Character Aesthetics: Thomas

When I get stuck sometimes I need to get away from the word processor and use other parts of my brain. I’ve found that keeping focused on my WIP, but trying something creative other than writing, can be a great way to get myself unstuck! Lately, I’ve been venturing over to Pinterest where I spend time wading through the many many images and curating the ones that most clearly encapsulate my characters and plot. This has helped me flesh out some of my minor characters, as well as keep up my momentum and boost my creativity!

Writing exercise (kinda): creating character aesthetics.

Character moodboard/aesthetics for my MC, Thomas

Thomas Tower is the main character in my WIP (now that placeholder name ‘The Tower Project’ makes sense, huh?). He’s blind, has a rebellious streak, and a mop of curly dark hair. He’s a big coffee drinker, his sister is his prime motivator, and oh ya… he might be haunted by a ghost.

Exercise: What’s in your protag’s pockets

The things in my main characters pockets are: a wallet with a California ID and folded money, a key ring, playing cards, candle stubs, pocket knife, lighter and business cards
What’s in Thomas’ pockets? A wallet with California ID, cash, key ring, playing cards, candle stubs, pocket knife, lighter, business cards.

After a brief separation from my WIP, The Tower Project, I recently re-committed myself to finishing this draft. As I do, I’m collecting inspiration and actively plotting draft two. One of the things that’s helping me get ready for this next phase in the writing process is … Pinterest boards. Specifically character aesthetics/moodboards.

Pinterest can be a powerful tool for writers, from collecting character inspiration through portrait photography, to world building and writing craft tips. I’ve started to deepen my understanding of my characters through collecting images that remind me of them and thus, the challenge: What’s in your Characters Pockets? was born.

Above: the things that I have said, over the last 50,000 words, Thomas Tower is carrying in his pockets. I may have even gone so far as photoshopping a fake ID and custom business cards. The depths of my procrastination truly knows no bounds.

Here’s the list:

  • A wallet with a California ID and paper money, folded for ease of identification
  • A ring of keys
  • Several stubs of candle
  • A stainless steel lighter
  • A pocket knife
  • A deck of playing cards (with raised braille)
  • Business cards

Your turn, it’s time to turn out your protag’s pockets. Tell me what they’re carrying in the comments!

gif of people emptying a tremendous amount of things out of their pockets

How a global pandemic helped me create a writing practice

For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been hearing about the importance of having ‘a writing practice’. What the heck does that mean? In short, creating a set of habits that help you put pen to page.

A writing practice usually consists of: a time, a place, and a ritual. An example would be: first thing in the morning, at your writing desk, with a special playlist blaring in the background.

Stock Photo: Open laptop with notebook and pen
Startup Stock Photos: open laptop with notebook and pen

Sounds easy right?

When it comes to forming habits, it’s not as easy as it sounds! Staying motivated requires determination and support!

Despite previous attempts, it’s taken a global pandemic to finally create a writing practice that works for me. You see, a funny thing happened when the province began to lock down in March due to COVID-19. We began to search out ways to connect in digital spaces. As seemingly insurmountable barriers arose in some instances, some were lowered.

Here’s what changed for me:

  • My writing critique group moved online. We still host a monthly meeting (now via Zoom) in which we critique each others work. We also set up a Discord server and began meeting on Wednesdays for writing sprints. Concurrently, I joined the YEGWrites Discord server (hit me up for an invite or check it out on the WGA website), where we sprint on Monday nights. The result is that I’m sitting down twice a week at the same time for several hours of writing. This simple change, from writing with my whims to writing at a set time, has had a major impact on my productivity. I’m also hearing from other members of my writing group how much it’s impacted their word counts.
  • I started working from home. My entire office has been working remotely for the last few months. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to do this, even though it does present its own challenges. I spend the entire day working at my desk, writing. Often, in the evenings I simply return to my dining room office and continue to write! Because my brain now accepts this space as a writing place where things get *done* I feel more productive and less prone to distraction.
  • I added structure to my writing sessions. I mentioned before that I’m participating in writing sprints twice a week. Sprinting consists of a timed round of writing, nose to the grindstone, don’t look up and don’t get distracted, followed by a timed break chatting with other sprinters. Rinse and repeat. It’s a great tool I’ll talk about at length in another post, suffice to say, it provides structure, support and gamification to my writing sessions. Secondarily to sprints, I’ve been making a concerted effort to at least write 200 words a day. Even that little effort makes a huge difference when I do sit down to write with a higher target in mind.

And there you have it. Add a generous helping of tea and the very encouraging words of my sprinting pals and you’ve got a writing practice that has doubled my monthly word count.

A time: Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30-9:30

A place: Dining room table

A ritual: tea, window, sprint, encouragement, music (check out the Spotify playlist I listen to while writing The Tower Project)

Bonus round: Events moved online. Both the WGA (Writers Guild of Alberta) and EPL (Edmonton Public Library) host regular writing events. Since self-isolation began, many have moved to digital spaces. Fun fact about me, I don’t drive AND I have a baby! Before my daughter was born, distance was a small barrier that I would begrudgingly Uber across, now I have a nightly date with a 15-month-old I just can’t skip out on. The result is that I haven’t been able to attend an event in more than a year. Hosting workshops digitally has removed a lot of accessibility barriers. Since March, I’ve attended five workshops and am registered for another this weekend. Workshops always get me fired up, fueling my creativity and increasing my productivity.

In short, isolation has been tough. I’m sure you’re feeling it too. As an immunocompromised person, I’ve been more cautious than most around our province’s reopening. During this time, establishing a writing practice has helped me stay connected to my passion — and my joy. There’s really no feeling in the world like seeing that word count go up.

My Writing Notebook

Exciting news to share: in March I started working on a new writing project!

Inspired by the writing roadmap lined out by The Novel Factory, I began the process of writing a novel in one year. The flexibility of the timeline mixed with carefully plotted deadlines really appealed to me.

I also attended a panel by Lady Geeks Unite around the same time. The panelists — ladies in tech and gaming including some from from Beamdog, Canada Learning Code, & BioWare — had lots of wisdom to share. One of the quotes that stood out to me was from developer Kris Schoneberg who credited “increasing the visibility of my accountability” with helping her reach personal and career milestones.

To that end, I started to share process on my instagram, @kjewellwrites, with the tag #amwriting and I created a code name for my WIP so I can share more about it! More on that later, right now I want to tell you about the third thing I’m doing to keep up my productivity and inspiration!

I set up a writing notebook.

MyWritingNotebook-3

Borrowing from the bullet journal system, the first part of my three section notebook is devoted to general writing inspiration. I started with an index and took category inspiration from this blog post by Shelby of The Writing Pal. I have a major issue with titling books so it’s been super helpful to have a place to scribble down title inspo!

My categories are: To be read, names, good words, plot ideas, 1st sentences, novel titles, metaphors, setting snippets, description, overheard conversation snippets, character development notes, not cliché (an exercise where you write down a cliché and try to re-write it), and lastly, my novel in a year timeline.

MyWritingNotebook-4

And here it is, my timeline! You can see I’ve been a little wishy-washy in the progress bar on the right. I tend to get distracted with details and end up jumping ahead of myself. I’m itching to start putting words on paper, but I’m also hoping that putting in the work outlining and developing my world and characters will help the writing process go more smoothly!

As mentioned, the timeline is from The Novel Factory’s ‘Novel in a Year Roadmap’ — here’s a great infographic showing the timeline breakdown.

MyWritingNotebook-5

The second section in the notebook is dedicated to my writing project! More info to come about this later, but here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been up to.

I printed off a little character moodboard and taped it to one of the dividers for inspo. Something about the whole thing made me feel like a teenager again, collaging the cover of my school agenda.

I created another index for this section and started copying the phases of the novel roadmap into the book. I have multiple versions now of my premise and story skeleton, but writing it out on paper helps me work through the finicky bits and force myself to be concise.

The third section of my notebook will be reserved for actual writing! Sometimes it’s nice to work on paper. When I was younger I used to fill up notebooks with stories. My good friend, and an amazing self-published author, Amy and I used to pass a notebook back and forth to write a novel. She would pick it up whenever I got stuck and vise versa. Sometimes, you need paper and pen to get your brain going!

Stay tuned for more deets on this project, and let me know what other categories you would add to your own writing notebook in the comments!

Short Fiction: Garden of Nothing

There isn’t a lot of good to be had in the wastes.

Not a lot of gentle, not a lot of care.

There’s a wealth of harm. Rough edges, sharp corners, dirt and grit. Sand ground into your skin, under your eyelids, in the backs of your teeth. How do you get clean when the dirt is inside you?

When I meet another traveler it’s a careful dance. A glimmer of blue eyes peeking out between sheathes of fabric, framed with dark, grime crusted skin. The clothes are like mine – brown, layered, worn but practical. Packs strapped on with belts, carrying everything on our backs from water to shelter.

We’re crossing within five feet from one another in the semi dark and maintaining eye contact the whole time. This person is as likely to shank me and steal my water as I leave, as he is to let me go. I want to shout after him as his form retreats. I won’t harm you – I’m so lonely it’s killing me faster than the radiation is. I want to run after him and throw myself at his feet. Take everything I have but say my name before you go. I haven’t heard my name spoken aloud for so long.

Website article graphic

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