Ghostwriter talks creative writing

A professional ghostwriter talks creative writing.

Don’t have the time to sit down and write this weekend? The work week got you down?

I contend that a lack of time is not the biggest obstacle to the creative temperament. The biggest obstacle is not properly feeding that imaginative urge.

Here are three things you can do that will keep the creative muscles flexed while you’re unable to write.

Ghostwriter Talks Creative Writing Tip 1: Play Hypothetical Games:

ghostwriter talks creative writing

I love this game. I call it, “What If?” I’ve been playing it since I was a teenager. Sit down in a crowded space. A cafe. An airport. A theater. Watch any person or group and create a little story about them.

What if those two are breaking up?

What if he’s just returning from a clandestine spy mission in Morocco?

What if they wrote the play?

The possibilities in this game are bounded only by your imagination. Flex those muscles. If you have to go to work or do errands instead of writing, stretch out a bit and push your boundaries.

 

Ghostwriter Talks Creative Writing Tip 2: Scenario Building

This exercise goes a bit further than the previous one. Create outlandish scenarios in everyday situations. This is an especially fun game to play with youngsters in tow.

What if the trunk of that car is full of clowns?

What if she has a parrot stashed under her jacket that’s telling her what to say?

What if that ice cream truck driver is actually an associate of James Bond? (Or Gru from Despicable Me if you’re playing with kids).

Sounds silly? It sounds silly because it is silly and that is OK.

We should never forget that, as writers, our core function is a type of play. We make up stories. And who does that better than a child at play? Watch your kid create an elaborate story line with just a toy truck at his disposal. Be like that. Be childlike.

Ghostwriter Talks Creative Writing Tip 3: Push Your Comfort Level On Judgement:

This may be difficult to stomach, but I believe a critical aspect of becoming a good writer is pushing your comfort level when it comes to judgments. You need to go a step beyond what is is easy for most.

I honed this ability over fifteen years in social work. Sometimes the scenario I encountered in the office forced me to be a tad judgmental. I had to simply say out loud, “that is not a nice person”.

I don’t think you should do it all the time and certainly not regarding people that you care about. But the rich array of characters in your story will include unseemly sorts. How best do you do that?

Be bold in your observations.

A writer needs to create realistic characters. People are disagreeable, devious and often unreliable… among a trove of other nasty traits. I don’t advocate cruelty or unfairness but when you’re crafting realistic characters, you may need to get to a level of judgment that feels uncomfortable.

That place beyond comfort is precisely what you’re looking seeking. Without it, fiction is flat.

Need more tips? Still feeling stuck? Give me a call. Together we can work out a strategy to get you back on track.

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Use Of Setting – Ghostwriter Pro Tips

The use of setting can have a powerful emotional impact in your story. But mastering the use of setting to enhance certain elements of the plot can be a difficult process. As a professional ghostwriter, I regularly work with writers whose use of setting falls short of delivering the impact that renders critical moments unforgettable. So let’s take a look at same particularly good writing to expose a few secrets of how to achieve this.

An examination of the use of setting in the Netflix series “Master Of None” eventually leads to a look at Season 2’s penultimate episode. In “Amarsi Un Po” the season’s lone hour-long installments, Ansari and his writing team essentially flip the use of setting from previous episodes.

For the better part of Season 2, “Master of None” thrived using a series of mostly intimate settings. Restaurants. Night clubs and taxi cabs. Apartments. Streets. The show is in large part about a young man’s private interior moments and Ansari found creative ways to bring that to life in Dev’s everyday.

Season 2 tells the story of Dev’s growing love for Francesca and of her ever dwindling ability to believe she can continue on with her boyfriend. That love thing between them is growing out of control and in “Amarsi Un Po” Ansari and his writing team finally use some of the grand settings New York has to offer.

The first act culminates in one of Manhattan’s most recognizable locations, Washington Square Park. After a nice dinner, Dev and Francesca walk and talk, seemingly carefree. This is a seemingly ordinary scene we have seen before, only now it is taking place by the night time glow of the white stone Arch which stands at the park’s northern gateway. Although the conversation between Dev and Francesca is familiar, we get our first sense that something much bigger is in store.

At the episode’s middle point, Dev rescues Francesca from a day alone and escorts her to the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. Again, the two lovers are simply walking and talking, but now they find themselves amid wide open fields, weaving their way through massive abstract sculptures. Although no one has said as much, setting tells the story that things are quickly getting complicated between them.

Finally, Dev can take no more. He has to say something to Francesca and we get a sense that she is finally ready to listen. When her boyfriend ditches her (again) Dev comes to the rescue (again). This time they take a night time helicopter ride around Manhattan. They circle over the city, taking in a bird’s eye view of one of the grandest cityscapes on planet earth.

And of course, it’s in that helicopter that Dev confesses his feelings for her.

The lesson we take from “Amarsi Un Po” is that sometimes a writer simply must think big. While using grand settings such as these too often can weigh the story down, setting critical moments of large emotional impact in iconic places can enhance their impact.

Ansari could have set these conversations in similar places and still been successful. The writing in “Master of None” is that good. These three scenes are the most pivotal in the series though, and setting them in iconic locations with sweeping views takes those critical moments and makes them unforgettable.

CALL TO ACTION:

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How To Expand Setting – Screenwriting Tips

How To Expand Setting

A current trend in screenwriting speaks directly to the need for writers to expand their thoughts on setting, specifically, how to expand setting itself. I’m talking about the appetite for “single location” scripts.

Anyone who has seen Ryan Reynolds in 2010’s “Buried” knows you don’t need an elaborate series of locations to tell a tough, heart racing thriller story. In the film (which famously cost $7,000 to produce, pointing to the reason why single location scripts are popular) Reynolds plays a civilian contractor in Iraq who has been buried alive and the entire 90-minute movie takes place inside of his coffin.

Claustrophobic? Then try Tom Hardy in 2014’s “Locke” where for a strong majority of the film we are stuck in the car with a man whose life is literally falling apart around him.

Maybe the most important factor in these films is that Reynolds and Hardy are terrific actors. They are the type of performers that can make this type of bare bones concept work.

There is something else at play though and that is a masterfully clever union of action and setting.

On the surface a coffin and a car are difficult locations to try and set an entire movie in. But, when considering how to expand setting, a closer look and careful planning expands that setting so that, while limited, it’s not going to choke off a good story.

Take Locke’s car for example. As a writer, setting an entire story in the car is a tough task. But look at the possible locations within the car to get the most out of it.

Front seat.

Floor.

Back seat.

Trunk.

If the car is parked in your script then you can make use of under the car, the hood and the roof, all while ostensibly limiting your script to the car.

The same thing can be said for that coffin.

In “Buried” the script, in the context of how to expand setting, confronts confinement head on with the obvious horrors. The story plays right into the viewer’s expectations. The writers move the character around inside of the confined space. They reveal new light and new darkness. If there are obvious phobias then go head on and show the audience or reader the desperation that the confined character feels.

Fear is, after all, one of the great motivators of action.

The success of “Buried” and “Locke” is in the bravura performances given by their actors but those performances are only possible in how deftly the writers (and directors) manipulated the space. Even if you’re not writing a single location project, look at all the ways to expand your locations to fit your needs.

The only truly limiting setting is one that isn’t adequately utilized by the writer.

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Writing good dialogue – Ghostwriting Tips

Tips For Writing Good Dialogue

Advice from a pro

Writing good dialogue, authentic dialog is tough. People talk in nuanced ways that aren’t always easy to capture on the page. They say you need an ear for it.

How does someone hone that ear though?

Playwright David Mamet’s advice on the subject is famously simple and abrupt. The great Mamet once advised a room full of eager creative writing graduates to eschew graduate school. Instead, he said, find a bar, preferably a pool hall without a television where they could sit down and listen.

Seems simple. Replace tuition with bar tab.

I have taken David Mamet’s advice to heart. I do not play pool (at least not well) but I do take frequent trips to a comfy stool at the quiet bar down the street and simply listen to what people say. It has proven to be the best means of achieving dialog that sounds like real people.

Writing good dialog comes from refinement.

Here are five truths and tips to refining your character dialog to achieve that authentic tone.

Read It Out Loud:

This may sound simplistic but a lot of writers that I know are afraid to do it. And why?

Because their dialog sounds hammy and on the nose.

If you want that real voice, read it out loud and avoid adding your inflection at all costs. This is a critical step, especially if you’re writing a screenplay, which is in large part a performance of your dialog.

Think In Negotiations:

All dialog is a negotiation. Think of what you say on a day to day basis at work or at home. Verbal communication is an expression of desire or purpose, all with the intent of affecting someone else.

This applies even when a character is talking to themselves. Self-talk is grooming for future interactions.

There is a very simple exercise to sharpen this sense. Put two characters in a room. One wants something that the other has but they cannot name or ask for it.

Write it and see all the ways allusion and suggestion enrich the conversation.

Negative Space:

Allow for negative space in your dialog. People don’t always say everything they are thinking. Omissions are as important as inclusions. If your character conversations begin with a hearty hello and end with their chosen means of good-bye, your dialog is probably overwritten.

A way to get this down is follow a simple rule: arrive late and leave early.

Conversations Are Rhythmic:

Straight line conversations simply do not exist. I cannot express this more emphatically. No one walks into a room, announces their purpose, gets what they want and walks out.

One of the ways I work on this is recording conversations. Get permission then record a normal conversation and you’ll see that it’s a rhythmic construct of all the above elements.

Introductions. Negotiations. Negative Space. Repeat.

Mamet Is Correct:

The core truth in Mamet’s statement applies. You cannot learn to hear real dialog a from TV or movie. Writers must find their story subjects in the world and listen to how they talk, interact, negotiate and feel.

An easy tip for writing good dialogue: Go out. Find that barstool. Sit. Listen.

If you’re having trouble writing good dialogue, or with any other area of your work, it may be beneficial to consider working with a professional ghostwriter. A ghostwriter works with you behind the scenes to take your writing to the next level. Considering it? Get in touch!

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Three ways to develop characters – Advice from a pro

Three Ways To Develop Characters

Advice from a professional writer

As a ghostwriter, I get asked a lot by other writers for advice on different ways to develop characters. Human beings are dynamic creatures by nature. We get restless when things are the same for too long. Why then do most writers shy away from infusing their creations with an element of change?

When I read a manuscript or work on developing a story, I am frequently shocked at how writers refuse to shake their characters up. They stubbornly adhere to that first description. A character that looks the same at the end of the story as they did in the beginning probably did not endure much of transformation. They act the same and do the same things regardless of how much chaos the writer has crafted around them.

Here are three very simple ways to shake up your characters out of stasis and give them life.

APPEARANCE:

Perhaps the simplest of ways to develop characters that transform through the story is a change is in their appearance. Take a look at Walter White. Throughout the course of Breaking Bad, the writers alter his look in subtle ways and each one signals a massive shift in his character.

Goatee.

A rumpled fedora.

The shaved head goes from the result of chemotherapy to gangland persona.

After six seasons, White is physically different than the man who first got that awful diagnosis. Each subtle change effectively builds anticipation in the viewer, leaving them wondering what might come next.

All too often, writers put their character in an imaginary costume and leave them in one place. In some ways I can see how this tendency makes sense. A character takes time and energy to design. A dynamic and interesting character isn’t the promise of stasis though. They are the promise of change.

Signal that change to your reader. Show what’s happening on the inside with a change on the outside. Foreshadow. Does your character cut their hair an episode or chapter before their big announcement?

Little things like this keep readers reading and viewers viewing.

ROUTINE:

Routine is nice. We all have them. Get up at a certain hour. Eat lunch at a certain place. Most people I know break their routines in a routine way too. When they go out for a beer they hit the same bar.

Stories are not about the status quo. They are about people that challenge the assumption of same. “American Beauty” tells a story of little more than this, a man whose day to day strangled him.

Not every story about routine change features a Lester Burnham character. Your character can choose to walk instead of drive to work. They can steal a bike. A simple flat tire can put your character on the bus to work and the melting pot of a city bus can offer up new obstacles and opportunities.

Challenge their routine or your begging for their dismissal.

RESPONSE:

The last of the three ways to develop characters is a little more subtle but can be an equally effective of demonstrating character change. Say your downtrodden hero goes out to coffee every morning and the barista always seems to screw up the order, and every morning your character sucks it up, takes the wrong cup and walks away.

Maybe your story isn’t about the coffee, but showing your character standing up for themselves signals a bigger change to come. I like to use the little interactions in a story as a gateway. Maybe standing their ground and asking for the right cup of coffee sets in motion the main action that is asking out a cute boy.

These are three ways to develop characters that will keep your writing fresh and bring your characters to life. If you’ve got a good story, but just need little help to push it over the hump, let me help. As a professional ghostwriter, I solve these issues all the time and I know I can do the same for you.

 

 

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Writing Tips From A Ghostwriter – Developing Setting In The Story

Writing Tips From A Ghostwriter

Consider these writing tips when you’re in the process of developing your story. These considerations and the others you’ll find here provide valuable insights into writing a compelling story!

How to successfully use setting in your story.

All too often in story, setting comes as an afterthought. This is unfortunate because a unique, well designed setting offers rich opportunities to increase the stakes and aggravate character journey. On the other hand an answer to “where” can serve as a means of enabling that character’s journey.

Think of Breaking Bad. Perhaps it’s an old example but once again it applies.

The desert southwest of New Mexico is evocative of lawlessness. The cowboy myth is engrained in our storytelling fabric. When a story opens on a tumbleweed, a viewer feels as though anything is possible.

The wide open spaces offer Walter and Jessie room to do their dirty work. Through the first few seasons, we find the awkward business partners working in their Winnebago, parked on a dusty desert road.

Look at this way and the wide open space enables Walter. If the story were set in a bigger city (their lab surrounded by crowds of nosy neighbors) White’s struggle could be less compelling. Walter would be just as interesting as a human being but Albuquerque ups the stakes around his ascent considerably.

The desert also allows the burgeoning conflict between Jessie and Walter to manifest in unique ways. Often the two men shout at the top of their lungs at one another. Could they in an suburban setting? Frequently we find Walter and Jessie reaching the heat of a conflict, only to step out of the Winnebago and have everything out, right there in the open air.

As you can begin to see, New Mexico was not random. The writers chose it.

Other writing tips involve examining the ways in which setting limits the characters. For example, the desert southwest serves to inhibit Walter White as well. Albuquerque is hot. A hostile climate means if something goes wrong (and it does go wrong) the environment can threaten their lives. When the drug lab Winnebago breaks down on the side of the road one series of problems presents, but that same camper broken down on the side of a scorching hot desert highway amps that up considerably.

Another way that setting inhibits Walter is its close proximity to the Mexican border. This gives the writer access to a different breed of drug dealing antagonist that is only a short drive away from our hero’s door. It doesn’t take much engineering to introduce bad guys like Tuco and Hector Salamanca to the story.

Setting is not strictly city, state and town. Micro settings exist within the larger setting. I keep coming back to the drug lab Winnebago. Why? It is unforgettable. The writers could have given their characters access to a safe house, but the Winnebago as a memorable micro-setting makes the story more iconic.

On the surface, setting may not seem critical. Some writers set it up like a plain white curtain backdrop. The assumption there is that basic allows the characters to shine through.

This is short sighted.

Think about setting in a deeper way. Challenge setting to become its own character. Some stories simply must take place in a certain location. You can’t tell a New York crime story without New York.

Whenever you can though, look at ways to enhance and diversify a story setting. Take a step back from the characters and their situation. Ask the simple question of where does this take place?

How can a few twists on setting create memorable scenes and unexpected opportunities? The answer to this may be the difference between a story that works well and a story that your reader can’t put down.

I hope these writing tips help you on your journey to completing your story! If you’ve never considered working with a professional ghostwriter, now might be the time. Let’s talk about how I can help you turn your dreams of a published book into reality.

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Develop memorable characters – Ghostwriter secrets

Develop Memorable Characters

A ghostwriters secrets for character development

The right character sets a trajectory that is capable of carrying your story the distance. To achieve three dimensional depth for that character requires careful design though.

Memorable characters are rarely happy accidents.

When we describe a well known protagonist such as Breaking Bad’s Walter White, we start with the most basic terms. Walter is a bedraggled family man and high school science teacher who upon discovering that he has a rare from of cancer decides he must come up with a way to pay for his expensive treatment.

This is a classic set-up. A guy with a problem that he has to reach far outside himself to solve. White could have curled up in a ball and accepted his fate, but that would not make for very interesting story telling.

Walter makes the informed decision to start cooking methamphetamine in order to make that kind of money. White is a science teacher. That means he can’t go and ask his boss for a raise. He has to reach outside of his world to drum up any serious cash. His job inhibits him on one hand but it enables him too. White he knows chemistry. Beakers and flasks and gas masks are his native environment.

To develop memorable characters, keep in mind that they must have something working against them achieving their goal. It should be insurmountable. It isn’t enough that White has to buy a broken down old Winnebago and lie to his wife in order to do cook up his drugs. The complications must escalate further and in a unique manner.

Walter White can cook the meth but he doesn’t know the first thing about selling methamphetamine. So, Walter is forced to enlist the help of his former student, Jesse Pinkman.

Herein you find a unique seed of conflict. White is an absolute control freak. The linear trajectory of his plan to manufacture and sell drugs is complicated by Pinkman’s more chaotic nature. The guy is a total screw up. His bumbling academic incompetence is precisely why he stuck out to White in the first place.

How do we escalate a story problem from the main character like in Breaking Bad? Here are a couple of questions I like to ask when I develop memorable characters to get to a deeper level.

Who Is The Character’s Natural Opposite?

I ask this question often throughout the story design stages. Who opposes my main character and their journey? Answering this comes both inside and outside of that character’s team.

In Breaking Bad there are enough competing street toughs and DEA agents to complicate White’s ascendance to meth kingpin. Those are complications from outside of White’s circle.

Character becomes interesting when you antagonize from inside of the protagonist’s circle as well. Pinkman is as much an antagonist as he is sales associate. Jessie offers a natural personality conflict to the power hungry White but they must struggle to work together. Neither White nor Pinkman can thrive in this new world without the other’s skill set.

Who Is The Character’s Story Doppelgänger?

Here is where this can get even more interesting. When creating a character arc, I like to look into the story at who is so similar to my main character that their purposes intersect and complicate one another.

Take Skyler White, Walter’s loving wife. At first the reality of her husband’s drug dealings are abhorrent. The taste of money and control gets to Skyler though. It feeds her in a way that is new and exciting to her.

Much of Breaking Bad is spent in a cat-and-mouse game between Walter and Skyler. Early on he does whatever he can to keep this revelation from her. The series becomes even more interesting (and I would argue attains legendary status) when they become two cats after the same mouse.

If you’d like to get to know how a professional ghostwriter can help you develop memorable characters for your stories, get in touch! Developing a good relationship with a ghostwriter can make the difference between getting published and wishing you could!

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Manuscript Makeover

Ways To Love Re-Writing Your Novel

If you’re like most writers, completing your novel’s first draft is a cathartic experience. From story inspiration up through meticulous plot and character development and execution, story creation is a special act, regardless of level of experience.

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Erick MertzManuscript Makeover
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