Reading the Writer’s Mind!

Can you gain insight into a writer’s head by reading their work? The short answer to that question is yes. Every time I write I leave a little piece of myself in the work. It may be an experience that I went through, which I blended into a scene. Or it could be a character trait that I share with my protagonist in any given story. To be able to write well, you have to know a lot about the subject you’re writing about. You don’t know anybody better than yourself, so it makes sense that you would go there often when searching for character cues in your story.

Does this formula also work for villains? Well let’s hope not. However, for a villain to be believable, he does have to have a human side to him. You can search yourself for those traits when writing your next big story too. But when that doesn’t work, you can always resort to that co-worker who’s been driving you bananas at work lately. In the end though, you’re inserting one of your experiences into your work again, so in a roundabout way you found the answer within yourself.

When I think about Lin Wu, there is a small piece of me in her. Only I’m not as cute or as smart as she is. But I do leave small pieces of myself behind, I guess that’s why her and I get along so well. Happy writing or reading as the case may be.



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Rude People and Writing!

Occasionally I meet people that I just can’t seem to forget.  Maybe they were extremely friendly towards me leaving a lasting impression that stays with me for days or weeks on end.  Or maybe they were shamelessly rude, grilling their unbearable mark permanently into my psyche.   Sometimes it could just be the way they carried themselves, a certain walk, a particular look, or an uttered phrase that I can’t seem to forget.  In all cases though one thing is clear, all of them inadvertently contribute to my stories in one way or another.

This was the case for me recently when I went on a trip over winter break.  A salesman, who was very interested in selling me a time-share, became quite irate when I told him my answer was no.  It wasn’t that his product was bad or lacking in quality.  In fact, his hotel had a five star rating and included a fancy pool with several swim up bars, extravagant rooms with ocean views and golf courses surrounding the property.  In the end however, I just  didn’t feel I needed his product.  I happen to think that a hotel is just the place I put my head down at night to sleep, not a place that I spend my whole time at while on vacation.   I would rather spend my time site seeing.

That was not the answer he wanted to hear though.  I guess I was supposed to be so blown away by his impressive lounge and his fancy restaurant with a rainforest view to the point where I couldn’t possibly say no.  Anyway, by the end of the meeting I was selfish in his eyes.  He couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t consider buying a time share at his fancy hotel.  I was a bad person who had wasted his time, although I was the one giving him a chance to sell me something while on my vacation.  He made several rude comments to me in front of my wife in a last ditch effort to shame me into buying a share in his hotel.  In any case, he left sort of a bad taste in my mouth when it was finally time to leave his property.

Although this was not the booming peak of my vacation, I can still safely say that he created a vivid experience for  me that afternoon.  There are a ton of ideas that can come out of that one incident.  His behavior could be the founding blocks of a good villain, or at least a background character, who creates an unbearable obstacle for my protagonist to overcome.

As a writer I am fast learning how to take all these unique events into perspective.  They’re actually very helpful to me in the end.  But even though Mr. Rude Salesman gave me plenty of fodder for a whole new character, I still think I preferred that sweet college-aged girl who jumped into the ocean with me and my kids just before it was time to swim with the dolphins.  Her friendly smile and pleasant demeanor helped offset the unnecessary damage done by Mr. Rude Salesman, so that I can finally say my trip was a booming success in the end.



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I Can’t Sleep Tonight, There’s a Girl Floating Around my Room!

>We’ve all been there at some point.  You’re lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to force yourself to drift off to sleep.  Maybe you put on the television, trying to find a program that you find so boring, you can’t help but sleep.  When that doesn’t work, maybe you move on to reading a book, hoping the forced ritual of moving your eyes across the page will cause them to give in, eventually sending you into slumber land.  Or maybe you try sticking the earphones of your IPod in your ears, expecting the music to sooth you away into a blissful REM.

But when all of these fail, I use a different strategy to help me pass the time at night.   I sneak off to my computer where I try to put together a new conflict for my characters to work through.  It always has to be something mysterious for me, or it just won’t do.  But sometimes it becomes a little too spooky.  Like when the ghostly image of a girl, dressed in white, with her long black hair flowing, descends from the ceiling right in front of me.  When that happens, I usually find it too hard to go back to sleep.  Partially because I have to explain who she was, why she was there, and most importantly, how my main character is going to deal with her.  But it also stems from the fact that it was just a little too spooky and now I can’t go back to sleep.

This was the case for me recently after viewing the Korean ghost school film, Wishing Stairs. If you’ve seen the film, then you may recall the scene I’m talking about.  Were the ballerina from beyond comes down to her friend in the dance studio, her eyes fluttering around as she hangs in mid-air like a nightmare.  The film gave me some ideas for my own character, Lin Wu, who often meets similar types of characters in her adventures.

It would be an understatement for me to say that Asian cinema had only  a small influence on my writing.  It’s probably been the strongest influence for me, in terms of how I see my character, Lin Wu, to date.  It’s also one of the reasons why I may not be sleeping as well at night.  But in the end, I know my character will deal with that ghostly girl hanging down from the ceiling in one way or another.  Then I’ll have time to let her deal with that creepy little doll, that seems to be walking across the floor all by itself at the moment.  A good sleep will just have to wait.

Wishing Stairs

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That Girl I Have to Chase is Back!

So what do you do when that cute feisty girl, who you’ve known so well for a year now, comes hovering around, waiting for you to drop everything just so you can chase after her again?   In my case I have two options, I can either decide to chase after her right away, or I have to tell her not now, our adventures will have to wait until later.  I’m of course talking about my latest character Lin Wu.  She’s the character that  consumes a lot of my time lately.

Interestingly though, her presence isn’t always welcome.  For example, when its family time, sitting on the couch thinking of plots, action, and dialogue wouldn’t be appropriate.  Your spouse may have just come home from work and needs you to be attentive to their needs, or your kids may need help with their homework.

Dropping everything to chase after  your characters is the most important thing you can do sometimes, especially when you’re close to finishing a book or a short  story.  But if it gets you an angry scowl from your spouse because you’re in your own world again, you have to let them go, at least for awhile.  In the end they are your characters.  Your imaginary characters.  And a fictional character can easily become just like the other woman if you don’t learn to balance your time.

This is a struggle most writers have to learn to balance.  It helps if they have a supportive family who understands that they need  time to chase after that girl.  But not all writers have that luxury.  Some of us have to stay up till the wee hours of the night just to chase after our characters.  Other times we may get up early in the morning, before the kids wake up, to pull our characters out of that last pickle we left them in.

Then there’s the rewrite process, where we run with them to the same place over and over again until we feel they’ve got it just right.  In fact, I may need to sum up this blog soon. I think I can hear the footsteps of that girl walking up behind me again, ready for me to chase after her to another location we haven’t been to yet..

But before you leave this blog, is there a character that comes around looking for you, who’s always ready for you to chase after them?  If so, feel free to share your character or your experiences here.  I’d love to hear about them.

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Combo of Music and Writing!

Can listening to music affect your writing?  Well in my case, the answer is a resounding yes.  When I started writing my first set of Lin Wu stories, I would often be in the middle of typing my words down diligently, after pulling my Ipod ear phones away from my ears.  It was a sort of fuel my imagination required to get me started, like a cup of coffee on a cold winter morinng.  After getting a good dose of rhythms and sounds, I was ready to to enter Lin Wu’s world.  Since the music I tend to listen to is rather fast, I found that I always wanted to add some type of action to her adventures whatever they may be. 

In one case, I built a whole story around a scene in my head, almost like a music video.  The House of Dolls was concieved that way from the beginning.  The image of a giant doll running down a hallway with an ax at poor Lin Wu.  Scary! Of course I added to it, giving it life, purpose and meaning.  But it was one story that will always stick out to me as being born from a song first.

Action and movement is always a good way to get you brain cells moving, no matter what you’re doing.  I know some people who need to go for a walk before they start to type.  Others like to work out.  But for me, music is key.  It also makes sense for me because I tend to see writing like making a TV episode, where music if often in the background.  Sometimes music is the key driving force in a good drama.

If you have any other ideas about music and writing, feel free to leave a post and add to the discussion.


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