I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writing Tips From Unexpected Places

I like to take life tips or quotes from famous folks who weren’t talking about writing and twist them a bit to come up with some great writing tips.

For instance, Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my ax.” This might send you to study the elements of our language as well as writing advice from the professionals.

Lincoln also said, “Things may come to those who wait...but only the things left by those who hustle.” So make both your protagonist and antagonist hustle after the things they want. (Or apply it to yourself and keep writing!)

Sir Issac Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” How can we apply this to writing? Give your character someone who looks up to him or someone he looks up to—then let that very fact lead the character into trouble. 

Newton also said, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” So what unexpected mad reactions could your character have? Instead of the normal reactions of being incensed by something, let him embrace it--to his doom, of course.

Or take one of Newton's most famous quotes, “To every action there is always an opposed and equal reaction.” Let your characters react to one another with opposition. None of them, protagonist or antagonist, should be without strong reactions.

Or you could take this piece of advice from Benjamin Disraeli: “Nurture your minds with great thought. To believe in the heroic makes heroes." So give your heroine a great goal with a noble purpose and send her on her way to obtain it, but don't forget to make it extremely difficult!

Here's a tip from Blaise Pascal, "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." Now that's a great way to torture your hero!

Even the basketball great, Michael Jordan can help. He said, "I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot…when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result." Perhaps your heroine is like this…to her destruction.

Have you ever applied advice from someone great outside the writing field to your writing? Let's us in on the secret!

--Teri Smith


  1. Cai kho lo cai khon.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/04/lost-comms.htmli khon.

    1. Andrew, I love this Vietnamese quote! Adversity brings wisdom. Adversity births Creativity. English equivalent: What does not kill you makes you stronger.

  2. Awesome, Teri! You've given me a couple of ways to get out of my blah plot!! I'll have to come back with a quote.

    1. Woohoo! Wonder, Pat! You just encouraged me!

    2. I love this post and the quotes--great stuff. Can't believe I forgot to check yesterday. Thanks so much, Teri!

  3. What a great direction to think toward! Thanks for this. Since I haven't had my coffee yet, all I can think of is "A watched pot never boils." Not exactly a great quote, but a character could be really impatient for something to happen. Gotta go grab some caffeine. :)

  4. Just read this, Teri. What a great post! I love your applications. Especially those about making things harder for my hero and heroine. Well done!

  5. Teri, What a great post! I love the way you turned those statements around, but isn't that what a writer does? Thanks for sharing!