by Elle Cyre
Many thoughts on how writing has influenced my life.
|Viewing life from a writer’s perspective.|
|It's important to do research for your novel. I'm guilty of relying on my knowledge gained by reading similar books or watching movies. We know what a medieval town looks like without having to read up on it, right? However, we can run into the danger of 'movie truths' that are actually fiction. (Like how it takes a certain amount of time to trace a phone call when in reality it is instantaneous.)
There are some fantasy worlds that have no history to draw from except the creator's imagination. There are a lot of sci-fi truths as well, which are hard to distinguish from actual science, such as warp drive, wormholes, lasers and the like.
However, how many of us research the language that we use? Do we take in account the era and genre of our novels when writing? (I don't mean using old English in an olden day book. No matter how much research you do so that you use the correct tense of thou and thee and thy and thine--it still just sounds backwards.)
There are hundreds and hundreds of sayings. That makes English difficult to learn and often times is a source of humor in the fantasy genre. Aliens wouldn't understand the meanings behind every saying, especially if we don't even know where they come from. If you are writing a fantasy novel, however, you must keep that in mind. You wouldn't want an alien to say "I let the cat out of the bag" or "I spilled the beans" if they are from a planet where cats and beans don't exist.
I wrote a sentence a while back along the lines of "they put their boots on and he followed suit." I looked at it afterward and thought:'What the heck?' That phrase comes from playing cards, when you follow the suit that is played. Does it really fit the scenario?
I don't want my characters to use terms and sayings that have no relevance to their world. For instance, I might use words like compute or process when describing someone's way of thinking, as a machine would. However, without the knowledge and terminology of computers, my character would be out of place using such words. The hardest part to avoid is the modern slang. I want my characters to sound genuine and relatable; they talk like I know people talk and joke like people joke. How much of that casual speech is relevant to the era?
The positive side to this is developing your individual characters and their point of view and humor. If they have a certain profession, you can use the sayings that derive from it. A card player? Let him say "Follow my lead" and "follow suit" and "don't trump my ace led." Maybe he nicknames his friend "Ace" or calls him partner all the time. And he insists on calling a spade a spade, his worst insult is Black Lady and he's always betting on everything.
A sailor speaks of showing true colors, the turning of the tide, the patterns in the stars, a change of the wind or the weather or a fish out of water. A farmer asks you not to cry over spilt milk or to count your chickens before they're hatched and to make hay while the sun shines and to work until the cows come home and not to lock the barn after the horse has been stolen. A mother will tell you not to toss the baby out with the bath, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a stitch in time saves nine and a watched pot never boils.
There are so many more. Here's a link to a list of them and the meanings/origins.
|I came across this the other day:
"The characters I create aren't me.
They're a part of me.
The part of me who is
They are the parts I hide.
The parts I wish to be.
The parts I have been
and the parts I will be."
It is true. I would never write a character who is me--I'm too blah. But parts of me bleed into every single one of my characters. I can see it most in my protagonist. When I first started writing, I used myself as a reference. I'd put myself in his shoes and ask 'what would I do?' Or 'how would I react?' Same with the antagonist. I don't agree with his views but I understand his reasons and motivation.
As I learned more about developing characters, I realized mine were a bit one-dimensional. I started to learn more about personalities. One exercise had me identify their personalities based on the Myers-Briggs system. That helped me view them through their own eyes instead of just using myself as a reference.
The peculiar thing was none of my characters had my personality. I thought my protagonist would have mine, for sure, but no; I found he was more different than I realized. He does things that I only dream of doing. In real life, I know I'd be too afraid. I'd find hundreds of excuses and reasons to stay home. He has the courage, the stamina and the resolution that I wish I had.
Where am I going with this? Well, I think some characters we create are us--we just don't want to admit it. I look at all my main ones and go, 'nope, nobody here that resembles me'. I forget to examine our minor characters. Is that because I don't want to view myself in such an obscure role? Probably. We want to be the heroes; we want to see ourselves making a difference in the story, not the random person the characters come across on their journey.
If I exist in my world, I'm probably one of the ordinary villagers. They're curious about what is going on around them but not interested enough to take part. They watch from a distance and hope their day-to-day life isn't affected by the struggle of good vs evil. They don't want to get involved.
That isn't a very flattering role, but it's the truth. People like that are necessary if a book is realistic; it isn't something to be ashamed of. That character might end up helping the heroes in their journey with something as simple as a hot meal or place to stay. They might give them the hope they need or refresh their trust in people's generosity and kindness. A kind word spoken at the right moment can have a wondrous effect. No part is too small or too hidden not to have any purpose.
It is okay to be nobody. That is a beautiful thought. While the world pressures everyone to become something or go somewhere or accomplish something, some of us feel lost and hopeless. Some personalities don't like being in charge; some would rather stay home; some have no need to gain recognition; some of us can be happy and content just where we are and watch others chase around after riches and success.
Everyone feels obliged to do something with their life to somehow validate themselves in the eyes of the world. But it is more important to be true to yourself, to your own calling, whatever that may be. It might be hard intellectually to accept a lesser role but your heart is more important. Be the best 'you' you can possibly be and at the end of the day--or the story book--you might end up helping more people than you can possibly imagine.
Just like the ordinary person who lends a helping hand to your hero.
|There is something about rainy days...maybe it is the soft patter of raindrops on the roof or the sound of the wind in the trees or the gentle trickle of water off the eaves. It has a strange, calming effect on the soul. You just want to curl up in a blanket on the couch next to your cat and sip a cup of hot coffee while you stare out into the rain.
It is mesmerizing, soothing--yet sad and depressing at the same time. Like a character once said on a TV show (bonus points if you recognize it) "I like old things; they make me sad--and sad is happy for deep people."
The irony of rainy days? Although I love them, I hate them at the same time, because I never feel like doing anything. I literally do nothing all day. I've got plenty of outlining, character-building and world design to get done. Save it for a rainy day, right? Nope. I'm lucky if I get around to reading something, let alone writing.
There probably is a scientific explanation for it, like how the lack of sunlight affects the sleep portion of our brain and we feel lethargic, as in winter when depression sets in. It is hard to be inspired when all we want to do is lay around. So naturally, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, I end up inside--because I feel inspired to write.
I love the outdoors. As a kid I longed for the hours of school to be over so I could go out and have fun romping in the meadows and playing in the woods. It is wrong, somehow, to stay indoors when the weather is beautiful--when the sky is blue and the clouds are drifting across like lumps of whipped cream and the green grass shimmers and moves in the gentle breeze.
Thus is my predicament; I languish between the desire to stay in my room and write when I know I should enjoy the sunshine, and.when the rainy days come, I fight the urge to go out in the wind and gloom when I know I should take advantage of the dreary weather and write. My head and my heart never agree.
|I've come to a conclusion: I'm not going to set a deadline to finish anything I write. Why? Because for me, writing is a hobby and hobbies should be fun. I don't need any more stress in my life. I use writing as a way to relax and escape the busyness of my job. I like to spend my off days cooped up in my room, scribbling away and enjoying my story.
I'm not much of a writer. I haven't written anything worth mentioning. When I was fourteen (psst--that's a long time ago...) I started working on an adventure novel. I knew nothing about writing except what I learned in English, and I hated that class. I'm still not a fan of the technical terms and rules of writing.
I loved to read as a kid. I read every interesting book I could find. Eventually I started searching for something different--something I couldn't find. (I do that a lot, actually. I always dig around in my dresser drawers looking for a shirt that's the perfect color and size but I never find it--because it exists only in my head.) Anyway, I decided if I couldn't find the book, I should write the story I wanted to read.
It has taken me years and years and years, and I'm still nowhere near finished. However, I've discovered that it's almost better this way. I've been able to enjoy every twist and turn of the story in its long evolution and growth from the simple, silly tale that started when I was still a child--as if I did grow up reading it. The characters and their journeys are as familiar as an old friend. Part of me wonders if I ever will complete it--or if I even want to. I don't want to come to the end of it, as when reading your favorite book, and have to close the cover and put it back on the shelf. I want it to stay alive. I want the characters to continue having adventures and enjoying every minute of it with them.
This probably shows how silly and sentimental I am--which are big obstacles when it comes to being a successful (published) author. But I've decided not to worry about that. After all, when I did try harder to complete the whole saga and pushed myself, I only got frustrated and discouraged. I kept running into writer's block and the dreaded editing circle. I reached a point when writing was no longer fun. It felt more of a burden and responsibility. I didn't like that. And neither did my characters.
Some day I'll finish it. I'll write the last sentence on the last page and bid farewell to my friends. Until then, I'm going to plug away, a day at a time, being patient with myself and not getting discouraged or alarmed by how many months slip by with so little written. At the end of the day, if it ever did get published, the person reading it isn't going to care how long it took for the author to write it. (If they're like me, they might read the whole book in one day!) They're just going to read the words on the pages and hopefully get transported to another world.
If I dare to hope for anything--and yes, I do a lot of day-dreaming--it's that one day, however many years from now, a child would read the story I wrote and get that same magical thrill that I got when I read my favorite books as a kid. That would be worth all the effort and all the setbacks. And if it never gets finished...well...then I'll have to pass it down to my grandkids and make them complete it.
|"Waiting for inspiration to write is like waiting at the airport for a train."
Sometimes we just don't feel it. We sit at our table or in front of the computer and... nothing...
Those days I end up reading what I've written. Sometimes I force the words to come but isn't the same. The scene doesn't flow.
When inspiration does strike, it is hard to contain. Sometimes my fingers can't keep up with my mind. (That is when I end up skipping entire words in my sentences. I'll be reading it and go "wha...?")
Most of the time, ideas come at random; while eating lunch, at work, at 2 am, driving somewhere or in the shower. Of course you don't have your computer or paper handy. Mental note time! Those rarely work for me. I'm so absent-minded that I'll forget. I have to write things down.
The worst part about ideas that pop into your head? Trying to pay attention to what is going on around you. Listening to my characters conversation is much more interesting than my coworkers or watching the traffic on the road. (Yeah, I'm a distracted driver...)
People say I'm quiet. They wonder if that is because I'm shy or I don't like them. I try to explain: I'm quiet because I've got so much going on inside my head. I don't realize how oblivious it makes me. There are times when I live in my own little world--and I don't mind that.
Everyone knows the saying 'truth is stranger than fiction.'
Most of the time I enjoy reading about historical people and events. You can learn a lot from then. Some of the stories are hard to believe.
Then there are the ones that bother me.
I generally don't like tragedies. I prefer happy endings. If I have to read a tragic book I want there to be a kernel of joy I can cling onto in the end. Maybe the hero died but at least he won the battle. Maybe her sweetheart never returned home but she finds love somewhere else.
Life isn't always so kind. Some stories have no silver lining.
If an author writes a tragedy, they have a reason for it. It teaches a lesson. It gives you something to think about.
When I read about something terrible that happened, it disturbs me. I don't see the point. I can't detect the author's reason for ending it that way. It is a mystery.
Only the Author knows why. Only He knows all the facts. Only He knows what led the people to make a poor choice or why they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And maybe, just maybe, there is a silver lining after all.
I often ponder why bad things happen to good people. Maybe the answer is simple; there is a silver lining that I just can't see. I don't know the whole story.
Have you ever considered writing your life story? I have. The only problem is, my life has been very boring. It wouldn't make a good book.
Who has written a story where the main characters live a perfect life--nothing bad happens to them, they accomplish all of their dreams and they never have to face a villain? No one, of course. Or if anyone has, it hasn't been published because it isn't any good. We want books with adventure and drama.
So what if you could write your own future? Would you make it easy for you--or would you treat yourself in the same way you do your main characters?
I wouldn't want to live through some of the stuff I make my characters deal with. Most of them have tragic pasts. And the journey they take through the story isn't all sunshine and butterflies either.
We make our characters endure pain and suffering because it is part of the plot. Everything that happens to them has a reason behind it. We use other characters and events to shape our protagonist into who they need to be in the end. At the start of the book they have weaknesses and faults and part of their journey is to overcome these.
Put yourself in one of your character's shoes. How would you feel about your life? If I knew someone was deliberately writing all of these tragedies, I would be furious. In the least I would wonder why all of this was happening to me. Some people have such easy lives--why not me?
Of course, if we had to talk to one of our characters, we would explain our reasons. We aren't being cruel. Some of the stuff actually helps them in the end. It is all a matter of perspective. We see the whole story and know the ending. They won't understand until they reach the end. In most cases, the reader is also confused until then.
This is what I try to remember about my own life. When disappointments come, when things don't turn out the way I'd like them to, when I have to deal with unexpected pain or sadness, I try to view them from a distance. How can these be for my benefit?
I wonder why my life has been so different than what I imagined it would be. There are times I struggle with doubt. Am I where I'm supposed to be? It doesn't seem like it. Yet I know the Author of my life has a plan in mind. It may not be clear to me; in fact, it might not make any sense to me until the very end. Only then will I be able to see the whole picture. I will see how He wove everything together.
I care for each one of my characters, good or bad. Just because I make some of them go through pain and suffering doesn't mean that I don't like them. In fact, I make my best characters endure the most trouble--because they have to; they're the heroes, the only ones strong enough to take it.