About Writers, inspiration, writing technique

Be Ready When She Comes

The other day, this article, a speech on racism and science fiction (dating back to 1998, no less), surfaced in my Facebook feed. I’d never seen it before but, being a Samuel Delany fan from way back, I dug right in.

Before I had even cleared the first third of it, I found myself hurriedly putting it aside to work on the second draft of my own current WIP. The damned thing had been fighting me hard—not because the plot or characters were in any way unclear in my mind, but there was simply no consistent voice yet. WIP’s come in all forms, and they all fight us to some extent, but this one had been particularly tough—petulant, thorny, recalcitrant—it had resisted all my efforts to get a groove going. The novel, typically, didn’t care about what I was trying to do. I hadn’t gotten her attention yet.

Somewhere between George Schuyler’s horrific and ironic description of a lynching and Delany’s own telling of his first pointedly racist rejection letter, I hit pay dirt. All at once, I had a new beginning for the first chapter, and with it, a new sense of where I was going and why I was going there. My bristly companion was suddenly purring and eager, both soothed and enlivened by the fact that I was finally doing something it liked.

What had changed? There is nothing in my book that relates directly to what Delany was talking about. It is not about racism. It certainly isn’t science fiction. It doesn’t take place during the time period he is mostly talking about. (The article, by the way, is well worth the read.) Yet somehow, despite the lack of relevance, something sparked. Some bit of current leaped a nineteen year gap and jumpstarted my always dubious creative process.

That’s an off-the-cuff metaphor, but it’s an apt one.

My admiration for Delany is nearly boundless. Indeed, I think he is one of the finest writers of the second half of the 20th Century. His voice was both clear and curious, earnest and playful. He wrote beautiful sentences. He took science fiction seriously while still regarding all labels warily.

The muse (and I use the term reluctantly) cannot be coaxed or coddled. She appears when she will, without warning or reason, in whatever motley garb the moment might supply—a blaze of light, a scrabbling at the window, the tickle of hairs rising on the back of your neck. Being divine in nature, she rarely speaks anything like sense. In fact, she often says nothing at all. But her mere presence, even fleeting and uncertain, can awaken that starburst of astonishment. You do know what you’re doing. Actually, you’re doing it already.

It has been said that the only way to court the muse is by doing the work at hand. Let her find you writing. I’m not sanguine about that. It seems to me, we often labor along without her help for long dark days or seasons. Writing when you are not inspired is the norm, not the exception, at least for me. But at the very least, if you are writing, then maybe you will be ready when she appears, if she appears. Try being in the right place at the right time. It couldn’t hurt.

Meanwhile, inspiration goes as abruptly as she comes. So when she shows, burn whatever oil you have to keep the lights on. Give her anything she wants. And write.

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About Writers, Research, Uncategorized, writing technique

Challenging Moments

We all have those challenging moments when life changes in that moment. One might think writers relish writing about their own intense moments. It is, after all, when life shows us our limits and opportunities. Many great fictional characters are forged in the fire of  intense personal experience. But writing honestly is difficult when it’s personal.
So, let’s do something difficult. Use the comments section to describe a moment when your life did or could have drastically changed. I’ll start:

 +++When World War II ended, Mom married a soldier. Like most men who spent years killing people, he had PTSD. We called it a bad temper. The soldier taught me honesty, pride in independence, the value of hard work and he occasionally beat Mom unconscious. I vividly remember standing with my own head scarcely above the man’s knee, looking down at my mother lying on the floor. I feared him until I was a teen and pointed a shotgun at him. “If you ever hit my mother again, I will kill you. I’m sixteen. They will put me in a home for juvenile delinquents. But I will get out when I’m eighteen and you will be dead.” The shotgun was loaded, the safety was off and my finger felt the trigger. If he had risen from the kitchen table, I would have shot him.

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About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, world-building, writing technique

Tomorrow’s Challenge

Why do we continue to use digital media to mimic novels set in type? Linear stories presented word by word and scene by scene are analogs in a world that we are beginning to experience as quantum.

Changes are coming even if we ignore them. Digital e-readers are as capable of sounds as they are of words, so why bother describing the sound of a bell when you can make it? Two paragraphs appearing side by side can present two PoVs to the reader at the same time. Comic books do that now. Imagine what a creative writer of the future will be able to do.

But why wait? Are we all just old analogs stuck in a linear perspective incapable of conveying life’s simultaneity?

Just asking 🙂 What do you think?

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About Writers, book promotion, book sales, Uncategorized, writing technique

BOOK BLURBS

We writers are the pioneers in this brave new world of book marketing. It is our task to boldly go where few authors have gone before. Finding what works for us is often intuitive, so it helps to ask others what they think. What do you think of the following insight from a fellow author about book blurbs?

Book Blurb
“The blurb should draw you into the story, not tell you all about the story.”

Example: (my current blurb)
The Phoenix Diary
Legends speak of a mysterious and powerful record that might be a formula for free energy to rebuild the lost civilization or an ancient tome written by a man from the stars telling of mankind’s true beginning and ultimate destiny. Now three teens – Otero, Rhia, and Marc – set out to find the Phoenix Diary with the help of hints from their own genetic memories. But a mysterious man pursues them relentlessly through the ruins of Denver and into an ancient vault in the Rocky Mountains; he knows the Phoenix Diary is everything the legends say and more. It is humanity’s past, present, and future.

Example: (Proposed revision. Is it better?)
The Phoenix Diary
Can genetic memories guide three teens to a tome written by a man from the stars buried in an ancient Rocky Mountain vault? Does it really tell of humanity’s past, present, and future? Only the warrior pursuing them knows.

Example: (Your Best)
Let’s see your best book blurb!

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About Writers, book promotion, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Writer’s Showcase

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Type: Satire, Racial Prejudice
From WiP, Bob Vs The Aliens
Scene: The Aliens have just landed and Piper, reporter for the European news site, Socialism Revisited, is in Atlanta conducting a “man-on-the-street” interview with Bob, who was selected because he struck her as an average white man.
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+++An elderly black couple turned to them. They smiled at Piper. She smiled back. “Ignore him,” the man told her. “Bob’s too white to understand what’s really happening here.”
+++“He’s a good boy,” the woman assured her. “Give him some time.”
+++“Hi Mom.”
+++Piper stared at Bob. “Mom?”
+++“I was a surprise.”
+++“Your face is Western European.” Her eyes twinkled.
+++“They love me anyway.”
+++Undaunted, Piper thumbed at the cameraman behind her, “Well, the power’s out again. But our camera still works.”
+++Bob ignored her. “I do understand, Dad,” he answered the old gentleman. “The presence of an Alien species defines all humans as one, right?”
+++Realization came over Piper’s face as if she suddenly sensed the real story here. Signaling the cameraman, she turned to the couple. “Tell me, sir, what was your first reaction when you heard the news?”
+++“White folk are gonna stop looking at me like I’m black.”

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Critique & Comments welcome 🙂
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Writers: Showcase your writing on Writers Co-op!
We want to see your writing of First Line or Paragraph, Character Introduction, World Building, Backstory, Action Scene, Satire, Humor, Horror, display an Emotion, show a Relationship, or, any Bit Of Writing you’d care to share. (Never more than one page in length, please. Be sure to state the type & book title and introduce the scene.)
Post in our drafts section if you can, or, use our Contact Page to send us your  sample or email it directly to GD (at) Deckard (dot) com.
(Many thanks to Ducky Smith & E.M. Swift-Hook of the SciFi Roundtable for their unwitting contribution of this idea.)

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Stories, Uncategorized, writing technique

The Elements of Great Adventure

(With apologies to Joseph Campbell)

THE ORDINARY WORLD
“The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected…”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE
“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
– Princess Leia (hologram), “Star Wars: Episode IV”

THE REFUSAL OF THE CALL
“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t see what anybody sees in them…Good morning!…we don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.”
– Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

THE HELPER
“I can guide you but you must do exactly as I say.”
– Morpheus, “The Matrix”

THE THRESHOLD OF ADVENTURE
“The Mos Eisley Spaceport, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
– Obi Wan Kenobi “Star Wars: A New Hope”

THE THRESHOLD GUARDIAN
“Who would cross the Bridge of Death must first answer me these questions three. There the other side ye see.”
– Bridge-keeper, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

THE ROAD OF TRIALS
“So what you’re saying is that we go back in time, find two humpback whales, bring them forward in time, and hope to hell they tell this thing what to go do with itself? Well that’s crazy!”
– Dr. Leonard McCoy (paraphrased), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

THE BELLY OF THE WHALE
“Now we must brave the long dark of Moria. Let us hope that our passage goes unnoticed.”
– Gandalf the Grey, “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”

TESTS
“We’ll never survive.”
“Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
– Wesley and Buttercup (when preparing to enter the Fire Swamp), “The Princess Bride”

THE SUPREME ORDEAL
“Only after disaster can you be resurrected. It is only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.”
– Tyler Durden, “Fight Club”

ELIXIR THEFT
This is Prometheus stealing Fire to bring to mankind. The hero will incur great wrath on the part of the enemy Powers arranged against him. And it will not go well at all if he or she is caught. Having stolen the elixir, the hero needs to take the road back to the ORDINARY WORLD as soon as he can. But the Powers will not let the Hero escape so easily, he or she will be chased all the way back.

FLIGHT
“Come on buddy, we’re not out of this yet.”
– Han Solo, “Star Wars: A New Hope”

THE ROAD BACK
“We thought you were… dead.”
“I was. Now I’m better.”
-Captain Sheridan in response to the Drazi ambassador, Babylon 5 ep. “The Summoning”

RETURN TO THE ORDINARY WORLD
Having braved numerous tests and dangers and surmounted seemingly impossible odds, our Hero can now bask in glory and start writing his or her memoirs.
This is also known as the “denouement” when any open plot points of the story resolve themselves.

Source:
http://www.apocprod.com/Pages/Hero/Take_the_Hero’s_Journey.htm

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Uncategorized, writing technique

Mary Anne Evans

The love of my life, M, is reading George Eliot. She enjoys Eliot’s incredible vocabulary. On Kindle, M just taps a word to see its meaning and then sometimes throws the word at me. I didn’t know “casuist” is a word for one given to casuistry, or, excessively subtle reasoning intended to mislead. The casuists I know are all newsreaders but I didn’t know there was a polite term for describing them.

It made me wonder. In a world where news is spun and we tend to believe what we want to hear, I wonder if the words we no longer use don’t tell us as much about ourselves as do the words we use. My favorite example is the shifted meaning of the word, “alienation.” I once looked that up in a dictionary printed in the 1800s just to see if it was in there. It was but it was described as a form of insanity. Not now.

There must be a word for things we don’t want to see but who remembers that?

Hopefully, the more erudite among you can help me out here.
What words are no longer in use even though what they stand for still exists?

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