Saturday Writers

Monthly Archives: September 2008

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Musical Muses

Have you noticed how more and more writers are giving ‘playlists’ that correspond to their manuscript?  Nearly all the writers I follow have these music playlists mentioned either in their books or on their websites.

Rachel Caine mentions her musical muse, Joe Bonamassa, in both.  Taking it a step further, Barnes & Noble cashes in with a display of CDs next to Stephenie Meyer’s books.  Nothing wrong with that, everyone profits, author, musician, bookseller and the fans.  Two forms of entertainment helping each other out.  Hollywood has been doing it for years, with music soundtracks and book to screenplay or vise versa.

The topic of this post maybe music, but writing is the focus of our blog, so back to the writing aspect.

The first short story I sold is based on a song.  At the time I didn’t think twice about it, who am I to question where the ideas come from?  I just played Shilo by Neil Diamond over and over, letting the story magically appear on the screen.  There were a lot of raised brows when I explained where it came from, no one got the correlation.  Not that I could blame them, the story doesn’t resemble the song in anyway.  It wasn’t supposed too, it’s Mr. Diamond’s song.  The story was something I pictured.  For those who ask where ideas come from this is a prime example.

I don’t feel the reader of any manuscript truly understands the meaning behind the words or where they come from.  I don’t even pretend to know what an author was thinking at the time.  When a writer explains what ignites an idea leading to a story, there’s a moment of oh, I can see that or that’s not what I thought it meant.  Once the words are on the page they are left up to the interpretation of the reader, how they feel about it, what it sparks in their imagination.  Just like listening to Shilo sparked mine.

At the time of that story, I didn’t think about how what I listened to affected my writing.  You don’t always notice environment–where you write, when you write, everything around you, all things that impact what and how you write–when you’re deep into a story.  The longer I’ve been doing this the more I pay attention.  Listening to something slow and weepy conveys depression and pain.  Classical makes me want to write epic fantasy.  Listening to country or southern fried rock can give my characters an easygoing attitude, at least on the surface.  Toss in hard rock and you probably will get some anger or violence.  I gravitate to certain artists or songs, each defining character, place or mood.

Look at your own music habits.  Is music one of your muses, or do you prefer silence or the sounds of nature?  Does it help you with characterization, motivation, inspiration, perspiration?  Does a certain song ignite a bonfire that can only be put out by becoming a story?

Writing a Novel Journal Post 1

This month I’ve decided to do something a little different.  Though I’ve been involved with several writer’s groups and organizations over the years, I have yet to complete a novel length project. There, I said it. Whew, that feels better. I have published a short story and for a time had a column in a local newspaper yet I feel that my knowledge about novel writing is lacking.  What I can do is share what I am doing each month to finally complete a novel. Hopefully you can learn from the things that I do right as well as from my mistakes.  My plan is to tell you what I have or haven’t accomplished each month and also ask for any advice or suggestions.

I am a Realtor so I do have flexible hours but I do have a problem with making writing a priority.  I feel I need to focus on what pays the bills first and my writing project usually comes after work and family.  

I understand time management and that if I don’t schedule it into my day and even if I do schedule it into my day, it doesn’t always get done.  My affirmation is: I will make writing a commitment.  I will schedule time into each day to write, starting now.

This past month was spent developing my story and main characters so my page count is not very impressive, 6 pages.  My writing project is a Women’s fiction story with a paranormal twist.  I have a younger woman and an older woman who are being pulled together by the spirit of a third woman.  Because the third woman is in spirit form, I think I made the mistake of not working on her character.  I will be developing her character more this month.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to use this character but because I have been catching up with the Desperate Housewife series, I like how they used Mary Alice’s voice as the opening and closing of each episode.  I’m thinking I might let this character make an introduction and then go on to my other main characters and let them finish telling the story.  I trust I will figure it out. 

Since I feel so insecure about the whole process and like the idea of having someone to hold my hand, I am working with a book.  It’s Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt Ph.D. 

My working title is Finding Faith.  Faith Mercer is a misfit.  She has never felt as though she belonged.  It is about her search for family.  Another key character is Rose Abbott, an older woman who is lonely but won’t admit it.  Because of grief, she has pushed people out of her life and feels that it’s too late and resists any urge to reach out.  I’m playing this whole journal thing by ear.

Next month, I am planning to attend a writer’s retreat so hope to have a lot more to share next month.

How do you begin your stories? Do you start with the plot or the characters? Do you use an outline or write the story as you go? I really am curious.

Until next time.

Virginia

 

 

Where do you find your characters?

On a recent flight to Las Vegas I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by a group of Pool players.  I use the word fortunate because I had given my muse the responsibility of coming up with a topic for my next blog as I settled back to enjoy my vacation.  I am finding that my muse has somewhat a sense of humor.  The group of gentlemen was on their way to Las Vegas to participate in a Pool Tournament.  They ranged in age from early 20’s to late 50’s or early 60’s.  Some were sons, fathers, boyfriends; but they were all men.  Men not accompanied by their mates.  They were left alone to their own vices.  Left to be the judge of whether or not their behavior was socially acceptable for public observation.  My muse decided to use this opportunity to take note of possible characters for future stories.

I was enjoying reading my latest book ‘Once Smitten, Twice Shy’ by Lori Wilde and my husband drowning out noise with his mp3 player.  The flight started out to be very uneventful with just the normal chatter between passengers.  There was an occasional joking reference as the stewardess’ did their normal cabin check for fastened seat belts and carry-on luggage correctly stored in the above bins or under the seat in front of you.  The most noise was baby babble coming from an infant in the rear of the airplane until the stewardess began serving drinks and snacks.  This group of Pool Players came alive. 

The rows of passengers lucky enough to be sitting within ear shot of this group of men were, needless to say, entertained.  One of the members of the group became the butt of their jokes when he fell asleep shortly after the flight took off.  I pity him when he views the pictures that were taken during his nap.  My muse kicked in.  He would be a great character for a murder/mystery novel.  Blackmailed with the pictures he could plot to get even somehow.  Maybe he was in hiding and didn’t want his picture taken.  The possibilities are endless.    

The gentleman sitting next to him became the funny, prank-playing character who is always the third wheel.  Eager to assists his friends into trouble with their mates, he was always there to fill the empty time they suddenly had on their hands.  He never takes the time to coordinate his attire which looks as if he had picked it up off the bedroom floor as he ran to catch the plane.  His hair is in need of a new style because the Weird Al look isn’t for him.  This is the character who can never understand why none of his pal’s girlfriends will set him up on a blind date.

Taking notice of the three characters sitting across from him didn’t escape my muse’s attention either.  There was one on the end of the isle who took great care with his dress and looks.  His hair perfectly coiffed, his shirt pressed neatly along with his shorts.   His sandals carefully selected to match his attire.  His fingernails perfectly manicured.  He was on the prowl.  Free from his wife for a few days of male bonding.  There is one rule which should have been explained to him before he began partaking in adult beverages during his male bonding session.  That rule is not to make barking noises at the young women walking up and down the aisle of the plane especially if her boyfriend is within ear shot.  If he is bigger than you, wearing a tight sleeveless t-shirt exposing his well defined muscles and has barbed wire tattooed across his massive bulging bicep.  (The boyfriend will be a character who will show up somewhere in one of my books.)

The oldest of the three gentlemen would make a perfect character captured in a scene in need of some comic relief.  He left his seat to ‘visit the facilities’ for the 3rd or 4th time.  Upon his return he began taking a poll of everyone on the flight going to Vegas.  Considering it was a non-stop flight from Des Moines to Las Vegas it was a little amusing how many people had to stop and think about it.  He returned to his seat after the laughter subsided only to declare he was drunk which was apparent to everyone but him.  Taking his cap off to rub his head he shared his discovery he was also bald.   

The younger gentlemen sitting close to my husband and I made the comment to another of the group “I wish I had a tape recorder that I could put right above his head because stuff like this you have to have recorded you just can’t write it.”  My muse took note of this comment and presented it to me sounding like a dare to a writer looking for an idea for her next blog and a few new characters for her future stories.

Deanne Williams

“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”
-Robert Bresson

Are you comfortable being “original”?

Back in 2000 I got deep into a story about selling antiques online. The premise of the story was that a young antique dealer was selling something online, and it turned out to be something more valuable than she knew, and many people wrote asking her to end the auction early and sell it outright. One man emailed telling her what she had so she’s know. They developed a relationship via long-distance, using mostly email as their communication method.
 
I was advised the story would never sell – an online relationship was unbelievable and too ‘out there’ – yet now there are lots of stories with a premise that involves the online world. And werewolves, shape-shifters and vampire slayers, too.

The point is, never let someone else dissuade you because something is too out there, too unusual, not mainstream, whatever. Take a chance, be the first. If it’s a good idea, hundreds will follow. If it’s a great idea, break the rules and show everyone that it can be done, and how it can be done.

Have you ever had an idea that someone else shot down? Did you keep going in spite of it or did you, like me, let a great idea fall along the wayside out of fear?

 

It’s difficult to write a mystery

I am writing a cozy mystery. I have never had the desire to write a cozy mystery, but I am writing one. I hope to have sequels to it, also. I didn’t realize how much I would learn writing this mystery.

I am what people call a “seat of my pants” writer. I sit down and write, then the story comes. I get to know the people as I write. I started writing this story and was well into it when I realized I needed something I didn’t have – clues. That’s when I started doing the research to find out how to do the clues. I found more than that. I found out how to write a mystery.

I learned that my story had major problems. It was set up as something other than a mystery. You can’t just write a story and then have the murder solved at the end. You need to make it a mystery. You need to have the police investigate the murder. You need to have your main character involved in solving it. I hadn’t done that.

I, the writer, am supposed to know the characters better than anyone else. I didn’t. In fact, I changed the person that was murdered. I involved a group that everyone would question. I changed the place the victim was found to be able to involve the main character in solving the murder.

Next comes the hard part. You have to know who killed someone in order to have the clues in the right places. You need to have clues suggesting the actual killer, but you also need to have clues indicating someone else killed your victim. Then, you need clues that don’t go anywhere. There is no way you can just sit down and write a murder mystery without having some sort of plan.

Having rewritten it once, I thought I was headed in the right direction only to find that I needed more suspects. It wouldn’t work to have just one or two suspects. It would be a very short, dull book. So that’s what I’m working on now. Getting more suspects, then new clues that make it look like any of them could have committed the murder. Of course, those suspects aren’t the killer. The killer is —–.

I’ll let you learn who the killer is when the book is published. But, I have to get it written first.