Wrestling with Your Characters

Tapping a Pencil

Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

I’ve had a hard time writing my novel for the past couple of days – not because I was not in the mood to write, or because I was procrastinating, but because every time I sat down to write the next chapter, I got off the chair and did something else.  Now, that may have sound as procrastination, but I knew that was not the case.  I decided to think about it some more.  Why did I turned back once I decided to write that next chapter?  It puzzled me and annoyed me as well.

Pondering about the issue, I discovered that I was having an issue with one of my characters.  Yes, as weird as it sounds, this character had grown strong and had taken over, behaving and reacting differently from what I had planned.  Opening that computer file to write meant having a writer’s confrontation with my character.  This presented an issue that I disliked to ponder – had I lost control of my novel?  Was I being intimidated by one of my characters?  I had to ponder about this even when I did not like the idea.  I did.

My findings were very interesting.  I had to admit that I was wrestling with this character from the beginning of the story, like it or not.  The problem is that it is my main character.  This issue presented another bigger issue – should I stop writing the novel, should I continue wrestling, or should I listen to this character and give in to it?  In this case, is her.  Well, I needed to decide, otherwise my story would be frozen indefinitely.  I did.

I realized that I had to go back to the beginning of the story and try to understand this character’s reasons.  I decided to look for the moment when the writer-character conflict started and understand the why.  This is my compromise with her.  To some of you, this may seem bizarre and a bit “cuckoo” but it is the compromise I had to do to continue writing the story.  I agreed to put my writing aside until I go back to those chapters and realize my issue with it – after all, it is my issue, and not the character’s issue.  I created it, and I am having the problem; or is it a challenge?  Does that mean that after all, I am in control of the story?  Well, I cannot answer that until I find out, and that is another post.

The Story with a Heartbeat

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

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Some stories are alive; others are dead.  A story has a heartbeat when it manages to touch the reader and evoke feelings and emotions.  This is how I know that a story has touched me deeply – I cry, I pause for a long time, I get goosebumps, or I can’t stop thinking about it, for days, weeks, or years.

The first book to touch my soul was Jonathan Livingston Seagull from Richard Bach.  A few years ago, I managed to find an autographed copy on Ebay, and I reread the story.  I loved it again, maybe more so.  It is still my favorite book.

This morning, I read a story on a blog – The Jittery Goat – and the story made me cry.  It was sweet, had a great pace, and it touched my heart.  The short story is called “A Sunset for Claire.”  You never know when a story is going to touch your soul; you can’t predict it, it just happens.

Why it happens?  Who knows; it is one of those things.  Maybe we connect with it at a deep and personal level, maybe it reminds us of something, it gives us hope, it talks to us at the right time, we get its genius … the reasons vary from reader to reader.  However, I consider this a treat when it happens.  I like many stories,poems … however, just because I like them and think they are great, that does not mean that they reached my soul – some do, some don’t – this is how it is for me.  This is why I always approach a story with a sense of respect, because I don’t know how much I will get from it and how it will touch my heart.

What is the story or poem that has touch your soul?

The Most Amazing Thing that You Ever Saw

Lunar libration. see below for more descriptions

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What was the most amazing thing that you ever saw?  It may not have been a fancy or  elaborated thing, trip, experience …  It may have been something very subtle, but that left an amazing impression in your memory, and you remember it with much delight, and even awe.

For me, this was just a simple event – the first time I saw the moon through a telescope.  I must have been about five years old, six the most.  I was visiting the neighbors kids next door and their father, a pastor, had a home telescope set on their balcony.  He was watching the moon craters.  He told me to come over and see and I did.  The magical image that I saw has stayed with me all my life, and it is as clear today,  as that exciting moment.  I must have always had a fascination with the moon.  According to my mom, when I was a toddler I used to point at it and call it LULU.  Today, I love to look at the moon, which I can see  through the big window when I am in bed.  I love when I wake up on some nights, and the moon is just right there, positioned just so perfectly that the light hits me in the face – I love the moonlight, it is so refreshing.  And so, talking about it I have been inspired.

Here is a poem for the silver lady.

Silver Lady

Of silver and pearls

every night dressed

dashing with your light

caressing my face.

My very best friend

lullaby of light,

so gentle and pure

constant thru my time.

On new moon, I miss you

playing peekaboo

Full moon is here

playing with my mood.

If the day would come

when I don’t see you,

It could only mean

that now I’m with you.

What was the most amazing thing you ever saw?  Think about it and be inspired.

The Creative Octopus

I am writing this post thinking about those people who are torn between many creative endeavors; simply put, they cannot commit to only one.  If you are like me, you probably cannot work only in painting, writing, or handmade crafts – your creative energy is so strong that you have to do it all, otherwise, you feel strapped down and incomplete.  This can be a challenge, specially because there are only so many hours during the day, and many times you have to deal with the frustration of not being able to dedicate more time to some creative projects.

You have heard the adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none” – well that is something we have to contend with and if we are going to dedicate our time and efforts to all our creative passions, we may have to focus a bit more on one to be able to move forward – there has to be a certain balance, otherwise you end up with tons of projects, lots of creative energy, but nothing done to full completion.

If you are making a living this way, it gets more challenging as you have to deal with all the documentation and paperwork that goes with it, to keep it IRS happy – these activities eat a lot of your creative time; however, they are necessary.  If you work outside the home as well, and have a family, this could get very stressful, and you may end up feeling tired, overworked, but mostly, with your creative hands tied up.  Again, balance is the magic word.  However, singles and couples without kids have it easier, no doubt about that.  There are many other activities and commitments that come with the fact of having a family.

How can you tend to work, family and your many creative passions?

The answer, not at once.  I have found that as long as I know that I can dedicate some time to pursue my passions, I am happy.  For example, I focus on my writing, and dedicate time to my other passions, whether it is one day a week or more than one.  For example, you can dedicate part of your Sunday afternoon to painting or an hour on Wednesday evening.  Maybe your Saturday mornings can become your crafting sessions … you have to find  what works for you.  If you have a family, they have to learn to respect your creative time as well.

If you are a creative octopus and decide to give up painting to dedicate your efforts to writing, for example, but your soul is hurting for some brushstrokes, then your writing will suffer as well, because you are tying up your creative Muse.  Finding a way to keep duty, love, and creativity coexisting together is not easy, but attainable.  For many families, what started as a one person creative endeavor, ended up as a whole family business.

Give your Muse enough time to play with all your passions, while focusing on one artistic venue.  Sometimes, creative octopuses become overwhelmed by their own creative energy, and abandon it all, as they think that they cannot do it all in one day.  That is the clue – not to do it all in one day, but instead, to dedicate one day to each one of your creative passions.

You can enjoy all your artistic passions, but one tentacle at a time.

Steampunk Inspired

I love the Steampunk theme; it is a mix of Victorian Gothic with futuristic elements, which I find so appealing to the senses and imagination.  I love it in stories, movies, art. and even some apparel and jewelry (yes I do own some).  Steampunk screams adventure and romance, but also the darkest side – the fallen of humanity.

Thinking about this, it occurred to me that writing Steampunk is not easy; I’m not sure I could do it, although I have never tried.  The creation and elaboration of that kind of world requires a lot from the imagination.  Unlike writing in the present or writing from a historical perspective, Steampunk presents a different challenge to the writer.  The writer must create a world that has elements of the past, present and the future, and at the same time mesh in the characters, but doing all that while being true to the characters.  In a way, it is similar to writing fantasy, but in my opinion more challenging, since you can just take off with your fantasy world, but in Steampunk, you still have to abide by some “past-world rules.”

If you are a Steampunk writer I invite you to comment about the challenges that you have faced as a writer while creating that world.

The Rebellion of Characters

A public domain image of Frank Thomas' Golden ...

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When I set out to write my first novel,one of my main characters rebelled.  I had planned for this character to be and behave a certain way – geeky, fun, and second to the female of the story.  I began to write the story, and immediately I felt resistance from this character.  Since it was my first novel, I found this amusing, interesting, and thought to myself, “what the heck, it is just one of the characters.”  Little did I know, you should never treat a character as “just one of the characters,” and he showed me that.

My character took the lead, presented himself strong, and the total opposite to what I had planned – a hottie, smart, with a soft side and a dangerous side as well.  I let him be, and I am glad that I did that.  The result was amazing to me, he shaped the story, but did not in any way opaque the main female character.

I could have gone with my original intention and fight this character all the way to the end of the story; however, I was at the perfect stage of experimentation.  I learned a lot, and I have to thank in part this character.  My point to this post is to let yourself experiment, and don’t be afraid of letting go of a preset order of chapters, characters, and outline.  Write with love, enjoy it, have fun.

When Quitting is the Right Option


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I used to obsess about stuff – a book, a project …  By obsess I mean, that when I started something I had to finish it, no matter if I was enjoying it or not – in my mind, if I started, I must finish.  I read many books that I disliked or bored me to death, just because I started them.  Some people may think, “well that is not so bad; I wish I could finish stuff.”   It is bad when it sends you thru the path of a wrong career, and in the middle of your studies, you know it is the wrong path, but you keep on, because you started and must finish.  It is bad, when you doubt your instincts, your inner voice, because you must finish what you started, even when you know that may not be the right thing or path for you.  It is bad, when something that you enjoyed when you started it, does not fit your goals or persona anymore, but you must finish because you never leave things unfinished.

There are many instances when quitting is the right option, and maybe the only option, if you want to move ahead.  When something does not lift your spirit anymore and becomes a burden, maybe it is time to take a look and ask why?  Answering why is important because it will let you know if it is just a temporary stale situation, or if you have gone on the wrong direction, and must adjust your step, or stop walking on that direction entirely.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of perspective, and there is no need to quit; other times, quitting will be necessary for growth.

When I realized that doing something just for the sake of doing it, without meaning, without direction, without desire or passion, or without love, that is when I stopped reading the book that bored me half way, working at the wrong career, and just doing things that killed my spirit.  However, before you quit, you have to know your new direction, you have to know where you are headed, and be sure of the why; otherwise, you may regret it.

So, when is quitting the right option?  When you know that continuing in that path will only hurt your spirit, your self, your soul, and when you have the answer to the question Why? … and when you know that you have a sense of where your next path begins – even when sometimes, you may not know right away where it will take you.  However, before you quit, you must first turn around, and STOP!

Pairing Down to Discover Yourself

The Queen of Hearts, from a 1901 edition of Mo...

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It started with a desire to de-clutter my surroundings and get rid of everything – this is when I knew that I was headed towards simplifying my life and spiritual transformation.  A friend once called me  “the queen of everything” since I loved everything charming and cozy and my home was resembling “The Brass Lantern” – a local store that is filled with the most precious trinkets and magical things, a favorite of both.

The desire for simplifying started in my closet, and moved on to the entire house, luckily coinciding with our decision to move to Virginia, to a simpler life, which made it easier to get rid of much stuff.  The result was – being able to pack everything we own in a medium size hauler, the kind you use for transporting one car, I think an 8×16 or so.  I was happy with that, but during the de-cluttering, I found myself longing for true purpose and undergoing a spiritual search – I’m still working on that.

During the process, I found a few things about the stuff I owned and its relation to the person I was becoming.  First, I was amazed at the amount of stuff I had, although my home has always been very organized and neat.  I learned  that you can have tons of clutter neatly organized.  Eddie has always been a minimalist, and I guess his love for me tolerated my insanity.  However, he discovered that he was getting attached to stuff, and had some issues with letting go of some of it.  My insanity silently had made its way to the minimalist I married over 24 years ago.

Second, I learned that much of that stuff was not me anymore, but I kept it throughout the years.  In a way, I had outgrown my possessions, and the stuff did not suit the persona anymore.

Third, knowing what I knew now, and the evolution I was undergoing – from Queen of everything to Princess of Bare to Basics – made it easier to get rid of much of my stuff – a ton of it.  Understanding that it was better to live surrounded by the things that I truly loved made it easier as well.  I only kept what I loved and had meaning and let the rest go.

If you find yourself on this path, it makes it easier when you approach the path to a simple life from the point of view of the new you and the relation of that persona to the things you own – this will lead you to keep the things that you truly love and are meaningful and get rid of the rest.

There is one organization that is in need of donations and you can schedule a pick up online – The United War Veterans Council (UWVC).  Their website to schedule a pick up is http://www.uwvcpickup.org/  and you can also call this number 1-888-821-UWVC(8982).   In that way, your pairing down serves a purpose as well.

Think, Speak, and Do, but Love

Some people may not agree with me on this, but our entire existence is based on three words – Think, Speak, and Do.  These words shape our present, and with it, our past and future.  I have realized that where I am is a result of those three words.  What I think, and how I think has much input in how I conduct myself and in the way I choose to live my life.  What I think, is in part shaped by what I read, see, and entertain in my mind; however, my interpretation of it also bares weight. Visualization is rooted in what I think, so I better think positive to visualize a great future or outcome.  However, it goes deeper than that, because what I think and visualize NOW is what really counts.

What I speak, what comes out of my mouth, also shapes my present.  If I speak negativity, I should not expect positive results.  When I call myself dumb or idiot it is shaping the image that I have of myself and the one that I will present to the world.  The words that I utter, aloud or silently, are powerful.

What I do, the actions I take, are highly influenced by what I think and what I have spoken to myself or to others.  Action is always preceded by thought.  However, many times, it may seem as if we do the opposite – Do we really?

If I think and speak positive, I must still take action to be able to enjoy all the great opportunities coming my way, and grab them as they present themselves.  Think, Speak, and Do interrelate to shape my life.  However, there is a word that will change greatly what I think, speak, and do – LOVE.

When I think, speak, and do with Love, things take a different meaning.  Doing things lovingly really makes a different in how I view my day, my life.  This is why we hear people say, “Do what you love and you will be successful, the rest will come …”  This is why when I like something very much I say – “I love chocolate or coffee …” It is why we can say to our loved ones “I love you.”  I can think, speak, and do all the positivity until I am all pumped up to take on the world, however, if I don’t use a genuine loving approach, I can only go so far.

There was a time when I worried much about all kinds of things – career, money, knowledge, long to do lists, information, image … the list goes on and on.  One day, out of a series of unfortunate events, I realized that all it matter was how I dealt with that big four letter word during my existence – LOVE.  Now, I still care about those things, but in a loving way.

Memories of Sandy, the Black and White Pig

Pig in Sno village

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Lately, Sandy has popped in my mind.  Sandy was a black and white pig with whom I had a childhood friendship.  I saw him grow up since he was a baby pig.  I have memories of conversations with Sandy; early in the morning I ran to his pen and talked to him.  The funny thing is that he seemed to listen, or at least I thought  he did – we had an understanding.

One morning, I went to say hello as usual, but Sandy wasn’t there.  I ran screaming to my grandmother, who told me he must have gone out at night.  I believed her.  The next day, I went to the local country store who was a few steps from home.  I used to run there barefooted at times – out of childhood laziness.  Since I knew the shop owner, I went thru the back entrance, sometimes.  That day, I did.  There, laying on the floor I saw my Sandy – he was dead, but I knew it was him.  I started screaming and crying, and they had to take me home.  They told me it wasn’t him, but I knew him well.  Those memories are so alive in my mind, and as I write this post, tears are flowing.

I write this post, first, because I realized that after more than 40 years, I have to let go of Sandy, and keep only the good memories.  Second, to let you know that you may have your own Sandy (whatever that may be), that needs closure – even when you don’t know it, or have not known it for many years.  If one day, you find yourself reminiscing about your own Sandy, don’t discard your memories as foolish, they popped up for a reason.  Reminisce and take care of some doors that have been left open for years.  Oil up the hinges and close them gently.  As artists, we don’t know what may hinder our creativity.

Today, as I write this post, I think of my beloved Sandy in a different way.