Note: I’ve been writing and storytelling longer than I have been animating. The trouble comes when it’s time to market whatever I’m writing — and I am no marketeer, unfortunately. However, I usually get very high points for the stories or writing told when the universe finally gets it in front of a reader. A few years back, I wrote a series of steps for writers to eventually become authors. A certain mindset in order to have what is being written resonates with who is reading.
When I had ‘DesktopEpics’, it was all about ‘Stories You Can Feel’, and to this day I stand by ‘The Way of the Author’ as lessons any writer will need to affect their reader. Most of all of the steps begin with straightening within first. The soul needs to be aligned in order for someone else’s soul to feel your words. When people speak of ‘writers’ block’, ten times out of ten it’s because something within has changed and the flame has been temporarily extinguished. I would hope my insight on writing would help return the passion.
Way of The Author I: Inner Peace
Before the author sits to write—before the athlete gathers strength to enter the race—before the engine picks up speed—there is a warming up, preparation, or even meditation that must occur. The car must always turn on and run and start at zero before getting to sixty. The athlete must stretch and become one with his or her goal before running a marathon or playing the big game. The author must relax his or her mind before writing a single word.
Prepare your environment and be firm with your preparations because your work as an author is, indeed, work. Finding words and placing them in the right sequence to make someone you may never meet is a labor of love that, often, will cause the dedicated author to be drained upon completion. Anything living or generates energy is working. True, the lazy couch potato has a beating heart and will need the energy to move from the indention in the couch to the remote control—but your work as an author gives and shares, requiring much MUCH more energy, thus you are tasked with much MUCH more responsibility.
Create inner peace—a place of solitude to write—the right music to vibe to—removal of unnecessary people or things from your life—before a single word is dropped—it will be to your benefit as well as to your readers.
Way of The Author II: Respect The World
In order for the author to write with relative understanding for others, he or she will never meet to relate to their words, the author must see the world around him for what it is and accept it. In many cultures, the term ‘It is what it is’ cannot be more appropriate.
For this, it is important for the author to split their mind and come out of their world of pre-judgmental opinions and redesigning the world to fit their perspective and see the world.
There will be, without fail, people who exist that counter your way of life as there are, without fail, no two similar snowflakes and we cannot write any of them off to fit a narrow perspective. That may be the way of others, but never the way of the author. The true author writes with the sole purpose to write of living souls. As I have not said the living soul had to be a biped humanoid, I am saying the author writes of anything that speaks, acts, and presents itself with a soul.
Wilson, from the Tom Hanks movie ‘Castaway’, a soccer ball, had a soul. Most books are written from the perspective of an animal, such as the case with George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’; all the animals just didn’t speak with words but the reader felt their individual souls. Unless the author wants every character to be exactly like themselves—speak like them, love like them, hate like them—the true author respects the world for whom lives in it in order to bring that diversity and realism to the story. In this, if nothing else is every learned, I believe is the most important successful path of the true author.
Notice, I did not pressure you to love the world. Not yet. As a human, we have a ways to go before you can love those that do things that offend you and there are greater, much more satisfying religions that can supply that teaching.
As an author, you are simply expected to respect one another.
Way of The Author III: Listen To The World
It may be one thing to respect the world; it’s another to listen to it. All things speak a language—some understood. Some implied. Some completely beyond your reason—but speak they do and as a true author, you are demanded to listen to all things in order to record and capture its individual voice.
The dog barks at night. Why? What type of dog? What could it possibly be saying? When it whines, what is it trying to convey? When the trees blow in the wind and the leaves bristle against each other, why do some leaves give off a different sound than others? When your neighbor is crying at night and you hear him or her, what led up to this event? Does it explain why he or she is so pale, unable to speak to others?
With people, we say things silently and do not say things loudly. The Way of The Author demands that you perceive this communication and convey this constant speaking non-speaking so your reader can also be taught as well as be entertained. Through you, when your characters express something through her eyes, a body language, you’ve taught your reader what he or she might not have seen or felt before—a measure of life that, indeed, goes on around us every single day.
But in order for you to teach and write this silent conversation, you must listen to it yourself. Especially for dialogue! The world is constantly seeking to one-up the other with what he or she has to say. This is why sites such as Facebook and MySpace are going to forever extend into generations: the sentient being will want their thoughts heard and approved by others.
Way of The Author IV: Bend The World
Only after you feel you have soaked in as much of the world as you can bear (just know it is an ongoing, regular task to do so), it is time for you to turn it on its head. To reverse all that you have respected and listened to, and change it to do your bidding.
The Way of the Author is to create a world, to a degree, that others can understand. I do not care how high the fantasy or low the noir, all books carry a measure of relative understanding that allows the reader to feel they are connected to what is being read. The dwarf still carries an ax. The elf carries a bow. Both look like humans. Both love and hate and have the capacity to war. So within short sentences, you are thinking of Lord of the Rings—a bent world relative to us all (and a great series of books and movies).
The author is charged with creating original works but not so original that we cannot understand it. Bending the world to your originality does not mean you write the entire novel in Klingon when only 0.02% (conservatively) of the world can understand a designer, fantasy language only befitting the pockets of its creators. If you want 0.02% of the world to read your book, by all means, create a Debinuclow that pivooracks every Xtyfemfab on the fourth of Emirrtrol. Be sure to add an index in the back explaining the terms and do not print multiple copies. They will be sitting in their box, unsold, for a very VERY long time.
Bend the world based on the world you’ve just learned to respect and listen to. It will be this same world that will be reading your words and that reader saying: this author gets me—even though you wrote of dragons, a murderer, a man or a woman.
Bending the world effectively is a simple matter of being able to say two words about anything: What if …? Understand, ‘what if’ is a powerful set of words and must be used carefully. What if, changes hearts and minds.
Here are some things that occurred because someone said ‘What if…?’:
What if we could see in our homes at night without candles or whale oil? The electric light bulb was created.
What if we can start our cars without a key? The push-button starter was created.
What if we could be much more mobile with our computers and still get online? The iPad was created.
Bending the world with the powerful what if helps the author exercise his or her imagination to create much more original material and allows the mind to play.
Over time, it will be as automatic and enjoyable as breathing air to challenge what you see and say … what if (fill in the blank here).
Way of The Author V: Develop Your World
With the world satisfactorily bent, it is time to develop it. All things must start from the ground up. Here, the what iffing and playful dancing of bending the already bent world you created gets to a more serious focus. You must now be an engineer.
An emotional engineer. You may have heard of the term ‘creating a backstory’—events that aren’t in the story but a strong part of it by the previous history that the characters were involved in; a dossier, if you will, of each character and subject matter of your story. I cannot approve more of such a task because this is where your characters and your subject matters come alive. Until then, they were just names and gender in a world you thought up.
Developing your world now puts them in a tangible place that could either help them propel forward—or realistically kill them. In my opinion, the story that tells the best is one where the main character could—and sometimes has to—die. Now that the main character is dead, now what will you do? Or if the main character is put in such serious jeopardy, what could possibly happen?
Only the backstory, or world that is sufficiently developed, could answer these questions in order to keep the readers engaged. NOT to be made up on the fly unless you’ve achieved master free-styling storytelling level.
Way of The Author VI: Inner Piece - Reject It!
This will be brief.
Reject the need to ALWAYS add a piece of your life into your story. Start with a fresh perspective by following the pattern written in this series of articles. Most people write what they know and then they discover they only knew enough for one book. Which is fine for those who have a one-novel-in-their-life goal.
I am developing career authors. By the end of these articles, you will have the seeds to write what you don’t know and be able to spin an entertaining story with such diversity outside of yourself, the reader will swear you are a female when you are a man. Or someone of another race.
That is the true goal of the author: to write so well, the author isn’t there.
So why would you add a piece of you (meaning your life, the things you like, the things you do, the things you say, the things you have seen, the things you did) into your story unless it’s a biography?
Way of The Author VII: Write it Down!
Carry a note pad and pen at all times.
They sell small leather-bound pads that fit in the back pocket, purse and glove compartment at Target and Wal-Mart for $13.00 or less. If you are a slave to your iPhone or Android, download one of the plentiful apps that take notes and transfer to your computer. However, in most places of business, it is much more acceptable for you to take out a notepad and pencil than take out your tablet or phone. I highly suggest you bring your craft back to its roots and physically write that brand new idea from your mind to the pad.
There are two rules of thought going on here:
- A) You need to have a pad to write that sudden inspiration the moment you get it. Waiting to write it down when you get home is chancing it will be lost after you pick up the kids, do the laundry, pay the bills, argue with a family member, wash the car and race to an appointment.
- B) When you write with a pen and pencil, you are etching the words into your mind similar to the person forced to write a thousand times he or she will not throw rocks on the blackboard. That wasn’t a punishment for punishment’s sake—it was the repetition that ultimately stuck in most (not all) students.
There is something lost when we use our thumbs to text our thoughts. How many of you remember a text you wrote last year? Can you get it back? Paper has this thing about lasting longer. Ask the person who dropped his or her phone and cannot get their stories back.
Something I can personally testify too.
Way of The Author VIII: The Mind Movie
It has been said that your novel must be enjoyed as if you were watching a good movie. Not all novels should be a movie, but all stories should be visual. The greatest visual novel, where you could see the characters and feel the characters, was the worst movie and a huge disappointment (Bonfire of the Vanities). Blame the director all you wish; that was a novel that was better on the page than any film attempt can produce.
That is something you do not have to worry about: whether you are writing a script or a novel. You are writing a NOVEL (or short story). Stay the course.
However, play your story out in your mind as if you are reflecting on a movie you just have seen. From beginning to end—including dialogue, action scenes, plot twists, thrilling moments, and so on.
Watch your story’s movie as if you bought a ticket—paid good money—to see this film and it better be good.
Way of The Author IX: Carve Your Characters
Are you the sum of who you are today only or are you the sum of the number of years you have lived up to today?
The way you think, talk, think ahead, trust, love, hate, draw people, drive people away, alone, in jail, a party person, a shallow person, the hero, or the villain because of how you grew up since day one! Based on the people you have interacted with or emotional and/or physical attributes granted to you at birth. Literally, we are a living role-playing game with a set amount of hard-coding values in our DNA that will never change, and a blank board of soft-coded values that we adapt to, erase and change as we get older.
Your hair can be blonde, black, brown, or red. You have a nervous tick that your mother, her brother, and her father has. You can have a third pinky or the ability to see through walls—hard-coded. DNA items that you will fail to remove without great expense.
How and who you love or hate; how you treat someone else—the need to save someone or let someone die. Your work ethic; either you enjoy seeing a project to its end or you procrastinate—soft-coded. Things you can change or learned from good or poor habits or from the people you associated yourself with.
Build your characters with life. While I will not exactly propose starting your characters from fetus to grown adult (while some storytelling might recommend that provided you keep the story moving)—I am suggesting create a full dossier of your character(s). Where they came from, what they ate, who raised them, who were their friends, who, what, when, and where. What was the character’s most devastating moment in their life that brought them to this point in their lives to act as they do now? No different than why you love the way you do now because of the things that may have happened in your past.
Your characters MUST have a reason for the things they do in order for the story to be believable (relative) to your readers even if it’s taking place on Planet Xeon (see Bend The World). Why does Darth Vader hate so much? Come to find out he never got over the death of his mother and he swelled with jealousy and the need for power growing up. While they could have gotten away with ‘he’s just an evil guy’, he became much more interesting when we started to feel sorry for him.
Not all of your characters have to have a checkered past in order to make them interesting, but they should have conflict.
Way of The Author X: Critique Your Mind Movie
Critiquing your mind movie is important so you can first get a taste of what your story is doing. Really critique the basic principles of what you saw in your head. Are the characters really interesting? Are you bored with your own story of endless dialogue? Are you confused about why certain things happened without explanation? Are you out of breath because the action was just so intense? Did it take three days of thinking of this story before it got to the point of a subject? Are there too many plot twists that you, yourself, can’t keep up?
This is your opportunity to casually breakdown your masterpiece before someone else does it and the average reviewer has no love for wasted time and confusing and tortured storytelling.
Never, under any circumstances, be afraid to say your own story is not up to standard. If you did not do something stupid such as provide a release date for your book before you finished it, then you can take all the time you need to perfect it.
No one—NO ONE—has a perfectly told story on the first draft; so enjoy the company of the greatest authors on Earth who wrote their first draft and then tossed it—angered at their dribble and hack—only to later chip and massage the story into multiple drafts for bestseller worthiness.
The Way of the Author is not to rush the first thought you have onto paper, but to consider who will be reading it and nurture the life into the story so it can be consumed and enjoyed.
Rush a cake or a pie—how many people will eat it?
Written by Animator