If you were from a royal mage family why would you go to great lengths to hide it?
The second book in the Estrel series chronicles the life of Alyssa Jade Jeremieu Shulto de Tierney leads from her privileged beginning as the daughter of the Mage King and his Consort to her inconspicuous latter years disguised as the wife of a country merchant. As Alyssa faces her past that is fraught with danger, she learns that choices can sometimes lead to redemption.
(Right now, the book is Free with Kindle Unlimited/ Kindle Price $2.99)
The second in a series from Keri A. Kitson, author of the Estrel series.
Keri A. Kitson is a friend of mine from college. We’ve also attended some writer’s workshops together. Her stories are rather interesting, but don’t just take my word for it. Check them out for yourself…
Other Books on Amazon:
W.P. # 106 Write about being up in an air balloon.
W.P. # 80 Write about a sin.
W.P. # 45 Write a January memory.
Imagine if Hemingway or Faulkner had had a therapist and he was sitting on his (or her) couch for the first time, and after exchanging pleasantries, they would finally get down to the nitty-gritty, of what had gotten them there; and the above title, would be their parlance over their professions, something that maybe someone else might have easily gotten, but which made the therapist a little more shaken and irresolute. Why? you might wonder, would anything, like the idea of studying people, give the poor therapist a fright. Well, for one thing if their professions were changed, one of them might be out of a job, while the other, would be reeling in cash, by the armload.
Which is not to say that they’d have the market cornered or anything. But maybe therapists can teach us a thing or two about people and their motivations. If you are writing fiction of course, you will have to form a composite of your character(s) in your head. You will have to know what that person is like and the types of things that may or may not have influenced their life. You will also have to work out the types of experiences he may have had and the people who serve as aggressors. After all, conflict is at the heart of any good drama.
So you sit down and try to come up with some sort of sketch for the type of person he might be. How he looks, tall. Short. Lanky. Fat. Muscular. No, less beefy. With jet black hair and squinty eyes. Clean shaven. No, rugged. And the list goes on, as you think of his intellectual status, what he might have done, or places he may have gone. Educated. Not educated. Or maybe up to high school. But still there’s nothing too definite, you make it up as you go, feeling out the character, like an artist warming up at her easel. You take a minute, look out the window, try to form the flesh and bones outline only to get stuck by the heavier more intricate things, like their type of lifestyle. Or worst nightmare.
Which at the moment doesn’t mean much, because you might have only just begun, and don’t really know this character. But sit down. Take a deep breath and try to think of him or her as if they were a living breathing human being and then work it out from there. Or go to a party as your character, act as they would act. See and feel how they might come across to someone else. Remember, you are watching people to see how they interact. To see what makes them unique and flawed and human.
It isn’t just on the surface, really try to listen to them. To see the world through their eyes. For example, a short, smokey brunette sipping a Corona at a bar, trying to avoid making eye contact with a guy who’s definitely interested, because her boyfriend has just walked in. The bald headed man at the center table busy playing with his wedding ring, as he entertains a group of people from work, on the anniversary of his wife’s departure. And the studious teenager wolfing down a grilled cheese sandwich, as she peers outside at the lanky valet, her father and waits to be taken home to the grubby apartment where the lights have been cut.
But what are we observing exactly, if not life. The intricacies of it. How we meet and mingle with one another. How people present themselves. And also how they are, when they are alone. This is the life blood, the essence of the sport of writing. Do you have what it takes?
In secondary school I knew a boy who routinely read Sherlock Holmes for fun, along with other tales of mystery and horror. A fan of science fiction and romance myself, I had little dealings with Holmes until much later, when I fell into Agatha Christie’s Mrs. Marple, and Ruth Rendell. And although now, I do enjoy a good mystery, I often wonder whether my reasoning skills would have been more prolific if I had picked up on the need to be an observer from early on.
This is something every writer will have to learn as they progress in the field and try to create more believable characters. In fact, this idea clicked more with me, when I was reading an interview given by Audra McDonald, a six time Tony Award winning actress for the Academy of Achievement as a Broadway Stage Sensation. Asked about her role in Porgy and Bess, and more specifically if she had approached anything differently in the character of Bess. She responded that her goal wasn’t to approach anything differently, or do anything differently. Rather she wanted to understand Bess and to do that she went back to the place where the character was first drawn by DuBose Hayward, because that was the only way to get deep inside the character.
As writers, I wonder, how many of us dig deep to discover the gem that is our main character or group of characters. How many of us actually pay attention to what is going on around us, so that when we find parts of them in someone else, we can take it down; like a kid at the foot of a great magician, trying to decipher the code.
I believe a character is built up, slowly over time. It unfolds like a flower, opening to take in sunlight. In the same way, every day you get a glimpse of it. Every day you get an opportunity to see something new. Although the note-taking, of the people around you and their actions, doesn’t have to be too obvious. But capture the small nuggets, the little pieces of information or character traits, that will become any one of your characters. Work it into the story, little by little. Conduct character interviews, like the one described by Lajos Egri in The Art of Dramatic Writing.
In her interview McDonald says how as creative people often we have to walk in a lot of different shoes. Something that for actors and performers means playing a lot of different roles. Characters, people that they may or may not agree with on many different levels: be it social, political or religious. Likewise, writers have to get to know their characters, so that what they convey to their readers, is as truthful and accurate as they can make it.
Which is not to say that I possess a super-brain that records everything. For example, where I go, what I eat or even wear; but sometimes, I get an inkling of something that suggests: write this down, it’s important. This is one of those reasons why we keep a notepad at the side of the bed. We let the camera in our brain record, or we grab something and write, plot idea. Or possible story lead. And then later when we have some free time, we try to piece them together. Other times though we file and save it for posterity, to use it some time in the future.
Or as McDonald suggests, we do things to replenish the well, because the process of creation can be exhausting. She talks about going to a show to see a great singer like Ray LaMontagne at Carnegie Hall… “I can fill up that way, but I’m still observing as a student as well. My mind’s still at work, and processing, processing and learning and learning and learning…I am very aware of the fact that my mind and my soul, or whatever, are processing all of this, and storing it to then be used at a later date when I get out there.”
This is why being observant is necessary. Why we have to pay attention to things that are happening around us. Or as she say, “be aware of the moment.” The present moment. Not yesterday or the day before that. With all of our electronic gadgets, it is a must that we unplug and unwind when we write, because what we are creating on some level is primal. And urgent. And necessary.
Remember that writing is about revealing truth, and when a writer is honest in their approach to the work it shines through, if you’ve ever read Bastard out of Carolina, The Color Purple or Paradise, you know what I mean. I remember reading the novel, Wrecked (by E.R. Frank) a few years back and finding some similarities between the female lead and her relationship with her father. As a result, I started to see things in my own family circle from a different point of view. Perspective. Good writing will do that, it will help you to see things more clearly.
Later in the week, I will talk some more about the art of observation, but until then keep your eyes open and your ears pealed for the sights and sounds of life.