29 December 2013

Working on Characters

As some of you may know, I bought a book Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, PH.D. which I've been faithfully reading for the past several days.  I skimmed through it in October in preparation for NaNoWriMo.  After the rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was finally able to read it.

"I cannot teach anyone how to write; I am providing lists of reliable information that came from the thousands of studies I read in order to put the book together.  The dictionary has all the words you need-- it does not write your sentences.  The refrigerator has shelves of ingredients--we cook them up differently.  You can find the depth and uniqueness in your character.  I have provided some people elements; as writers you will put them together in ways that create stunning, fresh characters.  Enjoy!"  

And she is right.

One can take all the courses in the world that teaches mechanics of writing-grammar, sentence structure and how to put a story together via outlines.  There are about 400,000 words in a dictionary.  Thus, it's fairly obvious that a writer such as myself, needn't lack for words.  Heck, I write 50,000 words in November.

And that refrigerator full of ingredients does provide plenty of meals, especially when combined with ingredients from a pantry.  Now, there are about 24,000 cookbooks published in the year 2005 according to my source.  People pick and choose the ingredients for their refrigerator and pantry according to a cookbook or recipe, even one that's handed down generation to generation.  Now, a cook such as myself, will always make sure that staples are handy for those recipes.  Ingredients such as flour, baking powder, manomin (wild rice), white rice, macaroni, meats as I'm not a vegan/vegetarian and fruits and vegetables are always put on my shopping list.  Upon occasion, I will experiment and get unusual ingredients to try out.

So, I've been able to look at my stories in another context.  I've been able to see what I needed to do to get those stories told in the manner that I wanted them told.  Luckily, there's not that much revision.  I'm just happy I didn't hit the publish button on them yet.  I've already made revision notes on three of them and will be checking the structure on the rest.  So, yeah, this book has been a great help to me.

*I've not been paid in any way, shape or form by the author of the book.  I thought it might be of some help to others as it has been a help to me.

27 December 2013

Memorial - Mr. Warner B. Wirta

A relative died a few days before Christmas.  His funeral is today.  I will be traveling down for one last visit before he journeys on.  Today's post is a reflection on what I learned from this relative.  He was my teacher in high school.  When he first started teaching, I was told by an uncle that he was a relative.  I had mixed thoughts about this.  Not sure how to react.  It was the first time I had a relative in such an important position.  Yes, there was another Indian teacher at the school.  I wasn't related to him though.

I encountered Mr. Wirta in my Civics class.  I watched him for a while.  This is when I first started learning that American history was not all written down for us to learn.  And I began to get angry.  There was more to the story that I have spent the rest of my life learning about.  And I learned how to use that anger, how to control it, though it took me years to learn.

Soon, his presence was large upon the school grounds.  This was during the time when the LIEC (Local Indian Education Committee of which my other was a member) and the JOM (Johnson O Malley) were first being organized.  And also when the AIM movement first started.

A club was organized specifically for Indian Students called Students of Redman's America-SORA.  This teacher relative was an advisor for it.  And this is when my father first started calling me a "radical."  Not that I went out on all the marches being organized by AIM.  Come to find out, one of the founders was a relative also.  So, there I am, with two examples of relatives speaking out.  I ended up choosing to follow along the lines of Mr. Wirta's thinking.  Not that I began to rally the troops as my father likes to say.  I tried my best though.  Mr. Wirta, along with my parents and others, kept me on the path of moderation, more or less.

Another important memory I have of Mr. Wirta's teaching was when he taught math.  A friend and I were put on an accelerated program though it failed after one semester.  One requirement was that we could work as far ahead as we chose to.  Thing was, we had to take the exams at the regular schedule.  Well, needless to say, we flunked because we couldn't explain the steps.  Our answers were correct.  It was a case of explaining how we arrived at those answers that tripped us up.  I learned that sometimes, when one is trail blazing, one needs to backtrack and check the trail.

What does this have to do with my writing?  Lots.  I use those teachings when putting my ideas together, making sure I am on the right track.  I'm learning to navigate the writer's world.  And Mr. Wirta's face sometimes pops into my imagination when I am struggling with how to say something.  I "keep on trucking."

24 December 2013

Fifty States of Pray - Mark Koopmans

Fifty States of Pray hosted by Mark Koopmans is set for today.  Here is my prayer:

Gitchi Manidoo, hear me.  I ask for help for all directions for the good of my people, all peoples.  I ask for understanding, respect for all for we are all your creation.  MiiGwetch, for the path you've set before me.  I ask for strength for the walking of the path, the wisdom to know when I need a rest, the courage to pick myself up to continue on the path.  MiiGwetch.

06 December 2013

Day 2 & So On - NaNoWriMo

The following days were more staring at the blank screen.  I worked on a few of the other stories.  Finally, I opened up a text document and just started writing.  Now I was in a quandary of self imposed limits-not the editing kind.  Did that document constitute research?  Was it back story?  If I added these to the Novel of the Year, would I be able to count those words?  Funny how the inner critic rears its noisome head.  I continued on.

Character names at that point were limited to Friend One, Friend Two, Friend Three, Warrior, and Sidekick.  I had the main idea down.  Figured out how the characters would be interacting with each other and how they'd work toward the main objective.  Still hadn't put another word in the handy dandy writing program.  I sat and looked at that program, with all the blank documents.  I checked out the word counter.

I looked at my text document sitting on my desktop.  There were more words in there that maybe I could just add in the synopsis and do the character sheets.   Yes, that is what I did.  Now, a problem of a different sort.  Templates.  Templates for Characters, templates for Setting, And template for Daily Target.  Well two out of three wasn't bad.  I still hadn't had anything written in the Daily Target.

In the process of transferring stuff from the text document, I realized, I'd written quite a bit of words.  So, I thought to meself, yes, I have been hitting the daily target.  Whereupon, I stuck to the writing program with it's handy dandy Story Board.

Now, I am a self confessed Pantser and never really got the point of the Story Board.  Just seemed like extra work and not really helpful for my purposes-a 50,000 word Novel which I'd decided was going to be 100,000 words since those other writers were able to do so.  If they could, I could.  I learned differently.  Without that StoryBoard, I'd never have come close to the 75,000 mark, much less 100,000.  By the end of the first week, I made good progress.  Was quite happy with my story.

Then disaster.  I got sick.  Went to the clinic, hoping to head off the worst.  Pretty much slept through the next four days.  Thought I was doing good with the taking of the correct doses at the correct time.  Nah.  Managed to write a few words here and there.  Some even made sense.  What I did do during this time was make the discovery of the Writing Tools which included Character Name Generator.  Promptly, found names for the characters.  Even generated a couple dozen more.  One never knows when another name would come in handy.  Mostly, I just slept.

02 December 2013

Now that NaNoWriMo is in the history pages...

The month of November, most activity in my life came to a standstill.  Yes!  NaNoWriMo had begun at midnight, October 31, 2013.  Or another way of looking at it, 0000 hrs on November 1, 2013.  I, of course being a pantser extraordinaire, had no idea what I was going to write.

The week previous, I was getting ready to greet the little ghosts, goblins and ghoulies, though nowadays, it's more likely to be fairies, Yoda, and vampires.  Course I might have a better idea just who some of the characters are if I was exposed to littles under the age of 8 on a daily basis.   Can't even ask my sons as all the littles they're in contact with are in the age range of the teens and already playing such games as Fable, Halo and such like.  All Hallows Day, Mom and I got the little packages ready.  100 to be exact.  We weren't sure if we'd really need that many;  cold, windy and rainy.  After the event was over, I settled back to wait for the witchin' hour.  More precisely, the start of NaNoWriMo.

I had attended the Kick Off Party in Duluth the week prior.  Bought a new book whilst browsing at Barnes and Nobles: Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N Edelstein, PH.D.  (Keep having to look up book titles-informed by Google I've visited the page twice which doesn't count the times I've just checked the description which has the info right there.)  I perused the book, thinking it had some good references.

Of course, I fell asleep, so didn't get the first word on the page until half past two or thereabouts.  I had been using the WriteWay program.  This year, decided to try Scrivener which I dutifully downloaded, checked out and thought I was proficient enough to write this year's Great American Novel.  Time came.  I couldn't remember how to get the story going.

Finally found the little doodad, the template created expressly for NaNoWriMo.   Of course, blank pages stared back at me until an idea popped into my little birdbrain, as Father so fondly reminds me.  Rainbows, the End of a rainbow.  Now, what.  I sat there staring at the page, for hours upon hours.

Even got up to take a break or two, as advised to do by many of the great writers when faced with the dreaded writer's block.  Checked my supply of tea, honey, chips.  Good.  Made coffee.  Did dishes.  Checked the supply of chocolates (which did last most of the month, even with Sister coming in at odd hours to noisily sneak a few, thus waking me up at odd hours of the day, mostly night.)

Nothing more was forthcoming, so I got the handy, dandy calculator on my desktop, proceded to figure out how many scenes I'd have to write to reach 100,000 words.  Yepper, I was going to do as many of the great writers over to the NaNoWriMo site do and hit 100,000 words.  Well, that took up quite a few more hours.  Once the number of scenes was decided, I next had to find out how to organize them.  Which of course led to me breaking down and checking the Help manual once again.  Happily duplicated so many scenes, I actually learned how to trash some of them.   Luckily, they were empty, extraneous ones so I had no compunction about seeing them in the trash.   Then, I learned how to empty the trash.

Looked at the clock and decided it was time to sleep, as no further ideas were forthcoming.  The last thing I did was open up a text document and put the word rainbow down, so I'd remember.  Put that on my desktop so it could be easily found.  Oh, the word I put in the actual template?  Bagamose.  The title.
(To be continued.)