Like a Mirage

*Not my original image

Well this first novel (Beyond the Southerly Weepers) is almost wrapped. I have two to three more chapters in total, and then I’ll be leaving the post-apocalyptic land of Cal behind for fresh waters. After this last chapter all that remains are two battles at two different locations, a talking monster, a betrayal, and a desperate dash to save a loved one… and then it’s done. It’s a little scary to think about.

I’ve got the next story almost ready. It’s in its’ embryonic stage at the moment, but it involves an alien abduction and a drug kingpin (female lead), and a plot to destroy the Earth. I won’t give away too much, but I’ve had so much fun envisioning her world. With any luck I can pull it off even a tenth of what I can see in my head.

Anyway, for those of you who have finished a project or are in the midst of their debut project here’s why I’m choosing to let Beyond the Southerly Weepers sit for awhile at its’s wrap.

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Transition and Effect

Through a writer's lens *not my original image

Through a writer’s lens
*not my original image

For the last couple days (Since Sunday truthfully) I’ve been preparing my chapter for this week’s NCN meeting last Monday. It was my day to read, and it was the first reading I had this semester. This is one of the most difficult transitions I have to make between break and the start of the semester.

During the summer I’m a writer, and during this time my group usually is impressed with the “improvement” to my writing. I’m able to become absorbed in my story in a way I’m not always capable of during the semester, because as a student I’ve got a thousand other things all vying for my attention.

Usually the quality of my writing dips at this point, especially for my first chapter written during the semester, but what I produced over the past two days actually surprised me. My characters were real, my world was alive with pulse and heart beat, and the danger was a constant and present threat. I went into the meeting wondering how I’d fair, and surprise-surprise NCN responded well to the chapter.

John even finally hit me with the gun I always unload on him when he finally said something along the lines of, “for a 10 page chapter this was a good show, the only thing I can tell you is that I’m not always clear on the connective tissues and how each individual story links up with the next.” Fair enough.

To you that might sound harsh, but a comment like that is music to my ears, because the chapters I write are starting to soar more often than they crash and burn. This is great news! If I can hold an audience for 10 pages, with a bit of work I think I can hold them for 300, and I never would have gotten to the place where I am this confident in my abilities if it weren’t for NCN.

So it seems I can write, and I can write well during the semester. I think what has made my writing flatline in the past during this “transition period” was my own mind. I was thinking oh man how can a juggle being a student and a writer at the same time, something has got to give. That’s a very negative outlook instead I should have been thinking, naw man you’ve got this! I’ve proved to myself that school doesn’t have to hinder my writing if I don’t let it… now the question remains if I can maintain this outlook.

Thanks for reading,

David

PS- About Orandamned. As you may have noticed I didn’t post a continuation of Orandamned this past Friday. I apologize. I was working on my latest chapter for NCN, and couldn’t change gears… I’m afraid I have a one track mind when it comes to storytelling. That being the case I’ll make it up to you guys this week. I’m in the middle of a deep edit for Orandamned (going through the chapters and polishing the story up one paragraph at a time) and when I’m finished I’ll begin writing a double length chapter that I’ll post this Friday. Thank you for your patience, thank you for reading, and thank you for listening. I appreciate it.

PPS- So what’s going on in your lives. If you’ve been paying attention you know a lot about me, but I don’t know you very well yet. If you feel like chatting hit me up in the comments below! Love to hear from you!

Goddamn Catharsis

Some things are worth the struggle (big hike to get here!)

Struggle is your password when crafting fiction, and I believe it. Struggle and adversity is what takes any character and makes them round, or triumphant, or even tragic. It is the stuff that challenges your characters, and poses for them the simplest of questions, are your motivations strong enough, do you have the resolve, is it still worth it? Without struggle we’d have no idea how far a character might have been willing to go to achieve their goals.

So how do we set up struggle? Well there are goals and obstacles. I think that’s a basic enough understanding. But what it comes down to, when you’re trying to make the achievement of one overarching goal feel like it fucking meant something, is avoiding instant or premature self gratification.

As writers, we have an end in mind. Some of us will have a clear picture in our heads of how things ought to shape up and where the pieces will fall at the final stroke of our pens, others of us might have a direction but prefer to wait and see what possibilities might be. Either way is fine, so long as your characters have had to struggle to get there.

In my early days with NCN I had some trouble with struggle. I had one ultimate goal for my cyborg to aim for, but as stated above I only had the most basic understanding of how story telling worked. Here I was trying to construct and sculpt a novel, and at the heart of my theory was the design, there are goals and there are obstacles preventing said goals from being achieved. That being the case I’d treat every chapter as if it were a mini story.

My characters would take the stage, a problem would arise, in the course of five to six pages they’d identify a solution, attempt said solution, run into a hitch, then pull through by the skin of their teeth. At the conclusion of every chapter my characters might make camp, roast some meat, tell stories, and call it a night… As you can see I had the basic idea, but I wasn’t giving myself or my theoretical readers any reason to continue on with the story.

It’s taken me a long time to understand this, but if you’re writing a novel or a longer story, it should take chapters worth of time for issues to come to a head and resolve. In the course of my own novel Thompson, the cyborg who is forced to flee his home with his family, ends up killing a female assassin who looks exactly like his eldest daughter and hunting partner… this puts a strain on their relationship, and these issues come to the surface quite a bit. Where they use to be close, there is now a wedge in-between them and this had been a conflict that has driven my novel writing group crazy. The issue will be resolved by the end of the novel, but for now it is a point of tension that will persist and intensify, because it dances on the knife-edge of one of my themes, united we stand.

This is something my characters have to grapple with for a long while, and it isn’t going away any time soon. How often in life do you run into an obstacle that is brushed aside and resolved in a week’s time? The answer is very little, and when they are they’re easily forgotten… where you remember the things that burdened you and stuck around to keep you company until you understood the meaning of the word loathing. And when those burdenful obstacles are finally gone, you celebrate, because goddamn it’s finally over! That’s what we’re trying to do in writing. It’s called catharsis, when your reader can take a deep breath and feel with every inch of their fibre and being, goddamn they finally did it, and in the end we (the readers) are moved.

Thank you for reading,

David

PS- I’d like to hear your thoughts on struggle and conflict. In your own writing what obstacles have you built that have been particularly effective, what could use some work? What authors IYO are exceptionally good at setting up prolonged conflict and struggle? Feel free to talk to me! 🙂

The Writer’s Journey

Cheers to all of you out there who work through the thick and thin to produce the best work of storytelling you can. We are of a single clan, and I salute you.

Cheers to all of you out there who work through the thick and thin to produce the best work of storytelling you can. We are of a single clan, and I salute you!

The Hero’s Journey is something all of us writer’s have heard at one time or another. Most often it is associated with an epic quest, one small Hobbit must journey forth into a great and dangerous world to try and effect what ever good he might, or one young woman must take her sister’s place in a high stakes game of death in order to protect her family and herself from what she views an ultimate tragedy. Yes, the hero’s journey isn’t going away anytime soon.

But how might a writer’s life mirror that epic quest proposed by Mr. Joseph Campbell? For myself, my departure into the world of storytelling and craft was two fold. When I was in third grade my mom and dad read the entirety of the Lord of the Rings out loud to me. This was before the movies came out, and they were both very good at voices. My dad was particularly good at bringing Gollum to life… To this day I’m sure Peter Jackson called my father at some point to ask for pointers on bringing the character to life!

The second half of my departure came much later. I’d gotten into music (I can rip on electric guitar if you’ll allow me to toot my own horn for the space of a line). In college I’d found the components of a band. The Living was comprised of a drummer and music major, another guitarist who knew quite a bit about music theory… and quite a bit less about how to work with others and how to compose music, and then there was myself, who believed in my naïveté that something like “The Power of Friendship” would see us through all odds and subsequently through the completion of the next great American record.

It took me less than a semester to realize how much time I was wasting. Ego is a hard thing to overcome in an individual, and it is a thousand fold harder to overcome in any group of 18 to 22 year old males. I think we would have had an easier time scaling Mt. Everest than trying to write a damn song. I was bitter coming out of that experience and recoiled into myself for about a year afterwards trying to figure out if I might have a shot at music as a singer/songwriter. Open mic nights are only gratifying for so long though, and in truth music has never had the same thrill as it did in high school and the first leg of my career in college when the sky was the limit and fucking anything was possible.

That’s when I started looking at writing again seriously. What did I like about music anyway? Well, my favorite songs told stories. Whether it be musically or lyrically my favorite songs had rising action, they climaxed, and they resolved with satisfaction. That is the love of a storyteller, and I tested my pen against my wit, producing a number of terrible short stories and loving every second of it… I’d found my wings once again.

My initiation was also twofold, but I’ve reached my limit for today. Let me say this, it involves one creative writing class which has without a doubt been a transformative force in my life, and Northern California Novelists (NCN). We’ll continue this little tale, and the exploration of the hero’s journey… and how it may just be the writer’s journey too, next time!

As always, thank you for reading,

David