What’s in your pocket?

I’ve carried a small Swiss Army Knife on my key chain since I could drive, over two decades. I replace it every few years when it gets dull or too banged up. I think this speaks to my pragmatism.

Ask any man what he carries everyday or what’s in his wallet and you’ll get a story about who he is: sentimental, minimalist, laborer or pack rat.

What does your character carry? How can that inform the reader about who they are? How can those items move the plot forward?

Betty is a worrier that’s been in many car accidents. Her car stocked with a sleeping bag, spare clothes, water, extra wiper fluid and jumper cables. This sets her up for survival when the alien invasion block her way home.

In the Dan Brown books, Robert Langdon wears a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. This informs his whimsical nature and potentially being a neophyte.

What do you carry everyday that informs your character?

Waterfall

As the sun moved ever west, light inched across the wall. One moment the wall was dark the next moment it was lit with dazzling spangles as the sun slanted across the horizon of the San Juan Mountains creating a premature or sunset.

The ice shimmered with brilliant shades of yellow and read and orange like the frozen waterfall was now molten gold tumbling down the mountain to pool in snow. Porter stood and stared in wonderment, while Jo snapped her handheld camera and the tripod camera’s shutter clicked every ten seconds taking a time lapse. The light was so fleeting like the sun sped closer to twilight with its foot firmly on the galactic gas pedal. The light show was over in a matter of ten minutes. The sun dipped below the mountains in a premature sunset.

Meditation

Cam stroked the icy surface. Tapped it to listen its thickness. Some taps sounded hollow where the sheet had not adhered to the cliff face or where air pockets lie under its depth. He pulled off his thick ski gloves and stroked the sheet allowing his fingers to explore its cracked and pitted surface. The sensation calmed him, pulled back the cloak of anxiety to reveal deep, centered calm.

This happened often, this meditation and zen state as a result of connection with the natural world. As a child, he would flee his high-strung nature or the strictures of his mother’s overbearing and smothering good intentions when he’d lie down in the yard and breathe in the grassy green scent. During recess he’d escape to a far corner of the school grounds and plant himself under a Blue Spruce tree and put dried pine needles in his pocket. 

The calm put his mind right. No longer wading through nervous apprehension about the semester ahead or fears from ending his most recent relationship. Elena wanted too much time, lacked her own confidence and needed constant reassurance of her place in his life. She was jealous of his alone time. Given the option, she’d fill his every quiet moment with mindless chatter about the minutiae of her inconsequential day. After six months of enthusiastic sex and endless banality, he ended the relationship days after Christmas.

Home Retreat

I get a three day weekend to write! My to-do list just doubled to avoid distractions and allow for maximum focus

Clean home and complete laundry.

Stock the fridge: tasty beverages, lots of water, healthy snacks, chocolates, and easy dinners.

Gather writing supplies: ink refills for my fountain pens, journal for notes, printed out manuscript so far, chocolates, fully charged laptop, post-it notes, highlighters and Oreos.

Rest night before.

Lots of notes and outlining on the days prior.

A plan and a schedule.

Wayne

Wayne dug through the shopping bag and with a grin that widened his whole face, he pulled out a box of oatmeal cream pies. “You’re a goddess.”

Wayne snatched a cookie from the box, unwrapped the crinkly plastic and swallowed it down in three bites. Even with cookie crumbs dotting his facial hair, he looked like an aging rockstar, a heavy metal guitar hero. His long salt and pepper goatee came to a point mid-chest over a thick waffle-weave green Henley. His saltier hair hid under a hooligan hat worn backwards. 

“I don’t get it,” Jo said and shook her head.

“Come on,” he said. “What do you miss? That one indulgence that you can’t get here.”

Slow Word Count

That pesky day job keeps getting in the way of my editorial schedule.

I typically write in the morning. Get up early, knock out my word count and move forward with my day: go to work, clean the house, take a shower, the important things. I’ve recently changed positions in my company and have to work at six am, so my writing schedule has been put on a shelf as my deadline looms.

My schedule changes in over a week, but I’ve got to figure out how to get some word count done over the coming days. I can’t imagine getting up any earlier. After work, I’m generally very tired and in debilitating pain from a newly reconstructed ankle.

Maybe this week needs to be dedicated to editing what I already have or committed to outlining. I refuse to back burner my novel.

Learning from the season

“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”  George Carlin

The Santa Claus story is maybe the most well known and pervasive in the world, other than maybe Jesus or Mohamed. As a writer, especially one seeking some modicum of commercial success, there are things we can learn from Santa.

Santa has multiple origin stories and we don’t care, we still love the jolly old fat man. With release of Klaus, Netflix just gave us another origin story. Was he the first toymaker to the the king, a lonely old widower, a work-obsessed suburbanite that happens to put on Santa’s coat? No one cares, we care only about his magic. By the way, Klaus is a great holiday film.

Santa’s magic has limits. Like any well-written fantasy or science fiction story, Santa’s world has rules and limits. His knowledge of children’s behavior is limited to filling out the naughty or nice list. He delivers gifts to the entire world in one night. Don’t forget the elves. His magic and his world isn’t all encompassing. He can’t correct a child’s bad behavior with his magic, just bribery.

All of those origin stories, follow the hero’s journey and three act structure. Jolly St. Nick had to leave his ordinary world to overcome many obstacles to reach transformation. Do you see it?

Those are a few of the story-telling lessons we can learn, but there are other things the myth can teach us: follow your passion, laugh often, recruit a team with similar values, focus on doing the right thing.

Modern Writer

“Modern Problems require modern solutions.” Dave Chappelle

My commute has recently doubled as I changed positions. I’ve always listened to podcasts and an occasional audio book, but I have a lot more time on my hands this past week. As I listen to podcasts or books, I gain insights into my own writing or my current project.

“Hey, Siri. Take a note.”

My wondrous iPhone takes terrible dictation, but at least it is a place to start. Using Google Docs on my phone, I can copy the notes directly into my document. 🙂 I’m finally feeling like a modern writer… although I do love my analog journal and fountain pen.

Goal Oriented

This year, I discovered that I’m very goal-oriented. I think it comes from so many years of failing at every goal.

During my college years, I’d set goals and treat them like wishes. I’d write them down and never put forth any effort which ultimately led to disappointment.

With age and work experience, I know how to better set realistic goals and break them down into smaller, achievable milestones.

With the coming new year, I do the cliched reflection and goal-setting all the other nerds are doing this time of year. My theme is 20 for 20. I’ll set twenty goals for the coming year.

Goal number one: finish and publish another novel.