Starting the Story…

I started reading Al Watt’s book, the 90 Day Novel. If you’re not familiar he has you read a new entry every day for 90 days and then write. He provides a list of free writing – stream of consciousness questions to help you get going, not only on writing, but on thinking about what you plan (or don’t plan) to write. He’s very encouraging throughout the whole process, enabling you to feel like it’s alright if you don’t know where you’re going with the story. That was certainly my issue. His words helped me to trust my characters to begin leading the story line and amazingly, that really helped.

My antagonist was a nasty sociopath and once I gave him reign to go where he wanted, boy did he. By the third time he makes an entrance, he’s beating the heck out of two guys and not giving a damn about it. In fact, he likes it. My hero, Skye, begins to display fears and blocks she uses unconsciously to avoid taking chances and there in lies a dilemma, as she is thrust into circumstances that absolutely require decisions and well thought out ones, to avoid being hurt or even dying and yet, she relies on others to help her, lacking the confidence or courage to make moves herself. I started to know and like both characters better. It was exciting.

Often Al wrote that it was okay to write bady . The important thing was to write, a phrase echoed by other writers over and over. I would remind myself as I continued to remember that on days when I felt what I’d written was just kaka. So here on this blog I’ve decided to just write and not worry if a few mistakes are left in or if the prose isn’t scintillating.

Al says in his book not to let anyone read your work as you progress. I totally get that. People, even well-meaning people, are going to give you their impressions. Those opinions are not always helpful, in fact they can hold you back if not presented constructively or even if they are, you may wonder what on earth you are doing trying to write a novel…especially if you are like me with next to no training or classes to bolster your belief that you can do this. On the other hand, a critique group with at least some seasoned writers, can effectively  provide you with all kinds of beneficial feedback.

So do you share or not? I didn’t for most of the book, but once I started I was always improving my work. I’ve come to trust my colleagues and believe they have my best interests in mind so their help is invaluable to me now.

My first chapter opened up an area that the story line had to follow. That direction soon led to more characters, more directions and ideas for the story. I was off and running .

Discipline and Self-doubt…

When you aren’t sure at all what the story is about, it’s easy to feel perplexed about your intentions. Why am I writing a book anyway? Even after you get some ideas about the direction you’re taking, you have to stop and think of the bigger picture. Is there a moral? A message? What genre is this novel going to be in? What should I be researching? When I wrote non-fiction- I made an outline. I couldn’t do that yet with this book. How do you make an outline when you don’t have anything to put in it.? Self-doubt began to creep in. I tried to write every day. I had started doing it years ago. Someone in one if the online programs I had participated in said that the way he accomplished writing his books, was to write three pages every day- about whatever. (I think that was Dave Krueger, MD, a terrific mentor along the way and author of multple books). Then I had taken and afterwards facilitated classes online of The Artist’s Way – which I think everyone who is creative should do, buy the book or better still take a class, be in a group on it. The Artists Way reinforced the writing every three days concept, so I embraced that idea, and still do. Some days though, you feel immobile. Stuck on where to go next, or your head is consumed with everyday life or you’re just numbed out for whatever reason.There are days when you do not follow even your own discipline, and naturally days when you have to go to work, not go home, go somewhere else, so you miss writing that day. One day, can become many days. What worked for me was to write right after breakfast. I found myself to be the most mentally alert and the least challenged to do somethung else early in the morning. Someone told me that was because I was born in the morning. Haha. I don’t know if there is any data to support that. I wrote my three pages, sometimes it was a chapter, sometimes just ideas, but I did write. I set some target dates-when I would finish the first third, where the middle would fall and finally when I hoped to have it done. I was wrong on most estimates. The main thing was, I stayed involved with the process, the characters, and the evolving story. I enrolled in a sculpting class. I thought it would get my creative juices flowing. There was a tall, red headed woman in the class. She was stunning and drew attention from any male who wandered in. Right away I knew she had to be a character in Dimension Norraena. That was the beginning of Sassy Brassy.

Lead Character, Skye Winter…

Ahhhh… for a bit of sunshine. Actually the story is not dark and dreary, but I’m still getting the hang of WordPress and the templates available to me for the site.

Once the main character, Skylar, who goes by Skye to most, and the bad dude, Ryan, are introduced, some back story has to happen. The reader gets to see that Skye is a college instructor in the Theatre department at a community college in California. She has a crush on a recent addition to the departent, named Jake, who is the Technical Director. He is handsome and masculine and he has had an eye on Skye as well, but neither of them has made that known to the other.

Skye’s policy of not fraternizing with co-workers has kept them apart and we also see that while she is successful as both instructor and director of theatre productions, she is lonely and somewhat isolated living in the mountains by herself.

I tried to model Skye after someone I knew, but the more I wrote, the more I found that Skye had aspects of her character that were not similar to the person I was trying to model her after. I found myself just making up her characterisitics loosely based on what her childhood had been like. Although she had hardships growing up, Skye was bright and funny and had a happy countenance about her. She was pretty and much liked by students and those who actually got to know her better.

I also tried to picture an actress I could see as Skye as if this was a movie instead of book and then settled on Rachel McAdams as a blonde. I’ll put a photo of her here and hope it doesn’t take up the whole page, but it likely will. Sorry Rachel.

Picturing the Antagonist…

I didn’t give a lot of thought to the description of the antagonist. I didn’t have any guidelines, no mentor and no classes for information. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me to look for information online, let alone read anything specific about the topic. I just started writing.

I knew I needed a worthy opponent, although I didn’t know yet, what for. I decided to make him sociopathic. Why? Because I did have academic training and experience as a psychotherapist so I felt comfortable using my knowledge. I went to the DSM to bolster my understanding and I remembered a client from years ago who I counseled for a while. He was an international drug dealer who piloted his own plane as well. He would only give me a first name and no other information about himself.

My client was young, good-looking and extremely personable. He was intelligent and in good physical shape with a ready smile. He was charming and I never felt alarm talking with him.  I used this man as my model.

I belong to a writers club. One of the members spoke to the club about how she used images of well-known actors to enable more connection with her characters by picturing the artist. She even cut out photos of them from magazines and put them in a scrapbook. She wrote historical romance so she used paper dolls to create different dresses and clothing for the time period for her characters. I thought those were terrific ideas. I didn’t do that myself, but it helped me a lot to think of people I knew as fitting my image of the characters I was developing. That’s how Sassy Brassy entered the picture. (More on her later).

So Ryan Eddington, my villain, emerged. At first glance he seems like an alright kind of guy flawed only with a bit of a temper. Well more than a bit. We soon learn however, that while he has a boss, he also has men who work for him. One is in the military. One is a deputy sheriff.

I was ready now, to move into some back story and an event that heightens the action.

The First Chapter…

November 18, 2014

The first chapter I wrote I dreamed about. In my dream this young, attactive woman, a teacher, goes to sleep in her mountain cabin in early February and she has an experience that at first looks like an OBE or Out of Body Experience, but turns out to be a spontaneous teleportation to another dimension. It’s not a parallel dimension, but it does occupy the same space as earth, just a different place.

The main character, Skylar Winter, tells her story in first person and takes us through the sensations she is aware of and the realization that her feet are not on the ground, she’s not in her bed, and she’ a little dizzy. She finds a way out of the dark to a beautiful expanse of meadow and trees, colors so brilliant they do not compare to what we see ourselves here in our world. She is lighter and glides over the floor of a balcony instead of walks and then is jarred by hearing the voice of a young girl calling her Avria.

I liked the visual picture I was creating, but after reading it decided it was not right for the first chapter. I needed to get the readers excited and curious about what was going to happen in this story, after all, it was not going to be all flowers and butterflies. So I chucked that chapter and wrote another. This time she transports spontaneously to a very dark and dangerous, morbid place in the other dimension, which is called Mohrkhavn. She finds herself outside of an ancient, grey castle and someone is in danger there. She, herself, is nearly captured by men, if they are men, who have some distinctive features.

This was a much better opening chapter. It is juxtaposed with the next chapter that introduces us to the antagoinst, Ryan Eddington. I always enjoyed reading Dean Koontz and began looking at different styles and formulas he might be using in telling his stories. One of them was to get the reader to travel back and forth between different events happening to different characters in the book. I decided to try that myself. I’m happy with how well that worked for me.

I began visualizing what Skye Winter would look like. She needed to be vulnerable and have some flaws. I would tackle the antagonist next with the hope I would figure out what Skye’s problems were as I went along. I really didn’t know what I was doing.

If you are a writer, would you have started to write a novel differently? I bet your would. I had never taken any academic writing courses in college. I still haven’t.

Grabbing an idea as it floats by…

Like a lot of people, I’m sure, I frequently thought I’d like to write a book some day. As life moved along and I shared mine with close friends, I began to hear phrases like, “You should write a book”, or That should be in a book!” I don’t know about you, but when I heard people say that to me, my first thought was, I don’t have anything interesting to write about. I used to think, I haven’t acquired enough knowledge, or my life is too ordinary, I can’t imagine anyone reading what i would write about.

Eventually, I took a few online classes and programs and the phrase I always heard was, “Write about What you Know.” If that was too tough, you could ,”Write about something you’d like to know about.” I knew about psychology, family, relationships, and marriage. I had degrees in that area so I finally wrote a non-fiction book. Once it was done, I had very little interest in it and wanted to move on to something else.

I had friends who wrote fiction, but I never thought I would. I was completely convinced that I was just not creative enough to do that. So when I decided to give it a try, it started with me thinking, if I could write what holds my interest enough that I would actually feel some passion writing about, maybe I could come up with something. I thought about what I like to read. I enjoy (among a number of other categories) dystopian novels. I’m not sure why. I don’t want to be a survivalist. I sure don’t want to have to be. I just thought it would be interesting to think about life happening in a whole different setting.

I liked Hunger Games and Divergent. I read others that didn’t have the same prominence and enjoyed them, too. But I didn’t want my world, the one I wrote about, to be dark or negative. I wanted it to be hopeful, happy, funny at times. I wanted there to be beauty and darkness just so the light side would triumph. The paranormal, supernatural, mystical, I also loved.

I knew about the parallel dimension theory. Not because I was smart enough to take a course in Physics (which I wish now I had), but then again, maybe it would have limited my imagination if I did know the boundaries that such knowledge would have imposed on me. I also didn’t have much knowledge of branches of the military, the art of war, robotics, certain technology, space or federal organizations like the FBI, CIA, DARPA, NSA or even sheriff’s departments. And yet, they all showed up.

The way it began for me was a thought. I want to write about a parallel dimension. I had no idea beyond that.

Being a Writer…

I have several blogs floating around, but none that I am drawn to actively visit or post on. Maybe starting this one will encourage me to keep up with others. I decided to start one for Dimension Norraena because I’m really excited about this story. I wanted to keep a record of   how I started and how and where the ideas came, what worked for me and what didn’t. I’m hoping that other people might read of my adventures and efforts and feel insprired to try writing themselves or at least be amused by my foibles and successes. Maybe you can add some of your own if you’re a writer, too.

I hope when you drop by and read anything that piques your interest that you’ll say hello and add your ideas, thoughts or questions and maybe an interchange of dialog will be interesting to read.

Thanks so much for stopping. It means a lot to me.