Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Discord of My Writing

Getting into a story is sometimes difficult for me because I always have an idea, but sometimes I only have a vague idea of where I’m taking it…and the whole cast of characters and setting is another issue. I also like to have messages other than the obvious one in the action of the plotline. Each story seems to have its own path, but I feel some of my obsessions slow and even stop my writing.

My storylines come at odd moments, but often when I am walking my mile of country road. I’ve heard other authors say their stories come in dreams, but mine tend to be reflections on situations and issues that circulate in my mind and that I contemplate while walking. They often transform into a character’s situation and then into a world that might be somewhere in the present, past, or future. This has led to a list of stories with a title, some lines of information, and the names of one or two characters…a long list. They sit in a file until I can come to terms with what the characters want to say and do. Some ideas
I research and work them into the facets of whatever topic that interests me, and put them in the file.

I currently have three in progress. Unfortunately, life obligations and pleasures slow my headway in writing these stories. While I wrote one book from an inspirational idea to the story’s conclusion in six weeks, that was an oddity. That story just happened, but was based in an already created world and established characters. So my current story's headway varies between animated and complete stasis because of my mind's demand for minute detail.

Some of this minutia borders on obsessive, at least by my definition. I have to know my characters. The names come easily, but after reading an epic fantasy with five characters whose names started with A and threw me into a mental fit, I profile my characters in alphabetical order: one female first name per alphabet letter, one male name using the same order, and preferably only one first name per letter. I know I have some series stories with far more characters than a single alphabet listing allows, so there are multiple names starting with the same letter; still, each of those names is chosen for its different and distinctive sound. The process sounds strange even to me, but it also works for me.

It doesn’t end there, I profile the main characters’ personalities, both primary and secondary, and their motivations and purpose in the story, so I know how they will act and react.

My other obsession is the world my characters live in. I am constantly starting and stopping my writing over historical details, or in the case of future worlds what might be scientifically feasible

For instance, one of my current works in progress is Call to Duty, starting in December 1941. The main character is Trudy. Her husband, after hearing about Pearl Harbor, enlists in the army. Before he enlisted, he was the sheriff of a backwoods Northern Michigan county. Trudy works as a dispatcher in the sheriff's office. She, due mostly to lack of eligible males in the area, will, eventually, become a sheriff in all but name. Do you know how little information there is on the home front during WWII? I also need information on the sheriff's position. I’ve found information but search for more. Just for starters: What appliances and phone service were available? What roads were paved, which weren’t? Which roads existed at the time, which roads didn’t exist yet? How would the state police act toward a female head deputy? What were the prevailing crimes? How did the war change the resident’s behaviors and attitudes? The list goes on. I’ve even requested the community college's librarian to help me find a copy of W. R. Kidd’s Police Interrogation written in 1940, which seems to have changed police procedures.

All this doesn’t even cover the starts and stops caused by thoughts of what happens next, what would be more intriguing, and how the characters will dig themselves out of whatever chasm I dig for them. 

So there are some of my eccentricities in writing. All I can say is writing is hard work.

For more insight into how authors work, and how their stories develop visit these blogs:

Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire 
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse 
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
Margaret Fieland

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Phoenix, a Past, Present and Future Theory

Who doesn’t love a Phoenix, the mythical Greek bird that ends its life in flames only to be reborn in an immortal cycle? It is still a powerful symbol of rebirth and even had a small but important part in the Harry Potter series.

Where did the Phoenix come from? The Greeks and Romans can claim their version of the bird as we know it. Supposedly the Phoenix didn’t lay eggs&emdash; there was only one. The Phoenix lived as much as a thousand years only to burst into flames, dying as a pile of ashes. The ashes then regenerated into a new young Phoenix. The ancients only knew two sources of heat and light, the sun and fire, so the Phoenix, representing fire, was thought to also represent the sun. Why is a bird used to represent the sun? At the time, nothing could get closer to the sun than a bird, which occasionally, with distance, even seemed to disappear in the sky.

In ancient Egyptian mythology, there was a solar bird, the Bennu. The Russians had a firebird, and still more Eastern cultures had other mythic sunbirds. No one knows how they are related. Perhaps with trade and the disbursement of knowledge, these myths influenced each other.

More than rebirth the phoenix came to represent the sun, and time as it is related to the sun, therefore to the death-birth cycle. It also represents virginity and perpetual hope for continuation, including for countries. Parts of this legend were transmuted into the Christian faith, paradise, and everlasting life. As with the sun, the phoenix became a symbol of powerful rulers.

What I find interesting is the ancients had a being representing the transmutation of matter (living bird) to energy (fire) and back to matter. In quantum physics, matter and energy are considered particles that can be either. In fact, the person observing an experiment determines whether the particles are measured as being matter or as energy since the particles can be either.

This might account for why the phoenix is still so popular: An old mythic legend that somehow also abstractly represents now and future theory.