This is a must-read. The true meaning of what we know as “Thanksgiving Day.”
(Sorry for the cheesy title.)
Well, there’s 9 days left in November, not including the just under two hours left of today, for the Mountain Time Zone. I had a couple of topics that I planned to write about, but then decided to focus on my work in progress first and then tackle the other two things later on, since they’re more in depth.
I did not participate in NaNo this year, but it’s been quite a productive month so far for my fantasy novel, based somewhat on the younger lives of my four grandparents. I’ve broken the 100 page mark today, and I am still only in “Part One”. Oh my gosh, I think that this may be my very first full-length novel! I really hope that it makes it to at least 250 pages.
So, for the remaining week or so, I want to write at least 50 more pages. The writing has just been flowing and every time I sit down to write, I add at least another five pages per sitting.
I think it’s working because I’ve found that balance of where to write and what music to listen to in order to be inspired. There’s something about that Game of Thrones soundtrack that draws me into the fantasy realm and I’m just totally in love with the world and characters of my story, especially when I listen to the epic melodies. I can almost smell the musty dirt on the streets, and hear the distant battle drums of the invading army about to raid a helpless village.
Or, maybe it’s because the main characters are based on my grandparents. It’s interesting how you feel when your characters are inspired by real people who matter very much to you.
I still think it has a lot to do with sticking with a certain theme or ritual in order to make the most of writing time. For this book, I have no outline. Being a “pantster” seems to be working just fine so I’ll forgo any strict planning and let the story flow.
So, I suppose that is all I need to say for now. Because I’m so happy about this book, I think I’ll add a little excerpt too. I hope you enjoy it! This character is based on my Grandma Kjeldsen. You can see my classic theme of girls trying to dodge their fate of early marriage here.
Agnitia strummed the strings of her fiddle as she stared out the window. A clear sky told her that it would be a wonderful day to go fishing with Frenz.
“Are you going to play that instrument or just toy with it all afternoon?” her mother muttered.
The woman was on both hands and knees, scrubbing the floor. Guilt swept over Agnitia and she stood.
“Do you need help with anything?”
Her mother stopped working for a moment to stare at her. “Is this my daughter speaking?”
“I could help Papa feed the animals.”
With an eye roll, her mother stood. “Go. I am nearly finished.”
Grinning, Agnitia rushed to the door.
She did not like the serious tone of her mother’s voice.
“Food will be scarce again this year. Your father and I are grateful for your help, but…”
“Please don’t say it, Mother.”
She watched her mother’s tired face grow cold. “You are nearly an adult now. I was married at fifteen.”
“Stop the ugly face. I love your father very much.”
“I know that you do.”
She did not want to hurt her mother, but she had to fight for her dreams. No one else would.
“You want me to marry that old farmer, don’t you? You and father always speak favourably of him at the table.”
“He is not old.”
“I could never love a man who is nearly my father’s age.”
“You might not have a choice if your father’s crop yields less than it did last year.”
Agnitia’s limbs trembled in anger. Not only at her own peril, but at the terrible fact that her parents were subject to nature’s cruel whims. They were good, hardworking people, but that did not ensure that they would reap what they deserved.
“I don’t need to eat so much, Mother.”
“I cannot watch you go hungry for another winter.”
It was true, they had all become much too thin since the famine, which was followed by an overabundance of insects that ravaged their crops. But Agnitia had grown used to not eating very often, and she still had enough energy to go exploring with Frenz.
There we have it.
“You are an optimistic, nice girl. Where does all this dark stuff come from?” said a co-worker of mine four years ago, after I told him about the sort of things I write about.
Some of my stories wouldn’t be described as pure horror, but all of them contain significant elements of it within them. So, what does make people want to write books that contain graphic and horrific content? It’s probably not what you think.
I am speaking for myself. Maybe other writers will disagree, but this is how I feel about writing horror.
Horror’s sole purpose is not, or should not, be to simply scare the hell out of people. Good horror writing’s intent should be to send a message, to make people think. To use the negative events to set ideas to flight.
There will always be the torture porn and the mindless “Scare them. Kill them. The End!” stuff, but obviously there is not a lot of craft in that. Imagination? Yes. Skill? Not really.
Like any other book genre, a well-written horror story should contain fleshed-out, complex characters (That you will actually care about when they, um, die, or when they suffer from some other terrible outcome) and a well thought out plot (Or, at least a sensible one!). It also needs a unique idea to set it apart from all of the other horror books that have been written in times past.
I’m not going to say that writers who partake in the art of horror writing don’t have messed up, even twisted imaginations (Because we actually do). Perhaps a concept formed in a writer’s mind as a result of some tragic experience, or from reading or hearing about one. Other times, a writer will look inside of themselves and write out some of their worst fears. All of us are afraid of something, and sometimes what we think are irrational or strange fears, turn out to be more widely regarded as scary than we thought.
Writers, if you want to pen a truly terrifying tale, you’re going to have to dig deep into your own psyche to explore your own anxieties and those nightmares that you’ve tried to forget. Writing always needs to be honest, from the heart. Otherwise, the story will seem forced. Forced is boring. And peoples’ attention spans are short enough as it is.
A lot of my stories contain horror elements in them in large part because the antidote to horror is, essentially, hope. I just love the satisfaction of a character overcoming obstacles of a more dramatic scale. I don’t receive much enjoyment from writing romance, because it’s just too simple and linear for me. I want the character to experience a lot of hardships, go on a journey or two, and then develop as an individual. If there is a hint of romance in my books, it will be destroyed at some point.
Sometimes, characters will need to die in order for a point to come across or for the message to really settle into the reader’s heart. While many things do work out for the better in life, sometimes things do not get better. They get worse. Why do they get worse? Because of “evil” in the world – the diseases, the corrupted world leaders, the warfare, the natural disasters, the rape culture, etc.
Horror asks the gripping question: Who will win – the evil forces or the main characters? Hope or fear? Violence or peace? And, why did they win?
Most of my more recent works have an anti-war or anti-violence theme. Ironically, one needs to show the terrible effects of pain, brutality, and lost lives in a story in order for the message to have a full impact. Show people what life in a third world country entails for a young girl. Emphasize the atrocities and their effects on those people who are subject to war crimes, human trafficking, starvation, cruelty… whatever it is!
Suzanne Collins did not write The Hunger Games, a dystopian novel, with the intent of glorifying violence. She showed the tragedy of teenagers forced to kill one another in a sick game of survival as a symbolism for today’s violence-accepting world.
Many genres have horror components in them. Fantasy, thrillers, dramas, etc. can contain their fair share of the nitty gritty reality in the world.
My opinion is that writing containing horror is an excellent way to tell a lesson or a truth. Often when I have something very bold to say, my writing inevitably channels into the realm of horror.
(Credit: Journey’s End By Jay Epperson) Well, it’s the last day of October. I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo, but what I will do is focus on my current work in progress. It is a fantasy tale centered around four … Continue reading
I am not sure how well this topic will go over with everyone, but it’s an interesting one to be regardless. There is a point to this, I promise.
The media often romanticises mood disorders and mental illnesses of creative people. Have you not noticed how unsurprised you are when you hear that an artist or singer or writer has committed suicide or suffered from a drug overdose? Let’s face it: Writers and artists are often associated with the “misunderstood genius” image. Actually, such a description is often a reality for most of us, but that’s another topic for another day that will probably never appear on this blog, but you never know.
I have noticed just from personal observation that many creative people suffer from some sort of issue of the mind, be it depression or anxiety or even bipolar disorder (To name a few). One might initially assume that negative thoughts and feelings could hinder the writing process, but the opposite is true in most cases.
While psychologists cannot prove that there is a link between mental illness or mood disorders and creative writing, there are several theories and studies that are showing that such mind conditions allow for creativity to thrive.
I don’t know, maybe it is just me, but it makes total sense that there would be an intense need to express oneself because of experiencing mental hardships, no matter what those may be. When a person experiences a hardship, then they will want to work through it and often inspire others to do the same. Art is, after all, a challenge in itself. You overcome so many hurdles as you create, whether it is a story, a picture, a musical piece, or a sculpture. People with mood disorders are constantly facing uncomfortable feelings and situations as well.
Have you noticed that so many great literary works are done by people who are not particularly stable? Of course mentally stable people can create things, but do they have the same effect? Can the writings of someone who has never dealt with depression or other issues show as much raw emotion as one who has? The weight of flawed humanity just pours from the writings of people who have experienced challenges and difficulties.
Maybe you disagree. But ask yourself seriously, what would the world of art and writing be like in the absence of mental instability?
According to one psychiatrist named Arnold Ludwig, “There is no question that people in the creative arts have higher incidences of depression, mania, alcoholism, drug use, schizophrenic breaks and so forth.” His book The Price of Greatness, argues that creative professions who focused on rational thinking and social interaction — like architecture — see very low incidence of mental illness. Meanwhile, the creative fields that focused on more abstract expression — like visual art — see very high incidence of illness.
It isn’t a coincidence. Mentally unstable minds often give birth to creative thoughts, our much needed inspiration.
Ludwig then breaks his theory down further, by saying that among writers. the highest prevalence of mental illness is found in poets, then fiction writers. The non-fiction writers — such as editors and columnists — show the lowest rates of mental illness. Not surprising because the creative energy used to write reports is not anywhere close to that of writing a story. There are stable and unstable creative writers around, but we have to admit that the writings from a broken person often carry more meaning and life. It allows us to look into the areas of life that might not be so pretty, but it is part of life, and in a way, such hardships can show us how precious and special life really is.
Is that not what is so amazing about art, in particular, novels and short stories? A riveting tale can touch the soul and strengthen the will of the reader, and all of this came from a person with an “anti-social” melancholic type of life. Something prolific can be birthed from a troubled mind. And is that not what attracts us to stories anyway? The trouble and the process of conquering hardship?
Even more thought-provoking is this: When people undergoing certain mental conditions take medications, such as lithium used to balance out bipolar disorder, the creative process becomes hindered. I wonder if creative people are more sensitive by nature, and feel things more, because they want to and need to in order to create realistic worlds and characters for their books. When you think a lot and take notice of people and how they act, it can heavily affect how you feel.
Such an interesting thought to consider. I wrote this not to sensationalize how it is to be a writer, but to encourage those writers who do suffer from mental conditions or mood disorders. Chances are, you probably write better because of those symptoms.
Yet another reason to just embrace who you are… and keep writing.
There seems to be some pressure out there from literary agents, publishers, readers, and even other authors to stick with one genre. The reason is that it could possibly confuse or frustrate your book following if you publish a young … Continue reading
My imagination goes into overdrive when I soar back and forth on a swing. It is a catalyst for my inspiration. Not only is it relaxing and fun, but it feels like I am entering into another realm as I … Continue reading
I really like Fast Company’s website, especially Co.Create. Of course, right? You can always find inspiring and informative stories as well as practical advice to become more efficient at your brand or your skill.
So, I found an article all you writers out there will appreciate. Today I was happy to have stumbled upon an article called “The Science of Storytelling.” by Jonathan Gottschall.
The author of the article writes:
“…stories aren’t just fun escapism–they have an almost spooky ability to mold our thinking and behavior. In this post, I’ll describe the science behind the attention-seizing power of stories, leaving their molding power for a follow-up post.”
It’s true. Of course we read a book or watch something on the TV to escape from our real world of work and chores and failed social interactions (Sorry, had to add that one in), but what happens to us as our mind enters into a story and its characters is so much more. We literally become part of the story.
Get ready for this one! Further in the article, he says:
“But when absorbed in a good story–when we watch a show like Breaking Bad or read a novel like The Hunger Games–we experience approximately zero daydreams per hour. Our hyper minds go still and they pay close attention, often for hours on end. This is really very impressive. What it means is that story acts like a drug that reliably lulls us into an altered state of consciousness.”
Storytelling is really very powerful, isn’t it? The way a good book or an intense film can mould your mood and spike your thinking process is really quite amazing. We become stressed, afraid, joyful, upset, etc. as we follow the fictional life of a character. We really do live through the eyes of the main character in a book, show, or movie.
I also find that while writing fiction, I don’t find the process to be relaxing at all. It feels as though I have become the characters, and I will develop goosebumps during a scary scene or I will often shed tears if one of the characters I have loved and nurtured in my imagination dies. Sometimes, I need to sit back and take a sip of tea to remove myself from the intensity of being so involved in an alternate world.
This also reminds writers how cool it is to think that other people reading your work will also feel such emotions simply because their brain is wired to tune in to a story and become so engrossed into the tale that they lose track of reality. I love it!
So, writers, what do you think of this article? Do tell.
I don’t normally post my flash fiction pieces, but I felt like posting this one. I wrote it last year after looking at the image of a girl approaching a wolf. I mean, there are so many ways such a … Continue reading
I haven’t done a question and answer thingy in such a long time, and the ones about stories and books are the absolute best. Thanks to Viktoria for inspiring me to do this. Check out her awesome blog here!
If you decide to do this, let me know so I can stop by your blog and see your answers.
Author you’ve read the most books from: Ted Dekker
Currently Reading: Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Drink of Choice While Reading: Black tea
E-reader or physical book: Both. E-reader for convenience and the ability to buy cheaper books, and physical because, well, it’s old school and amazing to hold a book as you read it.
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Meh, never really thought about it.
Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: A Woman’s Place by Lynn Austin. The name doesn’t sound so good, but it’s actually about women fighting for the status they want in life and so on.
Hidden Gem Book: Four Houses by Tori Scott.
Just Finished: Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. One of the best books I have ever read! Adventure, real characters, action.
Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: I don’t generally like pure romance books, or those cheesy Twilight-esque stories.
Longest Book You’ve Read: The Scottish Chiefs. Enough Said.
Major book hangover because of: White by Ted Dekker. The ending was so intense and because it was the final book in a triology… I don’t want to give it away!
Number of Bookcases You Own: Two, at my parent’s home.
One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: The Hattie Marshall series
Preferred Place To Read: My bed, where it’s quiet and comfy.
Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: “One chance out of two and he would be dead, his consciousness at an end, his flesh cold, and the world, almost unbelievably, would be going on without him.” – Mr Midshipman Hornblower, Chapter One
Reading Regret: Buying a book because the cover was awesome to find out the characters were weak and the plot was not interesting enough for me. I can be a bit of a #snob sometimes.
Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): None.
Three of your All-Time Favourite Books: Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, The Book Thief, When Heaven Weeps
Unapologetic Fangirl of: I guess I haven’t quite reached that level of fandom yet. LOL
Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: L.E. Waters’ next book in her Infinite Series
Worst Bookish Habit: Starting new books as I am still reading another one. This happens with my writing as well!
X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: Run (The Hunted) by Patti Larsen. Do give this book a read! It is a YA thriller book that I couldn’t put down.
Your latest book purchase: Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): High by Corey M.P. I didn’t need coffee to stay up way late reading this book about self discovery and finding love. See? I do read romance sometimes if it’s well-written.