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Introduction

When I was working on my thesis novel for my master's degree, I was about fifty pages in when I realized I needed to include some scenes from the protagonist's wife's point of view. I've written stories with demons, aliens, elves--creatures so foreign that we can barely comprehend how they might think or act. But now, faced with the perspective of writing from the POV of a woman, apprehension filled me. Judging from some of the critique groups I've been in, and by the fact that I'm facilitating this workshop, this fear of writing from the perspective of the opposite gender is not uncommon.

Those supernatural or otherworldly characters are in some ways easier to write, because the chances that a vampire is going to pick up your masterpiece and say "That's not how a vampire would act" are slim. On the other hand, I've often heard (sometimes when my own work is under discussion) "but no man/woman would actually do/say/think that." That's not to say there's no room for embellishment, or that everything has to be exactly true-to-life. This is fiction, after all, and our readers keep reading because we offer them an escape from the mundane. Still, it's important to keep enough realism in our writing so that people walk away saying, "Gee, she really nailed that character--I can't believe a woman wrote that." (As an aside, if you read any of Tabitha King's novels--The Book of Reuben specifically comes to mind--you can see some great examples of a woman who really nails how guys think and act.) In our fiction, we want the characters to take over so that the reader is sucked into this other world. The last thing we want is for the reader to be yanked out of the story because our macho detective suddenly starts singing and dancing down the rain-slicked streets of the city.

So how do we achieve this balance, and put that realism in our writing? Over the next few weeks, we'll work on some writing exercises to help you "not think" the way a man does. For my dilemma with my master's thesis, I sat down and thought about the women I know--how they act, how they talk, what they do in stressful situations. Moreover, I thought about this specific character--a wife trying to support her husband through a lengthy recovery process--and I let the character tell me what she would do. You don't have to be a murderer to write a good villain, and you don't have to be a man to write like one. To add to what I said earlier, don't be afraid to add some twists. Your hard boiled detective can write sonnets, or like kittens, or volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters--as long as it fits that character. I hope that when we're done, that male lead in your novel will be so lifelike that you can smell the coffee/beer/Scotch--or maybe all three--on his breath.

Writing Prompts

Each week (more or less, depending on life), The Write Way will post a writing prompt to help get your creative juices flowing. Once you're done, send us your 250 word piece. We'll post the best submission (along with the author's biography and promotional material, if applicable) right here on this site. For all those shy guys out there, don't worry, you can always keep your prompt responses to yourself. This is a great way to get over writer's block or just stay in writing form. Make sure to include any information you want posted if you're the lucky winner. We reserve rights to your material for one calendar week. After that, just let us know and we'll remove it from our past prompt winners list, if you want us to.

Workshops

Matthew and Nataliepresented a workshop called "Motivating Yourself to Write Every Day" at Seton Hill University's In Your Write Mind writing workshop, June 23 to 26, 2011.

Matthew and Natalie presented a workshop on "Paths to Publication" at the Pennwriters annual conference on May 13, 2011. Matthew, Natalie, AG Devitt, Sally Bosco, Donna Munro, and Deanna Lepsch presented their writer's bootcamp at Seton Hill University;

Description: Spend fifteen minutes at each writing "station" learning new techniques for improving your writing.

From Matt's "Targeting Your Genre" presentation, a genre checklist handout. Have people as many as you can persuade read the first part of your story or novel, and then select the genre from the checklist.

From Natalie's "Word Choice Workout," a character lexicon and word choice checklist. Use the lexicon to keep track of your characters and their favorite words. Use the checklist to trim the fat in your prose.

Matthew and Natalie presented their seminar "Writing Action Scenes the WWETM Way" at the New Jersey Romance Writer'sTM conference, October 24 & 25, 2008. The Duvalls will talk about realistic and unrealistic action based on their training in multiple martial arts and Matt's experience as a professional wrestler.

About the instructors: Matt wrestled professionally for 10 years, appearing on national television with World Wrestling Entertainment. Matt published a number of short stories, and Natalie freelanced for the local paper.

Best writing retreats

Everyone loves to read a good book, especially when there is a strong and interesting story behind it, or when the writer's life is also interesting. They don't only tell stories and speak about important questions and parts of their life and lives of other people, they also often create new worlds.

In order to be able to do something like that the writers need a space they will feel good at and that will give them ideas and solve problems they may have. Islands are often a good solution, because they are away from the rest of the world, out on the sea where the writer can become a part of the world he is creating. Ossabaw Island Writers’ Retreat is the perfect place for that, it has the right climate, nature and something mysterious about it. Get Away to Write — Scotland is a writing experience that takes place at the university town of Dundee. It is hosted by the famous poet Peter E. Murphy, but it is good for fiction and nonfiction writers, as well. Maybe this is the right thing that will keep your creativity flow and give you new ideas, but first you need to log out from the internet, Facebook and the http://www.camplace.com, to go out in the world, because the big horror that may chase the writers is their living space. They connect it to their writing and once they want to start something new they can't do it and get a writer's block.

Story of a huge idea

The amount of creativity and imagination many writers put in one single novel or poem can be equal to the amount other people have in their whole life. But their ideas don't always come just like that, they often need to go out explore the world to get ideas and inspiration for their new stories. One of the most famous examples for that is JK Rowling, the famous writer of the Harry Potter series. She got the idea on a train and it came just like that, she was thinking about something totally different when a voice in her head told her about a young orphan who doesn't know he is a magician. Her success can't be measured with anything other authors achieved.

But the initial idea was not enough, of course, the story of 3407 pages needed a lot of creativity and good ideas in order to be written. Rowling often says that she used to go to a coffee shop next to her apartment and write there, the place had something, for sure. She also used a hotel in Edinburgh as the place where she wrote the last book. Scotland has actually given her many ideas for landscapes she described in her books. A good writer knows how to draw the ideas out of his or her environment, but the environment itself is crucial here, so you need to go out in the world, because you don't know if it will be in a train, on a river or in the forest, when the mind - taking idea will come to you.

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