Category Archives: Writing

Top Ten Posts of All Time on Anatomy of Perceval

Recently, WordPress sent me a happy anniversary e-mail, reminding me that I’ve been a member of WordPress for ten years. Ten years!! How time flies, eh? I remember that I joined WordPress with a great deal of trepidation. I had no idea how to write a blog, but I wanted to establish my authorial presence and write about the experience of being a writer. So, being nervous made me delay actual writing of any posts. It would be a good month before I actually posted anything on September 18, 2007. I continued to work on the pages, also.

I’m especially pleased to have 2,672 followers as of today!  Thank you for following!  I hope in the next year to increase that number.

Over the years, I’ve tried to keep the Table of Contents up to date with only middling success. I’ve also changed some of the pages, added pages, deleted other pages. This blog has been organic in its development. It is still evolving. Recently, I realized it was time to update the Table of Contents and make copies of all the posts from 2015 and 2016. I know this will take some time, so please bear with me. The Table of Contents page will be updated eventually!

So, this September 18th marks the 10th birthday for Anatomy of Perceval. I’d like to celebrate by listing the Anatomy of Perceval top 10 posts and pages of all time here. I began this blog to write about the experience of writing, yes, and specifically writing a novel series, my Perceval series. It’s interesting that most of the popular blog posts I’ve written are more general. This list does not include the Home page/Archives which received 21,037 views or the About page which received 1,127 views.

Here are the Top 10:

What Does Title of Publication Mean?  on March 5, 2011

Writing a Blog: Is it a Publication Credit? on June 19, 2010

Facing the Blank Page on September 1, 2012 – this post was “Freshly Pressed” on WordPress’ main page

To “Maestro” or not to “Maestro”   on May 31, 2008 

What does “commercial success” mean to you? on May 17, 2014

WRITING: Vocation or Avocation? on April 12, 2008

Choosing and Using Pens on February 4, 2012

Screenplay vs. Novel on July 20, 2013

“Seven Pounds” or About Character Motivation on June 27, 2009

What Does Publication Mean? on August 15, 2009

 

And here are the ten runners-up:

Creating Character: Lisbeth Salander on October 23, 2010

How Does a Composer Know What to Write? on November 6, 2010

Does Height Make the Conductor? on February 29, 2008

Job Description: Creative Writer on February 26, 2011

Music Humor, or Music that makes me laugh on March 10, 2012

EVAN QUINN – this is the page about Evan, the main character of my Perceval series

Politics in 2048 — An American Dystopia? on June 14, 2008

Reading as a Writer: Lisbeth Salander Again! on July 24, 2010

Sticks and Drones: Conductor Blog on September 13, 2008 – the conductor blog I wrote about here no longer exists, unfortunately. I think the conductors have left up the content they’d written, however.

Heroes or Wimps? on June 2, 2012

Figuring out the questions

Every writer’s creative process differs from every other writer’s. It took me a long time to understand mine, to leave it alone, and let it do its thing. For the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Aanora, trying to figure out how best to open to her and her story. Like every other part of the creative process, this part should not — cannot — be pushed.

One thing that always bothers me with the appearance of a new character is figuring out what her or his driving desire is in the story. Once I know that, more questions emerge, and the biggest is what happens now? A wise screenwriting teacher once said that after determining what the main character wants, then it’s time to ask just what that character will do to get it. This gives the writer an idea of the moral make-up of that character, if he’s passive or active, and how he approaches problems. But the question that comes next is where I’m struggling now: what are the obstacles/conflicts that the character must overcome in order to get what she wants?

As I began thinking about that, I had a shocking thought: Aanora was not the main character of the story! Oh, no. This was weird. Who was she, then? And who was the main character?

 

Dust Sculptures in Rosette Nebula (Photo credit/copyright: John Ebersole At NASA APOD)

I suppose this revelation that Aanora wasn’t the main character could have totally derailed me and my thinking, but I just kept asking questions of my imagination and waited.  I do a lot of waiting during the early stages of developing a story. Sometimes I’ll work on something else, like blog posts or book reviews, or I’ll start doing what I sense could be related to the new story in terms of research.  Since this story seems to be heading into outer space rather than staying on earth, I’ve begun researching the Milky Way Galaxy. It boggles my mind how gigantic our galaxy is, and it’s only one in a universe full of galaxies. And I’ve also begun thinking about Aanora’s original home, her backstory.

Eventually, some answers bubbled out of my imagination. Aanora was a pivotal character, a VIC (very important character), and crucial to the story and that’s apparently why she appeared in my mind first.  She is also apparently crucial to the success of the captain and crew of the space ship that finds her. I know now that they had been sent to find her, to ask for her help in a diplomatic mission. So now I have more and more questions! Where is the space ship from? Who are the beings on the ship? Who is the captain and his crew? Are they peaceful? Warlike? Well, if they are seeking Aanora for diplomatic reasons, perhaps they are also diplomats? What is the diplomatic mission? Who does it involve? Am I going to be creating sentient aliens? In this dimension or Aanora’s? Oh, and by the way, who is the main character of this story?!

Writing an outer space story makes me a little uncomfortable. It’s new for me now — when I was in elementary school I wrote maybe ten or eleven outer space sci fi stories that my teacher read aloud to the class.  I really haven’t written anything with an outer space setting since. Two things I began yesterday when I was working on this story: 1) a Notes document that contains all my questions, and then the answers when they come to me; and 2) the beginning of a very rough outline which is to say a list of plot points.

I’ve never really written about my creative process in this way before — laying it out for the world to see. I’m very curious to see if it will help or hurt my process. It could supplement my Notes file, although I do welcome comments! And I’m hoping that this process with this new story will actually ease me back into work on the Perceval novels eventually.

How do you choose books to buy?

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  — Winston Churchill

Sam Shepard

In another word, perseverance.  Success and what it means has been in the back of my mind this week.  Sam Shepard died as the week began, and reading about his life as a playwright, writer, and actor proved provocative to my mind. Shepard told an interviewer once that he felt most comfortable in the theater, writing for the theater. That made me ask myself where do I feel most comfortable in my creative life? How does that feeling relate to production and success? I know I am happiest when I am writing fiction.

This morning, I ran across a short essay by Hope Clark, a mystery writer who has a well-known newsletter called Funds for Writers. In this essay, Clark wrote about what the most important thing is about being a writer.  Is it getting credit for writing and publishing? Or is it giving the world a great story experience?

My next thought was that maybe success could be measured in just how great the story experience was that you’ve created. But how does anyone know that? And could one person’s great story experience be another’s failed story experience? Today, for example, I finished reading a novel that has won rave reviews and that I’d heard friends and acquaintances rave about for a long time.  I didn’t think it was that great at all.

I don’t rely solely on what my friends and acquaintances recommend when I’m looking for a great story. I read reviews, I subscribe to the NY Times Book Review newsletter, as well as reading the review sections of other papers and magazines. I have to admit that I don’t pay much attention to marketing blurbs or any kind of promotional pitches. What I pay attention to are the descriptions of the novel’s story, and then a little to genre. I love books, though, that blend genres or bend them. So I guess it’s important to know your own taste and interests before going off to Amazon or a bricks and mortar store to buy books. I do miss bricks and mortar bookstores where I could wander around and actually see, touch, and smell the books!

In her essay, Clark describes the kind of promotional copy that will turn her off a book, and the kind of promotional copy that will spark her interest. Her ultimate point in the essay, though, is that authors need to remember their responsibility to readers, i.e. to provide them with a great story they’ll be glad they paid good money for and spent their time reading. That whatever they say in their pitches and promotions, they focus on the story.

So, Mr. Churchill, I think I’d define success for a writer in this way: Committed to writing the best you can, knowing what makes your stories great,  giving your readers one great story after another, and attaining the recognition of being a writer who produces great stories, i.e. the kind of stories that people want to buy and read.

What draws you to a book? How do you choose the books you buy? What was the last great story you read? Please respond in the comments section!

She Has a Name

Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech.

Creative thinking flows in and out, between thoughts, and feeds more creative thinking. I realized about halfway through this past week that the new character I wrote about last weekend had emerged from an idea that I’d incorporated in the short story I finished (the first draft) last weekend. She’s not a part of that story, though.  She has her own story. But now I understand why I thought she was a Wizard capable of powerful magic.

Parallel universes have been an interest of mine for many years. In science fiction, the notion of them fuels many stories (too many to list here, but there’s a list here).  Sometimes they’re known as alternate reality stories. The story I finished last weekend was about a parallel dimension, i.e. a dimension that existed in the same space as ours, populated with very different kinds of sentient beings. It was this idea that sparked the character I thought was a Wizard. I love the way my mind works.

So, this new character is actually from a parallel dimension and travels freely between our reality and her original one. She is a type of sentient being that has the ability to transform herself into any form, i.e. a shape shifter. They know how to move simply by thinking of the destination. (I’d definitely like that ability to commute to and from my fulltime job!) And she has powers that we humans might regard as magic. She uses her powers for helping others, and has worked as an interstellar diplomat. She’s also worked on earth as a diner waitress. (I have no idea where that came from.)

I had thought that she lived on a desert planet because of the granite wall I saw her eyes in, but I was wrong. She actually lives on a Class M planet in our galaxy, but quite far from earth. I’m actually seeing the landscape as more like northern Minnesota or maybe even northern New York (lots of granite walls there) with forests, lakes, meadows full of wild flowers. I need to know more about this planet, why it’s Class M, why I see it with such a familiar landscape, and why she chose to live there. Is that her story? Or is her story something else? I have a feeling she’s going to get involved with helping someone with something.

Yesterday afternoon, I wrote furiously for several hours, ignoring anything that would distract me from getting the words down. I wrote three scenes, one of which looks like it may be the beginning of the story. I just wrote what I saw in my mind. It’s a good thing I type fast. Right now, I’m thinking that it’s a short story, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended up being a novella. I have what could be the end, too. Now the challenge is to find the middle. What happens? What does this character want? What will she do to get it? What are the obstacles in her way?

While it’s exciting to meet a new character, exciting to start something new, I also know that it’s the beginning of a lot of hard work. It’s always a good thing if the character fascinates (yes, she does) and compels me to think about her (she does) and wonder about her and want to know more. She surprised me, too, yesterday — I love it when characters surprise me. She told me her name.

Aanora.

Character: The First Appearance

Yesterday, I had a great afternoon of writing fiction! All the pent up creative energy flowed out onto the page and my imagination just played, and played, and played. The result: a finished first draft of a story that had been stuck in limbo before. I feel as if I’ve flown free of prison — the prison of fulltime work and not having enough time to think creatively for my fiction. My body has finally become accustomed to the fulltime work schedule during the week, I’m not as behind with mundane chores, and I now have the time and brain and energy to work creatively on weekends.

So, wouldn’t you know it? A new character has popped into my head. She doesn’t yet have a name, although I know it’ll be something unusual. I know she’s middle-aged. I know that she’s a shape-shifter. She is also a Wizard, i.e. a master of magic. I think. Her shape-shifting has nothing to do with her magic, it is her physical form so she is not human. She is a White Wizard, i.e. she uses her magic for good, not evil. The first time she appeared in my mind, it was two very feminine green eyes in what looked like a rough granite wall. She was hiding. Why was she hiding? The granite wall was on an alien planet. At this point, I have no idea where or when, although I’m thinking future.

Maybe the power she has isn’t exactly magic. Wizard was the first thing that came to mind for what she could do. She has the power to move from one point to another instantly. She only has to think it.  Although she’s middle-aged for her kind, she would be quite old in human years. I see her as having a high level of integrity, of honesty, of compassion, and of mischievous humor. She is modest. And oddly, I see her having worked as a diplomat at some point in the past. What universe does she inhabit? What does she want? Is she a protagonist, or is she a POV character and another character is the protagonist?  She inhabits science fiction or fantasy, I think, probably science fiction. Maybe a pivotal character in the story somehow.

While doing some cursory research on “wizard – female” online, I ran across a site that generates wizard names. So for the fun of it, I clicked on “female” to see what would come up. A lot of nothing that grabbed me, but a couple I wrote down because I could think about them and maybe they’d spark other names. They already have, actually. So I’ll be writing down names for a while until one really hits me as the one that fits her.

There’s a lot I don’t know about this character, but I have a strong sense that she’s here to stay. Typically, she’ll get around to telling me more about herself eventually, and I’ll find out who she is, what she’s doing in the granite wall (besides hiding), and what the story is. She’s interesting right now, just as she is.  I can’t wait to find out more.