Hello New, Old Friend. I Think I’ve Missed You.

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Hello there old friend. Why, those are some attractive accessories you’re sporting these days, and may I say you’re looking sleek and confident. Have you lost weight? Indeed, it shows. Come, let’s sit, talk, and get reacquainted, shall we?

Ah, nothing like getting used to a new piece of equipment after your old one just decides to die, right in front of you, leaving you hurt, angry, speechless, and also wordless, which some clients don’t always like to hear. But it happens, and we must move on, learning yet another, newer, and supposedly better way of doing things, even though the old ways were perfectly fine, dammit!

Back from the depths of technology hell, where glitches are said to be caused by outdated operating systems, leading to operating system updates that lead to bigger glitches, system crashes, damaged hardware, and well, you can figure out the rest, I suppose.

But when new, out of the box equipment starts acting up, and technicians on the phone explain it away calling it yet another glitch, I start really, really hating the word glitch and move on to frequently using a new word, aggravation. So two days and two marathon phone conversations later, after that innocent little glitch renders a new laptop unusable, I returned the laptop to its rightful owner, the store where I purchased it, and came home with another, again all bright and shiny computer with again, promises of a beautiful relationship experience.

We are celebrating a couple of months together now, and while catching up with work, moving a website to a new server, drinking to ease the pain of moving a website to a new server, and the setting up of this machine to my liking, I can say that we’ve already been through a lot of aggravation, turmoil, but also some relatively good times and none of those pesky glitches. Still, as much as I need technology to do what I do, I sometimes hate this technology that I need to do what I do.

But, because the assumption is that opposites attract, I can only conclude that this machine and I are indeed made for each other, as things are now getting done on time, with little interruption.

And, I really do believe that I’m starting to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless, well, you know.

 

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Writing Fiction With A Nonfiction Brain

 

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Just The Facts Ma’am

It’s a learning process, that’s for sure.

I was trained to see and report the facts, and only the facts. News reporting, community happenings, and numerous city council meetings meant digging for, uncovering, and reporting only the facts, in succinct, short, quick to the point sentences and fragments. It was mandatory to clearly share point after point after point while fitting the necessary information into a specific number of column inches. It would become the way I saw and remembered everything.

But now, in creating fiction, I felt like that dog that carelessly gets adopted and confined to an apartment bathroom, only to be finally let out into the world to be in awe of everyone and everything around me.

World building, descriptions, fictional details all available to me to complement my story? Descriptive and creative license available at my every turn? Turns available at every twist? More twists at those turns?

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” as I go screaming around the house.

What I’m trying to say, as you can gather by now, is that it’s a different set of skills to learn how to write in a fiction setting vs a nonfiction setting. And therein lies the constant struggle in my writing psyche. For so many years, and even continuing to this day, much of my writing is based on facts, research, and numbers. The creative part is me just trying not to bore you to tears while providing all the necessary information for the article or study. But whilst brandishing that fiction pencil, all options are on the table. That can be daunting, and certainly demands a reset of my brain processing function.

How do you perform that mind reset?

Well, that’s a good question, and in all likelihood has as many unique answers as there are writers. For me, I have to be consistent in reminding myself to have fun with the words, since I have the luxury to make things happen as I want them to happen. It can be raining or not. It can be a cold day in winter, or a perfect beach day across the continent. Characters can be fashioned after anyone walking, running, strolling, skipping, or driving down the street. I can still write as if it’s a news story, but I have the creative license to go back and fill in the story with details, descriptions, and dialogue as I see or hear them. There are no fact checkers for these events, because I am my only source, leaving no one to refute my findings.

I know what you’re thinking, and it has to do with editors. That’s a damn fine point, but  more to do with the consistency and believability of the story, not my self witnessed, fictitious facts. As Stephen King says,  “The job of fiction is to find the truth inside the story’s web of lies”.

So whatever you need to do to flip that switch in your brain from fact based, nonfiction writing to fiction genre storytelling, do it on a consistent basis and pretty soon it’ll become as natural as sitting here cursing while watching those damn chipmunks dig up my yard everyday. The fiction writing mode of thinking will fire up more readily and allow a pretty cool working relationship with the rest of your mind.

And although I’m sure there is a statistic that would sound very official about this whole psychological matter, I’m forcing myself not to do the research and report back, because thankfully, I’m getting better about this whole switch flipping and brain resetting myself.

Damn chipmunks!

Hey! Who Is Gonna Take Care Of That Fictional Dog You Just Put Into Your Story?

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It was an easy decision at the time.

I’ll add a cute dog in my fiction. Who doesn’t like dogs, right? It’ll be a great secondary-type character to add to the story, one that will pal around and help show the emotions, attitudes and thoughts of my characters.

A dog will coexist perfectly with the characters, their personalities, where they live, how they live, and so on. It’ll be that little extra that adds another layer of reality to my story.

But then another reality hit me, and while looking around, I shouted, mostly to myself, “Hey! Who the heck is gonna take care of this thing?”

The more I started thinking and writing, the more I realized that I had to account for this fictitious, yet needy canine companion. The characters have to consider the dog when they do things, when they go places, and the length of their absences. It’s going to be there in the evening and overnight. It’s going to be hungry in the morning, and well, it will have to go outside and do it’s thing, which means somebody has to clean up after it does that thing.

My make believe dog is beginning to be just as time-consuming as the real thing, so now I’m wondering if its even a good thing to do, meaning adding a fictional dog to your story. Will there be fictional slobber in my shoes? Will there be fictional chew marks on our fictional furniture? Do I have to spend a couple of hours to find a fictional vet for my fictional dog? Just who is going to take care of this dog? And for crying out loud, what is his name?

As I turned away from writing this, I thought about that old cardboard box graveyard of old, dead Tamagotchis, GigaPets, and Nanos that we once had, way back when, and I feel a sudden, irrational fear and anxiety that my fictional, yet unnamed dog may suffer a similar fate, caused by inattention or just plain forgetfulness later in my manuscript.

Should I adopt this dog, even in a fictional world?

These decisions about getting pets are tough, even in a make-believe world.

Wait, What’s Your Name Again?

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The name game.

Do you have a process for choosing your character’s names? Are there reasons behind the choices? Family? Acquaintances? Bullies from grade school? Coworkers?

I think we all have somewhat of a process. You know, we likely all have that one person we secretly would love to see on the other end of some bad karma, so BOOM, there’s your antagonist, villain, or adversary. Likewise, our protagonist might conjure up thoughts of goodness and all that’s right with the world, leading us to name them along those ideas. Friends, family, and past and present acquaintances all leave impressions on us throughout our daily lives, and subsequently leave an impression on us that is associated with their name, whether good, bad, or indifferent.

Others spend a lot of research on the naming of their characters, intensely digging and uncovering the meaning or origin of the name, the qualities that a person with that name might exhibit, and if they are historically accurate. The characters may even be assigned an appropriate birthday so that their horoscope reveals a supposed set of personality traits that matches their desired name choice.

I personally just go with the flow while writing until I think to myself that this person is sure acting like a …(insert appropriate name here). And I’ve changed the names on my characters more than once to, in my opinion, better match the situation and story. And geez, don’t even set me started on last names. That’s a bigger issue for me than the first names.

But I do tend to stay away from any iconic names, you know, like those that are so strongly associated with someone who it would be impossible to form a new and unbiased opinion of the character. So I won’t ever tell you that her name is Beyoncé, or that Elvis is the owner of the corner grocery store, especially if the story is set in the early 1900s, OK?

OK.

Any process or method you use is fine, by the way. There is, by no means, a right or wrong way to discover and decide upon the names of your characters. When it’s all said and done, you gotta do what works for you.

And right now, I gotta get back to writing about ol’ whats-his-name.

Good Writing!

 

 

So This Is How It Ends? No, Probably Not

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“So this is how it ends” I mumbled to myself.

Admittedly, I was caught off guard, because I knew what the ending was going to be. Or what it should be. Or what I was going to make it be. Or what I wanted it to be. And dammit, I’m the one writing this stuff.

But it’s not going to end that way at all, and I’m just going to have to live with it. You see, the good guys (or gals), aren’t so good. And the bad guys (again, and gals), may not be that bad after all. Because as the story unfolds, I find out more about them. Things that I didn’t know when I started writing this tale. Things they’ve been through, things they’ve been led to believe, and things they’ve just flat-out been lied to about will all change my, and hopefully your opinion of them as the story unfolds.

It’s great to have an outline, if you’re one of those writers, or even a broad view of where you want your characters to end up, on the good side of the fence or the wrong side of the tracks. I generally know my beginning, a bunch of middle stuff that I’ll put in order and decipher later, and an ending with the outcome of my choice. I’ve found that this type of thinking is more of a general vision than a true plot or rigorous outline.

So I keep in mind, as you should, that a vision, no matter what it pertains to, is just that, a vision. Let your characters dictate the story as they see it, according to their experiences, beliefs and views, and you’ll end up with an ending that’s believable, no matter the twists and turns you’ve put the reader through to get there.

And right now, I’ve envisioned this post ending exactly this way, so I’ll leave before something changes.

Good writing!

Excuse Me, Do I Even Know You?

I’m saying that to my fictional characters these days. You see, I had it all planned out, how they talked, acted and interacted with one another, down to thoughts, beliefs, and expressions. But now here they are, darn near every one of ’em, going off on their own little tangents and disrupting my story. The characters that I thought were decent, good people, aren’t that way anymore. The antagonist is just a victim of circumstance, the poor guy.

Who knew?

I thought I did, but as someone who is considered a “pantser” more than a “plotter”, the characters in my story just showed me who is in control. That’s why I spontaneously  pushed my chair back from the desk, looked at the words on the page and said, rather loudly I think, “Excuse me, do I even know you?”

And then there’s a vision of all the characters turning, in unison, and looking towards me, smiling, saying, “No, but you will”.

That’s when I finally realized what published authors are talking about when they say that their characters take on a life of their own within a story. The writer is merely there to record the events, as true as they can be within a fictional setting. Quite crazy, isn’t it?

I’m just happy to be a part of it.