My Muse Moves in Mysterious Ways

Yopps CemetaryYopp’s Meeting House is the oldest church in my town.  It is also the site of the only segregated cemetery in our little community.  It should come as no surprise that the “white” section covers about three-quarters of the cemetery.  It encompasses the front of the property,wraps around to the right and extends to the back.  The “black” section is located in the left rear corner.   It’s covered with shade trees and it’s the only place in the cemetery where you can hear the creek.

As I walked through the cemetery, I stopped periodically to read the headstones. 100_1118I found Charlotte in the segregated section.  She was about born in 1895 and died in 1905.  My first thought was to wonder what had happened to her. Had she been sick?  Was she the victim of a tragic accident?  My thoughts moved from how she died to how she lived…  I wondered about the little girl she must have been.  How did she fill her days?  Did she have a favorite doll?  Was she scared of the dark?  In my mind’s eye, I could see her, wearing a light blue dress, chasing a butterfly across a field, her laughter ringing in the air.

 

100_1125In the “white” section, I found E.A.R.’s headstone. Surrounded by markers much more eloquent, this stone squeezed at my heart.  Who was E?  Male or female?  What was he/she like?  I wondered at the family’s circumstances, marking their loved one’s grave with such a humble stone.  I imagined an old man, bent from long days toiling in the sun, lovingly preparing a marker for his spouse.

Cemeteries aren’t usually on my list of places to visit.  In fact, the only reason I stopped by today was to get pictures of tombstones.  My family is working on our Halloween decorations and part of our front yard will be a cemetery, complete with the Grim Reaper and an open coffin.  (I know, you’re breathing a sigh of relief that we aren’t neighbors!)   Anyway – there I was, intent on getting pictures of various stones when my muse did her thing…  Grave markers became people and those people had stories to tell!

So, where were you when inspiration struck?

 

 

 

 

 

Because Dreams Aren’t Enough

Life is choices. It’s that simple. It is the little choices we make each day that shape our lives. While we have different struggles and concerns, at the end of the day, we decide what actions we will take to overcome the obstacles before us.

Like many other writers, writing isn’t my day job. While I have a good job, it doesn’t feed my creative side. You might be able to relate. In a perfect world, I’d be sitting at my desk writing novels instead of typing log notes.

I was on Facebook the other day when I came across a video of Denzel Washington talking to a group of students. (Here’s the link if your interested in viewing: http://youtu.be/O0mUqEa7XnM ) He talked about dreams and goals, discipline and consistency.  These are some of the same things we’ve probably all said to our children – maybe not in the same words – but with the same intents.

I wondered why I haven’t been applying this to my dream of being a full-time writer.  And I think I know the answer – I lacked discipline.  The choices I was making reflected this.

WP_20140921_006I looked at my writing space. Unlike my desk at work, my “writing” area wasn’t  organized.  I had notes laying haphazardly around.  Nothing was easy to find.  This was a problem.  If I could stay organized for my day job, then certainly,  my dream job deserved the same level of professionalism.

 

My day job requires that I work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, five days a week, for a total of forty hours.  Like you, I come home, cook dinner and do a variety of other things. I might sit down and watch a television, maybe do a little social media stuff – stop by a google + community, spend a little time on twitter, etc. The thing is nothing was set in stone, not like my day job.  This was an area I needed to improve. I worked out a schedule that limited the amount of time I was being “social,” included a period for exercise, and allotted time to work on my WIP.

I decided I needed to set some goals in regards to my latest story:  things like a weekly word count and an estimated time to completion.  With a completion date selected, I’m more consistent with my writing because I’m focused on my goal.

So, this is what’s been going on with me.  I’m always looking for ideas for better utilizing my time.  If you have any tips, please feel free to share.

Making Our Make-Believe Believable

I’ll admit it. As a child, I saw monsters in the bathroom and heard wild animals outside my bedroom window. I loved watching Scooby-Doo on Saturday mornings and as I laid in bed on Saturday night, I was sure that a goblin or witch was hiding in my closet or under the bed. Some might say I had an overactive imagination. Others might think I still do.

Imagination is the portal that carries us to other places – whether an imaginary realm, a fictional city, or a table at your favorite café. It introduces us to characters – knights, fairies, detectives, and the girl next door.

As writers, we want to tell stories that our readers will want to believe. Just as the laws of nature are constant in the real world, we must set rules and parameters for our fictional world and we must hold true to those rules. Those rules will serve as a sort of litmus test when considering the actions of our characters and the elements of the setting. It is the consistency of the story’s components that makes it work.

Character assessments are critical. Each writer has their own way of learning about the characters in their story. Some may draw character webs. Others may interview the characters. The important thing is to use the information as building blocks during development and as a reminder of the character’s attributes as the story progresses. For example: If I’m writing about a middle-aged woman named Rose who is an activist with the anti-gun lobby and the only witness to a mob hit, I’m probably not going to have her choose to carry a gun. Why? Because I’m not sure that’s believable. Would Rose be comfortable toting a Glock in her handbag? Would she know how to load the weapon? Or how to use it? Maybe not. However, I might give Rose a can of pepper spray. She may choose to wear a pair of good running shoes or hire a body-guard.

We can apply the same reasoning to our imaginary places. If the leaves of a great oak tree are purple then they should stay purple. If an ogre is immune to magic, than no matter how tempting, the ogre should stay immune.

By obeying the rules we’ve set, we enable our story to progress. Ignoring the rules will cause our stories to stray into the unbelievable.