I realized that my tendency to procrastinate reached a new low when I had a very interesting dream last night. The short version is that the characters from my yet-to-be-finished novel were telling me to get off my butt and finish the damn novel already because they had things to do and places to be. Now, I realize that this is some latent attempt by my inner writer to guilt me into getting back to work, but I must admit that I was a little freaked out. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning wondering who had given my characters permission to talk to me like that and came to the conclusion that it was a good thing that they took it upon themselves to admonish me, since clearly I wasn’t doing a good job of it myself. I have managed to waste an entire summer doing nothing and now I feel as if I might as well give up. Thankfully, I won’t be doing that anymore because there is nothing like having a seventeen year-old protagonist giving you a reality check to get you back on track.
Since I started writing a couple of years ago I realized that there are some occupational hazards of being a writer. These include :
-Your sleep being hijacked by your characters as they live out the scenes from your book.
-Your friends no longer sharing intimate details of their lives with you as said details inevitably find their way into your book.
-Being unable to go to any social functions without mentally categorizing people and their quirks for future use in your book.
-Listening with disturbing intensity when coming across anyone with an accent, in case you can use it in your book.
-Shushing people at the movies because they dared to fidget as you are trying to mentally record a scene that might help you with your book.
-Having difficulty concentrating on what your friend is saying at lunch because you are fascinated by the way she chews her food and you might be able to use it for a character in your book.
-Developing an unhealthy habit of imitating grimaces and other facial expressions as you try to write them, but forgetting that you are in public.
-Mentally practicing combat moves for your fight scenes, not realizing that you are acting them out while sitting at a Starbucks and people are beginning to stare.
If anyone wants to add weird habits they’ve picked up as writers, I would love to hear about it.
I have been having this on and off relationship with the Prologue for my novel. I feel that it needs one, but then everything I read tells me that agents and editors hate them. Well at least the majority of them. Because the lives of the characters in my novel are intertwined with the gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology, I feel that it is important to set the scene, so to speak. I personally love prologues and I find that for certain stories they can provide valuable background details. I decided to delve deeper into what people are saying about prologues and here is what I learned:
1. Never use your prologue as an information dump about your characters or the setting. It is better to cleverly work that into scenes and dialogue.
2. Don’t use your prologue as a hook. That’s what the first chapter is for. Also readers will feel cheated if the prologue reels them in, but the chapters don’t deliver on that promise.
3. Your prologue should not be overly complex. This will just confuse readers and possibly turn them off the book entirely.
4. Never, never write a prologue that doesn’t connect with the main story. It will leave the reader wondering and not in a good way.
5. Ask yourself whether your prologue can just be the first chapter. If yes, then that’s what it should be. Apparently many people don’t even bother reading prologues. In that case, if the prologue contains information vital to understanding the story, you’re royally screwed.
Clearly there is no single answer to the question of whether or not to write a prologue. But at least there’s a lot of good information out there on how to do it right. Since I am the boss of me and I love prologues, I will keep mine. I have a strong gut feeling that my readers will appreciate it.
Here are a couple of links I found helpful:
The Prologue – When to Use One, How to Write One by Marg McAlister: An excellent dissection of the prologue, its advantages and disadvantages by Marg McAlister. She lists several questions to ask when deciding to use or not to use a prologue.
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml: An interesting take on the multiple roles a prologue can play in your novel. If your prologue is not doing any of the jobs it’s supposed to, then it doesn’t belong in your novel.
I look at myself in the mirror and wonder what has become of my skinny, energetic twenty-year-old self. I have a conversation with the stranger in the mirror almost every day. I miss the old me, that could fit into skinny jeans and wear a figure hugging outfit without the unsightly rolls of fat hugging my middle. Then this morning I read an article that my friend posted on Facebook. It talked about an issue that has been bothering me for some time now. As mothers we continue to hold ourselves to the same standards of beauty as we did before we gave birth. We judge ourselves harshly for the way our bodies change after we have children and as we age. This pressure to have flawless skin and the perfect body takes so much away from our experiences in life. Many of us are missing from family photos, when instead we should be at the centre surrounded by our loved ones. We are embarrassed to meet friends whom we haven’t seen since before the birth of our children. Sometimes we even suffer from depression and low self-esteem. This is not surprising since we are constantly bombarded by images of what society considers to be the standard of beauty.
The article was a poignant wake-up call for me that I must learn to accept the new me and honour my body for what it has given me. Two beautiful healthy children, who are my pride and joy and who remind me every day that each stretch mark is a memory of carrying life within me and that the ugly scar from my C-section is my personal trophy for bringing my daughter into this world. I have wrinkles now where there used to be smooth skin and dark shadows around my eyes that hide what used to be laughter lines. But these are monuments to the many sleepless nights I have spent when my children were sick or when I have been awake worrying about making the right choices for them.
Nowadays I watch my daughters, now eighteen and fourteen, looking at themselves in the mirror, fussing about a tiny pimple or imaginary fat thighs and I cringe at the thought that one day, years from now, they too will be sad at what they see in the mirror.
So I am making a promise to myself, to look at my body with eyes that are more kind than critical. And like the author of the article, I hope to teach my daughters to accept and love their bodies even when they are no longer skinny with flawless glowing skin, because life will leave its marks. I hope that instead they will learn to see that their beauty lies in the rich lives they have lived and in the ones they have created and nurtured.
Naming your characters is a lot like naming your children. You have a vision of what you want the character to be like, so you want to pick a name that they can grow into. But there are a few things you want to watch out for.
1. Your character’s age:
Pick a name that is appropriate for the era that your character is from. If your character was born in the 1960′s for example, don’t name them Jordan or Alyssa. Raid your aunt’s attic for her yearbook and check out the names in there. Or you could just go to your local library. But the attic seems like a lot more fun.
2. Your character’s ethnic background:
Keep in mind your character’s ethnicity as that exponentially widens the pool of names to choose from. You have to decide though if the character’s ethnicity has a role in your story. You don’t want to choose a name that overshadows the character. Do your research well, so that you don’t end up giving the character a name that will cause you problems later. In many cultures a person’s name, last and first, are indicators of other details, such as religion, caste and geographic origin.
3. Roots and meanings:
Make sure that you check out roots of names and their meaning. This way you can incorporate some of your characters’ personality traits into the name. If your heroine is a tough cookie you probably don’t want to call her Heather. Also when it comes to choosing the names of villains you might want to stay away from likable names, unless of course your story demands it.
4. Convoluted names:
Remember that if your readers don’t know how to pronounce the character’s name, it may take away from how well they connect. Sometimes, complicated names are unavoidable, so perhaps you could work the correct pronunciation into your story. For example, you could have your character meet someone for the first time and have them ask for the correct way to say the name. That way when your book is made into a movie your fans won’t be shocked to realize that they had been saying the main character’s name wrong the whole time. Of course by that time it may not matter, since you will be rich and famous.
The most important thing is to have a good time naming all the characters in your story. I can’t think of anything more fun than creating entire personalities and watching them grow. On a personal note, I am still trying to come up with names for two evil shape-shifting brothers for my story, so I am open to ideas.
I seem to have painted myself into a corner while attempting to edit my novel. I started out making small changes here and there. But then, like bunnies they multiplied and before I realized it, so much had changed that my characters started turning on me. One of them didn’t like the way I made her look, the other doesn’t like his personality. So what do you do if your characters refuse to be who you want them to be? In my mind I’m the boss, but just as it happens in real life, this is just a figment of my imagination. Which is really my point. They wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for me. It’s like I tell my children sometimes (read everyday) , I gave them life, therefore I get to make important decisions. But just like my children do to me, my characters lured me into a false sense of believing that I actually control them. It turns out that I don’t. Most of them are refusing to do the things that I ask, so I started making more changes to make them happy. So now I have to figure out a way to coax them all back into the little darlings they used to be when I first started writing this novel. Good luck to me.
Lately I’ve been reading more and more about the horrors that take place in the dairy and meat industry. At first it started more out of concern for my health and the desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle. But over the last few weeks the blinders have come off and what I see makes me sick to my stomach. I have known about the facts for a while now, but I guess I didn’t really want to know. It was much easier this way, I could eat what I wanted and not have to worry about where it came from or which poor animal had to die a horrible death just so I could enjoy a meal. I know that sounds extreme and that was the reason that I never really looked deeper into this issue before. But it just seems that lately I have been coming across more and more accounts of cruelty to animals, not just killing them for food, but torturing them for mere pleasure and I can no longer ignore my feelings of disgust at what is happening. Then I watched a short film, Earthlings, and it just pushed me over the edge. I have no idea what action I will take, except for a drastic change in my diet, but I feel that I need to do something more. I don’t know if this is just a reaction to the emotional overload I’m feeling, but I hope not. So I decided to start by sharing what I feel, because I know there are so many others out there who are feeling the same way. Maybe the answers will come to me.
Recently I have been reading quite a few articles that are, quite frankly, just hating on Dan Brown and his writing. Mostly it’s because of the liberties he took with the life events of certain religious/ historical figures and other facts. This leaves me perplexed. When I pick up a book knowing that it is a work of fiction, I expect to be intrigued. I certainly don’t expect all of it to be true. I really enjoyed all of his novels so far. It didn’t matter to me that he was making stuff up when he wrote them. Isn’t that what a fiction writer does? I fail to understand why religious accuracy has anything to do with it. Nowhere in his writing does he claim that he is stating facts. All he did was pose an alternative reality. If people insist on believing that everything he wrote about the Louvre, for example, is true and then are disappointed when they go there and find out otherwise, well then they will fall apart when they travel to Forks and realize that the vampiric Cullens do not actually live there.
This Mother’s Day I dragged two big plastic totes out of my closet. They held photographs, tangible proof of the last eighteen years that I have been a mother. The other proof is in my mind, so when I close my eyes, the memories come flooding back. They are memories of countless trips to the park and the grocery store, where we would hold on tight to each other’s hands so that no one got lost. If I concentrate I can still hear their high pitched voices as they ask endless questions about everything. This Mother’s Day my girls and I went to the mall. We didn’t hold hands and at one point we split up because we wanted to go to different stores. Then we went to the movies. My daughters told me to go get us seats while they bought the tickets and popcorn. As I sat between them, my eighteen and fourteen year old, I felt that I must be the luckiest person alive. Life just didn’t get any better. But then my younger one reached out to hold my hand. After a while I reached out to hold my older one’s hand. We watched the movie like that and I realized that nothing had changed even though everything was different. My girls are all grown up and independent. As they discover their world, I stand on the sidelines watching them make important decisions on their own. When I look at old photographs, I see birthdays and recitals and trips all documented to preserve the important memories. But I know that the most precious ones will live in my mind forever. All I have to do is close my eyes.
So my first day at the gym went off well, no harm, no foul. My friend and I decided to do a 30-minute class. I did it because I didn’t want to look like a moron wrestling with the weight machines that were neatly placed in a circle around the main floor, convenient for the entertainment of the other patrons, but not so flattering for me, as I tried to figure out where to place my limbs. The instructor was great, immediately identifying me as the newbie, no doubt by the look of panic on my face as I realized that if I wanted to get a piece of equipment, I would have to shove aside the elderly, rather buxom lady who had planted herself firmly next to the treadmill. Luckily I didn’t have to resort to such under-handed tactics, as the instructor, seeing that her class was about to erupt in chaos, decided to assign equipment to each person. In the kerfuffle, I lost my friend, who ended up several machines away from me, thus rendering her unable to help me other than with worried looks from across the room. I climbed up on the treadmill I had been assigned and got started. It would have been fine, I’m sure, had it not been for the setting on the machine. Apparently the person who had used it before me fancied herself to be the energizer bunny, because once that thing got going, the only thing that saved me from falling off in pretzel pose was that the instructor rushed over to me. I’m sure it was less to save me from embarrassing myself and more to avoid potential liability issues if I broke my face in the first ten minutes at the gym. Nevertheless she calmly informed me that the treadmill was controlled by my feet. Well, duh. But who would control my feet? Anyway, I survived that monster with my dignity intact and everything was going well until it was my turn to sit on a contraption apparently designed to work the muscles in your back. Well I wish that someone had told me, because when I sat down and put my arms and legs in the appropriate position, nothing happened. Trying to look as if I knew exactly what I was doing, I pulled this way and that but nothing happened. The lady next to me, the one I had contemplating shoving out of the way earlier, must have been a mind reader, because I could have sworn I saw her smirk when I turned to her looking for help. She mumbled something unintelligible, probably that I should watch my back next time I came to the gym. Luckily the 45 seconds allotted to each machine was over. The next few were alright, but when the instructor came to remind me to keep my toes up on the leg curls, I got distracted by her nipples which were staring at me condescendingly through her shirt. I must say that despite my misgivings I enjoyed the class and will definitely be going back.