Tuesday, 30 July 2013

MINING MEMORY



Who we are influences what we write, and our experiences influence who we are. How we remember our past also affects us. If we’re asked what our last year’s holiday  was like, at first we might struggle to remember much more than a few images, and not necessarily because we were sampling too much of the local vino. But if we continue recalling the experience, we add to those segments of memory and, slowly but surely, we recall enough to bring back much of the holiday. 

The interesting thing is that when we’re remembering a past experience in this way, we automatically organize our memories into the sequential order in which the events took place – our impressions upon arrival and seeing the beach/mountain/city; later we add watching the glory of a blazing sunset in an exotic location etc. In this way we instinctively create a story out of our past.

If it’s possible to view our own lives as narratives and draw on our memories when we write, and we were to write only the facts of the experience, this wouldn’t convey enough of the truth about the event. One point to consider when we use any detail or episode from our own life, is that we should feel free to render them how we wish. As writers we don’t have to be restricted, but neither should we feel any guilt about using our memories freely because that doesn’t mean we are not true to them.

When telling others about a past event we also reinforce that memory. Sometimes the original experience becomes subsumed into the retelling – and later on it's the retelling we  recollect.  Different sense impressions like smells or sounds, such a particular piece of music  can trigger memory, and the major events we remember in our own lives often have strong emotional connections.

You might think I’m wandering off the subject of writing but writers often play with memory: giving two characters different memories of the same event creates conflict and gives insight into their personalities; suffering from amnesia or creating false memories make for interesting scenarios; making the reader aware that a character is inaccurately remembering an incident can raise tension; and a flashback is simply a memory from a character's past.    

So memory is inextricably linked with storytelling and there are many possibilities for making use of our own memories, as well as of the way memory works, in our writing.
 

Writing Update 
Editing is slow at the moment. I try to wake up earlier, go to bed later...but that never works as I end up going to bed at 4am and getting up at 10am feeling as if I’ve a hangover, but without the pleasure of intoxication the night before. I'm making resolutions to fit writing time in and around my other commitments but then something always pops up demanding to go to the top of the list.

And that is how it has to be for now. I’ve completed four chapters using the Pro Writing recommendations and am ready to start Chapter 5. I’ve moved my deadline back to the end of September with the hope that I’ll complete before then. Not being negative, just pragmatic! 

Today’s Haiku 

COFFEE HAIKU
soy frappucino
easy on the ice because
I don't like brain freeze 

Useful Links: 
If you have any questions you think I can help with, then please go to Adrianna’s great website at http://adriannajoleigh.com/ where you will find a Writers Surgery page http://bit.ly/11dD1zQ or email me at writerssurgery@gmail.com 
An interesting article:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/22/falling-short-writers-reflect-failure

Reading Recommendations: 

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku  - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW – BUT WHAT DO YOU KNOW?



Writing what you know is good standard advice for writers but what exactly does it mean? I'm not denying autobiographies are a valid genre but they wouldn’t satisfy every reader. In fact, if writers only wrote what they knew, there would be no science-fiction or fantasy, and writing a crime or spy novel might result in your removal from mainstream society. 

However, there are some writers, maybe an ex-policeman turned crime writer, who have a working knowledge of their chosen genre (although I’m sure Ian Flemming’s intimacy with  the undercover world of spies was nothing like James Bond’s), but the majority of writers’ have no more specialist expertise than anyone else - when it's needed, we do research.

Writing is an activity where imagination and observation connect seamlessly to create an invented world. When a writer describes the sensory details of smell, sight, sound, touch and taste, they use these elements to give authenticity to their stories.  Writers need to have a heightened awareness of what is around them, as well as the ability to convey those features in such a way that readers see them anew.

Another function of details is to create the sense of habitual time. Daily travel, meals, getting up and going to bed, may be unexciting minutiae by themselves, but they add a sense of reality to a world that appears to exist before and after the reader has finished the book.

The ability to write what we know originates with our observational skills, and the more fully we can be aware of the wealth of detail available in our lives,  the more we are able to enrich readers’ experiences. 

Writing Update: Agony and Ecstasy

I hope I’m forgiven my ignorance of those online editing tools, Pro Write and Auto Crit. However, that is now rectified and I'm working on the premise that the more mistakes, of any kind, which I can remove before investing in a professional editor, the better. 

First though there’s the agony. The list of mistakes brought up by these programs of what needs to be corrected is painful as I acknowledge how many errors I actually make. Overused words and frequently repeated phrases seem to be the main culprits – I accept this – but this isn’t the first edit – I lost count of which edit I’m on some time ago.

And here’s where it gets interesting. This list is stimulating an obsessive compulsive streak I wasn’t aware I possessed. If I could, I wouldn’t move until every single item is sorted. Now you don’t know the length of the list, but it is physically impossible to stay sitting for the length of time required, and taking regular breaks makes precious little difference.

This has moved my scheduled deadline back. There’s no way I will finish this edit by the end of July as I’ve a few commitments coming up which will limit my progress in the next month. So my journey continues and although I'm currently climbing an Everest, the scenery is extraordinary!

I apologise if I’ve not been active in responding to the many great articles posted online by other bloggers, but my novel is ruthless in demanding attention and I have to keep my baby happy!

Today’s Haiku

Fat yellow moon high
above sleep darkened kingdom
sees all - Heaven’s eye

Useful Links: 

If you have any questions you think I can help with, then please go to Adrianna’s great website at:
http://adriannajoleigh.com/ where you will find a Writers Surgery page http://bit.ly/11dD1zQ or email me at: writerssurgery@gmail.com

http://prowritingaid.com/
http://www.autocrit.com/

Reading Recommendations: 

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku.com

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.







Tuesday, 16 July 2013

DO YOU PLAN ...OR NOT?


You could say planning is like a joke (no, I didn’t say planning is a joke) because we don’t all find the same joke funny. So, in the same way, there is no one way to write a story. For some writers, characters and narrative evolve while they plan, for others stories unfold and reveal themselves as they write. In one scenario the planning is external and in advance, and in the other, it’s internal and ongoing.

Ideas for stories can appear fully formed or as small seeds which need nourishment, and we either take hold of them or let them go. Once the inventive wheels are turning, planning can provide a structured focus which frees you up to start writing. If you do decide to plan, your  characters, setting, POV (point of view), backstory, dramatic arc, beginning and end of the story can be outlined in as much detail, or not, as you want.

When I have an idea for a new story, I mull it over in my mind till I know who my character is, where the story starts, where I want to take it and how I want it to end. Yet what often happens once I’ve started writing is that I reach a certain point - and like someone on a journey who’s following a map and arrives at a bridge which has collapsed, I can see the other side, I just don’t know how to get there. That’s when I stop, backtrack a bit and plan, because by now I know my characters etc., but what I need to know is exactly how I’m going to reach my destination.

Now this works for me. It may not work for you. I would say the single most important thing about  planning an outline is that you don’t have to stick to it. If it isn’t working, chuck it out and write another one; chuck it out and just write letting the characters and story reveal themselves along the way - which I find happens anyway even when writing with an outline.

Writing is a process which brings ideas to life through the creation of characters and events. How to accomplish this isn’t set in concrete. No creative process can be reduced to an all encompassing formula. As Marian Allen said 'Whatever works!'

P.S.This was written as a response to one by Steve Imagineer on July 13th titled 'Rethink Advice to Writers' (see below - Useful Links). My original idea was to write about why writers should use outlines, but after reading the article and the comments from those who responded, I decided to write a different post!

Writing Update 
Currently I’m deep in the throes of fixing my embarrassingly long list of overused words. Although I have to admit, despite the length of the list, it’s a good way to go through a novel. When replacing a word I have to look closely at what I’m trying to say, and I’ve found sometimes a phrase rather than a single word works better - as it not only clarifies but expands on the meaning. The one exception so far is the word ‘again’ for which, in the majority of cases, the delete button was the most effective remedy. I may be in this valley of woes for a while... 

Today’s Haiku 
bright sun in my eyes
sparkles bounce off glass windows  –
I like my warm skin 

Useful Links:

If you have any questions you think I can help with, then please go to Adrianna’s great website at http://adriannajoleigh.com/ where you will find a Writers Surgery page http://bit.ly/11dD1zQ or email me at writerssurgery@gmail.com

If you do want to check out how to plan a novel, you couldn’t do better than to check out Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method at: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/ 
Read Steve's post at: http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/07/13/rethink-advice-to-writers/


Reading Recommendations: 
http://amzn.to/197yrbN   Roads Taken (5 great short stories) by M. Joaquim 
http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

FLAT AND ROUND CHARACTERS



When E. M. Forster used the term flat and round characters in his book, Aspects of a Novel, he wasn’t referring to Laurel and Hardy, he was making a distinction between major and minor characters.


Round characters are the major players in your story and are fully developed, possessing many facets to their personalities. These are the people who carry the plot, who are involved in the important action and events, and upon whom you lavish hours of thought and deliberation when bringing them to life on the page; you have to focus on them because, above all, they must come across as authentic.

Nonetheless your protagonists and antagonists don’t live in a vacuum and you will often need other minor characters to perform various functions. These are your flat characters, the walk-on roles such as distant family members, garage attendants, doctors etc. The list is as endless as your imagination, but the important point is that even though your minor characters may only make a brief appearance, they still need to come alive in your readers' imagination.

The way to make your less important characters stand out is to give them some memorable detail. When you introduce them, describe fully at least one aspect of their appearance  - a flamboyant way of dressing, a lob sided smile or corkscrew curls -  something which helps the reader recognise them when they reappear.

Charles Dickens was a genius when it came to inventing vivid details for his minor characters. I still can’t hear the word humble without remembering Uriah Heap from David Copperfield and his phrase ‘ever so humble’. Giving your minor character an irritating repetitive phrase or verbal tick is another way to help readers remember them.

Readers identify with your main characters: their loves, hates, motivations - the adventures they have. However, being playful with your minor characters can add that extra dash of spice and flavour, creating a variety of characters in your  story.

Blogging Update
I received another ‘Very Inspiring Bloggers Award’ Yeah! This was from A. Long with the following fantastic comment: You are one of the writer's who keep the blog-sphere a beautiful place and I nominate you for this Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you! Thank you!

 inspiringblogger

So, as part of the conditions I’m displaying the award logo on my blog and linking it back to my nominator. A. Long: ajwrites57.blogspot.com/
Please check out my nominees – also part of the conditions for receiving the award which I'm choosing only from the  + communities I subscribe to, because I want to support the aspiring as well as the inspiring :

Adrianna Joleigh:  adriannajoleigh.com/
Alana Munro: alanamunroauthor.com/
Taylor Lavati: thecursebooks.blogspot.co.uk
BV Bharati: howtowriteagreatnovel.blogspot.in/
Christine Campbell: Christine Campbell
Glendon Perkins: Glendon Perkins Blogger.
Carson Craig: CarsonCraig.com
Lois Xenakis: Lois Xenakis
Vashti Q: Vashti's Blog
Phil Simkin: 1455bookcompany
Buzz Malone:buzzmalone.blogspot.com/ 
Stephanie Weisend: Buzz
 
Well done everybody!
(P.S. Apologies if the links all look different - and if they don't work, please look them up! Yes, technically challenged is my only excuse...) 

Today’s Haiku
RESTAURANT HAIKU:
children’s sopranos
cutlery percussion lace
parental chitchat

(From 'Gold Dragon Haiku')

Reading Recommendations:

http//amzn.to/18SbSaG   Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry. 

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.



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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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