When I am writing, it helps to listen to music without lyrics. It drowns out- not only the background noises surrounding me- but the messes in my head as well. It helps keep my focus on pushing out the story from my head to the keyboard and onto the screen. Often, I’ll type with my eyes closed as well.
So this got me to wondering… how much does what’s streaming through my earbuds influence the story I’m telling?
Music is a communication medium. Music inspires. It can change my mood and attitude towards situations and people in life. If I’m in a terribly depressed mood, sometimes music is the only thing that can keep me going.
That being said, what am I listening to while I write? Perhaps it’s an instrumentally inspiring ballad that helps me motivate our protagonist to go on that life-changing adventure. Maybe it’s a piece that keeps me deeply focused and enables me to pour out the heart of a character in a way that will bring readers to tears with emotion. Sometimes a classical piece will inspire me to paint a beautiful setting- complete with Parisian cafés, cobblestone walkways, and lush tulips.
The artist composing the notes that stream through me probably didn’t know they’d be inspiring a captivating story beyond their own. But it’s awesome to be inspired by fellow artists and is something I’ll continue to think about. So the next time you go to plug your ears with something as you write, consider what kind of story you want to tell, and listen appropriately. It may make or break a scene.
As writers, we know deep down that one of the best ways to remember events (good or bad) is to journal about them. Even if these are words that will never be published, they can help inspire a good story down the line- or even act as some personal therapy.
May is a busy month in my house. This is the month where: school comes to a close, (down here in Arkansas), Mother’s Day, Riverfest, and Memorial day sneak up on you, and weddings are exploding. In my house, we’re also spending time celebrating my brother’s birthday and usually attending a graduation of sorts. Before you know it, the month has started and ended and PLOP! It’s June.
I wanted to take a moment to offer some reflections and journal prompts for this month. Who knows what they could inspire?
‣‣‣When did you notice the weather changed? Has it rained a lot this month? Is there damage or flooding in your area? Has this upset you?
‣‣‣Where did you travel this month? That doesn’t mean you had to leave the city or the state (or country). Did you go to a new restaurant or a theatre? Maybe you tried a new gas station or walked somewhere instead of drove your car. What were the sounds and scents and tastes? Give some good description about how you got there or who you went with.
‣‣‣Did something break this month? Did someone or something you love get hurt? Was there loss in your life this month? Maybe your pet got hit by a car or the dishwasher broke for the third time. There are ants invading your house and you’ve tried everything to fix the problem. Write about your frustrations. Write about how you plan on solving them. Make it comical if you’d like.
‣‣‣What is something you noticed about yourself in the past month? Maybe you realized your hair was getting too long and you needed a haircut. Maybe you saw yourself in a photo and realized just how tall your little brother looks next to you. You got a little insight into how people perceive you.
‣‣‣What’s a change you’ve made? It can be something small- like remembering to hang the towel back up on the rack or starting a new blog. It can be something big- like getting a tattoo or buying a house. What is something that you bought or did this month that was new?
I hope these get your minds moving. I know it’s easy to talk yourself out of doing a little writing each week, but don’t! It’s good for you! I hope your month has been pretty kind to you. Have a great weekend, guys!
Here’s the thing: I’m a word person. To make it on my favorite books list, you have to write something that captures me with your words. In addition to writing a colorful story with in-depth characters and connection, I love quotes that stand out to me. I really like being able to see your words splashed allover the internet on tumblr posts and artistic banners for blogs.
I need characters to say profound things that touch my soul. I want you to make me think, learn, question. To me, personally, that’s what makes a good book. Unfortunately, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini didn’t do much for me.
I had no expectations for this book. At first glance, I learned it was a story about a high school boy who suffered with depression. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? It could have some interesting insight, right? Wrong. (I should probably stop assuming things).
What bothered me most was the structure. The flow of the story is written more like a film script. Throughout, it is difficult to understand the dialogue/which characters are speaking. In the very beginning, there were few descriptive clues about Craig’s friends. There’s a scene where they’re all hanging out together, talking back and forth and we cannot visualize who is saying what. In the hospital, Craig is introduced to various patients and it’s hard to grasp an image of them. As he interacts with them throughout the book, I found it difficult deciphering who was who.
Another big frustration was lack of character development. I understand if you want to leave some things up to the reader to decide, but if you want me to connect with these characters and their struggles, I need a little more than surface knowledge. Now, maybe Vizzini intended for us to only get snippets of these characters- but I felt no connection to them. If they had all died in some kind of crazy hospital fire, I wouldn’t have felt any remorse. The most connection I felt was towards Noelle- and I still don’t really understand what happened to her besides the fact that school stressed her out.
That leads me to my third main frustration: Craig’s point of view. I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like being in the mind of a teenage boy’s mind. I didn’t like his obsessive thoughts about Nia. And overall, I didn’t understand him. I probably would have liked a story told from Sarah’s (Craig’s little sister) point of view better. It sounds like Craig was fine until he got stressed out- due to his new high school. So he spends 5 days getting help, and comes out of the hospital magically better… with a girlfriend. So girlfriends solve your depression? Meh. That’s what I learned from the book, anyway. I’ll stop my rant there.
So, seeing as this was our May book club read, we decided to watch the movie instead of try to discuss the nonsense. Guys, the movie is a lot better. Yeah. I just said a movie is better than its book. I mean, it is not the best film in the world- but it’s humorous and does a nice job of setting up the plot and characters. Some things were cut out, but I was really okay with what they did. So if you’d like to save yourself some time, just go watch the movie.
A few months ago, my film-major best friend and I met up for dinner and a movie. Now, if you guys have film friends, you know they are capable of finding some of the most hole-in-the-wall bizarre movies ever produced. I am fully aware of this. And that night, as always, I had this in the back of my mind. Lo and behold, it was suggested that we go watch this movie with Daniel Radcliffe in it.
Now, if you know me, you know I am a Potterhead. No shame! With a brief summary of “it’s this movie about a guy who gets blamed for the murder of his girlfriend” I was game to try it. I like a good horror murder story.
Below are some short thoughts on film vs. book. I’m not giving a detailed summary because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I just want to emphasize how important it is that you read the book.
Ig (main character) dated this red-headed girl named Merrin. They met at church as children. They have a third-wheel friend named Lee. In the beginning of the movie, Merrin has been dead for a year and Ig has been accused of killing her.
Ig has an older brother (Terry) who is kind of a trouble maker. He and his friend (Eric) like to blow things up with cherry bombs down at the docks. One day, (as a child), Ig goes with Terry and Eric down to watch them blow things up. For the last cherry bomb, Eric dares Ig to ride down a log rail naked. Ig does so and flies into the lake, bumping his head, and sinking under. Lee dives in and pulls him out. Ig receives the cherry bomb.
On the anniversary of Merrin’s death, Ig wakes up with horns on his head. Through trial and error, Ig learns that these horns basically make him a personal devil to whomever he speaks with. People tell him their innermost evil desires. Ig uses this newfound ability to attempt to solve Merrin’s murder case.
Without giving too much away, I’d like to note that the movie includes a lot of flashbacks. In one of them, Ig and Merrin are seen climbing into a treehouse. To me, the film implied that this treehouse was something they played in as children. Also, in my opinion, the film portrayed the main characters as mostly Ig and Merrin.
The book begins in a similar way but it quickly reveals so much more. I soon learned a lot of backstory on Ig and Merrin’s families. Of course I learned a lot more about Ig himself and what he was thinking- as is easier portrayed in a book. But what struck me most while reading the novel was just how important the characters of Terry and Lee are.
In the film, we don’t learn much about Lee’s home life. We don’t have details about his parents or his hardships. Terry does some pretty significant things that are overlooked in the movie as well. There’s a lot of backstory friendship between Merrin, Terry, Glenna, and Lee that unfortunately didn’t make it to the screen. Details about Merrin’s life in college are overlooked- as well as her relationships with her family members, Lee, and Ig.
In the movie, Ig, Merrin, and Lee meet as children. In the book, they are teenagers. Merrin is transferring schools and comes to Lee and Ig’s town. The three of them become good friends because Lee and Ig are already best friends from the whole life-saving incident back when they were children. Furthermore, about that tree house I mentioned… It really seemed like no big deal when I watched the movie. But holy cow! Did I MISS something?! I feel like that treehouse is a central focus of the entire novel. It all ties in to the horns and the dramatic scenes.
Overall, what I’m saying is that it is difficult to intimately know each character. And it is even more difficult to portray that in a film. We know that. We’re writers. So after I watched this movie, I was drawn to read the book and have some of my questions answered. I was thrilled to find so much more. I’m happy I read it! I encourage you to check it out if you’re into this genre. You’ll probably want to watch the movie first so you aren’t disappointed. But you never know. They each bring something unique to the table. I’ll stop rambling now.
Two weeks ago, I attended the 2015 Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock. This was my first time to attend and I took a few notes on one of the sessions I attended. What I like most about these conferences and festivals is all the good stuff we learn from our fellow writers.
Some fast notes to think about:
>>>YouTube.com is a search engine. I never really thought of it that way. Never put it in the same category as Google or Yahoo. But indeed, we use it to find information. So that closed captioning? Yeah, that’s what’s providing your SEO. Whoop!
>>>Facebook groups aren’t lame. If you can get someone to connect to your Facebook page, they’ll get a notification every time you post something new/send something out. Engage in other people’s Facebook groups to figure out your audience and grow your cliental. (In our case, these would be followers and readers!)
>>>Update your website annually.Designs, trends, styles, looks… they’re always changing. We all know that. So give your website format a little upgrade every year. You’ve got to keep people interested. It’ll excite you too. 😉 Good images and key words are essential! Get your SEO on, ya’ll.
>>>People want simplicity. When it comes to social media, websites, blogs, etc., people want to be able to find what they type in the search bar. So if you’re writing about how hot air balloons fly, make sure your title represents the topic. I know it’s easy to get abstract and creative, but you can do that in the actual writing. Make your subject searchable and basic.
>>>Publishers do not want to market you. Before anyone is going to work with you, they want you to establish a fan base. If you spend a year or so working on a blog, (I keep using blogs as an example because I’m writing on one), you’ll draw in readers and develop your voice as a writer. When the time comes for you to publish a book, you’ll already have people who’d be willing to read it because they know a bit of who you are already! It’s not a waste of time.
>>>Know your audience on each social media platform. For example, over the last few years, Facebook, (which began as a college-student site), has had a high increase in users over 65 years old. Instagram, Tumblr, and Vine are attracting people ages 18-34 at the moment. Pinterest is geared toward women. You get the idea. Know who you’re talking to.
>>>Don’t use ALL the social mediums. Pick one or two that you can use regularly. If you don’t use one, you can leave a note/link on it, telling people to reach you at another one. Keep in mind that if you have a dormant medium, that may look bad for your reputation if your job title has something to do with excelling at social media. It may be best to just delete that Twitter account you never post on.
>>>You can link your social media to your Amazon account. Okay, so this is for you people who actually have books published and sell them on Amazon.com. This is not me at the moment, so I can only say so much. But hey, check it out!
>>>Rankings on Amazon matter! Again, I don’t have experience in this area yet. But as a consumer and an eCommerce writer, I do know that reviews people write for products make an impact. So if someone tells you they liked your book, ask them to write a review for you! No harm in asking.
Well, that’s all I have for this week. I hope it gives you some new things to think about. Seriously consider starting a blog if you haven’t already. Resumés are becoming outdated. LinkedIn.com actually comes up high in your SEO, so don’t write it off just yet! (No pun intended.)
You’re tucked into bed, curled up with the latest book you checked out from the library. The paper turns smoothly between your fingers- one hand on the next page even before your eyes make it to the the bottom. | Or maybe it’s an afternoon on your couch, sliding your fingers over a tablet, skimming the latest post by your favorite blogger. The screen illuminates your hands- every picture and every bolded word captivates you.
No matter the scenario or content of what you’re reading- they all have one thing in common. They all have authors. Maybe it’s just one person, maybe two or three or so; we know this. We’re adults. And many of us are writers and authors ourselves. But let’s take a moment to think about the idea of knowing the author. How important is this?
When I was a child, I read my books for what they were. They were stories. I didn’t know I was being taught lessons. I didn’t even think about the kind of person who wrote the book. In school, our reading books would have excerpts about the short story authors. Those things bored me and I never connected the real life people to the characters in the stories. They were two separate worlds.
In high school I really had to start paying more attention to authors of our books though. As you grow older, you learn that stories are made up things- with bits of real life swirled in. With that, you make connections between the authors and what they write. You start to understand things like where J.K. Rowling got the idea for dementors. The more you learn about an author, the deeper the story can be for you. But it may cost you.
This begs the question: how important is knowing a bit about the life of the author whose work you are reading? Could knowing too much or too little about what kind of person wrote the book you love put a damper on things? Maybe it helps you see what they’re trying to display in their writing. If you know about their personality and struggles, it could add a lot more to their art.
Furthermore, do you want your readers to know about you? Or would you rather them read your stories without knowing what’s real about you?
My first experiences with book clubs were back in elementary school. When I was in kindergarten or so, my mom would take my sister and I to Saturday morning book readings at our local library. Librarians would read a book aloud and have us do crafts that went along with the theme. When I got a little older, I joined the summer reading book club as well.
My first experience with a “grown-up” book club was my senior year of college. I was interning at the library in town and was welcomed into a monthly meeting with middle-aged (and older) women to discuss some randomly selected book. It was neat because I’d hear different perspectives than my own- as these ladies were older and had more life experience than I. I would come up with a list of discussion questions that we’d touch on amidst sipping coffee and cookies.
About a month ago, 3 friends and I were talking about how rare it is to see people our age reading anymore. Granted, the four of us are all college graduates and spend our waking hours working, eating, at the gym, or collapsed in front of NetFlix. But still, we thought, why shouldn’t we keep up some sort of community that has a beneficial purpose. And so, after enough talk, we did it.
We started our own book club. And why? Well, because we still like to read and learn. So if you need some motivation to get your peeps together, here’s a list 5 reasons you need to join or start a book club.
Accountability | You know it’s true. Your friends will hold you accountable for reading a book each month- even if it’s something terrible. You’re getting through it together! At the least, it will make for a good literary rant session.
Up Your IQ | Reading makes you smarter. It expands your mind. Talking about what you read gives you new insight to the story and writing. Maybe there’s something that didn’t make sense to you. Your book clubbers can help you figure it out!
Improve Your Own Writing | That semester I was interning at the library, I was also taking my Novel Writing Workshop class. Reading various types of literature gave me inspiration for my own novel. Whether it’s a writing style you want to attempt or a new genre you’re trying- there really is no better way to nourish your writing than to read some.
Boost Your Mood | After college, I found I could get depressed really easily. The main cause of this is lack of socializing and having intelligent conversations with peers. In school, you have classes (usually) every day and are always learning and be-friending people you have things in common with. There are parties to go to and your friends are usually down the hall or just across campus. Once you leave that atmosphere behind, life can get really dark. Having something to look forward to each month can give you purpose- even if it just seems as small as reading a book.
Good Habits & Addiction | Once you start reading –I’m speaking to my writers and readers here who read this blog because they are already fans of books and stories– you’re going to want more and more. Maybe you’ll start reading 2 or 3 books at once. (I have friends who can switch between 5 or so). Funny example time: As I was reading this past month’s book club book, (Lolita by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov), there were times that I had to put it down. But instead of watching T.V. or getting on the computer, I just grabbed another book I was working on. I still had that desire to read. It reminded me of school- when I’d toss my history book aside to read a play for theatre class.
If you’re interested, my book club’s next book is It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini.
I’ll be posting about it a bit as we go, so feel free to join in! Also, if you guys have more things to add to my book club list, (reasons why they’re a good idea or tips on being active in one), leave a comment.