Carol Callicotte


Lighting A Fire May 1, 2009

Wow – has it really been a month since I’ve posted? Whoops. Time got away from me. The good news: I’ve gotten back to writing regularly. Just not blogging.

So, my local writers’ group has been meeting every other week for 3 ½ years. All of us are working on novels, so we read and critique scenes from those novels and occasionally one of us will bring in a short story. Recently, we realized that we were all getting a bit… lazy. Stagnating. We’d gotten away from our habit of consistently having something written for our read and critique sessions. In my case, I’d gotten comfortable/lazy enough that I started bringing subpar work – unpolished work that I would have normally been embarrassed to show to my group. And more than once over the last several months I didn’t have something prepared. Luckily, we all still show up to offer critiques to those who have something to read. But, we all needed a bit of a kick in the tush.

We decided to give ourselves writing assignments. We actually did this about a year ago; at that time we realized none of us had ever written a sex scene. (ooh – I bet using “sex scene” as a tag will drive a ton of traffic to my blog…) So, we all hooked up a couple of our characters. It stretched the boundaries of our writerly muscles, and I’m definitely less intimidated now by the prospect of writing sex scenes for future novels. Last month, we had to put our characters into awkward, and in some cases socially unacceptable, situations. As we all know each other’s characters pretty well, we chose the situations for each other. My innocent yet self-assured YA character had to succumb to peer pressure and try drugs. Another member’s stoic character had to hit his wife. One character had to turn to prostitution for money, one emotionally disengaged character had to become emotionally vulnerable in front of his love interest, and another character who’d never shown any sexuality had to get caught masturbating. Yes, we all cringed at our assignments. And we all pushed our characters much further than we would have if we’d never assigned ourselves this task. But we all managed to tap into a realm of our characters’ psyches that we’d never before considered. A couple of us (me included) liked our scenes well enough that we are considering incorporating them into our books.

To the other writers’ groups out there: what are some of the things you do to keep things from going stale?