Tag Archives | short stories

Shhh! Here’s the Secret to Prolific Writing

WhispersPlease welcome guest poster Jessica Baverstock to the blog this morning and read her wise words on getting a lot of writing done.

by Jessica Baverstock

 I'm sure just about all of us have witnessed the Tortured Writer Syndrome. Perhaps we've even experienced it personally.

The syndrome begins with a bit of writer's block, some rubbish first draft material, a savage critique or just some good ol' white page fright.

It then grows into the expectation that writing is a difficult, thankless task that requires many hours of hard work with inevitable disappointment at the end.

Eventually this syndrome can even turn the best of writers into a martyr to their craft as they face weeks, months or even years of frustration, without ever feeling the wonder, excitement and exhilaration of what it truly means to be a writer.

Where Does It All Go Wrong?

The process starts getting all twisted when we do too much thinking and not enough actual writing.

Instead of starting our day with a freewrite to get the words flowing (and get the rusty first 300 or so out of our system before we get down to business), we worry about what we're going to produce today.

We start wondering: What am I going to write about? Will it be any good? Do I have anything worth writing about? Will anyone want to read what I'm writing anyway? Within three or four sentences we've completely lost our motivation, stopping up our natural flow with so much negativity that it takes a phenomenal effort every day to overcome it.

Then comes the inevitable writer's block and other woes of the writing life which become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe writing is hard, then it most certainly will become so. Words have power, especially the ones we use on ourselves.

So many writers are in this rut, that they are in the majority – posting, tweeting and talking about their difficulties – when the writers who are prolifically enjoying their writing life are too busy writing to respond.

How do I know?

I'm one of those prolific writers. When my words are in full flow, it's easy to write over 1,500 high-quality words in an hour. I sit down to my computer each morning with a relaxed but expectant attitude.

I feel like Sharon O'Brien who said, "Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say."

So what's the secret?

How Can You Loosen Yourself Up and Making Writing Fun Again?

Here are a few points to get you back on the road to an enjoyable writing life.

• Get the bilge out early. Start your day with a journal entry or a freewrite. If you're in any way nervous about what you're going to write, then set 15 minutes on a timer and pour your thoughts onto the page. Once you've got them out of your head, you'll be amazed at how much lighter and more confident you feel.

• Lower your expectations. You don't have to sit down at your computer and write a best-selling novel. Start writing something true – about yourself, or about life in general – and keep writing that truth until it turns into a narrative and that narrative finds a protagonist and then that protagonist goes on a journey. Allow the words to flow wherever they want to go. When you're finished, then go back and decide what to do with the end result.

• Enjoy the process. Putting words onto the page should be a cathartic experience. It's best done regularly, daily if possible, so that the words literally flow out of you. At the end of your writing day, look for one thing you especially liked about what you wrote, even if it was just a sentence or a word. Carry that positive feeling with you through to your next writing session.

• Ask for help. So many writers struggle with certain aspects of their writing. Don't let this hold you up. Get yourself a writing coach, a creativity coach, an editor or even just a good book on the subject. Invest in yourself. Show yourself that your writing is worth the extra time and effort. An outside perspective will usually pick up on where your problem lies – and you'll often be surprised at how easy the fix is.

• View your writing life as a journey. You're never going to know it all. Even the most experienced writers are still learning and honing their craft. Rather than looking at writing as something you will be graded on, view it as the narrative of your life. As you grow and change so will your writing. Get your story written now so the next story can appear and surprise you.

What about you? How do you keep your writing relaxed and fun? I'd love to read your comments!

Jessica_0551_cropped_sml (1)Jessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity's Workshop where her Creativity writes in purple text. She offers creative coaching for writers. You can read her latest book De-Stress Your Writing Life for free as she blogs it over the coming months.

11

Point of View Tips and Tweaks

Look_close_macro_224801_lI spent yesterday afternoon reading a rewrite of a client's novel (at least the first part of it). He has struggled with point of view in the past, and I've nudged him mercilessly on it. So I was thrilled to see that he is mastering it!

Reading his manuscript brought to mind some tips on viewpoint that might be helpful to others. (Note: most people, myself included, use the terms viewpoint and point of view interchangeably.)Please note that this is not in anyway a definitive rundown on viewpoint. Volumes have been written on it.  If you need more info on viewpoint try this or this.  What follows are just some simple ideas that might help you if you get confused about it.

1.  Don't use omniscient.  Just don't, okay?  In my experience, most of the time the use of omniscient viewpoint turns out to be viewpoint violations galore.  Or laziness.  Whatever, omniscient viewpoint is hard to master and do correctly and it confuses the hell out of readers–which is a cardinal sin.  So don't do it.

2. I am a camera.  Or at least your character is one.  All he or she can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel is in her viewpoint.  It's in her head.  Not the other character's head, hers alone.  Sometimes I see subtle viewpoint violations, like, "Sandra noticed that Frank felt scared."  Sandra can't know that Frank feels scared because she's not in his head.  She can notice that he seemingly felt scared, or she can see an expression on his face that tells her he's scared.  If you get confused on this point, think back to the camera analogy.  

3.  Change viewpoints at the start of chapters or scenes.  It's fine to use multiple viewpoints.  All you have to do is be clear to the reader that you are doing so.  Don't switch points of view in the middle of a sentence or even a paragraph.  Do it at the start of a scene or chapter, and please also give us some hint of who we are switching to.

4. To denote a scene shift, use white space.  If you want to switch viewpoint in the middle of a chapter, its easy–just use white space to signal the reader.  White space is four single hard returns or two double hard returns.  If the white space falls at the top or the bottom of the page, show it with stars:  *  *  *  *  *, otherwise it might not be evident.  Note: you don't need to use stars or any other symbol to show white space if it falls anywhere else on the page.  That's why they call it white space.

5. If you struggle with staying clear on viewpoint, try first person.  This is a great trick, because first person is easy to stay true to–all you've got is that "I" viewpoint, after all.  You don't have to write a whole novel in it, but try a short story or a piece of flash fiction.  It will teach you the limits of viewpoint very quickly.

Okay, those are my quick tips.  Do you struggle with viewpoint?  How have you taught yourself to master it?

Photo by xptakis.

4

Switch Hitting Your Writing

Baseball-sports-woman-441118-lDoes that headline sound vaguely sexual or is it just me?  If so, sorry for misleading you because this post is about switching up your writing projects.  (Though a client for whom I am doing some writing just emailed and said we need to get some sex in our title, so maybe its a good thing.)

I recently read Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, and as is so often the case when I read something I like, I went in search of more information about him.  Here it is: he lives in the unlikely city of Spokane, Washington (if you've been there, you know why its unlikely a major writer would live there), he had a daughter when he was 19 and subsequently went to work at a newspaper to support her, his first book was a non-fiction title on the incident at Ruby Ridge, and he's written a ton of novels and short stories since.

Beyond all that, what interested me was the tidbit I found in this interview, in which Walter says, "My only trick is to switch to some other project when one gets stuck.
And they always get stuck."

Truer words about writing have never been spoken: you're going to get stuck at some point.  It may not be big stuck, and most likely it won't be writer's block, you'll just get stuck.  Like, unsure what you want to write next, uncertain what comes next in the novel, unsure what your secondary character's name is.  Something.  And I love the idea that when this happens, you can switch off to a different project.  Because, better to be writing on something, then nothing at all.

I've been working on short stories recently, as well as a novel, and I see this happening somewhat naturally.  I reach a point in a story where I'm sort of mentally done with it for the moment, and without really thinking about it, I find myself opening the file for that other story I've been thinking of.  I get stuck on the novel, and I'm inevitably drawn to one of the stories.  It feels natural and right, and like I said–as long as I'm working on something, I'm happy.

Honestly, I'm not sure how easy this would be if I was working on all bigger projects.  But for me it works great one big project at a time and several shorter pieces.  I'm not sure I could handle the mental space it takes to keep more than one big project going at a time.

Along these same lines I was working on what I call prep work (thus called because hopefully you do it before you start writing it, though in truth it happens at every point of the writing) for the novel–character development, lining out the plot, imagining settings–and I found myself switch hitting.  When I got stuck on the outlining, I switched over to writing about the characters, and that in turn led me to ideas about the story.  So I was working back and forth.

And that, I think, is the beauty of this approach–it is like cross fertilization of the mind.  The idea you have for the character of your story suddenly reminds you of the plot of your novel.  And so on and so forth.  At least that's how it works for me. 

Do you work on multiple projects at a time or stick to just one?

*Oh, and by the way–if you read this blog on Google Reader (and God love ya for reading it however you do), be aware that it is going away as of July 1st.  You can still subscribe via RSS feed and read it on Yahoo or other readers, or you can subscribe via email.  All the buttons to do so are to the left.

**Photo from the Library of Congress, in the public domain.  (I kinda like her outfit.)

4

The Benefits of Reading

Now, I know you read a lot.  Because, you're a writer.  And writers not only write, they read.  It's the way of the world.  Reading is why most of us got into this game in the first place. 

(Brief aside: you'd be surprised how many wannabe writers I've run into who don't read.  When someone comes to me and says, "I've always wanted to be a writer," I say, "What do you like to read?" And then, ahem, when they say "Oh, I don't read, I like to watch TV and movies," I know they are not going to make it as a writer–unless they want to write scripts.)

But there's reading and there's reading, as in reading as a writer.  Once you start doing that, reading is never the same, by the way.   Because, you're constantly looking at how the author handled plot, character, setting, dialogue, theme, style–all the things we strive to add to our stories.  (I've heard some writers complain about this, saying reading is no longer the light, relaxing activity it once was for them, but I like it–I think this way of reading adds a depth that contributes to my enjoyment.)

My approach to reading got rejuvenated when I was in Louisville for the Spalding MFA residency, because that's part of what you do in workshop–pull apart stories and see how they were put together, studying each element.  I was re-inspired to approach reading this way, which happened to coincide with my own work on a couple of short stories. 

I am here to report that my recent reading has had a real, direct impact on my writing, and I want to share that in order to explain how it happens.  (You no doubt already know this.  But being reminded of it, as I was in Louisville, can be a helpful thing.)

Example #1

Before I left Louisville, I downloaded the Best American Short Stories of 2012 and then read it on the plane on the way home.  (I liked having it on my Kindle, because it forced me to read the stories straight through, whereas my usual style would be to pick and choose.  But in picking and choosing, I would miss some gems.) One of the stories was called M&M World.  (That link takes you right to the story–cool.)

I'm not going to ruin the story for you by deconstructing it, but there's a part of the story that looks to an incident in the protagonist's marriage that happened long ago.  And as I read that, I had an epiphany: this is what my story needs, too.  I needed to go briefly (for one paragraph) into the past to show an aspect of my character's marriage.  I added this and presented the rewrite to my writing group–and they loved it.  Said it added a depth and insight that had previously been lacking. Which was my intention.  So, yay.

Example #2

I recently started reading Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  Wonderful novel, I recommend it.  Love the story line and I adore his style of writing–the way he puts words together.  He's one of those writers who pulls you into the character's head with the use of the telliing detail, actually, lots of them.  And this got me to thinking–perhaps this was what was missing from my story?  I liked so much of what I had written, but overall, it seemed a bit flat to me.  And so I've been going back through and looking for places I can add more details and it is making a huge difference.  (I have a whole post on this planned for later this week.)

Both of these epiphanies have added a lot to my story (which I'm just about read to send out, by the way). And I never would have gotten them without reading.

So, what about you?  What are you currently reading?  How is it affecting your writing?

8

The New Short Story Market

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because even though I'm a writer, I don't always get my grammar correct!

I am submitting a short story to Amazon Kindle Singles sometime this weekend, after I get the query letter perfected and go through it one more time.   It's a story I originally wrote when I was working on my MFA, one I've always liked, but was never quite sure what to do with.  It's over 7,000 words long, longish for many journals, and it seems to be a cross between literary and popular fiction (like much of my work).  I pulled it out, updated it, and have been playing with rewriting it for the last couple of months.  I'm much happier with it now than I was when I first wrote it.  And I'm pleased to at long last have a place to submit it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Amazon Kindle Single program, here's a blurb from their Submissions Policy:

Anyone can submit original work to Kindle Singles. We've showcased writing from both new and established voices–from bestselling novelists to previously unpublished writers.


We're looking for compelling ideas expressed at their natural
length–writing that doesn't easily fall into the conventional space
limitations of magazines or print books. Kindle Singles are typically
between 5,000 and 30,000 words.


A Kindle Single can be on any topic. So far we've posted fiction,
essays, memoirs, reporting, personal narratives, and profiles, and we're
expanding our selection every week. We're looking for high-quality
writing, fresh and original ideas, and well-executed stories in all
genres and subjects.

I'm excited about this program.  I love the idea that Amazon is publishing short stories, articles, and novellas, and allowing the authors of these shorter pieces to actually make money on them.  When I wrote my MFA lecture years ago, my topic was the linked short-story and one of the ideas into which I delved was, why aren't short stories more popular?  You would think they might be the perfect reading material for our crazy-busy, over-booked age.  They are short (duh), and you can read one or two while on the treadmill at the gym or taking light rail home from work. But short stories have recently been notoriously unpopular and published mostly in literary journals, many of them obscure (and God love 'em, I mean no disrespect).  Now, thanks to Amazon, they seem actually to be selling and selling well.

I've been interested in this program for awhile now, and done some research on it.  Here are some links that explain more about it and the thinking behind it:

A profile of Singles editor David Blum that gives insight into Amazon's strategies

How Much Do Kindle Singles Authors Make?

The Author's Guild weighs in (positively)

Amazon's Kindle Singles Submission Page

Bear in mind, you can also put your own short works up through the Kindle Direct program.  I thought I'd try the submission route first, just for fun.  I'll keep you posted on the process!

What do you think about writing shorter pieces?  Are you on board with this new publishing opportunity?  Leave a comment and let's discuss.

8

How Many Projects Should Writers Focus on at a Time?

Photoxpress_2677927Lately I've been cursed blessed with an abundance of ideas.  I've got viable ideas for three mainstream novels and at least six ideas for novels to write in a new genre I'd like to experiment with a bit.

As a professional writer, I'm accustomed to juggling projects.  I'll often have an ongoing ghostwriting project (just finished up one), perhaps a shorter business project or two, coaching clients, students, and my blog, not to mention my own work on fiction.  This suits me well, as I'm a fickle type, who gets bored easily.  When I have a variety of projects to work on, I can go from one to other and keep my interest and engagement level up at all times.

However, most of what I've mentioned above is non-fiction. I can't recall ever working on more than one fiction project at a time.  Okay, wait a minute, when I was getting my MFA, I wrote a novel and also worked on several short stories.  So that technically counts.  But what about writing more than one novel at a time?  Is that even possible?  Seems to me the process of writing a novel is so absorbing, so all-encompassing that it might not be advisable.

I do know that in the past when I've had several ideas for novels at once, I've flitted back and forth until finally one idea became so consuming that I dove into it without looking back.  So my theory for the moment is to stay open, realize what a gift this is, and allow myself time to explore, with the idea that one idea will rise to the top and grab me without letting go.

So, do tell.  Do you work on more than one idea at a time?  How do you balance multiple projects?

PS.  In case you hadn't noticed, it's December.  And December means the holidays.  And the holidays mean I'm in a good mood.  So it might be worth your while to come back here next week.  Just saying.

Photo from Everystockphoto.

12

Top Takeaways from the Writer’s Loft, Part Two

Yesterday, I wrote part one in this series on things I learned at the Writer's Loft last weekend, and you can read that post right here.  In it, I talked about the presentations by Jimmy Carl Harris and Kory Wells.

Today it is time to turn attention to Richard Goodman's workshop, "5 Things to Learn About Writing in 90 Minutes."  (I also wrote about Richard's book in this blog post before I left Portland.) This was a great workshop that was really inspiring to me–as was his book.  Here are my top takeaways from it:

  1. "If you can focus, you can move the world."  Richard says that focus requires time alone and I tend to agree, though sometimes I can get in the zone writing when I'm in a crowded coffee shop.
  2. Always go for the exact meaning of the word you are using.  Richard talks a lot about finding le mot Juste, about checking the etymology of a word, and about looking up the definition of the word, even when you think you know it.  Because, you probably don't.  And the true definition can be a delightful surprise.
  3. To make yourself appealing as a narrator, share a fault.  (Some of the most entertaining pieces of the day came out of this exercise.)
  4. "At least 40% of really good writing is written by the reader."  Gotta admit, I'm still pondering this one. 
  5. Titles are under-rated.  They are where the book actually begins, how the essence of the book is communicated.
  6. The music of prose is the sound a writer makes on the page.

So, there you have it, good advice all.

Next up is a brief rundown of a talk by David Pierce.  Brief because he came at the end of the day and I was again, doing admin stuff.  However, it will be brief but powerful, I promise!

7

Top Takeaways from the Writer’s Loft, Part One

The Writer's Loft orientation weekend is over and here's a news flash for you:

I survived.

Actually, I thrived.

It was a wonderful, informative and inspiring weekend for writers, if a bit exhausting.  I've been laying somewhat low processing what I heard so that I can share it with you.   Turns out I heard a lot, and that was even with me missing some of the presentations while running around doing admin stuff.

So I'm doing the posts in three parts.  Here we go.

Friday

Jimmy Carl Harris started us off with a presentation on structure in short story.  Jimmy Carl is a former Marine, and great with structure.  But I didn't get to sit in much on this workshop, alas.  It was the start of the weekend, and Terry and I had things to do.  However, I do have one great takeaway quote for you:

"There are good stories.  There are safe stories.  There are no good safe stories."

Nifty, huh?  And very true, too.

After lunch, it was my turn.  I did a workshop on Writing Abundance: the Seven Practices of the Prolific and Prosperous Writer, which you can read more about on the Writing Abundance page.  At the Friday night reception, our wonderful student Alberta Tolbert graduated, yay! except we'll miss her.  Except we know she'll be around because all our loyal alumni come around as much as possible.  That night also, Kory Wells read her poetry, accompanied by her daughter Kelsey, who played the banjo.  Great show.  More about Kory in a minute.  Finally, Richard Goodman read from his book, French Dirt, and his soon-to-be-published New York Memoir.  More about him in the next post.

Saturday Morning

Okay, so here's the deal.  First thing Saturday morning, I did a Q and A with Richard Goodman about his books and writing.  It was awesome, and I mean that in the full sense of the word.  All I had to do was toss Richard the merest tidbit of a question and he was off and running.  Very inspiring.  I recorded the whole thing on my new digital voice recorder and planned to post it on this blog and also offer it to Richard for him to put on his website.

Alas, it was not to be.  You'll never in a million years guess why.

Because the dog ate my recorder.  Yes, indeed, it is true.  I'm housesitting at my home away from home, my dear friends' Sue and Walt's house and their newish dog, Gugi, a rescue from Emmylou Harris's pet rescue operation, ate my recorder.  She is such a sweetheart I couldn't even get mad at her.  I keep waiting for her to regurgitate some words of wisdom, but that hasn't happened yet.

So even though I don't have Richard on tape for you, I do have some nuggets from Kory Wells' talk on social media.  Kory is one of those rare birds who seems to be equally right-brained and left-brained.  She is at home in the techy world, which is where she works during the day, and an accomplished poet as well, with a fairly new volume of poems out called Heaven Was the Moon.  The perfect choice to demystify social media for writers.

Here are my takeaways:

  • You control the conversation online and you get to brand yourself.  Because of this, it is vital to pay attention to the profiles you set up on various social media, and the keywords you use.
  • Learn what people are saying about you online by signing up for Google alerts.  I used to do this; got tired of the volume of emails and un-signed up.   Let me make it clear that the volume of emails came from poorly defined search words rather than the fact that a lot of people are talking about me.  At any rate, yesterday I signed up again and it has already paid off.  I've discovered mentions of myself that I otherwise would not know about.
  • Find keywords to use to bring people to your site or blog by checking which words come up when you Google yourself.
  • Many connections can be made through "charming notes."  This is a concept Carolyn See promotes in her book, "Making a Literary Life."  She urges writers to write notes (notes, not emails) to people they admire.  Furthermore, she says to write one note a day.  Arrrhhgggg!  But I think we can pull this practice into the new decade and go for emails, don't you?  Kory told a story about how she found the artist for the cover of her book through a charming email.  So that works for me.

I'm currently trying to learn as much as possible about social media, and Kory's presentation was really helpful.

Tomorrow (or as soon as I have time to write another post) I'll cover tidbits from Richard Goodman's lecture, "5 Things to Learn About Writing in 90 Minutes."

5

It’s Sunday: Do You Know Where Your Niche Is?

I just found mine.

It wasn't really lost, in the sense that it was something I desperately missed.  It was more like it was buried under the multitude of interests and ideas that crowd my sometimes-mushy brain (too much going on in there!) 

It wasn't even something that I felt I needed.  The experts, however, say otherwise.  It took quite a bit of convincing, and reading a book to get me searching for my niche.  And then, as is so often the case, I found it right under my nose.

Are you ready?

My niche is information about creating a writing life while writing your book or waiting for it to sell. Or, in short, creating a life devoted to writing.  That has a nice ring to it.  Right?

I know.  Duh. Like I haven't been writing about just that already.  But you'd be surprised how difficult it can be to decide what it is exactly that I do.  Because, like many writers, I do many different things.  I'm terrible at networking events because my 20-second elevator pitch goes something like this:

"And what do you do?"  (Woman dressed in killer designer suit with beautifully lacquered nails.)

"Um, I'm a writer."  (Me, in my usual writerly outfit of gypsy skirt and lots of jewelry.)

"What do you write?"  (Killer woman.)

"Well, I ghostwrite.  And I teach writing.  And I coach writers.  And I run a writing program.  And I write this blog that talks about writing.  And then there's my own writing, the novels and short stories."

I'm telling the last part of it to the woman's back–the suit cuts a gorgeous line from the rear, too–because I've lost her.  She is off looking for someone who can tell her succinctly what he can do.

Since I'm not a big fan of networking events anyway, except for one I belong to in LA, I've managed to convince myself I don't really need a niche.  I have now seen the error of my ways and will spend the next year repenting. 

Actually, I'm really happy about this because identifying my niche gives me permission to do more of what I'm already doing.  I'm going to continue writing posts about craft and creativity and how they apply to making a life devoted to writing. 

One of my twitter friends, Mary, asked me to define "writing life" after I proudly tweeted about my niche.   And so here goes.  Creating a life devoted to writing can mean actually making a living writing, supplementing your income with writing, or just learning how to make contacts and attend events relating to writing, even if you don't need to earn a living from it.  A life devoted to writing implies that you make time for it regularly–another thing I talk a lot (some would probably say too much).  Creating a life devoted to writing means that the written word (and you practicing it) is front and center in your life.

So, there you have it, a niche, found.  And now excuse me while I go practice my elevator pitch.

3

How Far Away Are You? Part Two

Several days ago, I wrote Part One of this post on distance in viewpoint.  Rashly, at that moment, I promised a Part Two,  complete with how-tos.   The how-tos are the hard part, because as with all writing, they are difficult to explain and sometimes even more difficult to put into action.  But sometimes not. 

But never let it be said that I have backed away from a challenge. So here goes.

The goal at hand is to get deeply into the head of your viewpoint character.  There are places in your novel when you might want to stay in a more distant, cooler viewpoint, but that is not the point of our discussion today.  The point of our discussion is closeness, hot and intimate closeness.  None of that Ice Queen distance stuff for us, baby.  Its all about connection. 

How to accomplish that, given that we're talking about on the page and not on the body?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  I Am A Camera.  Or you are.  You job as the writer is to be the camera inside the viewpoint character's head.  Go deep inside your character (it is not as kinky as it sounds) and see the world through his or her eyes.  What does he see, smell, hear, taste, feel?

2.  Write Character Journal Entries.  One of the ways you get a character's voice on the page is to know that character well–so well that you can write her viewpoint as easily as you talk.  You don't always plan out what you are going to say, do you?  No, instead you talk.  Most of the time it is as natural as breathing.  Theoretically, the same should be true of writing in your character's viewpoint.

3.  Read Out Loud.  The best way to find out if your character talks the way you hear him talk is to read your manuscript out loud.  It makes a huge difference.   You'll pick up phrases that don't sound right and dull lines of dialogue.  If you character is the Duchess of York and you have her talking like Daisy from the Dukes of Hazzard, you'll hear it when you read out loud.

4. Interview with the Vampire, or at least your hero.  Another way to get inside your character's head is to ask her questions.  Make like Barbara Walters and find out what kind of tree she might be, among other things.

5.  Ordinary Day.  We all know there aren't any ordinary days, but just for the sake of your best-selling novel, let's pretend there are.  Take your character through a typical day in her life from the minute she gets up until she hies herself to bed.  Step by step.  This sounds tedious, but it is not, it is fun, and you'll discover way more about your character than what kind of toothpaste he uses.  You might get insight into what drives him (and also what kind of car he drives), what his day to day conflicts are, and perhaps even a taste of his motivation:  what gets him out of bed in the morning ( and the answer has nothing to do with an alarm clock).

6.  Put Her In Action.
  Have her do something.  Write a scene with your hero mowing the lawn or driving across New Mexico or teaching a child to swim.  These scenes will probably never make it into your book, but they will help you to understand who your character truly is as person.  Make a list of activities (use your life as a starting point) and every time you have a few minutes, choose an activity and write your character doing it. Action defines character.  Action is motivation in motion. 

So, are we recognizing a theme here? Are we perhaps noticing that the common denominator in all these exercises is a sincere desire to get to know our characters better?  Knowing your character inside and out is the key to being able to get inside his head to write in his viewpoint.  If you're having a hard time making your character's viewpoint come alive, go back to the starting point–character.  Ask more questions, delve more deeply, learn more about who you are writing about. 

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