Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Writer is Simply a Photographer of Thoughts

This little quote is by someone named Brandon A. Tream. I guess he's a writer.

I've always loved photography and have taken pictures of anything and everything since I was first given access to a camera. Back in the day, film and developing film was expensive, and money was limited, so when you had 24 pictures in the roll - you had 24 times to get it right. And then you couldn't take photos of anything else.

I would inevitably press the button by accident, thus wasting at least a couple of those, later to discover that I had a few amazing blurry photos of my thumb or the sidewalk or wherever else the camera was pointing. But you had to be careful when taking your photos. You had to get your shot just right in order to tell whatever story you were trying to tell with the photograph itself.

When I was in college, I had completed all the credits I needed to graduate by December of my Senior year. Because I still had to remain a full time student in order to continue on my ROTC responsibilities, I took a Photojournalism class. This was in 1993 and I not only had to tell stories with my photographs for credit, I had to develop them myself in a dark room. Now that was desperation! I could take the best photo in the world, but if I screwed up developing it, then no one but me every saw it.

Now you can just take 1,000 photos until you get it right. There is no subtle desperation attached to telling your photograph's story the way you want to tell it, unless you're hanging off a cliff trying to get the right photo or maybe catching an athlete running by at just the right moment. You could even tell several different stories with basically the same photograph taken with slight differentiations. Then delete the ones you don't want.

When technology took away some of the desperation attached to storytelling through a photograph, it took away a key, sometimes necessary, catalyst of inspiration. It wasn't always in the front of my mind that I was desperate when taking a photo, but it was there under the surface - a true part of the photograph itself - the desperation of life itself, coming to the edges - or perhaps even the heart and core - as a part of the story.

I think writers work the same way. There is something desperate underneath the surface of telling a story, whether it is evident to the writer him or herself. It's just there - coursing through the veins of a story - a part of the equation of words and narratives and sentences and plot - kind of like the "x" in algebra.

And it is a vital ingredient to being a photographer of thoughts. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Scenes from a story

Scout's Honor takes place in a few places in North Carolina over the span of 20 years. Scout is from a small town called Haddleboro - a fictional small town. I purposely kept its location vague, but folks from around these parts will be able to get an idea of its location based upon certain driving distances I provide to actual cities and towns.

Camp Judah is in Catawba County, near the Catawba River. While Camp Judah is fictional, that location is real. The second part of the story mostly takes place in Raleigh - NC State University and immediately surrounding locations. I reference Cameron Village, Pullen Park and Hillsborough Street. I also use actual NC State locations, such as Scout's residence hall and Reynolds Coliseum. Scout works at a fictional restaurant in Raleigh. The third part also mostly takes place in Raleigh, with references to Glenwood South, but Scout works at a fictional bar and one of my characters lives at a fictional hotel on Glenwood. I drove down Glenwood to come up with where the bar and hotel would be if I had to place them.

I enjoyed having to come up with photos that gave the reader both real locations and fictional locations in order to make this Scout's Honor Youtube Slideshow . The song that accompanies the photos is an instrumental of one of my favorite songs, Time in a Bottle, by Jim Croce.

At some point, I will attempt to make a book trailer. But for now, I hope future readers will enjoy this little peak into some scenes and locations of Scout's Honor.

If anyone has difficulty accessing the link I provided, here it is again:

Also, it can be seen via my website.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Real Memories into Write Memories

Tapping into your own memories can be a tricky proposition and even a challenging one, but I have found that it's necessary to do it in order to write a believable story. In my novel, there are several background scenery types of settings where I had to dip into my own specific memories to come up with a description of a place or dialogue between characters or thoughts in my characters' heads.

Growing up, I went to a small Baptist church in New Jersey. However, it always seemed to me that most people were Catholic or some form of Eastern European Orthodox Christianity. I always felt like we were in the minority. There was a Methodist segment but as far as I knew, most folks were Catholic.

Scout's Honor takes specific memories that I had as a child, as well as my own religious upbringing, and uses them to help tell a character's thinking patterns or thoughts or how a belief system - especially when raised in one - can completely shape a young mind for the better or for the worse. I use a Baptist flavor from my own experiences and then a Catholic one from what I know indirectly or what Catholics themselves have explained to me. It is important to describe how a specific religious background indeed makes a human mind - it can turn a mind away, it can create and direct a mind in another direction, it can provide an outline or a guide or a family dynamic or town dynamic.

It is always interesting to me how harshly a religious upbringing and a belief system can affect a person and then how the exact same upbringing and system can help someone else be at peace.

In the first chapter of Scout's Honor, Scout Webb is 14 years old and narrating how she doesn't want Jesus to come back for the Christians until after she goes to summer camp. She doesn't want to miss camp, so if Jesus is going to come back, she asks him to just wait. I used that narration from my own memories and thinking as a child. I remember praying to God that the rapture (a belief that Jesus comes back for the Christians before the start of Armageddon) would not happen until after I was able to do whatever exciting thing I was about to do - whether it be Christmas morning or the start of school or the start of a sports season.

As a writer, it is good to bring those childhood memories to the surface and relive them through the eyes and hearts of your characters and then see how far you have come in your life since then.