40 Days of Worksheets – Day 18

RamonaGravitarWorksheet #18 – Mindlessness for Writers

You can find lots of help for writers who want to embrace mindfulness: living in the moment, practicing meditation, embracing self-care, focusing on self-awareness, seeking calm. You can declutter to streamline your life, and you can investigate hygge to make your home more cozy.

But all of this requires attention. What do you do when you’re so into your WIP that you want to empty your head of it–and anything else banging around in there? Here are some suggestions:

Take a walk

Plant flowers or weed

Hot shower or bubble bath

Shoot hoops

Drive around town

Ride a bike

Meditate

Chop onions

Go to a playground and swing

Walk a dog, play with a dog, do any activity with a dog

Put together a puzzle

Get a manicure, pedicure

Go to the gym

Listen to music

I am sure you can come up with more.

Here’s the flip side to these activities that require little to no thought: they also work when you are stuck in a WIP and need a mindless activity to allow your brain to focus on a problem. Your leisurely walk outdoors can become a plotting walk. Your session chopping onions can build up adrenaline to knock off a bad guy. You can visualize a puzzle as pieces of your mystery. A manicure or pedicure will immobilize you so you can’t do anything but think about what’s got you stuck.

What do you do when you need a mental break?

What do you do when you need to clear your brain to focus on what needs to happen next in  your WIP?

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 17

RamonaGravitarWorksheet #17 – Character Traits

What are three adjectives you would use to describe your protagonist? (If you have dual protagonists, do this for each.) What is one flaw or weakness?

Trait #1:

Trait #2:

Trait #3:

Weakness:

For each trait and the weakness, pinpoint a spot in the story when the character demonstrates this quality or flaw:

Trait 1:

 

Trait 2:

 

Trait 3:

 

Weakness:

 

In the opening, what is the first thing your protagonist says or does? Does it reflect one of the traits above, or the weakness?

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 16

RamonaGravitarWorksheet # 16 – First Impressions

 As in real life with a real person, a character has only one chance to make a first impression on a reader.  That impression may be positive, negative, or neutral, but a smart author will use the first impression to give the reader a message about the character: this is who he is–or isn’t.

For example:

A first impression with a character performing a good deed may show a kind heart, someone who lives a “pay it forward” type of life, or someone who suffers from a guilt complex.

A first impression with a character shouting at a kid and making him cry may show a cold heart, a person who was shouted at when they were young, or someone who is shouting because the kid’s action was dangerous and scared the heck out of them both.

A first impression with a character who isn’t paying attention may show a character with an attention problem, one with a ditsy personality, or one who is overwhelmed with bigger problems.

What you see in a first impression may not be exactly what it seems, but the author will nevertheless make a judgment call based on that initial introduction. Think carefully about the following each time you bring a character into a story for the first time.

First Impression Questions

What is the first thing your character does in the story? What does this act SEEM TO reveal about him/her?

What is the first thing your character says? What does this SEEM TO reveal about him/her?

Is the first impression—the first thing the character says and does—an accurate reflection of his/her personality and temperament?

If not, why not?

What do you want the reader to think about this character after this introduction?

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 15

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgWorksheet #15 – Writing Realistic Women

Strong, powerful, hell bent, warrior, perky, spunky, outspoken, fearless—these are typical adjectives used to describe “strong female characters.” But there are female characters who do not possess confidence and do not have agency, whose power is earned or lost or never obtained, and those stories need to be told, too. In fiction, the most compelling characters are those who take charge of a story and guide it with confidence–even if the trip is full of stumbles, potholes, and failures.

A story will demand certain things from its lead character, but whether a female lead begins with power or earns it, the writer should aim to write a female character who jumps off the page and makes a connection with a reader.

A starting spot to do that is to create a woman—despite the particulars of her circumstances—who is realistic and relatable. Below are some questions to consider when creating a realistic female character.

  1. What is your RW’s origin story?
  2. What incident in her life most influenced her?
  3. Is your RW already powerful or is she seeking power?
  4. What is her mission or quest?
  5. What is her motivation to accept this mission?
  6. Is the mission one that she sought, one that was pushed upon her, or for her own survival?
  7. Is your RW influenced or hampered by constraints of the times?
  8. Does your RW need to live within social expectations of the setting and period?
  9. In her story, what is at stake (external and internal)?
  10. What skills does she carry with her?
  11. What weaknesses or drawbacks will hamper her?
  12. What would she need (add or subtract) to be content (or more content) in her life?
  13. Who is her warrior idol?
  14. Who does she admire in her personal life?
  15. What actor would she choose to play her in a movie?
  16. What skill or trait does she desire?
  17. Does she feel she has control over her everyday life?
  18. When a crisis happens, how does she react?
  19. Is she an introvert or extrovert?
  20. Who does she tell her secrets to?
  21. Who tells her their secrets?
  22. If she could be any woman in history, who would she choose?
  23. If she died today, what would her epitaph say?
  24. How would she handle a rude server, clerk, or bureaucrat?
  25. What does she wish she could change about herself?
  26. How does she solve problems?
  27. What kind of working relationship does she have with her boss?
  28. What are her family and friend relationships like?
  29. What is her temperament?
  30. Is she active or reactive?
  31. What is unique about her?
  32. What do you, her creator, see as the most compelling thing about her?
  33. Is she based on any real person?
  34. If so, how is she like that person? How is she different?
  35. If she had a personal cause or charity, what would it be?
  36. What type of book would she like to read?
  37. Does she consider herself a strong person?
  38. Is she independent or dependent?
  39. What every day skill is beyond her abilities?
  40. Where in the plot does she meet the greatest challenge, physically? Intellectually? Emotionally?
  41. Do you think your character is powerful enough to open a movie?
  42. What can she/you do to make her more powerful?
  43. What does your RW do that surprises herself?
  44. In the story, how does your RW participate in her own rescue?

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 14

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgWorksheet #14 – 3 Bios

Writers write bios all the time–for query letters, for a website, for cover copy, for grants and fellowships. I keep several versions of a bio on hand to fit whatever venue needs to know about me.

I urge writers to constantly update their bios. The exercise below kills two birds: it allows you to practice writing a bio and to get to know a character from three perspectives.

  1. Professional – a summary of the character’s current job status or their employment history.
  2. Personal – a summary of the character’s family, relationship status, hobbies, place in the community.
  3. Private – a summary of the character’s interior life or concerns or secrets–what he or she might divulge to a therapist.*

*The private bio might run a little longer if your character is carrying a lot of baggage.

Sample 3 Bios

The samples below are brief–3 to 5 sentences for professional and personal, 5 to 7 sentences for the private. They show the character at the START of the story.

PROFESSIONAL BIO:

Corporal Charlotte Rodney is a 5-year veteran of the Dover Department of Police. She is trained and certified in DARE, Internet Crimes Against Children, Cultural Diversity, Drug Crimes Investigation, and Advanced Collision. She earned a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and a Masters Degree in Strategic Leadership from Neumann University. As a patrol officer, Rodney received multiple commendations after the C&D Canal Bridge bombing. She is the School Resource Office at Dover High School.

PERSONAL BIO:

Charlotte Rodney is 27 years old, the daughter of a Delaware State Senator and the Head Librarian of Kent County, so public service runs in her family. Charlotte was a state champion swimmer in high school, is a member of the Dover Unitarian Church, and a volunteer swimming and self-defense coach at the Boys & Girls Club of Dover. In her free time, she enjoys water sports and fishing, training her rescue Rottweiler named Brutus, and being bossed around by her three young nieces. She is single.

PRIVATE BIO:

Charlotte Rodney’s family is a career asset as well as her Achilles heel. Her father is a charming politician who maintained a longtime affair with a colleague that everyone knows about but never acknowledges. Charlotte’s response has been to over-correct in her own personal integrity, but now that’s being tested. Only Charlotte knows the truth about the day a disturbed young man tried to bomb a local bridge. After negotiating on the catwalk for an hour, Charlotte didn’t jump into the river to save the bomber as the media reported and her department proudly claimed. In truth, after the would-be bomber jumped, Charlotte wobbled and fell over after the guy. That she pulled the man to safety doesn’t matter—she has allowed the lie to stand. Every day, Charlotte is terrified that someone will find out her brave act was bogus.

What am I trying to share about Charlotte in these three bios that I can use as I write the story?

  • She is on a solid career path with a focus on helping young people.
  • She is part of a public family so she is accustomed to public scrutiny.
  • Her career might be affected by local politics, both public and departmental.
  • She is athletic and active.
  • She is educated by not particularly intellectual.
  • She is engaged in the community, again with a focus on young people.
  • She is not married but she’s close to her family.
  • She hates liars but she can’t call out her own father.
  • She’s afraid that, by living a lie, she may be turning into her father.

3 Bios Exercise

Choose a primary character in your story. Write his/her three bios.

Professional:

 Personal:

 Private:

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.

 

 

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 13

RamonaGravitarWorksheet #13 – Basics of Writing Memoir

Pre-writing Questions

  1. What is the subject/focus of your memoir?
  2. Will this be short (article or essay) or long (book) length?
  3. Who experienced this with you?
  4. Who will appear in the memoir?
  5. What is the significant event you want to explore?
  6. How did it change you?
  7. What is your goal in sharing you memoir?
  8. Will your family, friends, colleagues support your exploration?
  9. Will anyone be offended?
  10. Will you need to make any factual or character alterations?
  11. Do you have dependable memories of this event?
  12. Are there supporting materials to add context?

How do you proceed?

Pinpoint theme. Record memories as scenes. Research supporting materials. Interview other people in the memoir. Decide on opening scene. Decide on ending scene. Organize middle scenes. Write, review, revise, polish.

Structure

  • Chronological – events are in order as they occurred.
  • Episodic – events are not in calendar order, but jump around to suit theme, not time.
  • Anecdotal – mini stories connected by theme, interspersed with sections of facts.
  • Vignettes – a collection of scenes that are connected by theme without a clear chronology.

Opening

  1. Open with the inciting incident and move forward in a linear, chronological direction.
  2. Open with the end of the story and go back to show how the narrator reached this point
  3. Open with a particular, dramatic episode that illustrates the theme
  4. Open with factual information related to the memoir

How do you choose an opening?

What best fits your subject? Does one particular scene sets the story in motion? Is there a scene from the end of the story that’s dramatic? Did the story start when you were so young, you can’t write it? Is there a particular scene from the middle of the story that illustrates the theme well?

How do you organize the middle?

Does each scene support the theme? Does each scene show growth, change, or conflict? Do middle scenes focus on other people? Is there a natural journey toward a climax?

How do you end a memoir?

The end of the story answers the question presented at the beginning. The end shows how a character survived/grew/changed. The end shows what’s become of the subject/s of the memoir. The end illustrates a narrative conclusion. The end brings closure to the story, though not necessarily to the subject.

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.

 

 

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 12

cropped-ramonalogofinal.jpgWorksheet #12 – Weekly Goals

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest and relaxation, or reflection and renewal. In my online courses, I give a day off for a mental break, but because this a short-term project, no breaks!

Goals for this week:

1 – How much will you write on your WIP this week? (# of words, # of pages, # of chapters, # of hours–whatever measuring stick you’d like to use)

2 – What other tasks do you need to handle this week? (revisions or research for your WIP, blog posts, submissions, PR, etc.)

3. How did you do on last week’s goals?”

As you set goals, remember to be realistic! Doable goals are the ones people achieve. It’s great to push yourself, but if you aim for the unrealistic or unreachable, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

If you would like to post how well, or not, you met your goals this week, please do!

 

 

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 11

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgWorksheet # 11 – WHY

Why addresses the reasons characters act as they do, the author’s reasons for writing this story,  and why changes happens as a result of the action.

Questions only today. Have a good weekend!

  1. Why are you writing this story?
  2. Why is this protagonist right for this story?
  3. Why is the protagonist compelled to answer the story question?
  4. Why does the protagonist embark on the emotional journey?
  5. Why does the protagonist feel a hole, an ache, a need to change his/her situation?
  6. Why is he/she changed (or not) by the end of the story?
  7. Why are secrets held between/from characters?
  8. Why did the crime happen?
  9. Why was the crime committed by this particular person?
  10. Why did the particular victims die and particular survivors survive?
  11. Why will a reader find uniqueness in this story?
  12. Why will a reader turn the page at the end of each chapter?
  13. Why is this story compelling beyond answering the story question?
  14. Why is it entertaining?
  15. Why is this a series or a standalone?

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warnedbeen warned.

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 10

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgWorksheet #10 – WHERE

Like when, where is a double-sided consideration when writing a story.

The big where is the story world, which can be a contemporary small town, a bygone era in a city, a fantasy world, a dystopian future world, a fictional version of your home town, or a galaxy far, far away.

The smaller where addresses scenes: in what spot in the story world does each scene occur?

While writing about where, think about place: The story world is place, and scenes are places.

In scenes writing classes, I give an exercise called All the Places You Character Will Go. This can also be called Get Out of the Kitchen! Some writers have a habit of putting the same characters in the same spot doing the same thing—many times chatting with someone in the kitchen. That’s what most of us do when we have a problem or a sticky situation, right? We call a pal and hash it out over coffee. This is fine if home is the character’s base, but you’ve selected a setting for a reason, and you do a disservice to your characters, and your readers, if you tie them to only a few spots. Send them out into the world. Anything can happen out there!

Think of all the places you go each week: home, work, friend’s house, grocery store, church, evening class, poetry reading, shopping, dinner at a restaurant, school drop-off, kid’s swim meet, yoga, hairdresser, massage, doctor’s appointment, corner deli, shoe store, etc. Every time you send a character to a new place, you’re sending the reader there, too. Show off your setting! Every time you send your character out into the world, they have a chance of encountering someone who may be important to the story. If you are like me, there’s limited access to your kitchen. Only so much real action can happen there. Once you step out into the setting, there’s a whole big world full of mayhem out there. Use it.

Exercise: List every place your character/s go in the story, beginning to end. Is there a lot of movement to many different places? Or are your characters stuck drinking endless cups of tea in someone’s kitchen?

WHERE Questions

  1. Where (and when) does this story take place?
  2. Where (how far into the story) is a unique story world revealed?
  3. Where (what particular location) does the story begin?
  4. Where (what particular location) does it end?
  5. Where does the inciting incident take place?
  6. Where do crimes take place?
  7. Where does the protagonist live?
  8. Where does the antagonist live?
  9. Where does the protagonist go every day, as part of job/life?
  10. Where does the protagonist hang out for fun?
  11. Where is the protagonist obligated to go or visit on a personal level?
  12. Where does the protagonist go related to the Story Question?
  13. Where are places the protagonist can go for comfort?
  14. Where are places the protagonist might visit as backstory?
  15. Where has the protagonist lived or worked before now?
  16. Where is the sleuth’s home base, to solve the crime?
  17. Where are meaningful places in the story?
  18. Where does the killer/bad guy go after committing the crime/s?
  19. Where does the killer/bad guy hide from discovery?
  20. Where does the climax take place?
  21. Where does the main character appear when introduced?
  22. Where is the last place the reader sees the main character?

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.

 

40 Days of Worksheets – Day 9

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgWorksheet # 9 – WHEN

There are two types of time an author should consider when crafting a story: book time and structure time.

In the story, an event happens on Wednesday afternoon, but its placement in the story will be in Act 1, 2, or 3. Why is placement important?  First, events in a story should appear in some logical order. Second, if an author fills the opening with dramatic events but lets the tension ease in the middle, that author may be front-loading Act 1 with action and setting up Act 2 to be a drag. Think about the “when” for important story events as part of the story’s chronology AND as part of the story’s arc to spread out action more evenly.

This worksheet addresses the placement of significant events in the story. You can answer two ways:

Q: When is a second crime discovered?

A: These two responses address the same event: 

  1. The second body is discovered on Wednesday, four days after the first body is found.
  2. The second crime occurs early in Act 2, to reinforce the sleuth’s suspicion that the first young man’s death was not a freak accident.

Answering in this double-duty way might be time consuming, but you will know your plot and structure well if you think about “when” as placement as well as time. (Note: This worksheet was developed for a course aimed at crime writers, so the questions will skew in that direction.)

WHEN Questions

  1. When does this story really begin?
  2. is the Story Question introduced?
  3. When does the protagonist get involved?
  4. When did the antagonist decide to commit the crime?
  5. When do subsequent crimes occur?
  6. When do police get involved?
  7. When does tension mount?
  8. When does it spike?
  9. When is the protagonist or police wrong?
  10. When does the evidence help or hurt the case?
  11. When does the antagonist outsmart the police?
  12. When does the antagonist strike a second time?
  13. When does the status quo change?
  14. When is there danger?
  15. When do stakes appear?
  16. When does the protagonist make difficult choices?
  17. When does the climax begin to take shape?
  18. When does each suspect get cleared?
  19. When does investigating start to impact the sleuth’s private life?
  20. When do allies appear?
  21. When do foes put pressure on the sleuth?
  22. When does backstory appear?
  23. When is the reason for the crime revealed?
  24. When does the sleuth figure out the puzzle?
  25. When do you surprise the reader?
  26. When does an unreliable narrator reveal herself/himself?
  27. When are secondary storylines introduced?
  28. When are secondary storylines concluded?
  29. When do dual or multiple narrators switch off?
  30. When, for a series, do you employ holdovers?
  31. When are the protagonist or sleuth’s skills presented?
  32. When are special skills used?
  33. When does a romance begin/end/resume?

Please note: All worksheets posted are my original work and intellectual property. I ask that you share the links on social media, and you are welcome to share the worksheets with your critique groups and writing friends with credit given. That being said, these worksheets—despite being posted on the Internet—may not be copied, distributed, or published as anyone’s work but mine. In short: sharing is good, plagiarism is bad.

Disclaimer #2: You may post your completed worksheet if you’d like, but please remember that, by doing so, you are sharing your ideas with all of the Internet. You’ve been warned.