Outlining and Diagraming.
How did yesterday go? Are your poor characters worn out from being trapped in an Arabian city, or whatever stressful situation you chose to put them in? Good!
Today is a day for you to reflect not on the character you will be working with, but the story you will be telling. Some writers find it is easiest to jump into a piece and let the creative juices flow.
Some, however, find it better to step back and look at the entire picture, then dive into little pools of the whole story. Either way, today’s exercise will help you organize your thoughts, encouraging you to create the best piece possible.
Today, take thirty minutes and first, write a list of things you want to accomplish in your piece. What common human aspect are you trying to touch upon? What is your goal with this piece? What events are happening? What do those events mean to your character?
Next, draw it out. List form, picture form, railroad form, hamburger-syle, hotdog-style, whatever! This is your own personal web of action. This will help you figure out what themes you want to chase, and how the goals of your story fit in with the movement of the work.
Remember, there is no correct way to do this. Just let the mind vomit transform itself on the page however you feel most comfortable.
Date Night Continued.
So, do you remember that awful movie, “Date Night”? The one with Tina Fey and Steve Carell? (I must be in a Tina Fey mood, since I’ve mentioned her twice in two days – her book “Bossy Pants” is great; a recommended read!) The concept of “Date Night” is pretty simple: two predictable characters get into some unpredictable situation, and as an audience, we get to watch them stretch and contort to try to handle the situation within the means of their character. It doesn’t mean they come out of the situation the same as they were before. At the end of the movie, the characters were free and had returned to the core of their personalities.
So, yesterday you thought through your character. You had your date night. At this point you know their back story, you know their favorite color, their hopes and dreams, their current reality, their fears, their likes and dislikes. Today, you’re going to test what you know.
Put your character through an unpredictable situation. Maybe they’re stuck in an airport? Perhaps they got on a bus, fell asleep, and ended up at an unknown destination? Don’t feel any pressure to put this situation into your final piece. Just throw them through hoops and see how they perform. Hopefully, at the end, they will come out free and fresh, centered at the core of who they really are.
Have a Date with your Character
Did you have fun digging through family secrets yesterday? And how did your free write go? Did you pinpoint a character you want to work with? I sure did! And as much as I want to hop into a full blown relationship with that character and write his life story, I have to take it slow. A first date, perhaps?
Take today and muse, Homer-style. Come up with questions to ask that character, and really dive into their personality to see how they would answer them. The point of this exercise is to get to know the character through and through. You may not know where your piece will take your new character, and so you must be prepared to count on them to act within their true selves.
Tina Fey, on the set of “Mean Girls,” once said that she knew everything about each of the characters down to what their family used to call them when they were babies. Silly, right, since they’re not real people? Wrong. You are creating real people on the page for the audience. The outcome for Tina Fey was a stellar comedy with deep, incredibly consistent characters.
I have come up with a few questions to help you and your character get to talkin’!
1. What is your favorite color? And why? What relationship have you had with that color?
2. You’re with a group of friends – some you like, some you dislike greatly – and they jump off a cliff. Do you do the same?
3. What was your mom like?
4. Tell me about your childhood bedroom?
5. What was your favorite class in school? Tell me about the experience of going there every day.
April 1st: Day 1
Writers, April is going to be great! We are shedding winter, welcoming spring, and blooming as writers!
In the month of April we will be counting down the 13th Floor Literary Magazine’s deadline! Each day, check in with us on Facebook and on our website (www.13thfloormagazine.com) to walk through 14 days of the writing and submission process. For day one, we need some inspiration!
This exercise is fun! It can sometimes seem burdensome to pick out the perfect story to tell. Sometimes there are so many, and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a single idea. Go through your family photos and look at each one of them. Perhaps you live in a house where many family portraits are hung on the walls. Or perhaps you have to dig out a photo box. Either way, examine each person in the photos. Examine the ones of yourself as well. Look back and laugh at your eighth grade school photo – were you wearing one of those obnoxious plastic choker necklaces? Was your hair spiked blonde like JT’s?
How did the people who grew up to be your family and friends influence you throughout your life? If you are writing fiction, take inspiration from your uncle, who you have photos of drunk at your parents’ wedding, and extract a character from him. How did that character end up years later?
Then, when you’ve examined the photos, take a step outside the room, or away from the photo box, and free write for 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter what you write about, just let the inspiration from looking at the photos influence your pen. Once you are done, take a break from this and go work on another piece for the rest of the day. Sometimes as writers we have to take things in strides. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.