Sitting down to write for hours sends many authors into a prison-like world. We fall into a spiraling abyss of fantasy and imagination as we search for the right words to convey our stories. More often than not, these tales began in the real world. Yet as writers we shut ourselves out of this world in order to dive deeper inside our imagination. We push away what's real in order to create our own realty. We become more and more detached.
We can't push it all away, though; we need to take much of it with us.
It's true that artists need to create a sensory deprivation in order to allow rich creative juices to flow freely; but at some point, we need to return to the here and now. We need to restock our library of imagination.
When I'm not writing - when I'm living my daily life - I try to be present to the sensory input around me. Each smell, taste and sound is a potential element in my next chapter. I try to take full advantage of this reality. Part of writing is observing what's real so that we can embed it in our stories of fiction.
When outside, be present to the sun's warming rays on your cool skin; embrace the vibratory rattle of a passing car's bass; savor the sweet squirt of juice as you bite into a tender orange; behold the bitter stench of skunk as it wafts through the backyard air. Writers must embrace each sensory experience so that we can recall it when needed in our stories. Try these ideas to heighten your senses.
The next time you are stuck in your story, step outside and feel the warm sun or bitter chill. Stand there and absorb it, embrace it, taste it, smell it. Bring it all into your tale so that your story comes alive.
If you are a writer in search of a story, look no further than today's Sunday paper. It's possible that many of the current popular YA dystopian epics began with a writer reading a headline. In fact, many novels either take old news or create possible future scenarios.
George Orwell's original dystopian novel, "1984", forecasts Big Brother and a government-controlled society. Stephen King's tome, "11/22/63" shares a time-traveling twist on Kennedy's assassination. George R.R. Martin surely studied royal histories before writing his "Game of Thrones" series. Harper Lee culled the plot for "To Kill a Mockingbird" from actual hometown events.
So if you need a story idea, pick up the paper.
Here are five possible story starters for budding writers in need of a beginning taken directly from news headlines:
1. A meteor explodes over the Russian city of CHELYABSINK. The most powerful meteor to strike our atmosphere in over a century, it injures more than 1400 people.
2. Three people die and hundreds are injured when two Chechen Islamist brothers explode bombs at the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts.
3. Scientists describe the first human embryonic stem cells developed by cloning.
4. American Edward Snowden discloses a U.S. government surveillance program to news publications. He flees the country, and is granted temporary asylum in Russia after living in the airport.
5. An airplane originating from Malaysia and carrying more than 200 passengers - including two with fake passports - disappears over the South China Sea. Rumors of terrorism and alien abductions abound.
Remember, the news story is just a seed, where you take it is up to you. Happy writing!
If you are alive and breathing, you will have come across the plethora of quizzes saturating your favorite social media sites. “If you were a character from a Jane Austen novel, who would you be?” “Which sister are you in LITTLE WOMEN?” “How many of these great novels have you read?” and on and on. The question remains: are we reading the classics? Or, are we simply sticking to the 140-character count headlines, quick blogs by Joe Blow and Jane Idunno’s?
Who’s reading great literature?
If you are over 35, you recognize the literary connections, and you’ve probably read 25 or more on that list (Dickens, Vonnegut, Austen, Salinger, Updike, etc.). If you are in high school honors English classes, you will read ten or more of them before you graduate. If you are in general classes, you might read six or so of them. You will still read good books. You will be reading!
Unfortunately, most of us won’t pick up a Hemmingway or Toni Morrison or old Russian lit classic unless we find ourselves in a rented bungalow on the beach with no Internet.
That’s sad. It’s not that everyone’s missing out on great stories. It’s more that we are missing out on the evolution of the written word. How we write stories today varies dramatically from our high-minded predecessors. (For the most part.) We don’t sit with the beauty of a sunrise for ten pages. We don’t take half the book to reveal our character’s major defect.
Instead, many writers deliver fast-food lit to quell the short attention span of today’s multi-tasking reader. Whatever happened to the old adage, ‘stop and smell the roses’?
Today’s reader wants action now, answers yesterday, solutions quickly. Today’s reader is missing out on the gentle transformation of our hero, the slow transmogrification of the antagonist, and the sweet sweeping flow of plot in time-lapse spectrum.
If you’ve not read Hemmingway or Bronte, if you avoided Nietzsche or Dostoyevsky, if you slept through Shakespeare or Wilde, take a moment to step back in time. Return to your carefree 20s; buy, download or borrow a classic piece of lit, and find a quiet window seat, warm layer of beach sand, or shady patch of green, and simply read.
Read to fall in love, to despise, to anticipate, to question, to immerse yourself in another world, time and place. Read because you can.
I wonder who these great women that we admire today set on their own pedestal when they were girls? Who were their inspirations?
March is Women's History Month. Is 31 days really enough? Why do we still need our own month to draw attention to the amazing things we do? When we finally elect a woman president, will we stop? Probably not.
Yes, we've come a long way, baby; but we've miles to go before we sleep.
While we're awake, let's take a moment to think about a few women who've made a difference in our lives. Now, I can't presume to tell you who's made a difference in yours. Sure, I could suggest Susan B. Anthony, Mother Teresa, Oprah. The talked about. However, only you can decide who those women really are, who are those women who've cleared your path, shaped your dreams, opened your doors. It's different for each of us. I can only speak for me.
My own mother, of course. My mom married at 19, started a family, raised that family, and went back to college when she was 42. She taught me not to let life get in your way but to make your life your way.
My daughter. She teaches me everyday that life is fun. She reminds me that so much of what we see is a mystery and that if we bring joy to the search to unravel these curiosities, we will grow exponentially. Joy + Curiosity = Passion.
My friend, Jane. You don't know Jane, but you have a Jane in your life. Jane is a combination of my mom and daughter. Jane brings joy and curiosity into her life and lives with passion. She runs mini marathons; she's a successful businesswoman; she's a loving mom; she takes time out to see the world and LIVE; she is a loyal friend. Jane is a woman to admire this month.
There are so many others. Each woman in my life sits in my heart like a feather, gently reminding me of the greatness that lies within me, the potential of possibilities.
We have 31 days. Who do you admire? Who brings into this life the qualities you wish to embrace? It's Women's History Month, girls; let's do this!
He published nearly 50 books for children, and when we think of him, we smile. Theodor Seuss Giesel mastered whimsey. His stories themselves sparkled with folly and fun. Add to the verse his nonsensical cartoons and caricatures of personality and you hold in your hand a ticket to the world's best carnival.
Most American children know at least one Seuss tale: "The Cat in the Hat", "Green Eggs and Ham", "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish". Children around the world also revel in his nonsensical rhymes and art. His words taught us to read, his stories taught us to wonder. Dr. Seuss mastered whimsey.
As a writer of young adult realistic fiction, you might wonder why I'd spend time reminiscing about an author for preschoolers. Young Adult fiction is a magical place. Our stories hold the hands of young people on the precipice of adulthood. We explore the loss of innocence, rites of passage, moral dilemmas, struggles with friendship, truth, vanity, family, and death. So did Dr. Seuss.
Sally and her brother must decide whether to partake in the Cat's fun and risk disappointing their mother. A boy feels the weight of the world on his shoulders and struggles with how to save the environment. A big clumsy elephant hears voices before he discovers a tiny unseen world, which he must now protect.
Dr. Seuss tackled large themes of youth, moral dilemmas, the conflict with self and society. Dr. Seuss provided plots and themes for adult tales. He did not forget us at that doorstep of darkness, he took our hand and guided us through to the other side of color, light and whimsey.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss. Thanks for the fun.