Archive | June 2012

Mass transit is research

I may be on a major learning curve when it comes to the business side of writing, but I do have a  handle on the process. Every writer has personal tricks of the trade. These methods, silly or not, help her to keep the oil full in the inspiration and motivation lantern. 

I have my own ways. They could work for someone else. They could not. Everyone is different and if you have any aspirations of putting pen to paper, it would be helpful to explore what works for you. Don’t just sit there expecting the next great novel to magically appear in your lap, written, edited and ready for publication.

I have always been a bit of a people watcher. It was only in my later years when I started taking the writing more seriously, that I realized my hobby of harmlessly spying on what’s going on around me was priming the pump to bring ideas, characters and situations to the surface so I could describe them and create a story. 

I take a transit bus to work every morning and home again at night. Like most commuters, I see it as a necessary evil. I could complain about the squawking children, smelly bodies in summer, rude riders who seem to think it’s their own private limo. I have moments where I’m fed up with it, but mostly, I like to find myself a seat someplace and inconspicuously begin looking… I mean really looking… at the people sitting, standing and moving around me.

I find all of them interesting. I’m not as two dimensional as some drippy editor at “Only Beautiful Skinny People” magazine. I get engrossed in noting people’s features first. How is the nose shaped? Eye colour? Expression? Cheekbones? Hair style? Skin tone? It’s all fascinating. Lines on faces tell a story. Far off looks make me wonder what they’re thinking and what oceans do they have to cross in their lives. What are they wearing? Are they carrying a purse, books, shopping bags, a briefcase? 

Once I’m on the bus, it doesn’t take me long to pick one or two people on which to focus. A person can be any ethnicity, any age, any gender. I will see where they would fit into a story I’m already writing or a new story will begin to open up, making my mind suddenly pregnant with story possibilities. By the time I get home, I am racing to sit down and type out paragraphs. Sometimes I start scribbling right on the bus. Once in a while, I will make a quick recording of an idea that popped into my mind while the oblivious passengers carry on with their business. 

Sometimes that makes me feel guilty. There they are, inspiring me, and they don’t even know that they’ve done it. I’ve seen young men, eyes rife with worries, plans or questions, and I’ve thought, “There’s my leading man for such and such a book.” I’ve seen women who obviously don’t think they’re beautiful, but I see their quality and would be intruding if I said so. They end up walking and talking as a character in my work.

I can’t tell them. Of course I can’t. Then, I would have to confess not only to the heroes and heroines, but to the villains too. I’ve seen my lead characters. I’ve seen the quirky, eccentric ones. I’ve even picked out faces and frames that I can use to be outright jackasses and bad guys. They could be wonderful in real life, but for a few minutes on the bus, they were the masterminds of dastardly deeds! 

In the novel I have almost completed, I have a character that is nasty. I actually thought I had described him in an unrealistic way until one day, I saw a headline about a man being arrested. His picture was on the front cover of the paper and, lo and behold, my mouth agape, I exclaimed “That’s him!” Truth can be stranger than fiction.

I have started writing a new novel even though I’m not finished the other one. The characters were screaming at me, so I wrote. A week later, I was in a mall and smiled when I saw a lady sitting in the food court and I said, “That’s my Gladys. It looks just like her.” 

If you want to write, learn to people watch. It’s a valuable tool and the more you do it, the more you get used to inventing characters and making them authentic. I hear snippets of real conversations around me and it helps me write dialogue. If you don’t want to go out and be a public voyeur, turn on television channels that deal with real situations and watch and listen to the people. I don’t find that as effective, but some folks really don’t like the idea of watching strangers in public. I like it. It’s not harming anyone. I’m not stalking them. I just watch a portion of their world for a few minutes and it helps me to create believable fiction. 

95 000 words later and my first draft is nearly done. I am 10 000 words into the second book. These two seem to be racing now. How fun! I wonder who will catch my attention today. It might be you. Don’t be alarmed. I don’t want to know your personal life. I just want to use you as… a template. Tee hee hee.


This is How I Roll

I’m working on my novel. 94 000 words in and I can see the end in sight. How happy I must be! So, why why why was I sitting eating dinner on my sofa the other night (yes I am a cretin and not prim and proper in any way) and all of a sudden, I see the title of a new novel come before my mind’s eye like a glowing marquis sign? I tried to brush it off. I ignored it. I read. I did a puzzle. I wrote the title down and saved it in a file so I could pull it out later AFTER THIS NOVEL IS FINISHED!!!! 

Ah, forget it. I’m 6500 words in on a new novel. I’m still plugging away at the one I want to finish before the summer is over. I guess I have finally joined the ranks of… the multi-tasker. Oh yeah. And I’ve been invited to participate in a songwriting competition in July. It’s a good thing I have a lot of songs already written and don’t have to create anything new… whoa… is that a new tune in my head? Are those birds swirling up there? Nope. Those are lyrics. I could write a new song. 

Well, it’s better than getting writer’s block, I suppose. Catch you all on the flip side. 

Another Writer Joins the Blogging World

It’s a good day to be a writer. No longer do you have to fret over reams of paper strewn all over your bedroom/office/study. It is actually possible to find your fourth wall without leaving your front door.

I have been writing songs, stories, plays and poetry for about 35 years. I was driving students crazy with it all through my school days, except when we had a group writing assignment. That was the only time they literally fought each other to get to my desk. I wanted to write. They wanted to get out of writing. It was quite idiotic  symbiotic.

I am almost finished a novel I have been working on for over a year. The first draft is three quarters complete and I have been told that I have better odds of being published and actually finding an audience if I ramble  blog and beg invite people to follow my posts as if I were the Pied Piper of the Interwebs.

So, please, I shamelessly happily invite you to click ‘follow’. Join my band of merry men people. Give me the delusion satisfaction of knowing that hordes of people actually care about what I have to say. It will do wonders for my ego sales budding career.

Even if you don’t read my blog, think of the fun you could have at a party telling your annoying inlaws friends that you are in regular contact with a very famous almost and well respected writer. Thanks for linking to me. I will keep you posted faithfully about the progress of the new book as well as any other endeavours that have to do with the world of creative writing and lunacy other stuff.


Hazel May

This entry was posted on June 1, 2012. 1 Comment