Elizabeth D. Marie Fiction Author

Elizabeth D. Marie Fiction Author
Welcome to my blog—a writer's musings on characters, stories, and life

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From the Archives of "The Daring/The Fortune"

So, it has been nearly a week since I have shared anything. You may be wondering if I got lost in the pages of a manuscript somewhere. Well, that's somewhat true. I am currently juggling four different manuscripts right now. While they are mostly written (first draft) at this time, I find my mind constantly jumping between story lines, from one idea and scene to the next. My one accomplishment recently has been the completion of one manuscript, which has entered its first editing stages while I continue to plunge through the maze of my other stories.

Today, I have been sifting through several three-ring binders filled with various material for past and current novels. One in which I found a stack of printed pages to my published novel "The Fortune" (The second book in my "Captain Thorne of the SS Daring" series) including my first draft notes and scribblings.

So, I thought I would take a photo and share it here (and in so doing, let you know I'm still alive). This is mild, as far as edits goes, but basically, this is what a page of editing looks like:

The thing with stories, is that some scenes have multiple possibilities. They can go just one of many different ways, depending on how a character reacts or what they say, or even changes within the setting itself. (Who likes "choose your own adventure" stories? Aren't those fun!) Working through those scenes in longhand is often the easiest way to untangle the details.

Some places, as evidenced in the photo (right hand side) the edits are just notes talking out who the character is (in this case, Captain Thorne) because the original text didn't fit the character. In doing that, I was able to make the necessary corrections, even if I didn't have the answer right then.

Now, back to writing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Save a Writer, Read the Book

90% of books are better than the movie. Everyone wants to see the movie. But how many want to read the book? As a book lover, I cannot imagine my life without books. It's like oxygen. How can you survive without it? It is difficult for me to fathom those people who don't like to read.

I enjoy movies, don't get me wrong. There are some great films out there. Yet, it deeply distresses me to see a wonderful novel turned into a movie and the storyline and characters get butchered. I see that happen way too often. The book is great! Why must you ruin it?

I will not list those failures here. Though I could, and I might even want to. But there is no use in ranting.

Granted, this is not always the case. I applaud those filmmakers and directors who can keep the heart of the story in place, even when some details are changed. Film will never be like a book. It can't be. Film is great in it's own way, just as books are great in their way.

Regardless of how true or not the movie turns out to be, you simply cannot replace a book with a film. The film, to me, is a companion to the book. Because there is so much depth, feeling, understanding, revelation, and imagination in the pages of a novel that one can only glimpse (sometimes very well, but still just glimpse) in film.

As illustrated by this photo I discovered circulating on Facebook (oh, and yes, I have a Facebook page!):

So, watch the movie. Just don't forget to read the book.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Writer's Life

This may be difficult to believe. This may shock you. The everyday life of the writer is not a non-stop exciting adventure. We are actually mostly normal. Mostly, except for the constant voices in our head and the sometimes glazed over look in our eyes where our minds leave reality behind at random intervals.

People have asked me quite often where I get my ideas from. Honestly? A good deal of the time, I can't remember exactly where it's origin began, or how it developed in it's early stages to the story it became.

I live a normal life. I work a normal job where my tasks are fairly routine with few occurrences to disrupt that routine. I hunt for groceries—at the store and at home in my fridge—organize bills, and try to keep at least one counter in my kitchen clean on a daily basis, as well as the never-ending task of trying to find those missing socks that always get lost in the laundry.

I suppose the one thing that changes all of that as a writer is an overactive imagination. You've probably heard a writer say their ideas come from life. Well, depending on the writing, you may wonder if that means they live a life of thrills and adventure.

That is where the overactive imagination takes over. A writer takes in a normal, everyday scene and throws in a couple of "what if?"'s to make it more interesting. What if the girl sitting on the park bench is really waiting for her brother to come for her, but unknown to her he has been kidnapped? What if that old, abandoned house is really the home for a group of kids who ran away from an orphanage because they don't want to get separated? Or the sailboat out past the east-coast pier has discovered a sunken ship filled with treasure and the mummified remains of a hundred year old murder? What if the man browsing the book aisle in the library is actually a spy sent to decrypt important intelligence? Etc, etc.

This is the life of a writer. Living the normal life, always asking "what if?" in every scene. Looking at a moment and wondering at all the possible outcomes. Small occurrences that trigger an idea, a thought, and letting that thought wander around a bit until it becomes a sentence, a blurb. Then, it begins to develop (and this is when the glazed look in our eyes usually happens) and a character or two grows out of it to interact with the idea, and then eventually it becomes a full-grown story. Ta-da!

And, yes, I have way too many half-grown ideas lying around. So, being faced with new ideas every day and continuing to see the "what if?" moments is not always a welcome trait. I have enough trouble with writer's block.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Problem with Villains

What makes a bad guy the villain in the story? Some stories go to an extreme, and the villain is like the devil himself, completely dark and and completely evil. He cannot be redeemed. Then, there are the stories where the villain has that darkness about him, but something in his life offers light. Hope. A hope for redemption. Whether or not that comes to pass is up to the individual story.

Whenever I am looking at a villain, be it my own story or someone else's, I ask the question: "What made him/her become so dark? Why is he/she the way they are?"

Because, everyone has a story. Everyone believes in who they are or what they are doing to some extent. They believe in their cause. Just as the hero has a story, so does the villain.

I want to know if the villain I am reading/writing about has the potential to be redeemed or not. The problem with villains is that they are three-dimensional just like anyone else. You can chose to hate them for who they have become, but they aren't just evil for the sake of being evil. If I see a villain who is evil just because he needs to be for the sake of the story, then something is wrong with the story.

The hero chases after justice. He tries to make things right in the world. He sees hope. The villain chases after something too. Maybe it's power. He once was a victim, an outcast, and he wants to be so strong that nothing and no one can ever make him feel inferior again. Maybe it's vengeance. He lost something or someone dear to him and he'll stop at nothing to exact revenge, no matter what form that takes or what it turns him into.

Was he raised to be the villain? Was he taught this behavior from a young age? When and how did his view of life become so twisted and distorted… And just how far on that path has he wandered? Too far to turn back?

Writing about the villain can be just as interesting as writing about the hero. I may not like him. I may even despise him, depending on how "evil" he is.

What it comes down to is this: Whether good or bad, every character is complex in his/her own way. Rarely does anything tend to be black and white without having a little grey in between.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Don't Hand Me That Line, I WROTE That Line!"

The longer I write, the more complex my characters can become. Sometimes I think I know them completely, and then sometimes they surprise me and catch me completely off guard by doing or saying something I never expected. I'm writing along, and everything is going great. I'm in a groove. And then, WHAM! I stare at the screen and wonder: What did he just say THAT for?! I don't think I meant for that to happen...

Have you ever watched "Nim's Island"? (The first one, not the second one. I tried watching the second one and only got through the first ten minutes before I shut it off) I love that movie. As a movie-watcher, I love it because it is such a fun story. As a writer, I love it because it reflects a certain reality for writers and their characters.

You see, Alex Rover (played by Jodie Foster) is a writer. And she is struggling. She doesn't know how to finish her novel. And through the whole movie, she has "conversations" with her character (played by Gerard Butler) and yes, she even has arguments with her character. Because her character has a tendency to say and do as he pleases.

And it is so true! Our characters do have a mind of their own. I don't want to write a story where everything is predictable. The character isn't going to do what I would do in a situation. He won't say what I would say.

"I created you, and you have to do what I say, not—not the opposite!" -Alex Rover, Nim's Island 

It's just another adventure for us writers. Letting our characters surprise us.

Oh, and seriously, if you haven't watched Nim's Island. Go watch it. Like, right now.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Captain Thorne Quote

A quote from my Captain Thorne books. Original artwork of Alena, drawn by myself.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Deadlines and Writer's Block

Writing can come easily at times, when the story just seems to flow straight from the mind onto the paper. The scenes all come together and the conversations come faster than my fingers can type. Those are days I am glad to be a writer. I thrive for those days.

Then, there are the days when I can sit in front of the computer and stare at a blank document, and that's all I see. Blank. What happened? My characters abandoned me. I search for them in vain. I can't seem to form a single scene into anything more than blurry snapshots in my head.

Writer's block.

That is when a deadline can either be a nightmare, or a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, if I don't have a deadline, I make one. Sometimes I get desperate. I just need the extra push to get something written. It's not going to be perfect, but at least it's a start. Better than a blank page. And once I dig in, it gets easier.

That is one reason why I so enjoy National Novel Writing Month. It's a deadline. Granted, sometimes a stressful one. Write a first draft novel—at least 50,000 words—before December 1st. Writers join in from all over the world. We start writing November 1st (at the stroke of midnight!) and keep going until 11:59pm on November 30th.

Working together, we seek to encourage one another in our pursuits. It's an adventure!

Today, I gave myself a deadline. And I managed to pull it off. Success! I'd been struggling to finish this novel. I just needed a specific push to get the words on the page. To tell my brain to stop wandering and focus in.

I went to my local copy place this afternoon to print my first draft manuscript. Call me strange, but I just love the smell of fresh copy paper. Because, for me, it's the smell of triumph.

Now, I begin the journey of editing. Another adventure awaits!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Meet Captain

It is said you are either a cat person, or you are a dog person. I don't know if that's true, but I adore my cats. I don't treat my cats like people, because they aren't. (Though, sometimes, I swear they think they are!)

This is Captain. I call him 'Cappy' for short because he is still just a kitten and hasn't really grown into his name yet.

He is the newest addition to the family, having just come to me in November (just in time for Thanksgiving) as a tiny scrap of a kitten. He has certainly grown since then!

He likes to sit behind my computer while I write or listen to music and every once in awhile, stand on his hind legs and peak at me over the screen. 'Hi, Mom! Whacha doin'?'

Sometimes, he tries to help move my writing along by walking on my keyboard too. Or sitting on it. Or attacking the mouse. Or attacking anything that happens to move across the screen. Like the cursor.

And after all of this, he drapes himself across my lap and...
Well, what can I say? He has a tough job.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Birth of a Writer—Welcome

I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Before on paper (I was a terrible speller, and still am!) I was writing them in my head. I would fall asleep at night watching the scene unfold in my mind's eye like a movie, and the next night I would pick up where I left off, crafting the words in my head till they painted just the right picture.

Most of those stories I have forgotten, since I never actually wrote them down. But today, I have too many stories to keep track of (what did we ever do before computers?) and not enough time or space in my brain to write them all.

I love to read, which is a big reason why I became a writer. What is your favorite book? And why? Go ahead, tell me. Was it a character that you related to, or strongly aspired to be?

A good book is like a best friend. Because I couldn't get enough of reading, I started to write. I wanted to tell a story as if I was reading it. I might have an idea of where it will lead, but anything can happen. I am not a Stephen King reader, but one of my favorite quotes came from him on this matter:

"I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible... [M]y basic belief about the making of stories is that they largely make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow." -Stephen King, On Writing
A good story is when our characters talk to us. No, we aren't crazy. We just know the heart of our characters, like when a best friend looks at you and they know what you are thinking before you say anything. I'm just giving them a place to speak.

As writers, there comes a point when we have to share their stories with the world, and let our readers join in on the adventure, the heartbreak, the tragedy, the mystery, the humor, the joy.... As a writer, my greatest wish is that they will become your friends too.

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