Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: imagination

NaNoWriMo: What I Learned

What an exciting (but exhausting) adventure was NaNoWriMo last month! I had a fantastic time writing my 50,000 words in less than 30 days, and learned a lot during the process.

Getting to Know My Characters

There were surprises in getting to know my characters. This story (orphans Jay, Poppy, Robyn and Blu stand only a few inches high and live in a tree; when their home is threatened with demolition they become refugees overnight) was one I have carried in my head since I was a child.

In my head, Robyn was always my main character and very lovable.

On paper, Jay – in his quiet, unobtrusive way – took centre stage early on and stayed there. And I was okay with that, if surprised. Robyn turned out to be quite selfish and lazy though she had good qualities too.

In my head, Poppy was very much a bossy big sister, a bit stressed, rather controlling.

On paper, I found Poppy intriguing. Like Shrek, she has layers, and I enjoyed the process of her allowing me to peel them back and find the real person beneath. Actually, I think she was quite a lonely and misunderstood character, often taken for granted by her siblings. She also took me completely by surprise with her archery skills when a fox raided their camp late one night. I didn’t see that one coming!

getting-to-know-characters

Just Go With It

A big part of doing NaNoWriMo for me was having fun getting to know my characters and letting them take over the story. For the first few thousand words, I wrote and they did whatever I told them.

But what a thrill for me when they suddenly started to think for themselves and do what they wanted.

The showdown came when they were fleeing the destruction of their tree home. I wanted them to hike through the woods. They thought escaping down river was best. We argued on and off all night. They won. And I’m sure the story is the better for it. From that moment onward, I let them take charge and simply followed where they led.

Leave and Start Mid-Scene

More experienced writers recommend leaving mid-scene when finishing writing for the day so that you have something exciting to come back to. I found this very useful. Initially, I switched off my laptop at the end of a scene, but found it much harder to get going the next day.

When you leave mid-scene, it’s easier to get started and keep going because your imagination is quickly stimulated.

Writers’ Block

A writer-friend recommended giving your characters emergencies and issues to handle when you’re stuck for where to go next with the story. I did this a lot. My poor little fictional family! But it was fascinating to see what they did with the various problems I threw at them and how well they coped.

Thankfully, this prevented me from getting writers’ block and from feeling like the story was flopping in the middle of the month.

Writing Buddies

With all my fine resolutions, I may not have started NaNoWriMo if not for my writing-buddies who spurred me on. On Day One, I wrote nothing. It was pretty daunting being faced with a mountain of 50,000 words in a month. But my friends emailed to ask how the word count was going and encourage me to get started. On Day Two, I began to write.

Thank you Janey, Wendy, Fiona and Angela 🙂

 

Create

I loved making up stories with my teddies and dolls when I was little. I even created a family made from empty toilet rolls at one stage. My imagination was fertile and fun. After Christmas when the balloons were taken down from the ceiling, I made up all sorts of stories as the air slowly leaked from them, leaving them deflated bits of uninteresting rubber.

Growing into adulthood, my imagination remained as fertile as ever but became unhealthy rather than fun. My secret stories were fit more for a cesspit than my mind, and fear became even more embedded into who I was. It was as bad for my soul as air leaking from a balloon. But, thankfully, Jesus got hold of me, gently but powerfully cleaned up my mind, and rescued me from fear.  He blew in life-giving air, inflating me to be more the person He created me to be.

We’re all creative in some way, whether it’s scribbling stories, designing skyscrapers, or finding a better way of using limited space in our kitchen cupboards. Not surprising really, since we are made like the One who created us.

To believe in God as creator is to have the security that life has meaning; we are important to Someone; Someone loves us.

Refusing to believe this, we think, lets us off the hook: if we arrived by accident, we don’t have to answer to anyone, therefore we can do as we like. Life ultimately becomes meaningless and, deep down, we don’t believe we have any value at all. What a sad lie.

God created you because He loves you. He has always loved you, and He has good things planned for you.

 

The Great Escape

Did you know that a group of writers is called a worship? That’s what was happening at Scargill House last weekend. A bunch of people worshiping.

Many of us have become friends online and it was good to meet for the first time ‘in the flesh’ or catch up with real rather than virtual hugs.

Adrian and Bridget Plass were our hosts along with Tony Collins, standing in for his wife Pen Wilcock who was at home because of family commitments.

The theme of the weekend was the great escape. Bridget began on Friday evening by reminding us read more.

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