Sunday, January 18, 2009

4 Requirements for Being a Writer+Exercise

There are some things that one can’t teach a writer. They must be either adopted as a lifestyle, or be inborn in the person. These include:

1)A love of reading.

Without the above four traits, one might want to reconsider becoming a career (fiction) author. Of course technical writing and other non-fiction writing venues may be possible, but for the most part, the four listed traits are a must. Let me explain further for each trait in the list over the course of the upcoming week. We’ll start with number one today:

1) Reading is mandatory.
If you have no appreciation for the written word, becoming a career author in fiction is a little like an anorexic attempting to become a food critic. Whatever you choose to read, however, is solely up to you and what you’re passionate about. Some people enjoy reading biographies. Does this mean they have to write solely biographies? Of course not. They would be better off, though, attempting to write in a “biographical style.”

I have an exercise I often do with new writers. If you like, you can do this with me now. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

*Make four or five columns down the page. (The more you make, the more you’ll get out of this.)
*At the top of each column, write the title of an all-time favorite book.
*Beneath each one, list four or more reasons why you loved that book.

A quick example from mine:

The Stand(King)------Swan Song(McCammon)-----Strangers (Koontz)
Flu Apocalypse ------ Nuclear Apocalypse -----Challenged Reality
Good vs. Evil ------ Good vs. Evil -----Gov. vs. Citizens
Altered Characters--- Altered Characters -----Altered Characters
Supernatural ------ Supernatural ----Alien Aspects

As you can see from these favorites of mine, they share common traits. These common traits indicate what I love to read, and hence, what I would love to write: Apocalyptic stories with a clear definition between good and evil, supernatural aspects and featuring characters altered in some significant way by the apocalypse.

My last book most closely matches what I should have been writing all along. Kaylee’s world is destroyed (apocalypse) when she starts seeing ghosts. The more she battles (good vs. evil) these supernatural elements, the more her innate powers begin to emerge (altered.) As you can see, the translation doesn’t have to be literal—Kaylee’s apocalypse was simply being unable to maintain a “normal” life.

If you’d like, take a moment to share the results of this exercise in the comments. I’d love to see what you thought of the exercise and what you came up with!


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