Tag Archives: muses

Steering the muses clear of trouble…

Carry-on, or should I check this with the rest of my baggage?

For years I’ve been told how I really should read the Millenium Series, not only because they’re considered exceptional books, but also because the character, Lisbeth Salander, shares a number of traits with my protagonist, Hazel Moran. Apparently, Lisbeth is a highly introverted loner as well, seemingly tough yet surprisingly vulnerable, with few friends and a strong wariness when it comes to strangers. I’ve yet to read those books, and the more I hear the comparisons, the more determined I become not to start.

I have my reasons. Am I curious as hell about Stieg Larsson’s books? Hell yeah. As a writer, I’d love to know what it is about them that created the world-wide buzz. And if they’re as great as everyone says, as a reader, I’m always on the lookout for the next good book. Is it likely I’d enjoy them? Absolutely. But now that I’m in the business of writing, there’s another side to that equation. I really need to watch where my inspiration comes from.

Muses thrive on words and concepts. Every waking moment, and even those dreams that invade our sleep, becomes food for our muses. A passing conversation, a headline in a newspaper, even the lyrics from a song, can get the brain fired up and fingers blurring across the keyboard. Muses are much like small children, sponging up and spilling back all their naïve little heads can absorb. We can’t shelter them from everything, but we should take caution with what we expose them to, lest we catch them singing ‘Like a Virgin’ as they skip into kindergarten.

So long as I’ve never read Larsson’s works, or watched the movies, for that matter, I know for certain there is no way they could influence my writing. In fact, that’s likely the same reason that the more I write, the less I read within my own genre. These days I’ve been sticking more to fantasy and memoirs. That way, I can read simply for the sake of enjoyment, without the concern that I might unintentionally internalize some plot point or phrasing. And I can let my muses onto the playground without worrying that I’ll be called in for a parent-teacher conference.

(Bonus points for anyone who recognizes the specific muse pictured above.)

Cause and effect…

I have a fondness for making my characters suffer. I send them down the wrong paths, I keep them in the dark, I torture them with impossible situations and torment them with agonizing decisions. It makes for a more interesting story. As a result, my poor characters are all forced to grow. When I’m on a roll, as I am right now, I tend to get wrapped in my pov character’s situation. I become preoccupied with how things are unfolding, who is saying what, going where, doing what, and apparently I go about my day with a somewhat distant expression. If a character’s world is falling apart, I’m there, speculating who set us up the bomb, or how to avenge what needs avenging. Acquaintances ask me what’s bothering me,and if they know me well enough I can just say “writing stuff” and they leave it with that. And if I’m grinning and giggling, they figure Annabel (the character, not the boat) is, as usual, being Annabel. And those who don’t know me that well are, so it seems, confused.

I’ve been confusing a lot of people lately.

Happy muses…

While I find myself restlessly waiting for boat parts and good answers, I’m pleased to say my muses are keeping me busy, bombarding me with inspiration. As I’ve said before, they’re a twisted, delightfully bunch, and once they get on a roll, the ideas keep coming, meshing, creating more improbable twists and perverse situations. The plot has taken on a life of its own, and I’m amazed to find it heading in directions I never expected. This is the part of writing I love, when the plot unfolds the way the characters dictate, throwing me for a loop at times. It’s so satisfying, seeing things take shape, watching as Stevenson, the character everyone loves to hate, rises (or perhaps lowers) to new levels, and the repercussions ripple outward.

Inspiration, to go…

For the last few days, I’ve been stuck on a chapter I was only sort of happy with, and if I’m only sort of happy, I’m not happy. It needed something more, but what that might be, I couldn’t quite pin down. I only knew something was missing, and I was determined to find it. But searching for something when you don’t know what you’re looking for makes for an interesting challenge.

My muses are an amusing, twisted bunch. Sometimes they hold out on me, but rarely for long. Over the years I’ve found the trick to dealing with them. They can’t be bullied or badgered into offering inspiration. But cooperate and give them what they want, and they return the favor. And what do my muses demand? Recess. A break. They want me to step away from the computer, and let them wander unrestricted. Sometimes it’s a walk with the dogs. Or a long drive, especially with the top down. Loud music. Maybe a nap. They’ll even surprise me while I’m folding laundry or making dinner, though they’d rather be on the highway, with the top down, the music loud, and the dogs in the back seat, eyes narrowed and ears flapping. They enjoy working on the boat, and being underway, or anchored somewhere quiet. So whenever I find myself stuck, I step away and give them some breathing space. And I keep my notebook close on hand, because before long, they’ll be bombarding me with inspiration. The bottom line; some of my best ideas come when I stop looking. And once again, my muses delivered!

On another note, I picked up my new glasses today. Considering the time I spend in them, I decided to treat myself, and picked a pair of cute, fun frames, rather than the usual non-descript flexon wire-frames. And I treated myself to the anti-glare coating AND the Transitions lenses, the ones that darken in sunlight. After last summer, realizing I couldn’t read the chart without glasses, but blinded by sun glaring off the water, vowed I’d pay the extra for the better lenses. Of course, it rained all of today, so I haven’t seen them do their nifty trick yet.

Am I soup yet?

I suppose this gives me a place to vent, rather than walking around in circles, mumbling to the cats. Not that there’s much need for venting at the moment, just a general ennui, and trying to get all my muses in a row. The frustration of writing suspense, and most anything else, I imagine, is that as you’re working, everything is in your head. You, the author, know what’s around every turn and under every rock. You know the red herrings, and you know the red shirts, (the fifth crew members on Star Trek, the ones that wound up vaporized or condensed into a neat little geometric shape of minerals,) and you know who is really good/bad/out of their minds. So, as I write, I’m wondering, am I really pulling this off? Will this make sense to my readers, am I giving too much, and will they see it coming a mile away, or am I giving too little, and the pieces won’t mesh in the end. According to my kind victims, uhm, test readers, for the most part, yes, I pulled it off. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t tweaking to do, but that’s to be expected.

So now I’m doing it again. I know what’s in ‘the snow’, where, why, and how it plays out. I have everything outlined, and it is all coming together very satisfyingly. My characters are throwing me a few curve balls, which I expected, and I roll with it. Sometimes a scene isn’t working, so I back up, hit the delete key (okay, cut and paste it into a scrap file) and start over. Minor characters stepped up to bigger roles, action shifted. I try to write with a general idea of where I’m going, then figure the worst possible route to get there. What could go wrong? With my characters, that’s not too hard. How could it go even worse, and what, in turn, might that lead to? Sometimes I find myself on an entirely different path, and the outline gets overhauled. Overall, it’s a fun process, though at times it leaves me pacing and mumbling ‘I need something.’ Those around me have learned not to be alarmed by this behavior.

Presently, I’m in one of those spots. My mood tends to reflect my characters at the point of a scene. And presently, my most antisocial, snarky, difficult character is trapped in a tense, stuffy, social scene. She’s at her best alone or in life & death situations, and while it is necessary she be there, she, and consequently I, am not happy about it. So ‘we’re’ sticking it out, and by the second draft I’ll work in more humor and/or violence to satisfy us both.

Thank goodness my husband understands, when he asks how my day was, and I say “I really need to kill someone.” (That’s in two chapters!)