1. Go outside and listen to people talking. Restaurants, coffee shops, shopping malls and sporting events are all great places to see how people interact naturally. Make note of their emotional states and patterns of their speech. Do they pause at certain points? What words make them slow down or react?
2. Decide where your character is from and then seek out material from those locations. Youtube is a great resource for this. If it’s a language you know, listen to the radio stations for that area. If it’s a completely new place (a fantasy land or foreign planet) get a few ideas of what earmarks their local language may have.
3. Read your dialogue out loud. With others, if possible. You can usually tell immediately if something sounds contrived or unnatural. Is the emotional force of the scene being communicated in the words, or is the conversation too flaccid? If you can, try to improvise with people and record what works.
4. Learn how to format dialogue in prose. This may sound like a ‘duh’ but I can’t tell you how many issues I’ve seen that have been caused by lack of clarity resulting from poor dialogue tagging and misinterpreted writing.
5. Tap into how you feel. When two lovers are talking to each other, do you get warm fuzzies? Do you get nervous when the hero and the villain are at each other’s throats? Do you get teary when characters are saying goodbye for the last time? Even if you aren’t having a dramatic response, your heart should have some sort of reaction to your writing. If it’s not, ask yourself why.
I have dealt with obsessive thoughts since I was a child. It would literally bring me to a point where I was beside myself with anxiety, and 9 times out of 10, it was actually over nothing. The feelings were made of razor blades and fabrications, a make-believe land where the cotton candy was actually fiberglass.
Even now, at the age of 30 and medicated, I still get crippled by it from time to time. So I want to share a few of the ways that I deal with popping the oil bubble in my brain.
- Acknowledge it. Don’t fight it. Let the thoughts pass unhindered, and pay them no more mind than you would a stranger walking past you in the grocery store.
- Find something else to do. Quickly. The sooner you can fill your mind with other thoughts, the faster the shitty ones will be crowded out.
- Talk to someone about it. This one is hard. Sometimes you are fairly certain that if you discuss your crazy thoughts with someone, they are going to call the Straitjacket Brigade to take you away. Find someone you trust and let them know that you’re going through a hard time. A real friend doesn’t mind that you need reassurance.
- Laugh. Find something funny and really let it go. I listen to Game Grumps when I’m feeling particularly obsessive.
- Tell yourself that this will pass. Take a nap. Eat something. Go about your day. Routine is your friend when the demons are at your back.
The stairwell is blood red
And two figures sit on the plush embrace
Holding hands and gripping
Water pipes that travel up the stories they are telling,
Clad in trenchcoats.
Down the hallway, a woman touches light
Like it is a cautious predator,
And the shadows will be the only things that
Keep her certainty safe
From the man on the bed and his wolf eyes.
In the ballroom, there is the gore
Of a thousand slain dancers who promised
Their forevers long ago to a partner
Who broke their toes and told them
That the world belonged to them and their children.
On the roof there is a scratching,
A tapping of a starling that looks down on a city that is
Worn and covered in scar tissue,
And it counts the sleeping forms in the abandoned parking deck,
Waiting to take the scraps of their clothes and create a tomorrow from them.
- Well-rounded villains.
- A plot twist that is awesome without being contrived.
- Great lines of dialogue.
- Sensuality (not even necessary sexuality).
- A touch of magic.
I love productivity apps. I’m always so excited to look at what I can do on my phone, and how I can get programs to react to me doing things. Cleaned my room? Look at the experience I gain for my character! Walked around the block? Look at my plant grow bigger! It’s very gratifying.
But I still keep paper and pen handy to make lists.
- I like having a physical list in my hand.
- I like the sensation of handwriting.
- There’s a real satisfaction to drawing a line through an item on a physical list.
- It’s usually quicker making a list that way.
The biggest reason I’ve found to do this, however, is the accountability. When I have a physical list in my hand, I’m more likely to look at it. To touch it. To move it.
If I am really subconsciously avoiding doing something on my phone I can just look at any other of the 50 billion apps that are open on top of it.In fact, I find myself forgetting sometimes that I even made note of things because out of sight, out of mind.
Do you have a traditional means of productivity? A tried and true? Tell me about it!
Smell the morning, like linen and empty notebooks,
And touch the air as it hovers and sparkles, no matter what the clock says,
Spoon the possibility into your coffee.
Cover your ears when the coal train thoughts buzz like insects,
The humming that gets suddenly louder
And stops for a second when everything tenses,
Fleeing and then returning for purchase.
Heed the copper smell of the creeping what-if
That clings to fingers and never concedes to any soap, any balm,
And accept its presence
Because hands still work even when they stink.
The color of the Bad Day isn’t blue
But rather every color and even ones with no name
That are worn on breast pockets and ties
And in flower crowns and tie-dyed necklaces.
Inhale the toxicity of the clenched jaw, the sweaty palms,
Let it linger until you can’t hold it in anymore
And then watch what animals form out of the smoke
As you let go.
You are more than the sum of your beautiful pain.
So this week, I’m going to be moving new ‘How to Have a Day Job’ posts to my wellness blog, Self Dare. It seems like it will fit in well there, so I hope you will keep on following. I will link again once the first post is up!