Tag Archive | creative writing

Writing With Music

What kind of music do you listen to while you write or engage in any kind of brain-draining activity?  Some people listen to rock, some to classical music, and some prefer no sound at all.  I find music is extremely helpful in my creative process.  My only requirement is that the music not have words.  I find the words in the song get tangled up with the words in my brain making their way to the page.  I was recently reading the blog The Self Taught Cook  where she listed some of her favorite cooking music and I was inspired to list some of my favorite writing music. (I have an entirely different set of songs for cooking-Harry Connick, Micheal Buble, Jane Monheit, Diana Krall)

My favorite musicians for writing are George Winston and Kevin Kern.  These are mostly piano-driven new age pieces and they are beautiful to listen and to use as a creative tool.  Here is a little George Winston



and here is some Kevin Kern.



Sometimes the music helps to clear my brain from all of the day-to-day thoughts and worries that can constantly intrude on my working process. Other times the music orchestrates a scene I’m writing, somewhat like watching a movie with a soundtrack behind the actors words and actions.

My favorite writing song of all time?  “Farewell to Mystic Harbor” performed by David Huntsinger.  Whole chapters have come out of that one!

So what kind of music do you like to use when in the the process of writing?

One more thing:

We have a winner for my Great Escapes Book Tour Prize!  Linda from Missouri received an Amazon gift card and a jar of Texas wildflower honey.  Thank you everybody for entering.

Writing About Fire

UPDATE: We are putting the finishing touches on my fourth book BUZZKILL so stay tuned!

While I’m waiting for this book to work its way through my beta readers for the final time I am busily working on my fifth book. For this book I am doing research on arson and fire investigations in a small town. I love the Howdunit books, and sadly cannot find much information on arson investigations.  One of the best books that I have found is  Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers and would hope there is a fire procedural book for writers.

Write a scene from this burned out building.   What kind of business was it?  How did it catch fire?  Is it arson or accident?

Write a scene from this burned-out building.
What kind of business was it? How did it catch fire? Is it arson or accidental?

There is an excellent listing of a forest fire at the Bookshelf Muse blog and many of those descriptive words and phrases can be used for a fire in a building. They break it down into the five senses which is extremely helpful. I have also started collecting pictures of downtown buildings on fire. I also picked up some interesting information at the Fema website

Superheated air can sear your lungs.

The smoke inhalation can make you feel drowsy and disoriented.

Fires often produce poisonous gases.

Putting this information into character mode any of my characters caught in the fire could become disoriented and  have to be rescued or could possibly die. Putting a fire into a story can be a real game changer.

Then after the fire, the landscape can be painted in blacks and grays portraying sadness and devastation. The tone of the setting would be instrumental in creating a mood both within the story and within the character. I had a friend many years ago whose family home had burned down and he kept remarking how he couldn’t get the smell of smoke out of his clothing. This would be another great character moment to add.

In writing my books I have researched how to blow up outhouses, how to be in a beauty pageant, how to record a ghost, and even where the microchip goes on a dog.  I love my job.

Do you know of any great passages in literature that describe a building fire? Please feel free to share in the comment section.


Photo found at Morguefile

Portraying Mood With Your Setting

Can you portray a mood in your setting?  You bet!  Take a look at this picture.  It is intriguing to me because it is built in a rough, old fashioned way.  The structure is very small and the little walkway and handmade bench are made with such care.  What is this little house used for?  Is it someone’s home or is it a workshop of some sort?  Is it the world’s worst mother-in-law suite?  This will be a short visit.

To set up a scene with this picture follow these steps:

1.  Decide what this house is used for-be creative.  Storing lawn equipment is not creative.

2.  Define a mood that surrounds this structure.  Is it a happy place?  Is it an ominous place?  Does it raise curiosity in your story?

3.  Use the elements around the house to create your story.  Who sits on that bench?  Why is the little house right next to the woods?  What’s up with the dirt yard?  Who put in the walkway?

4.  Finally create the character that uses this little house and let your mood established in #2 reflect in this person.

5.  Do this exercise one more time and switch your mood and character to something opposite of what you wrote about the first time.

Photo used with permission from MorgueFile

Creative Writing Prompt-Find the Mystery

I loved this picture!  Why? There are so many elements to work with in this scene.  At first glance you see an empty wheelchair but take a moment to think about this picture and the story it could be telling you to write.

1.  The wheelchair is empty.  Where is the occupant?  Did he or she fall out into the water?  Does this person need to be rescued?  Is this person rescuing someone else?

2.  What is that shiny thing near the edge of the pier?  Is it a light?  Is it an ipad?

3.  Who is the person who is casting the shadow.  What are they holding?  A gun?  A cell phone?  Could it be the person in the chair?  Could it be someone who would cause harm to the person in the chair?

Take this picture and turn it into a mystery. 

Be sure to reveal where this is taking place, a protagonist, an antagonist and a motivation.  For instance, this story is taking place on a hot day in Florida.

The protagonist is a really nice nurse who is pushing this person around in a wheelchair.

The antagonist is the person in the wheelchair who can really walk but is filing for an insurance settlement.

The nice nurse finds out and the antagonist must get rid of her so dumps her in the sea after she says she’s not much of a swimmer.

The shadow?  That’s the antagonist calling for another nurse, of course.

The twist?  The nice nurse is a competitive swimmer who is trying to start over after losing at the Olympics and is now secretly swimming to shore to get the police.

So fun!  Now write your own story.

Picture found on Morgue File

Only a few more days until…

Is This A Good Day Or Bad Day? Establishing Tone in Your Writing

After reading a great blog post on Wordplay about establishing tone, I thought it might be a good idea to work on a scene using two different tones.

Here we have a scene from a wedding. As you look at the picture you can easily identify the bride, but which guy is the groom?  Is it the one holding the lady in pink’s hand or is it the other man with the glasses?  As you look at this photo think about all of the relationships that might occur between these people.  Notice the man who is standing off to the side watching the whole scene.  Who is he?  A long lost love?  The guy with the bill from the caterer?  Use your imagination and create the characters in this scene.

Once your characters are created,  write the scene–twice.  The first time you write about the wedding make your tone light and upbeat.   Maybe there is some jealousy going on but because the bride and groom are in love they will simply laugh about it later.  Maybe the lady in pink is a real pain in a funny way and the characters have to deal with her.

The second time make your tone dark.  The bride is all smiles but what is she really hiding?  Who is the man at a distance?  What’s really going on with this lady in pink?

I still have my book giveaway going on for my second book Overdue For Murder.  I am giving away three copies in a random drawing being done over at Goodreads.  Please go over and put in an entry.  The giveaway ends on July 31, so hurry!

Click here to go to Goodreads For Your Chance To Win!Overdue for Murder by Teresa Trent 

Writing Can Be Murder!
When local writers present their books on romance, vampires, chick lit and alien abductions at the Pecan Bayou Library, one author gets a killer review.  Betsy Livingston, there to talk about her book on helpful hints, finds herself point at for the murder.  Join Betsy in her second mystery as she tries to clear her own name in this hilarious tale of small town Texas life and murder. Available at Amazon.


Photo Submitted by Clarita at Morgue File.

Creative Writing Prompt-Goodbye to Mayberry

Where’s Andy?

This week we heard the sad news that one of the world’s favorite character actors, Andy Griffith passed away.  It surprised me how many people mourned the passing of this man and made me think of the setting we most remember him in, Mayberry, North Carolina.  Writer’s of cozy mysteries can look at Mayberry and see so many elements of hominess, quirky characters and family values that are infused into our own stories.  Whenever I’m writing about my fictional town of Pecan Bayou, Texas, I find myself imagining a Floyd the barber, or Howard, or Goober.  Mayberry is a world that no one really lives in but that we all love to visit.  We love to imagine sitting on the porch on a pleasant evening and playing guitar after a good meal of fried chicken and apple pie.

As writers, we can create our own versions of this world, carefully placing all the elements that make a reader feel at home.  In our creative writing prompt this week, I want you to create your own Mayberry.  It doesn’t need to be in North Carolina; it doesn’t even need to be in the United States.  Just make it where you would envision a quiet, peaceful, lovely place to live.

1.  What is the name of your town?  Where is it located?  How big is it?

2.  What is your town famous for?  (watermelons, Washington slept here, biggest population of mosquitoes in one place)

3.  Put five characters in your town. Here are some ideas:

mayor, pastor, grocer, teacher, policeman, a child, a senior citizen, a dog or cat, a barber named Floyd

4. Write a short paragraph about an unsolved mystery in your town.  It can be a murder or something simple like whatever ever happened to Mrs. William’s cat?

5.  Create an opening scene that gives you the essence of your town in the same way Andy and Opey did as they walked down the road to go fishing.

Photo submitted by diggerdanno at Morgue File

Creative Writing Prompt-Clowns Are Everywhere

Photo submitted by Earl53 at Morguefile.com

With the Fourth of July coming up next week let’s write about someone in a parade.  Take a look at these two clowns.  Are they happy clowns or hot, grumpy clowns?  Answer the questions below and write your scene in third person point of view then rewrite your scene in first person point of view speaking as just one of the clowns.


1.  What is the green-haired clown’s name?   How old is he?  What is his real job?  What is his relationship to the other clown.

2.  Write some business with hula hoop.  Is he giving it away?  Does he use it in some sort of comedy routine?

3.  What is the name of the other clown?  Why has he turned in the other direction?  What’s in the bag?

4.  Are these two men lifelong friends?  Enemies?  Strangers to each other?

5.  One clown has a secret that will change the other clown’s life.  What is that secret?

Once you write your scene, rewrite it from the first person point of view of one of the clowns.


On another note, Overdue for Murder and Dash of Murder are now available in paperback at Amazon.  I was very pleased I could get the price down from a whopping  $17.50 at Lulu to only $5.95 at Amazon.  Also, Overdue for Murder is now available on Ibooks and Nook.  Reviews welcome!

Creative Writing Prompt-Make Your Setting Another Character

Today we are going to work on using the setting to further the character development.  In our scene we have a young couple in midsummer on the beach.  The setting can become a third character by becoming the catalyst that changes the decisions of the human characters.  If you are writing a book or short story and have decided on your setting. find several pictures to spur your imagination.  When I wrote my first book A Dash of Murder, I probably had ten pictures of various abandoned tuberculosis hospitals to refer to.  The broken down building became yet another thing for my heroine to deal with.  I knew I had done it right when one of my aunts called me to tell me she had visited someone in a hospital like that in the thirties and that my description brought it all back to her.

Answer these questions for your beach scene:

1.  What is the date?  What is the temperature?  How hot is the sand?  Is there a breeze?  Describe the texture of the sand, is it wet or dry or rocky?  How clean is the coastline?  How warm is the water?  How bright is the sun?  What does the beach smell like?  Fresh air?  Hot dogs?

2.  How old is the man?  What is his name?  What is his mood today?  Why is he looking forward and not at the woman?  Is he involved with this woman or are they friends or relatives?  What on this beach has him quietly thinking while looking at the water?

3.  How old is the woman?  What is her name?  Is she texting, calling someone, or answering her phone?  Why is she not paying much attention to the man?  What is her mood?  Is she angry or just distracted?  What is her relationship to the man? Is there something about this beach that has her so distracted?

4.  Twist the plot-These two people will never be on this beach again together.  Why?


Photo Source: DuBoixMorguefile

Creative Writing Prompt-Characters Are Everywhere

One of my favorite things to do in writing is to create characters.  I do this in a variety of ways but most of the time it starts with a picture.  I might find a random picture, see a picture in a newspaper, or use IMDB and “cast” the part.   Many times I imagine what the character is like and then find a picture that matches my creation.  Take a look at the man in this picture.  Answer the following questions about him.

1.  Name?

2.  Occupation?

3.  Physical Characteristics?  (List as many as you can.  You can go back later and use these words as you describe him in the scenes he’s a part of in your story.  This is your personal character thesaurus.)

4.  Mental Characteristics?  Is he smart, ambitious, ruthless, kind?

5.  Mannerisms?  Does he stutter?  Cut people off before they can finish a sentence?  Grin a little too much?

6. Write down a short back story for this character.  How did he get on this bench today?

7.  Does this character have an inner conflict?

8.  Does this character have an outer conflict?  Where does he figure in your story?

Once you have written your character sketch, save it all including the picture.  This will help you to keep your character consistent throughout the story.

Write a short paragraph about your ideas for this character and share it with us in the comments.


This photo was submitted by Darnok at Morgue File