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What Does Your Story Say?

When I initially began writing, I was purposed to write stories with meaning. Not just fluffy fun tales of over-powered heroes saving damsels in distress, beating the familiar evil villain, and then riding off into the sunset with said damsel. It was too cliched. Too fake. Too fictional.

Hence that amazing quote by Anais Nin on the title of my blog. “Not what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” There could be many reasons why we might not be able to say something, but in our writing we can most certainly elaborate on them. Explore and expound for others to read and comprehend.

I’ve thought about changing that quote a number of times in the past, but I can’t get past the truth it speaks. It guided my tentative steps into serious writing. As fun as writing fan-fiction and ghost stories can be, sometimes I needed to write something with substance. Something concrete, addressing a personal issue or belief. I attempted a lot these in the past, ranging from Christianity to relationships to my greatest fears.

Here’s an excerpt from a piece of writing I labelled The Past:

The Past…

…is like a dark cave, contaminated, murky, fearsome place, one that we cordon off and try to forget about, ignoring the signs all around us that point back to it. But we cannot escape it. We sometimes linger at its entrance, gazing within the dark confines to see what can be seen. Safe enough. Safe enough away from what we know is within its depths. We know of the familiar creature within, one that bares an undeniably resemblance to ourselves, except for its blank dead eyes, dead in trespasses and sins, blinded from the truth willingly.

I was in a dark place for a while.

Self vs Other

These days I seem to be driven by concepts that are ‘out there’ rather than close to me. Removing self from the story and characters to create something outside of me. It’s much easier to ignore introspection. To escape to books and movies and music and art.

I could only hope to recreate those sensations in my readers. However, what I failed to notice, was that each creator of those inspirational  works had their own directive to their creation, a source that guided their work. It not only made them unique, but I as the recipient of their creativity, was able to experience what they experienced much deeper and fuller.

Combining self and these external sources, can create something beautiful. For example:

  • Adele’s soulful musical style was inspired by her own heartbreak, relationships, and a desire to making up for all the lost time through nostalgia and melancholy – yet she was inspired by Amy Winehouse and the album Frank.
  • Masamune Shirow (Masanori Ota) is a qualified oil painter, and creator of Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. He writes thoughtful post apocalyptic cyberpunk futures with female protagonists – inspired by (and creator of) erotic art.
  • Stephen King’s stories involve the “every day man” thrust into a horror-fueled adventure, with running commentary on abusive, religious mothers (or priests) – the king of horror was inspired by other kings of horror H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear stories driven by gore and satire, are a manifestation of his creative mind – inspired by old music, where he uses the music to create scenes in his head and bring them to life.

Prolific creative figures who have combined their own experiences with their inspiration to produce amazing works.

When I make a film, I am hoping to reinvent the genre a little bit. I just do it my way. I make my own little Quentin versions of them.

~ Quentin Tarantino

Truth in Fiction

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying every story I write will be an obscured memoir of things I want to say but can’t say. I am saying, however, that there will be elements of ‘my truth’ to each story. Drawing from me and drawing from outside of myself to create. Ultimately sharing my truth in fiction, and still having a great story to tell. Combined with world building and character building, I can fully embrace a character and world without feeling like a stranger in my own story.

Like a ghost in a shell.


What does your writing process entail? How much of yourself do you put into your stories? Is your main character usually you or a version of you, or do you draw other people as your characters? What’s your inspiration?

Focus: The Bane of my Writing

I am working on three novels at once. The other is a prequel to one of the novels, written as a collection of short stories. There’s also the Friday Fiction, a number of side novellas, and Wattpad writing competitions. There are also books to read, games to play, social events to attend, and the elusive activity known as sleep.

There’s also a folder full of ideas and stories that have been bubbling since I was in highschool. I have been craving a good horror story and since I haven’t found one, I’ve resorted to that age old writer’s quote “If the book you want to read doesn’t exist, write it.”

All of these have made me aware of something I struggle with when it comes to my writing… focus.

One Story at a Time

You might think this is easy to do. Take one novel  (or idea), write it, edit it, send it off to the publishers and work on the next one while you wait. In truth, it should be. Fortunately/Unfortunately my mind is a single bee in a gargantuan field of flowers. Buzzing with activity. Jumping from one flower to the next to the next to the next. Never satisfied with just the one. Seeing all the potential. All the benefits to reap.

Hence why I’m writing four novels at once. This is my attempt at appeasing my restless mind while being productive. The novels are all different genres, different worlds, and different characters. Each week I focus on one novel. Of course, I end up getting ideas for “that other” novel, or ideas for a new story and have to battle against writing them.

The Solution

I write everything down. I have a multiple notepad .txt files with ideas. Each in their appropriate folders. I don’t want to lose the idea. I also write what I was feeling and what I was trying to achieve with the story. This means I have a reference point to the me now, with the fresh idea as it is now. The me today, won’t be the me next month (or next year) when I revisit the idea and realise I have no idea where I was trying to go with it.

It doesn’t always work. I spend too much time in my head thinking of what I want to do next instead of just doing it. Sometimes all it needs is discipline. And sitting down to write. I’ll keep working on it, and writing.


Do you struggle with focusing on your current WIP? How do you keep writing one story down without losing interest? What inspires to keep going?

 

Doubt – The Writer’s Killer

I was writing. A lot. Too much perhaps. Drowning in an endless sea of fictional stories and characters all crying to see the light of day. Sometimes I was writing for myself. Other times I wrote for my future fans (I can dream). Occasionally I wrote because that’s what I do. There were days when I wrote only a few words and days when I scribbled notes and days when it was entire sections of story. Yet in each of these instances, there was that little sense of discontent that lingered in the dark recesses of my writing. Stalking every thought process. Every idea. Every word.

It didn’t stop me from writing. No. It merely created a sense of doubt to my writing. As though something was wrong with my strong female protagonist, or not enough depth to my wandering male character. The world I built wasn’t rich enough. The plot – not enough sustenance. How my previous works were written by a distinct version of me, in a different mental and emotional state. A literary genius with a fantastic grasp on what he was creating or a bumbling fool trying to sprint through oceans in baggy clothing.

Dissatisfaction rearing its ugly head, telling me “Your writing will never be good enough.” or “Stop this madness, you’re just another sub par writer.” Quit-since-your’re-behind kind of thought process. It can really be crippling.

It would be easier to lower your standards. To pass it off as a hobby for fun and nothing too serious. To give up.

But that is a mistake.

Writing is my passion above all other things. One thing I can claim as my own. That I embrace. To not write would be to die. Not because I have spent so much time and effort and energy into writing and to give up now is foolish. Rather because if I did not write, where would all these stories in my head go. How would I be able to express the feelings that rattle through my bones? To live vicariously through created characters and have the ability to alter their destiny with a couple of letters put together to make logical sense.

Doubt, like hope, can be fickle but powerful. I once wrote this beautiful, meaningful story that resonated with me on so many levels. Doubt snuck in once and I deleted it. I regret it so much, there’s not a time that doesn’t pass when I don’t think about that story. All that potential. Gone. What a waste.

I also, currently, have a story that is brimming with life and potential. I have random bursts of inspiration that mold this story into a masterpiece. Hope spurring it forward to completion because I think it’s a great piece of writing. If only I could have the time and energy and effort to sit through the whole thing and complete it and raise it above the masses like Moses splitting the red sea. Okay maybe that’s pushing it, but that’s what hope does.

I won’t sit here and tell you it’s easy to push doubt away. Or that you can simply manufacture hope on the spur of the moment. It takes sitting down and putting in the effort. To write. To take a break. To enjoy the process and hate it. To take long walks or lie in bed soaking up music or watching your favourite series. To work through your story and write even when it feels like it’s not doing anything.

I know the doubt will pass. I know hope will not be enough. What will remain, however, is every word I have written. So I will continue to write.


How do you deal with doubt in your writing? What has been the most crippling moment in your writing? Have you ever deleted a story and do you regret it?

Camp NaNo 2017 – The Beginning of the End

I have a draft folder full of all these ideas I never pushed far enough to publish. I was content with this. Figuring that eventually I would sit down and turn them into novels worth publishing. This was sometime in the future but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years of spawning new drafts on a whim every time is this: if I don’t actually sit down and write, not just have the intention but put in the work, I won’t ever publish. Ever.

So future me will have to thank me for this camp’s ambitious endeavour: writing four novels in four months. Camp is the beginning of it all.

 

Camp NaNo Writing

The four novels (well three and an anthology) are as follows:

Junk Yard Angel – A Steampunk novel

She is a guardian, a saviour… an angel, spending her time in the scrap yards filled with discarded metal parts – fixing the broken with an amazing new technology powered by steam. They call her, the Junk Yard Angel.

However, some know a darker side to her. A murky, questionable past that still haunts her – for demons were once angels too.

Junk Yard Angel Short Stories – A prologue to JYA.

In the growing metropolis of Neandershöhle, a great revolution is on the rise. The Church and the State fight to keep their dogmatic rule and absolute Monarchy over the people, while the people fight for Enlightenment and individual liberty.

A young girl finds purpose in the fragile Age of Enlightenment. She stalks the scrap yards and uses the discarded metal to bring hope to the hopeless.

Yet something within rattles her soul. Whispers dark thoughts, and with the revolution so close at hand, she must choose her destiny wisely or endure the resulting consequences.

Last Robot on Earth – A Dystopian Novel

The world is a ravaged war-torn landscape still carrying the scars of nuclear war. Melted ice-caps have increased water levels, submerging much of the world under water. What little habitable land remains becomes a haven for those who survived the war.

Humans, living under the effect of the radiation, begin to mutate to their environment. Exhibiting bizarre adaptations and abilities.

Roaming uninhibited by the radiation is a single sentient machine. Living among the humans.

Waiting.

Watching.

Preparing.

Dominae Mortem – A Dark Fantasy Novel

Princess Arabella has a secret. Following her mother’s death, she sought the council of the Great Elders on what happens after death. Their answer drives her towards performing one of the Great Sins – suicide. Her premature death sends her to Orcus where she meets Death himself.

Following her defeat of Death, yet unable to reclaim her mother’s lost soul, she returns to the world of the living. The mantle of Death has been passed on to her yet she refuses her responsibilities.

But death is necessary. It calls to her. Summons her to its dark realm… and Fate decides to make a personal call.

The idea here is to write at least 12,500 words per novel between Camp and the next camp in July. That’s about 200,000 words in total (50K per novel although some will probably be much much longer than that eventually).

Thus this camp starts the real journey of becoming a writer. Of not just procrastinating and putting things off. A little ambitious I know, but…

“Ambition… is a great man’s madness.” John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi


Are you participating in Camp Nano? What are writing? If you need a cabin (there’s about 7 spaces left) comment your username and you can join us. Happy writing!

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Friday Fiction: The Man and the Mice

Today’s Friday Fiction is courtesy of microcosmsfic.com. 300 word short story using the following elements.

Character: Inventor, setting: Laboratory, and genre: Fable.


A Man sought to build a machine, to cure an illness that beset his child. He dug a hole as big as a room below his house and turned it into a laboratory. 

Many days and nights he spent there. Toiling away in the hopes of finding a cure. Yet when he finally concocted one, he feared it would kill his child if untested. 

He noticed then, many Mice that roamed about the laboratory in search of food. 

“Mice. Pray I ask thee a favour.”

The Mice, having seen the man’s compassion for his child, approached the Man without fear,

“Man, what asketh thee?”

“Merely of your labour as my assistants. My child is sick and I require your tenacious perseverance to find a cure.”

“And what shall be our fee?”

“I will build for thee a house of glass, where I shall feed you, provide water, and build you a wheel for leisure. You shall want for nothing.”

“That would please us greatly.” The Mice replied, feeling pleased at having to no longer scrounge for food.

The Man made true on his promise, and built a large house of glass with bowls filled with food, and bowls filled with water. Wheels and tunnels traversed the house where the Mice roamed freely. Beds of hay allowed the mice to repose without fear.

Then, the time came for the Mice to assist the Man, and aghast they watched a fellow Mouse pulled from the bottom of the cage, for that is what is was, and onto a metal platform to be punctured by a needle full of the supposed cure. 

The Mouse died in agony. When the Mice complained, the Man replied

“Sometimes you must sacrifice the many, for the one.”


Totally loved writing this. If you’d like to see the thought process behind this weeks Microcosmsfic, come read it on my Pareon page. It’s free to read so please come check it out.

Marching On: The Muse Lives

It seems that my writing slump has passed, *touch wood*, and a number of ideas and story iterations are coming to the fore. With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up next month, this is a good thing.

Junk Yard Angel

Setting up JYA is quite a mission. There’s a lot of worldbuilding to do, character profiles to outline, and an actual plot to figure out. It’s great to have this amazing budding world at the fore, and a stellar character at the center of it all, but there’s no story to write if there’s no goal to achieve. That’s what I’m working on now through a number of short stories.

The short stories are set before the JYA novel story, which means a richer background to work from. This also allows me to figure out what’s about to happen, why it’s going to happen, and who will be driving it all forward. So far I have written two short stories posted on my Patreon page. If you would like to read (and enjoy) them, please drop by.

Patreon.com/NthatoMorakabi

Here are excerpts from both:

The Botanist

A little after two in the morning, the doorbell chimed.

Klaus raised his head from his work on the counter and glanced at the silhouette at the door. His gas lamp, fixed on the clay pot and scattered paintbrushes among the work tools, created the only light within the room. The person remained in shadow at the doorway. Petite. Slight. A woman perhaps.

“Good morning?” He called to the figure.

“A little early for botany isn’t it, Herr Klaus?” the voice was light. Feathery. A woman indeed.

“A little early for a visit isn’t it. Frau…?”

The woman idly slinked sideways. High shelves lined the walls, more shelves divided the store into flowers, pots and various garden utensils. The air carried lilac, fressia, jasmine, and an underlying waft of fertilizer. Klaus followed her movements behind the silhouetted flora by the sound of rasping cloth across the floor. She was moving towards the furthest edge of the shop. That was where he kept his private collection.

“Prince Clemens speaks highly of you Herr Klaus.” Her voice echoed from the back. Klaus stood quickly from his counter, the stool scraping across the floor with his movements. He swept a hand agitatedly through his thin hair.

“And what does his praise have to do with this visit? Could it not wait ‘til sunrise?”

Der Engel von Garzweiler

As I shuffled out of the church, I could feel the pitying looks of Mother Mary, and the Saints, casting down at me from their perches.  If there was some sort of guardian in Garzweiler, I hoped she would have a less agonizing face – and perhaps, her gaze set on me too.

The air outside the church nipped at my fingers, and cut through the holes of my shoes. Frau Berger from the convent across the road bustled about draping patched coats over some of the street urchins. Their emaciated bodies, enveloped under the woolen layer, would probably not see food for another week. If this Engel showed no benevolence towards the children, then what compassion would she have for me. It was a sobering thought on that long walk down the wide dirt paths towards a safer, warmer, terrain until my duty the following day.  Death awaited the following day with a plate of food and a pocket full of money.

I walked to my grave.

Innocence – a Wattpad novella

I read a “free to use” prompt on Wattpad that inspired this horror novella. The story revolves around four cops and a fledgling doctor giving a known murderer the Death Penalty, but they do it illegally in an unused basement of the police precinct. The murderer swears revenge before he dies and… well you’ll have to read the rest of it to know what happens. I’ll be posting new chapters every Friday as part of my usual Friday Fiction. Chapter 3 goes up tomorrow.

I watched as Marius de Wet was injected with Pentobarbital. He sat calmly through it all, his eyes falling on each of us as though memorizing our faces. There were only four of us within the dim precinct basement when it happened. Five if you count the shaking, greenhorn doctor who administered the lethal injection.

Rudolph, one of the detectives, was on his sixth cigarette by then, filling the room with acrid odor, the same that lined his clothes and drifted from his breath. Without his uniform, you could see how gaunt he was. The black hair looked slick and thin, face long and sallow, all exacerbated by yellowing teeth where one of the front two had a chip. He tapped his sneakered foot incessantly on the grungy cement floor of the basement holding cell, still sticky with Marius’ blood.

Maybe some of ours too.

Read it: wattpad.com/NthatoM

The Last Robot on Earth

Last year July, my close friend Carin Marais, a fellow writer, Patreon, Folklore/Myth virtuoso, and creator of the amazing upcoming novel The Ruon Chronicles, gave me a prompt: the Last Robot on Earth. As her reward I wrote her the story about Tobor, a robot pretending to be human and taking part in a Hunger Games style competition. The idea has evolved quite considerably from that and hatched a completely new series. *Thanks Carin! Swoons.*

Right now I’m in the world building stages of the novel, and it will be slightly different from my usual fantasy/horror but of course with elements of both. Since it was a Patreon inspired prompt, it will be running concurrent with JYA on that end, which means special rewards if you’re a Pledgee.

Not much I can tell you right now except that one of the characters is inspired by John Constantine, the fictional DC comics character, and the story will lean towards a darker, gritty, comic-book style novel. As a comic book fan (and not because of the movies ugh) my idea needs a lot of work so it doesn’t come off as another Marvel’s the X-Men vs Bolivar Trusks’ mutant killing Sentinels (did i just give the plot away? hehe). Nonetheless, I’m loving the world building.

Other Short Stories

There’s so many ideas and stories in the pipelines, and rather than tackle them one at a time (which is the most sane thing to do) I’ll be dabbling around each one as short stories that will eventually culminate into their respective novels/novellas. This means constantly writing and (hopefully) never getting bored. I will obviously keep you updated as things happen.

typing


How’s your writing going? Any exciting projects coming up? Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo next month?

Friday Fiction: ‘Til Proven Innocent

Today’s Friday Fiction is courtesy of microcosmsfic.com. 300 word short story using the following elements.

Character: Business Person Transport : Car Genre: Crime


Schultz-Werner Automobil were renowned for their reliable vehicles – German engineering at its finest. The death of corporate magnate, Herr Michael Götze, came as a shock, more so when the story revealed that he’d died in a SW Automobil sedan. Once the coroner confirmed he’d died before the crash of a crushed oesophagus, however, the media was in uproar.

I was in uproar. 

Herr Götze had promised to appoint me next-in-line at SWA before we helped move him along to the next life. Only it seemed someone else had beat me to it.

A hurried board meeting was called by the higher-ups that same evening of the crash, where they duly informed us that Herr Götze’s Will had been amended earlier that day and the details would only be revealed in the next official meeting where his successor would be named.

“Aren’t you his successor?” Julian whispered to me as we somberly stalked out of the board room. As usual, he carried a stench of aftershave that bordered on toilet spray.

“How do you know that?” I hushed back at him.

“Everybody knows. You were his favourite.” he placed a hand on my shoulder, “They think you did it.”

It was then I noticed that stares from the solemn employees around us, suspicion drawn on their furrowed brow.

“Well I didn’t.”

Julian shrugged, then ambled off hurriedly as though my supposed guilt was contagious.

I arrived home to find the door ajar. I’d seen enough movies to know I should probably call the police. Twenty minutes later two bulky officers pushed through the door before me to a condemning sight. Frau Götze sat in a pool of her own blood, her husband’s tape recorder in her hand. The one we used to plan his death.

I had been set up.

 

Inspiration – Recreation into Writing

__music___by_picolada

Recreation is an important part of my life. When you spend 8 hours a day writing as your job, and then get home and plug into your own personal writing (or articles as a freelance writer), the brain can burn out very quickly. So I try to invest some time into other fun activities to clear the mind. This involves reading, watching movies or series, playing on the Xbox or my 3DS, listening to music, making music, playing tennis or socializing with friends. You may have noticed that I never post on weekends, because those are my “tech free” days when I put my laptop away and spend the time doing other things. We all need a break.

Inspiration

I spent the last week reading and watching movies, barely touching any fictional writing. I got to finally watch the Assassins Creed movie (better than I thought!), finally got around to watching the original Ghost in the Shell anime movies (mind blown), and delved into three really grand books. Here’s the fascinating thing that happened while I was engaging my mind in something other than writing; I got inspired.

This wasn’t the “I need to write this amazing idea.” kind of inspiration. It wasn’t a feeling of intense desire to create. It wasn’t incorporating what I’d just seen and read and wanted to translate it into my own novel. No, this was far more profound. I was inspired to be true to myself.

You Are What You Write

Think of the stories you have written. Think of the books you read. There is a part of you that is drawn to those particular genres, a part of you that wants to create stories around that specific topic or train of thought or idea. It’s your idea formulating, brewing, churning and growing in your mind until you put it down in a (somewhat) coherent form.

I realised, in my quest to write mind blowing stories with amazing characters and fantastical worlds, that I was losing what was most important in my writing: me. I was so focused on pleasing everyone else, I forgot about pleasing me. Two weeks ago I wrote the article “Appealing to the Reader“, and I said the following about my need to write:

I want my stories to mean something to everyone.

And I saw the following statement as a negative thing:

I was writing for myself and hoping others would enjoy the story as much as I did.

I forgot that I am part of everyone. If my stories don’t mean anything to me, then how true can I be to them? It would explain why I ended up hating the stories I was writing because at the end of the day I was writing them for everyone else and not for me. I think that’s a major mistake.

Inspiration from Recreation

I remember thinking I was fit, you know, physically, because I played tennis although at that point I hadn’t played in months. A friend suggested I join this training thing at a Nature Reserve close to where I live. So Saturday morning I drove up to the place, kitted out and ready to exercise. I actually did fairly well but I couldn’t move my arms for two weeks afterwards. I’m not exaggerating. Anyway, one of the things we had to do was run I think 5km, and I was so focused on the path in front of me, I forgot to notice the beauty around me. It was only when I intentionally looked around to take in the rising hills, the spreading flora surviving the summer heat, the gnarled trees covered in dried moss, and the varying plants around me that I noticed the surrounding beauty. Then I thought “Now I know how to describe this type of environment in my future writing.” and filed them away in my brain.

Watching Assassin’s Creed and Ghost in the Shell inspired my story telling. Both these movies have fascinating storylines that play on this idea of self. Who we are. How we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Although completely different contexts (historical fiction VS cyberpunk) they both touch on different aspects of this idea.

I read an amazing book this week called Killing Gravity by author Corey J. White. It was fast paced, written well, and carried a particular mood through each setting. I was noticing the writer’s style, how the environment was described, how characters were portrayed, the world building aspects and a number of elements that made the novella work. Not surprising that Corey stated the following for his inspiration:

I can’t remember why I decided the main character would be a psychic space witch, but when it came to thinking about how Mars’ telekinetic abilities worked and the scale of destruction she could cause, I took inspiration from Akira.

More generally, I’ll take inspiration from anything and everything, including song titles, lyrics, books, comics, articles, and graffiti.

 Yesterday I wrote a 1000 word short story while listening to Gothic instrumental music from YouTube. My upcoming novella “Innocence” was inspired by an online prompt and drew elements from a number of horror books I read. Dying multiple times in Dark Souls almost spawned quite a gritty short story. Images on Deviant Art and artists I follow on Instagram inspire some of my stories.

My point is this: don’t take the things you do outside of writing for granted. Everything feeds into everything else. Pay attention to the world around you. More importantly, love what you write!


What inspires you when you’re writing? What has that inspiration led to?

Appealing to the Reader

Writers are always posed with that age old question: “Why do you write?” and my answer has always been changing. Initially I wrote because I wanted to. I had stories in my mind and I wanted to write them regardless of who read them. Then I wanted to write so I could be published. Then I wrote because I felt that it was who I was whether I got published or not. Then I did get published and realized I actually did care who read my stories (or not).

At this point in time I feel like I have to write, not only because I feel a need to, but also because I want people to fall in love with my stories. I want my stories to mean something to everyone.

thor-on-earth

Appealing to the Reader

Not everyone is going to love my stories. I have already made peace with this truth. I just have to look at some of my submissions to know that sometimes what I’ve written isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Especially when they tend to be dark.

As someone who reads a lot, I have come across books that just didn’t appeal to me either (last Wednesday Book Review for instance) so I know it happens. Not everyone is a Stephen King fan even though he’s one of the most renowned horror writers. I’m not reading Fifty Shades because it’s not what I would read, and from what I’ve seen in the writing, I wouldn’t enjoy it for that aspect either.

Nonetheless, I have received a number of compliments and comments from people who do enjoy how I write rather than what I write. There are books that I didn’t enjoy but the writing still drew me in. Which made me once again ask why I write but more importantly, am I writing for readers or am I writing for myself with them in mind?
The answer was neither. I was writing for myself and hoping others will enjoy the story as much as I did.

As a writer, you know what is happening in the story with greater detail than the reader. You know what the scenes, people, and world look like. Question is, are you translating that same world into your stories and doing so with writing that is appealing to the readers?

writer-moments1

Immersive Reading

Writing that confuses or bores the reader is a definite no no. The story may be good but if the writing itself is tedious and drawn out, most readers will add it to their DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. If the reader isn’t engrossed in some way to the story, you have already lost. How do you overcome this?

  • Appeal to their mind

This isn’t the common list of do’s and don’t when it comes to writing. It’s observations as a reader who is also a writer. One of these observations is: How often do I doubt the information I am reading. Even in fantasy , science fiction, or horror, the story and characters need to be believable and the writing non-distracting. I need to suspend disbelief long enough that my mind is lost in the book and not in the world around me.

This means no inconsistencies.

This means not reading words I have to look up or think about too often throughout the reading.

This means not noticing grammar or spelling mistakes or other things that remind me I’m reading a book.

  • Appeal to the senses

It’s really difficult to read a book happening in a white space – where I have no idea where everything is happening. Reading there’s a waterfall, mountain, building, city or anything but don’t know if it’s small or big, what colours, shape or details there are, let alone what’s around it.

Example:

She saw the large mountain to her left and a dark forest on her right as she drove. The forest was eerie, as though creatures were waiting to pounce out from between the trees.

VS

The morning sun peeked over the jagged, grey mountains to her left. Their tips were peppered white with last night’s snow. What little sunlight there was, glossed over the dense pine forest on her right, casting much of her view into shadow. She clutched the steering wheel tighter, ignoring the imagined creatures she thought ready to pounce from the twisting branches.

A little bit of detail allows us to see what the character is seeing, and feel what the character is feeling, putting us into their shoes. This works as well for all the senses: sight, smell, touch, hear, taste as well as other things such as sense of movement (the cat slinked between the couches), or emotion (his face and chest filled with a deep warmth when he saw her smile).

Combined into a full narrative, and reading is suddenly an immersive, enjoyable, experience.

tv-in-your-head


Have you found yourself lost inside a book or unable to get into a book? Share your experiences with me 🙂

Character Backstory Woes

I made a terrible discovery yesterday. The minor character in my novel who dies in the first chapter (well supposed to anyway…suddenly undecided) has a better backstory than my protagonist. This minor character has a rich beautiful backstory that won’t be part of the novel while my protagonist has nothing interesting at all. I figured it was time for a little Extreme Makeover Novel Edition *cue music

extreme_makeover_home_novel_edition

Meet the Character

Protagonist is a fluffy poodle of wasted potential badly planned and written even worse. He’s been living as an incomplete in the First Drafts Section for over three years with no hope of ever coming to the fore. However, in a dramatic turn of events, he’s found a new home in Second Drafts which is being renewed and refurbished. However, will that be enough?

Back to Basics

We’ll be crafting a new identity for this quagmire oozing latent aptitude to be the a great Protagonist. First we must consider their traits:

letsdoamakeover

  • Who are they: Name. Last name. Nickname. Age. Race. Language. Height. Weight. Imagine them fully fleshed out as a walking, talking real person. If Protagonist is not alive to you, they won’t be alive to readers.
  • What are they: Human? Orc? Pizza-slice animated to life and seeking the purpose of life? Are they working or students or mage or detective? Are they the Chosen One or the stable boy or a passing wind offering fruits of wisdom to strangers? What Protagonist is, defines social life, goals, aspirations, challenges, advantages. Paint the details that specify Protagonist.
  • Past|Present|Future: Who was Protagonist before the start of the novel? Who are they during the course of it? Who will they be at the end of it? Has the “Who” and “What” changed during these transitions? For good or bad? In short, does the wise wandering old mentor turn out to be a random man who found fortune cookies in the dumpster behind the Chinese restaurant. How does that change your character?
  • Choices: Choices made by the protagonist, antagonist, and other characters affect the protagonist in some way. These also after the story being told. Don’t forget that story and character are deeply intertwined like the flavouring of your 2 Minute Noodles and the bottom of your pot/plate/microwave.

After careful application of these concepts, Protagonist should come out shiny and new, with purpose and depth sure to stun readers into swooning stupors of joy.

Backstory Vs Back Story

backstory

One is the history of the character and the other is a story about the character’s back (or a command to tell the story to back-off). Same thing. Whatever. Either way, a character is defined by their history and what’s behind them (see what I did there?), much like we are. Look back (ha more puns) into your own past at a choice or decision you or someone else made that could have changed who you are today.

You can start with a character and who you want them to be, and fit a matching backstory as you see fit. Alternatively you can define the world or history around them and let that define the character.

Protagonist is now ready to delve into the story. You know who they are, what they are and where they come from. You know how they walk and talk, and importantly where they are going. It’s time to match character to story.

Novel Reveal

Following this intense procedure of revamping the character and their backstory, the story may or may not change. What does change, is the revelation about your character that will drive your story forward.

revelation

Junk Yard Angel, which is the novel I am currently working on, has seen some dramatic changes in its story. While keeping the original idea intact, the character improvement has also restructured the sequence of events. This means new characters, new settings, new technology and more importantly, a deeper, richer story to tell. It also added more links to my mind map which have spawned a new idea for the novel: side stories.

Side Stories will be the untold arcs that won’t appear in the novel but will add a profound depth to the world where Junk Yard Angel takes place. Worldbuilding added to much of these untold stories. It’s a really exciting time ahead and I look forward to completing my novel.


Have you realized any profound changes to your novel WIP and had to re-work the characters/world/story? How did it work out for you?

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