Nathan Hill, Author of THE NIX

By now you’ve heard about THE NIX, Nathan Hill’s debut literary novel that has set the world on fire. Not only did I enjoy his book, but I love the man, who just happens to be my son’s best friend and I consider my second son. I’m very proud of him and his work.

Let me see if I can think of some other words with which to express my awe and joy in this work. The novel is epic, folks. The prose is amazing. I highly recommend it and although it is long, take your time and don’t miss a single word.

Nate will be at Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, October 25th, 6PM,  and my husband and I will be there. Come and join us, won’t you?

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Notable Quotes

Habit is the bed of creativity. Tuck yourself in. ~Stephen King

Have a goal – die trying. ~Karl Marx

Inspiration is everywhere – carry a notebook. ~Victor Hugo

Follow your zen. ~Herman Melville

The is no ideal environment to work in. ~William Faulkner

Finish. ~James Joyce

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Who tells the story?

kids_sprinklerThe art of perspective, or who tells the story, is vital to a story well told. What does that mean? Usually, the best person to be the main point of view character is the one who changes the most or is most impacted by the events you are portraying. I’m not talking about “I” telling the story (this is POV and the HOW), it can be first person, but it can also be third person (he or she), or the all seeing god-view. I personally like third person, because, “I” can only know what “I” know and not what is going on in any other character’s head. The experience portrayed in this photo could easily be told by one of the children, but also by the mother who witnesses their play. She would no doubt have a similar experience to share from her childhood and be able to relate it using all senses. My point here is that POV and the teller are linked.collage_heart

In romance, the story is about the two lovers (to be or not to be). There can be lots of interesting secondary characters, but they are not the most important to the story – it’s the couple finding their way to each other. So, even if the maid can tell the story, the story is about how the lovers get together, not how she feels about the job or the price of beef. It can be interesting to see an observers view of how a romance transpires, but there is too much distance to the emotions in the story to be satisfying to the reader.

In the story, Driving Miss Daisy, the driver tells us about Miss Daisy and their relationship. He has a very interesting perspective of his charge and is able to share her antics with honesty. Their friendship evolves over the story as her health devolves. We perceive the racial tension in the south, but these two people overcome that barrier. She needs his calm dependability and he needs to be needed. (I confess I saw the film and didn’t read the book, this is how I perceived the story telling.)

glasses_paper_keyboardSo, how does a writer decide who is the best to tell the story? If you aren’t sure, I suggest trying to write it through a couple of different character’s (or POV) and see which flows best. My short story, “The Crossroads” has always been from Sylvia’s POV, but it was in first person first. When I changed it to third person it flowed better. It is “her” story, and no one else could tell it better, but as an author I had to put some distance between us. Being her in the “I” in the story, put me too close to see everything clearly. We decide “who” and “how” the story will be told.

“The Book Thief” interestingly enough was told from the point of view of ‘death’, but it was the young girl’s experience during this time in WWII. As narrator he was able to express the darkness of the time.

What makes the best “teller” in your story? That’s for the author to decide. Experiment. When you’re recounting the story of your toddler in the store shouting, “Mommy, what’s a jock strap?” It’s mommy’s embarrassment and toddler’s antics that make the story. It wouldn’t work if the toddler told how he did this, so the best person to relate it is Mommy or the clerk standing on the ladder witnessing the exchange. friends_n_rain

When I was little my grandmother always told me the way to understand why someone acted a certain way I should, “Listen harder. Walk around in their shoes for a while.” In essence that’s what an author does. We listen to our character and put ourselves in the story in order to relate the feelings, smells, sounds, textures of the experience. If we are lucky, we grow so close to the story that for a little while we become the characters and their story becomes even richer.

Enjoy the journey, my friends.

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Life is not a straight line…

Life is not a straight line. We bounce around and find our way through.

forget me notsIf you follow your “curiosity” it will give you clues. Be aware. Be open. Listen. Trust that every place you go is where you are supposed to be in order to gain experience, wisdom, grace, humility, discipline, faith…

This was especially true in my twenties. But I have to say that even at my current age I must not fall into the pit of focusing so hard on one outcome that I miss opportunities to grow. How about you?

When I’m writing a story and think I already know the ending it’s surprising what can happen along the way. New characters appear. Old characters change. Assumptions made no longer apply. And sometimes the ending morphs as well. Follow the path, wherever it leads you.

I love when I’m reading and the story surprises me. Occasional unpredictability can be inspiring – emotional – even educational. But writer beware of throwing a huge rock in the soup, it will totally change the flavor and splash not only the broth, but the reader right out of the pot.

snoopy happy danceI’m a fan of satisfying endings. Who wants to read about a total loser who never ever wins? Totally depressing. You want readers to feel hope for the characters, satisfaction that the story ended as it should and they didn’t waste their time.

I hate to see a cool character die or an antagonist that can’t be redeemed (even just a little bit). In life, those things happen, so they have to occur in story as well. What is story, but the telling of a life experience (real or imagined)? A path taken that resulted in certain consequences that the reader can relate to, utilize as a lesson learned in their own lives, or imagine and enjoy.  which way signLife is not a straight line…so the story can’t be either.

Enjoy the journey, my friends. I plan to.

 

 

 

Making Characters Memorable

We’ve all met interesting people on our day-to-day lives that come to mind when we’re writing. And while sometimes it is the physical characteristics that capture us, or mannerisms, or the way they speak – they can be the jumping off point for a very interesting character in your book that everyone loves or hates.

Maybe the check out girl at the grocer who constants chews gum and blows bubbles. Irritating. Or perhaps the dentist that hums old show tunes while he works, rather than the Little Shop of Horrors guy. dentist_funny

The check out girl inspired a gum popping receptionist for the doctors office (in my case). There are no humming dentists in my stories yet, but perhaps it will inspire a writer to tell the story of a serial killer that hums or sings while he does his thing.

What I really enjoy is emphasizing unique characteristics and making them memorable to the reader. Regina was a hair flipper. We’ve all known a hair twirler, flipper, or chewer. Right? It’s a very memorable habit. I once had a boss that had sinus problems and he was constantly clearing his throat, every day of the year. It was really annoying. How about the boss whose hair is NEVER out of place. A perfect plastic coated football helmet. OMG. I finally asked mine what kind of hairspray she used so I wouldn’t buy it by mistake, preferring a more care free – messy look. But that’s just me.

ladies_50s_fashionDo you know someone whose clothing, jewelry, shoes and purse match? Not so much anymore, but when I was growing up my mom even had a belt that matched her purse and shoes for many of her outfits. She was “put together”. Now days many of us wear jeans and anything goes with jeans, right? These are the things readers will remember, too, so use them. lady_jeans

You can never tell who will inspire you to write, so be aware and watchful for that memorable character you know or see on the street. They just might inspire you.

AHA Moments of Writing

“Sometimes we forget that we have this talent. It sits bottle-necked while we run to the store, wash clothes, and hit a few ball at the golf course. But to experience those AHA! moments where the work surprises even you, you have to write thousands of words regularly, daily, frequently.

When your subconscious cranks out words better than your conscious mind can imagine, magic happens. And that only occurs with a habit and an addition to put the words on paper.” ~William Faulkner

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How to be a Great Writer

I don’t profess to be a GREAT writer YET, but I’m getting better at it every day. Back in September I read an interview with Stephen King about the 22 lessons he recommends to be a great writer. THANK YOU STEPHEN KING. The article in the Business Insider stimulated my imagination to the point that I wrote the following (it was kind of like a test of what I retained from the content):

G – Grammar is only for understanding

R – Read as much as possible

E – Endeavor to write every day

A – Avoid adverbs, passive voice and run on sentences

T – Tell stories about people

W – Write for yourself and don’t worry about what others think

R – Retreat from the world when you write

I – Imagination can help you create and describe clearly and vividly

T – Temper your writing with only what is necessary, info dribbles not info dumps

E – Edit, edit, edit “Kill your darlings” is what Stephen said, be balanced not egocentric about your writing

R – Resist twenty-dollar words with a dollar-word will do, don’t be pretentious

King inspires me. He writes so well, having been successful for many years. I aspire to that as well. Wish I had a first reader like his wife, Tabitha King (also an author), but I do okay with my critique group. They are a great bunch of writers with vivid imaginations, huge hearts, and good advice.

Enjoy the journey, fellow scribes!

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Artists, Scribes and Dreamers

I can safely say that writers, painters, musicians, artists of all kinds are “dreamers”.  We see and hear beauty in the world around us and in our mind’s eye and struggle to recreate it or share what we experience with others.  It isn’t always easy.

woman_reading_riverSometimes the things our muse shows us are very difficult to express in paint or words or clay.  Everything I ever made out of clay could be used as an ashtray or a doorstop.  I enjoyed painting for many years, but struggled to create what I was seeing or feeling onto a blank canvas.

While I have written stories since I was a child I really didn’t discover how magically you can create a world through words until I began writing as an adult.  Maybe it was because I was older and had more experience.  Maybe I am more confident than I was in my teens or twenties.  Probably some of both.  But I still dream about being a successful author and I like to dream BIG.

But there is another kind of dreaming that I wonder if other artists experience as I do.  The dreams you have while you sleep.  I sometimes see scenes and hear dialog during my dreams that I later put in my books.

child_sleepingIn my college psychology class the instructor said that dreams are random and come from the subconscious.  The latter I believe, the former, not so much.  Have you ever had a question or problem that you hadn’t solved before laying down to sleep, and when you awoke the next morning you thought of a solution?  That isn’t random, but that may very well be your subconscious working it out for us.

Just think of all the wonderful things that have been created by men and women over the ages.  Someone had a dream, a vision, an idea and made it reality.

I encourage you to follow your dreams and see where they lead.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave your day job or move to some exotic locale, it just means, make time for that creative part of your self to do its thing.  You’ll enjoy the journey and who knows, the results may be life changing.woman with flowers

What’s in a writer’s tool kit?

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My tool kit contains:

  • Computer (for writing, researching, and wasting time)
  • Pen & Paper (for times when I’m stuck and need to switch things around)
  • Dictionary (mostly the on-line kind, but the paper kind is close at hand)
  • Thesaurus (this is a well used item, because sometimes writer’s use one word way too many times)
  • Music (optional, of course, depending on if it becomes a distraction – no lyrics, please)
  • Comfortable chair (OH YES, a total must)
  • Lots of terrific books to read (paper, electronic, library books, used, loaned or purchased – because when you’re not writing, you should be reading!)
  • Writing friends (they understand me – excellent for bouncing ideas around, support, tissues, chocolate, sympathy, celebration partners, critiques…)
  • Imagination, Faith, Patience, and Tenacity
  • Libraries & Bookstores (great resources & you meet the best people!)
  • Doo-Dads (the toys on your desk that can stimulate humor, inspiration, focus or distraction – I have MINIONS, but they aren’t real)

What’s in your tool kit?

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