Music Muse

When I write, I like to put mood music on my computer to vamp up the emotions of scenes. So I compiled a list of Writing Music Type and Playlist for your viewing pleasure. So if you need a muse and are coming up short, listen to a few of these tracks (in the appropriate section) and you might be feeling a little more creatively empowered.

I want to note that the emotive words describing each play list do not apply to every song; which is why the Celtic Woman song in the first section is more of a DANGER song than ANGER song (in my opinion).

DANGER/ HIGH TENSION/ ACTION WITH ANXIETY/ ANGER/

ARTIST TITLE

Ladytron Destroy Everything You Touch

September Cry For You

DeadMau5 Ghosts ‘n Stuff

Celtic Woman Siuil A Run (Walk My Love)

MC Chris IG-88

Coheed and Cambria Welcome Home

My Chemical Romance Helena

Flyleaf So Sick

Wayne Static Not Meant For Me

SCARY/ GLOOMY TENSION/ AMBIVALENCE/ MALEVOLENCE/MYSTERY/ HEATED ARGUMENT

DJ Shadow Building Steam with a Grain of Salt

Mariah Carey Obsessed

Nancy Sinatra Bang Bang

Moulin Rouge Soundtrack Roxanne

My Chemical Romance Helena

Paula Cole Mississippi

Paula Cole Hush Hush Hush

David Draiman Forsaken

Jay Gordon Slept So Long

SAD/ LOWEST OF LOWS/ DEATH/ SAD NOSTALGIA

Gary Jules Mad World

Ben Folds Still Fighting It

Eva Cassidy Woodstock

Elliot Smith Between the Bars

Martina McBride Independence Day

Mary Chapin Carpenter Only A Dream

Mary Chapin Carpenter I Am a Town

Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss Whiskey Lullaby

Dresden Dolls Delilah

Dresden Dolls Sing

APACOLYPSE / MILITANT SPIRITUAL/ THE END IS COMING

Jars of Clay Flood

The RAMP Awake Oh Sleeper

The RAMP Sound the Alarm

Alison Krauss Down to the River to Pray

Arcade Fire My Body is a Cage

The entire soundtrack of 28 DAYS LATER

TRIBAL/ MYSTIC/ MAGIC

Bulgarian State Radio and Television Choir Kaval Sviri (The Flute Plays)

Moira Brennan Against the Wind

Celtic Woman Si Do Mhaimeo I (The Wealthy Widow)

Celtic Woman Last Rose of Summer (Walking in the Air)

Tricky Excess

Jefferson Airplane White Rabbit

LOVESICK/ HOMESICK

Depeche Mode Enjoy the Silence

Lily Allen Not Fair

Celtic Woman Send Me a Song

OwlCity Fireflies

Nicole Kidman Someday I’ll Fly Away

A Host of Distractions

Nerve pain is a bitch.

About two months ago I herniated a disc in my back.  The L5-S1 disc to be precise.  I don’t mention this to garner sympathy or complain randomly.  This event has drastically affected, among other things, my ability to write.   It, along with other events, has led me to consider the daily distractions that can pull a writer away from their passion.  And that is a subject relevant to this blog.

The Writer’s Burden

Writing well takes a lot of time and effort.  It requires devoting a significant amount of your free time to a pursuit that may well yield nothing.  It can be a frustrating, even depressing, pursuit. 

The joy writing can bring is often long delayed, and unexpected.  It may be years later when you read something you wrote and think, “That is really good.”  Or when someone compliments you for something that entertained of enlightened them. 

At those moments writing is worth the struggle.  Up till then it is obsession that must drive a writer.   Yes, obsession.  There is no better word to describe what brings someone back to a work that demands so much and offers so little for such a long time. 

But obsessions are rarely all-consuming.  I am obsessed with my story, but I  have also always been prone to letting outside forces dictate the amount of time I spend on my obsession.

The Wasteland of Distractions

The new TV season has always been a dreadful time for me to try and write.  For many years the start of the new season pretty much brought all my writing attempts to a screeching halt.  Fortunately, TV these days is bad enough that relatively little draws me to it.  I suppose I should thank reality shows for the amount of dreck cluttering the airwaves, but they are so god-awful I can’t bear to say anything nice about them. 

For the last year or two I maintained a schedule that let me write fairly regularly.  At least several times a week, about 10-20 hours total.  Not as much as I would like, but enough that I felt good about the progress I was making.   I even managed to keep this schedule when new episodes of my favorite shows were airing.  Quite a feat, if I do say so myself.

Then I hurt my back a couple of months ago and my schedule went to hell.

At first glance, you might think something like this would let me spend more time writing.  After all, I can’t stand for long, nor can I lay down.  I practically live in chairs, and one of the few that doesn’t make me feel worse is the one at my computer.  While there, why not write?

There are a few problems with this chain of reasoning, namely pain, drugs, and treatment. 

Oh the Pain, the Pain

Back at the top I said nerve pain was a bitch.  Back when my pain was at its worse it felt like a wild animal was trying to rip my leg off.  Perhaps there are those able to focus past that kind of agony, but I am not one of them.  Crafting a single sentence became extraordinarily difficult, often require many long minutes just to piece together a few words. 

And then there were the drugs to control the aforementioned pain.  If you are looking for a good way to reduce a groan man to a drooling idiot, I can heartily recommend a cocktail of Neurontin and Percocet.  Together they pretty much destroyed my ability to perform any task taking more than a few seconds to complete.  Granted, I was so high that my imagination took flight and I had great ideas and insights into my story.  But I lost much of my ability to put any of those thoughts on paper.  On top of this, I had a host of bad reactions to the Neurontin which resulted in more time spent with doctors.

Which brings us to treatment.  Treating a hernia goes through several stages, all of which takes time; both for the treatment itself, and in recovering afterwards.

First there was the time it took to see doctors, and the time spent recuperating from the terrible chairs in most waiting rooms. 

This was followed by the (wasted) time in physical therapy that in my case actually made my hernia worse.  

Then I had surgery.  No only was this not pleasant (a significant understatement on my part), it took quite some time to recover from.   The surgery, however, did (eventually) relieve much of my pain. 

With my pain reduced I was able to begin going to a gym where I could do water exercises designed to strengthen my back.   It took long hours to find the right gym, and I now spend many hours each week there. 

When I am done exercising I return home, often so tired and in enough pain that writing is the last thing I want to do.  Instead I take my narcotics and play a game or watch some TV for a couple of hours, then go to sleep in my chair. 

Yes, I still can’t lay down for any significant period of time.  My sleep is still fitful, and I am tired most of the time.  All of which reduces my ability to write fiction.

Is All of This Going Anywhere?

I have not been able to write on my story for many weeks now.  I have been able to write about it in blog posts, but that is not the same.  Writing a blog post is easier than fiction writing where you must worry about characters, plot, descriptions, and so forth.

My desire to write, as always, is still there.  The obsession has not diminished.  But the lost time caused by all these distractions is dramatically increasing the frustrations writing incurs, and further delaying the rewards that normally inspire me to keep pressing forward.

A while back, Nicole and I began a regular exchange of writing and editing.  It was certainly beneficial to me, and surprisingly enjoyable.  This exercise forced me to do something every day, especially on those days when I wanted to set the effort of writing aside.  Unfortunately, events in her chosen career have made it impossible for her to continue this exchange for some time to come.  I mention this to illustrate that while my tale may be singular in its details it is indicative of a broader pattern affecting all writers.  Namely the tendency for outside forces to interfere with the work and joy of writing.

This is not to imply that I intend to stop writing.  My point here is not to throw a pity party, but to illustrate how easy it is for life to disrupt the effort required to produce a work worth reading.  Telling a story in its entirety becomes a quest with hardships that encourage you to turn aside.  Perseverance is required to push through to end.  Perseverance, and obsession.

Vignettes: Where to Begin

In my last post I wrote about my problem with writing convincing characters.  I said:

I must practice writing characterizations, focus on each character and discover their individual voice.  Learn to describe  them in ways that captures their mood and emotions in an honest fashion.  I must discover the words they would use, the sentences they would say, and the actions they would take.

I have considered using blogging as a solution to this problem.  … I could use some of my time blogging to write small scenes and out of context conversations.  Vignettes from my world that I may or may not keep.  

I received some support for this idea, enough to make me seriously consider it.  The problem is that I am uncertain how to begin.  This style of writing is foreign to me.  My thoughts first leap to my plot, followed by the settings, followed by other concerns that I have typically let take precedence over the characters.  The idea of putting some collection of characters together and letting them interact without a broader context is bizarre to me.

Add yet, that is the whole point of the exercise, isn’t it?  To break my current paradigm for writing so as to improve my overall skill.  To discard old assumptions and start looking at things from a fresh perspective.

This is easier said than done.

As I sit here, flipping through my characters in my head, I find myself paralyzed by indecision.  Who do I pick to start with?  Do I start with a single character alone?  Or should I have two or more in a conversation or perhaps some kind of conflict?  Would it be better to focus on major characters first, or to practice with secondary characters instead?  Should I try to write a scene already in my head, one I know I will want later?  Or should I focus on fixing a scene that I have already written, but which has problems? Or would it be better to focus on something I have no intention of keeping, but which might flesh out the character’s background and behavior?  Should I incorporate descriptions of their current setting, or should I leave out such details for now?

I am tempted to write names and ideas on little scraps of paper and throw them together into my hat.  That way I could draw one at random and just force myself to write on whatever I pull out.  Hardly a great idea, but it would break my current logjam.

Another aspect of my dilemma is that I am a slow writer, prone to editing my work as I am creating it.   I tend to analyze each sentence, each word, in an effort to form the right phrase.  But what I need to do is capture characters in a visceral way.   Analyzing sentences while engaged in that effort seems akin to losing sight of the forest because you spend too much time studying the trees.

And so I dither and instead write a post about the difficulties of making the effort, rather than making the effort itself.

Hopefully by next time I will have a better grasp on how to begin.  If not, I may delay the vignettes a bit longer so I can vacillate some more.  Certainly I have a host of other topics I can write about.  I believe, however, that it is my weakness with characterizations that needs addressing most urgently.  It is this problem that keeps my existing chapters from feeling finished. That forces me to edit them again and again.

The Big Picture, Part 5: Rise of the Daemon Horde

Foreword:

This post is part of an ongoing series laying out essential elements for understanding both the complex plot of my epic fantasy, Gods Among Men, and the byzantine plans of its protagonist, the wizard Damon Roth.

Here are links to earlier posts in this series.

The Designs of Evil Men

As I have mentioned before, I see Gods Among Men as being set on earth in the very distant future.  At some point where Arthur C. Clarke’s adage, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” has finally come true.  

Within that view I painted a mythology for my story where technology was used to bring down an advanced technological society.  Enemies of civilization who wanted to create soldiers loyal to their cause instead almost brought about humanity’s extinction.

I will not bother detailing these people or what their ultimate goals were.  In truth, I have only thought through their motives to the extent necessary to explain their means.  In my mythology, more than that was lost to history.  The causes they fought for are forgotten, and only their results are left to remind us that they ever existed.

I envision they operated with sufficient funds, access to equipment  and research, and secrecy to carry out dangerous experiments.  They lacked, however, insufficient oversight and care to prevent disaster from striking. 

They created new a new race from scratch and indoctrinated its members to their way of thought.  A race they imbued with great power.  They placed restraints on their creations designed to control their slightest actions and observe even their thoughts. 

They called this new life Daemons.  A word that captures the extent and nature of the new creature’s intellect, skills, and powers, along with a desire to strike fear in their enemies. 

The Science Of Magic

How did they desin magic to work

The Reule Daemons Must Live By

What is Reule and how it was intended to limit and control the Daemons

The Fallacy of Control

Inaddequate safeguards led to the Daemon killing their creators and

War of the Daemons

Why the Daemons began battling among themselves and how it led to the fall of civilization.

What Matters To Damon Roth

How this affect plot and plans.

Obliterates earth civilization.  Space colonies were forced to fend for themselves.  They formed a confederacy of stations, which moved to the Oort cloud to farm for and manufacture resources.  Over time they have formed a confederacy, but their number have steadily, albeit slowly, because they cannot expand confines of their base and their resources are growing thin. 

Daemons break into sections.  Demiurge takes control of upper Western united state and builds a stronghold in the Rocky Mountains.  He calls it Ilium in honor of Troy and to symbolically declare himself the heir to Troy.  Begin .

A Link to An Article on How to Improve Your Vocabulary

I stumbled across an article I thought others might find interesting.  Is is titled Marzano’s Six Steps to Effective Vocabulary Instruction. The focus of the article is on helping students learn subject-specific academic vocabulary, but I think it illustrates techniques useful in broader contexts.  I particularly like the way it highlights features of Visual Thesaurus, a product I have found to be very helpful to my own writing efforts.