Tag Archives: thoughts

Developed

I have an infamously naive and youthful character, who I’ve been writing for years now, a little over five. In all of that time, she’s found out lies about her past, her family, what was expected of her and how she was conceived. She’s gotten closer to some family and further from others. The demise of the one who wrought ill on her may have only been suggested, but because we never got to finish that story.

I’ve put her through her paces in all of this time. I threw her in a huge storm in the middle of the ocean and watched her spiral into an unknown, uncharted island, to get herself back to the world she came from with the help of other stranded strangers.

She fell in and out of love. She was introduced to people/things that could help her in her journey, has unlocked a lot of power and potential, and has even surpassed the strength of her father. She isn’t a stranger to sex, or trauma, or extremes. Time and again, when she’s forced to stand up, she doesn’t hesitate.

What I expected in all of this time was for her youthfulness to transform. To watch her go from this giggling, excitable young girl to a seasoned woman who knew how to push through and show up for what was right. Instead, she’s persevered, and held on to that brightness, that light of hers that shines when she smiles and even when she doesn’t.

I never really considered that the change was a little deeper for her. On the outside, I still see her and write her and feel like she is the same excitable, impossibly optimistic young woman who strives for the best. On a deeper level, under the surface, I see that she knows what must be done in some situations, she knows right from wrong and has a strong sense of morality. What was shaped in the roughness she was thrown into was her ability to adapt to situations and protect those she cared for at any cost.

I’d had other characters get put through their paces and turn out jaded and cynical and unkind for it. What I expected was much of the same, but that’s just not who she is.

Development comes in all shapes and sizes, I realize, after some consideration on this particular character. It doesn’t all have to be extreme, some are more resilient than others. It can be light, it can be heavy, but in the end, whatever it is will be true to who that character really is.

In other words, the surface isn’t the only place to look for a change. Sometimes you have to dig into the cushions.

It adds a whole new dimension to things, to the story, and to the character herself. And I kinda like it that way.

The Novice Wordsmith

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Traveling Again

Back out to California, kicking off NaNoWriMo this year near the Napa Valley. I leave today, I have about three hours before I head out to the airport and if it isn’t obvious I cannot sleep anymore. After waking up twice to say goodbye to my dad and sister, I’m just done going back to bed. Right now I’m just counting down the minutes before I need to go.

As per usual, I am really excited about the prospect of people watching, which I have a hard time shutting up about. There’s something about finding random people and being able to do something with how they are, how they look, or what they say around you that just gets me.

Which is ridiculous because I remember years ago in that fiction writing class when I couldn’t care less. I didn’t think it was crucial, and now I can’t get enough of it.

Among other things, being in a new place for this event allows me to explore and meet new people. Of course, Friend is going to be there with me, like he was for Utah. He’s been up in that area of California before, hell, it was his suggestion, but there’s just something about going somewhere you don’t frequent and checking in to their write-ins and experiencing stuff there in the mean time.

I wouldn’t mind keeping this up, either. We’ve talked about it before, collecting spots we’ve done NaNo in all over the country would be an awesome tradition, albeit a little bit of an expensive one. In the end, 100% worth it.

Though, I will admit that my experience in Utah with NaNo was my first social gathering, and I don’t think I did a write-in locally until the year after. Like I mentioned recently, these gatherings are an awesome way to connect, not only to the community but to meet other writers who are in the same boat or can act as inspiration.

But if you live in a city as big as St. Louis or bigger, you’re going to have to pick and choose what you go to because some things just are not easy to get to.

… Well, really, that’s the point, isn’t it? Find something close that’ll motivate you to go and write and talk and enjoy the company of other writers while you scribble your way recklessly through your novel. Because everything is better when you add friends.

I am waiting to get to the airport and die completely because I forgot something. Either packing is becoming second nature to me and I’m too good at it and I’ve actually got my shit together for once, or I’m definitely missing something crucial.

As per usual, I will probably wait until the last second to shut the laptop down. A day of traveling awaits me, but my fun new smart phone will help me with that. Hopefully it doesn’t die before I touch down…

This was definitely, mostly, a way for me to get my thoughts out. Nothing too important to learn from this one. I will try and make a post tomorrow for NaNo Prep Pep. This time last year I was a lot more active, so it feels odd doing so little for this month, but I imagine you all understand. And there’s only so much I can say before I’m just repeating myself.

I’m still too excited for my own good, and I remain cautious but optimistic about this year’s work. Let’s see how much better I do than last year.

(I’m hoping the answer is: holy shit so much better)

And best of luck to everyone, whether I post something tomorrow or not!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Storytellers Anonymous

On my desktop at work, I have a picture that has been there for the past year. This is what it is:

I think you should be able to enlarge it if you like, if you open in a new tab.

So, whenever I go on break, or I walk away from the desk, or I minimize my browser and anything else I have up on the computer when someone comes by, they see this. I’m always asked a bunch of questions when they notice it: Who is that? What are they doing, where are they going? What is that, a wolf?

The questions and the awe and the “Oh that’s awesome” happened so frequently that I considered for a while about writing a story to go with it, but I hadn’t jumped on it.

It happened last night, too. Someone saw the wallpaper that hadn’t seen it before, and the same thing ensued, but this time I stopped, and I asked her about it instead.

“I imagine that she’s looking off in the distance, they’ve been traveling for a while,” she said.

I could write the story. I could come up with something vast and complex as it is beautiful, a heartfelt prose about the bond between tiger and woman. About a magical trek across whatever lands it takes them to get wherever they need to be. Or, I could let everyone else pick their own imagination about what’s going on in the picture.

What are their minds filled with when they see it? What details stick out the most? Why are the end pieces on the rug glowing, and his necklace? Is that her necklace?

Anything can be a prompt if I want it to. For me, as time goes on, the more prompts I see out in the world. But for others, those who don’t write, or those who maybe don’t have much of a creative outlet, having a picture so vivid and eye-catching can help the wheels turning for no other reason than because they’re trying to make sense of it, figure out what’s going on.

I’ve thought about changing the wallpaper a couple of times. Really, I love it; it’s colorful and inspiring and has a fantastical touch to it, but it’s been a year and change and I wouldn’t mind something different. Then I realized, unless I found something just as captivating, it wasn’t going to generate the same reaction.

And I rather like making minds turn with curiosity.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: Start Big or Start Small, But Where it is Becomes Your Call

(Meant for yesterday.)

Morning folks.  Whether you have 0 words or 500, if you’ve hit your first roadblock, or the wordcount just isn’t coming as fast as you’d like, it’s time to look at what you’ve got and seeing if you blew through the easy words in your rush to get rolling.

That first hour of writing on a blank canvas can be deceptive; you put down the first stuff that comes into your head and burn through your Big Idea, Premise, and Opening Lines pretty quick.  But once the initial framework is on the page, the inevitable ‘Now What?’ comes into play.

If you’re feeling a little uncertain where to go from here, there are two paths you can take today: (insert Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race impression here): Stall, or Start Walking.

  • In Stall, you look back at what you’ve already written yesterday and add some details.   Add colors, sounds, smells, extra features, musings, impressions, extra dialogue to give your first characters in their first scene some more depth of focus.    For example, this year I started off with a brief sketch of a crime scene, and then pulled back a little to tease at the timeframe — the distant future.   I originally described the devastation of an explosion as simply ‘lots of bodies’, but when I doubled back, I added in damage to the building, the parking lot, and then described the era in more detail.    I actually described the main character as something more than a gender and ethnic background, and gave the secondary character some more lines so that he wasn’t introduced just to walk off and get coffee for my detective.
  • In Start Walking, you want to think ahead to what’s on the horizon,or, to wit, ‘where is your next scene going to take place?’    This is not a one man, one room play you’re writing here, odds on.   Whether you’re writing a Hero’s Journey or an Everyman/Everywoman slice of life tale, or a Superhero(ine) Saving the City, they’re not likely to be in the place they were when you wrote on Day 1.   Ask yourself, ‘where do I need to get the main character next?’   And start writing towards that direction.  Do they need to make any special preparations?  (An odd reverse example is Mr. Rogers, who fascinated me as a child by having the odd ritual of changing his shoes while talking to the audience after he came into the house.)    Do they tell anyone where they’re going?   Will any of the scene 1 characters be coming along, and are they opposed to doing so?

The point is that right now, today, Day 2, you are building potential. Potential energy, potential wordcount, and potential motion, along, of course, with potential plot.   Being able to lay tracks ahead of you or buy time to figure out where you want to be is still wordcount; the goal here is to breathe life into your novel by giving it enough detail and brea(d)th so that you want to keep writing in this space.

Eventually we’ll be setting things on fire (not necessarily literally) and maybe blowing stuff up, but it doesn’t have to be today.   Days 1 and 2 for me are usually reserved for either detailed worldbuilding, or meeting the main character, or setting up the stage where the main character will walk into any moment.    Or any combination of the three.

Hope this helps, and feel free to suggest a topic for a future guest post….

Flashback, a Prompt

Some of the best explanations can be done without a character talking at all. Going back in time, or forward to the conclusion your character may be jumping to in their head, can accomplish more than simple conversation would be able to. Not only does it allow you a chance to describe in detail certain important pieces of the puzzle, but it shows a side of the character the reader may not have seen before.

This works, as I’ve found, beautifully, for the characters who are intensely guarded.

Not to mention it can eat up wordcount like a beast when you need it (typically only done for nano, as far as I’ve seen).

Obviously, consider what you can do with it, but the flashback is a tool at your disposal for when everything else just doesn’t cut it. It can help to relate the character to the reader, to explain how they act or why they speak in a certain way(or not at all), and any number of things you can think of. The possibilities are endless!

They can be as deep as being a whole separate scene, or as light as being a random, drug up thought by the character, whatever the story calls for.

The Wordsmith pauses then, considering a time recently when she created something of the sort, but shakes her head of the thought and carries on, too embarrassed by the way it turned out to let her mind linger on it any longer.

Indulge, experiment, and consider. It can take up a few lines, or a few to several dozen pages. It can set up a scene, or the whole book. Though, that’s another thing entirely, going back and forth between times, to show off certain parts of a story and particular points, for the express purpose of telling it one specific way.

I am reminded of Friend’s Nano novel of last year, which roughly 1/4 to 1/2 of the story was a flashback, setting up the rest of the book and/or series. The year before, a flashback turned the tides of the story in a way he wasn’t expecting.

On the other hand, my flashbacks all tend to be small, thoughts, light ideas that flicker in and then out.

Now I can’t help but think about the show/movie version of these things, which trips you into a different part in time with a wavy layover or a dreamy, misty coloring at the edges. Which happens either while a character thinks, or when they’re telling someone about an event. Think of the majority of Phantom of the Opera, if you’ve seen the one with Gerard Butler, at least.

Let your mind run wild, and then somehow get it into writing.

-The Novice Wordsmith