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Kicking my characters’ butts

October 4, 2011

While workmates contemplate and enrol in university degrees, I am adding to my writer’s toolbox this month by doing 3 online courses.

Already I’m part way through Angela James’ course Before You Hit Send, which looks at the finer details of editing. This has been an interesting course as the first half has focused on grammar. I went through the period of schooling where grammar was not ‘taught’ – it was assumed you would pick it up by reading, or that grammar would stifle your creativity. I’m not really sure of the logic behind the principle, but enough to say the only grammar I picked up school was in my French class.

When Margie Lawson held her Open House at the Lawson Writing Academy, I won an online course of my choice. I chose her Advanced Edits System: Turning Troubled Scenes into Winners course which started yesterday. Now Margie asks us to highlight our manuscripts with highlighters and she recommends the retractible kind.  Well, I’ve yet to find a retractible highlighter in Australia. Officeworks, help me out! In our introductions, Margie asked what parts of her Edits system we do well.  My answer: highlighting! I love how pretty my manuscript is with all those colours, but I’m sure it would look even prettier with retractible highlighters.

We were also asked to identify our weaknesses and one of my writing weaknesses is writing action and body language. I’m great at dialogue – I’m always hearing my characters speak (note: I said characters, not voices in my head. I swear they are characters, really!) and I hear full scenes of dialogue. I consider myself to be an auditory writer. What is harder for me is to imagine what my characters are doing while they’re having these fabulous conversations. (and this is despite spending my wayward youth at the local theatre group)

So I also enrolled in the course: Triple Threat Behind Staging a Scene, presented by Tiffany Lawson Inman. Here is the blurb:

Action creates a rhythm allowing the reader to breathe in sync with your characters. Physicality has the ability to highlight personality, relationship, and motivation. Choreography, in a fight or love scene, can expose the intricacies of your ever moving story.

Topics covered in this course:

– Fight Scenes: Physical. Learn how to brawl on the page from a certified Stage Combatant.

– Fight Scenes: Verbal. Words can be stronger than swords.

– All Scenes Have Rhythm: Plain Jane and G.I. Jane show how action plays a role.

– Multiple Character Scenes: As easy as 1-2-3.

– Emphasize personality, relationship, and motivation through small, simple details.

– Spotlight on the Backdrop: Using props and setting to move your story forward.

– Audition each character: Making sure each movement matches their personality.

– Manipulate the reader’s focus using tips from Broadway directors.

– Write your character deeper into conflict, with a flick of the wrist, and a punch of emotion


Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?  Just what I need to kick my characters’ butts into action. And perhaps at the end of the month, my characters will be so busy ‘acting’, they’ll stop talking so much.

Tiffany is holding enrolments open until the end of this week, so why don’t you join me in the course and kick your characters’ butts into action!

Enrol here: Lawson Writer’s Academy

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