Why is it so?

Why is it so Image Only

This is a phrase I heard often when I was growing up courtesy of Professor Julius Sumner Miller, an American physicist and television personality. Whilst teaching at the University of Sydney he hosted a science based TV show called ‘Why is it so?’ which I watched after school every week.

His shows were a hit because of his “cool experiments, interesting science, and fantastic hair”. You could say his show and teaching style was an earlier version of ‘Myth Busters’.

I was thinking about the good professor recently as I was working on the outline of a new book. ‘Why is it so’ was the question that popped into my head as I struggled to come up with a strong motivation for the main protagonist. Without it I can’t move forward with developing the story arc. So for the moment I’m stuck.

This is a fundamental question that all writers have to answer – the impetus, if you will, that drives the story forward to some form of conclusion. It’s such an important part of the process that there are even online motivation generators for writers who need a few ideas. With the a click of the mouse you’re presented with random motivations. How simple is that! For example:

  • Your character wants to clear their name.
  • Your character’s greatest desire is to protect their business.
  • Your character is trying to reunite with a major protagonist

There are even sites that focus just on the heroine or the villain. Just Google ‘character motivation generator’ to get a few ideas.

I also found this blog, The Psychology of Character by Fiction Editor Beth Hill from The Editor’s Blog, which covers the subject of motivation really well, with advice like the following:

“Knowledge of character motivation—knowledge of who the character is and why he is that way—helps the writer add layers and depth, veracity and cohesion, to story. It gives truth to fiction.”

 

To read more about Beth’s views on creating great characters, here is a link to The Editor’s Blog.

 

 

The Human Brain – instructions not included

The Human Brain

The human brain is a truly wonderful thing. The most sophisticated computer every devised.

There’s only one thing wrong with it.

It doesn’t come with a set of instructions.

There’s no ‘how to’ or reference guide, quick tips or shortcuts. No undo, delete or escape buttons. No handy little question mark to click, help desk or IT geeky guy to call when you have a problem. No cute plug-ins or apps to cut through the crap. No defragg software and no temporary memory that can be erased just by closing the lid.

Why? Because the mind is so incredibly complex no-one really knows how it works.

This realisation came to me recently when I was describing the reaction of a character in my next book and how she was so overwhelmed by emotion at the disappearance of her daughter. If only she could hit the off button. To power down her mind, to turn off the debilitating thoughts about where her daughter might be and stop imagining what might be happening to her.

And, whilst all humans come equipped with a brain that, to all intents and purposes, is identical in composition, shape and construct, every person acts and behaves differently.

How people react to different situations is what makes us all unique. There is no one accepted/standard way to deal with pain or loss or happiness. We have to work it out for ourselves.

Because of these differences (not to mention the physical differences between us) and the lack of any instructions on how we should behave, think and act, each person’s journey through life is unique.

From a writer’s perspective, understanding these differences is how we create great characters.  Is it easy? No – certainly not for me. But it’s part of my journey to discover how to be a better writer.

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Putting the S in Social Media

Putting the S into Social MediWhen I decided to publish my first book, Trinity, as an ebook I spent a lot of time working out how to do it myself. Thankfully, there were a lot of tools, books and resources available that allowed me to do this without too much difficulty. What I hadn’t counted on was the amount of work needed to promote the book and drive sales after I got it up on Amazon.

We all know social media is a great way to generate interest and awareness but the level of complexity can sometimes be so overwhelming it’s hard to know where to start. Social media has exploded around us whilst we slept quietly in our beds.

Every week there seems to be some new app, plugin, widget, website or platform that we have to come to grips with. When once all we had to contend with was Goggle, Facebook and Twitter (as if that wasn’t enough!) now we must understand LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube, Vimeo, Google+, Neo, Foursquare, Reddit, MySpace, Flicker, Friendster, Yelp, Gypsii, Songbird…

So I went to a course to help make some sense of it – or at least get a better handle on all things social. A few key themes emerged:

  • Don’t even think about social until you’ve worked out the strategy – what do you really want to achieve? Is it referrals or sales, retention, awareness, reputation?
  • It’s got to be sustainable – make sure you continue to invest time and effort once you’ve set your social media programme up.
  • Your website should be the centrepiece of your strategy – you own it and control it. Love it and nurture it and it will pay dividends
  • Content is king. If you don’t have good strong content people won’t engage with your website or blog. But there are ways to borrow and generate content that can make this part easier. You just need to know how. Evergreen content (content that doesn’t have a use by date) is best.
  • Start small – dip your toe into the social media pool rather than dive in.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t wait until everything is perfect – experiment and learn what works best for you and your audience.
  • Write for your audience not yourself to promote engagement and emotional connection.
  • Measure everything you can – there’s no point creating an online presence and not measure if it’s working. 

The main message I took away from the course was just give it a go. If you want to find out more about the course I went to click here.

Life Tips

I have never been one for seeking out self help tips or life advice but a while ago I came across lifehack.org – a website and blog that provides tips on increasing productivity and getting things done. Now I’m addicted. Every morning I check through the latest offering of cool tips, ideas, thought starters and motivational quotes whilst eating my cereal. I always find something that lifts my spirits or gives me a renewed sense of purpose to start my day with.

Recently I was reading 10 Quotes from Warren Buffett That Will Teach You How To Be A Successful Person. Being one of the richest men in the world, I was naturally curious to find out what Warren could teach me. At the same time I was a little sceptical about how I could possibly be able to relate to anything he has done. To my surprise, his quotes were very down to earth and I could easily apply them to my own life and circumstances. One in particular resonated well with me:

I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I ever doubted it for a minute.

OK, so I really don’t think I’m going to be rich. But the meaning behind this is about believing in yourself or as they paraphrase it in the lifehack blog:

Be Certain Of Your Success, Even When No One Else Is

If you’d like to read the other nine tips from Warren Buffett, click here.

New Year’s Resolutions Blues

After a night out under the Sydney Harbour Bridge watching the fireworks and celebrating the beginning of a new year, I sat down and typed up my new year’s resolutions for 2014. At the time I was filled with a great sense of promise and expectation that this year would be different.

Keenly aware of the pact I was making with myself, I composed my list. It wasn’t very long. After years of rarely achieving any of my new year’s resolutions, I have now embraced the mantra ‘less is more’.

At the top of the list was ‘Write something everyday’ followed by: exercise more, cut down on carbs, sugar and coffee, work smarter not harder and book that overseas trip I had been promising myself…

It’s now 1 June and, yep, you guessed it, I haven’t achieved any of my goals. I’m not particularly upset about that as all of the my resolutions are the same as last year. Except one. Write something everyday.

Who would have thought that it could be so hard? All I had to do was get home from work, prepare and cook the dinner, clean up, put the washing on, hang it out to dry and sit down at my computer, ready to write. Simple! In theory.

In practice, I find it very difficult to write anything worthwhile at the end of a long day. My brain is too overloaded with the doings of my job, my energy levels are low and my husband expects me to give him a bit of attention. So after five months of trying I have given up in defeat. I just can’t do it.

Looking back I realise that the only reason it was on my list was because I read somewhere that to be a good writer and stay connected to your story you need to write every day.

Is that true? Perhaps for some but not for me. After much trial I’ve found the best time to write is on the weekends when I’m rested, my mind has stopped worrying about work and I can focus just on writing. Plus I think about my story every day, refining the plot, solving problems, identifying new avenues to explore and improve, researching online and making notes. Often it is simply taking in my surroundings and observing the people and places around me and how I can use them in my writing. That’s how I stay connected. Then when I do sit down to write I know what I’m going to do.

So now I don’t fret so much about how much I write and when I write. Instead I worry about what I write.

 

 

 

The ‘Write’ Environment

I recently met up with some of my ‘would-be’ writer friends and we were discussing what made the most ideal writing environment. For one person it was a set of ear buds and a laptop at a coffee shop. For another, the local library or dining room after the kids had gone to bed. My ideal space is somewhere quite with lots of space and natural light. Most often this is the dining table in my apartment. In summer time on the weekend it’s at the beach.

At the moment I am gazing out at the beach at Maroochydore. It’s early morning, the surf’s up and it’s another perfect day in Queensland. But here’s the problem. Should I stay inside or go to the beach!