Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Nov 23 2015

It's all fun until the brains are real.

Twitter is full of tweets that advertise someone's new novel, but I've been also seeing tweets that comment about recent terrorist attacks. The problem is that it has become increasingly tough to tell one kind of tweet from the other. The suspense, action and intrigue we loathe in the real world is also the sort of thing we tend to seek out when it comes to our personal entertainment. And the language used to describe both these kinds of tweets is often similar, full of adjectives such as "shocking" and "horrifying".

We're often advised as writers to hype the fiction we create, to allow the main character(s) to become entangled in the worst situation they could possibly experience. Then we writers are encouraged to kick things up a notch by saddling the character with a rabid dog, a barbed wire-topped cyclone fence and a sprained wrist. It's fun. Isn't it? But try living in a real world full of limited fresh water, tainted crops, floods. power-mad despots, and suicidal zealots drunk with visions of a self-earned place in glory. It makes those silly, staggering zombies and retro-reptilian land-grabbers from distant galaxies seem tame by comparison.

posted at: 13:24 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Nov 09 2015

Poking beneath the fence rails for a new chew

Writing projects back up for me this time of year. I pull back on fiction in order to update the list of Christmas lights displays for our domain. This is by choice, but it's also a good lesson in human nature. I tend to think a lot about fiction during this time and find my mind wandering to good stories. If the grass is always greener, then the plots also seem keener.

posted at: 17:05 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 23 2015

There's more than one way.

You can't just decide to kill off a character. You have to decide whether to kill them for good, kill them the way they do on soap operas, or kill them the way they do in vampire/zombie stories. Are they dead and gone, gone and wrong gone or gone and dead wrong? Writing is complicated.

posted at: 17:18 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 12 2015

Past Tense

A few days ago I saw a self-captioned photo online of someone I knew perhaps three decades ago. The person was still reminiscing about old times. I was surprised until I realized that this had been an old habit they had even when I knew them and had possibly repeated itself many times over the years. The old days were where everything happened for this person, where all the action took place. Their present was someplace they had been thrust into the way a six of clubs is dealt from a deck of cards, thrown onto the table of life through no choice of their own. Their talk of future was full of hopeful dreams, but the dreams were rarely based on reality from their past choices or present circumstances. Their self-trajectory for the future seemed based on something that might happen to them instead of on something they might help make happen.

Real people have a history when we meet them, but if they spend most of their time steeping in their history, it's hard to build a relationship with them in the present or make plans with them for the future. So I thought of the way writers handle our fictional characters. When we tell a character's story, we create a back story for them in our minds, so that we know them well, but we usually write more about their present and we hint at their future. We might sprinkle in bits of the back story, but we use it like a fine spice to enhance the reader's experience. (There are exceptions, of course, such as characters who are time-travelers or who remember nothing except their past because of a medical issue.) But a writer simply can't afford the luxury of leaving all characters in the past. We have to present a story that makes readers want to turn a page or move to the next scene to see what happens next.

posted at: 07:10 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 01 2015

The care and comforts of writing

Plenty of sleep: Check.
Dressed comfortably: Check.
Glass of fresh water at hand: Check.

Am I too comfortable now? Maybe I need to feel a little of the stress of my fictional characters. I don't have to fast for a week, forego showers and then go stretch out in a gutter and wait to feel the fear of being run over by a speeding motorist, but a little hunger and thirst and basic fatigue might put the brain in a frame of mind to better convey the highs and lows of a character's journey.

There's been a lot of joking about Ernest Hemingway and his alcohol, but as far as I can tell he didn't drink while he was writing. He probably knew that alcohol, besides being bad for his diabetes, made him too comfortable and sleepy when he worked. And maybe that's the key. A low level of comfort let's us be tugged away by our own malaise. A high level of comfort lets us drift into something nowhere near an alert state of mind.

Like alcohol, our state of mind can serve as both muse and monster in this sea of words. Success may lie in neither a lazy float with the current nor an all-out flail against it, but moving with steady strokes, fixing our gaze on the sweet shore in front of us.

posted at: 08:19 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 30 2015

Real aliens, not real, though still pretty real for a writer

It's challenging to concentrate on writing when you're in a building that is having its roof torn off and replaced. I've tried to mentally catapult myself into a science fiction thriller with aliens trying to break in from above, but these workers are so disciplined and they move in tandem so well that, as aliens, they'd be the leading battle dancers of their world. They use a compressor for power tools, which could be imagined as some very noisy anti-matter gravity converter for a device for stealing power. They take precisely-timed breaks, which lead to me imagine aggressively dancing aliens working on union scale, hopefully not a "sliding" scale since they are, after all, perched on a sloped roof.

I'm having a bit of fun here, mostly because humor is a way to cope with all the noise this week. It does remind me that writers are never really off-duty. Every real-life situation holds promise as a flight into the realm of story and characters. These hard-working roofers will probably never know that they once worked a few shifts as beings from another world.

posted at: 13:28 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jun 05 2015

One project or just one big project?

One of my current writing projects is a type of list, which produces a satisfying amount of work in small increments of time. I used to work on one main project at a time, so when I got into a slump or was under the weather, my writing time suffered. I love having a work-in-progress that lets me pop in for 10 minutes or do a heavy focus for longer periods of time when I choose to do that.

Since I began doing the list project, I've added other projects and files that allow me to put ideas and research notes into file folders or digital documents. When I get ready to dig into these, I already have a good amount of material at hand and can fill in those writing slumps and keep my head in the game. There are even notepads that shed water, so there's no excuse for not jotting down a great line while taking a shower or out walking in the rain.

posted at: 08:09 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up on rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.
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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!