July 27, 2012

Your Life Is Your Novel

Continuing the idea from my previous blog about using your thoughts and emotions for your characters, I want to remind you not to miss the opportunity to use your own experiences and memories, too.

For one of my (currently half-finished) novels, a young girl reminiscences about her childhood, and every single one of her memories of growing up are my own childhood memories. It was a lot of fun giving my character the memories that I hold dear.

I also let my experiences aid me in my writing. Nothing is more truthful or helpful than a first-hand experience.

When I was nine, I came home from school to find fire surrounding my home. It was the most terrifying moment of my life, and to this day I still fear fire. If I smell the unmistakable stench of burning brush in the air, or see dark plumes of smoke close by, my heart starts to hammer inside my chest. I looked fire in its flaming eyes that day, and it looked back at me. Thanks to this horror-filled day in my past, I am able to intimately write scenes with fire. And I did in Flaming Crimes.

You may be able to watch movies about firefighters like Ladder 49 and look at real-life pictures of fire to write a convincing scene in your novel. Obviously, I do not recommend starting a fire or searching for one to get up close and personal with it.

Another experience that has greatly contributed to my writing is the spine surgery I had when I was fifteen because of scoliosis. The surgery and recovery were a difficult time in my life, but all the pain I felt, my scar, and the steel in my back, has (strangely) influenced my creativity. 

After feeling the pain accompanied with this surgery, I am now able to describe pain well in my writing, and I happen to mention spines quite a lot. Once I even said that my main character had a steel spine. (That’s also how I came up with my tagline: Thrilling and Romantic with Heroines of Steel.)

In conclusion: Any experience that you’ve had in your life can be used in your writing. If you have given birth to a child and one of your characters is in labor, think back on what it felt like, pretend you’re going through it again, and write through those imaginary contractions. Have you ever been punched in the face? Think back on what it felt like and use your way with words to make the readers grimace when one of your characters gets sacked.
TIP: Make a list of memories (good and bad) as well as experiences that you’ve had throughout your life. One day, you may be able to use them in your writing.

July 20, 2012

Your Thoughts + Your Emotions = Your Characters

I can’t stress the importance of characters enough. I have said it before that we are the characters we create, and I may say it again. Our characters come from somewhere deep inside us, and we give them life when we put them on paper. It is only natural to give our characters our own physical traits as well as our personalities. But why stop there?

Our minds are the wombs for our characters. It only makes sense to use our thoughts and emotions for our characters, too.

In my writing, I use my thoughts and emotions all the time. When my main character is angry, I pretend to be face-to-face with the person I despise the most. Sometimes, I really am angry.

Or when my character is overwhelmed with sadness and is praying, I think back on the times when I could relate to that feeling, and used what I would’ve said in my own prayer for the prayer my character said in desperation.

Using your thoughts will make your characters more believable. Using your emotions will make your readers believe the situation. It is also a great way to vent your pent-up feelings. So, feel free to infuse your novel with yourself and give each of your characters a bit of you.

SHARE: Describe your main character.

July 13, 2012

Creating Mood

Beneath a sky bruised with black and purple clouds, a woman limped down an alley. The pavement was slick with slime. Broken bottles and crushed beer cans littered the ground. Every now and then, she stepped over a used syringe. 
The air in the alley carried the stench of stale alcohol with a pleasant splash of raw vomit and human piss. Graffiti marked the walls; there were gang signs spray-painted in blood red, vulgar words scribbled in anger, and pornographic drawings.  
The further down she went she realized why the alley was known as The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Several ratty-clothed individuals ambled about lifelessly. Their skin was as gray and pasty as the skin of a corpse, their eyes were dark hallows, their lips were cracked and bleeding, and their bones stuck out of their deprived bodies. They looked as if they belonged in graves. Moans and sobs from lost souls bounced off the crumbling brick walls—souls dying one hit at a time. She was passing one of them when he jumped in front of her and grabbed her shoulders.

Mood is the atmosphere created by the setting of a story and actions of the characters in it. In the excerpt above, I depict a dangerous alley where low lives go to drink and do drugs. The mood is dark and mysterious, because I do not introduce or reveal the woman’s identity.

Mood also relates to how a reader emotionally responds to the setting and the action of characters. One example for how a reader can emotionally respond to mood would be while reading the passage in A Child Called It when the boy is cleaning the infected, puss-filled stab wound on his side. Reading that would make any reader grimace in pain, feel disgust at the ordeal this child had to go through, and even nauseous.

To create mood, depict vivid settings, give detail to the actions of your characters, and use emotion. You can do this with force like in Dave Pelzer’s book or subtly by describing a summer afternoon that makes your readers recall the dry, sweltering days from their youth when they would float in a lukewarm pool to stay cool. The mood for such a writing could be happy, leisurely, and nostalgic.

QUESTION: Has a book ever made you respond emotionally?

When I was reading Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells I did everything from laugh until I couldn’t breathe to crying with my face buried in a pillow.

July 06, 2012

Writing Beyond Chapter Six

Are you still reeling from writing Chapter Six? I know I am!

I have learned that writing about a fight is as physically exhausting as being in a real fight. When you finally finish writing it, you feel as though you need a nap and an ice pack for your head.

Writing action such as a death, car accident, fire, childbirth, or any event that is suspenseful is so mentally exhausting that you can feel it in your bones. If you feel like this, then your readers will also feel the effects of what you’ve written. Their jaws will surely drop, their eyes will become as round as twin full moons, and their fingernails will probably be invisible from biting them to nubs. And this means you did your job!
For Chapters Seven, Eight, and Nine you’ll want to continue the drama. More splashes of action here and there, and definitely a few more steamy passages will do just fine.

If you’re writing a murder mystery this is the time to start asking “whodunit”, and the investigation to find out becomes harder, trickier, and has many more twists and turns. If you’re writing a romance, this is when the characters start to realize they are falling in love. Or are they? Only you know…

Also at this stage of your book, your main character may struggle with a demon. This can be a real demon like a killer or an inner demon. Now is the time to bring it out so you can heighten their struggle the deeper you go into your story.

In other words, this is the time to let the domino effect begin in your book. You’ve already knocked over the first domino with that last chapter, now let all the other dominos follow suit and come tumbling down!

How to write Chapter Six: Writing Chapter Six

QUESTIONS: What book had the most enthralling action or heart-bursting romance that you have ever read? Which author do you think specializes in these?