How to Find Your Writing Style – Author Toolbox

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Now, this may seem like common sense. You already know how to write and you have your preferred methods. Doesn’t matter if you are a pantser or a plotter, you know how to write and you’ve most likely been doing it for some time now. However, you pause for a moment, maybe she’s talking about actual style, like APA, Chicago, or MLA. While I would like to cover the differences and uses of them someday, that is NOT what I am talking about. I am talking about your own personal writing style. Everyone is different and beautifully unique and your writing style reflects that. So I want to dig a little deeper into it and maybe you’ll find something that resonates with you.

 

I was homeschooled along with my 3 brothers from Kindergarten through 12th grade. This enabled me to find out some unique things about learning styles and how to teach them as my mother put together our curriculum. So let’s start off with the basics. There are three main learning styles: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.

 

Visual: You learn best by watching and reading. You tend to absorb information through observation, watching and reading and then turning it over in your mind before storing it away to be pulled out at a later time. This is my learning style

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Auditory: You learn best by listening. You tend to absorb information better that is presented orally, maybe has music, or from watching a video than from reading about it. Many times, auditory people will turn their face away from you or close their eyes while you speak. This is not an insult. In fact, it’s a sign that they are paying close attention and are tuning out other distractions so that they can listen to you fully. My older brother is an auditory learner.

Auditory

 

Kinesthetic: You learn best by doing. You tend to absorb information best when you can jump right in and participate. Your type of learning is hands on and you’re usually not afraid to join right in with whatever is going on. My middle brother’s learning style was this one.

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One the other hand, no one tends to be just one learning style, although they do have a primary learning style. For example, I am primarily a visual learner, with a secondary auditory. So when I write, I usually have no problem writing and searching info, but if I have music playing in the background, it helps me focus better.

Learning styles

 

So what does all of this have to do with writing? Well, now that I’ve explained the three types, I’ll share some tips that might help if you get stuck while writing. So for this post, I’m going to keep the focus fairly narrow, although I could go on about this all day. Learning styles are one of my favorite topics 😊 Still, I’m just going to go with character development for the purpose of this post.

 

 

Visual

 

In this case, internet and magazines are your friend. When you create a character, explore names and their different meanings. For example, your character is European, what country do they come from? Look for names that come from that country and a meaning that fits the main characteristic of your character, like strength, bravery, wisdom, cunning, cowardice, darkness, wanderer, etc. Or go onto an internet browser or Pinterest and search for images that draw you in. For example, does dark hair catch your attention more than other colors? Maybe you want to make your character unique, so you look for uncommon traits, like different colored eyes. If there is a place that is a mainstay in your writing, take the time to figure out all of the visual details. Urban or country? Indoors or outdoors? New or old building? Bright colors or earth tones? Work your way all the way down to the small details, like the tread pattern worn on the carpet and the type of bulb in the light fixtures. When you have visual images fully filled out, you can fully visualize how your characters will move through these settings.

 

Auditory

 

Focus on the auditory aspects of your character. Can they sing? What sort of voice do they have, raspy, smooth, dry, smoky, sultry, even, cracked? What sort of music do they listen to? Classical? Heavy Metal because they are going through a rebellious phase or simply because they can lose themselves in it? Indie? Pop? When they walk, what do their footsteps sound like, a smooth tread, a heavy tread, hesitant with a slight drag to it from an old injury? Do they dance as they walk or simply plod along? If you have a main place in your writing, think about it. Do the hinges squeak when the doors open or are they silent? Do certain spots on the floor squeak, a leftover from when cousin George spilled something in that spot? Are you in an urban or country setting? Each place will have their own unique soundtrack to explore. Also, I suggest listening to music as you write. Each character will have their own unique song/soundtrack that will develop as you get to know them better.

 

Kinesthetic

 

Now, you say, how can I possibly turn this into writing? I mean, I’m writing a space opera, how in the world am I supposed to do space things? Or I’m writing fantasy, so where would I find a werewolf, etc? Well, actually, this isn’t as bad as you think it might be, in fact, you’ll probably actually have some fun with this. You get to act. Stuck on how to do character development? Get physical. Find a wall and measure out the heights that you’re thinking about for the different characters and mark them with something removable, like sticky notes. This way, you can alter as needed. Do the heights work together or is there too much of a difference or a similarity? After all, heights that are the same are boring unless you’re trying to sneak into a cloning facility where everyone is 5’7.83” tall and that’s your characters height. Trying to figure out how your character would walk or react in a certain situation? Try it yourself. For example, your character might have a slight limp because one foot is an inch shorter than the other. Find something that is an inch thick and foot sized, then strap it on one foot and try to walk across the room. Your character has a food allergy or will only eat a certain type of food, try cooking with these limitations and get a feel for the flavors. Your only limitation is your imagination. Run wild.

 

 

So I could write about these three styles all day, but in the interest of length, I shall stop here for now. Hopefully these tips helped and please let me know of your own experiences. Happy Wednesday Everyone!!

W is for Worldbuilding

In case you can’t tell from some of my other posts, world building is one of my favorite aspects of writing. It’s time for me to confess another flaw of mine. When it comes to writing, I hate researching. Let me explain a little bit. I absolutely love researching, I have an endless curiosity and always like to look up random things. For example, did you know that there is a dark soy sauce and a light soy sauce? I know, that totally blew my mind. So why did I say that I hate researching? Well, it’s more the history that I dislike researching. I love history, after all, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. However, my characters are too mule headed to play with real history. They don’t like the restrictions that come with real history. And I struggle with writing alternate history. Some people do an amazing job of it, but my imagination just doesn’t work that way. When I try to do that, my stories end up, odd, to say the least.

 

history

 

So I make a world where I can create histories that work for my characters. Where I am in charge of all the elements and anything can happen. That doesn’t mean that my worlds don’t have rules, it just means that I have more leeway with what is going on. For example, in most of my stories I tend to not have in a modern age with modern weaponry. I prefer having my characters having to get up close to handle problems, not just snipe them from a mile away. I guess you could say that most of them are set in almost a King Arthur time frame, the times of knights and chivalry.

I did take a side step in creating my world for The Seeker Files though. It is set in modern times, in a city that is a lot like NYC in my imagination, although a bit smaller. The characters have guns, cell phones, all the modern conveniences. But there is a difference between this world and the real world. In the world that the Seeker Files is set in, Humans and Supernaturals live side by side. This creates a whole different dynamic than that of the real world. Because there is magic, I have been able to include traditional weapons like swords and bows in addition to modern weapons like guns and tasers. Magic can also be used offensively and defensively, although it has many, many uses besides that.

So how deep do I go in my worldbuilding? It really depends. I tend to leave commonsense things alone, everyone still eats, drinks, sleeps, etc. Gravity that we consider normal is still part of it and there is day and night, the sky is blue and water is wet. 24 hours days, 7 days a week, 12 months, 365 days in a year. Most of the things that we don’t even consciously think about, I leave alone. My biggest thing is creating new history and events. Also, spending time playing in the world. When I’m writing and I come across something that I hadn’t anticipated, I take a stroll. I throw on some music, close my eyes, and simply stroll through the world in my imagination, looking for the answers to my question. It is usually pretty straightforward and I get the answer quickly, but sometimes I have to dig through the layers to find it.

For example, I recently had to figure out how to share magic between my characters. Well, magic doesn’t really exist in our world, so I can’t really use that as a reference. While some people can make magical objects, most of the magic in my world is intangible outside of the user. How then can I get it from character A to character B. After playing around with several different ideas, it suddenly came to me. It’s like giving a blood transfusion. Different blood types or in this case magic types can only receive or donate magic to certain other magic types. It’s an idea that people can understand and one that allows me to have a measure of control over magical exchanges. These are the sort of challenges and puzzles that I live for.

 

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So how do you world build?

T is for Traits

As a writer, this is a big question every time I sit down to write. What do I want my characters to embody? Is it something that I resonate with or is it something against everything I believe in. People are not two-dimensional beings and I don’t believe that characters should be either. People are extraordinarily complex and rarely have a single clear cut reason for doing anything.

For example, someone who volunteers at a food pantry may have a myriad of reasons that they do so. Their parents may have done so, so they do it out a sense of familiarity and tradition. On the other hand, maybe they grew up poor and were often hungry, so they want to give back so others don’t feel that pain. Maybe their love language is feeding others, so it’s a way to share their warmth with the world. Or it could be something else. They were caught shoplifting and ordered by the court to do community service. Maybe they’re looking for someone to do a criminal act for them and think that they can find that person amongst the homeless and people down on their luck. Could be that they are just doing it for appearance’s sake, so they can look like good citizens. The possibilities are endless.

So what are some traits that I look for and prize in my characters?

Loyalty

I can deal with a lot of less than ideal traits in my characters, after all, they would be no fun if they were perfect. However, if they are disloyal, they are the villain. Someone who turns their back on their friends and family is not someone that I want to associate with at all.

Compassion

They don’t have to be a bleeding heart that tries to fix others woes but they have to have a sense of humanity. They have to be willing to extend a helping hand to those around them and to accept help that it offered to them occasionally. They have to see the problems around them and not just look away but try to help out somehow.

Humor

They have to have a sense of humor. It can be subtle, witty, dry, odd, any type you can think of. But if someone is serious and straight laced all the time, they quickly become boring and two-dimensional in my mind. I soon lose all interest in them and they fade away in my stories.

 

What sort of traits do you look for in characters?

 

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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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