The Romantic on The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shall We Dance?

How often do we ponder our place in the world?

Some of us do so daily, others never, and most of us do so on occasion.

As writers, we have the good fortune of knowing our lot in life, and I daresay we exist solely for our readers.

Suffice it to say that as a parent I exist for my children, but at the moment—for the purposes of this blog—I present my case as a writer.

The relationship between reader and writer is unique in that a reader initially bestows upon us writers a certain unearned trust.

Akin to a blind date; a dance with a stranger; a kiss in the rain, under a bridge, on a long walk on a Sunday afternoon with someone we just met.

There’s something that captivates us about strangers and the unknown. Is it the mystery of the unfamiliar, the romantic unveiling of kismet, or merely enchantment passing through?

Whatever the ambiguous premise is that elicits our interest, the fact is that we all take chances. A writer takes a chance by beginning a story without knowing how it will end, and a reader takes a chance by doing the same thing.

This is when that trust must be earned, during the dance between the reader and the writer, a merging of the minds and a nexus between the souls.

We will seduce you with words, and lure you in as we paint you a picture of what promises to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. We will whisper eloquent passages and swirl you with plot twists that will leave you bewildered. We will try to make you think, and hope that we have made you wonder. And in the end when the dance is over, and the song of story has concluded, we hope you will trust us to dance again.

Earning a reader’s trust is quite the challenge, one that begins with query letters and agents. As writers, we continue to develop our craft, perfecting our dance and rehearsing by way of revisions. It takes time, it takes years, and in some cases it takes our lives. As writers, this is what we live for, a passion we will pursue throughout our lives, and we will often make the greatest sacrifices to that end.

To ensure our readers will return, it is incumbent upon us writers to establish our rhythm and captivate our audience with the pacing and ingenuity of our prose. It is a creative process that forces us to reach deep into our hearts, and that is the beauty of what we do; because from true love comes pure passion.

This is our lot in life: the dancers of discourse, and the scribes of literary symphonies. We accept this fate with thick skin and blind faith; because we once contemplated our place in the world and discovered that writing is what we were born to do.

Now, my friends, the storyteller’s song is playing. Shall we dance?

“Many people shy away from dancing because they ‘don’t know how to dance.’ But real dancers are the ones who can hear the music in their soul.” ~Unknown

Friday, November 16, 2012

What Came First...?

In her book, Mythology, Edith Hamilton wrote: “The Greeks did not believe that the gods created the universe. It was the other way about: the universe created the gods.”

Could this conceivably be the creative conundrum of the storyteller’s existence? Does the writer create the story or does the story create the writer?

The analogousness of a writer’s creative process with Creation myths that span millennia—among various religions—can only hint at the frustration and wonder that a writer endures.

Long before the characters (gods) emerge from the void of formless Chaos and unending darkness, lies a formless plethora of potential plots, but no definitive story.

Our consciousness attempts to formulate a storyline, but almost always—like recent attempts by physicists to develop a Theory of Everything—the “equation” collapses, and the would-be story crumbles.

There are moments when we writers merely sit with a blank stare for hours on end and wait for that whisper from our soul that lures us along a path that we have yet to travel. The beauty of such a moment is when we fall down a rabbit-hole and find ourselves in a wonderland of our own creation. The tragedy is when that whisper is lost like a scent in a breeze and we ache for the echo of imaginative introspection.

Occasionally a spark in our sleep ignites the fires of our artistic hearth, and we write from our dreams, the cinema of the mind—as Robert Olsen Butler once called it.

Then there are those moments when we act out of desperation and try to force it.

The result: a work more cerebral than quixotic.

Even though a first draft is expected to be crude and in need of extensive revisions, it just feels as though that first draft begins below sea level when we force the writing. Making the climb along the steep slope to respectable writing, that much more arduous.

So where does one begin? How does one begin? Does the writer even have any control over the creation process or is the act of creation the will of the gods?

We read, we write, we imagine, we think, we walk, we take a nap, we prepare another cup of coffee and we wait.

One minute doubles, and then it doubles again, and then sixty seconds later we look at the clock and notice five minutes have passed.

(Crickets chirp)

Five minutes are an eternity when we have other obligations to which we must direct our attention. But we must allow ourselves to linger in that ocean of absent imagination, and watch as the “aha” moment materializes out of nothingness like a Big Bang that explodes in a primordial ocean of Chaos.

It is quite conceivable that we can create the perfect conditions by continuously reading, writing, and consuming coffee with our favorite flavored creamers. Thus, having as much to do with the creation process as we do with the creative process of writing a novel.

To the world of our imagination, we are the gods, the omnipresent entities in the universe of our stories. We grant our characters a certain amount of free will, and although that can work against us, there’s still nothing in the world that we’d rather do!

We decide the destiny of our characters, and we write the stories that emerge from our creative core. Whether we create the story and it becomes a completed novel, or the stories become published and we earn the title of published author; it may be a query without end akin to the conundrum of the chicken and the egg.

In the end it becomes a new beginning, and we ask ourselves if we began at the end. The endless cycle of creation and completion is what we live for, because it’s the only way that a writer truly feels alive. Most may never truly understand our eccentricities, save for the gods of legend who often interfered on mortal affairs, and though we didn’t create the universe in which we live, we long to contribute to our world a written reminder that we once lived and died as writers.

“Let us be silent, so that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Writer's Worry

We worry often and usually from day one. Our worrying begins when the blank page stares at us and dares us to scrawl or type an opening sentence, paragraph and/or page that will hook our readers.

Tentatively we type a word, then delete it and start again.

We worry about how to begin, where to begin and when to begin.

Do we start with an ominous sentence?

We consider it, because then our readers worry about our protagonist and are therefore inclined to want to read more.

Wait. Hmm…perhaps we should begin with a sentence that displays our mastery of prose.

No, there’s no time for that. We have to hook our readers immediately and can’t risk having them lose interest while we describe the way the sun spills over the horizon.

Do we begin mid-moment, when our main character is running for her/his life?

There’s a plethora of alternatives and an infinite number of ways that we may word such circumstances.

Upon crossing that threshold into our make-believe world, we worry about what we’ll do next! Sometimes we will take a few tentative steps along that journey until we find our rhythm and lunge into a sprint of storytelling.

We’ll write a few chapters, following the path paved by our characters then suddenly we will feel lost.

“Where are we?”

“How did we get here?”

Abandoned, we begin to feel doubt and wonder what we’ll do next. We worry that our story has lost its excitement and worry that it isn’t interesting enough. We question ourselves and wonder: “Will anyone even want to read this?”

Our worrying hinders our progress and ushers in that thief of creative thesis, Writer’s Block!

After a few days, weeks or even months of thunderous silence, we begin to worry if we will ever recapture our momentum. And when our imaginary friends offer no hint of returning, we worry if we will ever finish our story.

Quit worrying, my friends! Shed that robe and pick up that pen -or keyboard- and get back to doing telling your story.

Read –see previous post "Write, Write, Write...Right?" AND Write. Allow your mind to relax in order to find clarity and allow the winds of inspiration to linger through the valleys of your imagination.

In the end, you’ll reflect on it and admit that you did all that worrying for nothing.

“Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed!” Abraham Lincoln

Friday, November 2, 2012

Show AND Tell

Danny Harris once said, "Storytelling: the world's second oldest profession."

I'm inclined to agree, yet I can't help but feel that the world's earliest storytellers didn't do it for profit. Theirs, I believe, was a desire to share a wonderful experience -even if sometimes it was merely an imaginary one- that would be passed down through the ages.

Oral traditions that later came to be etched on the walls of the earth, leaving an indelible impression that would stand the test of time.

Have you ever heard the adage: "If these walls could talk..."?

Well, if they could talk, what would they say?

It could be argued that walls indeed have spoken when we consider the rock art found around the globe from ancient times. The painted symbols from stories on cave walls left by the Australian Aborigines; the cave paintings which date back more than 40,000 years found throughout Europe; the cave art dating to Neolithic times in what is the modern-day Sahara desert that depict lush grasslands and flowing rivers, reveal religious rituals and communicate the details of the lives of our ancestors. Walls have even divulged the passage into the Afterlife as depicted within the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. Silence has proven golden as the whispers of the dead have echoed across millennia to tell us stories of memories long forgotten.

Our purpose as storytellers could be debated as a matter of subjectivity but our goal remains the same: to fulfill a need of our species, which longs to tell and hear/read tales that whisk us away into another realm...a parallel universe that is sometimes quite different from our world.

The evolution of storytelling has gone from oral traditions to visual art, from tales of a bard to the prose of The Immortal Bard, William Shakespeare. Thus, it is imperative for modern storytellers to recognize what is necessary to achieve our end.

To put the matter compendiously, we must show AND tell.

We must utilizes our senses and communicate with our readers through our senses to draw them INTO our stories. Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction who teaches graduate fiction at Florida State University, best described this as "sensual writing."

In the book, From Where You Dream:The Process of Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway shares with us his lectures where he emphasizes that "the point of contact for the reader is going to be an emotional one because emotions reside in the senses."

We must keep this in mind when we're describing our scenes, because if we want our readers to join us then we must do more than merely invite them into our story, we must lure them in. Utilizing our senses to show them the scene, show them the story, not simply tell it, and to do this effectively it is essential that we be a fly on the wall.

The following is an excerpt from my mythopoeic fantasy novel, Magical Universe:The Amulet of Alamin...

An icy breeze rushed through the cave that only Inanna felt, and she knew it was the demon lurking in the shadows for her child. Fear took her; their voices faded, as though she was under water, and suddenly the cave was cloaked in complete darkness. She was suddenly aware that they weren't alone, and the presence she felt, she knew was unnatural. Her breath fogged as it escaped her, and the darkness pressed against her soul like heavy stones upon her chest.

There was no sound. She trembled, looking up to see a grimacing, cruel face looming before her with two eyes piercing her heart; they were cold, and sharp, unblinking. A grip, frozen and unrelenting, seized her throat. The icy touch chilled her to the core and she struggled to breathe while attempting to scream.

Far and faint, the voices of her family called out to her frantically. They seemed to echo from high above, like a lover's last call trapped in a dying dream. Her stare strained against the gloom, but they continued calling more and more anxiously until she escaped the trance and their voices were clear, again.

"Your son must wear this amulet at all times to protect him from the Edimmu, Lilitu, and other demons!" Ereshki said, hastily fastening a leather cord around his neck.

​Inanna caressed the Cuneiform script incised on the tiny tablet attached to the cord. She sought comfort in the spell; the presence of the demon vanished as her cousins helped her to her feet. Ereshki tore strips of cloth from her own garments and carefully, but quickly, wrapped it about the child as he fed. Etana extinguished the flame, and for a brief instant, only their nervous breathing could be heard. The trickle of water along the walls of the tunnels fell behind a curtain of shouting amongst the soldiers who hurriedly searched the caves for them.

End scene.

Don't simply TELL your readers where they must SHOW them where they are if you want them to join the journey and remain entranced by your story. Account for minute details because the smallest things will make the biggest difference, however it is imperative that not over do it. Tell your readers JUST enough detail, show your readers JUST enough detail, and allow them to fill in the blanks with their own imagination.

Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the time of Cholera, is also "noted for leaving out seemingly important details and events so the reader is forced into a more participatory role in the story development."

He'll describe the heat, stench, and poverty-striken neighborhoods of a Carribean port where his stories take place, but the name of the locale isn't provided. In the minds of some this is a seemingly trivial truth, however it remains true and effective because in a strange way I find that it adds to the mysteriousness that draws me into his world.

I admire and strive to emulate the method in which he provides meticulous details that paint a perfect picture in the cinema of my mind: "There was no sleeper more elegant than she, with her curved body posed for a dance and her hand across her forehead." Garcia-Marquez describing Fermina Daza in Love in the Time of Cholera.

I'd like to stress that the phrase "cinema of the mind" is how Robert Olen Butler advises writers to write. Utilize your senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound...think of how you remember things in your memory and your dreams, then translate it with your creativity. When you do this, you will reveal the necessary details that bring your story to life, and will do more than tell your reader a story, you will show them where they are.

Perhaps your prose will paint a picture that will whisper across time.

"In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?" ~Gabrielle Roth, American dancer and musician