The Best Part Of Telling A Story – Part IV

April 14, 2022 I published the first part of this blog post series, April 28, the second part followed. The third part was published May 26, 2022. This blog post series talks about the best part of telling a story. There are so many good parts, to me, each holds its own appeal. Let’s have a look at them again:

1. Drafting the plot

2. Finding a motive

3. Creating the protagonist and antagonist

4. Finding the perfect location

5. Thinking of plot twists

6. Create side characters

[7. Depending on the story, maybe even create a world]


Now, let’s find out what ‘the perfect location’ means, and where it’s supposed to be?

One of the main rules of writing says: “Write what you know.”

Besides that being the most misunderstood advice when it comes to writing, it still holds a little piece of good meaning, when it comes to ‘location’. ( Nathan Englander, the critically acclaimed author of ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’ says, that authencitiy in fiction means thinly veiled autobiography. If you’re a drunken, bralwing adventurer like Hemingway, no problem, but Englander says, growing up he watched TV, played videogames and dreamt about being a writer. Was he supposed to write about the Atari 2600? Englander says, ‘Write what you know’ isn’t about events, it’s about emotions. Have you experienced love, jealousy, longing, or loss? According to Englander, it doesn’t matter where the story takes place, your front yard, or another galaxy, if you’re writing what you know, the reader will believe you. (Source: Bigthink.com).

And here, I admit, my opinion is divided. Part of me wants to agree with Nathan Englander, the other part doesn’t. And that’s mainly, because ‘The Council of Twelve’ series mentions places on Earth, where, in many cases, I have been before, but also, Heaven and Hell, where you normally don’t go, at least not, until you face the Grim Reaper.

 

Picture courtesy of Google.com

How can I write about locations nobody alive has ever set foot in? And that’s the fantasy writer in me, who wants to agree with Englander. You’re right… it doesn’t matter where the location is. I can make it up, I write fantasy… I can create locations that serve my story, that are as horrible, or as beautiful, as I need them to be…

The other half of me, working on a crime story, wants to scream: STOP! Of course, it matters, where the story takes place! How can I write about a murder that is happening in a dirty back alley in Shanghai? I have never been in that city. (Except at the airport, but that’s a different story, and not for now)… What’s wrong with the murder in Tuscon, Arizona, where the writer lives, or in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or in Keystone, South Dakota, if the writer grew up there and knows every building like the back of their hand?

To me, writing my crime story, meant I picked the location I knew, and that’s where I lived at the time. I was busy enough with creating a crime, a plot, keeping my characters straight, inventing, writing, changing, adjusting, trying to feel like an evil individual and being impatient because it took longer than expected… I didn’t have time to make up locations I have never seen before.

I read a series of books I love very much, Don Massenzio’s Frank Rozzani Books. Don Massenzio’s main protagonist, Frank Rozzani was born, where the author was born, and he lives, where the author lives, in Jacksonville, Florida. I doubt very much that is a coincidence. Don Massenzio, I’m sure, will answer our questions hereof.

As for my preferences: I enjoyed both, mentioning places, where I’ve been, where I lived at the time, what I saw, and show them in my books… but also I immensely thrive in the process of creating locations that don’t exist.

When you’re a writer, what do you enjoy? Have you experienced both in your career? What do you enjoy most? When you’re a reader, and you read in a book about a location you have seen, do you judge the story according to the accuracy of the places? Let us know in the comments, we are curious.

Creating A Story – Creating A Book – Creating A World

Picture courtesy of: https://quotefancy.com/

When I read that quote I immediately felt ‘understood’… I know, that sounds presumptuous. That was never my intention, of course! I don’t want to say, I feel like being God, of course not! At this moment I felt like ‘an artist’… someone who ‘creates’ something… stories in my case, just like Sidney Sheldon. Needless to say, I admire him to no end. He has been a true artist, his unbelievable talent consisted of everything, from writing for Broadway, Musicals, TV, Film, and, of course, books.

I’m not even hinting, my modest talent gets anywhere close to Sidney Sheldon, but he has been an inspiration for me for a very long time. I think, reading this quote connects many artists, composers, writers, and also painters… some have an empty piece of paper or sheet of music, and others have a blank canvas. We all have something in common: we would like to fill it with a piece of us.

In my case, it’s my fantasy, my idea, my plot, my characters, and sometimes even ‘my world’ that I’d like to create, write about, and would like to introduce my readers. I’d like to show a part of what’s in my head to my readers, take them on a trip inside my head and fantasy, and fill them with wonder, surprise, laughter, tears, anger, and many more emotions. I’d like them to love my world, feel at home within my stories, and love my characters (or hate them, when I write about the antagonist).

All that is part of a creating process, a very very tiny one, compared to the creation of the world, of course, and still, it’s not an easy process, no matter how small it is, compared to others. Even in the mini-version, it’s not easy to create. We need our God-given talent and abilities to deliver good work, a good story, and a good piece of art, no matter what it is! We want our work to be recognized, we want readers, we want them to love our characters and world. But it is still a difficult process. There are days things go a bit easier, but on other days, it’s hard work, and the ideas I had the day before just won’t return like someone buried them overnight.

I’m quite convinced I’m not the only one chewing on the pieces I bit off. But the fact that someone as talented and successful as Sidney Sheldon struggled with the very same creative process, makes me feel a bit better, and makes the hard days a bit less difficult. Thank you, Sidney Sheldon!


Picture courtesy of https://www.famousauthors.org/

Sidney Sheldon, an American writer, playwright and novelist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 11th February 1917. His father Ascher “Otto” Schechtel, was a jewelry store manager and his mother was Natalie Marcus. When Sidney was ten, he sold his poem for ten dollars making it his very first sale. He went to the Denver East High School and for graduate studies he attended the Northwestern University. There he made contributions to the drama groups with his short plays.

In the beginning of 1937 Sheldon tried his fate in Hollywood by writing and reviewing various scripts. He finally managed to sell one of his screenplays ‘South of Panama’ to a studio for 250 dollars in 1941. During the World War I he was recruited as a pilot in the Army Air Corps. After the end of the War he returned to New York where his reputation as a creative writer started building up. He wrote musicals for the well known MGM Studios and Paramount Pictures. Once he had three of his musicals at once on Broadway. They were ‘The Merry Widow’, ‘Jackpot’ and ‘Dream with Music’. This success brought him back to Hollywood. The first film written by Sheldon was ‘The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer’ which got him the Academy Award in 1947.

With the rise of television as a popular medium, Sheldon decided to try out his luck in it. He wrote a series called ‘The Patty Duke Show’ and for the next seven years wrote every episode of it. He also made, produced and wrote the show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ using three pseudonyms ‘Mark Rowane’, ‘Allan Devon’ and ‘Christopher Gollato’. These were also used when writing ‘Nancy’ and ‘Hart to Hart’.

His first novel was ‘The Naked Face’ which was published in 1969, earning him a nomination for ‘The Best First Writer’ category. The second novel ‘The Other side Of Midnight’ was published in 1973, topping ‘The New York Times Best Seller’ list. Sheldon was very particular about the writing and validity of his books. For this very reason before writing his novel ‘Windmills of the Mind’ which was a story about the CIA, he personally met Richard Helms who was a former CIA recruit. He also went to Argentina and Romania, and spent some time in ‘Junction City, Kansas’ where one of the lead characters of the book resided. He said during an interview in 1987:

‘If I write about a place, I have been there. If I write about a meal in Indonesia, I have eaten there in that restaurant. I don’t think you can fool the reader’.

His marriage to Jorja Curtright Sheldon, an actress and interior designer, lasted for thirty years. After her death in 1985, Sheldon married Alexandra Kostoff in 1989. His legacy includes 18 novels which have sold three hundred million copies, 200 TV scripts and 25 major films along with 6 Broadway plays. Sidney Sheldon died due to Pneumonia in California on 30th January, 2007. He was buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Early 2022 Writing Process


At this time, a significant change is going on in my life. I’ve been in constant turmoil since early January. For the past three weeks, since mid-January, I’ve been so overwhelmed with changes and preparations for changes I have had a little time to type in my new book, but I had no time whatsoever to write anything new.

In November 2020, I started writing a new book in my ‘The Council of Twelve’ series… the story started wonderfully, and I have so many ideas about how the story is supposed to continue, but at this moment, with everything going on in my life, I can’t write. I don’t have the capacity. At this point, I’m consciously using the word ‘capacity’ rather than ‘time.’

I have been initiating, preparing and, finally following my plans for the significant changes, and I don’t have anything to complain about. But with everything coming up, with some things being a bit more complicated than others, I’m at my limits right now.

I have parts of the story in my head; I love the characters…. I would love to continue typing in my book outside the series, getting it to the editor…

I would love to send my two prepared books in the series to my copyright lawyer, and I would love to continue writing my new story. I would love to see this excellent novel grow, be finally written black on white, becoming a part of ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series.

Here I am now, having my story, preparing for it, mentally getting ready to write it down, and still being unable to do so because due to the current circumstances, I can’t write right now. I can’t write, even though that’s one of the things I love doing most.

So, what am I doing in that situation? Yes, I’m preparing mentally, for the time I have a specific capacity back that is now taken by something else. The current situation won’t stay forever… it’s temporary. But it does need my time, dedication, and efforts, and I have to go through it. It’s not even bad… but it’s unusual, and I’m not used to being unable to write whenever I feel like it.

What am I supposed to do in that situation? I love writing; I love my books; I love knitting stories, creating characters… that’s what I do. I don’t want to become depressed.

Have you ever been in that situation? If yes, how did you handle it? Let us know in the comments.

 

Writing Progress – Slowly Catching Up


I intensely wrote on a book outside of my ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series; I have written about it on different occasions.

I was very enthusiastic about that book. The draft is completed… but, of course, when I write, I forget everything around me.

That means book 7 in ‘the Council of Twelve series is still waiting for me to complete the personal editing, book 8 was halfway typed into the computer, and book 9 is still waiting to be typed in.

Now, here I am, planning to do some catching up. And I started. (Sometimes I surprise myself).

In the meantime, Book #8 is typed into the computer and awaits the start of my personal editing. (Book 7 is still waiting for me to complete the editing, but it shouldn’t take much time anymore). And, I started typing in my new book.

Does that mean I’m slowly catching up? I’m not sure I am. I cannot be without writing, and I started to work on book #10 in the series. That doesn’t mean I will forget to type in. But I wrote so much, and I forgot that writing is the fun part. The real work starts after the first draft is completed.

I’m also behind my blog posts, which means I should consider writing a few of those and schedule them. It’s not easy to be a writer.

But at least, after everything got stuck and the drafts were piling up on my desk, I got the feeling that I was getting somewhere.

Keep your fingers crossed that I will keep on working on typing my drafts into the computer. It’s not the easiest or funniest part of my writing process.

I had someone telling me, why don’t you hire someone who is doing that for you? I’m telling you why:

  1. I was told my handwriting isn’t very easy to read
  2. This is only a first draft, which means, while typing it into the computer, I need to make adjustments and those are on me. Nobody can do that for me – and I don’t want anyone to try.
  3. I have an editor and a copyright lawyer, and a book cover designer… they all are a GREAT part of how my books turn out to be. But I still want to be a big part of my books and investing my time and efforts into my stories is part of the job description.

My books mean a lot to me, and the writing process they go through has turned out to be right for me. I doubt I want to change that.

What is your experience with your process? Have you changed anything lately? Let us know in the comments.

How Not To Start A New Book

As many of you already know, my writing process is a bit unorthodox. With the books so far written in my ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series, I generally worked as follows:

1. Preparation (develop characters and update character sheets)

2. Draft plot and take notes

3. Start writing the first draft of the book by hand

4. Read the first draft, make necessary corrections in red

5. Type the corrected draft into the computer

6. Personal editing I

7. Personal editing II

9. Send book to the editor

10. Additional steps after the book is returned to me, fully proofread, edited, and formatted…


‘The Council of Twelve’ series is published with four books, and books 5 and 6 are written and prepared to be published. I have an additional book connected to the series currently with my editor. Book 7 is in my personal editing; books 8 and 9 are written and need to be typed into the computer. Since I got ‘The Council of Twelve’ series so very well prepared, I permitted myself to write a different story; one that has been in my head for quite some time already.

I have my ‘The Council of Twelve’ plot and character sheets updated and carry them with me constantly in the form of ‘Microsoft OneNotes’, which is a wonderful writer’s tool, at least to me… It allows me to take notes and write down ideas at any given time, on either my phone, my computer, or my tablet, and I have nothing else to do than to sync the program to have access to the latest version on any of my devices. Additionally, after nine books in the series, I know my characters quite well and rarely need to peek at my notes.

Now, I sit here, working on my new book. It’s a remarkable story and wonderful to work on. As soon as my pen touches the paper, it writes. I’m writing, drafting, plotting, writing again… And today I realized that, except a few notes on tiny paper sheets at the beginning and a hand-drafted family tree, I hadn’t done much preparation. In my excitement to start the book, I forgot to prepare correctly.

And now, in my handwritten draft, I’m paying for my omission. I forgot how often I have to flip to the pages to check on descriptions, characters, colors, and names. I discovered two ‘Davids’ and two ‘Peters,’ which angers me to no end.

I’m a very reliable person, and I don’t generally neglect my duties, not even those I have set up for myself, except in the preparation of this particular book. I decided to write a book outside the YA Fantasy genre, where I feel ‘home’ with my series. I should have known that careful preparation to write that book was necessary. But here I stand and could kick myself for not doing what should have been done quite some time ago.

I would therefore strongly recommend to new writers, like myself, to carefully prepare what needs to be prepared before starting the new book. Otherwise, they will find themselves in the same situation I am now, with a few mixed ideas, two very similar conversations, and two Peters and Davids. At least, I find myself discovering my mistake now. I can still work on fixing the problem. But I know I shouldn’t have let it go that far. At least next time, I know what I have to do. Go back to the well-prepared, reliable writer I am.

What kind of advice would you give your fellow writers? What mistake have you been making that you had to correct? What problem were you facing that needed to be fixed? Let us know in the comments.

Authors, Do You Rehearse Fighting Scenes Before You Write Them?

A few days ago, I was working on a complicated fighting scene between two supernatural beings in book #8 in ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series.

To describe the fight accurately, I was getting up, using a wooden kitchen spoon to technically rehearse every step of the battle, before sitting down and explaining the movement and natural body reaction on the ‘theoretically’ inflicted pain.

It took me close to four hours for a fight that took a mere two pages to write.  And yes, the argument does include a bit of pain, wings, bruises, and a severe knee injury.

Now, being a martial artist myself might have helped me big time to take this challenge on and solve the problem the way I did. But other writers might not have that [indeed minimal] advantage. How are they doing it? Is their fantasy more extended than mine?

Previously I mentioned my fighting scene took up about two pages of the book. Generally, that is a lot of room for one scene. But that is why I rehearsed. I had to make sure the fight was thrilling and still described well in an imaginative short manner.

Fighting scenes in books are incredibly different from fighting scenes in movies. Compared to what we see, reading the fight in a book has to tickle our own imagination. We don’t follow a fighter with our eyes… we follow him/her with our mind.

To see Bruce Lee fighting twenty opponents to the same time and describing the same scene in words, would need our book ten to twelve pages. To a reader, that would be incredibly boring. Most readers would never read through the entire fight. It would be a complete waste of time and effort. A reader would only jump the pages to the end of the battle. Most of them are interested in who wins.

Therefore I had to shorten something that usually takes about ten to fifteen minutes in a movie to two pages in my book. To catch the essential things in my fight, I was rehearsing to myself.

 

As an author, how do you write fighting scenes? Do you rehearse too? And as a reader, do you enjoy reading fighting scenes, and if yes, how long should they be to not bore you out of your skin? Thank you for telling us in the comments.

Troublesome Changes In The Book During The Writing Process


In the past few years, I often described my common writing process here on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest.’ I will do that once again today.

  1. Thinking of an idea
  2. Drafting the story by hand first
  3. Typing the draft into the computer
  4. Self-editing
  5. Sending to editor
  6. … and so on…

Now, this time, with book number 7 in the series, I am facing a few difficulties I never had before.

After finishing drafting the story by hand, I decided to change the POV from first to third-person omniscient.

That means to me, I need to concentrate awfully hard switching the passages I had drafted in the first person POV.

You might ask now: How come you needed to change the POV? And I have to answer: because there is so much happening in that book, it wouldn’t do the story justice to only delineate it from one person’s view. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of switching between two or even more POV’s during the book. I don’t like that when I’m reading a book, and I sure won’t do that when I write mine. I think it’s irritating and annoying.

But the difficulties to ‘re-think’ during typing the story I know so well is exhausting and, at times, debilitating. I’m used to typing quite fast when I move from the hand-draft to the computer, and I only stop occasionally to correct typos and ‘stuff.’

What I have to do now is different, and it takes its toll on me.

Is there anyone who can advise me on that? Do you have experience with this kind of re-writing, and how did you handle it?

Thank you for your help!

Rachel Poli Had Me As A Guest On Her Blog Today

Thank you very much for featuring me on your blog with my interview, Rachel Poli. It was such a pleasure to be your guest!


Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Aurora Jean Alexander. I grew up in a family involved into politics and was blessed with an excellent education in several countries, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in BA. I was very lucky. I’m living by myself with three cats, working a full time job and I am a new Paranormal Romance/Fantasy author. Currently I work on a series with 13 books. My first book is close to be published.

 

How long have you been writing for?

I doubt I can tell you one particular time or even time frame when I started writing. I felt that’s what I wanted to do. Since I lack a talent in painting and drawing I had to do something with my creativity and decided that’s the way to do it.

What motivates you to write? How did you begin writing?

I’m not sure there ever was “a start”. I learned to write at the age of four and I remember developing little stories since I’m a Kindergarten kid. In school, when others complained about essays, mine were easily 6 – 10 pages long, I enjoyed it so much.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?

To continue reading go to:

https://rachelpoli.com/2018/12/10/meet-aurora-jean-alexander-author-author-interview/

 

Character Names – Worth A Research?


Lately, I met an Irish woman whose first name I simply love: Mairead. She told me it’s the Irish version of the name Margaret. I was fascinated. Margaret is a great name, but to my ear, Mairead sounds mysterious and a bit magic.

After a little bit of research, I found out that it’s believed the meaning of the name is ‘pearl.’ I’m convinced in one of my books a character called Mariead will show up.

That coincidence is one of the very few occasions so far that I met a person whose name I plan to use in one of my books.

Most of the time I have a ‘rough plan’ about a particular new character in my head already. Before the ‘fine tuning’ I most of the time need a name. In my head, I can only imagine a character as a person if he or she has a name.

XY is often in a fit of violent temper.
XY is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
XY occasionally twirls his beard when…

and so on. These things don’t work for me if I cannot address the person properly.

Erik is often in a fit of violent temper.
Wilbur Carstairs is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
Grandpa Ben occasionally twirls his beard when…

That’s much better. My head has a picture of Erik, Wilbur and Grandpa Ben now.

____________________________________________

Imagine now I created a beautiful Irish woman with light skin, black hair and bright blue eyes. She’s filigree, but no matter how tender she looks, her magic makes her strong. Nobody knows what powers slumber inside of her.

Before going deeper into her character, find out her flaws, build her in detail, I want to be able to think about her as a person, not merely a ‘picture’ or a ‘draft.’ I have a good basic idea of how she will be. What I need now is her name. A name that in my opinion, matches her looks as well as her character (and what I have hidden inside of her).

My research will look like this. First names on the left, last names on the right. I researched the names and the meanings.

After taking notes of the basics, I’ll leave the paper for a while and later on I’m trying to figure out what I like about the names, how they match. I keep scribbling onto the note until it looks like this. (And of course my favorite is red).

And here we go: Welcome to my book, Aideen Brady.

Do you think this is too complicated? What is your process to find your character’s names? Are names really worth such efforts? Let me hear your thoughts, please.

How To Deal With Impatience When It Comes To Writing?

For years already I know that ‘patience’ and myself aren’t on friendly terms. If I want something, I want it now; not sometime in the future, but right now, as in ‘this instant.’ So, me being a writer hasn’t changed me significantly. Sometimes I want too much, too early. The process of writing (or typing into the computer) cannot be accelerated. It still means, to write one letter after the next, one word after the next, one paragraph and then chapter after the next one. I understood that pretty quickly, and that’s not mainly what bugs me.

But being a writer, even deciding to self-publish, means to call on other people’s services. We’re talking about cover designers (even though, mine is faster than lighting!!), editors (and mine is an angel and works with all her heart to make this book look good!!), copyright lawyers, author support service people and so on… Each one of them works with all their knowledge and ability, with all their heart and soul to make my first book a success.

But to me, all I can think of is there are so many people involved in my book – and there’s so much work ahead of me that still needs to be done, that every single delay, like financial straits, is driving me up the walls.

I want to see this book published – and not around Christmas – but now. Now as in ‘tomorrow.’
But: of course, to the same time, I want my book to be perfect. I don’t want anything hasty and sloppy, just because I’m swinging a whip. I want all my supporters and helpers to work at their own pace because I know, they’re excellent in what they’re doing! I’m not impatient with them – I’m impatient with myself, wanting too much too fast – and knowing about it.

My head knows very well tomorrow and the day after won’t be possible – but that little devil on my left shoulder permanently drizzles its poison into my ear and makes my brain fuzzy.
So for the past few months, I have been trying to calm myself down and try to practice patience. How to do that? There are so many different things that are suggested, and I think I tried them all.
Toni Bernhard J.D. writes that she can turn impatience into patience by distracting herself. For example, being stuck in traffic, she starts concentrating on models, colors, and drivers of the other cars. It helps her keep her mind and eyes off the clock.

This, I decided was a good start, but I figured it would be asked to much to listen to the radio to find out where there’s a traffic jam, only to find out how to distract myself… in particular since I’m not in a hurry anyway.

So I tried to distract and calm me with other things. Going for forest walks and swimming helps me a lot, in particular, to focus on myself and my way of dealing with things. Writing lists on what still has to be done, what the delay is and when that particular problem with my delay will be solved. To see it in written form helps me to see more clearly and not listen to my little devil.

I’ve been doing so much research on the things that need to be done before flawlessly publishing a book, that I have been prepared for this and accepted it. Which means, any hold-up is only caused by the weakest link in the chain: myself (or whatever ghost is hunting me currently) Everyone else does a fantastic job with their part of work on my book.

I want it done right, and I won’t let any little devil torpedo my dream, only because I permit my impatience coming the better of me.

This is a wonderful opportunity to say ‘Thank you’ to all the people working on this book currently: my cover designer, my editor, and my lawyer. You’re doing such an amazing job!! Thanks so much!!

Are you never impatient? What it is that causes it, in terms of writing? And how do you deal with it? Please let us know, we’re curious.

 

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Picture courtesy of: https://www.askideas.com/60/what-is-destructive-is-impatience-haste-expecting-too-much-too-fast-may-sarton/