In the Northwest where I presently live we are having the 3rd wettest April on record.  While the area that we moved from a few years ago is presently in fire season. I have to admit that I do miss all that sunshine. Plus a really big change has to do with the time of day that the highest temperature is reached. From where we came from the hot part of the day ran from 10am to sometimes 4pm. With it usually cooling off  by early evening. Of course there are those couple of months where the tropical moisture moves in and there is no cooling at all, making the nights miserable if one does not have air conditioning, which we did not. Here the temperatures do not peak until as late as 9pm. Another example is the vegetation. With the amount of rain trees grow like weeds, and the wild berry bushes take over everything if you do not stay on top of them. Where we came from it is mentioned that moss grows on the North side of a tree, but up here moss is everywhere including 360 degrees around the tree trunks. This moss also covers roofs, lawns and gardens making it something like the berry bushes that you continually fight.

By not originally being from this area and I then wrote a story that fictionally took place somewhere in this area it would immediately show false since I would be basing it on much of what I know from where I was living. There would be a good chance that even researching the area would not provide such local conditions since for one who has lived here all their lives it is the norm. This always will be a problem for the writer unless they are world building and the places they are building only exists on the pages of the book. So if I had tackled “Woman in the Snow”, which is not from a world building style, while living in our previous location much of what I would have written would then have proven to be inaccurate. So I guess the lesson here is that one can only get so much information researching, and many times it takes actually being in the area one is writing about to be sure that all the facts are correct.

Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  

How Do You Know?

When writing your characters like in life know how to do certain things, or learn it along the road that they travel. The question that arises often enough is “Does the author have the expertise to be making these statements through his characters. In any writing situation there are two main ways to be able to answer positive about this question. First you personally have lived, learned, and / or worked it. So you have the personal knowledge, and th sources where you may be weak. Second is research. And the internet has helped this aspect with one able to access the information from your workspace. This has greatly reduced the time in learning about the information that your character will need.

So in the books I have written where does most of this information come from? The majority is from my personal experience, and personal interests. First let me say that I have been an avid reader from the time that I could read. But there is more to life than just reading, although I am sure there are a few who might disagree. After all if there was no one out there who wanted to read, then all writers would be out of work. So here briefly is an overview of me. In the year that I turned 7, we moved from the city to a remote ranch. Going from all that the city had to offer, to a place where we had part-time electricity provided by a generator which only operated at night, and on Saturdays when mom did the laundry in one of the old wringer style washing machines. We had no phone, and no neighbors. It was  paradise for boys growing up. Yet with this comes responsibilities that you would never have in the city. Our first 3 years there was a testing to see if we would stay. Wild fires the first 2 years threatened to burn us out, and then in the third year we successfully made it through the summer months, and then in the fall with a heavy fog lying around us, after nightfall the next tragedy struck. A military fighter crashed on the property killing the pilot and coming close to taking out our house. We were surrounded by fire and burning parts from the broken and destroyed aircraft.

Later in my life I became a wildland firefighter, and I suspect that the above incidents had some influence on my choice of careers. During this time I was drafted and spent 25 months in Vietnam. After returning I went back to what I loved only to have my body fail me. I then had to leave firefighting. I learned about the use of the measurements call chains there, and know that it is a measurement that goes a long ways in the past. So when in book 2 of the Discovery series I, through my characters, have them use that measuring system, and survive a major wildfire, I have both the knowledge and experience to represent it accurately.

An example of researching something that we use and is something we take for granted and live with every day of our lives – it is the way we track time. Where did seconds, minutes, hours come from? It so permeates our society and world we don’t even think about it. I mean why 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 minutes in an hour, and why 24 hours in a day? I must admit it is an interesting subject to pursue. Then we have to look at the way we track a year. When you research it you find that much of it was actually done by lunar cycles and the longest and shortest days of the year. You have to admit it is easier to follow a year by these markers than it is by calendar that we presently use. It is why Easter falls on a different day each year.   

So in conclusion this week, does this mean that when a writer creates something, that the facts need to be accurate? The answer to this is yes, yes, and yes. Because if he or she is to keep his or her readers he or she must realize that there will be experts out there who will know immediately that what is written is false, made up, or based on experience and fact. And if one is sloppy or lazy then it is immediately picked up and immersion that the author was reaching for is lost along with the reader

Published in: on April 23, 2011 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  

World Building

All authors or writers who write fiction are world builders. While one is usually pointed in the direction of sci-fi and fantasy,  it applies to all works of fiction. Of course in the two genres that are most mentioned for world building, it is very true. In those genres there is no world, culture, or direction until the writer creates it. J K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series as an example, was asked by the makers of the movies for assistance, and setting up the world that existed in the books. They were surprised at the details and locations that she was able to provide. And of course were very thankful for her input to help bring the books to life in film. Yet any fiction writer who is worth the ink they use can do the same with their stories. Even when one is dealing with history as in historical novels, the world the writer creates around this historical event is fiction. So the writer must, within the context of that history, build their fictional world and characters.

I have found that when I created the world in the Discovery Series, that even though the main characters existed in the present, that they, their society, and their world had a history. Otherwise some of the actions these characters would perform would make no sense. So as one writes, one becomes aware that this action performed the way they do it, was because of their character’s personal, world, or society’s history. That then brings up questions as to why such a thing is done this way, and in your mind’s eye you see the event in the past that helped create the present view. Even though it may never be written into the story, you as the writer have created a fictional history for your fictional characters. For example, in book two of the Discovery Series I have two of the main characters (in this series there are six main actors) getting married. I realized that such a ceremony would reflect present ideals, and also reflect on the history of the people. Knowing that I would be writing this scene into the story, I thought about how it was to be performed for at least half of the book before coming up with something that would be satisfactory, and I am quite happy with the results. From the ceremony you can see the history of these fictional people, even though no real details of thelr society’s past is revealed.

If we think about our lives in this real world we would probably realize that much of what we do, our traditions, our way of viewing things has to do with our history – personal and / or national. Our celebrations, the way we think and do things, all reflect on our history. And as has been stated, “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.” So when you build a fictional world it automatically comes with its own built-in history. Which you as the writer, present in the society, in the views, and in the thoughts and actions of both your protagonists and antagonists within your fictional world. So without that world building history and culture that you have created, all the characters would become two dimensional – paper dolls, with no life of their own.

Published in: on April 16, 2011 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

A Personal History

Each and every one of us has their own personal history. Even if you come from a family with siblings, with them having a similar background their views and history are still different. While life happens outside of who we are, it is our history that determines how we view, interpret, and then act upon those incidents. So is it a wonder that when two people try to communicate with each other that one can never be sure that what they are trying to relate is truly being understood by the other. Even if there seems to be an understanding between the two again because of their different backgrounds, it can never be truly confirmed. Say for example, that as I was growing up that the color purple was identified as yellow. Now when a friend who sees yellow as what we consider yellow I then would see it as purple. And because  we have no way at this time to speak directly mind to mind both of us would assume that we knew exactly what was being described.

So language is inexact, and add our personal histories, is it a wonder that we understand each other at all? So while everything that generally happens to us, other than health issues or such that have to do with our person, is exterior, we make our judgements internally. An example that is used a lot is this. It is a beautiful Saturday and there are many people enjoying a day in the local park. An older woman is walking on one of the many paths when a young man runs by and steals her purse, then disappears into the crowds. When the police talk to witnesses that were in the area at the time of the crime, they cannot get anyone to agree on what actually happened. While we could now go into the different views of this crime, this has been used often enough not be necessary. Of course the different reports has as much to do with their location, what they were doing at the moment, their sex, where they are in life at this time, and of course their personal history. So if everything is actually internal, is what we see happening truly reality, or is it completely colored by our past experiences? I do not have an answer to this, since like all of us I am locked into my own personal history.

That leads us to relationships, serious, casual, or fleeting. Our closest are with our families, whether it is with the one you grew up with or the one with your mate. As time passes you find that because either through similar histories or histories one has created together that one feels closer and of course more vulnerable than any other that are developed over time. It does appear that with time together that one or the other of you can complete sentences uttered by the other even before they are spoken. Yet even here in the most of intimate situations of life if we want to be honest we are alone. We share our lives, enjoy our friends, and are comfortable with our deepest relationships, but we are locked inside of us, and here we still are viewing and interpreting everything internally. So even here is it accurate or is it just an illusion?

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Time Slows for No One

Last week I named many of the authors that I have read, and one that should have been on that list is Edgar Rice Burroughs. Of course he was the inventor of Tarzan, but I have never read any of those. I read his Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar series. Talk about a world builder – he was great at it. C. S. Lewis is another great example for world building and creating great stories within those worlds. 

I find myself now in my 60’s and really do wonder how I got here so quickly. After all it was only yesterday when I graduated from high school, but of course that is heading towards 45 years ago. Well then it was only yesterday when I was discharged from the Army after spending 25 months in Vietnam right? No, that was 1972. Well then it was only yesterday when I married the woman that I am still with right? No that was 28 years ago and our children are all grown and yet I can remember bringing them home from the hospital after their births.

 I find that over these many years that are now gone that I really did want to write, but life continued to get in the way. So finally after retiring I began to do what I really wanted to do – write. In the interviening years from the few times that I had attempted short stories to submit to publishers the whole industry has changed. When I first attempted this, you as a writer was responsible in contacting a publisher and marketing your work to them. Yes the query letter and synopsis existed then, but was really only a way to introduce yourself to a publisher. Now there are agents to represent you and your works to the publishers. They do much of the groundwork that you as a writer once did. That doesn’t mean that your responsibility as a writer has changed, still it is a way for a writer to have a better chance of getting a contract since agents are in contact with publishers and if you don’t get a contract and subsequently paid, they do not either. So it is in both the agent’s and writer’s best interest to work closely and allow each to do what they do best. Yet agents are overworked and really have little time to add new writers, which makes it just as difficult for a new writer to get an agent as a writer finding an intested publisher. The rapid changes now happening within the industry is even pushing these “old” ways aside and no one truly knows the way or direction of the market or even where publishing itself is heading.

So what genres do I write? Presently two, with sci-fi being the primary, and Christian fiction the secondary. I have completed the manuscripts for a post apocolyptic series named the Discovery Series. Book one “The Ones Before”, book two “Discovery”, and book three presently being written “Beginning or Ending”. This series has the potential to extend to a number of additional books if the it became popular. I am also working on a stand alone called “Time of Isolation”. This one is just about 40% written. And finally in women contempory christian fiction I have a completed manuscript “The Woman in the Snow”. All of course are working titles. Eventually I will have a web page. Once this is established then I will post excerpts from these books to allow readers to get a feel for the style and direction of the stories.

Published in: on April 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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