Nov 7, 2006 Creative Writing
I declared my intentions of writing a novel a little over a week ago for National Novel Writing month. I can’t tell you how long it has been since I tried to create fiction. I thought I was all prepared for the kickoff on November 1. I had a character already developed in my head. I knew what he looked like, how he acted, how he interacted with others. I thought this was all I needed to get started developing an unkown plot.
November 1st came and I started writing like a powerlifter on a power methball. I cranked out 850 or so words of the most detailed and beautiful character description I had ever witnessed. (It is my book, so I can have an ego about it, nyah.) I thought everything was riding smooth and the flow was happening. But then, I finished the description.
I didn’t have any idea how to develop the character into a story. I decided to throw in the towel and give up on the project. I was done. That 850 words was a much harder stretch than I expected. There was no way I’d ever smith 50,000 words within a month. I turned off the computer and went to bed.
The day and a half I didn’t even want to look at my computer. But deep into the evening I decided to read my manuscript. I took it and split it up and out of nowhere I came up with 4,000 words in less than 24 hours. Not a big feat for most, but a big feat for me.
So, being in the internet age we’re in, and being a sharing person that I am, here’s what I did to conquer my own writers block. Forgive me if this is too much of the basics, but the basics are exactly what I was missing at that point.
Part 1 of 6 – Read to expand.
The first suggestion I’d have if you are stuck in a creative rut is to read your existing manuscript. Look for ways to expand and expound upon your story. This goes well beyond padding sentences with additional adjectives. This simply means to explain in further detail the events that are happening.
If your character is late to an appointment, say why he is late. Explain in detail the moral dilemna he has with the state’s department of transportation and their inability to complete any project they start. Have the character compliment the department of transportation for showing him the detour, an alternate route to his destination, in the first place; for broadening his horizons. But explain that he is frustrated that now that he’s intimitely known that scenic detour for 8 weeks that he’d prefer he started using his original route again. Paint the picture of how a bicycle team decided to train today, on his time, doing fartlet drills through his urban neighborhood. Talk about the old lady, with the walker, and the dog, and the 3 minutes and 34 seconds it took her to finish the crosswalk. Show your characters emotion at not the first, second or third stoplight, but the fourth one as the one that broke his patience. Explain how your character burst through the doors of his office building and ran straight to the deli, because everyone knows he can’t live without coffee. He corned the hallway and jumped to the deli counter ordering the tall latte, only to be redirected the back of the line of six people that he didn’t see. Talk about his emotional defeat as he moped his way over to the elevator pushed the button and hit the sixth floor button, only to have an office administrator stop him on the second floor to deliver mail to the third floor. And hold the door it will only take a second, she needs to drop mail off at the fourth too. Talk about how the character makes his way to his cubicle recalling the events of the previous day when his boss scrubbed the soul from his body in a scathing the whole building heard and that he was never to be late again. Make sure your character ignores every single “Good Morning, Joe” that he hears from always-happy-to-be-happy coworkers. Show him slumping down in his chair trying to hide behind his monitor. Tell about how the IT team tried to perform routine backups on everyones’ computers late last night, but something went wrong and his hard drive froze up need replacing. And he has been setup with an ex-employees machine in the meantime. Then tell how the character finds that the ex-employees email account is still active. He struggles but finally decides to check the account because it is technically company property and he needs to get work done. At the top of the inbox, have your character find the company-wide email from his boss who is apologizing because he is going to be late to the office that morning due to annoying road construction projects (but thank god he has a Blackberry to let everyone know). Then have your character try to decide whether to laugh or to cry.
I found that everyday occurances are the best things to expand on while writing fiction. We ALL experience them and almost every reader can relate in some way. It makes the emotional connection with the reader. Your character wasn’t just late, he was cataclysmically late. His world really was going to end.
Enhance, expand, and expound. Here are some other ways to expand your story’s everyday occurances:
-Your character just doesn’t have a hair appointment. She has a hair appointment with the metro gay guy that she’s hopelessly crushed on.
-Your character just doesn’t drive a Nissan Sentra. He/she drives a 1982 sun-faded marroon Nissan sentra. Stick shift (which was almost impossible to learn) that sticks more than shifts and a hatchback to throw friends, groceries, dogs, and football gear in. It has 188 thousand miles on it and just as many stories. In fact your character would like to share one of those memories now.
-Music wasn’t just playing inthe background. It was a horrible muzak cover of Ozzy Osborne’s Falling To Pieces that reminded your character of the time they went to see Black Sabbath play at the Kingdome almost thirty years ago. They were on the third row when it started, and pressed up against the stage when it ended.
-The bills just aren’t overdue. There is a stack of them 3 to four months old sitting unopened in the corner of the makeshift desk. They’ve since changed their phone numbers 3 times, using disposable 7-11 cell phones, just to avoid collection calls. Luckily the rent and utilities keep getting paid somehow but they better get some credit counseling or they’ll be drowning in the court costs.
-Her husband wasn’t just watching football on Sunday. He was a die hard fan watching the Patriots almost lose a pre-season game in overtime yet he was as emotionally involved as if it were the Super Bowl. The coach couldn’t hear him, so why was he yelling so feverishly at the television? Stupid husband.
I hope this somewhat helps kick the creative engines in gear. I have five more posts to my write in this series, and I’ll most likely accomplish at least three of them. Lucky you.
(Late disclaimer: I’m an idea guy. I’m sure the grammar police have a lot of work to do on my posts, and I’m ok with that. Good thing I don’t write for a living).