Here’s an exercise for ya if you have writer’s block. Or if you’re just bored with your writing. Flip to a random page in your current WIP manuscript, take a chunk out of it, and turn it into a short story. You’ll have to add in a bit more back story to it flesh out for readers and possibly even change the ending for it to make sense as a completed story. When you do finish though, re-read it as a solitary story. Forget that you know what comes before and after the segment.
Waiiiiit for itttttt…………………..
Whoooaaaaaa! Coooool right??!
I did this recently as entry #3 for The Mother Project. Part of it was out of panic since I didn’t have anything prepped to post that day but also I’d been re-reading a lot of my WIP notes and I thought that the particular segment I chose really highlighted my main character while being an entertaining read. I got a double lesson out of this little experiment.
“Silver sun” (my longest on-going WIP at 15 years) had started out as one book until I realized I was writing a manuscript that would eventually grow to have “War and Peace”/ dictionary thickness if I didn’t break it up into a few books. This caused a bit of confusion at first since my beginnings and endings for each book were now all wonky and I had to add in more meat into the story to give it some curves. (Can’t go wrong with curves, eh?) This also made it hard to remember characters and personalities and presence within the new arrangements. So I created a whole other file folder on my computer that’s labeled “Silver sun bits and pieces” and I used a kind of flash fiction method of writing to put the characters in a situation that may not be in my story.
Not only is this wish-fulfillment and extremely satisfying but it helps to cultivate a better relationship with your character. You may uncover things about them you didn’t know before or that absolutely make sense now that you’ve seen them in a different light. Put them in a car crash scenario with their best friend. Do they try to protect their friend or themselves from the crash? Do they faint at the sight of blood? Do the calmly remove the shrapnel from their skin and pull their friend out of the burning car? Make your main character gay for a minute. Are they the butch kind of gay? Are they a Flamboyant, no-holds-bar kind of gay? Quiet and introverted and unassuming gay? Ot for an even funner brain teaser, take two characters from two different stories and ‘ship them together.
Yeaahhh buddy! You know you want to. Go on. You’re allowed. Just make sure to return to your original purpose!
Have fun! It’s a really great exercise to stretch your creative muscles. It allows you have freedom within your current WIP without distracting you from it. Unless the flash fiction gives you plot bunnies. In which case, I’m sorry/not sorry. (In my experience, plot bunnies become potential stories for the future and who am I to turn my nose up at inspiration when it strikes randomly??) Using this method also allows you to practice writing your characters in any kind of scenario flawlessly without changing them to suit their surroundings. It forces YOU to write the scenario around THEM. . It sounds easy but trust me, it’s harder than you think when you’re first starting out.
I have a character, Ciel, who is an anti-hero and is absolutely despicable and selfish. He ends up going into a kind of psychic seizure and the main character has to delve inside his mind to bring him out of it. When I first wrote the scene, Ciel was grateful and gentle with the MC after coming out of his fit. It wasn’t right for his personality at all though and I realized that after reading through the scene again. I was forcing him to have an intimate moment with the MC to “show a different side of Ciel”. Ha. (He didn’t thank for that one. He haunted me until I did it right. Bastard.) I’ve gotten more used to having his personality in my writing now though because I’ve gotten to know Ciel’s nuances better thanks to the flash fiction scenes I’ve written about him. It became easier to incorporate his personality into any situation seamlessly. It’s really important to stay true to your character when you write and pay attention to their transitions. You don’t want them to soften or harden before their time. Then you get weird cookies.
Bonus, for doing all this extra fun writing exercises, it can double as a sample you can show beta readers or editors or potential bosses to get their opinion about your writing style and voice. You can literally portfolio these things and whip them out whenever you have need of them. They’re 8 and a half by 11 business cards! So write a plethora of them and file them away! You never know if when they’ll come in handy. And hey, if you write enough of them, you can even turn them into a book of short stories 😉
So I suppose if there were any direction this blog entry was supposed to go in, I guess it would be to scratch beyond the surface of your stories. Really get to know them. Dive into your characters and let them tell you more than you ever wanted to know. Inevitably, these little things you’ve discovered about them will slip into your writing and your readers will thank you for making them more realistic. Create scenes for your stories that will never be published and carry that secret around with you, like the “deleted scenes” option from movies. Go BEYOND. Swim in the words you create, wallow in your writer’s block and sprint after your characters as they take you on a wild ride you never saw coming.
BE the story. WRITE the story. And good luck.