PLAYING FAVOURITES

Conventioned this weekend and had a blast at Em-Con. Met up with people I’d met last year and it was great to get myself immersed in the experience of being an author at a convention. And as with all conventions, there are times when there are lulls in the activity so my mind started running around on all kind of things. I was in an ice rink so the scorching weather wasn’t affecting me but everyone else no doubt had a different day.

If I were to say the word MOIST to you, what do you feel? Is MOIST a word that you never really consider? Is it a real favourite of yours? Do you hate the very thought of the word and would rather never hear it ever again?

How is it that a single word could be able to elicit such a response on its own?

As an author, I recognise the power that words can have. An effective use of words can draw out any and all emotional responses you could care to consider but words are seemingly at their best when they play as a team rather than as singles.

“Love”. On it’s own, nice enough but add in the “I” and the “you” and the full effect is clear to see.

“Dream”. Again, a pretty decent word. Has some oomph. Now add “I” and “have” and “a” to the mix and the punch is enhanced.

So how could a single word have anything like that kind of effect? There’s no context to drive the feelings to a single word so that means that you need to look around at the surrounding players to try and glean what’s taking place, again proving the team idea. So we get back to MOIST.

Practically everyone I’ve asked about this has said that they hate the word MOIST. I can picture all of the turned up noses and hear all of the groans as I consider the word but why is it that so many of us find that one word so repulsive?

Maybe it’s actually the reality of what being MOIST means to each of us?

It’s been a blazing hot bank holiday weekend in the UK and I can just imagine the sensation a great many of us would have experienced in the sun. The many beads of perspiration that would be breaking out the second that feel the heat. The moisture seeping into the fabric of your clothes. Those clothes then sticking to you in ways that no-one would ever enjoy. That’s what it feels to be MOIST so could it be that the word just takes us to that most uncomfortable of times and we simply cringe.

Though that isn’t the only example of being MOIST so maybe not?

Whatever the reasoning, the word MOIST shows us that a single word, can have as devastating effect as a whole paragraph so we all need to make sure that we’re paying full attention to every word we say.

So are there any others I should be wary of?

A friend from work suggested that VALVE should be considered as well.

Any ideas?

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A GOOD PAINT JOB

Have you heard the phrase ‘A picture paints a thousand words’?

As an author with zero ability with a paint brush, it could be really simple to think that I’m on the wrong side of that equation but as with so many things in life, there’s always layers to everything we consider.

How many of us have bought flat pack furniture from IKEA or the like and been confronted with the wonder that is the instruction booklet? A collection of pages that are meant to provide directions through the maze of construction to the promised land of a securely put together unit but at some point, we’ve all come across instructions which seemed to have been designed to do more harm than good.

Could you imagine trying to put together a bookcase you’ve never seen before with nothing but words in the ‘How to’ guide?

It wouldn’t take long before you’d have clumps of your hair in your fists and a selection of the bits you were working with scattered all over the room. Trying to paint that picture with just the words could be a bit of a toughie. But so could the reverse.

Words and pictures have their powers and both can be used to explain and entertain. A picture paints a thousand words but I can paint a picture with a thousand words. It’s just a matter of time.

I’ve taken inspiration from single pictures to add to the narrative I’m working on and when I look at all manner of images I try to imagine all of the back story that may come with them. The giant dragon image, the creature wrapped around the burning castle as it roars out at the night sky, looks great on its own but just think about all of the story that could be spilling out with the image.

Pictures of all kinds can make our minds fire. The right blend of words can do the same. The artist and the author have to plan and execute their work to create the piece they aim for but the person admiring that work could see the written word as being more work to unravel. A picture can paint the words more quickly but in both art forms, the more you look, the more you read, the more time you take, the meaning is spread out much more clearly, showing level after level of new detail.

Trouble is, I can’t draw for the life of me.

PROPHECY – ISH

In so many stories, the way that the action is kicked into action is in response to a dusty and long since overlooked prophecy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Bright and lots of other TV shows have an element of the tale taking place which had been foretold way back when and no matter what activities unfold, it all fits into the planning which had been laid down all those years ago.

So why do we seem to lean on the prophecy idea as being such a solid point to start from?

Someone who most people will recognise is Nostradamus. So very much about the details of his life aren’t important to this point but his writings are regularly cited as being portentous of future events. Born in 1503, he wrote about activities which he felt were going to come to pass as the years marched on and there have been a great many occasions where it’s been claimed that a particular world event was indeed one of the predictions.

Now scholars have widely disregarded the writings of Nostradamus as being terrifyingly accurate but what they do show is the almost palpable desire for people to believe that somehow we could see into the future and predict what’s going to take place.

So why do we enjoy the idea of actions now having been foretold?

In religions across the world, there are holy texts which explain what will be happening at the end times and having that knowledge can be a comfort. If you know what’s coming, there’s no way that you’re going to be surprised when it arrives. Prophecy can show that a particular group has the truth of what’s coming so when something happens that can have the prophecy overlaid on it, everyone jumps to match them up.

In stories, the prophecies are surprisingly accurate in terms of the details which draw characters together but when prophecies in the real world are tested, they’re all oddly vague, with sweeping comments which could apply to any number of things. Claims of wars being foretold years ago aren’t really that reliable. War happens all of the time and has happened all of the time. There are never specific details which could pin down the prophecy to a specific conflict.

So again, why do we like the prophecy?

As a story telling tool, a prophecy shows that every character is merely a piece being moved into the correct position under the guidance of a greater hand and that all of the choices that are being made are inexorably going to lead to a predetermined end point. The people involved were always the special one, they were just taking the steps they were always going to before their importance was revealed.

Is it as simple as we all want to believe that deep down, we’re the special one in our own story, heading to the valiant conclusion?

I think I am. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.

FAME

Do you want to be famous?

It seems to be ‘the’ thing that everyone wants at the moment.

There have been studies done which show that the previous desires of astronaut and the like have been replaced with the hope of attaining fame.

It’s not that people didn’t want to be famous back in the day, rather they wanted to be a footballer or an actor first and the fame that came along was just something that was part and parcel of the original situation.

But the world is changed.

Now, rather than fame being a by-product of the hoped for role, it has moved ahead and has become the target. The desire seems to have morphed to become famous and then find a way to maintain it, doing anything and everything possible.

Now the reason I began thinking about fame came as I reviewed my position as an author.

When I started on my writing journey, all I ever had in mind was getting the story finished and releasing it into the world. I didn’t even consider what would happen after I had the book published and the idea of becoming famous never crossed my mind.

Not that I’m famous now, but my name is on something for sale on Amazon.

So does that mean that fame is something which only happens after a certain amount of name recognition? Will I have to have sold a particular number of books to be classed as famous? Have a set number of page likes on Facebook? (By the way, if you haven’t liked the page already, you’re missing out on all kinds of fun).

If I walk down the street and am recognised by people as the author of The Circle series, does that mean that fame is mine? Granted, author would never really be considered as the fast track to fame but you never know.

Fame is something that is so very odd. The desire to be recognised, to have people know who you are. To lay it out like that, it seems a pretty peculiar thing to be striving for as the main goal. Fame is a by product of doing something else, something which brings the attention to you rather than just having the attention and going from there. Could it just mean that there is a greater desire for people to feel that they’re surrounded by others who are interested in what they say or do?

Whatever the reasons, fame is something that has the chance to elevate or destroy and will always be something which comes along with an ever changing list of professions and situations. I don’t ever spend swathes of time thinking about fame. I just want to write books and go from there.

DARKNESS

The dark is a scary thing.

The dark is the thing that shrouds all of the nasty things as they go about their nefarious business. The dark is what makes it easier for bad people to do bad things. The dark stops us being able to see what’s in front of us and will actively spread fear wherever it goes.

That’s why people are scared of the dark.

But that’s the dark that’s on the outside.

What about the dark that lives in the heads and hearts of each and every one of us?

You see, external darkness is an absence of light. It’s that thing that remains when you take the light away and it’s that thing that becomes threatening due to it’s consistency of absence. It prevents us being able to see all of the details and can hide all manner of possibilities that could be coming to get you. It appears on walls as shadows and they can, in turn, appear to be climbing out to greet you. Despite it being a non-thing, an absence, the dark is a scary thing indeed.

So imagining that something as hideous as the dark could have found its way into us, past all of our defences to breach the walls of our minds, is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Now it’s not the absence of light I’m talking about but rather the shadows which swell in our minds eye. Those that can have such a powerful effect on how we see the world around us without seeming to even be trying. The darkness is what creates the contrast to the light. We have all the good things but without the bad, how do we recognise them?

Our own internal darkness is arguably the worst kind of monster we can all face. That darkness seeps out at the worst possible moments and can cast an extremely long shadow over everything with just the tiniest effort, over-running your mind.

I’m thinking about the characters I’m working with in the various books and short stories and how to explore the different shapes of darkness they all hide. I don’t just want all the people in the stories I write to be really happy all of the time, bounding into the fray with a cavalier smile and righteous fervour to keep them going. I want them to have an internal struggle of some kind, worries that won’t go away and disagreements with others. The external conflict is great but by making them have to fight themselves in some way, to doubt and to question, it’s yet another way that I can make the tale more engaging. We know the pain ourselves of being trapped by the darkness inside us so seeing it happen to the characters can create another bridge.

We all fight our darkness. Day in, day out we do all we can to keep the monster at bay as it does it’s best to overwhelm us. Some days we shine out brightly and there’s nothing the darkness can do but on others, despite everything we try, the hulking shadow smashes us down and we’re powerless to resist, destroyed by that part of ourselves.

My characters have their own darkness to fight and they fight every day.

And so do I.

JUST DO IT

Do you watch Friends?

It’s a program that’s taken on almost mythical status by now and it seems to be on at any time of any day but the specifics of the show don’t really matter for this post.

In one of the episodes, The One with Joey’s Big Break, the characters use an interesting method of making a decision. Rather than working through the details of the issue at hand, weighing up all of the pros and cons to get them to a considered and reasoned outcome, they instead throw up two choices and have to make a snap decision immediately without putting even the slightest thought into it.

Now for the purpose of the episode it made for some amusing situations but should we ever try something like this in the real world?

Every one of us makes all kind of choices on any given day and we all make sure that we put in the requisite amount of consideration but should we always?

How many of us have considered, at times of great mental turmoil, that we could be over thinking any given situation? A choice which should be straightforward can become amazingly complex as we over analyse every possible scenario or outcome until we’ve wrapped ourselves up in all manner of knots. Wouldn’t it be better to just dive at it and go with your gut?

As I work on the different stories in my collections, I find it so simple to get myself tangled up in  possible narrative threads and what could, and indeed should, have been a pretty simple choice can suddenly have me well and truly snookered. I move the pieces about in my head, and although I do have some success in my actions, far too often, I end up back to the original thought and the time and effort have been for nought.

What do you think?

Should there always be a deep and philosophical consideration for any and all choices we face or can we just throw caution to the wind and take the leap of faith that we don’t need to torture ourselves with more options?

I like both ideas but couldn’t just make snap choices, I need to make sure that I’m not falling on the wrong side of what I should be doing.

Or maybe I should?

 

CONNECTIONS

The human experience is one that seems to be defined by so very many different ideals. Money, beliefs, family and community to name a few. But when you review these things and try to come to a conclusion of the worth of a single life, they all land squarely on the shoulders of others.

We can chose what we do with our lives, we can decide to turn left or to turn right, to have the extra scoop of ice cream or not but when all of those things are collected together, it falls to others to make the overall assessment of a life’s worth.

I was told a story from the bible years ago which the person talking used to highlight a question. The story was longer than this but this was the bit that got the questioning running.

‘Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.…’

Lived for two hundred and five years (!) and all that’s worth noting is that he died in Haran.

Now I understand that there’s more to the story than just that and Terah did do more than that but it does seem a little dismissive that there was nothing more of note to point out. From the time of moving to a location to the time of death is lost. It’s been said before that life is the line between the dates on a headstone but shouldn’t we all be looking to live a life that won’t fit into that tiny space?

I don’t want my life to be scorching through the history books for all of humanity to see but I also don’t want to just be lost to the mists of obscurity.

So how do we go about being remembered?

Now I think I need to point out that I’m not talking about fame or indeed infamy at this point. As a writer, I’d love for my books to stand the test of time and to be read long after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil but I imagine the individuals reading my work rather than faceless swathes of people on sales sheets. Granted I’d love the money that JK Rowling has but I’m not fussed on being the internationally recognisable figure she is. I really enjoy that connection I have with those people who’ve read my stuff and have had a chat with me about it. Of course, I’d love to be successful as an author and I’d love to be able to continue to tell all the stories that possibly go running through my head but my overall legacy, as it were, is going to come down to how others see me.

All in all, I think we all have the same need to be thought well of and then remembered. Maybe all we really need to do is just make sure that the world is a better place for having had us in it. I think when we drill all the way down to the real core of the point, we just want to know that our little entry into the wildly varied writings of human history will be enough to mean that people will consider us worthy of at least a little comment.