A Journalism Major in a Poetry Class

There are so many different ways to write. But sometimes it’s easy to forget the complexities of these different writing types.  When I started college, my writing experience wasn’t the vastest. It consisted of MLA formatted essays and the beginnings of stories left unfinished. I didn’t step out into the wide writing world until college. I learned APA, how to write press releases, and after a while, poetry writing. In a move that was both scary and exciting, I managed to weasel my way into an English major’s class as a Journalism major. I had pitched it to my advisor as a great way for me to hone my writing skills in case I wanted to be a copywriter. Whatever it takes right? 

Before I took this class, I had mildly ventured out into the world of poetry. When an emotion became too vivid, it was somehow easier for me to channel into poetry than anything else. I even got a few published in my university’s publication. But I didn’t consider myself enough to be a poet. The world of poetry is vast and intimidating, especially for a girl who doesn’t consider herself a writer. Because my poetry wasn’t deep or full of clever author choices, it didn’t feel good enough. Needless to say, my imposter syndrome was pretty high when I walked into my poetry class. 

Thankfully, my professor was encouraging and not at all condescending towards my writing. Which was a blessing to me, because my writing felt juvenile compared to some of the works we were reading. During that time, we kept a journal and had the task of writing a few poems in it a week. As the semester progressed, I felt less perturbed by the blank page when it was time to write. In fact, I sometimes found myself jotting down an idea on my phone to write in the journal later. It was so exciting to feel the current of creativity flowing out of me. Even if my writing wasn’t as “sophisticated” as my classmates’, I was happy with what I had. 

I found that my PR classes helped a lot with my writing instead of hindering it. In a press release, you have to include as much information as possible within a limited word count. Because of this, you have to be strategic when choosing your words. I found this also true when I was writing poetry for class. When you craft a poem, each word you choose matters. It was challenging, but also comforting in its familiarity. I channeled the wisdom I learned from my JMC classes to help me, especially when I was editing my poetry. 

Taking a poetry class also helped my writing skills in my JMC classes. This class allowed me to explore a new writing style that was actually super helpful in my JMC classes. During the time of my poetry class, I was working on a campaign for an advertising competition with my class. The writing experience I got in my poetry class helped me edit the copy for the ads we were pitching. I  discovered that it also helped with my brainstorming process. I guess they both pull from the same pool of creativity! 

In the end, I found my experience in my poetry class to be a big help to my writing and creativity. What about y’all? Have you ever taken a poetry class, and what was the experience like? How did it help out in other parts of your life? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing everyone!

A Novelist Learns How to Write a Screenplay

The world of writing is vast and full of many different mediums. I have placed myself in the part of that world for novelists and blog post writers. But I often wonder what it’s like for the other worlds of writers. After all, even if the process is similar, the product is so different. In my quest to learn more about writing, I wanted to visit a new section of the writing world: screenplays.

To assist me in my quest to learn more about screenplay writing, I referenced Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. He takes interested scriptwriters through the process of writing, pitching, and more. I’ve read Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, which used Synder’s book as inspiration. I decided to use these two books to compare the processes for writing a novel, and writing a screenplay.

When reading these two books, I discovered that the writing process is very similar. Not a huge surprise, but interesting when you consider one is more of a visual medium. It’s also the case when you consider that Brody’s process took inspiration from Snyder’s book. There are similar genres with the same beats when you are plotting them on your cards and storyboard. The story structure is also very similar, with the classic three acts like the hero’s journey. Dialogue for both types of writing is very important and vital, but “show don’t tell” is still king. 

It was interesting to me that one of the big differences in these processes is the prep and pitch work. When prepping for a screenplay, you focus on a one-sentence pitch to get the story across, aka the logline. It has to get the point across, and tell executives the target audience and how much it’ll cost. Also, you have to be able to picture the movie poster from your logline. A very hefty sentence! In novel writing, you have a bit more wiggle room, and you don’t have to worry about cost and target audience as much. Snyder says that you have to test your logline out in the real world to see if it fits. Instead of passing it along to your peers like you might do for your novel, you pitch it to anyone. Strangers in line with you at a coffee shop? Check. Your neighbor who you see when you take out the trash every morning? Also yes. It’s a more extroverted approach to testing the waters, and it makes more sense. In screenplays, the target audience aims to be as mass-market as possible. This makes it simpler to sell to executives and audiences. So testing it out with a bunch of different people is a great way to see if it falls into that realm. 

The pitch work has some overlap. You sometimes need an agent, but who you know can be the most important thing. What interests me is how creative you can get with the pitches. Sure, you can get creative with novel pitches, but not like the examples Synder lists. Synder and his writing partner sold a movie with a unique approach. They sent kids to executive’s with backpacks full of fake money and the pitch to help visualize the story. He mentions many other examples of how writers get executives in the mood to hear their story. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s still a fun and interesting approach to marketing. As someone who works in advertising, these out-of-the-box ideas are exciting. 

Did reading this book give me hope that someday I could write a screenplay? A bit. I still have a lot to learn before I can cross that off my bucket list. Have you ever written a screenplay? How was the process different from novel writing in your eyes? If you haven’t, what kind of screenplay would you like to write? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!

Researching as a Writer

Writing a story involves a lot of steps. That’s stating the obvious to any writer who’s ever gotten a story idea. With things like world building, writers spend immense time on stories before the storytelling begins. Character design? With the character sheets out there, who knows how long that could take. Depending on the story and writer, one of these time-consuming steps is research. 

Research is the bane of some people’s existence. There are those who write and then decide to go back and research later to confirm. I am not one of those people. As you’ve most likely gathered from my previous posts, I am a fan of research. In fact, I find myself journeying down research rabbit holes instead of writing.  I can sit down for an hour of writing and spend thirty minutes of that time researching historical facts. 

During my trips down the research path, I’ve learned some very random and strange facts. Many of these things I have found through the glory of writing boards on Pinterest or the land of Google. If you’ve ever befriended a writer, they will tell you that the research is only for storytelling. And remind you often. This is not to concern you, only to make you less freaked when you check out their Pinterest. I’ve had friends ask me what I was up to because I kept pinning stuff about gunshot wounds and fighting tactics. Now they know not to ask questions because I’ve taken to pinning these oddities to my writing board.

Researching leaves you with information that’s useless outside of writing and trivia games. As someone who loves learning, I get excited when I have the opportunity to tell someone one of these facts. Is someone curious about ways to find out if someone’s lying via body language, I have a few suggestions. You never know, your research may pay off in the real world too.

What is something interesting you’ve learned while researching for a story? Do you like to research before or after you finish a rough draft? Let me know in the comments below! I’m excited to learn about other people’s process during this stage. Thanks for reading everyone, and happy writing!

Rejuvenating with Writing

 It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that things have been a bit rough for a lot of people recently.  We’re all grasping at straws to find some hint of what used to be normal, while trying to grow and change at the same time. On the whole, it can get a bit exhausting. Sometimes you have to take a break from the glaring reality flashing in your face. Whether it’s gardening, Zoom calling your friends, or reading a book, you need something to rejuvenate your spirit. To keep you on the path towards a brighter future.

For the longest time, the only thing that fell into this category for me was reading. Then music joined the mix, but it’s a bit difficult to quietly practice a clarinet in an apartment complex. Especially when everyone is at home to hear your cringey attempts at relearning scales. Reading has been a comfort to me, but I’ve also found that writing has joined the ranks as well. When I write, that is. Writing can ebb and flow in my life to extreme degrees. So, when it is in my grasp, I snatch it up like a child catching a lightning bug. Cupped firmly-but delicately- in two hands, to see the glow of inspiration between fingers. 

Writing this blog has been a mixed bag for me right now. Some days, I can feel the ideas for future content flowing from me. But only when I’m in a location where writing said ideas down is an impossibility. Most days it feels like a chore, but one that I enjoy doing once I’m in the middle of it. I’m sure you have something in your life like that right now. 

But the nice thing about writing right now, despite my lack of inspiration, is time. Time to focus on research rabbit holes about 1920s archaeologists, or invent an underground network of spies. If you feel stuck in the rejuvenating hobby, try a new strategy. For me, this new strategy is research or character sheets. I can pull myself into parts of writing that normally won’t cross my mind until I’m in the thick of a writing session. Researching might not add words to the page, but it can add ideas to my mind that I can pluck out later when I’m stuck. Designing a new character might put their words on the page in a new way. It’s also a great way to learn about how your characters will interact differently with each of the characters in your novel.  

If you’re like me, staring at your lack of life progress in frustration, take time to rejuvenate. If you feel stuck, try that new strategy. Take a new look at another piece of it that will help the big picture. Rabbit holes of researching or learning about writing are some ways that I’ve kept my big picture. How will you help yours? What are you doing, or are wishing that you could do, to reignite your spirit? Let me know in the comments below. Stay safe out there everyone, and happy writing. 

 

6 Tips for Naming a Character

There are many things to figure out when creating a story. Where does it take place? What’s going on? Why are your characters involved? One of the most important aspects to figure out is something that can be deceivingly difficult; your character’s names. Naming a character can be a walk in the park for some, but others can struggle to find that perfect name. Even when you find a good name, it might be up in the air. It might not work for them later on in the story, and then you’re back to square one. When faced with the character-naming struggle, there are a few ways you can find the perfect name. Here are a few tips to help get you on the right path.

1.  Consult the Census

If you are writing a historical novel, or even one that takes place in our modern world, the census is a great asset. This is especially true if you are in the United States and your story takes place in the US as well. First, figure out when your story is taking place. Then, look up “census names for” and then the year or decade of the story. Try to focus on the top 100 or top 150 names when considering your options. This gives you a lot of options, and allows you to use a more unique name if you want. It can also be fun to switch it up a little! If you’re writing a fantasy novel, it might be fun to name your characters names from the 1920s or 1800s. Keep your mind open. You never know what you’ll find!

2.  Graveyards 

This option is a bit creepy, but many authors have used this tactic to name their characters. If you are visiting or live in a city with old graveyards, it’s a huge bonus. Take a notebook with you and write  down names that you find interesting. Write down first and last names so that you can mix and match when you get home. You might find a great name for a character among many tombstones. This option is great for any novel, not only historic ones. If you do this, there are of course a few rules. Most important, be respectful. Don’t write down the name of someone who’s family is in the cemetery with you. Also, only visit when the cemetery is open and you are able to go inside. As long as you follow these rules, this is a great option to get those creative juices flowing. 

3. Baby Name Sites

This a more obvious option, but still a great way to find a name for your character. You can search baby names by region, time-period, origin, and meaning.  If you’ve already figured out some attributes of your character, try searching names with meanings that match. Or, you can name your character a name that represents who they will become by the end of the story. Baby name sites are also great because they have an endless list of names that can expand your horizons. If you want your character to have an E name but you’re avoiding Emily or Edward, these sites will give you some great options. They also have names by region and origin, which you can use to find names that match your character’s family background or location. 

4. Shakespeare…and other historical texts

He’s back on my blog already! This might not be ideal for all genres, but Shakespeare is a great resource for character names. His plays have interesting names and names that are common even today. You can edit these names to fit in a modern setting, such as a character named Titania who goes by Nia. Many of these names also work in a fantasy setting. After all, Hermione from Harry Potter got her name from Shakespeare! You can also check out classics novels and mythology for name inspiration. 

5. Name Generators

When all else fails, these are a great inspiration for character names.  There are generators that spit out completely random names. They’re both fun and helpful for characters in our world. There are also generators where you can narrow down the name options by many factors. Either way, you should get many name ideas from this option. As you go, write down the names that the generator recommends to you. Then you can go back to these options later and choose between them. You can also get inspiration for other characters in the future! There are so many generators to choose from, but I found Name-Generator.org.uk has some good options. You can check them out here

6. Family Tree

This might seem a bit weird, but it’s a great way to find names. If your story takes places in the 1930s, consult your family tree (if you have one) for the time that your characters were born. So if your characters are in their 20s in the 1930s, look at your family tree for peopl born in the 1910s. If you have the information available to you, looking at names on both sides of your family is a great way to come up with a unique name. For one of my stories, I named a character after the first name of my great-great paternal grandmother. Her last name was from my maternal great-grandmother’s side of the family. This is also a great way to get to know your family better while you’re writing a story! Or find some wacky names in your family history. 

Have you ever tried these tactics to name your characters? What is your favorite way to find names for your characters? Let me know in the comments below! If you’ve found a way to name your characters that I haven’t mentioned, leave a comment. I’m always looking for new ways to approach the writing process! I hope this post has helped you jump start your character-naming process. Thanks so much for reading and happy writing!

Impostor Syndrome: A Writer’s Worst Nightmare

It’s that time of the day. Time to crack open a notebook or open your laptop with a mission to write. Before jumping into the creative pool inside your mind, the blank space makes your brain pause. Your brain starts to buzz, thoughts blurring together into a frenzy. Among the sound of trapped bees buzzing in your head, one thought is loudest of all. Can I really do this? 

Creativity is a vast and diverse landscape, but people still deal with this question. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of pulling stories or notes out of thin air to create new projects. While it’s prevalent in all fields, it blossoms in creative ones like a weed. If you’re not careful, it can kill the flowers in your garden of creativity. Impostor syndrome is a tricky thing, after all.

Impostor syndrome is hard to ignore. When all you want to do is write, but you can’t help thinking about those who are better than you. It doesn’t matter that those authors have been practicing for ages to get where they are. The evil impostor syndrome plays a Jedi mind trick on you to miss those obvious facts. As someone who often faces this looming figure, it can be a daunting obstacle. Especially in a creative city.

A few years ago, I moved to the creative and bustling city of Nashville, TN. It was so exciting to surround myself with music, art and writers. When I did my first year of NaNoWriMo in Nashville, I realized that so many people had the same skill as me. But they wrote like they had perfected their writing skills at Oxford or Yale. Meanwhile, I was in the corner creating middle-school level stuff in comparison. Instead of meeting with groups to discuss my writing, I hid in a local Panera and worked by myself. I felt terrified that they would look down on me for my writing, even though I never met them. I was an impostor in the writing community, and it was only a matter of time before they found out.

Not much has changed since I first dipped my toe into the writing world. I often look at the wonderful, creative people and have that same question floating in my head. It even almost prevented me from starting this blog. I started it four times before I finally shut up that doubting voice and hit post. I have to remind myself that practicing is as important for writing as it is for playing instrument. I can’t reach my potential without taking the time to fail. 

That’s something I would encourage everyone in a creative field to remind themselves. You have to fail to learn, and it’s okay if you keep stumbling. What matters is that you get back up and keep going. Who knows what might lay in store for you down the path you’re traveling. When impostor syndrome blocks the path, you have to stand tall and deal with the obstacle. The other side of it might bring out something new in you that you could never predict.

Happy writing everyone! Never let impostor syndrome stop you from doing what you love.

5 Awesome Audible Audiobooks to Check Out

In this magical, modern world, there are so many ways to read. Kindles, Nooks, modern phones, and audio books have joined the ranks of physical books. That means we can read almost anywhere, at any time! One of the newer ways to enjoy your favorite story is Audible. For anyone unaware, Audible is an audio book monthly subscription. Through the magical world of Audible, I’ve been able to enjoy countless books. I can listen to them while driving, while cleaning, even while I’m chasing down my dog for his frisbee! 

Audiobooks can sometimes make you miss the feeling of a physical book, but they can also elevate the story. I have been able to enjoy many books more through audio books than through the physical book itself. These books are often non-fiction, or even self-help books. But there are fiction books that I adore in the audiobook version more. Here are a few of my favorites to check out the next time you log into your Audible account!

  1. Six of Crows

Six of Crows, by the wonderful Leigh Bardugo, is a marvel in any form. The story of a group of teens off to pull the most daring heist in the Grishaverse. Led by Kaz Brekker, the most dangerous criminal prodigy in Ketterdam, the group is bound for a crazy ride. This story unfolds through the POVs of seven characters. A mighty challenge for those creating audiobooks! Instead of using one person to play all the characters, each POV has a different voice actor. When they begin their chapters, the character shines through the voice actor. The different voices also help you distinguish when point-of-views switch. It’s also very useful for pronunciation! There is amazing world building, which comes with many new words. Words that my silly brain couldn’t figure out. With the audio book, I know how to say words like Fjerda and Hringkälla! If you’re interested, you can check out this audiobook here.

  1. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

To anyone who has read my past blog posts or asked me for book recommendations, this isn’t a surprise. I love the Flavia series by Alan Bradley, especially the audio books. Jayne Entwistle brings the character of Flavia to life in a brilliant way. We sometimes forget that she’s an eleven year-old girl solving crime, but Jayne doesn’t. She always includes Flavia’s intelligence and her childlike wonder in her performance. It makes Flavia even more of a dynamic character! This audiobook is also great for what I call the “sciency nerd time” sections of the book. These sections are wonderful character building sections for Flavia, and are super educational. The problem is that my brain is not very fond of understanding science, especially chemistry. Reading it on a page makes me feel like I’m stepping back into chemistry class. The audiobook makes it way easier to understand the scientific reactions that Flavia describes. Jayne also does an amazing job of selling Flavia’s excitement to talk about chemistry. She sounds adorable, despite her discussion about poisons. Flavia in a nutshell. If you want to listen to a Holmes-esc character solve crime, check out this audiobook here.

  1. Sherlock Holmes Series

Odds are that you’ve seen these stories around. One of it’s main characters is one of the most famous fictional detectives in history after all! Sherlock Holmes is a household name, with millions discovering his adventures every year. He has been in movies, TV shows, plays, and more. It makes sense that there’d be at least one audiobook of his adventures. Stephen Fry does a spectacular job bringing the voices of Watson and Holmes to life in this audiobook. Stephen’s soothing British accent pulls you into the world of Victorian London. The language and customs of the time sound perfectly normal in his accent. His telling of the classic tales somehow makes more sense to the modern reader than a first glance at the story. For those who struggle with the writing style of the late 1800s, this is a great way to get into Holmes. If you’re looking for something to listen to on a rainy day, it’s the perfect audiobook to check out. Make sure you don’t forget the warm beverage, especially if it’s tea! If you want to dive into the world of Sherlock Holmes, you can check out the audiobook here.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

This series is full of strong childhood memories more many people, including myself. I still remember when I read the first book and the first time I heard the audiobook. The audiobook versions of the series are already well-loved by the fans. Jim Dale’s voice sounds like our childhood, like warmth on a cold day. Jim’s voice brings the magic of the world to life with his calming accent that’s full of wit and charm. His voice reminds me of my first introduction to Harry Potter. I was riding with my friend’s family in their station wagon with backwards facing seats on the way to the movies. They played Jim’s voice over the car speakers everywhere they drove. My friends family used to joke that they were the Weasleys every time they pulled out the book tape. When I was older, my sister discovered the audiobook on Audible. We jumped at the chance to hear it again. Despite my many repeats of the books and movies, Jim Dale’s voice always makes the story fresh. And if you reread books like I do, that is always the best kind of audiobook. If you want to check out the audiobook version of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, you can check it out here.

  1. Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is another novel that’s making it’s return to Sorry I’m Booked. As a lover of the movies inspired by many of Jane Austen’s novels, I wanted to finally read her most famous for myself. One chapter in, I ran into a recurring problem for me when reading classics; the language. I read many classics for high school and college, including Jane Austen. Now my brain correlates that language with dreaded homework. I’ve tried countless times to reverse it, but it’s hard to forget all the papers and in-class analysis. When I stumbled upon the audiobook version, I sighed with relief. When you listen to classics they are so much easier to understand, especially with a good voice actor. Considering this audiobook has Rosamund Pike, Jane in the 2005 movie, as the voice actor, I had high hopes. Rosamund does a great job giving life to the multitude of characters. She even made Mr. Collins worse than I remember with the stuffy and slimy voice she gave his character. Her voice transports you to the world of Elizabeth, and makes the language of her world less daunting. If you’re interested in taking a trip to the world of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, check out the audiobook here

What are your favorite audiobooks? If you’ve listened to any of these, what were your thoughts about them? Let me know in the comments below! If there’s an audiobook that you think I have to check out right now, you can send over a recommendation here. Don’t forget to enjoy some sunshine while you’re listening to the next audiobook. Happy reading and listening!

The Mind of a Writer

To the outside world, writers can seem like an enigma. They pull plots and characters out of thin air. Creations that pull us into new worlds and exciting lives much different than our own. How can a person scribbling into a notebook or typing like a madman on a computer create these new worlds?  People have been doing it since we learned to write, but it can still be baffling to those lacking a writer’s brain. What is it like inside their heads? 

A writer’s brain is different from person to person, much like their writing process. Some writers have a fountain of ideas that they can pull out of their mind on a rainy day. Others have ideas pop into their heads rarely and at inconvenient moments. They have to scramble to get things down, otherwise it will flutter away on the wind. 

Despite the varying ways writers approach writing, the minds of writers are similar. Most people pulling characters out of thin air have brains full of little details. Details about the world and the people in it that they use to build characters. I’ve often found myself people-watching to figure out how people walk or speak to file away for later. Or I’ve taken a gazillion pictures of an area that I want to include in a story. Writers have a knack for observation. You never know, you may find a story idea in the color of a flower or an overheard conversation. 

Writing also calls for an ability to come up with tough situations for your characters to deal with. Some are familiar to the writer, while others are out there in a magical realm with no context. Some writers have an overthinking brain, which they can use in this situation. Writers with this type of brain can come up with worse case scenarios for anything. While it’s not great for everyday life, it can create compelling stories. It’s also helpful for those with writer’s block needing to up the ante on a story. If a writer can’t figure out all the details, Google is their BFF. It creates a weird search history, but helps get the job done. 

One of the most important things in a writer’s brain is empathy. Sure, creativity is up there, but compassion is key. Empathy helps a writer get inside the head of a character who is nothing like them. It’s hard to create someone who appears to be a fully-fledged human in the world of the story. With an understanding of those different to them, writer’s can create those characters. It’s more interesting to learn about characters who are different from their creator. Yet they still came out of that person’s mind. 

If you think about it, writing is weird, especially fiction writing. Pulling these things out of thin air takes a mind geared for the challenge. Across the genres, writers have to tap into a side of them that others might not use often. It’s how we’ve been able to visit our favorite worlds and meet the characters we love. Without a writer’s brain, weirdness and all, the world would be a boring place.

3 Musicals With Amazing Writing

Musicals are oftentimes like Vegemite: you either love them or hate them. As a music and writing nerd, I fall into the love camp.  When I was little, musicals were a way to spend time with friends during the summer. I remember doing all sorts of silly warm-ups to warm up my voice for my chorus roles. As I’ve gotten older, my participation in musicals decreased. I’m enthusiastic, but a singer and actor I am not. Instead, I’ve become an observer. I listen to cast albums, see musicals when I can, and force my favorites onto my friends. Through my rekindled love of musicals, I’ve grown to appreciate the writers. Over the years, I have latched onto a few that always leave me fangirling at the writing. From comedies to drama, here are some of my favorite musicals in no particular order.

1. Hadestown

Hadestown is a more recent musical that is a breath of fresh air.  Disclaimer: I haven’t seen this musical, so most of my writing knowledge is from on the cast album. The story is an adaptation of the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  As a mythology nerd, I love how they took the original tragedy and put it in a more modern time. The New Orleans jazz-style music is a great medium for the lyrics. It’s a great way to illustrate the difference between the world above and the Underworld. 

The writers also use that backdrop to paint a picture of two story-lines that overlap. The plot follows the young lovers, as well as the fading love of Hades and Persephone. The musical uses similar musical themes and lyrics for Orpheus and Hades. It’s very evident when Orpheus helps Hades remember his pure love for Persephone. One of the most successful parts of this musical is the plotting. Despite knowing the myth well, I still hoped that the lovers would be able to reunite. The musical is great at giving you hope for a happy ending until fate catches up. Even after countless listens, the final songs always hit hard. You can’t help hoping that this time it’ll be different, that they’ll make it into the light. If you want to give a listen to this old tale from way back when, check it out here.

2.  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a comedy that follows the adventures of Monty Navarro. Upon his mother’s death, he learns that he is ninth in line for a dukedom in the D’Ysquith family. Instead of waiting, he takes matters into his own hands and starts murdering his family. It sounds like it would be another dramatic tale. Instead, Monty finds himself in hilarious situations while he executes his crime. The writing for this show is sharp and witty. The writing reminds me of Clue, except we are inside the head of the killer. The music propels the plot forward with snappy lines and strong use of darker humor.  

I was lucky to see this musical with the original cast in New York City. In the production, one man plays all the  D’Ysquiths that Monty murders. The writers use distinct voices for each member of the family. This makes it easier for the audience to distinguish the characters. With the help of costumes and acting of course. The same is true for the two ladies in Monty’s life. Their dialogue and songs are very distinct. The only time they are very similar is when they are speaking of Monty, or are covering for him. There is also a bit of a plot twist among the deaths that Monty isn’t expecting. If you want to find out what happens, check out the original cast album here.

3. The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals

This musical is the only one on the list that isn’t a Broadway production. The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals is a creation of Starkid, a theater company known for A Very Potter Musical. The story follows Paul, a guy who hates musicals. With the title, you’d expect this comedy to follow a guy’s eventual love for musical theater. Instead, this musical is a horror-comedy where Paul faces a very strange apocalypse. People are singing and dancing out of nowhere! The writing in this play is full of unexpected twists and iconic characters. There is also a multitude of lines that stick in your head long after you’ve seen the musical. 

One of the great traits of this musical is the strong lyrics. They both tell us about the characters and the world that’s unfolding. The opening song itself helps paint a picture of the story from the perspective of the infected. Later songs help explain the infection and hints at how it spreads before we learn via dialogue. Characters also have strong voices in their dialogue. You can tell if Paul, Emma or Professor Hidgens are speaking based on how they speak. This musical also has a great finale and twist.  Thanks to the wonderful Starkid, you can see the entire story unfold on their YouTube channel. 

It was hard to narrow down my list to a few musicals. These are a few of the well-written musicals out there that you can watch or give a listen. What do you think of the musicals I’ve mentioned? What are your favorite musicals? Let me know in the comments below! If you are looking for a way to spice up your time at home, try giving a musical a listen! They’re full of fun stories and songs, and there’s one for everyone’s taste. Everyone stay safe and happy listening!

3 Ways Reading Improves Your Writing Skills

If you talk to a writer in the throes of their writing process, you’ll hear a similar thought: “writing is hard”. This is especially true when you’re kind of new to writing, like me. If it’s a writer with the cursed writer’s block, the feeling is tenfold. There are many different ways to help improve your writing skills. Among this list of ideas is one that some writers stay away from like it’s the plague; reading. 

Reading, believe it or not, can be a huge asset to your writing skills. This is a fact that most writers know well, but some still shake their heads at the idea. Reading novels, especially ones in the same genre that you’re writing, is a great way to hone your craft. Think about a book that you love the most in the genre. What do you like about it?  Why do you return to the novel over and over again? Considering these questions can help you improve three aspects of your story. 

1. Stronger Characters

Oftentimes our favorite stories give us examples of how to improve our characters. Reread the novel and consider a few things as you read. What are the strengths of these characters? What are their weaknesses? Are there traits that make them especially likable? If it’s a villain/antagonist, how do they challenge the protagonist? Also, how do all the characters add to the plot progression?

Keep a notebook or laptop beside you and take notes. Consider some of the questions I asked and any others that you feel are important. After you’ve compiled a list of these traits, think about how you can apply them to your novel. Make sure you’re not copying and pasting these characters into your own story. They are inspiration, not parts of a story to recycle. If I recycled traits from Poirot and created a similar Belgian sleuth, it would be obvious. Instead, use general descriptions of the characters you admire and adapt them to your own. Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? Instead of creating a carbon copy of the sleuth, hone in on what makes you like him. If it’s his observation skills, use that to create a character with sharp skills in a different way. They could be a smart socialite who can read people from their years of training. Or, they could be a dedicated Doctor who spends hours studying their patients to be the best Doctor they can. 

In some genres it can be hard to take inspiration without people noticing, like the mystery genre. If you have an observant person solving a case, people are going to think of Holmes. Make sure you add other traits to your characters to make them more than a carbon copy.  

2. Honed Writing Style

Deciding on a writing style can be a tricky task. You have to consider the genre, the story, the characters, and what you want to say with your story. This is when consulting books in the same genre is a must. When reading them, pay attention to their style. Are they witty? Is the writing painting a vivid world, or one left up to the reader’s imagination? What kind of words and sentence structure do they use? Is it more light-hearted or serious?

Get that notebook or laptop out again and keep the notes flowing. Jot down some keywords to describe the writing styles you gravitate towards. Do this for stories within and outside the genre you’re writing. Use these words to find the commonalities. If you find the witty and punchy style of Terry Pratchett up your alley, think about why. How can you adapt it to help improve your style? I find it also helps to read the novel that inspires you right before writing. If you have the style and vibe fresh in your mind, it’s way easier to channel it in your own story. Make sure you’re not copying, instead use that style to pull a similar vibe out of your own writing skills. 

3.  Well-formed Plots

Plotting has always been the bane of my existence. I can jump around and write scenes, but putting them into a coherent plot is another story. When I’m lost I look to stories within the genre that I want to write. If you experience a similar situation, ask yourself a few questions while reading. What plot structure are they using? How do they build the story so that the end makes sense? If it’s a mystery, how are they dropping hints to the readers? What about the story structure makes the climax impactful? 

As you’ve suspected, it’s time to take notes. Think about some of the questions I’ve asked, as well as any others you find important to your story. Also, pay attention to how the plot impacts the characters. A good plot has to include character growth! If you can get your hands on a book on plot structure, it’s also a great help. I read Save the Cat Write a Novel by Jessica Brody. It was a real lifesaver! Once you have all your notes complied, try plotting out your own novel. Writing key plot points on notecards and placing them on a wall is a great way to organize. If you want to challenge yourself, try using this method to visualize the plot of the novel you studied. Once you have it in front of you, take notes or pictures of the sections of the plot that you want to put into your own story. With these ideas at hand you can get off to the races!

How does reading improve your writing skills? Is there a novel that inspired you to write? Let me know in the comments below! I hope that you can apply some of this advice to your own stories in the future. Good luck with your writing, and happy reading!