Monday, January 11, 2016

Writing Hacks for the Creatively Stunted

Over the years we pick up tidbits of information, useful tips and tricks we think (or pray) will help us through everyday life. Some people call these life hacks. I call these "nuggets of wisdom from people with more time on their hands than me to think this stuff up because I'm too busy worrying how I'm going to do all this stuff to be able to sit down and think of these awesome ideas."

Too long?

So, years ago I started a file on my computer with hacks, hoping I'd be able to use them more and organize my life.

Until I forgot I had a file full of these freaking awesometastic ideas that were supposed to make me wonder-wife and super-mom!

Well the same thing happened to me with my writing life. I'd come across these really nifty hacks or compilations of writing tools and I tucked them away in a file on my computer. And every time I sit down to write words, I never ever think of them. EVER. I forget the folder even exists until I come across one online somewhere and go to save it in that file.

So, as 2016 lays down its carpet of brand new possibilities....I'm digging in to this file folder and sharing with you what I've saved over the years and calling it......


1. I found this gem recently. Here's some ideas on how to give your characters a quirk. You want your characters to be relatable and real, and if you give them a humanized quirk it'll help your reader attach to them. Try and think outside the realm of lip biting and nail chewing.

2. Body Language! Showing body language is a biggy. It is important in scene blocking and can also be as communicative as dialogue between the characters. It helps the reader solidify how you're presenting a scene. If your character's lying, we may not know as the reader by her dialogue, but if she's shifting her feet or if he's not making eye contact these help give the reader clues and deepen the point of view.

Another way to use body language is also if your character has an illness or disease or if you've given the some kind of quirk. Let's use anxiety as an example. If you consistently remind the reader she has anxiety, for one, that's telling. But also, it'll stick out like a sore thumb and be hit home so hard it'll annoy the reader. Instead, try showing the results of her anxiety with body language instead.

3. Showing vs. Telling. It's a hard skill to nail for a lot of writers. But I found these cool little hacks of descriptors that helps fill in those blanks when you're trying to bring narrative to life and let the reader experience the scene with the character versus being told.

For instance....Telling - She had long hair.  Showing - Layered mousy brown hair framed the edges of her heart-shaped face, setting off her jade eyes.



4. And last, but not least, emotions. They play a huge roll in our characters development. And at some point in your book your character will probably hit all six of the major emotions. But in order to take your character deeper and really strengthen their arc, try narrowing in on the different levels each of the major emotions has. As you can see by this nifty chart below, there's far more levels and facets of each emotion. If you zero in on one, it can help you take your character to a deeper point of view and explore.

Happy mean writing!


  1. So much good stuff! Now I want to come live right inside your a totally non-creepy way...

  2. That was an extremely useful gathering of stuff! I just went and purchased that "Master Lists for Writers" book right now. It should prove to be handy. I also found a few of those quirks really fun and I have a plan for one or two of them. Very informative post.

  3. Very nice, I will refer to these often. But, hey, your spell checker let you down..."They play a huge [role] in our [characters'] development."

  4. Ooo Janet great article! I think I'll grab a copy of that book too. Thanks for sharing these!