IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY!
How To Find And Capture Ideas For Your Novel with Joanna Penn
How do you capture your ideas? Tell us in the comments!
You’re a writer so what’s your story? Or what inspired you?
I think it’s less about inspiration for me and more about need. I need to write. It’s either that or spend copious amounts of money on therapy! I actually went to my first writing class because a friend dragged me along. I went and never looked back. That was 20 years ago. One of my first classes was a screenwriting class. I think visually and it carries over into my writing so that class was a perfect fit for me.
The need to write is a great thing to have. Sometimes I sense an urge to write, but oftentimes not. But if I keep writing the need to write increases. Yay!!
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I think we’re all writers at heart. We all have stories we want to tell. Some of us are better orators than writers, but we’re all storytellers. Beyond that, though, I have this burning desire to educate people about the need to care for the environment and I often use my writing to get some of these environmental issues out there across a greater spectrum. I do my best not to be preachy which is why I like thrillers because I can hide the information I’m hoping to convey inside the action.
It’s good that you have a specific passion to write about. That’s wonderful. A great topic too!
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Oh, a full time job, my volunteer work, and, of course, familial obligations. I have to either stay up really late or get up really early to get anything done. I’ve been trying to dedicate blocks of time on the weekends, but we have a busy household so it’s not easy.
I salute you for writing books with so many responsibilities! It can be done!
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
That’s a good question and I don’t really know the answer. I don’t think it’s simply the desire to be a rich and famous best-selling author. I think it’s more visceral than that. Writing helps me sort out the messiness of my life. It’s almost as if I need to write to make sense of things.
YES. I LOVE THAT. I think deep down I feel the same way. Visceral.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
It used to be me. I got in the way, either because of my inexperience, my lack of confidence, my lack of faith in myself and my ability. But I’ve been working at this writing thing for almost 20 years now and I feel as though I’ve really hit the tipping point. I’ve put the hours in and I feel as though I could write anything anyone asks of me.
Wow. I love hearing your experience on this. It’s very inspiring for us newbies.
Why do writer’s give up, quit, or never complete their work?
Hmmm, not sure. You definitely need a tough exterior, have to listen to “no” about a thousand times, and yet still keep at it. Tenacity is key. A lot of people want instant gratification, but unless you’re incredibly lucky, the business of writing is a long game.
That’s right! It’s definitely not a sprint but a marathon.
What would you say to a struggling writer who has given up?
You’ve got to write for yourself first and if you’re not doing that, then it’s probably a good idea to give up. If you’re already writing for yourself, it’s likely that you’re still in this thing and that you’ll be in it for the long haul.
BONUS: What else do you have coming down the pike?
I’m currently working on a psychological thriller about the pharmaceutical industry and a vaccine gone bad.
OH! I love that. Please keep me in the loop for that one. A possible ARC? Would love to help.
You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
Becoming a writer was a natural progression of my professional life. I have a liberal arts degree majoring in English and Psychology before training as a high school English and Guidance teacher. After that I moved into Adult Education in which I hold a Master’s Degree.
I worked at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) teaching academic writing before embarking on a project in the arena of HIV and AIDS, a devastating pandemic affecting many people in Southern Africa.
After a three year period of travelling the country, the UICEF and Department of Social Development initiative ran its course and I was at a crossroads. I was processing experiences of working in semi-rural environments with people who had very different social practices and cultures. I decided these, with a bit of flair and a stretch of the imagination, would make good stories.
I really appreciate your kindness in helping others. Education at necessary at every stage in life. Very unique.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I began to write to make sense of aspects of life that affected or concerned me. I had been a social activist and was worried about many issues such as the instability of southern Africa and how this feeds into the exploitation of women and children (sex trafficking). I had witnessed the downward spiral that accompanies drug addiction, and I wanted to write novels that exposed the harsh realities of life to sensitise people towards these conditions and to increase tolerance and understanding. Wrapping them in the guise of fiction in a gripping psychological thriller was one way I thought would make them more palatable.
Writing, for me, is therapeutic and is a way I can release my creativity. It is something my soul demands I do. It gives me tremendous pleasure and, at times, a fair bit of pain too!
Wow. That’s a great way to release your creativity, Sarah. These are harsh realities the world has to deal with, but ‘m glad your muse has found an outlet to tackle them! I have tons of books to read but I’d like to make room for yours as well.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
I have completed all of my projects so far. My debut novel, Tangled Weeds is a stand-alone book and currently I have almost finished The Starlight Tide, the final book in my Sisters of Light trilogy, This follows The Dandelion Clock and The Butterfly Wind.
I have been writing since 2011 and, although I could have written faster, I have not put myself under creative pressure. Life gets in the way of art at times and I have been involved in raising our two daughters and have family responsibilities. At stages I have had a mini crisis of faith but I am doggedly determined and once a book is begun am driven to complete it.
Life does certainly get in the way at times. Much too often in my opinion, but I admire your determination! Once we start something it must be finished. That’s the way it ought to be.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Writing is my life’s purpose at the moment and that passion goes a long way to keeping me motivated. There is nothing better than seeing your book published with your name on the cover.
I have a highly active imagination and a plethora of ideas. Once a setting and a cast of characters invade my mind I am under siege! My characters develop through my stories; they evolve or devolve as the case may be. The moral dilemmas they face are of particular interest to me. I believe that good must triumph over evil and there is always a chance of redemption. I think that this message of hope must be offered to readers in these challenging times.
YES, I love it! Purpose and passion are two big motivators for anyone. I love the imagination of authors! It keeps me turning the pages coming back for more. Can’t wait to read your books.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
One can always find excuses that delay or sabotage dreams.
This game can be overwhelming and doubt destructive. I am fortunate that I have a husband who supports me and my work, which is a huge factor. I have also learnt that it is more important to live modestly and do what makes you truly happy.
Your statements rings so true. Excuses, doubt, and lack of support all are formidable opponents.
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
There are so many answers to that question. Writers often feel lonely and have no support. They cannot pay the rent by writing. Insecurity about the quality of their work shuts down their imagination and they run out of ideas and cannot finish their stories. They read other people’s books and feel inferior and are rejected too many times by publishers and/or their confidence is eroded by unfavourable reviews. They are overwhelmed by the fact that writing is the easy part of the job and the rest is too great a mountain to even attempt to summit.
This is a great list. An accurate one too! This is one of my favorite responses to this question.
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Write for yourself. Write for personal satisfaction and mental gymnastics for your brain. Appreciate that writing is not easy. Some days you strike the keyboard with smug satisfaction and other days you sit tormented and tearful. Try to get into a routine of writing every day – even if it’s just for twenty minutes, The more you practice the better you’ll get.
Like everything in life, you have to deeply desire the final product and realise that it takes a lot of effort, sweat and tears. Finish what you start. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment. Writing teaches you discipline and courage and these attributes will stand you in great stead throughout your life.
Find a writing group or a mentor. Use social media to link to like-minded readers and writers – there are a gazillion out there. Writers are kind; they form communities and nurture and support each other.
Excellent! Medicine for the weary!
What else do you have coming down the pike?
Once I have completed my trilogy, I plan to write a novel highlighting the plight of rural girls in South Africa.
From the coastal city of Durban, to rural hills outside Ixopo, to smoky Alexandra Township and the posh suburbs of Johannesburg, Veils of Smoke will follow Nonhlanhla Biyela on a dangerous undertaking to try to locate her missing cousin, Sinazo.
Wonderful. Keep us posted on the third installment and the next novel. Would love to see how it pans out.
*Are you originally from the west coast ?
I’m originally from Michigan, but moved to Seattle right after college. After a few years there I took off for San Francisco. I had never visited the west coast at all before moving to Seattle, and I had never been to California before I moved to San Francisco. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl!
I hear you! Me too!
*When did you decide to be a writer?
Wow, this might be the toughest question I’ve ever been asked about writing! I don’t think I ever “decided.” I started writing stories and poems from a young age and it was just always something I did. I never had to think about it or choose it. However, I did choose to stop writing, right after my senior year in college when a professor told me I wasn’t very good at it and I should find something else to do with my life.
That’s awesome it feels very natural and instinctive to you, or at least until you encountered a negative influence in college. Sorry to hear that. You’d be surprised how many writers I’ve talked to that had the same experience. I find that very perplexing.
*Who or what influenced you the most in your decision?
There are too many names to list so, in the interest of brevity, I’ll just say: Other writers. Every book I read that spoke to me had a writer behind it who encouraged me to start writing again, and then to keep going.
It’s great to receive encouragement and motivation from other writers isn’t it?
*Besides nonfiction, what else do you write?
I’ve written three memoirs and two novels. The first memoir is scheduled for release in Spring 2017.
Oh nice! Yippee! Another book release! Drop me line and I’ll help you with some promotion if you’d like.
*Why did you decide to become a story coach?
After I started writing again in my mid 20’s I formed a writing group in Seattle and then one in San Francisco. These writing groups were based off of the Alcoholics Anonymous format, meaning: you came and you shared your struggle with writing, but you didn’t have to participate if you didn’t want to, you could always remain just an observer. After the sharing, we settled down to do an hour of silent writing together. I found myself working one-on-one with a lot of the writers in the group, and pretty soon it was eating up so much of my free time that I decided to open a business doing this work.
Nice. I like how those begin. Organically and spontaneously. So glad you started writing again.
*Can you name a few benefits from helping others in their writing?
Holy cow, there are so many benefits I don’t know that I could even begin to cover them all! My first and favorite probably is that I get to hear about and share in other people’s lives. Whatever story someone is writing, it always has everything to do with them. I find human beings to be the most fascinating magical creatures, and the fact that other people trust me enough to let me try to help them with their creative process, and sometimes all their inner emotional “stuff” too, is such an honor.
There’s definitely a rewarding social aspect to helping others. Human beings are definitely fascinating magical creatures! Especially the intuitive, artistic types!
*Tell us about your book, The INFJ Writer.
The INFJ Writer is a writing guide based on the real-world experiences of my writing clients. After a year or two of doing coaching work with writers, I noticed that almost every blocked writer that showed up on my doorstep (that is, in my email inbox) was an INFJ or INFP personality type. These writers were highly sensitive introverts who had A LOT to say about the world but no way to get the words out. I saw immediately that they were the same kind of writers who had shown up to the writing groups I formed based on the AA format—scared, creatively paralyzed idealists who were also thoughtful, compassionate, and invested with a deep sense of purpose and passion about art and writing.
They were intuitive writers. And traditional methods don’t work for intuitive writers, as I had found out through my own personal experience, and as I saw my clients finding out, over and over and over again. Outlining, plotting the entire arc of the story in advance, using checklists for character development—none of this stuff worked for intuitive writers. In fact, it blocked them even more from their own inner creative light. That’s when I knew I had to write The INFJ Writer. It’s for intuitive writers who are experiencing blocks and don’t have the money or the time to hire a coach like myself who specializes in working with intuitive introverts. The book contains exercises in every chapter to get the blocked writer’s creative energy moving again.
Thank you for taking the time to write such a book. Although my personality type if not INFJ, I can relate to all of the points that you make here. We’re not too different!
*What led you to discover your personality type and what bearings did it have on you as a writer?
I had a desk job for a while where I had a ton of free time and unlimited access to the internet. I had always been interested in psychology so I started taking a lot of online personality tests. Most of them were just for fun, but when I read the description of the INFJ personality type it was like my whole world cracked wide open. Suddenly I realized there was a chance that I wasn’t a completely weird alien (which is how I had felt for most of my life). Finding out I was an INFJ bolstered my self esteem in a thousand ways, one of those being that I finally had the confidence to start putting my writing out into the world.
I could never have a desk job, although I’ve been blogging a lot these days, lol! Wow. You’re story sounds strikingly similar to mine. I’ve only discovered my personality type earlier this year after suffering from a long bout of depression and low self-esteem. But when I read Heidi Priebe’s book, The Comprehensive ENFP Survival Guide, It opened up mines of life changing revelations.
*How much does our personality type affect our ability to learn the craft of writing?
Hmmm…this is an interesting question. I would say that our personality type doesn’t affect our ability at all, but it does affect the way we view ourselves and how adequately we are measuring up to what we consider “ability.” For instance, most INFP writers do not do well with linear structure. When they’re writing, they tend to write in scattered pieces. There IS an order there, but the order usually has to do with a hidden beautiful pattern that the INFP writer follows almost solely according to intuition. From the outside, it might look like a mess. And many, many INFP writers have internalized the assumptions of mainstream writing culture, which says writers should be very concerned with the coherence of the storyline, even in the very first draft. So the INFP writer will see that he’s writing in pieces and get very down on himself for it, and then the negative self-talk comes in and the INFP writer berates himself for not having any writing “ability.” Well, this writer does have ability. His ability just shows up in a different way (especially in that first draft) than it does for most other people.
I should’ve phrased this question differently, but your response is perfect! I can totally relate to this one.
*How can not knowing our personality type inadvertently affect our writing?
Just like in the world at large, an intuitive who does not know she’s an intuitive will tend to feel crazy or like something is wrong with her most of the time. It’s exactly the same thing in writing. If you write in scattered pieces, or you have a lot of trouble finishing things, or you go through huge amounts of anxiety and emotional turmoil whenever your stories are critiqued, and you don’t know you’re a highly sensitive intuitive writer, the first thing you’ll do is blame yourself. The second thing you’ll do is try to “toughen up” and introduce some sort of harsh discipline into your writing life, which will make you feel worse. Until you learn about your true makeup as a person and an artist—and accept that makeup—you’ll always be caught in this vicious cycle that swings between the inner critic and writer’s block.
This is all very helpful and therapeutic information. Thanks for sharing.
*Have words of encouragement to all the intuitive types?
Almost every intuitive person I’ve ever met undervalues their own intuition and their own strong intelligence. Use that mind that’s so strong in you! Read everything you can about what you are, and learn everything you can about other people and what makes them tick. The more deeply you know yourself, the easier everything becomes.
I love this statement! I find it very uplifting. Do you have any reading recommendations for personality type? How about your book!
According to Goodreads
After years of coaching writers who struggled with procrastination issues, high sensitivity to criticism, and crippling self doubt, Lauren Sapala realized that almost every one of her clients was an INFJ or INFP. Using the insights gleaned from these clients, as well as her own personal story, Sapala shows us how the experience of the intuitive writer can be radically different from the norm.
INFJ writers don’t think like anyone else, and their highly creative brains take a toll on them that they rarely share with the outside world. The INFJ Writer discusses such topics as:
How an INFJ writer’s physical health is tied to their creative output
Why INFJ writers are more likely to fall prey to addictions
When an INFJ writer should use their natural psychic ability to do their best creative work
Whether looking to start writing again or to finish the novel/memoir they started so long ago, any writer with the self-awareness to identify themselves as highly sensitive and intuitive will benefit from this book that helps them to find their own magic, and to finally use it to build the creative life that actually works for them.
*I’m an ENFP writer. What 3-5 things would you say to this kind of writer?
Oh, one of my best friends is an ENFP! You guys are truly bubbling fountains of light and inspiration…who can very quickly turn into avenging angels when someone has been unfairly wronged. ENFPs tend to experience a lot of guilt because they are driven so strongly by their curiosity that it makes them sometimes abandon projects they cared about a lot or befriend people who can be unhealthy for them in different ways. ENFPs are very, very hard on themselves inwardly and, like all intuitives, they struggle with giving too much to others and not letting themselves receive.
Oh good, make that two of your best friends are ENFP! Tell her I said hi and give her a big high five! Thanks for sharing this. It all rings so true. Never realized how hard I was on myself either. I’m totally Curious George on steroids.
I always advise ENFPs:
To follow your curiosity wherever it takes you. It doesn’t matter if no one else understands why you’re drawn to that person or thing. If you’re drawn to it, it’s got something for you.
You’re way more intelligent than you give yourself credit for. ENFPs can come off as bouncy and happy and even a little spacey, but under the surface they are extremely astute observers and very quick studies. Science, math, foreign languages—all of these subjects come naturally to ENFPs who find some emotional reason to get invested in them.
It’s okay to work on a bunch of different writing projects at once. And it’s okay to abandon a writing project if the spark is gone for you. ENFPs are true artisans. They’re like sculptors with words—they like to have their hands on many different textures at once. Let yourself play and explore. ENFPs need to do that.
WOW. I love this. I want to print this out and plaster it on my forehead!
*If you could change yourself which personality type would you pick? Or perhaps, what would change in your cognitive stack?
A few years ago I probably would have said that I wished I was an ENTJ or an ENFJ, some type that still had the intuitive piece but perhaps didn’t share the constant companion of introverted anxiety I’ve experienced for so much of my life. But now, in my late 30s, I’m actually pretty happy with what I was born with, anxiety and all.
What a great answer. I love it. Sometimes I want to be an ENFJ, but I would be a completely different bird. Having that “P” Perceiving function is a huge part of my personality. Thank for sharing.
One of my very favorites is from Napoleon Hill:
Isn’t that the truth.
*Favorite writing books?
I love, love, LOVE Stephen King’s Memoirs on Writing. That man is a genius.
That he is. Haven’t read it yet but looking forward to it.
*Where are you from?
I’m not going to lie. I had to look this one up on the map. I’ve definitely heard of it, but couldn’t place it in my head. Think I need a memory upgrade.
*What exactly is the 60 minute read series?
When I was considering starting my quest to write a book, I first thought about the books that I like reading: sharp, punchy, to the point. No fluff. No fuss. No long, dreary, padded paragraphs. Since my kids arrived, time is also a premium, so short bursts of reading is usually the norm. And thus, amongst all my pooled ideas, the Sixty Minute Reads series was born. Roughly 300 words per chapter, each with its own cliffhanger drawing the reader on, all anchoring in real time around an event or location, with flashbacks and revelations converging to that final, sixtieth minute.
I love the concept of this. Very fascinating and innovative. You certainly deserve a high five.
*Do you write full time?
I don’t write full time. I’m not even sure I write part time! I just write as and when the mood takes me. I’m very much a flitter in life.
Hah! I can totally relate to this one.
*Tell us about the protagonist in your new book.
Holly Holloway is hard to understand. She’s strong, she’s sassy, yet in certain situations she acts weak, vulnerable, and well, human. Perhaps she is difficult to like, seems a bit of a bitch, but maybe all things become clear in the end.
Vulnerability is always a keeper in crafting a protagonist. Readers tend to relate to that more than anything.
*Is this a stand alone book or beginning of a new series?
It is very much a series. I love my concept, there’s so much scope.
That’s awesome. Sounds like it definitely has potential.
*What genre do you mainly write in?
Young Adult: this is to be a series of Thrillers, but I have also written a YA Adventure novel (yet to be published)
YA definitely has a lot of market appeal. I love to read in this genre too!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I used to read books a lot as a child. I was really encouraged by my family, and would consume book after book, even walking to the bus stop banging into lampposts. Writing seemed to come naturally later in life.
That’s awesome. I cracked up at this. Picturing you banging into a lamppost while reading was hilarious.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I think I have already reached my goal: to become a published author. Perhaps my new goal is to become a multiple published author.
Goal achieved. Multiple publications sounds very desirable.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Time, desire, imagination.
Time: I work full time, have a young family that I love spending all my free time with, and climb as a hobby when I can.
Desire: I find it hard to WANT to edit my books. The thought of endlessly correcting my work seems to eternally stretch before me, so I put it off and off.
Imagination: My own imagination runs away with itself, such that when Draft 1 is complete, I am already off and thinking about the next book or books or series of books.
Ah, yes. These are the three heavyweights. Time, desire and imagination.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
To get that first book in paperback. To see it on our bookshelf at home. To think that one day my children will pick it up and read it and know that their Daddy created it. That it might inspire and spark their own imagination and dreams and loves. Motivation, got it in spades mate.
I guess that would be pretty surreal seeing your own book on the shelf.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Only my self. The wandering, writers mind. If only I could type as fast as my brain can think.
This wandering mind can be quite a problem sometimes.
Have you ever wanted to give up your dream? If so, why?
I’ve given up plenty of times. When the rejection letters came through from an industry that is only interested in the “painting by numbers” writing approach. When I had 10 chapters left to write and I couldn’t be bothered. When my laptop ran out of battery. Any excuse really.
Well, I glad to see your book online!
Why do writers give up, quit, or never complete their projects?
From a personal point, I would say that human modesty plays a large part. Imagine writing down all your thoughts and ideas, and then letting somebody else read them. Or worse, your friends, family, the guy next to you at work. It’s weird, right? But you get over it. You get supported. You realise you’re being silly and life is like that sometimes.
I suppose we have to develop very thick skin to survive.
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Why give up? With self publishing such an easy, free, accessible ride these days, you can publish to the world, and then learn from your mistakes. No need to tell anybody you know, maybe even write under a pen name, but put it out there. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Lots of people won’t like it, but if you’re proud of it, then there will be people out there who will be too. Don’t write for everybody, write for yourself.
Lorna is a fiction & Non-fiction author, storyteller, blogger, podcaster, story coach and lover of books!
Bio: I love to write unusual historical romances that have been known to include scarred heroines, brave heroes, far too much scheming, evil terrorists and always a way for the two lovebirds to find their sweet happily-ever-after.
When not writing fiction, I love to help first-time and struggling writers get rid of their fear of the blank page and self-publish their stories. In the in-between time I can usually be found either drinking green smoothies, or cleverly think up another way I can convince my hubby and four college-age children to watch yet another old movie;)
Are you originally from Canada?
Yes, I am originally from Canada… and still live there. I was born – the youngest child of 11 -in the far north woods 50 miles north of Fort St. John, British Columbia. We were a family that lived off the land. My Dad had a little more than a section of land, where we grew crops like wheat, barley, canola, oats, hay and more. We also had milk cows, chickens, pigs, a couple of horses, a goat, a lamb, 2 cats and 3 dogs.
We butchered cows and pigs in the fall for our meat for the winter (we did this with our neighbours) and milked the cows every morning and evening for our own milk and cream.
So each of us kids knew how to work – but what I loved most, was that we learned how to play as hard as we worked. We made our own go-carts, wooden stilts, tree forts as well as rode trail motorbikes, rode horses, and played baseball as a family on Sundays.
The summer I finished elementary school, we moved to Hythe, Alberta. Dad and Mom had bought a hobby farm and that’s where I lived until I got married at 19 years of age 🙂
That sounds like a lot of fun! A nice big family on the farm. You definitely don’t see large families like that anymore. I think the hardest part for me would be waking up at 4 am to milk the cows.
Which stories did you grow up reading?
My mom was always reading bedtime stories to us after the days work was done. She would sit on a creaky wooden chair in the hallway that separated our 2 bedrooms (where we slept 2 to a bed – some of the oldest children had moved out of the house by then) and would read Hardy Boy mysteries, Nancy Drew stories as well other children’s books like Hans Christian Anderson or Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories.
So I grew up with a big interest in stories. There were always stories told around the supper table of some sort of mishap that happened on the farm that day, or my dad or mom would tell stories of their life growing up after their parents immigrated to Canada.
Listening to and reading stories through my growing up years, definitely made a big impact and fed my love of storytelling.
I always enjoy hearing this part of someone’s life. How they were impacted by particular stories and their early reading habits.
Can you name 5 or more books that had the most impact on you? (As a child or adult).
I’m not sure that I can keep the list to 5… but I’ll try. My first real love of stories was when I read the Hardy Boy mysteries for the first time. I loved how they would always get the bad guy in the end…. but I especially loved the suspense leading up to where they discovered who the bad guy was.
Then in my teens I read Anne of Green Gables, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Little Women, Gone with the Wind and Pride and Prejudice. I remember feeling like a whole new world of stories had opened up. I thought to myself, if only I could write stories that were so captivating and descriptive someday, I’d be thrilled.
In my 20s and 30s – while I was studying for my Bachelor of Music degree and later raising 4 children – I would binge read all the time. A few of my favourites were contemporary romances by Debbie MacComber and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.
Some nonfiction books that have really inspired me to push past resistance and have helped me to believe in myself are The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your life by Thomas M. Sterner.
“I thought to myself, if only I could write stories that were so captivating and descriptive someday, I’d be thrilled.” I drawing on this statement. I’m always fascinated how stories affect our imagination from a young age. From a child, through the teenage years and adulthood, they continue to have a major impact on us. I’ve noticed that children attempt to imitate, reproduce or recreate what they see. I can see that you your statement above. I believe every writer has had that thought running through their mind at some one point while reading.
Have you ever cried while reading? What were you experiencing at that moment?
Yeah, I’ve cried many times while reading a great story.
But, I can’t help it, I love a good cry-fest. I’ve cried while reading Anne of Green Gables. It’s this orphan girls struggle to be accepted and loved by family and the town that pulls at my heartstrings.
Another book that made my cry through the whole reading of it, was A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer. To me this is easily one of the saddest true stories of abuse I’ve ever read. This little boy suffered horrific abuse from his abusive mother and others. I cried because of his desperation for love and acceptance and that he still continued to fight for survival in a home where he was thought of as worthless.
Also another real tear jerker is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I cried at the boy and his father traveling by foot in a post-apocalyptic world, trying to eek out an existence when all seems lost. I cried because of their losses, their struggle to survive and was inspired by this profound and moving story – of their journey. The father and his son are inspiring as they still imagine a future even though no hope seems to remain. They are each other’s whole world – and they are sustained by the love they have for each other, in the face of total devastation. Amazing story.
These are all admirable and very touching. I hate crying, honestly. But if an author can evoke tears through their story It’s a 5/5 star read in my book. Only a few books have managed to accomplish that feat so far. One book I recently added to my TBR list had me crying just by reading the premise! It’s called M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door, by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
What are your favourite genres?
My favourite genres are Historical Romance and Contemporary Romance. I especially love how characters are in a big mess at the beginning of the story and how they are transformed through acceptance and love 🙂 I love it when each of those genres also includes a little bit of suspense and mystery. Also, I do love reading Dystopian novels too – like Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Testing, and others.
Who are your top 3 – 5 characters and what do you love about them? (If you had to marry one of them who would it be?)
There are a few characters who have stuck with me.
One of those characters is Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. I love that Lizzy grows into a strong, confident woman who isn’t afraid to say “no” to marry the man that her mother wants her to marry. She is respectful to her parents and people around her, but she is strong and many times it’s Lizzy who in her maturity, points out the folly of some of the actions of her sisters or parents.
Anne Shirley, from the story Anne of Green Gables sticks out in my mind from when I was a teenager, as a girl I could relate to. She had to survive through abuse, fear and rejection and continued to grow and transform herself into a better person as she grew up. She didn’t let all of life’s struggles ruin her… instead it made her stronger.
Lastly, I like the character of Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind. Rhett is a man of strength who falls deeply in love with Scarlett. Even through all her temper tantrums, he still loves Scarlett, that is until the very end when Rhett discovers even he has a boundary line that Scarlett crosses. I like how he is practical, that he still does what he needs to do, to help his friends, that he respects his mother and that he is generous throughout the story to Scarlett, despite her childish ways.
Of course, if I wasn’t married already… I would definitely marry Rhett Butler! He’s a man of strength, exciting, adventurous, respectful, generous and loves deeply 😉
Awesomesauce! Gotta love your favorite characters. You do crazy things when you’re in love.
Do you have a favourite antagonist or anti-hero?
Well, as a big fan of Star Wars, I’d have to say Darth Vader is a pretty convincing antagonist. For me, I loved learning of Darth Vader’s background. That he as Anakin Skywalker – a goodhearted jedi and hero of the Clone Wars and a powerful Jedi – that made me see him as more than just an anti-hero. So with the fall of the republic, when Anakin Skywalker became a disciple of the dark side, and eventually became known as Darth Vader, I felt I understood him a little better… he seemed more human somehow… even though he was the bad guy.
Darth is my absolute favorite antagonist. He’s such a, well, force to be reckoned with. No pun intended.
As a reader what are your top 5 pet peeves?
What a great question… and one I took some time to answer.
For a bookworm like me, who finds reading not only relaxing, but often therapeutic, there are many things that have become pet peeves. Maybe there are other readers who can relate.
Spoilers. I really don’t like it when I find a book I’m excited to read, only to have someone else tell me how it ends… before I get a chance to read it. Ugh.
Waiting for Library Books. With 4 kids, we’ve often gone to the Library to read or have ordered books from the Library online. It’s super disappointing borrowing a book, only to realize that you are number 20 on the list… which means you have to wait a couple of months before you can read it.
A book with a promising start that begins to go downhill. I feel a little miffed as a reader, when I love the first few pages or chapter of a book and then the story suddenly takes a turn for the worse. It feels like all my hopes for a good read have just been dashed with cold water ;(
Being interrupted while reading a good book. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a little annoyed at constant interruptions when you’re in the middle – or near the end – of a good book. Although, I must say as far as my family goes, they don’t interrupt me so much anymore when they see I’m reading a book.
Poorly Edited Books. For me, this means not only poor grammar or typos, but also repeated metaphors and descriptions or when the storyline is way too predictable. I guess I just really like some surprises in a story.
So those are some of my pet peeves. But I’m also a reader who loves to give first-time authors a good chance. I’ll read the entire first chapter before I’ll decide if I want to keep reading or pass on a book. I think it’s because I totally get where new authors are coming from… and if they choose to keep writing books, I’ll give another one of their books a chance, because I know as writers we keep getting better in our craft, the more we keep writing.
I love your list, but I love your understanding even better. Very touching.
In your opinion and experience, what makes a great story?
There are a few details, in my opinion, that make a great story.
First a really great story is easy to read. I love it when the story is so easy to read, that I just get “caught up” in the moment.
Secondly, great stories have captivating characters. I love characters that are flawed and yet they are transformed somehow throughout the story. I love coming to ‘the end’ feeling inspired 🙂
Third, a story is compelling when it has a sense of wonder. For example, in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales, the creatures and land of Narnia are so unusual and exotic, that as a reader I feel a sense of excitement and my curiosity is piqued because of the newness of it all.
Fourth, I love a story theme that is easily recognizable and that is meaningful. Common themes are: good vs. evil; love conquers all; or sacrifice, redemption, acceptance, etc. When your flawed characters face soul-searching themes, it’s a pretty compelling reason to keep reading.
Fifth, I do love a story where there’s a lot at stake for the characters. Where they give up everything for love or they have to face an evil villain that challenges all they believe in – and the characters are forced to overcome the odds. The best stories I’ve read, are those where characters were changed and they also changed their world around them for the better.
I LOVE IT! This pretty much says it all! Wonderful.
How do you help writers tell their stories?
I do love to help first-time and/or struggling storytellers, to write, self-publish and market their stories to their unique audience of readers. I’m passionate about helping new writers, because I spent so many years trying to get over fear and insecurity that I could actually write. Then it took me a few more years of searching on Google for answers on how to self-publish my novel. After all those years of trying to figure this out, I became passionate about helping to save writers time and money – to avoid the mistakes I did. So, for new writers who are struggling to write and self-publish and market their books, and are tired of struggling and failing over and over again, they can get Write and Publish your first Book as a Free eBook download – along with The Storyteller’s Roadmap mini-course when you click here: The Storyteller’s Roadmap
Brianna is a YA fantasy writer, bookworm, Christ follower and is currently editing her novel and novella. You can find her tweeting encouraging words @Brianna_daSilva and blogging at The Story Port, a blog for storytellers…And by the way, her site is AWESOME. There’s something so mesmerizing about it.
*Where are you from originally?
Virginia… the land of misty fields and muggy summers! Before that, Pluto, I think.
Pluto to Northern Virginia, must’ve been quite a road trip.
*What are you studying?
I actually graduated two years ago. My degree is in Digital Arts and Design. I get paid to make things. (AKA do magic.)
You look SO young I assumed you were still in college!
*I love your blog! Tell us about it.
*Can you tell us about your languages that you are developing?
Ooh! I get so excited about my languages. (I’m a nerd… can you tell?)
I have many in development, all inspired by various real-world tongues and writing systems. I’ve tried to veer away from the cliché Middle-Earth-sounding languages.
For example, one of the major languages in my current WIP, Emergence, is called Mosori. It’s a crossover of traditional Hawaiian and modern Spanish. For fun, I’ll teach you a phrase:
An aki ma’hani.
(Say: on aw-KEE muh-HAW-nee)
That’s an idiom that basically just means, “It’s all good; no worries!”
That’s cool! Thanks for sharing. I love the name Mosori and the sound of that word. For those of you who don’t know, Brianna and myself are crazy about languages.
*You’re writing Science fiction & Fantasy right?
Almost… I’m writing epic fantasy, but I definitely have ideas for SFF down the line! 😉
That’s great–But I totally forget what epic fantasy is, honestly. Definitely sounds epic though.
*Tell us 3 FUN facts about yourself.
I was home schooled through high school.
I once ate zebra steak in Namibia. (It tasted surprisingly like… steak.)
I have a pixie cut. More importantly, I actually am a pixie.
Home schooling sounds extremely difficult from a parent’s perspective. Zebra steak sounds rather appealing. I’d totally eat it with BBQ sauce…And I suppose you could pass for a pixie!
*You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
I started writing when I was three years old. Well, I could only dictate back then, but I knew from a very young age that I was meant to be a storyteller. When I was eleven, I first became introduced to epic fantasy and young adult literature. It has remained my main passion ever since.
Wowsers! I’m always amazed by those who start their passion early in life. Brianna I’d love to have you back and pick your brain on your reading experience.
*What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
My goal is simple, but ambitious! I want to make a living as a self-published author, blogger, and filmmaker. This is just not a hobby for me; I’ve taken my vocation very seriously since I was a kid.
Wow that’s great! You’re pretty focused. I fully hope you achieve your’re dreams.
*What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
A constant flow of ideas. In my early teens, I never finished anything, because I was always working on at least half a dozen projects at once. I was passionate about all of them. But since then, I’ve learned to be more focused.
Perfectionism. The first true novel I ever finished took me four years to write. And it was terrible. After that I adopted the iterative process of writing: Get down a rough draft quickly, and don’t worry about making it perfect. Then edit, edit, edit. The results are better this way, and it’s much easier to finish each draft!
Fear. While I wouldn’t say fear has prevented me from completing a project, it has certainly made it harder to reach that finish line. Fear of failure, fear of creating subpar work, and fear of vulnerability through art all plague me on a constant basis. Pushing through this fear is what gives me the freedom to create.
The constant flow of ideas is a source of trouble for me. Staying focused is a challenge. Perfectionism is problem for a lot of writers I’ve talked to. Fear is another frequent nemesis. But I guess suffering is inevitable with anything you truly love. Romance always comes with turbulence.
*What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Creating stories gives me a deep sense of purpose. When I’m writing, it feels like something I was made to do, even on days of stress or insecurity or self-doubt. Also, my mind is constantly bustling with ideas. What would I do with them otherwise?
Creating stories with a sense of purpose seems to resonate well with me, and I’d rather be bustling with ideas than have none at all!
*What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
I might say time. I make time to write almost every day, but it still feels like I never have enough of it. (Can’t we all relate?) And I have so many stories bubbling inside me. They’re impatient!
I just thought of this today. The lack of time. I want to kick my job to the curb, shoo everyone away and write. Just write; story after story after story, until my heart’s content.
*Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
I think fear is a major factor. Creative people typically struggle with perfectionism, but the thing is, our standards are always higher than our abilities… and they should be! It means we’re constantly improving.
I think what can happen is that while writers are in the formative years, while they’re still growing and their craft is still rough, they can run into discouragement. This stage is where writers need encouragement and affirmation the most. But if they don’t get that, they may be overwhelmed by the sense that they’re “not good enough,” and give up before they have the chance to reach that level.
This is a very good word to hear. I don’t claim to be a perfectionist, but I do struggle with elements of the same mindset to some degree.
*What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Listen up, friends, because I’m going to give it to you straight: Everyone starts off terrible. It’s the truth! It’s the same if you’re learning an instrument, a sport, or any other skill. You have to be a terrible writer before you can be a good one or a great one. Writing isn’t about tapping into some magical inner gift that was bestowed upon you at birth. It’s about tenacity. It’s about remaining teachable like your life depends on it. It’s about learning and practicing and never giving up. So, don’t be discouraged if your craft isn’t where you want it to be yet. Just keep going. You’ll get there!
Oh, I love it! This is great encouragement. This goes back to what you said earlier, our standards will always be higher than our abilities. Or, you could say, we don’t measure up to our own expectations. We consciously or subconsciously expect our abilities to match, or even exceed, our ever-ethereal standards. Then we slowly begin to suffer from the self-inflicted wounds of introspection, discouragement, doubt, settling in like stone. Our hopes and dreams hemorrhage on the spot, and the rigamortis of writer’s block comes in to finish the job.
*Tell us about your current WIP (work in progress)
Here’s the synopsis for my WIP, Emergence:
The Empire of Dorina has never been challenged… until now. Invaded by a powerful enemy bent on massacring their people, the Dorins act in desperation: They send courageous ambassadors into the vast, untamed wilderness beyond their borders to seek aid from two legendary cities.
There’s only one problem.
If they can find the cities… if they can survive the journey… there’s a high chance these cities will join their enemies instead.
Kindy Sharrow, a fifteen-year-old Nocturan with bat wings, claws, and night vision, previously had to hide from the empire, which cruelly slaughtered her kind for sport. Now, required to join the war against the invaders, she must fight her own demons: A secret drug addiction that is slowly killing her. And she has one, ultimate goal: Destroy her arch enemy, Charris Pouden, and his lustful desire for her, before he gains enough power to destroy her first.
Kindy finds herself entering the war with her younger brother Jensen, and new friend Lasía, a mysterious archer with a pet battle wolf. Together they fight against the bloodthirsty invaders, and journey into the heart of the wilderness to find the only two cities that will save them.
But as they begin to learn more about the empire’s secrets… a dark history buried in ashes and drenched in blood… they wonder if their enemies are not so wrong for wanting to annihilate them after all.
The bonds of friendship will be tested. Alliances will be questioned. In a story of political intrigue, ethics of war, and young love, one question must be answered: Which side will you join?
That sounds like an great story! I believe you’d be a great storyteller. Go for it!
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