Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Way Off Topic But Somebody Needs This

I'm here to talk about a dream I had this morning. I had this dream after I woke up for the first time this morning but then fell back to sleep. Those are usually the most vivid dreams for me. This one was no exception.

I was in an office setting which seemed to be at my former employer. Many of the same people were there but there were also faces I didn't recognize - not my dream self but my real self. A former boss of mine was also there but she wasn't actually my boss. 

During this dream, I felt depressed and was very, very sad. It would be my last day alive since I had plans to commit suicide that night. 

Now, let me say right here, I am in no way considering suicide. I've only done that one time in my life, a very long time ago and a sweet little white puppy dog changed my mind for me. I was laying on the couch, considering how I would do it when my dog came in, put his paws on the edge of the couch and looked as me as if to ask what was wrong. I  knew right then that I couldn't do that to him. Leave him all alone like that. So, I didn't. Haven't ever considered it since, seriously or otherwise.

Anyway, in the dream, it seemed that everyone knew I was planning to do this but instead of trying to talk me out of it, everyone seemed to be waiting to see if I'd actually do it or not. I think there might have even been a pool going with people betting on the outcome. I knew this, which really didn't help at all. They all thought it was an empty threat.

As the day wore on and the time approached, I found myself thinking of excuses for not doing it. The feeling I had was that I didn't want the other people to believe themselves to be right that I didn't have the guts to actually do it. It was like I thought I had to because I said I was going to and I didn't want people to think less of me if I didn't go through with it.

I woke up before the dream came to an end and while I thought about it and why I might have had it, I felt strongly that this was something I needed to share. 

If you know or think you know someone who is considering suicide, please, please talk to them. Let them know that someone will care if they are no longer in their life. Or if you are someone who is considering it, please reach out to someone else, talk about it. Leave a comment down below and I'll talk to you. 

Suicide is never the answer to any problem. It is final. You can't take it back once it is done. Every life is precious and valuable and every person on this planet has something to contribute. 

Don't keep your pain to yourself. Share it. Call a help line. Go to a medical facility. Tell someone you hurt so bad that you want to make it stop, even if it means taking your own life. 

I know that's easy for me to say since I am not in that same place right now, but I was in that place once. While it wasn't another human who pulled me back from the brink, it was someone I believe was sent to save me. So, maybe visit an animal shelter. Volunteer to spend time with the animals. Who knows? You might find your savior right there like I did.

Let's face it. Human beings can be complete and total jerks but many animals - dogs, cats, even horses - will love us unconditionally if only we pay them a bit of attention. So go volunteer at an animal shelter. 

Or volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. If nothing else, seeing your fellow humans in such circumstances and giving them some hope might just help you to see your own life in a new light. 

I hope this doesn't sound trite or overly preachy. I just really felt that someone out there needed this. And I'm serious about putting in a comment down below and I will talk to you. Just let me know you're there.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Killing Your Darlings

You've probably heard that phrase before but have you ever done it? Do you know what it means?

I didn't know until I read it in one of the many books on writing that I've consumed over the past few months. Killing your darlings describes the act of eliminating scenes that you love in favor of establishing a more cohesive plot flow.

Sometimes, we write these amazing scenes that either don't really add to the story or are in some way obstructive or don't really fit anywhere. In this current project, I had written an entire middle section that fit pretty well until I took some writing courses and decided to write a backstory.

During the courses, I wrote scenes according to assignment instructions and actually ended up liking those scenes enough that I wanted them included in the novel. Unfortunately, because those scenes were written out of context, including them meant some big changes. Mainly in the middle section. 

To say that cutting out an entire middle was both easy and hard all at the same time is quite the understatement. I worked hard to make it all fit together. In the end, however, I had to make the difficult decision to leave something out. Now that's it's done, I do believe it has accomplished something that I've been struggling with for the last couple of months. It has allowed me to speed up the edits of this darn draft. 

Why would I decide to cut out perfectly good scenes that were already, mostly finished and acceptably ready for public consumption? I'll tell you.

Reason #1: In writing the backstory for this novel, I introduced a character at the beginning of the book that I originally created in the middle. This meant that the already written scene introducing her was now moot. I could not figure out how to change it so that it fit without feeling like I had just dumped it in there for no reason. 

Reason #2: After making the decision on a certain plot point, parts of future scenes were no longer valid.

Reason #3: The new scenes just fit much better than the old.

There were other, smaller reasons but basically, these three made the decision for me. So, I cut out a huge middle section. Now, this does mean that full rewrites need to be done, which is actually a good thing. I have not been enjoying this part of writing at all so being able to create something new in the middle of this unenjoyable phase has been so nice. Once the newly written stuff is in place, it will be a fairly simple matter of making connections between the old and the new then sending it off to my writer friends, who have been waiting and waiting to get their hands on it ever since my first missed deadline of June 1.

I'm excited because I will finally have a cohesive draft that I can also read through and mark up with more red. I am still looking at this thing hitting Amazon during the first quarter of 2016. Again, this will depend upon getting a completed manuscript to the graphic artist I have chosen to work with for the cover, as well as how long it will take her to do the job. Her work is outstanding so I really do want to give her the time she needs to come up with something outstanding for me.

I guess the moral of this story is to not be afraid to kill your darlings. No, it doesn't feel at all good but in the long run, it's usually for the best. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Novel Progress and Character Differences

Yes, I know. It's been a while. But I do have some progress on the book to report. I finally have it printed out - all drafts, by the way - and it is now cobbled together with all of the final scenes. Won't make much sense in the reading of it right now but at least now I can do some serious editing and revising.

Not sure why I didn't just do this before now. I've been trying to do the same thing on Scrivener only to get frustrated and lose motivation. Don't get me wrong. I still love my Scrivener. It's just that having something tangible to rearrange seems to make the process that much more proficient. 

And talk about killing your darlings! I have eliminated a huge chunk of the first draft in favor of something that I think will work so much better. Not saying it was easy. In fact, I tried to find a way of keeping the chunk in there but it just wasn't going to work. For one thing, a character that was introduced in that chunk now appears much earlier. The scenes just wouldn't make any kind of sense at all.

There is still a ton of work to do, though. My writing group wants something out of me by next Friday, even if it not as linear as I would like it to be. 

In the midst of all this revision work, I have made the decision to pick up a part time job. Nothing too involved but the extra cash will come in handy and it'll get me out of the house. As many of you know, being a full-time writer also means being isolated for the entirety of your workday. It'll be nice to be out of the house, mingling with humanity for a few hours a week. The job I'm currently waiting to hear about will involve a lot of mingling with humanity, which I am definitely looking forward to.

There is also one other advantage to this part time job mingling with humanity. For me as a writer, at least. People watching. Just think of all the different personalities I will encounter during a single shift. Lots of fodder for character creation there. 

Speaking of character creation. Where do you get your inspiration from?

When I think back on the characters I have created, I don't really see any one source that inspired me. My characters evolve with various traits from several sources - mostly made up on the fly. I do think small parts of me end up in each one. 

What surprises me when I do look at the characters I've created, they aren't the same one recreated over and over again. I know the kinds of characters I like to read about and so those are the types I also like to write about. And yet they come off different somehow. 

Take the hero in my current work for example. When compared to one from an earlier novel, the differences are pretty obvious.

For one thing, he's shorter by a few inches, leaner and less bulky but no less strong and determined. He's compassionate and despite what he sees as her betrayal, is still very much in love with his heroine. However, once crossed, it's very hard to earn back his trust. Not that he gives that trust easily to begin with. He's been bitten one too many times by people he should have been able to trust. Now, he gives new people a wide berth until he sees their true colors. His circle of friends is quite small, but he relaxes best in their company. He lives with the guilt of a major past transgression but also understands his involvement was manipulated by someone else. He plans to make that person pay but not until he can be sure of success.

On the other hand, a previous hero is a wanted outlaw and must do whatever it takes to keep from becoming yet another victim of a corrupt government. So many horrific events have been linked to his name that sometimes it's easy for him to believe his own hype. Well, that and a few instances in his past that he knows he's responsible for. He takes the cares of the universe on his own shoulders and while they are broad enough, he refuses to believe he's not the reason behind all of it. In reality, he might actually be right about that. Still, while he may seem cold and calculating on the surface, it's only to protect the more vulnerable part of his personality. He's experienced losses that have left him deeply scarred. People he has loved have been hurt and killed. He resists attachment because he believes anyone he cares about will only come to harm because of him.

The ladies are just as different. 

My current heroine, while capable of defending herself, prefers negotiation over physical conflict. Not that she won't fight back if threatened. A petite blue-eyed blond, she can be quite the surprise when cornered. She's strong in her own way but can be overpowered, and often is simply because she finds it hard to believe someone she loves is capable of doing her harm. Until he actually does. She always wants to believe the best of people, even those who have betrayed her. She's not gullible, though. Once she understands someone isn't who they appear to be, she stands wary of them, ready to launch into action when the opportunity strikes.

The earlier heroine, on the other hand, is no delicate flower by any means. This statuesque redhead will toss you over her shoulder without batting an eye if you insist upon it. She is a trained, tenth level agent, after all, with something to prove to the boys who aren't used to females in the ranks. She's also not afraid to stand up to the hero despite his tough, dangerous exterior. The fact that he's a head taller and quite a bit broader than she doesn't intimidate her in the least. But she's also fiercely loyal. Once you've earned her trust and friendship, she will go down defending you to the last breath. 

Both sets of hero and heroine have similarities but many more differences. And they all came out of the same place. The fact that they were created on the fly adds to my surprise at how different they all are. 

Even the relationships between each pair is different. 

While the current pair allow their differences to keep them apart, the previous pair are always ready to put their differences aside for a few hours and....well...let's just say nothing else would get done if I didn't send them to their separate corners. I have to do that more often than I would like since they seem to have forgotten that when they were originally created, they couldn't stand each other. How times have changed.

I've studied character archetypes in the past and believe there are an infinite number of possibilities. Just like in real life. That's what makes writing so interesting for me with the added bonus of being able to control what happens to the characters I create. Well, to a point. Sometimes (most times) my characters decide they want to follow a certain rabbit trail and, as much as I hate to admit this, sometimes (most times) that rabbit trail turns out to be a good one.