Inner Story

When I first started pitching my book to various literary agents, the most common question they asked was why is my main character so against unification, the joining of the seven provinces in my story. Like many things in life, I didn’t know the real answer. The actual story, however, did know it.

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I watched a documentary on Netflix called AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY. Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist who helped design the Bird's Nest featured in the Beijing Olympics. He uses social media and art to inspire protests against the Chinese government. The thing about China is that freedom of speech is not a basic freedom like it is here. And to inspire any level of protest there would only result in one end.

An interviewer asked him why he’s so fearless compared to other people. His response: I’m so fearful that’s not fearless. I’m more fearful than other people maybe…then because I act more brave because I know the danger’s really there. If you don’t act, the danger becomes stronger.

That hit me like a brick wall that swung through the humid jungles of South China. That’s an absurd sentence, but Weiwei's answer completely encompasses why my main character fights against totalitarianism than just rolling over and joining an enemy that seemed too strong.

Your claws woman!

Your claws woman!

And the actual story, the character, knew this without me consciously having to know. I can see the words, sentences and dialogue where he states this, just not in those exact words. Otherwise I’d know how to answer the question.

Now, I’m not here proclaiming my genius, nor am I proclaiming anything about me. There are two things going on here that I can see. One; stories choose us, the storytellers. Somehow we become the experts to those stories because we were chosen, and two; if we don’t tell it, if we do not follow that path given to us, we will in some way suffer.

We become the experts. What the hell does that mean? That doesn’t mean we as writers don’t need to do the research. We do when needed. We are the experts because somehow in some divine way we were given insights or the true meaning behind the stories we tell. In NIGHTFALL, if a person wanted to read for pure fun without wanting to know anything more than just the superficial stuff—the rollercoaster ride, the adventure—that’s fine. But if that person was curious enough, the hidden meaning behind the whole story and what drives every character in NIGHTFALL could be revealed to him or her, and they may learn something about themselves. In that sense, there are two basic layers to NIGHTFALL. Obviously, I can’t control whether the reader delves deeper or not. It’s their choice, and I wouldn’t want that control anyways.

I think you need a Tic Tac

I think you need a Tic Tac

I do believe, as people, we have gifts that we were given to give to the world. Huh? I do think we were put here for that reason. Every scientist and philosopher is trying to answer that question, and they can’t because the answer is different for every one of us. As far as I can tell at this moment, I was supposed to write the 7th Province series. Others were put here to teach lessons to their children, students, sections of society, the world. But if we don’t follow our paths, then what happens? Suffering. Whether it’s within that person who didn’t follow their path, or the people the gift wasn’t given to, I’m not sure. Something goes missing, then maybe it’ll fall onto another human to give that gift.

I was asked what my main character’s passion was. I didn’t know. For a long time I didn’t know. A few years after completing the first draft of NIGHTFALL, I figured it out. And the amazing thing was it was in the writing. I just didn’t see it.

Forever Moments

In the documentary Spielberg on Spielberg, Spielberg said his main job was to connect his audience to his films. I'd say that's the job of every artist who wants their work to be seen by the world.  How do you do that?

Chinese Connection.  Sorry.  Had a Bruce Lee moment.

Emotional connection.

Underdog stories are very emotional.  All of us can relate because at some point we've been the underdog.  I'm working on becoming a published author.  I feel like underdog.

An artist's initial job is to feel.  Seems obvious, right?

I've asked people about how they felt when they watched a movie, read a book, seen a photograph.  What's the most common answer?

I don't know.

Feel yourself out (get your mind out of the guttah).

Whenever something moves you, ask yourself why it moves you.  If something doesn't move you, then ask why.  The answers will amaze you.  When I started acting, my teachers always said my body was the instrument.  Use it.  Feel it.  Live it.

Forever moments.

Every year the carnival comes to town.  They've been coming since I was a kid.  One year I took my girlfriend at the time and bought a ride-till-you-throw-up pass.  We rode all of the stomach churning rides.  Walked through exhibits like the double headed rubber rat (huh?), a wax figure of a fat bearded lady (what?), and a pickled snake with mutant feet (a lizard?).  Then our nerves were tried at the haunted house.  Only half the stuff worked.  A vampire ain't that scary when it can barely pop out of its coffin.  We talked to carnies.  Many of them stared at my ex through their good eye.

There were two things that I remember most.  It was her first time at a carnival, and she was excited.  Every time she got excited her voice would rise, and she'd sound like a little girl.  Despite the jungle of carnival noise, her voice sounded like music.  Touched me like no other voice has touched me.  Yes, I was in love.

She'd never eaten carnie food, so I bought a tray full.  As we dug in, she wanted a bite of my corn dog.  I dipped it in mustard and she took a bite.   "Mmmm," she said.  In that forever moment, all I remembered was sharing that corn dog.  There was one more bite left.  So I let her have it.

I read something in her eyes.  I got up and bought another dog on a stick.  Another forever moment strolled by as we shared in the goodness.

And every year the carnival comes to town, the sound of her voice and the forever moment sharing the corn dog permeates my mind.

My mom and I went to a restaurant one time.  The hostess sat us at a small side table.  Sheer drapes were drawn to shade us from the afternoon sun.  Old Chinese ladies rolled aluminum carts of dim sum.  Since my Cantonese wasn't great, my mom ordered.  We made small talk as we enjoyed good food and the warm sun.  My mom kept my tea cup filled and continued to order dim sum.  She wanted me fat.  Still does.  When the bill came she pulled out an old leather coin purse, and popped it open.  She meticulously counted each bill and each coin and made sure there was enough tip.  She looked at me and giggled, asking me if I'd had enough to eat.  I shook my head.  That day has become one of my favorite birthdays.

Forever moments.

Collecting Golden Nuggets of Inspiration

My first post in Writer's Journey talked about where I got the idea for my hero of my book.  He's single handedly inspired me to create the world he lives in. In my bio, I talk about recurrences that happen.  A lot of self-help teachers call these inspirations, nuggets of gold, moments of genius.  Over the twenty or so years, bits and pieces of ideas have come and gone, all pertaining to this particular story.   Then someone in my imagination said, "This would be cool for your story."  I might need to seek some help.

I've mentally collected different nuggets of gold and stored them  in my noggin.  When I got serious and decided to write this book, I bought a tiny notebook and wrote down every single nugget of inspiration.  To my surprise, I've used most of them.  About a quarter of the ideas I threw out.  That's fine.  Better to have more than you need.

When I read or hear other artists talk about where they get their ideas, a lot of them use this method of collecting, writing them down.  JK Rowling did this.  I saw a special on her where she would write on napkins, cards, anything that would take ink.  I think if I tried to write this story early on in my life, I may not have had the opportunity to gather the ideas that I need.

Get a notebook.  For me ideas come when I do the most mundane things.  I'll be walking and all of a sudden, pop.  An idea.

A word of caution.  These ideas are fleeting.  There have been a number of times when I'm taking a shower, I get an idea, I take a moment to remember it, and poof.  It's gone.  Take the time to write these golden nuggets down.  It's these gold pieces of ideas that may change your writing, project, life.

Happy gathering.