Sunday, October 14, 2007

Get out of the way! Or: Don't anger the muse

When writers talk about writing, it's only a matter of time before the subject of the muse comes up. What does the term actually mean? In Greek mythology, the word "muse" refers to any of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne; each goddess ruled over a specific field of art or science. When an artist today talks about a muse, they mean the source of their inspiration. So asking "where's your muse" is another way of asking "where's your inspiration?"

So, then, the muse. For some writers, it helps to actually visualize their muse as a grumpy man in the next room or three sisters in the basement. Others might use a photograph of their main character or other tangible item that could have been pulled from their story. Some listen to music that their characters would like. Still others claim to not have a muse.

Many moons ago, I used to be one of the latter. I bristled at the notion that motivation could come from something other than myself. Recently, though, I realized I've had a muse all along; it just wasn't easily recognizable because it changed with every story I wrote. During The Gemstone Prophecy trilogy, I imagined a magical stone I could hold in my hand. As "Return of the Black Seraph" happened, I held fast to the desperation and despair my protagonist must feel. For my current short story project, "Gabriel's Wish," I find that I do my best work while listening to the What Women Want movie soundtrack.

Basically, it comes down to this: get out of the story's way. Let it be written how it wants to be written. If that means hand-writing instead of typing or working at a cafe instead of at home or listening to music instead of total silence, do it. And don't question it. Let the writing happen.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Developing characters by author Don Bingle


I believe that characters can develop as you go, but that it is very difficult to develop plot as you write. One of my writer friends (4 published books so far) has a mystery about half done, but she has stalled because "she doesn't know who did it." I think that trying to develop plot as she wrote is what caused her problem. Besides, it is much easier to develop red herrings and clues and the parallel timelines of subplots when the main plot is clear.

I'm not a big fan of extensive outlining, but one of the things I do have a firm grasp on before I start is how the book will start, how it will finish, several major events that will happen along the way. If you are feeling weak on plot, it is often because you don't have that in mind or you don't have enough interim events in the plot line planned out to keep the action/suspense/drive going as you explore characters. It's like going to college and not having a major--it may work out, but having a major/goal is more likely to get you somewhere useful/enjoyable/employable.

Just my two cents.

Donald J. Bingle

Author of Forced Conversion and GREENSWORDMember of the St. Charles Writers Group, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

Forced Conversion (Five Star Publishing, 2004) ("Visceral, bloody -- and one hell of a page turner! Bingle tackles the philosophical issues surrounding uploaded consciousness in a fresh, exciting way. This is the debut of a major novelist -- don't miss it." Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Hominids)