Character psychology: The impact of parent/ child relationships

 

Creating interesting characters requires writers to have a solid understanding of psychology.

Many areas come to mind: childhood hurts, trauma, being the underdog, neglect, and more. But one stands out as critical to digging deep into a character, and that is a character’s relationship to his or her parents.

Some questions you might consider as you evaluate your character’s relationship with his/ her parents:

  • What are his/ her earliest memories with their parents?
  • What feelings does thinking of his/ her parents generate?
  • Was his father/ mother aggressive in punishment or passive?
  • How did the relationship between parent/ child change over the years?
  • Was the parent jealous of others getting close to his/ her child?
    • Could the child do no wrong? No right?

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but a starting point in working through a character’s backstory to establish future obstacles, motivations, and struggles. Often the relationship with a parent is key to a character’s understanding of and engagement with authority figures.

See this example from White Heat as evidence:

Now, write a scene based on how your character might react to finding out his/her mother (or father) died. Or, try a scene where the parent and child reunite after years of being separated.

What thoughts or challenges do you have when it comes to using the parent/ child relationship as a springboard to deeper understanding of character psychology? Share in the comments.

Happy writing!

McConnells Mill: Small Town Oasis

Today’s blog, written by our guest writer, Jake Aspacher, reveals the excitement that can be found close to home.

So, writers, what neat, calming, and intriguing writing places– or places of inspiration for writing– can be found in your hometown?

 

By: Jake Aspacher

Sometimes small-town life can be exhausting, going to the local crag and getting a quick climb in is a great way to spend an afternoon. It’s a chance to get some practice, spend some time with a couple good friends and just relax in nature. McConnells Mill is the closest outdoor climbing spot to Grove City. It’s quite a treat, when you step out on the trail it feels like you’ve been transported to the Pacific Northwest. Pine trees and scrubby bushes dot the rocky landscape, bright turquoise water flows down the narrow river. A quaint covered bridge overlooking the falls and Mill remind visitors that this little oasis still resides in Pennsylvania.

mcconnells mills 1

Tight channels take you down to the base of the main climbing walls. They are only about 40-50 feet in height, but their blank faces and damp mossy holds make a challenge for even the experienced climber. Once set up at a good spot the overhanging routes prove to be more difficult than their ratings describe. The technical climber can really shine in this environment if they can ignore the dampness of the rock and somewhat mossy holds. Not impossible by any stretch, give it a good run and with a little determination you’ll reach the top!

Along with some sweet bouldering and top rope climbing McConnells Mill offers a scenic trail, the Kildoo trail. This trail, though moderate in difficulty, covers quite a distance when connected to the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. The Kildoo loop in total is 2.1 miles and brings you back to the covered bridge and the trail leading back up to the parking lot. The trail is well marked and easy to complete in about an hour at a relaxed pace.

Though many might see these activities as purely for the adventuresome individual McConnells Mill offers something else. It’s a peaceful environment, a slice of nature removed from the rush and chaos of life. It’s quiet trails and forests are an ideal place for any writer to gather inspiration. Its terrain makes it easy to envision yourself in the wilds of New Zealand, or the middle of the Northwest. Rock walls, winding trails, rushing water, all things that inspire creativity and the desire to share through words what the senses see and feel.mcconnells mills 2

All together McConnells Mill is a great place to get out in nature. It offers great ways to spend time with friends, practice some of the essential skills of rock climbing, take a relaxing hike, or get creative juices flowing. This scenic area’s convenient distance from Grove City makes it a great spot for an afternoon excursion to hike or climb. So next time you want to take a break from the chaos of your busy life, put McConnells Mill in your choice of navigation app and hit the trails! Seek adventure and never stop creating!

 

 

Pictures-Taken by Author

 

Creating an Intriguing Protagonist: The Circle of Being

close up photo of open book

Photo by Ruslan Alekso on Pexels.com

According to Syd Field in his book, Screenplay, the Circle of Being is an event that happens to a character between the ages of 10-18 that parallels the plot of the screenplay. This event must involve the main character in some way and have significant impact on him/ her.

This intriguing concept could work to dig deeper into a character’s backstory and motivations in any style of writing, however. From screenplays to novels, understanding your character, what he or she wants and why, as well as what keeps him/ her from getting it are critical story issues.

Any number of events could function to trigger a circle of being incident. Some might include: divorce, losing a loved one, being bullied, getting into trouble, losing someone’s trust or respect, illness (mental, physical), parents’ job loss, significant life changes- mentor dies or moves on or isn’t who the character believed him/ her to be, best friend moves on (status changes), getting dumped or hurt/ rejected in love, family secrets exposed, abuse (physical, mental), substance abuse (child or close relative/ adult), accidents, neglect/ abandonment, poverty, war, violence, etc.

Although this event actually happened in the character’s past, it may or may not be directly mentioned in the story. Regardless, it will have some kind of dramatic impact on the way in which the character responds to the situation that is happening NOW in their story world.

Understanding this event will help you know your character more fully, and it will help you predict with better accuracy their natural response to the situation at hand.

So as you write, ask, what is this protagonist’s circle of being (if he/she has one)? How might this reveal itself during the course of their story?

Happy writing!

 

Guest Blog: Exercising Your Way through Writers Block

Please enjoy this guest blog post by Rachael Mossgrove!

Picture this: You are sitting at your desk preparing to write the paper of a lifetime.  You are fully prepared.  Music softly playing in the background.  A cup of freshly brewed coffee sitting beside you.

writing

You place your hands on the keyboard to start writing and…nothing.

No ideas. No words. No nothing.

Zilch.

You take a few seconds to think, take a sip of coffee, take a deep breath, and try again.  Still nothing.

All of us have experienced this all too relatable scenario.  It happens to every writer and is unfortunately inevitable.

The dreadful case of “writer’s block.”

Nothing is more frustrating than wanting or needing to write content, but not being able to do so.

Once writer’s block has an iron grip on you, it is difficult to free yourself.

That being said, how exactly do we combat this beast?  Defeat the enemy that has stolen our creativity and productivity for far too long?

There are many strategies to overcoming writer’s block, however, there is one in particular that I have found to be persistently effective.  Working out or hitting the gym.

Get your heart rate up and your blood pumping.

Movement is critical to getting out of your rut.  Staying dormant at your desk in front of your computer will not create the momentum needed to get the creative juices flowing.

Try a brisk walk.  Do a hip-hop cardio workout.  Get a lift in.  Or if you’re feeling extra frustrated, work on your left hook with that punching bag that’s been hanging in your garage.

Anything to get moving.

After an adequate amount of exercise, return to your desk and take another stab at writing.

For many, the exercise and time away are the golden tickets to defeating their writer’s block.

Not one of those people?  Have no fear.

There is one last fool proof tactic to taking down writer’s block once and for all.

And that is by writing.  Anything.  Even if it is gibberish.

It does not have to be good, first drafts are never the best regardless.  It just has to be written and from there you are able to re-work and tweak until you have a tangible product.

This may not be the most time effective tactic, but if you do this, you WILL get through your block.

Be the one who keeps pushing through.

Just keep writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A writer’s audience: Three tips to more effective writing/ editing

Successful writers can only become so if they consider (always) the audience who will be reading, or in some other way experiencing, the product of their efforts.

Here are a few tips to consider:

  1. The big, easy question is ‘Who is your audience’ but the oft-overlooked question is the important one- WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
    1. Defining your audience is one thing – you can name them, categorize them and more, but if you don’t have any solid way to apply that information, it is useless
    2. Some ways to answer this question would be in terms of:
      1. Word choice, structure, pacing
      2. Goals, expectations, motivations
  2. Some important categories that may have profound influence:
    1. Age, education, income, family, occupation, lifestyle
      1. These factors tend to have the greatest impact on decision-making, money spent, POV, and motivation- write accordingly
  3. Motivation
    1. What does this audience want? What are your goals? What will motivate the audience to act, think, believe as you want them to?
    2. What language choices, research, style will help you reach your audience more effectively?

These tips should always be on your mind as you write, but perhaps more importantly as you edit.

How do you connect with your audience? Share any tips you have in the comments.

Happy writing!

Editing 101: 5 tips for success

Other than public speaking, few things inspire the kind of fear that editing does.

Or maybe it isn’t fear. Maybe it’s sheer boredom. After all, who really wants to spend their time rereading, revising, and trying to catch every grammar, spelling, and punctuation error?

Other than a nerd like me? Probably no one.

So, I’m coming to you today with a few things that can help speed (and lessen the pain) of this sometimes arduous process.

  1. Get in a routine! – Have a specific process in place that works for you that considers both your strengths and (be honest!) your weaknesses. If you struggle with punctuation, perhaps make that a top priority, for instance. If you’re great at spelling, you likely won’t need to spend as much time on that area.
    1. But making your process habitual and step-by-step can help. For me, I do a quick read of the entire piece so I can consider if it’s meeting the goals I’ve (or my editor, publisher, etc) set. Then I move on to word choice (especially repetition), and other concerns.
  2. Read your piece in different forms- If you’ve edited already on a computer screen, try printing it out. If you’ve done that, maybe try it on your Kindle or phone. And finally, read it OUT LOUD. You’ll feel odd, but you’ll definitely catch more mistakes.
    1. Where will your audience most likely receive this piece? Spend a good amount of time there too in order to consider its overall aesthetic.
  3. Word list- Have a go-to list of overused words in your medium, style, genre (these become apparent pretty quickly, though substitutions for your favorite words might be a bit more elusive)
    1. I keep an editing word list as a document in my computer and have printed copies as well. Depending on the length of my piece, (I mainly write novels, so they’re between 70-90K words), I try to keep any word to less then 50 uses.
  4. Types of words
    1. Are you using active language, concise language, brief language?
      1. No/ few adverbs, adjectives?
      2. Are you misleading your audience with the words you’ve chosen
        1. Did you inadvertently add in your opinion on a subject by the use of particular language?
  5. Audience considerations
    1. ALWAYS remember your audience!
      1. What do they want? What do they expect? What do you want them to think, feel, believe after reading your piece? Is the language, form, and style going to achieve that?

While these tips aren’t an exhaustive list, they are a great start to finding success in editing your work.

What editing tips would you add to this list?

Happy writing!

 

 

The Reflective Writer: Questions to ask about your practice

As writers, we are often in the business of looking outward- for inspiration or to understand relationships, psychology, and more. But how often do we turn that mirror around and consider ourselves, our process, methods, and purpose?

I found this article to be a good start to beginning a conversation about why I write and what writing means to me (and what I hope my writing means to others). As you consider these questions, be honest and introspective with a goal of improving your writing from the inside.

After reading the article, feel free to comment on the question(s) that resonated with you the most. Or, share what you learned or any questions these questions brought up for you.

Happy writing!

5 Essential Questions Every Writer Should Ask Themselves

 

Guest Blog: 3 Easy Surprise Date Ideas for a Rainy Day

Please enjoy this guest blog post written by Stephanie Grindley:

whinny the pooh Picture Credit: Pinterest

Sometimes your Saturday afternoon date can feel ruined thanks to spring weather, but don’t let a gloomy day get you down. Here are just a couple creative (tested out) ways to spark romance in your relationship, and get to know your significant other all while staying comfy at home.

  1. At home paint and sip

painting

(Personally Tested Dat)

Roll out a big table cloth, break out the wicker basket, pour your partner a glass of Rose’…But instead of being in a field, you’re in your living room! This date is a great way to let your creativity shine, even though the sun may not be. Start by choosing a painting (the best way is through free YouTube tutorials). Choose one that reminds you of your significant other, and have your partner do the same. With two painting tutorials selected, get painting while watching the tutorials with headphones in, so as not to distract the other and keep it a surprise until the end. Reward yourself with wine breaks with your companion when each new brush stroke has been completed. Finally, have a grand reveal at the end…And if they turned out alright, hang them up in the living room.

All you’ll need (These supplies mentioned can be purchased at your typical Walmart):

  • New wine to try
  • A cheese and crackers platter
  • Two blank canvases
  • Acrylic paint tube set (24 colors is plenty)
  • Paintbrush set (designed for acrylic paint)
  • A cheap tablecloth
  1. Spin an unordinary dinner

sliders.jpg

Ramen Sliders: Credit- Taste of Home

(This date helps lower anxiety and indecision about what to have for dinner.)

Take that empty bottle of wine you just used for the paint and sip, and set up a “Spin the Bottle” scene– Except with food you have chosen out from your fridge/cupboard. Place the food in a circle around the bottle and then, SPIN! Whatever two items the bottle lands on, you have to use in your dinner dish. Do this a couple times and you’ll have a 3-course meal in seconds. Though probably not a typical pasta night, it allows for collaboration with your partner to make the meal items work together and breaks the stigma that only one person in the relationship does the cooking.

All you’ll need:

  • A bottle
  • 10-15 random food items (Ex: 5 veggies to choose from, 5 starches, 5 proteins) (This might require running to the grocery store first.)
  • A Recipe search engine to look up meals that have the selected food items in them.
  1. Read a book together

daisy cover 2

Peaceful, rainy-days make you want to snuggle with a warm cup of tea and read a good book. But you don’t have to do it alone. Make a list of areas of interest between you and your partner. Start with: Time (What time period you would like the novel to be set in), Place (What setting/location are you both intrigued about), and Space (What kind of dimension/world does the novel take place in- Fiction/Non-Fiction, etc.) Allow this to be a get-to-know process with your partner’s interests. Once researched and narrowed down, find the book. Check out your local library, or if you don’t want to leave your cozy bed, find online books through Kindle.

Take turns reading the book to each other. Pausing at the end of each chapter to discuss.

A fun response to reading the book could be reenacting a date that took place in one of the books.  Such as, composing metaphors, like Hazel Grace and Augustus did in Fault In Our Stars. Write encouraging notes/metaphors to each other in a calligraphy style that could then be framed and put on the fridge.

Reading books together is a great way to strike some conversation, new ideas, and intimacy.

By the end of the novel, ask response questions:

  • What character did you resonate with the most?
  • What part of the plot took you by surprise?
  • How do we fit into this story?

 

Some Classic Suggestions:

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Giver by Louis Lowery

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

 

Some Short Romance Novels to definitely check out:

Picking Daisy by Kimberly Miller

Eveline by James Joyce

The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

 

 

And maybe if this date inspires you both enough, consider writing short stories together!

Creative writing prompts

While creative writing can seem like a fun, glamorous gig where you get to play in fantasy-land most of the time (it’s true!), in reality it is a job that at times requires focus, stamina, and a no small amount of gumption to find a level of success.

What am I talking about?

The elusive ideas. Some days they just don’t come. You sit down to write (and of course had a thousand ideas on your way to the office) but then suddenly- poof!- nothing! The well is dry.

But you have deadlines, goals, expectations.

So, what do you do?

Really, there isn’t much of an excuse for not writing when you should be writing. Loads of encouraging websites, lists, prompts, and other sources exist so that writers should be able to find some kind of help to get things going again. The challenge? Well, most of these resources are on the internet, so it is tempting to be distracted by something shiny when you should be writing.

But, if you can maintain your focus, you should be fine. Today, I’m including a fun and helpful list for creative writers that I hope will be part of your toolbox. But, don’t forget some other tips too:

  • Music can be a great inspiration- use Spotify, YouTube, or even just the radio to get the juices flowing again
  • I’m obsessed with Pinterest boards (in fact, I may do a blog about that at some point)- use these for setting, characters, and other inspiration
  • Just google writing prompts= mind. blown.

And if that doesn’t work, here’s yet another list.

How do you keep the creativity going? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy writing!

25 Creative Writing Prompts

 

That’s not funny: Including humor in your writing

I love a good story. Even more, I love a good story that makes me laugh.

Until I started writing novels and screenplays myself, I had no idea how tough it could be to write humorous situations and dialogue that would actually make my reader or viewer laugh. But, I can tell you from experience, what’s funny in your head is not so easy to translate to a page.

There is hope though, as we can learn from the many writers who clearly understand how to write humor well. I encourage my students to go back to the masters like Charlie Chaplin and dig into the way he understood humor that transcended time and is still so incredibly funny today. Watch The Gold Rush or The Great Dictator and you’ll see what I mean.

Just because it’s tough to write humor well doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You should. Audiences and readers are starved for intelligent, effective humor, as much of what we find today is lazy, crass, and unlikely to be funny twenty or thirty years down the road. That’s a shame because in my experience, people really do like to laugh.

As you venture down this path to writing effective humor, understand that much of your success will be found in strong editing,  not in the initial drafts of the work, regardless of medium.

I found the following clip of Jerry Seinfeld talking about writing jokes and thought I’d share his process with you. Enjoy!

And happy writing!