This is the last day of the ‘A-Z blogging challenge’, and for this final post I present you ‘Zopierama’. What is Zopierama? It’s a who. It’s a girl from another planet, a planet so small that its inhabitants didn’t even think it worth the trouble to give it a name. She appears in my book ‘The Story of the Mimosa’.
Zopierama is a bit of a nerd. Actually make that a lot of a nerd. Together with her boyfriend Barthomeu she works at a science and space centre, and the appearance of a boat turns her and his life upside down. They meet odd people (even odder than they are) and travel to strange places. They even reach our Earth!
Zopie (which is how Barthomeu her sometimes calls) is a fun and interesting character in the book, I think. It was a lot of fun creating the couple, being the geeky people they turned into.
What is the X-factor in writing? It’s probably something different for each writer. Just as there is a different book in the hands of each reader, I am sure.
For me it is the surprise that is around every corner of the story. What will the next paragraph bring? Where will the characters end up this time? Of course not everything is hidden in fog. I know a few places, stations, where the train with characters will have to pass through and also the end station is set, but all the happenings in between those… This is what makes the journey of writing a story such a pleasure for me. It’s as much fun as reading a book – I don’t know every single, tiny step of the way yet; it is as much an exploration for me as it is for you when you open the book and start reading.
Some writers plot and plan their book from A to Z, like this blogging challenge, they know what is going to happen everywhere even before they start writing. That’s not how my stories come to life. That is my X-factor.
You probably know William. He is Hilda’s Wizard and a former book salesman. If you’ve read Hilda’s first book, The Wicked Witch, you have already encountered him. As a wizard, William is a very endearing person trying to make sense of everything around him. After years he’s still running into new strangeness that Hilda seems to attract. It’s probably something that’s common in Fairy Land, and I think he’s adjusting quite well.
I had a good, long thought about the letter V. Finally I decided on Vocabulary. Not very surprising maybe as that is one of the most powerful tools of a writer. It’s easy to jot down a sentence, but to add the proper ‘pizzazz’ to it, one needs to know the right words. A sentence has to say something, it has to bring you, the reader, into the state of mind that makes a story come alive. “Joe walks down the street” conveys exactly what Joe is doing, and where he does it, but this way he’s just an average Joe, a man in the street.
Did you see what happened just now? I used some specific vocabulary, drawing in some common expressions to give Joe some ‘body’. He’s not Joe the banker, he an ‘average Joe’. To make it even more obvious, he’s mostly a typical person, a ‘man in the street’. By simply using these common expressions (I am sure that most of you know them and even use them occasionally), I have given Joe some appearance, a social environment.
How different does it feel when you see “Mr Joe walks down the street”? Mr Joe. Well, that’s not your average Joe. This is probably someone who stepped out of the suit department. Isn’t it fabulous how much difference such a small word can make? This is where writers have most fun – and also most problems. What is the right word for a specific scene, situation, problem or person? And that question can come up for at least 25% of the words in a book. With a count of let’s assume 75,000 words for a book we’re talking about 18,750 times this question. What is the right word here? Of course it’s not always very dramatic but it can be. For that writers need a broad vocabulary. And that gets worse when a story tells about a field that has a specific jargon. Usually a writer will have to dig deep to get the proper words out in the open, yet at the same time make the word clear to the people who are not into that field, so they know what the ‘bleep‘ this scientist, mechanic or quantum-physicist is talking about! Luckily this can be a lot of fun. 🙂 (Can be… 😉 )
Have you ever considered where the limits of your imagination are? How wild and strange the places can be that your mind can bring to you, almost so vividly that your mind seems to take you to those places? That is how creating new stories feels to me. There are no boundaries, no limits. The only ones that might appear are those that the events in a story bring about.
In that respect I follow the (to me wise) words of a genius author. His name? Ray Bradbury. In his book Zen in the art of writing he advocates the total absence of fear and limits. A person should be able to write without boundaries, about anything at all. Maybe there’s no one who will buy the story, not a person in the world who wants to read it.
This tells me that when the need to write that story is there, it has to be written. If only to get it out of one’s system. If you keep the words inside, don’t let them out of your system, they will start to revolt and block other words from appearing. (Writer’s block could be a result, literally.)
Somehow the boldness of writing with no holds or bars seems to work for me. When I look at the long line of Hilda the Wicked Witch books that are already out in the world, and the slew of them that are still to be written, that says something. A spin-off in the shape of the story about a ship that sails through space and time. It works. Of course, not every book is as successful as the average Stephen King novel but that is why he’s not me. I want to give him a chance as well. His writing is unlimited too (look at Carrie, or the Dark Tower series). Anything that needs limits will appear in the story. Stories don’t need those writing people to put limits on them. That would seriously limit the stories.
Tools. Indeed, dear reader, even a writer has tools. Hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, I think the entire tool kit can be brought out into the open when a writer is at work. Of course these devices look a bit different from those:
The actual tools are things like notepad, tiny scraps of paper with notes all over them. Tools can look like a program (word processor, special writers’ software), but also like a lawn with a writer lying down on it while it looks as if this writing person does nothing. Often those are the hardest tools to use. These are needed when something needs to be hammered into shape. A scene or an entire chapter can fight back, and needs to be approached with care, mental gloves and a strong hammer. Which, indeed, are applied while spread out on a lawn, or sitting on a chair whilst staring out a window. Don’t be fooled by a writer in such a position, dear reader. Those are often the crucial moments where most work is done. Because contrary to popular belief, the act of writing is not the biggest effort when one writes a book. It’s what goes ahead, around, through and beneath it. It’s the legwork of the mind. Because yes, the mind is one of the most powerful ad versatile tools of a writer. The mind that summons the stories grates away at the words, chisels the ideas and polishes the sentences. And when something’s gone wrong, that mind-tool puts all the chipped-off parts back and finds a new approach to make the story work. Which again may involve a chair and a window, or a lawn, or a stroll through a park.
As you see, a writer uses many a tool. All of them are needed, all of them have their place in the creation of a book, an artwork that the writer creates. For you.
As I was putting together this remarkable collection of alphabetical posts, it suddenly struck me that there are many ships in my books and stories.
That’s odd because I’m not a sailor, nor is there anyone in my family who’s in that trade (as far as I know at least). The first ship I consciously incorporated in a book was the Mimosa, appearing in the 6th Hilda the Wicked Witch book. Of course, coming from a fantasy / SciFi writer this was no ordinary ship as it travels through space and time. On its own accord. This is not a guided vehicle like the Tardis of Dr. Who.
The second ship I created was called the Pricosine. A wooden sailing ship resembling an ancient clipper, with many masts and sails, sailing on the distant planet called NGC6637-VIII. This all sounds like science fiction which in part is true. The story (Bactine) however is in majority a steampunk story, but somehow I fell into a science fiction start for that.
After that I had to do something about the requests from fans of the Hilda stories regarding the 6th book. They wanted to know where the Mimosa came from. This resulted in a hilarious book called The Story of the Mimosa, in which you can learn of the earliest beginnings (which literally start with the stacks of wood that it will be built from) and then the travels of the wonderful ship Mimosa and it’s strange and wonderful crews that find and lose it. The Mimosa will always have a special place in my heart because the folk band Harmony Glen, who are dear friends of mine, appear in the book, and in turn they named the ship in their theatre show “The Mimosa”.
Have you met Rayko? If you didn’t you haven’t read Bactine. But that’s no problem.
Rayko is the daughter of new boss of Daniel Zacharias, whom I’ve introduced earlier in this blogging challenge. Writing her character was a lot of fun as I planned and saw her change from someone who despises Daniel to someone who secretly starts helping him. Of course he doesn’t know that.
Coming up with the verbal battles between the two, and the thoughts that surround them provided me with a lot of entertainment and rewrites. There’s the second R in this post. As their relationship developed, I saw options to improve earlier parts so that would make the whole story even better.
Bactine was also the first story where I intentionally added a touch of romance. Only after reading a review where the romance part in the story was actually mentioned I felt that perhaps I can do this more often, another R that I can add to this letter in the A-Z blogging challenge!
Q is a difficult letter at times. This time I want to use it for quitting. This doesn’t mean I’m quitting the writing business, but I want to tell you about how I quit a story. It’s the story about Lester Jones, a Pagan detective. This is the story that doesn’t happen because I quit writing it. Detective stories are not my forte, I discovered that when writing the story. It all went well for a while, but at some point I became tangled up in all the plots, subplots, problems and relations, so I put the story in the refrigerator. Many years (!) later I picked it up again, reworked it, tried to make sense of it and I fell into the same pit. At that point I moved the story back into the refrigerator, but this time it went all the way to the back and now it’s hidden behind many other projects, projects that make sense to me.
Is that the end of the detective story? For now, for the foreseeable future it is. Maybe I come across it when I start cleaning out that area of ‘cold storage’, and perhaps then I get the right idea or spirit for it. Maybe I have encountered the muse called Sleuth then, which can help me finish the story.
Who is Priscilla? Priscilla is the main character in my SciFi book Green Haven. Starting off as a sort of anaesthesiology assistant she’s plunged into more adventures than she cares for when she and her friends suddenly find themselves facing a superhero.
You may wonder how I picked a name like Priscilla. As usual there is a very simple explanation: while I was thinking of the story and how to start, I had just seen a mention of Priscilla Presley. Isn’t that a simple connection? Sometimes names just fall into one’s lap at the right moment.
I also thought it very interesting to write this book from her point of view, writing in her thoughts and actions, and so it happened. I envisioned her world resembling what was portrayed in the film Blade Runner. I hope it worked.