I’m still taking a two-pronged approach to this via reading and writing exercises. In terms of reading, I’m still taking down notes about my feelings to selected novels that I knew had made me feel something and I’m essentially typing up bullet point lists of where I’ve felt anything, what did I feel and what prompted the emotion. At first, I was only focusing on all the bits where I was moved to tears or slighter degrees of such but now I’m broadening to include smiles because else it becomes just a documentary of what touches me or saddens me and is a lop-sided exploration of my emotional reactions as a reader. The new update, however, is that I’m writing the Help by Kathryn Stockett now. Larry Brooks has devoted a whole chapter to analysing it in terms of the Three Act structure in his book Story Physics which I read last year. So the aim is to do my own analysis of the Help myself and then read Larry Brooks’ analysis. Btw, I’m not sure whether I should recommend his two non-fictions. I think he’s got some valid things to say but I’m hard-pressed to find what he talks about really that enlightening (I mean, I kinda like his conception of the story of six buckets of factors and his other model of the six core writing competencies and the criteria based approach he comes up to assess a story in execution). But he has this really preachy tone that annoys me so in retrospect, I’m not sure if it’s really worth it except that it fills up slots of time that I can categorise under writing-related. Not sure I’ve talked about this on the blog before but since end of last year or early this year, I started aiming for 6 hour writing-related days 5 times a week when I don’t have work at all or 4 hours on a part time work schedule. I got an unexpected long holiday break this year (only did some brief work in Jan and then end of April but I think pending a data request that will be fulfilled next week latest, I think I’m going back to a Mon-Fri part-time schedule) so that was my way of trying to capitalise on this unexpected bonus of free time available.
On writing type of self-learning, there’s the novella to help me get into first-person and I’ve been supplementing it with another writing exercise which was focused on writing action scenes (which is another of my weak points). I’ve talked about Disney movie consumption binge, right? So basically I was just taking action scenes from these movies I watch every week (now I watch about 6 movies per week) and trying to write them up and I’ve mostly used first-person for these as well (except where the scene I was trying to capture involves too many character and then I’ve switched to omniscient). Now, meaning two days ago, I started a new writing exercise that I call empathy (I actually got the idea from Toni Morrison) where I ground the setting time to be ancient China (since I’m writing Chinese fantasy) and then I’m randomly coming up with a character daily based on 3 traits: gender, occupation and a single descriptor. The first day I did a decadent Emperor and then yesterday I did a sensitive female prostitute.
So just on the topic of self-learning, what are everyone else doing? Let me know in comments.