My main writing project at the moment has a fair amount of deep-and-dark in it, and when I fear I’m becoming a bit too mired in that sort of thing, I need to take a step back with something a bit more light and flighty. Lately, that’s been the cast of misfit characters from “Finding Mister Wright,” my short story/novella from this past winter holiday break.
I usually write for Marshall’s life when I take up these characters again, but, this time, it was Rob who commandeered my brain. What’s funny is that the original story idea I had for these characters centered around Rob, Paige, and Daniel. In my earliest notes, Marshall barely played a role beyond counterpoint to Daniel. Of course, that changed when I finally started putting voices together in my head, and I found Marshall had a (rather significant) story all his own. The relationship story between Rob and his own family took a backseat to that of the Wright brothers, and Marshall and his loves in particular. But, Rob’s story has remained important, at least to me. He’s just as complicated as Marshall proved to be, but in a way that’s somehow more relaxed.
After my husband read “FMW,” he made the comment that he thought all the characters worked for their own reasons, but Rob was his favorite. “At first,” he told me, “you think he’s just one thing. Then, you learn a little more, and he becomes more than that. And then, there’s [a conversation], and you realize, oh, this guy really has three dimensions to him.” While it might have offered me a greater ego boost to hear my main protagonist was my husband’s favorite character, a part of me was really happy that Rob’s original story shone through in his few scenes, to the point where he made an impression on a reader.
A moment of weakness led to this six-pager (it clocks in at around 2,900 words), which I wrote over three commuter train rides and a lunch hour. It’s rough and a bit scattered, but that’s one of the reasons I find free writing so…well, free. No worries over themes, scope, flow, or any of the important parts of a mature work. It’s just my fingers translating for my brain.
“Romance-in-the-Dark” (PDF, 314KB) I hate to have to offer a warning about this, but be aware: the principal romantic relationship depicted in this particular free-write is about two men. There’s nothing explicit herein, but if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, just skip it and watch the lovely lady in the video below, instead.
The whole thing – Rob’s story, the original idea for “Finding Mister Wright,” as well as this free-write – is heavily inspired by the lovely and awesomely talented Catherine Russell’s rendition of Lil Greene’s jazz standard, “Romance in the Dark,” which you can listen to and watch below. It’s a mainstay in my FMW writing playlist, and I usually hit repeat at least once when it comes up in rotation.
Before we get to Ms. Russell, here’s my question for this week: Have you ever had a minor character hijack a story for his or her own? If so, how did the story turn out?
Your story’s world is a full one. The story itself may be about only one or two main characters, but those people have family, friends, acquaintances, and enemies. And those people have beliefs, fears, experiences all their own. And, even if the reader never discovers these facets in full detail, it’s important for you to know who those people are. From the way they dress to the way they dance, their dietary habits or exercise routines, what they do for work and play, the magazines they read and the television programs they watch…all of these details will help you solidify in your head who each person is, and – in turn – make it easier for your readers to differentiate each character outside of name alone.
You don’t have to do all of these, of course (your time is likely better spent in the guts of your story), but pick a few for each of your characters, to help realize them more fully. Music is a great way to do this.
You’ve heard people say, “This is my song,” when they hear a particular tune. The same holds for the characters in your story. Whether a song describes that character, or it’s their own favorite song, music provides a way for you to make your world bloom. The best part? Unlike plotting your story or designing your world, giving your characters their own songs doesn’t have to take very much work at all!
If you hear a song on the radio (or on your mp3 player of choice), and you’re reminded of a particular character or story moment, set it aside in your mental list of story details. Listen to that song when you’re on your commute, doing your morning exercises, or washing the dinner dishes: this keeps you in-tune with your story and characters even while you have to do the necessary chores of your life. And keeping your story close to you this way (even if you don’t get the chance to write as much as you might like during the day) will help keep it immediate, so you don’t lose too much momentum while you’re, you know, living.
Some writers like to work in silence, so, for those of you who do, I won’t impose upon you the suggestion to create a playlist for your story. For those of you who enjoy a bit of music while you plot and pace, though, I’ve got to ask:
A few weeks ago, the fine folks over at Limebird Writers celebrated their first anniversary. To commemorate, they had a contest with a bunch of fantabulous prizes that would make any aspiring writer’s quill quiver with eager excitement, mine included. My video didn’t win, but the process was such fun – and so easy – I thought I’d share a few of my production steps.
Every story starts with text. (Well, every story starts with an idea, but you need to put the idea on paper if you want to be able to share it.) I wrote a (very loose and very silly) poem, which you can read below:
“Happy birthday, Limebirds!”
Just one short year ago today
The Web was graced with an idea so bright
A place for writers to tell their stories
To craft and let their words take flight
Safe harbor from the fright’ning storm
Of jealous trolls and arbalests
Where artists could be free and nurtured
‘Til they’re ready to leave their nests.
The word rang out to authors round
And the name came to be known.
Storytellers settled in
And so the family’s grown.
No matter what your pen may favor –
Poetry, horror, SF, YA –
You’ll always have a friend with
The Limebirds UK.
Yes, I know the meter is inconsistent, and the sentiment is a bit heavy-handed…but I wanted to do something fun, especially since it was going to be sung.
Despite it being called a “video,” audio is perhaps the most important part of any video project. You can cover up crappy video, but you can’t cover up crappy audio. I recorded my audio using Audacity, a great piece of cross-platform shareware available from Sourceforge. I recommend Audacity mostly because it’s easy to use and free to download, and exports to MP3 with very little issue.
An example Audacity window.
(As for the tune, B came up with that herself. I was trying to find some music to go with the cadence, but she just ran with it, so that’s what I kept.)
This isn’t really a video, per se, since it’s just static images sewn together with Final Cut Pro.
My Limebirds anniversary project, in process
I use FCP because it’s what I’m used to, but Adobe’s Premiere product is very good, too. (For those of you who are students or work at a college or university, make sure to ask for the educator’s discount!) If you’re not interested in shelling out lots of money for either of these programs, Apple’s iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are adequate – if not very powerful – substitutes.
I sized and cropped each of the images for video (720×480) in Adobe Photoshop (again, because that’s what I’m used to). If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on Photoshop, though, check out a nice little freeware program called GIMP, which is, frankly, a great alternative. (GIMP does not have quite as many bells and whistles as Adobe’s products, but it is a powerful little program.)
I did make sure to use public domain images so I wouldn’t infringe on anyone’s creative art. Wikimedia Commons is a great place to get royalty-free, open-access imagery. Just make sure to pay attention to the usage rights attached to each image, as these are specified by the original artist, and we don’t want to exploit anyone else’s work. 🙂
The Wikimedia Commons front page. All you need for royalty-free.
So! Here’s the full video. At 01:19, it’s a bit long for what it is, but it’s difficult to tell a kid to hurry it up. 😉
Have you ever experimented with video? What kind of video did you make…or would you like to make? Let me know! Oh, and do make sure to stop by the Limebird Writers. They’ve always got great things to say!
I do a lot of my initial writing (and drawing) to music. I like putting on my awesome headphones and queuing up my playlist, to help put me in the mood: to write a particular scene, or just to get the feel for the story in general. Part of that is also because I can’t write while I’m distracted; television or an engrossing videogame draws too much of my attention. So, when I put on my headphones, the family knows it’s time for me to write.
Now, for those times when I really need to concentrate, I will actually lock myself away in my work room, get under my toasty kotatsu, and work to no distractions. I highly recommend this approach for anyone who feels they need some space, for writing or drawing or whatever floats your boat. It’s just that it’s terribly anti-social of me to do that as often as I’d like to write, so the headphones become a compromise.
The first time I created a writing playlist was back in 2007, for Sixes and Sevens. Since the story took place in London, circa 1996-97, I listened almost exclusively to Britrock from that era and earlier; basically, music my protagonist would have listened to.
Good old classic British rock. Nothin’ beats that.
The second writing playlist came for 1 More Chance!, which takes place in modern-day Japan. That was actually about four different playlists, but all of them consisted of Japanese artists. That really got me into the groove of writing for another culture, let me say!
For Fearless, I wanted to use music to get a sense for the story rather than the location or the era.
When I drafted my original plot in the weeks leading up to November 2011, I had a mostly specific idea of the emotional and dramatic “waves” of the story (no pun intended as regards to the plot). So, I planned the music to help me remember how the story should flow, while I was writing it. Of course, the direction of the story changed a couple of times from initial outline draft to what finally was put onto paper, but I still listen to this playlist whenever I need to settle into the mood of writing for Ross (especially after watching something drastically different on the television, or playing a videogame, or – most importantly – reading another author’s work).
Since the story’s about a surfer, you’d think there’d be a lot of Dick Dale and Man or Astroman in this playlist, but there isn’t. (I did put some Los Straitjackets in there, though, so I’m not totally without my surf cred.)
I just thought I’d share the Fearless playlist here, for anyone interested. Special note: Anything marked by artist “Kevin MacLeod” is available to listen to – free! – from Incompetech.com. If you like what you hear, why not even make a little donation?
“With the Sea” by Kevin MacLeod
“The Song Is Over” by Who
“1979” by Smashing Pumpkins
“On Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz
“Here Comes The Rain Again” by Eurythmics
“Who Are You” by The Who
“Something About Us” by Daft Punk
“Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
“I’ll Go Down Swinging” by Los Straitjackets
“Wild Wild Life” by Talking Heads
“Little Sister” by Queens Of The Stone Age
“Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz
“Let’s Go to Bed” by The Cure
“White” by Kevin MacLeod
“California Sun” by Los Straitjackets
“Stumble & Fall” by Razorlight
“Female of the Species [Fembot Mix]” by Space
“Lover” by Devendra Banhart
“Tell Me Baby” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Don’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
“PDA” by Interpol
“Complete Control” by The Clash
“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet
“The Look of Love” by Susanna Hoffs
“Digital love” by Daft Punk
“Behind Blue Eyes” by Who
“There is Romance” by Kevin MacLeod
“Mysterious Ways” by U2
“Rock This Town” by Stray Cats
“And She Was” by Talking Heads
“Come Into My World” by Kylie Minogue
“Accidentally In Love” by Counting Crows
“Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups
“Luminous Rain” by Kevin MacLeod
“A Jagged Gorgeous Winter RB2 Remix” by The Main Drag
“Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure
“Stages of Grief” by Kevin MacLeod
“Feel The Pain” by Dinosaur jr.
“Downtown Lights” by Annie Lennox
“Overkill [Version]” by Colin Hay
“Creep” by Radiohead
“Wake Up” by Coheed & Cambria
“The Dumbing Down Of Love” by Frou Frou
“Parting of the Ways – Part 1” by Kevin MacLeod
“Is There A Ghost” by Band of Horses
“Bargain” by Who
“Daybreak” by Kevin MacLeod
“Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)” by Lostprophets
“Let Go” by Frou Frou
“Let My Love Open The Door” by Pete Townshend
“Touching Moments Five – Circle” by Kevin MacLeod
“Life on Mars?” by Seu Jorge
“Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis
“Hallelujah” by John Cale
“Gymnopedie No 1” by Kevin MacLeod
“The End of the World” by Los Straitjackets
“Stubborn Love” by The Lumineers
“Float On” by Modest Mouse
“Clear Waters” by Kevin MacLeod
“Have It All” by Jeremy Kay
“I Can’t Stay” by The Killers
“No One’s Gonna Love You” by Cee Lo Green
“Real Good Looking Boy” by The Who
“My Heart Will Go On” by Los Straitjackets
“Village Dawn” by Kevin MacLeod
“Beautiful World” by Colin Hay
“Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall
“Here Comes My Girl” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
“Eternal Hope” by Kevin MacLeod
“I Would Do Anything for You” by Foster the People
Remember that artists who make music are just as valuable than any other kind of artist. If you enjoy what they do, please support them the best way you can – with your wallet. Illegal downloading/sharing of artistic property doesn’t help anyone!