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Career changing Inspiration

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.

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Career changing Inspiration

Speculating About the Future

Let’s Consider Speculating About the Future

Speculating is fun. However, future predictions can be notoriously inaccurate. I’m still waiting for my flying car, for example.

However, some predictions have been eerily on the nose, such as cell phones, which are a lot like Star Trek’s communicators. So here’s a few idea on how to essentially build your own crystal ball.

Extrapolation

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Speculating About the Future

The easiest way to speculate and predict is to take what currently exists, and then extrapolate from that.

Transportation

For example, consider transportation. Your car gets a certain degree of fuel efficiency and it has a particular top speed. It holds a certain number of people. And it has a particular styling. So what happens when you stretch those characteristics? And so you can consider a car that can go faster yet safely. Maybe your futuristic vehicle is self-driving, or a robot ‘drives’ it.

Since parking can be a pain in a lot of places, why not think up a car which can park itself, or can fold up so it doesn’t need a conventionally-sized parking spot? Maybe your new car is partly powered by solar or nuclear fusion. And how sleek and aerodynamic should it be?

Communications

And you can consider other basic areas of life. Let’s look at communications next. Because nearly all of us already have smart phones, think about the trends. Sometimes, phones get smaller, and are more lightweight and compact. However, at other times, they become larger and almost could be thought of as tablet hybrids. What do your characters need? And what are the limitations on either scenario? How small can the phone become? How large?

Can it be embedded?

Feeding the World

So what about food? People still starve. However, that’s usually due to distribution problems rather than enough crops being grown or the existence of enough arable land. Hence how do your characters (or your setting) solve this problem?

And so you can look at any basic area of life, from finding love to consuming entertainment or buying clothing. See where extrapolation takes you.

Off the Wall

And then there’s the somewhat pie in the sky, kinda crazy stuff. For example, let’s think about the second Back to the Future film. Doc Brown uses fusion power to make the DeLorean go, but one of the things he grabs for fuel is a discarded banana peel. What a brilliant off the wall idea!

Off the Wall Fashion

So let’s look at, say, fashion. Maybe it’s the opposite of today, where everything is covered up but genitalia.

But what kind of a society would support that? Or maybe everyone wears a uniform, but the uniforms look really odd.

More Ideas Out of My Overly Fertile Imagination

Cars could be six stories tall. Communications could be facilitated with chewing gum. Maybe you vote telepathically. The sky, as always, is the limit.

Takeaways

Depending on your genre, and how much room there is for humor, your ideas about the future can go in any number of directions.

Decide on how plausible you want everything to be. And don’t forget to take into account professional predictions like Moore’s Law!

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Inspiration Writing

Pulling Together a Plot and Outlining a Novel Using a Starburst Method

Starburst Method for Writing a Novel

Starburst Method? What is it?

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Starburst MethodI’ve found it helps to consider some scenes. Not to write them. You may even want to role play them. And consider, e. g. when, say, a main character named Jennifer reveals she’s a zombie (or whatever your story is about), then there has to be some time before where the other characters think she’s a normal person. Hence that scene doesn’t come at the very beginning.

And I am suggesting a middle or even ending scene like this and not the start because I think it puts less pressure on me (your mileage may vary).

Dependencies

Hence the idea is to consider dependencies. I also will use a kind of (it’s not the official ‘snowflake method‘) starburst method where I will take a legal pad and write a major character’s name (or what the character is if I don’t have a name yet, e. g. the cab driver) and circle it. Just write it in the middle of the sheet. Then draw spokes coming from the circle, as many as you like, and write more character names in circles, on the other ends of the spokes. Then, along the spokes themselves, write the connections. Not every character needs to connect to all of the others.

Connections

So in the example, Jennifer the zombie might connect to a cab driver because he picks her up after a concert. Some of those connections might turn into scenes, some of them might become back story. Or they might be scuttled. There’s no need to write absolutely everything.

Now we have Jennifer at a concert. Maybe she’s performing. And so we can work backwards a little, to determine a bit about her life or even when she became a zombie (maybe it was during music school).

Plot Advancement

We also go forward with the plot. Where does the cab driver take her? Maybe he takes her home. Or maybe he takes her to wherever she reveals she’s a zombie. Or maybe he kidnaps her. She might even make him her victim.

Consider where you want her story to begin. With her schooling? When she became a zombie? Right before she gets into that cab?

Consider where you want her story to end. With her revelation? Or with people accepting her new condition? With them killing her? Or with her striking back?

Hence you also ask questions (and you can have your friends ask you questions if you like, such as how she got zombified or whatever).

It’s not perfect; you still need transitions, but it works.

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Career changing Inspiration

Senses

Senses

Our senses shape the real world, so why not the fictional one as well?

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Senses

When we talk about the senses, what do we really mean? And how can our thoughts about them lead us to writing inspiration? To begin, let’s look at them in order. This is more or less in order of how important many people feel they are. However, your list’s order may vary.

Sight

First off, when we talk about sensations, we inevitably go to sight. Sight is likely the first sense ever evolved by us (probably about 600 million years ago, at the time of the so-called Cambrian explosion). Hence it is important and a lot of our brain power is devoted to it. But what does it mean to write a story based upon sight? Since our vision is fairly sophisticated (as opposed to that of, say, flatworms), that can encompass shapes, colors, or sizes, or even perceptions of textures.

Hence why not write a story where the scene steals the show? Or one where the narrator is a static object, such as a tee shirt or even a computer? Another idea: write a story based upon a color.

Hearing

When we think of hearing, inevitably we consider music, but we can also think of the sounds of voices or even the mundane sounds of life. When you write, think about how people sound. Do they speak with accents? Are they loud? And what are their pitches and tones? Could some characters sing soprano, whereas others are basso profundos? Maybe someone is a horrible singer. In addition, a lot of us know someone whose voice goes up at the end of sentences, even when they aren’t asking anything. Why do they do that?

Other sounds can be of interest, such as barking dogs, running water, or the gentle hum of a space heater. What about explosions, or creaking doors? Nails on a chalkboard, anyone?

Why not write a story where the sounds are the main focus? Or one where music flows through the action, or one where silence reigns supreme? The film A Quiet Place has taken that idea and really run with it.

Touch

Touch and, by extension, feelings, can make a great topic for storytelling. Think of hot and cold, or various degrees of comfort. Touch connotes everything from caresses to slaps. Feelings naturally make us think of emotions. So maybe the reaction ends up being more important than its cause. Or a character’s depression or their nervousness or contentment become the focus.

Why not write a story where touch steals the show? Or one about odd touches like itchy sweaters or dog bites or the rain beating against a character’s face?

And when it comes to feelings, why not let them take center stage? A story based upon anger will compel in one way; one based on humor will compel differently.

Smell

Smell has a number of great synonyms and near-synonyms which add nuanced shades of meaning. When something reeks, it has far different connotations from when it has an aroma or a bouquet. Aromas also link us to some of our deepest and oldest memories. When smell becomes part of a story, that often adds more realism. Because there’s nothing like saying a planet smells like wet dog to immediately put you there.

Why not let smells take over? How about a story told from a dog’s point of view? Or one connecting an aroma to a memory (Proust did that!)?

Taste

Because taste is dependent upon smell, we can often lose a lot of our sense of taste if we have a stuffed nose. For writers, taste can add a feeling of home to a story. Or a story can feel very alien if a taste is particularly odd. The taste of chocolate or ice cream might add pleasant connotations. Yet the tastes of blood or bile will take those away just as quickly.

Why not give taste the spotlight? How about describing a meal on another planet? What about the taste of blood or coffee or a dollar bill?

Takeaways

Want to know how to add believability to a scene? Cover three senses at the very least. Most people go with sight and sound as no-brainers, but what about adding something else? The taste of a lover’s kisses, the smell of a soldier’s old boots, or the texture of a prison uniform can get the reader right into a story.

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Career changing Inspiration Personal

Personal Writing Process

Personal Writing Process

 personal writing process
A personal writing process is personal!

My personal writing process may or may not help you. After all, mine differs from, say, Stephen King‘s. And while he is a bestselling author several times over, that still doesn’t mean his method is better than my own.

Furthermore, his method will not work for me. And that’s not a failure on either of our parts. Because we are, simply put, rather different writers.

Plotting

For longer stories and novels, I find planning to be essential. And this can take the form of everything from an outline to some random notes. Either way, though, I create what I refer to as a ‘wiki’ although I am the only person who contributes to it.

‘Pantsing’

The term ‘pantsing’ refers to flying by the seat of your pants. So essentially you write with very little idea of plot or structure. And the intention is to fix it later. For the most part, I write shorter stories this way. However, they might be part of a larger overall story arc. Hence the actual writing might end up a tad haphazard but the scene or scenes fit into a greater whole, which has been planned.

See, I’m a planner. Usually.

In the Middle

Sometimes, I’m in the middle. Mettle was a lot like that, where I had a detailed outline for the first three quarters or so and then I had absolutely no idea of how to finish the piece.

There’s also the act of going in the middle by writing a far sparer outline. That’s another idea, to know the arc of the chapter and maybe even the first and last lines of it. But nothing else. So you have both the planning and the flying by the seat of your pants.

Story Arcs

Currently, aside from the Obolonk stories (which are still deep in beta reading hell), the only real series and arcs I write tend to be fan fiction.

Easter Eggs

One piece of my process is the addition of Easter eggs. Stories include the following (usually – Untrustworthy has very little of this, due to the nature of the story):

  • Boston, somehow, although sometimes it’s just an accent.
  • Somebody named Shapiro (a cousin had this as her maiden name, but I also think of the character from Stalag 17).
  • Jews, and often not just Shapiro. They aren’t necessarily terribly religious. But they are there all the same.
  • Dreams, but I am relying on them less as a crutch these days. Characters have inner lives but that’s not necessarily front and center in a story anymore.

Takeaways

Planning can’t really be avoided. Even if your personal writing process is 100% pantsing, you usually end up paying for that with a lot more time spent editing. This does not mean that planners don’t edit! Of course we do. But the scenes are better ordered or at least they should be. So that can save on editing time.

This is what works for me. It may or may not work for you.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

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 was once 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. And by now, the risk of it starts 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.

Aging to the 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 they have become widows or widowers.

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.

Aging: Some 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.

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Career changing Inspiration

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 From Literature

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.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From The News

Getting Inspiration From The News

The News

News stories can be a fantastic source of inspiration. Remember the phrase, ‘ripped from the headlines‘? So while it has become a TV trope all its own, current events can really inspire. Because you just can’t make this stuff up.

International Events

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the news
Do you get inspiration from the news?

In particular, when writing about an alien society, you can get a lot of mileage out of looking abroad. This is because governments, climates, poverty levels, languages, customs, and mores all differ. And some of those can differ rather substantially. Consider what weekends are like in Canada, in Israel, or in Japan. What about the educational system, or whether a nation is an energy exporter, or an importer? Furthermore, what happens when you look at dictatorships, or at least at different democracies?

National Current Events

By the time this blog post goes live, the American elections will be over (thank God!). However, what is voting like in the United States (this question also make sense when looking at other countries’ ways of doing things)? And what about the nominations process? Back room deals, lobbying, and pressing the flesh can all inspire. In addition, what about other areas of interest? How does the government balance the budget (if at all)? What about fads and fashions sweeping the nation?

And, naturally, these questions apply to other countries. None of this is confined to just America.

Local News

Your local news can be dominated by violence, or even by oddities. Small things can loom large if you live in a small town. I grew up in a fairly small town on Long Island although it has a connection to a larger township. Local current events often centered around the high school, the library, and the movie house. Closing a long-term business was a topic of great interest.

Sports

Sports are a terrific source for drama and inspiration, and include everything from come-from-behind victories to cheating and doping scandals. Are the winners gracious? Are the losers vindictive? Did something interesting happen to the spectators?

Takeaways

Open up your newspaper or do so virtually online. And check out the news next time you’re stumped for ideas.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

A Look at The Physical World

The physical world can inspire, whether it’s the Appalachian Trail, or your bedroom, or the Himalayas. And while not everyone can live in Paris or visit Yosemite National Park, we can all be inspired by our own personal universes. Moreover, if your world can inspire you, then your readers can come along for the ride.

The Great Indoors

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the physical world
Does the physical world inspire you?

So consider The Chronicles of Narnia. Why? Because the means of traveling to a magical world is via a common ordinary wardrobe. And how about Alice in Wonderland? Lewis Carroll told his story about a lot of things Alice Liddell already knew, such as chair legs and a deck of cards.

So from your desk to your computer or chair, what can you really see when you look closely? Also, go beyond the somewhat common idea of a computer sucking someone into cyberspace. It’s not a bad idea; it’s just been done a lot. Maybe your character is buried by paper. Or they end up in the vacuum cleaner. Attics and cellars can seem very frightening. What about the walls, or the ceiling?

The Physical World Includes The Great Outdoors

And then we get to the outside. So what do we see? Carroll saw hedgehogs, dormice, and rabbits. We can also see plants, of course. Are they large and menacing, or small and fragrant? And what about natural structures or scenery, such as mountains, rivers, lakes, and canyons?

Part of The Wizard of Oz takes place in an apple orchard. It’s easy to see how and why L. Frank Baum imagined trees talking and even throwing fruit. How about imagining how a certain structure came to be? We all know (or at least we should) that craters come from falling meteors or even comet strikes. But what if a crater exists because a spaceship landed there? A structure like Stonehenge can also inspire.

Takeaways

Get outside and take stock of your surroundings. They may inspire more than you think.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Character Sexuality

Character Sexuality

A look at character sexuality can take you in any number of directions.

Character Sexuality
Character Sexuality matters!

First of all, you need to listen to your characters. Are they telling you who they like? Maybe they are, or maybe they’re a little shy about that. Can you see your characters with someone of the same sex, or with anyone, for that matter? Because remember that your own characters’ sexualities need not reflect your own.

So consider how you will present it. For a great, matter-of-fact presentation of character sexuality, just look at Sulu in Star Trek Beyond. Because without saying a word, all that happens is, he is greeted by a man with a little girl, he hugs the girl, and then the three walk away as Sulu and the other man (it’s unclear whether they are meant to be married, so I’m hesitant to use a word like boyfriend or husband) go arm in arm. And that’s it. It’s subtle and loving and sweet.

And of course people protested. Because change can be scary to a lot of folks, I suppose.

Flipping Your Own Personal Script

You have probably been the same sexuality for much of your life. And while gender and sexuality can be fluid, that is not the case for everyone. However, there is a spectrum. Hence even if you have been, say, heterosexual your entire life, you may find you are not completely, 100% ‘straight’.

Furthermore, consider a thought experiment. Why am I suggesting this? Because a writer should be able to think about any number of characters and types of characters. And that includes those who have differing sexualities from the writer. After all, don’t we write about men if we are women, or women if we are men? Stephen King wrote about Dolores Claiborne. Harper Lee wrote about Atticus Finch. And even though most writers aren’t in their league(s), you can still make the effort.

Hence this means also looking into not only gay and lesbian characters, but also asexual characters, bisexual ones, and even characters into other things, like, say, S & M.

Character Sexuality: Some Takeaways

None of this is required, of course. But a thought experiment, I feel, is never a bad idea. You may find a character who speaks to you and who you really want to write. Or maybe you won’t. Only you can know that.