Tag Archives: research

Just Because I Write It, Doesn’t Mean I Do It

11 Apr

Yesterdays post was about learning about what you don’t know, to write what you do know. Today we are talking about the fear of telling what you dont actually know, but your reader believing this is your experience.

(That was quite a mouthful for an opening paragraph, apologies for that).

This is, I believe, is a rookie writers fear. I say that knowing full well I still awake in the night panicking that I have written something that may make others think differently of me.

Who cares you say, what does it matter? You are a writer, your job is to tell a story, it can’t always be ‘truly you’. But you must write what you know, and you must give a certain amount of your self to each  story – at least one of the characters must be you.

I think my head may explode with all the contradictory information out there.

Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it.

Just because you write about airhead blonde girls who have a vocabulary of five words doesn’t mean that is a reflection of you.

Just because you write about a world where everyone has three hands and the sun is blue, doesn’t mean you have been there.

Just because you write about the death of a child and it makes your readers cry doesn’t show you are sharing a secret that no one knows about.

All of this, and everything else you can think of simply says one thing, you are a writer, and to be honest, if your reader believes you lived it, it means you are one of the best.

You can’t always write about what you know, as per yesterdays post, you can’t always tap into someone elses memory, but what you can use is your imagination, mixed in with a bit of empathy.

In my mind, all this leaves is our own demons, our own self doubt I guess. Can it be likened to our multiple personalities? You know, our face for friends, and our face for family? Is it the same demon that says I can’t post that on Facebook, I don’t want (INSERT NAME) seeing that. At what point, as a writer, do you have to accept by writing we are giving away more than the average joe. As a writer you aren’t tight-lipped, you are always talking, every time someone reads your work, your voice is speaking.

Have I lost you?

The point is, all of that contradictory information is correct. Writing is not like being a hairdresser. At best a hair cut lasts 4-6 weeks, a story lasts forever. You may have a good ability with a pair of scissors, but when writing you use your life, your experience, your memories, your observations, your heart your soul (add more cheese here). Every story is a bit of you, just not the whole you.

Writing What You Know?

10 Apr

Write what you know – Natasha McNeely spoke about this on her blog titled ‘Life Experiences: Why Not add Them To Your Book’.

Read the post, Natasha is very clever and has an idea to get you used to writing about, well, what you know.

I love writing about what I know, and for many writers that I have spoken with, we have in common a love for music for bringing past feelings back to the fore of our minds, to really encapsulate those emotions.

What if though, we need to write about something we have not experienced? How do we create those emotions, how can we make that scene not just real in our minds, but that it translates to the page also.

Obviously the first thing we need to do is research the particular topic. An example would be I was writing a YA novel with an autistic protagonist, not only did I need to have an understanding of autism, but for this piece, it involved a young offenders institute. I needed to know how such a place would affect a teenage boy with autism, reactions for both the protagonist, and those around him.

I have two full notebooks filled with information on this subject. It wasn’t enough though, my writing was limited as it was imagining an emotion, I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it, it was just…bland.

This can be overcome by following step two, speaking with someone who has been in a similar situation.

There was one problem however, I neither knew a teenage boy with autism, or even just a teenage boy who had been in a young offenders. This particular piece has been put to one side. I may pick it up again one day, I like to think when I am a well-known author and people believe in my writing skills enough for me to ask them about such personal issues. as it stands, I’m just Ellie, wannabe writer but probably just a dreamer.

That doesn’t mean to say I havent employed these techniques elsewhere. Now I will share with you how you can steal those memories, those emotions, and make them your own.

I was writing a novel (unfinished, sigh) that involved a chase across Europe. I have visited many places, but to make the novel more authentic, I needed more experiences – I couldn’t afford to travel around for a while, so hijacking memories was my only option.

Fortunately for me, some friends of mine had found themselves stranded in Europe at the time of the Icelandic volcanic ash. On a mission to get home, they flew short flights, and took train journeys, spending each night in a different hostel.

Sitting down, I asked them to walk me through each hostel. From standing outside right through to the small little details such as the cracks on the wall. I wanted to know about staff, other visitors, the little tidbits of conversation overheard when walking by. It sounds simple, but this task can be somewhat tiresome. Some people just can’t get around to the idea of sharing every detail, thinking that, ‘it was tatty but friendly, oh and the walls were orange’ is enough information for you, but eventually they give you so much you couldn’t possibly include it all. Once you have gone through this process once, they are always eager to share, how many people truly want to hear another’s experience down to the finest detail? They get as much from this process as you, the writer does.

One word of warning, if they offer to show you photos, do NOT accept. It will completely ruin the process, that place you have just imagined will be stripped back to reality and the haze will be gone. Keep the haze, the haze is good.

Whose Point of View?

12 Feb

When I am thinking about No Way Out, in terms of its development in how it is told, I have phrases (yes they are already bubbling under the surface) that would not fit into traditional dialogue. So if working this into a script, how do I get around this?

Traditionally if we are writing a novel, we have the freedom to explore the thoughts and mind processes of our protagonist. Should we wish, we can make them completely open, no secrets, no lies, a soul laid bare.

I entered 'soul laid bare' in google images and this is what I got. i thought it was quite emotive.

When scripting, we are to determine the thoughts either through the dialogue, a verabl expression or action, but there is always the chance they are holding something back from the audience, just as we ourselves may choose to edit our conversation. It is the classic sting in the tale, what is the narrator not telling?

I have two paths I am considering right now in terms of how I write this script. One allows for me to explore the depth of what the reader knows, the other is more traditional in its approach.

Option A

I like the fact that the short story was told in reverse. Taking that, I am thinking that Steves story is told from the hospital bed, where he is in a coma. We can return to the hospital bed from time to time, where we will see visits primarily from Michael (the son) and Becky (the cashier). These will interrupt the flow of the story just enough to allow it to take a sharp turn in what part is being told rather than being about the visit.  Steve will be the narrator of his own story in a kind of Shawshank Redemption style (though obviously not with that finesse – I may be good (ha ha) but not that good!

Option B

The alternative is to tell the story from Poppys (wife) point of view. I think this potentially could take us on a completely different journey and have our expectations and emotions turned on their heads in relation to what we would feel with option A. This story would start from Poppy having the miscarriage, and would not necessarilly require a narrator. We wouldnt know Steves thought proceses, just the devastation of his actions to those that ‘love’ him.

To make a definitive decision, I need to confirm the key plotlines that are to feature. This may sound a little strange, after all, we already have the story, we are just making a short long. No we are not.

I could just take the story and fill in the blanks, but I dont think that would be much fun. I have already drawn the conclusion that for me, if writing is a slog, that is how the story reads. Hence why we are mixing this up, playing around considering various angles. So…

I am going to write a synopsis. Now I am not very good at these, and as I haven’t fully decided which perspective this story is to be told from, it could potentially be too long and unbearable to be worthwhile. I am thinking that I should write several. Obviously they would be the same in many aspects, but likewise they will be very different.

Before I begin however, I would really appreciate your thoughts. Have you ever been in this position before? You know, questioned the perspective of the story? Have you any tips for getting round this?