A remarkable phenomenon is happening. Over 100 writers are participating in the Go On Your Own Quest initiative and have signed up at the GOYOQ Forum. As Shaula Evans, one of the three site moderators [along with Debbie Moon and David Joyner] wrote to me recently:
There’s a great synergy there: lots of moral support, lots of brainstorming. It’s a really fantastic group of people, and some of them have some impressive industry experience, too.
There have been some great discussions on the GOYOQ Forum, so why not some guest posts here on GITS? Absolutely!
Today: Troy Widner.
Before choosing my GOYOQ project once and for all, I’m doing prewriting exercises to try and determine which of a couple different concepts is best speaking to me. Figured this might warrant broader discussion, so I’ll expand a little on what seems to work for me on that front.
“Prewriting” is a little bit of a misnomer in this case since it does actually involve real-life writing. For me, it reflects writing that I do to help me find both the voice of my characters and the voice of the overall piece. Often times other things surface as well, such as themes and even plot points. And very occasionally I end up with a scene or sequence that actually turns out to be fully-formed.
Here are four things I’ve been known to do:
Write some key scenes. When a story idea is first forming, I usually have some thoughts in my head of key dramatic moments. I’ll often throw those scenes down in writing, knowing full well what I’m going to end up with in the final draft is likely to be miles away in execution. I think most important among the benefits: it gets those scenes rolling around in my head so that by the time I come to write the real deal, I have a much better idea of what exactly I want to convey. I also already know to a degree what might work best and what doesn’t.
Write a character monologue. I’ll sometimes write theatrical-inspired monologues for characters. You know, a chair center stage in the spotlight with just an actor facing the audience talking about experiences in their life. Yes, usually these are rambling, and yes, they’re not always the most subtle when it comes to subtext and motivation, but it definitely gets my brain revved up and thinking about the character’s perspective on things. It also gives me a chance to hone in on the rhythm of their speech.
Write character interactions. This is especially helpful when I’m first getting to know a character prior to plotting. I’ll just drop them into different situations and let them deal with whatever conflict I’ve cooked up, mundane or otherwise. Recently I wrote a scene between two characters that I thought would probably only have limited contact with one another in the actual story. I ended up liking the contrast and underlying tension so much that I found a way to give them more time together.
Force myself to like the antagonist. For the bad guys/girls specifically, I’ll often throw together a handful of scenes that — when out of context of the script — you’d read and say, “hey, this guy/gal isn’t all bad.” I actually really love liking my villains, not just for the bad things they do or say in the script itself, but because I know they’re not a villain full-time and that somewhere under that scary, tough exterior they probably just want need a hug.
I think the reason these types of exercises work so well for me is because I really dig the warm feeling that my hard prep work is going to pay off in tangible ways. I enjoy writing “the meat” more than anything else (as opposed to, say, lengthy character bios), and the product of each of the above not only helps me focus, but has an actual chance of maybe/possibly/hopefully being used at some point in the finished product. It might be just a line here or a line there, but used nonetheless. It also keeps me writing, which, you know, is always a good thing.
Does anybody else have similar tricks, and if so, care to share? If not, what works for you instead?
All solid suggestions from Troy and thanks for the post. What prep-writing tips do you have?
Join the GOYOQ Forums, a free online hub where you and other Quest participants can go to support each other and share your stories. Go here.