Writing exercise: copy a page or two from a favorite writer or book you’ve loved. Get into the author’s rhythm and tone. Looking for ways to change up the WIP you’re stuck in.
I decided to give this a try myself. I copied two pages of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It had me laughing and crying by the time I got through. Have you read it?
A great book for older MG or younger YA, Spinelli nailed the speech and thoughts of upper junior high students — and I should know, having taught them for a number of years. It was funny, with realistically young dialogue, as told through the eyes of a JHS boy. The most captivating character is the “new kid” in town who is quirky, strange, an outsider. And what JHS boy OR girl hasn’t felt that way before? Called Stargirl, she wears a string of peculiar outfits: bib shorts, shoulder straps and all, a 20’s flapper dress, a kimono, an Indian buckskin or a denim miniskirt with an enamel ladybug and butterfly pins crawling up her long green stockings. Her “normal” was long, floor-brushing pioneer dresses or skirts.
Stargirl lives with abandon, does outrageous things: brings a ukelele to school, plays it wandering table to table in the cafeteria and singing Happy Birthday to her victims by name on their actual birthdays. How did she find out who and when? A girl named Hillari orders Stargirl NOT to sing to her on her birthday; so she sings for Hillari, but does so into the stunned face of the male narrator of the story.
What JHS girl wouldn’t dream of living with such abandon? What JHS boy wouldn’t dream of finding her on his arm on graduation day?
THAT’S a voice I’d like to capture. That’s the quirky person who’s missing in my story. Try it. Maybe it will help get you unstuck too!
People at the extreme end of any spectrum always cause problems.
Who is the angriest person you know? The loudest? The dumbest? The most gentle? The flakiest?
Try creating a character who is extreme in just one aspect of their personality. How does it change the scene? Or the storyline?
Just one character can make all the difference in a story. Look at Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. He should be a secondary character, nothing more than the roommate of the main character. But he is so eccentric that he becomes fascinating. He steals every scene and I’ll go so far as to say the show would fall apart without him.
Try playing around with the edges of the spectrum with your characters. You might be surprised at what you find.
While you’re reading this, think good thoughts about Thomas Edison, inventor of so many things and, without whom, you wouldn’t be centering so much of your world around electronics. Yesterday would have been his birthday.
My favorite quote of his: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
There are days I feel that way about my writing. “Edit away,” I say! “There’s one more way I’ve found that doesn’t work. I’m bound to get it right eventually!” So I keep at it.
Here’s another good one: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
A few more pithy words from this man who kept at it:
“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”
“There is no substitute for hard work.”
” Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Thanks to good old Tom, I don’t need to feel I’ve failed. I haven’t failed if I haven’t yet given up! How about you?