A to Z Challenge

Zoning out #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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ZZoning out 

Today’s letter was always going to be a challenge (though I’m thrilled I made it to the end) because zoning out isn’t exclusive to writers. Our minds wander, it’s just the way it is. Sometimes we zone out by choice, by necessity, or because we don’t even realise we’re doing it. 

I’m a dreamer by nature so, writing brain aside, my mind often drifts! My dad used to call me square eyes, a moniker I earned because of how often I used to lose myself in a television show. Though, since I inherited that particularly trait from him…pot meet kettle.  

There are times when it’s not always safe to allow my thoughts to drift. Like zoning out in the driver’s seat and being forced to listen to an active conversation between the characters in my head. I tend to play music or make a point of noticing the potential hazards in front of me – a trick I learned to switch mental gears. 

Even when I began to write this post my mind started to wander, or perhaps I should say one of my characters decided he could provide an excellent example and, yep, total zone out. 

So, I’m going to end with a brief scene, a snapshot that wouldn’t stop looping in my brain until I wrote it down. 

Justin felt a thread pull on his subconscious. He started to follow it, and then caught the pretty, sweet scent of jasmine and his thoughts changed direction. Images bombarded his mind; silky red hair, fire shooting from ice-blue eyes and smooth dark skin he knew would feel divine against his.   

He took a deep breath, the smell of leather invading his senses. The images scattered again, a memory filtering through, one of heat and pain, and a mortal wound to his pride. 

This time, he followed the thread, or he started to. Something wet and warm against his lips finished the job. It was accompanied by a smacking sound that slapped his senses right back into him. 

Scowling, he eyed his two co-workers, Suez and JJ, who were staring back at him with twin expressions of amusement. 

“Welcome back, kid,” JJ said, letting loose his grin. 

Justin ignored him and turned to Suzannah. “Please tell me you’re the one who kissed me.” 

“I can’t believe you would insult me when I’ve just done my best work,” she said, her gaze dropping to his chest. 

He looked down to the row of neat stitches across his shoulder, evidence that he should have kept his mind on the road. If it hadn’t been for his leathers, he would have required a lot more than Suzannah’s fair hand. 

When he glanced back up, JJ was making a kissy face at him. “Come on, sweet cheeks. You’re good as new,” he said, patting Justin on the head. 

Moving in a fluid motion, and ignoring the pull on his stitches, Justin dodged the hand and leaned in to peck Suzie on the cheek. “You rock, Suez.” 

The delightful sound of her laughter followed him across the room. But she wasn’t amused by his words, or by the fact he was chasing JJ across command central. No, she roared her amusement the moment Justin came to an abrupt stop, like he’d hit a wall, instead of caught sight of her new assistant. 

Damn, the fiery red head is going to kill me. Nodding in her direction, as though he hadn’t made a complete fool out of himself, he dashed after JJ, determined to take his frustrations out on the clown. 

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

 

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Your sins will find you out #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

YYour sins will find you out 

Creating a whole new world can be incredibly gratifying. It can also be terrifying. You have a responsibility to all who live in it. The decisions are yours, you preserve the history, the governance – it’s all yours. And, okay, this might be an imaginary world so the consequences are different but think about all the influence you have among readers who enjoy to spend time there. Now, I’m not saying we’re gods, but we do hold a certain amount of power. A writer can educate, inspire, and reach people through their words. We make people laugh, offer them a place to escape and sometimes, find comfort. 

So, though our readers know the world isn’t real, they still invest, and feel disappointment if we get things wrong. That’s not to say they don’t forgive us our writing sins, because they do. They choose to ignore the errors in our timeline, the facts about our characters that don’t corroborate. We’re only human, after all, and we can’t focus on every character at once. 

There are ways for us to keep track, though it’s difficult to log every event that unfolds. We create complex systems and the notes we make can become a jumbled array of facts and information. Timelines need to be upheld, but also the strings that bind people (characters) together. This only becomes more complex if we have a number of series attached to the same world, each separate in their own right, but interlinked so that crossover is possible. 

It’s a lot. We might find a way to record every last detail pertaining to the world itself, and we still miss things. But as long as we stay faithful to the story, and not change the rules for the sake of changing them, any sins will be forgiven!   

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

X Marks the Spot #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

 

X Marks the Spot

We’re not going to talk about how tenuous a link today’s title is. Nope, we’re going to skip right over that!

Whether you’re the type of writer who plans everything to the last detail, or merely follows a loose outline, there will be a point when you have a particular goal to work towards. A kind of x marks the spot (I told you it was tenuous), that indicates a major event or turning point in the story.

It might be the death of a character, or a scene set to change the direction of the plot. In the back of your mind – or in front of you in black and white – you know what you want to happen. It’s a game changer and that’s okay. You’re planning on it, so all is good.

But then the character decides, ‘sod that, I don’t want to die’ and you’re left with the aftermath of that particular fight. Then the only x marking the spot (okay, grasping at straws now), is the giant cross against all your best laid plans or the metaphorical grave you buried the body in! Sometimes the characters get their own way, sometimes they don’t, but however many plans you make, the road map is bound to change.

And tenuous links aside, that’s okay. We’re a flexible lot, and we develop a vast number of coping strategies to fit our mood, the situation or, let’s face it, if the wind blows the wrong way!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

World Weavers #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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I’ve touched on this topic more than once during the challenge, but it’s worth expanding (don’t worry, I’ll keep it short!) 

WWorld Weavers

Today is about getting stuck in the worlds we create, and how this translates to both our work and home life. One of the things that can happen, when you’ve been deep in a creative cloud and you’re close to burn out, is facing a jarring shift back to reality. A story can take over every aspect of our lives, so when we emerge and our loved ones expect us to shift back to the present, it can take a second. 

These worlds are often complex, and it takes time to immerse ourselves completely. Once we do, once we’re in the thick of things and taking a journey that often has major highs and even greater lows, we’re bound to become invested. It’s not uncommon to feel emotionally drained after writing a scene, so it takes a lot of patience and understanding from those around us. 

When it comes to the work itself, we can also get stuck in a particular world and form an unhealthy reliance on the familiarity of it. We might then be reluctant to step out of our comfort zone or explore other stories that need to be told. 

I wrote a little free verse to end the post (my apologies to the poets among us!)  

Teetering on a precipice between two worlds, 

The line blurred but not broken; 

Until that final hurl, 

A freefall into the unknown 

Where danger, magic and mayhem, 

Blanket you in a cloud of creative euphoria 

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Under no illusions #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

UUnder no illusions 

When my cousin was younger, she had an imaginary friend. Her parents would even set an extra place for her at the table. I remember wondering what my own dinner table would look like if I invited all my imaginary friends – the ones who follow me around in my head.  

It’s often one of the ‘getting to know you’ questions – if you could invite ten people to a dinner party, who would you choose? – They might be real people (past or present), they might even be characters from your favourite books. But can you imagine a room filled with the characters you’ve created. What would that look like? Would it be beautiful chaos, or a little frightening!  

Not difficult to picture though, is it? Because, the thing is, although we’re under no illusions they’re real – except in a metaphysical kind of way – we live with them every day. 

Readers experience it too, when the characters they love become three-dimensional. It’s one of the ways we connect. Although, as I said earlier in the challenge, there’s understanding the passion we feel, and then there’s trying to assimilate that with the way writers talk to the characters in their heads. And sure, it can be jarring. But, for a writer, it’s all part of the fun! 

Thanks for stopping by 

Mel     

Taking liberties #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

TTaking liberties 

I had intended to talk about titles today because, like the dreaded blurb, we often shy away from them. I won’t go as far as to say we’d rather write the novel than title it, but still…there’s pressure! 

Instead, I’d like to talk about creative/poetic license, or taking liberties – basically whatever you want to call the technique writers use to bend the rules. We do this for many reasons, though mainly for effect – to engage and draw our readers in. It could be that we break the conventions of grammar, not because we’re arrogant and believe the usual rules don’t apply, but because it serves a purpose. We want to entertain, to amuse, and to create a positive response. That’s not to say that using poetic license isn’t criticised or misunderstood. It’s just a risk we take. As long as we’re careful, our readers will understand what we’re trying to achieve. Plus, a lot of the decisions we make are part of style – a recognisable voice in our writing. 

It’s easier to bend the rules if the world we’ve created isn’t dependent on factual accuracy (crime, for example). That being said, you can create a whole town (or even another dimension) and apply different rules. It gives you more freedom, but not exactly carte blanche. You still have to follow the laws of human nature and at least some social order!  

Some writers use creative license to challenge societal norms, perhaps to educate or raise awareness. If done right, this can be powerful and highly effective. 

Thanks for stopping by 

Mel  

Scribble away #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

SScribble away 

Some people might wonder what all the fuss is about…so what if a writer uses ink instead of a keyboard to work their magic? Visually speaking, most images convey writers as sitting behind a computer or – something I’ve always dreamed of owning – tapping away at an old-fashioned typewriter. That said, if we’re talking a visual language, in BSL you would use the action for writing on paper. I digress… 

It doesn’t really matter if it gets the job done. In truth (and being the versatile writers that we are!) it’s probably a combination of the two. I used to be stubborn about my own process, and even convinced myself that the writing was better if I used pen and paper first. Using ink and letting the story flow is still my method of choice, especially if I’m suffering from writer’s block, but I’m more confident going straight to the keyboard now. I guess part of it stems from the way my creative energy translates itself. I love the freedom writing by hand gives me, and it does feel like the words come from a well inside me that I tap into whenever I have a pen in my hand. It’s difficult to explain to those who don’t write. The experience of letting go and allowing the story to tell itself – it’s a beautiful kind of magic.  

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Rack your brains #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

RRack your brains 

Let’s start with a scenario…you’re scribbling (or tapping) away, totally in the zone and the characters are behaving themselves so it’s smooth sailing. You’re totally going with the flow, your mind is racing, the words pouring forth, and you start to wonder why you ever thought writing was so hard. Then the inevitable happens, you stumble over a simple word choice and reality hits you like a slap upside the head. 

I’m over dramatising, of course, but it happens more often than we like. The sudden and overwhelming desire to find the perfect word to describe a feeling, communicate meaning, or simply connect a reader to the scene. Flicking through a thesaurus doesn’t always help because the word or expression likes to hide in the deep recesses of our minds – on the tip of the tongue (or should that be fingers?) 

We can be perfectionists when it comes to our work. We want to get it right – to do justice and reflect what is in our hearts. Sometimes we are so passionate about the tale we’re weaving, we trip ourselves up over the little things.  

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes we just need to take a step back. Use the tools we’ve developed and hope the answer will come to us. When it does, it will probably be one of those inopportune times I talked about. Like deep in the night, when our minds wake up and we’re grateful there’s a notepad beside the bed so all is not lost! 

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Quiet please #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

QQuiet please 

Writers love their solitude. There’s nothing quite like being in the zone, able to give yourself over to the story without any distractions. Many writers crave the quiet, which is fine unless that develops into social isolation. It’s often hard to make the transition from being in a writing space, to being around others in the ‘real’ world.  

That said, a quiet space isn’t always possible. For some it’s a luxury. So, in those cases, when we are bitten by the bug and we have to write – like, right NOW – we need to adapt to the environment. That might mean writing in a café, at the kitchen table surrounded by family (which basically equals chaos), or somewhere outdoors – like the park. 

We’re writers, so we go with the flow. But whether you can ‘switch off’ and write to your hearts content while drowning out a cacophony of background sounds, eventually something is going to invade the bubble. That’s when we need to make like we’re in a library, put up signs if necessary (sshhh!) and negotiate a little quiet time. 

shhh.gif

Thanks for stopping by 

Mel 

Picking out of a hat #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

PPicking out of a hat 

Let’s talk about names. There are many techniques writers use to find the perfect name for their characters. We often talk about them as though they’re our children, so it’s kind of funny to get caught researching baby names on google and having to talk family members down from a ledge! But seriously, name generators can be useful, as can reader polls. Then there are the times we sit with the characters awhile, get to know them better, and like a new born (kind of), the name we choose just seems to fit. 

Okay…moving on.  

Whether you write out a description, or just close your eyes and conjure an image in your head, a name often follows without too much effort. If you enjoy to wing it, then names often come naturally as the story begins to unfold. Other times you might have a name, along with characteristics circling around in your mind long before you put pen to paper or sit down at a computer.     

As with anything else when it comes to writing, there are occasions when the process breaks down. Times when we can’t think of a name, or the one we choose isn’t the right fit. It’s easy to get tied up in knots, especially with secondary characters or those who later become an integral part of the story. Attempts to change a name part way through a novel never really pan out, at least in my experience, because by then it almost feels like you’re stealing the character’s identity. Yes, I know how that sounds! 

Needless to say, we take the whole naming ceremony seriously! 

Thanks for stopping by 

Mel    

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