Forever Young, my Unborn Soul

Some blog posts make me happy. The ones that achieve this most often are those rare ones that offer a glimpse into the writer’s mind. What she was thinking when writing a particular scene, how she came to invent a certain character, or what gave her the idea for a particular plot development. When I read posts like that, it makes the person who wrote it even more human to me, and it just makes me plain happy to get close to a person I don’t even know for a very short time (i.e. the time it takes me to read and think about the post). So, since I’ve just had such a particular moment, I would like to return the favor and share it with those of you who feel the same when it comes to diving into another person’s mind.

It all started by discovering the song Forever Young by The Tenors this morning, which I have been listening to all day. I can get quite OCD with songs I like, so it’s not uncommon for me to listen to one song for days on end. At some point today during my drive home, I was thinking about my own novel and thought it would be a great scene, at some point, to have Nathaniel do something for Kyra that is totally out of character. Just for your information, Kyra and Nathaniel are my two main characters, and Sandra, Jack, Sebastian and Cameron are some of the important supporting characters; this post isn’t really about my story, the plot or the characters though, so it really does not matter if you haven’t read the story and/or know about the characters. At some point, either now or after reading this post, you may want to  listen to the song/read the lyrics (YouTube link here, and the lyrics can be found here).

Back to Nathaniel and my thinking that it would be cool if he sang something for Kyra since he knows how much she loves music. That thought alone made me smile (if you will ever read the story, you will most likely understand why). Here’s how my next string of thoughts went (almost literally):”Well, he would need a pretty good reason to sing something for her … besides, the song is performed by four guys, so maybe I can throw Jack, Sebastian and Cameron into the mix. But for what occasion …”. At that point my thoughts trailed off from that question and I imagined the four guys on some sort of stage, singing for Kyra and the others, and after a few more repetitions of the song, it hit me: The unborn baby.

Prior to writing this, I debated whether to reveal this tiny piece of information, but I think by keeping it vague I am not spoiling anything. I then decided that the very first and last verse of the song could be sung by Sandra, who is somewhat of an artsy type anyway, and I figured that the whole “sing a song for the baby” thing could have been her idea in the first place. Why? Because it’s something beautiful to do (among other reasons the group has), plus she gets to convince four very different men with different backgrounds, motives, and relationships to each other to work together for one person they all love in different ways.

Having all these little details about a scene (or a character for that matter) form in my head always has a very relaxing and calming effect on me. Oftentimes, depending on the scene and music, it helps me understand myself and certain situations a little better, but above all, visualizing ideas and having bits and pieces come together to a coherent scene just makes me plain happy, whether the scene actually makes it into the story in the end or not. And it’s the same when I read about other writer’s thought processes. So please keep sharing, you definitely light up my world every time you do!

For those of you who have read my manuscript as beta readers and therefore know the characters, and for those who just want a little more detail, here’s how I imagined the distribution of lyrics among the five people. What they sing also reflects their personalities. It differs a little from the way The Tenors do it, but hey, my story is fictional, so I figured I can get away with it … plus, at this point it’s all in my head, and I don’t even know if it will ever make into the story. Certainly not in the first book, but maybe the sequel I already have in my head.

[SANDRA]
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others, let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the sky, climb on every rung
And may you stay, forever young

[JACK]
May you grow up to be righteous, may grown up to be true
May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you

[NATHANIEL]
May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong
May you stay, forever young

[JACK]
Forever young, (echo -always by the other 3)
Forever young, (echo)

[NATHANIEL]
May you stay, (echo)
Forever

[CAMERON]
May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation, with no winds of changes shift

[SEBASTIAN]
May your heart always be joyful, your song always be sung
And may you stay, forever young

[CAMERON]
Forever young, (echo)
Forever young, (echo)

[SEBASTIAN]
May you stay, (echo)
Forever young, (echo)
And may you stay, (echo)

[SANDRA]
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes always come true
And may you stay, forever young

A Writer’s Thanks

With everything that is going on in this world and in our lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are plenty of things we can and should be thankful for. Like First-World problems. Yes, we consider those problems, but think about it: Would you rather deal with famine or the fact that you have run out of chocolate at eleven at night? Would you rather deal with Ebola or with a semi-annoying cold? Would you rather live in a war zone or suffer through that three-hour meeting with your boss and his new annoying right-hand man? Would you rather scramble to put food on your table and feed your family or go through the annoying “We want ham vs turkey” argument with your loved ones? Would you rather deal with writing a national speech on how we plan to fight the IS or with writer’s block?

I am not saying that these problems are not relevant to us, or even seem like the proverbial mountain that you’ll never be able to climb. What I am saying -or trying to, anyway- is that most of our problems are small compared to what millions of other people have to suffer through every single day. We are very privileged, and it’s easy to forget that sometime, but I think it’s something we always need to keep in mind. It puts our struggles into perspective.

With that being said, here are a few things that I am really thankful for this year: thanksgiving-229287_640

  • My family and friends: Without them, my brief period of unemployment would have been much harder. I could say a lot more about these guys, but we’ve all had our hours of doubts,
    so we all know what it feels like when somebody has your back, no matter what
  • Being unemployed in the summer: Yes, sounds odd, but it could have happened in the winter … but instead, I was able to start running, go to the pool, get out of the house to apply for jobs and get the first draft of Rivers of The Mind (working title) on paper.
  • My health: I was fortunate to be able to make lifestyle changes that got me on a path to a much better health (and lots of weight loss, too)
  • My new job: I am thankful that I found a new job relatively quickly (after being unemployed for three months). I am thankful that I had a lot of interviews, and I am thankful that I persevered and, in the end, not only found a new job but also a place that makes me feel welcome and useful
  • And lastly, to tie this somehow back into writing, I am thankful for friends that are willing to read over my drafts and take the time to give feedback. Special thanks for draft #4 go to (in no particular order): Monica, Charles, Carolyn, Anna, and Cindy. Above all though, I am thankful for their encouragement and believing in me. Means so much, guys!

What are you thankful for this year?

Wishing you all a safe, tasty, and healthy Thanksgiving!

Holy Sh**, That’s [Insert Name of Character Here]!

That exact thought flashed through my mind the other day when I was waiting for the metro in D.C. to go home after a night out with some of my girlfriends. I look to the left, and there’s this guy, and he looked EXACTLY like I picture Nathaniel, one of the main characters in my novel. It was uncanny, but very cool at the same time. Of course, it does not happen very often that you see a personification of a character that you have been writing next to you on the subway platform. I could still kick myself for not saying hello to the guy … but what was I gonna say? “Hey, I am writing a book, and you look EXACTLY like one of my main characters?” Even through it’s true, it sounds like THE worst pick-up line EVER! So of course I didn’t say anything … I really hope I will run into him again, but I am not sure I would be better prepared next time.

After this admittance of having no courage to approach people I think are cute, I am getting to my actual topic: Although you don’t usually see your characters walking/standing around in flesh and blood, you can use bits and pieces of the people around you to shape your characters, to give them personality, background, and authenticity. You can draw a lot of inspiration from strangers and friends/acquaintances alike. Maybe there’s this really tall guy walking by, and just the way he carries his briefcase reminds you of your villain (my apologies to all tall men with briefcases out there … I am sure you are not all that bad :P). Maybe one of your friends has a character trait that works perfectly for one of your characters. For example, a good friend of mine is one of the sweetest, kindest and most honest people you will ever meet, and those particular attributes perfectly describe Cameron, one of the good guys in my novel. Cameron tries hard to be a friend to Kyra, whom he loves -which -of course- is good for the story as it creates tension, and not just between him and Kyra.

It also works the other way ’round: Say you have a character (or need a character) but are not quite sure yet how you can give him/her more personality and depth; next time that happens, focus on what’s going on around you, whether you are on the subway, in the grocery store or just walking around. There’s so much inspiration out there that’s just waiting to be found, and suddenly you come up with all kinds of great ideas on how to develop your character and also plot.

So the next time you walk around, or ride the metro, or are just sipping your cup of coffee, have a look around and just observe. You’d be surprised how many little things will stand out.

Happy Writing, and Happy Weekend!