Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


23 Comments

Newton’s Third Law (for writers)

You remember those, right? Okay, nerd cap on for the refresher of Newton’s Laws of Motion:

  • First law: A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion (or simply, inertia). It’s like not wanting to get out of bed in the morning (body at rest), and then the cat (or dog) jumps on you and insists it’s time for breakfast/walk/pee break (an outside force affecting inertia πŸ˜€ ).
  • Second law: An object’s force is mass times acceleration. Think of it as the difference between a terrier running up to greet you and a Great Dane running up to greet you. One of these will be like catching a basketball, the other will body-slam you.
  • Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember those experiments way back in elementary school where the same poles of magnets would repel? Yep, kinda like that.

So, what exactly has this got to do with writing? Well, I was thinking (I know, scary πŸ™‚ ) about characters and reactions.

Earlier this week I subbed at the library, because their high school staff member has basketball practice after school. And because it was after Thanksgiving, it was time to decorate for Christmas. Lexy (the high schooler) set up the tree already, so all I had to do was find stuff to put on the walls, etc.

The decorations are stored in the basement. So the staff member I was relieving led me into the basement to show me where things were. And one of the first things I noticed was this:

If you saw this in your basement, what would be your first reaction? Scream? Find something to hit it with? Or calmly say, “Hey, did you know you have a bat hibernating in the basement?”

Because the little guy wasn’t bothering anyone, and I knew it was sleeping, I picked the third option. (Honestly, bats don’t bother me because I know they eat bugs. Lots of bugs.)

Anyway, that (and every Sunday night’s America’s Funniest Videos episode) made me think about characters and how they react to things. A lot of our everyday activity is based on actions and our reactions to them. A character returns home from errands and finds the door to her apartment–that she is absolutely certain she locked–is unlocked. A character arrives after a call from a friend frantic about a break-in, and finds said friend on the floor unconscious and bleeding.

For every situation a character will react in a particular way. Does that character freak out when she finds the door unlocked? What about finding the friend? How does she handle the situation? Does she enter the apartment anyway? Does she run off to find help?

Characters should react the way we expect them to. An exterminator will not jump up on a chair when a mouse scurries across the kitchen floor. A firefighter will not run around frantically when they find their garage on fire.

Then again, sometimes it works to have a character react in an unexpected way. The nurse who retches when a patient vomits. Or, as seen on AFV, the mom who can’t bear to prep a raw turkey without gagging (no, she didn’t throw up, but it sounded like she usually did).

If a character reacts in a way the reader doesn’t expect, there must be a good reason for it. Is the nurse sensitive to odor? (of course, if he is, why on earth be a nurse?) Maybe he is going through chemotherapy and is extra-sensitive to odors. Maybe the mom who can’t stand to touch raw meat had to prep the turkey this year because her sister just got a new job and is working over Thanksgiving.

Sometimes it’s fun to have a character react differently than expected. It keeps things interesting, but it also has to fit the character. Case in point: I used to be an aircraft mechanic, and the only female aircraft mechanic where I worked. So one night I’m walking across the hangar and someone calls my name. I look, and this thing is arcing through the air in my direction. So I calmly stand where I’m at and watch a dead mouse hit the floor a few feet away.

I don’t know what my co-worker was expecting me to do, but I think he was disappointed, because I didn’t react the way he expected, i.e. like a girl. Another example is when one of the guys I worked with (same place) reacted to a moth fluttering around in the crew van we took to the gate. Imagine a little kid reacting to a moth–they dance around and swat at it. The next night, someone glued a dead cecropia moth to the top of his toolbox. Moral of the story: don’t let your fellow mechanics know you’re afraid of moths.

Make sure your characters react to situations in a way that fits their personality. If they react otherwise, give them a reason to do so. In case you were wondering about the bat, someone came the next day and removed it. And I found out that was the third bat they had found in the basement. Methinks a bat house might be a nice alternative.

And I made it for NaNo! Of course, I didn’t finish the story, but I’m a lot closer to the end than I was before. This weekend is forecast to be snowing and blowing, so I have a great excuse to hunker down and write.

Have a great weekend!

zoey asleep

Advertisements


27 Comments

Na-No-Not impressed #nanowrimo2018

I’m not even going to tell you how far behind I am. Let’s see. If I could do one week’s worth of writing over the weekend, I might catch up to where I’m supposed to be.

Grumpy is not impressed.

grumpy1And he keeps waiting for my Muse to come back so he can complain. About me. Which is probably why my Muse hasn’t come back from his pub crawl yet. Not to mention Mr. E had, like, an extended weekend off since his writer got sick.

Now, in my defense, I have been writing every day. This week has been a treasure trove of “stuff going on”, like a Sisters in Crime chapter meeting, and an author event (no, not me, but I’m doing a panel with the author in January and I had never met her). Aaand (Grumpy, stop with the evil eye *sticks out tongue*) I have a keyboard I can use with my iPad plus I bought the Scrivener app so I can keep writing while I’m passing the time until the events start. I got over 1200 words in during an hour and a half at the library!

“It ain’t enough.” Grumpy hrrumphs.

“Shut. Up.” Gawd. Maybe I can sell this grump-ass dragon to some unsuspecting …

“Hey,” he growls. “I ain’t for sale. Hell, I wouldn’t even be here if that damned Aussie muse of yours hadn’t pulled a full house in the last hand. This is worse than losing that Corellian freighter to that shady Lando.”

“Wait. You lost the Milleni…”

Grumpy holds up a hand. “That’s enough. Don’t want to get in trouble from those guys. They probably got lawyers on retainer in case I tell the rest of the story.”

Ooooh. “Which is what, exactly?”

“None of yer damned business. You gonna write or what? You ain’t gonna make up ten thousand words writing a blog post. You got two days to do it.”

“You know, my son and his girlfriend stopped in to visit last weekend, and my daughter wasn’t supposed to come home this weekend. And I had a migraine last weekend. That’s when I fell behind.” Damn head. Three episodes of Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting was about all I could muster. I couldn’t even do any reading.

“Excuses. I wanna see words. Five thousand each day. And next week you got what, a four-day weekend?”

“You can’t count Thanksgiving. Or Black Friday. That’s when I do all my Christmas shopping.” From the comfort of my own home, because going out in crowds is for the crazy people who think it’s fun.

Pale green smoke curls from his nostrils. “How the flaming hell has that Aussie muse put up with you for how long did he say? Thirty years?”

Er, yeah, I guess it has been that long. “Hey, I’ve ‘won’ every NaNo for the past thirteen years. Well, except the very first one. And the one I did after I did my own in February earlier in the year.” Was that two years ago? Last year?

“So what the hell is your problem now? And don’t give me any shit about working full time. Or migraines. Or kids coming home from college.”

Gawd, I can’t wait until my Muse comes back.

“You and me both. Now, finish that post and get your ass going on your WIP. Or whatever the hell you’re writing. Maybe you should write something different for a while. Yeah. Like a story about a dragon that loses a damn poker game and gets stuck babysitting a fracking pain-in-the-ass writer.”

“Hey, be nice. I’m bigger than you.”

Grumpy snorts. Tiny green flames illuminate his nostrils. “Fire trumps size, girly.” He extends wings I swear I’ve never seen before now. “And dragon magic. Don’t mess with dragon magic.”

*grumble*

Okay, I’d better sign off before he gets his undies–er, scales in a bunch (hey, 670 words! Woo-hoo!). We’ve got winter arriving–well, more winter arriving–tonight. To all my writing friends out East dealing with the Nor’easter–stay warm, stay safe.

Write on! (and add a furry lap blanket πŸ˜€ )

zoey_cr

 


31 Comments

Rough cut — plantsing away #nanowrimo2018

Week two of NaNoWriMo. I made week 1’s word count, but so far I’m slipping this week. Phone call with my daughter last night, who hasn’t registered for next semester yet –WHAAAT?! So, that, and reminding her to Do Her Homework before the day before the day it’s due. I know. What a concept.

It’s part of learning to manage time. And she’s trying, but boy, the call of procrastination is strong.

I am getting back into the routine of writing every day, which is pretty much the point, along with finally finishing my rough–really rough–draft of book 2. I’m still planning to work on a new book I plotted out but haven’t really gotten to yet. I did write a really rough draft of it, but that needs to be rebooted.

Anyway, every year around NaNo time there are posts and discussions about plotting versus pantsing, better known as writing “by the seat of your pants”. In other words, planning the story versus just writing and letting the story write itself (you know what I mean, like when the characters take the reins and head in a direction you didn’t intend them to go).

I like to think I’m more of a planner than a pantser. I don’t exactly outline, but I walk through the story. I have a starting point, I have an idea what will happen first, second, third, etc. I know who the characters will be, who the bad guy is, who the good guy is, and who the supporting characters are. This gives me a map, but leaves me room to wander a bit.

So, here I am, writing my minimum 1,667 words a day (ideally, 2k words a day, but I haven’t gotten onto that kind of roll yet), and walking through my path, and the story–erm, the characters started taking a side trip. Which seemed to work. Until it didn’t.

Wait, let me back up. I started with an apparent self-inflicted demise… or was it? The more I wrote, the more it wasn’t quite working. So, I wrote myself an inline note (I do a lot of those to remind me of things that pop into my head). And as I wrote the note, I realized why it wasn’t working.

Hoo-boy. I have a bit of revising to do. But this is a rough draft, right? It’s supposed to be crappy. Onward, ho!

Then I run into a scene that doesn’t quite go as planned. Those darn characters! The change seems to work, but the further I go, the more that change screws up part of the climax.

So, another long inline note about why the change made four chapters back won’t work, and how I can handle the storyline so my original idea will be a logial step in the plot. And now to keep going while pretending the dead end doesn’t happen and my original idea is a part of the plot.

As I’m going through this, I realized something (lightbulb moment!): my rough draft is my way of talking through the story to refine it. Not polish; that comes later. It’s like planning a trip. You check out the map (yes, the old paper ones no one could ever refold right), maybe highlight the route you want to take. Figure where to stop for lunch. How about a stop at a landmark or historic site; hey, you’re going right by the world’s largest wad of used chewing gum. It would be a great photo op πŸ˜€

So you head out on your road trip, stop at the chewing gum tourist trap, and hey, a few miles off the road you can have lunch at Ole and Lena’s Homestyle Restaurant, because you can’t go past NorwegianJoke City without stopping for their world-famous lefse.

And you can get back to the freeway the short way, or you can go ten minutes the other direction to visit Cousin Sven. Besides, there’s another main road you can take to get back to Grand Highway Junction. Cool. So after you hang with Sven for a few hours, you head out.

And you hit–you guessed it–road construction. Man, maybe you shouldn’t have picked this road. So, do you retrace your steps, or take that other rural two-laner? Hey, two-laner might be fun. So you take that route. Until you hit the cattle drive. You go back the way you just came. Sheesh. Should have stuck to the freeway.

And there is an ugly picture of my writing process. Sort of. I have a plan, take a few side trips, then learn I shouldn’t have taken that detour. Or the detour works for a while, or the detour leads to an even better trip through a state park.

Bottom line, the whole process of writing a rough draft is instrumental in refining the story, so take advantage. And that pesky internal editor can get in the way of the process, so send her on a month-long junket to somewhere. Remember, rough draft = crap, but it also equals an opportunity to make major structural changes before it becomes a lot harder to make them.

Hey, 860 more words for my NaNo count–woo-hoo!

Keep onΒ  writing, and enjoy your weekend! (and remember, less than two weeks until Turkey Day πŸ¦ƒ)


30 Comments

NaNo-ing under watchful eyes #nanowrimo2018

dory

I flip on the light in my writing office.

Holy shi*!

Once my heart finds its way back into my chest and my pulse recovers, I glare at my Muse, who is standing just inside the doorway. “What the hell? You scared the shit outta me.”

He just stands there, arms crossed on his broad chest, inches in front of me. And he’s wearing that burgundy henley that fits him so well, sleeves shoved up to his elbows. I can smell apple cider and autumn leaves, along with a hint of campfire–not the smokey kind, the hot flames and weenie-roasting kind.

“Are you quite finished, love?”

“Um, could you, er, slide over a bit so I can get in here?”

He looms over me. “I thought you said you were going to finish your WIP before you started NaNo.”

“Ahh, yeah. Hey, I’m still working on it. Every night. I’m counting the words since last night toward my NaNo total.”

“Uh-huh.”

He doesn’t sound too convinced. And I’m burning writing time here. “You gonna move or what? I’ve got words to write.”

He pivots just enough to let me squeeze past him. “I will say you are giving it a good go, love.”

I settle behind my desk and fire up my laptop. “So what’s with the whole stoic muse thing you got going? I’m working, aren’t I?”

He paces to the front of my desk and plants his hands on the top before he leans over. “I want to see words. Two thousand a day. ”

“I know, I know. I’ve been doing NaNo for years, even outside of November,” I tell him, exasperation in my voice. I don’t need this sort of distraction. “So, how about some inspiration to go along with your hard-ass.” I fail to quash a fleeting thought of his nice…

“Hey.” He snaps his fingers and points to the computer. “Eyes on the screen, love. And I won’t be the only one keeping tabs on you during NaNo.”

Uh-oh. “Oh? Sooo, like, what? My book dragon? I’m sending her with Betsy to that writing conference she signed up for. And I’m pretty sure my Night Fury is on holiday all month. I think she’s avoiding me. This whole election thing–okay, the whole ‘my husband is a news junkie’ thing–isn’t doing my anxiety any good. Gawd, I can’t wait until those political ads are over.”

“No.” He waves a hand with a magician’s flourish to settle a foot above my desk, palm up. A sparkly cloud coalesces into a vertical disk before a whisper of wings reaches my ear.

“Ooooh, you got me a fire lizard?” I almost jump to my feet. I’ve wanted one of my own ever since I read Anne McCaffery’s Pern novels back in seventh grade.

My Muse deflates my excitement with a laser glare that I’m afraid might short out my computer. “No. Meet Grumpy.”

grumpy1

The dragon jumps off my Muse’s hand and settles beside my computer.

“O-kay. What happened to his wings?”

Grumpy snorts. “Who needs wings?” he says, his voice low and gravelly, like Sam Elliot meets Boris Karloff as the Grinch.

“But I heard…”

He snorts again, this time with a wisp of pale green smoke. “How the hell else am I supposed to get here? I got ’em. They’re camoflauged. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. You’re supposed to be writing.”

I look up at my Muse. His smug expression makes me wonder if this is payback. “Seriously? I’m not writing fantasy.”

“Genre doesn’t matter, love. He’s almost as qualified as I am.”

Grumpy peers at him. “Don’t go there, pretty boy.”

My Muse stares back. “Don’t forget who has the capital ‘M’.”

“Psshaw.”

“I earned it. When you’ve spent as much time with her as I have …”

Grumpy brushes him off with a wave. “Go on. I got this. Say ‘hi’ to E for me, and tell him I want a rematch. He ain’t that good at darts.”

“Wait. You stick me with Scaly here, and you’re going on a pub crawl with Mr. E?”

“That’s Grumpy, kiddo, and next time I won’t lose that last hand to some Aussie.”

Before I could process that, my Muse bends toward me and plants a quick kiss on my forehead. “Behave. Both of you.” He exits out the back door before the shock wears off.

What just happened?

Grumpy snaps his fingers. “Hey, focus.”

“Dude, I’ve got over eight hundred words in.”

“On your WIP? Get your mind with the program here.”

Um, well, no. But a blog post counts, right? I’m counting it. Twelve hundred words to go.

grumpy2

 

Sheesh.

He is kinda cute, though. In a grumpy sort of way.

“Hey, less yakking, more writing.”

Okay, okay.

This weekend’s weather is looking like a prelude to winter, with rain and snow. Ugh. Better for writing, though.

Grumpy taps his foot. “I’m waiting.”

Fine. NaNo onward!


32 Comments

Winding up for NaNo

tree

Okay, call me crazy (again). My big plan is to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. Yeah, I know. Nothing like giving myself a week to finish my WIP draft and jump into another completely different story.

“You are having trouble with your WIP as it is, love.” My Muse closes the back door of my writing office, but not before a cool wash of air sneaks in carrying the scent of fallen leaves, that earthy aroma with a spicy edge. His black and red flannel shirt, sleeves rolled to his elbows, is almost too expected, with worn jeans and hiking boots. “And yet you choose to jump into a month-long writing frenzy.” He leans a hip on my desk. “What the hell are you thinking?”

I rock back in my chair. “Obviously, I’m thinking if I have a deadline for my rough draft, I’ll get it done.”

He crosses his arms on his broad chest and sighs. “How’s that working for you?”

Truthfully, not well. “You know the answer to that.”

“I do. Which is why I’m wondering what the hell you’re thinking.”

“Hey, I’ve been working on other stuff I need to do for my book. S had a great list she posted a few weeks back on Story Empire. I’m working through the stuff I can do without a cover, like picking out quotes and excerpts from my book that I can use as teasers for the cover reveal and stuff.”

“You need to finish your WIP, love.” He leans over, bracing hands on my desk and looming over me. “That’s your priority. Do you really think you can finish the draft by November?”

When he makes it sound like that … “Yes. I mean, I’m at the midpoint crisis.”

“Mid. Point. That’s the middle.”

“Or so.”

“You have how many days?” he asks, his blue eyes drilling into mine. Hey, he looks like he hasn’t shaved in a few days. It looks good. Rustic. Like we should be out in the woods somewhere in a log cabin, with a fireplace, and …

*snaps fingers* “Pay attention, love.”

I am. Oh, he means to what he’s saying. “I know, I know.”

He shakes his head in exasperation. I think it’s exasperation. Pretty sure.

“You will finish your WIP before jumping into another project, because you have got to get that draft done, which you well know.” He straightens. “Deal?”

“Sure.”

I’ve got a Sisters In Crime panel to go to this afternoon–for moral support πŸ™‚ It’s only a half-hour away, and it’s another opportunity to see how things work in the world of author panels.

And here’s Zoey, enjoying a warm place to nap, because I know cats make people feel all warm and fuzzy (unless they have allergies, in which case cats make them feel itchy and runny-nosey).

zoey_cr

Have a wonderful weekend!

dory