When I handed my thesis in, I thought I’d have loads of time to dally. And I did. For the first two weeks I was a bit lost, no studying to do, no looming deadline. What was I going to do with myself? I went to the movies and caught up with friends and read lots. I baked lots of cakes and muffins and made chilli sauce. But I stopped writing, maybe I needed a break. Now I find I have no time. I caught a glimpse of a liposuction procedure on tv and that’s what has happened to all the free hours I had. They’ve been sucked up and distributed elsewhere. My hours have been liposucked! Today I had great plans, I ended up juicing and freezing a gazillion oranges. I had a look at my very neglected blog and I thought yet again about Artie and Alicia my two characters from my Honours. Their story isn’t finished, although they’ve been quiet lately. Time to visit old friends I think.
PS Got my thesis back with High Distinction :)
These photos were taken a few years ago when I was an undergraduate. It was fun learning how to use my camera. My children Niamh and Setanta were the models. I think they were glad when the assignment was finished. We borrowed Slim Jim the skeleton from their school for the day. He was a great model, never complained and always did what I wanted.
Little Red Riding Hood
Big Bad Wolf
The last shot is my favourite, I had fun learning how to layer and add colour.
There is something magical about watching the sunrise. The sky looks like it is on fire as the sun slowly climbs higher. An early morning wander unearths such treasures.
This little fella was very sluggish and not keen on moving. At first I thought he was dead, but soon realised it was just too cold for him. I went back later and he was gone, probably to find a warm spot.
Let sleeping lizards lie
Spring is on its way and flowers are starting to wake and spread their colourful joy. Hardenbergia or native wisteria rambles through trees adding colour to a drab winter landscape. Soon tiny orchids will appear and then the bush will be awash with spring flowers.
The road to anywhere.
The winding road
Winter brings lots of interesting and sometimes strange fungi to life. They pop up in unusual places, in odd shapes, colours and sizes. I find them fascinating. They have their own ethereal beauty, so delicate and yet so vigorous. A nearby town is well-known for its magic mushrooms. I haven’t tried them so I can’t comment on the effects, but every year the mushies are on the news.
Fairy High Rise
A host of brown fungi
In January, six Western Australian artists painted six murals on external walls throughout Bunbury, creating an exciting and amazing Art Walk. Some are hidden down alleyways, others are high on buildings and all can be viewed and enjoyed at anytime. Re.Discover was started in Bunbury by Andrew Frazer and “is an artist run project created to cultivate creativity and to activate feet on the streets of Bunbury’s CBD”.
Art by Stormie Mills
Art by KYLE HUGHES-ODGERS
I wrote this article for The Write Turn website/blog and decided to share. The original The Write Turn page has disappeared into wherever dead webpages go. Another site with the same name is in its place.
Enjoy the Ride
I’m not a planner. I don’t sit down and write a long description and background for my characters. I don’t describe them or dress them. I’ve tried to, but they just appear in my head fully formed and they usually have their own agenda. Characters have minds of their own and there is no point trying to force them to do what you want. Trust me, you won’t win. I’ve had a minor character become a major and much-loved part of a story. He took over and had to be part of the action. Characters know what’s happening and know where the story is heading. So be flexible. Listen to your subconscious and don’t be afraid to try something new.
Take the writing journey with your characters, don’t go solo. It’s a bit like heading off to a new city with no map or GPS and just winging it. Yep you’ll get lost, but you’ll have an adventure on the way and eventually (hopefully) you’ll end up at your destination. Writing is like that. I’ve had whole stories change because of something I’ve read or heard. And I mean change as in veering off at high-speed into the abyss with me hanging on wondering what the hell happened. The characters job is to take you and hopefully countless readers on that enjoyable high-speed journey. It’s a ride you won’t regret, even if sometimes you might want to throw your laptop through the window. It’s important to be open to change and be prepared to let that carefully constructed plan fall to pieces. You will learn as you go. Don’t forget to read. Be patient, don’t rush the finished product and don’t send it out until you’ve let it sit for a while and then reread it. Hell read it to your dog or cat, they won’t care about your bad grammar, but you might pick up mistakes and it helps with editing.
Writing should be enjoyable and not something you have to force, even when inspiration flees. Relax. Reread. Don’t panic (unless you have a deadline, then feel free to panic). See what your character is up to. They will eventually take you by the hand and pull you back into their world. You can always kill them off if you don’t like what they have to say and even resurrect them when you realise you miss them.
Dialogue makes a character real and their response to settings and situations is more important than a physical description. Creating strong characters is an art and something which is honed over time. Practice your art whenever you can. Eavesdrop on conversations and imagine the people behind the words. Can you create a character around someone in a supermarket? I made the mistake of going to a Hi-Fi shop during the Christmas sales. What an eye-opener. I didn’t expect such colourful language in a queue, especially not aimed at children. But it’s something that stuck in my head and may reanimate in another form later on.
See the world through a writer’s eyes and grasp the possibilities.
My Granda lived to be 90 and he was a great character. He was a brilliant story teller and was always telling us stories about his grandfather James P, who he adored.
In his younger days. The gentleman on the left
When my Granda was 4, his dad died of TB, leaving a widow with four young boys. Her dad went over to England and brought them all home to Ireland. James P had travelled to America in the 1800’s, he was there during the civil war and had worked on a paddle steamer. I wish we had a photo of him, because he sounded like an amazing man. His house passed to his daughter and then my Granda. My mother and her siblings were all born in it. One of my favourite stories was when James P was out ploughing his fields and he spied a leprechaun under a tree. Sneaking up he managed to catch it and demanded to know where the gold was hidden. The leprechaun promised to show him and led him through the field to the secret stash. James P holding tight, because he knew how sneaky leprechauns could be.
The leprechaun noticed that the bull had escaped and shouted to warn James P. Looking over his shoulder all he saw was the plough horses nibbling grass and no sign of the bull. Yep he’d been tricked and the leprechaun was gone. He never did catch another.
I spent ages looking out for leprechauns and fairies when I was little. There were a few fairy trees on my Granda’s land, but I never saw any either.
Stella woke me at 4.30 to go outside. Now I’m up drinking coffee and she’s flaked out on the sofa.
Wes is close by, trying to make his and Stella’s beds into one bed. He’s not
having much luck.
Stella checking out Wes, she’s gone back to sleep.
I’d like to go back to sleep too, but it’s Monday. Time to get ready for work and school.
Wes is our almost 16-year-old Doberman cross dog. He’s deaf and almost blind, but he can tell the time. Everyday he heads to the backdoor about 4.30ish so he can go outside to his food bowl – just in case we happen to forget to feed him. Yesterday I let him into the pool area with me so he could have a sniff around. I’d just thought I hope Stella doesn’t knock him in. When I heard a splash. He’d managed to fall in the deep end by himself. Poor fella, must have been a huge shock. He swam to the shallow end, but couldn’t get out so I had to strip off and get in – did I mention it’s winter here! Anyway it wasn’t too cold and no harm done to Wes. I had to chase him around the yard with a towel and try to dry him off, he wasn’t keen on the towel.
Today he went for his annual vet check. There were two other fifteen-year-old dogs there too. Must’ve been seniors day ;) Vet gave him the once over and he’s in great health for such an old dog. His teeth and weight are perfect, one side of his head is a bit odd. The muscle has completely wasted away. He has a bit of arthritis and I have to give him an injection for it once a week for the next three weeks. Vet expects to see him again in a year.
Stella thinks she’s a cat
Yesterday I had my thesis printed, bound and then drove up the hill to the university to hand the three copies in. Caught my supervisor as she was departing and we had a quick flick through. It came out really well. But when I was signing the declaration I realised I’d cocked up the contents page. The numbers had disappeared the night before, I have no idea what I did. Then the margins went a bit crazy. I spent the evening sipping Shiraz and trying to sort it out. Hopefully the examiners won’t notice as it’s just the Roman Numerals at the start. Anyway it was sent off yesterday so now I just have to wait.
To celebrate I went out to lunch with my supervisor, two dear friends/honours students and another lecturer. We had a lovely wee drop of sparkling south-west wine from St Aidan’s Winery. Lunch was delicious soup and then two of us lingered over coffee and dessert, the others returned to uni.
It is rather strange being finished. A mixture of emotions from relief to oh shit it’s done I’m finished. I’ve been writing and thinking about this for eighteen months it’s very strange not to have to think about characters and theory and research. Very strange indeed.