Fun with Writing – Character Swap

When I start to lose motivation to write, or when writing has lost the spark that makes it enjoyable, I often look for a new writing exercise to get me going again. Lately, I haven’t been writing as much as I should. Life has been busy, I mean really busy, but I also just haven’t been interested in writing. Nothing has grabbed me to the point of needing to write. So, to get myself going again, I set up a new writing exercise with a friend.

With NaNoWriMo ’17 prep in full swing, it is the perfect time to shake things up a bit. I’ve had a concept and a main character for a few months. My friend, after some group brain storming, has a world and a basic concept. The main area we are both lacking … characters. Hence our Character Swap idea.

We each wrote out a very short paragraph about our story, and filled out a questionnaire about our main character. The usual stuff: name, age, what they look like, skills, job, family, weaknesses, annoying habits, etc. Then came the fun part. We each got to make a character for the other’s story.

I often find myself falling into the trap of fitting a character to a story, instead of letting the character be an individual who happens to be a part of this story. The joy of this swap was that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have enough information on what she is writing about to tailor the character to the story. I did consider why this person and the main character would be friends, but also tried to think about my own friendships – why we fit, and how much do we really have in common? It was fun to make a character without worrying about the story they would be put into, or what they could give the main character. Maybe I need to focus on my characters earlier in my planning/plotting phases.

What are some writing exercises you have enjoyed? Have you started planning for NaNoWriMo?

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Getting new Experiences as a Writer

When a good friend approached me with the idea of taking adult artistic gymnastics classes I was sure I wasn’t interested. I did rhythmic in my early teens, but I’ve never done artistic. I was never able to do a handstand or a round off. I’ve always been hesitant with dynamic movement and scared of heights (I’m a big chicken). Adult gymnastics would put me well outside my comfort zone.

Somehow, I found myself thinking about it in the weeks after my friend brought it up. I’ve always wanted to be able to do a handstand, even though my heart beats a bit faster just thinking about kicking up into one (I mentioned the hesitancy about dynamic movement right?). Re-learning to do a forward roll and a cartwheel might be fun. I like organized fitness classes, it was possible I would enjoy it.

For a few weeks I thought about it. I talked it over with my husband. The timing was fine, the money wasn’t an issue, and if I hated it I would stop at a single term. He also pointed out that gymnastics would help with my fear of hesitancy in dynamic movement. Things like that wall I couldn’t get on top of at mud hero would become easier. I really want to scale that wall at mud hero next year.

There are two things that finally swayed me to give adult gymnastics a try:

  1. A writer needs new experiences. If I hate it, I can stop at one term. By at least trying it I have a new experience to draw on as a writer.
  2. I really like exercise clothes and my husband suggested I would need new capris and a tank for gymnastics.

When I found myself looking for just the right pair of capris (not too long, but tight to the bottom), I knew I was going to take the class. I still made my friend hold my hand (figuratively) while I hit the submit on my class payment though.

We had our first class on Wednesday and it was fun. Really FUN. I kind of remember how to do a cartwheel. My hands and feet are moving in the right order, but I have a ways to go to get vertical again. As expected, I’m too scared to really kick up into a handstand, but I’m not bothered by taking it slow. After one class I’m already thinking I’ll probably sign up for the winter term too.

What new things have you tried recently? Do you ever do new things just to be able to write about them?

Finished Quilt – The Grace in our Stars

My friend Cate decided, at the last minute, to make a quilt for a friend of the family. The friend lives in another country and was in need of some love. She wanted to do something, and sending a quilt is like sending a hug. I offered to help make a few blocks since she was short on time. She took me up on it, and over two nights three of us made a quilt top!

The pictures above are the ones I took over the two nights. The first night is the first five pictures, while the last four are from the second night. We did almost 8 hours of work over the two evenings, but it was well worth it. Until we hit the multicoloured border we almost always had two sewing machines going, plus one person cutting. They say more hands make for lighter work, in this case it was certainly true. This was a record finish for both of us.

I helped sandwich the quilt one afternoon, and Cate finished the quilting and binding over a few days. The quilt has now been gifted and the recipient loves it. Cate sent me the finished picture below once the binding was sewn on.

Pin wheel quilt on black backgroundI love it too. It’s absolutely beautiful. I guess you know you’re happy with a quilt when you don’t want to give it away.

What is your fastest finish for a quilt? Do you ever work as a group on a quilt?

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

I’ve talked before about Camp NaNoWriMo vs Regular NaNoWriMo before. My preference is for regular NaNoWriMo, but I’m doing Camp in April because a few friends are dragging me along for the ride. I set a fairly low goal of 20k for the month. If I meet me goal, I’ll be back on track for the year for writing.

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to continue my NaNo 2016 Sci-Fi project. It has at least 20k left to get to the end, and it is somewhat fresh in my mind. Of course, it wasn’t as fresh as I thought… I spent the first two days of camp rereading the 50k I wrote in November.

On the days I write, I’m making good progress. I write at least two days worth of words when I get butt in chair time. Of course this would be more impressive if I was writing more than every third day. Ya, you might have noticed that math isn’t adding up well. I am currently caught up to day 7… it’s the 11th. My plan is to write another two days worth tonight and then I’ll only be 2 days behind. This in a nut shell is why camp doesn’t work for me. I’m always behind. In NaNo I’m usually ahead by day 3-4 and never drop below par. When I do camp, I’m ALWAYS behind.

I’m determined to catch up. I’m far from out of the game yet. Are you  doing camp this year? How are you doing at meeting your goals?

Fueling my Creativity

Saturday night I went out with some of my favourite writers for some writing, dinner, and then dessert. When all was said and done, I had a leftover samosa, some curry and rice, and half a piece of cheesecake. Sunday I had the samosa for breakfast before dashing out for errands. I ate the curry and rice as a late lunch while I made cupcakes (my son has to bring his own cake to parties). Then after the birthday party I made myself risotto. I of course followed the risotto with the leftover cheesecake.

I haven’t been eating as well as I should lately. It’s been a busy year, with a few big changes. Having a kid also means I worry about what I’m feeding him first, and me second. Which can mean I remember to pack him a lunch, but forget to pack one for myself. I make sure he eats his breakfast, but am running too late to eat one myself. Getting three good meals yesterday reminded me of how much better I function with good fuel.

When I’m active I remember to eat. You have to fuel your body to be able to run, climb, skip, or hula hoop. My ankle has been bothering me, so I haven’t been doing as much as usual. I guess without the activity my brain forgot that good fuel doesn’t just help with active pursuits, it helps creative ones as well. My thought process is better when I eat at good intervals, and I get more done when I eat a more balanced diet.

Hopefully this reminder reminds me to feed myself and my creativity over the summer. I have so many things I want to accomplish, and I can’t do any of them without fuel.

 

Inside Out – A new way to develop characters?

Have you see Pixar’s Inside out? If you haven’t the basic plot is an 11 year old girl moves from one city to another, but you experience the move through the five emotions that live in her brain: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. The movie itself is enjoyable and if you haven’t seen it, and like animated films, it’s worth watching.

Anyway, ever since I saw Inside Out I can’t help but picture those five emotions in other people’s heads. I wonder about which emotion is their most prominent and how those emotions interact to create the person I know. I wonder what other people would guess is the primary emotion in my head. (In the movie each person has one of the five that leads the others to at least some extent). My guess for myself would be Joy first, fear second, then the rest.

After thinking about the people I know, I started thinking about my characters. When trying to develop characters people spend time doing quizzes online, answering character questionnaires, and making positive and negative traits lists. I propose using the Inside Out model as another development tool. It gives some insight into how the different balance of those emotions plays into how people act or react to situations. I often focus my character development on traits, history, and likes. Hopefully this will help me remember characters should have unique emotional responses as well. It’s at least worth a try.

What are some of the strange things you do to help form your characters? What is your favourite character development tool?