One of the best posts I’ve seen re: tips on creative writing from Gabrielle Leimon – Published author and penniless poet., Huffington Post, UK
Writing Exercises That May Help You to Become More Creative
As writers there are times for all of us when we hit that brick wall formally known as writers block. No matter how much work or studious contemplation you push onto a page, it just doesn’t seem to be working. If you spend lots of time agonising over every decision in your book, maybe you’re over-thinking it. If you have trouble finding the path, perhaps you need to shake things up.
Well, never fear. Writing should be a labour, but a labour of love. You should at least enjoy some degree of your writing so here are some quick exercises that may help you to become more creative. Find your writing space, wear whatever you’re most comfortable in…
Go out and do a spot of people watching
Sit yourself down in a cafe (or a bar. Caffeine, alcohol, pick your drug of choice) and take a notepad and pen or a laptop, however you prefer to write. Then look at the people around you. Try to think up their story. Ask yourself some questions. Why are they there that day? Are they alone? If so, why? Do they look happy? What does the way they drink or eat their food say about them? Very soon you’ll be whipping up a character around these strangers that you can easily transport into a book. Looking at someone and thinking of their little idiosyncrasies and some sort of back-story may help to really enrich your characters and make them seem more human.
Trying too hard to create the perfect ending?
Why make it perfect? Why tie up every loose end when that’s just what the reader expects? Why not shock the reader (and yourself) by ending it in some brutal, cold fashion out of the blue. I mean, let’s be honest… it’s a method that seems to be working well for George R.R Martin. This may make the book marketable because the ending is so different and it may even force you to want to write a sequel as your mind tries to solve the damage that you yourself have inflicted on the characters and your audience.
Get a little experimental
Was your story promising to start with but now dwindling? Why not do something interesting? Play around with the timeline or format. Introduce unexpected images and twists that seem arbitrary and, as time goes on, find ways to link them into some sort of similar theme. Why not change genre half way through? Start it as a rom com that then turns in to a thriller unexpectedly mid sentence to keep yourself and the audience guessing. If you’re excited about the plot, you’ll want to write it and keep writing. Draw out mind maps and try to really visualise where you’re going and how to get there. Try to experience some of the things in the story (as long as they’re not dangerous to anyone or illegal) and try to get a real feeling for what’s happening in case it beings about some inspiration.
Stranger than Fiction
If you want to write but have trouble finding something to write about I can honestly recommend that the news is a great place to find inspiration. There are so many wacky news stories that come out each day just waiting for you to come along and inject a little imagination into.
Are your plot lines too thin?
If you’re someone who has lots of different novel ideas, almost too many, then why not try to think of ways to cram them together. Do you feel there’s not enough action? Is there not much going on in your current novel? Why not consider the possibility of joining your current story with old, abandoned drafts of other stories you’ve worked on. If they can work within the same narrative then this may be the key to helping you create a well-rounded story.
Write regularly, write often.
The more you write, the better you’ll become. When you’re not working on a story why not try your hand at blogging or poetry writing. Why not write short stories on simple themes. Write the story of your name and how you came to be called that. Write about the best moment of your life. Write about the last thing that made you laugh. Maybe you’ll find that you can use bits of these short stories in a bigger story.
Create a back-story for every major character
Think your characters seem a little one dimensional? Well before writing why not sit down and write a page or two in your notes about that character. Where were they born? What childhood experiences have made them who they are today? What are their fears? What is their favourite food? What are their little idiosyncrasies that make them unique? So they have a stutter? Do they “um” and “ahh” when they speak because they’re anxious about what they say? Do they start tapping their fingers on the table when they begin to feel anxious? Always remember to make your characters human so that when your reader is reading the text they feel like they’re almost interacting with real people. It makes for a much better read than cardboard characters. Even if it’s just you who knows the back-story it can deepen a character. In fact, here is an excellent questionnaire that I found on Tumblr that may help you to form fully rounded and interesting characters.
In answering the above questions it may help you to really shape your characters. You can make things up or base the character on someone you know. Once the characters really feel human and have their own characteristics this may make them more interesting to write and certainly more interesting to read.
Sit on that brick wall: ignore your work for a while.
Why not try avoiding your work for a while? As we all know, inspiration hits at the strangest of times. Maybe if you’re forcing yourself to write then it’s not going to come organically. Do other things and maybe inspiration will come naturally to you in time.