Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Dragons, Editing, fiction, Fiction Writing Courses, Paranormal

Writing – Paranormal and Fantasy Fiction

soul seeker 1A couple of weeks ago a new character came into my imagination. I knew what she looked like and I had a good sense of who she was. It was like being visited by a the soul of a real person.

I grabbed my iPad, opened a new Scrivener project and jotted down everything I’d seen, heard, smelled and tasted in that first meeting. It got me excited because I loved this character immediately and I wanted to know more, to learn more and experience more of her paranormal/normal life. I wanted to learn more about the conflicts she has over her abilities and how her paranormal abilities complicate her career, her love life, her sense of self.

On and off since the first time she showed up, I’ve had visits from her and each time I learn a little more about who she is as a ‘real person’ in my imagination.

Then last night an antagonist walked out of the mist of my imagination and I saw exactly what he was wearing, the gate of his stride, the tilt of his fine boned face.

So once again, I opened my scrivener file and jotted what I’d experienced down. I don’t have his name yet but I’ve got the essence of who he is and the darkness that emanates from him in a seductive manner. And I know he is the opposing force to my female protagonist.

I love it when this type of thing happens. For me this is part of magic of writing fiction. I’m always learning and growing as a writer and story teller, and when a character comes forward and wants to be put down on the page, I get excited. It’s almost as if the character is whispering in my inner ear and I am writing their story from their perspective.

So, now I am a bit over three weeks away from my trip to the UK and I now have two stories growing inside my mind. After a period of feeling creatively fallow, these ideas are a delight.

One of my stories is a paranormal romance, which is probably my absolute favourite genre to write, and if this story goes the way I am plotting it, then it will be my third paranormal story with romance beats. I’m excited to write this story.

The second story is my fantasy novel which features dragons and a few humans that can use magic. I’m enjoying learning how to put an epic fantasy story together. I’m not yet sure how this story will go. Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t have all the puzzle pieces and other times I feel inspired by the ideas I have. Most of the time I am considering: How can I take this idea beyond cliche?

So far I have discovered writing a fantasy world is an in-depth adventure in itself. There is so much for me to think about, to brainstorm and to create. My thinking includes:

  • Characters – who is my protagonist, my antagonist and other roles
  • Conflicts – the major conflict and smaller conflicts for all characters and how they will play out
  • World building – there is so much involved in this part, sometimes I feel overwhelmed
  • Plotting how it will all pan out
  • Themes I want to touch on
  • Treatment – do I want to write this story from first person point of view or third person point of view?

So I am going to really enjoy my Fantasy Fiction writing course with David Farland in Oxford, and I am very much looking forward to learning about all the layers and nuances I need to consider to bring my ideas to life and create a believable fantasy fiction world that readers will want to experience via my characters.

When I return from the UK, I hope to finish writing these stories and to work on editing Tuppence Weatherstorm and The Living Death of Toddy James so that I can move them toward publication. It would be good move my writing to the next level, even if being published is a scary step.

 

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Literacy, Story

On Stephen King and Writing Characters

Last year Stephen King received recognition for his work in literacy from the Librarian of Congress at the 2016 Library of Congress Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

They recorded his talk and loaded it up to YouTube which is awesome because I had an opportunity to watch it.

Stephen King did not disappoint. I love this guy! You know … in the ‘I’m a fan girl’ kind of way.  He talked about the Dead Zone and how he foresaw Donald Trump – scary that his work of fiction could have overtones to reality but there it is.

He told funny tales about being a famous author and discussed how to increase literacy in the community. This was very inspiring as he talked about reading for fun, about falling into other worlds and living through characters.

He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that people who do not read live one life and it may be a great life, but people who read, live thousands of lives.

I loved that message because whenever I read a story I get to experience what the character is going through but I don’t need to live their pain in my physical life.

And when I was younger (in my early twenties) I didn’t read much. It took me a lot of practice to learn to read well and then to enjoy the experience. I didn’t grow up loving stories mainly because I didn’t understand the joys of other worlds and characters. I found reading difficult but over time my literacy jumped and I found that I LOVED reading and I loved writing.  And that, in a nutshell, is how I came to be writing my own fiction.

Now, when I read books I have an opportunity to change my perspective on important topics and I learn that not every person who does ‘bad’ things is acting from a place of malevolence. Some characters have motivations that stem from a place of thinking they are acting for the highest good. And that makes the character complex and far more interesting to read about.

So a lot of what Stephen King talked about resonated with me, both as a person who once did not value reading and as a person who is so in love with reading I am never without a novel or a non-fiction book now.

Another interesting thing Stephen King talked about was how odd it was to see so many people in the crowd because writers are supposed to be secret agents. He said, “We’re supposed to observe you, you’re not supposed to observe us.”

I thought that was a great comment because as a writer I find myself observing people. Sometimes I’ve thought that I shouldn’t do that, but to write authentic characters and to gain inspiration for stories I realised that I needed to be engaged in the world around me (to a degree).

Mostly, I look at people’s emotions and how emotion impacts behaviour and the decisions and actions taken.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me.  I often contemplate behaviour and the principle of cause and effect as I write.

A number of my writing teachers have encouraged me to observe body language; to watch people and to do my best to notice the small giveaway signs of their thoughts and emotions too. I do this, but sometimes I think I do it more subconsciously than on a conscious level because I don’t sit across from people and just watch them. I listen to what they are saying, I do observe their body language from the perspective of being present with them and engaged in the topic at hand.

Yet I must admit that watching people teaches me so much about how to write believable characters with congruent and incongruent emotions and body language. Observing people (on TV and in real life) is fantastic way to develop my creative imagination as well as a vital skill for creative writing. So I reckon Stephen King, with all the years of experience and writing success, has a good point about writers being observers.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Stephen King’s talk. He’s an inspiration both as a writer and as a mentor (even though he wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap).

And if you have time and you’re interested in Stephen King, literacy, creative writing or just interested in having a laugh because he is an entertaining speaker, that you’ll take time to watch his talk on YouTube too.

 

Posted in Creative Writing

Tips on the Art of Writing

River.jpg

I’ve been writing an online book called Tips on the Art of Writing to share what I’ve been learning about creative writing.  It’s a work in progress.

Basically, I do research on how to write novels, publishing options and look for tips to help others who love writing too.  When I learn something new, I write a new chapter in the ebook on Wattpad and share the knowledge.

So Tips on the Art of Writing has the following topics:

    • Avoidance, Resistance and Commitment to your work
    • Writing – Smart Butt in Seat Time
    • Forget the ‘Nay-Sayers’ – use the Power of Compounding Effect
    • We are allowed to write a crappy 1st draft
    • Are you a Plotter, a Panster, or a Snowflaker?
    • Writing, Editing and Publishing with Lauren E. Daniels, Author, Editor and Director of Brisbane Writers’ Workshop (Youtube Interview)

    • Poetry, Digital Narrative and Publishing with Dr David Reiter, CEO of Interactive Publications (Youtube Interview)

    • Wattpad Success & Fantasy for YA with Sarah Benson (Youtube Interview)

  • Anne Rice – Advice for Writers 18/9/2012 (it’s still applicable today!)
  • Use your dreams as inspiration for writing
  • Sometimes, you … just-gotta-give-it-a-go
  • Emotionally Ruin Your Protagonist’s Life – this has a great Youtube video by Jenna Moreci – I love her channel.  She’s very funny and informative.
  • Story – Characters, Settings, Conflicts?
  • Plotting

I’ll be adding much more to this ebook over time and will edit it when it’s finished.  But for now, I thought I’d share it with you.

I hope you enjoy it and the tips are helpful to your writing journey.

P.S. Creative Anarchy and Synergy Interactive are podcasts I had a go at and due to life circumstances and writing schedules, I had to let it go.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on pod and video casting.  I’ll get back to it soon.

Posted in Creative Writing

‘Pause’ … Writer’s little helper

Miss Poppy helping me with the business of writing
Miss Poppy helping me with the business of writing

Tonight, on my way home from my day job, I fell into Kikki.K and purchased a gorgeous new writing pen and this fabulous ‘Pause’ 3 minute hourglass.  You can see them in the photo above with my new journal, and Miss Poppy, my sweet nine month old ragdoll kitten.  She’s inspecting them all for quality purposes, I’m sure.

Yes, she’s huge for nine months old.  But that’s a ragdoll for you!

Everything got a good sniffing and despite the mint sand running through the hourglass, her fascination fell to the pen.  They’re fun to swipe at and she loves to see them scuttle across the table or floor after her paw has lashed out at them.

Anyway, I felt inspired by the ‘Pause’ hourglass because it is a reminder that as a writer I need to take a breather from what I am doing in the day and become mindful of my own body and where I am in the world.  Especially when I have been in the thick of writing for sometime.  I’ve noticed that I can become utterly brain fogged and there is nothing more grounding than taking time to breathe into my belly and feel my feet flat on the floor.

Three minutes.  That’s it.  Just breathing.

I’m starting this as a new practice in my writing.

I guess I could call it, ‘The Zen of Writing.’

Personally, I suffer from anxiety that can flare up terribly, and at times that painful mental torture extends to my creative writing.  That’s when I get stuck in my ‘monkey mind’ as my psychologist terms it.  It’s an analogy she uses to explain the critical left brain and why it’s doing such crazy stuff, like trying to convince me that I’m not safe.

I like to imagine I actually have a tiny weeny little monkey inside my head who tries to tell me stories that aren’t necessarily true but certainly feel true at the time.  The monkey gets louder when my anxiety is playing up and the stories about all the awful things that are going to happen pound around inside my head like a brass band playing off key.

People have told me to just focus on something else, but when that monkey is so loud and insistent, like a two year old demanding attention, it is nigh on impossible not to listen.

I sound crazy don’t I!

I’m not crazy, I’m just dealing with fears that nibble at the internal fabric of my existence.  Threads are pulled out by my monkey mind and painful memories surface.  Visceral emotions take hold of my nervous system and my adrenal glands go into hyperdrive.  I’m on high altert even when there is no danger around.

So I turn to my writing.  I turn to my art.  And I turn to my animal companions for the relief and care that I need.  These things bring a calmness into my life, but not always.  It’s a process.

What writing, reflective writing does, however, is show me the patterns of thoughts travelling through my mind and the stories that my monkey mind has been spinning.  It gives me an opportunity to question their validity and to gain control by defusing the power of the anxiety triggers deep inside.

Taking time to breathe helps.  It really truly helps.

So, when I take a moment to just sit and breathe, I now watch the tiny grains of mint sand fall through the hourglass, and I focus on pressing my feet in to the floor.  I focus on  breathing down through my body and out through the souls of my feet as if the air is actually travelling through my body and passing into the earth itself.

I focus on expanding my belly my lower ribcage on the inhale and contracting that same part of my belly on the exhale.

I’ve been working on breathing deeply for about six months now.  My psychologist has been a blessing.  At first I really didn’t want to learn how to breathe. Oh no, none of that.  No, I just wanted relief from the internal pain and grating fears that had rubbed my nerves raw.  But she just smiled and taught me the technique.  Bless her (now).

And let me be the first to say that it may have been natural for me to breathe from my belly as a baby but as an adult who has been conditioned by all sorts of experiences, it is not easy to do.

But the need for mental and emotional relief drove me to practice.  Lying flat on the floor, one hand on my lower rib cage and the other on my heart.  In I’d breathe, and my lower rib cage would expand.  Out I’d breathe and my belly would contract.

The hardest thing I had to learn about breathing like this was not to allow my chest to rise up as I filled my lungs with air.  The hand on my heart sat there as a reminder:  don’t breath shallow.

So, when I saw this gorgeous little treasure in Kikki.K, meaning the ‘Pause’ hourglass, I knew it was coming home with me to remind me to take deep breaths during my day, during my writing and especially during stressful times.

Watching the mint sand mesmerises me.  The mint grains sparkle as they flow through the hourglass and pile up in the bottom half, and I find my shoulders relaxing just a little more the longer I gaze at its beauty.

And three minutes really isn’t that long, believe me I’ve just found out.

Watching the grains fall brings me back into the now.

And the now is really all we have.  This moment, right now is our precious time.  It’s our life taking shape.  This is the moment that we are making changes or staying the same.  I love that about coming back to the now.

Then to have my beautiful ragdoll cat join me for a moment during my writing practice … well it’s hard to describe, except to acknowledge that my animal companions bring me peace and happiness and personal love beyond any words I can speak.

Right now, I’m sitting cross legged at the table writing this blog post with Rocket, my black toy poodle curled up on top of me.  He’s warm and snugglely on my legs.  I can feel his heart beating and the calm trusting nature he has.  That’s a blessing and one I am treasuring in this moment as the tiny mint grains fall through the hourglass.

So, if you come across a ‘Pause’ hourglass and you’re a writer or someone who suffers from anxiety or even depression, maybe think about taking those three minutes to stop, gaze and breathe.  Gaze at the sand falling through the hourglass and feel your feet on the ground.  Expand your belly and breathe in and out.

Now is a precious time to appreciate.