Monday Motivation: Alice in Wonderland and Independence

Chess Board - TwitterAlright. For all of you who celebrate such things, Happy Independence Day if you’re an American. Happy “It’s Just Another Day at the Office” Day to everyone else. I’ll find a way to tie this in shortly. Really.

On this date in 1862,  according to the great oracle, Alice Liddell, 10, asks Charles Dodgson to tell her a story while they’re boating near Oxford, England. He weaves a tale of a bored little girl who suddenly finds herself down a rabbit hole. Dodgson will later publish ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland‘ under his pen name, Lewis Carroll.

So what does that have to do with me (or you)?

Alice in Wonderland was one of my inspirations to become a writer in the first place. The crazy cast of characters, the improbable (yet somehow believable) circumstances, and the wry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor all appealed to me. Couple that with its ability to reach children and adults alike and I was hooked.

Of course, the trick with any motivating work is to give tribute without plagiarism. It’s much like America getting its freedom from Great Britain: you keep some things from the Mother Country, but you work very hard at making it its own entity. (I told you I’d tie it in somehow.)

Any time that you want to borrow from another work, keep that in mind. You want your finished work to be as different from the original as the United States is from Great Britain. This isn’t going to happen overnight; if you think using another book for inspiration will result in an instant hit, think again. Just like the newly countrified colonies had to go through growing pains that included a Civil War, you’ll go through many an internal (and sometimes external) war before you get it right.

So how do you avoid stealing from your inspiration while still giving tribute?

  1. Never write directly from the original. I will usually read through the book that is inspiring me and make a few notes. I then do my best to ignore my muse for the remainder of the first draft.
  2. Whether you outline or free write (pantsing), keep your mind on the bigger story, not the original inspiration.
  3. If you have a friend who also likes your inspiration, see if you can get them to beta read for you and have them mark any places where the resemblance is a little too much like clone, rather than bastard child.
  4. When you’re doing your rewrite, check for things that are overly similar yourself. Be brutal; it’s better to catch the weeds before they take over your whole garden.

Remember, while it’s great to want to honor your inspirations, do it in a way that respects their creative efforts and creates something new.

Then go out and eat a hot dog and chips and think: I could’ve been stuck with bangers and mash.


A to Z Blogging Challenge: L

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Losing My Motivation

A to Z Blogging Challenge: L

I write parody songs. I have quite a few in my wheelhouse, in fact. Today, since I am still lacking the motivation to write anything truly useful, I thought I’d at least spawn an Ear Worm.

Ohhh, to write is bigger
It’s bigger than myself
And it’s not easy
To show and to not tell it
And I want to cry
Oh no, I’ve failed too much
Have I failed enough?

That’s me with the laptop
That’s me on the internet
Losing motivation
Trying to keep my plot intact
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve played too much
I haven’t played enough.

I thought I could write forever
I thought I could write bestsellers
I thought my words could make men cry.

Every chapter
Of every single scene I’m
Losing my conviction
That this is something I can do
Like the words have all fled my soul
Oh no, I said too much
I failed to set it up.

Rewording this
Rewording this
The novel is writing me
Rewording this
This book has
Brought me to my knees
What if all my fantasies aren’t
Good to go around?
Now I’ve cut too much.

I’d rather be somewhere reading
I’d rather go try to clean
I’d rather give up both my eyes.

I think I’m gonna scream
This writing makes me scream.

That’s me with the laptop
That’s me on the internet
Losing motivation
Trying to keep my plot intact
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I wrote too much
I didn’t write enough.

I thought I could write forever
I thought I could write bestsellers
I thought my words could make men cry.

I think I’m gonna scream
Whine, cry, sigh, scream
I think I’m gonna nap
Just go dream, just go dream.


A to Z Blogging Challenge: K

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Kidding Around is Pretty Serious

A to Z Blogging Challenge: K

I’m known for my comedy. Humor is my wheelhouse. Most of what I write is pretty lighthearted. But I think humor writers, in some ways, have the harder task: we have to tackle reality with laughter instead of with pitchforks. It can be trying.

In my soon-to-be-released book, Beta Beware, DJ has to deal with religion in terms of how the Figments see it:

“So you never have to do something in real life you don’t want?” Shiv asked.

DJ slapped at his hand before he could pat her head. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to console her, but she didn’t like it. “Well, of course. That’s called being responsible. My kids call it ‘adulting’. But no one is making me.”

Eric put a finger to his nose. “Not as far as you remember. But what if all those times you adult someone is moving the pieces to make a move? What if you really have no choice in the matter?”

DJ was starting to really miss the snarky game text. At least she knew how to deal with it. “Then I don’t see what the purpose would be in trying. I believe in free will. If my life was like that, I might as well be a…”

“Character?” Eric suggested.

Shiv said, “Or a Figment, even?”

“I was going to say ‘slave’,” DJ said. “Stop putting words in my mouth.” She frowned. “But I see your point.” She didn’t like the feeling she was getting in the pit of her stomach. “Do you not get any say at all in what happens to you?”

Eric just shrugged, but Shiv said, “Sometimes we get to feel like we do. There are Writers who like to think their Characters write the story. They leave things more open to chance.”

“It’s not really chance, but they think it is.” Eric gave another shrug. “It is what it is.”

“Doesn’t it bother you?”

“This is our theology, our religion,” Shiv said. “Your world has gods. Our world has Writers. Do you resent your gods when they cause something to happen that you don’t agree with?”

“Sometimes,” DJ admitted. “But my religion believes in free will. God has the ability to make things happen, but He lets us make our own choices.”

Eric wove a daisy chain from flowers that popped up one at a time, the next one growing only when he picked the one before it. “Then your god is a pantser, really. He lets things develop without a plan.”

“No, there’s a plan. At least, that’s what our religion teaches.”

Shiv took a daisy before Eric could, which earned him a frown. “Then a plantser or plotser. A little of both.”

Eric waited patiently for the next daisy. “Plotters don’t like to give up control.”

“Hey, I’m a plotter!” DJ muttered.

Shiv nodded. “I already pegged you as a bit of a control freak. That’s why the helplessness bugs you so much. A pantser like Christopher just goes with it.”

DJ glared at him, but couldn’t put a lot of fire into it. “I don’t like this comparison. It’s like you’re saying my whole life is nothing more than someone else’s story.”

“Doesn’t your religion have its own book? Most of them do.” Eric finished his daisy chain and made it into a full circle.

DJ sighed. “I get more and more confused here. I thought you said this was a game, not a book?”

“Game, book… just two sides to the same coin, really. The difference is only in how it’s presented.” Shiv looked around. “Discussing theology makes me hungry. You don’t have any food, do you?”

Do you use humor to tackle tough concepts? Do you like reading tough concepts tipped on their side in a parody?

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I

Art imitates life. No, wait. That’s not what I meant to say. I imitate art.

Probably a little more accurate.

There’s some snobbery in the writing community about having your own voice. Don’t get me wrong: I do not approve of plagiarizing. However, there’s a huge difference between plagiarizing and using something for inspiration.

Art students often start by mimicking the Masters. Musicians frequently try to copy their idols (why else would American Idol have made it through fifteen seasons?). When writers try out another writer’s voice, though, there’s generally some outrage.

“Fan fiction is bad!”

“Writing like someone else is bad!”

“Bad. Bad! BAD!”

Bah humbug.

Copying a writer’s voice, like anything else, is how you learn. Sometimes, it’s how you make a living, especially if you’re a satirist or write parody. There are writers who make really good money as ghost writers learning to copy someone’s voice. But there should be limits.

  1. Use copying someone’s voice to a humorous effect. Parody is generally considered fair use (although I’m not a lawyer and the Figment lawyers hate me, so they wouldn’t give me any advice).
  2. Use copying someone else’s voice for practice. Whether you write fan fiction or flat-out try to rewrite something that’s already been published, there’s nothing wrong with using it for practice. Just don’t publish it. (Note: Amazon has some exceptions to this, but I haven’t tried out their fan fiction area, so I can’t say much more than “it exists”.)
  3. Use works that are out of copyright as the basis for a new story (I’m looking at you, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), but be sure to make the new story still your own. Just because it’s legal to reuse the work doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Unless you have a good twist to it, leave it be.

Imitation is a sincere form of flattery… just be sure you flatter in a legal and ethical manner.

Have you ever used other works in your stories (like I use Alice in Wonderland)? How about for inspiration?