If you want to know what I’m on about, you might want to read yesterday’s post first.
For those of you who came back for the rest–what’s wrong with you? Don’t you have a life?
Oh fine. I guess I said I would. So here goes. Continuing on from where I left off…
3. Pay attention!
3. Learn to observe everything and spit it back out on the page in your own words
You are a writer. You tell stories that break down the human experience, no matter what genre you write. So you’d better look around you and take note of what makes us tick. Look at the people you converse with–your family, friends, random strangers. Their mannerisms, their speech, the things they find important, the things that hurt, the things they laugh about.
Take note of your own feelings. Your own reactions and thoughts and quirks. Everything you can download into your head and analyse is something you can use to make the characters and world you create more authentic. But you can’t do that if you never get out there and live and take a look around. So don’t spend all your time watching Joss Whedon TV shows and Christopher Nolan movies. Those guys took at look at the human condition, took note of what fascinated them and created moving pieces of art that spoke to us all.
You can do the same. But only if you let yourself put your own unique twist on things. So get out there and experience some stuff, take it out later and analyse it and then use it make your writing stronger. Try to avoid cliches and write what you observe instead. For example, does the tap in the kitchen drip, drip, drip? Or does it sound like plonk, plonk, plonk to you?
One thing though, when you take your ideas from those around you–whether it’s names or history or mannerisms–be sure not to make it obvious who you’re talking about. It would be better if Aunt Maria doesn’t cuss you out at the next family reunion because you wrote a thinly veiled story about a nasty aunt named Maria. We’re looking for inspiration here, not wholesale reproduction.
And this kind of feeds into the tip I got from a Donald Mass writing novel about one of the most common mistakes he sees writers making when they submit to him:
2. Setting is really, really important. And no, I don’t just mean what you see
‘Cause that’s the problem. Most new and beginning writers–and some intermediate ones–don’t realise that it’s not just about what you see. Quite a few writers come to writing via the love of movies and start out ‘seeing’ the scenes in their head. This can lead to beautiful visuals.
The problem is, the world is not just what you see. It’s also what you smell, hear, touch and taste. You have five senses. They should show up in just about every scene. And if you make sure that you include those five senses as much as possible in every scene, I promise you, your setting will improve a thousand percent.
Best of all, the readers will have a foundation to your world that elevate your worldbuilding. A fancy way to say that things will feel infinitely more real and readers will connect with what you’re describing in a more visceral way. If you want to build a world that feels as real as Harry Potter’s, it’s not just about the fancy devices and spells. It’s about the bone-deep cold that envelops Hogwarts, and the rattling breathing of approaching Dementors.
Use all five senses when you’re making your observations, then use those senses to build your world and characters. Before you know it, you’ll have your audience enthralled.
And my last bit of advice? Well, I’ve talked your ear off, so I’ll be brief:
1. Stop thinking about writing, stop dreaming about writing, stop talking about writing…
…and just go write.
It doesn’t matter if you think your ideas suck, if your story sucks, if your characters suck, or if you failed English class in high school. You can’t become a writer in your head. You have to just get to the page, sit butt in chair and force that shit out. In the end, if you want writing tips, you have to write to use them.
And that’s another thing. The idea that the inspiration has to come first and can’t be forced?
Poppycock. Fucking poppycock. If JK Rowling believed that, we’d still be waiting on book 5.
So if you want to write, you’d better learn to harness that muse, hook her up to a plough and make that bitch work for you. Otherwise, your dream career will not last very long.
But that’s a topic for another post…