Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
Everyone is welcome here.
(Some links or topics may not be completely kid-appropriate.)

Fri, Jul 30 2010

On not writing and on acting out what you write

My fiction writing has been on hold lately, so I've been writing about writing in order to keep my head in the game. This week has been particularly busy, so I thought I would just share with you just a couple of the writer-centric blogs I enjoy checking on now and then:
The Urban Muse
Storytellers Unplugged

And here's an entry from Writer Unboxed that speaks to me, since I've been doing that sort of thing for years. Fictional characters aren't acting (unless they happen to be actors), but getting up and acting out a scene will give you insight and let you tune in to see whether your characters are behaving true-to-nature. I do recommend using a bit of restraint if you happen to have close neighbors. They may wonder at the noises coming from your home or office.

Encourage a struggling fellow writer this week. I hope I just did.

posted at: 14:11 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 29 2010

August 2010 Deb's Monthly Review

The August 2010 issue of Deb's Monthly Review has been uploaded. It's filled with festival listings and other events in the U.S., plus links to other interesting information. One of the items this month mentions the current popularity of cupcakes and shops that specialize in cupcake design and production. The site includes an archived list of issues from the last several years and there is a form you can use to sign up for the Notify Note so that you can know when a new issue has been uploaded.

posted at: 21:36 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 28 2010

Interpreting the universe

I was working on a poem the other day, a type of haiku, but more free in its form. It occurred to me that language is often used to convey science and math, but language ends up being much more of an art than a science. Science and math tend to be static in their rules, though science does have to deal with theories that come and go, making it less static than math. Language has enough rules to make it begin to work. From there, cultural, geographical and personal influences change it, giving power that neither science nor math can claim.

People often attempt to define the universe using math and science, which is a noble pursuit, but it may be a mistake to ignore the art of language when defining our world. I think that must be why there are not only scientists and mathematicians, but artists and poets. We're not more important than the scientists, but we reflect and communicate the parts of the universe that are not easily described by, or contained in, equations and formulas.

posted at: 22:41 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 26 2010

Relaxation and creativity

I worked too many hours today on typing info for a web page and my creative spirit is being affected by body fatigue. It's amazing how much influence physical discomfort can have on your ability to imagine and create. Fatigue is much different from relaxation. Being truly relaxed can actually enhance a creative writing experience. The brakes \ are off and the inner editor takes a back seat while the freer side of a writer is allowed to come through without barriers. One's sense of time is almost suspended and there is a feeling that anything could happen. In contrast, fatigue or physical discomfort can make one acutely aware of the passage of time and can make it seem agonizingly slow. That old saying about time flying when you're having fun has a lot of truth in it. If you're a writer, doing things to keep you body in good physical condition can go a long way toward letting your imagination take the time and energy it needs to go where it needs to go.

posted at: 22:26 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 23 2010

Read my notes: No new plots

If you wrote the same story all the time you might get tired of writing it. No publisher would care to publish it and no reader would be likely to pay to read it. The unscrupulous in society would be unlikely even to steal it.

Now that I've said that, let me say this. There are very few new plots in the universe. What generally happens is that old plots and conflicts change time periods, settings and themes. Betrayal, jealousy, murder and redemption take place again and again. The love triangle of David and Bathsheba (and her husband) was resurrected in the likes of King Arthur, Lady Guinivere and Sir Lancelot. Modern love triangles in stories include Lucas, Peyton and Brooke from One Tree Hill and Sookie, Bill and Eric from True Blood. The stories may take place in entirely different settings and have characters and other details that are nothing alike, but the basic premise of the plot is the same. If may even be spiced up with a love quadrangle at times, but unrequited loved is going to be in there somewhere, somehow.

Since it's unlikely that any of us is going to write a completely unique story, the details of what we write become key to making our story compelling. Your Tin Man might become a wedding chapel owner in 1960s Las Vegas. Your Captain Ahab may become a scientist traveling back in time to the late 1800s. Through details and through combining plots and and other elements, The possibilities are endless. There may be no new plots, but we really shouldn't let that stand in our way.

posted at: 16:44 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 21 2010

Dispassionate, sidelined writers inventing exciting lives? Hardly.

Today I had an interesting conversation with someone I'll call Hayley. I mentioned a fellow writer's past personal struggles to her and she told me a little about her own background. I realized that many of the events being recalled had happened to very passionate people. Many think of fiction writers as impartial people, as bystanders who sit in a room and report stories while having no life of their own. I may be exaggerating a bit here, though I think we've all heard the stereotypes of writers who sit around in their pajamas and eat bonbons. From what I know of fiction writers, nothing could be further from the truth. Most ficiton writers come from backgrounds full of active living. They're often passionate people who will tackle a cause with passion and defend their loved ones with ferocity. They expect big things and they go after life with the same kind of fervor they present to readers through fictional characters. If you just read all that and you've been writing fiction, I hope it reminds you of who you are and makes you pick up some abandoned manuscript and give it the life passion it deserves.

posted at: 22:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 20 2010

Writing, not to make a living, but as a way of life

Writing has always been something I've done as second nature, even before I knew how to form atual words. I used to watch my mother write and would ask for paper of my own, making circles and squiggles and loops in an imitation of her actual script. When people ask me how they can know if they're really a writer, one of things I ask them is if they write things when they don't really have to write and if they get pleasure from doing so. If you've never penned a poem or novel, but you find yourself making little lists and writing words together just to see what kind of phrase they'd make, you might be a writer who's just never been official about it. You can be a writer and still do almost any other job. It's not an either/or kind of situation. Knowing that, if you find youself writing down all the things that happened on your last vaction trip, consider the possibility that your subconscious mind may be telling you to get busy with something you thought only real writers did.

posted at: 20:33 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 19 2010

Vulnerable writing

Whenever I don't get to write a blog post until late in the evening, I hesitate to write one at all. Every writer has their optimum part of the day. Evening isn't mine. But I've learned that writing at other than optimum times can be an advantage when writing certain kinds of fictional scenes. If your protagonist is going through conflict that is making him (or her) vulnerable, writing while feeling vulnerable yourself, because of fatigue or other issues, might actually allow you to communicate that sense of vulnerability in a more moving way. You can always go back and revise later. For the moment, tapping into your own fatigue or uncertainty is what's important.

posted at: 22:48 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 16 2010

What's your main character reading these days?

I had to clean off a set of bookshelves this week, which meant moving many items onto another shelf and making it look temporarily messy and overly-stuffed. I don't like the clutter, but when I step back and look at the bookcase doing double-duty, I realize how much of life is represented in all that clutter. There are photos, boxes of holiday cards and other correspondence, office books, novels, books on writing, phone directories, ring-binders full of vocal music, files and even old vinyl LPs. Some of the items date as far back as the 1960s. In a way, the bookcase chronicles many of the interests and the work of my life. I wondered what it would be like to visit the book shelves of a protagonist in a novel. If we wandered into a main character's library or office, would we find everything in its place? Would there be handwritten journals, momentos from past loves, photographs, corkboards full of announcements and invitations? Would the walls be full of art? Would there be a space heater? A favorite mug? What would be written on the calendar? And what books would line the shelves of the room? Whose biography would he or she have chosen? Is there a Bible? A cookbook? A travelogue of Tuscan back roads? Our character's life would be easier to read if we knew what he or she reads.

posted at: 19:01 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 14 2010

Feel the burn.

I find that creativity is more easily caught than taught. I was brought up around people who wrote songs and poetry, did needlework and crafts, painted and drew, played musical instruments, built wood projects and even tried their skill at making birdbaths. It never occurred to me to be anything other than creative, including in math, which teachers found a bit frustrating. When people find out about different things I'm working on, they often tell me that they used to make clothing or write songs or cross-pollinate flowers. And they mean that they did those things years ago. When I ask them what they're doing now to nourish their creative spirit, too often they have no ready activity in mind. They always look sad when they're saying it. I believe that's because we're created in the image of God, who is the most creative of all. When we don't create, our spirit withers a little each day, like a muscle that atrophies from not being used. The good news is that we still have time to get busy and do something creative of our own.

posted at: 22:45 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 12 2010

A season of plenty

Friends gave us some of their extra bounty of vegetables this morning. I found myself looking up ideas for potatoes, carrots, romaine lettuce and strawberries. I thought of how an overabundance of produce put me right to work in order not to lose any precious food.

What if words came in overabundance now and then? Would we adjust our daily schedule and drop other activities to spend time using every precious word before we lost it? Would it energize our writing and make us downright feverish to get those stories told?

posted at: 21:45 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 09 2010

How do you tell truth and fiction apart, if you do at all?

What if you wrote some shocking fiction and everybody who read it came away with different ideas of what you had written? Richard Fausset's essay on Pulp Fiction sees that story as more than just a blood-and-guts violent kind of tale. He shows us the story through the bottom of a Coke bottle to remind us that the story seems over-the-top until one holds it up to the absurdity of what goes on every day in real life on this planet.

I read Orwell's 1984 in the late 1960s, but it probably didn't have quite the impact then that it had when he first wrote it. We had Civil Rights marches, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, My Lai, The Beverly Hillbillies, the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, go-go boots, Neil Armstrong on the Moon, very wide ties for men, Jefferson Airplane, Chappaquiddick, the Manson Murders, President Richard Nixon, President Lyndon Johnson, Che Guevara, Lucky Charms, Hurricane Camille, the introduction of Arpanet, National Organization for Women, Tang, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Stanley Kubrick, Led Zeppelin, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Richard Speck murders, The Pill and Jimi Hendrix. It took a lot to shock my generation and a lot to impress it. I think it still does. When you see that much change and upheaval in society you aren't easily changed by one book or one movie. If Quentin Tarantino had made movies in the 1960s his work might have been overshadowed by the horrors of JFK's assassination or some other atrocity. And maybe he realized that, so by the time he got around to making the film he named the work Pulp Fiction, so that we'd all be reminded that, strange and messy as the story is, truth is still stranger and messier.

posted at: 18:46 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 07 2010

Flow happens, eventually

Water flow has been restored at our house. Word flow, where fiction is concerned, is still a bit on hold. I suppose I can't legitimately blame the latter on a break at the main in the same way I blame the former. What I do note is that a break in a main can produce extreme flooding and create meandering flow where there was none before, as is the case with blithering posts such as this one. When the dam breaks, things may get interesting.

posted at: 22:32 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 06 2010

Water, water everywhere and not pipe to run it through (or time to write about it)

The broken water main in front of our house has necessitated a bit of shuffling of the schedule in the last day or two. They're working hard on repairs and I'll (hopefully) be back to more regular blog posts soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the fine blogs listed on the right side of this page.

posted at: 22:15 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

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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!