Archive for the ‘#amwriting’ Tag

Discovering Great Characters   2 comments

Feb. 5, 2018 – Character Development; How do you achieve quality character development?

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lifeasweknewitTruthfully, I wasn’t sure about this topic at first because I don’t really work very hard at developing characters. They introduce themselves to me and reveal their histories, passions and quirks to me as I set about recording the story they tell me. I am more in agreement with Ray Bradbury that allowing interesting characters to run through your plot being authentic to who they are is the way to write better books than I am with writers who labor over the creation of a character. Yes, I do occasionally have to create a character to make something work in the plot, but they are never the characters I want to spend time with, so they never become main characters.

Despite that sort of laissez faire attitude toward character development, I do have a few steps I go through when I write to assure that my characters are living up to the standard of an entertaining character.

After I’ve finished the first draft of a novel and I come back to it for rewrite, I start by asking myself some questions. Did I put my characters in some challenging situations? If not, I fix that. How did my characters react to the challenge? Do they express strong opinions?  What are their connections? Do we see them and are they helpful to the plot and the characterizations? Have I left some ambiguity in those relationships? Are my characters being faulty enough? Do they hold grudges and are those grudges about to crawl out and bite them on the butt? Are there some everyday interactions mixed in with the plot-driven action?

 

I’m going to focus on Transformation Project because I have a lot of characters, but this series has two brothers who are sort of polar opposites and either one could be “the hero”.

objectsinviewWhen I first began writing the series, the only character that existed was Shane Delaney and he was perfect – a secret agent who would always rescue the damsel and save the town — well, there wasn’t really a town yet. He was a cartoon caricature suitable for a one-off tall tale told on a road trip.

Shane Delaney developed during writing the first draft of Life As We Knew It. As I got to know him during the first draft, which actually started the day Shane returned home to Emmaus, I recognized that he needed flaws, even some Kryptonite to make him more human. I paused to ask him about his backstory. And, man, what a painful backstory, including the suicide attempt that opens the series. I didn’t see that coming. So I rolled the action back two months in story-time and I put him in the bottom of a pit and kept him there for half the book – and then had him switch to being a total mercenary halfway through. On the outside, he’s hard and single-minded. On the inside, he’s closed off and in denial. He’s got a lot of psychic bruises from the times he has violated his own conscience. These things keep him up at night and make him unable to trust anyone, not because they aren’t trustworthy but because he deems himself to be untrustworthy. And, sooner or later, that tension is going to be his Kryptonite. He’s going to come to a place where there’s no more hero left and then … well, I’m not telling. I don’t even promise that Shane will be one of the people to survive to the end of the series. He started the series with a gun barrel in his mouth, so what are the odds he’ll survive? But he’s so much fun to write, so … his dark night of the soul will come and it will be transformative. Will he remain a hero or become Che Guevara? You’ll have to buy the books to find out.

Cai is Shane’s older brother, and he’s always been the good son, the steady fellow. He’s done one truly immoral thing in his life and it turned out really badly, so he’s sworn that off forever … or plans to anyway. While that past stumbling block has colored his relationships, if  the Apocalypse had not come, he’d have been a good lawyer, a good father and husband, deacon at the local Baptist church and a comfort to his parents in their old age. And, he’d have been the one to go collect Shane’s body someday and wonder what happened to bring his brother to such despair.

A Threatening Fragility Front CoverAh, but the Apocalypse did come, and that presents me with an opportunity to challenge a plain-vanilla character with some difficult circumstances and see if he grows and changes. The thing about the world flipping and sliding down the road on its roof is that it will either make heroes of ordinary men or destroy them. I’m not rushing the transformation of either brother because it’s a series and it’s really only been about a week in story-time. Cai got tossed into a labor camp during the third (most recently published) book A Threatening Fragility and spent much of the book being victimized and feeling sorry for himself while making no real effort to escape … which makes sense because he’s not a mercenary. He’s a lawyer whose Kryptonite is that he’s a rule-follower. It sure looked like he would be rescued at the end of that book, but the danger isn’t over in Thanatosis … it’s an evolving situation. Cai hadn’t developed the skills to stand against oppression. He’s not got the great passions of his brother. His triggers are few. He’s mellow. What will he do when what he cares about is endangered and breaking the rules is the only way to save the people he loves? That’s a fascinating research experiment for me. What happens when good and boring people are pressed beyond endurance and must either act or come to an end?

One of the areas that I focus on when rewriting is assuring that my characters express their opinions. A lot of writers are afraid to give their characters strong opinions for fear of seeming overbearing, but I wrote a town full of people who have strong opinions. I don’t want them all to agree with one another. I didn’t start out writing Shane to be an atheist — well, really more like a deist because he acknowledges God might exist — and he currently hates the guy’s guts. Yeah, a born-again Christian wrote her lead character as a God-hater. This is what happens when you let your characters reveal themselves to you rather than construct them. On the other hand, I wrote Cai Delaney to have a strong faith. They’re adult brothers living in the same house and they are going to express their opinions.

I wasn’t planning on making a love triangle when I wrote Shane, Cai and Marnie, but Shane reacted to her like a cat reacts to a dog, so I had to explain that. Marnie has her own backstory and I was frankly surprised when it turned out she and Shane had dated. That creates a triangle. Most fictional relationships are fairly simple dyads – two people interacting with one another, but throwing in a few triangles is useful because those more complex relationships yield big rewards. Shane will be part of another triangle between Jazz, himself and someone else at a later point in the series. Because the character of Shane is part of a large family, he has many of these triangular relationships and I love the tension that creates. Our emotions are not rational, and our relationships aren’t, either. If I were a romance writer, I could use sexual attraction as the great motivator for millions of bad character decisions, but I can also work that tension into relationships within an apocalyptic or a fantasy, because the same rules for building strong characters apply, it’s just not the focus in non-romance fiction. Yeah, my people are dealing with the end of the world as they know it, but they can stop for a second and deal with that past history that has become front and center once more because they’re all living in the same house. What if, in the end, Shane’s protection of the town is compromised by his unrequited feelings for Jazz? Yeah, see what I mean about tension?

I think the secret to great character development (especially when your characters tend to develop themselves) is discovering what their passions, fears and failures are and determining what their Kryptonite will be. I introduce these stimuli to my characters and see how they react. A lot of times, I really don’t know how a character will react to a particular Kryptonite stimulus until I start writing it. No, I don’t interview them. That’s way too mechanical a process for my style of writing. I write my way through it. I discover it as the reader would discover it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Often it requires a lot of editing to make work well. But the initial exploration of how a turn of a plot will effect my characters is done on the page. Occasionally, I have a character refuse to do something I want and suggest other possibilities. It’s always a surprise and a struggle when that happens, but ultimately it works because I get the authentic reaction of a fully fleshed-out character rather than just what I think they should do.

It’s like writing magic. I don’t know what will happen until it happens on the page, which is exactly the way the reader experiences it. There can be weaknesses in that method. It lends itself to blind spots, but I give good consideration whether that spontaneous fiction actually works when I am rewriting, thus drawing key influences from those who construct their characters.

A final word about writing characters. I have several races in my fantasy series, Daermad Cycle, and I separate them by different ways of speaking. It’s a series that has racial tension as a dynamic and so I state outright what the differences our. The round-ear humans don’t particularly like or trust the furl-eared, catslit-eyed elves and this causes problems that they need to overcome if they want to survive.

On the other hand, Transformation Project takes place in 21st century America the day-after-tomorrow. Based on the demographics of my real-life pattern town, it is a mostly white community, but I’ve included a few racial minorities to be true to reality. I don’t necessarily tell my readers that because I believe that in a survival situation, it wouldn’t mean much that Vin and Lila are black. So, I seriously contemplate how they would speak and what attitudes they might have that would show their slightly different culture. I provide hints in their physical description that they’re not white, but I’ve deliberately kept it subtle because, based on my own life experience, it doesn’t matter to most people.

My way is certainly not the only way and it may not even be the best way, but it works for me and I hope it works for my readers.

Do go see what my fellow authors have found works for them.

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Posted February 5, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Whence Did My Muse Wander?   4 comments

Inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration for writing? When you’re running low on ideas or creative flow, how do you get your inspiration back?

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My inspiration comes from life and the news and, sometimes other authors. It depends on the genre and my mood at the time.

Image result for image of literary inspirationFor example, Transformation Project is largely inspired by the news. It’s sort of bleak out there in divided American these days, which just begs for someone to write an apocalyptic about people overcoming the mess created by the demon spawn of division and tyranny. Rather than fuss overmuch about the Resistance, the Revolutionary Communist Party of America and Black Lives Matters planning a series of “color revolution-like” demonstrations around the US during the month of November, I choose to write about Kansas farmers hiding corn from off-the-lease USDA agents who mean to take what these farmers grew and give it to people in the cities. Which is worst – reality or fiction? The reader gets to decide, I guess.

My fantasy series is inspired, really, by my admiration for a whole lot of other fantasy writers and a love of medieval and Celtic history and culture.  Maybe there’s a desire to get away from our overly-technological society, to slow things down to the pace of a horse. You can dead with issues in a fantasy setting that would just plain sound strange in a contemporary setting. Jazz in Transformation Project can certainly be equal to a man when she has a gun, but Ryanna in Daermad Cycle, as a female half-elf is nearly as strong as a human man. She can sword-fight a male and, with superior skill, best him. So questions about strength and equality can be tweaked because of that differing dynamic.

Other stories are inspired by life events. Yet-to-be published “What If Wasn’t” is largely drawn from the experiences of a friend of ours who spent time in prison and then tried to make a normal life for himself when he got out. My book is not his story — that would be an invasion of his privacy — but his stories are threaded throughout the novel.  A YA I’m working on started from a story someone else told me that I changed and developed into something that is quite different from the original true story. I’m also working on another story that is based on a shooting here in Alaska, but my story is not about that particular shooting. I’ve fictionalized it.

Related imageSo, what do I do when “my muse” stops talking to me? That rarely happens because I shift around from project to project to keep myself from getting bored. BUT … when I find myself staring at a blank screen with nothing coming to mind and that lasts more than a day, I usually take a small break. I go hiking in the woods … design and construct a quilt … read a bunch of books. I once binge-watched three seasons of Vampire Dairies … and, no, I’m not a fan and I don’t write supernatural fiction, but apparently that month of wasted time was what was needed to get my inspiration back.

My goal is to distract myself, but only temporarily. While I’m distracting myself, some world leader says or does something that gets my interest. A friend forwards me an article on economics, history or political anarchy. I read a book on medieval marriage laws. Maybe I hike by a wonderful lake that just insists upon being described. I overhear a conversation in the coffee shoppe that just begs to be recorded. I hear a song or read a poem that just speaks to something deep in my soul.

Some time in that process of letting my mind rest for a few days or weeks, the voices return and offer to tell me more of their stories. Inspiration returns. They weren’t gone. They were just taking a siesta and are now ready to give me something to write once more.

 

Conflicted Character   Leave a comment

A Threatening Fragility Front CoverI like when my characters have internal conflicts — emotional, ethical, or mental struggles — while trying to decide what to do about the external problem that drives the plot. The challenge isn’t a physical thing, but a struggle within the protagonist to make the right choice.

Why?

An external task that’s easy to complete often lacks tension and unpredictability, which leads to boring stories. Adding an emotional roadblock makes the task much more interesting.

What needs to be done is clear, but the protagonist doesn’t want to resolve it that way for personal reasons. Either the right choice has consequences he doesn’t want to suffer, or there is no good choice—whatever he does has serious ramifications.

Internal conflicts require a fully-developed understanding of the character, because these conundrums are based on who the protagonist is because of what has happened to him or her in life, and this past makes it harder for him to make decisions and resolve external challenges. They typically come from the morals and ethics of the character, and, more often than not, choosing one side negates the other, and the protagonist can’t have it both ways.

So how do you set up internal conundrums for your characters?

Just as every real person has a set of morals or values that they like to think they would never violate, a character who is more than a plaster saint must also have lines they won’t cross easily. What a character thinks is true affect his behavior. If the “right” choice contradicts what the protagonist holds as true, he’s going to struggle to make that choice. Nothing builds conflict like some serious soul searching and nothing causes soul searching like being asked to contradict your deeply-held beliefs. That can create a lot of fun conflict to play with in a novel.

How a character believes other people should be treated will also affect how she makes a decision—and sometimes these are much harder to reconcile. For example, if the protagonist believes killing is wrong, any choice that requires killing someone will be met with fierce resistance. Morality is rooted in personal rules and laws about acceptable behavior. But if killing is the only way to save someone she loves or to prevent something terrible from happening, a character might be tempted. Doing a bad thing for a greater good can be a persuasive argument … and a slippery slope to disaster. There’s the post-traumatic stress disorder, the dark night of the soul, the belief that others are judging you for your actions, and that fact that now that killing is on the table, you might not be able to take it back. Think of Rick in the Walking Dead. “We don’t kill the living.” Once they had to kill the living, however, it became easier to justify killing the living, but not any easier to live with the guilt that follows.

Sometimes a character wants to do things he knows are wrong. It could be a lie or a theft. What he wants to do goes against what he knows is right, and a lot of conflict is possible as he tries his best to rationalize why it’s okay to do it anyway. Such ethical slip-and-slides can be compelling problems for your protagonist to regret and have to deal with at the worst possible time in the story.

Fear is a powerful motivator for stepping outside your morality. If a character is focused on survival, he might make bad decisions that go against his morality. Maybe a character who would normally intervene when a woman is being abused chooses not to step out of the shadows because there’s a mob doing the abusing. Being too afraid to do the right thing is a conflict nearly everyone can relate to.

Shame is also a powerful emotion. People can ignore their ethics and personal beliefs if it means saving themselves from a terrible secret being revealed. They’ll act to avoid standing out or looking foolish, which can keep them from doing the right thing at the right time to prevent a problem. Someone who witnessed a crime while doing something embarrassing isn’t likely to tell anyone for fear his own transgression will be exposed.

Internal conflicts are fun opportunities to put the protagonist in the hot seat and force him to decide who he really is and what he really stands for. How far is he willing to go to help a friend? What will he risk? What does he value? His struggles while making a decision shows readers who he really is as a person. And it all makes for a much more interesting story.A Threatening Fragility Front Cover

Edit Ruthlessly   2 comments

As writers, we’re also readers. What is a common mistake you see in many books? Offer suggestions for making a change. You can even share a paragraph from a book and correct it.

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Image result for image of manuscript editingI love to read and when I’m not writing, that’s often what I am doing. I love books by indie authors, but I also have favorites among the authors you’ll find in a mainstream bookstore.

Because I was trained in editing and have made my living at least partially editing the writing of others, I tend to notice errors and if they’re in a published book, they drive me crazy because I can’t fix them and, depending on the author, I wonder how they got past the professional editor.

Errors?

I have no opinion on the Oxford comma. They are forbidden in journalism writing, which is why I rarely use them, but it’s not technically an error to use it. If you don’t know what an Oxford comma is, google it. It’s useful information. My rare usage is reserved for those times when absolute accuracy matters.

So, what do I consider to be errors?

Well, there are the standard ones – were, where … there, they’re … it’s, its … affect, effect … lie, lay, laid, lain  — yes, those are different words with different meanings. Learn to use them correctly, authors! Grammar and spelling really do matter. Not all your readers are going to have editing skills, but they will enjoy your work more if grammar and misspelling errors don’t disturb their experience and that pays dividends. Learn the difference between a possessive word that ends with apostrophe then “s” (usually, with some exceptions like “its”) which is different from a contraction that might also end with an apostrophe “s”. Then there are plural words which still end in “s”, but have no apostrophe … ever. That frustrates me.

A while back, I was reading a novel by a traditionally published author and he had a huge continuity error in his book. Remember how in Lost the hatch took a lengthy hike to get to originally, but once they were using it all the time, they seemed to get to it in a few minutes of walking? That bothered me and this author’s error was similar. The rest of the book was good and I wouldn’t say don’t read it (which is why I’m not identifying it), but it did somewhat spoil my enjoyment of it.

In a similar vein, avoid anything that might knock the reader out of a willing suspension of disbelief. I was beta-reading a while back and the author used the American terms for currency throughout a fantasy novel. I understand why she did it, but it completely threw me out of the story. She admitted she did it for convenience sake and put some thought into a currency system for her world that will appear in the published book.

#1 Pet Peeve?

When I learned American Sign Language, I had to accept that some very similar seeming signs that sometimes have similar ways of speaking in English gloss very different concepts. For example, “see” and “look” are similar looking, but very different concepts and Deaf will laugh at you if you get them wrong.

  • “His eyes dwelt on her form.”
  • “His eyes ran along the floor.”
  • “His eyes were fixed on the sky.”

Well, let’s hope not. The hero should keep his eyes in his head. His gaze dwelt on her form. His gaze ran along the floor. His gaze was fixed on the sky. Let’s not give readers the word picture of eyes rolling around on the floor, cloud-hopping and/or groping maidens.

#2 Pet Peeve?

The overuse of the word “that” annoys me. For example, “that” isn’t needed after “said” about 99% of the time, yet even my graphic above uses it when it isn’t needed.

  • “It has been said that words are like inflated money …”
  • “It has been said words are like inflated money …”

There is a simple test for this. Can you think of any other verb that is normally followed by the word “that”?

  • “He climbed that the tree …” Nope
  • “She sang that the song …” Nope

You get my point, right?

Okay, so now you know. These things annoy me as a reader and I hope I avoid annoying others with same issues. Yes, we all make mistakes and an occasional typo making it to the finished book is understandable, but be ruthless with yourself so that you eliminate as few errors as possible.

Interview with Zara Altair   3 comments

Today’s interview is with Zara Altair. Welcome to the blog. Tell us something about yourself. 

Profile photoLela, thank you for inviting me to this conversation. I live just outside of Portland, Oregon, in the United States. When I’m not working on my stories, I’m still writing. I contribute semantically optimized content for several websites and blog article series. Right now, I am also ghostwriting a thriller.

I’ve taught writing in various roles from kindergarten through university. For the past 10 years, I’ve been helping other story writers with developmental editing and script review.

 

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

I’ve been telling stories since I was a toddler and began writing stories when I was around five years old. At that same time, I met a writer of children’s books and knew I wanted to be a writer.

 

 

Tell us about your writing process.

The process is a mix. Characters come to me and want their story told. I get to know my character and, for the historical mysteries, I do a great deal of research.

For planning, I do a three-point plan: Beginning, middle, and end. Then I fill in the chapters that get the story from the beginning to the end. Those chapter notes are loose ideas. I find that as I write, characters do and say things that move the story in unexpected ways. I do not compose the story linearly. If a scene pops into my head, I write it while it is fresh in my mind. A similar process may happen with bits of dialog. So-and-so has to say this, and then fit it into the story.  But, in the main, I write from the beginning to the end, fitting in those already written scenes at the appropriate place in the story line.

Writing time is uninterrupted. No phone conversations. No quick checks of email. I want to get “in the flow” and stay there during writing time.

 

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

The Used Virgin: An Argolicus Mystery (Argolicus Mysteries) by [Altair, Zara]I read a lot of thrillers, crime, police procedurals, some legal thrillers. I also read science fiction.

 

I love writing mysteries. I think it is the puzzle that intrigues me. What is the puzzle? Who is involved? Who seems like the perfect foil? What are the clues? Where do I plant them in the story?

 

 

Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

I find that reading history of the time of my stories, early 6th Century Italy, provides great inspiration for the circumstances of the plot and what issues surround characters. Some of the reading is fairly dry, but as a storyteller my response may be: What the bishops were running a slave trade? The area was known for horse breeding? Sometimes these idea sparks come from scholarly footnotes, not the main text. I’m always looking for juicy situations.

 

Because the Emperor Justinian did everything he could to remove all traces of the Ostrogoths in Italy, research is always a challenge. From quotidian details like meals and clothing to palace intrigue sources are scant. A perfect example is the mosaic of the palace in Sant’Apollonare Nuovo. Justinian had the original mosaic, believed to be Theoderic and his court, removed and replaced with the curtains. If you look closely you can see hands on three of the pillars which are left over from the original mosaic.

 

My central character, Argolicus, was a real person at the time of Theodoric’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae (iii 11, iii 12, iii 29, iii 30, iii 33, iv 22, iv 25, iv 29, iv 42) as praefectus urbis of Rome. His childhood and ongoing friendship with Cassiodorus come from my imagination.

 

 

What sort of research do you do for your novels?

The Peach Widow: An Argolicus Mystery (Argolicus Mysteries) by [Altair, Zara]I have bookshelves full of historical references. Conference proceedings bound into books, sometimes including lively question and answer sessions. Many of the books are in Italian. One conference may have presentations in English, French, Italian, etc. I struggle through quotes in Latin and Greek. My one comparison to Shakespeare is that, as Ben Jonson said, I have “small Latin and less Greek.” I sound out the Greek. It’s like a kid just learning to read.

 

I traveled to Italy, to interview scholars at the Universitá di Bologna, who graciously answered many questions and supplied me with 30 kilos of books to further my research. Two questions I had were inadvertently answered by just being there. I found a small cookbook in a bookstore about the food of the Ostrogoths, and a bartender gave me a local journal that spoke of an underground café, which for story purposes, was the place where the king stored the wheat and bread that he gave out.

 

 

If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

My stories are traditional mysteries set in a long-ago time, a time when the Ostrogoths ruled Italy. The main character straddles the two worlds of Ostrogoth and Italian culture. There were no police or private detectives, and murder was not a crime under either legal system.

 

 

Do you have a special place where you write?

Yes, my desk. Sometimes it is covered with reference books.

 

 

 

Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Mysteries have a standard plot trope. Beyond that, I play with the characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What influenced your decision to self-publish?

My short story, The Used Virgin, had been sitting on my computer for several years. I decided to put it out there for anyone who might be interested. Little did I know at the time, how much I had to learn about creating an author platform and communicating with readers and potential readers.

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

Getting the book out is a relatively short process. The author has control of publication.

 

With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

I don’t think so much about getting the books to stand out as finding readers who want to read the type of story I write. That thinking comes from working as a writer in the Search Engine Optimization world. Business owners, that’s me as an author, can spend energy on ranking, or they can optimize to engage with customers. It’s a similar approach.

Ask me again in two years.

 

 

Who designed your book cover/s?

I feel fortunate to work with Ryan J. Rhoades of Reformation Designs. After talking with him about the series, he created covers that captured the essence of the time. And, each cover has an important clue hidden in the details. We did that for fun.

Although I had worked with him on other design projects, his branding tends to look very modern. I was hesitant at the beginning but as soon as I saw his first cover I knew I had made a good decision.

 

 

Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

Absolutely. Write the best story you can. Find an editor familiar with your genre. Hire a cover designer who understands your book. Choose cover material and paper that match the feel of your book. Self-published authors who put in attention to detail in all phases of book production have no worries about high-quality.

 

Do you belong to a writer’s cooperative? Describe your experience with that.

Nothing so formal as a cooperative. I have been in writing groups for years starting with the Russian River Writers in California in the late 1970s.

My current writing group is small. When I moved to Oregon from California four years ago, I looked at a number of groups but most of them were not a fit. I started corresponding with a contact from a group that had folded and we chatted about our “ideal” group. It took us almost a year to form the group. We have written rules, a trial period, and a tight community.

We meet twice a month. We bring printed copies of the pages. We take turns reading each other’s passage aloud. After the reading each individual comments. The writer leaves with written comments and suggested edits from each member.

The comments and suggestions are instrumental in honing the final story. I recommend a writing group for any writer. What we do with suggestions is up to the writer.

 

How do readers find you and your books?

 

 

Links:

Amazon Author Page

Author Website

Facebook Author Fan Page

Twitter

Goodreads

Google+

YouTube

 

Seeking Inspiration   6 comments

This week’s blog hop topic is “What inspires you, and why do those things inspire you?

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Inspiration surrounds us. All you need do is open your eyes and your imagination and let it in. Inspiration comes from the words of your favorite author to the leaves blowing across your path on your morning commute.

Image result for image of inspirationSometimes it’s hard to see the muse while you’re living your daily life. My husband Brad wonders how I can spend my workday planted in front of a computer screen writing for other people and then come home and write my own stories. And, I can’t really explain what’s going on in my head while I’m doing the mundane parts of my job and my standard life. Exactly what is it about filing or data entry that gets the creative juices flowing?

Inspiration is innate — intimate — to a writer, I believe. I know there are people who do their best thinking while lying awake in the middle of the night, but I do mine in that margin between when I lie down and when I go to sleep. It’s about a half-hour where I can daydream without interruption and those are often times spent at the inspiration well. I’ve trained myself to remember so I write down what I learn later.

I find inspiration in the everyday. I’m fascinated by relationships – happy ones, complicated ones, weird ones, even painful ones. My writing is often an attempt to dissect the meaning behind an event or to describe a particular feeling or emotion.

I’m inspired by things I face and work through in my daily life. The news is a constant source of inspiration for my apocalyptic series Transformation Project. Sometimes when I’m reading or watching television or doing research, ideas will fall on fertile imaginative soil and slowly a story will spring forth, again while I’m doing something completely unrelated to “being creative.” My most recent book, the novelette Hullabaloo on Main Street was inspired by a Washington Post article about how Democrats in Wisconsin were shocked that their neighbors had voted for Donald Trump, but when I opened my imagination to it, I overheard dozens of conversations by people from both sides of the aisle. Yes, I’m inspired by eavesdropping too. Connor’s observation about how his conservative and liberal neighbors asking for help differently is actually inspired by a liberal coworker’s observation about that dynamic.

Living in Alaska is a powerful inspiration. Long walks just through my neighborhood brings me in contact with nature right on the edge of a vast wilderness. I see colors that I want to describe, smell fragrances that want to be put on paper, watch my neighbors do things that just must be captured in word pictures.

I’m inspired by investigating my life — taking it apart at the seams and seeing what’s inside. How did I become who I am? How did someone who shared their story with me become who they are? I look beneath the surface of this visible reality and find places that are more felt than seen.

The creative process itself brings me to a place where I am often in that world and the process itself is inspiring. The act of having to type words slows me down and connects me to emotions, places and characters in a way where I feel what they feel, see, hear, etc.

I’m inspired by challenges. When I reach a point in a book’s narrative where things are hard, I love the feeling of finding the just-right turn of a phrase that solves my characters problems … or drives them forward to face those problems. Don’t we just wish our own lives were that easy?

(Note – not really. I’m pretty mean to my characters and I would not want anyone to treat me that way.)

Although the sources of my creativity are many, back of it rests the one main foundation of my life … my faith. I find literary themes and ways of addressing problems on the page in the words of my Savior. I learn ways of seeing things that are different from what is “normal” because of the tenets of my faith. Writing fiction somehow draws me closer to God and allows me to not only say, but sometimes realize insights through my characters that I’d feel awkward and foolish saying myself.

Inspiration comes in many forms and myriad sources. It’s kind of cliche to say that inspiration is everywhere, but I get my best moments with my muse when I’m filing paperwork or scrubbing the tub, so I think that “everywhere” is about right.

#openbook, #bloghop, #mondayblogs, #amwriting

 

Posted May 15, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

Tagged with , , , , ,

Please Support My Thunderclap – 3/4 Way There   Leave a comment

I’m seeking to spread the news about “Hullabaloo on Main Street”, a political satire from a non-partisan viewpoint, which launches May 16. You can help by supporting my Thunderclap campaign. Most people by now are familiar with Thunderclap. It allows a 1-time-only use of your social media network to promote … well, things like my book. And Thunderclap does not keep your social media network information.

I’m at 76% of my goal and would appreciate any help I can get.

Follow the link and thank you in advance.https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/56935-hullabaloo-on-main-street?locale=en

Source: Please Support My Thunderclap

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