You want to write better. You want to write more.

Ann Linquist I’m Ann Linquist, freelance writer and online writing instructor.  Whether you’re interested in writing fiction, creative nonfiction, or effective business documents, I invite you to explore this site and find out how to reach your writing goals.

How You Write

Long ago there was a magazine called the Saturday Review. It was devoted to literary news, articles, and short pieces. One of the regular columns showed where famous authors wrote–one author and setting per week. We saw a photo of their writing space and whatever they gathered around themselves when they wrote.

How about sharing something about your writing habits? Where do you write? Describe your favorite writing tools (computer? tablet? special pen?). What time of day do you tend to write? Do you use any writing aids (tequila? favorite smoke? required stimulants?). How about music? Is it a requirement or something that must be avoided? What kind of music? Show us your chair, your desk or table, your room. What else is in that room? What is on the walls? Any special lighting? What else makes up your particular writing habits?

We’ve been writing together for quite a while. You’ve all described a burning candle; now show us your writing routine.

The Villain

Max, “Boots” LaRue has a scar running down his upper cheek till it’s buried in his bushy sideburn at the jaw line. He rides a Harley LowBoy. His mohawk haircut ends in a long pony tail, bound with a leather thong. His etched black cowboy boots have shiny silver toes and heels. His eyes are perennially at half mast. He prefers tattoos that are black—no fancy colors or flowers for Max—and both arms are covered from wrist to where they meet between his shoulder blades. No beer belly for Max; he’ll gladly show his his six pack.  He deals in cash only. No credit cards or checks. His belt is a chain, and hanging from that is a knife sleeve with hilt showing, and a ring with ten keys.  His upper lip is lifted at one side, matching that one raised eyebrow, as he looks at you.

Your task is to show us why Max is the good guy, not the villain of the piece.

The Line Between Going Nuts and Only Maybe Going Nuts

The older I get, the more I think I notice things out of the corner of my eye. Then I turn to look at what flickered or flashed, and nothing is moving. The longer I live, the more I enjoy people who are a bit skewed. I look for the people whose heads are at a tilt because the world doesn’t look quite right to them. I feel joy at finding someone running for County Supervisor whose name is Sharmalista Marblesto. It makes my day to find a town in Illinois name Gratiot and then find out they pronounce it “Grash it.”

Okay, so maybe some of this is fiction, but then again, maybe not. Perhaps my real name is Yanska Slabos, and I’m married to a guy named Zoltan Stepeshi. Perhaps Yanska is a middle-aged famous but ex-tightrope walker on disability because of her sciatica. Perhaps Zoltan now has to support the family. The circus can no longer afford to carry them, since Zoltan’s dancing emu act has never been all that popular.

My question for you is, how is Zoltan going to make enough money for their annual holiday trip to their cabin in Upper Sanduski, especially now that the circus has left them stranded near the Okefenokee Swamp?

Connections and Creativity

I find that part of the joy of revising is that you find connections emerging that you didn’t expect to find.

The house that John and Martha buy turns out to have been previously owned by a couple named Myrna and Zeke who died in an automobile accident on a mad dash to the hospital. Scorpions turn out to have an attraction to candle wax, and red leaves were the main ingredient for the ink used in a famous journal kept by an anonymous online writing student.

Or perhaps this is merely idle galumphing and playing bricoleur. That’s fine. So can you connect these?

Olive with pimento


coal slag

cracks in the sidewalk

mismatched socks


Rosalinda Makes Something out of Nothing

Rosalinda stalked toward us, her thick soled boots announcing her intention to make her presence known.  My boss and I, on duty for the afternoon to midnight shift at the Residential Treatment Center for Adolescents, knew we were looking at trouble on the way.

Like most of our residents, she wore clothes that announced that she had been finding things to wear without any adult help, probably for many years.  What was different about Rosalinda was how she had turned so many throw-aways into such a unique and oddly impressive outfit.

She wore….

Showing Anger

Anger is a fascinating emotion and one we often find difficult and painful to deal with when it is aimed at us.  On the other hand, at certain moments our own anger feels justified and absolutely right.

Let’s explore the emotion of anger by writing dialogue together.  I will write two lines to get this scene started.  Pitch in with up to two more lines of your own.  (It can also be interesting to see what kind of combined creation we can come up with.)

“If you tap that pen on your teeth one more time, I’m going to climb out of my chair and strangle you,” Norma said,

“Ah, you don’t mean that.” Brad tried to make a funny face.

Moving your Characters Around

It turns out that you, as writer, become a kind of actor, thinking up the “business” needed to make a scene believable and interesting.  It’s one thing to have characters talk to each other, but what are they doing while they talk?  Are they gesturing?  Making a face of some kind?  Picking up an object that suggests something about them or the story?  Tugging on their clothing?  Doing something with their hair?  Fidgeting in some specific way?

These actions work better than attribution.  You can almost always replace, he said with something like:  Jack subtly ran a hand over his belt buckle to make sure his fly was zipped. 

So let’s play around with this.  I will start the dialogue, and you can add a few more lines to keep the scene going.  However, you have to add the “business” instead of attribution.  Here we go….

Yvonne smirked with half-closed eyes.  “Yeah, right.”

“No, really.  That 2007 Taurus is in primo shape and ready to roll.”  Jimbeau smiled to make his one dimple show and dangled a shiny key in front of her face.

(Your turn!)