Tag Archives: emotion

What I Learned About Writing from America’s Next Top Model

“I’ve always seen modeling as a stepping stone.”

~Tyra Banks~

Photo Credit: Coralie Bilasimo (slowly catching up) via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Coralie Bilasimo (slowly catching up) via Compfight cc

Lately I’ve been binging on Hulu episodes of America’s Next Top Model. For some this may sound a bit bizarre. However, there is method behind the madness. I’ve been studying women and their personalities, interactions, expressions and movement for my characters. Not so bizarre now, eh?

So here’s some of what I’ve learned.

1) Even the most beautiful woman has flaws. In fact, her flaws are what give her depth and help the reader (viewer) connect to her. Without imperfections, the female character is flat and lifeless and has no opportunity to learn, change and grow.  Who wants that?  ANTMs need to learn how to do the job. They aren’t good at what they do. This means my characters don’t need to be “Miss Perfect.”  In making mistakes, an inner character is built.

2) There can be only one.  The show generally starts out with thirteen girls and through the process of competition and elimination there is a final winner. At some point it becomes pretty clear who the front-runners are and who the finalists/winner will be. If you have a female lead character, you must do the same thing. Other characters shouldn’t over-shadow your protagonist / antagonist. If they do, you need to beef up her/their presence.

3) ANTM points out with the model’s pictures there is a fine line between couture / sexy and “hootchie/ghetto.”  Sex may sell, but unless you are writing erotica, your female main character shouldn’t always be in situations that have to deal with sex. Other characters shouldn’t always be talking about her body, the way her clothes fit her body or the way she uses her body.

4) A woman has more emotional range than a gnat. They aren’t “always” crying, bitchy or what have you. I love Tyra Bank’s expression “smize” – smiling with the eyes. I love this photo because it shows this “emotion” beautifully. Your character can do this many different ways. What does your characters’ eyes say about them?  Can you portray body language on the page to “show don’t tell?” It’s a valuable tool.

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Photo Credit: kinojam via Compfight cc

5)  Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Women handle relationships MUCH differently than men. We catch nuances in conversation and read into situations that most men wouldn’t catch if it were handed to them on a silver platter. If you aren’t a “people watcher,” go to a restaurant and eavesdrop on a group of women having lunch / dinner. Watch the body language and facial expression while listening to how they speak with and to each other. Then, do the same thing with a group of men. Night and day.  Mars and Venus.

I’m sure there is more valuable information that may be gleaned from America’s Next Top Model. After all I’ve only watched the first 10 seasons. I believe there are at least 10 more to go.

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How Do You Write….

… when the words don’t come?

I’m not talking writer’s block. I’m talking about when life circumstances throw steaming piles of dog excrement in your general direction and you are bogged down in the muck and mire of the depths of emotion. I know I should channel this… “this”… into something creative or useful.

This year has been one big mess after another. My spousal unit was transferred to another city in the state, we sold our house, I have a family member who’s going through yet ANOTHER big round of big chemo for cancer and the news I got last night has left me scrambling – no starved – for oxygen. I feel like I’m at the top of a cloud enshrouded mountain and cannot inhale deeply enough. At this moment, I can’t see past the billowing nebula storming around me.

It’s one thing to write with emotion. It’s another to be unable to write because of it.  Poop.

Make Me Feel… Something.

” Feelings are not supposed to be logical. Dangerous is the man who has rationalized his emotions.” ~David Borenstein~

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I love books and movies that make me seethe in anger, weep with tears and belly laugh. The fact of the matter is all of us want to feel this way and at the end of the day – emotional writing is what sells books and screenplays. The question most of us have is “how?”

Some of the basic emotions we all read about (or have experienced) are some of the ones people expect in our works. Being in love, fear, surprise, envy, sadness and anger are just a few of the basic emotions a person goes through. This might happen to a person all in one day. Our characters need to experience these feelings as well. When they do, our readers feel connected with them and as a result, they connect with us, the writers, as well.

Pick an emotion. Any emotion. Then add the sensory experience. If you wonder what I mean by that, let me give you an example. I’ll take sadness. When you experience an extreme emotion your other senses heighten. So when your character is sad, let them taste the salt of their tears. Let them squint at the sunlight, which further depresses them. The the merry laughter of others in the room echo around them and overwhelm them. Maybe they will feel the bond of a piece of paper they are rubbing together with their fingers, a piece of paper with the words “good-bye” written on it. Who knows? The sky is the limit.  Allow yourself the time to let the emotion wash over not only your character, but YOU. It’s okay to get emotional while writing. Once you’ve written what you want, let it simmer and come back to it later. Then maybe you will have a new perspective on both your character and yourself you wouldn’t have achieved otherwise.

When I’m writing emotional scenes, I usually set the scene to music. Most of the scenes in my book have a corresponding song that goes with them. One of my favorites is Gary Jules “Mad World.” The haunting tone of that song (originally done by Tears for Fears, but this one is better) is great for a sad scene. This is one of the reasons why music scores / soundtracks are so powerful in movies. If you haven’t tried it before, give it a shot. Be the music director and set the scene with a song.

Finally, you’ve probably heard the advice before, but I’m telling you, no – urging you, again. If you do not keep a journal, do so. You will find tidbits of emotion that come out on journal pages like nowhere else. If nothing else, those entries can help “get you in the mood” when writing what can be a terribly hard thing to do.

Emotion. You cannot fake it. You will destroy your readers confidence in you as a writer if you do.

(Photo courtesy NYTimes)

7 Things Writers Need to Know

This is NOT a game of Solitaire

Unless you just feel like being an anti-social boob, there is no need to think you are in the writing game alone. By joining critique groups (with constructive criticism), online writers’ communities and forums and writer’s organizations, you will develop connections who will help you develop your craft and make your piece the best it can be. Plus networking with other writers helps you in the publishing game as well. Every career path has an “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know” aspect to it.”

 

Skill vs. Talent

Only a small minority of writers are naturally born with the ability to spin tales of intrigue and fantasy without so much as a backward glance. They weave convoluted tales with the single stroke of a pen and leave us breathless and begging for more. Then there are the rest of us who labor for hours and finally give birth to our creation – an often bloody mess in dire need of editing. The good news is that even if you don’t have so-called talent, you can develop the skill you need to be a successful writer.

 

We Just Don’t Care… about your creative writing degree.

I was first published in a literary magazine as a teenager and have published articles, poetry and the like since then. At no time has ANYONE ever asked me where I got my creative writing degree from or even if I had one. What people want to know – can I write and write well? Can I provide them with writing samples? Can I show them I know how to produce what I say I can? 

 

Turtles travel at the speed of light compared to how quickly your novel will get to publication.

The movie “Limitless” shows the main character completing his promised novel in four days after a lengthy period of writer’s block. My word… if wishes were horses. But alas… the rest of us mere mortal men and women spend what feels like an eternity on our work. It then goes through editing and re-editing, galleys, proofreading, pre-publication marketing and research, publication and finally you have something tangible in your hands.

 

G-Sharp – It’s YOUR Voice. Use it.

There are so many other authors and writers who pen their work in a voice that is unique and inspiring. I couldn’t write like them if my life depended on it. If you try to write like someone else, your work will ring false and people will put the book down wondering “why” you would do such a thing. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but your voice is your own. Find it. Use it.

 

Starter, Quitter or Published?

There is nothing so scary or exciting as sitting down and staring at an empty screen or blank sheet of paper. Then comes the reality that I actually have to write something. Gah! Please not THAT! Ah, but yes. Indeed.

There are three categories of writers.

  • The starters are the ones who start project after project, but for whatever reason can’t seem to finish one.
  • The quitter stops before he even starts. He’s the wanna-be. With grandiose goals and statements like, “If I only had the time…” He quits before he even begins.
  • The published ones are the rare breed. Fewer than 1% of works submitted are actually published. As a general rule of 1,000 manuscripts a publishing house receives, 10 are actually published. The odds are not in your favor, but you can do a lot of things right to increase your chance of getting in the top 10%.

It’s NOT about the writing…

Don’t look a me like I’ve become a Chimera. I swear I’m right on this. It’s not about the writing. It’s about the emotion and what an individual feels when they pick up your piece and read it. It’s about the genuine, deep-in-the-dark-reaches-of-the-mind emotion. If you can make them FEEL, then you will have done your job and they may put you on a best sellers list. N’est-ce pas? Just some food for thought.