Authors, The Ritualistic Creature

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What complicated creatures we are. Most don’t even know it, but we practice rituals every day. Each person is different but they carry their little ticks and oddities with them where ever they are. Some rise early, have to have that tea, coffee, etc… Maybe you have to have your theme music playing. Often, and especially when I’m stuck in a story, I will listen to music, any kind really. Some kind of sound that speaks to me and says, ‘Ivan, this is the scene, quick, write it down before it’s gone.’ That’s how it feels doesn’t it? We are like photographers trying to catch a moment before it slips a way.

Some of us need to be around people, we get in our cars, on the bus, or walk to where ever it may be. We plant ourselves near them, the norms, the ones who are out there struggling, living their surreal lives. They are fighting to climb the corporate ladder, or maybe driving a cab. We gotta watch them.

Our friend the notebook in hand, coffee close by. We wait, capturing that moment. Maybe that beautiful woman, she’s mature, but strong, glowing with power, striding through the street and the sea of flesh parts for her because in her world, she is god. We need these people, they drive us, they are part of the ritual.

Sometimes, we can be deep. I find that a lot of people have lost that spiritual connection to their words. Our voices are power. We need to collect the mana that thrives in our cities, in our little towns, in our schools, our businesses, we need that life essence, that force that connects us all to breath into our characters and make them real.

My eyes open, sometimes it’s still dark. I roll over and take a look at the red numbers on my clock, a little blurry but they soon form. It’s four AM. What the hell am I doing up? I roll over and toss and turn until somewhere between six and seven thirty. My many little worlds on my mind. Will I work on Lasalle’s story today? Maybe Carver, the Bounty-hunting cowboy, out for revenge. Perhaps I will try my hand at something new, always so exciting.

Nice shower, a little colder than I’d like but it will wake me up. Catch up on a little news while I devour my cereal and the coffee brews. What is it about that brown nectar. I don’t drink it every day, nor do I have more than half a cup but it’s part of the ritual. I let the dog out, by the time I come in, it’s time for coffee. Two sugar, three cream, sometimes just hot and black. I take that cup down to the office, my Mac beaming back at me. Then there’s that first sip, is it good? Too sweet? Bitter? No, perfect.

It’s a proven fact that it doesn’t really do much to keep us awake, some can sleep right after having a cup. It’s that smell, that texture, that sinful little desert in a cup. It does something to me, it says ‘Time for work.’

If my brain is still foggy I hit Youtube and type some keywords from my story to see what kind of music comes up, any genre, I don’t sway to one specific sound, music for me is like souls talking to each other, the artist to the listener. Sometimes I can pull an image, or a mood from the song, it sets my tone.

My word-processor comes alive and my fingers dance across the keyboard, perfect. Lasalle is a fun character to write, her power, her naive mind forging like a great Japanese sword-master. Her gun ready, her heart on her sleeve. She tries to be sly and save the world. She cares that much that she would risk all for you and me.

Our rituals prepare us to enter another state of mind, they free us from the mundane and take us into that place we need to reach to see everything. They open the third eye and magic begins to flow, our passion rises like a burning white fire up from our bellies, and we blow it like majestic dragons over our blank screen or in our tattered notebooks finding that peace, that nirvana we all search for. In those hours that hole that’s in us all is full, that empty ugly spot has light and it’s shining bright for all the world to see.

Where would we be without our rituals? We are ritualistic creatures.

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Fatigue & Writer’s Remorse

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One of the worst things to fight during story building is fatigue. If you’re too tired when you’re creating your master piece, you run the risk of ‘writer’s remorse.’ You will create tons of pages, maybe some will be good and you can bet that some will not. You will find yourself writing ‘double paragraphs.’ Two paragraphs, usually one after the other, saying exactly the same thing but in different ways. You want to avoid this.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that you won’t be able to use any of your work that you create during your foggy minded typing. What I am saying is that you won’t be able to tell if it truly is good or if it belongs in the bin, as Gordon Ramsey might say. It’s underdone, put it back in the oven.

Writer’s remorse is YOU plugging away at that amazing story and ending up with choppy scenes, unwanted characters, bad plot, flat people, no environment, maybe no reaction. REACTION drives your characters. Without it, you have flat characters. I once read a short story where a guy was stabbed and he didn’t even grunt, no cursing, no “AHHHH! You stabbed me!” Nothing. What the hell, some guy stabs you, you’re gonna make a fuss. Right?

Maybe you completely forget to mention your environment. What? Your world has no weather? No people in it except the talking heads? No obstacles? Why would you ever want to read a story like that?

Eventually, you get some rest. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, you sit at your overlord, COMPUTER and open your story, start reading what ever it was you wrote the night before to find all of the above. You’re left sitting there, staring at this mess that’s got a goofy grin staring back, mocking you, maybe the story flips you off and says, “Deal with it.”

What do you do? You suffer from writer’s remorse. Now you spend the next month, cutting, editing, rewriting, adding tons of time onto your goal. Before you know it a year slipped by and your friends and allies wont talk to you because you’ve ignored them all this time to right this horrible wrong. You could never let that story see the light of day or you would loose all face as a serious author.

To avoid all of this, get a note book. Write your whole story in it, planning it in scenes before you even type a single word. When the time comes, you write the whole thing in a couple months and call it a book. That’s life, a world you create, without writer’s remorse.

Good luck, and put you’re tray in the upright position, we’re landing here people.

For Want of an Outline

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The outline, is it important? In my opinion, hell yes. Writing an outline is beneficial when creating your novel, here’s why:

Outlining your novel is setting up main events that occur in your book. Don’t freak out, an outline is not written in the stars. You can change your mind along the way. It’s much like a fight. Your opponent the ‘Evil Lord of White Space’ and his minions have nothing better to do then challenge you at every turn. Lets fight back, an outline is like having a trainer to lead you through the match.

Before I have an outline I always know what type of story I’m writing. Since I referenced fighting in the above paragraph I will outline a story about a fighter. Now I have to decide what my main goal is. Why should I tell this story? I find too many authors share stories that are boring, make no sense, and have no reason being put to page. Just because you can write something doesn’t mean you should. I like having meaning to my work.

Back to my fighter story. First off, where do I start? How about a match?

—OUTLINE **FIGHTING FOR MY LIFE**
A story about a fighter, he is on the wrong side of life, living in darkness. He has no future, forced to work for a criminal organization. Orion can only dream of the life he wanted, he tried to get away from them after a stint in prison but that led to the deaths of those he cared for and the capture of his son.

Chapter 1 – Start with action
Orion is in the middle of a match. He’s in a construction yard, forced to fight my the criminals that have his son. They want the construction company, the crime boss believing in the old ways, appointed Orion as his champion. The construction company brought in a ringer, four time Pavement Basher champion. Orion is half his size, not even close to having his strength and he must win, he has much more to lose. The match is hard, Orion gets thrown around but something within him fights on. With a possible broken arm, Orion knocks the basher out. The criminals cheer and he is given time to see his son.

Chapter 2 – build drama and obstacles
Orion meets with his young son, possibly between 6 to 12 years old. They play some games, eat some pizza and do all the things Dax wants to do. Then Orion’s handler Mr. Harper enters, he tells Orion time’s up and he’s needed again. Orion watches as servants take his son away, crying, begging to go with him. “Please don’t leave me here dad!” Whether he knows it or not, Orion has made the decision to make the men that destroyed his life pay for what they did.

Outlining gives you the benefit of not sitting around, bashing face into keyboard, trying to figure what else to write. Now you don’t have to go chapter by chapter like I started. Having an idea of where your story is going will help you bang out those pages, and force your enemy ‘Evil Lord of White Space’ to lose ground and begin his retreat.

There’s a problem, always is. Of course you can change your outline; incorporate new plots, ideas, and twists into the story, why shouldn’t you? I mean if I wanted to add the fact Orion caused this because he took over enforcing when his father passed away, or change the timeline switch chapter 2 and make that chapter 1. Possibilities are endless.

Some authors feel writing an outline stifles their creativity. On more then one occasion I got into a zone with my battle against the ‘Evil Lord of White Space’ unfortunately when I looked back to my outline I had gone a completely different direction. I was horrified, what had I done? That’s why I have to share an outline is flexible, it’s just a map to show that your story is going somewhere

In the end, it’s not an apocalypse if you don’t follow the outline to the last word. Take a deep breath, refresh that coffee and come to terms with the fact that tweaking the outline is part of the process. Enjoy your work because if you don’t nobody else will.

Ian Desabrais

Death of Good Villains

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Ever notice how they build up this amazing villain who you love to hate, only to kill them off? What’s the point of that? Some of the best stories ever told are with villains who ‘get away to live and fight another day.’

When you do it right, your reader will not only want your villain to survive, they will begin to sympathize with them. Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is a great example of this. He is the anti-Sherlock, yet, they have a lot in common. He’s brilliant and oddly polite. Except for the fact that he’s driven to destroy, he’s just peachy. In another life, he and Sherlock may have been close friends. They kind of are, playing their little game, that’s what friends do, they play together. If you read him right, you want to feel for the guy. He reminds you of that song: ‘Behind blue eyes’ by the who. ‘No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes.’

How about Dracula? Did anyone else get this is a love story? Put yourself in his shoes. He goes to war for his faith. Word comes back to his wife that he’s dead. He bathes in the blood of the enemies of the church and returns to find she has committed suicide. He drinks the ancient blood of the black cross and becomes Dracula. Much time passes. He meets a woman who is the reincarnation of his beautiful love. The whole world is trying to keep them apart and even trying to kill him. You can’t get more romantic than that. Yet, through all this, they are the ones keeping them from finally finding peace in their embrace, two wanting souls who hunger for each other. They call him the monster, they prey on his children and murder him. In this tale, you can learn to identify with the villain.

Don’t kill off your villains, and if you feel that it is absolutely necessary then for the love of everything that is sacred to you, introduce a bigger baddy that your once big bad villain was actually working for. Another great way to tackle this situation is to make someone pick up the torch to get revenge on your hero.

Every person is capable of good and evil. Some teeter to one side or the other. What if a villain became good? What the hell is the hero going to do then? Their whole life they’ve been fighting and now it just ends? No, we make someone even worst then the previous villain.

Killing off your villains without cause or just for a simple shock effect is lame. You have to do better than that. Too many writers forget to put villains in their stories. If there is no struggle, there is no story. A great writer once said: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner

I don’t take this to mean: ‘Kill all the characters you love.’ Maim them a little. Remember, scars build character. Make things hard for them. They need to struggle to get to where they need to be so they can grow to be great. If your heros never become great then your reader doesn’t become great. Get it? Creating great villains are an easy way to get them there.

You gotta reach, go bigger than your original idea. Always strive to be and do greater than you intended. Make us care about your villains, better yet, YOU gotta care about them. Don’t half-ass it and make some generic prick who is kind of snarky and greedy and expect me to like it. You better bring your ‘A’ game when you write your villains because you know I will. I pour my heart and soul into every character, good and bad. If I can’t feel something for each one, then what’s the point?

Ivan Desabrais

Writing Habits & When Should I Write

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Allot of writers ask the same question, ‘When should I write?’ Most authors have their own way of doing things. Some wakeup at the crack of dawn, do their yoga and write a chapter while sipping a green tea. Some of us, scribble in a notebook on a bumpy bus, on our way to work. Others treat it like a job, they set goals for themselves. They’re going to write so many words, pages, or a chapter everyday. The truth is, you have to figure out what works best for you.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘how do I do that?’ It really comes down to self discipline. Not everybody has the time to spend four hours writing a book everyday. From this day forth you shall be known as ‘Keyboard Ninjas.’ Why? Because you are the type of person who has to carve time out of your day with a katana. You have to sacrifice and be sneaky like a ninja. Maybe you have kids and they’re always on the computer, or work ridiculous hours, perhaps you just don’t manage your time well.

Here’s what you do: Wait till the noisy kids are gone to bed or off doing something else. Get yourself a legal notepad and a great pen. That way you have plenty of time to plan out your story before you sit down to write. Plan my story you say? A lot of writers don’t plan, some feel it stiffles their creativity. I write tons of notes when I create my stories. Many times that story comes to life and I don’t use most of the notes. Don’t get frustrated, it happens.

Don’t let a single day slip by without writing. When you don’t write, you won’t finish. The professionals are the amateurs who never gave up.

Character Realization & Story Creation

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First off, let’s start by saying you can’t have one without the other, character/story. The two go hand in hand. Your character should tell a story just by looking at them. What does your character say to you? Most people will tell you to write down crazy things like what’s their favorite kind of birthday cake. Don’t do it. If you realize your character, they will tell you when the time is right.

Building a character is a lot like getting into a relationship. There will be things you like about them, things you don’t. You won’t know them very well in the beginning. They may have some secrets you don’t know. Annoying habits that bother you may pop up. Just go with it. Breathe life into them and let them live.

We are living in a time when our stories have a serious problem, UNLIKEABLE CHARACTERS. How often have you read a book or watched something you invested your time into and the writer(’s) go and make the main character completely unlikable. It happens. You gotta wonder, what the hell are they thinking?

During character creation or realization, its your time to shine. So do it, burn bright. Make those ‘mains’ bigger than life. I know what you’re doing right now. You’re rolling your eyes and saying to yourself, well thanks Ivan, HOW do I make my characters bigger than life? At that point I kiss my teeth at you and let out a hot breath. “Easy,” I say, “Come with me.”

We are getting in a hummer limo and cruising down the streets of a big city. The long sleek machine is beaming the streetlights off the diamond black paint job that makes the boxy body sparkle like a dark jewel. I signal the driver, Who just happens to be me in a disguise. Yes I can be in two places at once. Focus here.

I turn and ask you:

“Ever meet someone who had an interesting habit? or maybe they say an interesting  phrase a lot? Perhaps they had an intriguing look that you filed away in the back of your brain. No? Look over there.”

You see a strong confident woman. You can tell she’s strong by the way she carries herself, head up, shoulders back. She doesn’t walk, she strides. Her calves are showing, see that hard muscle there? Yogalates (Yoga-Pilates) body. Her gold mane flowing in the winter breeze. Her breath of war, streaming out in a ghostly white from the crisp air. Her long black boots crunching the snow beneath her feet like a viking denizen. Look, she’s getting into a dark and mysterious car. You don’t know what kind? She’s passing us, look at the emblem. Hmm, foreign to this place. Maybe a Maybach, not a bad way to spend a couple mil.

Who is this person? What does she do? Notice how we can change her attire just a little bit? Maybe her ankle length jacket swayed open and on her hip was a gun. Of course that gun was something cinematic like a desert eagle, all chromed out. That’s some serious bullet candy for someone into Yogalates.

Maybe she doesn’t even live around here. What if that’s not even her car? What if the real owner is in the trunk and she just emptied their bank accounts?

Boom! We have a story. All great stories start with a great character. See how we can flesh her out more. This story is writing itself. Very little was put into it. You have to pay attention to everything going on around you. You’re missing pieces of your work every day.

At this point we are flying over the city. I know, you’re freaking out. “Ivan, I didn’t know you could fly.” Stop stating the obvious, of course I could fly. It’s my page, here I can do anything. Here I say the word orange, and the sky is orange. Here I say rain, and it rains. That’s how this game works, so why bother thinking so small and making flat unlikable characters?

I look at a story as a series of questions and answers and now so do you.

Ivan Desabrais

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