Monday, August 06, 2007

A lot of writing instruction manuals suggest that to better get to know your character, you should imagine interviewing them. I try this every so often, but I've never really felt comfortable doing it. Here's how my interviews usually go:
Me: All right then, Vey, why don't you tell me a little about yourself?
Vey: (Stares blankly at me from across the table)
Me: Erm... (nervous paper shuffling) Why don't you tell me a little about your childhood? What made you the man you are today?
Vey: (Frowning) You do know you're talking to yourself, right?
Me: Well, ah, technically yes, but this is supposed to be an int-
Vey: I mean, let's be honest. I'm not even from your reality; why would I be sitting at a table with you?
Me: You're missing the point. I'm trying to get to know you better. I'm making the effort to figure out what makes you a unique individual. And no one can hear us, anyway.
Vey: Oh, all right. (Clears throat, then begins to speak in a stiff, artificial manner) I had a very difficult childhood. We were trained to-- Look, I'm sorry, this just isn't working for me. This isn't how I operate.
Me: Well, if you want to get real about, it, you don't normally speak like you're speaking now, either.
If you're gonna be a smartass, I can take my toys and go home.

When I write, when I think about my characters, I live in their skin. My outer body stills, and my mind turns to what they're seeing and feeling. It's difficult to do--and probably why I'm slow, since you can't do this when you're mind is buzzing with too much real-life responsibility. But writing through the character's skin gives them such life, such vibrance, that for a few moments I can forgive my pokiness and just enjoy the ride.

Friday, July 20, 2007

For quite some time now, I've been frustrated with my inability to write with as much ease and speed as I once had. Of course, life was simpler when I had it, but that doesn't make the situation easier to accept.

Yesterday I was reminded of some important things that I know but had forgotten to really consider:
1. The first few words are the hardest. This is true for a rewrite as well as for a blank page. Any time you have to create something from nothing (or from little), you can be choked by fear of failure/ridicule or self-doubt.

2. Sometimes the best way to go forward is to take a few steps back. Many, many times I've found myself stuck in a scene for weeks, wondering what I was supposed to do next. What works best? Save a copy of the original scene, pull it apart into manageable events, then consider alternatives to those events. If the scene ends with a character leaving, what would happen if he never left? Say you've begun your scene with a fight--how will events change if the characters approach each other with different attitudes? What if she never entered the room but the chapter still ended with her finding his letter?

3. You write best when you can silence your inner critic. This is not, mind you, the voice saying, "Wait a minute--that's not how you spell conglomeration!" You have to be able to get past your own self-doubt. Maybe the sentence you just wrote doesn't quite suit your needs for that character. Maybe there's a big chunk of reaction missing in a character's conversation. Okay--you've identified that. Make a note of what needs to be addressed when you stop writing and are ready to review. That review might occur at the end of the book or of the chapter or even of the scene. But you have to keep writing and not let your self-doubt about or fears of embarrassment at the trashy quality of your writing keep you from getting anything down in print at all.

Yesterday, I had a moment that I hadn't experienced for some time. Without realizing it, I slipped into a place where I could contentedly sit and follow the actions of my characters in my mind like I was watching a movie. What happened next in the scene was what naturally came to them, not what I felt the need to force into being. When the moment was over, I felt peaceful and happy. These moments are what I think I love most about writing. Everyone has those activities that make them feel good about themselves. Some of us are dancers, and we feel most free in movement. Others lose themselves in music. For myself, I love the sense of calm that comes when a flow of words seems perfect for the time and place, whether I'm putting them down on paper or startling a companion into bemused silence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

If anyone out there has any extra well-wishes, I could really use some.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'm better! I have gotten over my bout with pleurisy and I actually feel like writing again! HOORAY!!!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sphinx Ink has tagged me to take part in a bloggers' meme.

According to the instructions:
I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
  • Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  • At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  • Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
So, onto the morsels of revelation!

1. I have multi-toned skin that has led many people to ask (or perhaps wonder silently) if I was burned during my childhood (I was not--just born this way). This has left me a wee bit self-conscious about displaying skin.

2. I have a bad habit of extensively researching new hobbies, purchasing all of the supplies I need for them, and then never using the stuff. (I am going to learn how to needle-felt. Really.)

3. When I doodle, I draw tiny faces. Two dots and a mouth, and I prefer to make everything just a little askew. Little smiling faces--or little annoyed faces, depending on my mood at that moment.

4. I like to think that I would be a sleek, graceful feline predator if I were an animal. Friends keep trying to disabuse me of this belief by insisting upon seeing me as a small fluffy brown bunny.

5. Movies and books with sad or tragic endings are to be avoided. They linger on my mind for an inordinate amount of time. I was a nervous wreck for a full day after watching Amadeus, and I once furiously buried a book in the back of my closet because the hero died and I didn't see it coming.

6. I love documentaries that give me insight about human behavior. Everything from shows about criminal behavior to interviews with exotic dancers.

7. My favorite and most often uttered word used to be "nifty". Much to the chagrin of family and friends who I've managed to startle in moments of delighted excitement, it is now "WOOT!"

8. I'm not particularly ambitious in the traditional sense. I have no desire to be a leader. I am, however, an EXCELLENT supporter. Giving other people happy moments makes me happy. You need someone to give you encouragement? I'm your woman! Yay, You!

If I can think of eight people to send this to, I'll edit this post with their names later.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Several years ago, I decided I wanted to be childlike.

I don't remember what exactly spurred this decision. I suspect it had something to do with a discussion I read about the difference between "childlike" and "childish". In any case, I had been much happier and friendlier when I was a wee person, a sharp contrast to the shy and reserved person I had grown into at the time of my decision.

So I decided that I wasn't going to be embarrassed to find joy in the little things in life. To stop and admire the geckos. To savor the chocolate muffin like it was meant to be savored. To always be open to learning something new. To embrace silliness and share its importance with others (often whether I know them or not).

Take the little happinesses when you can get them. Sometimes the big ones can be few and far between.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From Chapter 1 of my current Work in Progress:

Twelve armsmen, eight among them unblooded youngsters, none of them battle-tempered. Six archers aiming from window slits high above. Thirty-seven apparent noncombatants leaning over the battlements and peering from the windows--any could be armed.

Vey marked each person’s location in his mind. With practiced precision, he calculated the likely trajectories between them, his Queen and her handmaid, and his Brothers. The grounds outside the palace walls offered few places for defense, but the Brothers could move swiftly, and Halle would protect their Queen’s life with her own.

Standing orders were to avoid offensive engagement unless otherwise directed. Neutralize the enemy even when attacked. He had the advantage--his nearest opponent faced into the sun. Squinting against the sun’s glare, the guard shifted uneasily as his eyes darted from Vey to the other faceless Wraiths. A flash of light reflecting off of his sword heightened the nerves of the other guards; all raised their weapons higher to keep their uninvited guests in place.

Vey and his Brothers were motionless, waiting for their Queen’s command.

“My arrival has not been a surprise.” Within the circle of her protectors, his Queen’s voice was edged with displeasure. “The King of Eindeven has promised me the peace of his household.”

The guard who had halted their party, an officer by his wide-legged, dominant stance and by the symbols embroidered on his tunic, was unimpressed. “I’ll not let a force of armed assassins into His Majesty’s court,” he growled. “Your men surrender their weapons, or you leave the lot of ’em out here.”

A flicker of movement from high above caught Vey’s eye. One of the high windows that had been previously unoccupied now framed the figure of a late arrival. A woman.

She was darker-skinned than any woman he had ever seen. She was dressed with the plainness of a servant, unornamented, and unprotected. Her dark eyes were intent as she watched the conflict below, her lips slightly parted. When she leaned closer to the window, a shaft of sunlight brushed her skin, gilding it with honey.

Vey had tasted honey once. He’d been very young and very ill, unable to even look at food. The spoonful of dark, thick honey had been a heavy sweetness against his tongue, making his mouth water in spite of his lack of appetite. He had longed to ask for more.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Those of you who enjoy flashes from the past have to check out Miss Retro Modern's Photos. Simply divine.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Last night, around 1:45 AM, the engine in our apartment's air conditioning unit apparently fried itself. We awoke to find smoke pouring into the apartment through the vents and spent a few of the following hours getting to know the residents of our local firehouse.

We are, of course, left with an apartment covered in little strings of ash, clothes that smell like something unspeakable burned in them, and a hole in our ceiling. The apartment manager has said that she'll try to get the unit replaced by the end of the day. Meanwhile, the electricity to our apartment has been turned off; we spent the few hours before the morning at a friend's house, but we're unsure about what we're supposed to do next.

I'll probably take tomorrow off to start doing laundry or clean-up. Meanwhile, I'm trying to look at the silver linings--we woke up before the smoke could do untold damage to our lungs or kill us, and we still have most of our smoke-stained possessions.

Am I really supposed to be able to write through things like this?

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Today will be a writing day. Things to do:
1. Finish the first draft of Chapter 5.
2. In the first four chapters, flesh V and Tam out into fuller characters, like they are in my head. Show more of the conflict/interaction going on in their own lives; intertwine it with the plot line
3. Do my normal first rewrite of Chapter 5 at this point so that it reflects the changes in the first chapters.
4. Start chapter 6.

The likelihood of me getting this list covered today, or even this weekend, is fairly low. But if I set my mind toward Chapter 5, it's a start, and a start is better than a stall.

Might start putting snippets of my work up here as well, if I can get over the worry about it being plagarized and published by someone else before I can do it.

Friday, March 30, 2007

My critique group tore apart my latest chapter. It hurt like the dickens, but I have to admit that they're right about the weak spots they pointed out. These spots web flaws out from the first chapters like cracks spreading through windshield glass. To keep them from spreading any further into the following chapters, I'm going to finish the rough draft of the chapter I'm working on now, then go back and rewrite the first four chapters (making the main characters stronger), then redo chapter 5 to match the changes in the first four.

I need speed. I need to be able to get over my unreasonable fear of attaching myself to something I loved so much before. Hey--maybe that's it, huh? I was so attached to it, and when the hurricane hit New Orleans, I was ripped away from being able to so much as think about it for a long time. Maybe I don't want that to happen again. Maybe I'm just still stressed out.

I wish I could take time off from work--say, a two-week stretch--to get some straight writing done in a modicum of privacy (which I don't have in our teeny space in the evenings). But work is wonderful when it's allowing you to pay for your medical needs and buy things. Buying things...heck, that has become a whole 'nother problem these days.

Find happiness where you can, people. Hopefully it won't involve your credit cards.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I have to admit that although I'm frustrated with how long it's taking me to write, I've come up with some good ideas during those long stretches of silent fingers. The odd part--my novel seems to want very much to be a two-parter. Funny, considering how much difficulty I'm having getting this written down. Perhaps I'll just end up writing a hefty tome in the style of Lorna Freeman (READ LORNA'S BOOKS NOW!).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Well, our house was robbed a sixth time. They broke through our attempts to secure the place. Doesn't seem like it'll be safe to move back even if we're able to afford the post-hurricane repairs.

I'm trying to get in a writing frame of mind. Really, I am.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We woke up this morning to find out that our area was hit by multiple tornadoes. A harsh thing to happen to a city that a.)doesn't have tornadoes and b.)is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

On top of that, the recent spate of violence and robbery have apparently made some ugly-souled people out there say (loudly) that the country shouldn't be working to rebuild New Orleans. To you all, I point out that your moment will come, and you'd better hope that people feel more humanity toward you than you seem to be willing to extend to us.

New Orleans is an entertainment stop to most of the country. But the truth is, a lot of the drinking and partying is done by tourists who come here. We're very family oriented, as anyone who's ever attended an uptown parade during Mardi Gras season can tell you. We're far from the Sodom and Gomorrah that we're portrayed as. We're a very religious city--many religions, though predominantly Catholic, and we had nothing but goodwill for the rest of the country.

Now, I think, we're also very, very tired. It's very hard to shut out those loud, ugly voices who marginalize you. It's also painful to realize just how little concern your own state has for you as well. I've always heard that New Orleans was like an island all on its own... I didn't realize until now just how true that was.

No writing right now. The continued stress seems to be pushing me more toward light hysteria instead of panic, anxiety, and collapse. Is it a bad thing to be able to laugh about the fact that your hurricane-damaged house is still standing after a tornado?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I was hoping to get Chapter 4 finished this week, but Things have come up and conspired to eat most of my time. Here's hoping I can reclaim some of it and get the chapter out by Saturday night at the latest.

Meanwhile, here's the first Forward Motion for Writers exercise I've done for the Zette's Gym forum in quite a while. The challenge, as listed at the forum, was to write a sentence that included all five senses. Here's my attempt:
He drew his limbs tight to avoid feeding more skin to the broken stone, stars bursting into false brightness and fading behind his closed lids, and concentrated on each rasp of breath that burned his nostrils with dust from a past long forgotten and coated his throat with the dry promise of death.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I'd like to start writing again, but I'm not sure where to start. I mean, if your most senior of six bodyguards is found mysteriously dead in a foreign ruler's palace, what's your next step? Do you rage? Are you shellshocked? Wrought with anguish because he was your lover or because your favorite plaything is gone? Are you lost and paranoid?

This is a good time to make one of those Lists of 20, where you write down 20 alternative answers to your question and use one of the last few, which are bound to be unusual and brain-stimulating. Unfortunately, I've never actually gotten all the way through a List of 20. Hm. My assignment for the evening is to decide what reaction the young queen would have so I can get started on Chapter 4 of V's book.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I've become a hoarder of sorts. I always have been to an extent, but it seems to be getting worse. I've always found solace in gathering enough books around me, enough snacks, enough of my favorite foods so that I never feel anxious about running out. Now I find myself gathering experiences. It's a bit disconcerting to look back and see how many items I've purchased in the hopes that they would help me define who I am and how I can best handle my anxieties. I buy them and use them for a short while, then can't bring myself to use them any longer. I don't know why. Maybe I'm telling myself that I don't have enough time or personal space to use them well. Maybe because I feel like there are so many things that need to be done that I don't want to start another one and not be able to devote my full attention to that new task.

But that doesn't stop me from continuing to hunt for the next experience. The next self-help technique, the next hobby. The one thing that reins me in is my compulsion to comparison shop before I actually buy anything. (Thank God for Wishlists!)

I would like to believe that this isn't so bad if it helps me eventually pinpoint the way to work with my problems. At least I've identified that I have these problems-- including the problem about seeking answers to my problems. Meanwhile, I just wish I could get around to using that biofeedback kit that sounded so wonderful for the two weeks I mulled over it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sorry to be so long between posting. It's been a rough time out here. I haven't written much in months. Things were already looking grim and frustrating, and then our house was stripped of our silverware, media equipment, and copper pipes and wires (we're not yet sure what else is missing, since we're still in the temporary apartment). Five break-ins in spite of all of our attempts to secure the house. The estimate for the electricity alone is in the five-digit range. Not counting the roof repairs and foundation repairs and any gutting needed....

But I think I've found my footing once again. I'm ready to write again, and that's a wonderful feeling. All we can do is move forward, right?

Thanks go to all of our friends and neighbors who've offered so much moral support. And carpentry knowledge.