2018 A to Z challenge

Q is for Quiet

We live in a noisy, thriving world. It is proof that life is always around us. Whether it is the city or the country, there is always noise. In fact, there is nothing more unnerving then total silence. I’ve only experienced it a few times in my life and thankfully it has only lasted for a few moments. It usually happens at night, when everyone is sleeping. The lights are off, everyone is sleeping, and even the wind has died away. The silence is deep enough to wake you up and you lay there, straining to hear something, anything. Then the refrigerator kicks on and its familiar hum is soothing, allowing you to sleep back into sleep.

 

quiet.jpg

 

So how do you tune out all the distractions so that you can concentrate and write? Oftentimes, it’s too noisy to write, other times, it’s too quiet. For me, I use music to write to. It helps block out environmental noise so I can concentrate, but it’s not so quiet that I start focusing around me to see what’s wrong. (I grew up with three brothers, the only time the house was quiet was when they were sleeping or planning something. They often wondered how mom caught onto their schemes, but when it grew quiet she knew that they were up to no good, lol.) I tend to go with songs that I know well, they are enough to keep me centered in my writing but I’m not distracted trying to figure out what they lyrics are or who the artist is.

 

I also use music to help me when I’m writing. I have songs that fit perfectly with certain characters, so I play those when I have to get into their personality. I have playlists with sad songs, upbeat songs, suspenseful songs, so whatever emotion I need to capture can be evoked by listening to them.

Music-and-Emotions

 

So what are your feelings on quiet?

2018 A to Z challenge

P is for Plot

It is probably no surprise that I chose Plot for the letter P. Despite the fact that I am a pantser not a plotter, every story requires a plot. However, instead of writing about how to develop a plot, I thought that it would be fun to show you how I develop a story.

Usually I don’t get the start of a story, but am thrown right into the middle the middle of a scene.

“Laine walked at a brisk clip down the sidewalk, searching for the bookstore. She sighed in frustration, tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. When she’d stopped for directions, they’d seemed fairly straightforward, walk two blocks, turn right, walk another three and the store should be on her right. However, her quarry was proving to be elusive as this was the third time she’d circled these two blocks without a sign of the store she was searching for.”

Now this leaves me with so many questions. Usually when I have snippets like this and I’m in the middle of another story, I ignore them and they fade away. Sometimes, however, they don’t fade away but come back repeatedly. So after about the 48th circuit of Laine down that sidewalk, I give in and sit down with her for a chat.

Sitting down, I start by looking for her full name and appearance. She is Elaine Narrows, somewhere in her late twenties, she is about 5’7”, curly bright auburn hair, wearing a tan pantsuit with low heels. Her occupation is that of lawyer, although she refuses to say what particular branch. She’s used to keeping her cards close to the chest and doesn’t want to give away any more information until she judges me trustworthy.

Having met her, I know have to unravel what led up to her going in search of this bookstore. She is obviously a smart woman, so she wouldn’t just randomly go off in search of a bookstore. So what made her go looking and why that particular bookstore? I have to go back to the where it started.

And suddenly a scene unfolds before me, an office, your basic office, with dove gray walls, metal file folders, and a couple of potted plants in the corner. It’s Monday, not even 9 a.m., and the day is overcast, cloudy and gray. Laine is sitting at the desk, her hair neatly pulled back in a French braid and a cup of coffee steaming on the corner of the desk. However, it is the occupant of the chair on the other side of the desk that catches my attention. A teenage girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen. She is thin, too thin, and there is desperation in her eyes. She has long brown hair pulled into a sloppy braid and a lip ring, a simple small hoop. She is wearing an oversized green canvas jacket that she’s huddled into and her hands are clenched in a death grip. Ah yes, here is where the true story begins.

When I reach this point, the story usually gains a life of its own and it isn’t too long before I reach the scene that started it all, Laine’s search for the bookstore. So for me, the story usually starts with a glimpse of a scene from somewhere in the middle of the story, a pivotal point in the story that will change everything. I then have to do some detective work to find out where the story begins and then follow it to its logical conclusion.

So how do you plan a story?

 

f0dc31b19009fe97cc9a9150e194b3b9

2018 A to Z challenge

O is for Observation

Something that you may not know about me, I am an introvert. Now a lot of people like to throw around the introvert/extrovert label and say that one or the other is better, but that simply not true. An introvert is someone that recharges when they are by themselves, an extrovert is someone who is recharged by being around people. There is nothing intrinsically better or worse about being an introvert or an extrovert, it’s simply how you get your energy.

 

Now you might be asking yourselves what does this have to do with writing? A lot actually. I get my energy from being alone, from having my own space. Does that mean that I hate people and want to be a hermit up in the mountains? No, actually the opposite is true. People fascinate me, I love to observe them, to see how they interact, what is meaningful to them. I can spend hours watching people interact, watching how they interact, how they respond differently to the same situation. Human expressions can vary so diversely, it’s fascinating.

So I challenge you, go to a public place, a mall, a park, a coffee shop. Sit there and just watch people for half an hour to an hour. It’s amazing how much life you can see in that short amount of time.

extrovert_introvert

2018 A to Z challenge

N is for Narrow

As writers, we are perforce required to narrow things down. We have to decide which genre to write in, who or what our main character or subject is, what time frame they exist in. We do it of a necessity so that we don’t overwhelm ourselves or our readers with either too much irrelevant information or too confusing of a plot line. Books written that way tend to get set aside quickly and only very rarely picked back up.

So when is narrow too narrow? Usually, we like to present our information in a simple linear fashion. Picture if you will, a simple dirt path that leads to a rope and plank bridge over an impassable gorge. It is straightforward and it gets you from point a to point b, negating the impossible obstacle that is the gorge. The bridge, or narrow viewpoint, is necessary to reach the endpoint.

 

bridge

 

Now imagine if you will that same bridge, but instead of over a gorge, its in the middle of a beautiful mountain meadow. Does it make any sense to be there? Does it serve any purpose? No, but we have become so focused on that bridge as the only way from point a to point b that we have failed to see its lack of usefulness in this situation. That it is cutting us off from the beauty and possibilities that surround us. So narrow minded focus can be a good thing, but only if it used in the right places.

 

mountain meadow

 

What is a book that has either too narrow a focus or not narrow enough that you will never finish/read again?

2018 A to Z challenge

M is for Money

Due to tiredness, I made a mistake on yesterday’s post, L is for Language. Today is the halfway point, not yesterday. My apologies for the mix-up but congratulations again for everyone that has hung in there. Also, thank you to everyone who has stopped by and read my blog. Without you guys, there wouldn’t be a reason for a blog. Now, onward to the post!

 

money

 

Money is such an ingrained part of our daily lives that we rarely consciously notice it. It is there, after all, we work to pay our bills, we shop for things we need, we save up to go on vacation. In fact, on any given day we probably use and think of money at least twice if not more. We know our currency down to its smallest value. For Americans, it’s the penny. We often have a jar filled with it sitting around our houses somewhere.

 

So how does money translate into writing? We have to consciously bring it to the forefront of our minds as we write. Is our character poor or rich? Do they budget everything or are they a free spirit that struggles paycheck to paycheck? When they travel, are they familiar with the local currency or do they struggle to pay and make change. Because of this, are they easy prey for con men and tricksters? What if they are robbed in a foreign country? What are their options?

 

fantasy money

 

As a fantasy writer, I often do world building for my stories. Part of that includes currency. This includes types of currency, is it made from precious metals, cheap metals, wood, paper? Value of currency, is it based on a very regulated system like each coin increases value by 10 or is it a more random system where each item is valued independently of each other? This is always a very fun part of writing for me.

 

Finally, there is one more type of currency: Barter

:to trade by exchanging one commodity for another

: to trade goods or services in exchange for other goods or services

  • farmers bartering for supplies with their crops
  • bartered with the store’s owner

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Your character has a specific skill set, how can they barter it to obtain what they need? How do you set values for such diverse things? This is always a challenge to decide, but it allows you a lot of flexibility in your storyline.

 

We have now reached the end of the second week of the A to Z Challenge. Only two more to go! So tell me about a time when you bartered for something. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

2018 A to Z challenge

L is for Language

So we are now on day 13 of the A to Z challenge which means that we are officially halfway through the challenge. Can I get a cheer anyone? Kudos to everyone who has made it this far in the challenge, it’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun at the same time.

halfway point

Today, what I love about writing is L for Language. I absolutely adore words. I love the way they can have so many different meanings and spellings. For example, take color and colour. They are both spelled correctly and mean exactly the same thing, the only difference is that the first one is commonly used in American English while the second is used in British English.

 

 

Another thing I love is discovering the etymology of a word. I was watching “As Time Goes By” with my mom the other night (It’s a British comedy with Judi Dench) and the word firkin came up. Now, I always though a firkin was a type of flask used for drinks like whiskey, but my mom was unfamiliar with the word so I looked it up out of curiosity. A firkin is actually a small cask that holds about 11 gallons.

 

ORIGIN

Middle English ferdekyn, probably from the Middle Dutch diminutive of vierde ‘fourth’ (a firkin originally contained a quarter of a barrel).

Source: Bing Search

 

It’s fun to see how words evolve and change. There are even new words being added to the dictionary ever year. For example, two new words are chillax (chill out and relax combined) and bling (flashy and expensive objects, often ostentatious). They are in the dictionary, I checked.

And when writing, there is always the search for the perfect word. You might know four words that mean roughly the same thing, but depending on context, one will be more appropriate than the others. Let’s say that your character is having problems choosing between several options. You have the options of ‘Several, myriad, so many, a lot, tons, and a bunch’. Depending on the formality of the situation, you have choices. For a less formal situation, you might go with something like, “Becky knew that she had tons to do, but she needed to just pick one and start.” On the other hand, if your faced with a more formal situation, it would be more like, “Princess Maria looked over the myriad suitors that sought her hand and wondered how in the world they would be able to house all of them in the guest quarters.”

There is a downside to words too, though. I am a voracious reader with a fairly large vocabulary. However, most of it has been gained through reading, so sometimes when I’m talking I have no idea how to pronounce a word and leave my listener baffled and myself in a state of embarrassed humor (it’s happened often enough that I pretty much just see the humor in it anymore).

 

So what is your all time favorite word?

2018 A to Z challenge

K is for Kinesiology

So what exactly is Kinesiology?

 

“The study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement”

Source – Merriam-Webster dictionary

01-human-movement-analysis-biomechanics-vs-Kinesiology-kinematics-vs-kinetics

 

Now, you may be asking yourself what exactly does this have to do with writing? Please be patient and bear with me, it will all make sense in the end.

 

A little over a year ago, I started a journey. I was looking for a place that taught Tai Chi, looking for a way to get more fit in a low impact way. Although there was only one place that taught Tai Chi in my area, I decided to investigate the other dojos as well. It’s a good thing that I did because the place that taught Tai Chi was a very narrow minded place and did not fit at all with my principles and morals.

 

So I walked into this dojo with little to no idea of what I was doing, only a dream of wanting to learn martial arts since I was a little girl. It was a welcoming place and I felt instantly at home. Despite having no idea what I was getting myself into, I signed up and started off on my martial art journey of learning Kenpo Karate. Thankfully, I was very fortunate with the dojo I joined. The teachers are incredible and there is a culture of responsibility and kindness there. It is taught as self defense and they make sure that you know what will happen if you have to use it as well as ways to avoid having to ever use it. After all, the best self defense is to get out of danger before it even starts, right?

 

So what does this have to do with writing? When I first started Kenpo, I just wanted to do the cool choppy thing. I am not a fighter and I have never been in a physical altercation (except for with my brothers, but that’s just sibling stuff so it doesn’t count). So, like in Kung Fu Panda, I was looking for a level zero.

 

I am like Po, lol https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWo0dm16wLY

 

For the first month, I was totally lost. However, I persevered and gradually things began to fall into place. And this is where kinesiology comes into play. As I started learning the different techniques, I also started learning cause and effect. If I hit here, a person would most likely react this way. If I block a blow, I’ll have to be ready for the second punch or kick because most people won’t just hit you and then wait for you to hit them back. This then turned into freestyle sparring. I often didn’t have time to fully execute techniques, so I learned how to break them down and use the pieces to get the results I needed. If I needed to get more space from my opponent, I could do a, b, or c. If my opponent favored a certain type of move, this is how I could deal with it. It became like a giant chess game or unraveling a mystery and I adored it.

 

So the genre I write tends to be action/adventure under the broad heading of fantasy (I like to create my own worlds, although the Seeker Files do include magic and supernaturals, so it is fantasy). However, despite my love of the genre, I have trouble writing fighting scenes simply from my lack of experience. They just sounded stiff. So imagine my surprise when I was writing one about half a year after a started karate and it just flowed. I was half shocked, half thrilled, and totally ready to write even more. I hadn’t realized how much I had subconsciously learned and how important it was to know exactly how people act/react in a fight.

 

I have been learning Kenpo for about a year and a half now. Unlike when I first walked into the dojo, I know exactly what I am getting myself into. I also readily admit how little I truly know and that it’s going to be the journey of a lifetime to ever truly master it. But that’s ok, because like writing, it’s a passion that I will never abandon.

 

So what is something in your life that has translated into your writing?

2018 A to Z challenge

J is for Journey

fa6b8d6f5a4dd6196c775a2040aee230

 

Now, I know that I’ve been using a lot of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit references. But honestly, they are epic books and movies (except for The Hobbit trilogy, I cannot condone those) and they have withstood the test of time. Some books are poorly written but become immensely popular for short time. Others are very well written but are a dense read, so they remain of limited popularity. Tolkien combines both ease of reading and excellent writing, as is shown by its continued popularity years after it was written. Anyway, I digress.

 

Journey is one of my all time favorite words. It implies travel, new experiences, personal growth. But as Bilbo Baggins so aptly tells Frodo

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

 

I find that this to be true of writing as well. When you embark on the path of a story, if you don’t keep your feet under you, you will be swept off to who knows where instead of the intended destination of your story. Also there is the fact that in a story, as in real life, a journey does not have to be a physical journey, but it can be an emotional journey instead. All that matters is that the character is not in the same place that we found them and that we know how they got there.

 

What is a journey that you or your character have taken lately?

 

come-on-sam-remember-what-bilbo-used-to-say-its-a-dangerous-business-frodo-gong-out-your-door-lord-quote

2018 A to Z challenge

I is for Impossible

Impossible-Quote-29-1024x621

I finally concede defeat. Giving in to the characters that have been harassing me for weeks, I quickly finish up my obligations for the day and head for my laptop. Waiting for it to turn on, I gently place the cat off of my lap three times before allowing the ginger to stay and smugly settle in. Once it is finally on and ready to go, my music playing in the background, I open up my writing program and open up a new document. I take a minute and fiddle with the font and font size, making sure that everything is exactly as I like it. Then I turn my attention to the blinking cursor on the blank page and something unwelcome happens. I freeze.

 

This is where insecurities and fears pounce on me. Who are you to think that you can write? Why would anyone want to read it? The story is cliché, the grammar subpar, and I know that there are spelling mistakes that I miss. Aren’t I just rewriting stories that I’ve read over the years? My characters are too shallow, my male characters way off point because I am just a female writer. I tell, I don’t manage to show my stories. People will hate me because I talk to my characters like they are real people. Am I crazy because of that? My characters are impossible, doing things that could never be really accomplished. They say write what you know, why can’t I do that?

 

These fears roar through me, making my heart race and my hands freeze above the keys. My eyes close, unable to stand the sight of the cursor blinking on the page. I take a deep breath and silence descends on me. And in that silence, a small voice whispers, “Don’t give up, you can do this. You are uniquely you, no one sees the world like you do. And you are not alone. There are people all over the world who have a dream to write. But fear is a big bully and it hates to see people follow their dreams. So he tells you that it’s impossible, that you can never, that you are boring and not good enough. But he lies. You were born to write, you were born to share the stories that only you can see and hear so that other people can enjoy them as well. It is not impossible, this is what you were born to do, this was your calling when you were just an infant who couldn’t even think in words. This. Is. You. And nothing is impossible.”

HOPE copy

As hope falls silent, I open my eyes, a slight grin curving my lips. I put my hands on the keyboard. And then… I start to type.

 

So many times, we are told that things are impossible. What is a fear that would keep you from your writing if it could?

 

index

2018 A to Z challenge

H is for Hidden Heroes

Welcome to week two of the A to Z Challenge. I can’t believe how much fun week one was and I was blown away by how many people liked and commented on my posts. You guys are awesome. Also, I got to read some marvelous posts and I can’t wait to see more in the coming weeks.

 

So the post for today is about Heroes. Face it, every story has a hero, no matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. In fiction, it’s usually a person or an animal. In non-fiction, it’s an object or subject. For example, in a non-fiction book about agriculture, farming is the hero of the book. Why is it the hero? Without it, the book cannot exist. Take a look at any book. What person or subject if you remove it, makes the book impossible? That is the hero of the story.

 

However, that is not to say that there is only one hero in any given story. Stories are complex, intricate things, much like humans are. Which isn’t really a surprise, because what are stories but the result of human’s dreams and imagination? So while there is usually an instantly visible hero, there are also hidden heroes. Yes, you heard me right. Hidden heroes. ‘But’, you say, ‘You just told us that without the Hero, the story wouldn’t exist’. That’s true, I did indeed just say that. But at the end of the day, heroes aren’t infallible. In the course of a story, there are often many times that a hero would’ve fallen or given up if there wasn’t someone there to support him or give him something to fight for. These characters are the ones that I like to refer to as hidden heroes.

 

samfrodo_twotowers

 

One of my favorite hidden heroes is Samwise from Lord of the Rings. Although he thinks of himself as a simple hobbit, he is the reason in the end that the ring is destroyed. There are so many times that Frodo would’ve never made it to Mordor without Sam’s help. His perseverance and loyalty are truly awe inspiring and sometimes having just one friend at our side can make all the difference. Not to mention that he risked giant spiders to save his friend with only a vial of light and Sting. Shudder, those were some big spiders. I’m not afraid of spiders but I sure would have arachnophobia after encountering those things. No matter how tired he got, or stressed, or even betrayed by his friends, Sam never gave up, never faltered in his quest to help Mr. Frodo. Can you imagine what you could achieve with a friend like that at your back?

 

However, there is one point, in the second book “The Two Towers” where Sam and Frodo have hit one of the lowest places in their journey. The have been captured and taken from their trek to Mordor and while captured, they have been attacked. Frodo has reached his breaking point and tells Sam that he can’t do this, he can’t go on. I believe that this is the truly pivotal point in the journey and that there is a real chance of Frodo giving up and going home right then and there. And Sam doesn’t argue with him, doesn’t tell him all the reasons why they have to get the ring to Mordor. Instead, he simply shares his heart, giving Frodo the strength to keep going. This scene makes me tear up almost every time.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6C8SX0mWP0

 

Here is beautiful kinetic typology of his speech. Kinetic typology is a fascinating thing.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pErpW0vFtPE

 

So who is your favorite Hidden Hero? I can’t wait to see 😊