To Do for Week 2: Character

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Covering this week: Katelyn Wilhelm

The Posting Schedule:

  • On TUESDAYS, we will post a REPORT on what we did LAST week. (For example, last week’s topic was: INTRODUCTION, and here is the REPORT on that theme.)
  • The REPORTS will contain bullet-pointed “takeaways” from my lectures. This is what I can give OUTSIDE folks in terms of teaching you how to write a novel. Not the lectures or discussions themselves, but rather the reports on those things.
  • The next day, on WEDNESDAYS, I’ll post that week’s TO DO and introduce that week’s THEME. (For example, this post is the TO DO on the theme of CHARACTER.)
  • The following TUESDAY, you’ll get the REPORT on that THEME. (For example, you’ll get the takeaways on CHARACTER next Tuesday, 9/3).
  • There will be some lag time for those OUTSIDE, but I need to give the INSIDE students a few days to write up the Reports. Soon, we’ll be in a rhythm! Never fear!
  • For those OUTSIDE the fishbowl, PLEASE feel free to respond to these blog posts! Talk to each other and to my INSIDE students even if I can’t talk to all of you individually. If you’re blogging about your experience, include a link. I encourage you to connect with others in this way.

INSIDE

T 8/27

  • Week 1 Blog Post Due: Cathy Day

  • Quiz 1: Tom Perrotta, Election

Th 8/29

  • Presentation on Character

  • Discussion: DICE handout, LOCK handout (have read these before class).

  • As you begin to think about character/s, take a moment to watch this video about The Bechdel Test and apply it to the story you’re developing.
  • Weekly Words #1: 2,000 words due by Sunday 9/1 at 5 PM. Focus: Write about your main character by following the “Desire/Yearning” prompts from DICE and the “Lead” prompts from LOCK. You can also use the worksheets found here. The words you turn in don’t have to be scenes. Just write about who your character is.

OUTSIDE:

You can do the writing prompts this week, too.

“DICE” is something I adapted from writer Michelle Hoover’s teaching materials from her Grub Street seminar on Plotting a Novel. She’s shared them, so you can use them, too! She calls it “Yearning,” and I call it “Desire.”

LOCK is something I adapted from James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure. He talks about his “LOCK system” here.

Lots of great character and plotting worksheets can be found here.

As you begin to think about character/s, take a moment to watch this video about The Bechdel Test and apply it to the story you’re developing.

Weekly Words #1: 2,000 words due by Sunday 9/1 at 5 PM. Focus: Write about your main character by following the “Desire/Yearning” prompts from DICE and the “Lead” prompts from LOCK. You can also use the worksheets found here. The words you turn in don’t have to be scenes. Just write about who your character is.

  • The FOCUS prompts are always optional. If you want to write toward something else, by all means, do that.
  • Throughout the semester, I’m going to use Robert Hass’s prose poem “A Story about the Body” to illustrate the concepts we’re learning in class. I’m going pretend that Hass wants to turn this prose poem into a novel. To follow along, read the poem.
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My pants are more like booty shorts

Alisha Layman

Let’s just begin by putting this out there: I love outlining. I work as a tutor and some of the first things that I tell people who need study tips are MAKE OUTLINES! OUTLINE YOUR NOTES! OUTLINE YOUR LIFE! OUTLINES FOR EVERYONE!!

So now that that’s out in the open, I guess it’s safe to say that when it comes to writing, I’m totally a plotter.  I can sit on an idea for weeks (if we’re being conservative) just planning out who the characters are, certain scenes, etc.  I can’t even begin writing until I have at least a few scenes in my head.  I like having some kind of outline of events for my novel.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that I plan and plot in a nice, neat order. Take a look at the image to the right. Most of the time, this is how I do my outlining. I’ll get an idea for about three-fourths of the way through and have that scene totally worked out.  And then I’ll come up with a beginning.  And then the ending. And then something right around the middle.  And when I’ve come up with several scenes that are spread randomly throughout the novel, I finally begin to write.

When I plot and write like this, I realize that I have a tiny bit of pantser in me.  Looking back at the image above, when I get to the inevitable Point of Question Marks between Idea Number 2 and Idea Number 4, I try to just wing it.  So the lead just got transported back in time, but she hasn’t reached the scene where she is tried for witchcraft? Well maybe she could meet a bushy-bearded man named James Garfield?

Because of my plotting nature, this point, the Point of Question Marks, can become the Moment Where I Experience Writer’s Block that thing where I can’t come up with any more ideas.

This is just one of the little notebooks I do my plotting in

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.
Terry Pratchett

This isn’t always the case; sometimes I come up with the best ideas off the top of my head. That’s why I don’t see myself as a strict plotter. I don’t plot out the whole novel; I come up with various scenes throughout the novel and then fill in as I go. Yeah, sometimes I get stuck because I’m not as good at pantsing as I am plotting. But I’d rather have a little bit of mystery waiting for me when I begin writing, rather than have the whole novel ready in my head before I even write a word.  As James Scott Bell explains in his book Plot and Structure, plotters run the risk of lacking spontaneity, which the pantsers have in abundance. I don’t want my writing to become boring. So while I may be an outlining freak, I still have some pants. My pants are just more like booty shorts.


Redefining Writing

James Gartner

        I had finished two drafts of novels before I took my first creative writing class.  People still argue about teaching writing, and some believe that writing is something that can’t be taught.  They should try and read those ancient drafts and see what they think then.  Of course, I’m sure that more things than merely education have contributed to my writing.  I did write far more regularly back in those days, but then, everything was more regular then.

This book is very helpful whether you’re
a pantser or a plotter.

     Needless to say, I had never heard of “pantsers” and “plotters” when first I started writing.  I just did what I felt like doing, usually starting off just writing and making stuff up as I went, and maybe outlining a few things later on.  I used to picture my story as a kind of movie then, and I still do sometimes.  I’m a very visual person and I’m studying film as well as writing.  As I write more, I tend to see things a little differently.  Pantsing seemed to work out all right, but then I’d go back and look at my work and find all kinds of problems.  But what trouble is that?  It was just a draft, after all.  Yet every time I plugged one hole, something else opened up.
       So, ninety pages into a new draft of a new novel, one I’m considering working on for this class, I decided to start fresh and try and build a solid foundation before I begin to write.  I’m trying to be more organized.  But I’m young, and I’ve always found trial and error to be effective if time consuming, so I’m trying something and seeing how it goes.
       I think that’s also some of where I get blocked up when I’m trying to write.  As I’m looking ahead, I’m thinking I’ll probably do lots of different outlines.  Just let things go and see where they end up, then shuffle some things around and start again.  Eventually my outlines will look like one of those choose your own story books probably, but it’s an experiment.
       In my last blog post I talked about being a binge writer.  That typically goes with being a pantser.  And honestly even if I have outlined something, the details of the scenes come as I write, at least so far.  Sometimes that takes me in different directions from where I had plotted, but I’m pretty flexible.  The problem with writing a novel is that sometimes it takes a long time to figure out that you’re wrong.

Redefined implies that there is nothing more to do.
Perhaps a better slogan would be “Redefining Education,”
but maybe that was already taken.

       So I’m still searching to improve the way I go about writing long projects.  Who knows if I’ll ever be satisfied.  I don’t always stick to a certain path, even if it works.  Most of the excitement is in the experiment, in the search.  There always might be something better (which, by the way, is particularly frustrating when writing because I’m never really satisfied).  I don’t think anyone is too old to keep learning.  Then again, I’m young, so that’s easy for me to say.
       Perhaps I should have put this disclaimer toward the top, but if you came here looking for advice, you’ll find that I’m still figuring things out myself.  Check out the other posts on #amnoveling and you may find what you’re looking for.  In addition to Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell also has a blog.
   


Black or White? Um… Grey?

by Gaoly Thao

No Outline People or Outline People? If I had to choose which one I was, I would have to say I’m in between the two, but my radar is probably leaning towards the “No Outline People” more than the “Outline People” If I think about it really hard and look back at my writing style, I would be more of a NOP than an OP. It’s surprising because I like to be organized and write down my schedule or what I need to do for the day. However, when I am writing, I don’t really plan out my story or plot and just write whatever that comes to mind. I may have a few notes as to what I want to happen or something, but I just wing it. Is that bad? 


Well, James Scott Bell mentions in Plot and Structure, “Some fresh writing, yes. but where is the cohesion? Some brilliant word gems flash, but they may be scattered over a plotless desert”(153). I felt like a bat hit me. I tumbled over, slamming my hand on the ground and started laughing after I read that sentence. He hit it right on the mark. It is true that I don’t plot or outline my story and just write it out, but some of those scenes become useless, or I don’t even know why I wrote them. In the first place Also, I sometimes write scenes that are very similar to existing ones, which frustrates me.  It makes me think, well, what was I thinking? So I was shocked to see that it is true and I should do something to fix it, which Bell does mention in that chapter of how to improve or change your ways of writing your story. I find his points really useful and I think it will help improve my writing, which I am really looking forward to.
Some of the points that Bell mentions, that I think that are useful, are “Set yourself a writing quota,” “One day per week, record your plot journey,” “The David Morrell Method,” and “The Borg Outline.”
“Set yourself a writing quota” (156)
            When I began writing, I never had a set quota for my stories. Whenever I felt like writing, I just began to write, or when ideas came to mind, I quickly grabbed a piece of paper/ notebook and jot down those ideas. When my professors told me I should set a quota for writing or write everyday, I thought, “Huh? What a great idea. I’ll do that.” …Obviously I didn’t and I’m still stuck with not writing everyday. So I stuck up on my cork board a piece of paper that would inspire me to write… that didn’t work as well. (shakes head) I guess I need something to push me until I get this idea wrapped around my head and do it. The idea about not leaving your desk until you finish your quota got me. Also, the idea of writing right after you just woke up struck me. I think I will try it out and see how it will result as. I’ll start slowly and work my way up. Hopefully I’ll be able to write about 1,000 words a day, but I’ll start with 500 words or so…
“One day per week, record your plot journey” (157)
            This idea never occurred to me. I thought about plotting out what will happen in my story, but this idea of writing out what I wrote for the past week, was like a light bulb going off. I think it is a fantastic idea and I think it will really help me plot out my story. Plus it let’s me keep on writing and it’ll help me summarize what I wrote. It will be notes I can refer to later if needed.
 
“The David Morrell Method” (165)
            I have no idea who this David Morrell guy is, until Bell mentioned him. Bell said he liked Morrell’s Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing. When Bell described how Morrell you dive into your story and understand it fully by asking yourself questions. It intrigues me and I think I will try this method as well. I think by asking myself questions about why I’m writing this story will give me a whole new insight of my story.
“The Borg Outline” (166)
            I have to say, this method/outline is really long. It seems like it is time consuming and will need to be worked on for hours and hours or days and days. Most of the points Bell made, were very helpful, but I think that if I wasn’t so busy with school, and I just had to focus on writing my story, I would be able to do The Borg Outline. Plus, I’m not entirely or a pure OP, so this idea will be floating for a while until I get everything settled.
As a writer, I still need to work and develop my writing skills. I love writing and hope I can do it for the rest of my life. I think being in between a NOP and an OP provides great possibilities if I keep on working on my writing. Being GREY might not be such a bad idea.