U is for Unexpected

Writing for me is not a thoroughly planned journey. It is often just a rough sketch and I usually end up coloring outside of the lines. For me, creativity happens spontaneously. If I try to plan out every little nuance before I begin to write, I find I have no desire to actually write the story. It takes all the joy out of it for me. So although I may have a general outline, I tend to just let my storyline flow and see what happens.

However, that does not mean that I am never surprised by what happens. This weekend I was working on my novel. The scene was going well, we were working on setting up a game plan for their undercover operation. Then, right in the middle of this, one of my characters decides to have a deep, introspective moment. I’m like, ‘Where is this even coming from and you choose now to have this conversation? We are right in the middle of a battle plan, not a why did you trust me conversation.’ Still, my character was unwilling to progress any farther until this matter was dealt with, so we rolled with it. It may or may not become important later in the plot, I have no idea as I never planned for this conversation.

This is part of why I love writing, the joy of discovering surprising backstories and hidden depths to characters. The twists and turns in plots that I could never anticipate. Sometimes it irritates me and I rant for a while or even walk away from the story for a time. But in the end, the curiosity about what happens next always draws me back.

So what is something unexpected that happened in your life recently?

 

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P is for Plot

It is probably no surprise that I chose Plot for the letter P. Despite the fact that I am a pantser not a plotter, every story requires a plot. However, instead of writing about how to develop a plot, I thought that it would be fun to show you how I develop a story.

Usually I don’t get the start of a story, but am thrown right into the middle the middle of a scene.

“Laine walked at a brisk clip down the sidewalk, searching for the bookstore. She sighed in frustration, tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. When she’d stopped for directions, they’d seemed fairly straightforward, walk two blocks, turn right, walk another three and the store should be on her right. However, her quarry was proving to be elusive as this was the third time she’d circled these two blocks without a sign of the store she was searching for.”

Now this leaves me with so many questions. Usually when I have snippets like this and I’m in the middle of another story, I ignore them and they fade away. Sometimes, however, they don’t fade away but come back repeatedly. So after about the 48th circuit of Laine down that sidewalk, I give in and sit down with her for a chat.

Sitting down, I start by looking for her full name and appearance. She is Elaine Narrows, somewhere in her late twenties, she is about 5’7”, curly bright auburn hair, wearing a tan pantsuit with low heels. Her occupation is that of lawyer, although she refuses to say what particular branch. She’s used to keeping her cards close to the chest and doesn’t want to give away any more information until she judges me trustworthy.

Having met her, I know have to unravel what led up to her going in search of this bookstore. She is obviously a smart woman, so she wouldn’t just randomly go off in search of a bookstore. So what made her go looking and why that particular bookstore? I have to go back to the where it started.

And suddenly a scene unfolds before me, an office, your basic office, with dove gray walls, metal file folders, and a couple of potted plants in the corner. It’s Monday, not even 9 a.m., and the day is overcast, cloudy and gray. Laine is sitting at the desk, her hair neatly pulled back in a French braid and a cup of coffee steaming on the corner of the desk. However, it is the occupant of the chair on the other side of the desk that catches my attention. A teenage girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen. She is thin, too thin, and there is desperation in her eyes. She has long brown hair pulled into a sloppy braid and a lip ring, a simple small hoop. She is wearing an oversized green canvas jacket that she’s huddled into and her hands are clenched in a death grip. Ah yes, here is where the true story begins.

When I reach this point, the story usually gains a life of its own and it isn’t too long before I reach the scene that started it all, Laine’s search for the bookstore. So for me, the story usually starts with a glimpse of a scene from somewhere in the middle of the story, a pivotal point in the story that will change everything. I then have to do some detective work to find out where the story begins and then follow it to its logical conclusion.

So how do you plan a story?

 

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B is for Bunnies… a.k.a. Plot Bunnies

So I don’t know if plotters deal with this, but for me as a pantser, I am well acquainted with plot bunnies. Everyone believes that bunnies are these cute, fluffy, little things that are the perfect companions for animated princesses. But don’t let the cuteness fool you. Plot bunnies are very dangerous creatures and one must be on a constant look out for them. So here are three ways plot bunnies can sneak in and how to deal with them.

 

  1. The subtle sneak

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So this is the first and hardest type of plot bunny to detect. These ones usually appear when the writing flow is going well. You’re in a groove and the words are just flowing onto the page, ideas flying at you so fast that you can barely keep up. This is where the subtle sneak plot bunny hops in 😉 They subtly throw you off track by subverting you to an idea that still belongs in the book but is not relevant. For example, my character Lirim is a terrible fry snob. So with a subtle nudge from the plot bunny, I spend half an hour writing about his fry ranking system before realizing that it has zero plot relevance. (Thankfully, this has not happened but this is the subtle terrible power that these particular plot bunnies wield).

 

So how can you counteract this evil scheme? When the writing is going well, every twenty minutes or so, take a quick break and assess what you are writing. I know that this can be hard when you are in the middle of a writing flow, but it can save you having to edit out irrelevant material that you spent literally hours writing. It may slow you for a minute, but it’s the only way to save time in the end.

 

  1. The ‘Let’s go find out what made that noise’.

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This is also known as the pointless plot bunny. For me, these bunnies especially like to show up when I’m tired or over-caffeinated. These are the ones where you go back when you’re well rested and wonder what in the world you were drinking to think that that was a good idea. These usually occur when the story is stalled and you’re looking for a way to get the story moving again. When you are desperately looking for a way out of the corner that you’ve written yourself into, this is when they whisper their insidious ideas. For the record, ideas like having the main character’s long dead Aunt Maeve appear to them in a dream or having them have an illogical amazing breakthrough while they are microwaving peeps is usually a sign of their presence. (Disclaimer: No peeps were hurt in the writing of this blog post).

So how can we avoid these soulless plot wreckers? One way is to simply avoid writing until you get some rest. They find it harder to prey on well rested minds. Also, consider having a sit down with your characters. When my novel is stalled, it is usually because I am trying to force one of my characters to do something out of character. Usually with a bit of backtracking and dialogue with my characters and I am able to write without any problems.

 

  1. The semi-helpful plot bunny

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These plot bunnies are like the brownies of the writing world. Although often kind and helpful, they can often have their mischievous streak. They help writers by letting them see things differently from what they have planned out. The quietest of the three, you have to listen for their whispers of “What if?” For example, what if Aletta was the one who was a food snob instead of Lirim? What if Lirim hated eating anything green, despite drawing his strength from nature? These can be helpful in fully exploring your story and sometimes bring critical breakthroughs.

So how are these creatures dangerous? Like in the movie “Gremlin” where the Mogwai turned into Gremlins by being fed after a certain time, these plot bunnies must be carefully monitored. Just as brownies can turn into boggarts, so can these plot bunnies become pointless plot bunnies if allowed free rein. (See number two above for how to deal with these.)

So, listen to them, but always keep your plot firmly in your mind. Most writers have a point A and a point B and a general idea of how to get there. These plot suggestions from the bunnies should help fill out some details, but should ultimately not alter the final destination that is point B.

Hopefully these tips help you deal with your plot bunnies. If you are overwhelmed, don’t give up. Remember, plot bunnies are easily bored and the odds are good that they will get distracted and leave you alone eventually.

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So how do you deal with plot bunnies when you are writing? (Even if its writing a blog post or an informative piece 😊)

 

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Frantic

This is a concept that I am well acquainted with as a writer. I do not know if every writer is like this, or if it is only me. After all, I am a pantser not a plotter. If you do not know what that means, a pantser is someone who sits down and starts writing without a well planned out course of where the story is going or exactly what they characters are going to do or say. Think of it as like where Bilbo Baggins set out after the Dwarves in such a hurry that he didn’t even take the time to pack properly. He still had an incredible journey, but it was probably quite different from what it would have been if he and the Dwarves had sat down and planned out a solid course of action.

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A plotter on the other hand, has a very well laid out road map if you will. They sit down and plan out the book in its entirety. They know where the novel begins, where it ends, a loose idea of how their characters will get there, exactly who their characters are, and a rough idea how every chapter will go. While this is a marvelous approach and I honestly wish I could write like this, my characters are much to rebellious to ever agree to anything like this. They like to change course mid-book, mid-chapter, and mid-scene. I’ve learned to just go with the flow.

So yes, my writer’s life is filled with frantic joy. I frantically type trying to get all of my thoughts out while the characters are agreeing and the plot is going to smoothly that it makes me want to weep with joy, but I can’t, because I have to get it all typed. I frantically argue with my characters about staying in line with my idea of what the story is only to get stubborn refusal (although they are usually right and the story ends up being better for it). I also stubbornly try to keep my storyline on track, although usually by the second chapter it is totally derailed.

Also, this past weekend, I frantically typed trying to write 25k words in only four days. But then, I finish the novel and the franticness ends. I can take a deep breath, cry a little bit like a shell shocked survivor that can’t believe that they somehow, impossibly, survived the crisis. I dance around the room a bit (drawing curious and concerned glances from my cats) and treat myself with one of my favorite snacks. And after about five minutes, the next story is whispering at me, starting the process all over again.

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So what causes frantic joy in your life?

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Talisman

So today’s daily prompt is Talisman. This prompt both intrigued me and confounded me a bit. I know what talismans are, but how do they apply to me, to my writing? Although I know that other writers have their routines and their talismans that help them get into the proper mood for writing, I never had. I tend to be a pantser writer, one that waits for inspiration to strike rather that methodically planning out exactly what I am going to write and then write it. So no, no lucky pen, no certain coffee shop for my writing.

So then I turned my thoughts to how I used talismans in my writing. Here is a picture of a talisman:

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Although this is much too ornate for any of my characters to possess, there is no limit to what can be a character’s talisman. A lock of hair, a family heirloom, a treasured missive from someone close to them. For my characters, a talisman is something that they draw strength from, something that allows them to keep going when they have given everything that they had.

This is something that comes up in my second novel in The Seeker Files: In Search of Healing. This book deals more with Aletta’s past and her coming to terms with her powers as a Sheridan. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you anything more, but I will tell you that a talisman plays a very important part in this journey of hers.

So if you write, do you use talismans in either your writing routine or in your stories? And even if you are not a writer, what do you consider a talisman and do you have one that you use? Let me know, I’m excited to find out what other people think of Talismans.

Follower update: As of this point, I have five followers (so happy!) but this is quite short for my Friday deadline of 25 followers for an exclusive content from In Search of Justice. So I am moving the deadline back to Saturday evening as I really want to share these fun extras with you guys. Happy Thursday everyone!

Talisman

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