Creative Series III: The Creative Writer

So, why develop a blog about how to write creatively?

puzzlementSome of us DO have problems writing creatively (or thinking of what or how we want to express ourselves) at times. How do I know? Probably because I have been a professional trainer for the better part of 40-odd years. (Yes, I started as a student, teaching other students how to write, when I was in high school. So yes, I know what I’m talking about.) For some of us the writing process, especially writing when you don’t “feel” like writing is really hard. Some of us feel that it is so difficult that we will downright procrastinate when we set ourselves down to write, or we may even “throw in the towel”, convinced that we can’t write creatively. We may even be feeling ill, perhaps we are feeling emotional about something happening in our lives or just feeling “plain, old, lazy”. So as a writer, what do you do?

The way to set your mind straight.

straight_mind

If you are a person who has ever held a position in a company for a period of years, how were you so successful in doing so? How about if you are a mechanic, who gets up at 5 A.M. and doesn’t stop until 9 A.M.? Or if you work in an office? You arise at 5 or 6 A.M. to get ready to go to the office to start work at 8 A.M. or 9 A.M. and you stay at the office until 5 P.M., get in your car or wait for the bus to return home so that you can start the process all over again in just a few hours. If you think about writing as a business (YOUR business), you are setting your mind along a specific path to success as a creative writer. The difference is that you are self-employed, so as a result, you answer to…you. Write like you are going to the office:

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  1. Set your alarm
  2. Take a shower
  3. Fix yourself up, put on some clothes (no underwear or pajamas)
  4. Eat your breakfast
  5. Go into your office or travel to a location where you can write undisturbed
  6. Look around you for a moment and pick up where you left off

I don’t know where to start, or I don’t know what is next.

mind_map

As a writer, I always map out everything before I write. It’s known as an outline. Would you like an example? Okay. Here is an example of me in with “my writing pants on”.

Creative Writing Exercise

I am looking at a magazine on the rack in my local Barnes & Noble Booksellers (isn’t having a local bookstore to visit, rather than depend on a website, marvelous?) I happen to look at a sports magazine today, seeing a picture of an island getaway on the cover. Let’s take an island in the Caribbean that we have always wanted to go to for a visit. Let’s go to Turks & Caicos, located in the Atlantic Ocean. Do me a favor, go to the link that I gave you and look at the island.

TurksAndCaicos

Look at the history of Turks & Caicos islands.

Just where exactly is Turks & Caicos in the Atlantic Ocean? Is it next to some hot spot country with all kinds of problems that you read about in the news? Here is what I do, I grab the CIA Factbook online for answers. At the very bottom of the CIA Factbook, are any problems that might be occurring in that country or island. Is it a spot that is not written about, except in travel journals? I have a character who is visiting the islands for a vacation. Can you see what is going on in your mind? Picture the person getting off the plane, not in an airport, but stepping off of a runway ladder into a brilliant sunny day. Our character can see the ocean from the top of the runway ladder.

thinker

What is our character going to do in Turks & Caicos?

As a creative writer, I was always taught to get my character in trouble, and to do it at a moment when I personally, least expect it. So, I put myself in my character’s shoes. What can happen to our character, as soon as our character gets off the plane? Are you seeing where I am going with this example? Click on the links that I gave you prior to this sentence, they are links to real life dramas that unfolded on vacation islands. I am giving you an example which required no thought, no real outline at first, but now that I am seeing a video in my head about my character, now I can start mapping out my story.

whereDoYouGo

So, now that I have you thinking about Turks & Caicos, what can happen?

Let’s start an outline…a very brief outline of our character and our story. I’ll make it easy for you. Follow the link that I gave you from Writer’s Digest, download and print out what they give you for your story and start getting an idea for this story. If our story going to be a drama, mystery or comedy? Is the island we are on filled with corruption?

knowledge-history

Take lessons from history.

There are all kinds of things that could happen to our character. Think of everything we could do with this character, not to mention the plot or story. We could start in our time, even go backward in time to…perhaps…the days of the pirates, when Turk and Caicos was beautiful and very, very dangerous. So, our story could shift from being a murder mystery to a fantasy time travel sort of story. What kind of fun could you have with that kind of story?

When I was in the service, my ship had docked at St. Thomas for about a week.

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I remember one of our guys was attacked, leaving a taxi. He was so drunk that his attackers had no problem surprising him, beating him down with baseball bats and taking his wallet. He had 17 stitches into his skull the next day. How do I know? Because I was the person assigned to escort him to a neighboring ship, so that the ship’s doctor could suture his injuries. Our next port was about 4 weeks later. The shipmate who was attacked had been received his new paycheck, with a new ID card, so that he could get off the ship. He went out much wiser that night, not drinking so much, but became involved in an incident, because he “wanted some payback”.

equality-gender

Is our character male or female?

In our day and age, is gender THAT important? Yes! Gender is still an important issue today. When it comes to sales, it can sometimes make a huge difference. We (the world) are still in the center of controversy, when it comes to the differences between men and women. Your story could reflect those differences. A strong female character could mean a crucial difference between selling 500 copies and 50,000 copies or more. If you are a male and writing about a female, you better do your homework. If you are a female and writing about a male, use a fantasy you have about how a male should be.

Why am I saying this?

randy_pausch_book

Even Randy Pausch had to tell his students, “No shooting violence and no pornography. Not that I’m opposed to those in particular…but that’s been done in VR. All right? (Laughter from the room.)” Randy then added, “And you would be amazed at how many 19 year-old boys are completely out of ideas, when you take those off the table.”  Men rarely grow up. So, if you are a male…and you ONLY want to write to a MALE audience…or if you want to stay in a particular type of genre, I suggest that you try something different.

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Is our character someone who will fight back if provoked?

We want to get our character in trouble and keep getting our character in trouble. Or as one might say, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Many travelers can get caught up in trouble. Trouble may come in the form of animal attacks as well. What about diving off the coast of the island, maybe a tour…and our character is involved in a shark attack. We could have our character survive a natural calamity, based on a theory that methane bubbles could have been a cause of the Bermuda Triangle.

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All you need is a little research.

Now, let your imagination run wild!

quizzical

Next in our series: Breaking it down: How to Breathe Life Into Your Character.

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