Getting inspiration from aging

Getting inspiration from aging

Aging happens to all of us, even if we die young. And much like children experience various developmental stages, our aging has some stages, too. However, in order to avoid repeating myself, let’s throw out a caveat here and only look at age forty and up.

Forties

For most people in their forties, this decade is a good place to be. Any children are often out of the house or are just about to be. Perimenopause has started for most women. And while that can sometimes be challenging, it’s a signal of things to come. Work can be at or near its zenith in terms of pay and responsibilities. And the house might even be paid for by this time, or close to it.

However, for some people, this is the age bracket when early-onset Alzheimer’s begins.

Fifties

Going beyond the forties means more wear and tear on all bodies. By this time, most women are fully menopausal, although on rare occasions a woman in her fifties becomes pregnant. However, if she does decided to keep her child, she and her child have increased risks of problems.

For people who had children while in their thirties, this decade means sending them to college (and paying for it). Or it can mean getting them married (and possibly paying for that) or starting to work. Furthermore, not every child can afford to leave home and so people in their fifties may find they are still living with their kids. In addition, many people become grandparents during this decade.

This is also a decade to catch up on retirement savings and begin to assess options.

Sixties

While 65 used to be the standard retirement age, that’s no longer the case. For people in more sedentary jobs, they might continue to work throughout this decade. In the United States, Social Security rewards you the longer you stay in the work force, so some people may try to make it through the decade.

Parents can often become grandparents in this decade, if they haven’t already. And their children may start to become a lot more financially independent. That’s a good thing, as people in their sixties need to think about the future even more. And it’s the decade when people start to (more often) become the target of scam artists. In addition, widows comprise about one-third of all persons aged 65 and older.

Furthermore, one in nine people over 65 have Alzheimer’s.

Seventies

A lot of people in their seventies may fit in the group of the so-called “young-old” if they haven’t had a major health scare. However, a lot of people get cancer (half of all cancers in Britain are diagnosed during this decade and later). And this is the decade when mortality from Alzheimer’s is at its highest, with 61% of those in this age group with Alzheimer’s dying before their eightieth birthday.

Age 72 is when the Social Security advantages to delaying retirement effectively stop. Hence anyone who works past 72 either likes what they are doing or they really, really need the money.

Eighties

By this decade, if you haven’t gotten Alzheimer’s, your chances of getting it continue to climb, with the risk of it doubling every five years. By age 85 and older, one-quarter to one-half of all seniors will exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

However, if you make it past 45, life expectancy for both genders is in the eighties. Hence if you are in a couple, and you’re still together, you may even be during much of this decade. The differences in life expectancy for both sexes flatten out.

For people who have grandchildren, they are often grown or almost grown by now. And pretty much everyone in this age group should at least be thinking about help with the basics of life, everything from navigating stairs to running errands or doing chores.

Nineties and Beyond

It’s hard to say if the incidence of Alzheimer’s goes down. Some studies seem to support this although in all fairness, the sample size is understandably smaller. Hence if the doubling incidence continues, that would mean virtually everyone in this age group would be showing at least a few symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, cancer is uncommon as a cause of death. However, even more people become widowed by now. And it might even be the second time that’s happened to them.

Some people become great-grandparents during this decade (or during the previous one), although that depends a lot on a group’s age(s) at becoming parents. Very few people live alone or independently by now.

Is there an upper limit to how long we can live? That’s probably not something we can prove, at least not now. However, the oldest-ever confirmed individual was Jeanne Calment, who died when she was 122 and a half.

Takeaways

Beyond dry statistics about life expectancy, disease prevalence, and widowhood, aging can bring with it grace, or wisdom, or bitterness. All of these are choices, and many more, for your aging characters. Because not every interesting character is young, you know.

Complex evil characters

Complex evil characters

Janet-Gershen-Siegel-Adventures-in-Career-Changing-Complex-Evil-Characters
Complex Evil Characters

For complex evil characters to work, you’ve got to give them some screen time, as it were. Because a paragraph or two simply will not cut it.

Backstory

Since evil characters are a certain type of character, it pays to give them a backstory as deep and rich and meaningful as the ones you give to your hero characters. Hence, just as you do with your hero characters, think about where and when they were born. Do they have siblings? Do their parents still live? Maybe there were early signs of trouble. Could they have been abused or neglected? Did they abuse weaker, younger siblings, or animals (both of those signify deep mental disturbances)? Perhaps there is trauma.

Motivation

So, why is this particular character evil? What drives their behavior? Because real human beings don’t just do bad things for fun, what gives? Are they seeking vengeance for something? Did they lose their own true love, their fortune, their family, or their home? Maybe they were horribly humiliated.

Means

And for your complex evil characters to do their thing, they need some way of getting it done. Hence an impoverished character would need funds, probably. Or a disabled character might need someone else to be the muscle. And a famous character might simply pay someone else to do their dirty work.

Means for characters can potentially also be about weaponry. Your French medieval society would only have rudimentary use of gunpowder (Joan of Arc lived during a time of gunpowder use but didn’t necessarily use it herself). However, your evil character might just be a jerk or a person who calls others names. If that’s the case, then you should know which slurs were used when.

Opportunity

Your complex evil characters have limitations if they live far from your other characters. However, modern or future characters can attack in cyberspace. Or maybe they can attack over the phone or via letter if you go back in time.

Comeuppance

Not every character gets punished, just as not every real-life criminal is caught. How do you want your story end? Or do you maybe want to open up the possibility of a sequel?

Rehabilitation.

And even in prison or under a doctor’s care, not everyone changes their ways.

Revenge

Your complex evil characters might want to avenge, well, nearly anything. And even if you used that as their motivation before, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it again. It can still work.

Takeaways

Complex evil characters can be memorable. Just ask Hannibal Lecter.

Getting inspiration from science

Getting inspiration from science

Science

Science is one of the cornerstones of our existence. So are your characters scientific? Do they f’ing love science? And even if they don’t, it can still inform what they say and do.

Discoveries

First of all, there is an enormous amount of inherent drama in trying to discover a cure for a disease. However, sometimes things go another way, where a seemingly serious breakthrough ends up having a rather different application. So consider minoxidil, which is used to treat baldness. It was originally developed to be a drug to treat high blood pressure.

And research, with all its successes and failures, can spark drama.

Chemistry and Physics

So chemist characters can do everything from creating potions on the edge of magic to working in pharmacies. And your physicist characters can study the cosmos. Or maybe they build nuclear weapons, and experience all sorts of doubts and moral crises due to that. Furthermore, any of these characters can teach at the high school or collegiate (or graduate school) levels.

Biology and Geology

Maybe a biologist character could unleash a plague or study alien creatures. And a geologist character could warn of an impending volcano eruption (this would be a vulcanologist, actually), or maybe help find fossil fuels.

Medicine

Beyond finding cures, doctors also handle people at their most vulnerable. And they see the weak, the sick, the dying, and the naked. So some physicians find humor in the absurd, like in M*A*S*H. Psychiatrists can work with the insane or just the troubled. And that can spill over into marriage counseling, or helping people figure out how to come out of the closet.

Takeaways

So whether your characters are blinded with science or just need to get a sprain treated, scientific observations and pursuits can often inspire great writing.

Getting inspiration from music

Getting inspiration from music

Inspiration from music

Music is a rather common pairing with writing. Some people cannot write without it. Others are inspired by it. Still others are haunted by it.

Lyrics

Sometimes, it’s the lyrics. For me, personally, I pay a lot of attention to lyrics. As a result, I have a lot of trouble listening to tunes while writing or even editing. I have to shut it off, as I am unable to concentrate.

But I do listen when I go outside or offline. For a fan fiction piece, I created a kind of bad girl character. However, she did not come to life until I listened to Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good.

It’s not just the words, though. And it isn’t just the video. The bass line did it, too. As a result, the character snapped into sharp focus. I could not stop listening to the song until I finished the piece.

Sound

For a genius character addled with ADHD, I wanted his mind to be going about a thousand miles an hour. The best way to do this was to listen to fast-moving songs. This one was a must.

The song itself is kind of silly. The words are somewhat nonsensical. But the beat is fast. It’s not rap, although speed rap could have worked as well. Either way, the sound was discordant. And that was the idea. With so much clanging going on his head, the character was simply incapable of concentrating.

Creation

For those who need songs to write, playlists are a must. You can find several on YouTube by searching on writing playlist. However, that might not work for a lot of people. Writing is a personal thing, just like musical taste is. If I prefer disco, and you prefer country, we’re both right, so long as we keep writing.

Takeaways

If you need it, then by all means listen to tunes while writing or editing. If you don’t, then don’t. And don’t let anyone tell you their way is somehow better. It’s hard to find anything more subjective than this.

Getting inspiration from literature

Getting inspiration from literature

Literature sometimes feels like medicine writing. You know you should read it. But sometimes it just feels like cod liver oil in book form.

Literature

What is it about literature? From the classic to the lowbrow, it permeates our lives. As writers, we might appreciate it more than others do.

Reading to write

First of all, whenever people ask about how to best develop their writing chops, inevitably they are told two things. One of these is to read extensively. Hence if you are following this, you are already halfway there. And it does not have to be classics. It does not have to be Silas Marner or the like. You can be voraciously reading YA, or bodice rippers. It does not matter.

As a writer, examine the work. How does the author pull you from one chapter to the next? Or how does she start? How does the story end? Are the supporting characters as interesting as the lead(s)? Or do they take over? Or are they cardboard cutouts? Do you ever lose the suspension of disbelief?

Writing to write

The other standard piece of writing advice is: write a lot. And you can do that with any form of literature. Hence take whatever you just read. Flip the POV (point of view) and rewrite it. Gender swap. Figure out what happens after ‘The End’, when the curtain comes down. Decide what happened before the story started. Write a back story for a supporting character, or even a bit player.

So if the work is in the public domain, then you might even be able to publish your work. Yet if it’s not, then treat it like any fan fiction and use it as a learning experience. Since you can’t publish fan fiction, why not consider how to further alter your new piece? Maybe you can convert it to something more wholly original. Because you might even be able to publish it.

Takeaways

Since so much of writing is structural, why not pick apart someone else’s work? Because if they have been published, then someone liked their work enough to take a chance on it. Finally, a peek behind the curtain can also show you where even great works falter. And that can be comforting if you ever doubt your own abilities.