Friday, September 30, 2016

A Novel Approach to Writing Novels

No one can dictate to you how to write your book. The way the story presents itself to the author is all important. How-To authors will tell you what you must avoid, shouldn't do, how you have to approach something. The fact is, they don't know any more than anyone else, they just sat down and wrote a book about it. Don't let them bully you and dictate to you how you write. Chances are good that they have broken their own edicts at one time or another.
The best advice I have ever heard came from actor, director, author, screenwriter and producer, Ken Farmer. “Just write the damn story.”
I couldn't have said it better. There is no set in stone way to approach your story. Anyone who says differently is lying to you. I read an article many years ago, when I was a mere novice. I had one book, Indian Summer, under my belt. I was beginning my Lone Wolf sci-fi series. I came across this article by a famous sci-fi author, whose name I can't remember now. He said that an author must outline everything carefully before beginning to write. An author must know the ending before beginning to write. An author must spend more time on the outlining and planning stage than on the writing itself. It was, in this author's opinion, essential to follow a carefully crafted plan.
That one article spun me into a panic of momentous proportions. I don't do any of that. I tried writing an outline once, only to find myself writing the story instead. I scrapped the outline and wrote. I don't plot and plan before I begin. I never know the ending. I hop in and hope for the best. I dispense with the long, drawn out planning stage and go for the fun part—writing.
For certain styles of writing, outlining is important. For instance, if you're writing a biography, non-fiction or a how-to book, you should probably know where you're going. I've always been more of the opinion that the outline is something you write after they paper is done, but then I never have had a conventional approach to anything.
I have been a Blog Talk Radio host since 2009. In that time, I have talked with dozens of authors and I ask them the same question every show, “Are you a plotter/ planner or do you jump in and start writing?” Surprisingly, the plotter/ planners are in the minority, though how-to authors would have us believe that theirs is the only correct and perfect way to approach the story. This offers food for thought. Which approach is the correct one?
The answer is simple, no one can tell you that. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for anyone else. I'll describe my method (such as it is) and tell you some variations I've come across.
I get a starting idea—usually an opening sentence. Once in awhile, it's dialogue. Whatever is the case, it nags at me until I write it down. If I don't, it's gone and I may never get that story back. Frustrating but true.
Once I start to write, the words flow and I type as fast as I can in order to get them down. Sometimes, a story presents itself through pen and paper. I don't argue, I just write. These are rare, but do happen. I've learned to live with it.
My stories, for the most part, come at me chronologically. I begin at the beginning and write until I reach the end. I rarely use flashbacks, though I do have them from time to time. I rarely skip from one scene to another. For me, that's a lot more work. The only time I do that is if I get a scene that's really compelling and wants to be written now. Then I pick up and continue where I left off, bringing the story to that place.
Once in awhile, I can't remember exactly where I left off. If I'm away from home and intend to write while I'm gone, I'll take a notebook with me. I might pick up a scene a bit further in the future and write it instead, then go back and bridge the gap.
I listen to music when I write. What I have playing varies, but usually it's something that provides a background and doesn't intrude. A lot of my author friends say they can't have music with words, but that doesn't usually bother me. I hear the melodies and am only marginally aware of the lyrics.
I continue typing until I finish the book, or the muse clams up. Since she's a pesky wench, she does that fairly often—hence the fact that I have nearly as many unfinished novels as I do finished ones. If she closes her mouth on one, she often opens it on another. I write on that for awhile until she clams up again.
This is my method, if it can be called such.

There are variations, the most common of which are below. I am presenting these in First Person, though they are the ways and means of other authors:

I write each scene separately, whatever interests me the most. I write notes of each on a note card and lay them out on the floor, moving them around until I get the right sequence, then I string them together.

I write chronologically, but I write different scenes, the ones that speak to me the loudest, then I weave them together.

I have to have absolute quiet when I work. I can't have music, TV, radio or any other distractions. If I do, I lose track of where I'm going with the story.

I don't like music playing, but I have the TV on while I write. I don't pay attention to it, I just like the background noise.

I listen to the radio when I write. It helps me block out other noise and concentrate on my writing.

I work on only one book at a time. If the words stop flowing, I give myself a break and do something else. When I feel the story again, I go back to it and keep writing. I can't keep track of more than one plot at a time.

These variations are endless. I have only listed the ones that I've heard more than once from other authors. I'm surprised to find that there are a few of us who constantly juggle multiple projects. I don't know if it speaks to our level of Attention Deficit or some other personality quirk. Most people I speak to work on one project at a time. There are some of us who are, apparently, gluttons for punishment and torture ourselves with more.
Write the way that feels comfortable. Allow your chaotic process to be productive and don't worry about it. Accept that the first draft will probably be terrible and live with this fact. It takes years to write an acceptable first, second or hundredth draft. Don't feel as if you need to control it all, because the fact is, you control nothing. The story chose you, not the other way around. It will control how you write, what you write and how it ends. Accept this and move on. It's much more fun when you allow yourself to relax.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Red River Radio Presents What's Write for Me with Anna, Karen and Rachel!


After a brief hiatus, Dellani and Christina are back! Today, Dellani will chat not only with Karen Vaughan and Anna Celeste Burke, but Christina's alter ego - Rachel Rueben!
Join us for this fun filled chat!

New to the show, Anna Celeste Burke, author of All Hallow's Eve Heist, Love Notes in the Key of Sea, Gnarly New Year and many more.

Also chatting with us, good friend and another Red River Radio host, KarenVaughan, author of Jamaica Dead, Daytona Dead, Left for Dead, Holmes in America and many more.

Karen and Anna are also featured in a cooperative book set called Mysteries Gone Mad.

RachelRueben is an old hand at the talk show, though she's usually the silent minority. Today, we're making her talk about her books Hag, Eternal Bond and her newest venture, Fedelta.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I Love Dialogue from Car Trouble

I've long wondered why men's restrooms are set up the way they are. Women have privacy, but we're expected to yank it out and take a whiz no matter who's around. It's always made me nervous. There's always this sick impulse to check the other guy's junk, but you look like a perv if you do that. Not that I'm embarrassed about what I'm packing, far from it. I just don't particularly like to be stared at, especially with my fly down. Then there's the problem of where to look.
Do I look down at myself? That looks like I'm not sure I can take a piss without help. Do I stare at the wall? Then I look like I'm nervous or have something to hide. In a police station, I don't want to look furtive. I'm not gonna look at the piece of the guy next to me, so there aren't many choices left.
I chose to gaze at the flush valve. That's not so low that I seem perverted and not high enough to appear furtive. Glad I was done, I flushed, nodded politely and flashed a nervous smile as I went to the sink. I watched the other men casually in the mirror as I soaped my hands. Seconds later, I was soaked from waist to hips. Cold water sprayed me from the faucet, spattering the mirror, counter and floor.
"What the fuck?" My vocabulary choice was probably unfortunate due to where I was, but I couldn't help it.
The two cops were laughing. I was soaked and standing in a puddle, and the two duffers were laughing at me.
"Sorry, pal, we should've warned you," the guy on my right zipped up and walked to the sink.
I noticed he avoided the sink I was standing next to—dripping.
"Then why didn't you?"
"Didn't think about it. We all know not to use that sink. The work order's been in for three months."
"Give me a wrench, I'll fix it myself."
"You a plumber?"
"I apprenticed awhile when I was a teenager. I could fix that in five minutes."
"Wish we could oblige, it has to go through the city."
"Got a towel? My girlfriend is talking to Sergeant um...." I drew a blank. "Stacy," I bumbled to a finish.
"Lanier," Mr. Right finished for me.
"Thanks, yes."
"Oh, you part of that vandalism case?"
"Yeah, my girlfriend's property got hit."
One of the cops handed me a roll of paper towels. I started blotting the front of my jeans.
"I look like I had a serious bathroom accident," I fussed. "This is just great."
"We could find you some dry pants, maybe," the cop on my left suggested.
"Actually, my bag is in the car. We were out of town when we got the call. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I need to get my pants."
"I'll let Stacy know where you've gone," Mr. Left said.
Feeling like an idiot, not for the first time, I wandered outside, glad that I didn't meet anyone on my way out. Gabe and Chas were leaning against the Jeep sharing a cigarette.
I grabbed my pants out of the back seat and joined them. They examined my wet crotch with a smirk.
"Someone get too excited?" Gabe asked.
"The sink in the men's restroom attacked me. Don't use the center one. Gimme a hit?"
Gabe handed me the cigarette. "Sorry we have to share, it's my last one."
"God, that tastes good!" I moaned with almost sexual delight as I took another puff. "I was hoping it would taste like ass, then I wouldn't feel so shitty about giving it up."
"It's a Sobranie, of course it's good. I don't smoke anything else."
"I'll pay for them, if you'll get more. I'm dying for a real smoke."
"Calliope will have your balls in a sling if you start smoking again."
"One. I just want one. Then I'll give it up, I swear."
"I bet you said the same thing about sex a long time ago." Chas smirked, nudging me.
"Hell with that. I had one hit and couldn't wait for another."
Both men laughed, shaking their heads.
"Find out anything useful?"
"Yes, don't use the middle sink. I need to go change. These pants feel nasty and my balls are getting chilly."
"Oh, God forbid he get frostbite on his extremities!" Gabe said loudly enough to attract the attention of a couple police officers who had just walked out the door.
I recognized my bathroom pals and waved self-consciously with my dry jeans. They laughed all the way to their cars.
"Thanks. That helped." I punched Gabe hard on the arm. "Now they think I'm a gay man who can't control his own plumbing."
"They don't," Gabe replied. "They just think you're a useless twit."
"Thanks that makes me feel so much better."
© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Motivation or Hurrah for Life's Little Choices


Motivation, it's not just for novels anymore. Actually, it never was just for novels, it was for any work of fiction. What we often forget is that Motivation is a part of life. We are all motivated (or not) to do certain things. It's integral to the human psyche and can't be ignored in our characterizations. We are all motivated to make certain decisions, beginning with the time we wake up. What to wear? Shower before or after breakfast? Toast or a bagel.... The small decisions we make from minute to minute get us through the day, and we probably don't even recognize we're making them.
Characters must have this same clear cut Motivation. This doesn't mean that an author has to walk them through every small decision they make, or each action. It does mean that big decisions should have a clear Motive behind them, whether it's a snap judgment or something carefully thought out, a decision must be Motivated by something. A character won't leap into a pit of vipers unless there's a good reason for it. Nor, will he or she suddenly decide to commit an act completely out of the blue. At least they shouldn't. That's not to say that people don't do that from time to time, but it's rare. Something inside made us make a decision we might not normally make and we act.
With a character, those moments shouldn't happen. It's one thing to take the readers by surprise, it's quite another to make such an abrupt 180ยบ turn that readers are left breathless and twisting in the wind. That's a very uncomfortable place for a reader to be. They don't like it and it's often enough to make them put a book aside and quit reading. This doesn't mean you can't have a plot twist and take readers by surprise. It means that the Motivation must be clear. If my character is going to jump into a pit of vipers, it's because someone they love needs rescuing. Or the all important item they've risked their lives to obtain, is at the bottom of that pit. Or they're suddenly tripping on acid and the vipers are all in their heads.
Readers don't have to be in on the thought process. They don't have to listen to the inner dialogue that brings this decision about, but there must be a moment where that aspect of the character is revealed. This doesn't just influence great danger. This is any major choice the character makes. In a romance, this might be the moment that the couple decide to consummate their relationship with a hot, spicy love scene. In a mystery, the point where the victim makes the wrong turn on their fateful path to death.
Whatever the choice, the decision must be clearly available. This does not mean that the author needs to do a soliloquy, a la Shakespeare, though that technique certainly outlined the thoughts of his characters well. It can be something simple, such as: Her mind made up, she knew she had to rescue her lover from the bottom of the pit. Terrified, but resolute, she put the first foot into the midst of the vipers—and prayed.
We didn't hear every minute of the thought process, but we have a clear decision on the character's part. She's made her choice, now she's acting on it. Sure, she can be conflicted, but the motivation is clear.
Having trouble finding the motivation for a character? Ask yourself (or them) a series of questions to determine it. I'll list a few below, but you can generate your own list of questions that applies to your specific character and their situation.
Suggested Questions:

What do you most want?
What do you most need?
Will this decision get you closer to your goal?
Will this choice take you further away from your goal?
Is your choice selfish or unselfish?
Is this going to get you killed, injured, put in jail?
If yes, are the consequences worth it?
How will this affect the future?
Will you be a better person after this, or a worse one?

Obviously, these are not the only questions to ask, but they will get you started. Once you've been able to answer these questions to your satisfaction (and the character's) you can clearly delineate the motivation for your readers. It doesn't matter what the choice is—good or bad, right or wrong, just make sure the motivation is clearly expressed.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I Love Dialogue from Bet on Love

Zane smiled, shrugging as he picked at the last of his food. "Kinda outta the habit of asking a woman out. Before my six month forced vacation, I was—" He gulped down the last of his coffee, not completing the sentence.
"Invisible." Gina supplied.
Zane looked at her curiously.
"Electrocuted. Bound and gagged? Pick one."
He laughed, white even teeth flashing in the sunshine that filtered in through the blinds. "No, I was married."
"But she divorced me minutes after I was arrested. Literally served me with the papers when I was being hauled off."
"She took up with your partner right after, huh?"
"How did you guess?"
"Cause anyone who would dump a guy like you would have to be one crazy bitch. And only a crazy bitch would hook up with a total douchebag like your ex-partner."
Zane laughed loudly. Putting his hand over his mouth, he quieted himself. "God, that's too funny. Where did that even come from?"
"It seemed logical. I bet your business is worth a lot of money. You probably had a pre-nup that prevented Psycho-Barbie from getting her hands on it if you divorced. However, if you got arrested for something, like—say, international smuggling—your part of the business reverted to her and Disco-Billy. Am I close?"
"Right on the money. How did you know?"
"Cause your buddy must have watched The Heist with Pierce Brosnan."
"It's his favorite movie...."
"He stole the plot and set you up, Zane. How did they catch him?"
"Angelica turned him in."
"Your wife?"
"Let me guess, tell me if I'm right. She's in complete control of it all now, right?"
"Right. She has to give me back my half now that I've proven my innocence."
"Like that's gonna happen."
"Court mandated."
"Lots of things are court mandated. What planet are you from? You think that everyone obeys the law?"
Zane shook his head, sad smile on his lips. "I like to try and see the best in people."
"They leave you in a constant state of disappointment, right? Me, I expect to be let down."
"But the problem with that attitude is, you usually are."
"Yes, but at least I'm prepared for it. I got tired of bad surprises. Now, if I get screwed over, at least I knew it was coming and I'm ready."
"Sorry way to live, Gina."
"The alternative isn't any less so, Zane."
"At least I can hold to my pretty illusions for a little while before it all goes to hell."
"But they're still illusions."
"How did we get on such a happy subject?"
Gina giggled, her napkin over her mouth so she wouldn't spew her food. "I don't know. I was just wondering that. I don't usually get like that unless I'm drunk."
"You're probably tired. I know I am. I can't sleep. There's just too much going on." He tapped his head. "Up here. It's like my mind won't shut off or something."
"I know that feeling. Face it, Zane. You need to get laid."
He burst out laughing, tossing his napkin across the table at her. "Thank you, Dr. McCartney. That's your unbiased assessment?"
"I don't have to be a genius to see it. How long has it been, just out of curiosity?"
"Your curiosity takes you to some pretty weird places, Gina. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this subject."
"Are you shy, Zane?"
He looked uncomfortable, squirming again in his seat. "No, Gina. I'm just embarrassed to talk about it."
"Why? Cause you don't know me very well?" she took a sip of her coffee, meeting his eyes over the rim of her cup.
"No. Because I'm interested in you and I don't want you thinking I'm some kind of sex-crazed-stalker-creep who just wants in your pants. You know it's been at least six months."
"I bet your wife was holding out on you for awhile before the incident. I'm gonna guess nine months?"
Zane closed his eyes, dropping his head. "Eight and a half."
"Like I said, you need to get laid."
"Does that mean you're volunteering?"
His blue eyes held her in thrall for a moment. Did it? She wanted to say yes, thinking she should to say no.
"There's no easy answer to that question. If I say yes, I'm a slut. If I say no, your feelings get hurt."
"Then just say maybe." His smile softened, his eyes fathomless ocean of blue.
"That'll do." He grinned and took a sip of his coffee.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

Friday, September 16, 2016

So, You Want to Name That Character by Dellani Oakes

Finally sitting down to write that novel? Let's assume you've chosen your genre, point of view, narrative style and all those other things that you have to decide before setting pen to paper. (Or fingers to keys). Now comes the fun part—maybe. Naming the characters. There are different methods of approach here, and excuse me if I leave some of them out. I use a variety of methods, but I know I haven't discovered them all.
First, you can make the name tell something about the character. For example Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne gives us a fair description of the main character before we turn the first page. However, you might not want to get that concrete in your description.
Another way to name is to pick names of people you know who sort of seem to fit. The only problem with this is, they may read the book and not like the character. You've just lost a fan. Probably not the best method. I've known people who randomly chose names from the phone book and used them. Also, perhaps not the best method, unless you mix and match.
I've used a lot of baby name books or web sites. These are incredibly useful. You can search for meanings of names, names from certain nationalities, starting with a particular letter, number of letters, the list of search filters is practically endless. Do a random web search for baby names and you will come up with a wide variety of sites.
When writing sci-fi, quite often I find myself needing an alien sounding name. Nothing Earthly works, so I'm stuck with making something up. While this might sound easy, it really isn't. I like names that sound vaguely alien in nature, but aren't so incredibly complicated to pronounce that my readers eyes will boil. It drives me crazy reading a book with complicated names. The worst faults are those who add a lot of unnecessary punctuation. Do you think we need Ban'Kay-at-ah'wan? What am I supposed to do on those dashes and apostrophes, swallow my tongue? Think too, when you are typing that all important name, how many times you will have to type it before the novel ends. I don't think I could face it. It's easy to fall into this pattern, but it is far better to make easily pronounceable names.
How do you find the ideal alien name, preferably one that isn't unpronounceable and jaw breaking? Fantasy name generators are great for this. Again, a random web search can be invaluable. I have also used mundane things, rearranged the letters a tad and come up with some amazingly interesting names. After wracking my brain for an important alien, a glance at a shop window solved the problem. I used part of the business name in reverse, and came up with the amazing moniker, Aisulov. Another name was provided by rearranging the letters in the maker of my van, Telorvech.
I got the name of a planet from a telemarketer. English was not her primary language, and it took several minutes to determine that she wasn't calling on behalf of some obscure third world country. She was, in fact, calling from Bank One. However, it sounded like Ban-qwan, which later became Bankaywan.
Once names have been decided upon, write them down and arrange them alphabetically with a brief description of each character. This is quite helpful keeping track, especially of minor characters. How often have I gone back to a minor flunky only to say to myself, "Was his name Fred, Fritz or Frank?" And how frustrating to realize that I've named not one but two minor flunkies with the same name. Of course it's entirely possible to have two men in opposite ends of the galaxy both named Frank, but why do it to yourself or your readers?
I once discovered I'd named two characters in the same book, Mickey. Not so weird, but they were brothers! One eventually became Nick instead.
I try to keep names short, or give nicknames to characters whose names I will be typing a lot. I just named a character Adrianna. I really wish I'd chosen something a tad shorter, but somehow the name Adrianna Hasselhoff seemed to fit. It's her name now, and she won't give it up, so I'm stuck with it. My main character in my sci-fi series is named Wilhelm VanLipsig. His name was immediately shortened to Wil and there it's stayed.
I've noticed a trend as I write this article. Reviewing my character names, I find that the men often have shorter names than the women. For the men: Wil, Ben, Marc, Frank, Kael, Stan, Brock, Brodie.
For the women: Matilda, Adrianna, Escascia, Ariella, Tselanna, Ysilvalov, Ssylvenia, Savannah.
I wonder why I do that. It certainly makes more work for me than if I named them things like Meg, Tina or Penny.
Avoid naming your main characters with similar sounding names. It is terribly confusing for readers. I have a series of fantasy books I enjoy reading, but at least three main characters have names beginning with K, three have names beginning with S and the hero's wife, a queen, has a name so similar to that of her country, it gets mind boggling quickly. I know how difficult it can be to keep everyone straight, particularly when a novel begins to develop sub-plots.
The more I write, the more I find myself adhering to the "KISS" rule. (Keep It Simple, Sweetie). The more complicated I make it for myself now, the more exhausted I will be when I finish the book.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Love Dialogue from Love on a Catwalk

My phone ringing interrupted us. It was Brent.
"Hallo, luv!"
"Hallo, guv!" I replied.
"Is what's his cheeks there?"
"Yes, Jeff is here."
"Excellent. May I bend his ear a wee bit?"
"Have you been drinking?" Brent isn't usually this cheerful.
"Not for the last half hour," he drawled. "Prior to, quite a bit. Had some good news."
"Yes! Two bits, actually. First of all It's a girl Huzzah!"
"Really? Shaine had the baby? Isn't it a little early?"
"Brought on by weather, so they tell us. Colt, with the able assistance of the lads and his lovely bride, delivered her at the theatre, as we were snowed in."
"That's so exciting! Congratulations! And what's bit number two?"
"Full funding for the film, in the bank, luxuriating. Between me and a few filthy rich, though generous, friends we are completely funded and ready to rock this spring. One thing, though. She's decided motherhood is more important than stardom and she's offering you the part."
"What? Me? Oh, my God! Really?"
"I wouldn't be calling in my semi-sober, passably inebriated state, otherwise. You and your lad, what's-his-diddle. We want you both. Can that be arranged? Oh, can the bugger act?"
"I'll ask what's-his-diddle and you can see for yourself when we get together with you this week. He's anxious to meet with you."
"Excellent. When I am my usual sober, sedate self, we shall speak—oh, list, list!" I heard the phone clatter. "Oh, fuck," he grumbled. Fumbling and rattling, another fall or two. I hoped Brent was at home where he couldn't hurt himself. "Got it! I got it," he gasped. "Slippery fucker. Yes. When I am less—" He burped and hiccuped. "In me cups, we shall chat. Sally will call. She's sober and sedate as we speak."
"Is she with you?"
"Yes. She was kind enough to take me home so I can sober up before I join my lovely wife and pink swaddled bundle at hospital. I shall not introduce my wee daughter to the ravages of alcohol at her tender age." I heard the phone fall again. "Fuck balls," he grumbled.
The phone clattered once more. "Hi, it's Sally. He's collapsed on the couch. Drunk off his ass." She lowered her voice. "This scared the crap out of him. He was terrified we'd lose her. Girl's a trooper, but thank God for Colt and Suzie! Dave helped too. It was pretty intense. It took the ambulance over an hour to get to us. By that time, little Snowdrop was born."
"They didn't really name her that!"
"Of course not, her name is Vera Rose after his mother and her sister."
"What a lovely thing to do. She and Shaine are well?"
"Doing just great. How about you and Mr. Heartbreak?"
"Please, don't call him that, Sally," I said with a sorrowful sigh. "It really was my fault. I broke up with him. But things are working out."
Jeff put his arms around me, holding me close from behind. He nuzzled my neck. "Hey, Sally," he called.
"He asked me to marry him," I said with a happy laugh. "And I said yes!"
"She came to her senses," Jeff added. He took my phone abruptly. "Hey, Sally?"
"Yes, Jeff?" her voice had lost its edge.
"I really want to take Miranda back to bed so I can boff her senseless."
She burst out laughing. "Okay! I'm going to sit here until himself sobers up. I'll call—tomorrow—with a time to meet up with Brent."
"I'm working tomorrow. Call Babs, she has my schedule."
"Will do. By the way," she dropped her voice so I could no longer hear her.
Jeff hung on every word, laughing a little as his ears turned red. "That's a really great idea. Thanks, Sally!"
"No problem," she said loudly. "Bye, Randi! Enjoy!"
He hung up. Phone dropped on the counter and he grabbed me.
"She gave me an excellent idea."
"Mm hmm. No phones allowed in the bedroom," he said, taking his from his pocket, dropping it beside mine.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Friday, September 09, 2016

Beating the Writer's Block by Dellani Oakes

Writer's Block—these ominous words send shivers down the spine of any writer. Insidious, it strikes with no warning, clogging the brain, paralyzing fingers, bringing grown writers to their knees. There are many types of writer's block, each with its own pernicious characteristics. Below, I have listed those which plague me the most often.
1) Mid-Line Crisis: This is less destructive than its brothers, but still annoying. This is the unfinished sentence, incomplete thought or dialogue left hanging. The tortured. . . .of the soul. Though frustrating, it is not insurmountable. Usually a little brainstorming, trial and error and copious use of the delete button get me past this tiresome creature.

2) Ex Thesaurus: Also known as What Word? This usually runs with mid-line crisis and is fairly easy to circumvent. A visit to or a quick flip through the desk copy of Roget's can pull a writer past this hurdle.

3) Post Climactic Stress: Or Where Do I Go From Here? The hero has saved the day, villains vanquished, lovers unite, children dance around May Poles—celebration time! All right, where does the story go now? It's not over, but it needs to be soon. However, these pesky little loose ends suddenly electrify, screaming "Solve Me!" What to do?
Falling action after the climax isn't always easy. The one question a writer fails to answer is the one readers will point to and say, "Hey! What about this?" To avoid the lynch mob, sometimes it's better to eliminate a secondary thread unless it's absolutely necessary to the plot. Otherwise, it's a trip to blockage category # 4.

4) The Never Ending Story: As much as we might want our book never to end, it must. Sometimes though, we can't seem to find a stopping place. The book goes on forever until we get fed up and stop writing, or force an ending.
I have one book that is 873 double spaced, typed pages. Not only can I not find an end point, I can't even read all the way through it without getting lost. The problem is too many sub-plots. (Hearken back to Post Climactic Stress.) Everything needs resolution, making the book go on forever. It will require a might re-write or splitting into multiple books.
None of these minor blocks are as frustrating as the fifth category. It really needs no introduction because even the most prolific writers have, at one time or another, suffered from it.

5) The Full Monty: Like its name implies, this is full blown, frontal exposure writer's block. Insurmountable, uncompromising, frustrating, infuriating, aggravating, annoying, constipating…. There are no words at our disposal formidable enough to fully describe this condition.
Any writer who has never experienced Full Monty Writer's Block obviously hasn't written long enough. Suddenly, out of nowhere, completely by surprise it strikes! I equate it with being hit by a Volvo station wagon at 90 mph. (Hm, can a Volvo go 90? Maybe an Escalade?)
In any case, WHAM! In the face, hard core, heavy metal writer's block. There's no way to avoid it. Once in awhile the Muse takes a coffee break and so must we. As frustrating as they are, embrace these blocks. They force us to leave the security and sanctity of our homes and participate in life for awhile.

Instead of fighting the block, which only ends in tears, take a break from writing. I read a good book, watch a few movies, participate in mindless video games and otherwise do things to distract myself.
Next, after an unspecified period, ranging from hours to days, I sit down and try to write something. ANYTHING! It doesn't have to be connected with the book, usually it's better if it's not. Long or short, good or bad, I write. Sometimes just embarking on the composition process is enough to break the block.

Doing short writing exercises can help. When I taught high school English, one thing I had the students do as a class writing project, was write thank you notes for ridiculous gifts. Each student chose a gift at random drawing a slip from jar.

The rules for this exercise are as follows:
1. Must be sincere.
2. Mention the gift in the first paragraph.
3. Site at least two uses for the gift (or plans of where to put it if it's decorative).
4. Must be at least three paragraphs of two or more sentences each.

Suggested gifts:
Umbrella holder made from an elephant's leg.
Bookends decorated with miniature loaves of bread & shocks of wheat. (I got a set like this for a wedding present)
An incredibly fuzzy pair of house slippers.
A really ugly sweater.
Something impossible to identify.
A painting with dogs playing poker. (I know, some people think this is cute.)
Clothing that is too small (too large, hideous color, wrong gender, etc.)
Music CD that is of a type you abhor.
A movie you hated and never wanted to think of again.

(The list can go on forever. Don't only use my list, make your own. Sometimes just generating a list helps get past that pesky creative blockage.)

Sample note Thanks for the ?:

Dear Aunt Fanny,
Thank you so much for the really interesting gift you sent! I can't imagine what I've done without it all these years. It will add a great deal to my decor. I can't wait to find a place for it in the living room.
I showed your gift to my friends and they were speechless. What an unusual present! They wanted to know where on earth you found it, several of them would like one for themselves.
Again, thank you so much for your incredibly amazing gift! I shall treasure it always and remember you every time I look at it.
Your Loving Niece

There is no set cure for writer's block. Sometimes the creative well simply runs dry. The key is to accept it and try to move on. Fighting yourself, screaming and carrying on like a cry baby are pointless, unproductive and unprofessional. Instead, be proactive. Face your block and find your way past it.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

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