Writing

Do You Use Personal Information in Your Stories?

When it comes to writing stories, we tend to put a little bit of ourselves in our characters as well as certain situations. For example, at some point in our lives we have all experienced love, anger, happiness and pain. These things we can write about and readers can relate to such emotions. There can be other events and emotions we have experienced that can make such a profound effect upon us that whether consciously or unconsciously, can turn up within our own stories.

One of my stories in particular is based upon a situation that took place during my teenage years and all these years later, I still feel the need to write about it. In fact, this particular novel has been written, but is currently undergoing extensive re-writes (be it ever so slowly). The event is used as the trigger for a bigger plot, but it helps my main character evolve and help her find her own path to redeeming herself.

My characters can sometimes be a part of me, which can cause problems as I’m too close; however if we put too much of other people we know into our fictional characters, we could end up in all sorts of trouble. The novel that I am currently re-writing may have originated from a personal experience, yet I don’t want the main character to become a mirror image of myself; adding some quirks and putting her into some difficult situations creates distance for myself as a writer and makes the character less ‘Mary Sue’. It’s a matter of mixing things up and finding that right balance.

Writing is the way I express myself; I’m more comfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings in written form rather than in the spoken word. This is why I am a writer. I believe that writing what we are passionate about makes for better writing. Anything I feel strongly about will show up in my writing one way or another, and that includes personal situations; for example, hurt feelings can manifest themselves into stories that involve revenge (Warning: I have a tendency to ‘bleed upon the page’ so that I can do away with you as a character). 😉

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters or stories, either by accident or purpose? Do you find that writing what you are passionate about makes for better writing? Have you found a common theme in your stories? How do you create distance with some of your characters/stories?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Has Your Writing Ever Surprised You?

Sometimes as writers our work can surprise us. We may get an idea for a story where our plot can take us in a completely different direction than what we had originally intended. It opens up doors to possibilities that can broaden our research and make our story stronger.

Recently, with a new story idea, I had been struggling with the very beginnings and background to one of my characters. Once I spent some time away from this new story, I quickly found myself down a particular period in history and amongst some shady characters. It was most unexpected, but it has left me excited to pursue this and how it will shape the rest of the story’s plot.

Then there can be the actual writing itself. A lot of the time writing can be compared with pulling teeth, trying to find the right words and wondering what our characters are going to say next. It’s a wonderful feeling when we find ourselves ‘in the zone’; that special place where we are there within the scene as we write it, oblivious to our surroundings. Such moments don’t happen too often (or is that just me?) and such a natural high, that it should be savoured.

Last November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I had a rough outline of what I had planned and used a timer. I think it was these two things that helped me get over the line at the end of the month. Recently I began the task of going over my NaNoWriMo novel, and expecting the usual slush, I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading the first couple of chapters. The descriptions actually made me feel that I could see the setting; the season and the spaces the characters occupied. Sure it still needs a lot of work, but to have made such a starting point when I was racing against the clock surprised me.

Writing, like any creative outlet, allows us to free ourselves from constraints. When we give in to our creativity and just go with it, we can experiment and try different things. If we allow our characters free rein, letting them tell us their stories in their own way (some authors have said as writers, we are just conduits), such things can surprise us as writers, but always in a good way. 😉

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? Did you ever come up with a plot device you never expected? Have you experienced being ‘in the zone’? Do you allow your characters free rein?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Books · Life Lessons · Writing

Has Being a Writer Changed You as a Reader?

Some years ago I read a book that was popular at the time. It was not normally one that I would go out of my way to read, but there was so much talk about it, my curiosity eventually got the better of me and I borrowed the book from the library.

The book began alright and I gradually worked my way half way through it, when after a while, I felt the need to put it down. I began to wonder. ‘Is this it? How much longer does this go on for?’ The problem was – nothing was happening. There was no conflict, just people going about their business. I knew something had to happen eventually, so I picked it up again and persevered with it some more, but still, nothing was happening. There were no ‘blips’, just one long endless flat line. Boring! I didn’t waste any more time with it and returned it to the library.

A few years after this incident, another book came out that once again, people were raving about. My husband had become curious and eventually bought the book. He began telling me about the plot and thought the characters (made out to be intelligent people) must have been incredibly stupid if he could solve the problem before they could. Of-course the writer in me paid attention to that one straight away. My husband suggested I take a look at it. In all honesty, I could not make it past the first chapter. It was full of clichés and my writing brain couldn’t take any more. I began to wonder how this ever got published.

From these experiences I’ve come to learn that it is in our own best interests as writers to read widely. These two books may not have been ones I would usually read, but it made me aware of particular trends. It also gave me the courage to continue writing and work harder at my craft.

I quickly discovered that when a book doesn’t do it for me, to put it down and move on. Perhaps the real lesson here is that I shouldn’t fall for books that generate a lot of ‘hype’ and follow my instincts. 😉

How has being a writer changed you as a reader? Do you read books that ‘trend’? Is there a book that you’ve read recently that you just couldn’t finish? Do you see some published books as a way to improve your own writing?

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Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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