Tag Archives: authors

When Characters Bid You Adieu

I suppose I’ll start by referring to a random movie I’m not sure anyone knows. The movie is called Nim’s Island and, while certainly not a major cinematic success, it has a good illustration I want to talk about. Essentially, it’s the story of this little girl who lives on an island with her father with several animal friends and goes through a tough adventure after a storm sweeps her father’s boat off course and away from her. In the process, the author of a popular adventure series, Alex Rover, contacts her. Nim thinks the actual adventurer has come to save her rather than the writer, Alexandra Rover.

The parts that cause me to remember the movie most are the ones with the author. See, she, like me, talks to her characters. Alex Rover comes to life before her, comically watching over the writer who suffer agoraphobia and won’t even leave her house while writing his adventures. And through her character, Alexandra is eventually able to push herself to her limits and go try to help Nim.

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Writer Alexandra Rover and her character work together

 

Now, I have related strongly to Alexandra in the past in understanding what it’s like to have such a strong connection with a written character as to feel almost like they’re real. However, what happened tonight left me dumbstruck; because the one experience Alexandra has that I haven’t finally happened. A character finally said goodbye.

I suppose this is a spoiler. So I’ll just go ahead and warn anyone who wants to see the movie. As I said, it’s not a fantastic film and I don’t really recommend it other than to understand what I’m talking about. But if you want to keep reading go ahead. Just know you’ll hear a part of the end of the movie.

As Alexandra begins to regret her decision of going to the island, Alex speaks out and decides to finally leave his writer to her own life. Here is the scripted section; I couldn’t find a film clip unfortunately:

 

Alex: You cannot be alone for the rest of your life, Alexandra!

Alexandra: I’m not alone. I have you.

Alex: No, you don’t. No, you don’t have me anymore. I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna be your crutch anymore.

Alexandra: What? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Okay, look. You-We just need to figure this thing out, so you give me some ideas now. Come on!

Alex: I’m sorry, love. It’s over.

Alexandra: What? What are you talking about?

Alex: Alexandra, I quit. No more adventures. You’re on your own.

Alexandra: You-You-You can’t quit. I created you, and you have to do what I say, not-not the opposite.

Alex: Good-bye, old friend. Good luck.

Alexandra: But wa-Wait! Wait! Come back!

 

At the end of the movie, Alexandra begins to realize that Alex served his purpose, but that his time is done, and now it’s time to move on to new stories of her own rather than relying solely on a character. And I suppose I in my own way have done that.

Alex Rover

Throughout college, I’ve struggled heavily with my identity. I guess it’s always been one of those questions that I’ve been confused by the most, trying to understand who I am and what’s most important to me. And I feel like moving to college and being able to form my own opinions, values, and strengths has been helpful to me.

Freshmen year I created a character who almost completely lacked an identity at the beginning of his story. He had been cursed to look like someone else, he didn’t remember his past, he was an orphan without any real friends. And by the end of the book he figures out who he is, can look in a mirror and appreciate and love what’s there. It was a book of self-acceptance and self-discovery. Two things I needed very much.

The problem is that while still trying to figure out who I am, I’ve sometimes clung a little too heavily to my character. Even finished with his book I’ve often written countless other extras enjoyed still having him to lean on to feel confident, or to express other things I can’t in real life. And it had gone too far. I’d come to a point of wanting to live entirely through his life, not even allowing myself to focus on other writing or even continue working on making progress with my self-worth.

And tonight as I sat in the amphitheater the same way I had the last three years getting ready to start the school year, he spoke much the same way Alex Rover did to his writer.

We’d been listening to a speech from campus pastors about this year’s theme…about how life may have folded you one way, but God is folding you in another. And I suppose the topic just made me very reflective, looking down at the tiny fortune-teller folded in my hand and wondering what I was going to be folded like and recognizing that I had already taken a different shape than my first year entering my school sitting in that very same place. And I related to the pastor when he said life had sometimes folded you very hard, or sometimes even crumpled you up.

My character had been silent for a bit, but I could just tell whatever he wanted to say was more important than usual as he chose that moment to speak up. And sure enough, it was.

“I’m done.”

“Done with the story I’m working on?” I had asked curiously.

“No, done for good,” he’d said. “Move on, Emily. Find new characters. Write new stories. You’re at a different place in your life now, and so am I. You don’t need me anymore…to be honest you never did. You’re strong enough on your own, you just need to find a little more confidence. And I think you’re on your way there, but not with me.”

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And then it was over, and I knew, it was done. Maybe, he’ll be back someday. But for now, his part in my life is over. He achieved his goal, and now I must move on to others to tell their stories and work on my own at the same time.

Because I think that is the beautiful thing about writing. In putting our problems down on the page, we find ways to cope with them. And what I was dealing with while writing this book is not the same thing I need help with now. Life is full of shifts and changes, and writing moves with it like a fluid always conforming to the shapes around it. Writers often have complete changes by the end of their careers from where they’ve started. Some become more successful, others less. But still their writing moves with them, is there when they need it, perhaps holds them back at others. And eventually they’ll have to let go if they ever want to move forward.

So, sometimes writers must bid characters adieu and start a new chapter in their lives. We outgrow our creations after awhile, even if they still hold a special place in our hearts and always will.

To anyone who thinks I sound like a crazy person, maybe I am. But I think we’re all a little crazy in our own way, and if this is my way of dealing with the world, then so be it. We each find our own paths to handle what we are given.

To my dear sweet Nalin who I came to love so much. Thank you for allowing me to express my desires and wishes, to live without shame. Thank you for making things clear to me that I’d never seen before. Thanks for always being a shoulder to cry on- or rather lending your own tears to make me feel better. Thank you for always listening, always caring. I appreciate your newfound confidence that you taught me to have as well. I am so grateful to look in a mirror now and smile and remember you taught me that that I find my own worth often with the help of others around me, but still it comes down to me in the end. Wherever you go next, I wish you well, and hope maybe someday you’ll come back.

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Words of Inspiration

Gregory Norman Bossert.

Sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of advice along the way. For a writer hearing some words of wisdom from those higher along in the journey is often an enlightening experience. It is handy to know what the best things to do as a writer are, what helped them on their road to success. This buzzfeed article has several pieces of advice from famous authors. Enjoy seeing what they have to say. You’ll see a few repeats in ideas of course, but there is quite a lot to gain from this. Enjoy! And feel free to comment with your favorite. My favorite is number sixteen “Your story is not done until you have told it to someone you would not trust with your life.” It reminds me that as an author I have to put myself out there, be brave, and in doing so share with those who I normally would not trust. There is some risk involved in writing, but there are good things as well. And that’s definitely something I need to remind myself of as I write. What pieces inspire you most? What advice do you need to follow more?

Let me know which one you like most and enjoy!

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/27-pieces-of-advice-for-writers-from-famous-authors

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September 17, 2013 · 2:54 PM

“My Rambling Brat (In Print)” or the Problems of Perfecting Writing

As a writer I sometimes am extremely self-critical. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the negatives and see only your faults rather than your talents. In many ways it’s in our nature to be critical, especially of ourselves. I am always reluctant to share my writing with others for this reason, frightened to let my books into the world fearing they might not be good enough. Yes, I’m a bit of an obsessive editor who constantly is trying to improve my works. And I never can explain to my eager friends why my book is just not ready yet!

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However, today I realized not only am I not alone in this belief, but published writers long before me have also struggled with these self doubts.

In my American literature class today we were reading Anne Bradstreet, a brilliant Puritan poet from the early 1600’s. She has marvelous poems, and I encourage everyone to take a look at a few of them. However, my favorite remains “The Author to Her Book”.

The story goes that Bradstreet had a book that her brother-in-law published without her permission. My literature professor equated it to friends hacking your facebook when you’re out of the room to post ridiculous things. However, it’s a bit more extreme than that. Bradstreet wrote this poem as a reflection of how she didn’t want it published, comparing her book to an ill-formed child that she is sending out the door hoping only the best for. Read it below and see what you think.

The Author to Her Book

  by Anne Bradstreet

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
In this array 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critic's hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

So here is this brilliant woman worrying about what is going to happen to her book she thinks is “ill-formed” and not ready to be sent out yet. It amazes me to think far greater writers than I have also worried about their works. So I guess I need to worry less and just be brave and send things off. Because I’ll always see my books as rambling brats not yet ready to leave the home.

 
Who are some writers who have inspired you to see value in your own work? What do you do to overcome compulsive editing problems? Any other valuable literary wisdom you can provide?

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Writing is not a Career?

Many people have assumptions about what it means to be a writer. There is the idea that writing, while a fun hobby, is certainly not material for a real career.

I was reading a section of a book for writing class and was struck by the beauty of what the writer had to say. The book is called Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. She writes on the subject of faith and art, particularly in the form of writing. In a chapter about labels that are put on writers, she discussed the various assumptions people make about writers.

 

“There’s another New Yorker cartoon that shows a woman opening the door of her house to a friend. We look through the door, and in the back of the house a man is writing at a typewriter, with a large manuscript piled on the desk beside him. The friend asks, ‘Has your husband found a job yet? Or is he still writing?’

“A successful businesswoman had the temerity to ask me about my royalties, just at last when my books were making reasonable earnings. When told, she was duly impressed and remarked, ‘And to think, most people would have had to work so hard for that.’ I choked on my tea not wanting to laugh in her face.

“A young friend of mine was asked what she did, and when she replied that she was a poet, the inquirer responded, amused, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean your hobby.’” (L’Engle 123).

I found this section fascinating, and yet, I also recognized the truth in what L’Engle had written. Many are ignored for their writing, told that it’s not a real job. It’s a sad world we live in where people can’t recognize the work that goes into the written craft.

In seventh grade we had a career day and the counselor was talking to the students about what they wanted to do in their future. After a brief introduction she asked around the room to see who already had a career idea. I was amongst a small group of people to raise their hands. She went around, calling on each and getting a list of different options. Sports trainer. Interior designer. Politician. And then it came to me and I smiled proudly before pronouncing “writer”.

The counselor had enthusiastically supported all of the other children. But when it came my turn she looked at me before calling on the next child.

I was embarrassed, humiliated. It was the first time I had ever realized that the adult world did not accept certain answers as “careers” even if that was what they were. My job choice was impractical and silly and wouldn’t get me anywhere in life.

I panicked, fought desperately to find another job that was more practical and less likely to get me weird looks or annoying comments. I felt satisfied when I found one (teacher) but of course was never nearly as content with the choice.

The world we live in is harsh on writers. Though it is not a “practical” career choice it still involves work and dedication. I appreciated seeing how another writer had experienced similar hostility towards her craft.

What have you experienced as a response to being a writer? If you don’t write, what’s your opinion on whether or not writing takes work?

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L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art. Wheaton, Ill: H. Shaw, 1980. Print.

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What To Do When Children Are Surpassing You?

It was a Saturday afternoon as I was strolling through Costco. I was glancing at the various displays from giant packs of batteries, to fancy furniture. But as my family passed by the book section something caught my eye.

A table was set up. And at it sat someone with books in front of them.

A book signing? Really? In Costco of all places?

I stared for a moment, surprised. I was wondering who it could possibly be, and if I’d heard of them perchance. And then I finally looked at the face of the writer sitting at that small table in the busy Saturday rush of the store.

She had glasses. Straight brown hair around her face. A posture that indicated not too many books were getting picked up. But those things were not what I noticed most. No, the writer sitting there looked younger than me. In fact, she looked to be a child.

For a moment I thought there was a mistake. Maybe the writer had left their child there while they went to go to the bathroom…um…or…

I couldn’t come up with possibilities. I simply was puzzled by this little girl sitting at the table looking bored. And then I finally took a glance at the signs to see if I recognized the author.

I don’t remember her name, but the biggest words on the signs were: Twelve-year-old author.

I took a moment to simply take that little fact in before I began to bemoan my family with the horrors of being surpassed by children. I am twenty! I am in the prime of my life! And yet somehow I have yet to publish a novel and this little girl has (though admittedly it could have been self-published).

What do you do when life seems to be slipping away and suddenly children are rising up to take the spots on bookshelves that you have dreamed of for ages? Is there a good way to get over that horrifying blow that you are frankly running out of chances and other younger authors are taking them in your place?

I don’t have a true answer. I guess it just takes perseverance. Keep trying. Never give up. Even after twenty rejection letters. It may sound redundant and silly but that really has to be the key. If twelve-year-old girls can do it, why can’t you?

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