Friday, March 06, 2009

Stupid Writer Tricks

I'm not really fond of those real life funny bits about people who roll off the roof or go over the handlebars of bike/skateboard. Even when I know in advance that no one really got hurt. In other words, I'm a complete wimp, even in the TV watching or reading departments (Stephen King? Not at night, if I want to sleep!).

I do enjoy some truly funny and harmless things people do, like juggle, contort into impossible pretzel shapes, etc. I always found it fascinating when double jointed kids would show off their skills in between classes (or sometimes when the teacher wasn't looking). I did draw the line at the guy who could turn his eyelids inside out. Once was enough for me to view that trick. Ugh. The insides of our eyelids are freaky ugly! (is it any surprise I have never harbored ambitions to be a doctor or nurse?).

To get the point -- writers have stupid little tricks we can do, too. The most usual one is to find one word and overuse it in a manuscript. We don't always do this on purpose, and some of us do try to edit out the excess in revisions (I think in my The Salem Witch Tryouts, the word "kewl" might actually be eligible for a stupid writer trick nomination.

The latest stupid writer trick I tried was one passed along to me by a writer who had been in class with another writer who challenged his students to look around, pick a random object, and then write it into their work. Yeah, sounds kind of lame, doesn't it?

But I tried it, worked! We've been doing some spring cleaning (even though spring is not visible under the foot of snow outside!), and my eye was caught by a single child's red mitten lying in the middle of the kitchen floor. It had fallen out of a box of random items destined for the trash (yes, the trash, it was a single mitten, for a child, the last child to wear it is now halfway through her master's degree).

I thought about how I could use it in my current work A scene was born from that mitten that will put my protagonist face to face with her past and her biggest fear for the future. Pretty cool.

So, some stupid writer tricks are useful. Like some stupid pet tricks (cats that can flush...I wish mine was not almost 20 and way too creaky to learn that one). And stupid skateboard tricks -- like riding down the stair long as you don't fall off.


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