I thought I would collect my prompts for this week, scattered with a few tips and reminders. You can download a PDF version at the bottom of this post! Happy Sunday!
One of the first things I do when I am working on editing my writing is I go back and look for words like horrifying, delightful, and so on. I reread the passage and see what I can do to show rather than tell. Usually, it means ramping up my characters’ actions and my descriptions.
This is one of my favorite things to do. It is a great thing to do with a friend because you can bounce ideas off of them too. Try to get a feel for the words that are said and the actions that accompany them. When you are writing dialogue, try to think of the actions that would show what your characters are feeling:
“That’s insane.” Kristie flicked the lighter and brought it to the cigarette clinging to her lips. “You can’t possibly be thinking of sneaking into Eric’s house.”
Tom shook his head. “Listen, I don’t like this plan any more than you do.”
“It’s suicide.” The cigarette wobbled, and Kristie’s hand shook, missing the tip with the flame. She struck again, and the end glowed brightly.
Creative synesthesia is one of my favorite ways to spice up my writing and add in a little figurative language. Just be careful, you don’t want to do too much of this one. Her laughter tasted like strawberry wine and felt like Sunday morning.
Also, if you are looking to fall into a rabbit hole of interesting things, check out these artists who had synesthesia: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140904-i-see-songs-in-colour
For me, that place is along the irrigation canal behind my house. This canal runs down a spillway creating a cacophony of sound that slows my mind’s crazy tumble of ideas and jumbled thoughts. It can be anywhere, and it might be several different places, one for each day of the week or one for the different emotions you are experiencing. The important thing is to have that place you can go to write. That place where you can’t help but to write.
I like to use motion or natural progression in my descriptions. Faulkner is a master at this. Here is an example of what I am talking about from The Sound and The Fury:
I could hear Queenie’s feet and the bright shapes went smooth and steady on both sides, the shadows of them flowing across Queenies back. They went on like the bright tops of wheels. Then those on one side stopped at the tall white post where the soldier was. But on the other side they went on smooth and steady, but a little slower. (7)
Notice how he uses the movement of the shadows to describe going in a circle. Another way to employ movement is to explain something through the character’s actions. For example:
Miles reached up and scratched his cheek. He ran the fat part of his thumb over an angry scar that cut a line from the square of his jaw to the wrinkled edge of his mossy eyes.
This is a fun one! Let me show you what I mean. We’ll use the character trait of impatience. Say our character is always impatient. Our list might look something like this:
- Constantly glancing at a wristwatch.
- Fidgets when something starts to take a while.
- Races through a meal without tasting much of what they eat.
- Talks quickly and uses short sentences.
I know, I know, a man with a gun doesn’t work with every plot line. I think what Chandler is trying to get at is that your story can always benefit from more conflict. This goes along with the advice to be mean to your characters. Throw something new at them. Don’t forget to think outside the box and don’t just go with standard man versus man conflict. Also, if you haven’t done so already, read some Chandler. He’s a hoot.
This is a great one because it is easy to say that your character is angry, but writing is so much more compelling when you show your reader that the character is angry. Here is an example from one of my manuscripts:
Liv growled in exasperation and abruptly stormed into the kitchen. She snagged two cups from the cupboard and set them on the counter with a thud. Her movements were jerky as she tried to pour the dark liquid into the mugs.
Liv thrust the coffee at him, and he accepted with a bewildered look. He moved to take a sip but before the first drop could pass his lips she snagged the coffee mug out of his hands. “You need to leave.”
Her hands were too shaky. The mug slipped from her grip, tumbled wildly through the air and landed with a crash.
This is a great prompt because it encourages you to write from your emotional center. There will be more power in your writing when you can tap those feelings that try to hide in the safety of your heart.
Weather is an important part of your story. Use this to your advantage, just beware of cliches. Perhaps your character just received great news. Do the rain drops dance with her? Does the wind tug playfully at her hair?
This Last one is pretty self-explanatory: Write, write, write! You can find a downloadable version of these prompts right here: I thought I would collect my prompts for this week