Monday, January 10, 2022

Dystopian News and Focusing on Writing

 By Thomas Kies

I’m an unabashed news junkie.  My career for over thirty years was in newspapers and magazines so being a news geek just comes naturally.  I love the physical feel of a newspaper and we get our local paper delivered here twice a week (we really don’t have enough going on here for more editions than that), the News and Observer out of Raleigh every day except for Saturday, and the Sunday New York Times.  Additionally, I subscribe to the online versions of the Washington Post and my old newspaper, the Norwalk Hour. 

Put that together with all of the other free news websites available and I’m down a rabbit hole instead of writing. 

It is so darned easy to get distracted.  Just in a single Op-Ed section of a Sunday New York Times, there were pieces about how different countries were being affected by climate change, how the new covid variant was raging through the country, and how the divisive nature of our political and cultural landscape is slowly leading up to more violence and the possible end of our democracy.

If those aren’t the ingredients for a dystopian novel, I don’t know what is.  How on earth can anyone concentrate on writing a mystery with so many crazy things happening all at once?

I do a number of things to give myself direction.  I’m very lucky that I live on a barrier island here on the coast of North Carolina, so when I want to clear my head, I’ll take a ten-minute walk to the beach.  Usually, by the time I’ve gotten back home, I can sit down and hit the keyboard.

If I get stalled, I’ll bribe myself.  I’m a coffee addict so before I top off my latest cup of caffeine, I’ll force myself to write at least another couple of paragraphs. 

If I get frustrated with my progress, I’ll get up from my desk and wander around the house, thinking of dialogue.  Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t. But it gets the creative juices flowing.

Here’s a question.  Do all writers hear voices in their heads?

For me, starting a new book is the absolute hardest because you’re creating a new plotline, new characters, and new locations.  Everything is being made up of whole cloth. 

Right now, I’m about eighty pages into my new project and yesterday, I went back to the first few chapters to smooth out the rough edges and polish the prose. That was fun!  This afternoon I’ll do another few chapters.

Hopefully, by the time I get back to where I left off, I’ll have hit that place when the story starts to write itself.  It’s where the characters take on a life of their own and you know where the book is going.

Right now, however, I don’t even know who the bad guy is.  Bu that really is part of the fun, isn’t it?


Dan Baldwin said...

Voices in my head? Thank the Big Soft Pink Something in the Sky, I do. My characters take over from Day One. For Example, I started what I thought was going to be a humorous Western novel late last week - Gabby Durango and His Rangy Texans - so far my hero, who isn't named Gabby, is pot hunting Caddo Indian mounds near 1917 Texarkana. I haven't a clue where he's taking me, but I'm sure it's going to be a fun ride. The plot will develop as will other characters and challenges. And therein lies the fun.

Anonymous said...

I always know who the bad guy is: the newest defendant facing Death Penalty that has been assigned to my office and I'm the law clerk assisting in his defense during the day before law school at night. My inner and outer conflict is my reaction to him, to the case, and with my team. I like most of my clients, guilty or not, but some I hated and had to do a good job defending them anyway. During THESE times there is so much to be depressed about that a nasty murderer seems a relief. And yet I struggle to concentrate. I write pity, sarcastic Letters to my large,local writing group as their Queen to get out of my head, but it's a temporary fix. I persist, but I have to kick myself in the butt everyday after the day job. Arrgh!

Laura Hernandez

Anna said...

Voices in the head? Oh, yeah. My secondary character began complaining about his son. I didn't know he had a son. He just kept on bitching and moaning. That gave me the beginnings of a sense of the son---and more about his father, too. Off and running.