Category Archives: emotions

From the Basement to The Attic: Remembering the Past and Creating the Future

Today a lot of people fix up their basements, but when I was younger most of the basements I entered were dingy and filled with memorabilia, broken appliances, file cabinets, tools, damaged furniture and dirt. It was a storage room for the past.

When we are writing, we have to go to the basements of our mind to retrieve stories, images, characters and settings. We might only use shards of recollections but nonetheless those bits of information are what make our stories unique.

What do you remember about your past that would help the future of one of your stories?

*What experiences do you remember? Can you use any one of those experiences when writing a scene? E.g. I recall being an overweight ten-year old in gymnastics. It was going to be my first time on the parallel bars and I was excited. I imagined myself flipping gracefully. I envisioned the other girls clapping and the instructor beaming with pride. Instead, I got a pat on the belly and a very rude comment from the instructor “You better lay off the snickers if you want to be good at this,” she said.
If I am writing a scene about disappointment, hurt feelings or embarrassment, I might pull up this memory to see what it evokes.

*What do you remember about your first crush? My first crush was on a boy who had his face painted like a clown. I was at a town festival. I was making my way to the leather tent because my father gave me money to buy a leather bracelet that had my name on it. (This was super special to me because I could never find my name on anything cool like barrettes, pencils, etc.) Just as I approached the tent the boy walked out of the adjacent one. My world stopped. Suddenly it wasn’t the bracelet I was thinking about any more. If I am writing a scene about a first crush, I revisit that moment.

*Do you remember an argument with a friend, a parent, a teacher?

*Think back to a day when you were happy, what was it that made you happy?

*Do you remember a time when you were injured?

*Who were the people of your neighborhood?

*What did the “popular kids” wear?

*What mistakes did you make? Did you ever skip school? Sneak a cigarette? Lie about where you were going?

*Where did you hang out?

*What was your first experience with death?

Grab a pen and paper and jot down ten things you remember from your past. (Mix and Match)
• 1. A person
• 2. An event
• 3. An experienced emotion
• 4. A destination
• 5. A situation
• 6. A lie (you told or were told)
• 7. A room
• 8. A piece of clothing
• 9. A scent
• 10. A conversation

Okay now it’s time to move on to attics. Think of the attic as where you are going. Yes you store things here too but they are to be used again. Take for example Holiday decorations, you have used them in the past but you have no idea what will be going on in your life the next time you bring them down so they are also part of your future.

The attic of our stories is the part where you tap into your hopes, dreams and predictions. The beginning of the story is the basement. The journey of the story is the attic.

*Where do you see yourself in ten years? (Can your character be pondering this same question?)

*What events can happen that will change the world? (Is your character a part of these events?)

*What are your worst fears? Can you create a scene that makes you confront these fears?

*What would be your dream come true?

*Who are people you may meet?

*What surprise would you love to receive?

Look at the above questions I listed and then review your answers from the first part of the exercise (Your past memories). Combine your past recollections with your future hopes to see how you might be inspired.

Take a look at any of your stories and try and pick out exact spots where you know you drew on the past (the basement). Do you remember a part of your story where you were stumped and had no idea how to move forward? Did you need to tap into your characters mind (attic) to see what their dreams, hopes, and desires were?

One of the things I find most fun when writing is the fact that I can create a past and a future. I have the ability to ensure the future for my character is exactly what I want it to be. I don’t have this same luxury in real life. In writing, everything could be certain if we choose it to be. If I want my character to become a law student, I could make that happen. I could also make her find the perfect mate, wear the best clothes, be given many awards and die peacefully in her bed.

In writing, there are basements and attics. The basement is where we have been and the attic is where we are heading. You can’t have a future if you never experienced a past. Use your life experiences when writing and you may find you create a future best seller.

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Thinking about Writing is Not Writing, but…

Too often, I find myself thinking about writing while driving, thinking about writing while working, thinking about writing while sitting on the couch which leads to me telling myself Hey Mar, thinking about writing is not writing.
Thinking about writing is not writing but it may be just as important. I have found that a lot of my best ideas came at my laziest of moments. There have been times where I sat down to write only to come up with nothing. I’d feel sorry for myself and decide that instead of wrestling with the emptiness of my mind, I’d go take a nap. Sure, the first few seconds I’d curse myself and call myself some unflattering names but then something almost magical would happen. As I lay there in a stupor a blink of an idea would flicker. A character I’d never met would introduce itself. A scenario I hadn’t imagined would dance across my thoughts and before I knew it, I was jumping off of the couch.
Why didn’t the ideas come to me while sitting in my writing chair? Why didn’t these characters say hello when my fingers were tapping the keyboard? Why didn’t the scenario shout to me when I was sitting there staring at a blank page?
I have come to the realization that our brains need rest and much like a baby sometimes they don’t act on command. It is easy to think about what you will write when you are not writing because nothing is expected of you in that moment. Your mind is free to roam. It’s not in the spotlight so to speak therefore it is filtering out junk without you even realizing.
I think I figured it out. We have to trick our minds into thinking we are not going to write. We have to play reverse psychology with our own psyches.
If you make mental notes when you are thinking about writing, you might find a plethora of material waiting for you when you sit down to actually write.

Do you think about writing more than you write?
Where are some places you find yourself thinking about writing?
Do you agree that once you walk away from writing that your mind fills with great writing material?

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Is Writing a State of Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a mental state (according to “state theory”) or imaginative role-enactment (according to “non-state theory”).

After researching hypnosis for my current work in progress (I’m really excited about this one) I have come to my own conclusion about the writing process. I believe that writers enter a hypnotic state when they are creating their written work.
Really think about where your mind goes when you write. Are you at your computer or are you far away in another land? Your body is one place but your mind is wherever it is that you take it. An interruption to a writer is just like a hypnotist snapping his finger in front of the face of the person being hypnotized.
I can only speak for myself when I say that interruptions drive me crazy, especially when I am in “the zone”. It’s not because I don’t want to talk to the person who is calling or tend to the child who needs me, it’s that I know how hard it can be to slip back into that frame of mind.
Writers block may be the inability to drift into that hypnotic state where magical lands exist and memorable characters walk. It might be that the writer with “writers block” is unable to detach their selves from the reality they are living in and enter the world they need to in order to create.
Have you ever caught yourself staring at an object but realized it was not the object that you were thinking about? Anytime our mind takes a stroll, we are in state of hypnosis. Did you ever read through your work and ask yourself “Where did I pull that from?”
Writers write under hypnosis then hypnotize readers with their words. When I count to three you will be out of my world and back into yours, 1…2…3…

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Surrounding Yourself With Inspiration

Yesterday I spent time on my back porch looking out at my yard. The sight of my withering Weeping Willow saddened me. Winter is approaching and the green weepy leaves that I love so much are slowly but surely disappearing for the season. As I dwelled on the soon to be bare tree a realization occurred to me. I surround myself with the very things that inspire me to write. I won’t say I did this consciously because I really do not think I did. I have loved trees for as long as I could remember (Weeping Willows are my favorite). I can go on and on about trees and how you will probably find one in each of my stories (even if it is just a small mention) but I will get back to the point I’m trying to make. I believe that most if not all writers surround themselves with inspiration (whether conscious or not). After coming to my realization, I looked around my house (especially my writing room) and found many items that I have placed throughout my home that inspire me. Here is my list.

1. Trees- I know I already mentioned them, but I have to add them to my list.

2. Quotes- I love any type of plaque or picture that have a quote across it. A quote can inspire me in so many ways. It also can give me that push that I need when I’m having an off day. Some of the quotes that surround me are:

*Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail-Ralph Waldo Emerson (Love, Love, Love this quote).

*Home is where your story begins

*The best way to predict the future is to create it

*Even if the voices aren’t real, They have some pretty good ideas (This one makes me smile. I think it’s a great quote for writers).

*Laughter is the music of the heart

*Family, where life begins and love never ends

I stumbled upon the one pictured above(Creativity is a drug I cannot live without by Cecil B. DeMille) today and instantly fell in love with it

3. My writing diplomas. I have two diplomas from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Every time I look at the framed diplomas that hang upon my wall, I am reminded that I have taken steps to better myself and hopefully further my writing career.

4. Photographs: Pictures of family and friends can be very inspiring. If I’m writing a scene that involves friendship, all I have to do is look at a picture of a friend and instantly memories, emotions, and conversations pop up. I especially love the pictures of my father (he passed away two years ago) because I know he was my biggest fan. I can still hear him say “Finish that book Maribeth,” or “Don’t give up honey, you are a good writer.”

5. Books: I was thrilled this year when my husband came home with a beautiful bookshelf. I am inspired for many different reasons by the books that line my shelves. A glance at them can push me to keep writing because I want to see my name on the cover of a book. I also can be inspired by lines in the books that other authors wrote. Most of all they inspire me to keep writing because I know that every one of the authors were once unknown.

I’d love to hear what types of items surround you. Maybe something that inspires you will inspire me as well.

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If Linus Could Wait, So Can I

Happy Halloween! Halloween stirs up memories for me. I like to reminisce about being a young girl anticipating this once of year fantastical event. Sure, there were the costumes, the candy and the trick or treating, but most of all there was the Charlie Brown Halloween special “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. I looked forward to seeing the Peanuts crew dressed in costume, celebrating the joy the holiday brought. I rooted for Linus and believed every year (even though I knew the outcome) that the Great Pumpkin would come. Today, as I reflected on my Halloween Pasts, I came to the realization that I am now Linus. I am sitting in a pumpkin patch (okay maybe it’s a room within my house that I like to call my “writing room”) waiting for the great pumpkin (an agent) to show and prove everyone who never thought it (or she or he) would come wrong. I have created characters much like children do on Halloween and rang doorbells (okay, sent e-mails) in hopes that the person on the other side would fill my treat bag with goodies. When no one answered the door (e-mail) I became like Linus and waited and waited (still waiting) and refused to believe that the Great Pumpkin (great agent) was going to be a no show.
Linus was convinced that once he left, the pumpkin would show. Aren’t writers a lot like Linus? We are sitting in the middle of a field of writers waiting to be discovered (I know, Linus wasn’t waiting to be discovered but still he was waiting for something he believed in.) We have to be patient like Linus. Wasn’t it another fairytale that a pumpkin turned into a coach and escorted a certain princess to a ball? I believe my pumpkin will come and bring magical things. Do you?

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Why I am Your Dream Client:(Info I can’t include in a query or bio)

A good query will pique an agent’s interest and hopefully prompt them to request more. A bio will give an agent a glimpse of who you are. The social media networks will allow an agent to get an even better grasp on a potential client, (what they look like, what family and friends say about them, what their interests are). Today’s post is meant to be fun yet informative. Currently, I have three partials out there swimming in the sea of possibility. I have decided to list ten reasons why I think I would be a dream client just in case one of those agents decides to check out my blog. What would you tell an agent about yourself if you could?

1. I LOVE constructive criticism. I am completely aware that I will never reach my full potential unless I am willing to listen to what others have to say. I do not view constructive criticism as an attack. If I had nothing more to learn, I would already have many published books under my belt. Note to other writers- Don’t respond immediately to constructive criticism. You are more apt to respond negatively within minutes than you are if you give yourself a few hours, even a few days.

2. I will never attack you via the internet. I won’t promise I will always agree with what you have to say but it is not my style to throw your name out into cyberspace to “get back” at you.

3. I am not trying to be the next J.K. Rowling, I am trying to be me. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love to become as successful as a lot of today’s popular authors, I am saying I won’t try and ride on anyone else’s coattails. I want my work to be my own. I’d rather start a trend than follow one.

4. I am good at public speaking. Of course I get the jitters when standing in front of a group of people but the audience would never know.

5. I can get along with anyone. I think everyone has a story to tell. My motto is – look for the good within every person you meet and you might be surprised how your life changes. If you can’t find any good then you have a muse for evilness.

6. I will always give it one-hundred and ten percent. I want to be great at anything I do, not because I want to be better than anyone else, I just want to be the best of myself.

7. I have a fun sense of humor. Often, I connect with others based on sense of humor. I’d rather laugh at myself than at someone else.

8. I won’t pretend to know your job.

9. I have a trunk full of stories waiting to come to life. I don’t want to be a one trick pony.

10. I am LOYAL. I won’t look for every opportunity to get rid of you. If there was a problem I felt needed to be addressed, I would come to you first.

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CREATING A CHARACTER IS LIKE DRESSING A MANNEQUIN

I enjoyed going shopping with my mother when I was a young girl. I loved it not because she bought me things (although that was an added bonus) but because I loved the mannequins. At eight years old I was creating characters without realizing that was what I was doing. With the help of my imagination the giant faceless dolls became people. I gave them names, faces, personalities, people to see and places to go. The person who dressed the mannequin helped make it easy for me to envision the people I created. We as writers do the same for our readers when we develop the characters that walk the pages of our books.
When developing a new character, think of a nude mannequin waiting to be dressed. The way a person dresses can tell you a lot about their personality. The clothing you pick for your character helps the reader envision what they look like. What colors would your character wear and why? Maybe a loud boisterous character would choose colorful clothing such as a bright orange sweater, a pair of bootleg jeans and a pair of zebra print stilettos. A more demure character might choose to wear a navy blue pea coat with a grey angora cowl neck scarf, a dark grey pencil skirt and black leather knee high boots.
Is your character a teenager, a housewife, an athlete a hipster? Once you answer this question, you will find it easier to pick out their attire. The way you describe their hair will also help bring them to life. Does the girl in the pea coat have blonde silky hair that she secures tightly in a ponytail at the back of her head? Does the lively girl have short brown hair with golden highlights that frame her face? Speaking of faces, what does theirs look like? Have you ever found yourself staring at a mannequin envisioning their features based on the way they are dressed?
Once you know their style, their features usually will present themselves. Are their eyes circular in shape? Can you describe their nose? What about their smile? Is it vibrant and contagious or non-existent?
Anyone who dresses a mannequin has an idea of a person in mind. Their execution of style is what entices the buyer to purchase what they are selling.
Let’s make this a writing exercise. Imagine you have an unclothed mannequin in front of you and it’s your job to add clothing, accessories, hairstyles, facial features and personality to the lifeless figure. You want the potential buyer to be able to clearly envision the character you have created.
******** My character**********
Name –Lydia (Where do you get your names for your characters? Is there meaning behind them?) Something as simple as a name can lure readers in.

Age: 18 (Your main character’s age will generally constitute your target reading age, eg. Young Adult readers would most likely connect with a character that is within the fourteen-to nineteen age range).

Features: (It is important to include features in your descriptions, this allows the reader to feel like they have a good sense of what the character looks like) Dark wavy shoulder length hair, Hershey kiss eyes, a smile that stretches like a rubber band, a star shaped birthmark under her eye and a slender figure with the exception of her rounded derriere.

Quirks if any: ( Quirks are a way to make your character become relatable to the reader) Lydia has a terrible habit of cracking her knuckles.

Voice: (Imagine what your characters voice will sound like. Is it raspy? Is his or her speech fast?) Lydia’s come hither voice makes her a favorite with the opposite sex.

Attire: ( The clothing your character wears can help define what type of person they are) Lydia slipped on her tightly fitted rainbow decorated t-shirt and tucked her stretchy denim pants into her knee length Chuck Taylor sneakers. She liked that her style was unlike anyone else’s and often referred to her sense of flair as “punk rock and roll”. She’d rather set a trend than follow one. Once someone started to imitate her style she would change it. She hated that the girls in school began wearing fingerless elbow high gloves because that meant she could no longer wear her favorite accessory.

Hopefully, I created a character that you can now see. The next time you are shopping, take a moment to look at the mannequins. You might be surprised at how inspiring they can be.
Think of one of your favorite characters, what was something that made them memorable? What steps do you take when creating a character?

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