Every author gets asked this question at some point in their career. Despite wonderful answers from popular authors people still ask. Why?
Because, like love, the process and relationship between the author and ideas is different for each person.
I’d even say that the relationship between the author and each individual piece and the ideas it holds are different.
Yes, but how do YOU get your ideas?
I have three different ways to get a story. I can use one, two, or all three in different measures to come up with different parts of a full piece.
The one I use most for my science fiction and mystery novels – What if? What if there was a colony on the moon? What if that colony was secluded for a long time so that they developed their own culture? What if they were contacted by aliens?
The one I use most often when I’m stuck in a rut – The challenge! Can I write a full story in one scene involving one character? Can I write a good short story using present tense? Can I do both at the same time?
The one I use most for stream of conscious writing – Mood portrayal. How can I get the reader to feel like they are on the ship when the Jewel Stealing Space Cats ship is hit? Can I get them to feel a sense of panic portrayed through all of the senses but never mentioned outright? Can I get that feeling to turn into amazement that they survived?
How do you come up with your ideas?
In order to write your story you first need to have the idea, the inspiration. This can come from many different places. Sometimes it comes from the submission guidelines to an anthology you are interested in, other times it’s from another work (movie, play, book, etc.). Something you overhear can be inspiring, or it can just pop into your head. I have even dreamed my ideas! All of these places are useful, it just depends on you to make them great.
For me my main source of inspiration is from plays. As many of you know my main series is set in a theatre. There is a play being rehearsed and performed in the background of each book. As such I take much of the inspiration for the plot of the book itself (or at least the crime) from the play. The idea for the first novel actually came while I was working on the play in question. I was watching the show one day and just though, “What if this happened instead?” And so a book was born. For the second I used the title of a play as inspiration for the victim. While my books do not copy the plots of these plays, they do use a lot of similar ideas and themes.
I combined two of these methods to come up with idea for my short story. When we agreed on a theme for our anthology (Dark and Bitter) and were discussing black coffee, I immediately thought of the song “Coffee, Black” from the musical “Big”. Using younger versions of the characters from my novels I was able to successfully create something that both fit the anthology and stayed true to my series.
My other two novels had very different inspirations. The first was a young adult novel based vaguely on my own life as a questioning adolescent. The second is the one that sometimes gets me strange looks. My main character literally came to me in a dream. He just showed up one night and said “My name is Louis, tell my story.” He actually said this, I didn’t dream the story, I dreamt him telling me! In fact, I keep a notebook next to my bed in case it happens again!
Inspiration can come from many places and things. One minute you are staring at a blank page and the next you have a new world, just waiting to explored. Wherever your inspiration comes from, the world is waiting for your story.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body.” -Winston Churchill
It feels like fifth grade again; the red slashes and cryptic abbreviations in the margin of your paper. The feeling that what you did wasn’t good enough. Even though you submitted for it, even though you know it’ll make your work better, even though you know you need something different to make the work POP. What do you do if none of that stops the sting, when it comes?
What works to help anesthetize the pain will vary, and for some, nothing may help. But for many writers, shake your head, bring yourself back around to your present. The past may have been hard on your ego, but the marks on your current work are graphite kisses left by someone who actually cares about your work.
If that doesn’t help, prioritize. Decide what you want to read, and stop there. Critique often crosses lines between substantive (or plot development), copy, and line edits. If you’re willing to take corrected grammar (copy edits), then that has value. Save the rest, you can go back for more another day.
It helps to be as clear as you can be about what kind of editing/critique you are looking for. It is frustrating for both sides when critique is disregard because the edits are not what you were looking for.
If you’re in a group, be sure to give at least as good as you got. People often go to great lengths to read (often more than once), process, and then give feedback on work within critique groups. Be sure to have the same courtesy. Curb snarky comments (even funny ones), save them for face to face, when you can actually laugh together.
Be sure to ask people who are discerning. You want the best critique you can get. You do want some opinion, but you mostly want to rely on someone else’s expertise.
Once you’ve left school, even if you are an amature writer, what people tell you about your work only matters to you. Listen to your gut, you’ll know when what someone offers as criticism is constructive. Stay calm in whatever ways work for you (breathing, mantras, meditation, visualization, etc.), and remember, you only hand over as much power as you choose to lose. For most people, you are your own harshest critic, except for Winston Churchill.
Readers want it. Publishers want it. And I want it too. What I’m talking about is deep point of view (POV).
Deep POV is a method of writing that takes readers into the head and heart of a character, allowing the story to be seen and felt through the character’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Think about it as someone putting on a virtual reality headset while reading your story.
It’s emotional and strong, and to tell you the truth hard to accomplish. But if done right, your readers will love you. This type of writing is an art and takes talent. Something that is tough for me. Oh, I’ll have my moments, but I slack off and start using tags, “he wondered, she pondered/thought” which is not deep POV.
Here’s a passage from my work in progress, The Sundowners, where I tried deep POV.
“Finally,” Bat said as he slipped his Jeep into the recently vacated parking spot. He slammed the car door, and as if the Jeep needed to have the last word, the door bounced back and hit him in the leg.
“Ungrateful thing,” he gritted out as he rubbed his shin and slammed the door again. For years, Bat and the 1995 YJ had a love-hate relationship. The damn thing should be sold for parts, but instead it got new brakes. What a waste of money.
So what do you think? Did you feel anchored to Bat and experienced the Jeep’s door hitting your leg? Was it a waste of money for Bat to put brakes on the Jeep?
If you want to capture and expand your audience, try deep POV. There are many resources out there, but one I’ve found most useful is, Deep Point of View (Busy Writer’s Guides Book 9) by Marcy Kennedy.
Today we’re going to host an interview with one of our favorite local indie authors; Jaz Johnson!
Jaz could you please give us a short introduction to who you are and what you’ve published so far?
I grew up in a small town, went through a small school system, and had a small group of friends growing up. Never the one out partying or chasing the boy, I’d instead be content in my room, writing tales of my overactive imagination.
I’m both an indie author and artist. I currently have 10 published books, with the 11th set to release this February. I write fantasy, science fiction, romance, and erotica, and now, for the first time, am trying my hand at a comic book, combining my two passions! You can find information and sample chapters of my books at www.jazjohnson.com.
You’ve started a new project, the comic Player 2, about players in a fully immersive virtual reality massive multiplayer online role playing game. (VR-MMORPG) What was your inspiration?
Ah, yes. My pride and joy. I’ve had many inspirations for this project that directly impact both the story and the game itself (the MMORPG I’ve created for the comic), and they can all be narrowed down to my love of gaming, anime, storytelling, and the undiscovered limitations of human complexity.
In this project, I wanted to show a gaming world like no one’s ever seen - combining well-known features with ones I’ve alway wanted to see. I also wanted to showcase the diversity of the gaming community. Young, old, mean, woman, black, white, and everyone in between. Gaming can be, or at least I know it is for me, an escape from the chains of reality - especially in an MMO. And as this story unfolds, I really wanted to capture the emotions of just players would risk, and how they would come together to protect that sanctuary from being lost forever.
How has this project grown out of your writing?
I think writing stories for the length of time that I have has definitely helped me in developing this project. This story has 70+ characters, not including the A.I. NPCs (Artificial Intelligence Non Playable Characters) in the game. They all have unique personalities and backstories that had to both stand on their own and collide with others to create dynamic and realistic interactions. Having some experience as both a writer, reader, and movie-watcher definitely helps me keep control of my world. That and my ever-blooming love for fantasy and imagination make for an epic combination!
What challenges have you faced?
Time management. Oh my god. I completely underestimated the amount of work it would take to not only craft a story, but an entire functioning game from scratch. One long-term goal for this project is to actually have this be a playable game at some point. I know it wouldn’t be a 5-sense stimulation VR, but I think it could be a pretty popular MMO. That being said, I’ve devoted an absurd amount of time creating a handbook for the game, which can be found at www.worldofplayer2.weebly.com - along with other information about myself and the comic.
In addition, while I haven’t delved too much into marketing just yet, I know that networking and building an audience before my release (2018) is going to be a challenge. I’m not much of a marketing person, and this is going to be my first time consistently reaching out to bloggers, youtubers, and readers to get the word out. That being said, thank you for having me!
Do you have any suggestions for those who are considering trying their hand at a new form of media?
Absolutely. Go for it. Stop comparing yourself to other writers/artists. Tackle that learning-curve and make it do your bidding! I’m scared out of my mind that this project is going to fall flat on its face, and that thought will always be there. But I also know that I’m the only one that can tell this story the way I’ve envisioned it. I never doubt whether my story is a good one or not. I may worry about how many people disagree with me, but I always hang on to the fact that we can agree to disagree.
Any last words, comments, suggestions?
Well, I don’t have many suggestions other than what I’ve stated above, but I’m certainly open to them! If any of your readers have any suggestions for me moving forward with this comic, I’m all ears!
Thank you again for having me!
If anyone is looking for where to follow this project, see the links below.
Website - worldofplayer2.weebly.com
Blog - worldofplayer2blog.wordpress.com
Twitter - @WTFPlayer2
Instagram - @WTFPlayer2
Facebook - @WTFPlayer2
Tumblr - wtfplayer2.tumblr.com
Pinterest - pinterest.com/worldofplayer2