September 24, 2012

Day Eight of Thirty Days of Writing…two days later…

Posted in goals, thoughts, writing tagged at 8:09 am by z. l. sasnett

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. – Gustave Flaubert

You’d think that I’d be able to recognize the signs by now. I mean, I’ve been in this skin long enough, trapped with my thoughts and thought patterns, and being self-aware of them, that I should recognize the patterns of procrastination in my life. Right?

Yeah. About that.

So, on a lark, and I can’t really explain why, I picked up The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss at the library. Honestly, when I would read the hype about it, it sounded really no different than all the other Think And Grow Rich propaganda out there of ‘Work Less! Enjoy Life More! Watch Money Roll In By Optimizing Your Earning Potential!’ that comes along with all the advice of buy low sell high, create a business doing what you love…blahblahblah. Snakeoil salesmanship. Infomercial.

I never saw how it worked before and I didn’t think I was going to see it different now. And to be honest, on page 53 of the 324 book, I’m not seeing it be different now. So far the author has spent an awful lot of time telling us about his Exciting Life! and how he Quit Working Harder In A Job He Hated And Now Loves His Life! and all the other sales pitches that go along with what ultimate ends up being niche markets, how to scam employers and how to be a better salesman.

I don’t want to be in sales, mmmkay? And I have a healthier work ethic than to screw my employer. That is, if I had an employer to potentially screw. Then I definitely wouldn’t.

All in all, it seems that it’s more of the same. Work smarter, not harder, which I would think is self-evident. Apparently not, judging by the reader he’s marketing to.

…all on the surface.

Digging deeper, he does have some interesting things to say that really struck a resonant chord in me.

‘Most people choose unhappiness over uncertainty.’ Well, I don’t know how true that holds across the board but I’ve seen it play out more than once in the lives of people around me so I’m inclined to believe that to be true for the most part.

He talked a little about the low information diet. This is the Information Age, I suppose, or so I’ve heard it called. Information input is out there, always broadcasting at us and it’s so easy to get caught in its hypnotic allure. More often than not I will surf the day away following one link or another, always trying to stay ‘caught up’ and ‘current’.

I have to ask if that’s really necessary. It’s a distraction, which Ferriss points out, and takes away from productivity that keeps us from working smarter. And he really hits home on how many people in the US are so focused on Money! Home! Cars! Wealth! that they are missing out on the important things on life and their existence becomes nothing short of a wage slave experience. Wage slaves, whether they make $100/week or $100/hour, is still a wage slave if you don’t enjoy doing it. Working 60 hrs/week or 60 hrs/month, if you hate your job, what kind of life is that?

It’s that thing right there that had me evaluating my life long before he ever even thought about his book. So his information isn’t new, it’s just packaged into a new, gleaming box with flashy colors and a catchy, and ultimately inaccurate, title.

Still, and this is where it hits me, I’m pretty much doing what he talks about in his book. Not that I have the cash right now to escape to the Alps to ski, or head off to Bermuda to SCUBA dive. Hell, I’m barely making my financial obligations now.

But I’m doing what I love and if I’m working 10hours/day or a week on it, it doesn’t feel like work. I am frittering away time on occasion, no doubt, and I need to learn to focus and follow though better. I’m working on those.

Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.

That has stayed with me while reading. While I have worked hard not to choose unhappiness over uncertainty, it was nice to have it verified that maybe I’m not far off the mark with my life. I may not have much, but I’m not unhappy.

It has an added bonus of spurring me along to making a decision for something I’ve been waffling over for months now. I hit on a few blogs about serial fiction and it’s something I wish to investigate further. More thought to come on that. I have some irons in the fire that I’m juggling (wow, may to mix metaphors. I R A GUD WRITTER) and need to get those settled before haring off on another Great Idea!

And now, on to Day Nine of Thirty Days of Writing

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

Depends on the day of the week. No, really. It varies from project to project. Sometimes it’s the character that leaps out at me and I want to wrap a story around them. Sometimes, there’s a story and a character slowly begins to solidify.

  • Jack and Luke fell out from table top role playing.
  • My fantasy characters were inspired by the visual look of characters in a video game. Then the world started to develop.
  • Urban Fantasy/cyberpunk characters developed from the concept of the world they would inhabit.
  • I’m developing an erotic short story series concept around Tarot cards, so there the concept is first, the characters will come later.

As far as the characters themselves? Usually starts the same way. I have a physical look to start. I cast my characters with fictional characters, or art, or cast them with actors. The physical, oddly enough, always comes first. If I don’t have a look, if I don’t see them, they have no form for me at all.

From there, I usually put them in a boat on a fishing trip with The Mentor. The Mentor is usually the same kind of character. The Mentor is someone the character can talk and interact with. From this conversation and interaction, I start to get a sense of the character themselves. I write small vignettes and scenarios, putting the character in various situations and getting a sense of how they react and what their thought processes are. Slowly, the character starts to take on depth.

After that, sometimes I go to the Tarot deck and goof around with the cards to get a better sense of their personality. Sometimes, I use the enneagram personality system.

What I don’t use, something that I have determined is completely and utterly useless to me, are the Character Questionnaires. What is my character’s favorite ice cream? Hell, I don’t know and I don’t care at the time. If it’s important for the story, I’ll figure it out then and make a note for later so I don’t forget. Until then, useless waste of time to figure out their favorite colors and songs and all the frivolous things that make little difference at the outset.

I have one character for my UF/Cyberpunk story who loves Johnny Cash and Credence Clearwater Revival. It’s an endearing character trait and it’s something that’s fallen out in the course of the story. If it gets mentioned, it gets mentioned. If it gets mentioned, it will most likely be useful later down the road.

But I didn’t set out with the character in mind and go ‘Oh, I know! And he loves Johnny Cash, too!’ *scribble scribble* More like, it just clicked.

Like a lot of stuff in my writing life and my real life, I tend to go with the nebulous ‘it clicks’ and ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ and no further explanation given. I trust my intuition and always go with my gut instinct.

Totally didn’t mean to make talking about characters suddenly talking about me but I guess in many ways my life is wrapped tightly with this deep desire to write. Writing makes me happy, even though I have no idea what will come of it, if anything will come of it.

Huh. Choosing uncertainty over unhappiness. Go figure.


  1. LOL, I always try to check out the pingbacks before approving them and, I will say, I wasn’t sure where this post was going at first or what it might have to do with any of my tarot posts. Thanks for the link love! I’m right there with you on how useless a character questionnaire is, despite the number of people I know who swear by them. If a favorite ice cream is important, I’ll discover it during the writing process 😀



      I am in total love with your tarot posts. This concept of using Tarot for writing wasn’t a new concept for me but I felt like I was missing something. I wasn’t sure what but, you know…that feeling kept nagging at me.The Hero’s Journey got the most use for me with Tarot but I knew there had to be more uses for Tarot and my own creativity was getting in my way. I wasn’t thinking far enough out of my comfort zone.

      So when I did a google search and ended up there, I knew, I KNEW I had hit gold. In fact, I’m using it EVEN AS I TYPE THIS for a project I’m developing (which is not related to my Tarot idea mentioned above). The world creation one has me filled with all kinds of GLEE and ZOMGIDEAS I can’t contain myself. I’ve already used the character circle many times to fabulous effect so this is just one more thing to really take my idea creation to the next level.


      Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for taking the time to write such a wonderful resource on using Tarot for writing. It’s bookmarked and I pass it around to everyone I know.

      edited to add: you know, I should do a blog post about the results one time. I think I will!

      • Aw, thanks. I can’t take credit for the spread(s) creation, that goes to Jenna Reynolds/Diana Castle but I’m glad my interpretation helps.

        • It really did help. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have hit on it as a wonderful way to jolt the ol’ brainmeats into creativity. So, thanks to them for the spread creation, thanks to you for taking the time to make it accessible!

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