Surrounded by Characters

A few weeks ago, my family and I went to one of those splash places.  I don’t need to name names, but the kind with slides, a lazy river, and other indoor water activities.  After my energy wore away, I sat down and watched my children romp around and eventually I watched other people.  This is what people in the Midwest call people watching.  Now let me make sure we are clear what I mean here.  I don’t mean being the fashion police or passing judgement in any way. I mean observing. Carefully.

Sometimes people will catch my eye because they remind me of someone in a book that is presently percolating in my brain.  Other times, something about how they move makes me think of specific emotions and I contemplate how I would show that emotion or movement with words.  Maybe they have an interesting physical feature that I wonder how I would describe.  Then my mind starts to bounce around in a land of imagined characters.  I have to be careful, I can get lost there!

If you haven’t already, try it sometime!  While you watch, think of words that describe the way a person looks and how they move.  What words would paint a picture for the reader of his/her lips, face, neck, or eyes to give people a strong visual of what you see?  Are their movements graceful, quick, or laborious?  Go one step further and imagine a life for them.  What character traits do you imagine for them?  Maybe you notice a person who reminds you of one of the characters in your next novel.  Think about how the visual that you offer adds to the character that you’re creating.

The same can be done with settings.  Take some time soaking up different settings that you have visited.  What words would be best to give someone a sense of the place?  What did it look, smell, and sound like?

The next time you’re sitting somewhere public with a free moment, put the phone down, and take a look around. Let your imagination wander with your eyes.  Now, don’t get caught staring too long at people or someone will sound the stalker alert, but at times it’s important for a writer to spend some time engaged in observation.  Just be careful not to get caught!

How do you explore character or setting and ways of describing them?  What helps feed your creativity?

Are You a Writer?

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When is it okay to call yourself a writer?

If you are reading this, you probably have some interest in writing.  Have you written poetry, essays, novels, or all of the above?  Do you call yourself a writer?

When is it okay to label ourselves as such?  For me, this was tough.  I am not the type to talk much about myself, much less advertise that I write novels.  I know, we have to promote ourselves and such, but like many “writers” it’s just not my thing.

I have spent years writing, editing, and working to grow as a writer, but I still find it difficult to label myself as much.  We had a similar conversation a long while back in my writing group and someone simply said to me, “you are a writer” and hearing it come from someone else’s lips helped quite a bit.

Now when the what-do-you-do conversation comes up, I list my other occupations and include that I write novels.  It’s hard for me not to cast my eyes down when I say this part but I resist because if I can’t call myself a writer, why would anyone else?

So, when should we call ourselves writers?  When the big publishing house calls?  After our self-published books sales reach some magic number?  Or after we’ve invested years of time and energy in developing the craft even if the masses yet haven’t consumed it?

I’m not blogging this because I have the answer, clearly I don’t!!!  But I’m curious on your thoughts out there.  So, I put it to you…  When did you start calling yourself a writer?  Or when will you?

Build Your Community of Writers

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Writing need not be a lonely endeavor. The experiences that have nudged me along to become a better writer have been the ones where I talked with other writers about (you guessed it) writing.  Writing is not a finite craft.  There are so many subtle, and not so subtle, variations of it.  Once we think we’ve got it and are finally the writer we’re meant to be–no extra work needed– it’s time to put down the keyboard because we are done (and not in the good way).

The purpose of this blog is to talk about writing.  Sometimes as writers we are so engrossed in our stories that we forget to look up and around (or is it only me?), but exploring the craft is a way to further develop our skills.  So, let’s talk.  Look around my blog, add your comments or questions, and let’s see what we can learn from each other, or at the very least find a useful mind-break from writing for a few moments.