Tag Archives: Story

The word trap

I am continuing to explore what can stop you from getting that first draft on paper. My last blog explored the dangers of correctness. Today I want to talk about the word trap.

Most writers make the mistake of coming to writing from a word perspective. It’s funny isn’t it? Let me explain. They look for words in their minds and try to string them together, but it makes the process bitty and clumsy. It’s hard work.

What I learnt through my hypnotherapy practice and my reiki master experience is that you first need to get into trance: that state of relaxation where you enter the creative zone. This is not an intellectual state. In fact, in that state the mind is slightly numbed. This is important, because the mind is where the inner critic sits and lives. You need your inner critic asleep or at least groggy.

Once you reach that state, and this is going to be an instrumental part of the workshop coming soon, what you do is not look for words but look for images. If you have done your homework correctly, you will gave a set of characters, each will have a tensive potential with the other and/or the venue or setting, so now what you do is visualise yourself in the place and moment your story starts and observe. What do you see? What do you feel? Which angle on the set do you stand? Are there any specific smells? How are the character physically positioned ih relation to you? And to each other? You are not writing a story: you are watching your story unfold as if you were at the movies. If you are writing non fiction, the process is similar except you let the flow of ideas pour out and you don’t try to organise them at this stage, you just capture them, as you would capture dreams.

This is the way most great creative geniuses describe their creative process. Musicians often say they sit, relax and literally hear the music and write it down. If they came from an intellectual perspective, it would be ruined.

This is the process I was gifted with on 2008 and which has transformed my writing journey from hard work to sheer pleasure. There is really a pre and post-2008 writing experience in my life and frankly I never want to go back.

If you want to transform your creative process, why not join us at one of our workshops? I have three spaces left at the early bird price for the one coming up on 15th March 2014. The next three people who sign up will benefit from a 25% discount. Book yourself here.

Hope to see you there.

Blessings

Ange de Lumiere

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Forget the writer’s sandwich

You know the writer’s sandwich: a story had to have a beginning, a middle and an end? Well, forget about it.

Here is another way: you play with the characters, the place for your story, the relationship between your characters until you have a story that holds the ground and has enough tensive quality (some call it conflict, but to me it’s too strong a word) that you know it’s going to make a great story. Let me illustrate this with the story I wrote for a film script.

I had this idea about the story of a woman who has a phobia of churches and who goes to a hypnotherapist to get cured. She is desperate to get over it because she is getting married in the summer. That was the first idea. Initially the starting scene was taking place in my house. What I mean is that I visioned the girl coming to my practice which was easy to imagine because I am a clinical hypnotherapist and this is routine work for me. So in my mind, I played with the idea for a while. This girl was a lawyer and really not the usual client for a hypnotherapist but she had been dragged in by her best friend, who swore by hypnotherapy. Great start. I thought. I still do. But as the story progressed, the venue wasn’t so right anymore, so I transported everyone to London (I live in a little village north of Bristol) because this lawyer was quite a high flying chick and that didn’t fit with my semi-rural England setting. London did. And I knew about living in London. I revised my first draft and played with the story some more.

Then, I realised that there was not enough tension in her relationship to her friend. It was too “nice”. Her best friend had quit smoking with a lady hypnotherapist, so she was dragging her best friend there. There was no potential conflict between them. No good. As I was playing with my story, I suddenly had an insight into their friendship. Her best friend was actually her Fiancé’s ex and she hadn’t really got over him. Only she was denying it so she would act out. Hey hey, I said to myself. Much better.

I am not going to reveal anymore of my plot here but you can see that I deepened my story not because of the classic writing sandwich: a middle stuck between a beginning and an end. My story got depth by me playing with the characters, the venue and the setting (modern England). I am sorry if the writer’s sandwich has worked for you up to now. And if that is the case, by all means continue to use it. But if you got stuck or if the sandwich hasn’t worked for you, try this more creative approach. Get to know your characters. See how the venue introduces a cultural element to the story that informs it. Change the venue and see how it changes the story.

to your creativity,

Ange de Lumiere

Connecting with your story

When we tell a story, whether orally or in writing, in order to tell it well, we need a good connection to it. This is one of the sides of the story triangle I have already written about. How do you connect to the story you are about to write or already writing?

A woman came to me who asked me the following question: “Can you help me with my writing? I start books but never seem to be able to finish them. Many people have told me I am a talented writer, but I don’t seem to be able to finish anything.” A ten minute exchange and a little intuition enabled me to quickly establish what the missing link was: passion and purpose. She did it because someone told her she was good at it, and I can hazard a guess that she picked a story that seemed interesting but had no emotional or intellectual connection to it.

Let me give an example of what I mean by emotional or intellectual connection to a story. In one of my recent blogs, I told the story of this woman whose husband left her for a younger woman and who was a mother of seven kids. And how she wanted to be in a relationship but the odds were against her. And yet she found love at first sight in a supermarket after bumping into a man, as their trolleys collided. This is a true story and I am very tempted to actually get on and write the story. Why? It connects with me emotionally. I divorced and had to rebuild my life with two small children, and when I shared my aspiration to find a new relationship, a well meaning friend said to me “at your age and with two kids, you had better not be too picky”. I nearly strangled him. No need to say we are no longer friends. I was only thirty six then. Thirty six is young. I’d like to think you can find love at any age. I once read in a paper about a couple who met in a retirement home and got married at 85. Now that’s what I want to hear.

I am sharing this because you can immediately see why this woman’s story speaks to me. She was well into her fifties, had seven kids and found true love. I was thirty six and had two kids and found true love. But her story was more inspiring than mine. Every woman whose relationship breaks up, needs hope that her romantic life is not over, whatever her age. So I have an emotional connection to it. I am also intellectually connected to it. I am a feminist at heart and I hate the idea that anyone would think that a woman with seven kids in her fifties might not be desirable or lovable. That really incenses the women’s right activist in me.

But you might have no connection to it at all. You might read about her and it stirs nothing in you but a vague intellectual ripple. If that’s the case my advice would be: don’t even come near it. Just like the woman above, you might never finish it. You need something to get you through the writing of 60,000 odd words. It’s a lot of energy and steam you need to gather. You need passion about your subject and a bigger picture to motivate you.

To your creativity,

Ange de Lumiere

Writing as healing

Every single writer starts writing to heal some part of themselves whether they are aware of it or not. Writing is a healing practice. Some start with journaling. I think the benefits of journaling for healing are now well established.

But what is healing is not so much the words we use, or the way we do it, but more the fact that we tell our stories. This is how I got started myself. I was experiencing a very difficult time in my life as one of my closest friends got into heroin and dragged me along with her in her inferno for nearly ten years. I started to write the story of our friendship at that point because it became just too overwhelming to deal with it on my own. And so a writer was born. I could have journal but I decided to write it as a novel.

It has come to me recently that talking therapy is actually therapeutic and a deeply healing process mostly because it creates a safe space for the client to tell their story. I know many aspiring writers who want to share their story with the world to inspire others, which is a very noble thing to do. But they should remember first that they should be their first priority in the healing process, the possible impact on the reader and inspiration comes second. At least in the first stages of writing.

The healing power of telling your story as it is (your version) has actually been researched by several teams. A study published in The Oncologist showed that expressive writing could help cancer patients not only think of their disease in a different way but also improve their quality of life. We are talking help with medical conditions. Another study was done with physical injuries. Scientific America reports that a study made in New Zealand shows that writing as little as twenty minutes three consecutive days could impact healing of a wound. However, there is no magic bullet. If events have been extremely traumatic, writing about them can trigger PTSD symptoms, so please exercise caution when embarking on a writing journey.

I personally find great joy in using material from my personal life and realising that life is a big play. We are all on a hero’s journey, as Joseph Campbell so aptly reminded us with his exquisite work. What we experience has probably been experienced by many other people. The beauty of it, though, it we can use for our transformation and the transformation of others. We can transcend our condition and make an impact on the world. For this, I encourage you to define a purpose for your writing so that you sharpen your writing even further.

For example, only yesterday, I realised that the purpose of my book “Journey of the Slim Soul” was to help people step off the hamster wheel of diets and self hate. I wrote it out of frustration with the diet and fitness industry that sent so many false and confusing messages to slimmers. I was myself struggling with weight and body image issues but so were my clients. Writing the book was indeed therapeutic for me. And if I can achieve that goal of helping others step off the hamster wheel of dieting and self hate, I will be one happy author indeed.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

To plot or not to plot

There is a big divide between authors who outline their novels and those who don’t and they both argue that theirs is the best way. In reality both camps have valid arguments for their method of approaching the art of story telling. Let’s say I am going to go beyond their arguments and suggest we talk about structure instead of outline.

Structure is essential for both fiction and non fiction work. This was illustrated by a recent client of mine who writes about healing. She had been posting on Facebook little snippets about her case studies and wanted to write a book to empower people to heal themselves without an intermediary and share with them her protocol. As soon as she talked about her project, I had a very clear idea of how to structure her book. It made sense to her and has made her writing her book easily as she now just slots her writing into a pre-existing structure. She says this tool had been invaluable.

A great way to find a structure for your non fiction book is to brainstorm all the ideas that you want to include. Jot them down on paper. Then, organise them. I find mind maps very useful. To see examples of mind maps, click here. If you have never used a mind map and want to get started, I suggest Tony Buzan’s book.

For fiction work, as mentioned above, the subject is more controversial. Some like to outline, some don’t. At first, from hearing about the outline camp, I thought I was not part of their tribe as they claim to work on their plots for two to three months before even starting to write their book. But after reflecting for a while, I realised the divide was an illusion. Every writer outlines their story even if it’s in their heads to some extent. Then some of them jot the ideas on a piece of paper whereas others formalise things more and go more in depth. For those who claim to properly outline their novels, who is to say that what they call an outline is not only one step away from someone else’s first draft.

In view of the above, I have come to the conclusion that a little bit of planning can go a long way. It would be foolish to go on an adventure without any map at all, as after all, writing a book is about going from A to B. And some authors claim that the digressions are part of the journey. And to an extend they do, as long as they don’t lead to a dead end, or bore your reader. The difference is whether you take an ordinance map with the finest details or a more general map to give you an idea.

What I write about books is also true for blogs. A successful blog has a purpose, a direction. Some call it a “stake” and you find out the stake of your blog or project by asking yourself how would you like it to change the world.

Most authors agree that whether or not you plot your book in advance, the biggest mistake is to rigidly stick to the map. The story or book (for non fiction) will evolve as you write because you will know the terrain. You will discover things that weren’t on the map. And mostly it will be people. Your characters, once they come to life, will want to interfere with your plan. As their personalities deepen, it impacts the story and creates twists that no writer could anticipate. and for non fiction authors, it might be a while angle that you had not anticipated ahead of writing. Stay flexible. Your work becomes an entity of its own nice you start writing it. Collaborate. Don’t resist.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere