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Much Ado about Halloween

 Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite,
All are on their rounds tonight;
In the wan moon’s silver ray,
Thrives their helter-skelter play.
~Joel Benton

Sadly this year I did not dress up and go to a Halloween party, but I did get to hang out with some friends and we played board games over the weekend. Tonight, I am ironically enough, going to go and do yoga with the boyfriend after I finish helping hand out the candy to the trick or treating kids.

The internet has not yet come up with a way for food distribution. I find this disappointing. So electronic treats will have to do – and so I give you a bowl of electronic snickers. You are welcome to other treats as well, but it is up to you to think them up.

I love Halloween as an adult. It is a small wonder; I love the supernatural, magic, and anything that we think is impossible. One of my character’s favorite sayings is “nothing is impossible just improbable.” I love that and more or less ascribe to it in my life.

This brings me to another point. Halloween is also All NaNo’s Eve for me and any other people who are participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I have that well of anticipation. I am waiting impatiently to start writing the new idea.

With the end of the rewrite and the beginning of the new idea I want to set an intention for this new novel. My intention for new idea novel is to have fun writing again. I loved rewriting novel-1, but it definitely felt like work. I burned out a bit towards the end of it. So here is to a happy NaNoWriMo for those who participate. Wish me luck in rediscovering the joys of writing.

©K. Klein 2012

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What is in a name?

Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.  ~Thomas C. Haliburton

Usually when I am writing a novel I am quite fussy about my names. I either want a specific sound. Or I am aiming for a meaning or association with something such as the sun or moon or any number of other objects. Sometimes, although not usually, I will have a character arrive in my mind and introduce themselves fully named. I once had a character arrive and say hello my name is Will – you’re going to need me. It unnerved me because I had written two-thirds of the first draft of novel-1 when he did this.

It is interesting to see what names of character evoke. For example, let’s take the characters from my description from Wednesday – Miss Andrews, her sister (Mrs. Saunders), and Mr. Saunders. From the way they are addressed they’re probably not from the modern times. For the most part we don’t go around addressing people by Mr. Smith and Miss Johnson anymore. It seems to stiff and formal for our modern form of communication. We usually address people by their first names such as Jane or John.

There is also the question of what are their first names and how does that affect their characters? And do we get a picture of where our characters are from by the names we give them? Right now, without giving my description’s cast any first names they seem vaguely British. Perhaps they hark from the last nineteenth or early twentieth century. Their parlor had a fireplace, but no television or radio. We don’t know what other technology they have access too.

Does the perception of the reader change when we give our characters first names? When it is revealed that Miss Andrews’ first name is Eleanor or that her sister is Prudence and her brother-in-law is Charles. The first women’s names seem a bit on the old-fashioned side. Charles is pretty common overall. These names evoke pictures of what sorts of people who these characters are or might be.

Names are powerful. They can help to provide dimension to the world of the story I am trying to bring alive.  Some of my favorite fictional names include Fitzwilliam Darcy, Albus Dumbledore, and Gandalf the Grey. Each provides a different picture of whom that man is. I love how names can help to paint the picture of our world. What are some of your favorite character names?

©K. Klein 2012

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Movies in my mind

My characters and stories are incredibly visual to me. When the writing is flowing I can see the story in my mind and part of my job is to transcribe those images into the ethereal nature of words. Finding the right amount of description is a challenge for me. Often, my brother’s biggest complaints about my writing are him wanting more description.

However, I tend to err on the side of caution and begin by under-describing rather being too detailed. These days readers don’t want pages upon pages of minutes details; some writers can get away with it. Most cannot – and so I try to balance my own images with the needs of my readers. Part of the reason I write is so that my world can come alive through sharing it with others.

One difficult piece of description for me is the spatial aspect of it. When describing a room – where are the things in the room in relation to one another? Where are the people in relation to the things and each other?

For example, I love old houses with parlors. So how does that look to my mind? Or yours?

The parlor felt rich done in earth tones. A fireplace stood on the far wall away from the door; flames danced merrily within its confines. In front of the fireplace sat two comfy chairs with a table in between. Nearby the large picturesque window was a couch. Across the room from the couch was a large antique wooden desk with a hardback chair; the desk top had clutter of papers and books.

This is a rather rough description. Considering I did it kind of on the fly it isn’t too bad, but it still feels a bit stiff. What if we added in some people?

Miss Andrews walked into the parlor and sat on the cream couch near the large window. Mr. Saunders greeted her from the desk across the room; she returned his greeting. However, she did not wish to chat and instead took in the room. She enjoyed the view of the fire as it danced merrily within the fireplace. Her sister sat in one of the chairs in front of the fire, but didn’t say anything. Miss Andrews walked over to her and they chatted quietly as Mr. Saunders cleared the clutter away from his desk.

I like this better; it feels a little less stiff now that there are people populating the room. However, it still doesn’t feel to me like it has come alive. Perhaps adding in a bit of Miss Andrews’ emotions will help to set the scene.

Wiping away tears, Miss Andrews entered the parlor. She walked past the desk and Mr. Saunders greeted her; she returned the favor. Mr. Saunders not noticing her distress continued to clear the clutter away from his desk. Not wishing to speak she walked over to the cream couch and perched upon it. From there she enjoyed the view of the fire – it danced merrily. Her sister sat in one of the comfortable chairs before the fire; she turned and asked after Miss Andrews’ day. Miss Andrews walked over to her sister and whispered her discontent.

Of the three descriptions, I think the last one is the richest. It has layers of things, people, and emotions. I could probably stand to go over it again and throw in brief physical descriptions of Mr. Saunders, Miss Andrews and her sister. However, I tend to prefer not to give too much description of my characters. People tend to imagine them how they want even when description is provided.

How do you handle descriptions when you write? Does it take multiple drafts for you to get your vision across? I think my final description could still use some work. What would you add? Or take away?

©K. Klein 2012

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Brainstorming

NaNoWriMo is approaching and I have been busy trying to help friends with their ideas and stories. In the past couple of weeks, I have batted around ideas with one friend on Facebook chat. We chatted about her idea. I asked her questions and gave suggestions.

Some questions I asked her included: Where is it set? (On earth? In space? In another dimension?) What is your character’s name? (Or are there multiple point of view characters?) Is there magic involved? That last question is usually a yes for me; I can’t seem to write a story without a magical element.

Another way to get the muse in gear is to spend some time alone brainstorming. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way calls these Artist Dates and discusses it as a way to refill the creative well. For example, it is a lovely time of year to take a walk. Heading to a new place can spur ideas. A day at the museum can fuel ideas. My favorite museum in my area, currently, is the art museum.

Finally, if you have a writer friend in person or just by yourself a great way to brainstorm is to just get ideas on the page. Sunday night another friend and I did this. We took out a notebook while hanging out in her apartment. She wrote down one word and I wrote down one. We sometimes built off of each other. I tried to write ideas that sprung off of her idea. We were trying to think of ideas because she wasn’t sure if she wanted to do NaNoWriMo. I’m still not sure if she is going to or not. I hope so, her idea seemed like fun.

The great part about helping my friends to brainstorm is that it helps me too. It gets me thinking about the possibilities of my work. It is sort of like turning the compost. If you aerate it and are patient, eventually your compost makes dirt.

To be honest, I haven’t taken myself on an artist date recently. Perhaps it is a time to take a walk or something. What do you do to get your creative juices flowing? Do you brainstorm alone? Or do you bounce ideas off of friends?

©K. Klein 2012

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The sound of writing

Music is what feelings sound like.  ~Author Unknown

Oftentimes, I cannot write in absolute silence. I need background noise to help me concentrate on the page in front of me. In fact, as I type this post I am listening to classical music. My choice of background noise is usually music. I find the television too distracting; especially if it is from the other room. Many times I will put my headphones on and tune out the world.

The past couple of days have left me on a classical music kick. One of my favorite composers is Antonio Vivaldi; I’m fond of the Four Seasons. However, I have eclectic taste in music  and enjoy –classical composers of most stripes, big band and swing, popular music of most decades, and rock n’ roll in most forms.

I am always open to suggestions. I love listening to music, especially when I write. There are some who don’t understand how I can listen to music with lyrics when writing. I guess because the lyrics don’t bother me. Often I am chasing after the mood or rhythm of the music rather than paying attention to what words the singer is crooning.

Music often helps me to let go of any doubts or insecurities I am feeling; it allows me to connect to the movement of the tune. I can flow into my story and characters without any chatter from my somewhat incessantly anxious mind. The monkey-mind is distracted by the music and the rest of my brain is free to commune with the keyboard.

Do you listen to music when you work or do you find it too distracting?

©K. Klein 2012

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Planning for NaNoWriMo 2012

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is check out their website here. The basic premise is to write a 50,000 words novel in the thirty days of November. I have participated in this challenge since 2010 and really enjoy pushing myself to write.

What 2010 taught me about my first draft process is this: write-through the fear. Often times, when writing I get to a point where I don’t know what I am going to do or where the story is going. This might seem odd since I don’t tend to outline, but I usually have a vague idea of where the story is taking me; usually two to five steps ahead of where I am chapter wise.

When I reach the end of that I often hit a block. My first NaNoWriMo taught me to write-through the fear and the unknown. It goes back to Anne Lamott’s idea of the shitty first draft. The whole point of a first draft is to get the story on the page in all of its messy glory. It doesn’t matter if it is pretty or not. I also tend to think of this stage of drafting as the “don’t kill the baby stage.” I learned that it is important to not jump into judging it too fast because you don’t know how it is going to turn out in the rewrite and revision stage.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that I learned something completely different in 2011. Last year I finished the first complete draft of novel-1. It isn’t technically the first novel I’ve completed, but it is the first one to make it to the rewrite and revision stage of the process. Well, I finished novel-1 on October 31, 2011 and then proceeded to start writing its sequel on November 1. And I had to drag every last word out during last year’s NaNoWriMo; yay for burnout. I am sure this had nothing to do with being in grad school at the time. I swear.

I am out of grad school now. Yay. And so I plan to learn a new lesson in 2012; novel-1’s revision deadline is set for October 31, 2012. However, I am going to write something not related to novel-1 or its sequel. I have several shiny new ideas dancing around in my head. I think I am going to pick one; hopefully before November 1 (although who knows) and go with it. I need a break from Novel-1’s world much as I love it and the characters I’ve created.

If you’re a writer, do you plan on taking part in NaNoWriMo?

©K. Klein 2012

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