Have you ever hit a block–one that isn’t exactly a writer’s block, but more of a confidence block? That’s where I’m sitting right now. I’ve been binging on media lately, which means I’m watching a lot of TV.
One of my favorite shows [with the worst airing schedule in the universe–pun status is: “unintended, but not unwelcome”] is premiering a new episode daily until mid-August, and it is consuming my brain currently. I just came out of season 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal, binged all of Gravity Falls, and ReLIFE; but this show destroying what is left of me. There are so few well-written shows nowadays, and the ones that are done right are just… explosively right. And despite the fact that a novel is a completely different medium from a TV show, I still sit here and think, “I will never be that good. I will never write anything remotely that good. Dammit.”
After that, moving my cursor across the blank page becomes the most arduous task in the world. Even if I want to write–even if I’ve been excited to work on a scene–it’s beyond me. I don’t know if all authors have this issue, or if they just push through it until it’s gone. If I try to work through it, all that comes out is drivel. Letting Future Me “clean it up in editing” results in Future Me having to rewrite all of Past Me’s crap.
Meanwhile, my chronic illness is getting worse and some days I can’t even think well enough to handle staring at a wall much less write. So when I have a good day, and I want to write but can’t, I just make it worse by berating myself for not being able to take the opportunity. Thus, I watch TV, and… it’s a horrible cycle that just keeps going.
What stops it? A perfect storm–a good day health-wise where something within a show, book, or game stands out and sets off a spark of creativity inside of me; something that whispers that maybe everything I write isn’t trash, and that I can do this because I am the only one who can tell my story the way it needs to be told.
When I write, sometimes my mind wanders around. I don’t know if other authors have this problem, but I’ll be in the middle of a scene when suddenly I’ll wonder if the character who is speaking would prefer Coke or Pepsi; whether or not they would read a certain book, or if they would like cilantro. [Trust me–cilantro is a very polarizing topic.]
While doing preliminary edits on Atlantis: TVC volume #1, I started wondering if the Atlantians that Achine spends her time with were to visit her hometown–or even just the mainland in general–what would they enjoy of ours? What would they hate?
Then later I watched an episode of Backstrom [Brilliant show–shame it was canceled. Hulu or Netflix needs to pick that up and continue it, STAT!] that revolved around something called a dream board. [Also called a vision board] In high school I saw classmates use something similar to pick out clothes for important events, or to envision a dream home; cutting things they liked out of magazines and gluing them to cardboard, or a sheet of paper. Often they would end up inside of those binders with the clear sleeve on the front and back–you remember the kind, right? [I filled mine up with a mixture of self-drawn things and anime/manga images, ha ha.]
Anyway, that tangent aside, the idea popped into my head to make a board for each of my main cast members, showing things from our world that they would like or wear. I figured it could be a character defining exercise. Here are the results:
It was so much fun to go ‘visual shopping’ as each character! I was surprised at how easy it was to make the character board for some, and I was surprised by what others liked, such as Gialasa. Her bohemian/Etsy look is not what I would have expected at all, but it fits very well. In fact, the whole project inspired me to do a drawing of everyone in modern clothing! I haven’t finished it yet, and it’s been languishing a bit on my hard drive in the wake of trying to get volume #2 done, [since February?!] but it will be completed eventually.
This definitely helped me to get into my characters’ heads [in unexpected ways], and I would highly recommend it to other writers trying to define a character!
The word doesn’t feel strong enough to describe how John Mayer, Cindi Lauper, Fall Out Boy, Whitesnake, and Sheryl Crow are all sitting next to each other in my current playlist and it doesn’t even matter. [Except that you now know my dirty secret about liking that third group I mentioned…]
But that’s not what my post is about!
What I wanted to talk about is music and how it influences writing. Tonight I was packing and I lost myself in my head thinking about Atlantis when a song came on. I had a scene planned out for a later volume, but I had later scrapped it because it didn’t really fit with the storyline. The song put it back and has me re-thinking the entire events of the third book. [I promise that I will tell you what song and what chapter when #3 comes out–Pinky Swear!] I saw everything playing out as if it was a movie trailer in the new vein, and suddenly I knew this was where I had to take the story.
Music has this way of opening up my head, especially if I’m not paying attention on a conscious level to it. I have the best epiphanies, and I create the best artwork when I am able to become lost in music. It’s like my own little world.
There is something to be said for the subconscious being allowed to have free reign; surprising things come bubbling up to the surface when it does. Mine is like a kid left in a room unsupervised–she’s painted the TV, dumped flour everywhere, and is sitting on the floor eating the secret stash of dark chocolate I keep up with the drinking glasses and I have no idea how she got in there.
But I’m not about to stop her… at least, not until she finishes updating my book outlines. *evil grin*
I would be completely remiss if I didn’t say anything on this, even though I am stumbling around mentally, still stunned by the news myself. Please forgive me if I sound a little strange.
One of my favorite authors, and a huge inspiration of mine, Sir Terry Pratchett, died today.
I know he struggled with a rare form of Alzheimer’s, and I know I saw it in the way his writing had become subtly different over the past few years. I didn’t expect it to happen as soon as it did, though.
I didn’t discover his books until I was in my late teens, introduced to them through my husband’s older brother. I started with the The Colour of Magic–the first book in the Discworld series–and when I finished, I wondered where these books had been all my life. I’ve devoured them all over the past twelve years [with the exception of Raising Steam; I haven’t had a chance to read that one yet] and I am crushed that there will be no more adventures on the Disc after the volume he finished last year is released.
I am not usually affected by the deaths of famous people, and I’ve always thought that those who went on and on about it like they had lost a family member were a little strange.
Today that person is me, and I completely understand now.
I feel like I’ve lost a beloved grandfather, one who was a master storyteller and understood how my mind worked; knowing exactly what to say to make me laugh, even when other people would deem the moment inappropriate for it. But hidden underneath that outer layer of comedy was a core full of surprisingly deep insights about life, humans, and our perceptions of the world around us. The humor led you to think, to feel, and to take a better look at the world around us–not just at the world inside the story.
The world has truly lost a legend, and I am not ashamed to admit that I have been crying off an on since this morning over it. As an author myself, I can only hope to have a minute amount of the same wit, spirit, and skill in my own works that he poured into all of his.
As Granny Weatherwax’s sign said: “I ATE’NT DEAD“. Your body may have died, but your soul will live on forever in your works. You even said it yourself:
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”–Going Postal
Now you are at peace. Your words will persist, and your fans will always speak your name, thus making you immortal.
You will never be forgotten, Sir Terry Pratchett. Never.
* Or a LCD and pixels if you’re into e-books. I won’t judge–except to say that e-books don’t smell nearly as nice as a dead tree copy does.
I remember my first fantasy series. I was in middle school when my best friend handed me a large hardcover novel and said, “You have to read this. It’s really good!” [Or something along those lines; it was eighteen years ago after all.]
That book was Guardians of the West, by David [and Leigh!] Eddings.
It was the beginning of summer vacation, and I already had a very bad habit of consuming books. Until then, I had read fantasy-themed books, but never a series. It was a thick book, [honestly looking back I think it was only 300 pages, ha ha!] but I cracked it open and didn’t come up for air until it ended.
“But… there’s more?” I thought, looking at the dust jacket. ‘Book one of the Mallorean’ was finely printed under the title. I was thrilled in a completely new way–I needed to get my hands on those books!
Since then, I have read most of the Eddings’ work. Through those books I discovered that I love a long series. For starters, the character development has room to breathe. I get to see characters grow and change over time, and figure out their motivations. In stand alone novels, you often get a few paragraphs that beat you over the head with the personality and the purpose of the character. Then you read the story. As I get further into writing, I have discovered that the latter example is a ‘tell’ kind of style, which tends to bog down a narrative. I thought it was just the way books were written–I had a great epiphany with my first Eddings book! [I also just now realized that this is probably the reason I’m not too fond of movies. It’s difficult for a movie to tell a satisfying story in such a short length of time unless it’s based on something people are already familiar with.]
Secondly, I get to spend more time with these well-developed characters, which makes them kind of like friends. I was with them through thick and thin! I cared about their well-being; I was emotionally invested! As an aspiring author, this is something I can only hope to achieve.
Books have always been my drug, in a very literal sense–when I received that book from my friend, I was four years removed from a bad situation where I had to read to escape my dismal everyday life. I had read because I didn’t want to be where I was. I had read because it dulled the pain. I had read because–in a strange act of rebellion–the person who made my childhood into a confusing hell did not want me to. I read at an advanced level. At the beginning of the new school year I would steal my cousins’ middle/high school science, history, and English textbooks [never math; it’s always been my weak point] and read them for fun with a flashlight under the covers in my room.
I would sneak into that person’s room and smuggle her Reader’s Digest Condensed Books out to read… books like Finder’s Keepers [Barbara Nickolae] and Circle of Pearls [Rosalind Laker] were my first ‘grown-up’ [serious] books. When I had a reprieve to go visit my grandmother on weekends I’d read her romance novels, and she’d warn me: “Careful! Those are sexy books!”. I still have no idea if that was an admonishment to skip the ‘sexy’ parts, or if she was warning me about it in case it wasn’t my taste. [I was a preteen; ‘sexy books’ were most certainly my taste!]
I’m quite sentimental about things; as an adult I combed the local library’s used bookstore every time I went, specifically looking amongst the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books anthologies for a specific teal spined volume that contained reprints of both the books I mentioned above. After six years of diligence, it finally showed up! It’s packed away in a box currently, but it’s a treasured possession that reminds me of the immense power books can have. They protected me like a shield when I needed them most.
Nowadays I visit them for a brief vacation, or to relax, because I have that luxury. [Especially when I get a chance to leave the two year-old with Daddy and hide in the bathtub. Books+Bath=Love!] I still enjoy reading immensely, and I still go for the large series; Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series are some of my current favorite reads, along with the occasional translated Light Novel. [I’m currently on volume four of Log Horizon! Loving it!]
Right now I can only hope to follow in the footsteps of those who came before me–authors whose books I’ve loved. I dream of someday writing something good enough that people will say, “I want to go to that place. I want to go there and see my friends.”