I wonder if anyone else notices just how loud the forest is? A living organic city. One where God is still mayor.
Many forces compete for our attention. I know I am not the only one exhausted by ultra-capitalist tools to alter reality. I am most susceptible by social media and ever spinning ‘doomsday’ news cycles. My addiction to them is debilitating. But unplugging from it all is not so easy for us millennials. How I wish it was. Where and how can anyone connect in a world that relies on social media? Will not cutting off facebook, twitter, and instagram for good, cut me out of society? How would I know of local events? Do other people actually know their neighbors? So unless I am at some communal fellowship; church, work, or event of common interest, I am completely superficial when meeting new people. I will probably never ask a complete stranger anything about their lives. Cause what if they ask me about mine? That thought alone is frightening. I don’t even know who I am. We are a generation distracted from knowing ourselves. It is lonely.
I believe social media destroyed the fabric of community. I hear about it all the time. All of us can relate to speaking to those living a generation or two before us. They talk about how interactions between people were deliberate. Premeditated. Can you imagine that? When you had something to say; you called a specific person. You had your say and walked away. There was no burden to make superficial general statements online, so not to upset anyone. They talked to one person at a time; we talk to hundreds at a time. The ramifications of our generation is we have no sense of community. Yet we are connected to each other more than ever. Our grandparents generation never had the burden of context. We worry all the time if something we say will be taken wrong. This can’t be healthy. I have tried many times to step away. But I hate being alone. I already suffer bouts of depression. Losing online connection is unfathomable. Because even though it is harmful, superficial, and honestly unreal; it is all many of us have. I confess I have few real friends and none within five hundred miles. It is no easy thing to write, I am a loser.
But there must be something I can do.
I decided if I can’t pull my attention away from these anthemic forces vying for attention; I would compete them out. That is to say, I would find something ‘productive’ to replace them. The plan is to distract myself into something new. I wanted a new habit that would enrich my life. Something in addition to my writing. I chose nature.
Let me tell you how crazy this idea has been. I know nothing of nature. Absolutely nothing! I cannot name more than three types of trees on earth. When I first stepped into that other realm; the forest, I found myself lost. Everything was fuzzy. Eerily quiet. Often I mistook a scurrying chipmunk as a terrifying predator. I laugh about that now. It still happens time-to-time. But I kept returning to the quiet realm of trees, birds, fungus, etcetera. I had made a discovery. One in which would make Henry David Thoreau proud. The forest is anything but still and quiet. How did I ever feel alone there? It took time to render myself noticing things around me. Under almost any canopy of trees is a cacophony of songs sung. An ever evolving orchestra. What use to be only mud and rock; the earthen floor was now a freeway of sentient traversing. In time I came to distinguish between types of birds and plants. I have not yet learned all their types. But I notice them now. I wonder if anyone else notices just how loud the forest is? A living organic city. One where God is still mayor. Of course, without the app iNaturalist, I would not be able to tell you one plant from the next. But I am learning. Just like learning a new language; to learn the forest you must first learn her nouns.
Did that do it then? Have I dropped social media? No, not completely. But I use it a lot less. Will-power didn’t work for me. How could it? But the art of noticing things helps. I still know next to nothing. Despite that, I have heard the song only the wind carries. A melody of a bigger life. Her lyrics permeate through me a sense of higher purpose. I am convinced all the wisdom needed in life can be obtained by sitting in the woods. There I am not alone. But connected to something higher and deeper than the material world’s urgency. What has humanity lost in a world built on screens and concrete? My answer; soul.
Please let me know if you have had a similar experience.
Anyone can write. Few revise well. Revision is essential. It is much more than spell-check and grammar adjustments. Revision is ensuring the story you are telling is clear. Rarely is misinterpretation the mistake of a reader. The job of writers is to ensure readers do not do any heavy lifting. Any skewed reading, comes from bad writing. How does the writer ensure the message they are conveying is interpreted clearly? You guessed it; revision. No one sits down and writes a novel by the seat of their pants in one long first and final draft. If they do, the writing will be garbage, regardless of talent. I would not count on being the exception.
Revision is where the real magic happens.
Starting over sucks. I dread it. All who write dread it. My stomach turns at the thought. But understand this, the rewards of revising will outweigh the pains. You will be shocked. Learn to enjoy the process. Here are some questions you can ask about your work:
- Why should my reader turn the first page to the second? Does the first sentence, paragraph, page introduce tension? If not, red alarm.
- Is there unnecessary summary? Cut. Cut. Cut! I too often have the impulse to cover too much ground. It destroys energy and I find, I tell more than show. This is a bad thing. The whole premise of writing prose, is to show not tell. A concept I will elaborate on with a later post.
- Is it original? Stereotypes are lazy. A good writer will extract any cliches and make a point to show the exact and honest.
- Is it clear? Ambiguity and mystery are one of the pleasures of literature. But there is a fine line between mystery and sloppiness. I love characters rich with contradictions. That is the human condition. But I often have to start off with a more simple reality. Then I can build out the imaginative. Have your character answer these: Where are we? When are we? Who are they? How do things look? What time of day or night is it? Weather? What is happening? On how to create captivating characters, check out: Create Captivating Characters
- Is it self-conscious? Just tell the story. Your style will follow of itself. But you have to just tell the story. If you get carried away dressing your prose with all your wit and insight, there is a good chance you are having more fun writing that the reader will have reading. Good writing is easy reading! Just tell the story.
- Where is it too long? In fiction, you want sharpness, economy, and vivid details in telling. With every sentence, say what you mean to say and get out. Hit it and quit it. Use the fewest possible words. What does this look like? My advice, read the poets. Trust me, the poets will teach you everything.
- Are there too many scenes? Try and tell your story with the fewest possible scenes. It is tempting to give each turn of plot or change of setting a new scene when fusing several together would proffer better effect.
- Where is it too general? Look for general and vague terms. Write instead a particular thing, an exact size and degree. In fact, my short tip, cut the words very and really out of your work entirely. You are welcome!
Revision, revision, revision. Originality, economy, and clarity all come from thorough revision. These questions are just the start and short of taking a creative writing class, they will serve you well.
Remember in fiction, the goal is to show characters doing things. Never tell what you mean. I promise if the prose is clear and concise, the reader will not misinterpret. You write for the reader. If you forget that, you have lost your way.
My goal here is to share what I am learning with others. I would love for you to follow my blog and join my journey. I also wanted to ask you something. I am thinking of creating a photography page on my blog. I love urban photography. Let me know if you think it would be a good idea or not?
Building character is part of the magic in the creative process.
I first started to write about something generic. You know, apply depth to my new blog. But superficial content plagued the blog I retired two years ago. Instead of capturing me as an individual artist, it became journalism for vegans. I still don’t eat animals. But I don’t want to write about them either. No, […]
This marks the first post of my new blog. I welcome you to follow me on my journey as a writer. Every week I will post writing tips I am learning from both personal and academic study at Liberty University. As well as posting my favorite reads. Together we are on an exciting adventure. Thank […]
You are writing your novel, screenplay, short story, etcetera and need good characters. But how do you go about building characters? I will be blunt, there is no definitive answer. Building character is part of the magic in the creative process. But do not fret, there are four essential qualities that go into making great characters. In order to create good characters, you must dig deep. You are going to build the very foundation of their lives.
Here are the four essential qualities that go into making good believable characters:
- Your characters have a strong and defined dramatic need.
- Your characters have an individual point of view.
- They personify an attitude.
- Your characters go through a change or transformation.
Write that list down. Put it somewhere easily accessible to reference when needed.
What works for me is writing one-two page biographies. Start from their childhood to when the story begins. You can keep these bio’s as a reference when writing from that character’s point-of-view. Doing this will prevent your characters from doing as they please.
Some “general” things you will want to write down:
- Childhood relationship with parents and friends?
- What was school like? Was he/she bullied, popular, a wall flower, etcetera…
- What was high school like? College? What did he/she major in? Did his/her parents approve of their major?
- How was his/her’s romantic life? Does he/she tend to have lots of sex, none, or somewhere in between? Does her parents/friends/society approve or disapprove of his/her love interests?
- What does he/she like about themself; hate about themself?
- Rich or poor?
- Does he/she like her job? Does her partner approve of his/her work, religion, etcetera…
- Much, much, much more.
The goal here is to find tension.
Building character is part of the magic in the creative processW. Alexander
This may sound strange, but the characters you create cannot be you. Sure, by all means insert your unique experiences into your writing, but your characters cannot be you. You are writing from another point of view, in someone else’s shoes. And don’t worry if you want to change things later. This exercise is to help you build deep, relatable, and believable characters. Whatever changes you make, write them down again.
Wherever in your character’s life the story begins, it is important they go through some kind of incident. A change or transformation. Like Harry Potter finding out he’s a wizard or Bilbo finding the ring. I will go deeper into incidents in a later post.
Remember, have fun creating characters. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Happy writing and good luck fellow authors.
I would love to have you follow me and learn more writing tips 😊
I first started to write about something generic. You know, apply depth to my new blog. But superficial content plagued the blog I retired two years ago. Instead of capturing me as an individual artist, it became journalism for vegans. I still don’t eat animals. But I don’t want to write about them either. No, with this blog I want to connect with you; the reader. I want to share with you my journey of becoming a professional writer. Think of it as I am calling on the collective power of dreaming introverts. May we isolate together.
The purpose of this blog is to share what I am learning in school and personal study. I am a creative writing student at Liberty University. My hope is by doing this, not only will it help you, but me too. By sharing my experiences and on occasion my writing; I hope to grow as an artist.
Introductions are in order. My name is W. Alexander. You already know I am a creative writing student, but just wait, there is more. I am also married and have one child. Plus, another baby on the way. I have traveled extensively across both America and Europe. I love to read, duh! But I also love movies, walks by the lake, and you got it; pouring my heart out onto a merciless blank page. I am passionate about my writing.
Other key things about me?
- Favorite book? The Hobbit
- Favorite screenplay? Midnight in Paris
- Favorite song? Stressed Out
- Favorite celebrity? Margot Robbie
- Favorite country? France
- Favorite pastime? Does cuddling with my cats count? I guess not. I read, a lot!
- Favorite President? Hmm, not 45
So there you have it. I have written about myself. If you subscribe to continue following my new blog; I promise the next posts will be about writing, art, etcetera. You can also follow me on Instagram. Until next time, live long and prosper. Yes, that just happened.
I am a writer. And I think a good one. In truth, I work hard on my craft. But there is a monolithic obstacle in the way. My obsessive self deprecating tendency to care what other’s think. And by others, I mean family. Both sides perceive a life dedicated to the arts, impractical. Their wisdom is one should make money first; follow dreams second. Over the years, how I responded to their apprehensions has influenced my craft. Mostly injuring my creativity. At thirty-one years old, time appears to be running out.
My record of trying to please everyone is no secret. I have never taken a job I wanted. But I have been successful. Whether I worked in finance, management, or retail, I did well. My biggest and therefore most hurtful failure is sales. In my early twenty’s, I was a dominant salesman. Everywhere I turned, money followed. Overtime I developed a disillusionment toward the industry. Sure, I struggled at times, sometimes teetering on poverty. But usually I outperformed everyone I knew financially. And to everyone’s surprise, I hated myself. Soon it proved impossible to be successful at selling anything.
“There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream”
— W. Alexander
Ever since I was a child, I had a mind for the arts. In high school and college, I recall fond memories of performances in theatre. Not as some might expect, my successful boxing career; something I did to please my father and other toxic masculine traits. I always felt who I truly was must be second in order to be accepted. Therefore, I spent my entire twenty’s pursuing the life everyone else wanted. If I got the big house, nice car, hot wife, etcetera, I’ll be loved then, right? Turns out, the philosophers were right all along. There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream.
Despite this revelation, being your true self is to be condemned a black sheep. A frustrating character in your greater family’s drama. They don’t get it and despite their honest efforts to understand, I realize they never will. How can they? They are predisposed to think a certain way, according to their own triumphs and failures throughout life. A person who sees life as black and white, will struggle to see life through more flexible patterns. For me, life is a twisted construct of contradictions, exceptions, and explanations. Think Van Gogh’s, Starry Night. My family is realism. Even this metaphor, which to the creative is like two+two=four would confuse them. For to them life is a linear set of actions and achievements. To me life is fleeting moments of arbitrary events. Focus on things that matter. Of course I want to make them happy, but I cannot on their terms and I need to be okay with that.
Often when I write prose or poetry, I write to them. As if my work is in constant need to defend itself. My characters are always in conflict with their influencers. They are always misunderstood and feeling rejected. Not because their influencers (often family) is openly hostile, but because of a myriad of micro-aggressions. I grew up in an abusive home, underneath an alcoholic patriarch. From grade school to college I was bullied at school and beaten at home. So I struggle with feelings of unworthiness and other’s disapproval has real consequences for me. When I was in school, if someone didn’t like me, they beat me up and often. This developed into a tendency to pacify and seek approval for my own survival. In adulthood this manifests itself in seeking approval through accomplishment and assimilation. But I have to find a way through life that puts me first for once. I am worthy of what I want. These pulling forces plunged me into a deep depression nearly a year ago. But not all is lost. I have begun to do me as I please. Displeasing my family still bothers, hurts, and stifles me. Yet, I manage to keep moving forward.
“I am worthy of what I want”
— W. Alexander
Only a creative can understand being born into a world that doesn’t appreciate their gifts. For ten years I submitted to everyone else’s expectations. I worked my ass off. But with every new trophy came a deeper emptiness. It wasn’t the goal I wanted. I envied those walking around with pink hair, paint under their fingernails, and gages in their ears. They are themselves and fuck everyone else. In secret, I thought they were the bravest of us all. I still do! Naturally, when I hit my depression, a true rock bottom, I coped and decided to say yes to myself. I wanted to be brave too. At thirty years old, the night before thanksgiving, I got my ears pierced. Over the next couple months I got several tattoos. My writing flourished and I am again a student, majoring in, you got it, creative writing.
Is everything better now? No, but life is on my terms and that is something. I have little desire to play life safe. Arriving into my old age, rich and comfortable scares the hell out of me. I would much rather die contributing to this world, than carving a quiet place in it. But that is the mark of an artist.
P.S. I don’t know if writing this blurb was for me or you reading it. But I hope it helps anyone who shares these frustrations to know they aren’t alone. It is never too late to shake off this world’s materialism and create. Friction makes perfection.
Please follow my blog for writing tips and other heart wrenching posts.
This marks the first post of my new blog. I welcome you to follow me on my journey as a writer. Every week I will post writing tips I am learning from both personal and academic study at Liberty University. As well as posting my favorite reads. Together we are on an exciting adventure.
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