It's been an insightful and challenging couple of weeks here at the story factory. I've made it a habit to do some learning, some homework, related to writing, every night. So far, that means watching a video on YouTube about how to pitch to literary agents, or Q & A sessions with successful authors -- Did you know that Lee Child doesn't have any more knowledge of the inner workings of the U.S. Military than anyone whose parent was in the military? He just makes it up! -- but lately, I've been watching a lecture series by a Sci-Fi/Fantasy author named Brandon Sanderson.
The first lecture I watched (but not the first in the series) dealt with 'world-building'. That's a vital lesson for SF/F writers, but not so much for the style of story that I write. I like to use settings that already exist. However, sometimes the setting I choose needs to be changed just a little. Or, perhaps I want to create a fictional town for my story (as I do for my next book --no title as of yet). Early on in his lecture, Sanderson talks about the three most important elements for a novel: Plot, or Story Arc, Character Development, and Setting... in that order. I've been working pretty hard on my book's story arc, and the settings are already real, so I started thinking about the character development aspect of my book - the second most important aspect!. My cast of nine main characters have their own voices, and their own personality quirks, but their motivations don't shine through. They have their own backstories, which give them their motivations, but none of it is in the writing I've done. What this means is that I'm going to have to go back through every scene, and look for opportunities to insert some explanations for why each character acts the way they do It was a depressing realization. This book needs a lot more work than I had thought. The good news is that I caught the error before an editor or agent had the chance to see it.
I had hoped to have the first draft done, and started looking for an agent, by this summer of 2020. Now, I think it may not happen until the Fall. It will still happen, though, and now, you'll all love (or hate) my characters as much as I do!
Can you believe I just gave my expert opinion out for free?! Here, I recount my experiences with werewolves on another writer's blog. In these days of killer flu viruses, let's be thankful that lycanthropy isn't a symptom. https://cmrosens.com/2020/03/12/lets-talk-about-wolves-2-whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf/?fbclid=IwAR0zBTUlThXriteYitBfkgiZ5IesRQxKiGcaOOUKvhvjJeMDtOixq9oyt3w
The age-old question, Where do you get your ideas? ; it's been asked of every successful author, and even of myself. There is an easy answer, but it's not very satisfying to the reader. It's I don't know. For most writers, that's true, but I'm going to explore the question a little deeper.
For myself, I think ideas come from a pattern of thinking; a mindset under which a brain has been trained to operate. I live life, doing errands, fulfilling obligations and responsibilities, and I will occasionally ask myself, "What if...?". That's where my ideas come from. I need to train myself to ask that question more often, because when I do remember to ask it, an idea pops out of the ethereal realm, and begs for life. Not all ideas are suited for life in this world, though, and in this case, murder must be performed. I am a serial killer. I have casually killed countless ideas, usually with no compunction. It's a valuable skill, because the good ideas will often... come back. I honestly cannot think of a better feeling than the cold, bony grip on my shoulder from an idea that I had cheerfully murdered, in one grisly fashion or another, months or years before. I can feel the presence of one or three of these ghouls at all times. Even now, there's scratching at the cellar door in my mind.
One such idea features a werewolf. I had killed this idea several years ago because werewolves have overpopulated the literary ecosystem for decades. There's not much room for just another werewolf story, anymore. This is where my What if...? habit comes in. What if an unknowing child of a werewolf witnesses his or her lycanthropic parent turn and savagely devour the other parent? Of course, now that I've given this idea a voice, no matter how small, it will now require nourishment and nurturing... or a tremendous exertion of energy to kill it again. For the time being, my nurturing instincts are taking over, and one source of nourishment has been found on a colleague's blog. This week, she discusses her development of werewolf society in her book, Real Meat. In coming weeks, guest contributors may offer their thoughts about werewolves in fiction, including yours truly. So, please check out https://cmrosens.com/2020/03/05/lets-talk-about-wolves/
Next month (April, 2020), my short story, A Hole in the Somewhere, is scheduled to appear on BlackPetals.net. The idea for this story came from a classic rock song that I've long misheard one of the lyrics to. Abacab, by Genesis, has a lyric near the end of the song about waking up covered in cellophane. The next line is, there's a hole in there somewhere... Comparing the title of my story to this lyric, one might detect my error in understanding Phil Collins's singing. That's all it took. A misheard lyric, and a series of What if...? questions.
I encourage you all to ask "What if...?" more often in your own lives, even if you don't write. It expands your world, opens your imagination, and colors your reality with what can often be a very odd paintbrush.