Top 10 Discoveries About My Book

Joe’s Post #180

This is how I imagine the book cover. Only with the shadow of a man in a coat and hat looking all detectivie

Are you surprised how your book turned out?

Now, spoiler alert, this is a longer post than normal. Get into your comfy underwear, pour yourself a glass of whiskey, put your feet up on the dog and continue.

Yager’s War has come so far since it’s inception back in 2016, but my first historical novel has finally been sent off to my first readers – Two professional writers, and one person who lived through that time.

Oh, but that seems so long, ago, now. A lifetime. And in that lifetime, I learned a lot about my story, which kinda surprised me since I thought I pretty much knew everything about it when I sat down to write it.

So, what did I discover?

1) I discovered that I can’t eat well and write. Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with the novel, per se, but if anyone is looking to write a character in a novel who writes for a living, it’s a good trait. Not a healthy one, but something odd. Quirky. Stupid. Peanut M&Ms. Pop. Pizza. Oddly, I didn’t drink. Sorry Hemmingway.

2) I discovered that I sat down to write this because I love history and World War II history in particular. But it’s not a love based on battles, but stories. It’s something that’s not being taught a lot in schools. It’s all about facts, maps, (wait, I love maps, too), and dates. Even without a specific person, there is a narrative that thrills me. The massively outnumbered Jews who fought the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto. The 500 Spartans at Thermopylae. The Alamo. Then it hit me. I love the underdog. The few who stood up when it mattered BUT died in the end. All knew they would die, yet still fought the fight. That leaked into my novel in a big way (and will certainly be a major part of the second and third novels.)

3)

Iron Lungs. Therapy for polio. But it looks like something out of a horror movie.

I discovered a lot about things we understand now, understand back then. Polio. PTSD. Asperger’s. They’ve all existed since the beginning of time. Like the Queen of England. But we’re only now understanding them fully and I was surprised at the complexity of each one of those subjects.

 

4) I discovered ‘what to keep in and what to take out’ was tougher than I ever thought. Yanking out a whole subplot ain’t easy, my friends. It’s like trying to yank off a skin tag, it’s quite painful and wants to snap right back. I can still use a lot of what I wrote or imagined in my next book,

5) I discovered I could fall in love with one of

Amelia Anderson. (AKA-
Bryce Dallas Howard)

my characters. It’s amazing how much a story can change even from the 2nd draft, to the third. I yanked out some decent writing about my character’s interaction with a family to explore a love interest and I fell in love with that love interest. Amelia “Amy” Anderson, a brilliant red-head with Sherlock Holmesian Asperger’s. Socially awkward. Kind. Driven. Beautiful (of course, cuz, you know, I’m a guy.) I dream about her now. Don’t tell my wife.

6) I discovered it’s tough to choose what research to use and what not to use. I had to cut research out. Oh, that fine line between having authentic historical details and way, way, way too much information… it’s so easy to cross because information is so fun! (You know what I’m talking about, Paula!)

7) I discovered that I could make myself cry while writing. Not, oh god, this is terrible, but I moved myself at some of the tragic scenes. Maybe no one else will shed a tear, but it’s odd that I could actually get in touch with emotion. Without whiskey. Thanks to Don Maass for making me live in the pain for a while.

8) I discovered, much to my horror, that it was not as much fun, sometimes, to do research. Now, this really shocked me. I love learning new facts. Like did you know that the Kaiser, the Imperial Emperor of Germany, fled to Holland? And had the nickname of the Woodchopper? But trying to get all my facts right, like what soap the Dutch used for dishes or what goods were sold in the Waterlooplein market, well, that took a bit of work and I often got distracted tracking down other details.

9) I discovered this is not, at its heart, a who-killed-Roger-Rabbit story. This is a Jewish

Lest we forget

story. Again, a bit of a shock. Not that I didn’t have Jewish elements in it, but on the last rewrite, it really hit home how much I needed to tell the Jewish story here.

10) I discovered it’s a feminist novel. This came as the biggest shock. BIGGEST. Like finding a spider in your underwear.  Both of my main female characters are strong, independent women in a time where such things were not the norm. Maybe it was all the women in my life who influenced that. My mom who went to university and graduated as the only woman in her class. My wives, Margot and Corinne. My inherited great Baba, who designed and built a frigging church.

But all those discoveries aside, the novel will get one last polish from my first readers, then it’s off to the agent.

It is the best thing I have written, but something not achieved without great pain and anguish. Ask my wife who’d find me wandering around the house muttering, “No, that won’t work, won’t work, my precious, he has to die, yes, die but how, dammit, how?”

It’s been an interesting journey, combining my deep emotional connection to the Netherlands (based on my visits there and my reading of the holocaust), my love of a good thriller, and my love of books that touch a poignant chord within us all.  But, as any writer should, if someone has a way to make it EVEN BETTER, (my first readers, my agent, my editor, Bob the grocery bagger,) then I’ll kick it up yet another notch.

Because I not only want it to be the best story I’ve ever written, but one of the best others will ever read.

The magic of fear in writing

Karalee’s Post #132

fearI was musing the other day, thinking about all the emotions and sensations people go through during their lives. Most of us at some point have felt excitement, joy, peace, terror, pain, sadness, ecstasy, fear, happiness, contentment, anxiety, cold, hot, restless, panicked, relaxed, blissful, etc.

Then, in my writer’s way, I wondered  what underlies all the bad feelings and what can change all the good ones into bad ones. I realized that the common denominator is FEAR.

The definition of fear is:  an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

The magic of this definition for writers is the word belief.

Think about that. We can make our characters believe anything we want. We create their lives from inception to death, building their belief system through their experiences, and those experiences can trigger reactions and behaviors throughout their lives.

Why is fear so magical? Fear is a great motivator for action to get away from the danger that is likely to cause pain or threaten the character. The fear can be up front and physical like getting run over by a truck, or a swarm of bees heading your way. Fear can also be perceived in one’s mind. Now that’s magical. It’s also endless in the scenarios that can be conjured by the hand of a writer. Inside one’s mind is where psychological manifestations blossom, where beliefs flourish whether they are true or false.

For example, if a character was bitten by a dog when he was a child, he may panic when he hears a dog bark even if the dog is locked inside and can’t harm him. Even more powerful, the character could panic at the mere thought of a dog being close by even if there is no dog at all. The truth here is that there is no danger at all, but the character can still be in a state of fear.

Fear is a great tension builder. It’s the monster under the bed, the darkness hiding all the bad things in the night, it’s one’s imagination running terrifyingly free in one’s mind. Its a veritable treasure chest for a writer to pull from.

Does happiness or excitement compel characters to flee, or murder, or do other criminal acts? Or is it the fear of losing someone you love that causes you to murder the lover? It certainly isn’t in the moment of happiness that characters do bad things.

I can’t think of another emotion that’s as strong and compelling as fear to make characters engage in extreme actions to get away from danger or the threat of danger whether it’s real or perceived.

Can you?

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Perspective Photos:

cypress snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bird in snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

Feel your own emotions

Karalee’s Post #131

fear quote

I’m one of those non-resolution type of people, telling myself that most people don’t follow through and I don’t want to be one of “those.”

Goals though, are another breed. They are the GPS to success, the voice from the black box guiding you along your chosen path to the end point to where “you have arrived.” Truth told, goals are the fraternal twin to resolutions.

So what do resolution avoidance and goal setting have to do with feeling my emotions? Both push me outside of my comfort zone where suddenly the unknown creeps in. What if this happens? or that? or I don’t get it done on schedule? or at all?

The above quote from Steven King says it all.

I realize that my emotions around goal setting tend to be negative rather than positive. They are fear based. Why? Goals should be something I want to achieve, right? They should excite me and push me to do things I don’t normally do to get what I haven’t yet gotten.

Ha! Does this sound like what writers try to get their characters to do?

With this in mind, I stopped and let myself feel the fear behind the goals that I’ve set for myself this year. I’ve never consciously done this before and it’s an interesting experience you may want to try as well. I believe it could help us writers be more in tune with what’s behind our character’s emotions. We could do this with other reactions we have too, and unravel the life experiences that give rise to the way we react whether happy, sad, angry, feeling vulnerable or distrusting, loving, hateful, etc.

For now though, I’m looking at where my fears may be coming from.

  1. Fear of success. This sounds odd to me, but it comes from being put down in childhood for liking school and excelling at it. Country kids are “supposed” to hate school.
  2. Fear of failure. This is a dichotomy when I fear success and failure! To me failure is more self-imposed, like I could have, should have, but didn’t. This is true when I don’t tell anyone my goals, then the only one that knows is me. If I do tell others and fail, then it evokes shame which means I am concerned about how others perceive me. Intellectually I know that what others think shouldn’t matter, but again, one’s past experiences builds these reactions.
  3. Fear of certain activities, like answering the phone and opening mail. Now that’s bizarre when I let that one sink in. These are frequent activities I have to do for my work and I do have an aversion to them, but I have never really let the reasons come to light. When I do, I know I react like this because of the number of times that bad news has come to me through these avenues. It leaves me dreading the “call” instead of dancing to the phone when it rings (or my cell phone) in anticipation of winning the lottery or simply talking to a friend.
  4. Fear of “NO.” In direct sales this is a biggy since 80% of people say no! As children, parent’s ‘no’s” far exceed their “yes’s” and “no” has a direct connection to not being able to do what you want to do. I’ve worked hard this year to not take no’s personally, and the difference it’s made in my life in general has given me freedom to relax and be myself. Letting my experience of no’s be emotionally neutral rather than negative has given me more peace than I ever imagine.

Going through this exercise and really paying attention to why I react and feel deep-seated emotions in certain situations has opened my awareness to also do this with characters in my stories. Backstories are huge in developing characters and to feel the why behind how we make our characters react emotionally will help create more authentic characters.

Giving opposite reactions to what one would expect can also be done this way when you understand the why’s in the character’s history.

Have fun with it!

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Productivity: I’ve heard back from one of the short story contests. I got a very nice standard rejection letter. Keep at it is one of my goals.

Motivation: My goals include taking courses with well-known people in the industry to learn how to follow-through and time-manage, etc. On my list are: Jack Canfield,  Eric Worre, Kim Klaver and Harv Eker and Sonia Stringer

Happy Moments:

  • holiday time spent with family and friends
  • snowshoeing on the local mountains with my husband, David.
  • continuing self-development and loving it!

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Perspective Photos:

frost

 

 

 

 

 

 

bird in hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

 

 

Falling in love with a story

Joe’s Post #151

loveThoughts on having to fall in love with a story to write it?

Silk posted about this almost as an afterthought to her blog, but for me, it’s a vital part of taking on a huge writing project like creating a novel.

So if you need to fall in love with a story, what do you need? What makes you fall in love with a story you have to tell?

For me, here’s a quick list, cuz that’s what I do, I make quick lists. Sometimes big lists. Sometimes big long lists. It’s who I am.

  • The character. If I don’t love my character, I can’t write a story. This has changed over the years, evolving from me liking an idea then thinking of a character. It’s often a chicken an egg thing when it comes to creating the story, but falling in love with it, yeah, that starts with character.
  • I have to love the setting. It’s why I often write slightly weird settings (or fantasy settings). I set a novel in the California desert, in an abandoned airfield. I’ve set one in a reimagined Venice. I set one partially in the clouds.
  • I have to have a great antagonist. Again, this is something that has evolved over time. In my first novels, my antagonist was often barely visible (like some dark lord), but now I need that character to be real flesh and blood, to be active, to be interesting and exciting, like a ballerina twisted by abuse and torture to become a merciless and highly skilled killer.
  • I have to like the voice I’ve chosen. Oh, I’ve tried to write a flowery romance (it’s pretty sad, actually), but I felt bogged down, as much as anything, trying to write in a way that I couldn’t write. Like trying to print with your left hand. Or speak backwards. Or a pitch a novel. It’s awkward and often embarrassing.
  • I have to like the plot. This may seem like a no-brainer, but something about the story has to excite me. Character alone, setting alone, voice or antagonist alone cannot carry a story. I have to love an idea. Silk’s come with a stunningly good idea. Paula worked on a novel with an idea I’d love to steal. Karalee created a serial killer concept that was brilliant. And Helga, my God, that woman cranks out Big Concept Novels like no one else I know.

So that’s just a quick list. Mostly common sense, I think, but understand that creating a novel and spending weeks and months and maybe years on it requires a bit more. It’s like dating someone vs marriage, it takes a lot more than a nice smile for the thing to work.

And, in keeping with past post ideas, here is my week.

Blogs Written – 6 (5 at justjoe, my ‘being a stepdad’ blog.)

Pages on novel written – 0

Links of other writers/bloggers to check out

Our latest person to sign up for the 5 challenge. Richelle Elberg. (She’s got a great site.)

Anyone else up for the challenge?

 

Writers cannot hide in a room

Joe’s Post #145

Taking the Blindfold Off

homers headAs writers, we live in our heads a lot. I think I may have said this once or twice. We often sit in dark rooms, alone, gulping cold coffee and creating worlds filled with all manner of characters or monsters or fluffy bunnies.

But every so often, writers are forced into the real world. Into the big city.

It’s a scary place. There’s light and the smell of hot dogs and lots of people. There’s the ear-splitting sound of jackhammers, gritty air that makes your eyelids feel like sandpaper and even more people … everywhere … in cars, on the sidewalk, in malls, wandering into traffic, or shouting at imaginary demons …

In such a chaotic environment, though, is writing gold.

If you’re willing to observe it.

I watched an old Chinese couple navigate the Skytrain with only nods to each other. An unspoken language that only they understood, but understood completely.

I sat a seat away from an Aboriginal man who bobbed with the rhythm of the train, reading his bible and mouthing the words to himself.

I laughed as three young men, not even 20, gave each other advice on how to attract women. Apparently the secret is the right cologne.

And that’s just from a Skytrain run.

In the real world, there are more details, more ideas for characters, and more character traits to be mined than being in a room by yourself.

A balding man with a ring of hair, all well-combed, well maintained, except for the very back which stood up as if he’d been electrocuted. But it was the one place he couldn’t see, or had no one else at home who’d tell him.

A woman changes out of her high heels to ride the Seabus, wearing simple flipflops with her expensive suit until the Seabus had landed on the other side.

A gruff construction worker complains to his friend about aspheticides that killed pests with a lethal combination containing lead and arse-ianic. Personally, I think he’d sniffed a bit too much of that arse-ianic.

But there’s so much to see. To smell. To hear, taste or touch.

Or to imagine.

Opening line – “22 people sat beside the dead man and before someone noticed the blood.”

Or – “When Rebecca arrived at the airport, she realized she’d forgotten three things: the book she’d almost finished reading, her lucky jogging socks and her boyfriend. Well, she would miss two of those things.”

I honestly wished I’d brought a pen and paper to make notes, but I was on a different mission. Fun with the family. So I didn’t record all that I should have recorded, but the whole adventure did remind me that, to be good writer, you can’t just sit in the dark and make shit up.

Unless you’re Stephen King.

all work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a fussy reader?

Joe’s Post #144

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve become a fussy reader. Really fussy. All those voices that I have in my head when I do my own writing come out when I read other authors.

Hey, at least I’m expanding my self-loathing out into the universe. That’s a good thing, right?

So, here is a list of things that turn me off, because, you know, everyone wants to know what turns me off.

  • A bad opening. And by ‘bad’, I mean ‘boring’. I don’t need an explosion or a car chase or someone whacking some poor girl with a belt. I need something or someone to care about. Even beautiful language can only hold my attention for a page or two. What stuns me, though, is no matter what they say at workshops or conferences or retreats, books get published that suck at the very beginning.
  • You hide too much from me. I like to be teased, sure, like anyone, but when someone writes, “they saw the guy, then something happened,’ that books gets put down. I need details. I need specifics. I don’t need to be jerked around. Hello, Baldacci, I’m talking to you. I love your books, but every so often, you almost phone it in.
  • Too much narration. Ok, this is new, but I’ve found that the books I love to read have more than one character talking to his or herself. Too much narration, even in the first person, and I become like a man on an island desperately seeking some form of conversation. Even in Cast Away, Tom Hanks talked to a ball for Christsake.
  • No voice. Ok, like this is a lot harder to define, but a great voice will propel me far into the story, while a common voice, the one with correct sentence structure, rigidly proper punctuation and a bland delivery will be like some bureaucrat going on and on and on and on and at some point I fall asleep and start to drool.
  • Too much backstory. Oh, lordy, this one is a killer for me. Sometimes I’ll get hooked into a story and then whammo, I’m forced to read about who begat who and who begat them before that and how the world was created. Ugh.
  • Too much swearing. Ok, I totally know that makes me f*ing sound like some sort of uber PG a**hole, but sh*t, sometimes it’s like an author thinks voice is all about using them cuss words. Not that I’m against swearing, not at all, but the overuse of foul language seems like a copout to me.

GRROne thing I love, both in movies and in a book is a good surprise.

I’m jaded. I’ll admit that. I’m picky.

But if you can surprise me, then you’ve got me. For 2 hours, in the case of a movie, or for a week in the case of a book. Sixth Sense surprised the hell out of me, and it’s one of my most favourite movies. GRR Martin continues to surprise me and I’ll tackle each and every one of his 1000 page tomes with ravenous glee.

But screw something up, published or not, I won’t want to read ya.

So what things turn you off a book? The cover? Book length? Spelling errors (someone more common these days, much to my horror.)

Let us know.

Oh and who’s going to Surrey International Writer’s Conference this year?

How do writer’s capture the ‘ahah!’ moments?

Karalee’s Post #111

Today I was volunteering at the high school in Vancouver where I help the class of students (often refugees) that are new to Canada. Their education is often minimal and English a completely foreign language. They aren’t yet able to integrate into regular classes.

But motivation to understand their new world circumstances is high. Even higher is their desire to fit in with their peers. To belong.

In this class of twenty or so, there’s often more than six languages spoken. The common denominator becomes English. Reading and comprehension skills are learned at an accelerated rate.

I am truly amazed at their rapid progress.

Math is another necessary skill. Basic counting is imperative for daily tasks if only to ensure receiving the correct change when making purchases of any kind.

Today was super rewarding for me. It was an ‘ahah!’ day.

I was helping a couple of teenagers practice basic math skills using flash cards, encouraging them to count in English instead of in their native tongue. Count in English even in their head. I assured them that if they practiced in English and didn’t translate the numbers, that it would become easier.

The students encouraged one another with a bit of competition.

Who could add and subtract single digits the fastest? Then double digits? All the while I had them count over and over in English.

It became easier. Then too easy.

They were laughing. I was laughing.

Then they went to three digits. We weren’t using paper so adding and subtracting was too difficult. Even saying the number was a bit of a challenge.

Saying four digit numbers was the next challenge.

Then five. And six.

The ‘ahah!’ happened at seven and eight digit numbers. The concept of how to group the big numbers clicked.

The feeling was intensely gratifying for me and I could see it was for the students too.

But as a writer, if I simply wrote that the two students felt intensely gratified when they learned to say eight digit numbers, it would be pretty boring and readers wouldn’t feel the ahah moment. More than likely readers would stop reading.

So I made a mental note to study the student’s reactions. How their wide smiles and head nodding was followed by shifting back in their chairs and sitting up taller. Their smiles couldn’t stop smiling.

Then they leaned forward, eager to do it again, to turn over even more cards to make a number over a million.

I had to mentally pinch myself. Neither of these students could count higher than ten only a few short months ago! What motivation and determination to learn.

For me, I feel grateful to be part of their journey and beyond a doubt these experiences will add to the depth of my characters.

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Writing Progress: Do I feel a writing retreat coming?

Books I’m reading: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Happenings in my life: 

  • Our middle son left for SE Asia on Tuesday. I worry about him being safe, but also am excited for him to have an extended adventure before starting his job in September.
  • got shoes for our daughter’s wedding in July! Another item off the list!
  • spent two days watching our youngest son play in Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Walla Walla, Washington.
  • we are hosting a university student studying here from Kathmandu, Nepal. She will be staying with us for the summer. Great to be able to help!

Perspective Photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

Looting your life

Joe’s Post #134

timmiesSo there I was, sitting at my computer, drinking a Timmies double-double, trying to add a few characteristics to my character (to, you know, flesh him out a bit), when three things occurred to me.

1) Timmies coffee is brain food. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2) Creating amazing fictional characters is hard. It may not seem like it, but avoiding shallow, cliched characters takes time, some thinking and a lot of work.

3) Why create fictional characters at all when you can draw from people in your own life (or even other fictional ones, but that’s another blog entirely.)

It was the #3 that really got me thinking. Since I have lived a life of utter normality, I had to look farther afield. But if you lived an amazing life, use that. I know some of our 5/5/5 have had extraordinary lives that they could easily draw upon. Just not me.

So, I looked back to someone in my life who I really admired, someone who I dearly wish was still alive today. My dad.

battling dragonsI was pretty young when he passed so I never got a chance to really hear about his life from him. Sadly, at 13, you just don’t care that much about what your parents did or didn’t do. They exist only as your parents. They never had sex. They never had their hearts broken. They never went on adventures or committed crimes or battled dragons.

Now my dad never battled dragons, at least that I know about, but he did have a life, and it’s sometimes not the large things that make up a life, but the small. My dad had lost his sense of smell after working in a slaughter house for 2 years. He could only smell a few things and those things he could smell, he loved. Like the smell of hot tar.

Who loves the smell of hot tar?

I looked back at what foods he loved, at what he did as a young man (he played the bass in big bands), at who he hated and why. I looked at the mementos he kept and the pictures that were taken of him.

london burningSure, his experience in WWII shaped a lot of who he became, but there were so many other little things that made up who he was as a person. He took in homeless boarders, lost souls who needed guidance, young men who just needed someone to believe in them. He felt he was repaying a debt to someone who had taken him in when he’d come to Canada, penniless and desperate. He’d write ‘Grandma Ag’ (Agnes) every week like he wrote his mom.

Such things great characters are made of. The debts, the loves, the hates, the small joys, the big laughs, the things he would keep in a cluttered desk drawer.

So, I’ll mine a few things from my dad’s life, as much to honor him as to make a really good character. When you read about Kurt Yager, or any of my male protagonists, know that there is a little bit of my dad in them.

*****

Best show last week – Went and saw a movie with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world –  Something we haven’t done for a long while. We saw the Kingsmen. Wow. I mean, wow. Imagine if Quentin Jerome Tarantino made a Bond movie. Violent. Funny. Massively engaging.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Shadow’s Edge. Brent Weeks. About half way through. The stakes are rising, but as a writer, the interesting thing is that he’s now spending about 1/2-1/3 of the book on other POV characters. Not a bad move, but interesting. I mean, why get tied down to just one?

Pages written on new book  Worked on my main character. Hence the blog. From character flows plot, right?

Social media update – Still blogging on my step-dad site about my experience as a chaperone on a grade 7 camping trip.  I have to blog about something terrifying today.

Health  Functionally deaf at the moment due to another ear infection. F*ing hell.

Best thing last week  Date night and movie with the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

Worst thing  My laptop being fixed. Damn you Word. Why won’t you work properly?

Links to other writers and bloggers to check out….

marieMarie Lavander – A very well done site, and only 1 of 3 she has running! http://marielavenderbooks.blogspot.ca

 

jodiJodie Llewellynwho really doesn’t need my help with promotion as she has an amazing 75,000 page views, 8,000 comments, and 6,000 followers!!!!! Wow!!! http://www.wordsreadandwritten.com.

 

 

Research – what inspires you to write?

Joe’s Post #122

History is People

soylant greenThe idea that history is people came as a shock to my oldest boy. Sort of like Soylent Green is people came as a shock to Charlton Heston. He (my boy, not CH) thought history was terrible. He hated it.

In part, this is because in school history is about facts. When did the beaver traders first invent beaver pelts? What year did the Romulans build Rome? Where did the Egyptians build the pyramids?

Interesting stuff if you like learning about facts. Certainly valuable in trivial pursuit-type games. But history can be inspiring, and inspiring because of the people in it.

Which leads me to my post this week.

I usually research people by reading about them. I have dozens and dozens of books in my library about historical figures, interesting comedians and odd whackadoodles. But this last week, I spent some time with real people who have actually LIVED history.

It was a transformative moment for me.

Why?

I’ll get to that in a minute.

rotterdamSo, yeah, here I am, writing a historical novel set in the Netherlands, circa 1940, and I’ve been gleeful to find old photos, gather up books written about the time (mostly during the German occupation), and find the odd link that reveals some amazing fact I didn’t know.

But the real fun has been talking (or emailing) people who’ve experienced it. Not being a journalist, I’m a little rusty at interviewing. It probably takes me a bit longer to get to the stories and details than someone more skilled or socially awesome.

And, I’ve been surprised that there are people who would rather not talk about what happened. Intellectually, I can understand, like I can understand why some people like cats more than dogs. But deep down, I don’t get it. Good or bad, it’s history. It’s part of their story. If you asked me to talk about my childhood, I would bore you to tears for hours. However, I didn’t see people beaten to death before my eyes or have my house bombed.

So I’m sensitive when someone says they’d rather not talk about something.

anne frankBut what people have talked to me about has made me think about this story in a whole different way. It’s one thing to read Anne Frank. It’s another to talk to someone who’s actually hidden people from the Nazis.

Think about this for a moment. You risked everything. If you were caught, you could be shot, maybe tortured, and your entire family would be sent to a concentration camp (even your children) where they would probably die a very bad death. All it would take would be one wrong sound at the wrong time, a light left on when everyone should be asleep, a traitor speaking to the Germans.

How many of us would risk ourselves today?

For me, it’s that simple bravery that moves me. Not that any of the people I’ve spoken to would think of themselves as brave. In fact, they’d be embarrassed to be called that. But they are.

They risked everything to do something good. Everything.

And that’s transformed my thinking about this book.

dutchThose stories need to be heard. They need to be told.

Because history is not just about the famous people. Hitler. Churchill. Matt Damon. It’s about the lives of regular people as well.

 

*****

Best show last week – Walking Dead wins again. Spoiler alert. Something bad happens. Wait, that happens every week.

Book that I’m reading at the moment – In The Shadow of the Cathedral, by Titia Bozuwa. A good book for researching the Netherlands.

Outlines done – 0

Pages written on new book  0

# of new friends made on Twitter – 3 (but did manage to create a lively discussion on Linkedin about if research was even necessary – based on my blog of the same title.)

# books ordered for research – They’ve all come in. But I found a great site for finding more information. World History at KMLA

Health – Still hanging in there. Cold gone. Happy to breath again.

Best thing last week – Meet with the 5/5/5 Thursday. Set some serious goals. I’ll write more about that next week.

Worst thing – WordPress.org remains largely untouched and this site needs a bit of work. One more thing to do on a very long list of things to do.

The facts in fiction

Karalee’s Post #97

Research is a necessary part of a writer’s journey. It’s often a major part of developing/designing our characters and it gives depth to our settings and ideas for our plots. As writers we use research to:

  • get facts straight.
  • know our characters’ world enough to be true to the characters’ behaviors and understanding of their world.
  • be authentic to the time era chosen for the story.

This can sound scary and it was for me when I first started writing. What if I got a fact wrong or didn’t describe something the way it really is? My reputation would be ruined before it was even made….

Now I’m more relaxed and don’t panic if I don’t know something when I’m writing. I can make a note of it and even research it later for exactly what I need and not read the entire encyclopedia of information on that subject (like I did before). Like most writers I can easily get lost in research. It’s often  a lot of fun, but it can also be a friend of the procrastinator. See Silk’s post on that subject! Above all else, it can be a huge time eater, consuming oodles and oodles of time.

One of my characters in my murder mystery has family connections to South Africa. I referred to a Kudu horn this week so I did a quick research on the internet to get a good picture of it in my mind. Of course I also read other information regarding Kudu horns and I now know that there is a Kudu poo spitting contest that more than likely I  won’t use in my story, but it still amuses me days later. This is one of the reasons that research eats time. Writers love to read and learn about stuff.

In his last post Joe is researching for his historical fiction novel in order to create an awesome character. Writers need to understand what has made their character the person he/she is in his story and how that character will react in different situations. I can picture Joe frantically writing down all his ‘What if…?” questions while surrounded by a roomful of books depicting the era of the war to end all wars. What if’s are so much fun and dig into the creative part of one’s brain.

At what point can research be enough and the writing begin? This is a question without absolutes for an answer since every writer has their own style AND level of knowledge about their subject. Writing about what you know eliminates much of the research regarding some subjects, but it doesn’t negate the process of developing your characters from birth to where they are presently in their lives. All writers need to build back-story for all major characters as well as most minor ones, although to a lesser extent.

 

For me, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the writing process.

Fiction is fiction and there is huge room for creativity, but for sure facts need to be correct or some expert out there will call you on it.

I laughed when I read a well known tourist guidebook when I was in Vegas last week. It says that only one building in Vegas tops 100 storeys and that is the Stratosphere. The entry then encourages tourists to go on the bungee-style SkyJump that drops your 108 storeys from said building. Of course my mind sees a huge SPLAT when I envision the bungee chord being longer than the building is high! Technically the guidebook wasn’t incorrect, but my mind saw 100 for the height of the building and 108 for the drop from the top. Then I wondered if survivors got a special deal on their next jump?? 🙂

This week:

  • No, I didn’t go to a cheap poker table in Vegas. (too chicken) Instead I played blackjack for money for the first time and went through my $100.00 almost too quickly to catch anyone else’s body language!  The fun factor didn’t last long, but I had my own feelings to reflect on and a lesson learned.
  • I consciously people watched in Vegas whenever out and about and at different gambling tables. Lots of sights to see!
  • Words written: 2,000.
  • Desserts eaten at buffet – your guess is as good as mine! Cheesecake and Crème Brule are favorites.
  • lots of walking to counteract above.

Happy writing! If I can write in Vegas, I can write anywhere!