Thursday, May 29, 2008


Today's Mood: Cheerful. Today's Music: Modern Love. Today's Writing: Blog now, research for IFFY. Today's Quote:

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” Zora Neale Hurston quotes (American folklorist and Writer, 1903-1960)

Okay all of you, I need your help. Yesterday I had small group and it raised the question about whether or not pain is an emotion. Awhile ago I did some research in an attempt to find a definition of emotion. It turns out that emotion is rather difficult to define--or at least to get people to agree on a definition. Besides which, the terms emotion, mood, motivation, and affect all get used somewhat interchangeably in popular culture. So let me give you a few of the definitions out there:

Emotion: a response to an environmental stimuli that creates an intense but short term affective state. Emotion is externally triggered.

Or another definition of Emotion
: Emotions are psychological rewards and punishments. They constitute part of the feedback provided by the brain to motivate us to optimize our survival by acting to correct inner deviations from cellular homeostasis. In reptiles, injury, restraint, or blockage of ancient survival drives, such as air-hunger, cause powerful alarm responses and associated reactions. These are part of the ancient pleasure-pain drives ascribed to our brain core system Dragon. In the early mammals, these reptilian drives were extended or amplified by the limbic system to become a larger number of distinct emotions. Thus, the limbic-Caretaker has many behavioral properties overlapping those of Freud's Ego.

: has a general stimulus--it is often difficult to determine the source of the mood--and has a longer span than emotion.

: generally the intensity is milder than emotion. If the stimuli is intense--it is generally considered an emotion.

: motivations are internally fired up and are action oriented whereas emotions are more of a series of reactions to surrounding situations.

Then there is the theory (actually more than one theory, but anyway) that there are PRIMARY emotions, and that all emotion comes from some sort of combination of those primary emotions. Of course, there is little agreement of what those primary emotions are. Robert Plutchik is one of those advocating the theory of primary emotions. He even uses colors to represent his model.

Another theory is the THE HEXADYAD PRIMARY EMOTIONS MODEL. In organisms whose brain includes a limbic system, there appear to be six independent primary emotion-generating systems. The function of these separately regulated primary emotion systems appears to be based upon the activity of several different limbic-brain core structural elements. This is supported by measurements of regional brain glucose uptake. In these observations, only the brain core system and the limbic system have shown shifts in regional brain activity during the production of emotion‑associated behaviors. In general, each of these emotion-associated structures receive separable neural inputs, and produce different neurotransmitter outputs most likely leading to production of a primary emotion.

Inherent in the hexadyad primary emotions model is the concept that each primary emotion-generating system produces an output ranging between two polar extremes. For each primary pair, one extreme is rewarding (appetitive) and generates approach behavior, while the other is punishing (aversive) and produces avoidance behavior. In keeping with this proposal, certain observed regional brain activity outputs occurred in opposite directions, depending on whether the emotion was rewarding or alarming. This binary, dichotomous situation is not to be confused with the dualism of mind and body, an obsolete concept to be discarded.

Given those definitions, do you think physical pain could be considered/connected to/experienced as emotion? My main character can feel (literally) the emotions of others. I'm struggling to determine if she would experience pain if someone else got hurt. She's in a fight, would she feel the others' pain as well as her own? Would she feel it as they did? Like, if they hit something, would her hand hurt? Or would she feel pain in a more general way--like, alarm?

Various other things I've read about psychics mention healing or being able to determine the source of pain, illness. I know this isn't a right or wrong type thing; most people would deny that these abilities exist at all. But I need to know if it exists for my character. I want to make this as believable as possible--suspension of disbelief, isn't it? As long as the "rules" seem logical, it doesn't matter if they are, or aren't. After all, it's fiction! Interesting questions that writing brings up. I love it. I never know what I am going to learn next.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: Umm, some Bob Pollard this morning. Today's Writing: zip, zilch, zero. Today's Quote:
So in the midst of stress and lack of sleep (a common enough state in my household--especially at this time of year), my husband and I had a lovely fight about... well, lots of things. The upshot of the whole thing was I had to sit and think very hard about whether or not I should, could, would give up writing for the betterment of the family. I decided I couldn't.

I COULD, however, give up conferences and lie about the small writer's groups--saying I was going out with a friend. I COULD get up in the middle of the night and write for a few hours and no one would know it. I COULD not talk about writing anymore at home. (yeah, I know, I tend to go extreme at times)

Thankfully we worked things out and my husband assured me that he had no desire to have me quit writing. (I hadn't told him that I didn't think I could--that I considered a lot of weird and strange ways to hide it, but I couldn't actually quit it. I guess that qualifies me as addicted, yes?)

But the question of what was important about writing has stayed with me. Yup, I CAN'T WAIT for Glen Lake--but I could do without it if I had to. Yup, I LOVE talking about writing--but I could do without it if I had to. Yup, my small writing group is important to me--but I COULD LIE about going there if I had to--and I could even do without it if I REALLY had to.

The one thing I just don't think I could give up and remain, well, sane, is actually writing. Spending time putting words, sentences, paragraphs, stories on paper--or at least on the computer.

Good thing I don't have to give up any of it--yet. Could you give up writing? What would you give it up for?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Procrastination or Writer's Block?

Today's Mood: Optimistic. Today's Music: Guided by Voices - Mag Earwhig. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
"I don't believe in writer's block. All writing is difficult... Plumbers don't get plumber's block and doctors don't get doctor's block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working and then expects sympathy for it?" ~ Phillip Pullman
Check out this great article by Slate magazine that talks about the difference between writer's block and procrastination. The article quotes neurologist Alice Flaherty's attempt at a working distinction between procrastination and block--"A blocked writer has the discipline to stay at the desk but cannot write. A procrastinator, on the other hand, cannot bring himself to sit down at the desk; yet if something forces him to sit down he may write quite fluently."

Given that definition, I think I've suffered both at different points in time. Although any writer's block I've had has been of short duration. Mostly I procrastinate because I'm afraid of writing it and not having it be as good as it is in my head.

I've been reading an awesome book of interviews with Fantasy writers--The Wand in the Word--and it makes me feel not quite so alone. Or crazy. Reading about how all these great writers write in all different ways reminds me, yet again, that there is no RIGHT way to write. And a lot of the writers talk about how hard writing is, so just because I don't find writing easy doesn't mean I can't be a writer. There is hope for me yet!

Anyway, what makes it hard for you to write? Are you a procrastinator or do you have writer's block?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Plot Struggles

Today's Mood: Relaxed. Today's Music: The Call. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote: Nothing handy at the moment.
Is it possible to have a novel be both a journey story (a Bildungsroman?) and a romance? And is Science Fiction a plot structure or just a way of telling a story?

I am, of course, thinking too much. But I am looking at where this story is going (with my other 2 novels I did quite extensive outlines before starting to write. With this one I wanted to try writing and seeing where it took me. No where fast, I can tell you that for sure!), and I went back to my original notes (I didn't jump into it totally blind--I'd have to change my whole personality in order for me to be able to do something like that!). I had gone through the book Story Structure Architect and found that the story I wanted to tell could be considered either a female journey story or a romance. And although there are many elements the same--conflicts and climax, and resolution and all that, certain elements are different.

Say for instance, it is a romance. In that case, the love interest has to show up early on in the story. Probably within the first 30 pages. It's not that I can't make that happen, but I am toying with the idea of making this more than one book. Possibly even a trilogy. Which may be insane seeing as I haven't even finished one rough draft yet! But it matters to how I proceed. If the main plot is journey story, I think romance can still be in the book--maybe like a subplot or something. And then the love interest can be mentioned, but not really play a big part right away--or even in the first book much at all.

If the main plot is romance, then... hmmm, even as I'm writing this I'm thinking that romance isn't enough for me to arc it over more than one book. Not that I can't come up with obstacles, but there has to be something more than that.

And at what point do I have to decide if it is going to be more than one book? Makes me think I need to take time to do a detailed outline. But I'm trying to allow more spontaneous creativity. I feel like I write a lot like I draw or paint. Put down one layer. Erase it. Put down another layer. Probably erase at least part of it. Put down another layer. Like I'm building a shithouse out of bricks made from straw and mud! Somehow I think that if I were a real writer, writing would be easier. I would be more creative and I could imagine the story in one fell swoop instead of slowly and painstakingly coming up with details to pile on top of each other until I have something that resembles a story.

How can I love something that drives me so crazy? Yet I do, and I'm not just talking about my husband and kids here! Writing is wonderful--and torturous at the same time. And I suppose I'd better just go to bed at this point before my head implodes. Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Today's Mood: Good. Today's Music: Bent - Matchbox 20. Today's Writing: IFFY (This week's sign of the apocalypse) Today's Quote:
"The road to hell is paved with adverbs." -Stephen King

Recently it occurred to me that I could do more with the setting of my story. Granted, the setting isn't crucial to the plot--although maybe that is my problem. Maybe it should be. Or is it okay if it isn't?

I mean, I need it to be somewhere with a high school where there are students who are not very tolerant of differences. Oh wait! That is every freaking high school. I need it to be in a city/town where parents worry about keeping up appearances. Oh wait, that could be anywhere as well! Okay, I guess I want it to be on the big lake. Or I suppose it could be the ocean. Hmm. Doesn't really matter which it is. I mostly just want some large body of water. And a cemetery. But that is a lot of places as well. And I don't want it to be a huge town, but it can't be a podunk nowhere place either. (Nothing up in the U.P. : ) That's for you, Mark!)

Is it better to just imagine a place so I can make it whatever I want? Or is it better to locate the story in a real city? And if I put it in a real place, does it have to be accurate? I mean, can I mix imaginary and real? Do I have to get the street names right and all that?

I'm afraid I have little budget for an information gathering trip. Although, if I did, I'd make sure I located the story somewhere wonderful and warm! With great beaches.

The Internet gives me lots of information, but there is nothing quite like actually going somewhere and walking the streets and smelling the air and tasting the food.

So, are there good stories where the setting isn't all that important? I guess I can think of a few. Maybe they tend to be more character driven books instead of plot driven books.

What do you do when creating a setting for your story?