Inspirational Writing vs. Music

Oxford Online Dictionary: Inspire: fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative:[with object and infinitive]:his passion for romantic literature inspired him to begin writing


 

I absolutely love finding, sharing, and supporting creative endeavors by people.  A friend of mine recently shared this video with me, and I immediately fell in love with it.  The man who created it is Alaa Wardi.  Here’s a quote from his song description:

The lyrics in this song are gibberish, they’re in Arabic but they don’t make any sense, and the idea behind that is:

-The song didn’t feel like it needed to talk about anything, and I didn’t want to limit it to a specific idea, so I left it open for you to imagine.

This song inspires me to be creative.  And it’s not just the song, but the ideas behind it as well.  (There are more listed on the Youtube page for this song.)

I love how even the musician wants to leave the interpretation up to the imagination of the listeners.  I do wonder, though, if the gibberish lyrics were English/Western, would I feel the same about the open interpretation?  Is it my lack of familiarity with Arabic that helps me distance myself from words altogether, and just view the singing as part of the music?

Then again, perhaps that’s why music can be so powerful and important to people.  It breaks through language barriers and has the ability to evoke similar feelings out of everybody.

People perform songs to inspire, to entertain, to tell a story, or evoke emotions.  Isn’t that also why we write?  Writers want their stories to be listened to, and to serve a purpose for the reader, even if it is just to entertain them on a train.

But when was the last time you read a book that truly inspired you?  That made you want to put it down the second you finished, and start writing, or painting, or baking, or singing?

For the past year or two I focused my reading on contemporary novels.  The books I’ve read have ranged from Fantasy to Memoirs, and Thrillers to Young Adult fiction.  They’ve made me sad, happy, angry, relieved.

Yet, I struggle to remember one that really inspired me to do something.  I spent hours turning those pages, and enjoying the stories, but not one seems to have had a lasting affect on me.

And here we have a song that’s under 4 minutes and I hear it once; then suddenly I’m running around listening to it and actively finding ways to express myself and how this song makes me feel.

I haven’t felt that way about a book since middle school!

I feel like books have more of an indirect affect.  Music reaches you instantaneously, but with books you have to be patient.  Most of them, while not inspiring me to act, inspire to me think, and contemplate over things I had not yet considered. I digest the words internally, while music makes me want to create and do something physically.

So what do you guys think?  Have you ever been creatively inspired by a book? What books, words, or songs inspire you?

Writer Vs. Person

I’ve always had a fear of sharing my writing with others.  As I’ve found, this is a fear shared by most creative people when putting forth their works into the world.  You pour your heart and soul into a physical, tangible thing, and suddenly there is nothing left to hide behind.

I’ve talked before about how a part of myself is imprinted in every character, setting, and subject in my writing.  So when I’m in a dark place in my life, my stories will take on a darker theme, and the same can be said when I’m doing well.

But what makes me hesitate sharing my work with close family or friends, is that I don’t want them to read too much of me into my writing.  Which is an utter contradiction to the fact that I admitted to pouring my heart and soul into my writing.   Bear with me!

I want to be able to bring my own experiences and thoughts into my work.  For better or worse it can take quite a dark turn.  And that bitterness is what I will write about.  However, in expressing myself in that way, it will be the only side of me people are seeing.  A mere hand full of puzzle pieces in a 1,000 piece puzzle.

That is definitely not my goal in imparting myself into my writing.  I almost feel like I need a disclaimer before sharing with my friends and family.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, and themes expressed in this writing, are not necessarily a lens in which to view the writer.  Please keep in mind, there is a difference between Aly the writer and Aly the person.

And yet, I sometimes feel that it’s almost an insult to try to separate my personal self from my writer self.  Because in reality, there is nothing to separate. They are one and the same.  I am writer, hear me roar!

I guess it’s just a matter of trying to explain and find common ground with those close to me, who don’t understand the whole ‘writing thing’ that I do.  Out of my family, I am the only creative type.  My brothers and my parents are more logical and realistic.  The majority of my friends are that way as well.  It’s hard for them to understand the nuances of me in my writing, but I won’t hold it against them.

It’s the few friends, and many friendly bloggers I know, that encourage me to continue being my creative self.

Do you guys distinguish between a writer vs personal self?  Do you think it’s bad  to try to separate/downplay a side of you that close friends or family don’t understand?

Book Ratings and Censorship

I grew up in the nineties and my parents restricted what movies I could watch. However I was always more of a reader than a watcher, and not once did my paarents question me about the books I bought or read. I had free reign over my reading material which could have been subject to a whole lot more violence and romance than the movies I had to wait to see until I was older.

With the intense nature of The Hunger Games trilogy and all the bloodshed, many people have questioned the YA genre it has been placed in. Especially now that the movie has been released. There were some rather offending images left out of the movie that are present in the book. In order to appease the MPAA to get a PG-13 rating in the US they resorted to shaky camera action and only split second shots of deaths. In my mind this lessened the effect and importance of the deaths, as well as making it difficult to see what was actually going on anyways. I also hear that several seconds more were cut from the UK version of the film to get a more YA friendly rating.

Which begs the question : if we’re so focused on regulating movies to protect our youths ‘innocence ‘ then why isn’t there a formal rating system for books, which are often times more descriptive and mature than movies?

Perhaps there’s the assumption that if they’re reading then they’ll be more mature and able to handle it. Or that every parent will pre-read the books before their kids in order to monitor the material, which some do for many books. Or maybe they even assume if the material is too mature then the reader will simply put the book down. Who knows?

I personally don’t think there should be such a rating system for books, however I was raised making my own literary choices as no one else in my family actually read. My parents didn’t restrict it but they brought me up with certain standard in my everyday life that not only did they trust my maturity, but I did as well. But, as stated before, my movie selection was almost always restricted. Then again the ratings were a bit more lax then as to what was allowed in a PG rated movie(several swear words and smoking from what I recall).

So where exactly is the line drawn in the ratings game? It seems that movies are often more harshly judged but I can’t imagine why. Especially when I was reading books with war, violence, death, and swearing well before I could watch it on a screen. (I don’t know about you, but I was required to read Where the Red Fern Grows in middle school and all I can remember is a distinct visual of a mauled dog with guts hanging out of it. Again, required reading for me as a 10 year old.)

So I ask you all, perhaps especially with children, should there be an MPAA style of ratings for books as well? At the age of 21 I’m still carded for buying rated R movies from the store. Should I also be carded for buying books with enough graphic material to be an R rated movie? Please share your thoughts!

And Down Goes My Sinking Heart

As some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted much of my fiction lately, which is mostly due to me throwing myself headlong into a new novel concept. I’ve been so excited that I haven’t even talked about it to anyone!

The premise is that a daughter and her recently divorced mom move from Nebraska to Otter Rock, a small, unincorporated community on the Oregon Coast.  They buy and start to run a Bed and Breakfast there, in hopes of starting fresh.  It explores coming to terms with your past, and who you’ve become, as well as the intricacies of relationships, especially between a mother and daughter.  The oceanic setting weighs heavily within the book.  Tentatively titled “We Are The Tide”.

I was just browsing books on my kindle and came across an upcoming book that’s on pre-order called The Inn of Rose Harbor.  Here’s what the description says:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber comes a heartwarming new series based in the Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, where a charming cast of characters finds love, forgiveness, and renewal behind the doors of the cozy Rose Harbor Inn.

Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start.  Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast- the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn-ready to begin her life anew.  Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine…

There is more to the description on amazon, so I know our novels start to differ quite a bit after that. So I guess it is a bit comforting knowing that only the beginnings are similar.  Still, I had this moment of woe, and if my boyfriend wasn’t sleeping I’m sure I would have cried out, “SAY IT AIN’T SO!!!”

They’re both set in a small Pacific Northwest town on the coast, and a woman buys a B&B to try to get over her former husband, and start afresh.

I realize there are plenty of similar genre-books out there, and things like this just can’t be helped.  Characters, writing style, and the mood of the books will always be different and unique to the writer.  But it’s still so disheartening to see it for the first time when you’re completely gung-ho about the new project.

But you know what? I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.  I’m confidant in our differences, and if my gut tells me to write a story, then you can bet I’m going to damn well write that story!  I won’t even touch that other book until I finish my novel.  I would hate to see it influence me, or dissuade me from certain elements in my writing.

So tell me, have you guys ever encountered an eerily similar idea to yours?  How did you handle it, and did you end up tweaking your idea to differentiate yours?

 

Series vs. Stand Alone Novels

Hollywood isn’t the only industry about to be scrutinized for its sequels.  Let’s take a look at how books deal with the standalone vs series approach to story telling in this week’s Sunday Versus.

Whether you feel it while you’re writing or not, there is a pressure when publishing to separate a long story into a series.  Famously JRR Tolkien never intended to publish The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy.   And we were lead to believe that the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini was to be a trilogy, but upon the announcement of the third book, it was also revealed that there would be a fourth.  (And to be honest, I only read the first book and a half of that series.)

But you know what? Fantasy isn’t the only genre taken over by series.  What about The Millennium Series (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & sequels for those unfamiliar with the formal series title), or Dan Brown’s novels with Robert Langdon?  Well, let’s not limit ourselves to fantasy and thrillers.  I for one have not forgotten the Little House on the Prairie series or Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

In fact, sometimes I feel like stand alone novels can be so short in comparison, that I hardly remember what happens in them.  They’re like a small blip on my reader’s radar when larger series take up the majority of my attention.  And most of the series, I admit, are deserved to be so.

However, I think there comes a point when even we have to set the books down and ask ourselves if it’s really a good story, or if we’re just attached to the characters at some point.  I like to think of it as the Jack Sparrow effect.  I’m not entirely sure the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie would have been made if Johnny Depp hadn’t been so in love with playing Jack Sparrow.

A prime example, for me personally, is the Anne of Green Gables series.  Now, the first two-three books were some of my favorites as a school-girl.  And I was in love with Anne Shirley!  But by the time I got to the fourth, fifth, and sixth, I was about done with her shenanigans.  And from what I hear, there’s a seventh, eighth, and ninth book as well.  I think, when one has literally written and chronicled a character from the ages of 10-50 or so, it’s about time to end it, unless you plan on doing it in one novel.

One factor that can weigh in on this, is whether or not a book is character or plot driven.  I realize there’s a huge grey area between the two, but for the sake of this topic I’m willing to find a split in them.  I tend to feel that character driven novels should be singular.  Mostly because the point of the story is watching the character grow and change, and although people are never done growing, if a character isn’t wrapped up by the end of the novel, then I’m not very likely to keep reading another.  However, with plot driven novels I’m more invested in the actual story and what happens.  I’m compelled to keep reading because I want to know how things are resolved, and I surely won’t be satisfied if they’re rushed through in one small novel!

Overall I’m not opposed to series, but I do think if a writer is considering a sequel, especially a previously unplanned sequel, they should ask themselves if it’s really necessary.  Do they really need to use the same characters?  Are there loose strings to tie up, and how can they develop the characters more?  Will people still care after an already resolved story line?  Just some things to consider before venturing past a novel.  Sometimes I feel like a stand alone novel can be a bit underrated, especially the shorter ones.  If someone can tell a compelling and powerful story in a 120 page book, then more power to them! Stories don’t have to be long to be good.

Have you guys ever read a series that should have stopped after the first book? Or perhaps there’s a standalone novel that would serve as a great beginning to a killer series?  Let me know what you think!

Story Ownership: You vs Your Readers

Obviously you are the writer, the creator, the teller of the story.  And there are various copyright laws that give you the legal rights to owning it.   However, once your story is out there for the world to read, is it still yours?

There are several posts similar to this one, sitting out around on the internet. Who Owns A Story, which I read after already typing my post, is eerily similar.  You wrote it, but you don’t own it, by Daniel Dalton, who mentions the Death of the Author theory.  (Also, I’m a huge fan of his.)

Most of them definitively informing you that after your writing leaves your hands, it belongs to the readers, not you.  The prominent argument is that readers take away different things from your writing.  Everyone interprets it in their own way, and the message/importance they receive will be unique, differing even from your intended message while writing.

In this way, the story has shifted, changed.  It is no longer the same story you wrote.  It is now the story as the readers perceive it.  Which is not your story.

Art and beauty are all subjective.  Who are we to say what the correct way to interpret something is?  We’re just the creators.

And yet…we are the creators.  Have we not a say in how our work is viewed?  When people start to take meaning where it was not given, do we point out that that’s not what we meant?  Perhaps not, because part of the beauty of reading and sharing our writing is that people can find meanings we weren’t even aware of.  If we tell the honest story, there will be themes we might not discover until afterwards.

But what happens when people take away the opposite message of what we mean?  If we write about the fall of a corrupt government, and people start saying we’re promoting anarchy, do we correct them?  Or leave it to others to start a discussion, or just leave them to their tainted views?  Perhaps there really is a wrong or right way to interpret messages in writing.

I think, overall I do agree with the idea that a story belongs to whoever reads it.  However what I would like to ask you is, where is the line drawn on the ownership as far as taking meaning from a story?  Do we, as creators and artists, have a right to guide readers through our intentions of the writing, or is that considered imposing on their rights of uniquely interpreting it?

On Choosing a Narration Mode

As I’ve only written short stories and flash fictions in the past, choosing a mode of narration hasn’t been a problem for me.  Generally I use limited third person, only delving into the mind of a single character.  This works well for short stories, and I find it the easiest, least confusing way for me to write.

Limited third person is also how I started writing my novel about Paige.  I really enjoyed the opening piece I wrote for it (you can read the rough draft of it here), and I thought it was a great way to incorporate themes and elements I wanted to explore in the novel.

However, the further I get in writing the story, the more I question the narration mode.  There are scenes that I’m thinking of including, where Paige is not present. I’m starting to realize that I want to include more of Alex.  As far as the story goes, I think it could be stronger if I focused on writing more about the pair of them instead of only Paige.

So my thoughts are that I should start exploring writing in an omniscient narrative, which I don’t have much practice with.  I think it’d be a great challenge to have to balance the viewpoints of the characters.  As daunting a task as that is, perhaps I should explore that in shorter works first before completely ruining it in a novel length work!

BUT- Then again, I could always take an “easier” route, and write from an objective point of view.  I say easier, because I won’t have to work on balancing  out the characters, but it would be tough not being able to delve into the characters minds.  I do falter on this idea though, because there is a lot I would have to change and compromise about my writing, which I’m not sure I want to do.  However, I must say the consistency of this form does appeal to me.

Ultimately I think, for the time being, I’m going to stick with writing in limited third person, and then perhaps write a few scenes on the side in the omniscient and see how they turn out.  And if you have any tips, exercises or great articles on this topic, I am all ears, and I’m sure some other readers are as well!

Oi! There are so many more elements to writing a novel than I had thought out.  This isn’t what I bargained for, Muse!

So how do you guys decide on which narration best fits your work?  Have you ever written a piece, then decided to re-write it another form?  Also, any recommendations for books with fantastic limited third person, omniscient, or objective points of view that I should read?

(A tad off topic, but I’m thinking of turning this into a Sunday Vs. Topic in the future, although not this Sunday.  So any response is greatly appreciated!)

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