The 2 Cs in Storytelling, Part 1: Conflict

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(Photo credit to: Jack Fussell, on Flickr)
I’ve been reading a lot of Wattpad stories lately and while doing so I’ve been learning a lot of lessons as a writer.
I’ve learned about what certain audiences crave. Thus, I’ve come to think more about what kind of audience I’m hoping my book will have.
I’ve also learned more about conflict and climaxes. I’ve found that although a story might be cute or “fluffy” with no conflict, without a defining moment or climax I can quickly lose interest.
I’ve read several stories that seem to drag on, and never actually go anywhere.
Whereas there have been other tales that have had all their chapters and scenes leading up to one defining moment; and I find I tend to eat those stories up more than the other kind.
What is it about the element of conflict that makes a story more interesting?
For me it’s all about the characters, because its often in the face of conflict that a character’s development truly shines. Conflict will force a character to act and they will show what they are made of. In the face of conflict they will show both their weaknesses and strengths. Fiction often mimics life in this way and that’s why I think we draw strength from reading about characters battling their own conflicts.
What about the defining moment of the tale? Next week my blog post will cover the other “C” in storytelling, the Climax.
As a reader how do you feel about conflict? As a writer how do you incorporate conflict in your work?

Writer’s Wall: The Power of Music

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(Photo credit to: Petras Gagilas, on Flickr)

Today I’d like to talk about the nearly magical cure for a writer’s wall.

Music.

Sometimes nothing seems to work to absolve a writer’s block.

You’ve gone outside, experienced new things, soaked in nature, made awesome mood boards and even tried your hand at vignettes.

The one thing you haven’t tried is getting lost into some magnificent instrumentals.

The wonderful thing about music is that it takes you away. You will be one moment listening and the next you are WITHIN the music itself. You are soaked into the lines of melody. You become one with it.

Music has the power to transport you to a place between dreams and the corners of your imagination.

This can happen with really any kind of music, but when you are writing a fiction novel sometimes it is best to stick to a theme.

Here are a couple of examples:

For my novel “A Victorian Tale” I found that music from and inspired by the Victorian era was very helpful when writing. I also added some steam-punk music and some sprinkling of sci-fi.

  • My Youtube playlist had music from various soundtracks and orchestrations made from users that fit to different thematic plots within my story.
  • My itunes playlist holds music from the soundtracks of “Becoming Jane”, “Pride & Prejudice”, and even “Doctor Who”. One of favorite finds on itunes was an album called “Tales of Steampunk London” by composer Jason Cullimore. The album perfectly portrays so many of the different elements in my novel.

For my Wattpad novel “The Land of Fear” I found music that reminded me of arid desert lands, ancient kings and lost worlds.

  • One of my go-to places for story inspiration through  music for TLoF is Pandora, there I have a station called “Marco Polo” (song by: Loreena Mckennitt) that has a good mix of music that is quite inspiring for my story.
  • My other source is my itunes playlist that has a mixture of soundtracks from “The Mummy”, “Faith” (kdrama) and plenty of soundtracks composed by Two Steps From Hell.

 

Do you use music to cure your writer’s block/wall? What kind of music do you listen to?

 

How to Write When You Are Sick…

 

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(Photo credit: Melanie Hayes, on Flickr)

I’ve been dealing with various illnesses for quite some time now. I feel as if I’ve become pretty adept at finding ways to write even when the world feels like it is turning on its head. And when I say that I mean it literally; among other things something I suffer from regularly is vertigo.

It can be really hard to formulate thoughts, write them down or even type when it feels as if you are doing everything sideways.

Here’s the key though: I write whatever I can.

I write whatever comes to mind. I write a vignette of my day, or even sometimes whatever comes off the top of my head. I write about what I’m feeling, my symptoms and how my day has been.

It’s important that no matter what happens you don’t allow guilt overwhelm you. As a writer you will feel as if you should be writing something else; your MS, your poetry, ect. But sometimes all you can do is eke out those few sentences, and THAT IS OK.

The important thing is for you to keep writing.

Have you ever felt this way? How do you keep writing even when you are “under the weather”?

Fanfiction: Good or Bad?

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(Photo credit to: Caitlin ‘Caity’ Tobias, on Flickr)

In the last couple of days original thought both fantastical and realistic have failed me. So instead of editing or continuing to work on WIP, I’ve began to write fanfiction again.

For a while I felt guilty and ashamed that I was writing fanfiction, because for quite some time there’s been a sort of stigma regarding that kind of writing.

But then something odd happened: I noticed how much my writing has improved over time.

Suddenly I had a realization:  who cares if I’m taking a mini-break from my WIP? The important thing is that I’m still writing.

I will get over this dry spell for WIP, and when I do I will be stronger; because I didn’t stop even when the writer’s wall slammed into me.

 

Have you ever had moments of self-doubt like this? Moments when you question what you are writing? What do you think of fanfiction? 

 

Of Horses & Manuscripts

(Photo credit to:
Picdrome Public Domain Pictures, on Flickr)

Owning a horse and writing a manuscript are more similar than one may think.

I used to have a horse, her name was Autumn.

We would play tag and I would read to her off the porch of my family’s 100+ year old farm house.

Autumn as a foal was like a mirror image of my 8 year old self back then. Stubborn, strong willed and could not be tamed.

She was the closest thing to a best friend back then and I think I was a little scared of her.

Our manuscripts take up so much of our life, they can become like that bestie that is ALWAYS there. We have a fondness for them but sometimes we need our time to ourselves. And sometimes they can even scare us when they stop eating our plot ideas or they maim our most
favorite and loved character.

They carry our hearts within them and our dreams. Our manuscript can often reflect back the turmoil we may be feeling in our lives at one point or another.

But one of my biggest regrets with Autumn was that I didn’t train her or groom her as well as I should have. When my family moved, we couldn’t take her with us. But because she wasn’t trained we couldn’t sell her either, not that I wanted to, so instead we gave her to our farmer neighbor who already had a dozen horses. I would visit her sometimes over the years. The first couple of visits she would remember me but would turn her nose up in anger before trotting back to me in order to nip my ear or eat my hair.

Over time she forgot me, but I never forgot her.

I still have fond memories of Autumn, but they are bittersweet.

(Photo credit to: Brandy, on Flickr)
The lesson that can be learned from such an experience is this:
Manuscripts hold so much life in them, but without being trained they will end up just grazing for the rest of their lives breeding other ideas.
 
Just like a living thing our stories need to be nurtured and trained.
  • Feed: The more we read and experience life the more we strengthen our stories.
  • Train: Editing is necessary. It helps our stories to flourish and grow.
  • Groom: Polishing our stories and making them sparkle is important. We need show why our manuscript’s tale needs to be told.
  • Love: Be proud of your manuscript. It is it’s own entity and can’t be compared to others. Show it respect and reward it with some TLC by using one of the above options.

 

 
Has this happened to you? Have you let a manuscript go to graze? If so why don’t you go out and give it some TLC.

Writer’s Wall: Vignettes

Life happens, as the saying goes, and when it does inspiration can sometimes seem to leave us.

This week I’ve learned a very important lesson though:

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This can happen to all of us. Maybe we can’t continue writing our novel that day, but there is something else we can do.

We can write a vignette.

What is a vignette, you may ask?

The definition according to Merriam-Webster’s “Vignette”.

  •  a running ornament (as of vine leaves, tendrils, and grapes) put on or just before a title page or at the beginning or end of a chapter; also :  a small decorative design or picture so placed
    •   a picture (as an engraving or photograph) that shades off gradually into the surrounding paper
    • the pictorial part of a postage stamp design as distinguished from the frame and lettering
  • a short descriptive literary sketch
  • a brief incident or scene (as in a play or movie)

On a day where my chronological writer’s brain has not been functioning, I have written little one-shots from the POV of one of my characters. Sometimes my mind can’t think at all and I’m stuck in reality so I will write vignettes of my life that day.

This week has been a week where reality has struck me cruelly. So in the face of reality, I wrote.

(Photo credit to: me, K.A. Werts)

As follows, “The Waiting Room” (written on Thu 2/25 at 9:41pm):

 
“The floors clash and stripes of varying earth tones fail to hide the grime and scratches upon their surfaces.
Limbs stretch and muscles roll as we try to stay awake in the humid air.
The bitter smell of a tube of hell floats in through the open hallway saturating the room and turning our stomachs.
I swallow the bile that threatens to rise in my throat…
I will not be sick…
I have to stay strong for him.
The fact that this hospital has always held my fears in its bleached white walls cannot overwhelm me now. 
I have conquered this horrid beast before and I shall do it once more!
For love! 
After all, for love anything is possible. 
Great foes shrivel in the face of true love.” 
When the famed Writer’s Wall hits you what tactics have you used to conquer it? Has life ever caught up with you, too? 

The Write Kind of Perfection

I learned this week that I am imperfect.

(Photo Credit to Joanna Penn, on Flickr)

 Yes, I know, this might seem obvious. But it seems as though I don’t really realize this on a day-to-day basis. Instead I’ve had the tendency in the past to beat myself up for every little itsy-bitsy mistake I’ve made. So in turn I haven’t really been living to my fullest.

Similarly, when writing something that we deem “not good enough” we might scrap it immediately, because it’s not up to par to what the ideal of writing should be. 

In that way life and writing are similar. 

If we are too hard on ourselves, we can lose our motivation. Something we love doing can almost become like a chore that we put off till the last possible minute. 

How can we stop ourselves from stomping out our creativity?


A first draft is that a FIRST DRAFT. 

Google’s definition of a draft:

Draft
draft/
noun
noun: draft; plural noun: drafts; noun: the draft; noun: draught; plural noun: draughts

1.
a preliminary version of a piece of writing.
“the first draft of the party’s manifesto”

Just like back in school, we would write a first draft and then we refine it from there. 

Do you remember all the red marks, the comments and suggestions of your teachers?

All those points are to help us write the next draft, until we have a finished novel. This comes eventually, but there is much joy that can come from refinement and editing. 

Have you ever dealt with this in life or writing? What are some things that have helped you overcome the bad habit of over-criticism?

Writer’s Wall: Inspiration

(Photo credit to Tom Byrne, on Flickr)

I’d like to talk about a problem that faces all creatives at one point or another. The block, the wall, and the dead-end. The bane of writer’s everywhere, known as: “Writer’s Block”.

I have faced this terrible enemy many a time, won some battles and lost others. But over the last couple of years I have refined several war tactics to take down this fearsome opponent.
Today starts the first in a series, “Writer’s Wall”. I will offer up a tactic per segment.
Today’s tactic is inspiration.
I have found that inspiration comes in many forms.
Often an attack will come when we least expect it; thus we must counter with similar measures.
  • We need to surprise our minds. Try something new, maybe change your routine a tad. Perhaps change location of where you normally write, or go on a walk and soak in nature.
    • Our minds are like sponges; soaking in everything around us. Our settings and characters will take those memories and thoughts within our minds and convert them into actions and situations. When we change things up, it gives our minds a chance to breathe and soak in new things.
    • Additionally we gain more experiences that help us create ink splots upon our pages.
    • Another wonderful sort of inspiration comes in the form of an inspiration board.
      • Either created manually in collage format or by using a pin-board on pinterest, we can begin to gather more details for our works.
      • If you would like an example of a pinterest inspiration board, here is the one for my current WIP:
  • The final but no less important inspiration tactic I use are music playlists.
    • You can pick a certain genre of music to fit the setting of your story.
    • Many a musical playlist has helped me keep to a setting or theme of a story.
    • They are marvelous tools that can also be truly enjoyable, as well.
How do you inspire yourself? What kind of inspiration helps you when writing?

Create a Write Pattern

(Photo credit to Bob, on Flickr)

I’ve been making up stories since I was small.

Before I could write, I would make up songs with stories within them and daydream my way through far off lands.
When I got into school I discovered my love of reading and naturally over time this transformed my way of storytelling onto paper.

I tended to write in bursts during my schooling experience. I would write whenever inspiration struck, in wonderful moments where the pen held in my hand seemed to zip across my lined pages.  Those sort of writing habits fared me well in the school environment; writing between classes and scribbling down notes beside onto a notepad on my bedside table when I awoke from fantastical dreams. I wrote every chance that I got. It felt special, exciting and sometimes forbidden (when I’d write during class).

When I left school things changed. Life happened, as they say. 
I suddenly had to make decisions, I had to grow up.
My writing became stagnant for a year.
I tried some college, but it didn’t seem to stick.

It wasn’t until I started working full time, that I began to write again.
I wrote fanfiction and worked on a trilogy, neither of which I finished completely.
I never got past the 10 chapter mark, instead I was re-writer.
I wrote like that for a couple of years.

After I got married, I was fortunate to have the complete unconditional support of a like minded creative who encourage me to begin writing again. 
My method of writing that I had during my schooling years picked up once more. 

I took what I thought was to be just a breather from my series, and started a brand new idea for the wonderful time of year that is called NANOWRIMO.

I wrote nearly every day that November and had at the end of it 18k words of chronological chapters and words.

Finally I felt an achievement in my bones, and I wanted desperately to finish the story.
I had the ending crisp in my mind, and the characters had taken me on an adventure that I hadn’t ever truly experienced so accurately before.
I had also found like minded individuals on Twitter, who had cheered me on through the whole process.

Then I discovered the “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar through YouTube, and found #writechain on Twitter.

Finally it felt like all the puzzle pieces had fallen into place.

I needed to create a regular writing schedule and what better way than having a minimum word count for each and every day.

The idea was daunting at first, but  I picked a word number that I felt I could get in on even my worst day. And it worked, rest is history.

The lesson I have learned from writing every day has changed my life.

So here’s the kicker, I will not tell you that you have to write every day to be a writer.

Firstly, because that’s simply not true.

 
You write, therefore you ARE a writer.
 

But I do believe it is important to either set aside a time to write or create your own sort of writing schedule.

The main point of a writing schedule is to get you to write.
So often we can get stuck.
When you have goals, you are able to gather momentum towards fulfilling your dreams.

So what have you done to make time for writing? Do you have a writing schedule? Do you have any experiences to share. Please feel free to post below.