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Workout Your Core Writing Muscle

March 11, 2013
Image courtesy of smokedsalmon at

Image courtesy of smokedsalmon at

Ever wrote a story that was missing a certain element, but couldn’t figure out what it was?

You gave it your all, and somewhere along the way you realized it was missing that extra shine, but couldn’t quite put your finger on it.

You would never guess if you don’t know me, a quiet writer who suffers from advance nerdism, but I’m a bit of a fitness junkie.

I love pushing my body to the limits and testing my strength and endurance.

In the world of fitness, it’s a fact that when you push yourself just beyond the point of failure, and your muscle fibres tear and become sore, they repair even stronger than before.

Do you think this is also possible in writing?

The Writing Muscles

There are several different muscles you can train, the popular ones being your arms, chest, back, and legs. When you exercise them, they get bigger and stronger.

But don’t think you can just go to the gym, pump up your chest and arms and say you’re fit. When it comes to cardio, they all work together.

There is one muscle group that is the most important, that is the limiting factor in almost every exercise, that can push your power and speed, and that’s your core.

Now consider the brain: an organ that gains abilities by handling mental challenges. If you relate these challenges to a workout, then attempting any one of them is similar to exercising your brain.

And while I’m no brain surgeon, it is my understanding that different areas of your brain handle different functions such as emotions, pain, and dreams.

If this is true, then can we also say that different areas of the brain handle different genres of writing such as action, suspense, and mystery?

I think a great story, while it would be dominated by a genre, needs a little bit of everything to really excel. A good action works well with suspense, a good horror can have action and mystery, and you can workout these areas by practicing your writing.

So if we relate exercising your arms, chest, back, and legs to writing action, suspense, mystery, and horror, then what would be the core of writing?

I think the core is romance.

Every great story that is told around the world, translated into several languages, and made into award winning movies has a main plot or subplot where two characters want to be together or want to work it out, but can’t.

Intergalactic badass of Star Wars, Han Solo, had the oddly hair-styled Princess Leia. The always stubbly chin but never needing a shave ranger from the north of Lord of the Rings, Aragorn, had the pointy ear elf Arwen. And the crackpot Doc of the greatest movie of all time, Back to the Future, had the whopping Clara Clayton.

See the importance of romance. You don’t have to include long boring scenes that would make a reader say, “get on with it” (cough Matrix cough), just something that would warm the heart a bit and make people say, “damn, if only that thing didn’t happen.”

So now that we have identified your core, let’s go work it out.

Training Your Core Writing Muscle

Hate writing romance, or just have no idea how to hook your characters up. Consider this exercise: think about that heart-warming scene from one of your favourite movies (I know what you’re thinking, Back to the Future, right). Now see if you can reproduce it on paper, but this time, really get into the main character’s head, and try to get the emotions.

The first one you write is probably going to be terrible, but keep working on it with different scenes from different movies. Eventually, you will be able to make your own.

Just remember, it’s only a romance if there’s a reason why the two characters can’t be together because of a conflict. Whether there’re able to work it out or she kicks him out and takes everything is up to you.

So put some romance in your story and let’s see if it gets that really interesting element you were looking for.

And if that still doesn’t spice things up, then throw in two giant mechanical robots. That would surely get my attention.

So what do you think about the core writing muscle? Let me know in the comments. And if you haven’t already, click here to read Scene from a Nightmare, this month’s trailer of my latest book, King Larsen.


From → Writing Tips

  1. Sheldon Peterson permalink

    This is a very Great and innovative concept. I love the comparison between working your brain and your body in the gym. Most people excercise the physcal body arms, legs and chest as your noted earlier. But never their minds. Great concept !

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