Tag Archives: character development

For Writers: How to Take Your Character on Vacation

stef-pictureI want to give you all a little tasty morsel of the juicyness of my buddy Stefanie Lipsey’s style of inspiring writers… We are co-hosting the Writing and  Yoga Retreat 2013 at The Glen Cove Mansion next week (for those of you who are living under a rock or really haven’t been paying attention to anything I’ve been saying.) So after yoga, where we’ll stretch our bodies and spirits, and after a delicious breakfast (which hopefully we’ll be able to eat al fresco, weather depending), we’ll head into a morning writing workshop. We’re going to focus on Character, Voice and Setting at the retreat, and we’ll be doing that in many ways. For now though, here’s a sample of one of Stefanie’s Writing Yoga writing prompts, this one about character, which Stefanie gives away to her blog subscribers…

Packing for Two: You and Your Character on Vacation

(Summer Writing Prompt by Stefanie Lipsey)

bryant-park

I’m not going to buy her a plane ticket, but I’m taking her hiking in the desert. She has a secret desire to become an archeologist, and thinks that she might stumble upon ancient ruins at the airport in Albuquerque. I don’t have the heart to tell her she should start with an Archeology 101 class at Nassau Community College before she quits her day job at the mall.

So that’s a bit about Julissa, the main character of a novel I’m just about done revising. I know she’s made up, but we’ve been hanging out together for twenty years and she still surprises me. Keep surprising me, Julissa, because as Robert Frost said, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”

Take your character on vacation. When you order lunch, what does she eat?  Is her nasty shellfish allergy going to put her in a state of anaphylaxis?  Is she a pleasant traveler or does she scream, “We’re gonna die!” at every bout of turbulence? Write in detail about the experience, but do not include any judgement. Just the facts.

Take a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s summer. Now is the perfect time to read a great book, swim under the hot sun, take long walks and rejuvenate. Go on a retreat. It’s a gift you deserve. No guilt allowed!

So, if you haven’t done so already, invite your characters to join us next week on the Writing and Yoga Retreat! I just got a new bathing suit for the hot tub… I mean, I’ve been sharpening my pencils and limbering my yoga poses! (…and looking forward to martinis in the pub!)

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Hiding with Cocktails, Character Development & my Invisible Cloak

I met up with some high school friends over the weekend, some of whom I hadn’t seen in at least 25 years. I needed to gird my self confidence because whenever I go to meet a group of high school folks whom I haven’t seen in a while all my 16 year old insecurities kick into high gear. I don’t think my body is even capable of producing the hormones I had back then, but I swear that as soon as I know I’m going into that situation I get a PMS zit, my hair goes from curly to frizzy and I can’t find anything to wear that looks remotely good on me.

So I decided that I would wear my novelist cloak for this little reunion. No, it’s not an actual cloak. It’s an invisible cloak, (with a hood) that I put on sometimes so I can secretly look at situations as a novelist. I decided my task that night was to study character. I tried, really hard, to do that. Cocktails did not help this exercise. But I found that some people are just naturally “characters.”

The guy who was a stuck up kid (well at least he never gave me the time of day) still sort of blew me off when I said hi. There was a boy who was always very friendly, the kind of kid you knew would grow up to be a nice guy. And he did! His wife’s lucky and so are the people in his community where he works as a police officer. I saw the girl who was so beautiful I kind of hated her (when I was 9) and she looked exactly the same (but then I remembered that she was a nice little girl, despite her prettiness). There were a couple of guys who remembered me but who I wouldn’t have been able to pick out of a lineup. Funny. But after talking with them a bit I could sort of see glimmers of the teenaged boys they once had been. There was one guy who looked exactly the same (great eyes) only totally bald. And then there’s my good buddy from 5th grade, who still has a fabulous smile and a cheery disposition. The neighborhood friend I’ve known since kindergarten was always  one of the kindest people I know, and now she can add hot and smart and funny. (It’s true! I know you’re reading this… Stop protesting!) And my homie who sang Cher songs with me into a hairbrush/microphone: Unbelievable woman. Like a force of nature. And what a character!

It won’t be difficult for me to use the rich material I gathered last night, because when I write my characters they are usually either totally fictitious or composites of people whom I know. And I can’t wait to make some awesome composites out of the people I didn‘t write about in this blog post! (Because maybe I don’t have such nice things to say…)

I had a great time at this reunion because by putting on my invisible  novelist cloak in the beginning I quelled the initial fluttering of butterflies in my stomach and after a while they stopped.

What cloaks do you wear? Do you still break out? How do you create a character?

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it may be dreadful to be old but it’s worse not to be young

I sat in the audience of the BEA Middle Grade Author Buzz today, listening to three authors discuss their upcoming books. They fielded questions about where they got their ideas, how many drafts they usually wrote, how they felt about being labeled fantasy writers, writing to boys versus girls. All three were pleasant and articulate and I was happy to grab the advanced reading copies of their work, which I will devour as soon as I can. I happen to love Middle Grade books. There’s something so lovely about pre-pubescent stories, the absence of all that smelly, hormonal angst that YA books are steeped in (although I love YA books, too).

I wanted to ask a question, but I couldn’t quite put together a coherent enough sentence, even in my own mind. What did I want to know? It was something about voice, about writing the characters, about capturing the essence of an 8 to 12 year old, and getting it to ring true on paper. How do they do that? It’s not about writing a story and then dumbing down the language or vocabulary. At least these authors hadn’t.

After the panel discussion was over I kind of slunk up to one of the writers and sort of fumbled around with a half assed question. He was so kind and generous and somehow extracted what it was I wanted to know. He said, “I write to my 11 year old self. I write characters I would have wanted to read about or know when I was that age.” I love that. I can get that. That just seemed like such an authentic way to go about it.

All afternoon I’ve been trying to remember who I was when I was 8, 9, 10 years old. What books did I read and love when I was 12? How about you? Who were you? What did you read?

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