Sneaky Writers’ Tricks

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Thanks to bensound.com for the intro and outro music.

ASK THE AUTHOR: Bill Giovanenetti via Facebook: How do you write yourself into your novels?

AARON: Good question. I actively try not to write characters like myself, but each of my characters has some aspect of me in them. I think it’s probably impossible to completely separate yourself from your characters. Instead, I’ll give each one an aspect of myself (my personality, that is). I’ll make others the opposite of me (which you may argue is still making them like me). But I’m not like Kurt Vonnegut or Clive Cussler where I write myself into my books as a character myself.

POPS: I don’t. While it’s cute to see Stan Lee make cameos in Marvel Comic movies, (or Alfred Hitchcock for that matter), I’m not sure I want to place myself in a story. The story isn’t about me, it’s about my characters. I don’t mind other authors doing it. Some do it with good success, I’m just not one of them. I do sometimes give my protagonists skills, courage, wisdom, etc that I lack. I like to look up to my protagonists…at least  most of them.

Firsts in Fiction

Sneaky Writers’ Tricks

You do anything long enough, you start to get good at it, and you learn what works for you. Here are some tips and tricks that help us write solid fiction.

Aaron: Soundtracks. We could do a whole cast on this. We may have. (Yup. http://aarongansky.com/music-to-write-by/) I like to write with music. Sometimes it’s film scores, sometimes it’s my favorite bands, sometimes it’s classical, and sometimes it’s dub step or pop. I try to choose something that I can listen too quietly in the background that will help inspire my ms. My HOA was written to the music of mewithoutyou, an outstanding, but unconventional band. You should look them up.

Al: I’ll follow Aaron’s lead here. I usually write in silence but sometimes I use music to carry me along. I have to be careful. I can’t listen to adult contemporary because it distracts me; or classical because I tend to listen too closely and that takes my focus of the words. Some movie scores help. I used to keep a set of adventure or dark tunes from movies available to help me stay in the mood. I’ve also used nature sounds: rain, thunder, etc. to block out noises of the neighborhood or house (such as television playing on another room.

Aaron: Stop in the middle of a sentence. Or leave yourself notes. It’s a habit I’ve gotten into so I know where to pick up. If I leave off at the end of a scene, I don’t know how I want to start the next one. Stopping in the middle of something helps me get started the next day (or hour as the case may be) with a minimal interruption to my momentum.

Al: I like to complete things, so I like to finish a scene or a chapter if I can. If I can’t I don’t worry about it. I will often finish a chapter then write a few bullet points for the next scene. I also tend to read what I wrote the day before or have my computer read it to me. This helps me get back in the flow of things (as well as do a little editing). It’s a great way to recapture your mood, pacing and flow.

It’s also good to remember that you don’t have to write chronologically. If the last scene sets up a scene to come, I may go ahead and rough out that scene even if it’s out of sequence. Sometimes jumping ahead will give you a target to aim at. No one is going to read your first draft, and no one is looking over your shoulder. Skip around if you need to. Some people can’t write that way. That’s fine. Write the way you’re wired. They way other do things isn’t necessarily the way you should do things.

Aaron: Concept art. In the same way that I put together soundtracks for my works, I like to save a folder of artwork that inspires the mood or feeling for the settings and characters in my novels. This is good to keep as a reference, but also good just to browse through for inspiration. It helps me sink back into my world, and can really help my description and imagery come alive.

Al: Along the idea of what Aaron just said, I often clip images (digitally usually) of certain items related to characters: cars, houses, weapons, aircraft, etc. It helps me keep continuity. I paste the images into the stylesheet I create for my books.

Aaron: Seriously. Poetry. Aimee Nez, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Robert Frost. Learn to make language work for you. Learn rhythm. But especially learn to compress emotion into efficient, well-crafted lines. Even if you don’t learn how to write it; read it. It’s super helpful.

Al: Movies inspire me. More importantly they free my creative muses. I mean movies in theaters. There’s something about being in a large dark room with story being shown on a giant screen the gets my fiction juices flowing.

Reading is always helpful. Reading someone else’s word seems to unlock the doors of my own creativity.

Aaron: Keep the quotes. The ones that inspire you. Make sure you can find them when you need them. Read them often. Hang them like torches in a dark room. They can help when you’re stymied.

Al: Sometimes I draw sketches of places where action takes place. In Finder’s Fee I have a complex scene that takes place on the grounds of a mansion built near a seaside cliff. I had to sketch out a plot plan to choreograph my actors. In stage and film the speak of blocking, deciding who is going to move where, and when.

Here’s another related trick: Use Google Maps, street view to see real places and use that as a guide for site description. You can call the place anything you want. You can look at a street scene in San Diego and call the place Anytown.

Maps of real places are extremely helpful. I set my Maddy Glenn suspense books in a fictional town that is really Ventura (well mostly). This enabled me to build fiction on reality. I’ve done the same with many stories.

Aaron: Listen to podcasts. It’s another avenue for art. I like Radiolab (great for ideas), Welcome to Nightvale (it’s fun and quirky), Brains On (for the kids, but also good for inspiration). There’s a wealth of information out there to help inspire you when you need ideas.

Al: The most effective sneaky writer trick is to put your butt in the chair on a regular basis. John Grisham talks about writing one good page a day, every day. That’s what he does, and he produces a book every year.

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