Tag Archives: writing process

Finding the “Write” Place

Am I going to lecture you on setting? I could. However, I find more important than finding the proper setting for your story, is finding the proper setting for you as a writer. So here are some important factors to consider when picking a location for writing.


Example 1: Natural setting with table and chairs

1. How easily distracted are you? This is a key element of choosing a writing setting. If you’re someone who is chatty, maybe limit your contact with people, if you’re someone who finds noises irritating, maybe keep headphones for less distracting music, or try finding a more tranquil environment. It’s all about you as a person.

2. The Internet Question For some writers, the internet is a trap, something that will pull them away from their creativity into countless hours of Youtube or pointless games or too much time scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or who knows what other social media site. However, for others they can avoid such and keep their internet for use of research or other handy writer tools. If you’re the former, I recommend doing research ahead of time and then going somewhere outside of a wifi network if possible to write.


Example 2: Natural setting, lounging

3. Comfort vs. Focus In one of my first writing classes I was told that as a writer you should be comfortable while writing. And I often find this method is useful, but sometimes it lacks the disciplined feeling that I need to really get work done. So it’s always a toss up. Write on my bed and feel comfy and relaxed, or write at a desk or table sitting upright, feeling more focused and ready to go. Both can yield results, it just depends what I’m looking for.

Example 3: The organized desk setting

Example 3: The organized desk setting

4. Brainstorm Shortfalls A few months ago I was setting in to finish my novel and posted a photo of my writer’s den on Facebook. I thought I had everything I needed: coffee, tissues, granola bars. However, my close friend commented reminding me of one crucial element I’d forgotten: chocolate! All jokes aside, keep in mind what you might need for writing for a long time. Be it food or drinks or money to purchase those if need be. Sunscreen for sunny days outdoors, or a jacket if it gets chilly. Brainstorm what you’ll need so you have no excuses once in place to leave.

Writing den fixed up with chocolate to keep me going!

Example 4: Writing den fixed up with chocolate to keep me going!

5. Inspirational Material Maybe you feel inspired sitting on the beach. Maybe it’s out in a grassy park. Maybe you like that coffee shop environment or even just a restaurant setting with people around you, energy to feed off of throughout. This goes hand in hand with my next suggestion

6. Define the Mood Maybe what you need is to get into the mood of what you’re writing. Put yourself into a place where you feel ready to write about something like this. Serene and tranquil- go enjoy that quiet park. Action packed and tense- Busy cafe or bench in the middle of downtown. Try to pull these into your considerations. Change it up, don’t write in the same place if it makes you write the same way every time.


Example 5: Natural setting, minimal comfort

7. Your Personal Soundtrack Maybe you need music to focus. Again, pick something that fits what you’re looking for in your work. Maybe intense film score, or a pop song for that angsty breakup scene. Maybe you want to get some nature noises to listen to if you’re stuck inside and need to attain some of the nature scene you’re looking for. Or maybe quiet is what you’re looking for. In which case, find a place that gives you that.

The main thing is to limit your possible distractions, put yourself in the mood to write, and find the best place to inspire your creativity! Keep these factors in mind if you can. The right place can be crucial to giving you the results you want.

Where and when do you write? What factors do you think are most important?


Filed under Writing

The Art of Character Creation


So I’ll just start out by giving a brief summary of my summer. I’ve been doing two things mostly: watching TV and nannying.

I suppose in a way these two share a connection, though that may come as surprise. I suppose what both have allowed me to reflect a good deal on is the art of molding a person into what we know as a character.

Character creation is one of my all time favorite parts of writing. Most of the time when I develop a person for my writing I come to love them to a point of obsession. They’re like my children, my own creations I know better than anyone else ever could. I know their quirks, their likes, their dislikes, the way they look when they sleep, the food they’d gobble up in a heartbeat, the person that simply brings out the worst in them, their dreams and deepest desires. There’s something so beautiful in that. And that’s why I think some of this summer has been so fantastic.

I’ve done minimal reading. Something about this break has made me frightfully lazy. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything about writing.

Though television perhaps may seem a bit of a lower standard in terms of studying writing, there is no denying a writer puts work into each and every episode that airs. And while actors certainly play a key role in helping give that character life, it’s the initial writer who first births the idea.

Unlike in novels or movies, viewers spend a large amount of time getting to know television characters, perhaps one of the reasons it is so important to develop the character to a greater extreme truly showing off their complexities and unique personalities. Most movies give you a 2 hour window into a character’s life. In that time, you might get to know them well, but so much time is devoted to plot that often characters can seem to blend back into the background creating the same generic feel of others in their genre. Not to say I don’t think there are amazing movie characters because there are films that can easily reduce me to tears (the fact that Pixar’s Up is the first one I think of leaves me a bit perplexed but nonetheless provides a good example).

Books are perhaps more in depth than movies often are, filling pages that take hours to read rather than a short movie time span. However, authors too sometimes must cut back on areas of character development. First person often gives a great insight into the mind of the protagonist and yet side characters sometimes end up becoming rather flat. Writing on this makes me think of my English professor’s little rhyme to help us remember character development techniques: what they think, what they do, what others think about them too! However, when the plot is over and done we don’t see the characters everyday normal lives to a great extent. We get perhaps a glimpse in an epilogue of he or she with children or a significant other making their way in the world, but it’s not the same as glimpsing multiple scenes of them raising kids, having fights with a partner, crying over the loss of a loved one.

Television provides a unique lens into the lives of its characters. You spend 45 minutes with them through each episode. And unless we’re talking about BBC most often, there are at least 20 of these episodes in a season, and the show could run for five or more years!

My mother got me started on Bones this year. I started in season 4 or something like that. And though I initially rebuffed the idea of becoming hooked on another television series, I soon found myself all too fascinated by Dr. Brennan and her frank and (sometimes too) honest approach to life, or Angela and how brilliantly she works computers, or Dr. Hodges who never fails to get excited by something gross. And yet part of what gives me such love for each and every one of these fictional people is that I get brief glimpses into their semi-mundane lives alongside the drama of the crime show. I see Cam struggling to mother a teenage daughter, or Sweets confused with his love life, or Brennan’s strained relationship with her father. And every episode, every season there’s a new real life struggle that I get to glimpse the character in to accompany the disgusting discovery of a new crime. And unlike in movies or books I often begin to get a sense that I truly know the character the way I might more as an author. For as writers we discover parts of the character’s normal life, we just don’t always get to include it in our novels.


Didn’t you say something about nannying? I’m sure I’ve lost a few readers and I apologize. And yes, I did. Nannying has been my second glimpse of creating characters and actually relates rather well to television. This is because my characters live more of an episodic lifestyle than one out of a novel or movie.

My kids’ all-time favorite game we play they call Orphanage. Children for whatever reason often seem a bit fascinated by orphans (perhaps the reason so many children’s stories include these individuals as protagonists). And so, we created a game of three orphans living in a home for other equally parentless children, all of whom find that the place they’re living is anything but ordinary.

There are probably fifteen to twenty other children in the orphanage. And I play all of them. The idea is I’ll slip out, put on a different hat depending if I’m a boy or girl and then step back in to act out my part as one of their compatriot orphans. Sometimes I’ll be having drama with one of the other kids in the place, other times I’ll bring news of something odd going on. We’ve had a bit of everything, from werewolves attacking, to petrified students with a basilisk on the lose (sorry JK Rowling) to strange spells, to aliens attacking. Most recently I’ve taken a page from BBC Sherlock’s book and have started making the children solve a mystery in order to save a fellow orphan’s life.

However, in the process of all this I’m weaving together characters that the children have come to know and love. And because I often play this game for four hours at a time, five days a week, for four or five weeks of the summer, for three years, the tales are often episodic in nature. There are new major plot conflicts, but also minor ones such as a girl rejecting a boy, or another orphan being adopted again, or one of them trying to escape unwanted attention. And in doing so the characters really begin to create a life of their own. You have quirky Nick the beat boxer who never fails to bring a smile to people’s faces as the somewhat goofy comic relief, or sweet motherly Anna who tries to run the orphanage as best she can when the adults fail, flirty Italian Antonio who never gives up no matter how often he gets shut down, or even obnoxious girly-girl Ivy who spends most of her time talking on the phone about her nails.

Both the kids and I have fallen in love with some of the characters. If we lose the list I keep of who’s who, there are always characters they are guaranteed to request, ones they’re sad over possibly losing, ones they fear for when threatened. Just the other day when the latest girl was threatened in order to get them to solve the little homemade treasure hunt puzzle I’d developed one of the kids commented, “No she’s our friend!”

And so this summer has reminded me all the more that making a good character involves truly knowing them. In a novel it can be a bit harder because you may have less time to let your audience fall in love, but I think a key part of character development is truly getting to know each and every person as an author, figuring out how they’d react in different scenarios, knowing more about their childhood background, understanding their interaction with others. My assumption of course is in doing this you help open up the reader to a truly unique person, one that almost seems to have life in spite of how fictional they might be.

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For History Buffs, English Nerds, or People Who Like British Accents

I haven’t read a lot by Phillipa Gregory. She is well known for The Other Boleyn Girl. The only book that I remember reading by her was The White Queen. If you’ve heard anything about the British king (Richard III) found under the parking lot in recent news that’s the era her book was set in.

She is a wonderful historical writer who does an excellent job of creating a story from historical events. As she states in the video, her work is based on years and years of research and education. As a result her books are well written, elaborate in plot, and dense in history.

For a British history nerd like myself she is a dream come true and I can only hope to have more time over the summer and spring break to read her other works.

I think the element I liked best in her video was her solution to stop writers block. I have not had an opportunity to try it but I have experienced very strong inspiration while on walks with my own dog, so I suspect her suggestion is a good one.

The other fact I found interesting about her was that she can write anywhere. During our classes study of writers most have said that solitude is where they get their best work done. Gregory is quite the opposite. She says she can write anywhere, just as she could read anywhere. I have to admit I am with Gregory on this. I certainly may be more focused if I write in solitude but I write in airports, the dining hall, my noisy dorm, and while watching a movie. I think the choice of solitude just depends on the individual writer. I admire Gregory for being able to pursue writing wherever she is.

So, I hope this gave you some good insight into what the writing process looks like for a published author (especially a historical one).

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“She Would Never Wear That!” And Other Statements on Creating Character


“No, no way!” I thought as I grinned at the image on my computer screen. Frilly pink bows, lots of lace, roses, and massive amounts of fabric swathing the form of a girl. I had lowered her eyebrows to mimic the scowl that I knew would be filling her face if she was a real person. “No, she would never wear that!”

What you are witnessing is a look into the creation process of a writer. More specifically this is the process of creating and defining the people who make up my stories and books. This is the birth of a character.

Most of my time in the prewriting process is spent on my character(s). Once I have some idea of who I’m working with the story can take off from there. Sometimes I don’t even know what exactly is going to happen in the book, I only know that this interesting person will take charge and hopefully make things interesting by the end.

So how does one go about creating character? Well, the creation is far from easy. I usually start with physical appearance. Once I get down the four basics of skin color, hair (color, length etc), eyes, and height I usually have a start. After I have those I like to google some images to give me inspiration for what other distinguishing features the character might have (this, my dear friends, is why I have hundreds of pictures of strangers on my computer…just in case any of you looking over my shoulder have ever wondered). Sometimes I won’t figure that out til a few months down the road though when I notice someone in my life with a certain feature I like.

Of course all of this is sometimes changed when I come up with a name.

I am usually very careful in the choosing of my names. There was only one protagonist I ever slapped a name on without consideration and it turned out to work (only by God’s help my guess). Even so most of the time I spend a while researching, looking up ideas for what would be best. There are some characters who I can never find names for. The process isn’t easy. The name has to sound good, it has to be appropriate to the time and place, and for me it also has to have meaning.

That is one particular issue in creating characters for me. I have to have a name that means something. My last character ended up named Nalin which means lotus. I chose it because the lotus is symbolic of estrangement from the past and forgetfulness, two things the character dealt with. The lotus also grows in murky waters, growing beautiful even in the unclean. The symbolism of that was perfect for my novel. And it served to define my young protagonist.

After name and features have been developed the character seems to start flowing on their own. Sometimes they will seem to adjust to the story a bit over time and I may have to go back and revise beginning sections (simply because I wasn’t seeing them clearly when I started writing and portrayed them badly as a result).

I talked with two of my friends who write novels as well and both of them agreed the process of creating characters can vary from book to book. Both said that names were important to them. Both agreed that characters created in role playing were often different from one just created in their own head.

So there are many ways to go about making a character and many tools to help. Need a name? One friend said baby name sites are a good way to start. I also keep a name dictionary on hand for times I don’t have internet. Appearance? Google is full of great options. I have also been investigating online “dress up” games to get me started. It has helped immensely with defining a character’s style and often those smaller features that are harder to come up with (eyebrows, freckles, ears etc). If you are more talented at drawing you may find that a good option, but my stick figures never come close to what I’m trying to show. Role playing games can also tie up loose ends and help create a well defined character.


A recent creation of a few characters

There is one last tool I only recently discovered. And that is self.

Just a few days ago someone was asking me about my characters and how much they are based on myself. Though most of my characters were a direct “no” to the question if they were based on me, there were a few who made me hesitate.

One of the books I finished had a lot of basis on personal things in my life. Whether I realized it or not the characters inner dialogue reflected a lot on my own thoughts and feelings. Some lines from the book were identical to journal entries a few years before.

I think this is an important tool a writer can use. The two other writers I talked to also admitted to sometimes using self for a basis. Our own experiences are often some of the most powerful. Our emotions are often the most real. And for that reason I think sometimes picking an experience or a trait from yourself for a character is not really a bad idea.

So, just a basic overview of all the possible ways to get those lovely people in your books to come to life. Hopefully using these methods will cause the character to start developing a mind of his/her own. Do any of you other writers have your own ways of finding your characters? Feel free to share. I love hearing new ideas.


Filed under Writing