I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.
Today I would just like to share a list of ten things that indicate you’ve become obsessed by writing (not saying obsession is a bad thing):
1. You start re-reading every sentence that you write and then start re-writing every sentence, convinced that you are ‘improving’ them. I know when it’s time to stop when I have just written the same sentence ten times and I no longer even believe it to be written in English.
2. Your partner/best friend/child sends you an instant message asking if you will be eating breakfast/lunch/dinner.
3. You start arguing with your characters out loud: “No, you fool. You have to go…”
4. You have any kind of repetitive strain problem (wrist, arm, finger, neck, eyes).
5. You get home from your day job and your computer is turned on before you have put your bag down, taken your shoes off, fed your pets, or spoken to your children.
6. When you have told your friend/partner/child you will be ready to leave just after finishing one more sentence you write another couple of pages and forget you were meant to be finishing until they unplug the computer at the wall.
7. In your bag you have at least three notebooks and five pens, as well as a pencil in case all of you pens cease working on the same day.
8. Every single thing you read or watch is critiqued in terms of character, plot and setting.
9. When you meet someone for the first time you repeat their name, not to help you remember them but so that you can someday use that name in a story.
10. In conversation you directly reference events and characters you have been writing about (even though nobody else has read it yet).
Add your ‘you know you are obsessed with writing when…’
And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.
When writing I tend to focus on the big things, the major complications and problems the characters are facing and sometimes I forget that it is the little things that can make or break a person. Something really small can set off major turmoil for an individual.
The big things are important. Characters have goals and they go through certain challenges to reach them, and these all have an impact on our characters. But while these big, major events are going on, life keeps happening and we all know that life has a way of having the last laugh.
It might be as simple as having a friend not feeling well and so missing the usual moral support. It might be the mother who says the wrong thing at the wrong time and utterly shatters what remained of the character’s confidence. It might be that the sales assistant is not interested in assisting and it is just the last straw in bringing a character down.
Then the character reacts. Because they are feeling pressured, instead of feeling sorry for their sick friend they might explode instead. They might fail to say something as simple as ‘hope you feel better’. The situation escalates. The friend is now not only feeling sick but slighted and now doesn’t feel any particular need to help out. They aren’t actively hindering our character but they aren’t lifting a finger to help them. The situation is going to deteriorate fast and now our character is in real trouble.
Minor setbacks – definitely having an impact on our characters.
What are your thoughts?
Do you find the big events interesting or do prefer to see what is going on behind the scenes?
I was going to plunge into a new writing project a few weeks ago. That was a funny idea in itself given how unfocused I’ve been in recent times but what was even sillier was that the idea I had come up with was terrible.
Terrible might not be the right word. I’m sure every idea has merit, somewhere, hidden, deep down inside. Maybe someone else could make the idea quite a workable writing project. It won’t be me.
It doesn’t really matter what the idea was. I’m sure we’ve all had flashed of inspiration and then realised that they were all flash and no substance. This was worse than that. It was all flash and no substance but left a really bad smell lingering in its wake. The kind of smell that sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear that there is something to the idea. It isn’t dead yet. The kind of smell that makes you keep returning to the point of origin but you don’t have the heart to get rid of.
This idea was dead on arrival. I should have just dismissed it, jotted it down in one of my endless notebooks and gotten rid of it, and yet something kept drawing me back. I kept thinking I could, somehow, make this idea work.
Many failed plot plans and an opening chapter later, I finally conceded defeat. Should I have admitted it earlier? Most definitely but it isn’t all bad news.
I came up with a name. And then a face. And then a brilliant idea for a character. Since then I have planned a really intriguing plot and run it by a few friends who have helped me tweak the idea and fix it into something that is more or less workable. The name and the character were part of the failed idea. What made me decide to call the other project dead was the fact that I loved this character I had come up with and hated everything about what they were doing in the original outline. I took the character and cut the rest loose.
Maybe this is just my flimsy rationalisation for holding onto things I shouldn’t, but I think that I needed one idea to die for another to come about. It worked at least and I am ready to plunge headlong into the fun process of beginning a first draft.
I’ve had a really strange year. First moving and then floods and then life (and everything that entails) and things just keep rolling right on over me. Mostly good things. Meeting new people, making new friends, learning new things. It’s just been really busy and hectic and at times very draining (particularly the floods). That’s why I’m really, really happy right now.
I am now published (happy dance).
Though, this also means I can’t give myself excuses any more, I need to get my act together and get blogging again.
So, if you would like to check out “Death’s Daughter” I would greatly appreciate it.
Thanks so much to all the people who have continued to offer support over the last couple of months and hopefully I won’t be doing anymore disappearing acts.
Once again I’ve been away. For the first few days I was not feeling well and I thought, I’ll get back online in a couple of days. Then came the rain. And it rained. And it rained. And it rained everywhere, not just where I was. Then the water came. One day the town was covered in soggy red sand and everyone was going about their business and the next, within the space of an hour, over half the town was underwater.
That is the main road of the town, less than two hours after the first warning of actual flooding was given. There had been rumblings for days about a potential flood but the first we were told there was actual going to be a flood was when the water tore through the town.
Things have been a bit hectic since then. I am one of the lucky ones as I live in a reasonably high area and I did not get water in my house. I was however on the wrong side of the water from my house at the time of the flood. There are so many people still trying to clean up and still trying to really figure out how much damage was done and everyone is still trying to help out everyone else as much as they can.
Still, some sense of normalcy is returning and I am trying to get back into a rhythm and hopefully that means back into keeping the blog regularly. I know I was supposed to post the novel elements series and I still have the responses people sent me and I will post that series, it just might be a few weeks before I put it together.
I know there is a lot of bad weather around, not just in Australia, and I hope everyone is safe and taking care of themselves.
Okay, if you’ve never read a Xanth novel than you probably should, though only if you are really into fantasy.
When people think about humour in fantasy and really rich and interesting worlds and characters they usually look at Pratchett, for good reason. Pratchett is a master of weaving the absurd into his stories and still making this amazing, insightful tale. Yet I find Piers Anthony to have created an equally rich and vibrant world of magic and zany characters though the writing style can feel a little dry at times (probably because the books were published before I was born).
Xanth is a world of magic. Every person (though I use the term person loosely) and everything must have magic or they are exiled from the land. The main character is Bink and we first meet Bink when he is facing exile because he cannot exhibit a magic power. It turns out he does have magic and extremely powerful magic but if I tell you anything else about that it will ruin the very first Xanth novel so you’ll just have to find out for yourself. The setting in these books is alive. The trees each have a magical function. This one grows shoes, that one will grow blanket, and the next one will eat you, etc, etc. The wildlife is intelligent and deadly and you really do have to pay attention to where you step in Xanth.
I really loved reading these books.
What did I learn about writing from reading these books?
- Even if your main character seems weaker than the others, they don’t have to be tearful and pathetic. So many protagonists in fantasy novels start out simpering and useless. Bink may start out weak and he may never rival some of the other characters for strength, but at least he always has strength of character. At no stage do you want something to eat him just so he’ll stop complaining.
- There does not need to be a big, dark, evil in a fantasy novel. There are all manner of conflicts your characters can face. Bink goes up against the rules of his society when he faces exile. Nobody is evil but there is a problem that has to be overcome. In one of the later books the characters choose to seek the source of Xanth’s magic and go on a quest. There is no evil stopping them but it is still a quest filled with danger and excitement.
- Said was not always the dialogue tag of choice. I can – and did – open ‘The Source of Magic’ to any number of pages with lots of dialogue and I found that said was used once. What was used was ‘cried’, ‘exclaimed’, ‘retorted’, ‘urged’, ‘murmured’ and so on. Yes, the current convention is to not use dialogue tags or to limit it to said. I am hoping that the trend changes because I enjoy people exclaiming and shrieking and all those other things that they used to do in books.
- Keeping your characters (and your readers) in the dark makes for a really interesting story as nobody really suspects where things are going to go and yet the story still makes sense.
My response to the best09 blog challenge:
December 1 What was your best trip in 2009?
My best trip had to July when I hit central Queensland. Beautiful scenery and calm for two weeks, though the absence of technology became a bit of a problem.
December 2 Restaurant moment.
Best restaurant moment would have to have been being out with work mates at fasta pasta and learning how to de-stress from a two year old. “Can’t care.”
December 4 Book. What book – fiction or non – touched you?
I haven’t read a lot of new books in 2009, I’ve mostly reread and written but I would probably have to go with Twilight, not because I liked it, but because reading this meant that I could actually understand what other people were talking about. I hate being in the dark.
December 7 Blog find of the year.
Okay I probably knew about it before this year but given the number of times in the last month I’ve linked to it because I have absolutely loved one post or another I’m putting Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Mystery Writing is Murder up as the blog find of the year.
December 8 Moment of peace.
I gained a lot of peace and solitude when I caught the flu. Everyone avoided me for weeks. unfortunately this moment of peace came with the price of falling hopelessly behind at work and on writing and it meant that my previous blog died. However it meant I did get to start over and not duplicate the mistakes of my first blog and I think all up things have worked out for the best.
December 9 Challenge.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced would be addressing the first round of comments from my editor. Having my writing properly edited was a new experience and very illuminating.
December 10 Album of the year.
In the end I’m going to have to give it to Kate Miller-Heidke’s Curiouser, mostly because of “politics in space”.
December 11 The best place.
Has to be home. Specifically, at home on the couch with a great book and a long day with no to-do list stretching out before me. Doesn’t happen very often.
December 12 New food.
2009 I became a major mayonnaise fan. I don’t know why I suddenly like mayo, I just know I didn’t before this year.
December 17 Word or phrase.
I’m going to have to go with awesome because this year it has really become the ultimate in sarcasm.
December 24 Learning experience.
I discovered Japanese Coach for the DS and I have become a massive fan. Now I can follow snippets of anime while not reading the subtitles.
December 25 Gift. What’s a gift you gave yourself this year that has kept on giving?
I think time is going to have to be the judge of that. I do know that this year my gifts were more practical than in previous years so hopefully they will see some use.
December 26 Insight or aha! moment.
So many to choose from. I think it had to be when I figured out the ending to one of my wips. I had planned an ending but the story had gotten side tracked and the ending no longer worked. I didn’t want to change the side tracked part of the draft because I think it worked out better, but I didn’t know how to end it. Luckily, a few days later, I had an aha moment and it all kind of worked out.
December 27 Social web moment.
Figuring out how facebook actually works has got to be my moment. I signed up and then stared at it for ages wondering what I was supposed to do. I still prefer twitter but I finally have facebook up and running.
December 29 Laugh.
Bella falling off her motorbike? Probably not. Actually, I think it will have to go to Zombieland. I was really pleasantly surprised by how funny that actually was.
December 31 Resolution you wish you’d stuck with. (You know, there’s always next year…)
I kept most of my resolutions but I wish I had managed to write something every day. I don’t think I’ll stick with it next year either. I work well in spurts and then I need a few days to mull it over. Maybe that is just me. Still, I’ll make the resolution to write more and see what happens.
There you have it. My best of 09.
My kind-of Christams post with a kind-of link to character creation.
Do you watch people when they open presents?
I don’t mean in the creepy-judgemental way where you glare at them until they manage to contort their face until an ‘appropriate’ expression of gratitude. I meant the general, I’m intereseted in what you think kind of way.
People receive gifts in a few different ways depending on the situation. This is my list of observed typical reactions:
- They know what the gift is in advance and are happy to be receiving it. These people are grinning broadly before they even begin to unwrap. They might rattle the packet a bit and make comments like, “I wonder what this could be?” but when they finally open the present they give it a quick look over, hug the person who gave it to them and move on to the next gift.
- They know what the gift is in advance and think it is the worst idea for a present they ever heard. They also make comments along the lines of “I wonder what this could be?” but there is a definite sense that they are grinding their teeth at the ridiculousness of having to play through the charade of opening the gift. Once opened they might say “Oh look, its a…” then they also put it to the side and move on but they don’t hug the person who gave it to them.
- They think they know what the gift is in advance and are happy about it. They grin as they pull the paper back but then their face kind of freezes into the ‘oh’ kind of expression. It doesn’t matter whether they like the actual gift or not there are a few moments of dead time while their brain attempts to shift gears. Finally they decide whether they like or hate the gift and react accordingly.
- They have no idea what the gift is and love it. The squeal with delight, and busily turn it over and over examining what it is and thinking about where it will go and when they can use it.
- They have no idea what the gift is and neither love nor hate it. They thank the person politely and move to the next one.
- They have no idea what the gift is and really can’t believe someone just gave it to them. I’ve seen two distinct reactions to this scenario. The usual one is the forced smile and the forced “thanks” meanwhile this gift isn’t stacked neatly to the side, it is usually just slid along the floor, usually in the direction of the paper pile with the false hope that maybe it will vanish. The second reaction is the “what am I going to do with this” reaction which never seems to go down well.
Yes there are other ways to receive gifts but these are the typical reactions. What does this have to do with writing?
Your characters react to situations. Reactions that fit within typical and expected models don’t require a huge amount of explanation as to why the character reacts in that way. Their dog just dropped a dead mouse at their feet. They say “Eww gross” – they are probably a female or a more urban male and they get squeamish around dead things. Nothing really needs to be explained. They kick it aside – they are either male or female and are trying to get the thing out of their sight but at the same time not react verbally because that might show them as weak. Again, not much to explain. They pick it up and decide to place it on their desk – you best explain this one because I don’t think the reader is going to understand why anyone would do that.
So – your protagonist was given a gift for christmas. What was it and how did they react? (Mine firstly asked for an in-depth explanation of what Christmas was including references that she could look up to verify my facts and then she stared at me blankly over the wrapping paper before asking me “Why do you think I need a hairbrush?”)