The Writing Life – A Geek’s Perspective

dickensI am often asked what it’s like to be a writer, and I wonder if describing my life would create a false perception. Based on what I hear from others, I’m an anomaly.

Okay, that’s too formal. Actually, I’m a geek. I’m a possessed writing/promoting machine. If I’m not actually at my keyboard pounding out my third or fourth novel in a calendar year, I’m thinking about my story while driving to one of the two hundred speaking engagements I have lined up for the year.

I love doing this writing thing. It’s such a great adventure. I get to write about my passions, and people actually want to read what I wrote. And to top that off, readers write to me saying how much my books have changed their lives. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Another aspect I love is being with my family, getting their feedback, and traveling with them across the country and across the ocean as we conduct research and promote our books.

For example, to prepare for many of my earth-bound stories, I have traveled to the specific locations and explored the area, including taking fifteen-mile hikes in the snows of West Virginia and walking the streets of Glastonbury, England. And I often take virtual tours through the Internet by browsing photos and reading interviews. Whenever I need expert information, I find an expert and send an email. It’s wonderful how so many people are willing to help a novelist.

One of the most rewarding aspects of writing is being able to create characters. In my mind, they come to life, and people often ask how I make fictional people seem so real. I think the secret is to write a character’s normal way of life before the story crisis strikes. Get to know the character through his or her typical activities. I might eventually cut out a lot of what I have written, but this is what helps me to learn how a character ticks.

Then, when the crisis comes, the character will react the way I have built him, and he will guide the story arc. This is why I never outline a story beforehand. I have a basic premise and an idea about where a story will go, but once I create the main character, I then sit and go on the adventure with him. This makes the story organic and alive, and the character will always feel realistic, because he is doing what his characteristics dictate, not what the preconceived story dictates.

This technique works for all my characters … even dragons. It also allows me to explore the human psyche. By allowing the story to bend to the character’s actions, the character feels truly alive, and the story isn’t harmed, because it is, after all, the character’s story. I breathe into them, and they, in turn, inspire me with their sometimes surprising decisions.

So that’s what this writer’s world is like. I bring fantasy to life in a way that allows a reader to do what I do—go on an adventure with a character who feels real, thereby becoming infused with the same passion that I infuse into the story.

In a way, since we feed each other with inspiration, my characters and I are symbiotic. And since I am symbiotic with dragon characters, I guess I really am a fantasy geek. 🙂

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8 replies

  1. There is no question whatsoever— You are a geek. But in the best way possible. 🙂

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  2. Geeks unite! I’ve looked through entire cities(seriously, Google Earth is the writer’s savior) as I’m prepping for a battle scene. I’ve been violently mugged by my own characters too, usually when I manage to mangle their personalities.

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  3. Hmm… I may have to try that writing style at some point. I’m doing an outlined novel and I (generally speaking) have the story’s chapters all planned out. … I just hope the characters sound real like yours do, and that I don’t end up forcing them to say what I want them to. However, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” ~ Proverbs 16:9 🙂

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  4. I went completely seat of the pants for the novel I am revising now. It was fun, exciting, and sometimes shocking where the Lord was taking us. I used Google Earth after writing a few scenes, and the layout was exactly the way I had pictured it while writing. It’s an amazing adventure.

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  5. Very interesting. I didn’t know you were a writing geek. I didn’t even know there was such thing as a writing geek. 🙂 Now that I know, though, I guess that makes me a writing geek too.

    Geeks Assemble!

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  6. I love your books and hope they never stop thank you for inspiring me and teaching me my place as a young man. Please never stop being my preacher.

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