An Exercise: Working with Plot

This week’s assignment was to create two characters, both with clear desires, and pit them against one another. Writers can be evil, can’t they? I hope you enjoy what I came up with!

Maggie had finished loading the dishwasher and was filling the sink with warm soapy water when she realized that Patrick hadn’t headed into the living room to watch Jeopardy but was, instead, puttering about the kitchen and looking at her out of the corner of his eye. When he cleared his throat for the third time without saying anything, she knew that he wanted to talk about something serious. She turned off the tap and moved the kettle onto the front burner, pulling two mugs from the cabinet. As she got the tea ready she wondered if this sudden change in routine had anything to do with the meeting he’d told her about yesterday. Something his boss had wanted to talk to him about. It wasn’t like him to beat about the bush like this, so it must be something significant. She poured the hot water over the tea bags and watched the brown slowly rise through the water.

“Patrick,” she said, holding his mug out to him, “should we sit and chat?”

Patrick felt panic rising as he wrapped his strong hands around the mug and headed through the swinging door into the living room. He knew Maggie wasn’t going to like what he had to say.

They both settled into their matching recliners and Maggie put her mug on an ornate glass coaster she’d gotten from her mum and waited for him to tell her what it was that had him so flustered.

Patrick took a few swigs of tea, swallowing hard as the hot liquid burned his tongue, and a deep breath to steady his nerves. “Mags, I had that meeting I was telling you about yesterday, with Mr. Dillard? Actually, that’s why I was late to dinner. He wanted to talk to me about my retirement, well about something that’s to do with my retirement. The thing is, well, the company wants me to take a position, a supervisor position, actually. So that means when I retire in a few years we’ll have more to work with than we thought.” Patrick stopped talking and took another gulp of his tea. He wasn’t sure where to go from here and he looked over at his wife, sipping her tea and gazing at him thoughtfully.

Maggie wasn’t sure what Patrick was so nervous about. She was proud of his achievements at work and was looking forward to his retirement in a year or two. She was ready to spend her days with him underfoot and the kids and grandkids streaming in and out of the old house, as they did on the weekends. She smiled at him lovingly as he dashed on.

“So, I told him I’d think about it because, of course, I had to talk to you first and, well,” he paused for a moment and then it came out of him, all in a rush, “we’d have to move, Mags.”

Maggie froze; her mug hovered near the middle of her chest, arrested on its return trip to the coaster. She looked blankly at her husband, her brain refusing to process the information he had just relayed. She couldn’t look him in the eye and her breath came quicker as she fought down the pain and confusion and anger that were welling up into her throat. Snapping the footrest of her recliner down suddenly, she launched herself up, banged through the swinging door into the kitchen, and turned on the tap.

Patrick ran his hand over his face as he heard the sound of water running into the kitchen sink. When Maggie was mad, she cleaned and she wouldn’t stop cleaning until she was ready to talk. He left his tea on her coaster and headed upstairs, knowing that pursuing a conversation with her was pointless.

Maggie finished washing the dishes and wiped her hands on the scratchy, red kitchen towel her grandsons had given her for her birthday. It didn’t dry all that much, but it was the thought that counted. She walked slowly through the downstairs, lowering blinds and turning off lights. The house was silent, but not lonely. Each room was full of memories, of laughter, of family, of happiness. She stood at the foot of the stairs, in the dark, and listened to the sound of Patrick’s heavy breathing and occasional snores coming from their room upstairs. Then she climbed heavily past the framed photographs of weddings and birthdays, babies and anniversaries, proms and senior portraits. She peeked in on Liam, fast asleep across his father’s childhood bed, his curls etched in the shadows cast by the nightlight.

She washed her face and brushed her teeth in the chipped porcelain sink in the bathroom before sliding into cool sheets in the guest bedroom. She was calmer now, but she wouldn’t stay calm sleeping next to Patrick. She could hear his muffled snorts and snores as she tossed and turned, trying to silence her brain, trying not to think about what tomorrow would bring.

Patrick woke to the smell of bacon and coffee. It wafted up the stairs, as it did every Saturday. Maggie was up and puttering around downstairs, making breakfast for the kids and grandkids like she did every weekend. They would all be over soon and the house would be full of noise and smiles, just like it used to. Patrick dressed in a hurry, anxious to speak with Maggie before the kids arrived. He trotted downstairs and into the kitchen, nearly colliding with Liam as he ran out to the tire swing.

“Morning, Papa! Bacon’s good!” And he was gone, out the sliding glass door on his way to an adventure.

Patrick stood in the kitchen and watched his wife pull down her mother’s china. It had been handed down ages ago, for special occasions, but Maggie felt that time with family was reason enough to use it and so every family meal was eaten off those flowered plates. She turned to set the table and caught his eye across the kitchen, the tears welling up at once.

“I’m sorry, Maggie. I really am. But it’s move or take early retirement and I just don’t know if we can afford for me to do that.” He waited for her to move, to say something, for a glimpse into what was going on in her mind, in her heart. He needed to know what she thought.

Maggie swallowed the lump in her throat and held out a stack of plates. “We can tell the kids at breakfast,” she said. “When you retire, we can come back. Derek and June will keep it just so for us.”

Patrick took the stack of plates and set them on the counter, turning to wrap Maggie tight in his arms. He felt her heart beating fast against his ribs and smelled the tart, citrus scent of her hair. “Are you sure?” he whispered.

Maggie pulled back to look up at her husband, her arms still around his waist, her fingers interlocking at the small of his back. “I’m sure,” she smiled through the tears. “What’s two or three years in a new place if it means you’ll be around to bother me all day once it’s done? And we’ve always wanted to travel.”

The kids arrived, noisy and scattered, to find the table half set and their parents wrapped in one another’s arms, laughing and crying, in a world of their own.

Copyright © 2015 Katharine Brown.of

An Exercise: Cast and Dialogue

As many of you know, I am taking an online class through University of Iowa. Each week I have to write a short piece to be evaluated by my peers. Each week I am also supposed to write a blog post. I love when the world conspires to make my life a little easier! Here is the piece I wrote for this week’s assignment on cast and dialogue. I hope you enjoy it!

*****

“Pregnant?” All the air seemed to rush from Rachel’s body, leaving her light-headed and panicky. “Pregnant?” She was suddenly aware of the sound of the fish tank, in desperate need of topping off, and the pounding of her own heartbeat in her ears. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

The dog walker just sat there, her hands clenching and unclenching in her lap. “He didn’t want me to say anything,” she finally said. “He said he’d, you know, take care of it. No one would have to know. And I said ok but…”

Rachel waited, not wanting to give the girl any comfort, unable to feel anything. And suddenly, she had to move. She rose abruptly and went into the kitchen. She filled a glass pitcher at the sink and added three drops of the blue ph balance into the water, watching it swirl through the center of the jug, then returned to the living room.

The dog sitter, Becky, was it? hadn’t moved and she began speaking again, all in a rush, as Rachel slowly added the water into the tank.

“I mean, I don’t think I can just…get rid of it. Or whatever.  And I wouldn’t ask for anything from you, from either of you.”

“What more could you possibly ask of me?” Rachel didn’t bother to turn around from the tank, her vehemence leaving little flecks of spit against the glass. “You’re pregnant.” Her hands were starting to shake. “You’re pregnant,” she whispered, and the tears were suddenly there.

Neither of them spoke for what seemed like hours. Rachel’s heaving shoulders and Becky’s nervous hands were all that moved. Then there was the sound of a car pulling into the driveway, a key in the lock, and still, neither of them said a word.

Matt sauntered in, a smile in his eyes and a whistle on his lips. He slipped the bouquet behind his back as he walked across the living room. Rachel imagined his smile beginning to fade when he noticed Becky, her usual exuberance replaced with red-rimmed eyes and twisting fingers.

“Uh, hey there, Becky.”

Rachel could hear his attempted nonchalance and his footsteps continuing toward her. She slowly  turned to face him and he froze in the middle of the room. All traces of tears had vanished and her eyes were dark and hot and angry.

“She’s pregnant?”

The flowers dropped slowly from behind Matt’s back and hung limply at his side.

“She’s pregnant with our baby and you wanted her to…get rid of it?” Her voice was rising and cracking and her cheeks were pink. “How long? How long have we been trying?” She was screaming now, grabbing blindly at anything she could grab and lobbing it at Matt with all of her strength. “Trying to have a baby! All the shots, all the disappointments, and then this? You screwed the dog walker?”

“Please,” said Becky, standing to her feet, “it was just the one time. It didn’t…”

“One time? One time?” Rachel snatched the glass pitcher from the tank table and hurled it at Becky. “One. Time!”

In three steps Matt was at Rachel’s side, crushing her in his arms, gritting his teeth as she thrashed and struggled. Her hair whipped across his face and she tried to bite him, sobbing hysterically.

“I told you I’d take care of it,” he grunted. “Why would you come here and do this to her, to us?”

Copyright © 2015 Katharine Brown.

Writing is Scary

Putting yourself out there is scary. I think we can all agree that opening ourselves up to be critiqued, evaluated, judged, is a really intimidating process. You might think it gets easier the more often you do it but I haven’t found that to be the case at all! And putting your writing (or music/art/craftmanship/etc.) out there to be assessed is even harder. Basically you take this thing that has consumed your every spare moment; a product of endless hours of thought, and struggle, and passion, and means more to you than just about anything else, and you lay it out there and ask people to tell you what they like (yay!) and what they don’t (boo!). The idea makes me queasy. And yet, it must be done for us to get any better in the arts we pursue.

I suck at writing dialogue. I avoid having my characters talk to one another because, when I read back over the conversations I’ve created I realize that no real people talk like that. Every longer work that I’ve attempted has stalled when I feel the urge to have my characters talk because I just can’t write it out. It’s something I need to do better, something I know I’m not good at and yet, when asked to write a dialogue sketch, I balk. I want to quit before I have to submit something. What the heck!? I already know I’m bad so what would it really matter to hear it from someone else? Especially when they will also include ideas about how to make it better? When you figure that one out, let me know. It still stumps me.

So in an effort to face my fears of criticism head on I have enrolled in a course through the University of Iowa called How Writers Write Fiction. It has been really enlightening and engaging so far and, lo and behold I’ve even received my first writing assignment…yep, you guessed it, dialogue. I guess it was meant to be. I’m pretending to be looking forward to the feedback while reminding myself that this is what I need to be better. So tune in next week for a peek at how this assignment turned out (and cross your fingers for me).

Work In Progress

An excerpt from another Mecca of Junk story I’m working on:

It was Saturday and the floors of the shop were packed with weekend tourists and left-over college students. I hadn’t been expecting such a rush, what with the snow and spring break, but the gods of ancient stuff must have been smiling on the Mecca and here I was, coffee in hand, watching old ladies outmaneuver one another with their elbows. It was amusing to watch them fighting so desperately over their figurines and doodads. I wondered if it was their increasing understanding of the coming end that caused them to pursue their treasures with such ferocity. A word to the wise: never, ever get in the way of an old lady who wants a miniature china cat.

I ambled back through the booths, nodding at vendors and picking up the occasional scarf or pillow which had fallen, unseen, into the path of the oncoming shoppers. Everyone seemed happy with the steady stream of customers so I headed back to the register. The line was dwindling down when a small woman in a crocheted sweater scooted to the side of the counter and laid her ice-cold hands on my arm.

“Please,” she said, glancing furtively around, “please, I can’t find my husband anywhere. I think someone took him!”

I snorted. I couldn’t help myself. I covered it with a fit of fake coughing and then waved my boss over to cover the counter. After a short conversation, we realized that the woman was serious and I called the non-emergency police line. Officer Mike Barry, who patrolled the main street in the evenings, assured us that he would be over as soon as possible. He sounded excited, probably hoping someone had kidnapped a little old man. Anything is better than handing out parking tickets and snooping around the walking paths to make sure dog owners clean up after their pets.

I led the little lady towards the office at the back of the first floor, stopping only long enough to refill my coffee. I figured Mike would want to talk to her in private. She sank slowly onto the hard plastic chair which rocked with each shift of her body. She had pulled an embroidered handkerchief from her pocket and was dabbing at her eyes behind her thick-framed glasses. There was a small bubble of mucus that was slowly making its way down her top lip and I found myself mesmerized by the shining trail it left behind, like a slug across cucumbers. She was talking and I nodded, tuning in.

“Jasper and I come here every Saturday,” she said, “ever since we were married. Of course, when he got sick, that made things more difficult – ” She broke off as Officer Barry arrived, hands on his wide utility belt which looked tiny compared to his enormous girth now filling the office doorway.

“You the bird who’s missing her husband?” he asked, gruffly.

I shot him a look. He acknowledged my judgement with a slight coloring of his massive neck and rocked back on his heels.

“No offense,” he added.

 

Copyright © 2015 Katharine Brown.

Cover to Cover

On a recent family trip to the public library I was telling my husband how, against the old adage, I do judge books based on their covers, at least the ones I choose for myself. We have a great discussion about it and, on the way out, we passed a display that said “Go ahead, judge these books by their covers!” The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I was the only one, and if it was only the cover that solidified my choice. What I’ve determined is that the title is the first thing (duh) that snags my attention. I just browse, and when something sounds interesting, I pull it out for a look. If the cover hooks me, I’m sold. I honestly don’t even check to see what the book is about. I just grab it. This has actually only steered me wrong once when I ended up with a paranormal mystery novel featuring two elderly female detectives. Not too shabby for 25+ years of reading! The people who design these covers are geniuses, really, and they have come up with some amazing images to really sell the concept of the books they represent. Without further ado, some of the enticing covers I’ve come across.

A Brief History of Seven Killings

All The Birds Singing

From the Kitchen of Half Truth Real

Leaving the Sea

The Brief History of the Dead

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Orchard of Lost Soulds

The Pretty One

If you need more cover art or a great place to browse titles and covers together, check out The Book Cover Archive. Just try not to spend all day on there! What are some covers that have convinced you to read their stories? Did you like them?

Write What You Know

I think one of the most common pieces of writing advice given out ad nauseam can end up being a troublesome struggle for writers. “Write what you know” is a very misleading suggestion. If you write at all, you’ve no doubt heard this either from a teacher, friend, or book and I’ve heard it too, from all those sources. And while I agree with it, on some levels, I think it’s a really easy answer to give and a more difficult one to integrate or process. In my opinion, if you are going to give this advice to someone, you need to explain what you really mean, rather than leaving them to flounder through figuring it out on their own. I’ve only just now come to understand what it means for me and I thought I’d share, in case it helps you too!

If I only wrote what I know, I’d write a story about a girl who was homeschooled all the way through high-school, went to college, met her husband, got married, had four kids, and wrote all the time along the way. It’s actually way more interesting than it sounds, so I’d throw in the international traveling, failed first engagement, and wacky friends to keep you interested. And maybe someday I will write a story like that. But what I like to write about is loss, and sadness, and depth, and conflict, and darkness, and struggle, and triumph. I like to experience one of my “snapshot” moments, and turn it into something real, imperfect, and human. So if I limit myself to writing what I know, I have no grid to process a snapshot moment and turn it into a story worth reading. I don’t have a frame of reference for so many of the things I see because I haven’t experienced them personally.

Does lacking the experience mean that I can’t write about it? Nope! I’ve found that “write what you know” means take the moment you are observing, relate it back to something you have experienced, and think about how you would feel in the situation. (Note: this is why readers/writers are more empathetic towards others. We do this all the time.) I’ve never been in a screaming match on the sidewalk with my significant other in the middle of the afternoon; but I know what it feels like to be that angry. It isn’t about the act itself being familiar, rather that the emotion behind the moment is honest. If you think about it long enough, hard enough, focused enough, you can tap into those moments of emotion from your past and connect them to the present and, in the process, you can write a convincing and moving scene or story.

This is how I “write what I know.” What does this writerly advice mean to you?

Shipwrecked!

Do you remember in the 90’s when everyone was really into icebreakers? For you younger readers, an icebreaker was a question asked in meetings, hangouts, and other social situations to prevent the awkwardness one feels from having to speak first or converse without a topic. The thing about icebreakers was the questions were usually ones that would take a lot of thought, but you only had a few seconds to come up with an answer.

If you HAD to give up one of your senses, which would it be and why? There is a little bit of analysis needed here, right? I mean, this is a really loaded question.

If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit? I don’t know about you but this question takes a lot of thought. The machine only works once, which means I won’t be coming home. I have to get this right!

Ok, so you get the idea. The icebreaker that I heard most often went something like this:

If you were stranded on a desert island, what one object would you bring and why? (Variations include, what food would you choose to eat FOREVER? and who would you want to be stranded with you?)

I’m not sure why, but this desert isle icebreaker popped into my head the other day while I was packing my books for our big move and I thought, hmmm…which of these books would I be willing to read over and over, potentially forever. And so, without further ado, my list of three books I would want with me should I ever become stranded on a desert island.

#1 The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History

I bet you guys are sick of hearing about this book. Too bad. It is my all-time favorite and, since I read it every year anyway, I’m bringing it with me. Not only will it entertain me in my loneliness, it’s pretty thick so I can use it to reach bananas from the tops of the tall trees that shade my palm branch lean-to.

#2 The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

the remains of the day

Another staple in my literary diet that would keep my mind off the scorching sun and terrible thunderstorms that alternately plague me in my new home. This book would encourage self introspection while I huddle away from the rays and the rain.

#3 The Failure of Certain Charms by Gordon Henry

the failure of certain charms

I think learning to exist alone on an island demands poetry. Something full of meaning and beauty and truth, that can be read in a relatively short period of time, between gathering kindling for my rescue bonfire and fishing for shoal fish with a safety-pin and some thread from the hem of my dress. This book will fit the bill nicely.

What about you? What three books would you take with you on a pleasure cruise, knowing they may be all that keeps you sane on a desert island?

Where to Find Characters

Creating believable characters is the single most important thing you can do as a writer. Characters are what drive your story. They make it interesting. They keep the reader engaged because they are relatable, almost tangible people who have fears and desires and triumphs, just like your readers. A good plot is great, don’t get me wrong, but I have found that characters (good, almost living, breathing characters) only get in the way of the plot. Because they have minds of their own. Because something comes along and the way they want to pursue it is different from the way you would have them pursue it. Before you know it, your plot is full of holes and you have fully developed, thinking characters running around the story wreaking havoc. If you’re a planner, a plotter, a non-pantser, just reading this might terrify you but I promise you, it is the best thing that could ever happen to your story.

So where do you find these headstrong and willful characters? How can you take a two-dimensional, chicken-scratch character from your notebook and form it into a substantial, believable person? Spying and eavesdropping, two powerful tools that no one will tell you about, probably because they sounds like terrible advice! Trust me, though. People watching (spying) and paying attention (eavesdropping) can spark the beginnings of a dynamite character which can make or break your story, novel, or screenplay. If you feel guilty, as I did when I first began practicing this, remember that you’re not taking a real flesh and blood person and writing a character based exactly on them. You are looking for a quirk, something memorable or beautiful or strange, which you will then incorporate with a handful of other qualities into a well-rounded character.

There are moments I can still remember vividly because they made such an impact on me. Those moments, like snapshots, are burned into my brain and I use them to create meaningful characters. For example, when I lived in NY I made an early morning run to the grocery and saw this moment that I’ll never be able to forget:

The boy sits in the passenger seat, bored and resigned. The girl is looking at him with that light in her eyes that means more than he’s interested in seeing. The little green car is all beat up and the light reflects off of the one white door on the driver’s side. The pavement of the parking lot is still dark with rain from the night before and the lights of the car barely make yellow circles in the thick mist rising from the blacktop.

These moments, ones that strike you with their beauty or sadness or strangeness, the overheard conversations that make you double take, or shake with silent laughter, are what form characters that carry weight. This is what I mean when I say you should “spy and eavesdrop” on people. Be aware of the life happening around you and you will always be rewarded. I’m sure you are thinking of your own “snapshot” right now. Go write it down! See where it take you!

Book Review: The Writing Life

The Writing Life

First I have to say that this book was confusing to me at the start. I don’t know what I was expecting but this stream-of-consciouness, confessional, journal-entry, mind trip wasn’t it. But the more I read, the more I began to enjoy myself. The stories seem random, the musings of an older mind remembering the past with some kind of nostalgia, but when, suddenly, I am shown the connection between the story and the process of writing, I am speechless. Breathtakingly honest and incredibly real, Annie Dillard has woven a “tale” about how life and writing intertwine around and unravel one another. It’s hard to tell you exactly what this book is about because it is about a life process. And as we writerly types know, a life process is difficult to pin down. I think the best way to entice you to read this remarkable book is to introduce you to some of my favorite moments from the book. Enjoy!

Chapter One. On why we must discard so much of the work we have struggled to write and why our writing must be for us alone:

The path is not the work.

The part you must jettison is not only the best-written part; it is also, oddly, that part which was to have been the very point.

If he has read his pages too often, those pages will have a necessary quality, the ring of the inevitable, like poetry known by heart; they will perfectly answer their own familiar rhythms.

Is it pertinent, it is courteous, for us to learn what it cost the writer personally?

This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.

The line of words fingers your own heart. It invades arteries, and enters the heart on a flood of breath; it presses the moving rims of thick valves; it palpitates the dark muscle like a worm encysted – some field of feeling, some song forgotten, a scene in a dark bedroom, a corner of the woodlot, a terrible dining room, that exalting sidewalk; these fragments are heavy with meaning. The line of words peels them back, dissects them out. Will the bared tissue burn? Do you want to expose these scenes to the light? You may locate them and leave them, or poke the spot hard till the sore bleeds on your finger, and write with that blood. If the sore spot is not fatal, if it does not grow and block something, you can use its power for many years, until the heart reabsorbs it.

Chapter Two. On where is best to set up shop for the arduous task of writing:

Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.

Chapter Three. On how the writerly mind must be trained in order to approach its most dangerous task of writing, for the writing has a mind of its own:

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.

The work is not the vision itself, certainly. It is a golem. You try – you try every time – to reproduce the vision, to let your light so shine before men. But you can only come along with your bushel and hide it.

Chapter Four. You just have to read it. I can’t even begin to explain it.

Chapter Five. On why we must read in order to write:

There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.

The writer studies literature, not the world. He lives in the world; he cannot miss it.

The body of literature, with its limits and edges, exists outside some people and inside others.

Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough, especially if you love to write. Take your time with it, enter into the experience of writing through the eyes of a master!

Form Feed: Everything You Need to Stay On Track

The irony of this post title is not lost on me. I am smiling wryly as I provide you ways of staying on track while I clearly have not been staying on track myself. I haven’t posted here in over a month, a fact which, though sad, was quite necessary. There has been a lot going on these past few weeks and I needed to focus in on my non-writer life for a while. The good news? I’m back!

There is something you should know about me: I am obsessed with organizing. I love it. It makes my heart beat faster with excitement. It makes me weak at the knees. It really gets me going. I have so many files saved to my computer it runs slower when I turn it on. My Pinterest boards are full of printables and fill-able spreadsheets for everything from kitchen cabinet to van storage to filing cabinets. I love to know where everything is and how to make it easier to find.

I’m the same way when it comes to writing. I have outline sheets, character arcs, plot point generators, you name it. In fact, sometimes I get so caught up organizing, I forget that I’m actually supposed to be writing. Maybe you’re like me and you love to have your ducks in a row, or maybe you are nothing like me and you think I’m totally crazy. Either way, I wanted to share some of my most favorite planning/plotting/organizing sheets with you. Get that printer ready!

Starting broad is always best so right off the bat you should check out Annie Neugebauer. She has a ton of helpful sheets you can save right to your computer and she even includes several with prompts, in case you are really stuck. I can easily get lost on her site. Another great site for forms is Jami Gold’s Worksheets for WritersI really love her Good Scene Checklists and she has forms specifically for romance and paranormal writers. Not my strong suit in any way but I always love to find stuff that is so specific!

A lot of what I have is to help with novel plotting as that is my weakness (planning in general). I love this snowflake outline and I’ve found the process of sitting down and boiling everything into a “jacket blurb” super helpful. I have found this example of chapter planning super helpful for plotting out scene and timing in a novel. Also, I use this scene writing “cheat” all the time with great results!

For those of you who try to hit a certain number of words per session/day/what-have-you, I love this word counterThere are a million out there, some even show you pictures of cats every 100 words, but I like the simple, straightforward stuff myself.

Stuck on a name? My friend Rachel G. sent me this amazing chart that shows which names are most prevalent in specific jobs. Super cool! A few other handy name generators I use are the last name generator, the name generator, and the Social Security’s Top Names database.

So, there you go. A handful of the forms I love to use when plotting, planning, writing, and re-writing my stories. Are there any I’ve forgotten? I’d love to see what you like to use when creating your stuff!