I love my iPod. Sometime last year I got the crazy idea that every good writer needed an iPod. I am now a good writer, because I finally bought one. My life is now complete. You’ve seen me write about it before; writing and music go hand in hand. Writing and music are like peanut butter and jelly. Cake and ice cream. Fish sticks and custard. Yes, I know all of those analogies are about food… The great (a great) thing about iPods is the playlist section. I can make playlists for all the stories I am writing. It’s like a personalized soundtrack. I love it! I now have a playlist of songs I use when I am writing medieval/fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Enya, and Celtic music.) And surreal fantasy/science-fiction (Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri, Everything at Once by Lenka, and If I Die Young by The Band Perry.) I’m working on building playlists for when I write super hero stories, mysteries, comedy, and romance. It’s so much fun writing with music! Do you have a playlist for when you write? Or certain songs for certain stories you are working on?
My favorite song is Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfeild, an entire song about writing!
Camping; that sweet expedition into the cool of the forest on a mission to relax. Nature, fresh air, all the time in the world. And then there’s me, sitting at the picnic table on the laptop with earbuds in typing away furiously on a story. All the retired camper couples sniff their noses at me and my generation. But they don’t get it. I bet all you writers out there do. To sit in the fresh air and be unimpeded by work, school, to-do-lists, stress – and just write. There’s hardly anything like it in the world. A writer’s retreat. Just you, your writings, and… okay, just you and your writings. No internet. No television. No cell phone! (All right, I give in – no cell phone except for in case of emergencies. OMG texts from your friends don’t count as emergencies.) Sounds great, doesn’t it? But there is the trouble of making time to actually do it… sometime soon, or I might go insane! Do you have any special memories of a writer’s retreat? Or just your own retreat into writing?
When you are a writer, there is almost no joy in the world like sharing your gift with others. You want everyone to have a chance to read what you write. With that comes the terrifying ‘what will they think of it?’ feeling. That’s why writer’s groups are so great! In writer’s groups you can share, critique, and learn. Learning to take advice from writers helps make your work better, and helps you with writers who ask for your advice. With the help of other writers, you will want to share more, and you won’t be as terrified of what people think of your writings. Hanging out with writers in real life or online can really help you grow as a writer. Here are the links to some writer’s forums. They are all really great and have threads to discuss writings – both your own and other’s.
‘An archetype is a universally understood symbol, term, statement, or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated.’ – Wikipedia. Or, in layman’s terms, an archetype is the identifiable form of a character that can be recognized any story. Some archetypes are the willing hero (think Hercules), the unwilling hero (that’s Bilbo Baggins), and the loner hero (Indiana Jones). Granted, those are just different archetypes of heroes. I love watching a movie or reading a book and trying to place archetypes. One of my favorite archetypes, that I have seen in a movie recently, is the threshold guardian archetype. The threshold guardian is ‘a character who poses an obstacle to the hero at a transitional point in the story (such as a gatekeeper). In classic myths, the guardian often required the Hero to answer a riddle, or even to fight the guardian before proceeding on his journey. When the Hero passes the Guardian and crosses the threshold, he’s achieved a significant point of growth.’ In the movie Star Dust, there is a wall separating two lands (magic and non-magic), and there is a break in that wall, which is guarded by an old man to make sure no one crosses. Of course, the protagonist crosses the wall, but only after encountering the guard, and at one point even having to fight him. A classic archetype! I love it! Many authors will try to stay away from archetypes, not wanting to have die-cut characters. Archetypes go beyond just that, and if you look, you will find archetypes everywhere.
Here is another quote from Steven Moffat that goes a bit more in depth: ‘I can’t see what’s wrong about assuming intelligence in your audience and what’s bad news about being rewarded for assuming that.’ – Steven Moffat. Have you ever been reading a book where the writer goes into such painstaking detail to describe what is going on or the emotions of the character, and you’re left going, ‘Please, I’m not an idiot! I get what’s going on!’ Yep. That’s what Steven Moffat warns against. As a writer, it can be easy to forget the reader is smarter than you might think. It takes so much time and energy to come up with a scene, we want to share with the reader everything we see and feel and came up with. But they don’t need all that information, because they will figure it out. So no more scene like ‘She rolled her eyes, “Oh? Really? I never would have guessed…” she said sarcastically.’ Yep, nope, that doesn’t work. So repeat this mantra, ‘The reader is smart. The reader will figure it out. The reader is smart. The reader will figure it out.’ Be like Moffat, assume your reader is smart, because you want smart readers, don’t you?
The study of words and their meanings is called etymology. Not to be confused with entomology, the study of insects (a mistake I have made several times.) Names and their meanings are critically important to any story; they bring life, profound meanings, and can make it memorable. There is a plethora of books ready to lend aid, not to mention websites. Working on names in my stories is one of my favorite aspects of writing. I could name a beautiful mermaid Genevieve, which means ‘White Wave’. There could be a dark, mysterious prince named Donald, which means ‘Dark Stranger.’ The names of people and the names of places can be so pivotal to a story, so don not take them too lightly! The intricate detail of meaning names add to your characters and places will brighten your story.
In medias res or medias in res (into the middle of things) is a Latin phrase for the literary and artistic narrative technique where the relating of a story begins at the midpoint, rather than at the beginning (cf. ab ovo, ab initio), establishing setting, character, and conflict … The main advantage of in medias res is to open the story with dramatic action rather than exposition which sets up the characters and situation. –Wikipedia, In Media Res.
The first stories that come to mind when I think of the phrase ‘In Media Res’, are the Iliad and the Odyssey. This literary tactic isn’t just for epic, Greek poetry; it can be applied to any story. Many agents/publishers have sent back manuscripts saying to cut the first several chapters so the beginning of the story has all the needed action and drama. I know this can be hard, because I like writing those chapters of background. Just because that is what I like to write, doesn’t mean that is what others want to read. Besides, what is the fun of learning everything there is to know about a character at the beginning, instead of unraveling the protagonist’s mysterious back-story while the plot unfolds? So next time you start a story, think about writing it ‘in media res’, to heighten the action, drama, and intrigue.