Can you force story ideas?

Can you force story ideas?Sometimes story ideas seem to blossom out of the ether. One moment your mind is wondering about the to-dos of daily life and the next you have an idea for a story that seems complete from beginning to end. Nice. Sweeeeeeeet! 

But what happens when these ideas just aren’t there and it’s been days and weeks and, like an addict, you feel the need for a bit of flash? What do you do?!! Can you force story ideas? Do you wrestle an idea from your imagination like some premature pimple or do you chill, sit back, relax and wait for it to mature and explode fully formed?

A bit of each, I think.

If your head seems void of story words, you need to feed it, fill it up, then switch on the tap and keep it flowing until all the dregs run out and pure water flows.

From my experience, here are a few things to keep the process flowing and story worlds building.

ONE: READ. Dammit! Just READ! Read fiction. Read flash fiction. Read short stories. Read story magazine. Read novels. Read newspapers (another kind of fiction all together).

TWO: Don’t bother about word count. If you get stuck on a short story that feels like it needs to end but you’re only 500 words in, then end it! The right length for a story is as long as it takes to tell. No more, no less.

THREE: Ask questions about what you see around you. It’ll spark story after story…

Examples:

If you want stories to flow, you need to give them something to feed on, then open the lid, switch on the tap, spill the bucket… whatever metaphor works for you, and write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 140 character twitter story or a novel. A story is a story, no matter how long it takes to tell.

Be awesome folks.
Tina K.

Meditation makes you a better writer – tips from a layman

Can meditation make you a better writer?Have you ever taken a moment to stop and pay attention to what’s going on in your head? Do it sometime. On a random day, at a random time, just tune into the flow barreling through your mind. The noise might surprise you.

You’re likely to find a constant barrage of ideas, commentary, things to do, repeated conversations, wishful thinking, arguments (ones you’ve had, ones you want to have, ones you lost and what you could have done to win). It’s little wonder that when you want to write, it takes a moment to get into it. The writer in you needs a break from the normal chaos in your life. That’s what meditation is for.

Now, how to do it is something else…

The amount of information and how-to on meditation that you’ll find on bookshelves, let alone the net, will add so much to the noise in your head that you’re likely to quit before you start! Views range from “It’s the hardest thing to get right and it’ll take you a lifetime to learn” to “Just sit and breathe and hey presto, that’s meditation”.

Meditation tips from a layman

ONE: I don’t believe you need to twist yourself into a knotted lotus. In my own experience, pain is a distraction. So sit comfortably. Find a spot you can be a little while without falling asleep. I have a chair in our conservatory that seems to be my sleeping chair. No matter what I intend to do in that chair, I fall asleep. Sit anywhere else, and I’m fine – bright, shiny and alert. So don’t try meditate in bed or your sleeping chair.

TWO: Spend what time you can. Even a minute helps. Use the app (see below – there are plenty in various app stores, but I really like this one), set the timer for what time you have, then go Zen. One minute, 60 minutes. Doesn’t matter. It’s better to do one really good minute than struggle to do 60 and end up using your meditation session as a “fret about what I’m not doing” session.

THREE: A ton of stuff will fly into your head from issues in your life to characters and story lines. The whole “empty your head” thing is something that comes with time I guess. I sure as hot-coals-on-bare-feet haven’t got it yet. In the beginning, noise will fill a vacuum so instead of trying to empty your head, find you can’t, get frustrated and give in, focus on your breathing. Really get into your lungs. Make a physical commitment to following your breath – follow it into your body, around your body and out again.

FOUR: Beware of your creative mind! Follow your breath, as above, but you’re a writer so be careful where that little trip takes you. If you find you’ve followed your breath from your lungs, into your limbs, out the soles of your feet, into the earth, through the planet all the way to Australia (or wherever is opposite you on the globe) and into a bar where “your breath” is slinging a few back with the locals, then you’ve lost it! Come back to your lungs and follow your breath in the confines of your own body.

Cool site, an app and a one-minute meditation “how to”

Here are my favourite resources. Hope they help.

ONE: This is a site simple, gentle, no messing site about what meditation is. I find any time I’m struggling with it or just not finding time, I pick a random page and have a read. It’s a gentle site that doesn’t bully you into anything.

TWO: I love this app. It’s called Insight Timer. It’s a free app for Android and Apple. You can join the meditation community if you like, or just use the timer itself. You can set different tones for sessions. A “Piiiiinnnnnggg” to start your sessions and deep, resonating “Bonnnnnnnnnnnggg” to close your session. Up to you! It’s no nonsense and easy to use. Last thing you need if you want a 1 minute meditation session is to spend 5 minutes setting the timer!

THREE: This a really cool little video on how to meditate for just a minute. Time is the biggest excuse not to do just about anything. Well you have a minute! Here’s the truth… When I’m wigging out or just can’t shut my head up, I find a loo somewhere, lock the door, set my timer for a minute and breathe. A minute really is all it takes. Build from there. A lack of time can’t be an excuse. If you meditate for just one minute, chances are, you’ll shut the crazy stuff out your head for hours. Time saved right there.

Happy Zen today
Tina

P.S. If you want to find your characters, you need to be quiet and give them space.

For character development on steroids, put your character through a personality test!

Dig deep into your character's mindNever entered my mind to do this! I like it! Seriously, try it out… Put your characters through a personality test.

Below is a list of a few of the free personality tests you’ll find online. You can pay for a really thorough test, but for a quick and dirty one, these work fine.

I tried out the MBTI test (MMDI and Jung) because I know a bit about that already. When I read the results I was stunned at how clearly my main character stood out. I was also able to see why some scenes didn’t work. It just gives you a totally different insight into your story world.

Now, you might think that you know your characters really well, and you probably do. But take a moment to think about your best friend or even yourself. If you’ve ever taken one of these test, or read one your friend has taken, you’ll know that there are insights into your inner world that make you go “Oohhhhhh, that’s right… never thought of it that way, but that’s true!”

Character development personality tests…

Here are the tests – there are dozens more if you dig around. The first link (Similar Minds) has a whole list you can explore. Some of them a bit odd, I grant you:

– Similar Minds: This one has a whole bunch of different test on one page. I haven’t explored them all yet.
– MMDI: Very similar to Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I’ve tried this one. You can pay for the full report.
– Jung test: This is also an MBTI test. It doesn’t give you as much information as MMDI but you can take the test, get the 4 letters you need (you’ll know them when you see them), then pick up a book on MBTI and read up on it.

Happy digging around your head today!
Tina

How to build an IRRESISTIBLE story world

Build an irrisistable story world

Why bother with your story world? What’s the big deal?

I was 13 when I decided to be a storyteller. It happened the day I sat in a hot school hall with 800 other kids and listened to a live story teller tell Herman Charles Bosman stories. One guy dressed in baggy blue dungarees sat on a rocking chair on our school stage and hypnotised 800 kids on a warm, blue-sky South African summer day. I WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT! I said to my 13-year-old self and she agreed.

Now, I didn’t necessarily want to don blue dungarees and travel around the globe telling Bosman stories, but I did want to be able to transport people from where they were into where I wanted them to be. I wanted to learn how to make the story world so sharp and real that people would phone up to book a long weekend in the local hotel or call our best restaurant to book a table for 12.

We’ve all read books that do that. Books that draw us so tightly into the mind of the characters that we could get hit by a bus and not notice. It’s powerful.

Articles from people who’ve thought about this a great deal

ONE: 7 Deadly Sins of World Building by Charlie Jane Anders: In short – DETAIL. This particular article discusses the mistakes writers make when they don’t go into enough detail on everything from the history or the world to daily functions.

TWO: Article by Holly Lisle: How much of the world do I build? Holly starts off saying you should build only what you need and imply the rest, and ends by saying you shouldn’t beat yourself up about the details of your world. She has a point. It’s easy to get caught up in building up every detail and point of history of your world instead of just sitting down and writing and working it out as you go. Despite different approaches, Holly and Charlie Jane Anders have DETAIL in common.

THREE: Creating Story World by Melinda Evaul: In this article Melinda talks about how to gather research and understand the inner workings of your character by putting them through a Myers-Briggs personality tests. Never thought of trying that. Very cool. She also suggests you gather pictures, images, shapes and sounds that make up your world and surround your writing space with it.

Happy Building
Tina

False Starts!

False starts are OK!How many times have you “started” your novel? This drove me nuts until I accepted that false starts are a good way to measure whether you really are ready to write.

Take this as a possible outcome to your writing endevours… You start your novel after months of thinking and research and you decide to subscribe to the school of thought that “Once you start, you just keep going! No matter what! Write you crazy person! Don’t you dare falter! Get that first draft out! Don’t stop until the end… then go back and edit.”

Been there done that, and editing under those conditions is a bitch.

So, how many false starts are OK? In my humble opinion? As many as you like.

There’s an inner editor we, as writers, all have (I’m going to direct you to “Let me Out! 49 Great Escapes from Writer’s Block” for more about it). It’s the voice in the back of our heads or the feeling in our gut that tells us something isn’t right. To ignore it and keep on going when you feel the overall plot is rubbish, just doesn’t make sense. So start over!

If you’re struggling to get past the first, second or third chapter, then stop, bin what you’ve written, review your characters, plot, the whole damn idea, and fix what needs to be fixed. Then start again.

If you have to do this a dozen times, that’s fine. Just don’t waste time finishing something you know isn’t right.

Happy writing, no matter how many times you start.

TK