Dragon’s Blood, Black Magic, Night Queen, Liquid Moon…

phrases like these tango on the tongue and rumba with your senses…and share page space in Book 2 of my trilogy. (Book 1 is out on submission.)

A few months ago I spent two days at a Gypsy fair. It was all in the name of research for my Cursed trilogy. Although I have always been fascinated by the Gypsy or Romani culture, I had not had an opportunity to go to a Gypsy fair. Wasn’t it just my luck or perhaps winds of fate and chance that blew a gypsy fair into my village by the sea – and just at the time that I was finishing up Book 1 of The Cursed trilogy and plotting Book 2. I love it when life synchronizes itself with your daily rhythms and a Zing! goes off in your brain.

Sometimes it is impossible to travel to a place where your story is set or explore a culture in your story…but other times life lends you a hand and takes you on a real trip into the imagination of your story. This is when the magic happens.

Human beings are sensory beings. Our imaginations ignite when our senses are stimulated. It is not enough to just imagine what a place looks like through our character’s eyes or in the view of the reader but to taste, hear, smell and feel a place through the richness of our senses. Sensory memory from smells, tastes and sounds ignite a world and a place for us. We can taste something and it immediately takes us back to the first memory of that place. We can smell something and the brain synapses start igniting and sparking with a remembered place and a remembered time. We can hear something and our memory acts as a porthole to another time and place where we first heard that sound.

Our minds and imaginations are not just cameras. We don’t just see. We hear, we smell, we taste, we touch and we sense. For me this is vital to putting a person in your story as if they were experiencing this place and this world for themselves. A story comes alive for me when all six senses are used. I don’t just want to know what a place looks like. I want to experience it and the fullest way for me to experience it is to use my six senses.

For me, I had a good idea of the Romani culture after months and months of research as well as a years-long fascination with the culture. But it was not until I went to the Gypsy Fair that my brain synapses really started firing and sparking. I bought essentials oils and essences with the names of: Dragon’s Blood, Black Magic, Night Queen and Liquid Moon. When I open these little wooden vials now I am immediately transported to the world of my story. When I play the music of the Romani (YouTube is very handy here) I am immediately transported to that place where my story takes place.

I spent one of the afternoons chatting to someone who is a pure Romani and whose family have been living this nomadic and exotic lifestyle for many generations. He spoke of the difficulties and the pleasures of this lifestyle and shared anecdotes and adventures with me. It made the world come alive for me more than any mere encyclopedia or Wikipedia entry could.

The world is a magic place full of the exotic and the worlds of our stories should be such a magic place. That is what first made me fall in love with stories and then fueled my need to create my own stories. Stories allow people to travel to exotic places, experience ancient cultures, fuel imaginations and teach us about the joys and horrors of life…all without leaving our chair through the magic portal of turning the pages.

How important are the six senses to you?

Which sense evokes the strongest sense of place for you? Smell/Taste/Sound/Touch/Sight/Intuition

Do you have a favourite story where the writer has used all six senses to build their world?

Always Trust Your First Instinct

Have you ever had a piece of advice that has translated into everything you do? Many years ago a junior school teacher gave me just such a piece of advice. Her advice:

Always Trust Your First Instinct

This is a lesson that I have returned to over and over again in my life. Sometimes a little seed of doubt – damn that doubt – creeps in and I second-guess myself. But time and time again I have to do a 180 or a 360 turn back to that first instinct.

This last week has been one of those weeks where I had to do a 360 turn back to my first instinct in my WIP. On advice, from an agent and from a few authors, I had second-guessed a key element of my WIP’s story structure. After much tweaking and re-tweaking I made the new way work. But the entire time while working on the 2nd draft, this new style kept on grating on my nerves. I couldn’t figure out why this 2nd draft was not jelling with me and why this WIP was so determined to fight me every inch of the way.

Then I was asked a question by my cp that jolted me into a massive A-HA (no, I don’t mean the Oprah saying, I am talking about a huge ballad ala AHA the 80s pop band) moment. What was the question? She asked why I had ever changed styles from the 1st draft to the 2nd draft. Bells and whistles went off in my head! Why indeed? Well, there is no reason I can’t change back, is there? No. That is what editing is about. We can change our minds. We can make 180 or 360 turns. We can cut out, add in and re-splice scenes and chapters.

So here are my writing tips for today in #lessonslearnedwhenediting …

  • Always trust your first instinct & Always trust your story
  • The story is your own, hold your own pen and write the story you must write the way it needs to be written because the writing is not done until you type The End.
  • You can always do a 360 and return to your first instinct…It is never too late until it is too late.

Have you ever second-guessed your first instinct & then ended up doing a 360 back to that first instinct?

Has a WIP ever fought you and just not jelled? – What did you do?