Posts Tagged ‘ exercise ’

Writing Prompt / Exercise – Character – Writer’s Block #2

driving writing prompt writer's block

We all hate being stuck so here’s another idea for a writing prompt.

I will assume you already have a character in mind here. If you don’t, that’s fine. Think of someone you know or a character who played a very small role in an old or current piece. This is aimed at giving you new inspiration you can either use with that character or rename them and use in a separate story.

To begin with, especially if you’ve not paid much thought to this character, much of their back story is one gaping big hole. Well, I’m going to attempt to get behind their eyes and into their driving seat with this exercise.

What does this character drive? No need for specificity here if, like me, you have little idea of makes, models etc.

Here’s the big questions in my head:

Expensive?
Colour?
Curvy or square?
Good nick or falling apart?
Rusty or smooth paint work?
Dirty or clean on outside?
Dirty or clean on inside?
How is it so dirty/clean?
What is personal about the objects inside the car?
What do the keys and keychain (if there is one) look like?
Is it their car or shared?
Is there a radio or CD player?
What sort of music is played?
Is it modified? Why &how? (where did money come from etc)
Anything broken/stolen?

These questions (and their answers) will tell you a lot about any character and a lot about what their house might look like, too. If none of these give you any ideas, maybe push to see what their room looks like or how their character traits (like OCD or slob) may bring about a crisis worthy of a story.

I’ll try this out with one of the more minor characters in my WIP: Melissa.
It should get me closer to her motives and shine a light into her character. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it will give me an idea for a new story, too.

Now, her car is…

Expensive?
Yes. She is a top reporter in her field. She makes a lot of money and believes she should show it, put herself above other people not just to look good but to get more answers.

Colour?
A grey silver. She’s girly but likes understated class in accessories and this way it goes with any outfit. (Clearer sense of her character is coming through here).

Curvy or square?
Curvy. Thinking two seater, too. No children in her family. Possibly single. Too career orientated.

Good nick or falling apart?
Great nick, not far off new. Maybe 1-2 years old. New car – recent promotion or bonus/bribe for job well done?

Rusty or smooth paint work?
Smooth.

Dirty or clean on outside?
Too clean. As if gone through a car wash just before it’s seen, only every day. A little suspicious.

Dirty or clean on inside?
Her bag on passenger seat when she’s in the car. Glove box has glasses, contact lenses and an emergency phone. Also has road service numbers taped to inside of door. Why does she have an extra phone?

How is it so dirty/clean?
She doesn’t do it herself. Pays to get it cleaned and regularly. Hates muck. Doesn’t get on with mother who is an alcoholic. The mess, clutter and anger got to her.

What is personal about the objects inside the car?
List of road services – can’t fix own car. No mechanical bent. Extra phone – undercover work business or dodgy connection to somewhere else? ¬†Picture of a smiling man hung around the mirror. At least 3 years old. He’s cute, would be around her age.

What do the keys and keychain (if there is one) look like?
Simple keychain with the car’s brand on it. Likely received on its purchase. No adornments.

Is it their car or shared?
Their own. Would not let anyone else drive it unless under duress.

Is there a radio or CD player?
Both. She likes audio books.

What sort of music is played?
Very little. She turns the radio off when the music comes on. Only listens for talk shows and news.

Is it modified? Why &how? (where did money come from etc)
No.

Anything broken/stolen?
The right mirror is a little wobbly at the joint – hit something and never got it fixed.

Hopefully this can help a few of you. It’s made me see another side to Melissa. Possibly a few reasons for why she’s such an uptight prude and so irritating to my protagonist. If nothing else, I guess this method allows me to see the human side to my villain-like character!

It has also given me a few clues to her past and the option of a romance story gone wrong (and maybe later gone right). This could be entirely separate or joined to my main novel WIP series.

Give this a go if you have the time and let me know what you come up with! ūüôā

I’m thinking on a few more exercises.

Holly Ice

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Inspiration to Writing

I mentioned many days ago in my Pen’s Catalyst post that I have many folders of pictures on my computer. These are separated into “funny”, “animals”, “landscapes” and “people”. The two that are most useful for writing are, of course, people and landscapes. Before writing this I counted how many pictures I had in each of these folders. The landscape folder has 446 and the people folder has 116.

This discrepancy perhaps says it’s hard to find characters you like or interesting portrait shots. However, my landscape shots tend to have a lot of pictures within them that aren’t strictly landscapes, too. This ups the total.

Below is a sampling of my people folder.

As you can see, I seem to trend toward black and white photographs. I’ve always had a love for them so I’m not sure if this is just preference of the timeless and placeless quality of them.

The main point of having all these pictures in a folder is to inspire me. Sometimes I look through the pictures and don’t do anything. Sometimes I’m just fascinated by the colours and compositions. This may be the old artist in me or it may be the subconscious mind gearing up to a new idea. Who knows, who cares; the main thing is the pictures improve my mood and, sometimes, get me thinking, too.

  1. There are many ideas in these pictures. The first one for example: is it a girl or a boy? Are they running over rooftops or jumping over a wooden wall on the beach? Is it a war zone or an industrial area? Are they a thief of in costume? Playing a game or poor?
  2. The second picture shows my love for eccentric individuals. There’s so much you can ask about this guy and what he’s doing, where he’s going. He’s one big enigma caught in a photograph that I can play with in my mind like a riddle.
  3. The third picture is similar in this way. Only, here, it also gets me thinking about how I can use objects in different ways and create a new world with new values and preoccupations.
  4. The fourth picture is in colour, showing I do like colour after all! But, it also makes me think better of mankind. There is a contrast of one man saving food and material belongings and the other being, in my eyes, a winner, as he saves some beautiful little tabbies from the horrid water. News stories can often be great for these sorts of shots.
  5. The fifth picture is a bit weird. It did what a lot of pictures do in my folders: it caught my eye and wouldn’t let me forget about it. I always save these pictures. They somehow prevent me from scrolling on by. That’s good. You should save them to. What makes a wandering net surfer stop, will almost definitely make a reader pause in wonder, too.
  6. In the next picture I love the colour and bleakness of the landscape. It’s one of the shots that has blurred boundaries. It could easily have gone in either the people or the landscape folder. Sometimes I put pictures in both when they’re really blurred so I can always find them when it may be what I’m looking for. This picture tells a story in the still. Is she suicidal? Why? Is she playing with balance? Is she copying someone she’s seen before? Is she a ghost? What does her face look like? The questions just keep rolling.
  7. Now, this man in the city is also very interesting. His shoulders are hunched in. Is it cold? His expression is very ambiguous. Is he happy, crafty, miserable? The blackness of him in the landscape amplifies his character, too. He’s important in some way. It makes me yearn to create a world for him, a day and a story.
  8. The last guy is just like a song turned to a photo. He’s peddling an instrument home on a bike. It screams France to me. It’s also pretty surreal. There’s no¬†discernible¬†building anywhere near him. So many stories could be made from him or using him as a metaphor. Perhaps someone is taking something else ridiculously big home or riding into nothing?

Now here’s a sample of the pictures in my landscapes folder…

There are all sorts of pictures here from the surrealist art to the natural shot of a landscape. They are all useful to writing. Perhaps the bedroom tells you what a character is like, the sort of house they live in. Perhaps a beach starts a love story or a castle a failed siege? Landscapes can be used as much as objects and outfits to create a character, too. Perhaps your Charlotte has the temper of an ocean or is as flexible in ideas as sand. These pictures span a swath of ages and genres to me. They have many different associations and yet are all in the same folder.

My advice is to create a similar folder. You have been told, I’m sure, to have a notebook. This is your digital image inspiration book. Keep it fresh and keep adding to it.

For somewhere to get you started, this forum thread is where I get a lot of my pictures. (You don’t always have to do all the work! Sometimes people with similar taste have done some compiling for you!) INFP Forum Post¬†¬†.

Now for the writing exercise!

  1. Grab a pen and notepad or a computer and blank document.
  2. Pick any pair of person and landscape and think about a short story or a poem including them both. The landscape doesn’t have to be the setting. It can inform their character. Similarly, the person doesn’t actually have to appear in the setting. Their qualities can be like a ghost in the landscape or the voice of the person describing the landscape. Give it a go!
  3. If you feel¬†adventurous, feel free to add an extra person or landscape to the story. Maybe there’s a whole novel in there somewhere if someone can connect the dots!

Good luck and tell me what you get up to here or here!

What Your Shoes Say About YOU :)

This is a little writing technique similar to ones I’ve been taught. I’ll show you two full outfits and then we can assess the character of the people who may wear them. This is easy character creation but also gives new ideas for how to describe pre-existing characters.

This is a woman Рunless you have transvestite or transsexual ideas for characters.
Now let’s think of adjectives for her; sassy, formal, well-turned-out, posh, snobby, moneyed, rich, spoilt, fashionable, workaholic, fitness freak, minimalist…
You get the idea. The clothes give you some associations to work from.

Here’s a very different outfit.

This to me would suggest insecurity because of the layers or a scene-ness. Perhaps a punkiness, casual, street sports, attitude, sassy-ness, talks back, stays up late, creativity, sexual, if not insecure than confident. Perhaps this is a bravado…

Try creating your own characters in this way – search google images or look on your favourite and most hated clothes sites. Or give these characters a go. View the outfits, form your own evaluations of their character and write a story with both of them in.

Let me know if anything is useful and share if you want to!

Is My Novel in Tune? *Writing Soundtrack*


It has been too long since I last posted. I went home for the weekend, enjoyed the countryside but this doesn’t matter.

Music is today’s issue. Long journeys are best for music – by car, by foot, train, aeroplane. They zone out those horrible little munchkins that sit and scream on their mother’s knee. Spoilt brats. They stop the incessant beat of some¬†hoodlum’s¬†tasteless music. Besides all that, they give you an excuse not to have to talk to the last individual.

However, music is helpful for writing, too. I usually find I need silence when I’m first getting into the world I’m writing. I need to wander through their lives and this takes concentration, not beeping alarms and drunken warbles.

These things are, of course, all very useful for inspiration…just not the¬†practicalities¬†of getting started!

A lot of famous writers have admitted writing to music, too. So, what’s the allure?

Does the genre of music change the subject or tone of what you’re writing? Does it change the speed in which you write? Do the beats of the music naturally occur in the prose/poetry you produce?

This exercise should give you some answers to these questions and help you plan a soundtrack to your novel writing hours, should you want/need one.

I’ll try it first and analyse what I get. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A computer or notepad & pen.
  2. A stop clock: Timer¬†(It’s free)
  3. Some videos/music from your mp3 player of choice.

I suggest you play the same songs/similar ones to me when first trying this to see if you get similar results but you are welcome to experiment.

The videos that I use (just below) have been placed on repeat. You can do this with youtube by going to the video you want and deleting the “uk.” or “au.” etc out of the URL bar before “youtube.com/”. Then change “youtube.com” to “youtuberepeat.com” and keep the rest of the URL the same.
Press enter and the song should be on repeat.

This allows each piece of writing to be effected by only one song.

Now, write without stopping (as far as it is possible to) and didn’t judge what you’ve written. No editing beyond¬†spell check! Deal? Deal.
You can either time your writing or just write till you come to a natural end. I’m the latter kind of writer so have set no time limit.

This is what it inspired me to write:

The door slammed, a splash of water ruining her suede heels. She wiped her eyes, smearing the running eye liner, and blinked into the night. Prickles erected the hairs on her shoulders as water dotted her skin. Ignoring it, she checked the alleyway.

A cat was under the rubbish bin, its eyes flashes of colour reacting to every headlight, but she didn’t notice. she only saw the¬†bin bag¬†pyramid, the wet rankness that went hand in hand with damp cardboard and newly watered walls outside a waterhole.

Smiling, she hiked her tights, pulling a new hole into the smooth material, and took out her phone as she headed for the main street. It was an old thing: white scratches nicked the paintwork and the often bashed screen dulled its back-light with tiny trenches in the glass.

The clap of her heels was soon hidden by the screech of old breaks in double decker buses, the distant horn of an angry driver and the always present whir of a police car on patrol.

“Drop the phone.”

The words were cut by the metal at her neck. It was ungiving, maybe a thumb’s width at most. But, he had a posh accent. He spoke proper. She thought she could reason with him.

“Sorry honey, do I-”

“Don’t turn around.”

She stilled her neck, bit her lip and dropped the phone from her hand. It crashed to the floor, the last straw in their abusive relationship, and split into parts.

This took me around 15 minutes. (Sorry, I forgot to time it). Obviously, there will be some problems with it as it’s a first draft and unedited. That’s normal. What I will try to work out is if there are any simularities to the music.

For one, I had it rain in the scene. This is intrinsic to the song. I also seemed to have played off the beginning of the video and the images of 90s clubs that the video showed. I went for a young woman around the age of Shirley Manson when she sang the song and the melancholy feel to the track played out in the dangerous swing at the end of this section of prose. It also shows itself through how unaware the girl is, caught up in her good night out.

The echoing feel of the music could also have played into the auditory sounds in the story; the clap of her heels, the splash of the water, the screeches and whirs of the street. It has brought more than just the sense of sight to the story.

It took about 5/6 playthroughs of the song to write this much but it didn’t bore me when I finished, I just found a natural break in the piece.

I’ll try this exercise again with what you will (hopefully) agree is a very different style of music. This time I’ll try my best to remember to time it!

I grabbed my shoes and ran out the door, bag over one shoulder. The bus was at the stop, the end of the road. One minute. I sprinted, the bash of the bag bruising my back. Damn thing. I gulped air and reached the bus door as the doors started to¬†squeak¬† The driver kept the door open, glaring. He’d have to deal. I nodded at him anyway, delivering my best good girl smile. His lips didn’t even move. Bad day or not, he was a jackass.

I moved down the bus, fingering the wire to my ipod around my neck. Most chairs were full. I could smell the nappy of a sleeping child. The mother stared out the window, eyes blinking with the break of the white stripes on the road. At least one person couldn’t taste the stench, then. Lucky cow.

A guy at the back was alone, reading the newspaper. The rustle was stupidly loud as I sat down. I looked over, to see what was so interesting. It looked financial. Boring.¬†I¬†covered my ears in music and zoned into my newest big thing: The Thumps. They had music right. It thumped, it moved, it sang. My feet bobbed on the chewing gum floor and added new black streak marks to its pattern. I liked to think of them as my feet’s sheet music. I’d be able to write it all down some day, after the classes, after I’d learnt all the moves.

the bus stopped and I jumped down, imagining a pirouette as I landed, absorbing the force of the fall. The great pillars of the contemporary dance academy posed above me. I forced my feet to a slow, decorous walk and tried to keep my face serene, serious.

It was a losing battle.

The inside was just as impressive. Wooden panelling reached half up the wall and above that leafy wallpaper spread to the painting ceiling. It was old world, grand. A bony lady, wrinkled and sat sideways in her seat, watched me carefully. She saw that my outfit was wash-bobbled, that the shoes wrapped around my wrist were scuffed threadbare. Well, fuck her.

“Sara Wilbury. I’m here for the six o’clock session?”

The grey haired matron checked her lists and grimaced when she found my name, checking it off; she couldn’t send me away, after all. Ha!

“Second door on the left. Be good.”

I snorted. I am and that’s her problem. You have to be good to get in here and this is not going to be the last she sees of me.

“See you again tomorrow, lady.”

I said the last with just the right spice of sarcasm and slipped through the floor to ceiling brass-knobbed doors. My first day. Here it is!

This took me 14 minutes and 16 seconds to write or 5 playthroughs. Again, there are mistakes. There are places where paragraphs need to be split or description added etcetera but it has the bare bones of a beginning.

The song actually really helped me for this one. The fast paced beat to the track helped me get into the mind of an energetic teenager who’s as excited and passionate about their day as a four year old on their first day of school. The prose therefore reads fast, almost as stream of consciousness.

The class issues it speaks about are probably what helped me create the conflict with the public and the secretary too.

So, give it a go. Maybe music can create ideas where you didn’t have any. As I can tell you honestly, I had no story ideas in my head at all until I started writing to these tracks. Give it a go! It doesn’t take long, promise.

You might even find something you like and want to expand.

Even if you don’t, perhaps this exercise helped in other ways. It’s possible it has taught you what works and what doesn’t. For instance, on a slow writing day a fast paced song might help you punch out those words or a particular theme of music might help for a certain genre of writing. Experiment with it and find what fits.

***The pictures in this post are all picture I’ve found after doing the exercises to give you something to go with the story, for the more visually¬†inspired. ***

As usual, I still have a twitter.

If you want to contact me in general though, feel free to comment or message me either here or there.

In case you’re interested, my next post will be about characterisation.

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