Epic Emotions, Heroes & Parallels – Writing From The Heart

I have to be honest… I’ve felt a tremendous need for introspection over the past week or so on things that have nothing to do with my writing–probably because I’m going through a lot of changes.  Though, don’t worry, I’ll spare you most of the details.

One thing I do want to say is this: one way some of my most recent experiences are actually related to my writing, however, is that suddenly I feel more connected to my characters–particularly my heroine.

I remember when I was working on the last couple of scenes in Element 7 during my heavy edits, I felt really emotional about them because, in a way, I was going through some of the same things that my MC (main character) was: heart-break, confusion, disappointment…

Those are very potent, less-than-desirable experiences.  Though, perhaps going through these things will only help to make my writing that much more potent.

2012 has been a very dark year for me, actually (and most will never understand just how dark it truly was for me).  And really, it’s only been in the last couple of months that I’ve felt those dark clouds start to roll away.  The future–my future–doesn’t look quite as…well, bleak as it once did before.  I’d lost any sense of purpose in my life, but lately I’ve seemed to find some…

The Drifter, by Jack Vettriano.
The Drifter, by Jack Vettriano.

A Call to Action

I’m sure many writers know that there’s a moment in every epic “Hero’s Journey” story known as the Call to Action (or Adventure).  (This is relevant because Element 7 is, essentially, an nontraditional hero’s journey, folks!)  Typically, this Call occurs closer to the beginning of a story, but…I’m working on a trilogy, and I think my novel actually has two Calls to Action–one near the beginning, and one right at the end.

Why?

Well, there’s got to be something to look forward to in the sequel…right?  (‘Course, gotta leave readers hanging a bit, as well. ;))

Anyway, the reason I’m even bringing this up is because right now I feel like I am facing my own Call to Action (with starting my own interior design business and whatnot)…and, to be honest, it’s a pretty darn scary place to be.  If I chicken out, then I won’t have a “story” to live out and tell to others; if I answer the call…

…Well, I’ll kinda have to change.

Fact is I can’t continue to be the person I currently am if I want to get to where I want to go in life.  I have to move even more out of my comfort zone than I’ve been doing lately.

Baby steps are great, for a while, but sometimes you just have to take a huge freakin’ leap if you want to get to The Next Level.

You know what I’m sayin’?

Personal (Ironic) Parallels Between Fiction & Reality

So when I first started formulating the basic ideas behind Element 7, I was 19.

I’m 24 now.  (Yes, that means it’s been over 5 years since I started working on this thing!)

Ironically, my main character, Voi, is also 24, so I’m just now catching up to her, lol.  Also, ironically, Voi once made the decision to run her own business at a young age.  She’s a bit ahead of me, in some ways, and lately I haven’t just been looking at her as a hero so much as my hero.

Yes, that’s right–I actually look up to a fictional character.

You see, Voi is a lot more outgoing than I am.  She’s not afraid to do something crazy–like drop out of college to pursue her love of flight and become a stunt flyer then later an entrepreneur.  She’s not afraid to make mistakes–or rather, she doesn’t let fear stop her from making them.  Also, she’s a bit of a pioneer.

Most entrepreneurs are, methinks.

The point is I kinda admire that about her, and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to relate to her so utterly directly.

It’s kinda neat.

So, as I sit here churning out my last edits before beta reading, I feel that I’m at a special point in my life where I can stop writing/editing from the notes and outdated plans and whatnot and just simply write from the heart.

Hmm…yeah, so no prompt this time!

Like I said, I’ve kind of been in an introspective mood, so I don’t really have a prompt for you readers like I usually do at the end, heh.  However, if you have any comments, do feel free to share! 😀

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Tone & Emotion

Last week I’d intended on rushing enthusiastically into the second half of my edits, and then I realized, after staring at the same section for way too long, that this just wasn’t gonna happen.  My brain, apparently, didn’t want to be an editor; it wanted a different kind of stimulation.  So despite my intentions, I took a week-ish break from actively editing the story and just thought about some things.

I kind of feel like I need to do this at least for every 50K words or so that I go through because that’s a lot to focus on continuously when you’re making changes beyond line edits.  Stepping back every so often to see the big picture helps to keep things in perspective.

So as I was looking back at the changes I’d made so far, I noticed something about the tone I’ve been using: at the beginning I tried to keep things very light and whimsical, but then by the halfway point it’d become considerably more matter-of-fact and blunt.  (And I think I didn’t notice this until now because it happened so gradually.)  Suddenly things are really serious–a fact which has made it increasingly more difficult for me to edit and rewrite certain areas.

Tone & Emotion

I don’t really like to write serious stuff; deep down I prefer to be silly, to be honest, so if I’m required to write something serious it takes more effort than writing something that is more lighthearted.  Emotionally, it takes a toll on me because I strongly empathize with everything I put my characters through.  (I imagine this isn’t too uncommon with writers, though.  Especially women.  I was reading one author’s blog one day and she talked a bit about how sometimes she needs a break from writing from a certain character’s perspective; she finds it depressing, just due to the nature of the character.  So she’s now experimenting more with changing POVs.)

I wasn’t sure why this happened at first, the change in tone, but then I thought more about it and realized it’s actually a reflection of what’s happening in the story, of what the protagonist is going through: the story’s tone matches the reshaping of her worldview.  For some reason I was kind of disturbed by this realization, actually.  I mean, do I want to have her views influenced, and in what way?  (I’m sounding like an overprotective mother or something now.)  This can’t really be helped, of course, ’cause people’s views are influenced all the time when they step beyond what they know, but I can control how the protagonist reacts to those influences.

In any case, this is really making me consider my ending again to ensure it gives off the right message for the established story and character progression.  I recall fellow blogger and writer Mark Andrew Edwards musing about something similar not long ago, on consciously thinking about the messages being communicated in one’s story.  (I don’t necessarily think a story’s ending has to be uplifting and entirely likable, but it should be intentional–or rather unexpected yet inevitable, as they say.)

Ultimately, this project has not just been a huge learning experience but also a meditative one.  Writing stories isn’t just about putting words on the page and getting ideas across to readers; it’s also about engaging them–mentally and, even, emotionally.  Personally I feel I get more out of storytelling experiences when they accomplish all of these things, and sometimes I feel gypped when they don’t.  Though, it really depends on the kind of story, as well.  For most adult literature, however, those are my expectations, so I hope to meet them with this project in the end.

Do you find it easier to write in certain kinds of tones more than others?

If so, which ones, and why?

Setting Reflects Character Reflects Setting (Part II)

Late post today!

So last week I left off with the question: how can the words you choose to describe your characters and their surroundings work to your advantage so that the setting becomes not just a prop but a tool for complementing, amplifying or providing contrast to your characters?

Then I started writing an answer and it got really long (happens sometimes)…and I’m like, “Screw this.  Let’s keep things short.”

-er.

So here’s the short answer:

Draw From Elements of Setting to Demonstrate Aspects of Character

That’s basically what it comes down to.

Now for the explanation.

Imagine there’s this character…

…a young woman.  She’s having a moment of calm but it could be ruined at any moment because she’s avoiding some task that needs to be done but refuses to do it because it only confirms some truth she doesn’t want to acknowledge.  The reason she’s focusing on being calm is not only to avoid this thing but also because she believes she’s in a hopeless situation that’s only getting worse, and she’s doing her best to ignore this and wants to believe there is some hope left for her.  Even if she’s not sure how this is possible yet.

So we have a set up.  Vague as it might be.  (Feel free to fill in the particulars with your imagination.)

We also already have some strong emotions and states of mind we can play off of: calmness, peace, fear, guilt, denial, hopelessness, maybe even some paranoia.  In order to contribute to the overall mood of this situation, then, it would make sense (to me, anyway) to choose words and focus on things that inherently evoke or hint at these emotions, even when it comes down to painting the picture of the setting.

Maybe our protagonist finds gentle breezes to be soothing.  Maybe she equates being still with being at peace, so she isn’t really doing anything at the moment except for sitting in her kitchen, at a table perhaps, and listening to the curtains rustle in the wind at an open window.

Introducing the emotional elements through the setting can help the reader feel the quality of calmness and serenity that the protagonist longs to experience herself.

So let’s say now she closes her eyes, enjoying the moment…

But things are too laid-back now.  We need some contrast here.

To bring in the guilt, our protagonist needs to be reminded of what she’s been putting off, so maybe she becomes aware of a clock ticking off in the distance now.  The notion of time is unwantedly drilled into her mind, reminding her of that-thing-left-to-do and making her paranoid.  Yet she denies this by picking up the newspaper, perhaps, focusing on it instead.  Though, even this holds reminders of hopelessness: stories of the unfortunate and tragic accidents.  Lurid, sensational news.

She tosses the paper aside, frustrated.

Again, she listens to the clock and is paralyzed by its incessant, unchanging rhythm.

Eventually she’s able to fix her gaze onto some tulips sitting in a vase upon the table, just beginning to bloom.  They remind her of pleasant, happy things.  A symbol of new life and new beginnings…something she may never have.

Then someone pounds on the front door, giving her a start.  Her body tenses because suddenly she realizes it’s too late to do the thing she’s been avoiding, and now she could definitely be in trouble for it.

~

Obviously the protagonist has got to face the thing she’s avoiding sometime.  Though, by providing atmospheric context that supports the character’s situation, you can make connections between character and setting in a way that builds tension and enhances the moment, leading up to the point where a dramatic shift takes place.

Not always ideal for handling every situation in a story, but it’s one way of doing things.  I’m sure there are plenty of other methods.

What are some of the ways you connect characters with settings in your stories?