What is a Wordsmith, Anyway?

Rii the Wordsmith. I always thought it had a nice ring to it. But what is a wordsmith, anyway?

A smith, dictionary defined, is one who works with metals. A blacksmith would be the guy who makes stuff out of iron and steel and whatnot. And then there’s the goldsmith, who works in gold, usually artful sorts of things. There’s not really such a thing as a leathersmith, or a silksmith, or a plasticsmith. I suppose, if you play Kingdom of Loathing, there’s meatsmithing, but otherwise that’s nonsense. Smithing seems limited to metal.

So why wordsmith?

Words aren’t so different from ore and metal bars. Language can be raw, or it can be refined. One could argue that language is more useful when it’s refined, since it can better express what is desired. Certainly, language is far prettier when refined. And words are weapons, or tools, or protection, or glamor. Words cut as well as any sword. Words can defend against such attacks as plate mail defends against the sword. Words build up others, build up nations, inspire others to action, and destroy.

Language is malleable. The meanings of words are, too, as words are bent into puns and double entendres.

And language is a craft.

Picking just the right word to complete a sentence is like picking just the right jewel to affix into the gold piece, the necklace or crown or earring. Such skill takes knowledge and an eye for beauty…or maybe an ear, in the case of words.

Why wordsmith? Because when I write, I pound out words into sentences. When I polish up, I grind off unneeded words that fly away like little metal shavings. When I put in the finishing touches, I take care with my word choice.  And when I’m done, I’m exhausted.

My first draft, and even my second draft, may not be perfect in prose. But then, if a smith were to provide his own ore, the first step would be to procure said ore, unrefined and ugly. That’s the first draft. The second step would be to refine the ore – but a gold bar is not a beautiful work of art; it’s still, in effect, a raw resource. That’s the second draft. Subsequent drafts, those are the art: pulling the gold into wire, shaping the wire, melding the wire into something of beauty, setting in gems…wordsmithing is an editing skill, primarily.

So what is a Wordsmith? Perhaps not one from whom words flow perfectly on the first try…but by the finished copy, there are no words out of place.

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Villain Sue Test the Second [Post]

Remember how my hope was to get a skeleton of the villain sue test up before November and it’s now the middle of November and I haven’t even mentioned the test?

Yeaaah. Well, I did recognize it could be an incredibly unrealistic goal. That’s because I’m naive and didn’t realize how crazy hard parenting a brand new baby is, I just assumed that -might- be the case. Silly me.

Anyway I haven’t completely abandoned the villain sue test. I have even done more than absolutely nothing on it – not much more but…I do plan on crafting it, still. It’s necessary. Just, I can’t work on it during NaNo, I’m having a hard time doing NaNo as it is (and I NEVER have a hard time with NaNo).  And then it takes second…horse…to my WIP (which is not the same as my NaNo), especially since I’d set a goal to finish draft V before the end of the year and now because I’m great at digging myself a hole, I’ll only have December to finish that – I’m, say, half done. Go me, procrastinator extraordinaire.

The point is I won’t be able to even pretend like I might give it attention until next year. But I’m not giving up on it! I will make it a thing! Promise.

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The Best Build on Villains

Here’s a search term I’ve seen cropping up a bit. I’ve been thinking how to address that question because it bothers me someone might come across my blog with a specific question and not have that question answered.

But as much as I’ve thought about how to answer “what is the best build for a villain”, I’ve circled around the same questions.

What are you doing?
What role does this villain fill?
What type of villain?
What genre?

Etcetera, etcetera.

I worked my mind to answer the original question despite the specifics. Maybe I could do a general best build on the generic types of villains? But even then, it would be a very loose bit of advice. The best build for your villain is tailored to your book’s specific situation. Every time, that’s what I conclude, what any advice I could give boils down to.

I mean, think about other characters: What’s the best build for a hero? Über attractive prince or handmaid? Maybe if you’re writing a fairytale. Unless you’re trying to break the conventions of fairy tales which you should totally do. Unless you’re trying to be classic, in which case don’t do that. Or maybe you’re trying to do classic but with a twist. Maybe a badace who is a crack shot and has great street fighting skills, then? Oh, weren’t you writing an urban action story where that sort of Mary Sue is more acceptable due to the contrast of all the other badace dudes the MC is fighting? Okay, how about some scrawny kid? I guess that means we’re probably writing YA now. Even the scrawny kid is pretty ambiguous. Is he just a plain ole scrawny kid with no particularly special talents, or does he say, have magic powers and a scar on his forehead?

What’s the best build for a sidekick? A Robin? A Shakespearean jester? A busty yet “strong” lass? Mentor doomed to later death? Marketable animal? Turncoat of some sort? A Jane?

Here’s the deal: when you’re asking for the “best build”, it sounds to me like you’re asking for a villain mold.

Your villain is too important for you to drop some evil gloop into a generic mold and pop him out.

And when you ask for a villain mold, you forget one very important detail: YOUR VILLAIN IS A PERSON.

When building your villain, take the time to consider him! Take as much time to get to know him as you would your hero. The effort is worth it – your hero will be so much better for it. Take into consideration what role your villain will fill, but remember that your villain is a person, not a plot device. He should have aspired to fill that role rather than be crammed in to do so. As soon as you forget that your villain was (probably) not always a villain, as soon as you’re just trying to set up pins for your hero to knock down, your entire story suffers. If you ever find yourself saying, “My villain has to X”, always ask afterward how your villain got to X.

Bottom line is, the best build for a villain is a carefully tailored build.

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First Blood

Hey, Minions! (I hope you read the title in the Unreal Tournament voice because that’s how I read it.)

Remember when I suggested that perhaps the villain could, just possibly, have some concern for the sanctity of life? I want to talk about that first step to losing that respect of life. That first kill.

See the thing about it is that most of us are born with an innate respect for life. You get the sociopath or psychopath who doesn’t, someone who is detached from reality enough to cause a death, but that’s not typical. There are many reasons why one may hesitate to kill, an actual respect for life, moral beliefs, fear of death that’s aggravated with any death; most people have at least one good reason why they would, could never kill.

Villains are people too.

You should know about your villain’s first blood (or otherwise the moment he became okay with killing another human being) because, barring a sociopath or whatnot, that moment will have meant a significant change in your villain. Now I’m not talking about wanting to kill someone, or even planning it out. Words are cheap, and so is idle thought which goes nowhere. We joke about killing people all the time, consider these memes:

That’s three that I could think of off the top of my head at 6 am when I’m sleep deprived from baby. They’re readily available, jokes about ending another person’s life. Twitter is full of death wishes on others. But these things are not remotely the same as actually killing someone. Nor is apathy at death. I once, as stress relief, planned out the entire murder of an awful roommate with one of the icicles outside our door (hey, I have never claimed to be a good person) but that’s very different from actually going through with it. I would be a very different person if I’d even tried, let alone succeeded in my plot.

We believe you, Carl. Mmhmm.

Part of the problem with killing someone is the permanence of the action. It’s not something that you can change your mind about after you do it. It’s not something you can fix. And that’s why it’s such a changing experience.

Killing an animal, by the by, is not at all even remotely the same as killing a human. The twisted “I started with animals” story is great and all, but it only really works if the villain is a psychopath working his way up to getting to kill a human. Killing an animal does not really do the same thing as killing a human would – perhaps it would be different if the killing was malicious and torturous, I have no idea. I have killed, by hand, an animal however. I was on a church youth trip where we re-enacted the pioneers and I killed a chicken by hand with a knife. Well, actually, I didn’t do the actual killing because I was so weak of arm that for all my trying to decapitate the chicken, I couldn’t get through the stupid windpipe. On realizing I was causing the thing suffering, I quickly nabbed one of the men there and asked them to finish the job. I didn’t not kill the chicken because I couldn’t do it, I didn’t manage it because as hard as I tried, I was physically incapable and its eyes were rolling back into its head. I still stood by as its headless body flailed and only flinched as its neck jerked and splattered my dress hem with blood because there was no way I could wash it and I was afraid it’d smell. And then I took that chicken and I stripped off its skin to spare the monotony of plucking and I gutted it (THAT part was way gross and I nearly threw up) and I took it back to my “family” (other youths and youth leaders) and “Ma” cooked it up in a stew and I ate it and I liked it. There are other people who would have had a really hard time killing that chicken, for a variety of reasons, one being the sanctity of life. There would be those, I’m sure, that would kill the chicken and then be unable to prepare or eat it, grieved by their action of “murder”. Please consider this – I’m the kind of gal, being evil and all, who can name the chicken something other than “dinner” or “drumstick”, not get attached, and take delight in killing it because that means we’ll eat well tonight. And yet the experience has not changed me, has not made it more reasonable in my mind that I could kill a human. I couldn’t do that. First off, it’s morally abhorrent, but second, it’s, as I said, so permanent. If I want someone out of my life, I just need to find a way to not have them be around me anymore, not talk to them, but I can’t actually kill them.

I imagine that having someone killed would also change a person, if not differently than directly killing them. Same as not preventing a death, or arranging an “accident”. I have no idea, I’ve never been in that situation and can’t really imagine how I’d feel. I do imagine if I witnessed an accidental death (that I couldn’t prevent) I’d be horrified. I can’t imagine causing, indirectly, a death – I can imagine the action happening, but not the inner results.

I imagine just witnessing a non-natural death changes you a little. Haven’t ever seen anyone die, so I don’t know. I actually honestly hope I never do.

So consider this. Even if your villain doesn’t really care about other people, even if he puts himself and his own goals first, killing someone is still a big step, still a major, life-changing experience; your villain may not kill someone just because that’s kind of a big deal, not because they value life. And if they have, that will matter to them. If they’ve only killed one person, does it haunt them? Do they ever think about it? How do they dismiss it? What did that do to them? If many…what does that mean to your villain? Nothing? At what point did death mean nothing to your villain? Does he delight in it? When did that happen? You may never show the audience, but you need to know this.

Killing people changes people.

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On Writing When You Can’t

If you read my last post about Challenge Mode: Baby, you know that this year’s NaNo is hard for me.

It’s actually really hard for me. Normally by the end of day two, I’m up to 15,000 words or thereabouts. I’m not even kidding. My husband says I’m usually at 50k around day 8 or so – I’m pretty sure it’s more day 15 but the point is the hard part of NaNo is getting the story done before Nov 30, not getting to 50k. Even if getting to 50k proves hard, I still hit around at least 10k by day two and then my word production drops off sharply after week one as I hit the week two slump. I never really recover from week two slump the way most NaNoers do, although going to my favorite cupcake/hot chocolate shop helps. Nothing like a white satin hot chocolate and a pie-flavored cupcake to get you writing!

Today, midnight start of day three, I have 2,309 words. So this year is going to be a lot harder for me, yes.

Part of the problem isn’t even that my daughter wants attention from me. She’s happily sleeping right now, but exhaustion makes it so hard to think that I’m having a hard time getting into my character’s heads. The first morning in the early am, she was being frustrating and it was a good thing my husband happened to wake up right around when I was ready to totally lose it so he could take over baby care. And during that time, the words in my novel were…interesting.

The thing about them was that I was so exhausted in all the ways one can be exhausted that I didn’t care about what my characters were doing. I was just grumpy and bitter and couldn’t push myself to type more story, but I hadn’t met the word quota. Rather than give up completely, I typed what was on my mind. My irritation that our baby fussed and fussed and wouldn’t be put in her bassinet when I tried to lay her down, but slept peacefully as soon as my husband tried. Exasperation at her appetite. Self hatred and despair concerning the quality of the draft thus far. And then, the actual start of chapter one. Is this cheating, including a bunch of rant in my story’s word count?

While my mom was over helping me with my new baby, she made me watch the movie Finding Forrester, which was really good. There was an important point made by Sean Connery’s character (the famed writer Forrester):

“The first key to writing…is to write.”

Forrester gives his pupil Jamal a writing exercise of just typing the words of one of Forrester’s pieces until Jamal’s own words flow; with this exercise, after typing the first paragraph of Forrester’s work, Jamal produces a brilliant piece of his own.

I feel that what I’ve done for my NaNo is an essential strategy in forcing words – or, perhaps, bringing back the words – when they’ve fled, when I can’t write anymore. When I have flow going, I can write even the hard, boring parts, the parts that are stupid and awful and will need much effort to revise later to be interesting. And when I have to stop and start and stop and start, especially during a hard part of the draft zero, I have to re-establish flow somehow else the ‘start’ parts of stop and start don’t involve very much starting. Is it wrong to include “I hate everything so much right now. Being a parent is hard. I mean why won’t she flipping go to sleep?”* as part of my NaNo word count when that’s clearly nothing to do with my story? No, I honestly and sincerely don’t think so because it kept me writing. My complaints about the current circumstances, over-dramatized by my normal way of handling trials and my exhaustion, turned slowly to my complaints about the story, in this case, not knowing how to start chapter one, primarily because I didn’t know what POV I wanted to use – I knew third person but did I want to write from multiple character’s perspectives? There are two main characters and I had never decided if I wanted to write from just the one or both perspectives. From there, it became my thoughts on how I may as well just write from Hope’s perspective because mistakes were perfect for Draft Zero, which I am writing, that experimenting with perspective is fine and I could always change it later. After all, my other WIP was in third person omniscient until Draft V, when I switched to first person. That’s a lot of work, but not unmanageable. I don’t have to get the right POV the first time. I don’t have to get anything right the first time. I just have to write. Once that was settled:
“Hope was doing a chore or something. Milking a cow. Yes.
[line break]
Hope was milking Cow, a chore so familiar to her now that she was able to gaze off into the distance and think about the boy she saw at the market today.”
And with that, I was writing Chapter One. Is it stupid drivel? Who cares! It’s writing that I can always fix later.

So when you sit and stare at the blank page or the last sentence you wrote and nothing doing, start typing anyway. Freehand. Write about your day or how frustrating it is you can’t continue or where you want the story to go. Write about nothing until you can write about something. You can always edit out the ramblings later. if you’re afraid you’ll forget, change the text color to red while you’re rambling, or type in bold if you want a technique with a quick key shortcut. It’s okay to put utter nonsense and unrelated ranty crap in your first draft because the first draft is messy. It’s okay. Just get it done.

If you have no success with general rants, you can always pull a “This thing needs to happen and happen like this and then this next thing happens and I can write that” kind of phrase. I’ve done that, too. “There’s this bridge and there should probably be some sort of deal with it or maybe not I don’t know but I’m spending all this time on it trying to figure out why it’s a problem to cross and that’s dumb so there’s a problem and then they figure out how to have it not be a problem and they cross it and then Tristan-” and on with the actual story.

Don’t let any block be an excuse. If you can’t write, write anyway, write whatever you can, until “whatever you can” becomes your story once more.

*Disclaimer: I fully understood that parenting is hard and this exact thing would happen well before I even got married, let alone pregnant. That makes it no less frustrating and exasperating when you’re up at three am with 500 or so words written and desperation creeping in as your child wants you to hold her and feed her when she just flipping ate and should be falling asleep instead for the third time that night, leading to a whole night of proper feeding and then crying and crying for two hours. I knew this sort of thing could and probably would happen. I did. But then it did happen and foreknowledge only meant I wasn’t surprised.

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NaNo Challenge Mode: Baby

Due to the hierarchy of procrastination and my 80 wpm typing speed, NaNo has never been a problem for me. My long-windedness serves me well in NaNo. The hierarchy is easy: games and facebook are the worst distractions, no real productivity, only distractions. Wring, doodling, productive and entertaining diversions are low-priority and therefore only a rung above non-productivity. Cleaning is productive and boring, and should be done some time. Maybe. Schoolwork or work is high-importance, with a deadline, and is at the top. If I don’t want to do work, anything below will suffice as proper procrastination.

As you can see, in my leisure time, doing NaNo is hard because it becomes the most important and productive thing I can be doing. The only thing I need to remedy my unwillingness to focus on writing is to find it very necessary to do cleaning or work. Suddenly NaNo is much more appealing. Sometimes the going gets rough and NaNoing climbs rungs, but primarily this is the hierarchy. I just need to find something better I should be doing, try to do it, and then I can ignore it and NaNo instead.

The problem with challenge mode: baby is that baby trumps everything in importance, and baby cannot be ignored like work can. Also, baby is finicky and will sleep peacefully only if I’m holding her, or “decide” that dozing during most of her eating and then “pretending” satisfaction only to demand food a half hour later and crying hysterically for the next hour and a half is a good idea (quotes because she’s not doing it on purpose, I know). Work or cleaning doesn’t spit up everywhere when I’m in the middle of a streak of inspiration. Work or cleaning doesn’t get lonely and need to be held.

You can’t procrastinate baby.

Well I mean you can but then you end up on the news as one of those dole-faced monsters that don’t deserve to be parents because their baby died because they couldn’t be bothered to break away from their computer game or who put their baby in the trunk of their car because they didn’t want to get ticketed for not having a car seat (true story).

Then again, as I hold her now and she looks around with beautiful, curious eyes as I peck-type this post, as she sneezes adorably…I can’t procrastinate baby, she’s too precious. And I love her.

So NaNo this year is a challenge indeed for me as my normal strategy is disrupted. But I guess we’ll see if I can’t do it anyway.

(I’m writing this post instead of NaNoing because my NaNo prologue sucks and is nothing like what was in my head. I needed a diversion before I started editing.)

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The Sanctity of Life

The sanctity of life is an interesting question for heroes. Consider the frequency in which case a hero is presented with a series of “bad guys” through which he must cut. Often these “bad guys” are mowed down like nothing more than lumps of wood, as if they’re not real human beings (or whatever). That, or if a more mild film/book/game, the protagonist uses martial prowess to knock out all the “bad guys”. Sometimes, attention is brought to the fact that for being a “good guy”, the hero kills an awful lot of people. Even if they’re “bad guys”, killing is wrong, isn’t it?

Batman

The Dark Knight certainly has a thought or two on killing “bad guys” – if only recently.

This can create a very interesting internal conflict with the hero. Just because a person is a “bad guy” doesn’t mean that they deserve death, and by dishing out death so nonchalantly, does the hero lose perspective of the lives of others? What about when an entire city is destroyed in fighting evil that would destroy the world?

I accidentally the entire city

We find problems with our heroes when they forget that the words “innocent lives” ring hollow when they themselves add to the destruction that would kill millions.

But…what about villains?

We all just really don’t expect a villain to hold life as sacred. We expect them to have no qualms with killing someone. I mean, they’re evil, right? So, of course they’d kill someone. Or a whole population. That’s just totally expected, as it’s what villains do. Yet, if you’ll recall, I’ve touched upon this topic before. SOME villains may not care for the sanctity of life. And those villains may have caveats – only grown men are nothing to kill, or only adults, or killing is okay but torture is not, etc.

Villains are people. And people don’t usually go around doing things that they know, 100%, to be wrong. If a person is doing something that is wrong, there’s some justification for it, no matter how flimsy. A villain will probably see him or herself as the “good guy”. And villains should generally be able to feel the same range of emotions as other people, or if not, there needs to be a good reason.

A villain could definitely appreciate the sanctity of life, and like Batman, strive to do everything he can to honor that. Perhaps a villain is so driven towards his goals, his goals are more important than that sanctity and if he’s forced to a head, he will choose his goals. But, then again, perhaps he won’t. Perhaps the villain understands the value of family. Maybe she understands it even better than the hero. Consider the mafia – the mafia generally shows signs of understanding the value of family. Villains aren’t so different a class of people that good things do not permeate their lives.

Villains could just as easily as a hero be driven by love and family. This usually only comes up in situations like the evil woman trying to forge a future for her son to be king or something. But why should it be so rare? Evil takes all forms and a villain only needs a little, she doesn’t have to be completely inundated in all things evil. And if you have never had a child of your own, understand that doing so changes things in ways you cannot truly understand. I’m going to describe them to you anyway because writers are masters of facsimile and writing what they do not know,however.

meandEEfirsttime

I knew it would change my life drastically, just not entirely how

The idea of another person’s untimely death has been, typically, troubling to me since I sincerely believe that one should have the opportunity to live their life out to its natural end. The idea of a baby dying was very sad to me, not necessarily more sad than anyone else’s untimely death, but sad in a unique way because they’re so small and vulnerable and fragile. But then, I’d still make baby eating jokes. When I’d hear, once again, the story of Moses and about the homicide of the Jewish infants that starts the story, I’d think, if I thought on the baby boys that weren’t so lucky as to be the Chosen One, how terrible it must have been, how devastated the mothers must have been. But it was just a passing thought.

I didn’t understand, not really.

A little after we took my daughter home, my husband wanted to watch one of his favorite animated films, The Prince of Egypt. Which of course, starts with the homicide. And I burst into tears and needed to pull my daughter out of her bassinet right by the couch and clutch her to my bosom because I understood now. I understood what it would mean for someone to come in and kill my child. It’s not just some Egyptian soldier killing a baby in a heinous act of murder – it’s someone killing someone else’s son. The true horror of it cannot permeate unless you have a child of your own (or maybe a child you love as your own). But now that I have a child, the thought of someone else losing theirs hits me more deeply as I realize what it would actually mean to lose my daughter and I can now empathize, not just sympathize, with that other person and the sanctity of their child’s life means so much more to me. That easily extends to looking at another person and thinking, that’s someone else’s son/daughter…well, for me, at least if they’re still a child. It is still a little harder for it to mean much for other adults. But the sanctity of life for other adults? I understand that.

In any case, why should that understanding, the understanding of how precious life is, only extend to heroes? And what an interesting dynamic if the hero is off justifying his murders with “well, they’re bad guys” while the “bad guys” are trying so hard not to kill other people?

Does your villain have to honor the sanctity of life? Have to have a family? No, of course not. But I think we’re being foolish to just assume that no villain recognizes it, to assume that killing someone is not a problem for a villain. That’s rather prejudiced and will make our villains weaker as we stop viewing them as individuals. Could the villain have a child and still be unaffected? Sure, but at least consider what I’ve said. He doesn’t honor the sanctity of life because that’s the kind of person he is, not because he is a villain. In fact, he is a villain because he doesn’t honor life…but then a villain could be a villain for a multitude of reasons and a villain could honor the sanctity of life.

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Writing Exercise: SDT

Show Don’t Tell – if you don’t know what this phrase means, you’ve probably never taken a writing class or been in a writing group. It’s merely the idea that in writing a book, you’re painting a picture, not sending a telegram – don’t say “he was sad”, show how he was sad.

I struggle with SDT – struggle in remembering to do it, especially when writing in first person. I’ve recently  started an exercise to help me with that. Sometimes, I will find myself trying to narrate my current situation, often Film Noir style, but sometimes just regular novel style. The exercise is to do so, and to pay specific attention to “telling” sentences and translate them into “showing” sentences.

In narrating my own events first-person, a challenge is presented because when you tell a story to another person, you are just relaying information more than painting a whole picture. “I went to the store and I was hungry so I ended up buying some bacon donuts because they looked really good. But then when I actually ate them, they weren’t that good and I was really sad about it.” You’re just trying to express you don’t actually like donuts with bacon on them. If you were to sit and say, “I went to the store and every piece of food caught my eye as my stomach made soft growling noises, and my willpower softened with each delicious item that passed my gaze. I filled my basket with the items for which I’d come, but by the time I made my way to check out, a box of maple, bacon-topped donuts set me to salivating and my willpower dissolved completely…” your listener will probably want to punch you because you’re taking so stupid long to get your stupid point already.

I’m lookin’ at YOU, Dickens!

So we’re not in the habit of showing when speaking in first person, which is how, of course, we tell other people stories about ourselves in day-to-day reactions. There’s no showing unless showing is significant – “She was angry. Like, I mean, her whole face turned this scarlet-purple color and her eyes were bulging, you should have seen it, I know she was angry but it was such a funny angry face I couldn’t help but laugh!” So practicing is important.

Third person “showing” is really easy, I just forget to do it. The exercise works, therefore, when I narrate my own events and catch myself, thusly: “She was in extreme pain. No, wait, I can do better than that. She was bent over, not quite double, her hand wrapped around the area where stitches lined her lower stomach, face contorted in a grimace as a high-pitched whining noise escaped her. She moved slowly, feet taking tiny quarter-steps and almost more sliding than lifting, her movement and posture causing her to look like an old woman.”

What about a first person? “I was so tired, too – no wait, I can do better. In addition to the searing pain at my lower abdomen, my whole body ached from the few hours of sleep I’d managed. My slow leg movements were due to the pain, but my arms felt like they were moving jelly as I reached for the bathroom light because my strength had left me everywhere else. I flinched as the light came on, and seeing my face in the mirror, I thought, “so this is why girls wear make-up”, observing the circles around my eyes and the beauty sapped away by fatigue in paleness of cheek. I yawned as I turned away, eager to finish here so I could return to my bed.”

Don’t say, “It hurt to sit down”. Say, “I let out a shriek of surprise as I sat, not expecting the bolt of pain.” Narrate your actions and grab the really bland ones, changing them to be interesting. It takes a bit of practice to figure out what actions can be ignored in narration because by the time you fix a sentence – or even do it well the first time – you will have performed several other actions. Of course, even in a story, we don’t want to express every last, final action anyway so this is also a good exercise.

The second, harder part of this exercise is narrating someone else’s actions – but it’s not much harder. You can’t see into another person’s head like you can your own or your characters, but then many POVs do not allow the MC/reader to see into other character’s heads anyway so it’s a good practice. “I knew he loved me – no, wait. How did I know he loved me? Hrm – he gazed at me with those soft eyes, a knowing look in them that matched his gentle smile, the smile he reserved just for me, and I felt the warmth of his love calm me.” “She was cute. Hrm, of course I’d say that. She…she was tiny, her whole body just the length of my own short forearm, her head barely bigger than my fist. Her little nose was just like mine, her round chin and cheeks chubby. Her little legs were like frog legs in the way they stretched and sprang back, her long calves adding to the affect.”

So give it a try. Just take care because narrating your own actions is a very distracting activity and you won’t be able to focus on things that require astute attention. Like conversation.

(And for you deductive sleuths, yes, it is Rii…in the hospital…with a baby. Well, not anymore, but that is the source of my examples. Writing exercises are great distractions!)

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