1. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    In writing, do you handle props for inspiration?

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by The Tourist, Apr 1, 2012.

    In an effort to stimulate creativity or see how an object I define in my story truly feels, I often have props near the computer. All kinds of oddball things.

    For example, many times my characters have dialogue over blue civet coffee, mostly because I was brewing Bold Sumatran Dark coffee at the time. Its aroma filled the kitchen where I work.

    Over the past few weeks I have not only handled my Zero Tolerance folder, but a CZ 83, a micro-fiber cloth, waterstones, Eldorado StarFire cartridges and I detailed my little Sportster. I also managed to find a picture of the exact bike my lead rides, and I can pull it up from my pictures anytime I need a niggling detail.

    You might not know how titanium feels, but I do.

    I know this borders on "method acting," but it helps me. Do any of you do this, and do you find it helpful, or does it bog you down into minutiae?
     
  2. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Whatever works for you, go for it. Little things like that often adds depth and makes the story a little more real.
     
  3. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    That's my thinking. However, when your wife catches you rubbing your thumb over a gravy ladle at 2:00AM, there's some bizarre explaining that needs to be done!

    Edit: BTW, I have to get some kitty litter, no kidding. Believe it or not, kitty litter appears in a pivotal scene I'm writing. I need the smell, too, and that means clean kitty litter...
     
  4. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Depends on the kind you get. Most are clay based so it smells like dust unless it's scented. The sand base stuff smells like sand. Of course I'm not as sensitive to smell these days.
     
  5. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Good to know. The lead has only seen the prop from a distance as far as I have it written. I have so far described it as "pink."

    BTW, the lead is going to get a real up-close-and-personal experience with the stuff, and I'd like to smell it, myself.

    I mean, the lead encounters several tons of it, so I guess describing a smell is necessary.
     
  6. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Hopefully not used. Never seen any pink. Mostly gray. Have seen some green with pink bits in it.
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    The color is an easy fix. The need is quite important.

    After all, a reverend requires the lead to climb a pile of kitty litter to meet a prerequisite for graduation from a religious academy.

    I almost didn't use the scene. I mean, it's so cliché. Reverend has school. Lead wants to graduate. Bring out the kitty litter. Yikes, I've seen that story dozens of times.

    (I'm not kidding, it is a real scene in my book. And it's necessary.)
     
  8. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I've never done that (used props) and I can't frankly see myself doing that, but if it works for you, there's no rule against it.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The use of props has never occurred to me. I can't see myself getting any benefit from it, but your mileage may vary.

    I'm not that tactile in my imagination, though. I visualize in vivid detail.
     
  10. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    I would think if you were doing a story that involved fisherman you'd want to know what their equipment looked and in some cases even felt like if it was pertinent to the story. Of course not all stories deal with that much detail.
     
  11. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I don't use props, it's an interesting idea but I've had no reason to use them as of yet. (Not saying I won't in the future.)

    Coffee merely makes it into my writing on accident because I live on the nonsense.

    As a side note, I pity your main character. Tons of cat liter? I sneeze just pouring the regular amount for the cat. To me, it's a strong dusty smell, kind of gets into your mouth almost type of smell.
     
  12. The Tourist
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    Oh, that's about the least of the indignities I heap on him!

    He loses his girl friend...gets hit by a truck...snubbed by his dad in the hospital...has a death warrant signed by a monarchy...has another death warrant signed by the church...falls down a hill amid corpses...is shot and doesn't know it...dies...gets swept into a gutter.

    Oh, and then there's the serious conflicts.

    You do know that this is serious book on religion, don't you?
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've done things as research, in order to know what my character is feeling. I've rolled around naked in the snow at midnight. I've built fires using primitive techniques and used it to crack stones and the like. But I haven't just touched things to stimulate creativity.

    I have guitars beside my writing desk, and when I feel the need to, I pick one up and play myself into the mood I need. I'll just improvise a chord progression or a melody that sounds like the scene I'm trying to write, and it helps me get my mind where it needs to be. I need to get the rhythm right so that my sentences will have the right weight. Music sometimes helps with that, but I'm getting to the point where I don't need to actually play to hear what I want to hear.
     
  14. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Minstrel, your experiences do sound like the same process. That is, you engage in an activity that puts you in closer touch to the work that you do as a writer.

    I might sharpen a knife or polish my boots. You strum a guitar. If both of the stories we write derive a deeper depth of meaning and reach out to the reader, then the endeavor was worth that effort.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do it all the time. At the moment, one of my characters is a soon to be ex, special forces trooper. Just my folder on SAS is huge, with pictures etc. but I went as far as ordering a 24 hour army ration pack off e-bay last week to taste the ravioli and the sweet tea, lol. Also, slightly more disconcerting, I went to a friend's house and held a Remington sniper rifle, for the same reasons. I am even considering joining a local gun club, me, the sworn pacifist. I call it "method writing" :D

    Whenever text and pictures aren't enough, there's youtube, you can find absolutely anything on you tube. I bet if you search for "face in kitty litter" you'd find a video in which some guy does exactly that and narrates the experience as he goes along, lol.

    ps. That's pretty cool @minstrel :)
     
  16. The Tourist
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    I got a reminder about this very thing this morning.

    While it had been unseasonably warm here a few weeks ago, the temperature has plummeted and we have had rain on and off. This morning I finally got the chance to move my bigger bike out of the dealership. The last time I had ridden her was last autumn, and the last ride I had taken at all was a few days ago on the smaller bike.

    Now, I've owned the bigger bike, "Black Betty," since 2004. You'd think I'd remember every nuance. But you'd also be surprised on how much one forgets.

    For example, the little bike's engine is rubber mounted. The big bike's engine is bolted solidly to the frame. The entire big bike shook, and while idling to warm her up, the rear view mirrors were useless. The hand-grips were of a differing style. There was more weight to contend with in corners. The foot-pegs were in different places. Even the ignition key was at the opposite end of the bike.

    As I pulled up onto the slab the engine even accelerated differently, and I had "forgotten." The little bike winds up for power, but Betty pulls like a tractor. With these things now fresh in my mind, I could write about the experience in a richer tone.

    In fact, I think I'm going to surround myself with more 'toys' when I work on my story. My writing area will probably look like I dumped over a kid's toy-box. I had to re-learn my lesson.

    http://i209.photobucket.com/albums/bb231/TheTourist_bucket/002-68.jpg
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, experiencing something a character will experience is, to me at least, a different matter.

    By props, I read that as something tangible to stimulate creativity, like handling a model spaceship when writing a sci-fi adventure.

    I certainly try to experience things my characters will experience if at all possible. Because I do write science fiction, many of those experiences are out of my reach. I cannot experience orbital free fall, or feel the slight give of lunar regolith beneath thick, airtight boots. I cannot see the backdrop of stars in every direction with no atmosphere to soften the view. I have to rely on imagination, along with a solid background of science. But I know the smell and other sensations of gases like organic sulfides or halogens, I know what an electric jolt feels like, etc. Some of these experiences weren't experienced deliberately so I could write them, but I can draw upon them anyway.
     
  18. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Interesting, I have never thought about this before though.

    I usually draw my characters, items in the story or places. When I write, I usually listen to songs/music that fits the mood of the scene I'm writing. Works for me. Some things need to be researched though before being described in a story.
     
  19. The Tourist
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    Well, I don't use models. I use the real things, and I like the idea of oil, dust, weight, something metallic, or a texture I've never experiences--like the kitty litter.

    For example, I had heard about things like 'the still of the night' in deep forests. About twenty years ago this city kid got to go a kettlemoraine area when scoping out trails, signs, scat, etc. of whitetail deer. My buddy and I stayed overnight in his hunting shack. We walked out late in the evening just to "see the sights."

    There was no sound, and because of the overhang in some areas, no light, no wind and few other sensory perrceptions. And the sudden scurry of a fieldmouse sounds like an lion attacking in the dead calm!

    I never wrote that scene. But If I ever need to describe the forest or that feeling of isolation, I'll have an experience to draw upon.
     
  20. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I always draw my characters. It's a slightly different exercise in capturing a scene and its emotions, but I find it helps me see it more clearly in my mind, and sometimes it helps with writing it.

    As far as music goes, I'm picky. It has to (a) fit the mood and (b) not have words, or at least not words that I know.
     
  21. Rennie1989
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    Rennie1989 Member

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    I play the sims and create my characters and certain scenes on that game. Helps me to visualise it better.
     
  22. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    When I visit a new place, I like to get my hands on everything there in hopes of finding inspiration. I have nothing in my room that serves the same purpose, though. It's an interesting idea.
     
  23. jc.
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    I used to draw my characters as well, but I found myself getting too distracted so now I look for pictures of real people to "cast" as my characters. I can't listen to music with lyrics while writing or I zone out, but I do love classical, atmospheric, or instrumental music. Rainymood.com is also fantastic because the sound of rain and thunder puts me in a creative mood.

    As far as handling props? I don't think so, but I've handled my husband's gun to see how it felt in my hands. I have also watched my friend's cat for a few days to observe how they act and respond to things. I've tried different cultural foods and visited places so I could write about things/places more vividly.
     
  24. shaylyn
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    I always search for pictures online of what actors or actresses, I think, would play my characters if it were turned into a movie. I've also gone so far as to find pictures of clothes they might be wearing, as well as following their routes on googlemaps. There is one part in my book involving a ring belonging to the MC's deceased brother and I've modeled after my own high school class ring so I could feel more connected to the story.

    I am curious to find out if the idea of using props would help in my writing. Maybe I'll give that a shot :)
     

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