"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Visions of a Writer and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Photo property of T.K. Millin

This past week-end I finally took the time to go to Universal’s Islands of Adventure just to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 
I have to say as a visiting “tourist” I was amazed at the similarity of the park to the actual sets used in the movie; but, as a visiting “writer” I have to say I was awestruck!

Why? Because I understand when a writer sits down to write a story it’s something that comes from deep down inside their writer soul, it’s something the writer has to tell. I don’t know of too many writers who set out to write a story just because they think it’s going to become an international sensation, a blockbuster at the movies and end up with its own theme park attraction. Now I’m not saying what writer wouldn’t be in “writer heaven” if it were to happen, but I feel it’s safe to say most writers would be harmoniously happy simply to just have their story published, read and enjoyed.

Photo property of T.K. Millin

As I stood silently among the crowd gazing around at not only the glittering eyes of fascinated children, but the amazed look on adult faces, young and old, I took a minute to put myself in J.K. Rowling’s shoes, and cried. Not tears of sadness, but ones of shear and utter exhilaration! For being a writer, it was an overwhelming feeling to imagine what it would be like to stand in the middle of a world you created from a vision and be able to see, touch and feel how it makes people believe they are living inside your dreams. Even though I do not know J.K. Rowling personally, I feel I do share the same passion for writing as she does which allowed me at that moment in time to truly feel a sense of happiness for her, just as I would if she were a fellow writer I knew personally.

Reflecting back on my experience, I wonder if when J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (which was re-titled, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for the United States’ edition) she ever once in her wildest dreams envisioned lines two hours long just to take a peek inside the magic shop she created from her imagination or that children would one day also have their very own magic wand, just like Harry Potter?
Perhaps the next time I sit down to write my visions of mysterious world’s and strange far and away places I just might take a moment to wonder; what if? How about you do you ever wonder?

Happy vision’s my fellow authors! 

Until next time,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Discovery

In addition to writing mysteries and an occasional Flash Fiction Friday Horror story, (click here for my blog, The Cat Vamp Diaries), I also enjoy writing human interest stories for publication in local news columns. So this week, I wanted to step aside from all things writing and share one with you. You just may discover a little something about The Unknown Author!
The Discovery
By T.K. Millin

The year was 1976 and America was abundant with patriotism in celebration of the Bi-Centennial, but I was too busy being a teenager with their whole life ahead of them to appreciate the milestone America had made. 

I spent most of that year daydreaming my way through ninth grade about how one day I was going to be somebody famous. The dreams would flip back and forth between being a top cover girl model and an academy award winning actress. Yep, one day all the boys who walked past me in the halls without even a glance and all the popular girls with their painted faces and styled hair would one day be envious of how that unpopular girl from school who never stood out became so famous.

Little did I know that day would come sooner than I dreamt.

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and my best friend wanted to go to the mall to get our hair styled. There was a hair stylist from New York doing a demonstration and if we volunteered as models we could get our hair styled for free. Wow an opportunity to be a model! She didn’t have to ask me twice.

As the VW wagon headed toward the mall I sat in silence listening to the strange noise only a VW wagon can make staring at the back of my friend’s father’s balding head daydreaming about how beautiful my hair was going to look tomorrow. I’d be a cover girl!

When we arrived at the mall a crowd had already gathered around the New York stylist and my stomach began to spin with butterflies. "Oh no I have stage fright! How am I ever going to become an academy award winning actress?" I thought. My friend and I stood there for a while watching him snip, clip and blow dry all the volunteer model’s hair into a beautiful piece of art and I knew I wanted to be one of them.

My friend volunteered to go first and when the stylist spun her around toward the crowd I couldn’t believe my eyes. She looked like she belonged in a magazine! I was next and couldn’t wait. 

I closed my eyes as the clicking and clacking of the scissors surrounded my head and when the heat of the blow dryer swirled my hair around I squirmed in anticipation of what it was going to look like. When the stylist spun me around the crowd roared with applause. He held up a mirror and there in the reflection was Farrah Fawcett from Charlie’s Angels. Yep, tomorrow all the boys’ heads were going to turn!

The next morning the sound of rain awoke me before my mother performed her daily school day ritual of lightly knocking on the door and telling me it was time to get up for breakfast would be on the table in five. I threw the sheets back and flew out of bed and ran into the bathroom. I flipped the lights on and there standing before me was The Bride of Frankenstein, “My hair!  What happened to my hair?!”

I quickly ran back into my room and dialed the phone.  All I heard when my friend answered was, “You too?” Before hanging up we both devised a plan we would cover our hideous styled hair with a kerchief, no one would even notice. 

For the first time that year everyone’s head turned when I walked through the halls, not with the ooh’s and ahh’s I had envisioned, but more with finger pointing and laughter. Later that morning my friend and I met in a corner under a stair well and with watery eyes reassured each other it was only hair and it would grow back.

The cafeteria seemed louder than usual that day and I thought perhaps the rain was making everyone feel restless. My friend and I sat side by side in back of the echoing room eating our lunch in silence while staring at a blank wall. Suddenly I felt a tug on top of my head and before I knew it my red, white and blue hairstyle concealment landed right on top of my half eaten bologna sandwich. I looked at my friend just as her American flag kerchief landed in her plate of school lunch spaghetti and the cafeteria broke out in applause, repeating in laughter, “The Kerchief Twins.” 

My dream came true that day I finally was popular and famous and for the rest of the school year I was known as, The Kerchief Twin.

Many years have come and gone since then leading to my discovery I am somebody. I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister and an aunt, and even my kerchief twin is still a best friend. But the greatest discovery I’ve made is I am me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Go Ahead and Say It: The Importance of Dialogue

Being able to create dialogue which is meaningful and believable and at the same time move the plot forward and help build character development can be one of the greatest challenges you as an author faces. It’s also one of the most important skills to have in your writer’s toolbox. Why? Because dialogue is one of the most versatile tools there is when it comes to making your characters come alive and connecting them to your readers! 

Dialogue has three main purposes; move the plot forward, connect your readers to whom your characters really are, or both. In other words, things should never come to a dead end once a character starts talking. Recently, we explored scene and sequel (click here for Part One) and we discovered how scenes help to move the plot along. Often times, this is done using exposition; however, using dialogue can be very effective in helping to advance the scene.

Let’s explore:

When it comes to describing setting, dialogue is a great tool to use in place of conventional exposition. So instead of using exposition to describe the scene:

     When the taxi pulls around the corner, Ashley looks up and sees the overgrown trees and the creepy dried up vines crawling up the walls. She shivers thinking that she once called this place home.

Try interjecting dialogue and let the character do the describing:

     When the taxi pulls around the corner, Ashley looks up in horror, “What happened to my childhood home?” She says seeing all the overgrown trees, “It’s so dark and look at all the dead vines creeping up the walls!”

Doesn’t using dialogue help you feel like you know Ashley a little better? It also makes us feel a little sorry for her because she does the actual describing allowing us to see her feelings. Plus, using dialogue to describe her arriving at her childhood home allows you as the author to move the plot forward by having the taxi driver exchange conversation and perhaps tell of a mysterious event that happened at the home. The possibilities are endless!

Dialogue is also effective when it comes to pacing. Sometimes scenes filled with exposition can become long and drawn out making the reader feel like the story is heading nowhere. By breaking it up with dialogue, you can help bring the reader into the scene and make them feel like they are right there with your characters!

Did you know even nonverbal communication has the power to carry an entire scene? That’s right, having one character not respond at all to another character’s actions can tell the reader exactly what that character is like. Let’s examine:

     As Terri pushes the sweeper back and forth across the living room floor she becomes angrier and angrier every time Jimmy lifts his feet so she can sweep under the couch. “He hasn’t even once noticed my new lingerie.” She thinks. 
With her head feeling like it wants to explode, Terri deliberately stands in front of the blaring television trying to block the game. Jimmy simply glares at her and throws his hands up in the air, trying to look around her. Knowing she isn’t going to win his attention she storms out of the room, purposely forgetting to turn off the vacuum.

So don’t be afraid when self-editing to look for areas in which you can strengthen character development through dialogue or nonverbal communication. If you write for middle-grade or young adult, did you know when they are perusing books to purchase if the first or second paragraph lacks dialogue they usually end up not purchasing it? That’s right, so go ahead and say it!

Until next time,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Discover Your Creativity Through Self-Discovery

Recently, I read an interesting article about Edgar Allan Poe having a feline muse named Catterina and I immediately connected to how he must have often felt when he was writing since I too have a feline ghost writer; who happens to also be a sagacious black cat! (Sagacious is the adjective Poe uses to describe
Pluto, in The Black Cat. (read it here) 

The article also made me wonder about what the journey of his self-discovery as a writer must have been like to have written such deep dark emotional stories. If you haven’t read Edgar Allan Poe in a while you may find it fun to check out this
great site (poestories.com).
Now I believe for most writers, as it is for me, writing is one of the most satisfying ways to discover your inner self. Characters come alive through our feelings and often times they can reflect a little bit of ourselves. After all, isn’t that why we write? How about you, does writing take you on a self-discovering journey?

Since we’ve been exploring writing techniques over the past couple weeks, let's explore how self-discovery can also be a writing technique. 

When we explored the difference between plot and story,(click here), we discovered story is the emotional element that drives the plot.  Therefore, self-discovery is the origin of your story! 

Just like you, every character has certain capacities. They love, they care about someone or something and they also hate. So when you write, ask yourself these questions: "What am I feeling right now? How do I want the reader to feel? Do I want them to feel the same way?” If you could’t answer any of these questions, you may not yet have a complete understanding of your inner self.  By taking time to sit down and analyze your feelings you can help to bring a whole new emotional level to what your protagonist is going through and how they will handle the situation. 

Here is a checklist of questions to ponder as you set out on your journey of self-discovery:

     What emotions would I be 
     feeling if I were the main 

     How would I handle it?

Is my main character the right kind of person to relay these feelings?

If you answered no to the latter, it may be time for you to remold them into the image you want your readers to connect with. This may require you to dig deeper down into your writer’s soul to discover who you really are and why you are writing the story you are. Can you only imagine what was running through Edgar Allan Poe’s soul when he wrote The Tell-Tale Heart, published in 1850! (read it here)

So don’t fear the process of self-discovery, because you might just discover it’s the secret to your creativity!

Until next time,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author