Friday, October 26, 2007

Random Tips: Get Inside Your Characters' Heads!

In my experience, one of the most difficult aspects of creative writing is trying to get inside a character's head. Even if your protagonist is based largely on yourself (guilty as charged!), the likely case is that he/she represents some exaggerated part of your own psyche rather than an accurate or fully-developed self-portrait. So, in that case, anything you can do to involve yourself in the emotional state of your protagonist would contribute to the story and (especially) the character.

Now, you might be asking yourself how this can be done. Well, one method that many creative writers use is to write detailed backstories for the major characters. These serve as virtual biographies for your cast and can help a great deal in crafting and solidifying where your characters are at the beginning of your story. While I did take some notes on the two leads of my screenplay and get a general sense of their pasts, I didn't delve into an intimate Biography Channel-style look at their lives.

On the contrary, I took a more creative approach and made (please don't laugh when I say this...) a mixtape featuring songs that I felt reflected my main character's state of mind... as well as the story's tone. In addition, I imagined at what points throughout the film these songs would fit, and this made it even easier to picture the story. Oftentimes, I would listen to this makeshift "soundtrack" while I was writing, and the vibe seemed smoother than usual.

It's also a great way to keep yourself focused and thinking about your creative work. As we all know, society doesn't quite embarace creativity as much as we'd like (to say the least...), and it's sometimes hard not to forget your labor of love when you have 6 million other things on your plate. During those months when I was unable to make much progress with my script, I would often play this CD, and it would, in essence, grease the creative wheels of my mind and keep me brainstorming. As a result, I devised myriad ways in which to embellish and improve my story and characters, and my script has become infinitely better as a result.

Of course, though this approach may have worked for me, perhaps your sensibility is different. Try a variety of different ways to get in "the zone" of your writing, and please bring your ideas to the Table. How do you put yourself in your characters' shoes?


Monday, October 1, 2007

Risk-taking, accomplishing, & the fear of success

“Dreams that do come true can be as unsettling as those that don't.” -Brett Butler

Ahh, the magical world of freelancing!

For most young writers, the concept of freelance writing does seem like nothing but a mere fantasy.

A far-off dreamland that lies dormant in a small corner of our creative minds.

However, thanks to the wonders of websites such as and people who have made a serious, life-changing decision to commit themselves to pursuing their creative endeavors now have an opportunity to take advantage of all of the joys that being a full time freelance writer can bring them.

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I heard a quote recently about taking risks. It was something along the lines of “most people don’t take risks and then realize they lost more by not taking them than they would have if they had failed.”

Most writers will never even know what it is to fail because they never even try to get their work out there or published.

So many writers will find themselves in paid positions where they are unhappy because they have no creative control and no opportunity to truly show their skills and talent simply because they needed the security of a regular paycheck. This is not to say that writers in staff positions are not real writers, they simply chose to achieve their goals in a different way.

If you are one of the staff writers who desires to spread their wings and truly feel trapped by the lack of creative expression then freelancing is definitely worth looking into.

You still have deadlines.

You still have editors.

You still have to send in submissions and compose query letters.

The difference is it is up to your own time, energy, and willpower.

You have to have enough self-focus to be able to completely dedicate yourself to finding the jobs, researching the article topics, and getting them done on time.

You are in complete control over your work progression, your time frame in getting things done, and essentially, the destiny of whether or not you can pay your electric bill.

Sound terribly frightening?


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But the benefits to truly doing what you really want to be doing far outnumber any amount of fears that may arise within you.

“Only the best people fight against all obstacles in the pursuit of happiness.” -Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures

Often times, the biggest fear that arises within the freelance writer is the fear of success.

When they finally surpass the fear of failure and rejection, a new challenge to face comes around the corner.

Why is the concept of being a successful, paid, (and maybe even famous) writer so scary to people?

Many feel that young writers get very comfortable with the idea of actually becoming a paid writer remaining a far-off dream.

A place that they will get to “someday” or “after they do this.”

Many will ignore or miss opportunities to be successful because they choose to put their focus to the side and get to it after they take the “necessary steps” that will enable them to achieve their goals “in the future.”

Often times, writers who are stuck in places they don’t want to be in, will find themselves to be very self-critical.

They will beat themselves up and feel as if they haven’t accomplished anything but in reality they are just not seeing or giving themselves credit for their accomplishments.

They are so stuck on the thought that because they are not yet in the place they want to be in their writing career that they feel they aren’t working hard enough.

The truth of the matter is the fact that they have acquired so much self-discipline to actually work on becoming a successful freelance writer is an accomplishment in itself.

Truth be told, writing as a career is a tough market. There will always be ups and downs and there will always be bursts of creativity followed by bouts of blockages.

The key to being successful lies in taking a leap of faith. Surrendering completely to your passion for writing is the first step in the process that needs to be taken.

This is often the most difficult of the steps and that is why we are all not raking in the benefits of freelancing.

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Writers need other writers sometimes. A support team of fellow freelancers who are taking the risks, jumping and hoping the net will appear, and accomplishing great things everyday. It really helps to be surrounded by fellow creative people so that during the times of the downs you will feel like you have someone to relate to.

The Crooked Table was set up to be a networking tool and an opportunity for writers to have a place to discuss writing topics at. A place where writers could turn to other writers for help and a way to get your name out there. A place full of support and valuable information to ease your success rate.

With enough support and contributions our goal with this blog, and also your personal goals can be accomplished.

We just have to know, as struggling, young writers, that helping each other out is very important.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, don’t be afraid to take the risk and jump into freelancing. Even starting out small is a huge step in the right direction. And never be afraid of what you can create because holding on to that fear is usually the main thing that’s holding you back.