Happy Memorial Day.
Monthly Archives: May 2012
I am soooooo indecisive at times. I finally decide to eat out, but can’t decide where to go. I want to paint a room, but come to a stand still when selecting a color. It’s easier for me to make decisions for my characters than myself. Afterall, their choices are governed by the personality I give them and has to give the reader clues to their inner world. That’s merely laying out puzzle pieces.
There are now 3 working titles for the follow-up novel to WIRED: Enigma, Persistence of Vision and Persistence of Time. Each works for different reasons.
Enigma play on the plot theme of art looted by the Nazis during WWII. The Enigma machine encoded German communications which was later cracked by Alan Turing. Jade is in pursuit of a painting that was auctioned in 1939, only to find it leads her to her father’s killer, thus cracking the code of her past.
Persistence of Vision refers to the phenomenon of the eye to hold an after image. Jade’s dreams are revealing the after image of the past she’s buried deep in her subconscious.
Lastly, Persistence of Time…. also a Salvador Dali painting, refers to the artist to whom Jade has a strange affinity. It is one of his lost works she’s trying to uncover.
Usually, when you find the right title it resonates for you. This time I can’t decide which fits best. I may have to resort to Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. (sigh)
Now, back to writing….
“Freeze this moment a little bit longer. Make each impression a little bit stronger.” ~ Rush
I love to travel and any place I visit is open game as a story setting. I often take photos to remember the details of a place and to jog my memory of the sensory bits that add realism to a description.
This first photo was taken from Notre Dame in Paris. In case you’re wondering, the buses and trailers were part of a production set for the TV series Highlander with Adrian Paul. Looking at this, I remember how incredibly cold it was. The wind blew along the river with a ferocity that cut through my coat and several layers of sweaters. The water smelled pas frais as it swirled in eddys along the wall.
The images and memories formed a basis for the setting of WIRED which begins and ends in Paris. The final scene takes place on the bridge in the distance. There are also scenes that take you into the catacombs underneath the city and introduces another side of Paris usually not mentioned in the tour guides. For those locations, I relied on research and discovered there’s a French Police unit that patrols the underground keeping peace and deterring criminal behavior. Photos become valuable tools for writing and enhances your ability to convey mood and let the setting take on its own character role.
The second photo is a church yard in England, but my memory is faulty on the exact location. I’m thinking it may be in Suffolk. I do recall the church was well over 1,000 years old and was marred by medieval graffiti on the ancient floor tiles. This will be in the follow-up novel to WIRED which has the working title Persistence of Time.
Now that the digital age is upon us, I snap photos constantly with my phone, trying to capture fleeting moments and emotions I can use later.
I also freeze bits of time by being completely present in the moment and noting everything around me. Each time I’ve done this, I’ve been able to later recall details that would have likely gone unnoticed… such as Ray Davies changing his wrist watch mid concert in 1983 or a woman in a black sweater doing yoga in Russell Square while a breeze blew spray from the fountain across the stone walk (2007).
By adding realism and sensory detail, your readers will be able to escape into your writing. Photos help me make time stand still long enough to share it with you.
I don’t think I could count how many books I’ve read over the years, but some stand out in my memory for various reasons. Instead of telling you what’s special about each, I’ll let you enjoy them for yourself.
The Professor’s House Willa Cather
Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll
Walden Henry David Thoreau
A Wizard of Earthsea Ursula K. Le Guin
Lost Michael Robotham
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
A Parchment of Leaves Silas House
Books A through V Sue Grafton
Far and Away; A Prize Every Time Neil Peart
Outlander Diana Gabaldon
The Monster at the end of this Book Jon Stone & Michael Smollin
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein
Settings and descriptions are easy to find. Look around. Did you notice anything while driving to work this morning? How about the guy in the car next to you? I bet he picked his nose without even considering someone would see him. By the way, there are a couple of teenage boys walking along the sidewalk, but it’s a school day, so why are they out and about? Observations can lead to interesting questions for writers. Small details in description allow your readers to experience the story, not just read it. Where do you find these details?
Like I said, look around.
Driving through North Carolina, there is a vast landscape of imagery apt for writing. The Research Triangle Park (RTP), surrounded by prominent universities and corporate headquarters, is ripe for a high-tech setting. Drive a few miles out and you find tobacco and corn fields burning under an early summer heat wave. I recently discovered a few gems and have tucked them away for a future project:
- A Baptist church with brick framed sign advertising “Massage Therapy. Walk Ins Welcome”
- A farm-house with a perfectly manicured lawn sporting a 70’s era tan sedan in the car port nearly invisible under a growth of kudzu
- Stumpy’s Taxidermy (do I really need to explain that one?)
I translated some of the scenery and the questions it invoked into the passage below. By writing without a plot in mind, this exercise lets my imagination explore the “what if’s”. Sometimes it even turns into a new story.
“The two-lane highway curved in and around woods, past weedy horse pastures, and bordered fields freshly plowed for late spring crops. Each sign of animal habitation was mirrored by human habitation in the form of wood-frame houses void of paint or posh. This isn’t the part of the country big on appearances. Labor was born of the need to feed families, pay off back debt on acreage and to scrape out a living. There was no money for house painting or landscaping beyond a mower.
Casey turned her ten-year old Ford pickup onto a gravel road, wincing at the sharp ruts that bucked the truck like a rodeo bull. Sweet tea sloshed over the top of her Hardee’s cup and left a glistening rivulet across her arm. She ignored it.
The white outline of the church revealed itself through a veil of dark green leaves. A downburst of wind parted branches for just a second and she could see the modest wooden steeple against a Carolina blue sky.
Craven Baptist Church was founded in 1823 and had stood facing the eastern sunrise ever since. First, her four times great-grandfather cut a clearing and laid in pine benches and a slab of granite for an altar. Sixteen years later, his son built a small church on the same site. The building now in its place was a young 75 years old. Vines twisted along the roof edge and the air was thick with honey suckle. Plywood sealed the windows and the front door, while padded locked on one side, stood ajar from its hinges on the other.
The cemetery would be in the back, hidden in the undergrowth and guarded by snakes.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever use this in a project, but the exercise is a good writing warm up so you can sneak past your inner critic:).