Month: February 2014
Because the novel I’m writing about is about adoption, and because I’ve allowed myself to wonder “in that moment” (as the broadcaster says) this same question, I wanted to share this video of two 25-year-old women who, separated at birth and adopted out to two different families, found each other via social media years afterwards and were reunited.
Great story, and the documentary they are making could be an inspiration to any adoptee writing his/her own memoir or story about adoption.
You can read the article about it here.
I haven’t given a personal update on writing for awhile, so I thought I’d share that I had a breakthrough last night on a project that has been giving me all sorts of trouble. I’ve been attempting to conceive a story for several months but only pieces were coming together, and nothing tying them all together. So I’ve been concentrating on writing scenes, trusting that the transitions and connections would come at a later time. Well, happily yesterday seemed like that time. After I finished revising a scene, I suddenly saw how that tied into the next, and the next, and then I was quickly jotting down a rough outline that took me through the entirety of the storyline.
We’ll see how the plot holds up as I continue along, but I must say it felt good to have a breakthrough, as small as that may be. My advice to anyone who feels like they are having writer’s block is to just push through it. Dori’s phrase, “Just keep swimming,” comes to mind. Keep writing, even if you aren’t necessarily writing forward or writing what you think you should be at the moment. Because something unexpected might trigger you to see, finally, the whole scope of the project.
And of course, if you’re having an “on” writing session, take advantage of it! If you complete the tasks you had set out for yourself, or you find that you’ve written as much as you can on the project at hand, go after another project that’s been sitting on the back burner (you must have one, right? I know I have several). Utilize not only the inspiration that’s coming to you at that moment, but the confidence you’re gaining about your writing and your projects.
Sometimes it’s tough to write the senses, especially if you’ve been holed up in your writing room for hours, working away. How are you supposed to remember how a tree feels when you haven’t gone outside since the morning? Well, a writing exercise I’d suggest for writing about touch starts with collecting 10 objects from your world (e.g., your home, work, neighborhood) and free-writing a long paragraph—one for each object—solely focusing on touch and what the object feels like to you. Don’t hesitate or edit yourself – just write. This is for your Writer’s Notebook, so that you can go back later and pick through the sentences and descriptions, taking something that works for the piece you’re writing at the moment. Try not to write the same description, and if you have to start somewhere, start with cliché. You’ll move away from it soon enough. If a memory or story emerges while you write, go with it and see where it takes you, but always return to the sense you’re concentrating on in the end.
Looking for some item inspiration? How about:
- A bathroom rug
- A raw pumpkin
- A leather-bound book cover
- A sleeping bag
- Toothbrush bristles
- Tree bark
Here’s an example of mine. I wrote about the bark of a Canary Island Date Palm.
The bark is rough, prickly. It reminds me of porcupine quills, though shorter and duller. It feels like the skin of rhinoceros—thick, rough, and aged. It’s scratched and jagged. Splintery, thick, and heavy. It’s solid and smells like dried grass. The holes near the bottom look like acne, as if the tree is pock-marked from a younger age. From the distance, it looks like an elephant’s leg with faded gray and lines running down its bark. It’s irregular. The tiny bumps feel hard, like miniature calcium buildup. It’s warm from the sun. The shadow of the tree is at one o’ clock. There are deep holes that look like small animals have stabbed their tiny horns into its skin. It reminds me of touching the bottom of a callused foot, or what years of calcified dirt upon a window might feel like—strong yet worn with deliberate texture.
Share your exercise results or ideas in the comments section.
Sometimes I read (and alas, write) fiction where the central conflict is convoluted or completely missing from the story. I recently read a good exercise to help you figure out what the central conflict of your story is (or should be). I give an example below, using the exercise.
Start general and ask yourself, “What I really want to write about is ______.”
What I really want to write about is my character’s life.
Then get more specific and detailed.
What I really want to write about is my character’s life and how she ended up in Paris, alone, and searching for someone she hasn’t seen in 10 years.
And keep going…
What I really want to write about the love triangle that occurred in my character’s life 10 years prior that lead her to choose the wrong man, live with him for years until an article in the newspaper about her other lover gives her the strength to leave her relationship and travel to Paris to find out whether she still has a chance with someone she hasn’t seen in 10 years.
If you continue this exercise, you can discover conflict and ideas you might not have considered before. And this will allow you to tell whether or not the central conflict of the book is strong, and whether you have enough other smaller conflicts to keep it interesting.
What about you? Do you have any favorite exercises to discover or focus what your central conflict will be? Share them in the comments section.