Recently I attended a half-day workshop by Charles Euchner on using his Writing Code system. Charlie is charming, funny, Ã¼ber-intelligent and his list of achievements will knock your socks off. I know I was intimidated, but only a little because he is so easy to talk to. Anyway, I really liked his approach.
He utilizes the latest research on the brain and how we learn to make writing more intuitive. His book, which I am currently reading, explains everything fully. The Writing Code covers Storytelling, Construction and Analysis and is applicable to every kind of writing – from an email to a blog to an article to a novel. And though I will do my best here to give you a brief idea of what his system is about, he says it far better than me on his website (listed at bottom).
One of his techniques is to write everything in landscape mode versus portrait, to put only one sentence per line and to do it single space with a double space between paragraphs. Okay – I wanted to show you how I wrote this post this way but it doesn’t display correctly, so you’ll have to take my word for it…I wrote it landscape, one sentence per line. I do not, however, attest to my ability to write great sentences.
You should start every piece (sentences, paragraphs, sections or chapters, and novels) strong and end every piece strong. The technique gives you an opportunity to easily see if you are starting and ending strong. It has other editing advantages as well. It takes some getting used to, but I’m getting better.
Another thing Euchner has you do is a Character Dossier. And, this is not just the standard name, physical description and surface background. It asks you to go in depth and answer questions with some real thought. One might be who is that character’s foe in their youth. You don’t just say, “Bob.” You’d answer, “Bob used to torment Hero when they were in 5th grade because Hero had a slight lisp.” Or something like it.
In this way, you really begin to see the motivations that drive our characters. Not just in the ways immediately apparent to the current plot, but in ways that could subtly effect the way they react to minor things you hadn’t planned for in the story.
As I said, I’m reading the book now and trying the techniques he advocates. I’ve already learned things about my characters I didn’t know. That was cool.
I found a lot of merit in his methods which is why I’m not only trying his approach, but also blogging about it. Check it out if you need some fresh ideas or a new method to bolster your writing.
Here’s Charles Euchner’s website: http://www.thewritingcodesystem.com
Let me know what you think.
I particularly like your comment on character dossiers. I heard a writer say once that she interviews her characters. It’s a bit like talking to oneself, but I can see real value in it. You ask your characters tough questions and look at the answers they would really give.
Clancy, how is it working out for you with writing one sentence per line?
Colette – I already had these big interviews I put my characters through, but this one adds stuff I hadn’t thought of – like what the parents do, how they grew up, what were their hopes and dreams – if I know that then I have a better idea of what the character’s childhood may have been like. I really like drilling down into characters and getting to know them.
Kylie – The one line sentence takes some getting used to but it really does give you the ability to see a lot of things very easily. You can see if you’re varying sentence length, you can quickly see how the sentences are starting and stopping, so you see if you’re using the same kind of beginnings repetitively – there’s a list of reasons… I like it so far.
Start strong, end strong.
The best writing advice you can give or receive.
I also do the character interview thing, although I try and write as though the character is answering. Some people lie, others mislead. Some give you extraneous info while others won’t respond fully or will try and distract you with a question of their own (I know I’m mad!)
The biggest thing is that I like to be surprised by my characters, and so I often write them when I still have no idea who they are – they reveal themselves to me through my first draft or two…
ChrisWhiteWrites – I get it. I find my characters do the same things or are lying to themselves, so I always try to include an interview of someone close to them (sibling, parent , whatever) so I can get a better perspective on them and a more honest one. That’s how I figure out who they are too 🙂