My Muse, The Alien, With Bonus Writing Exercise

Alien Before we begin this brilliant post about my (ahem, sideways) alien (does anybody know why my Iphone turns photos sideways when it sends them to my computer?), I would like to point out that I'm once again offering free coaching sessions.   You heard me.


All you have to do is head to this link, where you can click on a time that works for you and we will chat.  About your writing, your life, whatever is not working for you.  Can't wait to talk to you!

And now, to the real meat of this story, my sideways alien.  Who is actually right-side up in my office where he hangs, watching over me as I write.  I bought my alien at a Rose Festival parade umpteen years ago now.  And he has been my muse ever since.

What brought him to mind was a Saturday night stint working as a Rose Festival Star Light Parade marshal.  Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter already heard me talking about this.  (If you don't subscribe, just fill in your name and address in the form on the right.  Plus you get a cool Ebook.)  Briefly, being a marshal involves crowd control and radio-ing into the mothership on issues of parade pacing.

One of the crowd control issues, besides herding drunks, was to move along a vendor who had parked her cart laden with blow-up dolls of various sorts amongst the crowd, thus blocking many people's views and pushing them out into the street onto the parade routes.  In my efforts to get her to go on her merry way, I had the opportunity to inspect her wares.

Her cart was bedecked with some flags and banners of no import and the afore-mentioned blow-up dolls.  Sponge Bob and a variety of lame animals seemed to be the order of the night.  No cool weapons and no aliens.  Not that I was looking to replace him or anything, because if I did I'm not sure I'd be able to write.  My alien has been with me so long, and he's worked so hard to inspire me. Plus, he is purple.  Need I say more?

My alien is also the inspiration for a writing exercise that I might have shared before, but if so, it doesn't matter, because a few clients have lately told me how helpful it was to them.  And so it is worth mentioning again.

Here it is:

Practice writing description as if you were describing to an alien.

The great beauty of this is that it forces you to go deep.  It forces you to really think about the essence of what you're describing.  It forces you to push beyond the first words that come to mind.  So, for instance, I have a red file folder on my desk beside this computer.

But, what's a file folder?  A folded over piece of paper used to organize papers.  But, what's paper?  Something we write on.  What's writing? What is red?  A color?  Great, thanks, but what is a color?

I know, you can drive yourself nuts doing this.  I may have just driven you nuts in that last paragraph.  And most likely it is not description that you'll actually end up using.  But what will happen is that it will get you thinking about the world you're describing (or creating).  It will allow you to get not only more understanding of that world, but more creative about bringing it to life on the page.

And that is a worthy goal for all of us.

What's your favorite writing exercise?

And don't forget those free coaching sessions.


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15 Comments on "My Muse, The Alien, With Bonus Writing Exercise"

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06/10/2011 08:27

I love the writing practice you shared, Charlotte — I can see how it pushes us to think – reflect on – words/phrases we can wind up using mindlessly — because, really, what’s the point of writing, sharing with an audience, if we’re not CLEAR.

“The great beauty of this is that it forces you to go deep.”<for real!

06/10/2011 09:19

And you raise another great point, Karen–clarity. It is so important! Not only in the way we write, but in how we approach our writing. Thanks for coming by!

06/10/2011 12:29

Hi Charlotte,
This is an exercise we do as homework? Is that right? We shouldn’t post our result? You’re right, it does force me to go deep, so deep this could take a couple of days.

06/10/2011 13:01

You offered and I took you up on it. I made an appointment. Now to tell my inner editor to back off. ; )

06/10/2011 15:18

I should require you to do it and post it here, J.D, because I know it would be entertaining!

06/10/2011 15:20

Zan Marie, I’m so pleased that you booked an appointment! We’ll kick that inner editor to the curb!

06/11/2011 06:58

I was there at the Rose parade in Portland and wanted to ask you if you saw the adorable floating pigs outside Blue Sky photography on NW Davis St.? Has the weather been sunny since then?

06/11/2011 16:34

You know, I think good fiction in general casts the protagonist as an alien (or suggest that the reader is, especially in the case of paranormal). A lot of literary fiction hinges on this idea, actually. Fascinating stuff. Thanks :)

06/11/2011 17:28

Lucy, love this comment, hadn’t thought of it that way, but you are correct!

06/11/2011 17:40

GutsyLiving, that’s right, you were in town for the World Domination Summit. So glad you went to the parade–I love the Starlight Parade! I did not see the floating pigs but I love Blue Sky gallery. And we’ve had off and on sun (read: its been mostly cloudy). Today was the Grand Floral parade, which I popped in on, but it is not as much fun as the Starlight. Thanks for visiting!

06/11/2011 18:32

This is tough business, Charlotte, this describing characters to an alien. I gave it a whirl. I’m not pleased with the result but the exercise really made me think about choosing they right words. Here is Jeb’s Nooner. Jeb Kelly hadn’t leaped from the adultery cliff but his toes were hanging over the edge. His wife, Sylvia, had hired me to make record of the whole sordid mess. In my other life, I worked for the newspaper. Following Sylvia’s husband was my first gig as a snoop. I wasn’t crazy about branching out, but if you haven’t heard the newspaper… Read more »

06/12/2011 05:07

Great thought.

06/12/2011 08:29

Oh my God, J.D., this is fantastic! So many wonderful details that brought the entire scene vividly alive. Thanks for my Sunday morning entertainment–and for sharing this result with us. More!

06/12/2011 14:54

Thanks Charlotte. Those are kind words. Your blog is so instructional. That’s not really the right word. It’s more dramatic than that. The exercise you suggested is just fantastic. I appreciate what you bring here every day.

06/12/2011 17:43

Ah, thanks J.D. And I SO appreciate your loyal readership!