Thursday, October 23, 2014

Want to be a Writer - Families

Back to you Want to be a Writer series after a fairly long hiatus. Today, I'm focusing on families as a part of the story. Now, I'm not focusing on writing families into stories, but more of a general over-arching concept of family structure within the story. Check this topic also under world-building as well.

my grandparents, c. 1945
For most Americans, indeed most of the world, family consists of dad, mom, child(ren). It is what is often referred to as the nuclear family. For family-friendly items, the age of the children is usually limited to the under 12 crowd.

In times past, family remained the nuclear family, but also included larger elements as well such as the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We see this when families focus on a common ancestor whether as a matriarchal or patriarchal civilizations. Most often, this is limited two or three generations back, and would include a common great-grandparent.

For others, family is something you choose, not inherit. For some, family is the group of friends that share common bonds. Military individuals refer to their units as brothers, Christians refer to churches as church-family.

Deciding the family

Depending on your story's setting, family may already be dictated with rules in place as well. In other cases, you might create a new world and would need to create the family structures. Two major considerations are (1) the biological family structure and (2) adopted family structures.

For the Adopted Family Structure, this would include families created by circumstances, and typical do not include parental figures. These families primarily develop in military story lines or dystopian worlds.

For the Biological Family Structure, this would include a couple and their subsequent descendants. The largest question is how to limit the family. Will you limit it to mom, dad and the kids, or will you extend it out into a larger portion to include maybe grandchildren or grandparents as well.

Tribes and Clans

At their very basic structure, tribes and clans are extended families. Typically, they claim one common ancestor that unites everyone to them. Tribes and clans develop certain legal structures to maintain order among the members including inheritance, marriage, and property.

In stories where these family structures are established such as the Scottish Highlands, or the Middle East, writers can learn from the cultures to develop accurate portrayals. In stories where that isn't the case, the writer will have to decide what the structure is, though decisions may be under-developed because the story line doesn't require them.

As an example, one of my fantasy novels has a family (parents, children and grandchildren) who are elvish assassins. The family took on aspects of a wolf pack, with the rest of the family submitting to the head of the family. In this case, the head of the family was also the one with the title, Duke.

In early versions of the story, I focused primarily on the main character and the descendants of her father's parents. The story was fairly straight-forward until the characters started interacting more and more with their king and enemies. At this point, I had to start fleshing out how the family worked - what were the social expectations within the family, and what did others expect of the family. Since the family were the assassins, I had to incorporate training into their family dynamic, as well as the pack concept.

In another spin-off of the story's family line, I realized that certain structures would remain true regardless how far apart the various branches of the family had gone. These elements included hierarchy within the clan structure as well as the expectations therewith.

As you develop your story, you'll pick up the family structures used within the world. Sometimes, added tension can be brought together when what we expect is not what is real. For example, if the eldest son inherits the property, what happens when a man has had two wives and both bear a son? Is it his first-born son? Typically yes, it is the man's first born son. Now, what if the man married the first woman because he was forced to, but married the second woman because of love? Does it make a difference in who will inherit?

Sometimes, thinking through the many implications a simply family structure could have can lead to new ideas and story lines.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thus ends the season

My fair season ended on Saturday without a fair. Strong winds blew in from the West, leaving the only option for the Saturday Artisan Market leaders to cancel the last fair. Oh well, personally, I didn't want to attempt putting up a tent in 15+ miles per hour winds.

Not fun.

Appleumpkin, 2014

This lovely photo is from Appleumpkin this year, where I had the help of both my mom and sister, as you can see. In case you're wondering, they're discussing a book, but I can't remember if it's one of mine, or the one Mom brought with her.

Shifting from primarily weaving to primarily writing offers some different troubles, but in both cases, it takes time. Sometimes, a project forces you to take time. For example, Azure Depths (the third book in the four-part series) spends most of the story in Deep Waters, but I discovered last week that I needed to consider how they built the city.

I cannot use futuristic ideas about building this city since some of the elements may or may not be conducive for Deep Waters. Added to that, the city has existed for several thousand years. Even with various and sundry attacks, most of the city survived throughout the ages. Stones, sand, bare rock, these are the elements most likely used, but the look of the city remains off.

This is one of the times I wish I could draw better. I can see the city in my mind, but how do I describe it on paper is harder - whether through words or through sketches. Oddly, the same is also true for Orfhlait, but not to the same extent. For Orfhlait, I have books I can use to research. Locations in Cairo have remained there for thousands of years, but I can see those. The harder part for Orfhlait is learning what existed when. Sometimes, a writer simply has to make an educated guess.

As one season ends, another begins. If any of you were unable to visit me at the fairs, you can still visit here, like Bridgette ni Brian on Facebook; follow @bridgettenbrian on Twitter.

Also, check out the Bridgette ni Brian Etsy site if you're looking for handwoven Christmas presents. I also have hand bound journals for sale there as well, if you have aspiring writers or artists.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Reflection

Tomorrow happens to be my birthday, so I'm taking this time to reflect on the past year, and things I've learned. Most of the time, these articles come around New Year, but with my birthday, changes in the weather, and the general turning of the season, early October has always been the better time. It happens to be one of my favorite times as well because cooler weather demands my favorite things: sweaters, tea and coffee.

A pot of warm tea
It's been a year of ups and downs: two more books published, but also the stress of being a published author. I didn't know what I was getting into, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm still finding my feet in this matter, and more often than not feel completely overwhelmed. I'm thankful for the support from my family, as well as the support from friends both ones I've met and ones I haven't met. It's one of the joys about being able to access the Internet, write a blog, and connect with people. I've learned what others think, and how my books or blog entries inspire them.

Over the past year, I've met new people, lost some dear friends, and have learned throughout trials, there are always moments of joy. Days before my cousin's funeral, his nephew (another cousin) celebrated the birth of his firstborn, and on the day we buried my cousin, his nephew brought the baby over to the house so we could celebrate new life even as we celebrated one passing.

I've learned that pursuing one's dreams isn't always a celebration. It is often hard work: getting up, doing the everyday mundane because it isn't always sunshine and roses. Being a writer and a weaver isn't hob-nobbing with influential people, but it is writing daily even when I don't want to write. It's learning that turning a hobby into a business comes with times in which I want a normal job where I work for so many hours and leave at the day's end. Running a business has its ups and downs, but I'm the boss, and I'm the one that ultimately answers for whatever happens.

Being the boss, by the way, is pretty stinkin' cool.

Over the past year, I've taken chances: some good, some bad. Sometimes life forces itself on us, making us do something we've wanted to do, but never had the courage to do. It's scary and unnerving, but taking those chances, even when they blow up in our faces, teaches us something. Unfortunately, those lessons don't come with a manual, so we can't always figure it out until later. I often feel as though I've been handed a chemistry book, expected to learn everything without the help of a teacher or instructions.

Sometimes, we need to find the teacher.

There are times when we need to leave our present situation. This past year, I changed churches not for doctrinal issues, not for personality conflict, but because I needed to leave. Sometimes, we out-grow the church group, friend group or work group where we are. Nothing wrong with it, but for whatever reason, it no longer is right for us. Take a chance to leave because leaving could be the best thing to happen. We purchased roses at Easter, and the lady told us to cut the tops of the rose bush off after we planted them. If we didn't, the bush would grow, but no roses would come. The roses looked terrible after they were cut, but eventually, the grew back and blossomed.

Cutting back is often the only way we grow.

I've grown this past year whether in confidence, understanding, or just awareness. I've processed, and continue to process, my life experiences to see what I can learn. I know my short-comings, but learning how to overcome them is hard. Fear can paralyze or it can motivate. I had a teacher in college who started writing because her husband didn't have work or may have become sick. She wanted her students to write and build the business during the good times so during the lean times, the practice was already there. I applied her wisdom as best I could, but the lean times can still take us out. It's best to have a plan for your future, with the understanding that sometimes the map flies out the window, and we're left standing in the middle of nowhere wondering how we arrived.

Carry an internal compass, and know what motivates you.

My mom and I were talking a few days ago about life journeys. There is a theory that every choice we make creates a new reality. If we can turn right or left, we, in essence, turn both ways, but we only know one reality. It's makes for great science fiction stories, but it also makes you think. How would have life been different had I taken this path over that path? If my life had gone the way I wanted it to - married with a steady job, maybe a child or two, living in a foreign country - I wouldn't be the me I am. I would be happy with the me I might be in that reality, but not the me I am in this reality. Regardless of how my life has turned out, I have dreams and aspirations to pursue. Some I will learn can never be accomplished whereas others need time and energy to fulfill. I cannot live in a world that might have been, neither can I wish for that world. I need to focus on the reality that is, and see if there is a way to still accomplish my goals.

Being happy with your present is the only way to make your future brighter.

We all have dreams and aspirations. Some dream of being a writer, others dream of keeping the family farm. Pursuing your dreams require tenacity, innate ability, and perseverance. It takes time to develop your gifts, even as it takes sheer stubbornness to hang on to the dreams. Sometimes, we realize that the dream we pursued led us to another place. I wanted to be a journalist (and would have made a decent one), but that dream veered into the novel writing I also loved. What I would have written had I taken another path is not what I have written. The characters of Azure Maris and Orfhlait are the out-growth of my personal experiences.

Over the past year, I've grown stronger and more flexible. When things don't happen the way we want, we need to re-evaluate the reason why we do something. When my books didn't sell as well as expected; when I don't sell as many items at a fair, it hurts. Yes, I want to sell items because I've entered these fields to earn a living from them. I'm an artist who uses words and fiber to create images and stories. It isn't a hobby, but the way I've been created to earn a living. It can throw you when something you've created doesn't do as well as hoped. Did I do something wrong? Am I as good as I thought? Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing?

We each have to come to a point in our lives where we look at our life to evaluate it: did I use my gifts and abilities to the best of my ability? If the answer is yes, and you have no regrets, keep plugging through even in dark times ... especially though the darkest of times. If the answer is no, ask why. Sometimes, the dreams we set for ourselves are worthless. I may want to become a multi-platinum music artist, but the truth is, my voice isn't the greatest. My gifts and abilities lie in the field of literature and fiber art. It's where I'm gifted, because if my ability to get a job is any indication, it's all I can do.

In the past year, I've learned that holding on hurts; letting go is sometimes needed, but the hardest part of living is finding out when to hold on, and when to let go. Sometimes we can hold on for too long, and sometimes we can fly if we let go.

May we each find the balance to know when to act.

Monday, October 6, 2014

First of the Month Review - Art Inc.

Today, I'm focusing on the business of art with a book I recently purchased called Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon.

The short version of the review is good. If you're interested in turning your art hobby into a business, this is a good resource to borrow or purchase.

All in all, I found it useful in that it provides several elements true to all artists: building websites and blogs, developing social media, and how to market yourself to companies and individuals. The major drawback, I found, is its focus on two-dimensional arts such as drawing, painting and illustration. This makes sense since Congdon is an illustrator and painter. Yet, despite this drawback, even for three dimensional artists the book has some very good points.

One of the aspects I found helpful was her chapter on Exhibitions and Galleries (chapter 5). I have wanted to show my work in galleries, but hadn't found a good way to present the subject. Part of the reason has to do with how I perceive other people's understanding of fiber arts. This chapter provided some helpful suggestions of creating a portfolio, building an exhibition and presenting ideas to gallery directors.

For anyone in the 2D field, this book should be at least part of your library, but may not turn into your quick reference. It works best for someone who doesn't know exactly what to do, but wants to try. For the 3D artists, if your items are more gallery and less craft, the book might be useful enough to purchase, otherwise, just borrow it from the library or a friend.