Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing DNA #4

Listen up all you crime scene investigators, writing is a tough gig, even for the best of us. When things get overwhelming, a little inspiration is a wonderful thing. As part of Writing DNA Thursdays, we're going to clue you to what our detectives do to keep their muses on the grind. So break out your lab kits and see what you can make of these DNA samples:

Elisa Ludwig: Lately, I've been working on the sequel to Pretty Crooked, which is called Pretty Sly, and it has a ton of action scenes and a lot of narrow escapes. I've been watching every action and heist movie I can get my hands on as research—even the bad ones usually have some interesting solutions for getting a hero out of a jam. And I have to say, after seeing the remake of Ocean's Eleven for the 20th time, that it never gets old.

Kristen Kittscher: I'm a local crime blotter junkie. While most reports are, sadly, of typical violence and crime -- at least once a week I'll stumble upon something unusual that fills my head with the kind of "What If..." questions that generate stories. Recently, I read of one house robbery in a wealthy area of town in which "only shotgun shells and a strand of pearls" were missing. Another report detailed how bands of pre-teen kids were robbing houses under the direction of an adult crime ring. (Oliver Twist and Fagin, right here in my town!) Then there was the local barber and mentor to under-served youth was killed by some of his protegees right outside his shop. While I may not write actual stories based on the tidbits, the wondering mindset they put me in always inspires ideas.

Photo by Sa├»vann ¤
Laura Ellen: Could you write the life story of the person in this photo?

Of course not! You don't even know him . . .or her . . . heck, you don't even know if it's a him or her!

Why, then, would you start a story without knowing your characters?

This week, my Writing DNA tip is: get to know your characters. I mean really get to know them. Sit down with a pen and a paper and talk to them, all of them - your main character, your supporting characters, your villain. Ask them questions about their likes and dislikes, what they are afraid of, what they can't live without. Ask them about the time they were lost or the time they were scared or the time they laughed so hard they wet their pants. Ask the questions you'd ask if they were a new friend or a potential date.

Most of the stuff you learn about your characters won't  be in your story. These are things for you to know, background info that will let you understand your character and how he/she should  react in certain situations. However, often what you learn about your characters will at some point help you write yourself out of a tough spot or give you new material to work with when you find your plot going in a direction you hadn't expected.

So get interviewing - you'll be surprised at what your characters have to say!

Lamar "L.R." Giles:  Lately I've been entranced by visual storytelling and the way societal perceptions change over time. DC Comics recently rebooted all of their major characters. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman...all starting from scratch. While not related to mysteries directly, I've found inspiration in how the past mirrors the present and, in ways, predicts the future. Now I'm jotting down notes about a mystery that may stretch across all three time frames, possibly as a graphic novel. Time (get it?) will tell if anything comes of it.

Diana Renn: I always find inspiration in my writing group. We're a group of eight. We've been meeting for about ten years now, with a little turnover in the group now and then, but generally stable. I always come away from our meetings energized and motivated, even when my own material isn't up for workshopping. I love hearing about what my friends are working on and struggling with, and I love celebrating their successes. Every time someone gets an agent, or sells a short story, or finishes a draft of something, it feels like a win for our whole team. I also find vacuuming somewhat inspiring, or at least soothing -- something about white noise -- so I'm off to do that now, since it's my night to host my writing group!

We're giving away a signed copy of THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN by Josh Berk! To enter the contest, simply comment on any of the Sleuths Spies and Alibis posts between Wednesday, November 16 and Monday, November 21. Contest closes November 21 at midnight, EST. The winner will be announced on Friday, November 25. One comment = one entry in our drawing; limit one per day.

1 comment:

  1. Elisa- Watching (and reading) in the genre you are writing is super good advice - especially the 'bad' ones because you figure out what not to do! And Kristen, I love reading about the weird crimes too. I always clip them out and put them in a file because I know in some story I am writing, I can use them :)


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