Sunday, November 24, 2013

~ Research ~

            'Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely
             using words to prove you can string them together in logical
                                                       -Anne McCaffrey

True Story: Someone asked me while holding my book 'Back to Austen' in their hands and  reading the back blurb, "Is this a story about you?."
My somewhat dumbfounded answer was "Well let's see, since it's about a young woman who falls through time and lands in 1815 England.....I'd have to say....NO?"

The first and often best advice a fresh faced writer will receive from other authors or professionals is;

Write About What You Know.

Well that's all well and good, but let us remember that I was writing a story about a young woman who falls through time and lands in 1815 England !!!!!
Although I certainly have no first hand experience with Time Travel, I have a secret weapon at my disposal to find out everything else I needed to know before sitting down to actually write my story. Perhaps not so secret. After all, it's a tool that most writers embrace and is ultimately a writers best friend,.

Yes. Some might say the boring stuff. But not me. Research brings you in touch with your character's world. This is not only important when writing period dramas, but where ever or when ever your story takes place. Now of course if you're writing a fantasy and you are building a world from scratch ......lucky for you. But for the rest of us, the setting must ring true.

So even though I have been steeping away like a little tea bag in the Regency Era Tea for more years than I care to admit; I still had a lot of research to do. And I firmly believe there is nothing like the authentic flavor that flows naturally into your story just from the fact that you did your homework.

For this particular book I wanted the setting to be a real town in England. Streatham, turned out to be the perfect match. So when Kate is transported to Streatham, there is real history, there are real landmarks. There would be world events that would naturally be part of conversations, and customs of the period that would be part of their everyday lives. My goal was to be accurate without the historical details driving the story. 

But the last thing you want is to have your character set off on some adventure or talking about something that didn't yet exist in their time.Your beloved reader may just slam the book in your face at that point. 

For me, research is the 'getting to know you' period that I enter into with my characters. Although it's easy to sometimes feel as if you're getting bogged down in the minutiae, don't let it overwhelm you.

 There is no need to rush the relationship. Getting to know someone takes time. I love the entire process from start to finish.

So now if you'll please excuse me, while I fall through time.........I have some research to do. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

~ Inspiration~

I love writing. I love the swing and sway of words as they tangle with human emotions.
                                                        -James A. Michener


I hear that the single most often asked question a writer gets is: ' where do you get your ideas?' As if we could say , oh there is this great little secret shop on the corner of Main and 1st Street. Oh if only it were that easy.
But inspiration comes to each individual in it's own way. I've heard authors say that merely hearing a name, or a name of a town, can inspire them........seeing a couple in the park, a fragment of a song....almost anything can SPARK the initial thought for a story. Now........filling it out is another thing. Therein lies the work.

For me........inspiration lives in my bathtub.Seriously. It's like all creativity resides there in its dehydrated form and I just need to add water.Once I sink up to my chin in the steamy hot water, the bubbles work their magic and stories float to the surface for me to capture.

 In the case of 'Back to Austen' the entire story from start to finish was waiting in my bathtub. And I just had to transcribe the images I was seeing dance before my eyes, almost as if I was at a drive in movie.

The second novel ( my current work in progress) came to me the same way. But I do know that this is a bit of an anomaly. Most people start with some small nugget of an idea and then let it simmer and brew until a story starts to take shape. My other stories have come to me like ghosts crossing over from the other side. I'm not sure what I'm seeing at first, a glimpse, a hint, a whisper of........something. Then slowly they reveal themselves to me, as they step out of the shadows and begin to tell me about themselves. Each one totally different from the last and they each want to tell their story in their own way, because they are after all , individuals. I love it.

I have said to friends that I'm like Haley Barber's character in the the movie Sixth Sense where he says "I see dead people."
But instead I say "I see stories"  HA!

But however the initial thoughts come to pass, it is the fleshing out of the story that takes time and an attentive ear. Yes, one must listen to the characters for they will guide you and tell you where they wish to go. If you are willing they will lead you on a fascinating journey. I remember reading once that Michelangelo said that he never knew what he was going to carve until the stone spoke to him and showed him what beautiful image was waiting to be set free. I feel much the same way about my characters, I give them the freedom to speak for themselves and on several occasions I have been pleasantly surprised.

So here's to the journey. I've got a bath to take!!!!