Saturday, November 25, 2006


Jennifer Talty wrote a good piece about writer's voice on her blog. While it's true that many writers struggle to find the writing style that sets them apart from other writers, I think the bigger problem is that people try too hard to sound different. Every single person who writes to me, whether it's a note, letter or email sounds exactly the same on paper as they do in person. They're not worried about their "voice", they're simply using it. Instead of spending too much searching for the right feel, the right rhythm, the right combination of words, be yourself. If you're light and airy, write that way. Don't try to be something you're not. Be yourself. It's as true in writing as in life. It's the best way to be successful at what you do.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't look down

It's not just the title of a collaboration from Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, apparently it's my own personal philosophy.

I rarely look down. I didn't realize this until my friend had to keep pointing out stuff on the path that I was about to step on, like the raccoon. It wasn't until I was told to step aside that I realized the raccoon was dead. I was too busy looking up in the trees. My friend, on the other hand, didn't look up. Not much anyway. I was looking up or into the distance, seeing the big picture, trying to take everything in. My friend was focused on the path we walked, on what was right in front of us, on the details.

Between the two of us we managed to see both high and low, near and far.

We were talking about our writing the next day, specifically our characters and their evolutions. We discussed every little trick we've ever read about understanding them better; their goals, motivations and conflicts; their perceptions and they way they are perceived. I thought about our own walk in the park and how differently we experienced it. What of our characters? Did they see overviews or minutiae? Are they focused in the present, looking ahead to the future, or perhaps mired in the past? Do their viewpoints complement or conflict each other? How does it affect their relationship, the plot or story if their styles are the same?

I try to look down once in awhile to get a better sense of what's in front of me. Like my demon's wings, my hero's exuberance and the knotty branch blocking the path.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"She's a writer"

I went away last weekend with a couple of friends. I gathered enough information on that road trip for several blogs, more about that later, but one of the most interesting was that the phrase, "She's a writer" seemed to be the answer for every situation we encountered.

"How do you know each other?" - "She's a writer." I'm the writer in question and just for the record, I work with one girl and live with the other(no, not like that, sheesh). My relationships with them does make for some interesting situations but apart from this blog, none of them have ever ended up on any of my manuscript pages. Yet.

"Why didn't you fly?" - "She's a writer." The answer had more to do with cashflow, which, as we all know, is something with which writers struggle. My friend's answer was a more interesting response. The road trip provided us with sleep deprived giggles, the unforgettable image of a ghost deer leaping across the road in front of us, and the opportunity to brainstorm my story in the wee hours when everyone else slept.

"What do you want to do?" - "She's a writer." Apparently only the writer can make a freakin' decision. When in actuality, only the writer is looking at new and interesting situations for research purposes. In all fairness, the writer is the one who wanted the picture of the statue because it almost looked like her demon heroine. So that was a fair response.

When it comes right down to it the response to "What do you want to eat? Where do you want to go?" and "What did you purchase?" truly was "She's a writer." My characters, settings and situations are heavily influenced by my experiences, and vice versa. I can't separate my writing from my self. The need to put words to page are integral to my identity. Everything I say, do, think, and feel is guided by that truth.

Some of the questions may have been altered for storytelling purposes. :Shrug:
I am a writer.

Here's a photo of the not quite Nea statue. The body is right; the legs, wings and arms are not, but the statue has given me a lot to think about.

Monday, November 13, 2006 the details

Do you ever have a phrase stick in your head, minus an important word? No matter how hard you try to remember it, nothing sounds right. the details. I was fairly certain it had something to do with writing. For two days, I thought the missing word was beauty. The beauty's in the details. True enough when you're writing. Individual snowflakes, the light against the tree trunk, a crooked smile. Together those details layer a scene, really make it come alive. And I'm pretty sure I heard Bob Mayer say something similar in one of his talks with Jennifer Crusie. Although in Bob's case, I'm sure his details had more to do with the satisfying click from removing the safety on his glock.

But beauty didn't flow quite right. It didn't have the proper rhythm for that phrase. I tried clarity. Details provide a great deal of clarity. The shimmery wings on my character's back are an important detail about her appearance that provide some clarity to her identity. She's definitely not human but that detail takes it another step further.
Demons have wings, nymphs don't. The clarity is in the details.

Still not right. Serenity in the details? Essence in the details? Confusion in the details? After awhile every single word I tried had a strong arguement for why it was essential to the details. The details started to overwhelm the phrase with their own ideas of what they did, where they belonged. I dragged other people into my internal discussion. I like to share the insanity.

A friend suggested that the devil was in the details. My initial reaction was hey, just because we're talking about demons....But then the more we played with the phrase the more sense it made. It sounded familiar. But it didn't sound like a writing phrase. I suppose those details can be devilish to describe. But don't beauty and clarity make better sense? Not just from a writing standpoint but from a position of truth. Of course Google proved my friend right.

But I like beauty. And clarity. And serenity.
What about you? What do your details enhance?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

First Kiss

I discovered tonight that one of the reasons I can't write at my parents' is it makes me uncomfortable to be thinking erotic thoughts while my mom is in the other room. She laughed at me but really I couldn't do it. There is a lot more to my wip than sex but right now that’s what the characters and I are dealing with. And that’s something I just don’t want to be thinking about at my parents’ house. Yeah, I know where I came from and what a wonderful night that was for them but some things are better left undiscussed. And for the record, I feel slightly weird writing those scenes with anyone else in the room.

Then Mom asked me about writing kisses. She’s going great guns on her NaNoWriMo entry. The love scenes are slowing her up, so I guess I’m not the only one with the squee factor. She wrote, "They kissed passionately, ardently." And I said, "Show that". Which is where it got weird. She wanted examples. I wouldn't give her any. I suggested she do some reading, perhaps ask herself questions. How did it feel, physically and emotionally? What did they taste like? What physiological response did the characters have to said kisses? Did they want more, less? Did the kisses drive all other thoughts out of their minds?

I've been thinking about kisses for awhile. They are so huge both in real life and fiction. The first one has to be almost perfect. And if it's not, in fiction there better be something that makes the hero and heroine try it again. Every kiss means something. The first kiss, a kiss of anticipation and anxiety can taste like fear, or panic, even be over-eager, too worried about making a good impression to actually do so. Or the lead up that draws out the moment; breath mingling as mouths slowly come together, feather light touch of lips. Kisses can say so much.

So, Mom, I’m sorry I wasn’t forthcoming last night. This blog is an attempt to make it up to you. Just don’t read it while I’m in the room.

Here’s an example of a first kiss from Heaven Coming Down. Not a lot of description, mostly introspection but I think it sets up the situation between the hero and heroine. In the end, it is their kiss that saves the world so the first kiss needs to hint at that, even though poor Ki-ennu has no idea what he’s gotten into.

He could only think of one way to stop her from speaking.

Ki-ennu tightened his fingers in Gabriela’s braid, pulled her in close, and kissed her.

Her lips were smooth and sweet like the tender inside of a freshly peeled orange. He should have guessed that her tough exterior and acidic tongue would harbor such gentleness. Nothing with Gabriela was as it initially appeared.

Her hands came up to grasp his forearms, whether to push him away or draw him closer was unclear. Gabriela moaned.

The sound changed the tone of the kiss. Flipped a switch inside him as emotion took over from practicality. What had started as a way to prevent her from repeating the spell shifted to relief.

She could have died.
If her grip on the tree trunk had slipped, Gabriela would have fallen, impaled on a tree branch. It would have been an excruciating death. Her loss would be devastating, not only to the Quest, but to himself.
Ki-ennu pulled her in closer, tightened his grip as his tongue sought to banish the taste of fear from them both. He would shield her from harm, use his own body to keep Pzuzu at bay.
Her hands slid up his arms in a caress. Her mouth opened and Ki-ennu felt the kiss change again.
Gabriela pressed herself into him. She wound her arms around his waist, hooked her leg over his calf. She did not cling, nor devour, but met him head on, an equal exchange of passion and energy.
It was a kiss unlike any other.
With a woman unlike any other.
If this was how humans kissed, no wonder Inanna had been willing to forgo her throne for one. His mother’s sacrifices to be with a human suddenly made more sense.
Another moan, only this one came from him.
Stunned at the display of emotion she wrung from him, Ki-ennu wrenched himself free.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Perceptions, perspective and POV

As people prepare for NaNoWriMo, the writing challenge that encourages you to write 50,000 words in a month, I have been engaged in an unusally high volume of writing discussions. Despite the fact that I am neither published nor taking part in NaNoWriMo.

The recurring theme has been point-of-view. How to be a POV purist, head-hopping and how to know the best POV to be in for each scene. We even discussed what POV is. POV in movies, books, scenes; POV from the hero, the heroine, the villain, the antagonist and the dog. I even dreamed in someone else's POV the other night.

So you would think that I'd be a little more cognizant of the fact that not everyone shares my POV. But I don't think that's the problem. The issue is that not everyone has my life experiences, nor I theirs. It's a good thing because it helps us to learn more about life than we possibly could all on our own.

My perception of events is coloured by my previous experiences. Like Pavlov's dogs, I expect certain things to happen when I slam the door on my hand. Screaming, swearing, discoloration; stuff like that. I don't necessarily have to have experienced that previously to know it's going to hurt but it helps me be more cautious if the pain has been mine, not observed.

If I'm standing off to the side and watching someone slam the door on their hand, I'm naturally going to relay that experience somewhat differently than if it is my hand turning purple. I might even be able to forget about it as the day goes on. it was a minor incident that had little or no impact on me, other than to extract a moment of sympathy. It's not my hand throbbing and turning a kaleidiscope of colour, constantly reminding me every time I try to execute a simple task that I slammed the appendage in the door.

Both perspectives are valid. Whichever one you choose to write from will reflect that character's perception of what happened. The observor may view the experience as an unfortunate incident, forget about it and move on. Or they perceive the whole thing to be the fault of the person who wasn't paying enough attention to the way the door swung. How does the other character react? Was it the door's fault? Were they too distracted to notice the door? Are they grateful this now gets them out of a week's worth of chores? Is it preventing them from something they really wanted to do?

Did you notice how I shifted from first person to third? Did it jar you? POV shifts are important. When they're done well, you never notice. When they're done poorly, it can make you seasick from all the head-hopping.

Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo. It's a great challenge. I'm sure you're up to it. That's my perception and I'm sticking with it.