Chasing Inspiration

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reflections - A Little Hope

Dóchas. It's a Gaelic word that means hope.

There is something about this word that makes me smile, light up inside, actually. I don't know if it's because the word sounds so foreign or if it's because a favorite character in a series I read used the word as the name of women's shelter. Dóchas. Doesn't it just look nice on the page?

This time of year, my thoughts turn to hope. It's a time of reflection for me. Another year has gone by and while I could kick myself for all the things I meant to do but didn't, and for all the opportunities I let slide by, I try to look at the year, discover the lessons and the hope. And look to the future.


The future is bright with hope. Okay, looking at world events, you could argue that things aren't looking bright at all. War. Death. Destruction. Judgement. Where's the hope in that? The hope is that we can make different choices. That we can learn from what's been done and fall prostrate before God with hearts that wish to change, that long for peace. That who we are as individuals can make a difference.

My future is heavy with promise. I have dreams of writing, coaching and training. While I'm only inching closer to fulfilling these dreams and earning a paycheck from them, I have learned from this year that I have the right stuff within me. What I need to do now is continue on the path I've chosen and seek out opportunities. This year has taught me that the opportunities are there. I just have to open my eyes and my heart to them. And risk. Oh, that's a big scary word. To me, it means to leap into the unknown and hope I land somewhere. It means not being able to control the outcome. And anyone who knows me knows I like to be in control of things. But the things I want to do have so many elements I can't control. I can only do my best and then hope it was enough. And if it wasn't enough, I can learn and go a different way next time.

Hope is a part of transformation, I think. If we don't hope for something new, something better, we have nothing to urge us forward toward becoming better people. Hope is like air for me. The few times I have lost hope, I have been like a person drowning, fighting to stay alive and yet knowing the futility of that fight. I give up and stay stuck in the situation. It's like being caught in mud and unable to free yourself. Not pretty and definitely not fun.

But, the minute hope flares up within me it burns away the muck. I'm free to become. And that's what hope represents to me. That freedom to become.

Dóchas just seems to say it all for me. It feels richer than Hope. It feels...more. And right now, as I look at the precipice of 2012, I want more.

So, my friends, may 2012 be your year of Dóchas. Of hope. Of so much more!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Finding the Place

In two of my current works in progress (wip) I'm making up small towns on a very large lake not far from where I live. My past books have been set in Oregon and Florida. I decided to write a little closer to home while I work on creating a sense of place in my work. I live here, so you think I should be able to describe things well, right?

No. The art of description and creating a sense of place isn't necessarily connected with being familiar with a place. The art of description has more to do with how well you use words to portray the place to your readers. It helps to know how the place feels, smells, sounds, tastes and looks. It helps to know the flora and fauna and the weather. But you can be dry as a desert when you try to describe it to your readers.

For example, in my contemporary romance a house is almost a secondary character and I wanted to give people a feel for what the heroine sees when she returns to this house for the first time in years. I got caught up in describing the trim and how the paint had chipped off, leaving slashes of weathered gray across the colorful paint. I described the sagging porch and the weeds that were choking out the small herb garden along the walkway. Everything about this house was described accurately and well. But the description didn't portray the feel of the house, how it loomed on the edge of the water, how it appeared to be a whore trying to masquerade as a lady due to the garish colors the renters had painted the outside. The reader didn't get to sense that there was something lurking in the shadows or how Lana interacted with the house. In other words, it was dry and clinical and didn't give a true sense of what you (or Lana) would experience being there.

So I rewrote. And rewrote. And rewrote. Finally, I put the scene away and did some mind mapping on the scene using the senses as my guide. What did Lana see, hear, feel, taste, intuit, etc. With that information I went back to the scene and rewrote. I think I have it now. I think I have what I admire so much in Nora Robert's writing - that sense of being there and experiencing the place. I may have overdone some things, but that's what editing and first readers are for.

I wrote down the experience in my little craft notebook and will go back to that exercise during other scenes in the story where the location plays a vital role. And it will. I'm too impacted by my external world to not write that way.

Finding a place isn't this complex for every writer or every story. Some books I've read don't have a firm sense of place or location and it works for that story. My mind works differently so I'm sure my stories work differently. For me, it's not just about the plot or the characters but where and how they exist and the world around them. I find it all so fascinating.

Curiosity: When you read, do you find yourself longing to be there, right where the character is? Or does place impact you all that much?