ancient Ruins.

And there’s one more thing you might want to know more about….

Rock_The_Vault_WHW1Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of the Writers Helping Writers site is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking…if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!
Don’t miss out on some fantastic prizes.

Encouragement, Writers, Writing, writing tips

The Dangers of the Helicopter #Writer

golf balls with letters
WRITER-Photo by Dave Morrison, flickr.com, cc

 

I’m writing a story about a twenty-one-year-old young woman. In the midst of writing it, I think damn she’s making a lot of mistakes and I begin to edit some of the stuff out until it dawns on me the character is twenty-one.

I have this ‘thing,’ in my writing, I’ll admit it.  I try to protect my main character.

This happens in the first draft. When I re-read the chapter, I realize I’ve made worse mistakes than the character I’m writing about and I lived another day.

I’ve been soft on the main character. I haven’t pushed her. 

So I have to quit the coddling the protagonist because I’m being a helicopter writer. (Same as helicopter parent but with an imaginary child). And that never turns out well.

typewriter, pen, journal, paper
The Dangers Of The Helicopter Writer – Photo by Dustin Lee, unsplash.com cc

From my own experience, here are some of the signs of a hovering writer:

  1. Boring writing: The writer is afraid to look beyond and beneath the surface. They are afraid to dig and go deeper into the mind of the main character. What will they do with all that emotion? The story then becomes dull. Good fiction has to entertain you, arouse your curiosity and get you into the story.
  2. No character growth: If the writer doesn’t allow the character to fail, what does she learn? This is like with parenting and allowing our kids to fail which helps them to learn from their mistakes.
  3. Nothing bad happens: A reader stops reading. Facebook, Instagram, and the kitties on YouTube are more interesting.
  4. No drama: might as well turn on the television and watch a telenovela.
  5. The character is two-dimensional: She speaks, she acts but she doesn’t feel. There are no emotional wounds and consequently, we feel nothing for the character.

Back to my 21-year-old protagonist. She thinks mistakes are the end of the world. And they are, at least the end of her world as she knows it.  She thinks no one else can relate and doesn’t let anyone help her. Remember the arrogance of youth?

This is the point where a writer can push the character and ask the what if questions.

What if the character takes the situation into her own hands? Her depressed, angry, shaky hands.

But if I hover and don’t let her take the situation into her own hands how will the reader know that her struggle allows her to grow? By allowing her to do dumb stuff, like when she tries to control what’s going on, she finds that things don’t turn out like she wanted them to. Life gets worse.

This time in-between where we think our mistakes are the end of the world is the story I’m trying to tell. The space between happiness and misery.

If the character didn’t make the mistakes, what’s the point of the story? If I coddle her, how will I or the reader know how far she’ll go to get what she wants?

Will she realize that she can move past the crappiness of the mistake? Can she move forward,  poco a poco? Little by little?

A helicopter writer won’t discover this for their character if they keep hovering. The character won’t be pushed to make a hard choice or be challenged. Neither will the writer.

Worse, the writer will find they just wasted hundreds of hours writing a story that went nowhere.

Take a look at this quiz from Fiction University, about suffering from Nice Writer Syndrome. This is another form of helicopter writing.

Writing characters can be similar to parenting your children. A dose of tough love can help them develop character, uniqueness, and growth.

Bravery-Mary Tyler Moore quote
Bravery-Mary Tyler Moore quote

Be brave.

 

Art, Creative Writing, Creativity, Inspiration, Writers

34 Unique Ways to Brainstorm and Get Creative

beer in ice, Corona beer, lime slices
Ice Cold-flickr.com

 

What does a beer, a shower and playing Pictionary have in common?

And you can do all three alone or in a group? Well two of them at least and a third as a couple.

Okay, enough riddles.

The three subjects above are suggestions to help you generate creative ideas.

Really?

See if you agree.

 

creativity, brainstorming, writing
Brainstorming Creative Ideas – Ethos3.com via writerswrite.co.za post

 

What I like to do is read poetry and jot down whatever words or ideas arise. That’s suggestion #34.

Can you add any tips? How do you brainstorm creative ideas?

Maybe we can get to 40 ideas.

Revision, Writers

Rejection and Persistence-The Writing Life

Rejection and Writing-Ray Bradbury

I saved this Ray Bradbury quote. Not because I plan to wallpaper a room with rejection slips but to remind myself that my list of rejection e-mails for two of my manuscripts amounts to maybe a quarter of a wall.

Rejection emails don’t phase me too much anymore. With a click of a button, they slide right into my “Queries” folder unless the lit agent wrote something more than a form letter. I jot down whatever suggestions they offered and send good thoughts to those agents for taking a minute to say something constructive.

And then I take a deep breath, put my big girl panties on and get back to work.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to constructive criticism, I’d be an idiot not to take someone’s suggestions and toss them around, see if they fit and give it a try.

This is also the time when I remind myself that I’ve lived through worse than an email rejection letter and got through it, survived and thrived.

A rejection letter is a little nudge, sometimes a kick, to remind me that I am doing the work. I’m sending out query letters.

I love to put words together. Many times I found that I have to learn how to put those words together in a better way.

I remind myself that although I’ve been rejected, I must be doing something right if I also receive requests for more pages, writing fellowships, and selected to be mentored in an Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) program.

All of those good things have been interspersed with the not so great. As I write this, my little email slider dings and I see another rejection letter came in my mailbox. I’ll share with you:

Thanks so much for your query. I’m really grateful that you chose to submit to me, but I’m sorry to say I’m not connecting enough with this project. I hope you will try me again with future work if you don’t find representation for this.

Young women in prison do not connect with a lot of people especially when I write about young women who are from ‘subgroups,’ ‘subcultures,’ et al. (the immigrant, the addicted, the gang banger, the sexually abused).

I remind myself that someone out there will connect with that story. I just have to get through the ‘gatekeepers.’

I remind myself and ask you to remind yourself, that persistence is a quality to hold onto if you want to become a writer and author.

On writing-Jennifer Weiner
On writing-Jennifer Weiner 

Only persistence keeps me going, walking, trudging through the revisions and rejections.

And now, back to work.