Friday, March 28, 2014

Writer Process Blog Hop

I've been tagged by writer-publisher Milton Davis to talk about my writing process

How does my writing process work:
Basically it's a battle against procrastination and diversion. Once I beat those two demons, I write easily.

I tend to just write and write to see where the story leads. Or where God leads the story. If an incident happens while I'm writing -- like a great youtube cooking video or a story on PBS or Discovery Channel or CNN-- I slip it into my story. Stuff and incidents kinda get pulled into my story whenever they appear. I'm pretty catch as catch can because plotting a story will only result in a story that I know, and will only result in a story created by my limited mind. I've never plotted a a story. Stories like songs already exist in the universe. We just have to listen clearly to discover the story and to have it flow through our pen without any agenda. When I listen to where the story wants to go, it's amazing how perfectly put together a story seems to be -- as if I actually planned it. God's very generous that way. I get to take credit for foreshadowing, sub-plots, cause and effect, scenes-sequels, and really I had nothing to do with it. It's better for me than planning. When I plan a story, the story feels limited. But when I just get whimsical and write whatever thing that pops into my mind, everything works soooooo well. I trust they'll all come together...and they always do. My job is just to hear precisely -- without agenda or opinion or stronghold or aim or presupposition-- and to see clear.

What I'm working on:
My Life as an Onion -- This is my attempt to do a story in which charismatic pentecostal gifts are natural. Secular writers have a lot of stories where folks use their psychic gifts "normally" and battle great forces with said gifts. This is very difficult to do with Christian characters because there is the possibility of being preachy. Plus... so many Christians have a problem with anything that feels supernatural. So, it's a fine line to walk...this natural supernaturalism...with an easygoing way calm character who routinely accepts the weirder things of life. Making the supernatural seem routine is the fun part. In the last chapter, main character just suddenly began understanding the Korean language. She doesn't mention it to anyone, although she finds it strange. She's simply sitting back and trying to understand this gift that has now been presented to her. Of course, it will come in handy. No doubt, for eavesdropping.

How my work differs from others in my genre:
My stories tend to be very Christian and yet very accessible to secular readers. That is my great ambassadorial gift, I think. Most Christian writers don't have that ambassadorial gift. When someone reads my stories, Christianity is in every dot, tittle, dash. Scripture is everywhere. And although the reader is aware of that...there is a feeling also that the story is not Christian at all. (I think I did tip the scale in Wind Follower a bit, where the Christianity was very noticeable. But in Constant Tower it isn't at all.)

My stories are also about race, culture, and tribes. Again, this gift of being ambassadorial comes into play. Most Black writers write for Black folks, even when they are trying to write multiculturally. When someone reads my stories, however, there is something to my characters that transcend race, culture, and tribes...even though the main character is usually Black. Anyone can pick up the Constant Tower or any of my stories and not realize the author is a Black woman.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Another poem. Let's call this one "portals"

In the dream
The South had won the battle
by defenestration.

The Confederates had built windows --
in the air, above the ground, hanging in space--
they had thrown the Yankee soldiers through them.

Or perhaps they had only incited them to.
Or lured them to.

On waking, we talked about windows.

Windows are portals you can only look through, my husband said
But doors are portals you walk through.

And still no meaning came.
Why would the Confederates win by windows?

And then I thought: Civil War.

And it occurred to me:
What portals have I walked through when I should only have looked?
The distinction is movement.
The distinction is trying to enter into the dream.
That’s the Civil War, isn’t it?
That’s how we war against ourselves.

That’s how the liberators become oppressed:
by walking through windows
high above,
hanging in air
and a long long way from solid and hard ground.
One does not walk through windows, Silly!

And doors are connected to stairs and floors and solid ground.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Memory -- a little imperfect poem

In 1971
in elementary school
my first year in America
alone and
discovering snow and coldness
I’d eat knishes and kosher hot dogs
from the vendor truck
at the intersection.
I’d walk home
my toes freezing
in useless boots
--all women’s boots were useless then--
mustard, and onions, and sauerkraut
dripping along my face
and gloved freezing hands
until I reached the two-story walk-up
which my family had integrated,
the scent of frying plaintains
curried mutton
ackee and saltfish
like Hansel’s thread
guiding me up the stairs
past the aroma of
gefilte fish, kugel, matzo ball soup, and whitefish
the calypso tunes
guiding me past Klezmer music
and ushering me into my front door.
I soon moved from ska and reggae
to disco, the Beatles, and Joan Baez
And always there was the familyless old lady
on the first floor
with the Auschwitz tattoo
taught me to play solitaire.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Writing, Culture, and the use of coincidences

I'm working on My Life as an Onion, my first attempt at a paranormal chicklit...which is scary. This story has a lot of tropes one would find in Korean Dramas and Japanese shoujo. The funny thing is I began writing it before I really got into Korean Dramas and even "knew" (consciously) that such tropes existed. For those who don't know shoujo, some of the conventions/tropes are:
1) The reverse harem: one girl with three or more guys in love with her.
2) The love dodecahedron: heroine and hero are meant to be the OTP (one-true-pairing) but their friends are their rivals with the second lead male and second lead female trying to break up the OTP. Sometimes the rivals work together to break up the fated/destined couple.
3) The contract marriage/innocent cohabitation: hero and heroine are either contractually-married for the wrong reason or living in a situation which can be seen as marriage
4) The love confession
5) Found family vs biological family
6) In this case my heroine is a dojikko (cute and clumsy but hard-working) and her rival (the second lead female) is a cold ice queen.
7) Hero is "troubled but cute" and "rich aristocratic seemingly cold but really sweet guy" and is a bit of a tsundere (a character who runs hot and cold.) He's also Bishonen, or a "flower boy"..very pretty and basically falls into the category of "Cursed with being awesome."
8) Second lead male is a poor country boy with a heart of gold.
9) Second lead female is for "perfect" for the male lead because of their equal status and second lead female's beauty.
10) The intrusive mother who has a particular woman in mind for her son.
11)  The noona-lover (older girl/younger guy)
12) The pretend/accidental kiss
13) Coincidences.

That's what I want to talk about...coincidences in stories. I'm doing my best to subvert a lot of these tropes. For instance, none of this takes place in a school. But the whole coincidence thing: While I don't like coincidence in stories because it is often the mark of a lazy writer, coincidences play a LARGE part in Korean Dramas. Because of the whole fated/destined/karmic thing. In addition, Christians also acknowledge coincidences --often in the form of answered prayers-- so I'll find a place to put it in the story. But it has to be done in an obvious but non-preachy, non-lazy writer way.

Now, like many Christians, I've had my share of coincidences. So many that I can't even list them. In fact I tend to do my Bible devotionals this morning trusting in coincidence. I just kinda flip my Bible to two or three different sections in the Bible and read. I read about three or four different sections so I'm covered with whatever synchronicity God wants to pop up or use for my day. Today I lay in bed thinking about writing this blog and of course I open the Bible to the scene in Acts where the ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah aloud when coincidentally Philip popped up.

A few of the coincidences that have popped up in my life:

1) When I was a kid and going through a crisis of faith and wondered if the Bible was the word of God, I was so depressed I flipped through the pages, not looking. I opened the Bible and put my finger on any old Scripture. My finger landed on: "since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you." 2 Corinthians 13:3

2) After I'd given birth to my first son, I was sitting on the bed and I heard the Lord say in my spirit, "Rest." I got out of the bed and there was my son playing with Boggle letters on the ground near the foot of my bed. He was about a year old. He had put the letters R-E-S-T in perfect order on the ground.

3) I was once in a car with hubby and I suddenly felt the urge to pray. I prayed, "God, please protect us. Don't let us kill anyone and don't let anyone kill us." Yep, a weird prayer. About a mile down the road..we're driving in a traffic circle, a guy on a bike suddenly skids. His bike flew in one direction and he shot like an arrow in front of our windshield. Hubby's driving skills and my prayer three minutes earlier saved us from hitting the guy.

4) Another time I felt I shouldn't go to work one morning. It felt silly to simply not go to work -- where I was a teaching assistant. I did the old Bible as fortune-teller thing (not recommended but hey) and I got this verse: " go not forth thence any whither." 1 Kings 2:36. So I decided not to go. And what happened? One of my favorite student got into a nasty fight. The cops were even called. Maybe if I had gone, I would've tried to break up the fight and gotten hurt. Or maybe there was something else that might've happened. Either way, I obeyed the coincidence.

5) Then there were all these Korean godwinks I've had.

There have just been a lot. Some of the coincidences I've written about on the net, but some I don't generally think about..because they happen so often. As Archbishop Temple once said, "When you stop praying, coincidences stop happening."

Of course some coincidences guide us. Others just are God telling us he loves us and not really about Him telling us what to do.

Anyways, I have to somehow manage to put coincidences into Onion. And I have to do them well. I can't do them to get out of a plot complication. And I can't make them cheesy. I'll see how God does it...cause I know well enough that I cannot write anything well unless God is helping me. Anyway, I wrote this blogpost because I felt the coincidence with the Philip an the eunuch story made me feel God was telling me to.

Happy Creativity, all!

Blog Archive

Popular Posts