20 Symptoms of Writeritis

image from pinterest.com

image from pinterest

This 2-yr-old post was one of my most popular, and for those who missed it, I once again share the symptoms of this incurable condition.

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As some of you know, a pervasive syndrome has troubled a segment of society for centuries. After years of research, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders finally classified these symptoms under the diagnosis: Writeritis. 

Writeritis is defined as a persistent, maladaptive pattern of writing that leads to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by six (or more) of the following within a single month:

  1. A marked craving for increased amounts of writing, and longer periods of time to write.

  2. An unquenchable thirst for coffee.

  3. Repeated efforts to cut down or control word count are unsuccessful.

  4. Withdrawal occurs when writing is discontinued or suddenly reduced. Symptoms include shakiness, moodiness, and/or irritability.

  5. A tendency to rapidly relapse into extreme patterns of excessive rewriting – even after periods of abstinence or control.

  6. After writing, a compulsive urge to return and edit.

  7. An inability to initiate household chores until a plot hole is resolved.

  8. A clinically significant preoccupation with the motivations of imaginary people.

  9. Obsessive attempts to manipulate and control the lives of main characters.

  10. A tendency to forget the time, fail to make dinner, and/or eat in general.

  11. Overt rumination about murder, fear, revenge, evil, and/or world-conquest leading to extensive research and placement on the TSA watch list.

  12. Unusual or intense need for colorful verbs accompanied by an aversion to the word “was.”

  13. Periods of anxiety regarding commas.

  14. Unrepentant willingness to jeopardize a significant relationship, job, or educational/career opportunity due to a need to finish a chapter.

  15. Thrives on creating conflict and will often escalate disputes to the point of violence.

  16. Uses fictional fantasy words in Scrabble and argues that they should count as real words.

  17. Writing is continued despite a persistent physical or psychological problem that is exacerbated by staring at a laptop.

  18. Frequent disruptions during sleep to jot down a section of dialog.

  19. Tends toward exhibitionism and “showing” it all.

  20. A compulsive need to write about something, including not being able to write.

Do you have Writeritis?

The Rose Shield – Goddess in the fog

goddess-image2

The Rose Shield is my 4-book fantasy series. The first book, Catling’s Bane, will be released in March. Yikes!

I’ve been introducing the main characters for the past few months. You’ve met:

Raker, the man who hears voices in the fog
Catling, a six-year-old with a rose birthmark around her eye
Whitt, the boy battling crajeks in the swamp
Gannon, captive in the belly of the Wandering Swan
Vianne, an influencer who tortures poor Gannon
Kadan, a boy who contemplates death when faced with his future

Meet the Goddess
(Raker’s voice in the fog is no longer simply a voice)

Raker poled the raft through the narrow channels, wandering his way toward the floating village deeper in the swamp. Morning mists hovered as a forbidding sky scudded eastward, promising sheets of rain. The goddess caressed him, twirled in languid circles, veils of dew flowing from her arms like wings.

She stroked his back with a fingertip. “Your indifference is as disputable as your madness.”

“Am I mad?” he asked.

“No more than you’re indifferent.” She laughed and spiraled behind him, arms encircling his chest.

“I care nothing for Ellegeans, for their tiers or their power.”

“Yet you care for her,” the goddess whispered. “Your destinies are entwined.”

Raker didn’t reply. Catling sat cross-legged at the raft’s lip. Her fishing line trailed in the glowing wake. Scraps of her previous catch baited her hook, luring in yellow-scaled pippets and the blue suckers that trawled the bottom. Jafe mended the holes in the planking and named the fish as she pulled them in, teaching her which to keep and which to toss.

The goddess interrupted his deepening silence, “Gannon’s departure stung, not his reasoning, which she understands, but his failure to bid her farewell. Another rent in a tattered life. Don’t you see? Those private tears blurring her vision are for more than this one man. He’s unearthed old bones, marked another passing, another etching on her burial stone of betrayals. Her allies are strangers, her masters concerned only with employing her skill.”

“What’s her skill?” He put his back into poling them toward the channel’s center. Jafe glanced up at him with a quizzical grin. The rafters believed him mad, and he never felt a need to explain.

“She will tell you her secrets if you ask.” The woman’s lips touched his earlobe, striking a flint to his desire.

Something tugged on the girl’s line, and she tugged back, hooking it. With a yelp, she flew off the raft into the channel. Her head disappeared. Then she broke the surface, sputtering and splashing, the luminescence marbled by stirred up mud.

Raker’s pole dropped to the raft. Three steps and he leapt into the channel beside her. His feet pushed into the ooze, and he stood, water licking his throat.

Still in her hand, the line strained. A snouted head reared from the water, blowing a breath of spray into the humid air. “A crajek!” she cried.

“Waterdragon,” Jafe shouted over the excitement. An opalescent fin sliced through the air. “A yearling.”

“Don’t release it.” Raker caught the back of her underdress as the creature pulled her farther from the raft. He grabbed the line that slid through her fingers.

She clutched Raker’s shoulder, kicking to stay afloat. “A waterdragon?” The creature’s rayed wings fluttered frantically at the surface, its wide fluke slapping the water.

“We need to free it.” Raker gently pulled the yearling in. Catling swam for the raft as Jafe poled it closer.

Something brushed Raker’s leg. A razorgill if he was lucky. Birds cawed overhead, the banks stirred and water rippled. “Crajek!” Jafe yelled.

“Get her out,” Raker barked. His hands wheeled faster. The waterdragon flailed, its scaled neck craning sideways, long tail coiling and churning the mud. Despite its small size, it matched his strength. Spined fins slashed the air, flinging water in his face.

“Raker!” Jafe grabbed Catling by her garment’s shoulders and plucked her from the water.

Raker hauled on the line. He glanced toward the banks, on the lookout for predators. Gods drifted toward the spectacle. The goddess hovered above the waterdragon, delighting in his heroics. “Your blood spills,” she warned.

“Give me time,” he growled.

“Raker!” Jafe pointed down the channel “Crajeks sinking.”

“Do you trust me?” the goddess asked, kneeling on the water’s surface, her gown of mist spreading like spilled milk, hair spiraling above her head. Jafe held the pole ready to strike.

“Do I have a choice?” Raker grabbed the wing and worked the hook. The waterdragon reeled, squealing. Its spiked head bashed him in the jaw, cutting his cheek on his teeth.

Nearer the bank, another pair of knobby eyes blinked and a head the hue of wet bark sank beneath the surface. Jafe shouted, “Crajek, Raker!”

“Goddess?” Raker murmured, ready to let go and scramble for the raft.

“Do you trust me, my love?” she persisted.

His gaze snapped to her face, the daring smile, the eagerness flickering in her eyes. “Yes.”

She flew through him into the luminescence. He gasped at the sensation. The waterdragon ceased its thrashing. Raker exhaled and worked the hook, ignoring the whorls of movement purling around him. The crajeks failed to attack though they surely tasted his blood.

The hook’s barb tore a gash in the fin and slipped free. Raker let the wing go and the waterdragon dove. In one smooth movement, he spun to the raft and leapt. Jafe snagged the back of his trousers and hauled him up.

“The crajeks.” Catling pointed to the water swarming with greedy beasts.

Jafe shook his head and slumped down, the pole across his knees. “I’ll never understand your kind.”

Why Books are Living Things

Pixabay image - Arthur Rackham

Pixabay image – Arthur Rackham

In contemplating what to write about today, I’ve decided to go a little off the deep end for the bewilderment of my readers. We writers can be a touch eccentric, and in order to perpetuate the characterization, I thought I’d chat about stuff I don’t know. That’s the fun of fantasy after all.

Those who’ve browsed my website know I love the idea of myths. To me, they’re the stories that define who we are and form the narratives of our lives. In my experience, perceptions alter our reality. We use perceptual narratives to filter our experiences, to guide our decisions, and create meaning in our lives. In essence, who we are, beyond our physical presence, is created based on our values and choices, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. In a way, we are the embodiment of stories; our lifetimes expressed in epic myth.

So, where am I going with this? Hang on, I’m getting there. One more piece of information and you’ll see.

While studying for a degree in a pastoral counselor, I took this great class called “The Spirituality of Relationship.” In essence, it described a relationship as a new entity, a created presence with a life of its own that requires nurturing and an investment of time to thrive. The discussion provided a new way of looking at loss posed by divorce. For, although children may retain healthy connections with both parents individually, they grieve the loss of this third presence, the un-tangible creation, the relationship.

Now my point comes together…

I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do. Books and the people who inhabit them can open eyes, stir the heart, elicit a deep sense of longing or grief, outrage or fear. I’ve fallen madly in love with protagonists, profoundly altered the path of my life, made new choices, expanded my understanding of the world, all through my relationships with books. Some have stayed with me since the day I read them, hovering like spirits over my head.

What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be. History chuckles at the folly of those shortsighted assumptions.

I’m intrigued by paradigms, the perceptual boundaries we cobble together to rationalize our experience. I love the idea of not knowing. I bask in the notion that we scarcely use a fraction of our brains and possess only the tiniest inkling of how the universe works. Our perceptions are so small, so limited, that to me anything is possible.

Other than a photo and a bio (based entirely on my myth of myself) you have no idea whether I’m a real person, right? In a way, I’m a manifestation of our combined imaginations. It’s possible that my characters are just as present in the fiber of creation as I am. I think so. I know them better than I know most people; I’ve interacted with them, lived with them, learned from them, laughed and wept with them. They will likely outlive me too. Cool, huh?

Well, I’m a fantasy writer after all. I can imagine you nodding your head sagely at this bit of information or muttering under your breath, “This woman is three tines short of a fork.”

All I can say is, “Welcome to my world.”

*** This post originally appeared on Chris Graham’s blog: The Story Reading Ape. ❤ ***

Creating Rich Characters – Prompts

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While my days are spent grinding out my WIP, I thought I’d share an old post about writing character bios, specifically about using prompts to expedite the process.

The prompt-list below looks more complicated than it is (a result of explanations and examples). For some prompts, a word or two is sufficient, while others require some contemplation. Unsurprisingly, I force my main characters to endure the entire process; incidental players get a pass with a mere smattering of details, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.

Ultimately, I believe that this pre-work pays off, not only in rich characters. To me, the process of writing flows with greater ease. My characters are immensely cooperative in telling their own stories when they know who they are.

The External Character

woman-1801830_640Physical Description: Appearance goes without saying, but add at least one remarkable feature: glass eye, cleft chin, crooked teeth, chewed nails, scars, moles, beady eyes, or rumbling voice. Remember, even beautiful people are imperfect.

Gestures, Mannerisms:  A distinguishing physical habit not only defines a character but makes him memorable. A character may habitually pick his teeth, clear his throat, rub his jaw, trace an old scar, purse his lips, fidget with a button, wink, spit, raise one eyebrow, stroke a beard, belch…

Quirk: A distinctive behavior that goes beyond a gesture: Won’t eat anything green, corrects improper speech, loves bad puns, doesn’t like to be touched, is afraid of heights, always misses the bus. There are numerous lists of quirks on the web.

Attribute, Trait: People have a blend of traits. Pick one or two for your character that stand out. Maybe she’s stubborn, lucky, picky, impatient, naïve, or flippant. Lists of attributes are also readily available on the web.

Skills, Abilities, and Interests: No real person is great at everything, and neither is your well-rounded character. Does your character have an education or special training? In what skills does he excel? Where is he lacking? What does your character do for a living? What does he do during down time?

Mix it Up: People are multi-dimensional. Villains can have redeemable qualities. They may rescue animals, love old movies, grow roses, or play chess in the park. Likewise, heroes have their flaws. They drink too much, have hot tempers, always run late, get easily flustered, or are slobs.

Don’t Overdo It: Creating a one-eyed, belly-scratching, kind-hearted, hypochondriac swordsmen with a penchant for chocolate is fun, but most characters will require much more subtlety.

The Internal Character

woman-1596954_960_720Backstory: Each character has a formative life that shaped him. What was the character’s childhood like? How strong were/are his family ties? Where are his parents and/or siblings? What significant event of the past shaped who the character is today? What was the character doing before the first page opened?

Secrets: A secret impacts a character’s attitudes and behaviors. It adds interest to the story because it can create tension or mystery in interpersonal dynamics. What is the character’s secret that no one else knows?

Goals: What does your character desperately desire? A protagonist’s overarching goal will often drive the story, and conflicting goals between characters may be a major source of tension. Consider that the main characters will have goals related not only to the main plot but to subplots.

Obstacles: What is the main obstacle that stands in the way of the character reaching her goal. This may be a nemesis, a personal flaw, or a condition of the culture or world. Remember that villains aren’t the only ones that can stand in a character’s way. Obstacles can be large and small and there are usually lots of them in the protagonist’s path.

Active Pursuit of Goals: At some point in the story, the character moves into an active role in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. What triggers the change for the character? How does the character take or attempt to take active control?

posing-1022162_640The Big Fear: This is the one that terrifies – betrayal, loss of control, inability to protect loved ones, failure, death, aloneness, disgrace, insignificance, poverty, aging. It may drive the character’s goal or be an obstacle he must overcome. Fears have a basis in experience – where did this fear come from?

The Mask: A character’s mask is directly related to his fear. The mask describes how a character compensates for the Big Fear, or hides it from the world. For example, a character fearful of betrayal, may act overly independent or refuse to get close to others. Often the mask comes undone during the course of a story and the character is forced to face and perhaps overcome her fear.

Cross-Character Relationships: Another way to add interest and tension is by creating similarities between conflicting characters, and differences between companionable characters. What might the protagonist and villain have in common? Perhaps they both love horses, appreciate fine wines, or fear water. Along the same lines, how might the protagonist and his cohorts clash? One curses constantly and the other finds it offensive; one might play an instrument poorly while his companions cover their ears.

There you have it – my prompts. I hope this is helpful. Let me know if there’s something I missed!

 

**Images from Pixabay**

Emotional Writing

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The first book that ever made me cry was Charlotte’s Web. At age ten, I wept for a dead spider, my tender initiation into literary grief. I still remember the cathartic feeling of those tears and the sense that I’d touched something profound and mysterious to the human experience. Did E.B. White intend to change the course of a little girl’s life? Hmm…the power of books…

As an adult, I earned a degree in pastoral counseling and volunteered in several capacities as a grief counselor. I journeyed alongside children and families who’d suffered the death of a parent or sibling, and the elderly who would soon embark on their own profound and mysterious transitions. The unsolved murder of my youngest brother in 2003 brought the whole experience home, up close and personal.

So, what does this have to do with writing? As a reader, emotional authenticity is key to my immersion in a story. I swear I can tell if a writer is baring his heart on the page, or regurgitating sentiment witnessed on a movie screen. This doesn’t mean that we as writers must personally endure every painful loss that our characters’ experience. Loss is loss, fear is fear, and they’re often transferable with a little imagination (of which we artists have plenty).

What it means to me is that we have to be willing to fully travel those paths when they present themselves, in life, and yes, in those great books (and movies) that strum our heartstrings. We need to be explorers of our emotional pain, brave enough to embrace it, to pick it apart and feel its sting. We need to dig into the fear that underlies our emotional wounds and speaks ultimately to the human condition—that each of us is here only temporarily. That we matter immensely and matter not at all.

There are days of writing and crying, snot-nosed and puffy-eyed, breathing through my mouth with a roll of toilet paper at my elbow. When I write about loss or pain or a main character’s death, I know where my tears originate. I hope that if someday you read such a scene, you’ll be genuinely moved. Then I’ll have done my job.

I had a love affair

 

pixabay free image, geralt

pixabay free image, geralt

In October, Julie Holmes graciously invited me to guest post on a blog she co-hosts: Meet Your Main Character. I shared a rather personal love affair I had with…well…read and see.

<<<<<<->>>>>>>

I had a love affair.
Never consummated, mind you.

He was far too young, barely 20, and I’m middle-aged. Plus I’m married to a kind and caring man who makes me laugh. I’m blessed…in addition to being a realist. It could never have worked.

Yet, there was something about him that thrummed the heartstrings. Perhaps, it was his many failings that I related to, the human misinterpretations of how he measured his worth. He suffered the need to impress, a fear of failure and disappointing those he loved, of not measuring up to the outer façade of success. He wanted power, he wanted privilege, he wanted to be valued for what he did, because who he was just didn’t cut it.

I’ve felt those things. I remember feeling starved for love, grasping at smiles with barbed fingers and calling it destiny, overpowering any potential with suffocating need. I wanted validation for the object and trappings that was me. For beneath the skin, I’d learned, was nothing of value.

Perhaps what enchanted me was his capacity to dig deep into pain, to confront his failings face forward, to rise above, let go, and forgive his blindness. I saw humility in his startling encounter with his soul. I witnessed grace in that moment and fell in love.

For him it was a process, a paring away of the coarse petals of identity and fragile beliefs, each layer uncovering the mysteries and offering truths. Perhaps it was the courage and trust, the willingness to step with faith from the ledge.

I think I fell in love with his capacity to love…wholly…without fear, without shadows, without filters. How often do we meet a soul peeled bare. How rare is the courage to accept with open arms the messy lives we tote on our shoulders or drag behind us like a sack of rocks. I wanted a love like that…fearless, wondrous, unconditional.

Perhaps it was because he chose to live as he believed. His life wasn’t separate from his principles. He offered no excuses, no rationales, no exceptions. In this way too, he was intrepid, worthy of fidelity, and unpretentious. It was simply his way of being in the world.

Myths of the Mirror

Click the image for Amazon

His name is Conall, and he was born in my head. He grew up on the keys of my laptop, loved on the pages of my first book. As real as he is to me, he lives only in the chambers of my heart.

It could never have worked. It took me a long time to let go.

Then I fell in love with Morgen
And Gryff after him
And…on I go, crafting new loves in my heart.

Tell me, have you ever fallen in love with a character?

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Quote your Character (Day 3)

Quote Saige

Today’s the last day of the 3 Day 3 Quote challenge. Once again, thank you to LIVE LOVE LAUGH  for sending this my way.

If you’ve been following, you know I switched things up and decided to post quotes spoken by my characters. I invite you to share your character’s favorite quote in the comments if you are so inclined.

Talented poet Balroop Singh submitted her characters’ favorite quote in the form of a poem. Rather than stuff it into the comments, I post it here for your enjoyment. Two characters, a mother and child, speak through the poem: Tide of Time.

The Oregon coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIDE OF TIME

Life was filled with innocent joys
Childhood pranks, fascinating toys
Lots of friends, dreams so dear
Aspirations and goals to cheer

Searching lost childhood in you
Soaring into the unknown blue
Seeking fulfillment in those hues
Which life had painted anew

Hand in hand we walked on
Brushing aside thistle and thorn
Sharing vision of future bright
Weathering storms, accomplishing heights.

Your éclat illuminated my pride
Those precious moments now deride
Tide came…carried them along
Bare sand, where do I belong?

Quickly, life passed by
Snatching away cheer and joy
Shattered shards of wonderful years
Lie scattered, arousing fears

Confused, crestfallen, I stare at life
Endeavoring to reconcile
Picking up threads, entangled by time
Living with memories, living with mime.

© Balroop Singh.
This poem is an excerpt from Sublime Shadows of Life by Balroop Singh.

The challenge has been completed (my version of it, anyway). If anyone would like to pass on the 3 Day 3 Quote Challenge, here are the official rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you
2. Post a quote a day for 3 days.
3. Each day, nominate 3 new bloggers to take part in the challenge.

Happy Writing 🙂