Strange Sources of Inspiration

Tonight I had a moment of inspiration with one of my two new characters, Doug.  It was inspired by an odd event, though, namely a line from a Nicki Minaj song.

Unlike other odd moments of inspiration, I can give a clear trace of this one.  I will do so now, for your entertainment.  The following train of thought was sparked when I heard the line “My name is Onika, you can call me Nicki” in a song.

There are a lot of things Nicki can be short for.
Nicki is an interesting name.
Would I name a child Nicki?
No, I know too many Nickis and some of them are not nice.
Would I name a character Nicki?
Maybe.  Do I need a new female character?
Doug could use a woman in his life.
She could be Doug’s girlfriend!
But Doug is single in the novel.
She could be Doug’s ex-girlfriend!
Heartbreak!  This is a great piece of back story for him.
So Doug’s heart was broken by Nicki.
She could be his ex-wife!
Doug is divorced!  That makes sense with what I know so far.

This is the exact line of thought (which happened quite rapidly, between one stoplight and the next) that led from a Nicki Minaj song on the radio to my decision (discovery?) that Doug is divorced.  🙂

When to Keep Words to Yourself

I am fairly eloquent when I am upset, especially when I am by myself.

When something makes me angry, or hurt, or just worked up, I am known to respond by arguing loudly with myself in the mirror.  I’ve written some really interesting letters when upset, too.  Finding the words, getting my thoughts out, are not a challenge for me.

Fortunately, I also know when not to share those thoughts.

Sometimes, the exact perfect words for a situation are not acceptable to say to the person they are really for.  Perhaps the person that you are unhappy with is a supervisor, or a coworker, or even someone you care about.  You have to know when to say the things you want to say, and when they would just make things worse.  These are great times for letters, or for venting those feelings to a close-mouthed friend, because sometimes the perfect words are only perfect for escalating the situation rather than resolving it.

Of course, if the situation is in a work of fiction, sometimes escalation is exactly what you are looking for!

Signs of Summer

I had sweet corn for dinner tonight.  I love sweet corn, and to me, it’s a great sign of summer.

Of course, it’s been in the 90’s for the past several days, so I don’t really need food to remind me that the heat has arrived.  (Summer is not my favorite season.)  For tonight, however, I am choosing to focus on the positives of summer.

Summer is the season of fresh, beautiful fruits and veggies.  Besides sweet corn (which I love) there are heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, zucchini… the list goes on and on.  I adore the produce of summer, especially if I can get it fresh-picked from a farmer’s market or roadside stand.

There are lovely long days.  Unlike the winter, the sun is almost up when I go to work, and I still have several hours of daylight after I get home.  (In an effort to stay positive, I’m going to ignore the fact that this means the heat lasts longer.)

Hopefully, unless this is another drought year, summer means thunderstorms.  I love a good thunderstorm, with lightning and lots of rain.

Summer has its good aspects, and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of them.  🙂

Now I Need a Plot…

I’m getting pretty good at creating characters.  It’s odd, because I don’t have to think about creating them; often they spring, nearly fully formed, into my imagination.  Other times I go through the process of developing them, but either way, characters are not my challenge.

Apparently it’s the plot that can be the problem.

I’ve got two characters, likely the main characters, for my NaNo novel.  As I mentioned yesterday, they’re helping me fall asleep.  Admittedly, one is developing more easily than the other, but it will still work out okay.

Other than how the two of them meet, and a little bit of back story, I have no idea what the plot of this novel is going to be.  There is an obvious, easy, done-before kind of plot option, but I don’t want to use it.  Perhaps the problem is that I’m focusing too much on the female, fantasy character rather than the male, human character – maybe the story to tell isn’t hers, it’s his.  The challenge may also come from the avoidance of the obvious plot; since that one keeps coming up, maybe I’m trying too hard to avoid it and so pushing all plot options out of my head.

I’m really glad I have a few months before this becomes a true issue!

Writing myself to sleep

When I moved to Texas, it was the first time in my life that I had lived alone.  Up until then I’d had roommates or housemates; my first apartment in Texas was entirely mine.

As a 22-year-old, that was a bit intimidating.  It took a bit to get to sleep, mostly because as I tried my mind replayed all the horrible things that can happen to a young woman living alone.  (It probably didn’t help that I watched a lot of crime drama TV.)  To sleep, I needed a distraction, and I found that distraction in creating characters.

Two of the characters of Dragon were the result.  In fact, I know a lot more about those two characters than what appears in the book, thanks to those nights.

The past few days my mind has been running a mile a minute when I try to sleep.  I’m not thinking about possible criminal activity; instead, I’m worrying about the future.  Thankfully, I have the two characters I’ve started developing for my NaNo novel.  Those two have an odd relationship, and playing with their first interactions is very distracting.  It’s working pretty well to help me fall asleep.  And yes, I know that it’s May and NaNo is in November, but the rules allow character sketches and a story outline.  I might not remember the conversations exactly, but I’ll remember the general concept.  🙂

Reading Yourself in a Novel

I asked one of my coworkers if she’d like to read Dragon.  Although she’s not an avid reader, she quickly accepted.  The reason?  She knows she’s in the book.

As a thank you for accompanying me on a road trip to a Renn Faire when I was writing Dragon, I gave her a cameo as a mermaid.  Perhaps cameo is too exact of a term; really I based a side character (who happens to be a mermaid) on her and used some of her personal mannerisms to create the character.  She’s not a major player, but she does give the main character some key info.

In high school, my best friend wrote a story with all of her friends as characters.  Since then, I haven’t been the inspiration for a fictional character, so I don’t know what my coworker’s experience of reading herself will be like.  I’m hoping that she likes it.  🙂

How’s Your Book?

“How’s your book?”  This is a question that I get a lot, mostly from acquaintances.  (They remember that I write, and it’s an easy small talk type of question.)  The actual query itself isn’t strange, although the wording is a bit odd.  It’s not “how many have you sold” or “how far are you on your manuscript, just “how’s your book?”

The vagueness makes sense for people who don’t know me well, however, and I generally know what they’re asking.  My current answer is “My first book has sold over 30 copies as an e-book, and I’m about to send out queries for the second one.”

Since this is usually part of a simple conversation, that’s about all I say.  People who are really curious will ask further questions, and people who are just being polite are happy to move on to another topic.

Isn’t it interesting how writing can be a conversation starter?

The Benefits of Sleep

It’s amazing how you notice something when it’s missing more than when you have it.

Last night, I got very little sleep.  First because I was fired up last night (and not in a good way, which is why I didn’t blog) and it took a while to fall asleep.  Then, once asleep, I only got a few hours before my sweet old dog woke me up because he didn’t feel good.

That’s right, I got to be dog nursemaid for about 4 hours last night instead of sleeping.

It’s amazing how much I notice the lack of sleep, and mostly in ways that are not related to being tired.  I was antsy at work today, and overly stressed about a program this morning.  Parts of me, like my shoulders and ankles, are sore in unusual ways.  I’m more scattered than usual, and easily distracted.

To be honest, I am a diurnal person, and I require my sleep.  Tonight I think I’ll turn in early, to see if I can recover from my nocturnal adventure last night.

Perhaps tomorrow we can get back on track with writing-related posts.  😉

Writing Like a Scientist

You have to be in the right frame of mind to write scientifically.  When someone is writing up a thesis or dissertation or scientific journal entry, they usually have a lot of material to review.  That tends (at least in my experience) to get your mind in the right place for the scientific language and concepts to flow.

When you are faking a scientific paper, however, you have to find an interesting balance.  You need to write scientifically, but make up everything you are writing at the same time.  Thus, you must tap both the creative and the logical parts of your brain simultaneously.

I started writing a fake scientific article to accompany Dragon back when I first wrote Dragon, but never finished it.  Somehow (I’m going to blame it on my reading science non-fiction a lot lately) I managed to find the balance.  Tonight I finished the draft of the excerpt of an article that I want to include as an appendix to Dragon.

It was actually kind of fun.  Want a sample?  Here you go:

An excerpt from “Genetic analysis of the lack of hybridization in interracial crosses of Khai” by Spencer O’Neal, Ph.D. (Columbia University)

“This characteristic of the Khai genotype to remain intact between generations may also shed some light on the handful of documented cases (Rams and Rams, 1994; Reyes,, 1976; Barnil, 2004) of interspecies breeding producing viable offspring.

“The mechanics of the interspecies breeding have not been studied in great detail, but Petri and Frees (1981) did an extensive review of the known literature of these crosses.  Any offspring of a Khai/human cross would be given a haploid chromosomal set from their human parent and a diploid chromosomal set from their Khai parent.”

That’s just a little taste, but it gives you the flavor.  What do you think?

Consolidating the Bookshelf

Awhile ago I did some purging of my stuff.  I felt the need to simplify my life, so I got rid of a bunch of stuff, including books.  I ended up with enough books left that I still needed both bookcases to hold them all, albeit with a few empty shelves.  Most of what I kept were books that I figured I would read again.

I reconsidered that statement last week.  If I was honest with myself, I realized that many of the books I kept were not going to get read again any time soon, if ever.  So I went through and pulled a bunch more books off the shelves.  I’ve even picked three to read a second time with the intent of getting rid of them once I’ve read them.

I’m glad to say that, with the exception of my school yearbooks, every book I own now fits on one bookshelf, with a little room left for a few additions.

Getting rid of books is never easy, but I’m glad that they all fit in one place now.  🙂

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