Personal Writing Impediments and Enhancements

Chantia – Our Lead Woman Character

Each of Us As a Writer Has Our Struggles

Writing fiction seems enticing and then we learn the reality of it from issues about the story, how characters develop and the need for promotion and many other things. In this post I’m going to focus on a character in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. But the add on is my own personal contribution and that means what being a psychologist meant for me as a writer. There were definitely pluses and minuses. But it seems they made their own contributions in that some characters showed up demanding a place. Or at least that is how I experienced it.

I’ll Focus on a Woman Named Chantia

She is the central progenitor and had a complex history which was difficult in itself. But there were other problems.

In the story Chantia was the child of a couple devoted to giving health care in the third world. Often that is a difficult environment in which to raise a child. Chantia did not see it that way but was a little mystified when she was sent away to boarding school. Then she went on to college in New York. I constructed that for her because I could imagine her parents would have wanted her to have a broader educational base so she could truly be a person of the world.

But these were not her biological parents. Her biological parents were also devoted to activity in the third world but their true work was intelligence and that meant danger. Long story short, they had to flee under truly dangerous circumstances and left their infant with another couple who Chantia later believed were her true parents. When they died she felt abandoned which was her specific reaction.

My interpretation as a psychologist was that, for personal reasons, she had taken being sent away to school as a rejection and the loss of her parents intensified that feeling.

I think you are beginning to see why my being a psychologist was a complicating factor.

My Interpretations and the Complexity

So then Chantia is shortly thrown into a world where she finds that her biological parents are still alive and they are activists, even the kind who kill people. She wanted her family back but this was definitely not the family she had in mind.

Now the author was running into problems. As a psychologist I could see an intense conflict in Chantia would be almost inevitable. I wanted drama and conflict in the story but this could easily get out of hand.

But it got worse when the opponents of her found family tried to kill her and the man who had become the love of her life. Wait a friggin’ minute. She wanted a family but this was intense. I found that she was becoming a whiner which was not working well in the story at least beyond a certain point. But, at the same time, I simply could not ignore the fact that this was a difficult life. And whining would be a common reaction if not inevitable. In many ways I wanted her situation complicated because the reality is that these kinds of missions can be dangerous and involve all kinds of peril. But whining, in spite of its likelihood was not fitting in well.

My Central Conflict

It wasn’t just the character who had a conflict. I did. I thought her story, as I constructed it In Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power, was interesting and intriguing but just as some characters who showed up demanding inclusion, they also often came with their own internal histories and conflicts which I knew had to be there because of my intuitive personality type and my profession.

And then I started watching the television series Madam Secretary. And there I could see my conflict as a writer. She had a very trying job and they portrayed her as deeply stressed which came very close to whining. And then she had to pull herself together and be the commanding Secretary of State. They did a good job of melding the two themes and her display of her conflict was done artfully even though it came close to whining.

I think most of us who write fiction don’t fully understand what we may be getting ourselves into. And there are conventional wisdoms in the world of writing which may clash with who we are constitutionally and experience wise.

I’ll stop here for now but will come back to these issues with other characters.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Demands Beyond writing – Promotion and Its Complexity

It’s More than Creative Writing

Did you know writing would be this complicated?

In olden days a writer found an agent and the agent found a publisher. Sure that’s a little simplistic, but it was broad stroke for how it was before self publication. When my wife and I wrote our workbook to help stepchildren adjust to their new family a good friend took it into Doubleday and they published it. They sent us on a national tour including an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Those days are gone.

How It Is Now

It seems publishers only talk to agents and agents only talk to—I don’t know who. In short there is no easy way forward to get a book published, publicized and marketed. It seems it is mostly up to the author. Of course there are predators out there who engage authors and charge incredible fees for doing things which are of little use. I won’t go into that mess.

And Then There is the Promotion and Author Help Industry

There are books to help us write books, there are books to help us edit books and on and on. Advice pours forth from multiple sources and it is up to us to sort it and make sense of it. I’ve spent some years now reading sorting and in the end came down to trying it out. Some of the advice turns out to be dated, some spot on. 

The Best Advice

One of the best pieces of advice I read was to be patient. I’ve become quite clear that nothing works right away. It is said that there are 3500 “books” “published” each day. That comes down to a huge crowd and a lot of noise. It takes time to be noticed. The other things I got clear about was that things have to be tried and then we have to adapt.

Having a Thick Skin

Some things we have to listen to are writing related and some general publicity and advertising issues. But there is also reality. When the first of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy was published, the very first review on Amazon gave it one star. It was not to the reader’s taste, she thought the vocabulary was “too big” and she couldn’t write an effective sentence. Got that. And there it sat on the Amazon page all alone as I worked to attract other reviews. Who is going to buy a book with one star? It took some time, then the five star ratings showed up and the total climbed. Phew! The world is not an even, supportive place.

Being Fair With Each Other

One of the things I concluded immediately is that we need to be fair with each other. When I pick up a book and don’t resonate, I have to be honest that the issue may be me and not the book. We don’t all like the same things. I’m not much of a fan of word heavy literature or that’s what I term it. I want that book in my hand to be stirring and along with it my imagination and that essential thing in my life “possibilities” must call out to me. I’ll rate books but won’t rate books that are not to my taste. It wouldn’t be fair or reasonable.

Endurance

I guess in the end what I would say is that we have to endure and stay with our projects. Let’s face it, we like the creative writing process and some people accept it as a hobby and don’t expect to sell much and may not even try to promote it. It seems best if we weigh our goals and accept the complex noisy world in which we live. We learn to improve our writing skills and we have to learn what to expect and to accept endurance is essential.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Creation of Gaia’s Majesty – I

Fiction and Empowerment

Do you find purpose in your reading or writing?

Finding Answers

At some point I began to wonder why I was writing the story of Gaia’s Majesty. The answers did not present themselves, at least in a unitary or ordered fashion. Of course, it really isn’t necessary to question why we write fiction or, for that matter, why we read fiction. It’s fiction and we enjoy it.

But in time the reasons began to become clear. My fascination with the work of Carl Jung led me in a variety of directions. The first of which was to consider the meaning and effect of myth. I love mythology. There are magnificent stories, and with simple reflection, we can see that they are fundamental stories of us. Not just a given person but about the nature and meaning of all of us.

A Central Viewpoint

In turn I had to look at my chosen direction within the project, and I could clearly see that the “what if” was central. And from Jung’s personality typology I knew that intuitive personality types are most prone to ask “what if”. We always search for meaning and what might be because possibilities are the fruit of our lives. I recall my mother returning from a conference with my third grade teacher and telling me that the teacher had said, “Roger has contributions to make when he’s here.”

What the teacher meant was that I was often dreaming out the window. I was clear. When the teacher said something of interest, I took it and stormed out the window to explore it. And so I have gone out to explore our world through Gaia’s Majesty.

Possibilities for Outcome

But why this story. Because women are being empowered and we cannot look away from the significance of it. And so women become the movers and shakers in the story. Another facet is that I am thoroughly convinced that this is an interregnum or denouement for all humankind. And things are moving swiftly. So this story is built on current conflict and seeks to build possibilities for the outcome, at least in symbolic form.

And there is so so much to explore. Our societies are in upheaval, we are seeing a sifting of the possibilities for each group, each nation and, of course, for humankind altogether. It would be easy to be dismissive and simply see it as a time of disorder. There are certainly times of substantial disorder in human history. Of course, it is impossible for me to thoroughly support my belief. The outcome will be revealed in time. But it would seem that in many ways humankind is maturing and old ways are giving way to new ways. That is not to say that prejudice, hatred, fascism, ignorance, greed and the seeking of power have disappeared. But alternatives can be fostered more widely and richly with our communications system. Information technology is changing everything.

Clarifying What’s on the Horizon

I think, in the end, I see Gaia’s Majesty as fundamentally a philosophy and a hope and that those things are supported by elements in the world as it is evolving. It seems probable that the interregnum will be fraught with peril but, as it has so often been in the past, there will be a consolidation, or is transformation not out of the range of possibility? And this may be a time of testing of a new order. What fun!

Which new order would you prefer?

 

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Fiction Writing Process II – An Inherent Process

 

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If you write fiction, what is your process?

An Outpouring

At last the writing of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy began. It led initially to scattered notes which shaped a global outline. As I said previously, I found definitive guidance in the story arc process described by Dara Marks. It is visually and conceptually helpful and is found in her book INSIDE STORY.

Intrinsic Structure

When looking at the arc I became immediately aware of how I had been seeing the process in films. Being highly visual myself, it made sense. And then I looked at my notes and could see that much of it fit her arc. In fact each book fit the arc and all three books together composed an arc. Amazing! It turned out that moving a few chapters reinforced the overall arc. It was then that the outpouring took the form of the actual detailed writing following the construction.

One of the things that became clear was that there was an intuitive process in writing, at least for some of us. My notes indicated a fundamental attraction to an arc. I had not been aware of it. What Marks had put together was a highly useful guide. Unbounded creativity is one thing, but it also takes shaping if it is to be sufficiently grounded.

Interaction with Characters

The whole process was so compelling that I did not stop with book 1, but went straight through a first draft for all three books. That turned out to be crucial because back and forth reinforcements and shaping were occurring. With all three books in view I could see which characters were working or had staying power. I had to kill one of my darling characters and reshaped others. I also began to discover secrets for some of the characters which had to be worked out in the plot. This process added interest and led to firming up of the arcs.

Detailing often came to shape the story. Once the substance of a given character became clear, that in turn led to refinement of plot and interactions. There was obviously a very dynamic process involved.

Inherent Process

It was also apparent that layering was occurring. And having all three books was proving crucial. The foundation had been laid, the flow of the arcs established and the characters developed more fully. I could clearly see that my intuitive personality function had been crucial to the concept and my thinking type auxiliary was helping me with the building as well as helping me seek resources.

Personal Lessons

As a psychologist I couldn’t resist looking at the process in general and also the contributions made by each component of the person doing the writing. And, of course, fiction leads us to lessons about our own humanity. We resonate to certain characters more than others and that speaks to who we are as a person. Do we get affirmation of ourselves or does it lead us to self examination and refinement? And what of the villains or the people to whom we do not resonate? Surely we have lessons to be learned from them and revelations.

Clearly reading is not a passive activity. It enhances our lives and ourselves. And then there is the question of what it may do for the author.

What processes in your life lead you to personal development?
Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Change and Empowerment – Revelations in Fiction

 

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What do you see as the major themes on our planet right now?

Why Write Fiction?

You’d think a clinical psychologist would know why people write fiction. It’s fiction! What’s to ask? Probably a great deal.

The fact is I don’t know why people write fiction but I can speculate. I suppose there are some general reasons which may apply to most art forms. But I’ll save you the meanderings which you might find interesting or not at all interesting. Let me tell you why I think I write fiction.

At Duke they awarded me a doctoral degree after my studies and what I had done proved to them I had a grasp of the human mind and behavior. I’m trying not to laugh because my education continued far beyond my graduate school years. I now believe that all such endeavors are forever a work in progress. Psychology is the study of human and animal behavior—Period. That’’s a big door to walk through. Contrast it with psychiatry which is the study of mental illness, emotional disturbance and abnormal behavior.

Creating a Blog

Definitions can be endless. The longer I look at life, the more I struggle with the meaning of behavior and, I believe, concerning mental illness, we need a wholesale reexamination. and redefinition. This blog is entitled Cusp of Reality because I have found that reality is ephemeral. We desperately grasp at it to retain our stability. It requires ongoing examination and it is clear humankind is constantly confronted with all forms of instability and change.

Exploring a Changing World

As a function of my personality I am always fascinated by possibilities and work to contain the exploration of them and to maintain some order. It appears we are currently entering another dangerous period of world instability related to climate change, demographic dangers and what may be the end of capitalism. But to me one thing has stood out and that is that we don’t focus enough on the empowerment of women. It almost seems it is dismissed as simply a function of the contraceptive pill. As women gained control of their fertility their horizons expanded.

Maybe there’s more to it. Leslie White spoke of the extrasomatic stream which is culture. At this moment there is broad based cultural change underway related to the role of women. Recognition of this fact and my regard for the potential impact of the end to the subjugation of women led me to generate a “what if”. My personality type is known for searching possibilities and I love the process although it must be restrained.

Extraordinary Potential in Women

The bottom line is that I could not resist telling a story about women leading us not just to a stable and productive future but possibly to an unexpected transformation. Women are generative and hold so much potential in their hands. In their world there are untold benefits. Men certainly make their contributions but their nature requires restraint.

Looking at earth and the challenges we face I wondered what might happen if there really was an earth goddess called Gaia who was working to safeguard our future. She found us intriguing and thought we held potential. So she decided to guard and even guide our future.

Beyond Fundamental Conflict

In history gods and goddesses were often reflections of facets of human behavior. They hurled thunderbolts, fought with one another and on an on. But what if there was a process with meaning beyond earth as we know it. There is a universe out there and it is reflected in the here and now but also may have much more meaning related to a future we might only imagine.

Birth of the Story

An idea led to characters being born. They appeared and the story of Gaia’s Majesty opened. Frequently it seemed ever so far beyond my grasp or my control. What started as a story and probably one book grew into a trilogy. I thought that ended it but now a fourth book is materializing.

Bottom line. Why do I write? I write because I explore and while I am in my later years the exploration does not end. I continue to mine parts of myself and to scan the world. Human existence comes in waves both personally and collectively. We seem to be at the end of a wave and the next phase relates much more to what women will bring to our future. I cannot resist telling a story reflective of these possibilities.

Where do you think women will lead us?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page