Saturday, May 19, 2012

Turning Trauma into Something Positive through Writing

You don't have to be an author to be able to write.  That may sound silly, but it's true.  So many people tell that they don't like to write or that they don't enjoy it, yet writing is simply a physical account of things that could have easily been spoken.  We all speak everyday.  We all have ideas that populate our brains, some people just enjoy chronicling their words for others to read.  If you speak about something, you are creating words that are just as meaningful as the ones that are written.  This is why we need to be careful about what we say as well as what we write.  We can use our words to be kind to people, to influence people to do amazing things, or we can use our words to hurt others and tear them down.  You don't have to write the words down for them to upset someone. 

There is a national campaign that is actively trying to combat bullies not only in the school systems, but in everyday life.  They are trying to gain support by telling kids to talk to their parents and teachers about what is happening to them.  I have read so many heartbreaking stories about kids who have given up on life because they have been beaten down by bullies.  It's hard to believe that people can be cruel enough to cause others to consider taking their own lives, but it happens and it happens everyday.

The popular thing to do for awhile was to write your experiences and feelings down on cards and play music in the background to express sadness.  It opened up the eyes of a lot of people.  I read an article about a woman who told her story on her Facebook so that everyone she went to school with could understand what she went through and how she survived.  It takes a lot of strength to come forward to talk about your experiences. 

Every single person has experienced some form of bullying in their lives.  It could have been someone in school, or a sibling, or an adult, or an abusive parent. Regardless of who did the bullying or abusing, the worse possible thing to do is be silent.  Silence hurts more than the words that are said to us.  When we stay silent and allow ourselves to suffer, the positive things die inside of us. Confidence, Self-Esteem, Courage, Happiness, and Hope are beaten down until they are gone.  We start to believe the words that we hear and we give the bullies even more power over us. 

The longer we stay silent, the longer the words grow into fear and depression.  Why do we believe other people when they call us stupid?  Why do we care if someone doesn't like our clothes?  Why to we let the popular kids tell us that we aren't cool enough?  Why do we believe that we are worthless?  The answer is, because we need other people to believe in us because we can't believe in ourselves.  It's sad, but it's true.  Instead of looking for others to tell us if we are funny, or smart, or pretty, or talented, we need to start believing these things about ourselves.  We need to take the power away from the bullies and find our own source of confidence.

Everyone has suffered in their lives and so many people are afraid to speak out. What happens when someone does speak out and no one listens or doesn't act on it?  For years I remained silent about the abuse that I was suffering at home.   It wasn't until I was much older that I started to talk about it.  I never thought that anyone would believe what I was going through.  I didn't have bruises or scars to show anyone.  The evidence that I did have was locked away and inaccessible.  So who is going to believe a teenager over an adult?  Even when I did find the courage to speak out, my efforts were stalemated and help never came.  My source of help came when I called 911 because I finally had enough and wanted to end my life.  It was my own mother was asked me the simple question of, "Why?"  Why would I want to escape my life?  Because I confided in the wrong person and help never came.  My words were ignored and claimed to be misunderstood.  I retreated further into my depression and swore I would never speak out again.  Silence became my best friend and my worst enemy.  Looking back I realized who I should have spoken to and often wondered what would have happened if I did confide in the right people.  Maybe I would have been saved much earlier and maybe I wouldn't have had to call an ambulance to help me.

While it may seem scary to talk about your experiences, it can be quite liberating when you do and sometimes positive things can come from it.  I wrote the beginning draft of a story when I was a teenager.  It was violent and angry and allowed me to express some of my feelings even if I wasn't talking about my own problems.  I was able to vent my frustrations through writing.  I recently found the draft and it was different than how I remembered it.  When I read it I remembered that I used part of my suicide note in the story.  I felt at the time that it was the only way for me to tell my story, even if it was embedded within a fictional story.  Today I am finally working on the story that came from my original
draft and from my pain.  It has allowed me to finally work through some of the emotions that I had at the time, even if  the story has little to do with my life.  Some of the frustrations and emotions that I had are spread throughout the story.  Perhaps it's a way of finding some sort of closure, a way to deal with what happened to me.  I'm using my words to deal with the difficult things that I have endured.  I encourage you to do the same.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Google Me This

Most of us remember the 90's and earlier where you had to actually go to a bookstore or dig out your encyclopedias to research anything.  We have become completely spoiled by the internet and our smart phones and how easy we can find information.  If someone is talking about a song and argues with someone about what year it came out, we simply whip out our iPhone and Google it.  In a matter of seconds you can have the date it was released, the person who sang it, the position it was on the charts and the full lyrics.  I say, thank you internet gods for inventing such a marvelous thing! 

When I started writing in the early 90's I had a hard time referencing real places or historical facts since I only had an encyclopedia from 1970 and it wasn't a good one.  It was difficult writing about different places or people since I didn't have enough information at my fingertips.  I also couldn't drive at the time and didn't want to have to ask my grandmother to take me to the library so that I could write for fun.  It just didn't work.  Now that I'm older and technology has advanced to the point of instant information, I am overjoyed.  I desperately try to use it to my advantage.  Without even getting out of my chair I can search for a type of perfume from 1995 that a teenage girl would have worn...and no I had no personal reference since I was not cool and trendy enough and never wore perfume.  I was clueless. I found out that Angel perfume was popular at the time and it fit perfectly into my story.  Yey Wikipedia!  Don't even get my started on video game references.

The interesting thing about using search engines to aid in my writing is all the different ways I have been able to use it.  Yes, I can search for natural disasters that happened 3000 years ago and I can learn about different geographical locations created by an ice age, but I can also use it to help me design furniture or room layouts.  I'm the type of writer who is good with characters and speeches.  I can do emotions and drama.  My downfall is describing what a room or a landscape looks like.  I'm terrible with interior design and don't know a chaise from a vanity.  Just last night I was try to design my heroine's room and I had to Google a ton of different furniture ideas.  I would have never been able to come up with such elaborate designs without a little help.  Even if I don't always describe them in epic detail, just looking at the image will sometimes help me set up a scene.  I personally hit up the Pottery Barn website to get an idea of what my vampire farmboy's modern apartment would look like.  It gave me so many ideas of how to layout the room that I felt more comfortable writing about it. 

I personally have collected images that remind me of my characters or my locations so that I can rummage through them when I need inspiration.  While I'm a very visual person, I tend to have trouble keeping the images focused in my head.  When I write, I think about the characters actions and words, not necessarily the way they look so I need to go back and look at what photo originally inspired me so that I can create the detail.  My collage of photos makes everything real, allowing me the freedom to create my story. 

If anyone were to look through my browser history they would immediately be concerned.  I know the genre that I'm writing for is dark and there so many different kinds of characters that I am creating that I need a vast array of websites needed.  There are many times when I have to turn to the dark side and learn about less favorable subjects.  I have Googled prisons, insane asylums from the 1800's, cult leaders, and of course Satan.  I have even looked up what is considered to be the first prison in Italy located in Rome.  Some of these subjects would be embarrassing or difficult to research in person.  I like keeping my distance from the asylums since they freak me out.  I'm perfectly happy to let Wiki and Google access the information and keep me safe.

I know people will argue that going to these places and searching through books is the best way to learn about these things, but I'm not writing a historical romance novel but merely sprinkling these things throughout my stories.  Besides, I was in Rome and I don't remember the prison being on the tour, though the building does look vaguely familiar.  (My personal favorite was pulling up pictures of the Colosseum and turning the camera view to get all the sides.  Having been there it was a nice refresher and I enjoyed the detail.)  Also, I'm not going to rummage through furniture stores looking for the perfect chair.  I find that taking a few hours away from what I'm writing to research something outweighs the time taken from writing.  Having pictures of Romanian castles, cliffs in Norway and cabins in Montana have vastly improved my settings and detail so that I can put my characters in interesting a exciting locations.  I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Musical Inspiration that Can Help Your Writing

One night, I was reading a story to Thing 2 called "Bad Kitty".  It's a series about well, a bad kitty.  This one was about politics and explained how kitty wanted to become head of the neighborhood block patrol.  The story is written for kids and it's sarcastic and funny.  It has illustrations of what the cat is doing to keep the kids interested.  There were two pages in the book where it showed a six panel cartoon sketch explaining the action.  On the top corner of the panel was a note written from the writer of the book to the editor of the book.  They broke the 4th wall and went outside of the story to make a joke.  The note said..."Bob (the editor), here would be a good place for the swelling dramatic music".  There was a reply below it that said, "John (the writer) this is a book.  We can't use music."  The writer replied, "Oh right, never mind".  While we all get the joke that a book can't have a musical score playing in the background and a theme song it doesn't mean that the writer can't use music to inspire their writing.

People love to use music in all areas of their lives.  We use it for celebrations like weddings or dances.  Everyone knows the wedding march or the number one song currently playing on the radio.  We listen to songs when we are sad and want to cheer ourselves up or listen to a upbeat song just because we are happy and want to express it.  Come Monday morning I want to listen to any dance song I can find to motivate myself to wake up and start my day.  I am also known to blast Industrial music or Metal when I'm angry and had a bad day.  Music helps us cope with life, so why not use it to help our writing?

After a long day, it's time to sit and write. You try to relax but the kids are screaming and there was a ten car pile up on the Parkway and a customer yelled at you on the phone, and you can't invoke the right mind set to write a kissing scene where the two people are so focused on each other that the entire world has fallen away.  

One way that I overcome this hurdle is to lock the door, put on my "mood music" and pretend that nothing else exists other than the characters being intimate.  I personally like "Overcome" by Tricky Tricky - Overcome, "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star Mazzy Star - Fade Into You or Portishead, "Sour Times" Portishead - Sour Times.  I can listen to these songs and put myself into a place far away from the distractions and write what I need to write.

The best part about music is that there is an unlimited supply of it and every song makes you feel something unique.  A happy song can make us angry because it reminds us of an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or a sad song can remind us of someone that we lost.  The lyrics don't even have to match your mood as long as the music creates the emotion needed.  Whatever song you use needs to match the feeling you are trying to create.  Let it drive the action or the plot or the emotion of the character.  There are endless ways of allowing music to enhance your writing.

I was driving in the car the other favorite place to work through my writing ideas and I was listening to Front Line Assembly "Prophecy" Front Line Assembly - Prophecy and came up with my battle scene for Book 6.  I had always envisioned a battle while listen to it, but didn't know who was fighting.  I started thinking about my Fallen Angels and my pesky vampire problem and voila I had a war.  I also like Smashing Pumpkins "The End is the Beginning is the End" Smashing Pumpkins - The End is the Beginning of the End - The Watchmen version, not the Batman version.  It's good for a nice creepy battle with things that have fangs and claws.  While you can't write in slow motion I certainly think of it that way in my head.

Now the speed round...listen to this and tell me what you want to write about...Jem - "It's Amazing" Jem - It's Amazing...

(No peeking and no copying off anyone else's sheet.)

Here's what I came up with...first round draft notes version:  There is a grand staircase in a museum.  People are all dressed up, chatting about the exhibits and paintings.  A woman in a long tight dress descends the staircase, champagne in hand.  She has her eyes locked a man who is talking to his security detail, but obviously a man of importance in his tux.  He turns and politely speaks to the woman standing next to him and out of the corner of his eye sees the woman on the staircase.  She crosses the marble floor and smiles at him, but keeps walking.  She accidentally brushed against his back in the crowded room. He turns to look at her. She smiles seductively at him and he holds out his hand to her. He smirks and nodded to the head of security to keep an eye on things.  She leaves her drink on a side table and follows the man into an elevator.  He gets into the elevator and waits for the doors to close.  They quip about the crowd and and the champagne.  He invites her to a private suite.  She smiles and says she prefers the elevator.  She stops the elevator and grabs him for a harsh kiss.  She pulls off his jacket and throws it behind her.  He grabs her and pulls her closer.  She leans back, punches him with a right cross, sending him into the wall.  She kicks him with a roundhouse to the face, but he blocks the kick.  He throws a punch and she ducks.  She throws herself shoulder first into his gut and propells him into the wall.  He hits his head and is rendered unconscious.  She throws her red hair back and fixes her dress and makeup.  She grabs the jacket from the floor and pulls out the security card.  She activates the com in her ear as the door at the top of the elevator opens to reveal her partner.  She tossed the key to him and jumps up to escape the elevator.  She walks through the open elevator door on the floor above them and descends the stairs to rejoin the party.

(Not that this is my style of writing, but it's something that came to mind in the few minutes that I listened to the music.  It's also a first draft, so ignore the writing, it's merely meant as an example of what you can write by listening to the music.)

No matter what kind of song you listen to or what you are writing, there is a song to fit every style of writing.  Use it to unlock places in your mind that you didn't know existed.  Just stay away from the corny stuff like the "Chicken Dance" or "YMCA".  I'll leave you with a grand sweeping dramatic song. Escala - Requiem for a Tower 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Finding Time to Write

I have so many people tell that they don't have time to write or that there just aren't enough hours in the day.  I personally I have said it a million times, yet I told myself that I am committed to creating my series and want to see it through.  So how can you find time to write with a job, husband, kids and dogs?  You steal every spare moment that you can. 

This past week has been very difficult on the writing front.  My husband was away for the week so I had full time kid duty.  I wasn't focus on writing at all.  Dinners had to be made, dogs had to be walked and even a birthday party had to be planned.  I technically didn't write a single word, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't writing.

When you have an idea in your head that you feel is strong enough to put down on paper, it comes from your mind, or surroundings or people you know.  It's important to look around your busy life and see what inspiration you can get from it.  Did the kids say or do something funny?  Did the dogs create such havoc that it inspired a funny moment?  So often I hear phrases from friends and co-worker that would fit into different places within my story, even if it's something silly.  One word or phrase can open a door or lead you down a path that you might never have thought of.  My person fav so far would be from my son, "Eww...pit sweat".  It was in reference to a bad guy who could create a gush of water that could drown an entire room.  Given that my character is already sarcastic and in a verbal battle with the creature, it's well placed.  Of course the way my son said it was beyond perfect.  He has excellent comedic timing.

When I don't know what to write and I'm stuck, I let my mind wander.  I take whatever quiet time I can get and use it to my advantage.  When I lay down to go to sleep, I will think of a character and let my mind wander and see what happens.  So many of my ideas have come from just falling asleep or just waking up.  It's that time and place where dreams are starting to take over and allow for fascinating things to happen.  I also take advantage of the quiet in the bathroom.  As odd as it may seem I can stare at the blank white walls, brush my teeth and forget about who is punching who in the next room or what Stinkeroo has in his mouth.  Sometimes I only need a few minutes of peace to come up with a simple idea and expand upon.  Instead of singing in the shower I have whole conversations as my characters.  I come up with their humorous or their serious moments.  On more than one occasion I have made myself cry in the shower because I came up with an emotional speech.  You remember to get out of the shower and back into the real world before you are late for school or work.

Another place to find time to write outside while on a long walk with the dog.  I have two different kinds of dogs, the stroller who stops and pees on every plant and the speed walker that just keeps going.  Both of them can get the job done.  The stroller allows me to look at the trees and the sky and feel the warm breeze and enjoy the moment.  I have conversations, come up with landscapes, character motivation, whatever.  The speed walker gets me going and I can think of action moments or battle scenes.  The dogs can't talk back and don't understand, so who cares what I say to them.  They also don't keep asking what time it is or if they can watch TV or who invented the prison system...yes Thing 1 ask me that when he was 4.  So next time, volunteer to take the dog for a walk and take the long route.  Talk until you are blue in the face and it will amaze you to see what you have accomplished.  Personally I figured out a boat load about Book 2 one day and I was grateful.  Oh, but don't walk them together otherwise you will only get a workout and nothing written.

My best and favorite place to come up with ideas would be the car.  Now, I admit, I do sing in the car.  I will sing just about anything.  A friend once told me she puts on a performance in the car.  I do the same thing, when I just want to forget about everything.  When I want to work on a writing problem, I turn down the radio, look at the open landscape and let my mind play.  It was on my way to work the other morning that I came up with the battle sequence for Book 6.  I have characters and a vague plot, but I wasn't sure what was really going to happen.  Thankfully it came to me in full color and surround sound even though I started off with the simple thought of, what do the vampires do?  Why were they created?  Then bam, I had the answer.  Just make sure you are carefully watching the guy who is took busy texting in the next car over to drive straight and stay in his lane.

While it does take time to type everything out and edit and reedit, I will steal any precious minutes that I can.  So many mornings I have sat in the parking lot outside of work and typed out basic thoughts on my smartphone and emailed them to myself.  I have sat during the kids activities with my iPad and jotted down notes or phrases or even a few words so that I can turn them into something later.  It's important to look up and root for the kids and let them know that you saw the goal that they just made.

As much as we all want to publish our stories and our ideas, writing doesn't have to be a 9-5 job.  Given that I don't have deadlines, aside from the ones I impose on myself, I have the freedom to write when it comes to me and make time when I have enough to form something cohesive.  When I am ready to bust my butt and really write, I make the time.  The bottom line is, if you want something badly enough, you make the time for it.  Sure I typically write after the kids go to bed for a few hours before I pass out and I will dedicate most of my Sunday to tackling my project full force, yet I try not to let it get me down when I do have to join the real world and leave my writing for the day or the week.  I know that even if I don't get a single word written, my mind is still doing the work and I give it every opportunity to so.