Friday, April 6, 2012

Writing Tip #13

It's been a while since I've done one of these, and my laptop is pretty much the only entertainment I've got all day, so I'd better get some writing in. This is something I think should be pretty obvious, but sometimes we writers get so wrapped up in our epic battles and raging gunfights that we forget about stuff like this.

Tip #13: Write vignettes for practice.

Vignettes and flash fiction pieces are quick pieces of writing that are not exactly "stories," as they lack a specific plot, conflict, and conclusion. They give a short glimpse into everyday life when your characters are interacting simply to interact, rather than to save the day and advance the story.

Writing vignettes has several purposes. First off, it helps with character development. Anyone following my blog at all should know how high I value that particular device. We all know how our main hero responds when someone points a gun or a sword at him, but what about his days off? Would he ever just go for a walk to enjoy scenery, or does he have people he talks to and jokes with when he's not off saving the world?

Another good use is to develop your setting. Take your characters on a little adventure. I have friends who have explored a nearby park and gone diving off a small waterfall. There's an even closer park with big tunnels that go beneath the interstate. I think a lot of people in the area must know that area like the back of their hand. Even if the reader never sees any of these little adventures your characters have, you at least have the locations in your mind and can draw upon them when you need to add a little padding to your main plot.

Vignettes are also great for focusing on characters who don't get much attention. I often notice that I end up with a few characters who have only a small handful of appearances, and that makes them harder to write when I feel they should come up. It goes along with character development, though this is more for determining their mannerisms and how they carry themselves rather than how they respond to stimuli.

Perhaps the most fun part of vignettes is releasing them to your readers after they've finished your novel and want more writing. It's fun to read about our favorite characters outside of the main plot. It gives us more information on what it would be like to know them, or even to be them.

Overall, I'd say vignettes are a great way to practice. I must have a dozen at least, and I plan on filling in enough gaps in Among the People Lost to eventually combine them into one book.

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