Writer’s Toolkit: Pray Mantis Tactics for the Real Writer

Have you ever been reading a book and thought, Man, this is such a good idea, someone should write a book about this and then slapped yourself on the forehead, realizing you were actually reading the book about this idea and are now eternally grateful you didn’t say this one particular thought out loud?

Well, if you have, you’re not alone.  You are, in fact, a writer and it happens to the best of us.  I remember the days when I read a book for pure entertainment—those days were fun, and still happen, occasionally, but only when I keep my analytical eye closed tight.

Typically, I analyze every scene – does it turn?

Every word – is it the right one?

Every plot point – is it necessary?

And when I find something good, I mean really good, I devour it—yes, like a Pray Mantis,  slicing and chewing from one paragraph to the next, with the promise to reuse that one thought, image or character again, someday, but in a new and personally touched way.

This is what great writers have been doing for eons.  T.S. Eliot once said, “Mediocre writers borrow.  Great writers steal.”  Not plagiarizing but allowing yourself to be influenced and not just by books.

I’ve robbed ideas from the headlines.

Snatched up snippets of language from co-workers.

Even reworked characters I’ve fallen in love with from film and TV into short stories and poems.

There’s no reason to ever feel like you don’t know what to write about.  It’s everywhere, all around you, and especially in books, the good ones, even some of the bad, and can be worked and reworked, chewed up and regurgitated, if you’re a Pray Mantis that is, with your own personal touch into something great.


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