Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Writing Life

Fri, Jul 20 2018

Hedging your bets

When losing weight, one of the ideas offered is to put a photo of a thinner self, or maybe a svelte model in clothes you like, on the front of the refrigerator to help you keep making healthy choices during times of stress discourage.

I try to keep extra writing projects or ideas in the pipeline so that when I bump up against a dry spell with a lengthy work-in-progress I have other writing I can work on to stay motivated.

If that fails, you can keep a copy of a mortgage statement or a car insurance bill on hand. It's not the same happy kind of motivation, but it might keep you from giving up, even if writing is a side job.

posted at: 19:32 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 20 2018

Part-time? Nonsense.

No one who writes is a part-time writer. The mind is always on that track, that bent. Other people take a thing that happens and grab the experience they see in the moment. A writer takes a thing that happens and steeps it in his or her senses until it is reborn as a story for everyone to grab.In a sense, everything a writer does is like living twice.

posted at: 10:22 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, May 30 2018

Truth and/or consequence

If you tell the truth, you don't have to have a good memory. But is fiction the truth? It can be, if it represents basic truths. A detail such as setting can enhance truth, but an underlying principle is what makes a story ring true with the reader. If you want your protagonist to survive jumping off a cliff, you'd better have a good reason why he or she doesn't die in the process. A miracle is convenient, but short of a miracle, Does a tree break the fall? Does a pterodactyl swoop in and grab the protagonist on the way down? Does he or she sprout wings and glide? The solution may surprise the reader, but the solution should still fit in with the general theme and tone of the telling.

posted at: 09:17 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, May 15 2018

Writing aside...

When we write, we use parts of our brain that may not be in use by most of the population in exactly the same way. That's not a scientific observation, but it seems to be true, in my experience. The fact that our brains are very busy may mean that our bodies are less active in many instances. We usually sit to write, so we're rarely walking or cooking dinner. We may be thinking about a story as we move, but when we sit down to the mechanics of actually writing our brains are occupied with getting words down, whether through typing or handwriting. (Some also record spoken words.)

When we're not actually forming words and we're thinking, conversing or listening, some of us need something to do with our hands. It's also true for other desk jobs, such as sitting in on a meeting or waiting for software to compile. Workers whose brains are busy but whose bodies are on pause may feel the need to fidget with something. Pen clips, rubber bands or other objects may find their way into nervous hands. Some twirl their own hair or turn a ring on a finger to keep the hands busy. What's your favorite way to fidget? Check out these fidget widgets and get more ideas for fidgeting.

posted at: 10:48 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, May 14 2018

Every climb is different for every character

The story you tell at the foot of a mountain you're about to climb is very different from the one you tell while climbing the mountain or the one you tell at the crest of the mountain. When you climb down the mountain you will have yet another perspective (and maybe another whole climb).

If you were climbing that same mountain once before and fell back amd broke your leg you'll have other thoughts weaving in and out of your mind the whole time. If you climbed it with a companion who was killed you'll have that memory climbing with you this round. If this is the 10th time you've climbed the mountain you may encounter different challenges on this climb. Do you have a child with you on this climb? Is someone chasing you on this climb? Are you following (or chasing) someone else on this climb? Is it winter with a blizzard this time, when it was summer and warm on the previous ascent? Are you meeting someone at the top? If so, can you see them up there? Will they be glad to see you or are they planning to harm you?

The climb is the universal theme. Your back-story, current conditions, motivation, and companions (or lack thereof), will make it a unique tale.

posted at: 20:40 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, May 09 2018

Outliving a villain

Villain, nemesis, rival. Whatever you choose to call them, they are the other side of hero or protagonist in a story. A villain is what makes a story more challenging to tell and a lot more satisfying to read. Many religions are based on good and evil doing battle. Having a villain is what makes a prize a little sweeter.

Sometimes the hero and the villain are battling within the same body or mind. It might be over health, demon possession, opposing desires or moral failings and victories. It's there, hovering, no matter what else goes on in a story. A being who represents this struggle makes a read hit home more because we've all experienced someone else who didn't like us or wanted to fight us or just plain hated us. Worse yet, someone might have ignored us completely and so became a sort of enemy by default.

It's important to make villains seem as personal as possible for the reader. If the villain dies in the first chapter there must be a way for that villain to still have a hold on our hero throughout the story. If the villain dies after some epic battle later in the tale, there is often some hint that the villain has influence or power that could possibly rise in some form to once again torment our hero. Think of a last scene in which the giant monster queen lies cold and still, but then we see one of her eggs beginning to shake and crack and glow with the new life inside it.

Do you want the hero to outlive the villain completely? If so, be careful. You might be ruling out a sequel down the line. Or you might have a hero who has run his or her course in life and is no longer interesting.

You, the writer, must outlive the villain in order to keep producing stories. The stories must be universal in scope if you want us to keep coming back for more.

They say the best revenge is living well. In order to do that, first you must live. Live, and keep writing.

posted at: 10:57 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, May 07 2018

Isn't that why they call it Creative Writing?

I'm not really fond of those creativity tests. I've taken several of them and found results that ranked me all over the spectrum. I question even the validity of the questions and the way they're presented. They're not very open-ended and they don't allow for the actual use of brainstorming. They're designed to pull up a head-load of the bias of past task-solving in very limited situations. If you're asked to come up with uses for a brick and you're told to list one-word answers, where's the creativity in that?

For a truly creative person, a test is limiting and structured. The very idea of being tested makes some people freeze up and not be able to think freely with their answers. Such a test hardly allows for two (or more) diverse ideas to come out of nowhere and be thrown into the mix in ways that a test builder would never even consider. (For me, this questions the ability of the test builder's creativity.)

I would suggest something a little more gut level when it comes to finding the answer as to how creative someone is. Ask these sorts of questions of yourself:

Has anyone ever told you that you're a very reliable worker, but not very creative?
How did you feel about being told that?

Have you ever looked in the mirror and told yourself that you're not very creative?
How did you feel about being told that?

When was the most creative time in your life?
How do you feel when remembering that time?

Almost everyone can think back to the school subject they struggled with most as a young person. Is there something specific a teacher (or other mentor or peer) could have said or done to help you better understand that subject? Why do you think they didn't help you that way? Could that be changed for you or some other student now? How?

We often think of creativity as some magic essence that is either there or not there. Do you believe creativity can be awakened in almost everyone, given the right circumstances and choices?

Is creativity in the DNA? Is it some wide open field that other people begin fencing off during our development? Do we gradually stop opening the gates to access and explore?

Many people tell me they could never be a writer because they aren't creative at all, but they say this with a faraway look in their eyes and I suspect that they've been listening to voices they could easily contradict, even voices from within their own mind. If enough people keep telling us we're not creative and if we even keep telling ourselves that, we're likely to begin believing it on some level. If you feel even a tiny bit sad or rebellious to the idea that you're not creative, the case isn't closed. Prove it. Show us what you've got.

posted at: 13:18 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Quote Of The Moment
A caterpillar who keeps company with other caterillars dreams of one day reaching the sunny side of the tree. A caterpillar who keeps company with butterflies dreams of one day crossing the canyon that the tree overlooks and the other caterpillars laugh. Association is everything.
--Bill Johnson
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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!