Monthly Archives: April 2016

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method writing to get in your character's head

Method Writing: Getting in Your Character’s Head

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Want to creative realistic, jump-off-the-page characters that grab your readers by the noggin and worm their way in? Try method writing. I consider it the antecedent of method acting, since writers have been around much longer than their stage-treading counterparts. In fact, there would be no actors without writers coming up with memorable dialogue.

Method writing is simple, but it can be emotionally exhausting. You need to get inside your character’s head and pick apart what makes them, well, them. For me, this sometimes happens organically as I write, but only for characters with whom I strongly identify. Let’s face it, with them I am really writing about me, after all.

What about characters that are stark opposites to your personality? In order to write them authentically, you need to access your shapeshifting powers, slip into their skin and see how it really feels to be them. Here’s how I do it:

Method Writing 101: Becoming Someone Else

method writing sensory exerciseExercise #1 — Sensory Perception

This exercise is one that’s a favorite among method acting coaches. For writers, it trains you how to focus on your five senses and how they combine for an overall experience. This focus will help you when writing about a character’s environment or what he or she is feeling sensorially in a given scene. There’s what to do:

  • Get a mug of your favorite warm beverage.
  • Observe it without touching it; use only your senses of sight and smell to determine how much there is, how it might taste, and how the cup might feel in your hand.
  • Now pick up the mug and notice if your eyes were correct in observing the feel of the cup or the weight of it.
  • Move the cup from hand to hand and hold it in varying ways. Noticing how your fingers, wrists, and arms adjust as you change grips.
  • Sip the drink and hold it in your mouth. Notice the temperature, the taste, the mouthfeel of the beverage. Notice how your lips feel on the side of the cup and how your tongue moves in your mouth as you drink.
  • Swallow, noticing how the liquid feels going down your throat. Notice all the small things your body does in order to swallow.
  • Put the cup down in front of you.
  • Now repeat the exercise using an imaginary cup of the same drink. Concentrate on feeling the same sensations that you did when you had the real cup in front of you.

method writing emotional rangeExercise #2 – Transference

To write believable characters that don’t share your own personality style, you have to take their nature back to basics.

Let’s say your character is timid and apprehensive about everything. You are not timid, in fact you’re more of a “bring-it-on” kinda person in real life. How do you write a believably frightened character? Everyone, no matter their personality type, has experienced the basic emotions of fear, happiness, love, anger, hatred, etc. You just need to observe these more closely so you can apply them to your character. For Mr. Timid, do this:

  • Think of a time when you were scared. It could be anything: you almost drowned, a huge hairy spider dropped on your head, you got lost in the K-Mart when you were 5 and you thought you’d never see home again.  Got it? Good!
  • Now, think how you felt in those situations. What did you feel physically? Did you shake? Scream? Turn white? Laugh? What about mentally? Did you wish for help? Did you blank out?
  • Now expand. Your timid and frightened character won’t wait for a major event to freak out — he freaks out a little bit all the time. Take some of the adjectives and physical and mental descriptions you used when illustrating your terrifying event and apply them to his or her everyday activities: driving to work, meeting with the boss, taking a yoga class — whatever you need him to be doing.

Hopefully, these exercises gave you a taste of method writing. Join me next week when we’ll explore a few more to really help you “get into character” when you need to.

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee


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Learning to write simultaneous pieces with popcorn writing

Popcorn Writing: Learning to Write Simultaneous Pieces

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Here a pop, there a pop–everywhere a pop-pop. Learning to write several articles or stories simultaneously might seem like a tall order, but it’s actually a great way to increase your productivity and keep writer’s block at bay. I find when I have more than one project in the hopper I don’t suffer as much from writing burnout. I get stalled by frustration a whole lot less and my articles and stories seem to have some extra polish to them.

Learning to Write Simultaneously For Productivity and Improved Writing

So what’s the secret? Variety! Often referred to as the “spice of life”, a little variety in writing projects can definitely lend some spice to your finished work. There are lots of reasons why learning to write several things at once helps develop your writing skills and career, but I’ve listed a few of the most important below:

Lack of Boredom: When you get tired of writing that article on industrial laser diodes you can always jump back to your short story about invading cephalopods from outer space. Or vice versa. There’s never a dull moment when you have several different projects upon which to work.

Change of Style: Nothing keeps a writer on his or her toes like having to switch styles from hard-and-fast reporting to chatty blogging to stylized novel writing. This kind of back-and-forth between projects provides experience developing different voices and keeps you from getting stuck in a language rut.

High Achievement: Juggling several pieces and keeping them all going simultaneously definitely boosts confidence with a feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes sitting down to the same old pages each day can make you feel like a drudge. Keeping several writing pieces going at once gives your writing a more purposeful feel –and that often translates into more aggressive word counts and more bylines.

More Chances to Get Noticed: You may think your short stories really rock, but your article writing on gardening has suddenly become in demand and you’re beginning to get multiple assignments that pay well. If you hadn’t decided to branch out from your story writing, you’d never have known this! Choosing to explore writing in several areas broadens your horizons in more than one way. First, you get a chance to try out different kinds of writing–who knows, you may find that fiction becomes a passion while your article writing ends up just a hobby. Second, you may happen across a niche that really lights your fire like content creation, informational writing, ghostwriting, flash fiction, non-fiction book writing. And finally, you gain lots of writing cred from being diversely published and that can never hurt should you be looking for an agent, a publisher, a client, or querying a magazine.

So consider learning to write several things at once and experience all the glorious variety a writing career can offer!

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee


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The Dragon Dreamer book cover

Indie Book-of-the-Month: The Dragon Dreamer

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Book of the month author Jenny S. BurkeIndie Book-of-the-Month Author Profile: Jenny S. Burke

My indie book-of-the-month for April is the spellbinding fantasy The Dragon Dreamer, written by talented author and scientist Jenny S. Burke.

J. S. Burke has worked as an author, artist, chemist, teacher, and marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. Her stories blend imagination with real science and author experiences. Living on a ship far from shore, she learned to walk with the sea. The deadly sea storm that threatens her characters is one that she survived. Burke lives in Georgia with her family and rescue pets.

The Dragon Dreamer series is a science fantasy adventure with dragons, an undersea world, and unexpected friendship. It’s layered for readers age 9 to 99. The Dragon Dreamer grew from Burke’s years at sea as a marine biologist, a fascination with the alien, intelligent octopuses, and a love of dragons.

Burke is the author/illustrator of five marine research papers in science journals. Crystal Geometry and Crystal Colors are math/science education books with crystal kits. They are used in school systems and sold in catalogs. Fantasy Snowflakes Activities is an art/science coloring book with her snowflake mandalas made from animals and plants.

1) I know that you have a background in marine biology, but what made you decide to combine dragons with the depths of the sea in The Dragon Dreamer?

This wasn’t planned. I started writing a dragon story. I imagined dragon lightning games, winter festivals, traditions and legends. My young misfit dragon hero, Arak, flew out to sea and crashed in a storm. But the hero can’t die in the first chapter.

As I wondered how he could be saved, an octopus Healer appeared in my mind. I’ve studied their extreme intelligence, color-changing, shape-shifting abilities, and the strong friendships they form. I thought, “This could work. And, it will be unique!” I love describing life beneath the waves. It’s immense fun to write fantasy using my knowledge and experiences with the sea. The fierce sea storm that threatens my characters is one I faced.

I now have 76 reviews for The Dragon Dreamer. Readers like both the dragon world and the undersea world equally. So, I have TWO fantasy worlds, and alien artwork.

2) Was it difficult to switch gears from a hard science background to writing fiction?

A novel is just another type of writing, with a different set of “rules” to learn. I’ve always dabbled in poetry and fiction. I’ve read countless sci-fi and fantasy books. I tried to sneak a little humor into one of my science research papers, in the acknowledgements, and it was promptly deleted.

Science research is fascinating, but the papers are often “dry”. My novels let me give my imagination free rein! The worlds of The Dragon Dreamer series are very real to me, and fun to describe.

3) What was the greatest challenge you faced while crafting your story?

Possibly the pacing. I wanted a fast read, but I didn’t want to sacrifice too much detail. It’s an interesting balance.

4) Which character was the most fun to write, and why?

All were fun to write. Arak and Scree are my main characters in The Dragon Dreamer, so I spent more time with them. Arak is fun, as a dragon with a special gift. He grows from an insecure misfit into the dragon he is meant to be. Scree is my first octopus. She’s a very strong character, a fearless Healer who challenges convention. I have two minor characters that were hard to let go of in The Dragon Dreamer. So, Karoon and Dorali have bigger roles in Book 2. Drakor, my main ice dragon, is new.

5) Will there be a sequel or any other projects associated with The Dragon Dreamer?

I’ve nearly finished Book 2, Black Lightning, with the ice dragons. They are not as expected. I researched this new environment and developed a new dragon society, with its own legends, customs, hierarchy, and art. A new dragon entered my mind, so I’ve begun writing the third book.

6) What did you learn about the writing or publishing process from your experience with The Dragon Dreamer.

I learned how to write a proper novel. I learned about point-of-view, character arc, character types, story arc, setting the scene, pacing, leaving a hook in chapters, and more. A novel has many more elements than a science research paper! And, more people read them.

7) Tell me something that readers might be surprised to learn about you.

Art is my first love. I decided to become a marine biologist when I was 8, and worked toward that goal from then on. But I still draw, paint, make scrimshaw designs and original jewelry.

8) If you could give aspiring novelists one piece of advice, what would it be?

Novels are art. “There can be craft without art, but not art without craft.” Be an artist, and learn how to write well. This is a learnable skill. Thank you, Nikki Bee, for inviting me to do this interview!

Thank you, Jenny, for allowing me to profile The Dragon Dreamer as my book-of-the-month and giving us a peek into your writing process and this wonderful fantasy series. I’d like to encourage everyone to support this talented author by downloading a copy of The Dragon Dreamer NOW by clicking on the cover:

Find and follow J.S. Burke through these links:

FaceBook Author Page     Amazon author page      Website     Twitter      Blog    Newsletter      Goodreads

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

P.S.

If you’d like your novel to be featured in the Indie Book-of-the-Month author series, please contact me at gottabeeme@gmail.com. Just give me a brief summary of your novel and the genre, point me to where it “lives”  (Amazon, a personal website, brick-and-mortar bookseller) so I can pick up a copy, and include a short bio. Please DO NOT offer me a free copy (unless you are currently running a special on your novel). I like to support my fellow indies and I also prefer to be able to operate free of perceived bias!

Please give me two weeks to answer all queries — I don’t have “people” to help me out yet, so things can move slowly at times!

Thanks so much for you interest and for your support of other indie book authors!


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finding writers to follow and to avoid

Choosing Writers to Follow: Avoiding Writers with Misleading Credentials

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Finding great writers to follow who will share career tips and writing advice is a literal goldmine–pun intended! The problem is, there are so many writing mentors, book coaches, and blogging guides that it’s hard to know whom to follow to get good advice on advancing your career or learning to write for an audience.

While I can’t tell you all the little reasons you might not want to follow certain writers, I can give you one great big one that applies to all candidates. Don’t follow a writer who’s not really a writer, but an information marketer.

Don’t get me wrong: Lots of writers sell ebooks, guides, and courses to help other writers succeed (and make some money for themselves, too). That’s fine. There are tons of writers to follow that have great stores of wisdom to share and I am glad they’re willing to part with it. I’ll buy that ebook if I think it will help me further my career. I’ll feel good about it, too, because I am not only helping myself, I’ll be helping a fellow writer pay his mortgage. Win-win!

Writers to Follow or Writers Who Have a Little Secret?

The problem occurs when a writer begins selling ebooks, courses, guides, personal coaching, etc. for writers when they aren’t “real” writers after all. Let me give you an example:

Joe Writer writes a blog about his adventures as a freelance writer. When he gets a good amount of traffic, he starts selling books, courses, or other training about the secrets of the writing business. But wait! What has Joe written besides his blog? Oh, an ebook on writing that he first offered for free on his website. Okay–what else? Let’s see. Has Joe written any articles for magazines or newspapers? No–except to write about writing so he can promotes on his site. Oh. Okay, then. Does Joe have any other books published? No–except books on how he has this amazing freelance career. Mmmm-hmmm.  He’s has an amazing full-time writing career, but he’s never published anything except blogs and books and courses about himself?

There’s your sign, people. Don’t blink and miss it.

Now don’t get me wrong, everyone’s got to make a living. And Joe Writer has a great deal to teach others who either want to become bloggers or information marketers. But for those of us who want to become freelance writers or novelists, Joe’s got a lot of pretty words and not a lot of substance. If you’re looking for writers to follow to further your career in fiction or non-fiction writing, Joe’s not the answer.

Now, don’t discount a writer just because they offer how-to ebooks, courses, or coaching. I’m probably even going to do this myself one day. But I have a string of freelance clients, a published non-fiction book One Size Does NOT Fit All: Stress Management and a soon-to-be published fiction book. And other helpful writers do, too, so give them a chance.

In the meantime, if you feel the need to send money to an information marketer, choose Michael Hyatt. He now bills himself as a leadership/productivity kinda guy, but he’s got scads of publishing experience, having been the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He’s got two worthy programs for writers, Get Published and Platform University, both subjects he knows a great deal about. Plus he has loads of great (and free) productivity advice on his website.

What writer do you follow for career advice? I’d love to hear!

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

 

 


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