The Force


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Force

Nandy Ekle

One of my favorite movies is from the 80’s is The Never-ending Story. It’s a kid’s movie, but it’s really ageless because it’s so deep.

A beautiful world ruled by a child-like empress, who is dying. The only way to save her is to get in touch with an earthling child. And the only way to get in touch with an earthling child is to have a warrior child go on an adventure. 

That’s the importance of characters in a nutshell. 

Without good characters, there’s no point to even having a story. You may have a profound lesson to get across to your reader, but you won’t contact them if you don’t show them someone who could be them. For example, Bastian would never have learned his lesson if Atreyu had not taken on a dangerous mission, losing his horse, nearly losing his very own self, and then nearly being swallowed by nothingness. Bastian identified with Atreyu, and that’s how contact was made.

The way to make a character your reader will identify with is, first, know your audience. Who are you aiming for? What are the characteristics of that group? 

Once you understand your audience, the research begins. I’m talking about people watching. Stand back in a corner and watch what happens. Listen to conversations. Watch body language and listen to their lingo. 

Now, this is where your imagination applies what you’ve learned. Step into their head and watch the world through their eyes.

When I was in high school I did a little bit of theater. One of the things I learned is “putting on a character.” This is where you become them. 

And this is where you make contact with your reader. And they’ll love you for it.

 

Tips From a Pantser


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

Tips From a Pantser

Nandy Ekle

I am most definitely a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants. I usually have an idea for a story, and idea for a character, and an idea of a twist when I start. But planning much more than that before beginning to write seems to take all the fun out of it, sort of like having a fill-in-the-blank test. I rely on the television inside my head to fill it in as I write.

There have been times when I’ve had to plan a little more deeply because I get to a place where the character looks at me and shrugs his shoulders about what he’s supposed to do next. That’s when I get out a piece of paper and write what I know, where I know it’s supposed to go, where it’s been, and what have I not done. A lot of times this happens when I’ve just finished a very thrilling and revealing scene and I know we need a slow down breathing moment. But I don’t want my reader to get bored. 

Sometimes I’m the one whose stuck and I have to rely on my character to tell me what happens next. For example: my current WIP. I have three characters, each one has to face a task designed just for them. Which means I have to know that character well enough to know what would be a good task for them. The first character was easy. She was an expendable character and was destined to fail. So her character didn’t have to be extremely deep. She had to be deep enough to connect with the reader, but still could be pretty shallow. I knew the third character inside out. He’s been in my head for years, his passion, his motivation, his fears, and what he is willing to pay to accomplish his goal. He’s a deep character, very solid. The problem I had was my middle character. I didn’t know him very well and wasn’t particularly fond of him. So I took what I did know and just began writing that. Then there came a moment when he had to face what he didn’t want to ever face. And the inside of his head came tumbling out on the page. It was exhilarating!

Another place I was stuck and looked to the character was in a past work. I knew the story, knew all my characters, knew the conflict and the twist. What I didn’t know was who the villain was (it was a paranormal story, so the villain was not clearly visible). So I continued to write what I did know. As I’ve said before, writing a story is, for me, like watching a movie in my head. So I had the characters in one room and one of them got on the floor to check under the bed for the boogie man. As he began to stand up, he turned to face me and wink. And I knew he was the villain! Another exhilarating experience.

So pay attention to your characters. A lot of the time, they know exactly what they’re doing and what comes next—it’s their story, after all. And if they don’t know what’s next, look at what you have and remember, your job is to make the reader love your character, then torture them with any and everything you can think of. So what have you not done to them? That’s what comes next.

 

Hello April


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

Hello April

Nandy Ekle

This month, the month of April is dedicated to tips and tools. So I will try to blog about things that I think of as a good tip, or something I use as a tool.

The only tips I have, besides SYBICAW (Sit Your Backside In Chair And Write) are tips I’ve picked up from other writers. And since my very favorite writer is Stephen King, I’ll use a lot of his tips. As for tools, I’m a pantser, so I’ll do my best.

As far as a tip for today’s blog, Writers write. So there you go. If you write, you’re a writer. If you just want to write but haven’t written anything, you need to re-analyze whether or not you are a writer.

Today’s tool. One of my favorite things is music. Sometimes lyrics grab me and scream that there is definitely a story buried here. Sometimes a piece that’s completely instrumental (Electric Light Orchestra’s instrumental Fire On High) tells a story just from the sounds I hear. I get a lot of story ideas from my playlist. And in those moments of needing extra inspiration, I will close my eyes and play the piece over and over.

 

A Sneak Peek 


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

A Sneak Peek 

By Nandy Ekle

A sneak peek from my story, Halloween Land, to be released later this year as an example of a hook.

8:00 pm

Made it home. I’m in my room now; wine glass on the bedside table and my book is on my lap. And you, dear journal are laying open on the bed next to me so I can document this experience. 

As soon as I walked in the front door, I opened the bottle, slipped into my comfy pajamas, and turned out the lights. I pushed the button on my bedside lamp and propped my pillow up behind me. Rubbing the front cover of Halloween Land, I feel the anticipation stirring the adrenaline in my head. I take a sip of the luxurious Apothic Dark red wine and swallow it down. Now I’m opening the book. 

Before I can even see any words, a breeze blows up from the pages and a faint eerie chuckle floats at me from the spine.  A pair of icy-cold bone-white hands with fingernails sharpened to daggers and painted as black as sin, are reaching out of the pages——

 

The Bait


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The Bait

By Nandy Ekle

I am the daughter of a fisherman. My dad can catch anything that swims in the water. When I was a pre-teen, Daddy would plan family outings to the “barge”—a barn-type building that sits on the lake with big holes cut in the floor, rails around the holes, and chairs. We would sit in those chairs for hours with lines in the water, the line wrapped around our fingers, and books in our laps. He made his own homemade bait, and when that ran out, we would catch mayflies or other harmless bugs from the corners of the building to use as bait.

So, this is a blog about writing. Why am I talking about fishing? 

Our readers are like fish deep in the water and our job is to catch as many as possible. But you absolutely cannot catch a fish without bait. If you drop a line with a bare hook into the water, it will hang there until you reel it up and go home.

In the writing world, this is called “THE HOOK.” 

Another thing my dad would do is go out to the lake earlier in the week and drop a bucket full of “chum,” something to call his favorite kind of fish to the area so that when he showed up for the real action, the fish would be present looking for treats.

When you start a story, you need to feed the readers something to make them hungry for more. I’ve heard from successful writers to start your story the day something is different for your main character. For example, JK Rowling starts the entire Harry Potter series with a young orphan living with relatives who resent his presence. His life is not fun in the least. And what happens? He gets a letter delivered to him by an owl. In the world he grew up in, owls do not deliver mail. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be to him, a nobody. So the reader is immediately saying, “What?!” And they have to keep reading to find out why this little boy gets his first piece of mail ever, and it’s delivered by an owl. 

She fed the readers just enough to make them hungry for more.

 

Another Cliche Book Review


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

Another Cliche Book Review

By Nandy Ekle

Time for me to join in the ocean of reviews for the Harry Potter series, books one through seven. Yes, I love them as much as every other person in the world. As a reader, I have enjoyed every word of the epic hero on his journey to save his world. Bravo, Ms. Rowling! 

As a reader, I followed this poor orphan from the time before he even knew he was special up to the moment when I closed the last book and the only words that crossed my mind were, “But of course! How could it have been anything different?” And I’ve loved the books so much that I re-read them all, in order, about every other year. And I never get tired of them.

As a reader.

As a writer, I have a completely different view. Oh, I still adore the stories, the words, and the tongue-in-cheek writing style. I love the world, and I love the emotions that develop when it all comes together in such a grandiose way. But as a writer, I see much more than a good story.

Character development. Each and every single character in all seven books has a distinct arc. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Draco, and the other kids/young adults have what any reader would expect. Growing up, maturing, becoming adults. And Ms. Rowling captures the stages of growth perfectly. One of my friends says The Order of the Phoenix is her least favorite because the characters all so angry all the time. But since they are all 15 years old, it wouldn’t be as real if they weren’t angry.

But that’s a rabbit hole I’m not going through. The point is that even Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Snape, Fudge, even Voldemort all have character arcs. In the first two books, Dumbledore seems a little distant, a little dodgy, maybe slightly off his rocker. He does show whisps of insight and wisdom, but this is something that doesn’t seem to actually come out until deeper into The Goblet of Fire. McGonagall, the stern, no-nonsense professor begins to show compassion and sympathy in The Order of the Phoenix. And I’ve always said I knew about Snape all along because of the energy Ms. Rowling used to make us hate him. There had to be a twist.

Consistency. Never have I read a series more consistent in voice, tone, world, and facts. I am in the middle of reading them all over again and as a writer I am picking up on things I missed the first couple of times I read them. One small item mentioned in the first book, then not again for two more books, suddenly appears in a later book and has become a cornerstone. And I can only ask how did Ms. Rowling do it? Amazing. Also, I’m discovering hints to the last pages of the last book in the first book that go completely undetected until BOOM! There it is.

Hooking her readers. Ms. Rowling is a master of this. The first words of each book are like glue. And the last line of each chapter causes gasps. And she has the incredible ability to retell parts of the story in a later book and it’s not an “info dump” at all. It’s perfect.

So, JK Rowling, your stories are destined to be considered as classics in the future. And I definitely look at them as learning tools for writers.

The Most Classic of the Classics


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Most Classic of the Classics

By Nandy Ekle

I am a fan of horror. That’s not a secret to anyone. And there are so many great horror stories that are considered classics. Some I was assigned to read in school like Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde. I wanted more. So I made the decision to read Dracula, by Bram Stoker. 

And all I could say was WOW!

This story is written in the form of diary/journal entries and newspaper articles. Even though the book was written during an era of formal English, which makes some stories dry and hard to stick with, the language of this book was easy to digest. As a high school student with a normal attention span, I was completely captivated. I think I devoured the book in two days.

There have been hundreds of movies made based on the story. The legend of vampires goes back, probably to the beginning of time. And this was long before the romantic vampires with consciences who hate what they are. And I think we all know the basic Dracula story. 

Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to meet with the Count and discuss some property in England the Count has recently purchased. He leaves his fiancee behind with a typewriter and instructions to practice her typing. Mina, his fiancee, takes her typewriter to the country to visit her aristocratic friend, Lucy, who is being courted by three men. While Jonathan is abroad and Mina is visiting, a mysterious illness afflicts Lucy which causes her to lose blood at an alarming rate, and there seems to be no reason for her blood to disappear. Meanwhile, the count leaves Jonathan locked in the castle to feed his three vampire wives while he travels to England to view the property. Jonathan barely with his life and Mina is called to Transylvania to minister to him as he recovers. They are married and head back to England where they learn Lucy has died. Her three suitors bring in an expert to investigate the mysterious illness and the expert is convinced there is a vampire afoot. Soon Mina is also showing signs of the same illness. The group chases the count back to Transylvania where they finally kill him.

Really and truly, one of the best horror books I’ve ever read. As for versions of the movie, I love the one released in the 90s with Wynona Rider. They add a deep timeless romance to the plot which enhances the story extremely well.

If you get a chance, read Dracula by Bram Stoker.

 

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