“It’s not subtext…”

I try to stay open to signs from the Universe about what I should be writing next. Sometimes, the messages are easily explained as my subconscious picking up on things in my environment, and saying, “Please? May we please play with this story now?” This phenomenon is currently manifesting as me noticing motorcycles. The particular type I walk past at least once a week happens to have the same design as the hero’s motorcycle in my current full-length novel project. I can’t even call this a coincidence. It’s summer. People are riding motorcycles more often.

But then there are the things that are more difficult to explain.

A few years ago, I bought a tablet to help with my writing. The store didn’t have a purple cover available for it (the horror!), so I went with a pretty lime green. A few weeks later, a friend gave me a birthday present in a plain bag that was exactly the same color. I paused, and said, “Whatever is in that bag is important.”

Inside the bag was a heavily decorated box that held little sheets of paper printed with an elaborate Victorian design along with a journal covered in pictures of Paris. The box had the letter “D” on it, for which my friend apologized since it didn’t match my initials, but she said it made her think of me for some reason. This friend was helping me learn Mandarin and usually gave me gifts matching that interest. She said, “I just had a feeling that I needed to get this journal instead.”

She had no idea that the story I was playing around with at that time held its roots in France, that the hero’s first initial was ‘D’, and that the box with those sheets of paper looked like something he would absolutely have sitting on his desk. I had no intention of turning that story into a novel until her birthday present slapped me in the face and said, “Get serious about this. You’re onto something.”

That box of little papers sat next to me the entire time I was writing the book and I used the journal for my notes on the project. In the darkest moment, when I was thinking about walking away from the story, that same friend emailed me out of the blue with an uplifting message that kept me going. “I saw this article and thought of you…” (I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: Thank you, S!).

More recently, at the exact moment I was thinking, “I don’t want to work on x project [with the motorcycle] right now,” I drove past the heroine’s van. This is not a common vehicle. This is not something that can be attributed to the weather or my subconscious. I was on a sleepy side street quite by happenstance, and there it was. A beat-up VW van from the sixties whose sides were more rust than paint.

I rarely see these VW vans anymore. I have never seen one in such crappy condition (no offense to the owners). It was absolutely perfect, as if the heroine had driven out of my imagination and parked it right there for me to see. I had been ignoring the little things pointing me to this story, the voice of intuition telling me there is even a market for it once it’s polished. But this? This I couldn’t ignore.

The Universe is talking to me in ALL CAPS. When that happens, it is imperative that I stop, listen, and get to writing.

Have you ever noticed signs pointing you to write a particular story? Tell me about it in the comments!

Creative Connection

When I write, I don’t feel as if I’m creating something. I’m getting something down on the paper instead. My brain produces a constant stream of movies set in my own worlds and populated with people born from my subconscious. Often, I do control them, like playing with dolls as a child (though I was usually more interested in anthropomorphizing plastic dinosaurs). I create situations for my characters to react to and base their reactions on what makes the most sense for them to be believable. But the best times are when they wrest control from logical thought and my imagination runs rampant.

I love it when my writing surprises me.

Those moments are when I understand what people mean by being a conduit for the stories to travel through. It feels like something outside of myself has taken over, a rush of energy and thought flowing through me that is other. The creative force is one of the headiest experiences of human existence.

I write because I must in order to be me. The feeling of connection to some great source of creativity is one of the most rewarding parts of the process.

Summer

I have to admit, summer is not my best season for writing. It isn’t the worst, either, but there’s something about the long days that dims my creativity. My muse is more likely to hibernate during the light months than the dark. In the autumn and the winter, she has more space to play. In the half-lit and the not-seen, she is at her best. Foggy mornings and starry nights feed her. A cool gray day filled with gentle rain propels her into a flurry of ecstatic creation.

On days with blue skies and near-transparent clouds struggling to keep themselves together, I need to find another way to feed her. Remembering summer days exploring the world as a child, sitting in an outside patio at the café instead of in the chill of the air conditioning, taking a long walk in the park, these all help. As does making the most of the energy of summer – planning and working, shining that strong sun on my edits and plotting out what I will delve into during the darker months.

How do the seasons affect your creativity?

In the Mix

Good stories consist of many different elements. Action, dialogue, inner and outer conflict, drama, horror, and of course, romance, just to name a few. The presence of these elements can be amped up or dialed back, like balancing the channels on a mixer to create music. I keep romance at the center of every story, the melody around which the other elements play.

Lately, I find that the horror channel has been creeping up on my story mixer. And I do mean creeping. I’ve been trying to keep my work lighter for a long time, but the ideas that are coalescing in my mind are too compelling to ignore. A particular world is unfolding for me, with all its darkness and terrible beauty. The stories in this world have been percolating in my brain for a few years now, and the ripe fruit falling from that tree is impossible to look away from.

My challenge now is to keep the romance at the center, to remember that my purpose is to entertain and uplift, even if I might give some readers a scary shiver or two along the way. That horror channel can never become louder than the love that is building throughout each story, even if it will be louder and more involved in the completion of pieces in this world than in others.

My muse is leading me into this place for a reason. It takes trust and faith to follow, but from what she’s already shown me, it will be a worthwhile and fascinating journey.

What elements take center stage in your writing and which are your supporting players?

Luminous Characters

There are people in this world who carry light within them. Real people and imagined. Some spread their light like a gentle sunrise, some like a guiding star. Others blaze like a perpetual supernova.

Some are luminous like lightning.

Exploring these variations is part of why I write. I want to get into the head of the wallflower who speaks up in a voice that is shockingly strong, to experience the paradigm shift of a character when their chronically whimsical friend shares a quiet piece of wisdom at just the right moment.

Some of the most compelling characters are those who carry themselves through profound darkness and challenge us to see the goodness in them, only for us to be blinded by the flash of brilliance at their core when it finally shows itself. Angst is a popular trait for heroes and heroines. This lightning moment when their true nature is revealed is what readers (and writers) are waiting for.

The lightning should never come as a surprise. Rumblings of thunder in the distance, shadows cast on the wall from a flash of light behind that disappears before anyone can see where it came from; there must always be clues that foreshadow the strike that changes everything.

This moment can be even more profound when two arcs of lightning strike at once, merging across the tapestry of a storm. That is what I strive to create in the moment when my main characters realize they love each other, that their love is returned, and that whatever difficulty they’re facing or that comes after, they will face together.