October 2014 – Page 2 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: October 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

Can You Really Write Without Having Lived?

The other day, the wife and I were talking about the challenges of being a writer, and she said something interesting to me.

I’ve been struggling with adding more depth to my stories, going beyond just the exciting action scenes and the intriguing plots and actually getting into the character growth and development.

This is what she said: “But if you spend all of your time writing, how are you going to actually experience the things you are trying to write about?”

That really got me thinking! If I am struggling with something that many people find so easy, could I be going about my writing the wrong way? Could I be trying to write without actually having lived the experiences that I am trying to write?

Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

Basically, he’s saying, “You want to write? Get up and live something first, and then sit down and write about it!”

How many of us try to write about something that we really have NO idea about, when we could write something amazing with the stuff that we do know about?

For example, she brought up the concept of being a step-father, dealing with children who still love their biological father, a totally insane person who I perceive as a truly horrible man. I am eternally struggling for the love of the children that I take care of every day, and yet he swoops in for a weekend and all of a sudden they see him a model father.

This could make an AMAZING concept for a story, even if I changed it around and eliminated the father/child relationship. It could be a political story, a religious story, and so on, but using the same themes of fighting that eternal fight against overwhelming odds.

If I wrote that story, I could take the feelings that I have every time these things happen, and infuse them into the story that I am writing. It wouldn’t be a struggle to add depth simply because the depth is already there, within me.

It’s a tough question to ponder, and one to which I have no answer yet. I’m going to keep working on the series that I’m trying to launch right now, but when I’m done, who knows what kind of story will come out. Perhaps I may find it within me to write from the harsh experiences that I have had, a story that tells the world a little about me…

Writing Mistakes: Not Doing Enough Research

They say to “write what you know”, but when it comes to writing fiction, what you know simply isn’t enough!

When I write, I like to sort of write from the gut. I put down on paper whatever comes into my head, and the stories that come out are–in my humble opinion–pretty epic. When it comes to world-building, I just sort of “wing it”. Sadly, that often lets me down.

See, my area of expertise is in the creation of story lines and plots, but it’s often the little details that trip me up. Here are a few things that have given me pause in my last book:

  • What sanitation system does the city use?
  • What type of armor is easy to move in, but offers good protection as well as silence?
  • Will iron break when hitting another piece of iron?
  • If merchants rule a city, what type of armed forces would they hire to serve as city guards?

All of these things are pretty small, but if I didn’t find out the answers to these questions, I could end up writing a world that was COMPLETELY unbelievable.

When it comes to writing, one of the worst mistakes you can make it not doing enough research. Gardeners and architects alike, take heed: research will save your life!

Fight scenes can often be pretty tough for people to write, particularly if they are trying to write believable scenes (Matrix mixed with comic book-style fights just don’t really work). I’ve had to turn to an expert for help, a friend who actually competes in Long Sword tournaments around the world. Combining that with my experience in martial arts helps me to write believable fight scenes.

Of course, there are so many things that I have to research for the rest of the story. And that’s where the “work” part of being a writer comes into play. If you want to write a believable story that people can identify with, you need to do your research to ensure that you are getting the facts right!

How the Rock Rolls…

I stumbled across this quote the other day while lost in the mires of the Internet:

“A rock must roll many times to become perfectly round.”

I don’t know who said it, but it really stuck with me. Why?

Basically, it means that the rock had to endure a lot of change, movement, and wearing away in order to become perfectly round and smooth. Rock doesn’t naturally form in round shapes, but only with a lot of wear and stress does it finally achieve the shape.

To sum it up: Life is a Work in Progress.

We all want to be in that “round” stage, the part of life where we have gone through the wearing down process. We’ve undergone the stress and strains life has for us, and we’ve finally achieved true ’roundness’.

Of course we want to be in that stage, because that’s when life is finally easy. We have “attained” whatever it is that we have been struggled for, and there are no more trials and tests to help wear down the rough edges of the stone that is our life.

The reality is that there is no such thing as being perfectly “round” in life. There are always going to be more edges to wear down, more rough surfaces to sand smooth, and more uneven-nesses to deal with. We will never really ‘attain’, and we’re going to be fighting to be more ’rounded’ as we go through life.

Coming to grips with that is actually a huge part of being a ’rounder’ person. Once you realize that the wear, the stress, and the strain is just what you’re going to have to put up with for the rest of your life, you begin to see it as part of the process–rather than the thing that makes you suffer.

Consider that age-old analogy we’ve been reminded of by so many people: the oyster and the pearl. The oyster hates the grain of sand, but only thanks to that annoying little piece of grit are pearls formed.

Stop looking at the things that wear you down as the bad things in your life, but start to look at them as the things that will make you into that ’round stone’ you want to become. Once you realize that they are just a part of life, they will actually help you to become better in every area.

Here’s an example of how I can apply it to my life:

I’m struggling to find the time to write. I’m struggling to improve the depth of my characters. I’m struggling with emotional problems.

I can look at all of these things as the nuisances that I need to get out of the way in order to actually be the writer I want to be. Or, I can look at them as the things that help me to be the writer I want to be.

Every character struggles, just like me. Every character is trying to find depth and meaning in life, just like me. Every character has emotional deficiencies, just like me.

My life is what is making me ’round’, and it is what will help me work toward that perfect state of ’roundness’ some day in the distant future. The journey may be painful and long, but it’s worth it!

Handling an Overwhelming Workload

Man, I’m stressed! No doubt most of you are also under the same stress, but it feels like everything is hitting me at once these days. I’ve nearly doubled the amount of work that I have to do these days, which is both good and bad. Good in that it gives me more money, but bad because I have less time to write. My children are hitting their teenage years, which means all of the fun and thrills that come from three small people finding their voices, their attitudes, and their facial expressions (you know the one!). Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from trying to make progress in my writing life. The rough draft of Book 2 of the Last Bucelarii series is already written, which means it’s back to editing Book 1 to get it ready to publish. Looking over the comments of my beta readers, I basically have to rewrite the ENTIRE second half of the book. Oh boy! We’ve all got stress, but how you handle it determines how long it takes for you to go totally crazy. Here’s what helps me to handle my stress:

  • TV shows — Once I’m done with work and everything is settled, there’s nothing like a good TV show to take the edge off a long day. Thank the gods Brooklyn Nine Nine is coming out again!
  • Reading — My reading is spread out into a book I read while running on the treadmill, another I listen to while lifting weights, and a psychology textbook I’m studying.
  • Beach — Thank the gods we have the beach nice and close! It’s wonderful to just sit and watch the waves.
  • Exercise —  My 1 PM date with the gym is one of the few things keeping me sane. If I didn’t have the workout to take my mind off things, I’d go nuts.
  • Sleep — There is nothing better than a 20-minute power nap to help you forget about all of the stressful things in your day.
  • Writing — At the end of the day, while my writing may be a source of stress, it’s still one of the best things I can do to relax. With a bit of awesome music, a coffee (or chocolate milk–yes, I love chocolate milk!), and a pair of noise-canceling headphones, it’s the only way to stay sane.

What do you do to manage your stress?

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