All posts by Erin Unger

Think Outside the Box Literally

I’ve been boxing up my house for weeks now. We’re about to move so boxes are in abundance around here. They’re lining the wall of my closet, my office, the garage. Every bedroom is packed and almost ready to go when the big day arrives. So seeing all this cardboard has given me an idea.

Sometimes in my writing I get snagged. I need to come up with a place and mood for the next scene, and nothing comes to me. Or I can’t picture how my characters are interacting with their environment.

Here’s where the box comes into play. What if I filled a box with items that’ll help me create the next scene? If I rummage through the box without looking, and pull a designated number of items out I can build the next section of my plot in an interesting way. You can employ the same idea with your work in progress too.

To start, you could fill it with pictures of places. Get your hands on:

  • Old magazines
  • Pictures of your vacations
  • Newspaper clippings

Add different objects to symbolize the weather. How about:

      • Cotton balls for clouds
      • A bottle of water for rain
      • A tennis ball for sun
      • Sunglasses to represent heat
      • Scarf shows that it’s cold 

And don’t forget one important sense that gets left out of writing a lot-smell. What about adding:

          • Potpourri sachet
          • Cologne bottle                  
          • Scented candles         
          • A banana peel in a bag to represent a bad smell

    Now you’ve got all the essential elements to get back on track, and you did it in a creative way. You could even take it a step further if you already know where you want the scene to occur, but you don’t know how to set it up. If you know you want the scene to be in the kitchen then what about putting kitchen items in the box? If an item gets pulled out, make the characters have to use the item. What about:

    • A rolling pin- It could be a dangerous utensil in a suspense
    • A pressure cooker- It’s comic what can happen when not locked properly or heated too high
    • A pitcher- tea anyone?
    • Apron- Is your male character only able to find a hot pink apron so he won’t mess up his suit?

    It’s fun to find new ways to brainstorm and develop your plot. Think outside the box literally and have a great time creating your next setting.

    Research In Kooky Places for Good Ideas

    I’m getting ready to start a new novella with my critiquing group on fairy tales with a twist. When one of my partners suggested the idea, I was unsure at first. Then before I knew it, my mind was whirling with all kinds of scenarios.

    I loved the idea of writing a novella about the old lady in the shoe. She had lots of kids. I have lots of kids. It would be so easy to relate to the protagonist. But then one of my other friends was quick to point out that the story was a nursery rhyme. Too bad. I’m glad though that she said something to me about it.

    I got back on track, and decided to go to the library and check out some books on classic fairy tales. Wouldn’t it be interesting to write about an old fable that not many people today know about, one that hasn’t been overdone on television?

    The hard part came when deciding which tale to spin off of. Should I do The Princess and the Pea? What about The Little Match Girl?

    I went to the library to start my research. Of course, I’m sure you’d think of checking out books in the juvenile section for fairy tales, but it got me thinking. Non traditional places to find writing ideas could come from many different places. Would you search through picture books to generate an idea? What about looking in interior design magazines like House Beautiful( a personal favorite of mine)? Couldn’t a living room in that magazine inspire a scene in your next manuscript? What about pictures in art galleries and coffee houses created by local artists? What about the Chik Fil A cow who was dancing around the restaurant you ate dinner at? What’s his real life like?

    Start looking around you. Consider the most non-conventional places to build your creativity and let your next great novel take off from there. You’ll have that diamond in the rough that’s so different from any other story.

    6 Rewards an Author Should Try

    This has been a very productive writing week. I finally hankered down and got back to my latest manuscript. It’s so close to being finished. The exuberance of typing the last word is building already.
    A celebration is just around the corner. How will I reward myself for finishing it after so many months of hard work? I’m tapping my chin in thought at this very moment.
    You’re probably asking yourself why I need a reward? Shouldn’t the work be enough recompense?
    The answer: Sometimes yes. But what about those tough days when it takes everything you’ve got to finish a project? Rewards help us push forward. Rewards sometimes even help us focus.
    Writers should give themselves something when they accomplish a goal, and it can take little to no money to make it happen. Here are a few ideas:

    • Sleep in the next day.
    • Plan a day where you do nothing but read. This is hard when you have kids, but it is possible if you line things up right.
    • Go out to eat with a writing buddy at a place with a value menu. Cheap can be just as much fun as a ritzy place when you’re talking books while you eat.
    • Stash away your favorite sweet, and don’t touch it until your goal is accomplished.
    • Get your favorite author’s next book.
    • Stop at your favorite coffee house.

    It can be something little or something big. But set it in advance so you have a tangible item or plan to look forward to. I rarely miss a goal when there’s something in it for me. Are you the same way? What are some things you do to reward yourself when you meet a goal? I’d love to know.