Monday’s Writerly Quote

First off, since it’s Memorial Day here in the USA, I have to give a blogosphere shout out to the men and women who are willing to defend this country so I can sit comfortably in front of my computer and write posts about anything I want. I don’t agree with all the wars my country has been involved in the last decade or so, but I do respect people who are willing to put their lives on the line for me. Thanks my military peeps!

Now onto the quote. You know I love me some Ray Bradbury quotes, and I stumbled across another one while running around on the internet. Here it be:

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

Seems so simple, but it’s so true. I’m a big outliner when it comes to writing stories, and one of the downsides of that style is a tendency to want to follow your outline. But guess what? Sometimes your characters have other plans in mind and take you down paths you didn’t expect—if you let them.

Take Luke Skywalker for example. He just thought he had his adventures pretty much figured out working with the Rebellion to fight the Evil Empire. But then he gets this vision to head to this dingy, swamp planet called Dagobah where he learns skills that will ultimately help him accomplish his original goal.

That’s why it’s good to let your characters take the lead. Your outlining or planning never goes to waste. You may have created a roadmap to get from Phoenix to NYC, and you still end up in NYC by the end of the trip, just not in the way you thought and definitely not in the way you expected.

Realizing that originally my novel SHADE was far too long, especially when it came to traditional pub (I think it was 150,000 words then), I cut it in half. It was hard to do, as there were many things I had to rework, but I still did it. I let my characters lead in finishing off Book 1, and had to change things up for Book 2. Because of that dramatic change, however, one of my favorite secondary characters was born, something that never would have happened. It just seemed more natural for the MC to run into this new character, and I let new character lead the way and the overarching story has taken an interesting turn.

You may have to spend a draft or two getting to know your characters, but once you’ve gotten to know them, let them lead. And you follow right behind, taking notes.

Do you agree with Mr. Bradbury? Do you let your characters take the lead? What do you do to figure out what your MC wants? Are you good at following?

Monday’s Writerly Quote

It’s still May and I’m still sticking with all Star Wars, all the time in posts. There are plenty of writerly quotes out there, and more to come, but let’s try something a little different today. Let’s go way back to 1980. Remember this scene from The Empire Strikes Back?

Luke: There’s something not right here… I feel cold. Death.
Yoda: [points to a cave opening beneath a large tree] That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.
Luke: What’s in there?
Yoda: Only what you take with you.

For those of you starting out this writing journey, you’ll come to a point where you’ve grown enough in your writing that difficult truth will come out on the pages. Those of you who are already there already know what I’m talking about. All the cliché and regurgitation of old story will start to look fake and uncomfortable and then the important truths come out. In the beginning it may be that only a few of these truths will make it onto the pages. Even as you approach this stage, it doesn’t mean you’ve become a perfect author anymore than it meant Luke had become a real jedi.

It’s a part of the journey you can only take yourself. People can guide and advise you on how to get there and give you an idea of what you’re facing, but like Yoda says, in the end whatever you face in there is what you’ve brought with you.

They say all of us our telling truths in our stories we aren’t hearing anyone else telling. That’s why we’re driven to tell them. But we don’t always understand what those truths are in the beginning. The more you write, the more you’ll discover about yourself and your secrets. And guess what? In some ways you’re putting all of that out there for the world to see and it can be frightening. But if you hold back, it will show and it may lessen the effect of the story you’re writing.

I feel like I’m on the cusp of this—by no means do I fully understand it—but I think I’m beginning to grasp it. If we really want to tell a good story, if we really want to affect readers in a profound way, we have to tell the truth and we have to mean it. That doesn’t mean being grotesque or sensational or extreme for the sake of all of those things. It doesn’t mean edgy or controversial. It just means being honest for the sake of being honest.

It may not come to recognizable fruition right away. It may not even come out at all in the first novel. But if we want to be great writers, we have to be willing to go into the cave and face it and let the world see. That’s the only way we affect real change as storymakers. So the advice I take from that quote is: Tell the truth.

Then let people make of it what they will.

What do you think? Do you strive for personal truth in your storytelling? Are you already digging deep for those truths inside? Have you had any success? Is there anything you would tell those still figuring out their truths? Have you learned anything because of it?

A Star Wars Intermission

I promise, I was all ready to go with an Iron Man 3 Friday Flix, but this Storymakers conference got in the way of things. But fear not, lovelies, I won’t leave you without some entertainment this happy Friday.

First of all, want to see some rad Empire Strikes Back photos? I thought so.

Need to a quick recap of what happened in Star Wars: A New Hope? What if I said I could give it to you in one full minute?

Hey, everything doesn’t have to be about Star Wars, does it? Let’s see what Stan Lee is up to these days.

Okay, so maybe I did sneak in just a little bit of Star Wars. But this blog is an educational blog. And what better way to learn than School House Rocks? Today’s lesson is on “interjections.” Since a lot of us are readers and writers here, we need to know what all of this stuff means. I give you, interjections: Star Wars style.

Want to know how I felt when I watched Episode I, II, and III? I think this video about sums it up.

Okay, we certainly can’t leave it on that sour note! I just wanted you to see Star Wars Halloween decor and we’ll let Seth Green finish things off for us.


Enjoy the rest of your Friday!