WORDS TO USE INSTEAD OF ‘SAID’

I THINK one of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to writing is to create compelling dialogue. This makes sense, considering that I lean towards being more logical than emotional. I often feel like my characters sound like robots instead of living, breathing beings. So, how does one write emotional dialogue and in effect, make their characters come alive? Also, what other words can I use instead of ‘said’, ‘stated’ or ‘commented’?

 Here is the best articles I have found in my quest to obtain tips:

 Dialogue words: Other words for ‘said’

 I like this article because it goes BEYOND suggesting alternatives to ‘said’. It also teaches you on how to craft a scene by bringing together the setting, words and actions of a character. It then listed alternatives to said, grouped together by the primary emotion you want your character to express.

 In response to this, I figured I should do a quick exercise myself. I went to another website, grabbed a list of emotions (with some redactions) and started churning out ‘synonyms’ without referencing to any source. I also gave myself a bit of freedom and allowed short phrases. Then, I beefed it up with more research.

Admiration/Adoration/Awe
sighed wistfully,giggled, marveled, raved

Amusement
chortled, chuckled, snickered, sniggered, teased

Anxiety/Awkwardness
squeaked, stuttered, urged, stressed, babbled, blubbered, stammered

Annoyance/Anger
screamed, hollered, yelled, cursed, grumbled, shouted, bellowed, stressed, fumed, snarled, ranted, complained, grunted, mocked, criticised, bleated, interrupted, nagged, barked  

Boredom
sighed, muttered, drawled, trailed off

Calmness
stated, spoke in measured tones, maintained, articulated, commented, communicated, opined

Confusion
wondered aloud, puzzled, guessed, pondered, questioned, repeated

(Sexual) Desire
moaned,teased, tittered, whispered, beckoned, flirted, crooned

Pain
yelped, hissed, roared, groaned, yelled

Excitement
exclaimed, chattered, gushed, raved,

Fear/Horror
yelled, uttered, quavered, screamed, warbled,

Interest
hummed with interest,whispered in excitement, squealed,

Joy
exclaimed, yelled, laughed, gushed, praised, sang,

Sadness
cried,sobbed, mumbled, lamented, snivelled, trembled, beseeched

Sympathy
reassured, cooed, consoled, comforted

Triumph
exclaimed, declared, commanded, bragged, boasted, trumpeted

Other banter words
bantered, quipped, breathed, challenged, guessed, hinted, implied, hypothesized, proposed

I’ll take a pause here as it has been a long and tiring work week for me. One day, I shall wade through synonym.com for even more alternatives. Until next time!
  

3 LIFE-HACKS FOR THE MILLENNIAL

I like to be productive with my time. Hence, I am on the constant lookout for ways to be more efficient. Some of the life-hacks listed here are for the office, while others can be used in all areas of life. If you have any to share, kindly comment! I would love to learn from you as well 🙂

1) Combine Digital Tools for Improved Productivity

Did you know you can create a WhatsApp group that contains only you? Create a group, add at least one other person and then kick that person out. You will then have a group just for yourself. This is great for…

(a) Sending quick notes and reminders to yourself
(b) Sending something from your phone to your laptop/desktop, assuming you have Whatsapp Web installed on your laptop/desktop

And then, if you have a screenshot tool, you can (c) send screenshots of things on your laptop/desktop to your mobile. I find this especially useful in sharing your work with colleagues.

For the screenshot tool, I recommend Lightshot. It can even instantly generate a URL from your screenshots!

2) Find Ways to Bring Your Commitments Together

I don’t know about you, but this is the time of my life where I have immense difficulty in balancing my commitments. For instance, I have my full-time job, partner, family, friends and hobbies (both productive and non-productive ones) to manage. I think balancing all of the above can be difficult, especially when you spend most of your waking hours in the office. Over time, I have found ways to keep up with life. Examples include…

(a) Bringing friends from two friend groups together. Both of them can potentially gain a new friend!
(b) Sharing my hobbies (e.g. writing and gaming) with my friends & partner. Sometimes they even give me ideas to better my story!
(c) Take a long walk (to improve my health) before meeting up with a business partner (for work)
(d) Work on skills during your off-time (e.g. designing cards) that can be translated to better performance in the office (e.g. designing adverts)

3) Break Bad Habits by Setting the Right Environment

These days, my worst habit is probably snacking on potato chips. While I don’t stop myself from eating chips, I try my utmost best to make sure there are 1001 barriers between me and my chips. This means I make it a point to avoid stopping by the convenience store on my way home from work. Another example is putting my phone far far away when I need time away from the screen. In this instance, I know I will be too lazy to go to my table when I am lying on my bed.

In other words, to set the right environment, you need to consider what are the steps you usually take before committing the ‘felony’ and then add barriers to stop yourself from getting to that stage.

These three are all I have for now. I’m sure there are some I have missed out. I’ll add them here if I think of any!

BASICS OF WORLD-BUILDING

What are effective ways to build an imaginary world? What are the elements to consider?

 Sources of Information: Thankfully, we live in a time where google exists. And thanks to COVID-19, there is even less incentive to visit a library to carry out such research. One other possible source is cross-referencing the worlds of published books. While this will definitely take much more time, I also believe it is where the most significant lessons can be learnt. But for now, I will stick to what I can get from Google to jump-start my personal world-building. 

And you know what? Just from reading a couple of blogs, I’ve already gotten ideas of how I can twist my very cliché medieval world into something far more original! Or at least, I hope it is. 

 First up is a blog by Kristen Kieffer. She was an unknown to me before this, but in this blog, she essentially laid out every critical component of a believable world:

An Introduction to World-Building

I think it will be useful to examine the links between each world component. For example, if your character lives in a desert-like environment, then the food culture should probably reflect that. When I think of deserts, I also think of cactuses. Perhaps that can be weaved into the storyline to show how deep this imaginary world runs.

After a cursory exploration of other blogs, I realized that the content was rather similar. Basically, it is all about analyzing what makes up OUR world (the earth) and then break it down to various components so that they can be re-imagined.

The only component that I saw in other blogs but was not mentioned in the one above is languages. (Granted, she has another post only that talks about fictional languages.) As a linguist, this one will be of particular interest to me. In another blog, I also learnt that J. R. R. Tolkien started his world-building with a fictional language! 

From my studies in linguistics, I know that the structure of a language often reflects the history and culture of a community. It is most definitely a rich source of inspiration and one I fully intend to take advantage of. 

All of the above led me to consider developing a template to world-building for me and for others. And then I figured someone else probably already did this. I was right!

Worldbuilding: the Master Guide (with Template)

I got the template and then discovered reedsy is a hub of sorts for aspiring and published authors. On it, I can engage editors, designers and everything! There are even free courses on self-publication that I can take. All in all, it is rather exciting that I can add one more resource to my authorship toolbox. 

And now, here’s a video on world-building that was shared to me! In this video, the author takes a more carefree approach to world-building. However, it is clear that the same aspects are revisited again and again. The part that is new is the notion of consistency. For a world to be believable, there must be some kind of system or series of laws. This definitely gave me something to think about!

And now, I am off to get lunch and work on my revised world. When I have more thoughts on world-building, which will probably come in when I read some fantasy books, I’ll come back here with updates. 

Update: Added in How to build a Fictional World by Kate Messner

HOW DO YOU GROW EMOTIONALLY AS AN INTJ?

While I am aware that Myer-Briggs classification is pseudoscience, I have often found it a useful way to get to know yourself better. In my case, it has been practically transformative.


For one thing, it explained a massive bunch of the difficulties I went through while growing up. In fact, I am still going through them now.

One main difficulty is handling emotions and relationships, something that women are supposed to be good at. Welp, not me.


For the longest time, I had scoffed at the notion of emotions, spirituality and all of that. I once thought mediation was a rubbish thing too. I had near-zero ability to connect to my feelings and went through life like some sort of a robot. In some ways, it was kind of liberating – not having to care about a significant number of things that bothered other people.

But I wasn’t alive, not one bit.

I realized this when I went through a few traumatic episodes. I had ignored all the signs that something about my life was wrong. This led to a failure that I am still not proud of. Nevertheless, I am glad that it happened. If not, I wouldn’t have learnt.

Due to these events, I began to recognize the importance of acknowledging what your emotions are saying. They are like warning signs – not very different from the big yellow/red ones that you see on the roads.

And then, through this, I started to become more aware of how I affect the emotions of others. I used to be frustrated that people do not appreciate my direct way of engagement. I still am, actually. But now I also acknowledge the importance of tailoring your message in a way that will help other people accept the message that you are trying to convey. At the end of the day, isn’t that more important?

I used to be a big loner, but now I make an effort to maintain my relationships with the people I want to keep in my life. I did not realize the importance of having a supportive network of loved ones until I needed them. And now, I aspire to be part of someone’s supportive network too.

Finally, in recent times, I realized I am getting more attuned with people’s manipulative intentions too. Before this, I was incredibly naïve.


So how did I get here? These are the critical steps I took.

1) Introspect +++


Yes, my growth was triggered by big negative events. But I don’t think you necessarily need one to allow for that sort of growth. I do believe it will impact your rate of growth, however. Anyways, what you really need is the motivation to do so. For INTJs, that usually means a good and logical reason. So fellow INTJs, consider this – are emotions really all that useless? Do you really not crave for quality companionship? Do you NOT want to learn about what life can offer? Is staying alone and safe in your bubble really worth not trying? I used to think so, until I personally experienced what being out there and learning from other people could do for me. To put it simply, my life is now filled with colour. Previously, it was like some dull grey-white newspaper. And now, because I am able to feel more, my memories of the recent past are abundantly clear. In comparison, my teenage years were blurry as heck.


2) Be Open To Growth


I don’t think INTJs usually have a problem with this, but I do think we have some difficulties with being open to growing in certain areas. I know I have a tendency to not work on things I am bad in coughdirectionscough but…that really isn’t a good reason to stop working on it altogether. It takes a bit of grit, but over time, I really do think it will all work out. If there is one thing we ARE good at, it is picking up on new things. If you want to get an idea of how to build emotional growth into your routine, you can check out my blog on how to build a new habit .

3) Practice & Ask For Feedback. Rinse & Repeat.


Sounds kind of redundant but let’s be real – do people really do this? Especially when we’re talking about building up social skills. Engage others and watch their reactions. If they are people who matter to you and are willing to be honest, I am sure they will give you the feedback that you ask for. Emotions are the INTJ’s blindspot so there is no way in hell we will be able to navigate this alone.

So – what do you think? Do you have any questions on growing your emotional side? I’m all ears 😀

A ‘PLOT DEVELOPMENT & WRITING PREPARATION’ CHECKLIST

Before you write a story, you need a plot. While I absolutely adore coming up with plots, writing it out terrifies me. Like most others, I tend to second guess every step I take. So to counter that, I figured I should do two things in conjunction – research on how to develop a good plot and how to prepare myself for writing. Each of these bullet points below should eventually link up with another blog post. Therefore, being able to link all of them up will instil a sense of achievement in me.

Of course, I might come back at a later time to add one or two new bullet points. Refining the process is important too, no?

Please note that I did ZERO research before writing this out, so everything is basically a culmination of my not-so-professional writing experience since I was ten.

Checklist

Plot Development

1) How does one create a fictional world? What are the elements to consider?
2) How does one develop characters? How do you make them relatable/lovable/someone you love to hate?
3) How do you craft a storyline based on the developed world and characters?
4) Read at least 20 summaries of published books.
5) Read one (or more) book(s) that belong to the same genre I aim to write in.

Writing Preparation

1) How does one self-publish a book? On what platform(s) can a book be published?
2) Where and how can you engage an editor? Should you even engage one?
3) What are the words that you can use to replace ‘said’?
4) How should you write a prologue? How do you split a story into chapters?
5) How do you make the speech of characters sound natural?

I’ve decided five questions for each segment will do for now. In time, I will revisit this blog and refine the questions as I see fit. Also, if you somehow found your way to this blog and would like to add to the above process, please do not hesitate to leave a comment! I would love to hear from anyone 🙂

Content Update Tracking

29th June – Publication of Article
4th July – Added my first link to world-building!
7th July – Added my link to ‘said’ alternatives
15th July – Added my link to character development

HOW DO YOU BUILD A NEW HABIT & STICK TO IT?


Self-love is critical to self-sustained happiness.

Self-improvement is one of the significant components of self-love.

Therefore, forming new habits is one of the many ways to self improve.

But how does one form new habits?

Here’s an excerpt from a Healthline article:

According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit.

The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.

That sounds like a lot of work…and it is. But there are ways to make this journey more comfortable. Here’s a step by step guide on how I managed to develop new (and healthy) habits. But first, you should understand that I am not an incredibly disciplined individual. Or rather, I didn’t start out as one. There were times in my life where I spent days rotting away on the bed playing games. Heck, there are times where I still do that. However, I have also successfully developed a personal strategy for self-improvement.

1) Review Your Current Lifestyle

Think about how you spend your time. Are there periods where you can fill them with something new? How long are these periods? How about your energy levels? Are there days where you are bursting with energy? Or are you constantly feeling lethargic?

If you do not have the time and mindset to develop a new habit or hobby, then you are already setting yourself up for failure (which isn’t always a bad thing!). Before starting a new hobby, you should aim to balance your time and commitments well. When that’s settled, THEN you can start thinking about how to build a new habit.

2) Understand How You Tick

The second step is to figure out how you tick. There are some life habits that will work for you and not for others. The opposite is also true. For example, I discovered that setting up my to-do list on digital platforms like apps does NOT work for me. I get no satisfaction from pressing a checkbox on my phone. However, I CAN stick to a physical scheduler because I enjoy crossing out items on a written list.

Then, I tried to specify the time that I will complete these items. Eventually, I discovered this doesn’t work for me because it adds too much pressure. A simple list proved to be the best way for me to keep to my daily plans.

This step will require some trial and error. But once you’ve figured out how you tick, you will start to see a dramatic increase in your ability to be productive.

3) Start Out Small

Many of us have big goals. One of mine is, obviously, to write a book. Accomplishing these big goals appear impossible… until you realise each big goal can be broken down into many small goals. One such small goal for me is to get into the rhythm of writing content that does not have a hard deadline. I do not have difficulties completing tasks with a deadline. But for those that do not have one, like a book of my own? Yeah, that poses a huge problem.

One other example of mine is exercise. I’ve hated exercise ever since I was a teen. Even now, I kind of dislike it. I’ve even wasted multiple gym memberships in the past decade in my attempts to restart it. But now, I can maintain an exercise regime with the help of a few friends and strategies.

I started out by committing to biweekly spin classes with a friend. The dinners post-workout acted as a bonus/reward. This went on for about 9 months. Then, I discovered Ringfit, which enabled me to work out on days I could not make it to spin classes for whatever reason. (This often happened, which led me to lounging around at home. As an introvert, this is my default mode.) And because of my gamer side, who hates to pause in the middle of a ‘mission’, I always end up completing my maps.

Then, when I discovered biweekly workouts weren’t helping my weight, I started exercising three times a week. I have since lost a few kilograms. As you can see, it was a very gradual process.

Starting out small makes goals less intimidating. It makes it easier to incorporate the new habit into your routine. Before you realise it, you will start to feel weird if you haven’t done X at the end of the day.

If you have problems maintaining this, then refer back to point 2.

Finally, there is the overarching ingredient.

4) Perspective

When your goals are ‘small’, there are bound to be times where you wonder if they are even worth doing. For example, one of my old goals used to be ‘sing a song’, as a mood-booster. It is a ridiculously small goal, especially since I wasn’t even aiming to improve my singing. But, considering that I was at one of my lowest points in life, anything and everything I did was an achievement.

Over time, I started seeing benefits, such as improved discipline and better moods. With these, it became easier for me to believe in the benefits of working on something slowly, but surely.

Taking on the right perspective will help you derive more pleasure from taking each small step. This will become a cycle of affirmation. Over time, it will all build up and lead you towards the big goal you wanted to achieve.

Edit (23rd August 2020): One other thing that I found helpful was to develop ‘lite’ versions of your new habit. For example, a ‘lite’ version of my typical 45min exercise routine is a quick 10 minute yoga session. These lite versions of the habit you are trying to build and maintain isn’t meant to replace the heavier versions. They are meant to help you maintain the momentum you might lose if you just completely stop the activity altogether. This is especially useful when something pulls you away from your usual routine, such as a vacation, an illness or something incredibly distracting. It also helps with alleviating the guilt from not sticking to your routine.

Conclusion

And now, here I am, at the end of a 1000-word blog post that I managed to churn out within an hour+. The last time I was able to compose something this long (with quality) so smoothly and quickly was years ago. In truth, there are things about my whole journey in this area that I have not articulated yet. When I have the time, perhaps I will revisit this post and flesh out the rest of the pointers.

You know… I thought I had lost my desire to write. As it turns out, I’ve just clearly been writing about the wrong things. Hopefully, this is my first small step (among thousands) to finally finishing that book.

Update: Added in the part about ‘lite actions’.

DESIGN / CONTENT CREATION TOOLS THAT I USE

These are the cheap design tools/resources that I use to create my content on the site and at the workplace. This post will be continuously updated over time as I acquire more tools and resources. I will also include inspirational websites for my own archiving.

FREE RESOURCES

Stock images (commercial free too!): Pixabay
Color scheme generator (using one colour): Colorspace


FREE TOOLS WITH PAID FEATURES

CANVA

Most of the graphics I created on this website would have been made using Canva. I have the paid version but the free version is pretty useful as well! I would say it is a cheap alternative to Adobe Illustrator. It is ideal for content creators who are just starting out. It offers a wide variety of templates for all types of graphic/written content, such as resumes, website banners and more!

GRAMMARLY

The interesting thing about being a Singaporean born in the 90s is having parents/grandparents who did not have many opportunities to acquire standard English. Hence, the ability to learn good English highly depends on the quality of one’s formal education. I think my grasp of English is pretty good…but I also believe in continuous improvement. Grammarly is one of the tools I use to accomplish this.