Hidden treasures by Cayenne Michaels

Let’s talk about inspiration.

Namibrand 1

Where does it come from? Is it stored inside of us and stirred awake when we encounter something in our everyday life that brings out this hidden treasure we never knew we carried?

Or, is it handed to us, as a gift, by someone or something that has you or me are the perfect person to see its true potential?

Elizabeth Gilbert says:

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

Have you found any yet? Please…share them with us in the comments field. As writers I think we all know how to appreciate them. We know how precious these discoveries are. Continue reading

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Plotting Along

Hear that wailing sound? That’s the sound of a writer in distress. Well, okay, not just any writer. Me.

As a newbie writer, I set off to write my story, knowing exactly what to do. Storytelling came easy to me at an early age and I excelled at it. As an adult, I figured it would be easy-peasy, because really, how hard is it to write?

Well, like most newbie writers, I learned how wrong I was.

When the time came for others to read the story and comment, I heard a chorus of: “Where are the sub-plots?”

“Sub-plots?  I have sub-plots. There’s a, b, and c.”

“Nope,” the chorus told me. “Not there.”

“What do you mean they’re not there? Of course they are!”

“No,” they said again, “Don’t see them.”

These comments forced me to go back and review the elements of my stories, which made me realize something; they were right.

Although my sub-plots exist, they don’t emerge until the second half of the story leaving the entire first half missing any sub-plot. As I’ve learned, this makes the story one dimensional and ultimately very boring for the reader.

Two things happened next; first, I freaked out. This is a big “oops”, and the bigger the mistake, the bigger the clean-up. I’ve put too much time and effort into this project to give up, and yet, it seems parts need to be completely rewritten, which involves more work and more time. Discouraging doesn’t come close to what I felt. Hopeless may be a more appropriate word.

But then I did my homework. Some amazing people pointed me into the direction of Dan Wells and Seven Point Plot Structure.   I also found Pixar’s story telling rules. Finally, I came across story board charts. So now, I’m going back and re-plotting. Each scene is being marked by character, plot progression and sub-plot. I’m making notes for additions/deletions to each scene. I’ve also made charts of each sub-plot to follow them from beginning to end.

Perhaps a little excessive, but it works for me. My work may need a rewrite, but with some careful planning and the proper tools, I’m hoping not to make a similar mistake the second time around.

That’s the synopsis of my “pit of despair” problem. As writers, everyone  encounters them. They‘re just different for each of us. Though writers tend to be isolated, we’re not alone. There’s usually someone else wallowing in the pit to commiserate with and share the virtual bottle of wine.

But once the pity party is over, get back to it. If the finished work is the ultimate goal, a rough journey to get there will make the end that much sweeter.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself right now.

Happy Writing!

Woven Into Knots

Earlier this year, one of my favorite places on the internet, TWOP (TelevisionWithoutPity) was shut down. Thousands of pages of forum posts that meticulously snarked and broke down hundreds of television series were suddenly gone from the internet. I don’t want to admit can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent after watching a series, then reading and responding in discussion about things I loved and things I didn’t.

I was crushed. I’d learned so much reading those threads, and would miss it every time I discovered a new-loved series.

One of the most interesting things I took from my years on that board(mostly reading and lurking) was how many different ideas people had about how a story could go.

As a writer myself, I’m often seeing how true that is, and how even the tiniest decisions are tied to a thread that weaves through a carefully interwoven plot.

One huge plot point in the current story I’m writing has haunted me in this way. In my first outlines, I had two characters come together. I planned out how it would affect them emotionally, but after comments from a friend, I realized how I hadn’t explored in-depth how it would affect their relationships with the people around them. All of a sudden, I realized that some of the those changes would permanently shift the relationships of multiple characters in my story in a way I wasn’t sure I wanted.

It felt uncomfortable to me, and while it could have been interesting, I realized that it would have put a dark cloud over the entire rest of the series. I already have a fairly complex and dark story, and didn’t want it to become so depressing there was no lightness or hope in the read. So, I did what any author does, and adjusted the story to scale back the scene. And then, like the insanity that writing brings, I kept re-adjusting, and then re-adjusting again. With each of those tweaks, I pulled a different string that had links in different parts of the story.

During this and a few other changes, I realized that the thread pulling wasn’t linear, and my woven piece was more like an intricate knot. If I pulled, other things tightened around the piece and shifted everything else. So those adjustments needed to be thoughtful, and I always had a fallout to the decision.

In trying to come to any decision about my story, I’m noticing a trend where I feel frozen and unable to move forward. My most recent bout of this is actually not about the above mentioned plot conundrum, but was about a simpler one, that still weighed heavy on me. My solution is to usually do what others call procrastinating, but I like to call stepping away to gain perspective. So, I Netflix and Prime any free-time away and then catch up on the gossip on message boards. Doesn’t that sound productive?

Anyway, while re-watching one of my favorite shows(Veronica Mars in case you’re interested), I stumbled across another snarky but deeply thoughtful message board with a thread about the show. I wasted explored some time there, and was engrossed in reading their early theories of what direction the show could/should/would go in. There were so many different, yet interesting ideas that I again was instantly fascinated with the fallout that each suggestion created. Out of every five or so theories that were thrown around, at least three usually seemed enjoyable and even plausible.

I was  slapped in the face with the notion that there wasn’t a ‘right’ way to tell the story. Just equally different ways. That could easily apply to my own writing as well. My constant fear of course is then making a decision that leads me into a corner, or into a place that’s not relatable to many. That’s part of the adventure in the process though I guess, and one I should embrace because it’s what makes each story unique.

I’m still unsure exactly how far I’ll take the characters at that point in the book. I like the messiness of it, the realness of something coming together that probably shouldn’t but does because the stakes are high. Playing and bouncing it around in my brain will get me to the final decision. And whatever place I decide to go, it will be the direction that feels most intuitive for me in a sea of many I could take. There’s something so lovely about that, and it’s probably what draws me to writing in the first place. It’s like life. There’s no right answer, just a world full of options that lead us to interesting twists we have to figure out.