Wildflowersinohio's Blog

From The Write Side of My Brain

Why You Should Nanowrimo October 28, 2013

Filed under: writing — Birgit Nazarian @ 12:22 pm
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I am about to start Nanowrimo again. Years back I didn’t participate because I thought it was an amateurish thing to do. Why would anyone want to just write whatever with only a word count goal to shoot for? I mean all you get is a huge mess of words at the end, right?

Yes. You get a huge mess of words at the end of the month. 60,000 of them or so. But I am a believer now that it’s good. It’s good because within that mess you have gems and probably enough story to go back and mine the gems and polish them up.

Do you hesitate when you write a novel? Get stuck in any phase of the creation, say the planning phase or the middle of the first draft? Nanowrimo is the solution to that. You are FORCED to keep the pace. It’s very much like my running long races of endurance. Parts of it aren’t pretty but damn it you forge ahead anyway. Puking if you have to, but you take in some fuel, mentally pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep going until you finish.

At the end you see, 1) You can do it. 2) You discovered how creative you can really be when you don’t have the luxury to wallow in your self criticism. You don’t have time for that crap. You just go, go, go. Good things came out of that. My passionate scenes for example were less inhibited than ever. Parts where I floundered because research was needed are fixable.

Go with it. Try it out. It’s fun. I promise.

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Stuck April 29, 2013

Filed under: writing — Birgit Nazarian @ 1:34 pm

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Forgive me. I have been stuck. It’s hard for me to concentrate on more than one big goal at a time. My last 4 months have been practically consumed by marathon and ultra marathon training. That’s a lot of running. Every spare hour it seems some days. Runs that last half a day. It’s insanity and my writing suffered.

I think about writing a lot. I just don’t do it and as soon as these goals of finishing my next marathon and ultra marathon are done – mid-May, I will be ready to write.

What should I write? I think that’s part of the problem. I have too many ideas. Some writers get a great idea for a book. I get more than one at a time and don’t know which to write. Both seem like great ideas. Neither pulls me harder than the other. What do I do?

Brainstorm, but that takes time. Time I will have soon because I will make the time again. Soon.

 

 

 

Capturing Unexpected Inspiration November 13, 2012

Filed under: writing — Birgit Nazarian @ 11:28 am
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It isn’t lost on me how coincidental and timely my discovery of the perfect location for a scene in the novel I am writing was. It just goes to show you how much serendipity goes into novel writing. I know I am dovetailing this entry with my last one “Season of Spookiness” in Morning Warmup but it has to do so much with my writing and the idea of finding inspiration unexpectedly.

Say, like me, you are writing a scene and it’s okay but you can’t seem to breathe life into the setting. I wasn’t sure exactly how this old abandoned farm on the edge of the woods would look–other than a general idea. Part of what I do habitually is go out for a jog or hike in the woods sometimes somewhere familiar and sometimes somewhere new. I chose to go for a run in a new place and I never expected to find the abandoned farm on the edge of the woods! But when I did the scene got a lot more authentic and detailed. I could see and feel it in the writing because I saw and felt it.

Sometimes you’ll find inspiration in places you didn’t expect to discover. Sometimes you need to go look at places you think might inspire you. I almost always carry my cell phone with a camera and a note app. This is a great idea because should you see something unbelievable or perfect for your story you can document it. Had I know about the abandoned farm I probably would have brought a good camera and maybe made a video as well to capture the ambient sounds and make comments about my observations. Well I could have made a video but I was too awestruck and confused by the coincidence to let that idea occur to me then. But I did manage to get some photographs like the house and others which I put on Morning Warmup.

 

What Makes a Good Ghost Story? October 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — Birgit Nazarian @ 10:01 am
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I just finished a short ghost story. It’s not that scary. More like the kind that might evoke a chill rather than the scare you straight out of your pants variety.

I’d like to try my hand at a scarier one. I guess the type of ghost story or horror story is a personal preference. I’ve read a lot of  ghost stories that fall flat. It’s a “You kind of had to be there.” thing.

Do you think “Washington Irving’s “The Headless Horseman” lives up to being considered a gold standard in this genre? I recently read it and found it long winded. “Get to the good part!” I kept thinking. I tell my kids about how we used to play “Bloody Mary” in the mirror with a candle and the lights off when I was their age. We didn’t even know who “Bloody Mary” was but it scared the beejeebers out of us when someone would sneak up behind us and appear in that mirror we were concentrating on.

So what do you think makes a good scare on paper (or Kindle)?

 

Using Taboo to Get Attention October 11, 2012

Filed under: writing — Birgit Nazarian @ 9:20 am
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A certain book series that shall not be named is annoying me to no end, the other night I heard it mentioned in more than one news broadcast in context with the subject being borrowed for an upcoming  episode of  “Law & Order SVU”. Rumor has the original story is poorly written. I refuse to read it so I can’t go much into a critique of it. It’s a topic that has come up before – using taboo and extremes to get ratings, attention from readers and viewers on television, the web. Without shock factor, how are readers going to notice your work?

I believe certain stories have a green light to use shocking material. If you are writing for example about drug cartels and their reign of terror or the overwhelming desperation of people during a famine. But gratuitous use of taboo and shock just to sensationalize a story doesn’t have my approval. I compare it to restaurants that instead of trying to make a dish flavorful using superior ingredients, cooking skills and imagination resort to throwing a bunch of fat, sugar and salt into the recipe – surefire way to make even a bland meal taste better. That’s a cop out.

These stories that use that quick and easy way to get attention for their work will be remembered more for how they successfully marketed themselves onto the shelves of Walmart than how meaningful or entertaining they were. Writing extremely shocking and kinky prose isn’t new either. Marquis de Sade himself used his shocking and disturbing works to put a spotlight on the political issues and the hypocrisies of the church of his time. At least he did that much.

Taboo and shock: be sure it’s part of the story and not THE story.

 

Writing Modern Mythology October 3, 2012

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One trend I love–when it’s done well–are contemporary takes on mythological creatures or fairy tales, fables and the kinds of legends that are deeply embedded into our subconsciousness. I just finished trying my hand at a short story inspired by the Deer Woman myth found in many Native American cultures.

The “Deer Woman” is a shape shifting mostly malignant creature set out to destroy men that aren’t choosy about their sexual partners. The idea in Native American cultures was most likely to use this myth to encourage their young men to shun playing the field and focus on finding a good wife and building a strong family. In my take, the young man is a reclusive hunter. My “Deer Woman” uses him in a desperate ploy to protect her children from being slaughtered by him and other hunters.

If you’ve ever seen the television series “Grimm“, that’s a bit like what I was going after.The magical realism of that on going and complex story about the underground war between “Wesen” works because there is a connection to traditional Old World European fairy tales (à la Brothers Grimm) and a modern yet slightly off kilter contemporary setting of Portland, Oregon. And anyone who’s ever been to Portland can agree it’s a bit different there from say, here in Ohio. It rains so much in Portland it seems like almost anything there can grow and thrive.The techniques they use in Grimm to deliver this story fact mixed with myth create situations which almost seem plausible to explain most of what you see.

Not quite a fairy tale but another recent foray into magical realism I’ve been perusing is the novel “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter“.  The novel moves along in part like a historical biography which somehow gives the impression that it’s unquestionably true. It’s full of fantastical vampire slayings and crazy feats of badassery on the part of old Honest Abe himself. So crazy it might just work, eh??

Because fact is sprinkled in, I have ask myself where truth ends and fantasy begins, they dovetail so seamlessly into what I already know about the 16th President. Maybe a serious scholar specializing in Lincoln would be less impressed. It’s not easy to pull off that kind of believable mythology but the result is a fairy tale, fable or legend contemporary adults can buy into.

 

Method Writing October 1, 2012

Filed under: writing — Birgit Nazarian @ 9:39 am
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Most of my adult life I have believed that it’s hard to write about something you haven’t experienced yourself. There may have been times I took that sentiment a little too far purposely looking for some hands on experience. Though it’s probably pushed me to try things I never would have ordinarily, I am not sure it’s absolutely true that this is the preferred method to inject realism into fiction, though it might help.

I’ve read dozens of books in which the author couldn’t possibly have done the things or anything similar to what they’ve written about and yet, it’s utterly believable. So how do they pull off that kind of magic? My guess is that if they haven’t been able to or dared to try whatever it is themselves they are very good interviewers and good at finding people who know first hand what it’s like to, for example rush into a burning building, fly missions over Germany in WWII, or live for weeks or even years with a nomadic tribe in the desert.

I’ve been enough places and done enough things that there are times when I find myself comparing my own experience with a similar setting or experience portrayed in fiction. Often I am surprised by how good authors are at recreating the ambiance the sights, sounds, experiences. For this you must have a gift of paying attention to details and observing things people often miss as they go about their business consumed by their own internal world.

But here’s the rub: I remember seeing someone shot in the back and then hit by a car as they fled across a busy city street. You don’t plan to be a witness to that, it just happens, in seconds. That was 25 years ago but if I think very hard I can break that memory down into snap shots of images. What is harder to recall are my emotions at the time – I seemed to be robbed of them – I remember a couple of nuns nearby crying up to heaven. I remember a shoe flying and nearly hitting someone nearby. I remember my room mate’s ice cream cone falling from her hand onto the sidewalk and I remember getting us the hell out of there.

It’s probably easier to remember premeditated experiences, like getting into a ring with a bull, climbing a mountain or running a marathon. You almost plan to observe and savor and capture details so you can write about them later. But the things you don’t plan for, those are the elusive memories, the ones that come back to you in bits and pieces if you work hard to recall them. Fear or the element of surprise, the adrenaline rush seems to shut off your ability to soak in the details so you can act quickly and live on to tell the tale. What do you think?