Author’s Quest for Meaning


*Struggling to get a handle on the sequel*- what motifs do I want to employ, what is the deeper meaning, how might I weave the many different threads into a cohesive story? When in doubt, I always go back to the great Arthurian Romances – Tristan and Iseult, Lancelot and Guinevere, Romeo and Juliet. Continue reading “Author’s Quest for Meaning”

On finishing a novel


Ciaran ap Morgan, Prince of Narberth, The Flamebearer
Lady Evaine

 

Robyn ap Gryffin

Is anyone ever really “finished”? This project began over thirty years ago, got sidelined for many years (I needed to earn a living), and finally got picked-up again in retirement. To my genuine delight, I found that my passion and affection for these characters had not diminished in the slightest, even after such a long time away from them.

Darn good thing I saved a hard copy! What began in DOS on a floppy disc and graduated at some point to “diskette” and a very early version of MS Word, would probably not make the transition to today’s hardware or software.

After digging the coffee-stained, dog-eared pile of typed pages out of an old cardboard box, re-formatting and retyping the manuscript, I found it exhilarating to dive right back in. The lovers were at more-or-less the midway point, literally taking refuge in an enchanted forest.

The second half of the book practically wrote itself. (That is a bald-faced lie. Any writer who tells you that is completely full-of-it.) But it did seem to flow more smoothly than the first half, which went through hundreds of revisions, re-drafts, ruthless self-editing, and painful re-writes. And that’s when I did most of my historical research also, which in those days could only be done at the library. Most of the chronicled information I needed was so obscure, I’d be forced to order it from some university archive and wait weeks for its arrival in my mailbox. Today, I Google everything and acquire it instantaneously.

Another advantage to allowing twenty years to elapse between serious chapter drafts is that I am an entirely different person at 65 than I was at 40. I have entered a relatively calm period in my life and have achieved a degree of emotional maturity I did not possess in my forties. In revisiting my story world, I experienced a deeper and more profound connection to my narrative and became aware of subtleties and nuances I had overlooked.

Furthermore, I am learning to express my artistic vision using an exciting new vehicle – computer graphics. The ability to employ visual artwork affords me the opportunity and luxury of exploring my people and my fictional world through pictures as well as language. Alternating between writing and illustration enhances both methods of self-expression and allows me to experience my story in ways formerly unavailable to me as an artist. As I develop and fine-tune the physical appearance, body-language, dress, hairstyle, & eye-color of each of my actors, I get to see them more clearly and know them more intimately, while placing them in any environment I choose to create.

Often, scenes I had only vaguely pictured with my inner vision evolved into vivid, detailed realities once I was able to render them in 3D. I am still limited by the scope of the application, and the capabilities of my current equipment, as well as by my own proficiency, as to how much complexity I am able to put into a single scene. At this stage, I am focused primarily on portraiture, but this is a medium I find obsessively fascinating. There is always more to learn and to explore.

This is one reason I think I shall never honestly “finish” working on this novel. I tend to become enmeshed with my literary personalities. They provide me with such nuanced and deeply satisfying inspiration, I am powerless to let them go. I love watching them evolve, and I am still learning things about each of them that endear them to me all the more.

As of 2017, I am in the process of revising the entire manuscript. My plan is to publish the revised and expanded second edition with a completely new cover. I am advised that this tendency to endlessly tweak the original content is a symptom of my Type Four Enneagram Personality.

 

10-Steps to Creating Compelling, Irresistible Characters


10-Steps to Building Compelling, Irresistible Characters


10-Steps to Building Compelling, Irresistible Characters by E. Madison Cawein

1. Endow your dashingly handsome, tantalizingly sexy Hero with flaws that drive him to behave badly on occasion. For example, he may initially come across as arrogant, hostile, and dismissive toward his friends and even his Love Interest while putting on an act to impress his enemies or his superiors, or to hide his inner anxieties. If you strive to make him “too perfect”, no one will trust or believe you and they may decide to stop reading.

2. The Hero’s deepest fear (usually a wound received in childhood, not always conscious) may cause him to conceal or deny his vulnerabilities. Perhaps he was abandoned at an early age which precipitates a fear of intimacy as an adult. Either that or it motivates him to seek the opposite: deeper, more meaningful relationships which, as a man, he thinks he can control, whereas his child Self was powerless to shape or to hold on to those he loved and depended upon the most.

3. The Hero may harbor overwhelming hatred and distrust of the Antagonist, who presents an almost likable first impression to other characters and especially to the reader. This can be delicious fun to write, especially if your Hero has spent a good portion of Part One honing an image of the Antagonist as the most worthless of scoundrels, the Bad Ass to beat all Bad Asses. Then, when he is finally introduced to the reader in Part Two, he doesn’t seem like the Villain he’s been made out to be and the reader realizes his menacing, nefarious intent was in the Hero’s head all along.

4. The Antagonist may be experienced as a tyrant by the Hero, but is, in reality, is a mixture of positive and negative traits, giving him subtlety and nuance. The reader may find him/herself identifying with him at first, not knowing whether to sympathize with him, mistrust him, or to despise him. Let him reveal himself (or herself) gradually, scene by scene. One successful device is to show a subtle shift from Good to Evil over the course of the entire second half of the book – the Antagonist’s Character Arc if you will. In any case, he should have his own perfectly rational reasons for his corruption and cruelty and not simply be Evil for Evil’s sake.

5. Let your Heroine display vulnerability, fear, clinginess, jealousy, mistrust, anger, opinions and convictions no matter how wrong-headed, contrariness, self-doubt, yearning, affection, tenderness, wisdom, aloofness, even icy coldness if it moves the story forward. In other words, let her be a real woman with a wide range of emotional frequencies. Allow her to evolve into a fully 3-dimensional being, keeping The Hero guessing until the end.

6. I beg you, PLEASE DON’T portray your Heroine as a one-dimensional Warrior Woman who comes across as superior to her male counterpart, outsmarting him and diminishing him as The Hero, unless of course, she happens to actually be a warrior. (A Shield Maiden?) Your Heroine should have the capacity to hold her own with the Hero, matching him in wit, intelligence, and self-possession. But let these traits emerge a little at a time so that when she does reveal her true inner strength, it comes as a surprise to the Hero. (He can’t always be allowed to maintain the upper hand, after all. Every Hero needs to be put in his place now and then!)

7. Think about your peripheral characters (the sidekick, the faithful servant, the bodyguard, etc.) as more than shallow clichés, but as fully realized individuals in their own right, with backstories, fears, flaws, and mannerisms all their own. These details may never make it into the final draft, but being aware of them will help you to add shading and depth to your minor characters which will draw your readers deeper into your fictional world.

8. Think of your setting as another character. The time period, landscape, architecture, climate and weather all play a role in creating the structure within which your characters operate. People living in austere environments will be compelled to behave differently than those enjoying relative ease. A cold climate breeds rugged, practical, hard-working individuals, while warmer climates tend to allow people to relax and take life at a more leisurely pace. Likewise, environment influences modes of dress, customs, seasons, types of dwellings and crop production, which in turn determines the health, lifespan, and general attitudes and behavior of the population. A society on a constant war footing will differ dramatically from a society at peace. Is your Hero from a wealthy family or a poor one? Is money no object to him or is he forced to constantly struggle for survival?

9. In character-driven stories, each and every plot point is determined by what the characters DO, how they FEEL, what they COMMUNICATE, and WHO THEY ARE AT THEIR CORE. Likewise, their REACTIONS to the things that happen to them drive the story forward.

10. The kinds of STRESSES and CONFLICTS you put your characters through (otherwise known as PLOT) will shape their personalities, their actions and reactions, their emotional equilibrium (or lack thereof), and ultimately, the degree of growth and change they go through during the course of the narrative (called the Character Arc). Some characters will resist conflict, refusing to learn from their mistakes. Others will meet a challenge head-on and come out the better for it in the end. All of them will endure highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies and may even be compelled to make the ultimate sacrifice – undergoing the rite of passage from this world to the next by story’s end. But whether you give your story a happy ending or a tragic one, including each of the above steps will have made the adventure worthwhile for your readers and hopefully turned them into enthusiastic, lifelong fans.

Multiple Storylines, Future Possibilities


 

The Flamebearer – Sequel or Separate Volume?

So far, I’m just going with my gut. (They call this “seat-of-the-pants”  story-crafting)

One possible scenario is to allow each of the characters to go on with their lives, for better or worse, most of them surviving into what would have been a ripe old age in medieval times. I’ve toyed with the idea of a reunion between Ciaran and Robyn, where the erstwhile world-traveler, soldier-of-fortune, Crusader, thespian, traveling minstrel, horse breeder, border thief, and all around wayfaring adventurer Robyn stumbles across Ciaran’s Otherworldly abode, not realizing, of course, that he’s unwittingly wandered across a threshold.

The two former brothers-in-arms sit up all night drinking and talking and laughing over old times, filling each other in on what their lives have been like since their last tragic days together. They finally turn in somewhere close to dawn and when he wakes up, Robyn discovers to his joy and astonishment that youth has miraculously returned to him. No more grey streaks in his hair or his beard, his limp is gone, the sight has returned to his right eye and lo and behold, he ‘s feeling fit as a fiddle and ready to strike out on a new adventure with his old pal (who, of course, doesn’t look a day older than he did 30-40 years ago).

Evaine? She lived to be a plump little old lady with long, white streaks running through her black hair, but still possessed of the blushing cheeks and rosebud lips. Ciaran conveys the message that she quietly passed away in his arms some years back as they made their journey across the water to the Forest of the Ever After, where she was greeted by her Mother, her Father, and her long-lost brother Gwilym.

Gazing through the mists toward the distant shore, they see that her mother holds a small infant in her arms, and Ciaran at once recognizes it’s their first child, a stillborn son.  Evaine carried the grief of that loss throughout her life, even though they were ultimately favored with many more children.

“At last, my love, you’ll get the chance to hold our son in your arms, a blessing that was denied to you all those years ago.” Arising from the mists, they hear the celestial, harmonious voices of an elysian choir calling her home. He reassures her that he will not be long behind, but he has some things to finish up here before joining her.


Eireen and The Bruce

After a protracted courtship with many ups and downs, misunderstandings, conflicts involving other men, time constraints, and simple difficulties with logistics, Eireen finally accepts the Bruce’s sincere proposal of marriage and agrees to travel with him to the northlands to begin building their future together and raising a family.  The fact that she soon finds herself pregnant is a strong contributing factor in her decision.

Together they build a thriving homestead in the Highlands, basking in the crisp mountain air, the blooming heather, and the considerable responsibility of managing the flocks and herds along with guarding their borders against invasion by poachers, thieves, and rival clans. Their exceptionally fertile partnership yields many sons and daughters, and together they live out their lives in relative peace and contentment.

Contrary to their personal hopes and aspirations, rebellion erupts along the border and The Bruce is pressed into service helping to a counter a clash between warring Chieftains. While engaged in a long and bloody campaign, he sustains grievous wounds which ultimately claim his life. Languishing in his bed at home, he is surrounded by his loving wife and children.

In the heart-wrenching final scene, Eireen is alone with him in the wee hours of a late winter morning. She senses the end is near but strives to keep him alive just a little longer. She hovers nearby, bringing him hot drinks and his favorite foods which go cold on the bedside table. In a vain effort to convince herself that he will recover and that his health will return in the Spring, she toils day and night at her loom, weaving new blankets to warm him and while she can not be sure if he even hears her, she croons the children’s best-loved lullabies to him and recites inspiring passages from the Bible.

When she can allow herself a few hours of rest, she curls beside him on their wide wooden bed and lays her head on his massive chest so she can monitor his breathing through the night. During the course of his life, he suffered from a variety of lung ailments, and she instinctively knows to safeguard him from a sudden attack of consumption by purifying the air in the room with the appropriate diffusions of aromatic oils.

Despite the protests of her daughters, she insists they keep a kettle of porridge simmering on the stove at all times and maintain a vigil from the drawing-room window for the coming of the sparrows, which will herald the changing of the seasons. Early one frosty morning in late March, she catches her first glimpse of the tiny feathered harbingers as they flock to the rafters of the sheep enclosure to begin building their nests. (In the early days of their courtship, she had a dream about “the coming of the sparrows” which left her deeply disturbed. When describing the dream to the Bruce, and asking about its meaning, he gently reassured her that the return of the sparrows in the Spring symbolized a happy time when the snows were finally melting and it was safe once again to let the we’ans out to play.)

Feeling uplifted and filled with renewed hope, Eireen loads a basket with freshly split logs for the fire and hurries back to tell her husband the news. Rushing to his bedside, she kneels on the rag carpet next to his bed and comprehends in that single moment that the man she has shared her life with over these many decades is gone. Eireen lowers her head over his lifeless body and weeps awhile, then prays awhile.

Her eldest daughter enters the room. The girl pauses and seeing the grief on her mother’s face, drops to her knees beside Eireen and enfolds her in a compassionate embrace. Now it is the daughter who comforts the mother, cooing words of condolence. “When?” she asks solemnly.

“Just the nou,” Eireen answers softly. And letting out a quiet wail, she cries, “Oh, Maggie, he’s gone!”

“Soft, Mither,” Maggie soothes.”See how peaceful he looks. At last, he’s gane to be with the Angels, like we prayed for sae lang. Just remember he loved ye’ better than all the warld, s’truith, tha’ he did.”

Composing herself, Eireen rises to her feet and wipes her tear-damp hands on her apron. “Call in the boys,” she tells Maggie. “Tell them to fetch their father’s Claymore. I’ll lay out his best tartan. We’ve no easy task ahead of us getting the hard ground ready to receive him.”

———–

Transporting his massive body out to the grave site presents them with an equally arduous chore. It takes all three boys plus Eireen and Maggie to hoist his dead-weight from the bed to the floor and then onto the carrycot and out the door before hitching the pallet to the muscular plow-horse’s bridle, which will drag him up the hill to his final resting place.

Eireen sends her eldest son to fetch the priest who will administer last rites. The family stands watch over the Bruce’s body throughout the chill night. As dawn approaches, the Highlander is slowly lowered into the ground and just the sun climbs over the horizon, the youngest boy, Robert, begins the time-honored tradition of piping over the burial mound, the eery sound of his bagpipes echoing over the moor.


 

During the first year of her widowhood, Eireen receives an unexpected visitor. If it isn’t Robyn ap Gryffin, her old paramour, still handsome as ever, though sporting a bit more gray in his beard than she remembers. He bears a permanent squint in his right eye – the result of a near-deadly clash with a band of rebels from the north. She notices he seems to favor his right side and walks with a slight limp. But it’s The Gryffin, right enough, come to look in on his old friends and perhaps take advantage of their Highland hospitality while he’s at it. As always, he arrives bearing gifts in the form of his favorite “man’s milk” –  preferably fermented, aged, and undiluted.

“Ye haven’t changed a whit, ye auld scoundrel!” Eireen declares as she holds open the door and welcomes him into her home and into her arms with an enveloping hug.

Naturally, Robyn wants to know all about The Bruce.  He is deeply saddened to learn of the Highlander’s recent passing. Eireen talks at length about her dearly departed husband, reminiscing about their wedding day all those years ago.

“I know, Eireen. I was there. Don’t you remember? I was the one weeping my eyes out at the back of the Hall. ”

“Puck Robyn, ye did no such thing. Ye was the one at the rear guzzling a wee-half o’ ram’s tam, if I know ye.”

They both had a good laugh over that and tipped their glasses to the Bruce.

As the evening passes and the drinks get stronger and more creative, Robyn can’t help suggesting they indulge in a favorite old pastime, one they enjoyed on a regular and frequent basis when they were young, before he made the unfortunate miscalculation of introducing her to The Bruce. (Miscalculation to his mind, at least.) But Eireen reminds him that she is still dressed in black and that she has been a widow for under than a year.

Robyn persists calling up fond memories of the mischief they shared until Eireen’s sons let him know in no uncertain terms he’d best watch himself or they would see him tossed out on his “wee, hairy arse”, as per their mother’s command.

Robyn finally acquiesces but proceeds to lay out in excruciating detail the agony he suffered while convalescing in her parlor after nearly losing his life in a back alley brawl not long after the untimely death of his dearest and closest friend. He describes how he lay there helplessly while being forced to endure listening to the grunts, sighs, and groans coming from behind the screens. When he recognized the sounds as issuing forth from The Highlander himself, he had to admit to being slightly amused.

“I’ll be damned,” he remembers thinking. “So it’s true. The old reiver is swiving the village ‘hure’!” He wondered what it took to seduce the likes of such a stubborn, doubting, righteous and ambivalent pessimist like the Bruce. If anyone could do it, he was certain Eireen could.

Eireen was as surprised as anyone when the Bruce came to her out of the blue one day with a sincere proposal of marriage and an offer to save her from a life of sin. “A keep tellin’ ye, Eireen. A’m a rich man. A can tak’ guid care of ye. A’ve lands, flocks, herds. All what’s missin’ is a hoose and a wyf.”

His persistence finally wins her over and she pledges to enter into a committed life-long partnership with him.

“Did he bend the knee, Lady Eireen?” Robyn inquired with an impish grin.

“Aye, that he did,” she replied affectionately. “Sweetest thing ye ever saw, that great lump of a man brought low over a common harlot! Of course, I accepted straight away.” This is bending the truth somewhat, but it makes for a good story.

“There you are, then,” Robyn concludes, finally reaching a bittersweet acceptance. It will not be the last time he will attempt to brandish his powers of persuasion in an attempt to convince her to bed him once again for old time’s sake. But such pleasures will have to wait for a future visit. She is still in mourning, after all.

Writing with Power


I’ve been reading a book called WRITING WITH POWER by Peter Elbow. One of his recommended techniques is to plunge in and create “thumbnails” or sketches of possible scenes or plot lines.
These short narratives do not have to be in any particular order in terms of the novel’s timeline, nor do they need adhere to the usual format of “show, don’t tell” when creating a scene or chapter. These “snippets” may or may not contain dialog, description, and/or other details typically included in a novel.
The purpose of the excercise is to begin getting the fundamentals of your story down on paper. Later you will piece together a timeline and flesh out a full narrative from the fragments you have composed over time.
I have found this technique to be of tremendous benefit to me in terms of clarifying my purpose in tackling such an enormous project as constructing a novel in the first place. The idea is simply to begin setting down the context within which the story is to unfold.
I find it useful to create a notebook containing different sections – a section devoted to character profiles, back stories, and questionaires that help you to understand your characters on a deeper and more intimate level. This section can also contain illustrations and soundtracks, if these items prove to be worthwhile in getting a handle on the nuances of your characters.
Another section could contain nothing but scene and chapter ideas and might eventually expand to become fullblown scenes with dialog, description, and narrative detail. I have surprised myself while jotting down notes about potential scenes how quickly a bare bones outline develops into a richly detailed, highly nuanced piece of writing that may well end up in a final draft.
A blank page can be daunting when the expectation is that nothing less than pure brilliance shining from each and every paragraph is acceptable. When I wrote Book One of The Flamebearer, I followed a prescribed path, putting one foot in front of the other and slowly plodding along, proceeding from chapter to chapter with frequent stops to edit and polish what I had just written. It proved a painstaking and arduous process which stalled many times along the way and required numerous revisions and restarts, after having written myself into a cul-de-sac from which there was no escape other than to scrap large portions of writing and start over.
I now grasp Peter Elbow’s point – that this is the most dangerous way to proceed with any piece of writing, whether crafting a novel, a short story, or a non-fiction essay or memoir.
By allowing myself to jot down ideas as they occur to me, even if they seem minor at the time – a fragment of dialogue, an insight into the dynamic at play between two characters, or even a vague emotional impression that has yet to find its true power and meaning, the mere act of putting words on paper even without a clear idea of where the words might lead, establishes a flow, an incentive to keep writing.
Suddenly one is struck by the discovery that a story is beginning to take shape. The process actually becomes enjoyable, rather than drudgery. Soon, breakthroughs are more frequent than blockages, and innovation seems to spring from the ether. Yes, revisions and edits will be a part of the later stages of fine-tuning, tightening, and polishing, but the miracle is that now you have before you a substantive body of work to draw from. In fact, the real bonus of working this way is that you most likely will end up with far more material than you need. Then your primary focus will be on cutting clutter and redundancy and looking for the most explicit and direct way of imparting meaning with a minimum of repetition.
Imagine! Every author should be faced with such a dilemma – too many words rather than too few! The aspect of this method I find most enjoyable and intriguing is the ability to jump ahead to the fictional future and begin fleshing out possible endings while the middle has yet to be conceived. Working backward from the end to the beginning puts events into perpective in extremely enlightening ways. If you can see how a story ultimately ends, the challenge of discovering how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together in order to logically reach that destination becomes less burdonsome and more of an adventure.
The best stories are the ones that somehow feel inevitable without seeming contrived. In a character-driven plot, it is always the intrinsic nature of the character that seals his fate. Whether motivated by good or evil, he will make choices and decisions that drive him relentlessly toward a particular outcome, which in the hands of a good writer will keep the reader guessing until the end but when they reach the final scene, it feels like the natural conclusion to the long journey they’ve traveled with the author and characters. Sometimes you hate for a story to end. You’ve forged such an emotional bond with the characters that you want their drama to continue. Hint: That is what sequels are for!

Trance Writing


Trance WritingWriting ExercisesWriting Prompts

Trance Writing – what is it? Does it work? How easy is it to induce a trance? How can I tell if I am really hypnotized? What can I hope to get out of it?

Trance Writing, or Automatic Writing as it is sometimes called, is the conscious mind’s deliberate intention to relinquish control of the writing process and allow the subconscious, or subliminal, part of the brain to temporarily take over.

When attempting to achieve the hypnogogic state for the first time, it is common to feel that you are “making it up” or somehow “faking it.” A familiar voice inside your head will tell you, “What a waste of time. I can’t do this. I’m not making any sense.”  This is a normal reaction that will usually subside once you let go of your Inner Critic and allow the words to flow spontaneously from your intuitive, deeper awareness without stopping to edit, revise or rewrite. What you are aiming for is a relaxed stream-of-consciousness. For now, ditch the hyper-critical internal editor and give yourself permission to write garbage.

You may at first think you are simply churning out meaningless nonsense and in fact, it may take a period of word-association, repetition, and/or several pages of rubbish, drivel, balderdash, and gobbledygook before something “clicks” and you suddenly find yourself in a frenzy of creativity.

The trick is to keep writing without looking at what you are putting down on the page. You will be allowed all the time you need later to edit and revise. During the exercise, however, you must not pause to consider things like grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, style, redundancies or punctuation. Those are elements that belong to the realm of the linear, Left Brain.

The Right Brain is primarily concerned with images, metaphors, and symbols. You may discover insights and connections between thoughts, feelings, ideas, and words your Conscious Self would never have considered. The more often you practice turning off your Left Brain in favor of giving your Right Brain the freedom to explore alternative realities, the easier it will be to achieve a so-called “trance” state. You will begin to look forward to these sessions and find that they often provide the perfect antidote to those frustrating periods of “writer’s block” we all find ourselves up against from time to time.

To prepare for a session of Trance Writing, clear your workspace of clutter, unfinished projects, and other distractions. You may find it useful to relax your body and your mind with some deep breathing before you begin writing. Be sure to drink plenty of water – not coffee, tea, soda, or (Heaven forbid!) alcohol. Disconnect your phone and turn off any pop-up notifications from Social Media, etc. You may further stimulate the appropriate ambiance by listening to relaxing instrumental music, or for the truly adventurous, try searching YouTube for audio recordings of brainwave entrainment sessions designed to induce altered states of consciousness.

I often begin my Automatic Writing with several of my own induction phrases, such as:

“I am relaxed, motivated, and ready to write.”

“I am open to the process.”

“I allow words and ideas to emerge spontaneously from the deeper recesses of my imagination.”

“Words flow from me easily and effortlessly.”

“As I tune into my subconscious, images and metaphors naturally spring from my mind and pour out across the page.”

“I give myself permission to write the first thing that comes into my mind, even if I don’t yet understand the meaning.”

“I trust that whatever bubbles to the surface will ultimately make sense.”

“My imagination provides me with images, words, phrases, and associations. I describe what I see without judgment.”

“I write eloquently, freely, gracefully, and poetically.”

Another trick for getting started is to begin by posing a question to your Higher Self or to your Inner Muse, however you wish to imagine the usually hidden part of your consciousness. Take a few moments to formulate a concise question which specifies in as much detail as possible your conflict or difficulty.

“What is the clearest path forward to release my fear as a writer and overcome my writer’s block?”

“I have introduced my characters, set the stage, and defined the primary challenge facing the hero. Where do I go from here?”

“I have a great battle scene ahead and don’t have the slightest idea how to write it. I call upon the creativity of my Inner Storyteller to guide me step-by-step to create a dramatic, believable scene.”

“I seek ideas for how to resolve the final climax of my novel in satisfying ways that will keep the reader enthralled until the end and leave her wanting more.”

You may also want to pose specific questions directly to your characters and allow them to answer using their own unique voices. The interviews can yield surprising results and may take your story in directions you had not forseen.

Good Luck! Please feel free to post your experiences in Comments.

In addition, if you have used Trance Writing in the past, share with other members what the exercise was like for you.

Trance Writing


Trance Writing – what is it? Does it work? How easy is it to induce a trance? How can I tell if I am really hypnotized? What can I hope to get out of it?

Trance Writing, or Automatic Writing as it is sometimes called, is the conscious mind’s deliberate intention to relinquish control of the writing process and allow the subconscious, or subliminal, part of the brain to temporarily take over.

When attempting to achieve the hypnogogic state for the first time, it is common to feel that you are “making it up” or somehow “faking it.” A familiar voice inside your head will tell you, “What a waste of time. I can’t do this. I’m not making any sense.”  This is a normal reaction that will usually subside once you let go of your Inner Critic and allow the words to flow spontaneously from your intuitive, deeper awareness without stopping to edit, revise or rewrite. What you are aiming for is a relaxed stream-of-consciousness. For now, ditch the hyper-critical internal editor and give yourself permission to write garbage.

You may at first think you are simply churning out meaningless nonsense and in fact, it may take a period of word-association, repetition, and/or several pages of rubbish, drivel, balderdash, and gobbledygook before something “clicks” and you suddenly find yourself in a frenzy of creativity.

The trick is to keep writing without looking at what you are putting down on the page. You will be allowed all the time you need later to edit and revise. During the exercise, however, you must not pause to consider things like grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, style, redundancies or punctuation. Those are elements that belong to the realm of the linear, Left Brain.

The Right Brain is primarily concerned with images, metaphors, and symbols. You may discover insights and connections between thoughts, feelings, ideas, and words your Conscious Self would never have considered. The more often you practice turning off your Left Brain in favor of giving your Right Brain the freedom to explore alternative realities, the easier it will be to achieve a so-called “trance” state. You will begin to look forward to these sessions and find that they often provide the perfect antidote to those frustrating periods of “writer’s block” we all find ourselves up against from time to time.

To prepare for a session of Trance Writing, clear your workspace of clutter, unfinished projects, and other distractions. You may find it useful to relax your body and your mind with some deep breathing before you begin writing. Be sure to drink plenty of water – not coffee, tea, soda, or (Heaven forbid!) alcohol. Disconnect your phone and turn off any pop-up notifications from Social Media, etc. You may further stimulate the appropriate ambiance by listening to relaxing instrumental music, or for the truly adventurous, try searching YouTube for audio recordings of brainwave entrainment sessions designed to induce altered states of consciousness.

I often begin my Automatic Writing with several of my own induction phrases, such as:

“I am relaxed, motivated, and ready to write.”

“I am open to the process.”

“I allow words and ideas to emerge spontaneously from the deeper recesses of my imagination.”

“Words flow from me easily and effortlessly.”

“As I tune into my subconscious, images and metaphors naturally spring from my mind and pour out across the page.”

“I give myself permission to write the first thing that comes into my mind, even if I don’t yet understand the meaning.”

“I trust that whatever bubbles to the surface will ultimately make sense.”

“My imagination provides me with images, words, phrases, and associations. I describe what I see without judgment.”

“I write eloquently, freely, gracefully, and poetically.”

 

 

 

The Flamebearer’s Male Characters


Character Comparisons
CIARAN – NATURALLY TANTRIC, Ciaran is a richly complex character, with elements of both strength and vulnerability, an almost naive emotional honesty, and a deeply felt need for love and intimacy. He is very direct, looking not just at you, but into you and through you, expressing an unfeigned desire to know you and to be known by you. He is changeable, unpredictable, at times abrasively impatient, even rude and dismissive, leading to the impression that he is arrogant and self-absorbed. If he learns that his words or his behavior have inadvertently injured someone he cares about, his remorse is instant and devastating.
  • Basic Fear: Of being worthless
  • Basic Desire: To feel valuable and worthwhile

He alternates between extremes of heat, passion, immediacy, and urgency on the one hand and a seemingly limitless capacity for tenderness and rapturous love on the other.

Ciaran tends to alternate wildly between ego-inflation and self-doubt; he can be self-assured and outstanding in many ways, yet also introspective and sensitive.

Whatever he does, he devotes himself to it body and soul. He hungers for the transformative experience, yet he finds himself perpetually suspended between yearning and possessing, never quite ascending to the exalted understanding he seeks. Will he forever be a restless spirit full of ambiguity and creative turbulence, striving after an outcome so elusive that, despite his determination, he can never hope to reach its promise of perfect equilibrium and fulfillment?


ROBYN PLAYFUL, BOYISH, CHARMINGLY EARNEST, Robyn embodies the eternal youth – adventurous, freedom-loving, and a bit of a rogue. His penchant for drinking, gambling, sport and all manner of amusements has led him into trouble more than once, but with his instinctive good luck, he typically succeeds in finding his way out.

He can be noticeably childlike, engaging, silly, and despite difficult experiences, he tends to retain a certain innocence and belief in life’s goodness. If he has money, he is generous with others. He has a soft, sweet side which can be very appealing. When he is functioning at his best, he is upbeat, enthusiastic, energetic, and optimistic. People enjoy his sense of humor and high spirits. He can be witty, quick with repartee, always ready with the facetious quip, the tongue-in-cheek aside. His sense of humor leans toward irony and sarcasm. He is a gifted story-teller.

Despite his Devil-May-Care attitude, Robyn has developed a realistic, pragmatic approach to daily events. He doesn’t take life – or himself – too seriously. He is bold and vivacious, pursuing what he wants with cheerful determination. Unlike his companions, he is comfortable in his own skin, at ease in most social situations, and not especially prone to deep thinking on any subject. He prefers casual and spontaneous encounters with women. He likes his sex rough and spirited, enhanced by several servings of his favorite lubricant – a hearty pint of ale.

Robyn enjoys encountering and interacting with other human beings. Robyn genuinely enjoys friendship, whether among his peers or with members of the opposite sex – and in spite of his easygoing, non-committal nature, he tends to develop strong bonds with the people with whom he chooses to spend his time. His genial, broad-minded personality garners him a wide-ranging, vastly diverse group of acquaintances, from princes to stable boys, harlots to scholars, and everything in-between. He possesses an uncanny talent for befriending people of all stripes: nobles, merchants, mummers, and priests.

Robyn is that odd combination of philosopher and skeptic rolled into one. Expansive, optimistic, truthful to a fault, he remains suspicious of orthodox religion with its dogma and hypocrisy, but speculates that the apparent randomness of life’s events are part of a greater plan, and that, ultimately, things have a way of working out for the best.

 THE BRUCE – powerful, physically imposing, and at the same time, emotionally reserved and surprisingly modest, the Highlander is both strong and weak, fearful and courageous, trusting and distrusting, a defender and a provoker, sweet and sour, aggressive and passive, a bully and a weakling, defensive and offensive, a thinker and a doer, a group person and a soloist, a believer and a doubter, cooperative and obstructionist, tender and mean, generous and petty—and on and on. In short, he is a  bundle of opposites.
He is often ambivalent about his feelings, frequently sending ambiguous, mixed signals to other people. His gruff outward demeanor masks an interior sensitivity which all but the most astute observers of human nature fail to detect. Those rare folk who possess enough insight and depth to recognize an Old Soul when they see one are naturally drawn to him though it may take years to break down his defenses and build enough trust for the Bruce to expose his True Self.
He can be moody, grumpy, and downright impossible sometimes, retreating into his “cave” to sulk, transmitting silent, but unequivocal recriminations and implied blame to whoever has wounded him. He may remain in one of his black moods for days, or even weeks; long after everyone else has forgotten the argument. When he, at last, decides to emerge from his (largely self-imposed) cocoon of pain, he expresses his desire to make amends by quietly going out of his way to do a good turn for the erstwhile offender. With a minimum of dialog, he demonstrates his thoughtfulness by delivering the unexpected, yet precisely well-timed gift or favor, without ever having discussed it previously.  *See “Puppies for the Gryffin”
Not gifted in the art of verbal communication like his companions, the Bruce is an attentive listener, and while his quiescence might lead some to believe he is disengaged or disinterested, he, in fact, possesses an almost supernatural memory for the details of what others reveal to him in moments of self-doubt, wavering courage, or loss of faith. In his understated way, he comes through for those he loves, which in the final analysis, reveals a man of great character, compassion, and humanity.

Castle Narberth

Ruins of Castell y Arberth in Pembrokeshire, Wales

THE REAL CASTLE NARBERTH today now lies in ruins. I believe it is now privately owned and therefore not open to the public.

It played a significant role in Welsh mythology as the primary seat of power in the tale of Pwyll, Prince of Annwn. The Mound of Narberth also came into play as the portal that led into the Otherworld. Typical of early Celtic tales, the realms of myth and of historical record tend to overlap, making it difficult at times to distinguish between the two. In researching Welsh Mythology, I was inspired to choose Narberth as the setting for my medieval romance for precisely these reasons. While accounts of its past come to us in bits and pieces, much about its timeline remain shrouded in mystery to all but the most devoted students of Welsh history. The actual location seems less romantic than its lore would suggest, however it does offer many tantalizing glimpses into antiquity and the Age of Arthur.

After spending a majority of the past three decades viewing the world through the eyes of my protagonist, Ciaran ap Morgan, the shock of returning to a place that held such significance for him only to find it overgrown, crumbling and neglected required a serious attitude adjustment. I had to sit down with him for an extended heart-to-heart talk on what to make of this unexpected development.

Needless to say, he did not take it well. His disorientation caused me to feel ashamed for having failed to anticipate his understandable bereavement. He concluded that returning to the world of men had been a momentous mistake. Surprised at this, I asked him what he intended to do.

“I must go back at once,” he declared.

“Are you sure?” I pressed. “Aren’t you at all curious about how things have changed? You aren’t interested in exploring further?” He did not pause for a moment to consider it. He insisted his only option was to find a way back to the Otherworld with all haste. “Why would I want to remain in a world where everything I once knew, and everyone I once loved, is long dead?” he said, his face gaunt with anguish.

I do not know how I could have expected any other response from him. My heart filled with regret. We both decided not to linger any longer for fear of conjuring an army of ghosts.

On Finishing a Novel


Is anyone ever really “finished”? This project began over thirty years ago, got sidelined for many years (I needed to earn a living), and finally got picked-up again in retirement. To my genuine delight, I found that my passion and affection for these characters had not diminished in the slightest, even after such a long time away from them.

Darn good thing I saved a hard copy! What began in DOS on a floppy disc and graduated at some point to “diskette” and a very early version of MS Word, would probably not make the transition to today’s hardware or software.

After digging the coffee-stained, dog-eared pile of typed pages out of an old cardboard box, re-formatting and retyping the manuscript, I found it exhilarating to dive right back in. The lovers were at more-or-less the midway point, literally taking refuge in an enchanted forest.

The second half of the book practically wrote itself. (That is a bald-faced lie. Any writer who tells you that is completely full-of-it.) But it did seem to flow more smoothly than the first half, which went through hundreds of revisions, re-drafts, ruthless self-editing, and painful re-writes. And that’s when I did most of my historical research also, which in those days could only be done at the library. Most of the chronicled information I needed was so obscure, I’d be forced to order it from some university archive and wait weeks for its arrival in my mailbox. Today, I Google everything and acquire it instantaneously.

Another advantage to allowing twenty years to elapse between serious chapter drafts is that I am an entirely different person at 65 than I was at 40. I have entered a relatively calm period in my life and have achieved a degree of emotional maturity I did not possess in my forties. In revisiting my story world, I experienced a deeper and more profound connection to my narrative and became aware of subtleties and nuances I had overlooked.

Furthermore, I am learning to express my artistic vision using an exciting new vehicle – computer graphics. The ability to employ visual artwork affords me the opportunity and luxury of exploring my people and my fictional world through pictures as well as language. Alternating between writing and illustration enhances both methods of self-expression and allows me to experience my story in ways formerly unavailable to me as an artist. As I develop and fine-tune the physical appearance, body-language, dress, hairstyle, & eye-color of each of my actors, I get to see them more clearly and know them more intimately, while placing them in any environment I choose to create.

Often, scenes I had only vaguely pictured with my inner vision evolved into vivid, detailed realities once I was able to render them in 3D. I am still limited by the scope of the application, and the capabilities of my current equipment, as well as by my own proficiency, as to how much complexity I am able to put into a single scene. At this stage, I am focused primarily on portraiture, but this is a medium I find obsessively fascinating. There is always more to learn and to explore.

This is one reason I think I shall never honestly “finish” working on this novel. I tend to become enmeshed with my literary personalities. They provide me with such nuanced and deeply satisfying inspiration, I am powerless to let them go. I love watching them evolve, and I am still learning things about each of them that endear them to me all the more.

As of 2017, I am in the process of revising the entire manuscript. My plan is to publish the revised and expanded second edition with a completely new cover. I am advised that this tendency to endlessly tweak the original content is a symptom of my Type Four Enneagram Personality.C & E_04_11_2017_027A