Using Pinterest For Your Novel

NaNoWriMo 2012: Deirdre Pinterest Board

Pinterest is a fairly new social network where you can create virtual pinboards and collect images and videos. Though it is very popular with people into cooking and arts & crafts, the scope has continued to widen as greater number of members join. I have been a member for about a year and have grown to love the site for what it does, give me a place to collect visual inspiration for a number of different topics. When I started this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, I immediately created a Pinterest board for it, even though at the moment I did not know what I would pin to it. That uncertainty did not last long.

When creating a board for your novel, cast your net wide in terms of what you put into it. The general idea of such a board is to give you, the writer, a place to free-associate visual cues. You could put pictures of locations associated with your story, or images of actors/models that you would consider for an ideal casting, or perhaps music that resonates with the story or that characters listen to. The board is not meant to tell the story in your head, but it should help you call up ideas and concepts that are associated with what you’re writing. A board like this can serve as an interesting “backstage” look at the brainstorming process of writing, or as a bonus meta-look at the finished tale.

If you visit my NaNoWriMo 2012: Deirdre board (pictured here), you’ll find a variety of pictures showing locations in the novel, music videos for songs that have inspired the story in one way or another, as well as other images and videos that somehow relate to the tale of Deirdre Morrison. As I think of, or come across, things that tie to Deirdre’s story, I pin them there for easy reference. When I feel a bit at a loss about my story, whenever I feel I need to reconnect with my character as I write her story, I go to this board and remember why I pinned each item there. This in turns refreshes my mind and helps me get back to the tale of Deirdre.

Give it a try for your next work of fiction, and see how it can help you out.

 

The Greatest Story

I came across this remix of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” a song that I really like and about which I have written before. Take a look.

Watching the video, seeing the story of this couple play out, all I was thinking was, “What happened that brought them together, then apart?” Which then brought to mind what I consider to be one of my little quirks: as much as I like reading the whole gamut of speculative fiction, when it comes to writing fiction, I naturally gravitate towards relationship stories set in the real world.

I have tried my hand at fantasy and science fiction before, yes, but overwhelmingly, the stories that I prefer to imagine, develop and write are those where I am following the process of a relationship, whether it is the beginning, middle or end. Relationships interest me. It’s why I love romantic comedies, actually. The endless factors that feature into two distinct people coming together, staying together, and sometimes going apart, are simply fascinating. As the creator of these stories, it’s like I get to fall in and out of love over and over (which can actually be very draining when you consider what I wrote about being a method writer). Even better, it is a story that can be told across any milieu, whether real world, the far reaches of space, or lands ruled by magic and dragons (seriously, “The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm,” the Burning Wheel roleplaying game I’ve been playing with my friend Judd, for all the awesome fantasy stuff it has going on, can be summed up as the story of a love triangle, which is why I absolutely love it).

That’s why to me the greatest story will always be that of the process of love between two people. And I look forward to many years of exploring this story in my fiction.

Being A Method Writer

There’s a very popular style of acting called Method Acting, in which the idea is that the actor embodies the character to be played, and draws on his or her own experiences to achieve a better portrayal. It is a style usually classified as immersive, and it can lead some actors to stay in role even after the performance has stopped.

I am not an actor, but I have discovered, and accepted, that I am a method writer. The definition found in Urban Dictionary nails it:

A writer or author who uses a technique of writing in which he/she identifies emotionally with a character in the story and assumes that character’s persona in the telling.

When I am writing a story, especially a longer one, I get into my protagonist’s head space so I can understand them better and thus achieve a better narrative.

The one problem with this approach? I get into my protagonist’s head space.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that I write stories in which I have a personal stake. While I am able to churn out a few pieces to specification for a freelance assignment or writing challenge, I mostly write stories that possess me and *must* be told. And more often than not, the way that these stories possess me is via a character, who becomes like an alternate personality until I am able to exorcise them onto the page.

This also means that I live with these characters, and that their lives affect me. When they are happy, I am happy; when they are sad and angry, I get sad and angry. My facial expressions change as I’m writing to match the mood of the scene and sometimes it gets to be too much, too draining, and I need to walk away, remind myself that *I* am the real person, not my character.

The novel I am writing now features a protagonist who was a supporting character in my first novel. She stayed with me long after the novel was done, daring me to find out her story so I could tell it. Her story isn’t necessarily a happy one, and it is taxing to get into the mind of a person with major depressive disorder. But I have to tell her story, so I, we, push through.

Method writing isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. I cannot fathom writing any other way, and if that means that my fiction output is greatly reduced, that’s fine as well, because I know the stories I will tell are those that *had* to be told by me and no one else.

Writing A Female Protagonist

The novel I am writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo features a female main character. What’s more, it’s written in first person, so not only am I writing a female character, I am writing her from inside her mind.

I bring this up for a reason. Because of the online social circles I frequent, because of the people I know, because of the classes I have taken and life I’ve lived, I’m sensitive to issues of gender, cultural appropriation, and privilege. These are lenses through which I filter life, especially things I create. So I’m sitting here writing a novel with a female character, it didn’t take long for a voice to erupt in my head saying, “You have no right to do this.”

I am a guy, after all. I might be a member of two minorities (Hispanic and Jewish), but I’m a guy. And I can already hear in my head comments about me putting words in women’s mouths, about me misrepresenting women, about me acting all patriarchal and stuff by controlling this female character. Mind you, no one has said any of this, but what if they do (with “they” being people I know, or people I don’t know)?

This paralyzed me somewhat as I started to write. It even shut me down completely one day. I briefly considered just scrapping the whole idea and moving on to something else. Then I thought better about it.

I hope no one feels that way after reading my story. I hope that I bring an honest voice to my female protagonist that sounds true regardless of her or my gender which will make any comment like the ones above superfluous and unnecessary. I am for nothing less.

Thing is, I can’t worry about the ‘What ifs’. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work, for whatever reason. It may be that reason is even a valid one. But I can’t let that stop me from writing. My protagonist (Deirdre in this case, but really, any protagonist) is a person, an individual, with hopes and dreams, skills and limitations, who makes good and bad choices. She isn’t meant to represent an entire gender any more than my actions represent my entire gender. So if Deirdre does X or says Y, it reflects only on Deirdre, not on all women.

I’m being slightly paranoid in even thinking that I need to state all this upfront, I know it. In truth, this post isn’t for anyone out there, it’s for myself. It’s so I can get this worry out of my head, where it is blocking the flow of ideas. If it happens to speak to someone else, even better.

If you’ll excuse me, now that I got that off my chest, I need to go back to writing.

Early End of Fall Semester and Plans

I was hoping that this post would come in mid-December, but that was not to be. As I mentioned in my last post, I was barely scrapping by in Advanced MedSurg, with my chances of passing resting on two exams on the final week of class. I took both, and the combined scores left me below the cut-off point for a C (which in Nursing is a 77/100). So Friday afternoon, home after the final exam, exhausted from non-stop studying over the past week, I got the email from my professors that confirmed I had not passed the exam, and therefore failed the class.

It was like a punch to the gut.

I’m feeling better about it now. I’ve gone through the five stages of grief and accepted that there’s nothing I can do about it now, so I need to move on. It sucks, yes. I’m not used to failing, and I had to fight hard not to let an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness overtake me. But I’m good.

Today I met with my professors, discussed the situation, and made plans for the future. The paperwork still needs to be processed on the administrative end, but I will be joining the next session of Advanced MedSurg, in January, which will put me on track to finish my Nursing degree in March. So it’s not so terrible, it’s not like I have to wait another six months for the upcoming Accelerated Option class. I did pass my Advanced MedSurg Clinical, so there’s that silver lining.

In the meantime, I suddenly find myself with lots of time once more. I am putting together a plan of action that will structure my days off, so I don’t get too rusty, but I’m also going to rest and recharge, and do some of the stuff I have neglected due to school, like writing.

Sword of Damocles, Thy Name is Advanced MedSurg

I haven’t written about what’s going on in my nursing classes since the end of the Spring semester. I’ll have to do that at some other point, though in short, it was an interesting mix of Nursing specialties and I did fairly well.

Right now, however, I find myself in the same spot I did back in Spring in relation to the first part of Medical-Surgical Nursing: I am on the very edge between passing and not passing (I got an F on the first exam [long story], and a C on the second exam), and all rests on the final exam.

It would suck to fail Adv MedSurg at this point, since it is the next-to-last class in my year-long program; it isn’t something I want, nor want to think about too much, but it is something I have already considered. It isn’t the foremost thought in my mind, however. I am still in the game, and with a really good grade it is possible for me to pass this class and move on to Leadership, the last class before graduation.

That message in the meme picture above? That is my mantra for the next week.

Bring it, Adv MedSurg.

[Review] Gifts of Abraham: Unity and Peace Through Meditation

Gifts of Abraham: The Untold Story of Brahman, a Jewish PerspectiveGifts of Abraham: The Untold Story of Brahman, a Jewish Perspective by Audi Y. Gozlan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book back in 2002 when author Audi Gozlan came to talk at my synagogue in Miami Beach. At the time I found his lecture, focusing on Abraham as the father of meditation in both east and west, interesting, so I purchased the book. It took me 10 years to get to it, but the timing was just perfect.

Gifts of Abraham presents a look at meditation across the world religious landscape and shows how it all ties back to Abraham with the use of Biblical commentary, Talmudic discussion, midrashim (legends) and the tools of Torah exegesis. His presentation is clear and concise, well-documented via endnotes showing his sources (both Judaic and otherwise), and thought-provoking for anyone willing to consider a far grander picture of world history. Though the book is geared toward Jews and Judaism, I believe it should prove an interesting read for anyone who appreciates theology, world history and philosophy, not to mention meditation and meditative practices.

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Yoga, Fitness & Meditation

While I have no problem with being big, I got tired of being fat, so five weeks ago I decided to restart my own fitness program by counting calories and doing some form of exercise with regularity. Two years ago I lost about 40 pounds doing exactly the same, so I know it is possible if I set myself a schedule and follow it through. Having climbed back up to 351 pounds, I simply had to, period.

The day I was to start my exercise routine, I woke up with some minor back pain that got exacerbated during the day, so instead of doing the boot camp video I had planned, instead I did the intro to yoga one. Now, for years my wife has been trying to get me to do yoga. I had nothing against it, but didn’t think it was for me. I pretty much actively refused to even consider it, probably getting derisive at times as well. I guess it’s all about timing. After doing this 1-hour introductory routine I was beat: my muscles ached, I was sweaty and breathing as if I’d run a mile. Furthermore, the pain in my back was gone, and I felt great. I decided I would do it again the next day.

That was 5 weeks ago, and I’ve done that routine pretty much every day since. I dusted off my yoga mat, got myself a strap to help with some poses, and have been reading up on yoga topics in a way which my wife charmingly calls obsessive. I do this.

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Hacking Changeling To Play In Labyrinth

For years I’ve wanted to run a game set in the world of Labyrinth, because it is awesome and the essence of faerie for this child of the 80s. At first I thought of using Changeling: The Dreaming (CtD) because of the obvious connection with faeries, but I never quite grasped what angle to approach this from.

When Changeling: The Lost (CtL) came out, I got the sense that this would be the right game to handle adventuring in the Labyrinth. The plot of the movie is, in essence, a classic changeling scenario, except that someone goes into faerie for the baby,[ref]We’ll leave the Labyrinth-as-sexual-coming-of-age discussion for another day[/ref] so we could use characters that had been taken to the Labyrinth, escaped and had to go back for whatever reason, or even use a regular human like Sarah.

I’ve never done either of those. CtD simply had a different vibe that was directly tied to the faeries in the mortal world, and CtL, though it was certainly dark enough, had a bit too much going on for my tastes.

CtL, however, has one bit that REALLY got me excited, the idea of Contracts as the source of changeling magic. Now we’re talking. I would strip that game of all the other simulationist stats and get down to a few essential pieces of game mechanics that truly speak to what a changeling is, highlighting the Contracts.

So this is what I would do for my Labyrinth game:

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Stolen Bike Alert: Blue Electra Townie

My blue Electra Townie bike has been stolen from the back of my apartment building in Miami Beach at Meridian Avenue and 10th Street. It happened at some point over the last week-and-a-half while I was away in New York, so at some point between August 1-12.

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The bike is a metallic blue 7-speed Townie, made by Electra, and was purchased at Miami Beach Bicycle Center. It has a leather saddle with the Om symbol (?) on it, and leather handles. It has fenders, a basket on the front and a Townie rear rack. It bears the stamped seal of the Miami Beach Bicycle Center on the frame, underneath where the pedals connect, has a I Bike Miami sticker on the chainguard, and a faded People For Bikes sticker above the Electra medal on the front.

Here’s a pic of the basic model.

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Any info, please email me at Daniel AT dmperez.com.