Writing Is Hard, Sometimes

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Writing is hard. This sentiment repeats itself over writing posts everywhere.

Why is it so? I reflected on this notion and came to realize that it’s not a correct universal statement.

It should read: “Writing is hard, sometimes.”

There are times when you the writer knows what’s in your head, you understand the scene that you want to share, and the words just flow. That’s a great experience, and any writer feels a sense of catharsis, a physical release, and satisfaction. Even though we know, we’ll probably have to rewrite it and spruce it up a bit later; these moments can keep us motivated.

The writing becomes difficult when we face a scene that we need to write, and we don’t want to relive that experience for personal reasons. I ran into this the other day, so let me share my experience.

I have a scene in my new WIP, In The Woods, where my protagonist, Samantha, meets up with an old friend, Zach. Big deal, right. Well, it was tedious to write because the character’s mindset is so far from my own.

You see, I’ve been happily married for over thirty years. To write with the correct mindset of Samantha, I had to remember what it feels like to confront a person whom I’ve admired in the past, held a torch for, and was crushed by the breakup. Not only that, but Samantha was hurt to the point where her character had no other love interests since.

samanthaThe protagonist’s entire sense of trust had been depleted when the man she was infatuated with had left her hometown. Now he walks into her life again, and feelings are stirred. Add the conflict of Samantha having to work side by side with this guy.

Yes, most of us have experienced unrequited love, but do you remember how it felt? Can you spill the right tension onto the page?

Thank goodness I have a dependable memory and also have counseled many broken hearts over the years. I pulled in those real life stories and used them. I found it uncomfortable to go back there, into the thoughts of the past, things better left behind.

But the scene called for the emotional state of a young teenager, hurt and disillusioned, now a grown woman trying to come to terms with herself. I had to go there.

Situations like this scene are when the writing is hard work. We search our feelings even those out of our comfort zones and are willing to relive healed wounds and tap into the emotional drive needed to reach the momentum the scene demands.

Here are three things that may help any writer:

  • First, answer questions about your character’s motives as an objective onlooker.
  • Then let the character speak in their own voice, not your past, but their past.
  • Last, tap your own emotions to create a mood, but do not rewrite your own story.

I wonder, does anyone else want to share a scene they had a hard time writing? Please share and post your comment.

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kai Stachowiak

 

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The Things We Say: through a glass darkly

It’s funny how we repeat phrases often without thinking of where they came from or the context of the meaning. I noticed one such phrase recently

through a glass darkly“.

I had suggested to a reading group at BookLikes.com that we should read a book series called:

withintheglassdarklyWITHIN THE GLASS DARKLY by William Gareth Evans published in 2010.

It’s a Gothic tale based on characters introduced in 1872 by the author Joseph. T. Sheridan Le Fanu in his novella Carmilla which was included in his short story volume named In A Glass Darkly.

indexWhile searching for the original short story volume, so that I could read the story that inspired William and other authors, (even Bram Stoker’s Dracula was inspired by the story Carmilla),

I came across another novel Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen an historical fiction published in 2003.

In A Glass Darkly is also a short story written by Agatha Christieregatta_mystery – first published in 1939 by our favorite sleuth author

and now available in a collection, The Regatta Mystery and other stories .

I was curious of what else would turn up referencing glass darkly . . .

A few more strokes of the keys and I discovered poetry regarding this phrase as well. THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY is a poem by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. which you can read by clicking the link.

throughglassdarklyfilmThere was also a well received movie Through A Glass Darkly made in 1961

Directed by Ingmar Bergman, famous for his close up shots without movement of any  kind to magnify the intensity the character’s emotions, as well as the famous double face shot of two characters looking in opposite directions and never meeting each others POV unable to communicate or understand each other.

This is all heavy stuff and with so many people inspired through the ages, and in various art forms,  I decided to get to the crux of the matter.

Glass darkly is a term coined for a mirror.

mirrorMirrors have been around in one form or another for ages. Long ago people used a metal base like bronze to see their reflection and had to polish the metal vigilantly. Later forms were layered with glass tiles on top, but still the image was dark, thus glass darkly. Learn more about the history of mirrors here: The History of Mirror: Through A Glass, Darkly

The term was even referenced in the Bible, yes that long ago . . .

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

(1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)

Who knew!

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More Info:

Indie Wire The Essentials: The 15 Greatest Ingmar Bergman Films

through-a-glass-darkly“Through A Glass Darkly” (1961)

A slow and painful disintegration of a family vacationing at a summer home on the island of Fårö trying to cope with the deteriorating mental state of the family’s eldest daughter Karin who has suffered a nervous breakdown.

 

Within My World – Dracula, the musical

The musical is by Gareth Evans and Christopher J. Orton, with orchestrations by the noted British composer and producer, Ian Lynn.

Writing For Yourself – VIP ME

new-year-quotesA new year means new chances for us to create the stories we want to write, read, and share. Stories should make the reader feel and a good way to accomplish this is using the five basic senses, and then some.

The basic five senses are taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing.

Let’s add a few more ‘senses’ to the list: Vision, Imagination, Plot, Movement, Emotion.

These added senses are created when a writer uses the first five as building blocks and configure them to such a degree, that they transcend the reader to a new experience level.

VIP – ME! Check it out and see if you agree.

Vision, more than just the sense of sight, but a total new experience that expands a reader’s mind. The reader is moved to feel emotions by the scene set before them and is challenged to think. VISION / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:scottish-coast

When a scene is near the seashore we want to taste the sea water upon our drying lips, know that the waves are tossing the boats about, feel our stomachs churning and the wind blowing against our skin until we have goosebumps, smell the fish and seaweed, and hear the gulls squawking, blocking out every other around us. Vision refers to the entire experience that we can immerse the reader into . . . the reader will ask questions in order to learn more about the author’s vision.

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Photo by George Hodan

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Imagination, is needed when we introduce new places and situations to experience for the first time. A good story draws the reader into a room or a planet, but no matter the setting it will look fresh and is a place where the reader will be want to discover more. IMAGINATION / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:

Good stories have vivid settings and take the reader away from their daily lives into a realm so wonderful that they have to keep reading. When a scene is placed on a futuristic planet a reader will experience the taste of new foods that may be tough or squishy, the sky may have different colors and odd clouds, hills explored may have odd formed trees and rocks might feel soft instead of hard, the air is sulfuric or smells rancid because of the different black foliage with spiked rods instead of leaves, the wildlife may have eerie mating calls that fill the night with moaning sounds . . . the reader will be hooked into this new place, and open to experience the ideas you have to show them.

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Photo by linnaea mallette

Plot, is a map quest and the picking up of the clues crafted by the writer—the reader can actually catch the dropped comments, see the stained rug, taste the tainted food or wine. PLOT / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:

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Scenes build, one upon another, and the plotting is dribbled in between them, leading a reader to a new experience and surprise. A good story will let a character taste the tainted wine and spill it to avoid any subsequent unpleasantness—the reader will sense relief that the character isn’t dead (yet). Relevant objects are pieces that fit together in the end, allowing the reader to follow the trail while letting them touch the ornate ivory handle of the knife or feel the engraved markings of an antique jewel, objects that will be tied into a symbolic meaning when ‘The End’ is finally written. A good story allows cakes to burn and fill the house with thick smoke and allow the reader to smell the charred pan. Scenes can consist of boisterous crowds and be just as suspenseful when all noise suddenly stops! . . . A good story should always add a different twist to an old plot sequence to prevent boredom.

Movement, let the story roam and breath to discover more about the characters, and also reveal truths to the reader about themselves. It’s nothing a writer needs to do intentional, the smart reader will pick up the vibe and relate things to their own experiences. Allow achievement of goals and the ability to learn something new. MOVEMENT / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:run2007calendarphoto-resized

A story with movement will have the characters eating at the corner greasy spoon or running over hills to the next scene, they’ll see road signs and other people bustling about boarding trains and planes, often characters touch each other with hugs and kisses and a reader can relate to the scene through their previous love experiences. As characters flee a crowded market they may smell the fresh-baked bread from the open window of a bakery they just passed (who can’t relate to that smell), and they might hear whistles blowing, perhaps the police chasing the antagonist or the misunderstood protagonist . . . the reader will remain active mentally and kept on their toes with the momentum of the story scenes.

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Photo by kai-stachowiak

Emotion, allows the reader to be involved in the character’s lives and problems and swept away from their own daily life. Total reader investment is a good mark for any story and is usually an indication of a great suspense story. EMOTION / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:red-sky

A scene that takes the first five senses and transforms a reader into emotional investment is true success. Suppose the setting is the deep woods. A character could be all alone eating a leftover cheese sandwich with dry bread and tangy mustard spread all over, maybe upset because their significant other dumped them in the middle of nowhere. Okay, now we have an experience most of us can relate to and we’re there with them, angry with the person who just dumped them. Then  a shadow crosses the path and now everything else is forgotten. Of course the lunch is dropped to the ground that’s covered in dried pine needles and dark green ivy wrapping around the towering trees with rough dark bark. They’re spruce trees that fill the air with a deep pine scent, comforting the character until he/she smells smoke. Then the crackle of a fire draws near, raging closer at tremendous speed. All the five senses have been deployed but the emotions have ramped up from the every day to urgency . . .  a great story will move a reader to feel something, not only a little, but will get them to want to do something, vicariously through the characters.reading-a-book

This investment compels the reader to keep turning the page, to look for the resolution. They can empathize with or at least understand a character.

Progress of my next novel, IN THE WOODS, is going well. I’m going back to my writing boards and pulling together the experiences that my characters’ extra senses will use in my next story. I like the setting—the North East Kingdom of Vermont. It’s a suspense thriller with some supernatural elements added. I’m very excited about my new characters and hope they keep revealing themselves to me.

Until my next update, Keep reading – Keep writing!

Free Course for Writers Begins Soon

There are a slew of free courses out there that can help you advance your writing skills, as well as enhance other subjects that interest you, and can help deepen your writing.  They are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and most are available to you for free from top universities and colleges. There are many platforms used to deliver these online classes to you, some may be familiar to you:

Many more offerings are available  . . . additional sources and platforms are listed at the end of this post. Curious? then check them out.

UIWP

On October 11, 2016, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open a the new fiction writing course

How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women

Centered on female authorial voices and female literary characters, this online course will be offered completely free to all participants and will welcome writers of all genders. The course is using the  NovoEd platform

SIGN UP HERE

Other offerings you might want to check

MOOC (massive open online course):

Academic Earth – privately owned

Khan Academy – non-profit

Coursera – venture capital financed

NovoEd

Udacity – venture capital financed

edX – non-profit created by MIT and Harvard

iversity – mixed (free and paid) European based

Other platforms in USA:  Stanford Online, Canvas Network, Kadenze, POLHN

Platforms used in other countries:  UK platform: Future Learn  Australia platform: Open2Study, Open Learning  India: NPTEL, WizTQ  France: Open Classroom  Finland: Eliademy

 

Why MOOC?

OCW (Open Course Ware) platforms:

There are also Open Course Ware providers of course lessons created at universities and published for free via the Internet. Here are some universities that share the OCW concepts and may have their own educational streams (some on You Tube) as well as using existing platforms sited above.  thCALJYRTP

EZIndiebutton2 I hope you keep reading – keep writing – and remain curious.

Botanical Gardens Mixed With Art

It was amazing to see well-kept botanical gardens, displaying multiple plant life, mingled with the arts of glass blowing and Origami. Nature and Art are always a great source of inspiration for our writing.

Hello Friends,

last July I took a trip to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus Ohio with my husband, and daughter. It was amazing! I’d like to share some of the photos I took that day, before the weather changes completely. As the colder months draw near we can remember the warmth of summer through photography.

Tropical rooms, desert rooms and a butterfly conservatory –

Decorated with colored glass-work to emphasize the natural beauty of the plants and folded paper art. Origami is displayed beside nature. Small folded colorful cranes hang from the front ceiling. A room is designated to display more intricate folded pieces and mapped instructions hung on the wall for anyone ambitious enough to try the art of folding. Outside there are many paper masterpieces, as well, including three horses. The building is well kept inside and out and we enjoyed an entire day browsing inside and out.

Outside views

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The inside foliage ranged from tropical to desert . . .

A favorite of ours was the Butterfly Conservatory

I hope all my writer friends, and those who are curious, enjoy my pictures and are inspired to visit and support your local botanical gardens and wildlife conservatories. If you’re ever in the area stop by  Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus Ohio

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Keep Reading – Keep Writing!