Thursday, November 16, 2023

Past Informs Future

 


Writers are often something else first, because many of us are never fortunate enough to become fully-fledged published authors right off the bat. We have been around a while, some of us dipping our toes into more than one profession before finding our writing feet. A plethora of metaphors aside, there was one element of my own past I had not figured into my writing, though I am now grateful for the knowledge.

 

I loved the art of learning Aromatherapy - blending oils and plant essences - much more than learning how to massage people. Like a wise-woman, I could mix potions for rheumatism or scalp disorders or simply create a hormone-balancing face cream. My passion for chemistry (which my 14-year-old self never thought I’d say out loud!) expanded from essential oils into herbology and wild plants or weeds.

Aromatherapy is still one of my main loves, because it speaks to my nature-loving side and my need for natural, organic alternatives to all the modern potions hurled at us today for cleaning our homes or our own bodies. This has provided me with some wonderful pieces in my writing, where characters are able to draw upon essences of nature to cure or persuade.

 

The real surprise, the one thing I hadn’t expected to use, was anatomy and physiology. I’d taken biology at secondary school, but this was more in-depth being as it was for massage use. I explored muscles in a way I hadn’t previously and learned more about bones and bodily systems than a GCSE had given me. It wasn’t a medical degree, but it was detailed enough to become useful when I was writing about Saxon warriors being injured in battles and skirmishes.

There are a multitude of roles a writer must play when creating their written worlds; many hats they must wear as they research and resource material and information on people, food, clothing, transport, topography and more. Anatomy and physiology is one thing I didn’t have to grab a book to read up on, as I had all I needed either still in my head or in work-folders from college. It was a hat I already possessed!

 

It is remarkable how things from your past can inform upon your future in ways you never imagined. And I never imagined I would use this former knowledge to fathom how a sword injury might infect and disable a warrior in early medieval times. Nor how someone might know where to strike their enemy with a sword in battle to kill or merely hinder them.

 

What parts of your past have informed on your future in surprising ways?

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Embracing the New

 


Ring in the new. Ring out the old. As another year draws to a close, we are often talking about what a new year will bring and the elements of the old year we are pleased to leave behind. We begin to sift through our lives to uncover what worked, or did not work for us over the past year. It is a time of reflection and redirection.

This is also the main concept of rewriting and editing your novel. As you revisit your work, you should ask yourself what new things you can bring to your work – what can you allow in and what must be relegated to the reject pile? How can you make this draft of your story better than the last? What IS working and what is NOT working?


As in life, so with your writing always be open to new ideas and changes you can make. Consider amendments that will alleviate plot problems. When something isn’t working or you are at an impasse, ask yourself if there are any new themes you could embrace. Can you alter the fate of a character, or at least a part of their journey, to enable the story to flow better?

Never be afraid to allow new ideas to form and changes to release you from blocks or setbacks in your writing. Be brave and look for alternative solutions. Ring in the new if the old is no longer viable. See light where there had once been darkness.




Thursday, October 19, 2023

Find your Author Power


Empowering yourself as an author has so much to do with mindset. If we believe in ourselves, the hard part has been accomplished. However, this is so often the stumbling block for many creatives. You can erase self-doubt by boosting your self-confidence in a few ways.

If you meet self-doubt down a dark alley in your mind, walk past it; leave it in the shadows and head for the light – work through it by writing yourself away from it. Getting creative will leave your mind little space for sinking into doubts and fears. If it’s a long alleyway, take small steps that can broaden as you gain confidence and therefore move more swiftly to success.


Be comfortable in your creative process. There is nothing more sapping on your creativity than an uncomfortable chair, or a pen or laptop that won’t cooperate! Find the best place and the best method to write, even if your choices sound crazy to others. Write what you want and how you want, otherwise it may not happen at all.

Lastly, never believe you know everything. Creative journeys involve ongoing learning, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. There is continual room for improvement and it is part of the fun of creating!





Thursday, October 5, 2023

Find the Flaws


A good part of writing believable, 3D characters is ensuring your readers find an emotional connection. If your protagonist is too perfect, no one will be able to relate to them. We spend most of our lives downplaying our best skills, hiding behind humility and chiding ourselves for our mistakes. No one can relate to a character who gets everything right ALL the time and truly believes in themselves without exception!


Find the flaws. Weed out the vulnerability of even the hardest villain and toughest heroine. Seek moments of tenderness, where the reader can catch the smallest glimpse of reality behind a character’s usual fa├žade. When I sculpt all my characters, the first thing I do after physical description is list their flaws and weaknesses. It is somehow easier than attempting to list strengths. I prefer the latter to be the shortest list as well.

Try it with your existing characters or give it a go when you next have to design a brand-new character. Flows and weaknesses are much more interesting and will result in more exciting story stakes.


Thursday, September 21, 2023

Wood of the Gods


Once upon a time, different trees and in turn, their woods, were attributed to certain deities depending on the use of the wood: shields, bows, ships, sail masts, etc. Rowan, being particularly strong, was used by the Vikings as sail masts and named ‘Thor’s Helper’. Meanwhile, ash made good bows for archers and lime was the wood of shields.

The Celts ascribed their language to the various woods, using them to mean letters in their ogham alphabet. Trees such as apple were full of magic, owing to the godly fruits hanging from their boughs. While the resin from some trees became spiritual incense, used to call upon sun gods in ancient civilisations (Frankincense and the sun god Ra of ancient Egypt).

 

Apple Blossom

From when humans first found shelter, nuts and fruits from these ancient and often tall plants, a symbiotic relationship began. Trees have been used to build homes, ships, bridges, fences, forts and barricades, weapons, wagons, furniture, cutlery, toys and much more. We’ve burned it for fuel and warmth. We’ve taken its fossilised sap and created beautiful jewellery. We’ve made incense and essential oils from their branches, leaves, flowers or fruit, that have become perfumes or healing remedies.

 

Grubenhaus, Jarrow

We love trees. They give us oxygen. And trees love us, because we give them carbon dioxide. We are partners on this planet and we would be lost without them. It is no small wonder we deified them. Where would the Druids be without their oaks and mistletoe? Where would our wooden henges be? Norwegians have their Stavkirks, wooden churches made with roof tiles that replicate scales on some kind of immortal sea creature. Viking and Saxon warriors were referenced in old poems as ‘Tree Men’. Overly tall men were ‘Ash tall’, for those trees were great in height.

We owe so much to them and have lived with them for so long. We are truly blessed to have the company of trees: the wood of the gods...

 

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Thursday, September 7, 2023

Life Plotting!


 In the same way we might plan our novels, it can also be practical to apply the same process to planning parts of our day-to-day lives. It may sound crazy, and not all of us want to plot our own lives in quite the same detail as a novel. However, a little thoughtful organisation can help alleviate the weekly stresses.

You could begin by separating your weekly tasks into groups, rather like chapters. Within these ‘chapters’ you can separate things down into smaller pieces, like paragraphs. This way, you only have to focus on the ‘paragraphs’ and once you have completed them, one by one, you will have finished a ‘chapter’.


For instance, housework can be one chapter in your week. The housework paragraphs could be ‘dust+vac’, ‘clean floors’, ‘sinks+toilets’ and ‘laundry’. Then you can have a self-care chapter or a work chapter for the week, perhaps each day doing one or two paragraphs from each of them.

It is easier to approach writing your novels by writing one paragraph at a time. Translating this method to help you through your working week, one task at a time, isn't too far of a leap. And it works well for me. Give it a try!


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Classical Themes #4 - Mythical Animals

 Myths, magic, rituals, quests, places, people and animals; all of these elements are helping to shape the tales in my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series.


Horses provide us with names of people, places, mythical creatures and months of the year. ‘Marrek’ is a Cornish name for ‘horseman’; ‘Equos’ in the Celtic month of June to July means ‘horse time’; ‘Whitehorse Hill’ and ‘Vale of the White Horse’ speak for themselves; Nix and Kelpies, Rhiannon and Epona are shape-shifting creatures that drag or transport the living to the land of the dead. Places like ‘Studley’ tell us there was once an equine stud farm at that location in Saxon times.

Animals have been pivotal in assisting deities, providing tales of destiny and immortality across the world.

Think of:          Athene, the Greek goddess of fate weaving wisdom and war;

Fairy Godmother in Sleeping Beauty, epitomising the ‘Fey’ or Crone spinner of destiny;

Serpents appear in tales from Sumerian, Hindu, Ancient Egyptian and Norse mythologies. A thousand years before the Garden of Eden and Genesis, Sumerian serpent-god ‘Nigizzida’ was consort of the Mother Goddess and Lord of the ‘Tree of Truth’. ‘Kundalini’ is the serpent coiled around the ‘Tree of Immortality’. Norse mythology has the ‘Midgard Serpent’; Egypt ‘Mehen the Enveloper’ who enfolds the sun god ‘Ra’ during his nightly sleep in the Underworld and ‘Ananta’ is the cosmic Hindu serpent in whose coils the gods sleep.

Medusa mosaic

You will have to read my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series to discover how these influences are woven into my stories, but these and other legends, beliefs and folklore are threaded through the series in various ways, with each tale leaning towards several themes. These layers wrap my saga into real-world legends, hopefully providing access to readers and leading them gently and comfortingly into my fictional legend.

Some underlying threads may be incorporated purely by accident, perhaps where my mind delved into a subconscious ancient memory I am not actively aware of. It would be pleasant to imagine, would it not, that we all possess an element of this ancient subconscious, bringing archetypal elements to us from deep in our paleo-lithic historical memory?