Category Archives: settings

I’m the Author Goddess…

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

I am the Author Goddess, therefore, I rule the universes that I’ve created. The characters are my minions. They exist to do my bidding.

I tell myself this all the time. And it’s true.  Sort of. I am the creator of their world. Sometimes benevolent, sometimes a dictator.

Writers all do this. We fabricate new worlds with new rules. Even if it’s the “here and now” world, we still add our own spin to it. We make the facts fit the story as we need to tell it.  We ask our characters to do things normal people often can’t or won’t do. And most of the time, the characters go along for the happy (or miserable) journey.

Occasionally, they resist or flat-out refuse. They stamp their feet and demand to go in a different direction.

A rebellion in my carefully crafted plans. How dare they? I’m the Author Goddess. They must do my bidding.

Right?

Not really.

Sure, you can ignore your characters and force them to follow your “master plan”. But, just like in real life, it’s not right to make someone do something they don’t want to (making the kids clean up after themselves doesn’t count). When in this situation, instead of indignation, try going along for the ride.

Let the character take you on the journey they want to go on.  Travel their path and see it to the end. They could surprise you and even open the story up in ways you never imagined.

What kind of world builder are you? Benevolent? Mean? How do your characters rule your world?

Lists, Lists Everywhere!

Hello, Katy Lee here. To begin this post in my “list fashion,” let me first start off by annoucing my guest blogger next Sunday. (9/11) Published author, Sandra Orchard, will be here to tell us about her stint at a writer’s police academy. If you write suspense, or anything that requires a police procedure, stop on by. Sandra’s newest release, DEEP COVER is now available, and to celebrate, I will be giving one lucky commenter a free copy!

Now with that checked off my list, onto the next item…

A series of names, words, or other items written, printed, or imagined one after the other makes up a list, and if you are anything like me, you love them.

When it comes to shopping lists, I don’t leave home without one. When it comes to vacation lists, no item gets left behind. When it comes to Honey-Do lists, I get to watch my man do manly things. And when it comes to lists for my new story ideas, characters are born.

The act of brainstorming for me does not begin with an outline, or with mapping, but with a list. Before I do anything, I put pen to paper, jotting down anything that comes to my mind. Interesting settings, careers for characters, personalities and values, and then obstacles. The outcome is a real messy compilation of ideas, sometimes even a little hard for me read, but let’s face it, writing isn’t pretty. So, from these lists, I am now able to take my ideas and form that story outline or character arc. Something I would not have been able to do if I hadn’t started with a list.

The trick with any brainstorming activity, whether you make lists or not, is to give yourself the freedom to write anything. We live in a world where we are graded on everything we do. Because of that, we fear failure. I once took part in a brainstorming workshop where the leader led us through various techniques to get the pen moving, and after we finished, some people raised their hands to volunteer their ideas. As much as I wanted to join them, I couldn’t. I feared mine wouldn’t be as good as everyone else’s. But after hearing so many different outcomes, I realized there wasn’t a right idea or a wrong idea. Failing grades were not handed out, because during the brainstorming process the judge was given the boot.

The Unlocked Secret: During the creative process, judgment is not allowed. Not even if you’re the judge. Write anything that comes to your mind. Enumerate; don’t evaluate. Just get your ideas down on paper. This is just the list, and lists are made for checking off and crossing out AFTER you’ve completed the task. You can let the judge back in the door later when you start the outline.

Question: How do you get your creative juices flowing? Please share your techniques with us.

Location, Location, Location

PJ Sharon, writing from Rome!

It’s been a whirlwind trip–fourteen ports in seventeen days–the trip of a lifetime. I’m exhausted, exhilarated and awe inspired. From the magnificent Greek Isles and the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, to the amazing city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, every port has been more beautiful than the last. I’ve walked on holy ground in Ephesus, Turkey and toured the iconic Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. A stop in Tunisia, the majestic view from scenic Mt. Etna, and Flemenco dancers in Barcelona had my mind filled with possibilities for my latest WIP called 21 DAYS.

The story chronicles a sixteen year-old girl’s journey of redemption and recovery. After a second arrest, Ali Brannick is forced to overcome a marijuana habit, face the loss of her sister from a drug overdose, and deal with her mother’s subsequent breakdown. When there is finally no way to escape, will 21 days on a Mediterranean cruise with her grandmother give her a new perspective on life?

I got the idea for 21 DAYS when my mother-in law invited me on this cruise. Spending seventeen days on a cruise with my mother-in-law might sound like a mixed blessing and curse to some, but I love my mom, and we had an awesome time getting to know each other in a new way. She is Dutch and Indonesian, is multilingual, and very well traveled–the perfect guide. I won’t mention her age, but she has lived a full and adventurous life. She is healthy and fit, more flexible than I am at almost half her age. She and I even enjoyed yoga on the deck of the Nordam at sunrise. What a spectacular ship. Don’t even get me started on the food. Needless to say, I ate more than the fruit salad I’d planned on.

Mom often talks about her youth and tells heart-wrenching stories of growing up in German-occupied Holland during WWII. According to her, many of the ports we visited haven’t changed much over the last fifty or sixty years–or even the past hundred or two hundred years. Compared to the US, Europe is the heart of ancient civilization and culture. I was blessed to share it with someone who knows it as home and loves it like only a native can.

I’m happy to say I took copious notes and pictures and had ample opportunity to write, often taking Mom’s observations into account. I gave her the assignment of jotting down descriptions of people, places and general sensory impressions, hoping I could draw from her perspective as well as my own. I figured two sets of eyes was better than one. She delivered in spades. She used vivid imagery, all five senses, and had a unique perspective that will give my characters much more depth than I could have gleened on my own. Kudos Mom!

It’s difficult to say what my favorite location was since they were all so different, beautiful,and interesting, but I remember thinking when we stopped in Portofino, Italy the first day, that I was ready to stay right there and have the ship pick me up seventeen days later. I could have parked my butt in a little cafe in the village and spent my days looking out over the bright blue sea and writing, writing, writing.

I’ll include some pictures over the next few weeks and share a few stories about our wonderful travels. Nothing stimulates the imagination like a new and exciting adventure.

What exotic location has inspired your writing?

Creating Spaces

Hello, Katy Lee here. As I write this, I am relaxing in my rocking chair looking out on a warm, sunny day. The windows are open, and the chirps of birds are filtering in on a soft breeze. It is in this glider, and in my home, where I write anything and everything. From my blog posts to my stories to my lesson plans for all the children I teach in my life.

You would think I didn’t have an office. But the truth is I do. A very beautiful one, for that matter, with French doors, wrap around wall desk, and all the office equipment one would need to be a professional.

But yet, as I rock back and forth with just me and my laptop, I realize that all that office stuff didn’t inspire me like I thought it would. That, in fact, believing I needed a certain setting before I could “get started” on writing was just another excuse not to write.

I believed I needed a place of escape in order to get the creative juices flowing. A place walled off with wood surfaces and resource books at my fingertips. A place that would inspire me to write my best stuff.

But the truth is I was only stalling. Swank offices do not make you a literary success….nor do summer cottages on the beach….unfortunately.

There are no prerequisites other than finding a comfortable place in your home. A place where you are content to sit for long periods of time. And notice I said the word sit.

It doesn’t have to be a huge space, just a place that is your own. And don’t clutter it with things you think you will need. Hold off. Wait and see if you do. Sometimes clutter can be more of a distraction, especially if the sight of dust on those cluttery things causes you to get out of your chair to clean them.

The Unlocked Secret: Keep things simple. Even as simple as a rocking chair facing a window.  You could spend days, and lots of money, creating a place to create, or you could spend that time creating a world where everyone gets to escape to.

So tell me about your favorite places to write. Do you need all the frills or are you content to sit in a comfy chair with nothing but you and your laptop?