Tag Archives: jack remick

Weekend Writing Workout: Seven Deadly Sins

I’ve been zonked with a nasty head/chest cold this week and am feeling a bit behind. But, since I feel behind most of the time, I’m not going to fret about that. I do wish I could breathe through my nose, though.

This week’s exercise was inspired by an interview with author Jack Remick. I believe it was the interview on the The Ashley Fontainne Show on Artist First Radio Network: http://www.artistfirst.com/ashleyfontainne.htm

(and even if it’s wasn’t, you should listen to the interview anyway, because Jack gives great interview)


Hieronymus Bosch’s Seven Deadly Sins

The interviewer brought up the idea of working with the seven deadly sins, which are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. I’m sure each of us has experienced every one of these sins personally in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps we can relate to one of them more than the others. I’m not so much a wrathful person, but my pride has made me stubborn in the past, and hindered me from looking at something from someone else’s point of view. In the end, it was only a disservice to myself.

Which is how I want you to view these “sins” in terms of your characters. Which sin resembles the cause of each character’s misery? Is it envy that spikes her bitterness toward her sister? Is it pride that won’t allow him to forgive his best friend? Is it wrath that guards her heart?

If you’re not sure, try several of them on for size and see what fits. And try this out on multiple characters, not just your protagonist. Every character deserves a sin!


1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes.

Start at the top of the page with the following startline:

My character is stifled by the sin of  . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

2) When the timer stops, Set your timer for 7-10 more minutes.

Start with the following line: 

She/he must confront this sin when . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

3) NOW, set your timer for 10-15 more minutes.

WRITE THE SCENE in ACTION and DIALOGUE ONLY (to keep you moving forward – don’t get caught up in the minutia of description) in which this character is confronted with her sin.

Use the start line:  In frustration, He/She picked up the . . .

Even though you are writing a scene, just WRITE, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

Read your exercises and your scene, make notes, highlight what makes sense.

And have a fabulous, healthy weekend.


Filed under weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life

Weekend Writing Workout and Writing Workout Groups

Many people have writing groups where they read and critique each other’s work. It’s definitely a challenge, though, to find a good critique match. You want critique partners who have similar experience and who write in the same genres. And are just as committed to writing and critiquing as you are.

My critique partners are separate from my writing group. I have a handful of friends I trust with early drafts of work and they trust me with theirs. We’ve been reading and critiquing each other for years, growing together as professional writers.

My writing group does something else. We write.

The idea for our writing group stemmed from a long-standing writing group in Seattle called the Louisa’s Writers. (named for both Louisa street and Louisa’s Cafe where the writing happens) Writers show up and write for 45 minutes to an hour, twice a week. I mean write by hand straight, no stopping, no reviewing the work, no crossing out, no editing of any kind. It’s from the gut.

by Alison Woodward

by Alison Woodward

Then the work is shared. No critique involved, although people will point something out later if it struck them as interesting.

When I showed up there last week, there were about 25 people writing. When we started, it went quiet but for the few other patrons. The energy emanating from the collective minds, hearts, guts, and fingers was palpable and the time actually flew by.

Our much smaller writing group (called Louisa’s North, even though it takes place at The Grind) meets every Sunday. We write for 20 minutes, share, write for 20 more, and share again. Same thing – recommended writing by hand, no stopping, reviewing, or editing of any kind.

Why this works: this is far different than writing by yourself into your computer for 20 or 40 minutes. Usually when you write like that you stop and think about your word choice, your plot, your intention, and editing is too convenient. This is riding the momentum of something else. Strange inspirations come when you write with such forward momentum. Directions are explored without attachment. This kind of writing opens you up.

And it doesn’t matter your level of skill or what experiment you’re working on that day. It’s a personal experience. An added bonus to me is the letting go of ego. You read your work raw with no preambles or apologies.

Jack Remick and Bob Ray began the Louisa’s group over 15 years ago. I used to attend back in the late 90’s. Between them they have dozens of books, but they still attend the writing group when they can. And why not?


We work on whatever calls us to it. Could be a W.I.P. or something new. Jack and Bob used to make up start lines but discovered that whatever needs to be written will come though if everyone simply starts with the line:

Today I am writing about…

And off we go. The mess of the mind, heart, and gut shot through the pen. The rest of the world disappears. It could turn up lost memories, new insights, plot twists, four pages of dialogue, or a monologue from a goddess.

Sometimes I use the startlines I’ve come up with here on my Weekend Writing Workout if they pertain to what I’m working on. Wherever I start, though, something moves.

~   ~   ~


Sometimes I can’t get to my weekend workout post due to other writing/life stuff. I’m looking for 4 or 5 other bloggers who’d like to post a Weekend Workout with me on Friday mornings (sending me their links by midnight the night before). That way, writers can jump around from workout to workout, get a whole week full of them, and we can post each other’s links if we don’t have time for an original post. Workouts may vary: poetry, fiction, memoir, etc. As long as it’s a writing exercise AND something you would try yourself.

Contact me at info (at) danikadinsmore (dot) com if you are interested. Please pass the idea on to anyone else you think might be a good candidate.

CLICK HERE for more information about my Weekend Workouts.


Filed under weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life

Tropes and Tips for Middle Grade Fiction Writers

I’m still on my summer hiatus, but I just did a guest post on Jack and Bob’s Writing Blog which is a great resource.


Jack Remick (author of Blood, The Deification, and Valley Boy) and one of the best writing mentors and advocates ever, wrote a guest post for me a few months back for a series I have yet to finish. egad. I will!

If you missed Jack’s guest post, CHECK IT OUT.


Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, writing life

Weekend Workout: Guest Post by Jack Remick (Character – Action Part 3 of 6)

It is my absolute pleasure to introduce your Weekend Workout guest Jack Remick, author and writing mentor / teacher extraordinaire. He was a great influence and inspiration when I took a dramatic writing class from him and co-teacher Robert Ray many years ago. His exercises have stuck with me to this day. If you’re in the Vancouver area, he often teaches at the Surrey Writer’s Festival.

If you enjoy this post, check out Jack and Bob’s Writing Blog for more valuable writing advice and guidance.

~     ~     ~

Character and Action—The Deep Relationship

Vulnerability is the key to the sympathetic character. The wound, coupled with a secret coupled with character flaw, gives you a human character. The more obvious the wound, the more deeply buried the secret the more likely the reader is to identify with the character.

Your characters also have a history of pain, shame, guilt, betrayal, and doubt. Getting to know the character’s shame and guilt leads you to the essential element of dramatic conflict that all novels must have in order to engage the reader in the story.

If you write about your character in the past and then in the present and then the future, you deepen character as well as introduce aspects of plotting.  What will become of her? Will she find happiness? Defeat? Plotting a future for your character gives you a handle on the narrative present.

Here are some hints for creating strong characters:

Action comes from character needs.

Make every character strong enough to be the protagonist of your next novel–

Betrayal: How many times has your character been betrayed?

Shame: What is she ashamed of?

Guilt: What is she guilty of?

Doubt: Why does she doubt herself?

Three words for strong characters that get you to action:




Want. What does your character want?

Need. What does she need?

Can’t. What can’t she have.

Thwarting Desire and Plot:

Human beings react to being thwarted. Desire always leads to action. In fiction, action is what characters do to achieve their wants, to satisfy their needs.

Plot can be defined as the chain of events your characters undertake to get what they want. How does your character react when she finds out she can’t have what she wants?


When the character is denied what she wants, what action does she take to over come that denial? Denial leads to action. Action leads to pain. Who gets hurt?

Need merging into Obsession.

What does your character need? A hundred thousand bucks a year?

New wardrobe every six months? A new house? How strong is that need? Is it strong enough to become an obsession? When need becomes an obsession, needs meld into drive. Need is the deep, inner aspect of character that cannot be ignored. Don’t ignore it.

The Driven Character:

How driven is your character? What will she do to get what she wants?  Murder? Steal? Cheat? Betray her husband? lover? children? mother?  What will she do when her drive is deflected or even betrayed?

Joining Need to Want and Can’t

When your characters have needs and wants but can’t gratify or satisfy them, you  have an equation that spits out Action. Action is what your character does to meet her needs, to get what she wants.

Does your character want to be wanted? Are there layers of want? Why does your character need to be wanted? Deepen need and want and can’t with shame, guilt and betrayal and you have character traits that will engage your reader?

Doubt, the Forgotten Element.

What does your character doubt? Her abilities? Her sexuality? Her intelligence? Doubt always leads to hesitation—that moment before she pulls the trigger, slashes off her hair, slices her wrist. Doubt is the powerful inhibitor of action. Because the character doubts her physical prowess, she fails to engage the villain in combat. Failing combat, she loses the battle. Losing the battle leads her to the brink of death. Doubt is serious business in fiction.

Childhood and Buried Need:

How deeply buried in the character’s childhood is your character’s need? Can we see the buried need erupting in her present life?  What caused that need? Who buried it? Why was it buried?


The coupling of want, need, can’t, guilt, shame, betrayal, and doubt leads you to action, psychology, and plot. How does plot hook to need and want and can’t? When want and need become obsessions, you create the driven character. Character drive is what moves story.

Timed Writing—write for five minutes on each of these start lines:

The protagonist in my story WANTS

The protagonist in my story NEEDS

The protagonist in my story CAN’T have ___________because…

Danika adds: remember to just write, no editing or crossing out.

Have a great weekend!


Filed under Character - Action, weekend workout, writing exercises

Screenplay: The Frenzy – Always Start with an Exercise

Even when I’m in the middle of a screenplay I’m excited about, when I start out writing for the day, I still find myself procrastinating to the page.

I have found that by far the best way to work on a screenplay each day is to start with warm-up exercises. It makes sense, right? It’s like stretching before running.

It’s tough to just start working on the script where you left off. Warm-up exercises not only get your brain cells moving, they can inspire that next scene, help you discover something about your characters that you didn’t know before, and help you to find deeper meaning in your story.

The most exciting thing about warm-up exercises is when they surprise you. When that AHA seems to come out of thin air. It’s magical.

I was introduced to timed writing as far back as junior high school (although I admit I didn’t appreciate it as much back then). I’ve used them for years when teaching poetry. Jack Remick and Bob Ray (of Weekend Novelist fame) are timed writing fanatics. They’ve got some great tips, start lines, and exercises on their website as well.

A really simple timed writing exercise to start your day is this:

Set your timer for 5 minutes. At the top of your page, write The scene that needs to be written is . . . and see where it takes you. Don’t stop and certainly don’t edit, just write and write and write. Don’t try to make it into anything, especially not a scene. Don’t try to control it. Even if it sounds like complete nonsense, just ride it out!


The scene that needs to be written is the one where Tibby witnesses the murder only I’m not sure if the murderer IS her father or her father gets murdered. Which is worse? To watch your father kill someone or be killed. Tibby’s dad is involved in the water controversy, whatever it is it has to be big, unethical, taking of water from the people who can’t afford it like Ben and Bruce and Danny. The densers are being ripped off but why can’t they unite and complain and who would do anything about it and how is Danny’s mother involved? I know that water matters. I know that clean water matters in this. I know there were water wars… ETC

When that 5 minutes is over, go to the MIDDLE of that piece of writing and pull out a sentence. Use THAT sentence to start your next timed writing and this time make it for 7 minutes.

Repeat this again, drawing a line from the middle of your 7 minute writing, and setting your timer for 10 minutes.

After you have completed the 10 minute one, write the next scene of your script.

You’ll be amazed what can happen when you just let yourself go like that with no commitment, no inhibition, nothing to prove. It it not only a great tool to warm up for the day, it’s a great tool when you feel mentally blocked. Just go on your gut.

If you are short on time, try it in 3, 5, and 7 minute increments.

Jack and Bob would sometimes alter the STYLE of the writing. Such as:

-write in short sentences (no complex/compound sentences)
-write in one looooong sentence (no punctuation, every thought connected by “and” or another conjunction)
-use a technique called “chaining.”

Chaining is a great way for your mind to be tricked into going in unexpected directions. Chaining means the the last word of one sentence becomes the first word in the next sentence.

EXAMPLE: Carole didn’t know what to do about her daughter. Daughter who now mocked her because she was weak. Weak for men, weak for love, never standing up for herself. Herself now an empty shell of the passionate artist she once was. Was not long ago when she could wake up feeling strong and confident. . . etc.

Hope your Script Frenzy week is going well!

Danika’s script page count: 10 out of 100 pages.


Filed under behind the scenes, screenplay: the exercise, screenwriting, writing exercises