The Dark Side

Human Nature/Life Death, Art Institute...
Image by christine zenino via Flickr

Do you have a Dark Side? You may think you don’t. But I have news for you. If you are human then you do have a dark side. It is part of human nature. Does that make you dark in nature? For some the answer here may be yes. For most, the answer will be no. I am sure you are wondering where I am going with this. Well let me tell you.

Today in one of my online writing groups one of the writers posed an incredibly interesting question that got me thinking. Part of the question is why we write? I have been focusing a lot on this over the last few weeks. For me, writing is cathartic.  But I also believe it serves a tool in giving a voice, in a safe environment, to people who feel they have no voice. 

The question also explored why one writes in a specific genre. A lot of my writing explores the Dark side of the world and/or human nature. Is it because it fascinates me or repels me? I would say both reasons would be correct. For whatever reason people who have been severely hurt in life are drawn into my inner circle. I believe that everything in life does happen for a reason even if at the time a person cannot understand it or explain it. This I believe includes the Dark Side of life. 

Do I believe there are evil people or do I believe that there are just people who commit good and bad deeds? Again my answer would be yes to both of these questions. I have had a brush with a really evil person in life. It still haunts me to this day. But I am thankful for that experience. I will not go into too much detail here but I will share a bit. When I was growing up, there was a spate of missing girls in the same age group as I was. (early teens) We used to buy milk cartons that had the girls’ pictures on and asking for people to phone in with any information. It was something to be feared especially because the police had no leads on why these girls went missing or what the link was beyond their similar age brackets. The girls were taken over a large area and over many years so police did not connect the dots. I remember numerous news casts warning young girls to be vigilant.

During a school holiday I was visiting a friend and on one of the days we were out walking in the holiday town that she lived in. After a while we noticed a car that seemed to be trailing us for a few blocks. Being a holiday town where people were often driving very slowly and sightseeing, this may not have been unusual. However, something prodded my sub-conscious. 

I have always had an uncanny sixth sense. For many years I viewed this sixth sense as a curse. What is my sixth sense I hear you asking? It comes in two parts. I can tell a person’s true nature within moments of meeting them. I inherently know when people are deceitful or dangerous. You may think this is a great tool to have but it is not. You see, sometimes you do just want to see the surface mask of a person. You really do not want to see any hidden skeletons straight off the bat. That day my sixth sense kicked in.

Something prodded my sixth sense into overdrive and I told my friend we had to get to somewhere with more people immediately. My friend though confused saw my alarm and urgency and agreed. So we picked up our pace but the car just increased its speed to keep up with us but not overtake us. All of a sudden, the car passed us and pulled up onto the curb in front of us blocking our path. An older man got out with a map in his hand. At this point everything in me screamed to run and not look back. Danger with huge flashing lights seemed to be playing over and over in my mind.

What about the man’s appearance triggered this? To be honest, nothing. But when I locked eyes with the man I felt sick to my core. I felt like I was looking at pure evil. I could not explain it but it is just what I felt at the time. He was an ordinary and unprepossessing character. He could have been someone’s kindly  and quiet uncle. In fact on pure appearance he looked trustworthy and non-threatening. But it was there in his eyes. They seemed dead to me. Not without emotion dead but there was a nothingness there, a hollowed inhuman look that seemed to want to penetrate my soul. 

The man started moving towards us and he started saying he was lost and needed some directions. All the time he steadily advanced towards us keeping eye contact all the time. As much as I wanted to break eye contact I could not. My friend started then walking towards him. Being a sweet girl she was always the first to help others. However this time I knew this man did not want nor need help. He did not look lost. In fact he seemed to know exactly where he was and what he wanted. Everything in me told me it was not directions he was after.

I grabbed my friend’s hand harshly and started running with her. She struggled at first and said that I was being paranoid. Until she realised the man had got back in his car and done a u-turn to pursue us. I ran with her to the building nearest us which happened to be a clinic. We ran in the clinic. A nurse came out with us to see what we were running from. There was nobody there. The man in the car had disappeared. 

Though this event shook me and my friend. I eventually put it to one side in my mind. But there was always a niggling reminder. It was not until about 5 years later while watching an emergency news broadcast that suddenly I went ice-cold. The broadcaster announced that there was an emergency announcement from the police. They had solved the cases of the missing girls. The murderer was found after a suicide-murder in which he killed first his partner in the kidnapping and subsequent murders of the young girls and then killed himself. They unearthed the bones of a few of the girls. But many they could not find. The police showed pictures of the murderer/kidnapper/paedophile and his partner. 

I was watching the news with my parents at the time. I turned white as a sheet and almost fell from the edge of the chair that I was sitting on. A cold permeated my being that I could not shake. The picture of the man in the tv was the same man who my friend and I had run away from when we were young girls in a holiday town. It was then that I told my parents what had happened all those years ago. They could not believe it. 

To this day it haunts me that I came so close to a killer who was so evil. I am thankful that I was with my friend that day and that my sixth sense kicked in. I shudder with dread to think what may have happened if I had not been there. She might have been another picture on a milk carton. But it also haunts me that this man went on kidnapping/torturing and killing girls for 5 more years before the police knew who he was. To the nurse at the clinic that day my fears seemed irrational and childish. I allowed her to convince me that I had just over-reacted. What if I hadn’t allowed her to convince me otherwise? That question haunts me to this day.

Perhaps this is why so much of my writing has vulnerable girls thrown into dangerous, whether it be physical/psychological/supernatural. events and having to find a way to survive. Perhaps I am trying to re-write the stories of those missing girls whose pictures haunted my adolescence. Perhaps I am trying to re-write stories where the victims can become victors and take their vengeance or become survivors that can teach/help others. 

But I do believe that our lives and the events and experiences do form us as both people and writers. We all have events that haunt our memories. This event that I have described above has had a huge impact on my life. I shared it because there are some truths that do need to come to light. For me writing is a way to give these hauntings a place to free themselves from the clutches of my memory. Writing these stories and these characters give me a safe way to cleanse my mind of horrific and difficult situations.

  • Do you write to let out your inner hauntings, those memories and events that lock onto your sub-conscious?

Writing and Truth are two-edged swords. The power of the written word can both harm or heal. Much like truth. I believe writers like all artists have a powerful purpose in this world. We can depict truth in all its ugliness and beauty and people can heal through our work. We need to wield our words carefully. We can choose to cut to heal or cut to harm with this sword. It is a task not to be taken lightly.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

The Gift of Truth Telling

Truth
Image by TW Collins via Flickr

How important is telling the truth to you?

For many writers, they tell the truth about emotional subjects and difficult tales through their stories. They may change a few names around or they may base a character loosely on themselves. I believe all fiction does carry something of the writer‘s experience and emotional map about it. But there are those writers who are called to write a story that will make people question their world views. Their stories make the reader confront the truth. As we all know sometimes the truths in this world can be ugly and destroying. But sometimes there are those rare individuals who can use trials and torments to rise above their circumstances and use that very pain to bring comfort and nurturing warmth into all whose lives they touch. Then you go a step further and meet those same individuals who use their stories of pain as a looking-glass mirror where, through the naked reflection of their pain, they offer others in the same circumstances a way out, a way paved with hope and resilience. Tonight I have the honour of having such an individual and such a writer in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio with me. I am not going to digress anymore because tonight she is going to share her amazing story with you. So I am going to take a step back and let you be inspired by a woman who, like myself, believes in not only seeking the truth but in telling the truth in all its naked complexity. This is a story of a true survivor. Listen to her and have hope no matter how hopeless your world may seem right now.

Firstly thank you for joining me in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio…

Let us start by you introducing yourself to us…Who is Suzannah Burke?


Of all the questions I am ever asked this is perhaps the most difficult to answer. Who am I?  I am an Australian woman in my fifties.  I wake before sunrise and go back to bed after midnight.  I love to walk in the rain, and read in the sun.  I watched Toy Story 3 and cried; I sat with my 30-year-old daughter and watched the entire first series of Glee in one sitting, snuggled on the sofa with enormous amounts of munchies.  On her next visit, we watched the entire first season of Trueblood together.  I live alone on the northeastern coast of Australia in a small fishing village.  I am a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, an ex-wife, but my favorite title is mother. I am a writer fortunate enough to have had a book published.  I love my animals, my solitude and my life is as perfect as it’s going to get right now.

Tell us about your background in writing.

I didn’t really begin writing as more than a hobby until 5 years ago.  Like many people my friends said, “Hey, this is good stuff.”  I joined an online writing site and to my delight, they agreed with my friends. I wrote my first complete fiction novel for Nanowrimo in 2009.  I completed another fiction novel for Nanowrimo in 2010…and in between, I wrote “Empty Chairs”

I know that you have a book called Empty Chairs out.  Can you tell us a bit about it?


Empty Chairs is my biography from age three to age 11.  It covers the early years when I was subjected to horrendous abuse instigated by my mother and the pedophile ring she was a pivotal member of.  It covers the abuse and moves quickly on to my life living on the streets at age 11. I hope that people will see within the pages that the results of abuse can be life threatening and certainly life altering.  However, it also made me understand that I had a core of strength inside that simply refused to be broken.  I had a dream of something better and nothing would stop me striving towards that dream.

Now it must take great courage to write about painful events in your life but yet you have.

What was your inspiration for writing this story?

When I first hit the streets, I met and ultimately shared my life with a group of street kids.  We were together for 5 years, and some of us remained friends for over 4 decades. One of the gang was only 8 years old.  Her name was “Jenny.”  I was not the youngest at 11, which in itself will shock many people.  Jenny and I grew close and over the years maintained our bond.  Jenny had asked me to write about our lives on the street.  I used to write {for want of a better term} I wrote stories for Jenny when we were together, normally in the columns of newspapers that we used to sleep on.  I made Jenny the hero in all the stories; she was the Princess who always managed to save herself from whatever monsters I conjured up.  Jenny loved those stories.

I had made her a promise, that “One day” I would write it all down. I promised her I would tell everyone what is was like to live on the streets as we did. Jenny committed suicide on September 1st 2009.  I hadn’t kept my promise.  When I began to recover from my anger and sadness at her death, I made the decision to honor the promise that I had made to her. Empty Chairs is the result.

I have heard that for the month of April all the profits received for your book will be donated to ISPCAN the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

That is quite a contribution. Can you tell us a little about ISPCAN?

The International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, founded in 1977, is the only multidisciplinary international organization that brings together a worldwide cross-section of committed professionals to work towards the prevention and treatment of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation globally.

ISPCAN’s mission is to prevent cruelty to children in every nation, in every form: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, street children, child fatalities, child prostitution, children of war, emotional abuse, and child labor.  ISPCAN is committed to increasing public awareness of all forms of violence against children, developing activities to prevent such violence, and promoting the rights of children in all regions of the world. ISPCAN invites you to join forces with its members around the world to protect children in need: their bodies, minds, hearts, and rights.

I think this is a very worthy cause. Can you tell readers where to get a copy of your book in April?

The kindle version on Amazon is here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004K6MJJK/ref=sc_vs__empty_2520chairs_2520by_

The paperback version on Amazon is here:http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Chairs-story-about-child/dp/1453858520/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2

The Smashwords edition in kindle or eBook is here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/38452

Question: What is your hope for this book and for this cause Susannah?

I hope that people will read this and begin to understand and acknowledge that Child abuse is not only perpetrated in poor neighborhoods, it is not restricted to the uneducated masses…people appear to have a misconception of Abuse, perhaps to safely distance their thoughts from anything so sordid and difficult to comprehend they lump child abuse in a category. That is a misconception that must change. News flash folks, I came from an upper middle class background. My abusers were pillars of the community.  These pedophiles didn’t drive rusted out cars and wear tacky clothes.  They drove Mercedes- Benz and Porsche. They wore Armani and Dior. There are NO social boundaries when it comes to pedophilia.

Abuse is a terrible crime that humans seem to excel at. I am sure there are many people out there who have no support and no place to run to. For readers who may know of or have experienced abuse, what would you say to them now?

When I was a child, there was no place to turn.  This horror was never spoken of.  Today thanks to the hard work of many wonderful people worldwide and the internet, every hospital has counseling and referral facilities.  Doctors are mandated to report suspected abuse to the relevant authorities if the child is under age.  Police departments have their own departments set up specifically to deal with complaints of this nature.  Salvation Army, Red cross, and most churches have their own teams where a person can phone anonymously to access assistance. I have a very long list of help sites on my blog, covering the USA the UK and Australia. The list is growing daily.  I check all the sites before I add them to be certain they are legitimate and approved.  If you are reading this interview and you have been abused or suspect someone you know may be experiencing it now please speak up.  The avenues will respect your privacy, they WILL believe you.  At times especially with younger folks, it is the fear that they will not be believed that prevents them seeking help.  The people and the facilities out there are now immense, they will help you to take all the steps necessary to either stop the abuse or recover from abuse inflicted long ago.

Looking back at your life through the mirror of Empty Chairs, would you say there was a defining moment that led you to write down your story in this book?

Jenny’s death by her own hand was the catalyst.  She was a precious, marvelous human being, yet her soul was murdered long before she took her last breath.  I was so devastated and angry when I got the call. It took me months before I could calm down enough to write the book clearly without emotional overload.

After reading the sample chapter of this book, I see that you chose to write this story in present tense. This creates a really powerful reality where the reader sees everything through your deep POV (point of view).

This must have been very difficult for you as you would have re-experienced much of the heartache and pain again?

Did you have a support system to help you through the writing of this story?

I told no one that I was writing the book, I didn’t want to inflict what I was dealing with on anyone else. I needed to do it in my own time and without questions when I had almost completed it I posted the first chapter on The Night Publishing site. Tim Roux who is Night Publishing contacted me, and on the basis of chapter, one he signed me to a publishing contract for Empty Chairs.  To say I was stunned would be a major understatement.

What would you say was the biggest challenge in writing a non-fiction story based on your life story?

I had flashbacks and panic attacks during the writing of the book. I often had to stop and take myself outside into the clean air to gain a perspective and continue writing. The biggest challenge in so far as the writing itself was to remain true to who I am now and yet recall how I felt then without hyperbole or drama. I needed to allow the things to unfold as I remembered them. I am aware that it is a difficult thing to read.  My honesty can be daunting.  Yet it is not a subject that can be prettied up for public consumption.  I wrote it exactly as I remembered it.

What advice would you give to a writer contemplating on writing a similar memoir style biography?

Be aware that many people simply don’t want to hear about painful topics.  They label this kind of work as “Misery Memoir” You must be prepared for folks to not want to know any more about a very painful topic.  I am one of the very fortunate few who has a Publisher that has supported me.  If you decide to write a biography remember to be true to yourself every step of the way.  I had one publishing house that wanted to sign the book, but only if I prettied it up for general consumption, I refused.

If you decide to self publish be prepared to do the heavy-duty promotional work required to have people read your work.  My publisher is very supportive but I still have a need to put in the hours to help people learn about my work.  Set yourself a target every day, try, and keep to it.  If you find yourself getting caught up in the emotion of the book it will reflect in your writing: that is not necessarily a bad thing, no one wants to read a book devoid of any emotion, but by the same token people need to be able to read the book without the feeling that they are being preached at or ranted to.  Sometimes you need to put it aside and distance yourself a little before you continue.  Most of all believe in yourself.

Since “Empty Chairs” is non-fiction, will you be writing some fiction/have you written any fiction?

I had already completed a Comedy/Romance novel “Dudes Down Under” before commencing “Empty Chairs” and during Empty Chairs, I added more to the fiction book, and I needed to have the Comedy as a release from the remembering.  I also have a fiction Psychological Thriller “Twisted “completed which I’m currently editing.

Would you say there is quite a large difference between writing fiction and non-fiction?

Oh hell, yes!  There is no comparison.  My non-fiction book does not allow me the luxury of inventing characters, places, and happenings.  Truth is often more difficult to write.  With my Fiction work, I have a wonderful time, developing the plot and inventing and rounding out the characterizations.

What other genres do you write in and why?


I write in so many different genres, ‘Dudes Down Under” is a Comedy/Romance I had a ball writing it, and inventing my pivotal chapter linking “character” of Cyril…Cyril is a 28ft long crocodile who wears Armani, drinks copious amounts of JD loves Al Pacino and Brando, dances to “Some enchanted evening” and whose thoughts on every imaginable topic are only known to the reader. The misunderstandings are rife as the story is set on a brand new tropical island resort catering only to the Hollywood ‘A’ listers. What Cyril does to the croc skin luggage of the stars is not to be missed. I adore the escapism of Comedy, and the fun of the romantic scenes. As for my other novel “Twisted” Phew!  What can I say…I have a ball again in a different way, by killing off folks and weaving in a serial murderer and a conspiracy as well, again escapism. I also submit regular short stories online in contests ranging from westerns to paranormal. The only topics I have yet to tackle is Science Fiction and Fantasy…I don’t feel I have enough knowledge for one and am not comfortable with the other.

Are you working on any new projects now?  Can you share anything about them?

I am currently writing the follow-up to Empty Chairs as so many kind people have asked me what happened then?  Where did you go?  What did your life turn out like?

So, yes…I am picking the book up the day after book one ends.  I am also working on another novel entitled “The inheritance” about a young Australian women who is made Guardian of her wealthy US friend’s 4-year-old child.  It’s developing nicely and will I think be labeled as a romance when I am done exploring all the possible journeys that the characters are taking me on.

What would you like you lasting legacy to be as a writer?

This is a difficult question: I guess with my Non-fiction work I would like people who have bought it to say, “Hey, if she can get through it and have a richly rewarding life, then hell, so can I.”  With my fiction work, I love to inform and entertain; if that is how my readers feel then I would be one very delighted woman.

Can you tell us where to find you on the web Susannah?

Okay…  I have my book review/interview/talk writing site on http://sooozsaysstuff.blogspot.com

My book related site for Empty Chairs is on http://staceydansonemptychairs.blogspot.com

I have a competition that I run every month that is very popular at http://paragraphsofpower.blogspot.com

And….my comedy romance and interviews with a crocodile site is http://dudesdownunder.blogspot.com

Phew, I do have a few.

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview with me.

I commend your courage in bringing a very real and painful subject to life.

Your story is one that is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit even in the face of great pain.

It has been an honour and pleasure to feature an author with such a worthy message.

I hope that you will come back and visit with me in my studio in the near future and tell us more of your future endeavors.

I trust that Empty Chairs becomes a fast best seller so that you may raise many well needed earnings for ISPCAN.

I look forward to watching your future success and especially to your sequel to “Empty Chairs”. Your’s is a story that had to be written. Thank you for showing the great courage you have by writing it.

I am so appreciative of the time and the kindness you have shown, thank you for the opportunity.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

For those readers interested in finding out more about the prevention of child abuse, I have added a link to the ISPCAN.

ISPCAN

Writing without words…

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Image via Wikipedia

…I know you just saw the title of this post and ???????  filled your mind…

Of course you and I both know that writing defines words. Or does it? Is it words that fill your mind before you start writing? Or is your mind assailed by images, emotions,instincts, sensory stimulation?

I believe that text-book writing is filled with words both in the conception and the birth of the product. But is poetry / prose / fiction filled with words? How do you picture your imagination – in essence, how do you imagine your imagination? Is it words you see?

Maybe it is. But for me writing inspiration is not made up of words. Indeed sometimes I battle to find the words to convey what I see, hear and feel in my imagination. For me, my poetry in particular is not formed of words. Although words in a poetic form are the final birth product of my conception, words are not how those poems begin. For me poetry is music, emotion, passion, heart, sound, sight, taste, feel and instinct. Words don’t come into it. But to convey what I feel, I must use words. Because we are verbal creatures. We speak with words. Words give my poems a voice. But my poems could easily be a music composition, a sculpture, a painting or a photograph. All of these would convey the feelings and emotions that are in my poetry.

What about fiction and prose? Surely those come under “writing with words”? Do they? For myself my stories come through sensory and emotional stimulation. I write best with music. This is common to a lot of writers. But for me the music I am listening to leaks out and inspires my writing. If I put a name to it, I could call it The Fountain head of Music and the water that flows from here is the inspiration behind my stories.

Which part of the human brain is the home of creativity? The right side of the brain or the Right Brain is. The left side of your brain dictates logic, thought and speech. The right side dictates emotion, fantasy and creativity. Aha!

So why do we end up writing with words? We choose to write with words so that our right side of our brain can communicate with our left side of the brain. We choose to write because society finds words easier to interpret and understand than a painting, a sculpture or a music composition.

The talent of a writer is to interpret those feelings, emotions and senses into words and sentences that the average Joe can understand and appreciate. It is a worthy gift that holds a weight on the shoulders of a writer. As writers we are the bridge between logic and emotion, we are the bridge between fantasy and understanding.

So when we feel blocked or battle to get past a point in a story is it because we have dead-ended inspiration? Have we lost inspiration? No, I don’t believe we have. Speaking for myself, I get blocked when I use too much of my left brain and over-think a story / character / scene. I use that time to peel back the layers of my story and try to refocus on what the original conception was. It might have been a dream I had. (I often get my story ideas from dreams – a visual smorgasbord of random sights and sounds.) It might have been from a piece of classical music I  hear. It might have been inspired by something I saw. I start refocusing with my right side of my brain and that’s what unlocks me. I don’t like the term “blocked”. I prefer the term “locked”. All you have to do sometimes is retrace your imagination’s steps and find where you misplaced the key so that you can unlock the story again.

The epiphany of the day is that the key to interpreting your imagination and your inspiration through words is to refocus the right side of your brain. You need to write without words….

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

 

Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync?

Unique Selling Proposition / Unique Selling Po...

Recently I completed an online workshop run by Savvy Authors. The course was called Pass the Shovel. In this course each lesson was about breaking down your story, your plot, your voice, your dialogue and your characters. I found the whole course very worthwhile but the lesson that I found the most enlightening was lesson 1. Lesson 1 was about breaking down your book into a summary or what the writing industry calls a synopsis.

synopsis |səˈnäpsis|noun ( pl. -sesˌsēz|)a brief summary or general survey of something : a synopsis of the accident.

• an outline of the plot of a book, play, movie, or episode of a television show.

DERIVATIVES synopsize |-ˌsīz| |səˈnɑpˈsaɪz| verb

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via late Latin from Greek, from sun- ‘together’ + opsis ‘seeing.’

synopsis – noun

the synopsis was so intriguing that I just had to buy the book summary, summarization, précis, abstract, outline,

digest, rundown, roundup, abridgment.

Then on my writing groups that I belong to, there have been various discussions about the horrors and necessities of the Synopsis. So I thought today’s post should be about the topic of the month: Synopsis ~ Are you in or out of sync with your synopsis?

So why is a synopsis necessary?

  • A synopsis is needed when you write your query letter and you pitch your book.
  • An agent does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that lands on their desk. They need a “taster” to see if your book is going to be featured on their menu. Cue in your synopsis.
  • An editor does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that an agent lands them. They also need a “taster” to see if your book is up their alley. Cue in your synopsis.
  • Your synopsis is your billboard advertisement that gets the passing agent’s/editor’s attention on the highway to a sold and published book.
  • Your synopsis is the clincher in getting your book from your bottom desk drawer to the hands of an agent then an editor and finally your reader.
  • Your synopsis is a SELLING TOOL. It is a way to convert your manuscript from a story to a published and saleable book.
  • To write a successful synopsis you need to think with a sales mind and not a writer’s mind.
  • The synopsis is your SPIN-DOCTOR for your book.

So we have just a few reasons here to tell you that a synopsis is vital to the success of you finding an agent, an editor and a publisher. So now we come to the crux of the matter:

How do you write a synopsis?

How do you get “in sync” with your synopsis?

One of the tips that I have learnt about over the last few months has been the value of being able to write a maximum 50 word synopsis. This will encapsulate the Hook of your story. Then from there build that up to a paragraph long synopsis. Next try building that up to a page long synopsis. Finally try building that up to a 2 page synopsis. Now you may still be reading this and scratching your head in consternation. You are still stuck with the idea that you have to hone down a 70 000 – 100 000 word novel into 50 words then finally into 2 pages. Well here are some questions that may help you break down your novel into synopsis form.

  • What’s my idea?
  • Where does my story take place?
  • When does my story take place?
  • What is my timeline?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What is my POV – Point Of View?
  • Who are my characters?
  • How will I begin my story?
  • What is my plot?
  • What is my complication?
  • What is my climax?
  • What is my resolution and anti-climax?

The main points that should be in your synopsis are:

  1. The HOOK – This is your USP or UNIQUE SELLING POINT. This is the part that you want to put front and centre and at the top of your synopsis. This is going to be the GRABBER.
  2. The CHARACTERS – Stories are about people. Tell us about your Main Characters. Tug at our heart-strings. The main points here should be: Motivation / Conflict / Goals. What makes this character’s story interesting? Why would a reader want to invest time and emotion in this story/this character?
  3. The BODY of the STORY – Here is where you want to focus on the PLOT of the story. Keep your writing tight and concise. Only put the necessary plot points here. Tie together your plot with your main characters.
  4. The CLIMAX / ANTI-CLIMAX / RESOLUTION – This will pull the whole story together. This is the part where you tie all your different colours of strings into one seamless ribbon. This is where all the questions of your story will be answered. This is where your character will change and grow. These will be the A-HA moments in your story.
  5. Use present tense at all times. Irregardless of whether your book is set in the past or the future, the present tense of a synopsis will put the agent / editor directly into the heart of your story and allow them to walk in your character’s shoes. This will create an emotional pull for them.
  6. Use strong adjectives and emotive language when writing your synopsis. This is your one chance to get the agent/ the editor’s attention. Use your best written skills for this synopsis. Do not waste space or words.

How are you feeling now? Are you feeling more confident with tackling The SYNOPSIS? Are you feeling more “in sync” with your synopsis?

Now lastly, when do you write a synopsis? There is no hard and fast rule that you can only write the synopsis at the end of the novel. In fact, if you leave it til then the nerves and doubt will kick in. Try your hand at writing a loose synopsis at the beginning stages of your novel. You will have the bare bones of your final synopsis. You may even find that your synopsis may be a guiding point for your story. I have written a synopsis both at the end of a WIP and now I have written one at the beginning of my current WIP. In this latter synopsis, I reached a moment of EPIPHANY in the conflict and the anti-climax of my story. Now I can tackle my WIP with renewed vigour and when it comes to the final synopsis, I have already completed half the task by writing my synopsis first.

Now it is time to get IN SYNC with your SYNOPSIS!

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Characters and their secrets

Secret Passageway
Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

Have you ever had reticent characters? Many readers and some writers believe that once you have written a book and created characters it gives you an omniscient presence in your character‘s world. For some this may be true. In my experience though, the opposite is true: instead of being creator and puppet master, I – the writer – am the servant and puppet. For me, my characters lead me down the twists and turns of their story. You see they have already walked it and lived it or are right in the thick of it, if anything I am an observer or a recorder of what they want me to tell the reader.

In my interviews on Warrior Wednesdays I always ask the question: What is most important or what comes first in your writing? The Story or the Character. You may wonder why I ask this. I ask this because in my own writing whether I think I get a story idea first or whether a certain character pops into my thoughts and hearing, ultimately it/they come from somewhere. I could say that I am brilliant and have a million and one stories within me but that would be false. I believe that as a writer we are a medium and a vehicle for our characters to tell their stories when, where, how and why they want to.

OK, I hear you say: so are you hearing voices from the deep dark and beyond. This is getting a little loopy! While if your right brain – creativity – rules you then count yourself loopy. Now don’t worry or look all shocked. I mean that yes you are loopy by the definition of a society where left brainers are the majority. I mean you imagine worlds, people, events, places in your head. By left brain definition you are deluded or hallucinatory or in a simple term loopy.

So back to the question: Do I hear voices from the deep, dark and beyond? To be honest, yes sometimes I have and do hear a voice. It pops into my thoughts and starts speaking. I know it is not me because it does not sound like anything I would say. Sometimes the voice is loud and sometimes it is quiet. For me though, I tend to stop and listen. I have tried the ignore button, even tried the mute button but then I end up with sleepless nights and eventually I just learn to respond. All that is usually needed is for me to listen and then a picture forms in my thoughts of who is speaking. Sometimes this is done by showing me a place first and sometimes it is like staring at my reflection in a mirror and slowly see a figure emerge from behind the door that is closed behind me. Then the who of them becomes a basis of their story. They live and breathe so they must have a story. That is when I put the pen to paper or finger to keyboard, whichever is in the closest vicinity, and write. Voila` a story is born and a character is on the page.

But some stories are different. Some characters like to keep secrets. They may even keep their identity a secret. You may be able to picture them but they do not tell you who they are. This may be because they enjoy the game or the control they have over you and your curiosity at this point. It may even be a method they are using to firstly get your interest in a story and then to keep it by leaving you with mysterious threads. For me this is very frustrating. I am a type A personality and like to be the one in control (blame my german roots) and I do not like surprises. If I am being honest here I also struggle with patience. So this character is like a double-dare and a red flag all at once for me.

In my new WIP, new in that I am at the start but not brand new story in that this story and these characters have haunted me for a while now. I knew I had to get this story written no matter how difficult the telling may be but somehow was coming up against a block. Then last weekend I had the epiphany to switch tracks from the German Professor Perfect to the train conducted by the 6-year-old curious and emotional Kimmi. Voila` the flood gates of inspiration started opening. But I still had a major problem. I did not know the identity of the antagonist. I kept on bumping up against this character. I could see the character but could not get a feel for this one like I did for the other characters. So I set it aside for a while and concentrated on talking to my characters in my NaNoWriMo novel and having a lot of fun with them on Facebook.

In the meantime I had also begun work last night on two writing workshops hosted by Savvy Authors. In one of the lessons, I had to write a full-page synopsis/outline via question and answer mode. So I decided to do the synopsis on my difficult WIP. It was late last night when the email had come through with the first lesson. So I looked at it and thought I would sleep on it and write it up first thing this morning. Well, the sleep idea soon turned out to be turned on its head. The synopsis kept on playing over and over in my head like a stuck gramophone. It got to the point that with 2 hours of broken sleep, I decided enough was enough. I would have to get this synopsis out my head and onto the screen. (The Macbook is never far away.) As I started answering the questions and the synopsis started fleshing out, I felt what could only be termed as a CLICK like something had locked into place or been opened. Suddenly as large as standing right in front of me, I met my antagonist. Just by finally knowing who this character was, a myriad of loose ends that had me stumped were tied up and the whole plot revealed itself to me. You see I could not see past the middle to the climax or the end because this story’s antagonist had hidden their identity from me. Suddenly I also knew why the identity had been hidden. This identity is the secret key to the whole story and demystifies both the protagonists as well.

Now I am not saying that I enjoyed meeting this antagonist as the character is the most sadistic and cruel character that I have yet met in my own thoughts. Just by this I know that I have not created this character. I have never actually known someone this… lets call it shadowed  or darkened. But as much as this character scared me to the depths of my soul, I suddenly had the key.

So yes characters keep secrets. Sometimes you find out through clues. But sometimes all of a sudden the secret is unlocked in an instant and it becomes a Pandora’s box. You will not be able to put the secrets back in the box once it is opened. Instead, try to rein in the secrets into one place: Your Characters’ Story. They know who you are. Now it is up to you to find out who they are.

So I ask you now, in light of my character unveiling, what comes first character or story?

Are you – the writer – the creator and puppet master or are you a mere medium and servant?

Ask yourself do you really think you just imagined some of those characters in your head and in your stories? Or are they the Storytellers and you are just a pen and paper?

– Kim

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Telling your story in your Character’s voice

His Masters Voice
Image via Wikipedia

I have been reading a lot lately on “Voice“. What do I mean by this? Do I mean the sound that comes out when I use my vocal chords? No, I mean “Voice” in a literal sense. I have also been doing a lot of thinking about my favourite characters in literature. More importantly why are they my favourite characters? What makes a character memorable?

There are many great literary characters out there in the world of words. Why then do a few stand out for each of us? I think the common element of a great memorable character is one that has its own distinctive voice. Yes characters are created in the imagination of a writer but the great character steps out from their creator’s imagination and becomes a living, breathing entity as real as a friend you like to spend time with. So how are these characters able to step out from the imagination and become people. This is due in part to the way the character is written. These are some of the ways that a character gains their own voice.

LISTEN

A writer has to learn to listen to the voice of their character. There will be a voice. It may not be very loud and it may even be a shy voice that takes a while to come through. Sometimes you have to learn to separate a character’s voice from the white noise of the story. Even though as a writer you may have imagined the story, the story will be happening to your character. Don’t they have a say in what happens and how they handle it?

Don’t play Puppet-Master, Cut the Strings

As the creator of the characters in your story it is very tempting to play Puppet-master with your  characters. Don’t let your writing become a mirror for your own life. If you are writing Fiction, remember that you need to stay true to the “fiction” element of your story. As tempting as it may be to stand above the scene and move your character to your own wants and desires resist the temptation. This will only result in a puppet show not a story that learns to live and breathe on its own. So cut the strings. If you find you are controlling your character’s reactions, even dictating their personality, then just STOP. Your story will be better off for it.

Don’t Parent your Characters

Unless you are writing a book about parenting skills, leave the parenting to parents. You are not a parent in your story. What do I mean by this? Don’t tell your character what to do. Sometimes you have to let them figure out things for themselves. Let your character argue with you. This will add another dimension to the character in your mind and if you pay heed to your character, your reader will also play heed to your character.

Let your characters make mistakes

This is a really important point in creating characters that resonate with your readers. Do not make your characters perfect. Make them imperfect and I will go even one step further and ask you to accentuate their flaws and imperfections. Perfection in a character is distancing and boring. We all know those characters that are so perfect and so well-adjusted to anything life throws at them that you just want to slap them. If you accentuate your character’s flaws this can be a growth point in your character’s personality. Your characters are only going to learn how things work if you let them fail.

Give your character a 3D character

Human beings are not all good or all bad. There is a little of everything in a human adult and sometimes even more extremes of emotion in a human child. Give your character a hint of arrogance and entitlement. But give them a fierce loyalty to under-pine the negative aspects. Allow them to have a temper. This is one of the most human of all emotions. Very few people can say they have no temper. If your character comes across as greedy, don’t try to change that.

Don’t protect your character

Throw something difficult their way. Put them in the way of hardship. Put them through trials and tribulations. As attached as you may be to your character, your reader has to believe that they can sympathize with them. Your reader will not sympathize with a character that you protect in a glass bubble from all the bad things in life. Life is not fair and most of the times life is not pretty. Give your character a real world to live in. Make them feel sorrow, feel anger, feel regret, feel vulnerable. It is through the bad that the strength or weakness of your character will shine through. You will make your reader believe that this character is a person, maybe even based on someone they know.

Get your reader into your character’s head

Your reader must be able to walk in your character’s foot-steps to understand your character. But how can your reader do this if you are not doing this. Ask yourself this question: Are you in your character’s head or is your character in your head? If you answered yes to the latter part of the question, then you need to backtrack. You need to get into your character’s head. How do you do this? How do you separate yourself (the writer) from the character? There are a number of ways of doing this. This brings me to the MUSCLES of today’s post and your exercise for the week…

MUSCLES

  • Do a week-long journalling exercise: For 1 week, start a journal in your character’s voice. Do not write what you want to write but write what your character is thinking and feeling.
  • Write a 1 page scene from your story. Now read over this scene. Whose writing the scene? Are you in this scene? Or is this scene one that is happening to your reader? Now go back and re-write this scene but get into the head of your character for the re-write. Now write this scene as it is happening to your character, not to you.
  • Observe your life from your character’s viewpoint. Make your character the narrator for your life this week. Put this into your journal entries.
  • Interview your character. Ask them to tell you where they see their story going. Ask them for their back story. Put your character in the driving seat of their story. Give your character their own voice in your story.
  • Read your favourite book, particularly focusing on the voice of the character that resonates with you. Do you hear the voice or do you hear the author’s voice. Analyse what tools the author uses to make you hear the character’s voice.

Now I leave you with some quotations that relate to finding the Voice of your character:

Listening is very inexpensive; not listening could be very costly!
Tom Brewer

Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
Stephen R. Covey

“Before I can walk in another person’s shoes, I must first remove my own.”
Brian Tracy

Live out of your imagination instead of out of your memory.”
Les Brown

The more you listen to the voice within you, the better
you will hear what is sounding outside.
Dag Hammarskjold

“You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written.  And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.”  Madeleine L’Engle

“You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.”  Jack London

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”  E. L. Doctorow

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” Ray Bradbury

Show don’t tell.”  Henry James

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”  Robert Frost

“Plot springs from character…  I’ve always sort of believed that these people inside me- these characters- know who they are and what they’re about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don’t type.”  Anne Lamott

“Don’t say the old lady screamed- bring her on and let her scream.”  Mark Twain

“A writer should create living people; people, not characters.  A character is a caricature.”
Ernest Hemingway

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”  Roald Dahl

 

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.


Project 365 – Through my lens..Light in darkness

These are some pics that I took a couple of days ago. I particularly love the play of colours: light against dark. It is symbolic of summer and winter, sun and moon, day and night. I enjoy pictures of contradiction. Sometimes dark is needed to truly understand light. I think that can be true in writing too.

Characters need to be believable. To be believable they need to invoke sympathy in the reader. For me the most interesting characters are the  characters that have to battle their own darkness, their own character flaws. One of the best examples of these types of characters are Heathcliff and Catherine from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

Wuthering Heights is my favourite book. It is a story I have read countless times and will continue to read countless more. What is is about this story that makes it one of the best written stories of all time? I believe it is the true portrayal of human nature in all its ugliness and beauty, its light and shadow.

The principal characters, Heathcliff and Catherine are two of the least sympathetic characters ever written. Then why do they continue to enthrall readers? I say they are the least sympathetic but they are the most real characters on a written page. They are full of flaws and strengths. Both of them have an unswerving loyalty to one another. This loyalty is stretched to extremes and twists their characters into obsession and darkness. But somehow readers identify with these two characters.

What I love about Wuthering Heights is this: the characterization of human flaws. It is far easier to want to write characters that are good and kind, characters that readers can like. Then why did Emily Bronte write and create characters that most people would find abhorrent? I believe she did it because she was not a writer who shied from the truth of the world. Emily Bronte did not shy from the truth of human emotion. The fact that at its most extreme love can become possessive and obsessive. The fact that love can change people for either good or bad. The fact that passion can drive people to conquer even the cords of life and death.

To many readers Wuthering Heights is a tragedy. To me I see it in another light. In the end not even death could separate Heathcliff and Cathy. In the end their love outweighed their petty humanity and overshadowed their flaws. Wuthering Heights is a love story of the ages. But unlike most stories it tells the truth of love. It tells that love can be brutal and painful. It tells the reader that sometimes love does not have all the answers. It tells the reader that sometimes true love is more than the human condition can contain. This is all told through the views of Heathcliff, the “villain” in the story.

Another key element of her writing that Miss Bronte uses is the setting. The setting is as dark as the characters. It sets the scene beautifully. This story could not be set in a city nor could it be set in a farming village. It needed to be set somewhere without borders, somewhere dark and wild, somewhere where nature rules over people. To me this is symbolic of the love and passion that rules and overrules both Heathcliff and Cathy.

Emily Bronte shows us that it you can write about flawed characters and still have readers be enthralled by them. No matter how many times I read the story of Wuthering Heights, I want the ending to change. I want their love and their passion to bring them together in life. I want the story to lighten. But I also understand if the story was different it would not have the power it still has so many years later after it was first published. This was a book that was written under a male pseudonym because publishers of that day could not believe that a woman could write about such a dark subject or create such dark characters.

Emily Bronte was a writer and a woman who did not shy away from the darker things in life and the darker facets of human nature. She was a visionary before her time. She was someone who understood human love and the flip side of that human emotion. Wuthering Heights is an embodiment of human nature. Her characters, Heathcliff and Cathy, are complete 3d people. They are not perfect cut-out characters. They are people who feel passionately. The writing is so flawless that instead of remaining characters in a book, they are people. That is something every writer should seek after: creating characters that are so believable as human beings that they cease just becoming characters. They become people we love and hate. That is why I love Wuthering Heights and why I believe Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are two of the best characters from literature.

2011 Goal~Project365/2011 The creative me is taking priority over practical me

This week has been a week of reflection. It is the first week of the New year of the New decade. This is a time when most people look behind them at the past and resolve to make things better and newer in the New Year. I am one of those millions of people who have been going through New Year reflections. I have had a few A-Ha moments that I would like to share with you in this post.

A few months ago I wrote a post called: Joy is a Choice. It was an A-Ha moment that I had during one of my early morning Soul Photographs (Morning Pages). Joy is not a state of being and it is not a given. But Joy is a Choice. There is not much in life that we can choose to avoid or choose to manifest, most of life happens by happenstance or circumstance and how we react to those times.

But Joy is more than an emotion.

Happiness is an emotion.

Joy is an attitude.

The French have the best phrase for this:

Joie de Vivre

The Italian phrase that corresponds to this is:

La Bella Vita

This year my 2011 Word of the year is Possibility. I have also decided to focus more on the creative me and less time on the practical me. I have decided that life should not be a case of “Live to work” but rather a case of “Work to live”. I am going to make this a year of  Joie de Vivre and Life is going to be La Bella Vita.

How?

I am going to be branching out more creatively speaking and better my current creative crafts (whether that be in writing, photography) and opening myself out to the Possibility of other creative pathways. I am signing up for classes at a local Arts Centre from February. The classes that I have my eye on now are Painting (with a specialization of Surrealism) and Glass-Blowing.

I am also going to take part in something called Project 365. This is a project run by an extraordinary group of women who call themselves The Shutter Sisters. This is a project where you take a picture a day and then post it to the Website’s Flickr page called Shutter Sisters 365. The idea behind the project is exactly the same idea to what I had when I wrote Joy is a Choice. It is to capture a moment that inspires Joy in you through the lens of a camera. The ladies on Shutter Sisters put it in a sentence that really resonates with me this year:

“This was all about moment, right? Staying in the moment has a way of dissipating negativities even though we catch them in freeze frame with our cameras. When you sit with sadness or anger you are in control of ushering it out. When you sit with joy and love you are empowered and radiate it back to others. Photography has this magic to it as well. No one else has your eyes. No one sees the world exactly as you do. That is a beautiful thing!”

– Meredith Winn (04/01/11)

So I have signed up to be a part of this Vision. I have always loved photography even before I studied it both in School and afterwards. I remember my first two photographs that really made me fall in love with viewing the world through the eye of a camera lens. I was about 11 years old and I was on holiday at the beach staying with my great-aunt. One day we went down to the pier. It was a stormy grey day and because of the impending storm, the beach and pier was empty. I took a couple of photographs on a simple 35mm point and shoot (this was in the days before digital) of the ocean being sheltered by a stormy sky. When I got home from my holiday I was excited to have my 35mm roll of film developed. The photos that I had taken that day on the beach were exquisite. They showed the impending power of the storm and gave a real emotion to the shots. I realised then that photography is a powerful tool in life. From that moment I was in love with shooting the world. Nature scenes are my favourite in particular beach shots and sky / storm shots are still my favourite. So this year I am going to post a picture a day that inspires me. I will post it on the Flickr site but will also be posting it via my new Tumblr account.

This year is going to be a year where I saturate my soul in creative pursuits. I am truly Joyful when I am doing something creative. That is my joy: Creativity,Passion, Travel and Change. It is going to be a year of POSSIBILITY and a year where I make the Choice to be Joyful and to have JOY.

What are you going to do that inspires you this year?

What new creative pathways will you pursue this year?

Share your creative aspirations here in the comments so that we can support and encourage each other.

Make this your year when the Creative You takes priority over the Practical You. Do what you love to do and what gives you joy.

I leave you with this quote which is on my 2011 vision board:

today is your day

to dance lightly with life,

sing wild songs of adventure,

soar your spirit,

unfurl your joy.

-Jonathan Lockwood Huie –



© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.