3 Unusual (and Fun!) Writing Tips

Hi folksies! Hope y’all have had a good week so far because I’m about to make it even better 🙂

Just kidding. I have no idea if this post will make your week better or worse. But let’s hope it’s for the better.

Today we’re going to talk about story development… except with a unique twist!

Assembling character moodboards and finding “inspiration” on Pinterest or Spotify may be fun ways to psych yourself up for a new project, but at some point they’re no longer productive. (To be fair, they’re not exactly productive from the beginning at all.) But filling out endless character questionnaires isn’t my idea of fun–well, only if we have to do it forever and ever and ever and ever– and as necessary as they are for many writers, they may not always be sufficient. Writing about the character will make you know them inside and out, but you can’t really be satisfied with only one path to get there.

In the art of writing, there are many different ways to bring your story to life, and I, who have long ago mastered the practice of Working on a Story Idea without Actually Working On It, am here to present three alternative ways to do that.

You might not click with all (or any, though I sincerely hope that’s not the case) of them, but experimentation is key! When it comes to perfecting story craft, you don’t want to slack off, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to have a little fun on the side.

So here we go~~

#1: Keep a “Sketchbook” for Writing

This is something I’ve always done, from the very beginning, and I’ve always wondered why people don’t talk about it more!

I have filled dozens upon dozens of these “sketchbooks” over the years I’ve been writing. In fact, that’s probably why I’m more comfortable drafting by hand than typing. Think of the writer’s sketchbook as being pretty much the same as the artist’s—it’s all about the doodles, brainstorming lists, and character studies, and it’s probably going to be messy.

What’ll go into the sketchbook? Well, pretty much anything. I don’t categorize my notebooks for this; I just write whatever comes to mind, and I suggest you do the same. Ideas, the beginnings of a profile, little scenes or snippets, lists (I make a LOT of lists)—anything can go in here! And if you’re an artist as well, you can use an unlined notebook to write and doodle in.

Of course, people like to joke that it’s easy to buy a pretty notebook and then never write in it, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Find a good brand or type of notebook you’re comfortable with and stock up because once you get into the habit, this… isn’t going to end xD

If you’d rather use a digital medium though, that’s perfectly acceptable as well. However, I still suggest writing by hand to really get the ideas flowing, especially if you’re used to typing, though a digital “sketchbook” isn’t out of the question.

#2: Write Character “Voicelines”

After scouring the Internet for a better term and failing to find one, I just settled on this because… there’s no other way to describe it, really.

Have you heard of voice journaling? It’s a type of writing exercise where you basically let your character’s own thoughts and words run wild, but it’s never really worked for me because I rarely write in first-person. Also, it doesn’t really feel like an actual conversation, if you get what I mean.

Enter “voicelines.” Instead of having your character go on and on and on about something (which is cool for those of you who actually manage it, but it’s not for me xD), give them a prompt. Collect anecdotes and ramblings and their thoughts on things—anything from commenting on the weather, describing their home, telling you what they feel about a certain other character—in their actual voices. This is a handy way to keep track of relationships in your story, especially for stories with large casts! This way you can jot down and keep organized each character’s opinion on other characters (and of course, sort out which other characters they would know) or other miscellaneous things. The possibilities are endless!

This is a really fun exercise, particularly for when you’re bored on the subway or waiting for your dentist appointment. For me, I just use Notion and give each character an individual page within a list. I format each line of dialogue starting with the prompt title, like this:

(Ahem… Wonder which one of you recognizes this character… xD)

Oh, and once you get in the groove, you might stumble upon some dialogue that might make it into your next novel 😉

#3: Consider Character Design

You know what one of my biggest pet peeves in reading a book is?

Being told that a character has “smoldering brown eyes” and “ebony hair” and then making me figure out the rest.

That’s literally the most ambiguous character description you could get, and while I understand most character descriptions aren’t that painfully concise, they can get pretty darned close. A lot of writers seem to be under the impression that a mental image of the character’s appearance can be derived by just reading about said character.

Well, that is true. But depending on the type of story you’re writing, your style, and the name of the character (NEVER underestimate the power of the Name), it doesn’t always work out. For example, you do not know HOW many YA contemporary love interests named Josh or Jacob with short brown hair and green eyes exist in my mental archive of books-read.

Too many, I’m telling you.

Yes, that’s another extreme example. And yes, I know we’re not TV show costume designers or professional illustrators or anything but it’s not a bad idea to take your character’s appearance into serious consideration. If that sounds weird to you, go read some novels by L.M. Montgomery or K.M. Shea and then come back so I can say “I told you so.”

As a writer, you’re going to have to show rather than tell some important traits about your character. What are some distinguishable physical attributes? How do they hold themselves? What is their resting face? Do their clothes reveal how much thought they put into dressing up every day? Once again, the possibilities are endless!

I hope y’all found this post helpful! I decided it was about time to spill my secrets regarding how I am able to so quickly abandon my current WIPs develop projects without boring myself to death with repetitive motions. My most recent favorite has been the voicelines approach, especially since I don’t have as much time to do either of the other two these days.

And that concludes today’s post! I’m excited for next week’s post–I’m going to feature one of my favorite series of all time and talk about what I learned from it! (And probably add to your groaning TBR, but honestly… that can’t be helped.)

Until then,

~ Merie

What do you think about these tips? Have you ever used one of these before? What are some other unique ways you use to develop your stories? Talk to me, folksies!

6 thoughts on “3 Unusual (and Fun!) Writing Tips

  1. I absolutely love these ideas. I’m struggling with a character who’s role is cliche but I don’t want him as a person to be (if that makes any sense) and I just haven’t been able to figure out what makes him tick. Definitely trying voicelines. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely tips Merie. I really liked your tip on considering your character’s design. Something that I wanted to add to that, is that a long time ago I have read this really good book about writing screenplays (“Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder). In that book, he discuses when writing a script you need to use all the props in your scene. If the camera pans on a book then the character needs to use that book in the next scene or so, since props cost money. The idea really stuck with me and I find that it applies to other forms of writing.

    Like don’t just put scars on a character just because scars are cool, but have a backstory of how he received those scars. Maybe the character is self-conscious about it. It could even be plot related.

    The way the character dresses could be really good for some worldbuilding. Like one of the stories that I have written a lot of the characters wear black clothes to respect the soldiers who have died in the war happening in their world. Some of these characters would rather wear brighter colors but don’t because of the current events of the world and for other reasons.

    Anyway, lovely post as always Merie. You have some really good ideas. 😉

    And the way you write character voicelines looks so fun. I might have to try it someday.

    Liked by 1 person

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