Monday, August 26, 2013

Research:The Thrill of the Hunt

Once the story and characters start bubbling up, I begin the hunt known as research. Why? Because you never know where your research is going to take you. The initial research can authenticate locations, eras, maps, and buildings.  Focusing on places real to help create the imaginary is helpful. Even fiction or fantasy bursts from the page when a bit of truth is sprinkled among the make believe.

I use my computer, history books, and actual descriptions from individuals who lived or experienced the time period. I love to go to the location itself, if it is possible, to experience the sights, sounds, and smells. Sometimes I have to use my imagination. Sometimes a chair, a storefront, or a building sets the stage for a scene or perhaps the climax of the story. I like location trips because they give me a view from my characters' eyes.

If my story isn't contemporary, I try to find someone who lived during the time period. The current series I am writing calls for a description of a city in the West between 1962 and to the present time.
I have many neighbors and friends who have been great contributors. They fill in gaps. Give a perspective of the changing times and help me show them to my readers. The interviews are enjoyable.

Set up an interview in a restaurant or coffee shop where you can sit uninterrupted. I send the interviewee a list of questions specific to location, dress code, rules, morales and conduct, etc. This helps keep the interview focused.  My experience with interviews has been very profitable. My resources have given more information then I originally thought I needed while helping me scope my story and characters.

While shooting some pictures for another novel, a local teenager came upon my husband and I, she asked us what we were doing. I explained I was taking pictures of the area as I continued to write my novel. She enthusiastically responded, "My name is Dotty. Do you think you could make me a character in your book?"

Research doesn't have to be dull. It can be a bit adventurous and fun.  It is part of my planning and thinking sessions. It helps me when I hit a wall in scene or character development. When the plot begins to slog a bit, I look at my research notes and get new juice for my story. Research: It is multiple hunting expeditions that gives back in trophies.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Evolving School Supply List

As I purged my Sunday newspaper of all the advertising, I was amazed by the "Back To School" inserts. It is so hard to believe that this information is no longer pertinent to my survival. Backpacks, lunchboxes, No. 2 pencils, loose leaf  packs, pens, construction paper, scissors, notebooks, and composition books (never confuse the two) are not part of my annual budget.  The fulfillment of  "Back to School" supply list was interpreted by children as the ultimate measurement of success on the first day of school.  No, it wasn't the clothes, we were lucky. They wore uniforms for 12 years. The supply list was the determining factor of a good impression on the first day.

This ritual  took up 26 years of my life. (It's possible if you have a child born in three decade like I did.) School supply shopping changed dramatically on several levels from the late 1970's into the mid-1980's. Some items dropped off the list and were replaced with fees (art supply fees, science lab fees, computer lab fees, etc.)

During this time I saw the tin lunch boxes with favorite cartoon or television characters go out of style and come back in style as plastic boxes. I saw No.2 pencils replaced by mechanical pencils. Gum art erasers disappear in the elementary schools only to reappear in high school art classes. White paste was laid to rest by Elmer's glue only to be usurped by glue sticks. Remember those be chunky crayons used by preschoolers and primary grade children. Well, I haven't seen a box in years. My granddaughter started drawing with colored pencils and markers.

Yes, I mourn the loss of those pre-calculator days when kids used Popsicle sticks to add, subtract, and learn place value. Are there Popsicles around anymore?

Hey! I still mourn the loss of the small milk bottles that came in wooden cases. This was before we packaged our milk for school children in cardboard  containers covered with a waxy substance. Ah, progress!

But, what do I know, I suspect the school supply list of 2020 will include ipads or tablets.  Allowing  students to download text books and assignments. Pencils will be replace by stylists and the keyboard will drop out of sight.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Writers Among Us

Writers pass themselve off as ordinary folks. If you are standing in line with a writer in the grocery store, you won't be able to identify him or her. They sit next to you in church. They teach your children or serve our country. They come from all walks of life.

With today's technology, you don't even have to hold a pencil or know how to type to write. There is software that allows the writer to speak his or her words aloud.

All writers have a voice. Whether they plan on having their work read or not, once the words are placed in an medium it permits another pair of eyes to read it. The writer becomes vulnerable to the reader. Writers are artists who reflect the sum of their creative processes to fulfill a driving passion within themselves, to entertain an audience, to meet a deadline, to pay the bills, or all of the above.

Writers generally work in isolation. Although research, observations, interviews, and editing can be a communal effort.

We talk about writing. We talk about concepts, processes, genres, and trends. The essence of writing, the core of what takes a string of words and makes sense of them, is an idea. It is rare when we fully disclose an idea. They are like our chidren. They need to be nurtured, tended, and allowed to grow into new stories or poems.
Yes, on the surface we may look like your neighbors, but somewhere beneath the third or fourth layer of skin lurks a plot waiting to bubble to the surface.