#WriterinMotion – the brainstorm

rahul-pandit-CDrP01O2n-w-unsplash resized

prompt photograph by Rahul Pandit

After my first thoughts, I printed out the image on a nice piece of matte photo paper. The colors printed even more vibrantly and got me thinking about color meaning and how I will use the colors in my story. I recently talked about specifics of color naming and thought I would start there.

The Colors

I explored interesting color names over at Sherman-William’s paint colors and explored color meanings at Canva color meanings and color symbolism on Wikipedia.

Names

Red: Stop, Showstopper, Tanager, Poinsettia, Habanero Chile, Peppery, Stolen Kiss, Beetroot, Wild Poppy, Cayenne, Cherry, Tomato, Burgundy, Blackberry,  Brick

Orange: Obstinate Orange, Knockout Orange, Determined Orange, Raucous Orange, Husky Orange, Rhumba Orange, Adventure Orange, Serape, Invigorate, Navel, Carnival, Sun Salutation

Yellow: Gusto Gold,  Goldfinch, Lemon Twist, Daisy, Forsythia, Icy Lemonade, Pineapple Cream, Sunny Veranda, Cheerful, Goldenrod, Citronella, Lively Yellow,  Confident Yellow

Green: Center Stage, Electric Lime, Direct Green, Envy, Lucky, Greenbelt, Jitterbug Jade, Verdant, Grasshopper, Olive, Gecko, Parakeet, Organic Green, Pickle, Julep, Lark Green, Frosted Emerald, Emerald, Mesclun Green, Picnic, Frolic, Romaine, Kiwi, Reclining Green, Oakmoss, Artichoke

Blue: Turquoise, Aqua, Splashy, Teal, Calypso, Dynamic Blue, Bluebell, Sky, Celestial, Mariner, Fountain, Freshwater, Aquarium, Periwinkle, Indigo, Navy, Powder Blue, Adrift, Mountain Stream, Moonmist

And that’s just to name a few. Looking at how many of the color names come from flowers and foods, I thought about how my characters might choose color names from their surroundings: perhaps red is foxtail and yellow is butterfly, green is fern or tree frog or unripe berry.

I also see this as the beginning of a word collection. There are some vivid words in those color names like “obstinate”, “determined”, “invigorate” and “raucous.”  As I chose color names, connections and meanings began to form, but now I want to look at some traditional meanings for the colors in the image.

Meanings

Red: vitality and celebration, evil and destruction, love, passion and lust, anger/wrath, power, violence, aggression, danger, heat, good luck, happiness, importance

Orange: fresh, youthful and creative, activity, energy, socialization, healthy, attention, safety, warmth, excitement

Yellow: sunshine, joy, cowardice or fear, caution, optimistic, playful, happy, mental clarity and intellect,

Green: nature, healing, soothing, fertility, renewal, growth, relaxing, money, greed, wealth, prestige sickness, jealousy, inexperienced/new, youth, zest

Blue: trust, cleanliness, loyalty, tranquility, serenity, stability, inspiration, wisdom

Most of these colors can have conflicting meanings. That could come in useful to show differing viewpoints and how perception can completely change an image.

Characters

For a while now, I’ve been working on a tool to help me quickly brainstorm characters that are unique, interesting and multi-dimensional. I call it The Character Creation Spreadsheet.

While I was reading The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen, her exercises inspired me to start a spreadsheet of possible occupations, physical character traits, hobbies, fears and minor mishaps. I liked the idea of creating unique and interesting characters through randomizing different traits and finding how they fit together.

I started by making columns of last names then first names, followed by occupations, hobbies, physical traits and fears. My spreadsheet is ever-growing and now includes religions, philosophies, causes and countries. I can choose to include as many or as few of the columns as I want. For each column, I use a random number generator to select the aspects of my character. When I’m done, I evaluate how that character may or may not work in my story. Let’s give it a try. My first column, last names, goes to row 241, so in my random number generator I enter lower limit 2, upper limit 241 and get 3 = last name Grabner.

  1. Grabner, Alyssum, herbalist, the youngest of way too many kids, she became an aunt early in life, dropped out of school, but got her G.E.D.; she has always been disobedient; she has a club foot and a hooked nose; her hobbies are coloring and collecting teabags; her fears are ego-death (losing herself) and clowns; she has a mishap becoming drenched in a storm which leads to the epiphany that the journey is more important then the goal. Her story emotion is wariness. 

    Sometimes the random selections don’t work together,  so I just keep hitting enter to get another random number until I get a selection that seems to work ( for example Alyssum’s occupation took three tries).

    Sounds like an interesting character, someone who could possibly live in that small dwelling or happen upon it while trying to find some particular herbs. At this point, I will look up the name meanings and history to glean more possibilities for her genealogy, family and history: Grabner – German to dig (especially “a digger of graves or ditches”). Alyssum is the name of a group of plants. The flower is said to symbolize beauty, but I like the meaning from the Greek alyssos meaning “curing madness” because it was thought to cure rabies in dogs.

    All sorts of neat stuff there. I’m liking her name, her hobbies, surprising character traits and her occupation bringing her to discover the little house. I’m already hearing distant echoes of Goldilocks and Snow White.

  2. Luckman, Josette,  youngest of three, online degree, takes self too seriously, can’t keep a secret; she has false teeth and a shaved head; she enjoys table-top and role-playing games and collects flowers; she fears mutilation and animals; she bangs her head leading to an epiphany that you aren’t what people say you are. Her story emotion is Eagerness.
  3. Palmberg, Eugene, single father, greasy vast guru, used to be a customs officer, gloomy, unconfined;  he is covered in freckles and has shaky hands; his hobbies are swimming and fencing; he fears separation and books; he steps in dog poop which leads to the epiphany that Beliefs are nothing to be proud of. His story emotion is amusement/denial

A good step at this point is to look up the characters’ story emotions in The Emotion Thesaurus and think about how the characters will physically show those emotions. Do they have little ticks, physical habits, do those emotions come out in the way they speak, habitual phrases?

POV

Now that I have some idea of who my characters will be, it’s a good time to think about my possible points of view. Who do I want to tell this story? My three adult characters will be equally important in the action of the plot. Though the plot is focused on the child character (Eugene is a single father), he or she will be talked about or around, the child won’t have a say, or will s/he? Point of view ideas:

First:

  • Point of view of Alyssum: the character who discovers, stumbles upon, the cataloger, the reporter.
  • Point of view of Josette: the instigator of change, the representative of society, normalcy, expectation, government intervention.
  • Point of view of Eugene: representation of free will, leaving societal norms, parenting outside of social norms, doing the best he can with what he has through a difficult situation, standing his ground.
  • Eugene’s child: the unseen, unheard subject of all of the conflict.

Second:

  • Outside narrator: Imagine you live in this idyllic setting . . .
  • or Imagine yourself a single father . . .
  • or Walk for a moment in Eugene Palmberg’s shoes, now slip into Alyssum Grabner’s boots . . .

Third:

  • Omniscient: Maybe the hills tell the story, or the land/ nature tells the story, the ferns are omniscient or get some info from the whispering green ash?
  • Close: same considerations as first. I think the contrasting/ not completely reliable/ biased viewpoints of either Alyssum or Josette will be the most interesting.

Surprisingly, I like that last second person POV idea, and the telling in first person from   Eugene’s child’s POV could be powerful, but I’ll probably tell this story from Alyssum or Josette in first or third.

Time to start journaling and letting them talk.

plotting with tarot for writer in motion

Plot

The moment I randomly selected Palmberg, Eugene, single father, my story idea became clear. I can picture my three main characters and how the conflict of a life-changing moment for all of them will present itself. I can see how my characters’ occupations, hobbies, and fears will escalate the conflict, so instead of pulling out all of my plotting tools, I think I’ll see what Plotting with tarot brings to the table.

Using  Mark Teppo’s interpretation of the Celtic Cross for plotting from Jump Start Your Novel, here’s my plot:

  1. The Protagonist: Five of Swords
  2. The Opposing Factor: Page of Wands
  3. The Root Cause: Death
  4. Immediate Past: Ace of Swords
  5. The Goal: Wheel of Fortune
  6. Immediate Future: Temperance
  7. My intent: The Fool
  8. How the outside world sees protagonist: Three of Wands
  9. The guide: The Hierophant
  10. The outcome: The Empress

My interpretation: My protagonist card indicates engagement in conflict and suggests disagreement with others that leads to hostility and tension. Despite the fact that my protagonist thinks s/he has won, s/he may still lose because s/he has annoyed or hurt the people argued with, creating a path to isolation. The opposing factor, the cause of this conflict, is someone who believes they have made a discovery. The root cause of the situation is not a literal death, but a major life change. My protagonist’s life has been turned upside down and s/he is trying to make a new start with the little left. My protagonist is facing the reality of the situation with a goal of wisdom and self-understanding and trying to see hope in the fact that the wheel of fortune turns and its time for the bad to turn to good. However, the immediate future is someone arriving to create balance through a union of dualities. My protagonist’s ability to let things go and be amused by others’ hang-ups which is the only way to cope at the moment, becomes a conflict with those that see balance differently.

My intent for writing this story is to come to the page and the project with unlimited potential. I want to be open, joyful and accepting of every aspect of the experience and grow through each step of the journey, returning with the elixir that will improve all of my stories.

The outside world sees my protagonist as a man on a cliff looking at distant mountains, as someone opportunities would widen horizons in many areas. They think s/he could open his/her mind and embrace change.

Traditional values and institutions, an embrace of the conventional, a certain desire to follow a well established process, adapting to certain well-established systems and beliefs leads the entire story to connect with beauty and happiness of life, femininity, expression, creativity and nurturing are the culmination of this story.

My reaction: I love how card one defined how the story will open in action and conflict. I now have a better understanding of my protagonist, antagonists, the conflicts and perhaps the resolution. The affirmation of my intentions for joining this project was a nice bonus!

I now have so much to let simmer in the brain-pan.

Tomorrow, I’ll share more plotting and outlining. For me, today proved that beginning with creating characters leads to easy plotting.

 

A Happy Discovery – Free Indirect Discourse: I Was Already Using It, But Now I Know When and How to Use It Correctly

Write Like the Masters by William CaneI first saw the term Free Indirect Discourse while reading the chapter on Flannery O’Connor in Write Like The Masters by William Cane. Cane describes Free Indirect Discourse (FID) as “A popular technique with good writers, FID involves narrating a scene in language that contains some elements from the lexicon of one of the characters (Cane sites Rimmon-Kenan 1983).” He also writes “A helpful way to think of it is to conceptualize FID as narration tinged or colored with the voice of one of the characters.”

I didn’t completely understand the concept until I read this passage from Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away:

The room was lined with automobile tires and had a concrete and rubber smell. Meeks took the machine in two parts and held one part to his head while he circled with his finger on the other part. Then he sat waiting, swinging his foot, while the horn buzzed in his ear. After a minute an acid smile began to eat at the corners of his mouth and he said, drawing in his breath, “Heythere, Sugar, hyer you?” and Tarwater, from where he stood in the door, heard an actual woman’s voice, like one coming from beyond the grave, say, “Why Sugar, is that reely you?” and Meeks said it was him in the same old flesh and made an appointment with her in ten minutes.

Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away

This passage describes a telephone from the perspective of a character who has never seen one before. A more distant third person narrator may have said, “Meeks stopped at a gas station to use the phone. Tarwater had never seen anyone act so strangely, talking into a box like that.” O’Connor draws the reader into the mind of the young man experiencing the machine through observing its use.

Free Indirect Discourse is a type of third person point of view (POV) that allows a minimal psychological distance between the reader and the character. In other words it lets the reader inside the character’s head. There are two other forms of discourse in third person POV: direct discourse and indirect discourse. Direct discourse (or quoted speech or direct speech) is the same as dialogue, something stated out-loud by the character and written in quotation marks. Indirect discourse (reported speech) tells the reader what a character said or thought without quotation marks and using a reporting verb like she said or he thought.

Examples:

Direct Discourse

“It’s a lot more than that,” Jerry said. “If it works out, you could get everything you need and make some money too.”

“I’m intrigued. It sounds too good to be true,” Rick said.

Indirect Discourse

Jerry told him it was a lot more than that. If it worked out, he could get everything he needed and make some money too. Rick told Jerry he was intrigued, but it sounded to good to be true.

Free Indirect Discourse

Jerry’s proposition was intriguing. Could he get everything he needed and make some money too? It sounded too good to be true.

As a writing exercise, I recommend creating examples like those above, first, starting with dialogue and trying to change it to the other two forms of discourse and then, starting with FID and trying to turn it into the other two kinds of discourse. I found it to be trickier than I expected.

For me, discovering FID cleared up the question: do I put my characters’ thoughts in italics or in quotes? I now believe the answer is neither as long as I am using free indirect discourse correctly.

If you would like more information about free indirect discourse, I found these posts interesting and informative:

http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2013/09/free-indirect-style-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it.html

http://jeffchapmanwriter.blogspot.com/2010/06/free-indirect-discourse.html

http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2014/04/free-indirect-discourse-how-to-create-a-window-into-character-soul.html

Once I understood free indirect discourse, I went on the hunt for it in my work in progress. My novel is a psychological thriller told from the perspective of each of its three main characters, so, it turns out, my novel is full of FID.

Here’s a jog through B’s mind:

She wasn’t afraid of snakes. They fascinated her from a young age. She loved to draw their beautiful colors and patterns. She remembered spending hours in the snake habitat at the zoo watching their tongues flicking in and out as she imagined seeing the world through tasting her environment. Talk about an oral fixation.  She attempted to emulate the way pieces of their bodies expanded and contracted to propel them forward by wriggling on her carpet, that old shag carpet that shed fuzz right up her nose and made her sneeze.  Mom helped her create a really cool Medusa costume in sixth grade by sticking wires through a ton of rubber snakes and hooking them into a cheap wig.

And here’s a moment in R’s:

“Of course, silly. I’m a regular.” She smiled and scrunched up half her face. She probably thought she was winking.

That sounded like the brush off. She wasn’t going to give him a number and tell him to call her, so he wasn’t going to ask. She would let him find her here in this dive, if she wasn’t hooking a bigger fish on the line. Fine. He had mastered that game long ago.

Were you able to identify the different kinds of discourse? Do you feel like you got inside the character’s heads? Did they feel like two very different views of the world? I hope so. Have you found places in your own writing where you used FID, or places where you could improve your writing by using FID? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

I hope you also find the discovery of free indirect discourse fun and exciting (for some reason knowing the style had a name was very exciting for me). Happy Writing.