Take Joy In Your Craft #1

I was recently re-familiarizing myself with the music of Velvet Underground, and “Run Run Run” on YouTube led me to “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid. I’d missed the song in 2013, which isn’t surprising since I was no longer in the music business and I don’t hear a lot of French artists on the radio.

From the tolling bell that opened the song, I knew I was going to like it. But after three-and-a-half minutes, I felt like I’d just watched a video of my childhood fantasies.

If there was any other kid, aside from Luke Skywalker, that I’d pretended to be, it was Max from Where The Wild Things Are. And so this video, showing a kid playing fantasy and running with monsters? Heck yeah – I’ve watched it ten times in the last week.

OK, that was mostly an aside, but the video is too fun not to share.

Anyway, my enjoyment led me to a live version of the song, and this brings me to the point of the post. Near the end of the performance in Montreux (7:00), Woodkid invites the audience to take up the intonation of the chorus. When they begin, there’s a wonderful joy that spreads across his face. I don’t believe it has anything to do with satisfying a need for adulation. To me, it’s because he has made a connection with strangers. He has given them something and they have reciprocated in kind.

Thirty seconds later, he transforms that joy into energy. It’s a contagious thing and immediately spreads throughout the audience. It continues until the song ends. However, to the amazement of Woodkid and the performers on stage with him, the audience spontaneously picks up the chorus again (8:45). And that joy returns.

To me, art is two-way communication. A person is giving something and receiving something in return. Perhaps it’s immediate, such as in this video. Very often, it is never known, as was the tragedy of Vincent Van Gogh.

Nevertheless, people are grateful when art touches them, though they might not think of it that way, or even put it into words. They sing along, they cry, they stand transfixed as their eyes drink in the details of something that inspires them.

I believe this amongst the most important exchanges that humans can have, and that makes it one of the most powerful things in the world.

Everyone who creates something has a goal in mind. This is mine.

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, September 2019

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Set Yourself Mysteries

epiphany

Epiphany

from Merriam-Webster

As happens to most of us, something profound occurred to me in the shower this morning. For me, I was thinking about my story. Not the first book I am writing, but the entire story. It was the kind of thought that made me end my shower, towel off quickly, and open my computer to write it down.

Here’s some context first, though I’ll be generic to prevent spoilers: I have a scene between two characters that is the genesis of their friendship. I like the scene because it imparts important information to both the reader and my protagonist, Tildy.

But there’s something else in the scene, a catalyst. It’s the thing that brings these two together, yet it also returns later with significant results. One of the characters even warns against it. Three books later, it fulfills this apparent destiny, devastating both Empyrelia and Tildy in the process.

How did I get there? Am I more architect than gardener, a writer who has a perfect plan in which all things are connected? No.

I set myself a mystery.

It wasn’t something I did consciously, yet I’m aware that I do it all the time. That was my epiphany: I had identified one key element of my writing style. I throw out interesting details, predictions, or other tidbits, which forces me to find a creative solution to explain why these things are important to the story. It also makes writing more fun because I love a good mystery.

I’m not talking about the main plot, however. This isn’t, Tildy needs to journey into the world, fight a heroic battle, and return triumphant – what does she fight? No, this is about smaller details, such as the witch wearing a pearl in her flyaway hair or Tildy not getting along with the birds in Dappledown (the first, I’ve solved, but not the second).

I’m certain this isn’t unique to me, though I can’t recall reading about other writers that do this. If this is new to you – cool! If you’ve read something similar elsewhere, I’d love to get a link to the story.

We can’t wait for inspiration, but if we put in enough time at the keyboard, I think we can find ways to summon it. If I can have fun doing it, too, then that’s a process that works for me. Hopefully, you can find those things that work for you.

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike

Postscript: What I also like about this epiphany is that it prepares me to give more satisfactory answers when people ask about my writing process. In my experience, “I just, uh, write?” is usually met with confusion or disappointment because people think I’ve discovered an ancient secret or something. I’ve just found some tools that work for me, and this is one of the better ones.


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© Michael Wallevand, August 2019

 

Human Illumination – Writing Exercise

This post is approximately 450 words. Just a little something I wrote to see if I could capture my ideas.

In the city, there are lights to illuminate you

A thousand, a million

They cast you in their glows.

Others see you; you see yourself:

A combination of flaws and perfection,

Truths, and the lies that we tell ourselves,

That others interpret.

And while some lights go out, they are but few.

There are always more.

The darkness that falls upon you is scant,

If you are ever shadowed at all.

People never see themselves by the light of a single source.

And they never truly disappear;

Though perhaps they are never truly seen.

In the country, where there are fewer lights

A handful, a dozen,

Few and far between.

Defined as much by the darkness between them,

As by their shine.

Each precious in its illumination,

Though less stark in contrast,

And we all are deemed the same

In the same light

A single one extinguished has a meaningful impact

In what people see; how people see you.

You might lose yourself in the night,

Or reveal only those parts of yourself you wish didn’t exist.

And yet, when there is naught but darkness around you

You can see the brighter universe.

Take comfort knowing that light can never be extinguished,

And you will never truly disappear into the black,

Though it remains a reminder

That there are never enough stars to conquer the night.

 

Closer still, the horizon glow:

A welcome promise of light still existing.

Few or many, free to embrace.

They will shine upon us,

And we will be grateful to be seen,

Even if we do not always accept what we show.

This sprang up from the simple idea of using lights as a metaphor for people. We often see ourselves differently because of others. We might be surrounded by people, yet alone. The loss of people in your life could be more impactful, depending on where you live.

As a person who’s lived in rural America and her suburbs, I’ve experienced many of the things described above. If I may be so bold, read the text again and see if you recognize similar events in your own life.

The purpose of this post is not about wowing you with artistic imagery or showing off my poetry skills, diminutive as they are. I’m sure similar things have been created before. It’s an example of what can be done in about thirty minutes (including some minor editing and re-organization). Thirty minutes to exercise your writing brain. We all have time for that.

–Mike

PS: Click for more examples of writing exercises

 


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© Michael Wallevand, August 2019

Music and the Muse

This post is approximately 900 words, most of them song titles and artists.

Writers want to evoke specific emotions within the reader, which sometimes means you have to feel them yourself as you write. On those days when the Muse is with you, and She’s of generous mood, it’s easy. You’re typing as fast as thought, and you laugh or you cry as you experience those terrible, wonderful, breathtaking moments with your characters.

It can be draining. There’s an emotional, and often physical toll. It might even make you reconsider your next venture to the keyboard because you just don’t have the strength.

Sometimes, you need a little help. Or, Muse forgive me, other inspiration. For me, it’s music, although it can also be art, books, or even a stick. Heck, I write about it all the time – click for more posts that discuss inspiration.

But I digress. I often listen to music as I write, generally preferring songs without lyrics (i.e. movie soundtracks). However, when I need a stronger emotional inspiration, I put on some of these songs. I might even listen to one track on repeat, letting my mind drift into the story. Maybe I’m in the car; maybe I’m taking a walk. When I’m finally in the right frame of mind, I start writing. When it works, oh man, it works. When it doesn’t, well, it’s gotten me to the keyboard, and even a bad day of writing is better than one without any writing at all!

Without further preface, here’s a partial list. You’ll find love and loss, sadness and melancholy, anger, hope, and heroism. Maybe you’ll discover some new tunes, too!

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Writing Update – 3 Years In

Three years.

December 11, 2015 is more of a ceremonial date because I’m not sure how much writing I did at the start. Did I sit down and type, “Tildy sat up so quickly her head swam” – the first sentence of the first chapter – that first day? I don’t think so. I’m pretty certain I didn’t have her name yet. If memory serves, I started with the prologue, which has a boatload of too much historical context in it.

I recall thinking about a new direction for my story over the Summer of 2015. I started parts of it twenty-five years ago and I still liked much of the world I’d created. However, I needed to inject something into it: something to make it appeal to a broader audience and something to reinvigorate myself as a writer.

I wondered what kind of books the real world needed. It occurred to me that we could use more stories with empowered female characters, and they had to appeal to girls and boys. As simply as that, I was running, sprinting, in a new direction.

The writing came suddenly. One day I wasn’t writing; the next day I was.

superman_typing

Three years later, and more than a thousand hours of effort, I’m coming up on 190,000 words, which is about 100,000 more than I intended. I’ve also removed characters, places, and scenes to cut another 30,000 words. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bit more culling to do. Continue reading

Writing Exercise #8 – Whimsical Horror

This is post is approximately 650 words, many of them silly nonsense, but limned with a sinister tone, I hope.

I like fun and I like whimsy, and I like them mixed with horror. In the appropriate proportions, of course. Without the proper balance, a story is either too dark or too goofy. It’s something I’m managing in certain parts of my current manuscript.

I think this penchant comes from fairy tales I read in childhood. They’re cautionary stories, of course: stay in bed, eat your peas, don’t lie! They all promise horrible fates to children who fail in some regard. Take Little Red Riding Hood, who was devoured by a slavering wolf before a woodcutter sliced open the beast’s belly to free her.

In deliberate contrast to the horrors of the story, the pages often featured colorful illustrations of cherubic tots venturing obliviously into danger. After a few similar stories, we all knew something bad was coming, despite the innocence of the art. And we loved it. As kids, we were practically watching them through half-covered eyes, gleefully anticipating their demise as we imagined their chubby little legs carrying them toward certain doom.  Continue reading

The Book’s New Working Title

A 750-word post for those who want a peek into the thought process – in the loosest sense of the term – that a writer puts into naming his first book.

I’ve probably renamed the book a dozen times in the last three years.

At first, I just needed SOMETHING, because I’m writing a book and a book needs a title. It wasn’t even a full title, but sometimes the Muse won’t let you progress until you’ve checked off that box She wants filled. So I’ve named and re-named, never finding something I loved; always promising to figure it out later. I usually followed the typical pattern you see in a book series: “The Lost Princess and the Descriptive-words-that-will-intrigue-readers”. I like the style and I’ll admit I’m heavily influenced by the Harry Potter series, though you’ll see it these excellent series, too: Percy Jackson, Skulduggery Pleasant, and The Spook’s Apprentice (US version shown here).

Unfortunately, I’d been imposing some confusion upon myself, and I just hadn’t been able to get past it. Because I was too in love with my own idea.

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