Of 1984, War of the Roses, and Fairytales

I find it fascinating to look at, and analyze the influences behind certain pieces of art, including books, movies, paintings, theatre, dance, etc.  What inspired the creator?  What were they thinking about when they created it?  It almost always results in a deeper understanding of the piece.  Well, having written and published my first novel, Turned/Red, (available on Amazon, B&N, Bookbub, Goodreads), I have a deeper understanding of what that means.

I had three influences when I sat down to pen my book: 1984, the War of the Roses, and Snow White and Rose Red.

In light of recent events, 1984 has skyrocketed in sales (perhaps an exaggeration).  Good.   It spawned my love of dystopian literature, tv, movies, everything.  Of course it would be in the back of my mind when I sat down to write my own alt-world dystopian story.  How can it not be in the back of every dystopian writer’s mind?  It’s the frame work, and if you haven’t read it, I challenge you to pick it up.   It was certainly the frame for Turned/Red, but only in frame.  I let it color the story, rather than drive it.  There’s no “Thought Police” or “Newspeak,” but there is the undercurrent of an oppressive government, the beginnings of fanatical rule of the government that is well underway by “Big Brother” in 1984.  And, of course, a rebellion.  A touch to allude to the genius that was Orwell.

Just as I let the War of the Roses flavor bits and pieces .  Yes, the names came from a fairytale, but it was no coincidence that “Red” and “White” stayed with the final cut.  The War of the Roses was a violent clash of power between the York (white rose) and the Lancaster (red rose) houses.  The Lancasters, and consequently Henry Tudor, won.  I’m a history nerd.  I couldn’t resist using it to highlight the conflict within a family in my own story.  It’s a rather complicated, but fascinating change of power.  All sorts of interesting tidbits to be drawn from actual events.

And, of course, the fairytale.  Snow White and Rose Red is quite a different tale than the one with the dwarves.  There’s still a Huntsman, but there are bears that turn into princes.  Not to mention: Snow has a sister: Rose Red.  Rose Red has always drawn me.  She’s described as being the extrovert of the sisters, and yet, she’s the one who doesn’t get the Crown Prince.  Snow does.  So what does that look like?  Here is where you get my Solene and Roselind.  Solene has it all, and Roselind has to make due with the hand-me-downs, yet both are cut from the same cloth.  You can see where this would be ripe with interesting roads to travel down.

All of this swirled and floated around my head until they demanded to be let out.  A Pandora’s Box, if you were.  I imagine every artist has had this moment.  A desperate need to create from the muses that sparked the idea.  It’s how you know it’s a good one.  How you know it’s the story YOU need to tell.

I can’t even begin to tell you the weird influences for the sequel, or my new paranormal-fantasy that is in progress…

Tomorrow: All is All

Einstein said:
“Learn from yesterday,
live for today,
hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
He looked to tomorrow.
Saw the horror to come.
Took refuge in the hope of America.

Lincoln said:
“You cannot escape
the responsibility of tomorrow
by evading it today.”
He stood in the crevice
Of North and South.
A young country on his shoulders.

Maya Angelou said:
“Hold those things that tell your history
and protect them.
During slavery,
who was able to read or write or keep anything?
The ability to have somebody to tell your story to
is so important.
It says:
‘I was here.
I may be sold tomorrow.
But you know I was here.’”
She held her head high
A lyric through chains
To be Free in America

Tomorrow may be dark
The clouds rolling in
Down the plains
Threatening to consume us
We may be angry, and sad,
Never resigned.

We must plant our steel
Raise a shield of
Love, Equality, Inclusivity, Shelter
Look to the storm and say:
“You are not welcome.
You will not bend us.
You will not break us.
We are Americans.
We stand for all.
All is not some
All does not count the coin in your pocket
Or the color of your skin
Or the religion you follow
Or the gender you name
Or the person you love
All is All.”

You are not welcome, storm
You will not define us
Tomorrow,
we dig from the basement
To the light
Tomorrow,
Your storm meets
Sunlight on the horizon.

1st Person or 3rd?

I have always found it interesting what narrative writers chose for their stories.  As a child, I steered away from anything that was first person.  I would look inside, see “I” and put it back.  Why?  To be honest, I still can’t even tell you.  And I’ve really thought about it long and hard.  Why would I not want to read a book in first person?  Especially since I lean toward it in my own writing style?  Was it too personal?  Too limited?  Too emotional?  I don’t know.

But it does open up a bigger question that isn’t far off:  Why write first person?  Why write third person?  What makes that choice?  (I’ll leave out present vs past for now, since that’s a whole other topic).

As a younger writer, I stuck to third exclusively.  I wanted to be able to dip into other characters, perhaps even other moments. Seeing everything through one character was daunting, intimidating, and I felt trapped.  This, of course, was my fear as a writer.  What if my point of view character wasn’t fully developed?  What if I hated them?  What if they were boring?  Yep.  All of that is fear.

I don’t know when it changed.  I just began writing in first person.  Perhaps, as I grew as a performer developing narratives for characters in my head to give better performances, I grew as a writer as well.  I like to think they go hand-in-hand.  Perhaps, it was a professor that told me to “show, not tell.”  It became easier to avoid that “tell” crutch if I was in someone else’s head.  Limiting me meant that the storytelling became tighter, more active, and less passive, relying on being the all-knowing writer to “tell” the story.

This doesn’t, however, mean that I don’t write in third person.  Focusing so much on one, as I have recently, has made my third person storytelling lazy, sloppy.  It’s important to do both.  Granted, I like to keep it centered on one character or another instead off the all-knowing third person narrator, but all the same…  suddenly, third person is hard.  I feel disconnected, and if I disconnect, being an ENFP, I lose focus.  Third person has become, for me, short story format.  And that’s okay.

Because I read first, and third, present and past, active and passive.  I’ve grown to appreciate and respect each way of telling a story, and that one is not better than the other.  If the story is good, the story tells you how it needs to be told, and a reader will accept how it needs to be told.  Force it?  And it falls apart, like any art.

But it still fascinates me what writers chose to write.  There’s always a moment, either in the very beginning or at the very end where I sit there and wonder: why did they make that choice?  It’s purposeful, even if we don’t know we do it.  The key to this answer helps me be a better writer: analyzing, asking questions, and enjoying the crap out of stories.

A Writer’s Resolution

Everyone makes New Year’s Resolutions, or goals.  I’ve taken to calling them goals, so it stings less if I don’t manage to reach them.  To me, goals are long term, but resolutions are that fad we make in the last days of a year.  So… goals.

Typically, people want to lose weight/be healthier (great resolutions to be sure), get better jobs, or little organizational improvements.  These are great.  But as a writer, what goals do we make?  Finish that book we started months ago?  Write more?  Write better?  Writer something new?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. and Yes.

But how do we do that?

I’ve found that us creative types, (and if I’m honest, I’m going the MBTI route and saying my ENFP status doesn’t help) then to have 20 projects going, or on the back burner, and still we start more.  We overflow with ideas and concepts without sitting there and finishing the first one first.  This isn’t bad.  We need us.  We need this overflow or we become creatively and emotionally constipated.

My solution to this?  Embrace it.

For me? I never work better or faster than when I have a deadline.  That’s how Turned/Red was written.  I had a writing group I felt responsible for, to provide a chapter a week for, and thus, the story happened.  I let it happen because I told myself to write for an hour a day, no matter what.  That’s what I’m going to do: write for an hour.

Now, that hour doesn’t have to be spent on the same project every day.  That’s why I have that side project (though it has been doing its job and refocusing me on my big projects).  One day could just be this random snip-bit of an idea, just to get it out.  Or maybe it is writing that book you need to finish.  But an hour is doable, at least for me.  I can do that before I go to my day job, or at the end of the night when I’m surfing Pinterest.

Granted, it has only been four days (I gave myself New Year’s Day off to recover… and work), but I can say that it is working.

I can also say that this new book is going to be A LOT bigger than originally planned.  Whoops.