Tag Archives: mind wandering

How the Written Universe Works: Structure of the Cosmos – Designing a Series #amwriting

The universe is vast, but the further we look toward the outermost edges, the more we see the overall structure, the way patterns are repeated across the enormity.

How the written universe works - multibook series1Think about it – the universe contains all we can measure and know, all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all forms of matter and energy. It likes balls and spirals and has a structure that repeats itself. This is reflected in the shape and behavior of the smallest particles to the largest quasars.

The universe began.

We don’t exactly know how it began, but we are here, so it must have started somehow. The universe emerged from somewhere as an infinitely small singularity, so named because it is singularly unexplainable.

From that unfathomable beginning, a mysterious dark energy pushes things apart, expanding the cosmos to what we see as the observable universe. And on the sub-galactic level, we who live on this rocky island in the center of that vast sea of space and time go about our lives, having no effect whatsoever on the universe at large.

WilliamBlakeInfinityAndEternityLIRF05072022First off, no matter our conscious thoughts regarding the universe and God, writers don’t exist in reality. We exist in what we think reality is, and collectively, we create it as we go along, for good or ill.

No matter the genre, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, a textbook, or a technical manual – books are universes, static and frozen at a finite point for us to read and ponder their meanings.

Books begin with an idea, the singularity that bursts into existence. As it grows, the universe that is that proto-book takes on a recognizable shape.

A projected series featuring the lives of people set in a unique world is a cosmos unto itself. It is the story of that universe, told over the course of several books.

Many people are blinded by the quasars of inspiration, can’t conceive of that universe’s structure, and can’t imagine how the molecules of inspiration can become a universe. The brilliance of that first revelation blinds them to how attainable it is.

intellegent_designLIRF05072022But if you make a map of what you can see, your own intelligent design, you can create your series of books with less struggle.

First, I tell myself how I believe the story will go. This takes a little time and is relaxing, a matter of sitting in a tranquil place with a pen and pad of paper and visualizing the singular idea of the story.

As I ponder that idea, finite events will come to me. I write them down, and they become major plot points. By the time I have to go back to other household tasks, my notes will have the rough shape of the story, in only five to ten handwritten lines.

A current work in progress takes place in a world I began writing in in 2008. This subseries began on a sunny day, while sitting on my back porch, watching the scrub jays, and laughing at their avian marital squabbles.

Out of nowhere, an idea went nova, and I wrote it down. These are my very first notes for the first book in that subseries, copied word for word from my yellow notepad:

  • A shaman. A person with a life like everyone else. They make mistakes, but they learn from them.

That led to another thought:

  • Divorced, single parent, struggles to be a good father to his son. What is his line of work?

  • A blacksmith who creates a magic sword. Who cares for his son while he works?

And that last thought led to my contemplating his family. “Who is his support group?”

  • His grandfather, father, and brother.

  • How do they come into the story?

My protagonist starts page one as divorced. I asked myself, “Does romance wait in the wings?”

  • Why this woman, and who is she in her own right? Where is she, and why does he have to go there?

  • She is highly respected, a woman with some power. Healing? He’s a shaman, so his reason for going there must be something spiritual.

  • Vision quest at someplace dangerous and difficult. Atop a mountain?

I contemplated those few notes for several days, during which I began creating a stylesheet/storyboard. I noted each random idea, which eventually became scenes I could visualize.

That’s when my imagination took over. The God-view zoomed in until I could see the story at the atomic level, and the words flowed.

WilliamBlakeImaginationLIRF05072022As I wrote, the outline for that first book took its shape. The written universe is in constant flux, and the storyboard records the changes and keeps the fabric of time from warping.

First, I decided how many words I intended for the novel’s length and divided that into fourths. I took those fourths and turned them into acts. I wanted to keep it at about 90,000 words, so this is how I planned the arc to go:

Act 1: 10,000 words, the beginning: We show the setting, the protagonist, and the opening situation.

Acts 2 and 3: 60,000 words. Two major hiccups, combined to form the novel’s center, starting at the first plot point or the inciting incident. The tension grows to a mid-point confrontation. We show the hero’s dire condition and how they deal with it. By act 4, there is no going back, no changing course.

Act 4: 20,000 words: Resolution. We try to end the misery in a way that feels good and rewards the reader for staying with the story. It must end as if it were a standalone novel, but a minor sub-thread will be left unfinished. That sub-thread is the real core of the two-book series.

storyArcLIRF10032021Once I have decided the proposed length, I know where the turning points are and what should happen at each. The outline ensures an arc to both the overall story and the characters’ personal growth.

This method works for me because I’m a linear thinker.

I have mentioned before that I use a spreadsheet program to outline my projects, but you can use a notebook or anything that works for you. You can do this by drawing columns on paper by hand or using post-it notes on a whiteboard or sticking them to the wall. Some people use a dedicated writer’s program like Scrivener.

Everyone thinks differently, so there is no one perfect way to create that fits everyone.

A storyboard/stylesheet should have a separate page for the glossary to ensure consistency. I wrote a post on creating a stylesheet, a.k.a. storyboard, for little or no cost, and the link is here: Designing the Story.

The workbook shown below is the stylesheet for the Tower of Bones series and has been evolving since 2009.

Excerpt from World of Neveyah Storyboard Glossary,

As we add to it, the written universe is constantly expanding. Sometimes, we have to adjust our ideas of how many words we will end up with, in total. The cosmos is a violent place. Even if we begin with a plan, we never really know how a story will go until we have written it. The outline keeps us mindful of the story arc and ensures the action doesn’t stall.

Try to get into the habit of writing new words every day. When you write every day, you develop strengths and knowledge of the craft. Give yourself the gift of half an hour of private writing time every day.

You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try.

Again, the post discussing making a cost-free storyboard/stylesheet is Designing the Story.

I think you’ll find a storyboard is a valuable tool.

8 Comments

Filed under writing

#FlashFictionFriday: Mind Wandering (short essay)

I love this image. I found it at Wikimedia Commons and fell in love with the symmetry and the way the colors complement each other, so opposite and yet so pleasing. It inspires my creativity, pushes away the subconscious boundaries we set for ourselves in our daily lives. It makes me wonder what lies beyond the borders. What mysterious thing could be waiting there for me to discover?

When people first learn I am an author with no day job, the first thing they ask (after what the heck are you thinking) is where I get ideas for my tales.  I usually give them some song-and-dance about adapting modern relationships and values to mythological world situations, and while it’s true, it’s not the whole truth.

The truth is, these things just pop into my head, and I think “Wow – that would be a good story.”  I will be riding in the car listening to music, not thinking about anything in particular, and have a flash of brilliance – What if the dark ages never happened? Or How would Europe look if the Druids had conquered Europe instead of the Romans?

If I am smart, I will write the idea down, because I’m 64 years old and the old harddrive is full—too many cute kitty pictures and Weird Al videos, with no room for anything else.

The flow of random thoughts really is the river of creativity for me. Having the time to just sit and daydream is as rare as the March sun around here, but it does happen, and that is when my ideas come to me.  Letting your mind roam free and allowing the possibilities to enter your stream of consciousness (or not, as they will) is good for you.  Fifteen or twenty minutes a day of simply watching the world go by will rejuvenate you.

Some people will say, “I don’t have time to waste daydreaming,” and that’s all right for them. I personally need to throw open the windows of my mind and let the breezes clear away the musty ideas which get in the way of my creativity. For me, the path to writer’s block is paved with “I don’t have time to relax!”

Don’t get me wrong, I get up at 6:30 am and immediately begin blogging. After noon I read for several hours and then I do revisions or work on my current Work In Progress. I read before I go to sleep.  I do two weekly book review blogs besides this blog and all in all I work 10 to 16 hours a day at this job, but it is interspersed with various household tasks and errands.  I also take the time to let my mind rest, simply watching the town go by from my porch.

Some people call it meditation, and some people call it a waste of time. I call it necessary.  I think of my mind as if it were an ‘idea farm.’ Just as a wise farmer allows his fields to occasionally lie fallow, it’s important to let your mind rest. Letting farmlands lie fallow is one of the best ways of allowing the land to replenish its nutrients, and regain its fertility. Letting your mind roam with no particular direction is essential in lowering your stress levels (!) which immediately improves your health and your thought processes.

So I suppose when I am asked where I get ideas for my tales I should tell them the truth:

I don’t really know!


Credits and Attributes

Bruges, View from Rozenhoedkaai, blue hour. By Arcalino / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Bruegge View from Rozenhoedkaai.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Bruegge_View_from_Rozenhoedkaai.jpg&oldid=198969137 (accessed July 28, 2017). Photo: Arcalino / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

4 Comments

Filed under #FlashFictionFriday

#amwriting: mind wandering

IMG_1068

Sea Stacks at Tillamook Head © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson

We have long known that creative people are often guilty of daydreaming, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative. Right now I am on vacation, and my output of writing has been sporadic–it comes in bursts. Here by the sea I find myself thinking about…nothing.

Sometimes I realize I’ve been gazing at the scenery with no conscious awareness of thought for long stretches of time. This means my mind is completely at rest. With this relaxing of conscious thought, I become rested, and my mind is cleared of the white-noise that hinders my creative process.

Eugenio M. Rothe, a psychiatrist at Florida International University, says:  “Many times the ‘dialogue’ that occurs when the daydreaming mind cycles through different parts of the brain accesses information that was dormant or out of reach. Likewise, the daydreaming mind may make an association between bits of information that the person had never considered in that particular way.”

Intriguingly, the physiology of the brain itself, and not the “mind” controls our daydreams. Anthony Jack, a cognitive scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio says,

“How we daydream and think depends on the brain’s structure. …(That) structure is constantly changing in small ways—as we learn new things the connections between nerve cells change.” (Read “Beyond the Brain” in National Geographic magazine.)

I usually work 10-16 hour days. I don’t do it intentionally, but it happens. Thus, taking a complete break away from my desk is critical. At home, I might go out to my back porch and observe the neighborhood. It’s peaceful out there, but here, where Ecola Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, I am away from my usual tasks. I have no schedule, and my editing work is on hold. I am writing this post via the stream-of-conscious method rather than preparing it ahead on Sunday as I usually do.

My mind has been defragging this week. I can feel my spirit growing lighter, less concerned about the small annoyances. I don’t need sunshine to free my subconscious thoughts–I just need the sea.

My husband is relaxing too. He has only called his office once, and on finding the small problem there was easily settled, he is relaxing and enjoying the peace of the moment.

IMG_1074

Sea Stacks in the Mist at Tillmook Head © Connie J. Jasperson 2016

The ocean right now at 5:57 am is shrouded in fog. The sea stacks are islands in the mist. For an hour or so more, the gulls and other sea birds will own the beach, and they are making the most of their time.

Soon early risers like me will be up, some letting the dogs go for a run, others just wandering the shore, thinking about nothing in particular.

Today we will go down to Haystack Rock with a picnic lunch and if the wind is right we’ll fly the kite. That is all the plans we have for the day. I may write when I get back, or I may continue reading. Whichever I do, it will be interspersed with long moments of staring out at those amazing rock formations where Ecola meets the sea.

2 Comments

Filed under Adventure, writing