1. Character Development
Pick one of your characters, and introduce yourself to the person next to you as the character. Hopefully they are chatty and you can expand on your character profile, creating and filling in back-story and details as you go. It’s a unique way to see how convincing your creations are. This may also be construed as compulsive lying.
2. Sky-Mall Character Development Exercise
Skymall is the most bizarre jumbled mess of products under one cover. Diamond jewelry, pet products, wart remover, aqua weights, hammocks and aromatherapy. . . you can probably find a merkin in there if you look hard enough. I constantly find myself asking who would buy that? Pick one of the more unusual items and build a character around it.
3. Market Research
Check out what other people are reading. Ask them about it. Ask them why they picked it. I’ve heard everything from Oprah, covers, reviews and the other standards. But I’ve also heard some more unusual ones. Books read because of a promise to a dying mother, books chosen deliberately because they thought they’d hate it. There’s a million different reasons we read; assuming everyone thinks like you doesn’t help anything.
4. Visualize the Plane Crashing
Admittedly, this one isn’t for most people. You pretty much have to fall into one of three camps:
- – You are a complete masochist
- – You are exceptionally good at relaxation exercises.
- – You are utterly impervious to fear of flying (in which case this exercise may not accomplish much)
If you can pull this off well while you are in mid-air, trust me, you will have a whole new appreciation for the description of terror. And the person next to you will reach for the barf bag, even if there is an empty seat between you if you can get deep enough into the exercise to white-knuckle the armrest and break out in a sweat. You just can’t really imagine that freaky pressure behind your closed eyelids, or the bizarre sensation that your chest is folding into itself along the sternal line, but it snaps right into clear focus when you’re flying. When it does, write it down.
5. Hold Yourself Captive
Everyone has one of those books that they really want to finish – a craft book they’ve struggled with, a book they want to finish on principle alone. That is the book to bring on a plane. You’ll put it down, but on a long flight you’ll pick it right back up again. Especially if the Wi-Fi is down. So take advantage of the limited options and put some time in on the one you hate the most.
People have the best conversations on planes. You can hear spouses talking and actually learning about each other in a way they don’t pull off between meetings, work and ubiquitous electronic gadgeting. You can also hear people spilling entire life stories to a stranger. Of course we all know eavesdropping is totally rude, but within the confines of a plane, one can only expect so much privacy, there is no way to really avoid hearing it, and it comes with an anonymity that somehow protects them. Many people find writing dialogue difficult. Step out of your personal vernacular now and then and try to capture it.
7. Tug the Plot Strings
A lot of people (I am defiantly one of them) struggle with plot lines, with tying scenes and events together. I’m trying to learn the art of plotting, and this little exercise helps a lot. Open any media source – book, magazine, skymall, emergency instructions. Write down three random lines. They are the dots that mark your beginning, your middle and your end. Connect them – create a plot sketch that carries you through them in a sensible way. Sensible is the hard part, unless you’re my husband and can whip out some weird David Lynch stuff at the drop of a hat.
8. Interview Yourself
Presumably, most of us are writing with the aim to publish, to get to the point of supporting ourselves solely through writing. Then what?
Writing, of course. But few of us will ever achieve the level of being an accepted recluse. We’ll have to talk a good game if we want to keep supporting ourselves this way. Have you ever stopped to think about what you have to say for yourself?
9. Radio Roulette
Probably iPod Roulette is a better term, but I’ve used radio roulette for decades and have no desire to fix what’s not broken, even if it is obsolete. This is when you put a shuffle spin on and randomly stop at any given song. Use that song as a jumping off point for a short story. You will hate this game if you still have Hot Diggity, Dog Diggity by Perry Como on your iPod as a goof from three years ago.
10. Writer’s Ping-Pong
This will only work if you have a traveling partner. Or a very bored seat mate. Each of you write one paragraph, then pass the books to the other and write a paragraph in the other person’s book. Do this with the aim of culminating the story with a resolution to both strings. This is much harder than it sounds, but can produce some startling results.
- Have I Mentioned I Hate Flying? (rantravewrite.com)
- May You Write Interesting Books – 6 (accordingtohoyt.com)