What Can/Will/Would You Do, “For the Writing?”

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: August 14, 2014
Categories: Other Topics
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This looks like fun! Maybe I can learn to do this someday, “for the writing!”

While writing my first realistic, contemporary YA manuscript since January, I’ve immersed myself in similar YA fiction, movies, and television shows. I notice teens at Starbucks more and listen in on their conversations. I pay more attention to their clothes and contemporary music. Now I find myself swimming in the angst of late teens and twentysomethings on an almost daily basis, which is sometimes hard because I am a fortysomething mother of two boys under the age of nine and a preschool teacher during the school year. So bobbing on the tide of young adulthood doesn’t easily fit into my life.

But I make room. I make a lot of room. It’s what needs to be done. It’s what my story needs, and it’s what we writers do. We find a way to immerse ourselves into the worlds we’ve created. We sometimes do crazy things that many people who live in the world outside of writing would never, ever think of doing. And it’s all to make our characters, our settings, and our stories come alive. Lately, I’ve gorged myself on the HBO series “Girls” (first as research for my novel and now I love the show) and there is a fabulous line from one of the characters that sums my thoughts up. Hannah is a struggling writer, and in one episode she begins to do things, “for the writing.” Some of the things she attempts to do for her writing may look completely outrageous to outsiders, but I really understand where she is coming from. There is just something about actually doing (or getting close to doing) many of the things that our main characters do that makes our writing feel more authentic and real.

This is true for any genre. If you are writing a high fantasy, and you have your characters sword-fighting, try going to a Renaissance Faire or SCA event and pick up a sword yourself to see what it’s like. Try out archery. Take a ride on a horse if your characters are doing the same. Try on some Medieval or Renaissance garb, if your characters wear similar clothing.   If you are writing historical fiction set in pioneer Oregon, get as deep as you can with your research by eating some of the food/recipes of the period. Do some of the chores children did at a living history museum (many have days you can wash clothes the way they did, play period games, make candles, do woodworking, etc). Sit in a covered wagon, or try to take a ride in one.

Immersion may make a lot of sense for these genres, but the same goes for contemporary stories, too. If your main character is a skateboarder, have you ever ridden on a board before? If someone in your book is into the goth/punk scene, try dressing up in that style to see what it feels like.   You don’t have to get a piercing or tattoo, but you could visit a parlor and talk to the people there, or get a feel for the place to try and understand your character better. (You could always go to a wig store and try on a neon blue or fuchsia wig to see how it feels to have a unique hair color.) Listen to the music your characters would like. Look at the world through your characters’ eyes.

No matter the genre, our characters sometimes do things that are dangerous and unhealthy, things that we wouldn’t ever want do ourselves. Or they simply may be things we would feel uncomfortable trying. But perhaps you can interview someone who has done those things to help get the details right. I know that’s helped me as well as my fellow Scrivas. Regarding setting, it really helps if you’ve been to the places you are writing about too, but of course monetary concerns may make it impossible to travel. If you are writing a story set in France but have never been there, many places have French festivals you can attend. Travel and art/architecture/ coffee table books are also helpful to gain a sense of place, as well as travel videos. Even French films can help.

Sometimes you can try things that totally go against your personality (or the personality you and others thought you had) all “for the writing,” and it’s a freeing experience. You can learn so much about yourself.   You can try something that isn’t even linked to the manuscript you are working on right now, but there is a kernel of an idea in your mind for something you might want to write later, and that’s reason enough to try it out. This past summer I’ve taken a class where I’ve had to create a routine and a costume, learn how to put on stage makeup, and perform on a stage…all for two story ideas that I have but I haven’t started writing yet and won’t for quite a while. But the experience will definitely help me with my writing when I do start those stories.

So go and try something new and different, even something that others may think is crazy, unusual, and not you at all…“for the writing.”   Your present and future stories will thank you for it!

Happy Writing!   -Nicole Marie Schreiber

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  1. this post is quoted by “I Bought It for the Book” « Viva Scriva says:

    […] Scriva Nicole posted her thoughts on engaging in experiences “for the writing,” and I can attest to her enthusiasm…and courage…to practice her own advice. Way to go, […]

  2. […] does an Ada tattoo have to do with Viva Scriva? First off, it reminded me of Scriva Nicole’s recent blog post. She […]

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