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Posts Tagged ‘exercises’

I have recently been working on finding quotes about a variety of concepts.  I started by looking things up for my wall at work, where my Action for Happiness poster is a little lonely because I have taken down some photos – I need to change things up sometimes!

I have subsequently been looking for quotes for other things, and other people.

I am not sure why they help but they do.  Perhaps it is the knowledge we are not alone in feeling something, or that a positive thought has a positive impact, or even that it gives us a different way of looking at things.

Whatever it is, it’s actually quite fun to look at lists of quotes.  As you may remember I was even inspired by a quote to write my poem Cicero and now I am pulling together a new set list I may well use that technique again.

There is power in words to inspire, delight, agitate and infuriate – and all of these can spur the writing imagination. Plus you might find a comic gem or two along the way!

So quotes are now in my basket of writing tools to draw upon when I need to spur my imagination – or my sense of humour!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have found my writing mind wandering rather a lot over the last few days, seeking out the perfect words to start a story.

It comes, of course, from studying the importance of language and the need to find the right word.

I don’t have a story, as such: what I want is an opening line.  A selection of sounds that creates a rhythm, a selection of ideas which form a substance.  A selection that say exactly what I want them to say.

But I am torn, because I know this urge to just write has to be contained in some way: I jump into writing with no plan too often and struggle to build a back story to support my beginning.

So I am going to try a new writing exercise, an experiment in control.  I am going to work at writing a great sentence, honing it and moulding it until it is exactly what I want – and then I will put it aside and start on another one.  And then another, and another and so on. But I will not use them; instead they will sit, ready and waiting, for my planning and shaping to be done.

It feels odd and slightly ridiculous to want to find a perfect sentence and risk never using it, but that isn’t the point of the exercise.

No, the point is that all sentences deserve that level of attention – and still they might never make it into a story.  Meanwhile I will get into the habit of working harder at seeking out the exact word I need, and checking for the sound of my work, in all aspects of my writing.

I am really excited to see what I can produce!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

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I am continuing my work on setting for another week as I lost some time over the last few days and need to finish off some half-thought ideas.

One of these is about the emotional response a character will have to a place, and how this can be conveyed.  I did a couple of writing exercises on this recently but I wasn’t happy with the outcome and know I need to improve in this area.

We all have emotional responses to places, and our characters should be just the same.  The response could be completely logical – a sense of happiness where they met their partner, a feeling of dread from their old school hall imagining sitting their exams.  Perhaps a sense of desolation when walking through a cemetery towards a funeral.

But there are also illogical or unexplained feelings: feeling at home in an empty house they are viewing, or of loss as they stand in ancient ruins. Feeling frightened, nervous, or overwhelmed: allowing your character’s fight or flight reflex take over.

It is my job as a writer to build these feelings into a story in a way that is relevant, meaningful, and subtle: no-one wants the subtext slapping them in the face every few pages!

They have to be integral to the experience of that specific character in that specific place and are a reflection of the world as seen by your character.

In fact, you need to know the related backstory e.g. she feels nervous on busses because one of her earliest memories was of falling down the stairs of a double decker; he feels sad in the old shed because his grandfather used to take him fishing and it’s full of his grandfather’s old fishing rods which haven’t been used since his heart attack.

I know what I need to do and I am going to put my attention to it this week. People are strange, as The Doors told us.  By using setting and emotion more effectively I can explain why!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

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In real life, you probably feel thousands of things without even thinking about it: the chalkiness of a washing tablet, or the roughness of a cheap pair of jeans, or the greasiness left on your fingers after eating a cake.

In writing, feeling is meaningful.

Now, I appreciate that may seem a huge generalisation but as a reader do you expect everything a character physically feels to be described?   I am sure the answer is no.

So the next question – why does a writer choose to describe something?

The writer has to make decisions about what they believe adds something to the story.  If you read that a character is laying on a bed, it tells you very little.  If you are told he is laying on clean Egyptian cotton sheets which still hold the scent of a summer breeze, you learn something – he is in a comfortable, homely place.  If you read he is laying on a gritty, grubby, sweat-stained mattress where he can see the fleas jumping on and off his skin, you know he is somewhere down at heel, possibly dangerous and certainly not somewhere he would aspire to be.

How things feel has a big impact on the reader’s understanding and our job is to give the right information to lead them down the path we choose.

There’s also an element of character that can be built through feeling: from the extreme e.g. Nathan in the TV series Haven who couldn’t feel anything until he was touched by the woman he loved, to the more everyday experience of Grace’s rough working hands in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace which were a result of her place in the world. 

And of course it’s part of setting, which continues to be my focus.

I am currently reading with this concept in mind as a way of exploring different stylistic choices.  For me as a writer, the key is to use feeling to add detail to a scene.

As a reader, I don’t want to notice the technique, only be drawn into the story.

Having both elements in balance is the skill I am trying to hone.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

 

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This week I was intending to focus on setting, which I have, to a degree. I’ve thought about spaces, locations, elemental/environmental factors, and I was getting on with that relatively well.

But today is snowed, and although I have weather in my notes it made me think I have been a little too prescriptive.

I have the weather as an environmental factor either enclosing a space or impacting on the experience of an external setting.  Standing outside in the snow I realised it is more than that – it is about safety, or danger, comfort or discomfort, enclosing people in the setting of their own bodies, seeing nothing but their own breath or blinding them with brightness.

I will focus now on the wider experiences of setting and how it impacts on the physical body and the emotional and mental experience.  That will be the task for the next week.

Meanwhile, I have also found myself doing something I haven’t done for a long time: writing down ad hoc conversations between as-yet undefined characters.  It’s those weird little conversations that run through your head when you are inspired by something you see; those little moments that somehow spread out into an entire scene in your head.  I am keeping records of them so I can use them once I have finished my work on setting.  Maybe if I have enough, I will be able to link them like spiderwebs and they will make a whole story!

So although I missed an element I am glad to have the opportunity to continue working on it.  I’m pleased I have given myself time, as well – it’s taken me back to the basics of writing, and thinking more deeply about what to put on my page.  I feel like I am working at my craft, not just throwing ideas on a page and seeing what sticks.  It’s a good feeling 🙂

I hope your new year is going well too!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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Last week was a bit same old, same old – rushing about, fitting writing into small gaps that I eked out here and there, not getting into the writing task list as well as I had hoped.

So writing about it would create a post interchangeable with a number of others because this is the pattern at the moment. I have to thank you for sticking with me when it’s clear my writing life this year has not gone well at all!

So instead I will look forward; I will take the good, and build on it.

The exercises are proving to be useful: I am working, I am talking about writing, I am getting inspired. I am excited about filling up pages.

Importantly, I am making writing a habit again, because we all know that’s what it needs to be – something like brushing your teeth, a daily activity that you do without question.

This week I will be doing exercises on bibliomancy and alliteration, which will be good fun. I’ll be using my magnetic poetry kit to create some little ditties for my husband’s amusement when he gets the milk out of the fridge in the morning. I will continue teaching our overseas consultants odd words and phrases in English, and learning a few in other languages too, I hope!

In other words, I’ll keep making writing, and words, a part of life.

Just as they should be!

Happy writing,
EJ
🙂

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This week I did a really great writing exercise. It was simple, and I chose it because it was quick so one of my lunch break ones, but I got so much more out of it than expected.

It was one in which I had to focus on me, and because of the way to exercise was written, it inevitably got me thinking about s specific period in my life. I said last week that I’d been visiting universities and I imagine that is why I ended up thinking about my own experiences as a student for this task.

What it got me doing though, which I hadn’t really imagined, is to start writing a character. Partly it’s the me I was at 18 just starting an amazing and exciting period of my life, and partly it was an imagined version of who that character could have become. It went from being an autobiographical account to a future me that never existed.

It’s like the Sliding Doors principle: if I’d taken a different door I could have ended up a different person from the one I am now. That is the character that developed as I wrote.

It was a really exciting way to develop a new character – one that is potentially repeatable with other individuals I know or remember.

There’s always a fine line between developing ideas based on experiences and using other people in your work without permission, and it’s a subject I have covered before. However, I think this is a really safe way of using personal knowledge and experience because you are creating someone new based on hypothetical responses to imagined events – the real person is just a springboard to get you thinking.

It’s definitely an idea to explore; I’d like to try it out with my husband answering a few questions so I get a feel for how it can be adapted to use biographically rather than autobiographically, but it’s a good start for my hour of thinking about how characters can work in a particular storyline.

I was so enthused, I had to tell you about it!

In other news – Fred is still in peril, although he’s about to time jump out of the fire and into the frying pan… I need to finish his story before Christmas so he’s in for a speedy conclusion to his travels in time.

Writing group concluded for the year with a discussion about the balance between the cleverness of writing and the intricacy of a plot.  This was a particularly interesting topic because we have all read books with great plots that were virtually unintelligible, or which were beautifully written but devoid of engaging plot or characters to keep you interested. For me, good writing is accessible writing, and the more pretentious it sounds the less I think it has anything of interest to say.

Finally, from a writing point of view, I have not yet decided on a course but as some start in January I need to get into gear and choose something.  Fingers crossed, it’ll be done by next week!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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