Monday, June 1, 2009

The very real world of make believe

I'm thrilled to announce our June Giveaway is the newly released -- drumroll, please -- Talking to the Dead, by our very own lovely, talented, feisty, Canadian Bonnie Grove. Leave a comment for a chance to win her incredible debut novel.

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I've really enjoyed the last few posts here at Novel Matters, and the comments our visitors have made as well. Bonnie's post on 5/22 was very entertaining, caused us all to laugh. What's especially funny is, it wasn't far from the truth. As writers, we're never "off." We're working 24/7, our minds never quite shutting down. Inspiration can and does strike anywhere, at any time. Those who know us best recognize the moment of inspiration, and patiently wait as we scramble to preserve our thoughts on paper, or, uh, something close to it. Unlike Bonnie, I don't keep a notepad handy (note to self: you should), so in a restaurant or in the car I usually find a paper napkin to scribble on. At church it's the bulletin, in the restroom it's ... well, you get the idea.

Our stories are hard taskmasters -- they never give us a break. Even in our dreams, inspiration prances by like a butterfly looking for a net. I have learned to keep a notepad by my bed, for though I'm personally seldom inspired by dreams, I am terribly inspired in the time before I go to sleep. My mind in its relaxed state is a fertile ground of creativity. Scenes, dialogue, it's all there, like a movie playing just for me. That's when I hear my characters' voices the clearest, when my fictional world comes alive. I used to get up and run to my office to jot down my thoughts, because I've learned the hard way I will lose them if I don't. I was like popcorn, popping up time after time till the taskmaster finally let up enough for me to go to sleep. Then a friend, God bless her forever, gave me a pen that lights up. Now I don't have to get out of bed -- or wake my husband -- to capture the inspiration.

But while a free-wheeling imagination may produce the material for the novel, it takes disciplined time at the keyboard to write it. Latayne said it so well: "I absolutely must have extensive, uninterrupted blocks of time to first travel to, and then reside in, a fictional world. I can’t write a novel in short spurts." I heartily agree. Most of us can't just slip in to write a sentence or two, then slip back out to rejoin the real world. Interruptions can really mess up the flow of things. But neither can we turn off our fictional world just because we aren't at the keyboard. No, the life of a novelist is far more schizophrenic than that.

Our characters, their problems, and the world in which they live must first be real to us in order for them to be real to our readers. We have to know them well enough to tell their story, to make it believeable, otherwise who's going to care?

So I just have to wonder, what's it like to be Stephen King? If you could sit down and chat with any author, living or not, about one of their fictional worlds, who would it be and why?

14 comments:

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Great post, Sharon. The most memorable story worlds I've 'visited' have been rich and diverse and filled with unpredictable things. The worlds of Middle Earth, Star Trek and Star Wars have left lasting impressions on generations of watchers and readers. But, by contrast, so did Anne Shirley's Green Gables, a bucolic and seemingly uneventful place, though readers know it was anything but uneventful. People spend money every year to vacation on Prince Edward Island. I would love to go there some year.

Nicole said...

I would probably say Frank Peretti who I believe was ahead of his time in CBA. He's an amazing, insightful writer who's had his share of difficulties. I'd love to have some one-on-one time with him and his wife.

Stace said...

I would sit down with Anne McCaffrey and discuss not only her Pern world, but the others she has created over the decades. What I appreciated the most about Pern is the extensive, logical history behind it, and how she wound up plumbing that history. Both very primitive and highly technological in different eras, it made for a fascinating, every changing read.

I too need the chunks of uninterrupted time. Its so hard for my family to understand that even if I'm just staring at the page, I'm WRITING, and I can't just look up, answer a question, and go right back.

I've been reading Right to Write, by Julia Cameron this week, and she insists that every writer can and should write in the few minutes snatched while out and about, that interruptions are positive and to insist on a chunk of time is to buy into a writer's myth. Its great that she can do that, and for small things, sure, I can too - notes on a character or setting, personality or physical quirks I notice, etc. But for an extended piece, like a novel, it needs the time and the quiet.

Nichole Osborn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nichole Osborn said...

I think the author I'd most like to talk to would either be C. S. Lewis or Tolkien. Or maybe Francine Rivers. How can I choose just one. There are so many! :0)

Lori Benton said...

That's a hard one to answer. Jan Karon's Mitford? Catherine Marshall's Great Smokey Mountains in Christy? Diana Gabaldon's Fraser's Ridge? Tolkien and Middle Earth? Lewis and Narnia? James F. Cooper's frontier New York? Laura Ingalls Wilder's prairie frontier?

This list will keep growing if I don't type CATIC and hit publish.

Steena Holmes said...

What a terrific post! I have a notepad but I can rarely find it when I need it - my daughters seem to claim anything with paper so they can color in it.

I would love to sit down with Ted Dekker. Shoot - I'd be happy really to sit down with ANY author and pick their brain.

K.M. Weiland said...

I've always been of the mindset that if an idea's not worth remembering, it's probably not worth writing. But I've taken to keeping a notepad by my bed as well. My sleepy brain doesn't remember anything - worthy or not!

Koala Bear Writer said...

J.R.R. Tolkien or Anne McCaffrey. Both set up such detailed, precise worlds with huge histories. As a writer trying to create a fantastical world of her own, I'm amazed by what they did.

And needing those large blocks of time is one reason why I haven't dived back into writing a novel recently. Oh, for the days when I could sit uninterupted at my computer for hours on end and just pour words onto the page! :)

Bonnie said...

I've called myself a jackrabbit writer for years. I can (and sometimes need to) write a bit of a sentence here and there, leave it off and pick it up later. It's just the way my brain works.

I don't have trouble jumping in deep (most of the time) and I think that is because of my acting background. As an actor you're always being pulled out of character in rehearsals - to be yelled at by the director, to fix a prop, to receive a new stage direction, or just to chat with friends backstage. So I learned early how to jump in and out of fictional settings.

Kathleen Popa said...

There aren't enough people in the world who have read The Book of the Dun Cow, and The Book of Sorrows, by Walter Wangerin Jr. He's built a world of talking animals locked in a fierce battle with personified evil. His characters could not be more familiar (perhaps they would be less so) if they were human. His insights - or rather the insights the characters inspire - are stunning. His is the fictional world I would ask about, if I could talk to him.

Patti Hill said...

Pour the tea. I'm sitting down with Jane Austen. She paved the way, and I would love to thank her and talk about the obstacles she faced writing this relatively new literary form. I think we would hit it off spendidly. Besides, I love scones!

Steve G said...

My favourite author is Bonnie Grove, and I get to sit down with her every day.

Her debut novel is out today, and I know what it took to get to this point. I am very proud of the work she put into it. She has called writing the best job she ever had, and it makes her smile; and she has the most wonderful smile...

Sharon K. Souza said...

I love hearing about all the fictional worlds you'd like to explore with their creators. What I like even more is that there's no end to that creativity. After all, we're made in God's image, who is, of course, the Master Creator.

Nicole, I met Frank Peretti a number of years ago. He was doing a book signing in Stockton, CA after his 2nd book came out. I was in a writers group at the time, and we all went to the book store to meet him. I was the only one who already had the book and had read it. I still have the autographed book.

The list of authors I'd like to sit down with is as long and varied as yours, but the one author I'd love to spend an afternoon with is Charles Dickens.

Steve, you know, don't you, that you're going to end up in someone's book as the most romantic husband ever?