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Posts Tagged ‘writing challenges’

Everything in life that’s worth doing is just so much work. Why can’t it be almost as easy as not doing it? It takes work, determination, little fails and setbacks, and pushing on, to achieve your goals.

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Why Does the Climb Up Feel Longer Than the Fall Down?

a k a My Stories Are Rejecting Me.

by L V Gaudet

You want to be fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and feel better. It’s so good for you; your mind, body, and soul. But by all that is unholy, holy, and otherwise, in this world… why is it so hard? Why is exercising so exhausting and muscle aching instead of invigorating? Why is counting calories such a time goblin? Why is life so much easier and enjoyable scarfing down sweet or salty snack bliss, having drinks, lounging about watching shows, movies, or whatever else rocks your viewing boat, and generally feeding your mind and body’s whims? Why should cutting back leave you feeling hungry, tired, and bleh?

The secret to this, of course, is that you are retraining yourself; mind, body, and soul. You may not realize it, but that retraining alone is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and that translates to the physical. It will get easier. In time. And I am saying this despite feeling like a failure this morning. A hungry, achy, tired, emotionally and mentally drained vampire victim who looked miserably down at the scale and silently repeated the mantra, “Baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps. It takes time.”

Why? Because this is week two down of our self-imposed torture challenge of 31 days of working towards healthier us. “Sober October”, if you recall, which is about 31 days of sobering cutbacks and kick-it-ups in the name of self- punishment, ahem, love, and coming out feeling and looking better. We are at the halfway point and I’m feeling the burn of setback after the 3.2 lbs loss in the first week (with using weight machines three times!) AND hit the second week plateau of losing only 0.6 of a pound with the only exercise being the treadmill and elliptical machines. Really. 0.6 of a pound. What amounts to a good poop. Maybe not even a good one. Maybe just a mediocre one. If only I could have pooped before weighing myself first thing after a pee and before the shower and coffee. I could have doubled that weight loss! FYI, I am committed also to only a once-a-week, same bat date same bat time (oops, that is an old reference some of you might catch) weighing in because the body naturally fluctuates weight day to day, and even between times of day. And because the weight machines thing. Itty bitty muscle bit ways more than large globs of fat and all.

Even knowing this week two plateau is completely normal and to keep going means it will pass, it’s still frustrating. It’s not a fail, but just part of the process. Knowing that doesn’t change what you feel or make your feelings any less legitimate. Make yourself feel pretty and keep trying.

“You are boring me with the ‘I’m exercising and dieting and I hate it’ pity party. What does this have to do with writing?”

Yeah, I know that’s what you are saying, even if only in your head. Read on.

My stories are rejecting me. How is that even a thing?

That’s like self rejection. Wow. Can they even do that?

The reality is that everything you do, from getting fit to learning something new, takes work. Doing nothing is easy. That also goes for writing.

If you’ve been following me, then you know that I’ve been struggling myself with writer’s block since March 19, 2020.

For some of us, writing is that identity we hold near and dear, what makes us truly feel who we are. For some it’s their main, or only, outlet to express themselves, vent, or otherwise have that release others get from talking to close friends.

You sit down and want to write, but your mind just won’t go there. An invisible abyss stretches, impossibly vast and seemingly nonexistent at the same time, between your wish to write and the story so tantalizingly near yet far. You feel for all the world like the story itself is refusing you, rejecting you. This is where I’m sitting, whether it’s tackling one of many novel or short story WIPs, or trying to start something new. Even efforts to think about writing craft tips, techniques, and the million things that help improve your writing and story are a blank empty nothing. A vagueness that is there but out of reach. Like the whispers almost heard in the darkness and that illusive perceived motion in your peripheral vision that is gone when you turn to look.

But really it is you who are rejecting yourself, shutting down. Out of fear the inspiration will fail you. That your writing will fail to bring the story alive. For other reasons you may not even see or recognize. Maybe it’s because of your perception the people closes to you don’t care about or support your needs and desires to write. Whatever the cause, it’s self-deprecating and self-sabotage.

How I’ve been tackling the writer’s block (confession).

If you’ve been following me you might also remember some of the advice I’ve given on getting past writer’s block.

Those suggestions do work. They are effective. The crux of it is that not one of them works every time or for everyone. It’s playing the trial and error game of finding out which methods work for you, and what worked last time might not work this time.

I’ve thought about the various ways to break the vicious cycle of writer’s block. What has or has not worked for me personally in the past. The one thing that usually works for me is editing. Yeah, I’m not a fan of editing either. But, it both is a necessary evil of being a writer, your work must be edited until you want to strangle Editing and never edit again, and for me almost always results in the creative juices flowing again.

Now the confession. You have to actually get past OPENING the story file. I’ve thought about the ways to get past the writer’s block. I’ve even made some half-hearted attempts to start a new story, since the 1000s of WIPs weren’t ‘speaking’ to me. I have gone so far a few times as actually opening one of the primary WIPs I most want to finish. I’ve gently castigated myself for my failure. The reality is I haven’t really tried. Not really.

Not because I don’t want to, or through depression, which can be absolutely debilitating. It’s really just life. Commitments. Time. And feeling like, “What if I get into it, the flow starts, and just as the ideas start coming I have to stop and lose it?” My biggest enemies are that nasty goblin, Time, and not really feeling the urge like I should.

The job that pays the bills, family, household, and the four-legged hairy beasts take up the majority of my time. These are musts on the higher end of the priority scale. There’s the volunteering with the Manitoba Writer’s Guild that takes time, and with proofreading for the Horror Writers’ Association newsletter, which takes less time. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for pursuing writing, or the extra time to break that nasty little writer’s block.

A small measure of success.

Writing these blog posts in the hope of helping others a little these couple of weeks is a small measure of success. It seems that putting my mind to others is the key driver this time against the inability to focus on writing or editing. They are small commitments that take longer than one might expect, especially with the constant interruptions and distractions. Again, repeat the mantra, “Baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps. It takes time.”

And it does take time. Writing and editing can come in baby steps in between everything else. Sometimes that’s just what you need to do. I’ve written this short article over three days. Some have taken me all week. But just doing this is writing. It is feeding that wicked and fickle muse. With luck I can translate this to managing some time to focus on the fiction writing, my writing goal.

I will speak again of another success. Soon. It’s not huge by any stretch, but in Writers’ World it is something. I’ve already made the announcement on other social media platforms, so you may have seen it. I’m repeating it again and again because that’s self-promotion. You will be sick of seeing it if you are not already.

NaNoWriMo is coming!

Another reason to break the ugly no-writing cycle. I’ve had great success in past years, not recently though. I keep wishing and hoping, but Time just isn’t in it with me.

Are you planning yet? It’s only a few weeks away, the November challenge of 50,000 words written in 30 days. Not so bad when you think about it as 1667 words per day. Some pre-planning your story helps. I’ve got zero on that. Not even an inkling of an idea of a story. Not having time to commit to it the past few years doesn’t help spur the creativity and eagerness for NaNo. The past few years, and this one again, I’m on the fence about whether to try. More fallen off then fence than on it. But still in the past couple years I broke down and made a semi-conscious, mostly non-attempt.

I wish you great success if you are taking the challenge.

Time management is key.

I know. We’ve all heard the many Time Management tropes from so many sources and for so many purposes. But it can be the make or break of everything. Nothing happens without the time to do it.

I need to improve my time management if I hope to turn a few random rambling blog posts into serious get-that-novel (and short stories)-done writing.

Not only is time management a skill, it’s learnable, improvable, and can help in every part of your life, including your well-being. As a writer, writing is part of that well-being, so it’s a double fix for us.

I plan to think about how I can make my time management better. Perhaps we can come together and share our ideas on it, what worked and didn’t work for us. Better time management means feeling less out of control, less rushed, and more enabled to do what you want to do. This is an exercise I hope to have success with, enough to feel like I’m actually writing more than the occasional blog post.


Keep writing, my friends. One word, one sentence, at a time.

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My attempt to write a blog post about writing techniques, which I’ve been trying to do since Thursday, got hijacked and I’m attempting to jot off something. Of course, trying to write it today, four days after starting the other, is taking hours because family wants to chat or needs attention. My intended writing time became half a day waiting at the vet.

Life just happens sometimes and takes away your planned writing and editing. Life also gets in the way of your characters, but this vet thing has me thinking about the animal aspect of stories.

Roxy the reverse lampshade

Our stories generally revolve around humans or humanoids. Unless you write for children, where your main characters are just as likely to be animals.

Do you ever include animals in your stories? At the very least as part of the world scenery because they are everywhere and naturally will be encountered? As backdrop characters like that angry looking chair that sets the tone?

How about as small bit characters whose purpose is to reveal something about your main character’s personality?

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I did that in The McAllister Farm. Some readers will hate me for it. First for Zeke, the dog at the start of the book, and later for the new McAllister dog, Boomer.

Some readers will tell you they will forever hate any author who harms an animal. Some authors will say that sort of thing is off limits. But in some stories brutal things happen and in real life it is often the innocent that get hurt. Even while your stories are fictional and no real animals are harmed, writing is emulating real life to make your reader feel they are inside the story.

William McAllister is a hard no-nonsense man. He doesn’t hesitate to do what must be done and nothing is more important than the safety of his family. So, when the farm dog, Zeke, is bitten protecting his wife, Marjory, from a rabid raccoon trying to attack her, William knew there was only one thing to do.

Keeping with the times and being a rural farming area, farm dogs were not always vaccinated. They also weren’t pets that were coddled. When it came to putting a dog down, it was not out of the ordinary to treat it like any other farm animal on some farms. A lot of this came from the stories of my own family generations before me. Zeke was a working dog who had a specific purpose and that was to keep away from the house anything that might be considered a danger to William’s family. Coyotes, bears, and people.

This opening chapter showed both the ruthlessness of William McAllister, and his softer side. Zeke was bit by the rabid raccoon. He would be infected and suffer a degenerative death. There is no cure for rabies and it is an interspecies disease. Zeke would also be a danger to William’s family. Any animal or person coming in contact with the dog risked being infected with the contagious disease.

The gun would be a quicker kill, but William put his family first even in this. “Best not to use the gun. The kids will hear.” Marjory was distraught and he knew the kids would be without having to see their teary faces to know it.

Inside the dim interior, William stops and turns to Zeke.

Zeke stands staring up at him expectantly.

“Zeke, drop it,” he commands. “Sit.”

Zeke obediently does as ordered, looking up at him with trusting eyes.

“Best not to use the gun. The kids will hear.”

William casually moves to the wall where a shovel hangs. Taking it down, he approaches the dog.

Waiting patiently, Zeke sniffs around at the air, not paying attention to his master.

William walks around the dog, moving behind him and suddenly swinging the shovel in what is intended to be a fatal blow.

The scene gets more traumatizing to the reader before it ends, but even after the brutality of Zeke’s death, one William partially fails at because he’s concerned with upsetting his family more, and perhaps he even held back on that swing out of feelings of remorse for the dog, William showed care in the gentle treatment he gave the dog’s body in burying it.

And again later, in showing just the edge of the harsh reality of their world, the new dog, Boomer, is also injured protecting his family. This time, the little girl Sophie ran into a pack of coyotes. William failed his family in not driving them off or killing them sooner. The den is too close to the farmhouse. That is the remorse he lives with. And on seeing the severity of Boomer’s injuries, William automatically turns to what he knows. The dog should not be made to suffer unnecessarily and he does not think he will survive. It’s that soft spot in William that intervenes again, but this time the only danger Boomer is to his family is to their broken hearts.

The little girl, Sophie, trying to gently hug the dog, still a puppy, their pleading pained eyes as she begged her father not to kill Boomer. How could he not relent?

It’s a tough life for the McAllisters and Boomer will continue to play his occasional part in revealing things about the family members. Sophie’s brother Jason, with his barely repressed anger, self-doubts, and jealousy of his sister. Marjory in her anxious concern over protecting her children from everything, including from her own husband at times. And again near the end of the story where the family is pitted in a standoff against the community, Boomer will take his place as a story tool to bring home the harsh realities of the darker side of humans. Spoiler alert: Boomer will survive this story.

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Where do animals place in your stories? Have you considered it? Are they all animal free? How much thought and story do you put into the personalities and impact the narratives have on the animals in them?

After the long stressful day waiting for the vet

I try to put a little humanity and personality into every character. Even a short sentence of that character whose whole existence is three sentences long. The animals are no different. They are confused, trusting, and feeling even if it is only behind the scenes which don’t make it into the story.

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Even in our real world we sometimes forget to consider just what is going through the minds of the animals around us. That dog silently watching you walk by its house. The one maniacally barking and lunging at the fence as you pass. Your own pet enthusiastically greeting you or saying goodbye at the door only to rush to the window to watch you go.

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Observing these things with the mindset of trying to see it from their point of view like you do with a human character can add a depth of understanding to your writing.

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The sympathetic sister

I recently read an article about how a study analyzing stress hormones in dogs showed them to have lower levels of it if the owner leaving simply takes a moment longer to show them some love and say goodbye when they leave versus rushing out the door.

This article was completely forgotten when we ourselves left, being rushed out the door without the chance to do anything more than shout a quick, “Bye and have fun,” as your are being verbally pushed out of the house.

Three-quarters of the human part of our household vanished mysteriously Sunday. We were rushed out so fast we didn’t get the usual moment of goodbyes at the door. Both dogs always come to the door to say bye when you leave, even just stepping out to pull the garbage bins to the curb.

What goes through the minds of pets when some of their people disappear? They don’t know what’s happening. If you aren’t someone who regularly goes away overnight or for days for work or school, they aren’t used to you being gone. And now with Covid forcing so many to work from home or be out of work, pets have had to adjust to losing their quiet time being home alone for hours and become used to some of their people never or rarely leaving the house.

Not feeling good.
Red, raw, and swollen

By Tuesday one of the dogs had an irritated foot without having done anything to actually injure it. When we returned Thursday the foot was worse. She yelped and cried when we tried to look at it, trying to hid the foot, and obsessively licking it despite our best efforts to keep it wrapped. The dog was out of sorts and very cranky. And being Canada Day, the vet offices were closed.

Between the day closure and a large outbreak of kennel cough currently happening in the area, it took two more days to see a vet. Arriving at 9:30 am and sitting for hours in the car outside the vet’s office because they are doing curbside only with Covid, we were camped at the emergency vet.

This is a dog who was absolutely terrified of cars when we got her from the shelter. She’s over that fear, but not the anxiety, so waiting hours in the car was not ideal. And with the current heat wave it was too hot to take her out to walk around, so it was sitting in the air conditioned car with the engine running the whole time.

So out of sorts.

Spending hours in a car is enough time, apparently, for a large dog to abandon alternately huffing against the window like an anxiously bored child and trying to open the door, and learn how to operate the electric window button. She starts rolling down the window and we’re rolling it up before she can get it down enough to jump out. And repeat, repeat, repeat. Fortunately, there was a lock button on the driver’s door to stop children from playing with the window buttons.

The long wait also gave the opportunity to watch others bringing their pets to hand them off at the door and picking them up. There was the fat dog that had to be helped over that flat metal floor piece separating the vet office tile from the outside world at the door. Apparently the dog couldn’t step up over it. And the smartly prancing little dog being taken for a pee walk by a vet tech, its bright pink cast blinding in the sun. The little dog kept staring at the cars with a look that said, “Mom? Mom? Mom?”

They all exhibited a similar behavior, the reluctance to enter and the sulking slinking out the door after. Even Roxy after her turn finally came, went in reluctantly and she smashed her cone-headed face into the door before sulkily slinking out back to us.

The dog also came from the shelter with an abject fear of vets and needles, and very traumatized by the whole shelter experience. So, we knew she would not be happy to see the vet.

But why are vet offices so filled with anxiety? Do they remember the needles? The techs and vets are always so friendly towards them, offering cookies, but most animals seem so scared and anxious. Is it just them feeding off your anxiety, even if it’s only the size of the bill making you unhappy? Are they reacting to sensing and smelling the fear of the other animals? Is it the smell of sickness and injury? Do they smell the deaths of those who came before and were euthanized?

Our reverse-lampshade dog was clearly relieved to meet us at the door and slink out after being held down to be x-rayed and her foot examined. They wanted to sedate her for it, but she wouldn’t let them.

More than $400 Canadian later, three medications, the cone of shame, and the entire day shot, we learned there was nothing actually wrong with her that was not self-inflicted. There was no injury. The vet figured she stress licked her foot raw, which caused a cascading event of more licking because it hurt and more stress licking and more pain and inflammation, which caused more obsessive licking until it was raw, swollen, and infected.

And now she seems to be getting stuck on everything almost intentionally. Almost like giving us the middle finger while unhappily silently seeking attention and feeling sorry for herself. She gets stuck on chairs, tables, people, the other dog, and can’t get through a door. She paces and lies down and paces, unsure what to do with herself with that big cone constantly in the way of everything.

This isn’t the first time we’ve left the dogs, but they were used to all of us leaving the house for up to ten to fourteen hours a day, depending on the person, for work and school. And with kids activities, that was often followed by more hours away. It was rotating constantly with who was out or home at what times of day and night, and rarely everyone home at once. We went on vacations leaving them home alone for a week with a dog-sitter staying with them. A virtual stranger.

We never before had issues with one of the dogs going drama queen and stressing themselves like this over anyone being away an extended time. Not until Covid and three of four of us not leaving the house for months at a time (okay, maybe a year at a time, or at least it feels like it) because of schools and offices being shut down, and stores and businesses being for the most part shut down.

Maybe taking that moment to say goodbye with some extra ear scratches would have helped. Maybe not. But they are more anxious every time anyone leaves the house even before the camping trip that some of us went on. And leaving one of their favorite people home with them wasn’t enough.

What happens when the world opens up and we return to full time school and working in offices and other jobs, and our animals are stressed over our suddenly vanishing for hours every day?

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If this were all part of a story, how would I consider the animals’ feelings and how they relate to and affect their human’s reactions? The pining of the dog and its growing anxiety, whether its humans are aware or entirely oblivious to it, both the humans present and away.

In making our stories real for our readers, we want to add as many little touches of reality as the story needs. These details are also valuable tools in revealing things about our characters, both obvious and hidden personality characteristics.

Everywhere you go, everything you do, is an opportunity to observe the world and its interactions. Watching both people and animals gives you an insight into making your stories better.

Take some moments to watch the often neglected characters of our world, animals. Your pets, others’ pets, farm animals in passing, and the wild creatures around you. Observe people and dogs distant interactions when they pass on the sidewalks. Even watching birds interactions is an insight into that hidden and often skipped piece of stories. And consider this, would adding the odd animal as part of your story or world-building enhance your story? They are everywhere and affect every part of our lives even when we don’t own a pet ourselves.

Keep writing my friends, and I have to go rescue my dog who got stuck on the wall. Yes, the wall.

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The end of April is quickly sneaking up on us and May is around the corner. A new month is a good time to plan a new writing challenge. Right?

Photo by x ) on Unsplash

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER:

Challenge Yourself

by L V Gaudet

Sometimes breaking past that barrier preventing you from writing is as simple as putting your mind to it.

I know what you are going to say.

“But I have been doing that! And now all I have is a headache from banging my head on the table. (Or desk, keyboard, wall, etc.)”

And when I say “simple” it does not mean easy. It’s more of a deceptively seems simple, but can still be an insurmountable mountain of doom.

Regardless of its cause, breaking past that barrier preventing you from having the ability to write is a mental challenge. It’s emotional, a mental crutch. It boils down to somewhere inside you something is telling you that you cannot do it.

For some, challenging themselves can break down that invisible wall.

Make that challenge something new. The same old isn’t working, right? Let’s explore a few possible challenges.

Make it a job. Take the passion out of it.

Yeah, but writing is a passionate endeavor. We live, breath, and exist through writing in the heat of the moment when the words are pouring out as if of their own volition. They have a life of their own through that passion we embrace them with.

But, for this exercise, you are going to approach your writing with a dry calculated businesslike manner. It’s a chore, but not the nasty sort like cleaning the toilets or picking up the dog poop. Make it a routine chore. Something that must be done which you have no particular feelings about good or bad. Like emptying the dishwasher or putting groceries away; making your bed or dusting.

Instead of tackling that article, story, poem, or book that you want to finish or start, write something dry and businesslike.

Try committing yourself to writing a weekly blog post. Or bi-weekly if time doesn’t allow a weekly one. It doesn’t have to be long. You can target 300 or 500 words and see where it goes from there. It can be about anything, literally. And you don’t ever have to publish it.

Explore different facets of writing. Character or scene development. Character archetypes, plotting vs. pantsing, what makes different genres different, and so on.

The best way to fold towels. Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to write about writing, or don’t feel you know enough about it to write about it, so write about something else, anything else. Write about how something works, how you do something, why you like or dislike something. Fly fishing, wine making, knitting, 3D printing, or another hobby. Something you are learning. Heck, it might even help you remember it better or learn more about it. Write a recipe blog of your favorite recipes. Keep in mind recipes also fall under copyright laws, so you would need to give credit where it’s due or write an original recipe you made up yourself.

Starting and never finishing.

That’s the problem? You start the writing piece, but just can’t finish it?

Let’s take your mind off the writing you are struggling with by making a project out of starting and not finishing. It’s okay, because that’s the whole point of this challenge.

Every day, every two days, maybe three… challenge yourself to write a beginning and only the beginning. Whether it’s articles, poems, or stories, it can even be a mash of them, your goal is to just write starts.

I know some people who pick a month each year to challenge themselves to daily starts. The idea is like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you commit yourself to writing 50,000 words in 30 days in November.

In this case, you are not tied to a minimum word count. Rather, you are tied to coming up with an idea and writing the start of a writing piece each day. It can be a single sentence, a paragraph, or go as far as it takes you, but each day you must start a new one. You might even end up with a few pages of writing some days. However you contrive to come up with the ideas, your goal and only goal is to start each one, a new one each day, and then put it aside.

Going back to finishing those starts can be a project for another time. I know people who have successfully finished and published some of their starts after the challenge.

Drabbles. Dribbles and drabbles, dabbles of writing.

First, what is a “drabble”? No, this isn’t an Urban Dictionary thing. “Drabble” is another term for micro fiction.

Simply put, a drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly 100 words long, not including the title. It is the ultimate challenge in brevity. Can you write something interesting and meaningful in only 100 words?

I’m a fan of encouraging writers to challenge themselves to writing flash stories. Usually, coined as “flash fiction”, but who says it has to be fiction, right? Keeping it short, but trying to write a complete ‘story’, challenges you to tighten your writing like nothing else.

Whether you are writing dribbles (50 words), drabbles, (100 words), 55 word nano fiction, flash fiction (1,000 words or less, but often requested at 500 words, sometimes 300 or less), or dabbling on a napkin, the goal is the same: make is short and sweet and feel complete.

Can you do it? How many drabbles, dribbles, nanos, flashes, or other dabbles in extreme short writing can you do over the next two weeks, three weeks, or 30 days? Can you write a single stanza poem?

The goal is to take your mind completely off what you are failing to write and turn it onto a fun and completely irrelevant game of extreme short writing challenges.

How random is that character?

This challenge is great for those, like me, who have struggled with creating characters. You can have a great story, plot, write fabulous scenes, and awe inspiring descriptions of the events taking place, but your characters can fall flat.

The first and most important rule in creating a character is they must be believable. Okay, unless it’s satire. In that case the unbelievable and insanely weird rules. Heck, even in fiction it’s okay to blur the lines and push the boundaries, but there still needs to be something about the character the reader can invest in, believe in, and feel an affinity to the character.

And if you want your characters and stories to have that little extra something, make every character real no matter how main or insignificant they are. When I write, I mentally create characters with their own lives even for the bit players. You stop at the coffee shop. Did you give even the smallest thought to that person serving you the coffee as a person? Or are they just as inanimate as the counter to you?

In the real world, every person you encounter, however briefly, has a backstory. They have a personality, quirks, needs, problems, wishes, and probably would very much like it if you smiled, thanked them, and told them to have a great day.

In this challenge, you are going to create random characters.

How many? Let’s say twenty-five. You can change the number, of course.

Now, let’s randomize their details.

Heads or tails, odds or evens: flip a coin. Heads = female, tails = male. Roll a die. Odd = male, even = female.

Use a random number generator, 0 to 110, to determine the character’s age. Adjust the number range to choose their weight and height, keeping in mind that a 7 foot, 300 lb, infant might not be human. So, that might actually change their species. Ogre maybe?

Make some lists, tear them up, and put them in the proverbial hat. You will probably want to use a few (bags are useful). For example, you need to choose their housing, family, and job situations in addition to personality and physical specifications. List every one you can think of: traits, mannerisms, emotional scarring or lack of, jobs, hobbies, desires, allergies or lack of, ailments, disabilities, types of housing or lack of, socio-economic background, single or not, family living and not, and anything and everything that can potentially go into a person’s physical, mental, and emotional makeup as well as their situation. Are they destitute with nothing but the clothes on their back or have more money than they can possibly spend in a hundred lifetimes, or where on the spectrum?

To add a little something to your character profile you can use this random character generator. It’s weird, but that adds to the fun.

Stuck on names? Use a random name generator. I like the Behind the Names one. You can even choose to allow it to generate a life story for you, male or female, and nationalities. The life story is very basic. It gives you age and birthdate, height, weight, left or right-handed, and blood type. It even gives you the date, age, and cause of death, but no real life story details.

Here is another character generator. This one has random generators for personalities, cause of death, sexuality, and more. Even a dating profile for your character.

So there you go. Create and write twenty-five random character profiles. Fill in the dry details and then actually sit down and write that character. Describe them. Feel them. Be them for a drabble or dribble of getting across who they are.

You can toss your characters after or file them away for when you need to throw a random bit character in the mix of your story.

Dial up the dialogue.

Even more difficult than creating characters, I could not write dialogue to save my life. The idea of writing it terrified me. How stupid it will sound. Forced. I can’t even talk to people let alone write brilliant, sane, and authentic story dialogue. It took me a lot of practice, and I mean a stupid lot, before I actually allowed dialogue to permeate my stories.

I even wrote an entire novel with almost nonexistent dialogue. Yeah. All action, no talk. Great if your characters are all mute, but how believable is that? And they weren’t all mutes or trapped in a situation where they could not talk. I could write a flash fiction of an event or scene, but could not add dialogue. That story, by the way, I completely rewrote after years of working on improving my writing and has been published. First by Second Wind Publishing, then under the imprint Indigo Sea Press, and now it’s all my own baby and the first of the McAllister series: Where the Bodies Are.

In this challenge, you are going to write dialogue. It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be.

Let’s call this the “30: 30: 30 Dialogue Challenge”. Thirty days, thirty random characters (you can reuse them more than once), and thirty situations. No two dialogue days are the same. Now who is your character talking to? Well, it can be another character or multiple characters in the scene, pet, inanimate object, mirror, their self, anything goes. But it’s dialogue.

Set your scene. Where are they and what is happening?

Set your characters in the scene, living or not; your character and who or what they are communicating with.

Get inside your character. You are the character. Live the moment, feel it, what they are thinking and feeling as if it is happening to you, and go.

30 scenes of dialogue, 30 unique situations, 30 writing bits of one or more characters. You never have to publish it, include it in a story, or let anyone see it. This is all for you.

How do you feel about your ability to write dialogue after?


For more writing challenges, you can browse calls for submissions. I posted a bunch of them two days ago, on Friday. You don’t have to plan to submit it. It doesn’t have to be good; drafts rarely are, that’s what the magic of editing is for. The idea is you are plunging into writing something not of your choosing, but to challenge yourself to write something different and unimportant to your real writing goal of that story you just can’t get done.

What other challenges can you come up with to help break through that barrier stopping you from being able to write?

Keep writing, my friends. One word, one sentence, at a time.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER episodes:

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