Have no unreasonable fear of repetition. True, the repetition of a particular word several times in the same paragraph can strike a jarring note, but ordinarily the problem arises differently. The story is told of a feature writer who was doing a piece on the United Fruit Company. He spoke of bananas once; he spoke of bananas twice; he spoke of bananas yet a third time, and now he was desperate. “The world’s leading shippers of the elongated yellow fruit,” he wrote. A fourth banana would have been better. — James J. Kilpatrick
Amy Tan, author of THE JOY LUCK CLUB on her writing process:
“As a result, I err on the side of going into too much detail when I do research and write. I abandon 95 percent of it. But I love it. It’s part of my writing process. I never consider it a waste of time. I never know where I’m going when I write. It’s the same reason I never come to conclusions about anything…. We have to turn it in—and at that point, you are guided by craft. You get to do your anarchy, try this and try that, try everything, and then apply craft.”
Read the entire article here.
Sally forth and be TANingly writeful.
– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
“There is no excuse. If you want to write, write. This is your life, you are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait. Make the time now.” ― Natalie Goldberg
On occasion, people stuck in a writing rut seek advice, which has become harder to dispense without sounding like a scribe’s bumper-sticker, especially since you can’t swing Schrödinger’s cat on the interwebz without hitting hundreds of inspirational tips and tidbits.
The simple, honest and truest bit of advice is to write. Write when you’re too tired to write. Write when writing hates your very existence. Write when words have moved out of your head in the wee hours of the night and left no forwarding address. Write when every word you put to paper is like pulling teeth. Write when your inner critic is telling you you’re a talentless shit. Write when the words refuse to make sense. Just write.
But no one wants to hear that because it isn’t a magical solution offered up by a Bagger Vance muse that makes all the tumblers in their befuddled minds line up and open the creative sluice gates.
Which leaves the long way around:
So, things aren’t going your way with your writing and you might be inclined to mope around the house and bask in self-pity for What Might Have Been, but there’s no reason to get down on yourself. Wipe your tears on your sleeves, buck up and realize today marks the start of a whole new ball game. All the old bets are off. You’re back at square one and it’s time to get a new bottom line. Take all your expectation and aspiration and lay them out like cards on a table. This is the first step towards putting the pedal to the metal. You’ve got to make no bones about what you truly wish to accomplish with your writing—–aside from the ludicrous notion of instant riches and fame—–and pull no punches with yourself on the hard work needed to make your dream a reality. And if I can toss in one more tired cliché, your ship doesn’t always come in… sometimes you have to swim out and meet it halfway.
As a writer it’s important to strike a balance between the creative and rational minds. The problem with the creative mind is that it’s equipped with the arrogance of presumption that it knows all there is to know and sometimes it becomes difficult to suspend tyranny long enough to receive messages from life, the universe, the inner muse, and—if you can stretch your fantasy muscles around the strange-but-true notion—your future self. Scoff all you like, but the part of you that exists on a higher plane of consciousness occasionally tries to contact you in order to provide panoramic views of the far horizon. The messages may be brief and strange, or they may appear in a matter-of-fact guise in the midst of your daily routine. Either way, if you turn a blind eye to the minute workings of the world all around you, you may be missing pithy pointers on how to shape your life’s mission to become a happy writer—–note that I didn’t say a successful writer, writing should first and foremost lead to happiness and fulfillment—–in the near and distant future.
A more metaphorical view on encountering obstacles in moving your writing forward is akin to walking in the deep dark forest and encountering a savvy old crone camouflaged as a wolf. Your fear, already swarming because of the unfamiliarity of your surroundings, kicks instantly into high gear, causing you to flee before you can see through the disguise. But now that you know the truth, go back and find the crone again. She has much to teach you about harvesting the treasure that comes from the deep recesses of the creative mind and taking aggressive measures to build up your confidence and mental wellness. Stop talking about and start manifesting the dream, and get as bawdy and funky as you dare.
Those last three paragraphs are a bit cringe-inducing, aren’t they? And they sound like a load of gibberishy nonsense. So, why not take the simple advice and…
Sally forth and be writeful.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
Well, it is if you actually believe in it. I’ve run into more than my fair share of scribes who emphatically state that writer’s block is about as real as Santa, the Easter Bunny, or Steven Spielberg’s dinosaurs. I’m of the opinion that if it’s real to you, then it exists. But whichever side of the fence you personally stand on, there’s no denying the fact that writers, somewhere during the process of penning their magnum opus, can get stuck.
The first telltale sign of blockage is Oculos Computator, better known as The Stare. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know exactly what I mean. Hinder parked in your favorite writing chair, knuckles cracked, fingers nimble and hovering above your keyboard… when you become mesmerized by the siren song—I always hear Bali Hai from South Pacific—of the vast white void of your computer screen.
But you’re a determined writer, so you shake it off, gird your loins, and make resolute your desire to put words to paper. The problem is you can’t. That scene that’s so clear in your mind has suddenly become uncomfortable and difficult to write. Your synopsis refuses to mold itself into story form. An unbridgeable chasm has open up between you and the end of the story. The next scene (or chapter) is an empty pit of nothingness that stares back at you like the abyss and mocks your talent and very existence. Somehow—not through any fault of your own, surely—your characters have all been written into inescapable corners. But you have to write, that ache is in your bones, so what do you wind up doing? You rewrite, edit, rewrite, and edit what’s already been written instead of moving on.
That, my friend, is the kiss of death for creativity.
So, what are the workarounds? Hate to break it to ya, kiddo, but there ain’t no one surefire method. It’s like that line from the Diff’rent Strokes theme, “What might be right for you, may not be right for some.”
What’s that? You think that’s a cop out answer? You want what? Actual advice, even though everybody and their mother uses a different approach? Fine. Here are some of the more popular methods, in a nutshell:
Plot the story out beforehand. It’s akin to knowing the destination before you begin the journey. Stop whinging, you artsy bastard. Sure, preplanned structure can be viewed as limiting the creative spontaneity of your currently unwritten baby, but it’s only a suggested story path that you can alter along the way. Nothing’s written in stone—rewrites’ll drive that point home soon enough, trust me—until your work has been published.
Gender swap. As silly as it might sound, tinkering with the XX and XY chromosomes of your protagonist or antagonist actually helps change the character’s viewpoints and perspective. Or if you’re not up to playing God—who are you kidding? You’re a writer. You think you’re God, go on and admit it—try switching up your writing style. If you normally write in first person, why not give third person a go?
Dora, of Explorer fame, is keen to shout, “Swiper, no swiping!” But you ain’t her and no one’s watching, so why not rip a page from the Star Trek TV series plot device book (from Next Generation to Enterprise) and give your characters a mini goal they must accomplish and pair them up with other characters they absolutely cannot stand. Conflict is story. Just ask Moses. It was written on the back of one of the stone tablets. Trust me on this.
Don’t allow yourself to get hung up on formatting, grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and all that crap, and save editing for the very end. Right now, your goal is to transport that nagging story from the ether of your mind and plunk it firmly down on the page. You’ll have plenty of time to go back and gussy it up later.
And the simplest bit of advice I can offer any of you lazy sods who positively hates following patterns and formulas or doing any sort of precursor to writing; the quick and dirty solution to putting the boots to writer’s block is to stop waiting for your muse—she’s really not that into you and it’s embarrassing how you chase her around like a lovesick puppy—and simply write. Let your thoughts spill out and let it be awful and unstructured and nonsensical, just as long as you’re actively engaging in the process of writing. Hell, start a blog. Works for me.
Now, what are you doing still staring at this? Stop procrastinating. Sally forth and be writeful.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
Creating worlds? That’s the easy bit. Populating them with three dimensional characters… that’s a bit trickier. Whether you write for a living, a hobby, for sport, or just to have a laugh, you will eventually reach a point in your storytelling where you’re forced to pluck the innocent bystanders from your life and slap them smack dab in the middle of your literary dreamscape. Don’t be embarrassed. It happens to us all.
But just because a fictional character has a fleshy counterpart, imbued with their quirks, verbal crutches and personality tics, it doesn’t always mean they’re actually memorable.
So, how do you combat that? Dig, my friend. You need to burrow underneath the surface layer affectations and unearth the true source of their core character and examine what piqued your interest in the first place.
Even the most boring person you know can be a source of inspiration in your writing if you scratch the surface carefully enough. As corny as it sounds, we all carry within us a wealth of creativity and inspiration. Your job is to look deeper.
One of the most important parts of being a writer, aside from textual flourishes and clever turns of phrase, is the ability to see the world, both the one you’re creating and the one you live in, through their eyes. What are their views on major and minor things? Are they blessed or cursed with odd perceptions of the way the world should and/or actually works? Do they engage in activities that exist outside social norms?
Once you’ve identified these tidbits, you have the first building blocks for your memorable character’s foundation. But it’s only the beginning. You’ll need to build on this in order to make your newly birthed person dynamic.
Since you’re not creating a clone or an exact replica of your best bud or the nosy neighbor down the hall who tracks you via her peephole every time you leave or enter your front door—seriously, lady, get a life—you’ll want to take a few pages from Baron Victor von’s notebook and Frankenstein your creation up a bit.
If you do your job properly, your patchwork person will seem more believable because they contain traits your friends have that you secretly covet—we covet what we see everyday, Clarice—family member habits that absolutely drive you up the wall, as well as the little insecure bits of yourself you pray nobody really notices (FYI: they do, they’re just too polite to bring it up in conversation). Stop moaning, you’ll always be a part of the mix. You can’t help it. You’re the person you know the best. Yup, it’s true and you heard it here first.
The best thing about your ethereal Prometheus is only you will be able to see the stitches that hold the monstrosity together. To everyone else, the jigsaw pieces fit together seamlessly. But you’re still not done.
You can’t have your bouncing baby entity walking around all starkers—well, you can if you’re writing one of those 50 Shades thingies—so you’ll need to dress them with your imagination and layer in true life details like articles of clothing, substantiating them as a new independent life form while better solidifying your understanding of them.
Then, to top things off, dab them with a little Eau de real desires—just behind the ears—and spray obstacles in the air and have them walk through the mist, before you powder them down with motivations.
And voilà! Take a step back and view your bonafide multidimensional, absolutely-fictional-but-seems-so-damn-real-it’s-scary character. Now all you have to do is repeat the process several more times.
Hey, I never said this would be easy.
Sally forth and be writeful.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
Although the rough draft was completed years ago, I finally put the spit and polish touches on the official first draft of my favorite horror screenplay, “Greets The Lightning, Fears The Thunder.” And while the screenplay format might be new, the story isn’t. “Greets” first saw life as a short story written for a long-forgotten vanity press, Writerarium, way back in the Fall of 1988. It was loosely based on actual events involving my then girlfriend who suffered from a severe case of astraphobia and night terrors.
There’s a strange sense of satisfaction in breathing new life into old work that I wish I experienced more often, Most times, old stories lose their malleability, having found contentment in their original form. This work fought me a little as well, but in the end we were able to come to a suitable compromise (which is a fancy way of saying the story allowed itself to be written by me).
This draft went up for review on the Trigger Street Labs site on May 15, 2013 and the first review was:
“This is an action packed, intense thriller!
I’d love to see this made into a movie. I feel like your dialogue and script feels well developed. I feel like maybe more comic relief would break up the intense moments. But overall really well written.
Your opening scene really sucked me in and I couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t tell if it was a dream she was having or real at the beginning.
i liked the flashback scenes to Africa – so you get the background story. I feel like this was a perfect way to get the information you needed about Leyna.
The ending was awesome, gives you the notion that there was more to the elements than we knew. That maybe Gordon is now a catalyst of the bird… I loved the ending.”
“Greets” then got the screenplay review treatment on June 3, 2013, by the New York City Screenwriters Collective.
Unaltered, “Greets” was subjected to a third round of script review, this time in Los Angeles on February 2, 2014, courtesy of Write Club.
The draft was subjected to a fourth round of script review in Los Angeles on April 1, 2014, courtesy of the Malibu Screenwriting Group.
Still unaltered, “Greets” was subjected to a fifth round of script review in Los Angeles on April 20, 2014, courtesy of the Inktank Screenwriting Group.
The only reason I’m blogging about it now is because the story has been on my mind, not foremost, I’m working on another screenplay at the mo with a difficult Act 2, and “Greets” is on the back burner tempting me to pull it out of mothballs for another go-round, assuring me that is won’t give me a hard time during the rewriting process. We both know it’s a lie.
It’s a selfish story, jealous of all its siblings, and it never misses a beat to try to get my attention when I’m struggling with a scene, or a patch of dialogue. But when it has a turn at bat, it gives me the same problems as always, and never apologizes for being difficult.
Welcome to ‘Lantic City NexGen, the newly renovated gambling mecca, where a 15 year old boy named Hofstra, on the run and desperately trying to prove his manhood, gets caught up in a private war between Buma Willys, a down-on-her-luck cyberspace gambler who’s looking for that one last big score, and Rockne Keobardi, the mob-affiliated casino owner that wants Buma dead!
I owe it all to L. Ron Hubbard. Well, not all of it, but Sofa Jet City Crisis at least.
Back in the revolutionary 80’s I discovered the Dianetics Master of the Universe’s quarterly contest, Writers Of The Future, and made it my mission to collect the contest winnings and build my sci-fi writing empire. I mean, how hard could it be, right? I had various projects in different stages of development scattered about the place, some carbon dating back to the tender age of 11 and I could have dusted any one of them off, given it a spot polish and submitted without breaking a sweat. But I was reading a lot of Harlan Ellison at the time and Mr. E. was fond of telling we silly mortals who hoped to make a career of writing to create a new story every single day. So, I was determined to create a brand spanking new tale for Mr. Hubbard’s competition.
I’m sure you can spot the road signs from here.
The original incarnation of this story dealt with a down-on-his-luck gambler betting against the devil. Convinced it was the best thing I had ever written, I happily mailed it off, sat back and waited for my check to arrive. And I waited. And waited. And waited. No check. What I did receive was a rejection letter from Orson Scott Card, another writer I admired (who doesn’t love Ender’s Game?)
Crushed but not defeated, it was a quarterly contest after all, I flung the story back on the drawing board, put my nose to the grindstone, and swapped out most of the religious mysticism for technology. I couldn’t let go of the devil, though (if I were a spiritual man, that statement might bother me).
Rejected again. Undaunted, I retooled the story, sans Satan this go-round. Rejected. So I tried again. And again. And again. A total of 12 times. 12 rewrites. 12 rejections.
Fast forward some 10 odd years and what did I discover at the bottom of my “someday story box” (a Pinocchio realm for my writing, “Someday, you’ll be a real story.”) and you know what? I didn’t hate it. At this time Peter Laird (half the creative talent behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) founded the Xeric Foundation which awarded money to creatives looking to publish their work within the comic industry. After more prodding than I’m willing to admit by then partner, Juanita Hicks, Sofa Jet took a 13th trip to Rewriteville. It was mid 90’s and I was heavily into William Gibson’s cyberpunk movement… so guess what wormed its way into the final draft? Apparently, it was the missing element because I was awarded the prize in 1997.
Special thanks go out to Adam Dekraker for lending his incredible talent to the visuals of this project.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys