Quotes, moving and covers

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I am in the middle of packing, and it’s been a little bit of a nightmare.  There are so many things to think about.  In fact the process is long and fraught with so many niggly little problems that I’ve had to take a step back from everything, including writing.  The cloud of overwhelmingness (I do know it’s not a real word) was growing bigger and darker every day. Packing and writing don’t mix for me, at least not at the moment.  Combine that with real life (the everyday normal things) and you have a problem. Each thing distracts the other, and each refuses to compromise with my time, and consequently everything was coming to a standstill.

Needing time out, I decided to catch up on some reading.  I have long suspected I may be slightly obsessive about the amount of reading I do as I can’t seem to go one day without reading a book, someone’s post, or sometimes both.  Though obviously time consuming, it does have its perks.  For me reading provides relaxation and it is the way I learn.  Away from the mayhem of “do I keep this or get rid of it because I haven’t worn it or used it in the last who knows how many years”, and away from I haven’t got time to write a thousand words a day, or even ten words, I re-discovered the comfort of answers even when I was unaware I had questions (the quotes from Maya are very telling).

It’s amazing what you find when you aren’t looking, or think you aren’t looking. Normally I am reasonably efficient but I have been struggling these last few weeks.  Yes, moving is stressful and very taxing on both the body and the mind.  Yes, as a writer the frustrations are constant.  I know these things so why the angst.  Well, it appears a few things were playing on my subconscious, or I wouldn’t have crossed paths with the quotes I have strewn throughout this post.

Book 2 cover 100px RGB (1)I have just finished a huge edit on my novel Unexpected Obsession to ensure it is print worthy (although this could still be debateable).  Thank you all by the way, for the comments and ideas.  It has made a big difference to readability and has given me direction for my second book.  In fact I now have the cover for Unexpected Passion (let me know what you think), and am working on ideas for Book 3. On the surface this all seems pretty wonderful, doesn’t it? Yet I have been feeling uncomfortable. This author stuff is suddenly way too real and confronting.

Living in beautiful North Queensland has been an adventure but perhaps it hasn’t been the right one for me.  I miss the culture and diversity a big city offers.  But, I also wanted to be settled in one place. Circumstances have made that hard for me throughout my life and I thought it time I belonged somewhere.  I should have known that it wasn’t that easy. Too much goes into belonging and if the right ingredients are missing, then the bread dough doesn’t rise.  So here I am, moving again, and it’s scary and certainly not what I thought I would be doing at this stage of my life.  Then again I never thought I’d be a writer either. This life stuff is suddenly way too real and confusing.And your point is

Why can’t I just suck it up and stay put? If I found myself writing here, then why move? Is it wrong to want more?  Then I came across this quote by Muriel Strode.  She says “do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” For my whole life this is exactly what I have done.  I always wanted to be different and do different things but when I was younger and stronger, I had more time and energy to blaze a different trail if the one I was on, failed.

Ironic isn’t it, to be afraid to do what I have always done? It takes courage however to commit to something new at the best of times but as you get older the word courageous can become a foreign one. Does that mean we should settle for the safety of the known? Aristotle believed that “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” Forging ahead despite our fears prevents stagnation.

When I consider some of the things happening in our world on a daily basis and the incredible bravery displayed by some just to survive I am humbled.  Surely something as simple as changing where I live, and continuing to work at something I love, shouldn’t immobilise me. My sojourn up here has given me the push to publish.  Now maybe it’s time to show appreciation and go live somewhere where I can honour that.  It’s all about perspective and that’s what reading does.  It reminds us to have perspective.

 Till next time

Barb

 

 

Connection, the real secret is empathy

emotions-in-colour

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Have you ever wondered what creates a reader, a committed reader of fiction?  What qualities would a book have to offer to attract this reader? As an author we need to have some sort of insight because a reader is what it’s all about as soon as we dare put pen to paper.  I ponder on this topic endlessly and I always come back to the same thing.  For me, it is all about making a connection. I don’t know if it is the whole answer but certainly for me it is a big part of what keeps me reading.

Novelist Jeff Gerke, author of Hack Your Reader’s Brain agrees with the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s definition of a friend – a soul dwelling in two bodies.  Jeff believes that when “it comes to fiction, we’re shooting for that sort of relationship between the reader and the hero” and he thinks the long-term solution to connecting your reader to your protagonist, is the glue of empathy. I am a great believer in empathy.  When we can put ourselves in someone else’s head space we begin to understand what might hold the attention so necessary, to ensure our words are read. A good teacher never forgets what it feels like to be a student regardless of the field of study. It gives them the edge to understand student needs. It doesn’t always mean an expert job but at least the heart and soul are involved, and students feel that.  It is like extending a hand in friendship.

Our writing is stronger if we can somehow manage to create that glue.  It brings together two very separate entities, one real and one not.  A connection is made. Joanna Penn   in a recent post says if “you want readers to want to spend their precious time on your book, then you have to write a character that keeps them engaged. This doesn’t mean that you need a goody-goody-two shoes perfect person, but you do want to write a compelling, authentic protagonist that hooks the reader, so they are desperate to know what happens next in the character’s world.”  I’d like to take it a step further. The engagement can come about from any of the characters, including the peripheral ones.

dog-and-cat

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Empathy happens if something in the experience you are viewing or reading relates in a personal and emotional manner.  It doesn’t have to be an exact similar experience.  In the film, The Doctor with William Hurt, the main character discovers all his pact answers suddenly seem superficial and cold when he mixes with other patients as a patient and not as a doctor.  As the one on the receiving end he finds the professionally delivered conversations are far from empathic. In fact it is similar to telling a story and not showing it – a beautiful flow of meaningless words mimicking understanding that leaves the recipient unsatisfied.  Writing about a situation however sad, or violent, or loving won’t connect the reader to the character or the scene. The feelings evoked will.  This is what the reader sees, hears and feels, blends and then processes.  The internalisation turns the scene into something tangible to them, into something meaningful.

As an author we can’t tell our reader how to feel. Feelings can’t be forced.  Somehow we have to create that atmosphere with our word choices.  A great idea will not suffice if a reader can’t make a connection, can’t find that glue. As a reader myself, one with a severe addiction to my kindle, I will forgive flaws when I review if the character, or characters reach out and tug emotion from me.  There is a sense that the writer is sharing (sometimes subconsciously) something important and responding positively to their craft is not a hardship.

Monica M. Clark gives some excellent examples of things she has heard readers say when that sharing takes place:

“I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters, even when I wasn’t reading the book.”

“I had to find out if she ever reconciled with her father.”

“I kept forgetting she wasn’t real. I even caught myself praying for her once.”

Links are made when a reader feels strongly about the work of fiction that they have chosen to read.  If you can’t stop thinking about the character then the words on the page have triggered something personal in you.  It may not be the exact same experience but like referred pain, it still is pain. Empathy is the ability to relate.  Relating allows connections.

Readers read to escape, to lose themselves in a form of companionship, to understand things that may otherwise not cross their path.  They read to spend time in a pleasant manner, and to gain a different perspective. If they connect with our characters the experience is heightened.  Empathy is the glue that engages and gives readers a reality that dismisses the unreality of the fiction.

I live in hope of translating what my brain understand to the fingers that do the typing,

Alla prossima,

Barb