Writers Tricks of the Trade VOLUME 8, ISSUE 4 - Page 32

Imagine you’re writing a scene and the location is so familiar you can navigate it with your eyes closed. You drive the same route every time so it’s easy to describe where your characters are. Ah, but now you have a problem. You’ve determined that the series will always take place within these boundaries, and fans of your series know it almost as well as you do. That’s becoming boring because nothing unexpected is left. Break the mold It’s time to experience new things so you can write about them. That doesn’t mean you have to leave your comfort zone or take an ocean voyage. This solu- tion for gathering a wealth of creative in- formation is so easy it’s one of those things we don’t even have to give great thought to. For the next five times, take a different route. It doesn’t matter if it takes a little longer. In fact, it’s better if it winds through unfamiliar territory. Observe everything with a writer’s eye during each of these trips. This gives you a whole new arsenal of ideas to use while staying in the same neighborhood. Apply the same change of scene to food, clothes, and books as well as any other facet of your writing you want to spice up. If you’re basically a plain food person, what about trying the Indian or Thai restaurant down the street from the one you always go to by habit? Even if you don’t like the food, now your protagonist knows what it tastes like. You’ve experi- enced the ambiance of the restaurant, the servers, the aromas—everything you need to create a scene with a fresh per- spective. And, who knows, maybe you will W RITERS ’ T RICKS OF THE T RADE discover a new favorite food as a bonus. Do you always dress in muted tones? Try adding some vibrant colors and think about how you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror. Again, those are feelings you can transfer to your charac- ters. Read books or see movies in different genres I write mysteries and I love reading them, so most of the books I read are some form of mystery. I did a Spotlight interview with author Jeri Westerson when I was writing the columns for exam- iner.com. She writes medieval noir mys- teries. Sound intriguing? It did to me. It’s almost as though she created a subgenre of her own, or at least one I hadn’t heard of. I read The Demon’s Parchment because it sounded fascinating. Will I try to write historical mysteries after reading it? Ab- solutely not—it’s not my thing. But I’ll stow some of the details in my memory because maybe in a future book one of my characters will be a history buff, or per- haps something they read in a historical mystery triggers suspicion about some- thing happening in modern times. You never know how you can use information once you’ve absorbed it. It helps to keep a file of details like that for easy reference. Talk to strangers That doesn’t mean you should flit around scouting up people on the street to talk to. But don’t be shy about making contact with the person sitting next to you in a restaurant, on a plane, or in a movie waiting for the show to start. Once a long time ago, my brakes gave out on a new car and I rear ended the car P AGE 27 W INTER 2019