Reflections…on needing to write stories…and what it means…

Ironically I’m thinking about starting another writing blog (…I’m sure–it’s permissible to have more than one writing blog!) because well–I don’t seem to get a lot of hits–the only comments I’ve ever received was from a person I knew personally who read the blog after actually talking to me…and I’m aware that I don’t blog consistently and rarely if ever comment on others blogs..so what do I expect?…Someone who would immediately recognize my brilliance; and just have to respond. I’m afraid I have to admit–that in my initial arrogance–I may have indeed felt that way…

Also I have a short story “Strumpet Towers” which my writing consultant suggested could be put on WATTPAD as a format that might get people to read it more readily. And I’m aware I could put it on this blog too if there’s a format for it (it’s 31 pages). I’m sure there’s no rule against having it on as many blogs as I want to have it on!

And the reason I’m on this blog today is that I feel the need to reflect on some writing I’m doing and why.
As I’ve mentioned I use my fiction writing as a way to creatively process what’s going on in my life–often things that could get me down. But when I put in story form, with flesh and blood characters acting it out –the situation not only becomes less daunting; but it takes on a life of its own, often with humor, and with insights–and even healing–that I just don’t experience anywhere else.
“Strumpet Towers” was written in reaction to Donald Trump being elected as U.S. president. Now I’m ready to go on..though it’s hard to totally let go as of course it’s an ongoing saga…

And right now my story I’m working on is “Buffalo Springs”

The protagonist is Suzanne, whose life is a total mess after her husband,a disgraced psychologist, named Oliver commits suicide. Suzanne seeks help from Belle, an elderly healer teacher mentor who has a community that gathers every summer at an old hotel called “Buffalo Springs”. Belle is working–with the help of the community–to restore and create it  into a healing centre. Belle has helped Suzanne so much in the past… So much so Suzanne is not sure what to do with her discomfort with what’s going on.

More specifically Belle begins to talk about her relationship with her much younger husband Malcolm; She’s given him chance after chance to heal–as she sees beyond his addictions to who he really is. But the problem is that  though he seems to go through the motions he’s never really changed…Most  recently he’s denied he’s even an addict; he’s actively using( including porn) ; and admits to having  fantasies of violence against her… Belle feel safe though; that because of  her personal power–she can handle it…Suzanne isn’t so sure…

Meanwhile in the midst of all of this, Suzanne meets Meg, who she takes to be one of the staff but who in reality is a ghost who is from the time when Buffalo Springs was a brothel…(I write Fantasy/Humouros / often Ghost stories)…Meg has no memory of her death or why it happened. She is open to the world of the present–ecstatic about the renovations that are being made to the Hotel–and yet she also lives her life out with her boyfriend, Johnny Bright. Suzanne can what happening in Meg’s world; and she begins to witness Meg, a hopeless romantic, fall in love with who she thinks Johnny Bright is, and could be; meanwhile excusing more and more his violence against…which leads to her ultimate death.

..Of course, the situation with Belle and Malcolm doesn’t descend into such a neat scenario…it still could…and Suzanne is left with the question: what if–like Johnny Bright–Malcolm is just a con artist–a psychopath even– who has no real sense of connection with anyone outside of himself–and who’s using the community and Belle as a way of financial/material support..

After all Belle has a fair amount of money; and being her spouse guarantees material comfort–employment; a place to live; opportunities to travel etc. and a certain amount of prestige within the community…What if he’s never had any intention to do his work and heal, only pretend to…and now more  dependent on Belle than ever, he’s becoming  increasingly angry–possibly to the point of violence–when he fears all this could be taken away.

Maybe what Belle saw when she looked at Malcolm was no more more real than what Meg saw when she looked at Johnnie..

Of course I realize–this is looking at the worse case scenario…and that’s okay too. Maybe I need to go there–in my attempt  to get some perspective…

It also makes for a good story.

Just some thoughts

M.C. Piper

 

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After Tuesday…now what?

First of all, I need to state I’m a Canadian…and  I still feel that–even for me–nothing will ever be the same after the US presidential election.  There has been a shift–one that deeply disturbs me– and one that I can’t ignore.

So the question is: what now?  My writing consultant  Julie ( who is an American) and I set up another consultation  tomorrow, confident (at least on my part) that Hillary Clinton would win and life would carry  on as usual.  I emailed Julie  this morning,  reminding her of our  planned  session. I even sent  some  material I had written before Tuesday.  It’s early days. Maybe best to carry on  with business as usual– at least  for the present.

I’m not sure we’ll be able to do that.  As  previously mentioned, I  write in order to creatively deal with real issues in my life. I use  fantasy and humor and put out  whatever’s going on in story form.   This process touches me deeply and I  find resolution, healing and a sense of abundance  in my life–which I would not have otherwise.

So I’m not even sure that I’ll be able to carry on  with  the story that I’m writing–it may seem irrelevant given the events of the past week.

What  may be more relevant is a story about  would be a story  about acting vs. reacting. That is, in the face of change that I experience as a threat to myself and everything I believe in:  how do I act rather than react?

One of my favourite sayings is: “Don’t just do something. Sit there.”  At this point, I do need to  “sit there”  and   see what comes up for me to do. And that’s not a comfortable place for me to be.

But right now, I’m not even sure if I can come up with a fiction scenario and a cast of quirky characters  to be part of that particular  story. After all, it  has to be first and foremost a good story.

Meanwhile  I need to get on with my day.  It’s Remembrance Day and I’m part of a Community choir that is singing: “Let  There Be Peace on Earth”.

Today, peace seems a  long way off–further than ever. But at least we can sing about it.

Just some thoughts

M.C. Piper

The need to stretch further

I never thought of myself as one who has writer’s block ; and yet after speaking to my writing consultant, Julie., on Saturday, I felt blocked.  I had a setting, with characters and a theme. I’ve decided to write  a modern ghost story–with the very haunting theme of violence against women… (Please forgive the pun…but for me the word “haunting” is appropriate  as the fact that women–being one myself–would put themselves into a position to be harmed even killed by a partner does haunt me)..

This made even real  someone I respect for her wisdom and kindness  could herself become  a potential victim of violence from a  soon to be ex-spouse.  I say “potential” because although the “signs” are there…nothing has happened, or may happen…She’s choosing to live her life believing that it won’t…and who am I say she’s wrong?

Yet, it’s the kind of  incident that throws me back on my fiction writing. Creating story a story around  what’s up for me gets me in touch with my deepest feelings;  and I have a sense of “Ah..Ah!” in a transforming way,  that touches my inner being.

And so I set up a story where the protagonist Suzanne, herself coming from an abusive relationship,  doesn’t know to do with her mentor Belle’s revelations.  It so happens that they are with a group in an old hotel; and  Suzanne quickly befriends  Meg, whom she takes to be a rather oddly dressed member of the Hotel staff.

Meg has her own  story  of violence against her–and seems to be unfolding parallel to Belle’s  situation…although when she’s actually killed,  it become obvious that she’s a ghost. What happens in Belle’s situation is more up in the air…

And typically I’m finding that to go where I need to go–I need to go further in writing the story…

The three male characters at present all represent different–yet similar–aspects of abuse. I need to create at least one sympathetic male character  in both  Meg’s and in Belle’s world… not only to be fair (I hate  it when women are stereotyped; I don’t want to do that to men.)….but also–more selfishly–because  that’s the only way the full story can be told…the only way that I can have the “Ah Ah” moment….that leads me to what’s most true for me: fiction writing feeds my soul in the way nothing else does…

Something that I am priveledged with other writers

Just some thoughts

M.C. Piper

Confessions of a would be “lone writer”

Looking at my previous posting: I pick up complaining, and I’m aware I  don’t like that. I thought of removing it but I decided not to, as I struggle to get anything on my blog at all. Not because I don’t want to  (I tell myself) but I just don’t have the time…

Possibly it’s because I’m older (…as noted: I can not possibly the latest “new young writer” as I’m definitely not young!…)  and I had a definite fantasy about what being online meant when I started.   I thought being able to email my material–the ideas that meant so much to me, the characters that were alive to me–to the “right” person  (usually an actor, producer: at the time I wanted to a screen writer) would mean  they ‘d become as enthusiastic as I was about my material, offering me whatever support I needed to get the project off the ground.  The email/internet gave me access to that person.

And of course, I quickly discovered that wasn’t true. Other people–famous or not–have their own projects that they’re working on, and they didn’t have the time and energy to focus on mine–even if they were interested.  Why would it be any other way?

I did, however, “put out to the universe” ..(if I may use that terminology)… that I really wanted someone who would read my material, come to  appreciate it, and give me the support  I needed to get it together and  “out there”. And lo and behold I did find my writing consultant, Julie Rodriguez over the internet. Julie and I have working together for almost 5 years now  (I believe we started in the later part of 2011)  and  her work with me has been so invaluable  that I have discovered  the real  fantasy that I haboured: the myth of the lone writer who’s simple brilliance  draws in the reader.

And that is very definitely a myth.

If I want to put my writing “out there”,  I need   to put  flesh  and bones on the characters, put them in concrete situations that speak to others as much as me. That’s hard work…and collaborative work.  I can’t assume that what makes sense to me will necessarily make sense to the reader.  And if it doesn’t and I go down that path than I’ll be simply  writing for myself…which is fine if that’s what I want to do … But if as a storyteller I want to have others read it, I  need Julie  as sounding board.  Without her I would have been able to finish and put of what I have…

…Which reminds me:  Coming out soon.. the third novella in the  Kooteani Brown series…”Where fantasy  ‘gets real’…”

But that’s the topic for another blog…

Just some thoughts

M.C. Piper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The plans of mice and men…(and women writers too!)…”

As usual lately, I feel I need to begin with an apology, as I haven’t  been blogging in any consistent way over the past while.  Of course, I have my reasons: a major move, job change, and “all hell broke lose” on my job recently.  What happened was something that happens every once in awhile as a matter of course.  It made me think of the expression: “the plans of mice and men (and also women writers!)…” I can’t remember if there’s any more to the actual expression…and the gist of it–is that not only do plans sometimes not work out; but that–in the scheme of things–they may even be irrelevant…

Another intriguing theme for a novella…

I’m also feeling that way about my writing. I’ve given the latest draft of my second novella to a colleague of my writing consultant to read. Julie suggested that I needed a fresh pair of eyes to read it: even she felt that she knew it too well to be able to say what someone coming to it “cold” would make of it. The truth is that when I got that leave from work in the spring, I thought: at least, I’ll be able to finish the final draft for “Agincourt” (the working title). And that hasn’t happened–not in the succinct way I wanted. I hear myself chiding: Surprise! Surprise! I know intellectually that writing is re-writing and that it takes the time that’s needed. I’m also aware that my second novella is more complex than the first; and that the fantasy hero, Xavier, needs more “flushing out” than the lovable cowboy hero, Trace Gallant of my first one. Trace and his fantasy world comes from a simpler time and the novella reflects that.
So it’s not surprising that “Agincourt” isn’t coming together as easily as it did. And I agree with Julie: a fresh pair of eyes are needed–just to get a sense of how “Agincourt” comes across to someone who hasn’t spent all this time on it. I also agree with her–maybe it’s time to let go of “Agincourt” for awhile so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes, too.

And I resist! It’s not that I don’t have other story ideas–I’m always coming up with the thought: “that would make a good story!”
And have more story ideas that I’ll ever know what to do with. But–darn it!–I want to finish “Agincourt”. I want to get it “out there”– the second in a series of novellas, etc.

And I’m sure I will get it “out there.”

But a little patience, a willingness to let of my timeline, to let go of even working on it for awhile–seems like a good idea.

Maybe I just need start working on something else…

Just some thoughts

M.C. Piper

If a tree falls in the forest…

I haven’t blogged for awhile as life has been getting in the way; and the writing time such that I have, I’ve spent trying to finish the first draft of my second novella. It’s coming and the reality for me on this first draft I’ve had to consider going back and– at least in my mind– doing some revision, and adding some additional details, etc. for the climax to take shape.

And not surprising the climax (at least at this point) involves the protagonist Connie’s passion for writing and what that means–when the world doesn’t seem all that interested. Is the old question: if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if no-one hears it?

Of course, in my novella–I say: yes. It all matters–as every thing we do matters, affecting everything around us. And so I have one of the mystical characters, Bre’en decipher an ancient text:

“Hear the words of earth’s scared text…You are a part of the soul around you, a particle of stardust that separates out for a time.
Whatever dances in you dances in me. I embrace it as I embrace you…I give you your place. Whatever you do, you leave your mark, your trace on my soul, upon the tapestry of all that there is.”

Pretty mystical compared to the rest of the story. And yet I like the idea that on that basis, Connie can go forward, doing whatever writing she feels called to–without worrying about it’s validity , based on other’s response or rather non-response.

Of course, someone could say–it’s just wishful thinking.

And in the end, my only response is maybe– I’m just a pragmatist.

To me this perspective/belief allows Connie (and by extension myself) to value my writing and get on with my life in a way that just might work, even be fulfilling.

I believe it was William James who said: “Religion is what works.”

And this is what works for me, maybe that’s what really matters.

Just some thoughts

M.C. Piper

“Passionate Hero” Hangover

One of the things I love to do with my writing is address issues in my life in a creative, fun way. And there always seems to be something I can address–and sometimes it’s something that’s being recycled.

Take my first novella for instance, “WANTED PASSIONATE HERO: Experience Preferred”. The fantasy world that I use in that novella is that of a popular 1960’s western that I watched devoutly as a kid of 9-11. I became aware– as I wrote “Passionate Hero”– of the lack of solid female characters–so I created Lili who, in the cowboy hero’s world is a saloon girl (because that’s basically all she could be); but who comes into her own in the protagonist Marcy’s real world, where she begins to take on the feminine experience/wisdom–the other half of life– that is so blatantly absent in the cowboy hero’s fantasy world.

So I believed I “addressed” the issue. But not so; or at least, there’s more to it. I’m becoming increasingly aware that I look for male support when the support I get pretty well comes from other women. Now, I know I need to be careful here. I’m sure there are supportive men out there, who come through…though I suspect not in quite the same way as cowboy hero Trace Gallant does because–well, he’s is a fantasy hero, who is too good to be true…

And maybe that’s part of the problem: as a kid watching the show I really believed that there was man out there who could be there for me in that way; and much as I don’t want to admit it–that belief is still part of me…at least, I still experience male support as somehow being more “valuable” than the support of other women, somehow having more authority, more substance.

And when I look back at the show “Passionate Hero” is based on I realize there were whole episodes where women aren’t present. In fact, if the issue being addressed didn’t directly involve women, then they pretty well had no part in what was going on. Of course it could be argued that this was simply a reflection of the times: in the 1860’s women were not directly involved in public life. And I certainly never took that to be model for my life even then: I went to university–very much interested in the larger social picture–and I have supported myself in a profession/organization that addresses social issues all the time.

But still–when I think back, I wonder if the influence of the “Passionate Hero” world was all that good for me, as young girl. And I’m aware–it was really the “only show in town” –that is, the way woman were portrayed on the series was the way women were basically portrayed at the time.

And of course, I don’t want to get rid of “Passionate Hero”. Far from it. I loved writing it. And the emergence of Lili was an important part of the process; as is acknowledging the enjoyment, and–yes–even the insight– that the cowboy hero, Trace Gallant has given me. After all he never lets other people’s reaction sway him from doing what he sees as the right thing–something I could learn from!

Just some thoughts

M.C. Piper