#WriterinMotion – the brainstorm

rahul-pandit-CDrP01O2n-w-unsplash resized

prompt photograph by Rahul Pandit

After my first thoughts, I printed out the image on a nice piece of matte photo paper. The colors printed even more vibrantly and got me thinking about color meaning and how I will use the colors in my story. I recently talked about specifics of color naming and thought I would start there.

The Colors

I explored interesting color names over at Sherman-William’s paint colors and explored color meanings at Canva color meanings and color symbolism on Wikipedia.

Names

Red: Stop, Showstopper, Tanager, Poinsettia, Habanero Chile, Peppery, Stolen Kiss, Beetroot, Wild Poppy, Cayenne, Cherry, Tomato, Burgundy, Blackberry,  Brick

Orange: Obstinate Orange, Knockout Orange, Determined Orange, Raucous Orange, Husky Orange, Rhumba Orange, Adventure Orange, Serape, Invigorate, Navel, Carnival, Sun Salutation

Yellow: Gusto Gold,  Goldfinch, Lemon Twist, Daisy, Forsythia, Icy Lemonade, Pineapple Cream, Sunny Veranda, Cheerful, Goldenrod, Citronella, Lively Yellow,  Confident Yellow

Green: Center Stage, Electric Lime, Direct Green, Envy, Lucky, Greenbelt, Jitterbug Jade, Verdant, Grasshopper, Olive, Gecko, Parakeet, Organic Green, Pickle, Julep, Lark Green, Frosted Emerald, Emerald, Mesclun Green, Picnic, Frolic, Romaine, Kiwi, Reclining Green, Oakmoss, Artichoke

Blue: Turquoise, Aqua, Splashy, Teal, Calypso, Dynamic Blue, Bluebell, Sky, Celestial, Mariner, Fountain, Freshwater, Aquarium, Periwinkle, Indigo, Navy, Powder Blue, Adrift, Mountain Stream, Moonmist

And that’s just to name a few. Looking at how many of the color names come from flowers and foods, I thought about how my characters might choose color names from their surroundings: perhaps red is foxtail and yellow is butterfly, green is fern or tree frog or unripe berry.

I also see this as the beginning of a word collection. There are some vivid words in those color names like “obstinate”, “determined”, “invigorate” and “raucous.”  As I chose color names, connections and meanings began to form, but now I want to look at some traditional meanings for the colors in the image.

Meanings

Red: vitality and celebration, evil and destruction, love, passion and lust, anger/wrath, power, violence, aggression, danger, heat, good luck, happiness, importance

Orange: fresh, youthful and creative, activity, energy, socialization, healthy, attention, safety, warmth, excitement

Yellow: sunshine, joy, cowardice or fear, caution, optimistic, playful, happy, mental clarity and intellect,

Green: nature, healing, soothing, fertility, renewal, growth, relaxing, money, greed, wealth, prestige sickness, jealousy, inexperienced/new, youth, zest

Blue: trust, cleanliness, loyalty, tranquility, serenity, stability, inspiration, wisdom

Most of these colors can have conflicting meanings. That could come in useful to show differing viewpoints and how perception can completely change an image.

Characters

For a while now, I’ve been working on a tool to help me quickly brainstorm characters that are unique, interesting and multi-dimensional. I call it The Character Creation Spreadsheet.

While I was reading The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen, her exercises inspired me to start a spreadsheet of possible occupations, physical character traits, hobbies, fears and minor mishaps. I liked the idea of creating unique and interesting characters through randomizing different traits and finding how they fit together.

I started by making columns of last names then first names, followed by occupations, hobbies, physical traits and fears. My spreadsheet is ever-growing and now includes religions, philosophies, causes and countries. I can choose to include as many or as few of the columns as I want. For each column, I use a random number generator to select the aspects of my character. When I’m done, I evaluate how that character may or may not work in my story. Let’s give it a try. My first column, last names, goes to row 241, so in my random number generator I enter lower limit 2, upper limit 241 and get 3 = last name Grabner.

  1. Grabner, Alyssum, herbalist, the youngest of way too many kids, she became an aunt early in life, dropped out of school, but got her G.E.D.; she has always been disobedient; she has a club foot and a hooked nose; her hobbies are coloring and collecting teabags; her fears are ego-death (losing herself) and clowns; she has a mishap becoming drenched in a storm which leads to the epiphany that the journey is more important then the goal. Her story emotion is wariness. 

    Sometimes the random selections don’t work together,  so I just keep hitting enter to get another random number until I get a selection that seems to work ( for example Alyssum’s occupation took three tries).

    Sounds like an interesting character, someone who could possibly live in that small dwelling or happen upon it while trying to find some particular herbs. At this point, I will look up the name meanings and history to glean more possibilities for her genealogy, family and history: Grabner – German to dig (especially “a digger of graves or ditches”). Alyssum is the name of a group of plants. The flower is said to symbolize beauty, but I like the meaning from the Greek alyssos meaning “curing madness” because it was thought to cure rabies in dogs.

    All sorts of neat stuff there. I’m liking her name, her hobbies, surprising character traits and her occupation bringing her to discover the little house. I’m already hearing distant echoes of Goldilocks and Snow White.

  2. Luckman, Josette,  youngest of three, online degree, takes self too seriously, can’t keep a secret; she has false teeth and a shaved head; she enjoys table-top and role-playing games and collects flowers; she fears mutilation and animals; she bangs her head leading to an epiphany that you aren’t what people say you are. Her story emotion is Eagerness.
  3. Palmberg, Eugene, single father, greasy vast guru, used to be a customs officer, gloomy, unconfined;  he is covered in freckles and has shaky hands; his hobbies are swimming and fencing; he fears separation and books; he steps in dog poop which leads to the epiphany that Beliefs are nothing to be proud of. His story emotion is amusement/denial

A good step at this point is to look up the characters’ story emotions in The Emotion Thesaurus and think about how the characters will physically show those emotions. Do they have little ticks, physical habits, do those emotions come out in the way they speak, habitual phrases?

POV

Now that I have some idea of who my characters will be, it’s a good time to think about my possible points of view. Who do I want to tell this story? My three adult characters will be equally important in the action of the plot. Though the plot is focused on the child character (Eugene is a single father), he or she will be talked about or around, the child won’t have a say, or will s/he? Point of view ideas:

First:

  • Point of view of Alyssum: the character who discovers, stumbles upon, the cataloger, the reporter.
  • Point of view of Josette: the instigator of change, the representative of society, normalcy, expectation, government intervention.
  • Point of view of Eugene: representation of free will, leaving societal norms, parenting outside of social norms, doing the best he can with what he has through a difficult situation, standing his ground.
  • Eugene’s child: the unseen, unheard subject of all of the conflict.

Second:

  • Outside narrator: Imagine you live in this idyllic setting . . .
  • or Imagine yourself a single father . . .
  • or Walk for a moment in Eugene Palmberg’s shoes, now slip into Alyssum Grabner’s boots . . .

Third:

  • Omniscient: Maybe the hills tell the story, or the land/ nature tells the story, the ferns are omniscient or get some info from the whispering green ash?
  • Close: same considerations as first. I think the contrasting/ not completely reliable/ biased viewpoints of either Alyssum or Josette will be the most interesting.

Surprisingly, I like that last second person POV idea, and the telling in first person from   Eugene’s child’s POV could be powerful, but I’ll probably tell this story from Alyssum or Josette in first or third.

Time to start journaling and letting them talk.

plotting with tarot for writer in motion

Plot

The moment I randomly selected Palmberg, Eugene, single father, my story idea became clear. I can picture my three main characters and how the conflict of a life-changing moment for all of them will present itself. I can see how my characters’ occupations, hobbies, and fears will escalate the conflict, so instead of pulling out all of my plotting tools, I think I’ll see what Plotting with tarot brings to the table.

Using  Mark Teppo’s interpretation of the Celtic Cross for plotting from Jump Start Your Novel, here’s my plot:

  1. The Protagonist: Five of Swords
  2. The Opposing Factor: Page of Wands
  3. The Root Cause: Death
  4. Immediate Past: Ace of Swords
  5. The Goal: Wheel of Fortune
  6. Immediate Future: Temperance
  7. My intent: The Fool
  8. How the outside world sees protagonist: Three of Wands
  9. The guide: The Hierophant
  10. The outcome: The Empress

My interpretation: My protagonist card indicates engagement in conflict and suggests disagreement with others that leads to hostility and tension. Despite the fact that my protagonist thinks s/he has won, s/he may still lose because s/he has annoyed or hurt the people argued with, creating a path to isolation. The opposing factor, the cause of this conflict, is someone who believes they have made a discovery. The root cause of the situation is not a literal death, but a major life change. My protagonist’s life has been turned upside down and s/he is trying to make a new start with the little left. My protagonist is facing the reality of the situation with a goal of wisdom and self-understanding and trying to see hope in the fact that the wheel of fortune turns and its time for the bad to turn to good. However, the immediate future is someone arriving to create balance through a union of dualities. My protagonist’s ability to let things go and be amused by others’ hang-ups which is the only way to cope at the moment, becomes a conflict with those that see balance differently.

My intent for writing this story is to come to the page and the project with unlimited potential. I want to be open, joyful and accepting of every aspect of the experience and grow through each step of the journey, returning with the elixir that will improve all of my stories.

The outside world sees my protagonist as a man on a cliff looking at distant mountains, as someone opportunities would widen horizons in many areas. They think s/he could open his/her mind and embrace change.

Traditional values and institutions, an embrace of the conventional, a certain desire to follow a well established process, adapting to certain well-established systems and beliefs leads the entire story to connect with beauty and happiness of life, femininity, expression, creativity and nurturing are the culmination of this story.

My reaction: I love how card one defined how the story will open in action and conflict. I now have a better understanding of my protagonist, antagonists, the conflicts and perhaps the resolution. The affirmation of my intentions for joining this project was a nice bonus!

I now have so much to let simmer in the brain-pan.

Tomorrow, I’ll share more plotting and outlining. For me, today proved that beginning with creating characters leads to easy plotting.

 

#NaNoWriMo Day 2: The Antagonist’s Ordinary World

Day 2
Word count: 2,259 words
Word count goal: 4,000 words
Mapping the Hero’s Journey: The Ordinary World – Antagonist
Save The Cat: Theme stated / Set-up

I love this painting by Alex Rubio (first image on left). If you would like to learn more about his work, here’s a video on YouTube where he talks about it.

Today, I’m focusing on my antagonists. There are many in my novel. One is a fireworks distributor, thus the fireworks labels. Plus, Frankenstein lighting an M-80 is just fun.

#vss very short story

Peter found some old fireworks tucked in the back corner of the garage. After lighting them off, he drove to the courthouse and had his name legally changed to Frankenpyro.

Plotting with Tarot

For today’s reading, I’m going to focus on my main antagonist. Though all of my antagonists committed crimes and are very bad guys, only one is the guy “whodunnit”. Let’s see what the cards say for his Ordinary World reading.

Antagonists Ordinary World

Ordinary World: Page of Swords- someone who spurs you on with discomfort and irritation rather than command

What he likes: Knight of Swords – passionate thinking and mental determination

What bothers him: The Fool – a new beginning, an impassioned start

My interpretation:

This reading makes sense for my character. He is the type of guy who is constantly coming up with a new “business venture”. He likes finding the business idea and starting it, but then, when it doesn’t work out, he hates the disappointment. He would like some security for his family and a constant pay-check, maybe some benefits, but then he discovers the “next great idea”.

Ask Your Character

  • How has your life been different than what you imagined?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Do you have any regrets?

Word Of The Day

imbroglio: n. a confused, embarrassing situation

8 Action Verbs:

accomplished          briefed          constructed          distributed

generated                led                   presided                 searched

Poem prompt

What symbols represent your antagonist? Pick one and use it as a metaphor for your antagonist’s ordinary world.

King Of The Forest

pride
fiercely protective
awareness to competition
long and steady, not quick and easy
he knows he is king of the forest lands

strength
the elk calls his herd
to cross the river
he smells other elk
drawn to the salt, he licks

stamina
the still air cracks
he runs until he falls
chest heaving with final breaths

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Simile: Imagine a person or object. This is the A of a comparison A is like B. Make a list of everything A is like. Try to get as abstract and creative as possible. List 30 to 40 things A is like. Look back through your list and choose your favorites. Compare A to B using like or as.

Similes are important for describing sensual information, so you may want to choose a sight, smell, taste, or texture for A.

Today’s Simple Task

Focus on your genre. Write a genre specific scene. If your novel is humor, write a comedic scene. Writing a thriller? Write a scary scene. Writing a mystery? Write about a red herring.

Warm-up Exercise

Set a timer for 15 minutes.  What does your antagonist want and why? What’s the first thing they will do to get it? -prompt inspired by Diana Gabaldon (Nano poster)

Recommended Word Crawl

Since today is about antagonists, I recommend the Mean Girls word crawl. Then, once you’ve reached your word goal, you can relax and watch it Mean Girls.

Have a great day of writing and reading!

 

National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) Day 1: The Ordinary World

Day 1
Word count: 0 words
Word count goal: 2,000 words
Mapping the Hero’s Journey: The Ordinary World
Save The Cat: Opening image / Theme stated

Welcome to the first day of your new novel. Today is all about that opening scene. What is your protagonist up to when first introduced? What is her daily life like before the conflict of your story happens? What is the call to action of your story? What happens that creates conflict and makes your protagonist break from the monotony of routine?

Don’t forget to draw the reader in with rich sensory information. I’ll be focusing on smell and texture in my opening scene.

#vss very short story

After the crash, he spent days wandering the forest. His mind began playing tricks on him. He smelled Ivory soap everywhere, bringing the panic of being locked in that horrible bathroom.

Plotting with Tarot

reading nov 1

So let’s see what the cards have to say about my protagonist’s ordinary world. Thinking about my character, I draw a card. This represents his Ordinary World. Then I draw two more cards and place one to the left and one to the right. The card to the left is what my character loves about his Ordinary World; the one to the right is what my hero believes is lacking about the Ordinary World. It’s what bothers him.

Ace of Pentacles – a new sense of security found through work and determination

The Magician – represents a new beginning- creativity and productivity and a connection to the divine.

Queen of Pentacles – practical and thrifty; knows how to make much with very little; as such is never in a state of want

My interpretation:

I hope this reading gives you some insight into the Ordinary World of your main character. Here is how I interpret this for mine. Please keep in mind that I am brand new to this and only using it as a plotting tool.

My main character has recently retired, but has strictly scheduled his time, volunteering and working at his investment properties. He was an engineer and now spends most of his time fixing things. The Ordinary World card, Ace of Pentacles, speaks to his new retired life and his new self-imposed rigid work schedule.

What he likes about his Ordinary World, The Magician, represents the projects he’s working on and the joy he finds working with his hands. He also finds community in his church and does not respect idleness.

What he doesn’t like, Queen of Pentacles, represents frustration that the things he fixes keep breaking. Something is always in need of repair. He feels like he is never making headway on his to-do list. It also upsets him that his investments of time and money don’t pan out for him. Sometimes he feels like the world is out to steal away every penny he has earned.

This is all great fodder for introducing my character. Now, I have to find ways to bring it into today’s scenes.

Ask Your Character

  • What are you proudest of in your life?
  • When have you felt most alone?
  • What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

Word Of The Day

autodidact: n. a person who has learned a subject without a teacher or formal training; a self-taught person.

8 Action Verbs:

One thing I’m constantly working on is using stronger and more precise language. Try to use at least one of these action verbs in your story today.

accelerated         balanced          consolidated          discovered

gathered             lectured            presented               scheduled

Poem prompt

In his book, This Year You Write Your Novel by Mosley, Walter (2009) Paperback, Walter Mosley said,

“Poetry is the fount of all writing. Without a deep understanding of poetry and its practices, any power the writer might have is greatly diminished.”

I ended up using some poems I wrote in my first novel. I recently read Mogens and Other Stories by Jens Peter Jacobsen and he included  a poem (in the form of a song) in every story. You never know what writing a poem will inspire. Throughout #Writober, my poems inspired my story ideas, so I hope poetry prompts with do the same for you.

I also found that combining many different prompts made for more creative poems. Can you combine one of the visual images with the word of the day, or something in the tarot reading and/or the action verbs?

Shadowpoetry.com has great explanations and examples of different poetry forms. I recommend trying a different one each day.

Today’s poetry prompt: Have your main character write a poem about his or her ordinary life. Let them express their current emotional state in a present tense free verse.

I Don’t Write Poetry

I would not write a poem, but
If I gathered up some words for today
And presented them in that kind of way
I might say my time is not meant for wordplay

I would not write a poem, but
I hear a loud squawking jay
Lazy bird stealing others’ eggs
Nature’s archetype of foul play

I would not write a poem, but
Let petals fall where they may
Life is a state of constant decay
But hard work helps the end’s delay

 

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Writing a novel is not only about writing an engaging story, it’s also about writing exciting and interesting sentences. So with the help of Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence and Captivating Readers by Barbara Baig, I hope to improve my sentences with a daily challenge.

Because today is about getting to know our protagonists, today’s challenge is about collecting language.

Sentence Challenge: Find your character’s voice – Imagine your character speaking. Make a long list of words s/he uses. Use the words to come up with sentences and phrases your character uses often. Discover a catch phrase or two.

I have a friend who started to do impressions of my family members. Whenever he voices my brother, he says, “Always a pleasure.” I hadn’t noticed my brother said that phrase, but now I can’t not notice it, and he says it a lot.

Since then, I’ve noticed my friend says, “I see,” and I say, “No problem,” way too much.

Do you know what your catch phrase is? Listen for it (Or not. Once you discover it, it’ll probably drive you nuts).

Today’s Simple Task

Today is not only about introducing your main character, you need to put that character in a setting; his or her ordinary world.  While describing the setting, describe an object you know will be important later in the story.

Warm-up Exercise

Set a timer to 15 minutes. What does your main character want and why? What’s the first thing they will do to get it? – prompt  by Diana Gabaldon (Nano poster)

Recommended Word Crawl

Something I have found fun and motivational about NaNoWriMo are the word crawls. They are story, or task related games that challenge you to reach your word goals. On the NaNoWriMo website go to the forums and find Word Wars, Prompts, & Sprints. There you will find different crawls that writers have created. Nice NaNoer CJ Grace put together a google doc with a bunch of crawls you can download and do offline if you like to unplug while you work. There is also a great list of crawls at wikiwrimo.org.

Today, I recommend Write Your Way to a Clean House word crawl. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to meet your word goals and have a clean house to start the week?

Final Challenge

Keep a notebook and pen on the nightstand, or somewhere you will grab it the second you wake up tomorrow. The moment you open your eyes, try to describe the last dream image of the night. Write everything that pops into your head for at least one page. And yes, I mean before your first cup of coffee.

So there it all is. A ton of fun ways to stay motivated today. All of these prompts are meant to get your ideas flowing and words on the page. Pick and choose what works for you. I hope you have the best NaNoWriMo ever. Check back tomorrow for more inspiration, prompts and fun. Now to the writing!

Happy Reading and Writing