I am so excited to be part of the Authors Are Rockstars Tour hosted by Fiktshun and Two Chicks on Books. If you’ve been around here on Proud Book Nerd for at least the past few months, then you know how I feel about authors. They amaze me, they inspire me, and they are most definitely what I’d call rockstars! In fact, every June I host Authors from A to Z, during which I highlight some of my favorite authors read over the previous year. When I saw this tour posted, I knew I had to participate! (For additional tour stops with other awesome authors, just click the button above.)
I was lucky and got paired with Emmy Laybourne, an author I definitely think is a rockstar! Why? Have you read Monument 14? That is an awesome book full of suspense, intrigue, and awesome characters! In fact, I’m waiting very impatiently for the sequel! LOL Add to that, and Emmy is one of the nicest authors I’ve “met.” In my book, that makes her an even bigger rockstar!
What I have for you is a fun blog post from Emmy. Enjoy!
Emmy Laybourne’s Games to Banish Writer’s Block
We’ve all been there. You’re zipping along on a story or a scene when something goes wonky. The scene goes limp on you, like a protesting toddler. Or it gets vague and blowsy and you can’t catch a hold of it. Or somehow it repels you like the wrong end of a magnet so that you physically cannot sit down at your desk and write, no matter how you try.
Look, sometimes there’s something wrong in your story. Sometimes you’ve written something that doesn’t work and your mind is trying to get your attention by putting up a roadblock. So the first thing to do is read over the last few pages. Did you make some unnatural choice that had made your story unhappy? Did you try to wedge in a bit of plot that needs to be shown, not told? Did you take a wrong turn?
If, after you do some analysis, you find all to be more or less in order, then maybe you’re simply suffering from some fatigue or a lack of inspiration. Or perhaps your inner critic is slowing you down. Try one of these games to get your juices flowing again.
1. Wrong name, Sally.
Stand up. Move back from your desk. Now walk around your office (or your kitchen, or bedroom, or wherever you like to work). As you walk, point at objects and name them – but give them the wrong name. So you’ll point at a shoe and say “stapler” and then at the window and say “pineapple.” Sometimes you’ll goof and say the actual name of the thing. Don’t worry about being it. Also don’t worry about being clever. You don’t need to say, or “forensic evidence!” or “pickle barrel!” (Though saying “pickle barrel” is kind of fun in itself.) It’s not an exercise to tap the inner depths of your well of creativity – it’s designed to get you out of your head and into the moment.
This exercise will make you feel a little giddy and goofy. That’s good. When you sit back down to write again, you’ll feel refreshed.
I don’t know why I call it “Wrong Name, Sally” except that chances are very good that your name is NOT Sally. So even in the title, I’m playing the game!
One last thing, this might not be a good exercise to try if you work in a public place like, say, the town library or a Starbucks… You might get some pretty strange looks if you start going around and labeling the lattes “frogs” and the tables “electric chairs!”
2. Stalking your Characters
This technique is especially useful when you need to get to know a character better. If you find that the character is fuzzy in your imagination – if their dialogue is stilted – if you’re working on a scene and the character’s choices all seem inauthentic – then give stalking a try.
This game requires you to head to the street or to the mall. You want a place that is crowded, and where people are walking around. What you’re going to do is watch the people. Study them. Try to find someone who looks like a character in your book.
Then you will trail them. Stay 10-15 feet back and try not to get noticed. As you follow them, you are to imitate their walk. I know this sounds a little crazy, but do it anyway. Watch how they hold their hips. How their feet fall on the ground. Are they taking big, swaggering steps, or are their steps timid or sensual or careless or aggressive? Watch how the subject’s arms swing, if at all, and how they hold their head. You can follow a few different people for each character you’re workshopping. Take a small notebook with you to jot down a few of the key physical traits you pick up on.
Once you have brought the walk of your subject into your body you will have a new sense of how your character operates. You see, the human body exposes the private world view of its inhabitant.
3. Critic Bashing
Perhaps the greatest gift I got from my years as a comedy improviser was liberation from my inner critic. It’s simply impossible to be onstage, making up a scene, and judge it at the same time. If you do that, you stop the whole scene. If you go to an improv school, where people are training and doing their first shows, you can watch it happen. A newbie will say something (usually something completely harmless) but their inner critic will decide it was the wrong thing to say and suddenly the performer’s face contorts and they stop and gape and try to backtrack and become completely disengaged from the flow of the scene. It’s like watching a bike throw a gear – the machinery goes all loose and kinky and the rider is thrown.
That inner critic has no place in your writing zone. He or she will sit behind you, looking over your shoulder and slam every single word choice you make until you are forced to go and eat a bag of M&Ms just so the crunching of your jaws will drown him/her out. I hate you inner critic, I really do.
So here’s what I’d like you to do. You’re going to pick a chair or a piece of furniture or a place in your house (or near where you work). It’s best if it’s a piece of furniture you don’t actually like that much, or a corner that you don’t like to go in.
Whenever you feel like you’re being hard on yourself, I want you to go to that chair or corner and actually voice the opinions of the critic. “You’re crazy to think you can write a novel,” your critic might say. “Your ideas are totally lame and you have no idea how to write good dialogue and also, those pants are terrible.”
Good. Let that little meanie vent all he/she wants.
Then you stand up and turn around and refute the critic! “I can too write a novel! Of course I can! My ideas are perfectly good and my dialogue is getting better every day. These pants are not my best pants, but that’s okay because no one besides you is here to see me!”
Then repeat this process. Let your inner critic tell you everything he/she has been whispering to you. All those oily little images of failure he/she has been slipping into your mind. Make that critic cough them up and get them out in the open. Fears and criticisms don’t hold up well in sunlight. Once you’ve heard the criticism stand up for yourself. If you don’t, who will? Refute his/her arguments one by one and tell your critic off when you’re done being logical. It will feel good, I promise you.
I wish you all the best in your work. I will be posting more tips on writing and creativity on my blog (www.emmylaybourne.com) in the coming year, so subscribe if you’d like to be in the know. Thanks to dear Heather for hosting me and to Rachel, Patricia and Jaime for organizing such a truly rockin’ blog event! And if I see any of you following me around the Palisades Mall and copying the way I walk, I’ll know why!
Thank you so much, Emmy, for the awesome post! I always love reading what you come up with. This is definitely one of my favorite guest posts!
About Monument 14
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.
A huge store isn’t the worst place to be stranded. There’s food and water, bedding and books. But what if it’s not safe to leave?
Six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids are trapped together in a chain superstore. Together they build a refuge for themselves inside, while outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapon spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.
Emmy Laybourne has kindly offered a signed copy of Monument 14 and limited-edition Greenway merchandise for one lucky winner. (Greenway is the name of the store the kids are trapped in.) To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Those in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to win. Thank you!
FTC Disclosure: All items reviewed were either obtained by me for my own enjoyment or sent (from the author, publisher, publicist, via tour sites, etc.) in exchange for an honest review. I receive no monetary compensation for my posts. All opinions expressed are my own. Any exceptions to this are clearly noted in the appropriate posts.
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