Posts Tagged ‘freewriting’

Everybody has a secret, one thing that they’ve been too embarrassed, too ashamed, too shy, or too afraid to tell anybody else.  Secrets are gold mines for writers; name five novels, and I’ll bet you that at least four of them are based, in part, on someone keeping a secret from somebody else.

There’s a lovely site that you may have visited called PostSecret; anonymous individuals write a secret on a postcard, and send it to be posted on the website.

It’s a treasure trove for writers wanting to generate material; often, the sender doesn’t reveal anything about his or her situation, just tells the bare bones of the secret, and leaves the rest up to the reader.  A few that I find especially intriguing are here, here and here.

Take a look at the site today.  Choose a secret, and write about the situation that might have given birth to it.


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Ah, the Tarot. Images from movies and TV and books, of a Bohemian or mystical individual, laying

Robin Wood Tarot, magician

Robin Wood Tarot, Magician

cards out in an arcane pattern, telling us how our lives will progress, whether we will find love or win the lottery.

There’s both more and less to the Tarot than that; basically, it’s a series of cards with artwork depicting images of archetypes. Which is, of course, why they’re popular, and why they seem to apply to everyone’s lives. We won’t get into how, why, or whether the cards work on a personal level, though; we’re going to examine how Tarot can be used in fiction writing.

Because the Tarot are archetypal, they depict issues, traits and situations that are nearly universal.

Rider Waite Tarot, Fool

Take the Fool, for instance. The card shows a young man without a care in the world, with his head in the clouds, totally unaware that he’s about to step off of a cliff, and unheeding of the dog yapping about his feet, trying to warn him of his danger.

Who hasn’t been in this situation? We’ve all had moments of youthful foolishness, not knowing or not caring that there’s danger at our feet. Rather, we’ve been too wrapped up in the idea of adventure or love to notice any warnings the people and the world around us have given.

Each card of the Tarot is like this: each depicts a universal character, trait or situation. In fact, one view of the Tarot is that it is an outline of the Hero’s Journey, beginning with the Fool as the Call to Adventure, and ending with the World as the Hero’s Return. As such, the Tarot makes a very handy tool for writers. It can help generate material, or it can help flesh out existing stories.

Try this today: go to a free Tarot reading website, such as Facade, and choose a one-card reading. Read what the card means, and write. Let the card be a springboard for a warm-up or for a new story, and freewrite for ten minutes or so.

Soon to come: Using the Tarot to create characters.

If you find this post interesting, you might also want to check out the following blogs and websites:

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My computer died a couple of days ago.  Well, it didn’t completely die, but the video card did.  I didn’t lose any data; I just can’t see any of it.  Fortunately, my father-in-law owns a computer store and loaned me one until I can replace it.

For the two nights I didn’t have a computer, I felt like I’d lost a limb.  I sort of wandered around the house, not knowing quite what to do with myself.  I didn’t realize that the technology I’d thought of as simply another useful tool had come to play such a huge part in my life. 

I started thinking about technology, then in relation to writing.  Of course, technology plays a huge part in a lot of speculative fiction, whether in the highly advanced technology of futuristic science fiction, or the alternative technologies of secondary-world fantasy.  But technology doesn’t have to be vastly different from what we use now and today for it to be significant in fiction writing.

In what ways do your characters use current technology?  What roles does technology play in their lives?  How much of your plot and setting depends on it?  What happens if the technology they depend on doesn’t work?

If you could tweak one piece of existing technology to better suit your needs or desires, what would you do?  How would it affect other people’s lives?  If you could invent something that doesn’t currently exist, what would you create?  How would it change your life?  Your family’s life?  Your city, or your nation, or the world?

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I was talking with some friends at work yesterday about embarrassment.  Not just feeling mildly foolish, but the kind of embarrassment that makes you want to run and hide. The kind that makes you avoid certain people when you see them on the street.  The kind that comes back to you, years later, in the middle of the night, and you wonder what you could have done differently.

There’s a lot of energy in embarrassment.  It’s a universal experience; all of us have been absolutely mortified at one moment or another.  Thus, it’s an emotion that readers can readily identify with.

If you write fiction, it’s helpful, when writing about strong emotion, to anchor your characters’ experiences in your own; while writing about your own embarrassing moments might not be comfortable, your discomfort can help to make your characters’ discomfort more realistic, more palpable.  In addition, embarrassment and humiliation can be  strong motivating factors for characters; most people would go far out of their way to avoid being embarrassed, and most would go out of their way to redeem themselves after a humiliating situation. 

What are your most embarrassing moments?  Are they experiences that other people would find embarrassing?  What is your reaction to embarrassment?  What kinds of things in your surroundings do you tend to notice?  What physical sensations do you feel?  How long do these sensations last? What is the most embarrassing experience that you can imagine?

For fiction writers, what kinds of things would your character find embarrassing?  How are they different from or similar to what embarrasses you?  How does your character react to embarrassment?

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At work, between students, I frequently spend my bits of spare time poking around the Internet, looking for things to spur on my writing. So I frequently search for “writing prompts” or “writing exercises.”

There’s a certain kind of prompt that I absolutely hate; maybe it works well for others, but it doesn’t for me. It might look something like this: “Your character is a middle-aged advertising executive, at work after having a fight with his wife. Describe his first actions of the workday. Make sure to include the words orangutan, withholding, emptiness and pudding.”

This does me no good whatsoever. Unfortunately, this type of prompt has proliferated.

I use writing exercises for a few different reasons. I like to use freewriting exercises to warm up when I sit down to write; I find I’m more productive if I spend a few minutes scribbling as fast as I can without bothering to check spelling and grammar. I also use prompts to generate ideas and seeds for new material. I use specific kinds of exercises to strengthen my skills in fiction writing in general, and to strengthen areas of a given project.

So. For any writers reading: do you use prompts and exercises, and if so, how do you use them? Also, I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only writer around who likes prompts. So, where are the good prompts hiding?  I’m thinking of posting some of the types of prompts that I find most helpful here; what kinds of prompts do you find useful?

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I found a post today at Creative Writing: Writing for the Sheer Joy of Writing; it’s exactly what I needed to see right now.  I’ve been helping a friend through a difficult custody battle (I have to be in court with her tomorrow, to testify on her behalf); I’ve been helping my sister through a tough time of her own; I’m trying to find a new job; I’m trying to quit smoking.  And I’m trying to write.

I think it’s important, if I want to be a successful writer, to make it a commitment, a responsibility, part of my everyday life.  But that doesn’t mean that I have to let life leach all the joy out of it.  I tend to overplan, I think, because my time to write is so limited, but if I don’t allow my creative self to play, to explore, just a little, how can I feed it?

The post is about no-consequences writing.  Freewriting, letting oneself just let words flow out without checking to see if they make sense.  Let them meander, see if they lead anywhere.  They might, they might not.  Either way’s okay.  Either way, I think I’m putting less pressure on myself to get the prescribed number of stories done in the prescribed amount of time, and paradoxically, perhaps, I’m more likely to meet my goals.

Happy writing!

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