A story! A story? A tale of fear!

All my sources tell me that, as a new indie author, I need to publish more work soon. Writing a novel is not quick work for me. I have a story that might run novella length—might. I haven’t written it yet, of course. Another option is a short story collection.

Until the last couple of years, I’ve never been a big short story reader. I’ve written some, but they were for my own eyes. But, in the last year, I’ve greatly increased the number of short stories I read. I also read articles on how to write short fiction. I’m still not sure I get it.

I’m also not sure why I don’t get it. It’s almost as though I have a mental block. I think I write a beginning, middle, and end, but it doesn’t seem like a story to me. Is it a vignette? Is that a story?

Does a story require a moral? A lesson? A reason to exist? Am I over-thinking this? Probably. I fear I can’t write short stories. Then again, I fear I can’t write anything. FEAR.

I’d like to say I bravely take up my pen keyboard and wield it like a sword, but that would be a lie. The truth is I sit here quivering. I sit here wishing, hoping, praying that the words I’m typing make sense … have a purpose … tell a story.

That’s what I’m busy with nowadays. And I thank Christ Craig for her recent post reminding me that I have to face that fear or I’ll never know if I’ve written a story at all.

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

From tie poes to fictive dreaming, what’s the connection?

Last Thursday’s post on Tie Poes was not just self-serving. That topic connects to Sunday’s post on fictive dreaming, which is the ideal state for both the writer to be in while writing and the reader to be in while reading. One of the main reasons I hate typos in my writing is because each time the reader catches one, they are jerked out of the story. They are wakened from their fictive dream. When this happens to me as a reader, I stop, reread to straighten out the kink, and then, though I read on, for the next few seconds a bit of my brain stays stuck on that error. Fictive dream good. Typographical errors bad.

toaster2sAs a reader, I’m also often pulled out of the story by impossibility. And today, I’m not talking about the big things that make you close the book forever … or throw it across the room. I mean the little things, like having a character put bread in the toaster and three lines of dialogue later, she’s already buttering toast. Something like that is certainly not enough to make me put the book down, but it’s a reminder that I’m sitting there with a book in my hands. None of this is really happening. I’d rather stay immersed in the story, lost in the world the writer created. I want transparency in the writing.

I’d like to say I’ve never written one of these little bugaboos, but since this post is non-fiction, I can’t. But because they are one of my pet peeves, I spend a lot of my writing time with my eyes closed. I like to visualize my character in action, so I can “see” that he’s still holding that tea kettle and therefore can’t pick up the cat with both hands.

I even spend a portion of it on my feet, speaking lines of dialogue as I cross the room to see at just what point I would reach for the doorknob. Sometimes I cheat a bit, I have the world’s slowest toaster—I could speak six pages of dialogue before my toast popped up—but I try to come close to realism.

Of course, it’s all right to expect the reader to assume some actions. If the character is driving somewhere, I don’t need a play-by-play of every turn of the steering wheel along the way. But I can’t ignore that your protagonist has just prepared lasagna from start to finish in the time it took to discuss the day’s weather. And I’ll roll my eyes if you describe a scene where a kid has just turned his iPod up to 11, but then overhears his parents’ conversation three rooms away.

Likewise, unless the book is fantasy, if the protagonist lives in Indianapolis and supports the local professional baseball team … well that’s sloppy research, and I just might send that book sailing across the room.

 

Are we creative enough?

The simple answer to that question is NO. We may never reach our full creative potential, but we should strive for it. We should never limit ourselves. Our souls should always reach for more.

So, since I’m not satisfied with my current creative expression, how do I progress? This speaks to an earlier statement I made about how reading and writing are two stages for me—filling and emptying. When I find myself struggling to express, it’s likely because I’m depleted.

Some call this depletion writer’s block. I recognize it as a need for a refill. I need to read. And I need to read great writing. That doesn’t necessarily mean I need to choose a classic from the high-lit shelf. I need to choose a book written by a great writer in the genre that inspires me, likely the genre I write.

Certainly, I need to read something I love. Something that thrills me. Something that wakes the drowsy muse within me. It’s likely I won’t read that whole book at once because, as I read, ideas will rush toward me like a swollen river. A river of words. My own words. I’ll put the book down and let those words flow through me to the pen or keyboard.

When I’m emptied out, I’ll pick up a book again. Creativity is a process. Ebb and flow. Never ending, as long as you open yourself to more.

Go, now, and create.


[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

Keep the pen moving

My friend and fellow writer Cristina Trapani-Scott has begun a series she calls Twelve Days of Writing. In her first entry, she told how she taught her creative writing students to get past the inner voice that tells them they can’t write. We all fight that voice from time to time.

Cristina started her students with a prompt and told them to write for ten minutes. The secret, she says, is to keep the pen moving. Chances are you will be surprised that you’ve come up with at least a few good nuggets, even if you veered away from the prompt.

I know a lot of you write flash fiction, often from prompts, but that’s not a habit I’ve developed. I suppose I should at least try this ten-minute exercise. I tend to fight regimentation far more than is good for me. I don’t think a little discipline will kill my creativity. It might just preserve my sanity.

I suggest you check out Cristina’s first lesson and return for the next eleven.


[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

Write what you know means …

When my granddaughter was not quite three, one of her favorite movies was Disney’s The Aristocrats, but for a while, no one realized she had redubbed it. Then, one day, we heard clearly her request to watch The Rest of the Cats.

She didn’t know the meaning of the word aristocrats, so she heard words she did know. That’s a frame of reference. It’s what we all use every minute of our lives. The brain uses frame of reference when it receives sensations to filter and identify each correctly.

In that same sense, we all filter what we read against our experiences. Does it match, enhance, or refute what we already know? Even when researching a new topic, we have to fit it into our particular frame of reference to make sense of it. That’s also the way we write.

If we write about a certain time, say the summer of 1965, our first response is to fit that into our frame: I was ten years old or that’s the year we moved to Idaho or that’s when Grandpa took up skydiving. We can learn what happened in the greater world that year, but that information will be added to, mixed with, or colored by what we already know about that year in our egocentric world.

And, like my granddaughter, if we’re true to our frame, we use the language of that point of view. We use words that are common to us, the ones that flow naturally from our lips, the ones we don’t have to look up in a dictionary or borrow from a thesaurus.

But, but, but what about writing fiction? Does this mean we can only write about characters like ourselves? Of course, not. As fiction writers we have the privilege of being many selves. We just have to discover and stay within the frame of reference for each character. Only then will our characters ring true.

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]