Writer, Thinker, Dreamer-in-Residence

dreamer pic

Source: Google Images/dribbble.com/Rebecca Williams

Dreamer-in-Residence

I’m in one of those reflective moods (again). Every now and then, the modern world gets to me (read: incessant noise) and I must remove myself from the droning, deafening sounds of our modern, so-called civilized society. I crave quietude and solitude so I can hear myself think. And see the stars in the night sky – I found Polaris tonight, twinkling a dull blue in a misty indigo sky.

In these reflective moments, as I meandered the “mean streets” of Midtown Sacramento (and quieter as I strolled in a direction opposite the interstate that cuts it in half), words visited then filled out my thoughts, such as: what are words but one’s daydreams put on paper?

As fellow writers, surely you can identify.

Thinker

I once again find myself craving something different, to move (read: run screaming) away from the status quo (who decided this was so great to begin with?) to find my place, my unique place, in this writing/creative world, a place which belongs only to me (and I to it). It’s a desire to grab that brass ring, the one that’s been just beyond my reach for as long as I can remember. It’s a signal to me that my life is out of balance and I’m still working on how to put it right. Writing helps.

Does this make sense to you? I ask you, how can I/we freely write/create when held in place by burdensome responsibilities so much of the time? Held by the chokehold of corporate America – the dangling of the corporate carrot (climbing the “ladder of success” only to find out someone’s removed the top rungs), learning how to lie with a smile on your face, learning that people are expendable, replaceable (so much for being unique and valued) … the corporate mantras memorized, recited, regurgitated … leading to feeling institutionalized.

How do I/we break free?

My guess is, to write, as a writer must.

Writer

How many of you dream of the freedom that comes with being a writer/thinker/dreamer-in-residence? I’ve had to redefine the word freedom multiple times, as it can have different meanings in different stages of one’s life. That stream of thought brought me to this:

IF

If we dream, we must write.

If we write, we must imagine.

If we imagine, we must create.

If we create, we must give a bit

of the best of ourselves to the world.

Dream. Write. Imagine.

Create.

We must not forget; it’s who we are, not just what we do. We can’t deny it, avoid it, or squirrel it away for a rainy day. We must go out there, into the world, with pen (or computer) in hand and blaze our own trails.

Institutions be damned.

The Devil’s in the Details

writing a book_jerryjenkins

Source: Google Images/ jerryjenkins.com

Finally, Back At It

I’ve finally gotten back to working on my unfinished novel, a second book in what might turn out to be a series, since I carried my protagonists from Rescue on White Thunder over to my current in-the-works adventure. But I noticed something is missing in some of the chapters – the descriptive details, especially in the surroundings, locations, and buildings in various scenes. I didn’t leave them out completely; I just didn’t build much detail into multiple scenes, which I noticed during recent edits. I fondly remember picturing then describing in detail such scenes in my first published work so I’m not sure where or why I strayed. The following is from a scene I set up where I visit to a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and my impression of his office:

“He led me from the reception area to a room decorated with antique Asian décor; the scent of sandalwood swirled about the room. In the far right corner sat two camelback chairs upholstered in a bold, China red silk fabric embossed with gold Chinese characters. A simple wooden table placed between them held little clutter: a metallic miniature desk lamp, a small red statue of Buddha, and a jade green Chinese teacup containing several pens. On the opposite wall stood a handsomely carved mahogany bookcase crammed with textbooks and other academic works. Some of the books were at least three inches thick and I wondered if he’d read their contents. Most likely. Okay, I’m impressed, I thought. The area rug covering the polished wood floor was noticeably Persian; its earthy tones complemented the bolder colors of the furniture. Placed on top of that striking rug, in the center, was the treatment table. Light in the room glowed softly from a torchier lamp in the corner behind one of the chairs.” (Excerpted from A Bump in the Road, 2007, Lulu Press, Inc.)

You can picture the office decor and layout, right? 

Those Devilish Details

In the current book I’m reading, The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry, all of his scenes are written so vividly I feel I’m there, even though I’ve never been to any part of Russia. This is central to a story’s success – the settings, the backdrops, where characters interact, where antagonists meet up with protagonists, where protagonists escape antagonists, where locations change or merge, etc. Cityscapes, landscapes, seascapes, weather patterns, popular locales – these hold up the story as it moves characters through the plot. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have forgotten that, focused too much on the plot itself and not the intricate details of where events are taking place.

What can make those all-important details a bit difficult is unfamiliarity with certain subject matter, say, architecture or aviation. Some research is necessary to learn the lingo and how to describe them in such a way that every reader can clearly picture where your characters are, what they’re doing, etc.

This is a small example of an architectural description from Steve Berry’s The Romanov Prophecy:

“The Russian consulate was located on a trendy street west of the financial district, not far from Chinatown and the opulence of Nob Hill. The consulate, a red-brown sandstone two-story with an end turret, sat on the corner of a busy intersection. Balconies lined with richly scrolled metal balustrades adorned the upper floor. The roof was trimmed in a cast-iron cresting.”

Even though I’ve been to San Francisco only once, I can picture exactly what this building looks like and I might even be able to find it just because of the detailed description (especially since I looked up the words turret and balustrade and realized I’d seen them before but didn’t know what they were called). This is one of many descriptive paragraphs in the book. I can picture exactly where the characters are, what the weather is at the moment, what they’re wearing, driving, etc., all while watching the plot unfold.

Detail Detail Detail

Attention to detail is the hallmark of a good writer. Noticing this absence is part of my learning process and I fill in the spaces when I edit chapters. It’s a work in progress … in many ways.

My advice? Don’t be afraid to under- or over-describe a place, person, or action; you can always go back and add/remove the adjectives or adverbs. Just make sure the finished product is vivid enough for readers to ‘see’ where the story goes.

The devil is in the details but those details make a successful novel!