Mini Experiment: Eavesdropping in Cafes

I’ve been hearing quite a bit recently about a technique to help writers improve their ear for dialogue and gather a plethora of shiny new ideas for stories at the same time: eavesdrop on private conversations in public places.

Now, the first thing I want to make clear to you is that this whole idea goes against all my natural instincts. When I’m alone in a public place, I would prefer not to be able to hear other people at all. If there was such a thing as a portable cone of silence, it would be tucked away in my handbag right now. My usual first move when entering a cafe is to look for the table that is as far from the nearest actual human beings as possible. I don’t want my valuable coffee-drinking/reading/ writing/Twittering time interrupted by random bursts of conversation that have nothing to do with me.

However, never let it be said that I am not willing to suffer for my art. And therefore, I embarked upon another Writing Mini-Experiment this week, with the aim of visiting two cafes, listening to as many random conversations as possible and scribbling any interesting bits down. Here are my results.

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Names and Labels

I’ve taken the title of this post from one of the chapters of Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.

L’Engle makes a distinction between naming something or someone, and labelling them. Naming, she says, gives us wholeness and freedom to be who we are; labelling reduces us, controls us, limits us. “If we are pigeonholed and labelled we are unnamed.”

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#WIPpet Wednesday – July 24, 2019

This week I’m joining WIPpet Wednesday for the first time. WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop wherein writers share an excerpt from their current WIP (Work in Progress) that somehow relates to the date.

What I’m sharing today

I have two WIPs going right now. I’m making final revisions to the first one, a medieval portal fantasy called Green Haelan. I’m also writing a first draft of the sequel, Skal Singer.

I’m going to share an excerpt from Green Haelan. Today is the 24th day of the 7th month so I’ll be sharing 24 sentences from Chapter 7.

The scene centres on one of my secondary POV (Point of View) characters, Kelan, a teenage boy who knows less about the world than he thinks he does (imagine that😉) and is also not quite as skilful as he judges himself to be. In this scene, he’s fallen into the hands of a band of thieves camping in the forest. But he has a cunning plan. While they’re all asleep, he’s going to steal one of their horses and escape. Everything goes smoothly right up to the point when he mounts the horse: it bolts. The excerpt begins at this point.

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Mini Experiment: Early Morning Writing

I am a morning person. I always have been. This doesn’t mean that I leap out of bed with a cry of gladness at the sound of the alarm. Far from it.  But once I’m up, I’m up. And I am more productive in the morning, no doubt about it. My brain works faster and I’m more motivated to get things done. And yet, despite knowing all of this, I have never tried writing when I first get up. Never. Until this week.

It started like this: I noticed the hashtag #5amWritersClub appearing now and again on my Twitter feed. My first reaction was a natural one: “5 am? They have to be kidding.” But it began to intrigue me. Perhaps I could give this a try.

The advantages were obvious:

  1. I would be the only one awake in the house, meaning it would be quiet. And quiet is my favourite soundtrack when I’m writing.
  2. It would be dark outside. No distractions outside the window.
  3. No other chores would be calling to me. Nice.
  4. I could be finished by 7 am and still have the whole day in front of me. Even better.

Unfortunately, the possible disadvantages were just as obvious:

  1. It’s winter here in Australia. 5 am is a cold, dark, unfriendly sort of time. I’m not sure we’d get on with each other.
  2. I’d have to go to bed by 9pm at the latest in order to get enough sleep. I don’t know if I could discipline myself to do that. Even if I did, it would probably take me hours to fall asleep, rendering the whole effort pointless.
  3. Could I write anything good at 5am? Could I even think? Morning person, yes, but still…
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To Aesthetic or not to Aesthetic?

aesthetic a particular theory or conception of beauty or art a particular taste for or approach to what is pleasing to the senses and especially sight

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aesthetic

The dictionaries haven’t caught up yet, but I’ve been noticing a different usage of the noun, aesthetic, among the writing community. It refers to a particular object rather than a general theory or conception. Here’s an example:

Here’s another with a different feel:

I think this idea probably arose from Instagram but it seems to be taking off on Twitter, too, mainly among young writers. It’s a digital form of a mood board, a tool that has been used by designers for decades. Although it doesn’t have to be digital. You could go old school and fix actual pictures to a literal board:

For a writer, I can see that creating this kind of aesthetic and displaying it in your writing space could provide inspiration and keep you immersed in the world of your novel. However, it could also be an enormous time waster as you go down the aesthetic rabbit hole, spending hours finding just the right images, crafting the absolutely perfect design. The one that speaks to you. The one you’re proud to share on social media.

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