Inside a Writer's Mind

Inside a Writer's Mind
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Summer's Day

I am missing summer today. Sydney's weather has been glorious recently, but this morning looks and feels like winter. 

So I'm posting my favourite Shakespearean sonnet (about summer and a lover) and more photograph's from our long summer escape. 



Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate: 

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:


Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Keep writing!

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Hero With A Thousand Faces

I've been reading and rereading 'The Hero With A Thousand Faces' for a while now.

Originally I sought it out as a another 'How to...' writing book. I'd read references to it in a variety of places, and heard that George Lucas had borrowed from it the mythical 'Hero's Journey' structure, as a basis for the plot of Star Wars.

I already have Christopher Vogler's 'The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structures For Writers', which is based largely on Campbell's book, and I wanted to read the original work.

Before I go on, I'll outline the stages of the 'journey' as ammended (to suit a narrative structure) and described by Vogler in his book. It is as follows:

Act One                                                 

Ordinary World                                                          
Call to Adventure                                                                                         
Refusal of the Call                                             
Meeting the Mentor
Crossing the First Threshold

Act Two

Tests, Allies, Enemies
Approach to the Inmost Cave


Act Three

The Road Back

Return with the Elixir

Campbell's book has turned out to be a revealing read in many ways.

In addition to providing a fiction writer with an effective template for a narrative structure (Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can't both be wrong), Campbell has also given us ample 'spiritual food' for thought -- or at least directions to the larder.

I'm not sure what your spiritual bent is, but I believe what we write (the stories we tell) is imbued with our deeply held (individual and cultural) beliefs: about life and death (and their respective meanings) and sex and parenting and God and many other things.

Campbell touches on all these and looks at how they are manifest and interwoven in diverse ancient mythologies from all around the world. There are a surprising number of commonalities in these myths and Campbell has gone to great lengths to illustrate them.

He suggests these mythological similarities are evidence that all human beings, in effect, share not only the same fears and questions about life and death, but also a collective subconsciousness, and that we have an intuitive understanding of the nature of our existence (or at least did have). And an awareness of where we have come from and will return to: the 'superconciousness' (you might say: God, or the place from which all life as we know it emanates from and eventually returns to). Campbell draws on a wide variety of ancient mythologies and religious texts and makes a compelling argument. He provides many poignant examples to support his assertions and along the way maps out 'the hero's journey'.

I would like to leave you with a quote that I found both thought provoking and intuitively accurate.

"...the birth, life, and death of the individual may be regarded as a descent into unconsciousness and return. The hero is the one who, while still alive, knows and represents the claims of the superconsciousness which throughout creation is more or less unconscious. The adventure of the hero represents the moment in his life when he achieved illumination -- the nuclear moment when, while still alive, he found and opened the road to the light beyond the dark walls of our living death."

What are your thoughts?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Notes From An Author's Talk

Last night I attended a talk by Australian author Kate Grenville.

She made some interesting points about fiction writing.

I made a note of three of them. Here they are:

  • every novel needs an emotional engine--often this arises from some sort of intrinsic conflict between key characters or from the main character's backstory which somehow propels the narrative forward
  • affective and memorable stories often have tragedy at their core
  • in your novel be sure to balance "dark" passages with "life affirming" passages 

That's all I wrote down.

Keep writing!

Monday, 7 May 2012

A Symbol of Life

This is probably going to read like the musings of a madman, but I'm going to write it anyway.

On my way to the library this morning my eye was drawn to something coin-sized and colourful lying in the road. From a distance it reminded me of an opal broach my grandmother used to wear when I was a child. I waited for the traffic to pass and walked over to check it out.

As I drew closer it looked like a small cluster of ebony rose petals. Blackened blotches streaked with swishes of vivid red and blue.

But it wasn't flower petals.

It was a butterfly.

At first I thought it was dead. But then I saw its legs move. And I picked it up and carried it to the footpath. For a moment I hoped it might have just been stunned. But on closer inspection I realised it was badly injured.

I felt a sense of real sadness looking at this beautiful creature dying in the palm of my hand. And I was torn as to what to do with it.

In the end I thought it best to put it out of its misery.

But afterwards, I felt a stinging sense of grief, which seemed out of all proportion in response to a dead insect. To a butterfly dying in the street...

And then it struck me that this butterfly, so often the symbol of life and how fleeting it is, was significant in many ways. Not the least of which to remind me that all life is like that.

Fragile. Impermanent. Interconnected.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Writing Dreams Anyone?

I just finished reading a really interesting post by Peggy Eddleman on her blog Will Write for Cookies about dreams, titled Z-is-for-ZZZZ-benefits .

It got me thinking about my dream habits and I posted a comment in response which turned into something of a treatise on my dreams.

Here it is:

I rarely remember all of my dreams. But sometimes after I wake, part of the dream stays with me. Usually as an image or a feeling.
My dreams definitely influence my writing. Often after I've finished working on something I'll read it through and think: Where did that come from?

The answer, I believe, is that our stories (or at least elements of them) come from the same place as our dreams: our subconscious or deeper conscious. And through our writing we tap into this, thereby releasing and revealing deeply held feelings, fears or desires, we’re not consciously aware of. Spooky hey? But healthy too, I think.

I keep scraps of paper and a pen next to my bed so I can jot down anything I’m struck by in my sleep. (Hopefully nothing that will leave a bruise.) When I’m working on a novel I get some of my best inspiration and ideas for plot and character development this way.

I read somewhere that life is a dream within a dream, maybe that’s why our dreams resonate so much.

Now I’m off to bed. (-;

ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz   END

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Novel Approach To High School Discipline

I just read this article posted by Neil Gaiman on his Twitter.

It makes interesting reading for anyone who's a teacher or a parent or ever planning on becoming either.

Actually, you'll probably also find it pretty interesting if you've ever been a high school student.

A New Approach to High School Discipline

Keep writing!