Fangs? Well of course I don’t really have fangs. When I say that, I really mean my creativity, my mojo, my playfulness or my keyboard time. What happened to it? Life happened to it, and in an effort to regain control of my writing time and flow, I decided to play a little game with myself. WARNING: Don’t be trying this stuff at home, kiddos, unless of course you need to blast through a creative wall or are willing to cause havoc with the family who lives under the same roof and expects your undivided attention.
I currently have three books in the works (and another non-fiction, but for that I’m cool, no inspiration needed). All three fictions are steeped in the supernatural, one involves a fallen angel, one incorporates Native American mysticism, and the third is Book #3 of The Twice-Baked Vampire Series. All three have finish deadlines before the end of the year … and all three have hit a wall. I refuse to use the words writer’s block, but sometimes, even when your head is overflowing with ideas and images, you gotta admit that the well is a little dry and the pieces just aren’t fitting together. At times like this there’s only one path I can take.
Let’s take a journey through the vortex, the rabbit hole and maybe even a few nightmares. After all, those are the only ways I know how to grab my creative crown back from oblivion. Here goes.
The first place I always start when I’m like this is inside my own real life memories. I explore the things I’ve seen and experienced that made no sense. Was that a ghost I saw last winter, pacing outside the window on my front porch? Did I really feel someone breathe on me or touch my hand the night I was alone? Once while participating in a Native American Peace Ceremony and camping in the high desert, I watched the full moon turn the big boulders into monster opals. And once while sitting in my back yard I saw what I could swear was a UFO, zigging and zagging it’s way across the sky. Then there was the time I sat in traffic on the 405, that notorious Los Angeles freeway that seems to never move, and I felt the world spin into a vortex. It felt like a scene from The Matrix!
Okay, right about now you’re starting to think I’m a little off my rocker, but I honestly believe that if you tour through your own memories, you too will find a plethora of unexplained experiences just sitting there, ready to be explored. That’s exactly what I do, I examine these experiences and jot down every possible explanation for them, practical and supernatural, physiological and emotional. Inevitably the thought process leads me like a puppy dog right back to my creative mind and spawns all kinds of plot solutions where I’d originally seen none. I for one am convinced the paranormal is all around, sometimes we just have to acknowledge it … and in return, it will help us expand our creative boundaries.
Another thing I tend to do when my Fangs are lost, is read. I read contemporary authors and not so contemporary authors. Sometimes I focus on the genre I’m writing and sometimes I look toward historic or science fiction for my reading pleasure. I re-read old favorites and watch for the newest ideas out there. No matter what I read, it triggers something in my head. Sometimes a wisp of a concept that is completely unrelated to the book in my hand, generates a power surge for the book in my head. Needless to say, lots of those books get set aside so that I can write.
If I read that a Victorian character stumbles down the steps and is left in a coma the doctors can’t treat, in my mind that extrapolates into the tumble of a gnome from a latter while trying to escape, or the dangerous, damaging fall from grace by an angel, or the loss of important memories by the devil himself. It all starts to gel! I want a bumper sticker that says “Got Writer’s Block? Read!”
Sometimes I go back to my childhood, or even to last week when I noticed the biggest praying mantis I ever saw walking along my arm. Thinking about what really terrifies me brings home the need for emotion and depth in my work. It pretty much helps me hook into the characters with a fresh point of view. If the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz terrify me, what would terrify a vampire? A savvy business woman? A young witch or an errant angel suddenly blocked out of heaven? What would show their vulnerability? Their not-so-good side? Oh, this little trick definitely helps me flesh out characters and create situations I wouldn’t have thought about before! This one most certainly gives me back my sharp, pointy writer fangs!
Laugh. Some people laugh when their nervous or afraid, some laugh all the time, some laugh so seldom, the sound of it startles us. I like to take a few minutes to look around me. Look at smiles, listen to laughter, taste the energy of teenager girls giggling, men laughing at the football game, your best friend chuckling on the phone. All the shades and shadows of laughter can add great depth to a character, as well as great humor. I tend to look for comic relief when I write. I often create a character specifically for that purpose, but if I’ve done it really well, Mr. Comic Relief becomes an important part of the story … and a fond friend of mine.
Fangs restored and the family’s reluctant acceptance that I am writing and not to be disturbed, nothing ends the dreaded writer’s block better than a little journey down the rabbit whole. The questions create a thousand other questions that blessedly lead to a million creative solutions.
Now, I have to go write! See you all later!
Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California