Tag Archives: writing process

How Creating a Character’s Family Tree is Like Sudoku

It’s midnight and I’m not sure whether it’s every writer’s dream or every writer’s nightmare, but the little writer’s voice is babbling details about the family tree for the characters in my screenplay.

On one hand, I am a little annoyed because it is a “school night” and I have a busy work day planned for tomorrow. On the other hand, with the heartbreak of writer’s block going on around the world, I really can’t complain when my own writer’s voice is in overdrive with ideas.

I grab a pen and a pad (tucked neatly in my nightstand for just such a literary emergency) and I start sketching out the ideas as they come to me.

Given that this is my first screenplay, this is all new to me, but if it’s anything like my process for writing blog posts, this probably won’t be a linear process from start to end.

The main characters start identifying themselves to me. Then, the main sources of tension between the characters form a neatly bulleted list. The resulting struggles are identified and even the desired end result becomes crystal clear to me.

Now… how do we get from “once upon a time” to “and they lived happily ever after”, while hitting all those marks along the way? Continue reading

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The First Time My Own Writing Gave Me Palpitations

Regular readers will recall that I put the blog on autopilot in early summer, finalizing several blog posts at once, to offer me some free time to spread my wings and try some other creative writing projects.

It didn’t take long for me to sink my teeth into fiction. I guess ideas had been simmering long enough that putting words to paper came quite easily.

For one story in particular, I already knew my main characters and the main source of tension between them. I started committing those to paper.

What started with a few ideas soon became an outline. Then I rounded up the index cards I filled out over the last weeks related to this story and started typing ideas into their respective places.

What I loved was that I could keep the story up on my computer screen, walk away to put a load of laundry in the machine, come back and add a few sentences, entertain the cat a bit, come back and add a few more sentences, do the dishes, add another couple of ideas. Momentum was building and I was already enjoying the creative writing process.

I’d be lying if I said this particular story was a complete work of fiction. There are a few threads to the story that are inspired from my own life, but only a few people will know which is which.

Well into the process of engineering the flow of tension and conflict, I wrote a first draft of a heated conversation between two characters. For this dialogue, I tapped into something deep in my soul, loosely based on something I experienced personally.

In no way does the conflict in the story line resemble anything I’ve ever experienced, but whether someone is angry about life, people or circumstances, anger is anger. It’s universal and can motivate some very impassioned reactions in any of us.

As I was deeply into the writing zone, almost on autopilot myself, the words and associated emotions poured out of me. The exchange between the two characters flowed seamlessly.

The interaction seemed so natural. In some ways, I was not only creating a moment, I was living in it. The strength of conviction and motivation behind the dialogue was unlike anything I had written before.

When I finished typing out the conversation that concluded with one character storming out of a fictional room, the creative bubble around me faded as I returned to reality. In that moment, I noticed that my heart was racing, my breathing was fast and shallow and I felt beads of sweat on my forehead.

I was having palpitations! … over something I just wrote! Who knew that was even possible?

Instantly, this experience became one of those moments as a writer that I will never forget. At this point I didn’t care whether this piece made it to print or not. The fact that I was able to dig that deeply as if I was in the room with the two characters was a huge rush. The fact that it was able to elicit such a strong response felt like a huge emotional welcome into the creative writing world.

I was overjoyed! I was thrilled! I was euphoric!

If this is what it means to be a writer, then I want a lifetime membership! An experience like this makes it all worth it.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Behind the Scenes of Blogging – Then and Now

In a recent review of my blog statistics, I was delighted that so many nice people took time out of their busy day to check out my “About” page. Then I shrieked with fright at the realization that I was so busy building my content that I had not updated that page since I first started blogging in the fall of 2013. It was time to have another look.

When I read it over, it wasn’t too bad. A little wordy, a few long paragraphs, it wasn’t horrible but it needed a little work. At the same time, I realized that my writing style for blogging had already evolved in just a couple of years.

In doing so, a walk down memory lane emerged, much like those retrospective episodes of “The Golden Girls” that took place around the kitchen table over late night cheesecake…

Wow! I have been writing this blog for almost two and a half years. How much has changed in that time.

Blogging – Then

“Picture it, Ottawa, October 2013, an aspiring young writer takes the plunge into the world of blogging. He isn’t quite sure about his blogging voice, his point of view as a writer or even what to write about in a blog. All he knows is that he wants to write more than life itself.”

I was not entirely a novice at it as I was already the author of a web site back from 2000 to 2002. It was my space for posting funny stories and observations, before blogging had really taken off. But still, the same apprehensions emerged: Where do I start? What do I write about?

The obvious answer was Continue reading

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The Writer All-nighter

Typewriter Back in my university years, between classes, working, socializing, sleeping, watching music videos on Muchmusic and trying to get all my assignments done, there were times that there simply didn’t seem to be enough hours in a day. To try to make ends meet time-wise, I would occasionally revert to the old stand-by: the all-nighter.

I did not do it often, but I do recall the ceremony behind it, ensuring I had all the supplies I needed to make it through the night: coffee, cigarettes, snacks, plenty of good music, typewriter ribbon cartridges and typing paper (because of course, typewriter supplies never ran out during store hours). I did not usually go to caffeine tablets on top of that because they just made me so jittery I couldn’t read my own writing. Red Bull had not been invented yet so we made do with the above even though it was not the healthiest of combinations by any stretch of the imagination. And for the record, I quit smoking around 1990-91.

I do not want to over-romanticize the all-nighters of 1986, but there was something magical about the peace and solitude of the middle of the night, clickity-clacking on my Mom’s typewriter in my man cave, and producing some quality essays that earned me some decent marks.

I recall those smoke-filled nights, with a gentle breeze wafting through the window, expanding my musical horizons listening to all kinds of classical, jazz, rock, pop and instrumental artists like Kitaro and Tangerine Dream.

I even remember a couple of quick runs to the 24 hour grocery store around the corner to pick up more snacks, only to find that I could sing “All By Myself” at the top of my lungs in aisle 7 and really mean it. (I tried it once, it was most liberating.)

It did not matter whether Continue reading

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Top 10 Solutions for “Literary Constipation”

When I launched the blog in October 2013, I admit there was a bit of apprehension in terms of putting my works in the public domain. The apprehension did not come from the content itself, I was proud of my work and really looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and starting my work as a blogger. What concerned me was the ability to keep at it and to keep posting consistently without sacrificing quality.

How’s that for a little pressure for a new blogger?

But I was lucky in never really suffering from writer’s block in the 18 months since the launch. The more I wrote for the blog, the more I tapped into the inspiration I drew from the events around me, and in turn, the more I was trying to keep up with the flood of ideas that kept coming to me. And they still do.

However I have been experiencing a little bit of “irregularity” of words: the words are still coming, the ideas for stories keep coming and my inventory of blog posts in “first draft” is still growing. My challenge lately seems to be in taking a post and finding the right words to finish it and nail it like a gymnast dismounting from the balance beam for a “10.0”.

The passion is still there; the fire is still there; I still need to write as much as I need to eat, sleep and breathe. It is perhaps just a minor case of “literary constipation”. I just need to dig into my arsenal of solutions to keep it fresh, keep the momentum going and to keep coming back to my passion for writing with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here are my top 10 solutions for literary constipation:

10. Are you physically comfortable?
Are you hungry? Are you dehydrated? Are you too warm? Are you too cold? Is your chair comfortable? Distractions in our physical world can also create distractions in our creative world. Take a moment to take stock and adjust accordingly.

9. Switch your background music/silence
In some cases, I found that just changing my background music can help bring on a creative spurt. Sometimes, turning the music off and just writing to ambient noises (birds chirping, falling rain) or writing in complete silence can help the creative process. Switch it up. Continue reading

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The Calling Answered

TypewriterIf you have been following my blog, you are probably aware of the determination with which I started taking definite steps toward achieving my long-term dream: to become a full fledged author by the time I retire from my day job. In the last six months, I launched my blog, got into a habit of posting weekly, picked up a few books on writing techniques, started developing some of the ideas I had been kicking around for years and I created a separate Twitter account in order to follow members of the writing community and soak up any knowledge, expertise or wisdom they were willing to share.

What a rush! I could not have foreseen the journey on which I had embarked.

First of all, I could not anticipate the generosity with which people would share information on Continue reading

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A New Journey: Blogging in Public (Or The Fear Thereof)

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It is clear that when I write, I feel most at home when I am in the calm of the room I set aside for writing. I light a few candles, put on some mellow music, get a cup of tea (sometimes wine, depending on the time of day of course), get into some comfy clothing, take a few deep breaths and then let ideas flow.

Unfortunately life sometimes gets busy and finding the time to sit in my “happy space” is not always possible, yet Continue reading

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