I tried doing some free writing on these topics, but felt like I still wasn’t really connecting with my character. Then I remembered mind mapping. I grabbed my journal and started with the character’s name in the middle of the page. Then I started writing things that I know about her– including the names of family and friends, as well as what she loves and hates. You can see the current map in the picture above. I’m still working on it– at a minimum I want to add needs and fears– but I feel like I’m getting a better idea of who she is and how she changes by the end of the book.
You’ll notice the map is kind of messy– not like some of the pretty mindmapexamples you can find online. I’m putting something messy out on purpose because while I like to look at pretty examples, I don’t think real idea generation looks like that, at least not when I do it. I find ideas don’t leap from my mind fully formatted with correct punctuation and spelling. The more I let go of the need to be tidy, the more I can generate ideas that make my writing interesting and real.
Today I’m thinking about the protagonist of the book I’m working on. Her name is Maddie and she’s eleven. She’s got a dog, an older sister, and a really big secret. But what does she want?
What did I want, when I was 11?
I remember wanting pretty hair. I tried growing it long but then got tired of it and got it all cut off with a cute little Dorothy Hamill-style wedge. (Don’t laugh! They were really popular.) I wanted a ten-speed bike, but I only had a three-speed. I wanted friends, and had some. I wanted to be the best at something.
Recently I’ve been making an effort to exercise more. I set a goal of averaging 10,000 steps a day, and I track my steps with my phone. According to a random article on the internet, the 10,000 steps per day goal comes from a marketing campaign to sell pedometers in Japan. So, there’s no magic number of steps that will make anybody fit and healthy. But something about that number is alluring anyway.
I started thinking about the number ten thousand and how it surfaces in various contexts: Continue reading →
Lately I have found myself thinking about poetry and fiction, and why they are different, and how that difference affects the writing process. Some people think the difference is rhyme, or figurative language, or line length. In this view, poetry has these devices, and fiction does not. As for me, I think the difference is conflict.
Prompt writing is a form of automatic writing, a technique that was popularized by the Surrealist art movement. In prompt writing you begin by writing down a word or phrase (e.g., “I remember”) and then continue writing whatever pops into your head at that moment. The idea is to keep your hand moving. If you hit a wall and can’t think of anything else, you can repeat the phrase and then keep going. Natalie Goldberg describes this process in more detail in her book Writing Down the Bones. She suggests setting a timer and committing to keep writing until the timer goes off, no matter what. No need to worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar– just go.
I noticed a funny thing about myself the other day. I hadn’t been keeping up with my tai chi practice (long story) and I thought maybe I should go back to class. I tried to do the form on my own, and I found that I had forgotten a lot. So I got out the book* and tried to figure out the missing steps from the pictures. I decided I had to do this because I couldn’t go to class without re-learning the form. The teacher or other students might see me making mistakes!
You may be laughing at this point. I am laughing at myself too. I can’t go back to class until I perfect my form– which is what class is for. Continue reading →