The DNA of an Atomic Moment

Possibilities

 

Everything and anything exists in each single moment. It depends upon what questions we ask of it where it will lead us: in a circle, across a desert, into a candy store. Variations are endless: one part of the fun that takes any prompt and turns it into a story or other work of art.

 

If I see an old barn set back from the road, questions immediately spring to mind:

-Who might have lived there… and when did they leave?

-Why did they leave?

-What was the size of the original farm on which that barn sat at an angle to the road?

-How did transportation of the times affect choices they made?

-What was the size of their family through the time they lived there?

 

I don’t even have to see the barn in person. A picture or painting might elicit responses to other times where I can smell barn particles on the breeze.

 

Moments and snapshots and music trigger a plethora of questions and self-derived answers that can be shaped into a new story.

The artist contains the meeting place of voice, idea, theme… and then works to organize them fluently –this is one example of how tiny things contain the whole.

Other examples:

-The blueprint for life exists within every double helix strand of DNA in every cell in the body.

-There is enough energy within one single atom to set off a reaction that can either power homes or destroy them.

-This is one of my favorite themes to write about: the overall theme to life that within every tiny thing or perception is much more than we casually guess.

Possibilities. Ah.

A Year of ‘Spare’ Change

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A year of ch-ch-ch-changes  for us (thank you, Mr. Bowie).

Last year at this time this blog was only a twinkle in our left eyes. We would soon be on a family vacation where we decided to take time every other day to write side by side on our own ‘blog posts,’ for the future when we’d start one.

We had different concepts, and perhaps that comes through. Maybe not.

The book was in the beginning stages with an initial idea. We had no sense of the journey’s magnitude ahead or what it would be like to collaborate on a project this large.

We worked on a few little things together, such as a relative’s dating site profile (it worked!), a resume or two, and a few short stories by that time.

We didn’t know at the time of writing these smaller pieces that it would actually turn into, ‘Let’s write a book together.’

Now we’re here, one year later. So much has changed, but we can see that it has been on a consistent upward trajectory.

Where we’re at now – We have started this very blog. Our book is written and in its final drafting. Our cover is finished, and we are elated with it. We are researching the best way(s) to go about publishing it. We did have a period where we thought we knew, but further research revealed a lack of integrity from their partner company, so we’re back at the drawing board. We plan to create a rubric to evaluate different publishers. Any advice or experience anyone has to share is greatly appreciated.

Thank you for being with us. We appreciate your company.

 

 

Concocting an Inspiration Buffet

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A topic came up for us last week. We were discussing where our inspiration comes from when we begin a new writing project. Dozens of suggestions clamored to the surface and different ones tugged on each of our sleeves.
Primarily for Andrea, it’s her intuition. She tunes in, and the story calls to her.
For Leslie, it’s more visual. It can be a memory tangent or a photograph as the catalyst. It can be picturing the characters in action or conversation. Any piece of art can get her started.
Other times it’s a combination of those two, with additional spices added.
We stay alert to opportunities around us which leads to asking questions that draw out the story. This is about making a conscious decision to fly manually. We come out of autopilot and listen to the world around/inside of us.
It can be as simple walking down Main Street, seeing an always deserted restaurant full of people and wondering what led to this moment. Questions beget other questions, and soon a plot develops. Will it be a mystery? A comedy, drama, or something supernatural? Only time will tell.
We do know that it’s important to be open to inspiration everywhere we go. It could be our next story.
Where do you get your inspiration?

Justification

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When I think about characterization, I develop arcs based, in part, upon the philosophies each character holds in his, her, or its heart. I want to know this about the characters, even if that information never overtly appears in the pages of the book.

 

A spectrum I like to use is whether the character values ends or means more… and whether they move from one position at the start of the story and end somewhere else.

 

One of my favorite books is ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. I love this book as I have from my early teens. While it is in no way thoroughly representative of my interests as a reader, I find it an excellent glass through which to perceive various philosophical, existential, and organizational questions about life and writing.

 

First up, these two statements:

 

“The ends justify the means.”

-OR-

“The means justify the ends.”

 

An interesting exercise is to take some favorite characters of your own, or for this example, from Tolkien, and see where they would appear on this spectrum.

 

I’ll mention Gandalf ™ and Gollum™ because of the many people acquainted with these characters from either the volume(s) or the Peter Jackson movies which take the books as their source material.

 

It strikes me that Gandalf considers the means the more important aspect on which to hang his wizard’s hat most of the time. Means are the ‘now,’ the moment within his control, to the extent that he has any . If he takes an action, he thinks about it in advance, constantly revising, if need be, and relying on intuition as well as his other senses to know whether it is right. If something he does runs afoul of his personal integrity or wisdom, he knows that he is likely to see this wrinkle exaggerated in the end results.

 

He values the importance of each step he takes, and lets the end take care of itself thereby, quite possibly in the direction he’d like to see.

 

On the other hand, there’s Gollum, and all he wants is the Ring of Power ™. He will do anything, take any means to get it, even though we get a split sense of dimension what with the two sides of his personality occasionally bickering, cajoling, manipulating. As long as Gollum gets the ring in the end (don’t worry, no spoilers here), he is happy, for the most part, with whatever means he has taken.

 

Not surprisingly, it would seem that Gandalf and Gollum think about one another or at the least, figure into each other’s vision of the future and/or past:

 

Responding to Frodo who expresses outrage that Gollum was allowed to live after Gandalf’s last meeting with him, the latter speaks one of my favorite quotes (of many) from the book:

 

SPOILER WARNING:

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least. In any case we did not kill him: he is very old and very wretched. The Wood-elves have him in prison, but they treat him with such kindness as they can find in their wise hearts.”

OKAY – safe again

 

Admitting that one cannot see all ends may be the elixir that bestows a healthy dose of respect for means.

 ~*~

This is one axis to look at in the characters and the story, and it can be a fun one. If I cross this axis with a second, things can really heat up, debate-wise. This is why, for example, I mentioned ‘personal integrity’ rather than societal or relativistic. More on this later…

 

-Does this method of drawing out characters resonate with any that you love, hate, or both – that you’ve read, seen, or written?

 

-In this example, Gandalf is considered ‘good’ though he, like all wizards, is ‘subtle and quick to anger’ when meddled with, while Gollum is something quite different. Are there examples in stories that spring to mind where those polarities are reversed for protagonist and antagonist?

 

We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

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Awareness of the Cue

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A day we couldn’t work brought a new perspective.

 

We both carry a sense of guilt when we can’t do something we’d like to accomplish. No matter that it may stem from the fact that our bodies won’t comply or we’re too distracted by pain, fog, sensory overload, and/or the fear that it will continue to be ‘this way.’ The thing for us to remember is that these situations turn out, time and time again, to be a kind of soil from which grows meaningful writing, revision, or an entire reframing of that part of the story.

 

Every hesitation, need for self-care, change of plans, detour – every hiccup along the way – is an opportunity. The longer we dwell on potential negative impacts, like time lost, the more time we spend forgetting the benefits. These come from the cause and effects which are rarely within our sole conscious control.

 

We are learning – sometimes quickly, sometimes after repeated cueing experiences. Awareness of these cues can be a great help whether we are writing or revising. They try to tell us: “Do not be so hard on yourself. Take your speck of sand and make from it your pearl.”

 

For example, we lost the last nineteen chapters of the book. Sort of…

 

We recently finished the book and returned to the first chapter of the last nineteen (at that point it would’ve been Chapter 63) to do some revision work. We had the clever idea to do all of this work in one Word document which would later be added into Scrivener ™ in chapter-sized segments.

 

The story goes something like this…

 

Once upon a time, we had an extremely productive day. One of those in-the-flow, amazing days. Unfortunately, we had an issue which shut down Word ™ but didn’t save our document correctly. We lost the entire last day’s hours of writing and all of the revision, but in its place after a brief pity party, we came up with back story and another twist we wouldn’t have otherwise conceived.

 

One key was to begin writing again the instant we discovered – and accepted the reality – that this had actually occurred. Much of the work we’d done was still in our short term memory banks, though some things were irretrievably lost, which was okay.

 

When we’re in the midst of feeling unwell, we feel awful about what looks like waste. The minute we get back in the flow, we realize how much insight and creativity happened in the meanwhile.

 

Are there times when you are hard on yourself or times when you could see that an otherwise fallow time yielded fruit?

From Here to There: Arcs and Transitions

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One way to write is to set down the most dramatic, powerful, important scenes, figure out where they go in relation to each other, and then determine whether there are others lurking between, like waiting-to-be-discovered galaxies.

 

Once all the large beats in your story are in place, you can look at the spaces between them. This is mostly how we are writing our current Young Adult book… only without the mixed metaphors of music and astronomy.

 

If the bridge of your transition feels long and stretched out, there may still be one or more heightened scenes waiting to be developed. Check for alignment with your arcs – whether it be the arcs of your characters, this scene, a dialogue interaction perhaps, or the entire story. There are also those of relationships, places, motivations, and plots… to name a few more.

 

Arcs are stories playing out in time. If I’m wrong, it’ll all be okay soon.

 

A transition will take you from one scene to the next. You can also rely on it to traverse one perspective to another or one part of a universe to another. Maybe in Frank Herbert’s, Dune, ‘Spice’ was originally, ‘The Transition That Ate the Entire Plot,’ bringing in such significance that it changed the story from the inside out. Maybe.

 

As with dialogue it can also be used to reveal character as well as move the story forward. Your first draft may lack the latter feature, but keep a watch out for opportunities on one of your next passes.

 

Some questions to ask yourself about getting from here to there:

*Is this cliché or can I think of a more unique way to accomplish it?

*Am I going off on tangents for good reason or am I taking the direct route?

*Have I packed everything I need?

*Does this reflect back to another part of the story that now needs an adjustment?

*What is my gut telling me as I’m writing this transition?

*Is it as tight as it can be, including only what’s necessary?

 

As with editing in video, we want to glimpse everything we need to see with minimal, non-essential time spent dallying or pointing out odd architectural features that don’t lend to the atmosphere or action.

 

Here’s an example from my first novel’s opening. What line(s) would you identify as a transition in what is an origin story or prologue.

 

[Sitting around the fire in their furs and matted hair, the men looked up as a bright light split the sky. The image burned its way onto every retina and managed to stay there for some time. When it finally cleared, there was barely a trace of the flash from the north…. just a quickly fading ripple of mist down to Earth.

 

It didn’t seem that far away, but night was a dangerous time to go wandering off from shelter and fire. Still, there was something calling to each man, individually… A small voice from the north whispering beckoning words of encouragement.

 

Most thought they would be able to find it in the morning. They’d all get a hunting party together to investigate, but each knew in his own heart that he would be going alone. To find the prize for himself.

 

Shielding his intentions from the others, each man glanced around the circle, only to find all men but one doing the same.

 

Gorag was standing, and it was possible to see the fire in his heart and eyes even from behind. It was as though a string tugged on him like the sinew of a mammoth beast. Shaken out of a daze, he searched around for his club and other essentials: a bow and arrows, his flint knife, an extra fur for warmth. He said no words to them, but they all knew what was on his mind. To follow the trail from  heaven to earth and see what gifts might be found.]
More in future on this topic, especially if you enjoy different views on it.

Interaction is always welcome.

 

Now to wrap it up with a haiku:

 

Transition, bridge, arc

Made of hyper-drives or glue

Once here and now there.

 

 

Procrasti…Nation Inflation

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Some days I’m unable to produce. Some days can easily turn into a week gone by, and then it’s holy crap. How does that happen? Very frustrating; as in I’m sitting here staring at a screen. I’m exhausted… from procrastinating!

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Click on the book image for a procrastination resource, which you might find interesting and/or helpful. Check the different formats, as I believe the Kindle version, is considerably less expensive.

In addition there’s the link below for a procrastination page  that we recommend, with tips and an app to help get unstuck. Even though we haven’t been able to find the app to try it out on our Android devices, we do like the page information:

How We Procrastinate at Unstuck Now

 

That’s where it’s nice to have a good writing partner so we can share our angst and cheer each other on. Well, not that we want to give each other angst, but it’s good to be able to bounce ideas back and forth. We don’t feel so alone. It’s fun to write with each other as we talk on the phone and especially when we’re together.

Time magically opened up, and we managed to get together in the same domicile for three days. It was interesting to see how each day had its own personality.

Day 1: Andrea arrived at Leslie’s. She was tired from how long a drive it was.

Expectation: Zero. She was distracted and passed the exit  for the Turnpike. That led to running through a maze of back roads to get back on the highway.

Outcome: It took longer than expected, by an hour. The original was already a long enough trip for her.

Actuality: We got some things done, by saying, ‘We’re not going to do anything today.’ It happened anyway. Surprise and confetti!

Let’s see: what did we do? We wrote business letters, and then Andrea had a brilliant idea of asking our talented artist of a cousin if she would be willing to do  our book cover for us, even though no one judges a book by its cover anymore. Ha!

We got that letter written, using our Art for Inspiration Pinterest board to communicate ideas of how we envisioned the cover so clearly. Our cousin agreed to work with us. She said it might be fun. Yay. That’s one huge concern lifted.

We also wrote three whole paragraphs of Chapter 14 in just under three hours. Record time, but not the good kind.

Reward:  Movie time! STAT! We amazingly got through two and stayed up way too gloriously late.

Day 2: We wrote all day. Not an easy task for a master ADD’er such as Andrea’ Nevermind, she was completely focused that day! Hooray!

Leslie snapped out of her three-paragraph-only capacity and we took off from the stagnation of yesterday PLUS finished the next two chapters. Some days are not like others. We pinky-swore that we would go over it again in the morning and send it to the editor.

Outcome: First pinky-swear in many a year. Lots of writing done. Happy authors. Time for a snack.

That was enough!

Reward: We try to diversify our snacks for health and deliciousness. We decided to do research by watching TV. Leslie suggested a show, which was roundly decried at first, but eventually attempted for lack of choices. We loved it. In case you wish to know the title (and more about our senses of humor writing), it’s called, ‘You’re the Worst,’ on FX. It’s a bit naughty, so we don’t want anyone to be surprised! How did we survive? It was just that funny. A couple of episodes lagged. Yeah, we admit it, we binge-watched, but overall it was very enjoyable

Day 3:  We got our last blog post done and ready. We finalized and did two passes (or was it three?) on chapters 14-16 of the book before sending them off to the editor. Good feeling and time for more snacks! First one to the kitchen is a golden egg!

Also…. we got our first press release out for our funding product! Hooray! That was an accomplishment. Leslie only wishes she’d set it to come out earlier…. How about you, Andrea? Are you satisfied? She’s easy to please about some things. <wink>

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? We’re happy and in any case we pushed on through some difficult pain times.

Reward: Almost done with the first series of our show now, so aiming high, but … dun dun dun: “Walking Dead (especially season opener) takes PRECEDENCE!

Day 4, early: Scene at the door: “Whaaaa…. time to part again.”

Now: Back at our own domiciles and on the phone sharing a screen once more.  Today’s goal: write this blog post!

 

Reward time…A favorite time of day…

 

For you writers out there, we found what we think is a good writing prompt site… just in case you are helped by prompts. Leslie wrote her first novel from one photo of a grocery store with an apartment upstairs.

Enjoy!

 

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Every time you refresh the page, the Writing Prompt in center area will change.

Happy Writing to you and you and you….

Writers Watching the World

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I’ve heard many debates about what makes a writer a Writer. My opinion is that a writer is someone who writes. How often or how well is usually for others beside me to determine. Writing makes a writer in my eyes.

Once a writer, I began to notice everything differently, especially if I was in the middle of writing a story. But even if nothing’s immediately on the cooker, so to speak, the whole world’s now populated by story ideas, twists, bread crumbs, and characters to name a few.

I love good movies and watch television. When I do, it’s now with an entirely different perspective and a dual purpose: to enjoy and to note structure, how the twisting and turning of a tale can be accomplished.

I’ve noticed that a film or show can have the best casting, even great editing, directing, musical score, and cinematography, but if the strong or excellent writing is not there as a foundation, it won’t be one of my favorites most likely. It’s the story that reaches down into the furthest depths of my appreciation. It bestows all the color and heart into a piece of work.

I’m one of those people who can enjoy pretty much anything if I’m in the right, open kind of mood. Even if all I can find to like in a movie are the camera angles and lighting, I can still come away enjoying the film while others might decry it by the scores.

This is because I watch with at least two heads, two brains, and two personas. The first has suspended disbelief in order to get caught up in the show of it all.

The second is scanning for when something moves me – what is that? Why does it work? What are the components? I feel these things in my body: tears, goose bumps, shivers, or just a gentle awareness of movement in my heart.

There’s also the visual aspect in which I see multiple universes or story choices spread out before the moment I’m in the middle of watching. I think most consumers of Story do that in a way, and mine is five-sense oriented. First is the vision, the sight of it. Second I hear things…. And smell can be most powerful if it’s offered up in the presentation. That leaves touch and taste, which can also be involved depending on the tale.

A wise person once told me in a training for public speaking, that whatever moves me when I’m writing out what I will say, or when I’m saying it, will go directly from the place in me where I’m feeling it to that same place in the listener. After that, I’d notice the places when I felt moved to tears during a talk or a film or a tv show… or even Life. Writers not only watch the outside world, but keep this kind of eye on the inner world as well. There’s a fullness there that must be experienced to be believed.

 

In this article by Noelle Sterne, she offers the following regarding this writing world view and examples of how to learn what NOT to do:

“If we can’t ditch the guilt, we have a great rationale for watching TV. As I’ve learned from my own (admittedly guilty) primetime TV watching, it can teach us a lot about what to avoid in our writing. Some TV dramas and movies are well-crafted and hold our interest. Others offer many lessons. Here I’ll share examples, lessons, and remedies for six: unbelievability (two types), overlingering attention, heavy-handed foreshadowing, lazy language, and groaning predictability.”

If this sounds interesting to you, dear reader, please use the link below to fly there at your leisure:

http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/TV.shtml

So, if you happen to catch a show here or there, you might go further and tune in to what your mind and heart are doing simultaneously. I hope you enjoy the show! (Leslie)

 ~*~

I would like to add that since starting the story and finding the pleasure I once had in writing, I view the whole world in words now. I pay attention to how things are said and if it was written, how I would edit the statement. I am not judgmental in my listening, I am just aware of the structure in it.

Even the word, ‘just.’ I now determine where I believe it belongs and where it should be deleted. I didn’t know before, but most times, it should be left by the wayside.

In watching TV and movies, I really see the story now. I look for what I like in the character and for what I do not want our character to become. It’s exciting to have this new viewpoint. I agree with the whole guilt aspect of it. As a TV and movie lover, I always felt so guilty for indulging but now I look at it as research. I have cut down considerably but it is still a helpful source. (Andrea)