Left Field






I can hear you thinking it (yes -- you are loud thinkers), DL's back barely a week and he's already trying to tell us how to write.  But that's the thing about writing, it is a very personal process and no one can tell you how to do it.  Actually, they can try, but in order for something to work for you -- it has to be internalized and redefined into something you can relate to.  That's why it sometimes seems like we are all doing the same thing in much the same way, but reality paints a much different picture.

Today I wanted to describe for you something I do that helps me turn cut-out characters into jump off the page mind-splinters (can't get them out of your head), or livens up a stale plot-line.  I call it LEFT FIELD.

What I do is once I've finished defining a character, or a scene, or I'll even do it after I complete the first draft -- I'll sit down in a quiet place with my favorite beverage (usually coffee), and do nothing but think about that certain element, and try to add in totally random thoughts that have absolutely no bearing on anything.  I'm talking totally whacko stuff.  Where am I pulling these obtuse idea's from?  You got it, Left Field.  A good portion of the time this turns into an exercise in futility as none of my Left Field idea's spur a creative shift, but the times when it does work are pure gold.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.  The second book I wrote (Mystery/Suspense) has a character in it who originally was a simple taxi-driver, transporting the main characters from point A to point B.  I decided I wanted to spice up the presence of some secondary characters, so I brewed me a cup of Folgers and took a seat in a comfortable chair.  I thought about Phil (my taxi-driver character) for almost two hours, pulling personality traits out of Left Field to see if any would fit, until and idea popped into my head that at first seemed crazy...but had the uniqueness I was looking for.  What if he was a cabbie who was also agoraphobic?  You know, people who are afraid to leave their homes.  Except that Phil was slowly fighting his way back to normalcy and he was able to get in his car while it was parked in his garage, then drive around town with his taxi serving as his extended home.  A taxi-driver who was afraid to get out of his car? Phil went from being a bit player to a significant character overnight and every single person who's read that book (Fallen Knight) have singled out the agoraphobic taxi-driver as one of their favorite characters.

Left Field has served me well in my writing endeavors, both in character development and plot.  I'm sure many of you use a technique that's similar, I've just given mine a name.  If you've never tried it before, I highly recommend it.  Bringing the opposite ends of our imagination together can be a very rewarding experience, if you're open to the results.

20 comments

  1. I like that idea - my characters usually come to me pretty fully formed, but for those secondary ones who don't this seems like a great method.

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  2. I recently fell in love with a secondary character in a book I'm working on. It happened out of nowhere due to the specific characteristics. Funny how that works.

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  3. I don't believe that creative writing has any hard fast rules of how it should be done. But nothing wrong with exploring another's process and getting ideas that we can use. It's great to share and to learn.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

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  4. Very nice new digs, DL! I often step back when it comes to my writing, like before you send that very intense letter, which once you sleep on it, you realize you never should send at all. I take the time to dream, which includes daydream, and let my characters speak to me. It's similar to what you do, but I look for the things that need to taken away from my characters, rather than added. Then I go back and fill in the details.

    M. J.

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  5. It's like playing the What If game. Just come up with really wild things. Anything unexpected. And sometimes you'll find something better than how you imagined the story.

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  6. Cool idea. I might borrow this technique. Sounds like a great way to give a deeper sense of reality to your work by giving more depth to bit players.

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  7. Love the new site! That's a fun activity and finding ways to make those characters unique is fun! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Great suggestion, and GRRRRRREAT-looking website!

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  9. Lookin' good over here, DL! My characters tend to tap me on the shoulder and introduce themselves, so I rarely have the opportunity to ascribe characteristics. I do use a process similar to Left Field for plotting, however. If an idea surprises and intrigues me, I assume it has a chance of surprising and intriguing a reader. Needless to say, I'm a pantser.

    VR Barkowski

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  10. Love that idea! Combining weird and wacky is a great plan - it opens the brain & makes it more fluid. All good stuff! :)

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  11. I'll have to try that, I have a couple of characters that really need to be spiced up. Great to see you around! I love the new blog!

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  12. I have never thought of doing that, but I love the idea. Thank you for sharing it!!!

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  13. I love it when secondary characters have their own story fleshed out a bit. This is a great way to do just that. And I'll second the coffee.

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  14. You call it Left Field, I call it making them real.

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  15. DL, awesome way to add depth to secondary characters! I love reading about people with interesting attributes.

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  16. DL, I just realized you're back! Sorry I didn't pick up on that right away, but I was on a blogging break myself. Love your left field idea. I know my secondary characters need something to make them come to life.

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  17. This is a great technique to use! (plus it involves yummy drinks, so I'm down w/that- vanilla pop style) And that is such a unique spin on the taxi cab driver. I'm now thinking of all the things you might have done in the story to force him outta that cab...

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  18. I'm always open to ideas from other writers. I'll try this one...but I'm not a coffee drinker so it will have to be tea.

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  19. I love it when the story starts to become so real the story starts to play out in your head. Keeping an open mind and an eye on left field is a wonderful idea.

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