A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blog Chain - Fearing The Inside

I'm the here to finish up this particular blog chain, following the incredibly talented Sandra. The question posed by Kat is a timely one:

What are the primary fears that drive your characters? Do they battle aliens or gangsters or monsters? Or do they battle unreconciled issues in their lives? Which do you prefer writing about? What do you fear?

Let's start out with discussing how my characters deal with fear. I don't think I've ever written anything where the MC had an external fear (such as heights, spiders, etc). Maybe that's because these are easier fears to write about? The challenge is being able to adequately describe an internal fear (my opinion only, of course). In the NaNo book I will be starting (on Sunday, Woohoo), Trevor is a young man with lots of fears. He fears his overbearing and demeaning mother. He fears everyone finding out what he's really like physically (he constantly wears a disguise for a very good reason), and beneath it all he fears to let anyone find out who he is underneath as well. He fears dealing with people, because his social skills are lacking to the extreme. He will have to deal with these fears soon though, and it will be a mixture of external and internal forces that demand change. He may find there are things he fears that he wasn't aware of either, external things that he has never experienced before.

As for myself, I don't really have any external fears. I am uncomfortable with a few things maybe. For example, depending on the situation, I can be uncomfortable with a given height. But on the whole, I am not afraid of heights. I don't really like spiders, but I'm not afraid of them. As I sit here and try to catalogue anything external to fear, I really don't have any fears like that. I'm not afraid of someone with a gun pointing at me for example (of course, I say that but who knows how I'd be during the heat of the moment). I'd like to think I would try to remain calm, because the situation is out of my control. I would have no choice but to hope that I could make it out okay. I couldn't actively take steps to change things (other than maybe talking my way out of it).

My fears are all internal. I fear not doing a good job as a father. That's a big one for me - the idea that I would screw things up so bad that my kids would hate me. It has taken years for me to be somewhat close to my dad, so I've tried my best to make sure that doesn't happen with my own sons. I fear being inadequate. I fear not being capable of accomplishing what I want to. I fear not being a good enough husband, that I would ever cause my wife to question how much I love her. Lastly, I fear not being able to become a good writer (something I am constantly admonishing myself over). That's one of the bad things about surrounding yourself with exceptional people (at least for someone like me). You end up feeling like you pale in comparison to everyone else. That is my struggle, my personal fear that I strive to overcome on a daily basis.

Well, that's the end of this blog chain. If you haven't read some (or any) of the various entries, I'd advise you to start out with Kat's entry and follow the links so you can read them all. This has been a really fun topic to answer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Missing On Monday

The image here is me. Okay, it doesn't look alot like me, but it's how I've been feeling for quite some time now. This is why I've been "missing" for a while. I can sum it up in one word - STRESS. I have five days left. Five days until NaNo. Five days until I need to turn in my huge project paper for school. And I have so much left to do before then.

I have been lurking around in the shadows, of course. I've been reading your blogs, very occasionally commenting. But every time I stopped to write a post, the weight of this project would hit me like a sledgehammer. For those of you who haven't abandoned me totally, thanks. I promise, once I get through this stuff, I will be more expedient and regular with my posts. At the least, I plan on doing daily (or every other day) updates on NaNo progress.

I have been doing a little bit of organizing with regards to NaNo as well (though to be honest I still have alot more to figure out). I actually bought some legal pads and have started writing things out. I hope to have a decent amount done before the first.

Five days. And today is almost over. Yikes!

Oh, and this random thought occurred to me as I was talking to my son about various words. Isn't it weird that there is a word "ruthless", but you can't take off the suffix "less" and just have the word "ruth"? How many other words do you know like that? Sometimes English truly boggles the mind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Thoughts

On Sunday, Christy was showing a few interesting photos and the last one caused a sporadic thought to jump into my brain. The photo depicted a dead bird and Christy was talking about omens. I immediately thought, "What a great opener to a story."

I imagined a MC coming out their front door and seeing this dead bird, which was a bad omen leading to a storyline somewhere down the way. The interesting part is how such an inconsequential thing could launch an entire story.

That happens to me all the time. I'll see something or someone, and it starts me thinking about all sorts of what if's. Too often, little things we don't pay attention to (or inconsequential things we pay too much attention to) lead us down interesting paths. It's the idea that there is a story in everything and everyone - there just needs to be a storyteller to put it to paper.

Take for example an aluminum can in the gutter. It doesn't matter whether it's a Coke or Pepsi can (although of course I prefer the Coke side of things). Now along comes an elderly chap who collects cans for recycling. So the man picks up this can, but unfortunately he cuts his finger on a sharp edge. Without thinking, he sucks on the finger in anguish, lamenting his carelessness. From here, there are a number of ways to take it. Does the man become ill from germs on the can? Maybe he instead hurls the can in anger, hitting the windshield of a passing car? Or maybe the money from the can allows him to buy a winning lottery ticket?

From one little object, an entire tale can be told. Has anyone else ever begun a story from a small thing? When was the last time you had inspiration from a singular image?

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Trying To Burst Forth...Hold It Back!

As you can tell by the logo, this is about NaNo. I am proud to say I'm taking the plunge this year and accepting the challenge. Oh, and since I didn't mention it last time I talked about NaNoWriMo, my handle over there is (as expected) estallsworth. If you're looking for a buddy (or if you already have tons and could use one more), feel free to add me.

Now normally, NaNo would be cause for celebration and excitement. In my case however, it's cause for angst lately. Why? Well, bear with me and I'll try to explain. This time around, I actually have a story in mind. I have the MC name chosen (something that often causes me problems, coming up with names), I know a little about this character, and I even know where the story is going to end. In fact, I have quite a few details bouncing around up there in my head. So what's the problem you say? The problem is I cannot start writing the story until Nov 1. And it's driving me crazy.

I have all these ideas I want to get down on paper, and I can't yet. Normally, I would have launched into things by now and be halfway to Vegas (figuratively, of course). The wait is almost too much to bear. Maybe this is what it's like for all you writer people out there who HAVE to write. It's kind of a neat feeling, even if it is driving me buggy.

On the good side, I do have a solution. I am going to sit down with a writing pad (or something similar) and start an outline. Yes, I said I would outline for this one and I'm going to stick to it. I think the loose structure will help me get past those days when I'm not sure where to go with things and the writing begins to stall. Maybe this will keep the muse satisfied for a while. He's been all over me clamoring for attention, and I've had to keep telling him to be patient.

November is coming...don't worry, it'll be here before you know. Now eat a banana.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Bad And Good...Yep, I've Had Both Lately

I've been noticeably absent, but I do have a note from my mom. Okay, maybe not, but here's whats been happening in my world lately. I got an eye infection last Thursday (through my own stupidity which I will not describe here), and just as I was starting to feel better, my youngest son came down with a nasty cold. In true parent-child fashion, he gave it to me and my wife. So I'm just about over my eye infection, but I'm still not completely over my cold.

Oh well.

On a good note, I passed my second technical writing paper with a 3.92 out of 4. I didn't think it was truly ready when I turned it in, but I figured I could fix whatever was wrong from the feedback the graders provide. So yes, I was quite ecstatic. Now I have only one more paper to finish and then I'll finally be done with all this technical writing *#$*%!

Oops, ignore that. I didn't cuss. I promise.

I have also signed up for NaNaWriMo this year, and I already have a somewhat defined story idea to run with. I plan on doing some concrete outlining prior to Nov 1, which I think will really help me in the long run. For those who don't know what this event is (who doesn't know about it? raise your hands...), NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, writers are challenged to achieve 50K words in just 30 days. That's over 1600 words a day for all you math majors out there. It's tough, but I think I can do it (especially with a little up-front preparation). I wasn't ready for it last year, but I think I'm ready now. Mentally, I think I'm ready for it.

I was very recently in a book store looking for something new to read, and I saw an old sci-fi series by Melanie Rawn that I had read once before. It occurred to me that (in my mind) the series had never been really finished. This got me to thinking of course, which isn't always a good thing. I really enjoyed the series (and I'm sorry but medicine head is keeping me from remembering the name of that particular series), but there was only two books in it and at the end of the second book, there were unanswered questions and unfinished storylines. It really irritated me (as I stood there in front of the shelf) that the "story" wasn't complete.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not the type to sit there and wonder if the hero and the girl finally end up married, do they have 10 kids, do they live to a ripe old age. I'm not talking about that type of nonsensical continuation of the story. But in general terms, shouldn't most stories have a somewhat complete and final ending? Where you get to the end and say "oh okay. That's the end." You shouldn't have lingering questions about major plots and integral characters. Is this just me? I hope not.

Anyway, while I don't read series books or trilogies exclusively, I do enjoy them and I am dismayed that this particular one has never been finished (to my knowledge). I picked up a new book from an author I haven't read before (sorry, medicine head still, can't remember title or author at the moment) which I will review here once I'm done. It's an interesting story involving assassins, and for some reason, I just love reading about assassins. I suppose that's rather morbid, but it's not because I like death or killing necessarily. I just like the idea of people who can sneak in and out like a ghost, undetected and powerful. It's probably because I'm as clumsy as they come. Okay, maybe not that bad, but definitely not ninja-caliber.

So that's the news and tidings from my world. Keep your fingers crossed for me in November. I will make updates here as to my progress as often as possible. Maybe I'll even figure out how to get one of those word progress thingies on my blog.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Workin' The Blog Chain

It's my turn again on the blog chain, and my predecessor Sandra has posed an interesting question to us all:

What kind of journeys do your characters make? What effects do they have on the characters and the plot? Also (if you wish), please tell us about one of your personal journeys and how it changed you.

Well, this is difficult for me to answer. Because I write by the seat of my pants, I generally have a very rough idea (or no idea at all) of where my characters are going to go. I sit back and watch them walk through it, and they change (or strive against changing) as time goes by. Ideas come to me at odd times, and not usually fleshed out very well. I am working on my characterization tools all the time however, because I'd like to be the writer that at least has a decent idea of where I'm going.

In a paranormal story I'm working on, Kris is a 20-something who has no ambition, no goals, and nothing he has to do. He possesses abilities that set him above the rest of humanity, and he's learned to look down on them with disdain. Then Mara enters his life and he is catapulted into a world he didn't know existed. The cocky over-confident man he thought he was is gone, to be replaced by a scared young soul without a clue what to do.

The interesting part about the above tale was I really started it out with no destination in mind. The story has formed on its own, and Kris is finding his way and developing as a character minute by minute. The plot has changed with the introduction of Mara, and Kris becoming aware of just how fragile his life is. It's something I did not expect when I started the story, but it's been fun to explore.

I'm definitely one of those people who believe in the positive effects that come from traveling to other cultures. I've had the luck to journey to a few countries outside of the US, and each time I found myself forever altered in some way. Preconceived notions that I had before either get confirmed or changed by the things I see and the people I meet. For example, I was never of the opinion that I could be truly awestruck by anything religious. I'm not an overly religious man, and although I believe in God, I hadn't felt any breathtaking experiences.

Then I went to Germany and had the opportunity to walk through some of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen. One could argue that the building of the church was done by man, but I would argue back that you can see the majesty of God through the beauty of these edifices. His touch upon the builder's soul is what has allowed such majestic buildings to be created. Touching the ancient stone, standing before a crypt that held bishops from the 1400s, letting my eyes linger over archways and iconic windows - all of these things together left me awestruck in a deep way.

Travel has always affected me this way, particularly when I talk to people and get a glimpse of life through their eyes. As a writer, I hope I can bring that majesty and significance to my characters as well.

If you didn't get a chance to read Sandra's post yet, you can find it here. Kat is all set to follow me on the chain.