Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trick Thyself

I've been having a little trouble getting motivated to write these days. In fact, just the other day I was staring at my computer for almost a full ten minutes with nothing but white space looking back at me.

I work on Scrivener (If you haven't tried it, you should!) and I usually section out my work into individual scenes. I'll title them so that I can make sense of it all in the editing process. I'll use things like, "meet antagonist" or "Bobby finds the knife". Not overly creative, but it gets the job done.
But the other day I couldn't even come up with a scene idea, let alone a title.
I finally just typed in the first thing that came into my head. Nelson Mandela. It happened to be the day he died, and to be honest I didn't even realize it was on my mind. I hit return and started typing out a scene.

Now I don't know very much about Nelson Mandela. I hope you don't think I'm hopelessly ignorant, but the words I think of when I hear that name are; committed, prisoner, rebel, speaker, apartheid.
Now the section of my book I was working on had absolutely nothing to do with apartheid or Nelson Mandela, but the feelings that name evoked in me showed up in my writing.

I found my main character seemed a little more in control. Her motivations seemed just a little bit clearer and only because I had Nelson Mandela in mind when I was writing.
I've started to use this trick with every scene. I use titles like Charles Manson. Harrison Ford. Bill Clinton. Jennifer Lopez.  Actually, I haven't used J Lo yet, but I am curious what feelings that would bring out in my writing.

I do this indiscriminately. I don't think about what I'm writing and pick a character with similar values. No, just the opposite, I pick a random person, for example Paul Newman, and see what characteristics of his I can add to the character I'm writing about. How can I make my protagonist (or any other character) deeper by adding attributes of Paul Newman? It's a way of surprising yourself in your own writing. Also, whatever feelings you have about Paul Newman will show up in your work.

Let's face it, books are about feelings. We read because a book makes us feel a certain way; happy, sad, scared, frustrated, ect. So if you're having trouble getting enough feeling into your books, maybe try my little trick. It certainly can't hurt!


  1. That's a good, creative idea, E. L. I had never thought of that before. I'm glad this technique is helping with your writing.

  2. Thanks. I guess when I'm staring at the empty page I'll try anything to get the words down:) Happy Christmas!!