Archive for March, 2011
I often get asked where my ideas for my stories come from. I never feel like I can adequately answer this question. In fact, I find the whole question frustrating. I want to shake the person who asked me and yell at them, “Look around! There are ideas EVERYWHERE! The real question you should be asking is where do ideas NOT come from!”
And it’s really true. If you view the world in the right way there’s ideas for stories everywhere you look. Now I’ll admit they might not all be fantastic ideas that will make best selling novels, but they are there none the less. For instance, sometimes while waiting in line at the grocery check out I’ll make up a story about the person ahead of me based on what they have in their basket. If the guy ahead of me has cheese, garlic, and mouth wash, I might make up a story about a guy with a pet mouse who is secretly afraid that his upstairs neighbors are vampires, so he consumes lots of garlic to make his blood less appetizing and uses mouth wash to keep his girlfriend from finding out his fear and telling him he’s being ridiculous. Hmm… I might have to write this story now.
My point is that there’s no lack of ideas in the world. Life itself is full of drama and conflict. The essence of a good story. I often look into my own life for ideas for stories because I really believe you should write what you know just not necessarily in a literal way. I write a lot of fantasy and science fiction, so obviously the plot of those stories aren’t directly drawn from my own life, but the characters emotional experiences are. I know what it feels like to be deeply hurt, so I can write about a character going through that in any crazy context and it will still be authentic.
But the bottom line is, I don’t really know how I think of my ideas. I really mostly just feel like they fall into my head from nowhere and I’m just fortunate enough to be around to write these ideas down.
Lastly, I thought I’d share with you a writing exercise I did in my writing group last month. The prompt was simply to write about a character that was invisible for 20 minutes. This is what I came up with on the fly. I didn’t take any time to plan it out before I just started writing. I challenge you to do the same, and if you are up for it, post what you come up with in the comments!
by Lauren Soffer
Jen tried to slam the door shut, but it bounced open like it had hit something. That was not the first odd thing that day. Earlier in the fish market she kept feeling like there was someone standing right behind her. She was even sure she had imagined the feel of hot breath on the back of her neck. She had whipped around to look, but no one was there. On the way home she kept thinking she heard footsteps following her as she walked back to her apartment. She kept glancing back at the empty street.
Now the door had bounced open. She walked back to the door and shut it slowly and deliberately. Jen had prickles on the back of her neck like she was being watched again. The feeling was becoming familiar and she didn’t like it. The feeling had started the day her boyfriend Dave had vanished last week.
She had woken up that morning and he wasn’t laying next to her like he always was. That was odd in itself because he normally slept long past when she did. She thought he must have just left the bed because there was still a depression when his body had been. But when she began to look around the apartment for him he was no where to be found. However, his keys and wallet were still sitting on the table where he had left them the night before.
When his work called to ask where he was, she began to worry and called the police. When they finally agreed to let her file a missing person report after 24 hours they wanted to know if anything unusual had happened before he had disappeared.
She wondered if she should have told them about their fight the night before. The one where she complained about how he never stood up for himself at work or anywhere. How he was so quiet it was creepy sometimes. How it was like living with an invisible man.
“I’ll show you what it’s like to live with an invisible man,” he had said.
Jen had just laughed. What an odd thing to say. She didn’t mention that to the police. They would have laughed at her if they knew what she was beginning to suspect. That Dave wasn’t missing at all. That he was right there all the time. Just invisible.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, keeping the Sabbath day holy is extremely important to me. But it can sometimes be a challenge to find activities to do on Sundays in keeping with the spirit of the day. Normally I attend church for three hours and then come home to read scripture, church publications, listen to spiritual music or General Conference talks, or work on my calling in the church. But I still usually find myself looking for something to do by the evening (it doesn’t help that I’m a night owl).
So this past Sunday night, I decided to put my skills with the graphic design program, Illustrator, to work to create some spiritual art. I assembled it from various free vectors I found online combined with one of my favorite scriptures from The Book of Mormon. The scripture reads:
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust; and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation.
2 Nephi 22:2
This is one of my favorite scriptures because it reminds me to find joy in my Heavenly Father. It reminds me to rejoice in his way as I follow in his footsteps and sing his praises. I also reminds me that He is the strength in my life, and, whether I realize it or not, He is there to lean on. There are so many times in my life that he carried me and sustained me that I didn’t even realize in the moment. And I am so very grateful for His presence in my life!
Despite the challenges they sometimes present, I simply love Sundays. I love taking a day to bask in the Spirit of the Lord. So I will continue to find ways to keep the Sabbath day holy week after week.
There’s no denying that I am a bona fide geek. If you want evidence, you need look no farther than my Nymphadora Tonks from Harry Potter costume that I made from scratch and then wore to every movie and book party. Or perhaps the role playing game campaign online I run every week. Or the fact that I like to learn new software for fun in my free time. The list just goes on and on.
So yes, I’m a geek, and I love that I can call myself one. Geeks are some of the coolest people I know. They are uber intelligent, interesting, adaptable, creative, resilient, fun, and talented. In fact, geeks are in high demand in today’s culture. We have certain skills that others don’t. For example, many of us love games, codes, and puzzle solving.
One of my geekiest (and most favorite) activities utilizes all of these skills – participating in the world of Alternate Reality Games or ARGs. So what is an ARG you might ask?
An Alternate Reality Game is a unique storytelling format that uses the whole world as it’s platform (but mainly things like internet sites and blogs, tv, print, email, chat, phone, and live events). Often involving clues, hidden evidence, codes, and puzzles, the story is initially broken up and hidden in these various mediums, and it’s up to the players to collaboratively piece it together to progress the story as it plays out in real time.
So how does it work? It all starts with a trailhead or rabbit hole – the initial piece of information that leads you to the rest of the game. This for example might be an email you receive from one of the characters in the game asking for you help in locating his missing sister. The email might have a cryptic message at the end of it that leads you to his sister’s blog which in turn might talk about a sketchy company she got involved with before she disappeared. This takes you to the company website. Eventually the pieces start to come together and the story begins to unfold. And what the players do matters to how it all turns out.
I got involved with ARGs back in April of 2008 when I started getting more seriously ill with multiple autoimmune diseases. ARGs gave me something fun, creative, and intellectually stimulating to do from home in bed all through the magic of the internet. It also gave me an amazing community of fellow geeks who were just generally really smart, kind, wonderful people in my life.
Under the pseudonym IneffaBelle (or Belle), I played lots of ARGs and made lots of friends, both real and fictional. I also attended ARGFest the last two years in Portland in 2009 and Atlanta in 2010. I hope to attend this year’s ARGFest in Bloomington, Indiana.
Eventually I started working behind the scenes developing ARGs for others to play, and I’ve been working at that rather intensely over the last few years. I have several projects in development now, and I’ve found the development side even more fun and rewarding than the player side.
Sadly, I haven’t had (or made) the time to actually play an ARG in quite some time. But the other day I received this to my ARG email:
My curiosity was peaked by this cute sort of whimsical concept. The email led to http://sotanaht.com/ (how is detailed in this forum post on the ARG community site Unfiction). The first mission opened up today asking us to “mask ourselves” with masks provided on the site. Here’s mine:
How this particular ARG will unfold remains to be seen, but it’s certainly good to be back in the Alternate Reality Game!
Further Reading on ARGs:
Alternate Reality Gaming – A Definition – Brooke Thompson’s excellent and comprehensive definition of an ARG.
Alternate Reality Gaming – A Quickstart Guide – Brooke Thompson’s funny and informative guide to getting started with ARGs.
ARGNet – The best source of ARG news.
Unfiction Forums– Excellent forum for finding and playing ARGs.
IneffaBelle.com – My ARG website and resume.
Writer’s guilt. That horrible feeling when you experience when you fail to write. I’ve long struggled with writers guilt subsequent to writing only sporadically. But as I approach the end of the first draft of my first novel, I’m finally getting into the groove of writing regularly. Here are some of the techniques I’ve employed that have helped me get writing and avoid writers guilt.
- Make promises.
I found that making promises on a regular basis extremely helpful. I make weekly writing promises and promises for each writing session. It helps to make these promises in a tangible and measurable form so you know if you met them. This is why I prefer to make my writing promises in number of words, pages, and scenes written rather than in time spent writing. The former is much more concrete because you know when you’ve written a page, but it’s easy to sit for a hour “writing” while only actually typing for a few minutes.
- Hold yourself accountable.
Promises are somewhat meaningless if you don’t hold yourself accountable to them. This may seem rather obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of making excuses to yourself about why you haven’t written. But if you are committed to your writing, you owe it to yourself to meet your own writing promises and goals. That being said, when you fall short, don’t waste time beating yourself up. Acknowledge that you haven’t kept your promise, and then make a new one that you can keep.
- Don’t wait until you’re in the mood to write.
When you are serious about your writing, you simply cannot afford to wait until you feel like writing to write. If you wait to feel in the writing mood, you might never or rarely write. Remember that your writing is more important than your feelings about writing. Besides, I’ve found the quality of my writing has little to do with how “in the mood” I’ve felt at the time. And most of the time when I force myself to get started, the writing is flowing before long.
- Schedule writing time.
We live busy lives, and our schedules fill up quickly. So it’s easy to run out of time to write. I try to avoid this pitfall by scheduling time on my calendar just for writing. This also helps me avoid only writing when I’m in the mood.
- Shut down distractions.
Computers are great for writing, but they are also big sources of distraction. When you are entering into scheduled writing time, shut down other programs on you computer like chat and email clients that might distract and interrupt you. Also turn off televisions and silence cellphones. There are also writing programs that help eliminate distractions with features like full screen mode.
- Try a change of scenery.
If you really can’t get any writing done in your normal writing spot, try changing locations. I’ve found that going out to write forces me to both schedule writing time and get away from writing distractions like the internet.
- Gather support.
Writing may be a solitary activity, but you don’t always have to go it alone. Other people can be a great source of encouragement and support. I have an amazing writing critique group that helps me maintain a writing structure and gives me awesome feedback on my writing on a regular basis. If in person writing groups don’t work for you, look to writing communities online. There are writing chat rooms, forums and websites to be had.
- Keep at it.
Don’t give up! There are still times when I fail to write as often or prolifically as I would like, but I keep going back to it, and my persistence ultimately keeps the worst of my writer’s guilt at bay.
One year ago today I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a decision that surprised many least of all me. I was raised Jewish. In fact, I was Bat Mitzvahed, Confirmed, and even taught religious school while I was in High School. And although I always felt a strong cultural connection to my Jewish heritage, I never felt spiritually fulfilled. I wanted to feel close to God, but didn’t know how. So I in my mid-twenties, I began to search for a faith that would help me find what I was looking for.
At the same time I was battling a serious physical illness. I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases that kept landing me in the hospital. And among other symptoms, I had joint pain so severe I had been in a wheelchair full time for over a year. I also had lost a lot of my independence due to my illness, and required a full time caregiver to help me with basic things.
My caregiver was a girl about my age and she was a member of the LDS church. We would have lots of discussions about faith, and she taught me a lot about the church. As a result, I decided to start praying. I had never really done so before. But at first prayer didn’t make me feel any closer to Heavenly Father. So I decided to do an experiment. I decided to try adding the words “in the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers. Suddenly I started to feel connected to Heavenly Father in a new way.
Around this time my caregiver invited me to attend church with her and get a blessing for healing from the missionaries after church. From the moment I entered the church building I was filled with a sense of happiness and peace.
But the true miracle of my conversion occurred during my blessing. The missionaries placed their hands on my head to impart the blessing, and I was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of connection to Heavenly Father. I felt His love so intensely I nearly passed out. It was so strong! Up until that point I had no idea that it was possible to really feel God. And from that moment on, I KNEW that Heavenly Father lived and that Jesus was the Christ. I started taking the missionary discussions that week.
That week another miracle occurred. I suddenly had a lot less pain in my joints. I decided to try and start walking again for the first time in over a year. By the time of my baptism six weeks later I was able to walk for the whole thing!
My baptism was an amazing day. My whole ward at church attended it, and my dad and his girlfriend were also there to support me. What I remember most was the feeling of pure love I felt. The love that Heavenly Father has for me. I felt it so strongly that day, and I was just so happy I couldn’t stop beaming.
Since then my decision to become Mormon has been confirmed many times over while doing things like reading scripture or attending church each week. I have also found an amazing support network in the church. I have made amazing friends who have been there for me through some really difficult times and really wonderful times. My decision has brought me so much peace and joy in my life. I have never been happier.
This is a blog dedicated to documenting my life as I create it. It is about what I’m into, what I’m up to, and what I’m thinking about along this journey. It is a blog about transformation and living life passionately and to the fullest. Read along as I find my wings.