Posts tagged ‘characters’

More Than One Hat

Fiction writers wear many hats. We wear a costume everyday. When we create a story, we create worlds, and people in those worlds, characters to whom we give life through challenges and the emotions we try to convey through them. Sometimes, readers might mistake a character for its writer or believe that the writer shares its attributes. Although I believe that there is a bit of the writer in between the lines, fictional characters are fiction. We rely on our mind, imagination, observation, and life experience to give life to our characters, but many times, we rely on research, on learning a particular subject to present a character and a story in a better light. Depending on our writing style, we might become poets, song writers, prophets, and even preachers. I have done a little bit of those jobs when writing my books. I’ve written a poem, a prophecy, and pages of an imaginary book, as I did in The Book of Sharon and in Sunrise Souls, books two and three of The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy. I’ve written riddles on Moonlit Valley, and a song in Sunrise Souls. On my work in progress – The Five-dollar Miracle, I had to write an entire sermon.

My point is, we sometimes have to become our characters and see the world through their eyes for a little while, to be able to write the story. Sometimes, the writing feels effortless, and at other times, it is more challenging, but always with levels of engagement. We are separate from our characters but we step inside their world, their minds, and their feelings/emotions to be able to convey a story to the readers as best as we can. In that regard, we wear many hats. We become the heroine, the villain, the priest, the prophet, and even an inanimate object, such as a book of prophecies and teachings.

I write stories, I create worlds, I give life to characters and become one with them, and then, disengage. I put on a costume everyday. I write fiction and love it.

 

 

In Between the Lines – Good vs. Evil

The topic of Good vs. Evil fascinates me. Since I was a child, this idea has evolved being shaped by my upbringing, religion, stories that my grandmother told, urban legends, books, Hollywood movies … in short, by how my mind made sense of all this, and how it interpreted it in the material and spiritual. Although good and evil might seem as black and white, I suspect that there are many shades of gray in between, and our human nature battles in the midst, making sense of it all. If anything, we deserve credit for that. This theme is present in my novels as well.

As a species we thrive in the material contributing to the good and bad on this planet. As spiritual beings we strive to do better. Whether you believe or not in the concept of good vs. evil, of God and the Devil, yin and yang, polarities … or however you want to explain this duality or antithesis, the reality is that we all get sucked in by its allure and fascination, even if you practice atheism – engaging in a hot topic. Good vs. Evil captures the human mind since the beginning of the Homo Sapiens (wise man) or Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, if you prefer that version.

According to one of the most influential books in history, Adam and Eve were seduced by evil, and disobeyed God. But before this, Lucifer had become the devil, and taken a few fallen angels with him. Cain ( son of Adam and Eve) had a bit to do with evil as well. And this is where the concept of evil gets interesting and were shades of gray start painting shades of humanity. When we think of Cain, immediately, we process in our minds (if you know the story or read it in the Bible) that his sin was the act of killing his brother Abel. Yes this was a horrible offense, and so far the first murder in the Bible, since mankind was born. However, the book of Genesis tells a more interesting story – what happened before the murder. What was it?

This is what the book of Genesis tells us about the sin before the sin (in short). This is from the New International Version.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4: 3-7)

 

It seems that Cain got upset and jealous of Abel because God liked Abel’s offering better than his. Why this? Upon reading this passage it shows that Abel offered God the fat portions from the first-born of the flock, in other words, the best of the best. While Cain gave “some of the fruits of the soil” or in other words, a good-enough offering, but not the best of the best. And this is what God saw, and I guess that he read both brothers hearts in the offerings, and why he liked one offering better than the other.  This made Cain angry and jealous of his brother, but God, being God and all, gave him a warning of things to come, if he continued with this attitude (If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” ). This is profound. When I read this, I saw Cain’s sin issue in respect to his brother, in a new light, and it made me think of the layers of depth in the concept of good vs. evil. These few verses have so much to chew on, but it was this prelude to Cain’s sin of murder that fascinated me the most. Then, I thought – Why did Cain give a mediocre offering? What was going through his mind? It was this thinking that started it all. Then, I came up with a possible explanation. Since Cain worked the land very hard to yield some crops, must likely he knew that his goodies were hard to come by and with much effort (after all, this wasn’t Eden anymore and he had to work for it) therefore, he gave “some.” In other words, he was being stingy with the one who gave and made all – his God. Again, this is so profound because it reveals another layer. In venturing to read Cain’s thought and personality, I think that he had a trust issue. He lacked Trust. Cain was not so sure that God would provide for him, therefore, he was a bit stingy with his offering, and this was in my opinion, Cain’s first offense. He did not trust his Creator and he did not show his trust/love in his offering like Abel did. This attitude was the catalyst that opened the gates that caused Abel’s blood to flow by his hand.

Pondering the shades between Good and Evil may help us to write better and deeper characters, and to craft a story that would give the reader more layers to peel. As writers, we should not be stingy with our offering to the reader, and always try to give the best of the best, according to our ability.

 

Next In Between the Lines topic – Trust

In Between the Lines – Destiny

Destiny is a very strong theme in my novels, in many levels, earth-bound, personal to the characters, and even as spiritual duty. Destiny is a word that we use in casual conversation; many times, whether we believe in destiny as a preordained course of events or fate, or not. If we don’t believe in the strict definition of destiny or in predestination, we may tend to believe in purpose, and seek the purpose of our lives, “that thing” that we were born to do here on Earth. Purpose is a more digestible word for many. As humans, we crave meaning, and we tend to attach meaning to things/life/events and that meaning is given a layer of sentiment and feeling. It is our nature, whether we tend to analyze these things with our brain or not, we end up doing it. In short, we need a reason to wake up in the morning and keep going; we need purpose. If we don’t have it, we search for it, a lifetime, if necessary. If we never find it, in our deathbed we might say that we missed our purpose in life. Many turn to depression and wither away because they don’t find purpose in their lives. Tragic.

Destiny or purpose – that thing that you must do before you leave Earth – may or not, prevent you from living your life in the now, depending on how you approach its meaning. I think that if we live in the now and are grateful for the moment, while listening to it, our purpose becomes inevitable and unavoidable. It stops being in the future, distant (by our perception) and weaves itself in our daily lives, moment by moment. Somehow, balance is restored between the material being and the spiritual being that is us, and with nature and everything that surrounds us – we become one with the universe, with all that is, whether you call it God, the Universe, or Science. Is there purpose or destiny in that? Maybe or maybe not, or maybe it is intelligent design, or the way that was meant to be? Maybe it is us, our own nature and the nature of things, of it all. Who knows, and will we figure it out? Does it matter that much? It seems to matter; otherwise, we wouldn’t be searching eternally. Without it we feel as feathers floating in the wind, aimlessly, and taken away by life’s current, and without meaningful act. However, we forget that life in itself is purpose.

Photo by MAD

Photo by MAD

 

Note – I will be away from this blog for a week – see you soon 🙂

 

 

 

In Between the Lines – Duty

Duty – An act or a course of action that one should or must do. A moral obligation. A task assigned to or demanded of one. – American Heritage Dictionary

 

Duty is another main theme in my novels. Ramblings of the Spirit may be summarized (thematic) with this line – When destiny must fight to meet love, duty stands in the way.

As the above definition suggests, many times our duty goes beyond a task that is demanded of us, crossing into moral territory, and guided by the weight of our beliefs. It transcends the material into the spiritual, and it is then, when duty is bound by the material but being called into action by a higher or spiritual belief or value system that conflict is born. What a person (or a character) does to solve this internal conflict and find balance (or not) determines not only the course of action, but future events. It is then that true heroes emerge, and the embodiment of duty becomes reality.

Many times, duty and sacrifice go hand in hand; other times, duty goes beyond sacrifice, reaching the realms of an ideal that becomes more important than the sacrifice itself. The sacrifice becomes a vessel, a vehicle to fulfill duty. Understanding how our mind works through these scenarios, while relating it to the material and spiritual perspectives, will help us create more complex characters that become more real and human as the story progresses.

In short, we might have never been in the character’s shoes, but that does not prevent us as writers, to embrace the character’s psyche or transcend into their spiritual realm/value system. As writers, it is our duty.

 

 

 

Time Lapse in Writing

Time is one of the trickiest subjects when writing a story. Not only does your world has to be convincing enough when writing fiction, the pass of time is something to keep in mind throughout the story. Depending on your story, you will have to keep track of the days that had gone by naturally, as the characters go about their lives – days, years, age, technology changes … It doesn’t matter if you are writing historical fiction or a modern romance, the pass of time is something to be aware of and keep track. If the protagonist went to work on Monday, and went to sleep that same day, but was meeting with someone on Wednesday, it would be unnatural to wake her up and take her to meet that person – where did Tuesday go? Another example is aging characters appropriately if the story demands it, as well as characters dealing with issues that are age related. In a series, time becomes tricky, and something to watch out for, as in the case of many years going by in the story, from the first book to the second book. You will have to age characters, but also technology in many cases. In addition, some people might not be able to come back because naturally they would be dead. I will use one of my novels as an example, and something I caught “on time” when writing it. It had to do with the pass of time – more than 20 years – and the mention of an aged character in the second book. In the first book, the character retained the title of Mayor, and referred to as Mayor Degan many times. In the second book, I caught myself referring to him as Mayor Degan, when he was at least 20 years older (no problem there, he was aged appropriately), however impossible to be retaining the title for that long. In my mind, the writer’s mind, he was still Mayor Degan, however I had to call him now by his name – Blake Degan. He was not even a character that interacted much throughout the story, but was a necessary one. Time affected even this character.

Supernatural characters might be able to play with time, but it still has to be mentioned in some way, as part of their condition, otherwise it might confuse the reader. Maybe they don’t age, or they can make themselves age according to time … somehow, the writer has to make this known to the reader.

Technology is another issue, not only in the topic of time, but on location as well. As an example, if internet connection is being used as part of the story, it is obvious that the internet speed is different in New York City than in a remote country location. These small details might not seem important, but they are.

The phrase “Time will tell” comes to mind.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

On Writing Critters, Demons, and Other Beings

The purpose of this post is to highlight the importance of consulting  your earlier outlines or notes when writing a second novel that refers to characters of a previous novel.

When I wrote The Dinorah Chronicles – Ramblings of the Spirit, I did not consult my earlier notes for Moonlit Valley, for most of it.  While reviewing Ramblings of the Spirit, I noticed that I had misspelled the name of one of the creatures, and have done it through the entire novel.  I wasn’t sure, so I consulted my notes from the first book.  This was more than a typo.  I was right, I had switched a k for a j, calling the supernatural entity a Murksling instead of a Murkslink, and in a deeper level, altering the character’s essence/meaning (murk-slink).  Although it wouldn’t probably affect or alter the story, readers notice these things, and many of them know their critters and supernatural beings by heart, if they are reading your books.  Not realizing that mistake on time to make the correction, would have been misinterpreted as carelessness or lack of respect towards the world that a writer has created.  In a way, it is a letdown to the reader.  This is why it is so important to keep earlier notes and outlines at hand, when out of the ordinary beings are created and named.  It is helpful as well, to keep track of important details if you are writing a series.

I keep all my notes and very short outlines in the computer, so it is easy to refer to them, as necessary.  However, I was relying on my memory and trusting that I would remember every detail.  Not the case.  If you don’t like to keep your notes in the PC, a small box of index cards for each novel, divided by chapter, is a good idea.  In each chapter card, include meaningful information such as dates, ages, descriptions, places, and names of characters, and any other pertinent details for future series.  In addition, you may buy software that can help you organize your novel files.  I like to keep it simple because I don’t want to create a project out of an outline of a novel.

So this is my bit of wisdom for today – keep your critters, demons, and supernatural beings at hand, so you don’t end up dissapointing your readers.

Writer’s Wisdom 100

Are your challenges for writing excuses?

Here it is the 100 post of the Writer’s Wisdom series.  It has been my joy to write them and I hope that you have enjoyed them too.  I chose this topic for this post because we make hundreds of excuses about our writing.  Sometimes, we disguise them and call them challenges.  We all have real challenges, however when we use excuses as challenges, we hurt ourselves and our work.  This applies to writing, but also, to everything in our lives.

Are we using our dated computer as an excuse?  Our lack of control over the assignments we take?  The book that won’t write itself because the Muse seems to be on strike?  Or maybe it is the neighbor that plays loud music and does not let you focus? – (earplugs do exist).

Whatever our challenges are, we should look at them as opportunities to grow in our craft and not as excuses.  Whatever our excuses are, we should not dress them in “challenge attire,” but face them instead.

Everyone has challenges, every one of us makes excuses at one point in our lives; it is what we do with them that will hinder or promote our growth.

Happy Writing!