Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Escape from Reality?

Writing can set you free, and writer's block is a horrible pause in what is usually my escape from reality. Lately, I've been stuck.  As a pantser, I don't plot, so if my character turns mute, I have no one to guide me.  Those that know where their story is headed before they sit down and write have a leg up on those of us who don't, but in reality, I can't plot.  I've tried and it just doesn't work for me.  Like my readers, I never know where I'm headed until I get there.  It's a b*tch dying to know what's going to happen next and not having a clue, and I can't just turn a page...I have to write it.  *lol*

This is the first story ever that's stalled for me.  I think it's because I followed Hattie into a corner that we didn't know how to get out of.  I do now, thanks to some brain-storming with fellow authors, and I'm back on track.  The words are starting to flow since that I've given Hattie a new direction.  She's talking again and anxious to move ahead with her story.  We've totally switched gears from an historical western to a time-travel historical.  I'm jazzed.  I hear her sweet voice again.

You might think it's strange to admit to hearing voices, but I get scared when I don't.  Normally, I have a chattering cacophony in my brain and struggle to sort out which one I want to hear.  I'm blessed that most of my characters come with a story, title and a passel of friends in hand, so I have to give little thought to the telling of the story.  The task for me lies in showing it to the reader.

Anyone can tell a great story, I've often heard, but it takes a true author to involve the reader in the emotions, smells, sights, and sounds.  Basically, I have to pull everyone's senses into the story and use them.  When the wind blows, I want my readers to feel the breeze caressing their cheeks.  If I'm baking cookies, I want that smell to invade their nostrils and tickle their appetites.  When my heroine cries because her heart is broken, I want my readers to reach for a tissue.  It sounds simple, yet it's one of the hardest parts of being a writer.  You can't just show, you have to show in present tense, put the reader in the moment and make them live the story as if they were the leading role.  Simple, huh?

NOT.  The myriad of rules that come into play, keep things interesting, and it seems they change with the wind.  What's important one day, doesn't seem to be the next, and there is always something new on the horizon.  The task then becomes which guidelines to follow and which to ignore.  I've decided I'll write in my fashion and keep my fingers crossed.  I ignore a lot of the simple rules because they don't follow my writing style, but ones that really interrupt the flow for me when I'm reading the work of others are ones I adhere to.  Example...I try very hard not to use tags to describe dialogue that hasn't yet been spoken.  How can you describe someone's tone before they speak?  In fact, I'm trying very hard to avoid tags as much as possible.  Readers are smart...they can figure out the obvious.  If two people are in the room, we don't have to identify the movement or speech of each one in every instance.  You'd be surprised how many thing authors still do.  We all are in varying stages of our career, and there's always a lot to learn. 

For me the best part of writing is finding an outlet for my own emotions.  When my real world gets tough, I can escape by writing about someone elses life.  If I'm angry, I can smash a virtual chair or turn the air blue with language I wouldn't normally use.  If I'm in pain, I can transfer all that to my leading lady and let her do the crying for me.  I can become a real super hero, dash back or forward in time, even make love to a shape shifter if I so desire, or I can just be content to write something contemporary and modern.  A lot has to do with my character and what they bring to the table, but I also reserve my license to be creative.  It comes in handy.

Here's a snippet from First Degree Innocence, where I tried very hard to show the reader Carrie's fright at being falsely imprisoned.  Did I do it?

Clutching her new belongings, Carrie trailed behind, her heart pounding hard against her chest wall.  Never in her life had she felt so frightened or been treated so disrespectfully, and there was not a thing she could do about it.  She took a long, calming breath and placed one foot in front of the other, although she didn’t know how on legs so wobbly. Two smirking male guards held open the steel doors, allowing the women to pass into a hallway.
She chewed her bottom lip and peered around her load. The corridor seemed endless. Beneath overhead lights, the tiled floor glistened with a freshly waxed sheen.  Painted block walls displayed the same dismal gray as the holding cell, and the distinct smell of bleach hung in the air.  The chlorine did little to mask the odor of unwashed bodies and co-mingled with the aroma of the most recently-served meal.  Bile rose in her throat and she struggled not to retch.  The same question kept echoing in her head. How could this have happened?  She didn’t belong in this place.
Ogden unlocked yet another steel door and, holding it, motioned for Carrie to enter.  Foggy disbelief clouded her mind, but she did as instructed, waiting for the guard and staring down yet another endless passageway.  The slamming door sliced the silence and made her jump.  At once, the desolate area came to life with a cacophony of catcalls and lewd comments directed at her. Reaching hands stretched between bars from the confinement of the cells, grabbing at the air as she passed.  She gulped and tried to keep her eyes forward, but found it difficult to ignore the myriad of strange faces that peered between the bars and vied for her attention.  She hunched her shoulders and gripped her prison issue, trying to draw into a ball to avoid being touched.  She had nothing in common with these women.
Run away, run away.  You don’t belong here.  The voice in her head drowned out all other noises and encouraged her to do something she knew wasn’t possible.  Cement, steel doors, and endless hallways stood between her and freedom.  Not one person in the place had believed her when she’d proclaimed her innocence.
With the turn of a key, a single cell swung open, and Ogden shoved Carrie inside.  “Sweet dreams.  If you need anything, just call room service.”  Again, the woman’s taunting guffaw pierced Carrie like a knife.  
If you liked what you read, you can find FDI on Amazon.


Anonymous said...

I hear you on escaping reality and dealing with writer's block. Some day I'll share. For now, I'm still stuck, still dealing with muted voices and wayward muses. Sadly, I plot, and know where I'm supposed to go, but it's still silent in my world. :( I'm hoping for a breakthrough soon, because I really want and need to move forward.

Unknown said...

Anon, sounds like you might need a friend willing to listen. I'm good at that, and have lots of experience on why my voices fall silent besides what I shared here. There are just some things you can't escape. I've found that some of my friends have been the cure for what ails me. If you need an ear, I'm here for you.


Roseanne Dowell said...

Anon, I agree with Ginger. I was stuck for two years on a story I plotted all because "I knew where it was supposed to go" When I finally got rid of the plot plan and back to writing as a panster (my normal style) I was off and running and my character was very thankful. Like Ginger, I had painted her in a corner and couldn't figure out how to get her out. Needless to say, I'll never plot again. I hope you find your way. Ginger, this was a great post. Thanks for sharing. I loved First Degree Innocence. I think it was your best book yet.

Zakgirl said...

Hi Ginger, I just nominated your blog for the Liebster Award on my blog. You might find some extra visitors over the next little while. Good Luck!!! Keep Blogging, I enjoy your work, Zak.

Callie said...

As another panster, I panic when the characters shut up. In the summer time, I'll wait until the cooler evening time, and then float around the pool and let the "voices" come to me. Most times it works. Winter--I gaze in the fireplace (most times I have a fire, lol). Sometimes I find they're just not happy about where they are. I took two male characters out of an office one time, and put them in a bar with a beer in their hands, and the words flowed.

About halfway through, I can usually come up with an outline of sorts, but my characters have been known to defy me and go in a different direction.

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