Archive for August, 2013
I’ve built a world, I have a concept, I have a basic outline of the story arc of the novel. Now, a huge question has arisen: where do I start?
Yesterday, I wrote about creating a world. It’s one I’ve been working on for quite a while, building details, considering values and belief systems; where people live and work… all sorts of fun stuff.
Now that I have the stage set, so to speak, it’s time to decide where to pick up the tale. Many say start in the middle, as it’s more exciting. Some say start at the beginning and none say start at the end (unless we want an entire book of flashback. Uh, NO.)
So, I asked Frank.
“Frank,” I said, staring at my invisible reader who’d parked himself in a different chair this particular morning. He was drinking a new brand of coffee I’d ground. One found in a local bookstore of all places. Sporting a Texas Rangers ballcap, too.
“Where do you want me to start?”
He leaned back in the chair, lifting the front legs off the ground. Just like we were told NOT to do as kids. “Well, ole pal,” he said. “Start where it’s excitin’. I like things to start off with a bang, ya know?”
I nodded, sipping my own coffee. Not bad, I thought. Nice, dark flavor. Bold. “Where it’s exciting, eh?”
“Ayup,” he said. “That’s what I said.”
“Also,” he said, lifting a finger. “Somewhere near that tippin’ point you and your coach talked about.” He nodded. “Yea, somewhere in there there sounds about right.”
“Tipping point,” I said, reaching for my pen. Ideas were filling my mind about where this was. “I see. You don’t want to read any back-story before hand? Might help set the stage for this tipping point you mentioned.”
“Nah, man,” he said, dropping the legs of his chair back to the deck with a metallic thud. “I’ll get bored. You want my attention, don’t ya?”
“Of course,” I replied, opening the black, leather-bond journal where my book was being written. The first of many such books, I hope. “What about right after the scene’s major action but before the ritual?”
Frank scrunched his mouth and cocked his head. “Not sure,” he said. “Why not start writin’ and I’ll tell ya what I think. Fair?”
“Fair,” I said, nodding. The words were there, the scene in place and before I knew it, I was in the room with my characters. Frank had given his approval and that’s all I needed to start.
Thanks, Frank. Enjoy the coffee!
One major thing I’ve learned about writing a story based in a fantastical world that only exists in my mind is this: it’s a wee bit harder than one might imagine.
I have characters doing things, having adventures – living in places. But where do they exist? Having a mental image is one thing, describing it is another – as the description leads to questions, which in turn ask, “why?”
Why are the houses built this way, why does my main character travel in this fashion, wear these types of clothing – perform these sort of jobs? Having a generic ‘idea’ of a place is nowhere close to having understanding.
Without understanding, the setting cannot be real to Frank. And if it ain’t real to Frank, he’s moving on to someone else.
So, it’s time to build the world.
Where does one start with world creation? A giant space factory like in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? ::Shrug:: Sorry, Frank, I don’t have the funds for such a venture. Only my backyard, a cup of coffee and pen.
People act in certain ways based upon values and beliefs. I know this as a coach. I work with people everyday around these things – linking values to desired outcomes to generate motivation and success. In NLP, we deal with belief systems, especially limiting beliefs (Some call gremlins) and how they might be overcome by replacing them with new neurology around the belief.
The events happening in our world today, the reason things exist in the manner that they do is because of beliefs systems. Countries are in place because of beliefs in certain types of governments. Same with religion. All based upon belief systems we choose to see as truth.
So, that is where my morning started. Frank’s attention was certainly captured, as there’s plenty of rich and juicy details within belief systems. He sat in his chair, leaning back while drinking his coffee – watching with rapt attention as I went about my work.
And, like a trickle of clear, clean water from a mountain spring, the ideas poured forth and the world came into focus.
Here’s to the brave, new world. May it’s richness bring reward and excitement to her explorers.
There’s something very soothing about writing in the rain – so long as it’s under cover and your book stays dry. Yep, I write long hand – even use a fountain pen. Ever since college, I’ve valued the written word. Not the typed word, I’m horrible at that (necessary evil, I know). No, I mean writing words onto paper.
Which is how I write.
When I was in architecture school, one the professors said that, “magic occurred between the pen and the paper (no pencil allowed – no erasing, either) like the moment of creation depicted atop the Sistine Chapel – the near touch between Adam and God’s fingertips.”
I’ve never forgotten that lesson; a passing moment in a lifetime of learning.
Writing words to paper, especially using a pen, opens your mind & soul to freely express itself onto the paper. The world spills forth as ink and ideas become reality. No need to understand what’s written. That’ll come later.
In fact, if any were to attempt a reading from my journal, they’d need a translator for the run-on sentences, the scribbles resembling words. Funny to see. Yet, it’s creation at it’s best: pure, unfiltered by spellcheck and still in existence from lack of a ‘delete’ button.
Day 3 is in the book – literally. Great progress and the world is coming together. It’s an amazing adventure and doing so in the rain makes it even better – like words dripping from the pen to paper. Creation.
Good morning. Day TWO of the journey and one I’m proud to say was quite productive. Building a fantasy world is challenging to say the least, so I developed an alternative. Instead of creating it, I am simply exploring it. By starting with belief systems around the mythology and magic, I’ve been able to make my way through it quite well.
However, today’s post is NOT about the world, but about something VERY important: My ideal reader.
I read an article recently that talked about visualizing one’s ideal reader. The author said she wrote 9 books before she did this. Then, after seeing exactly who this person was (looks, mannerisms, clothes they wore, etc) she wrote her book.
The result? Best Seller and even sold the screen rights.
Mine’s named Frank. He sits opposite me each morning as I write, sipping coffee at the same patio table (coffee I made, by the way), kicked back and watching – leaning in close if something catches his attention. He’s in his late 30’s, professional and likes to have fun. Likes baseball, too. Sometimes, he’s wearing a ball cap, other times not. Golf shirt, jeans and cowboy boots most times.
He has kids, too. Younger ones, maybe eight years old or so. Married and striving for a better life. It’s why he reads, to escape into fantastical worlds where heroes appear from all walks of life – places he remembers visiting in his youth, when imagination ruled the day.
He wants to read something magical & exciting, something he can share with his kids as they grow up. He doesn’t mind shedding tears and in fact, appreciates a book that can manage that. He invests his emotional energy into the books he reads and wants the same in this one he’s helping to create.
Nice guy, Frank. But when he gets bored, he’s gone and my writing morning is over. I can always tell, too. My mind drifts, I lose focus and a slight, heavy feeling fills my head. Thanks, Frank! Glad you stopped by. I’ll see ya next time, perhaps with a Costa Rica blend waiting for you.
Frank, Meet Stephen
Sunlight peeked through the dew-moistened firs, sparkling inside the watery crystals with its early morning fire. Birds flittered among the branches, warbling and chattering to one another in their musical, high-pitched voices – discussing the prospects for morning food; perhaps even a new mate.
It was a typical summer morning in one of Vancouver’s many backyards, one filled with flowers, evergreens and tomatoes – even an emerging writer and his audience of one.
“Tell me Stephen,” the man said, leaning back in his chair while sipping coffee from a blue pottery mug. “What are ya writing about today? Something good, I hope. You know how I like to stay entertained.”
“Of course it’s good,” Stephen replied, placing his leather-bound journal atop the patio table and pulling up a cushioned, metal chair. Sitting, he flipped the book open to a ribbon-flagged page and lifted a white Lamy fountain pen in his right hand. “Do I ever let you down, Frank?”
Frank shrugged and sipped his coffee. “Not yet,” he said. “But there’s always a first time.” As Stephen put pen to paper, Frank leaned forward, his boots scuffling the wooden deck with sliding thumps. The man peered into Stephen’s journal and nodded – his navy blue golf shirt just missing a spot of water left behind by late night drizzle.
“Do you mind?” Stephen said, looking up as Frank brushed back brown bangs from his deep, blue eyes. “I’m trying to write, Frank.”
“I know,” Frank said. “Just wanted to see where you were.” The man grinned, meeting Stephen’s eyes. “I like this part the best; so far, anyway. Do you think he’ll find the truth?” Potted flowers behind Frank fluttered in the morning breeze, rustling the pages of Stephen’s journal.
“He won’t if I can’t write it,” Stephen said, his mouth tilting into a smirk as the breeze ruffled his hair. Opening his arms, Stephen leaned back in his arm chair. “Can I continue or do you have more questions for me?” Copying Stephen’s motion, Frank reached for his coffee and hoisted it in a salute. “By all means, my boy,” he said. “Get to it. I need to stay entertained or I’ll leave and find someone else to make me smile.”
“Good,” Stephen stated. “Now, drink your coffee and let me work. Olga’s expecting some progress by Monday. I need to get immersed if I’m to finish on time.”
“As do I, Stephen,” Frank whispered, crossing his legs while drinking. He watched Stephen work, a smile gracing his face that spoke of fascination and intrigue. “As do I.”
Today is the day!
At 6:30am pacific time, I embarked on the long dreamed of adventure of writing a novel. For years, I’ve posted into fantasy fan fiction forums, written short stories (even entered them into competitions) and filled notebooks full of various ideas. In other words, I’ve played around with the idea of being a writer, yet never really set sail toward a true destination. I would say that posting well over 200,000 words of fantasy fan fiction qualifies as being a writer, so I will say I am one. However, writing a book and being dedicated to doing so is a different quest altogether.
Let me back up a moment and speak about how I got to where I am today.
I’m a professionally trained Life Coach. I provide support, guidance and confidence for those seeking new and/or fulfilling careers. I tend to work with those more in the creative endeavors and have found myself attracting new and emerging writers – those who feel they have a book inside just WAITING to get out. What fun they are, new writers. My coaching style stays away from the critical aspects and focuses more on insights into development, staying focused, moving forward and maintaining the discipline needed to see the project through.
In other words, I remain completely neutral and leave the creativity to the writer. Oh, yes. I certainly help with creativity – that’s the fuel from coaching. I just don’t critique and many times, don’t even know what the plot is.
It’s a challenge and my curiosity is always peeked. However, in order to see my clients reach their goal of a completed book, it’s hugely important that I hold the space for them to create and keep them engaged with open-ended, value-based questions.
So, back to today. 😀
I hired a coach myself. Sure, I know the value and, as one of my clients told me, “I don’t know how anyone new could ever write a book without having a coach to keep them on the path.” Well, I listened and found a fantastic one to work with.
So, this morning, I gathered all of my notes, strode out onto the patio – journal in one hand, coffee in another and began to write.
Tally Ho! and Off We Go! Here’s to the Journey of a Thousand Pages.
Stephen R. Gann – Life Coach and Emerging Fantasy Author