Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Too Much Science

Due to my illness, I've not done much writing over the past few weeks except perhaps this blog.  I've done a lot of reading, though.  Writers read--it is a well-known fact.  The problem most of us have is we can't read all the time or we'd never write.  Ironic, eh?

I've discussed some of the books I've read but yesterday I had a bizarre experience.  I was reading Dragongirl by Todd McCaffrey.  It's not his first solo Dragonriders of Pern book as he explores some of his own ideas on the planet Pern his mother created.  However, it seems to have been written in a rush and some passages are very confusing.  In fact, I found myself mentally editing one scene last night.

Normally, I am so lost in the story the writing becomes just a conduit for the lives I'm reading about.  I expect to tumble over passages in my own writing as I try and perfect my storytelling but to do so in a published work is rather unnerving.

I realized when I finished reading the scene that it told us nothing more about the characters, it gave no direction to the narrative, and it seemed to be a scene lost in numbers.  Nothing more was learned after having read the scene and honestly, it could have been cut without any lost to the plot or character development.

It was as if the author, who trained in engineering and writes military science fiction under the name Todd Johnson, decided this book needed more science.  Anne McCaffrey always infused her science fiction with people to whom you could relate.  The science was secondary, often many threads in the fabric of the story but certainly not the most important.  Todd seems to have stepped away (for that brief moment) from his mother's view of Pern and tried to insert more science/engineering into her world.  I'm not averse to this but I do not expect it to be the essence of one scene to the detriment of the rest of the book.

It reminded me of the time I met another engineer who felt he could write science fiction.  The first paragraph of his book was essentially a thesis on the science in the world he had created.  Great if you wish to read science, not so much if you want to read fiction.  Fiction is about folks (to paraphrase Robert Newton Peck's book Fiction is Folks).  Where you put them, whether it's in Calgary, Alberta or Telgar Weyr, Pern, you must make your reader care about them.  They won't if science or magic clouds your writing.

It was a good lesson for me to learn and one I hope others will consider when they embark on writing genre fiction.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are Movies Better?

Are movies better/worse than the books they are based on?  It will always be a debate because those who have read the books, see the characters differently from what is portrayed in the movie.  Also, without an annoying voice-over, you don't know what the characters are thinking.  You don't smell, taste, or feel what the characters do -- something a book can convey but is hard to show in a movie.

Last night, I saw the film, The Hunger Games (see previous post) and wondered how they would adapt a first-person narrative to the silver screen.  There were many quiet moments when you know what Katniss is thinking (if you'd read the book) but she never tells the audience.  Her actual hunger, a gnawing theme throughout the book, is ignored in the movie.  We never see her stuffing herself with food or understand in her overwhelming thirst when she's in the game arena.  We only glimpse the oppression under which District 12 suffered and her father's memory is a brief moment.

We do see many 'behind the scenes' scenes that can't be shown from Katniss' point of view.  How the games are staged and the reaction of those viewing them.  We get a hint of what is told in Catching Fire and Mockingjay about the society that would stage such games but we don't really see this world through Katniss' eyes at all.

I think the movie stands alone as a good one but many fans might be disappointed that it didn't 'follow' the book.  Yes, all the elements were there but because the story had to be told in two hours, much was lost.  My hubby, who began The Hunger Games a few weeks ago, decided, after seeing the movie, that it lacked detail so he'll finish reading the book despite knowing the ending.

If the film encourages people to read the books, then I think it has done more than just entertain.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Today, the province of Alberta goes to the polls.  I've seen many elections in the past and can never understand why people don't exercise their right to vote.  I've railed against construction workers and young people who believe their vote doesn't 'count'.  Well, it won't unless you actually go in and mark your 'x'.  How hard is it to follow the campaign leading up to election day?  The media bombards us with party policies and thinking.  They make us aware of scandal and photo ops.  Surely some of it is of use when one makes a decision on voting day.

We're lucky in Canada that we have a variety of parties representing all views.  We can vote for party policy even if we hate the party's leader.  We can vote for the leader even if we aren't sure their policies will work.  Or we can learn about the people vying for the honour to represent us in our ridings and make our decision on a grass-roots level, ignoring who leads the party.

Not long ago, woman could not vote.  Alberta granted women the right to vote in 1916 and in 1918, they could vote federally but my mother could not vote in provincial elections in Quebec until 1940.  This is one reason I vote.  I want my voice to be heard even if the ballot count doesn't reflect it.  Woman across Canada should remember the battles fought so they could cast their ballots.  Even if your grandmother/great-grandmother didn't partake in the suffrage movement, she benefited from the determination of those who did.  Today, two women lead the parties vying for our votes in Alberta and as an old cigarette commercial used to say, "You've come a long way, baby."

So whoever you are and whatever you believe, please get out and exercise your right.  You don't know where such an action might lead.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Golf and Inner Peace

Today, we golf at our favourite Calgary course, Silverwing.  It is a links-style course with prairie grasses and great views of the city.  The flags are little windsocks so you know you're close to the airport.  It is a challenging course for someone who is transitioning between beginner and intermediate golfer.  I love it.  Usually.

Today, I am still hacking with my cough and I am not up to walking nine holes (see Golf is a Good Walk Spoiled) which usually takes us two hours.  I just don't have the energy and frankly, I'm not as excited to play as my hubby.  I know I'll enjoy the day but it will also exhaust me.  For the first time, I'm actually going to rent a power cart to do nine holes.  My hubby will be shocked but it may save the day for me.

Golf is a game of many facets and can be played by those of every shape and size.  Last weekend, Carl Pettersson, a hefty individual won against much thinner golfers in the RBC Heritage tournament.  Fred Couples played the Masters the week before and held his own against far younger players.  The game has a way of tapping inner resources.  I hope to tap mine today.

Usually I have had weeks of yoga, walking, and weightlifting done before I swing a club but due to my illness and travel, today, this is not the case.  I should be worried but I'm in a strange state of calm.  This outing just doesn't count in my mind.

I also now feel this 'inner peace' in my writing.  I've tried for years to attract the attention of publishers and have failed.  I realize I probably lack the 'magic' to create a blockbuster but I can't stop writing so what is the solution?  Self-publishing.  It has freed my spirit.  No longer do I worry about pleasing an editor or an agent.  No, I think of my reader and write for them knowing my story will make it into print.  If it sells, fine.  If not, I have a legacy to pass onto my family.  My mother gave us her paintings; I give my books.  So finally, I'm at peace with who I am.  I write, therefore I'm a writer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


At one time, many years ago, writing was a hobby of mine.  My real job was doing well in school, getting my degree, and landing a job as a technician.  I wrote occasionally for fun.  Then I lost my job so had to fill the hours.  I did this by researching a story about a young girl who witnessed the building of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.  I discovered that I enjoyed researching and loved writing full-time.

When my hubby and I decided I should stay at home to raise our children, writing became more than a hobby.  I began honing my craft--writing, re-writing, and writing again.  I read books on writing and even took a correspondence course on how to write for children.  I submitted my work and slowly the rejection letters became personal.  Writing young adult fiction became my career.

Now, my hobby is photography.  It is a different way of expressing my creativity and can be lots of fun.  I began when I photographed our honeymoon where mushrooms captured my enthusiasm.  I developed a love for capturing flowers and plants 'on film'.  Well, slides/film are an ancient medium today with the advent of digital photography.  Just as the computer changed the way I wrote, digital photography changed the way I took pictures.  No longer do I need to worry about straight horizons or bad lighting.  Even 'dirt' in a photo can be removed.  I've taken out offensive graffiti and even created a hand where none existed in the original piece.  I've removed unwanted people from photos and moved others around.  It's fun but still a hobby.

Today, something happened that surprised me.  While in Aurora, we had wet snow fall that coated all the budding trees with ice.  I braved the elements and took photos of my son's apple tree.  I posted it with others of our trip.  My sister, Lynda, whose photography goes beyond hobby status, sent a copy of it to a friend of hers who is a landscape designer.  The woman loved it and wanted an 8 x 10 which she could frame.  Suddenly, my hobby has appealed to someone who wishes to hang my 'art' in her living room.  This is pretty heady stuff.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So Much for Plans

Well, my plan to write this blog everyday was waylaid by a trip to Denver (see my travel blog) and a bad cold.  I'm still suffering from a horrid, hacking cough but I think I might be on the mend.  Bonus to being sick, is 1) reading and 2) watching TV.

I've consumed all the books in the Hunger Games trilogy as well as the latest Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb, City of Dragons.  This four-book (so far) series follows her Liveship Traders Trilogy which I read last year.  This week I also began another Dragons of Pern book, Dragon Harper, written by Anne McCaffery and her son, Todd.  Since the last book I read in this series was in 2007 (I think), it's taking me awhile to get back into the characters.

On the TV side, I finally got to watch Game of Thrones (Season 1) DVD thanks to my son-in-law, Mike.  Seeing a newspaper article about this series spurred me to read the books by George R.R. Martin which I did last year (May 2011 to January 2012).  The TV series does not disappoint, following the plot pretty well and the casting is excellent although there are some characters who aren't as I 'pictured' them.  The bonus for waiting to see the series, is I don't miss any episodes.

Next, I hope to get The Bourgias which hubby has seen most of but would like to catch the episodes he missed.