Have you read a book you couldn’t put down? A good writer knows how to keep the reader’s attention — and the secret of that is pacing. Take a page-turner and analyse how it kept you gripped. Usually it’s because each scene introduced something new, which might be a major revelation or a tiny shift in the way the reader perceives a character. Run through the entire book and write down the purpose of every major scene and turning point.
Our subconscious minds combine items in unexpected, sometimes whimsical ways. Set a timer for twenty minutes and use at least three of these words in your draft. Write without stopping: a red scarf, windshield wiper, chrome, doily, blowtorch, spatula, CD-ROM, postage stamp, frittering, static cling, radio silence, kismet, calamity, heartburn, bandage.
Here is your challenge: for the next week, collect fun names. I’ve collected them for years in a little notebook — from obituaries, news stories, random lists, and spam. Spam is great for funny names. Then go through your notebook, choose a name, and write a short character sketch based off that name. It’s amazing how the names make the characters come to life and start moving the story in fun directions you never expected.
“There are two types of people: those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk. People who walk the walk sometimes talk the talk but most times they don’t talk at all, ’cause they walkin’. Now, people who talk the talk, when it comes time for them to walk the walk, you know what they do? They talk people like me into walkin’ for them,” said Key in the 2005 film Hustle and Flow. Which of these two types are your characters? Write down an exchange between two of your characters that confronts this very difference between them.
The next time you're about to write a long passage of dialogue, show it from the perspective of a stranger watching your characters from afar. The stranger cannot hear what is being said; he can only observe their behaviors, appearances, and actions. You’d be surprised how much you can deduce about two people from just their body language.
Write a passage without the letter "E" or "A." This is known as a lipogram and has been used by authors in many languages to write their novels. You will use unusual sentence constructions, and it may slow you down for a while, but it will certainly force your brain to work in different ways.
There are those who believe that there is a science to personality. Out of this belief developed some popular personality tests that are designed to help people learn more about their strengths and weaknesses.
Try taking each of the above tests, but here's the twist: take them as if you were your character. Does it match up to what you had in mind? Do the results reveal anything new or surprising about your character's traits?