For the last two weeks I’ve been doing Flamenco. As a dance style it has always been one of my favourites. It’s fiery, passionate, rhythmical, powerful, sexy, and as much about the music as the steps and movements. The last time I did Spanish dancing was at Art School thirty years ago and I missed it a lot when I matriculated and ended up in a classical ballet company. Don’t get me wrong, I love my ballet, but there’s something about Flamenco that stirs that ancient part of man that feels and desires and recognises earthy rhythms!
Now, it’s extremely difficult to do Flamenco if you aren’t musical. The time signatures, the syncopations, the pauses, silent beats, co-ordination of body, skirt, and castanets has to be flawless in order to do Flamenco well. Fortunately, I was born musical; I hear rhythms very easily. I started my dancing career as a tapper at the age of 5 so it’s part of me. It’s different to the intricacies of classical music; the rhythms and phrasing in Flamenco can get pretty complicated. But once I allow myself to become engrossed with the sounds and beats and nuances then it takes over my movements and I am led by it rather than trying to manipulate the music to follow me.
It is the same with writing. Finding the rhythm of my writing, the ebb and flow, the cadence of the story, is vital to the creative process and the development of the story, especially in the beginning. When I allow the story (music) to take control of me then the words (steps) become easy and the story tells itself.
When you watch a professional Flamenco dancer, she doesn’t count her music 1-2-3-4, but rather the music weaves around her and she becomes one with it and in so doing tells her story effortlessly, drawing her audience in, creating emotion and passion and excitement with every step, every twirl of her skirt, the undulation of her hands, arms, and body, the beats of her castanets, the emotion on her face.
As a writer I have to use my words, the core energy of the story – its passions, colours, visualisations, characters, environment – to captivate the reader and draw him in. And to do so effectively I have to have the perfect rhythm, a rhythm that doesn’t break or stop or become annoying or disturbing because of an unnatural style which the reader will sense instinctively.
Just as a dancer has to create movements that are effortless and as close to perfection as possible so as to hypnotise her audience, so, too, does a writer.
Ebb and flow, rhythmic perfection, minimising mistakes in language, grammar, punctuation, and style, is how the writer creates the performance his readers will applaud!
As a more experienced writer, after three published novels and a short story, I still have to work hard every day to perfect my style and rhythm. While I edit I ‘listen’ to my story, sometimes reading it out loud, to hear if there is a break, something that will distract the reader and pull him out of his trance. The goal, dear Writer, is to keep the reader entranced from page one. Do nothing to disturb the rhythm of your story or you will lose him to discordance.
What are your thoughts on writing style and rhythm? I love reading your thoughts. Please share!
Last image courtesy of Billy Alexander
Only writers will get this, but when I can’t sit at my computer everyday and write I feel disconnected from the universe, from myself, and from my characters. Reality crowds in and I start getting irritable and my husband thinks someone else has taken up residence inside his wife.
Sometimes life and work crowd in and take over; well, they actually take me away from where I really want to be and from what I want to do. Working to pay the bills and put food on the table is necessary, but if I had a choice I wouldn’t do it. It’s days like that when I envy professional writers their freedom to not have to do another job besides their beloved writing.
I’ve been bogged down with dance festivals for the last three weeks, and even though I’ve had a few days where I’ve managed to get down around 10-14 pages, they came too seldom. I enjoy choreographing and creating dances for the kids I teach; I love seeing the end product on the stage and watching my girls, with whom I’ve been rehearsing for months, performing their hearts out and getting rewarded for their hard work and dedication. Now, this used to be my entire life – dancing, performing, rehearsing, choreographing – but when writing came along and my dance career slowed down it became my entire existence. I couldn’t believe that creating with words was as intoxicating, if not more so, than dancing. Oh, believe me, nothing beats being on stage in front of an audience and drawing them in and making them laugh or cry or applaud – it is definitely an art form where you get instant gratification and recognition – and even though writing produces the same results it just takes a little longer and a lot more (and a different kind of) work.
Writing when I’m exhausted is also hard and it takes great effort to sit down in front of my computer and make the start. But what I’ve learned as a reasonably new author, is that once I begin, once I set my imagination free, then there’s no stopping me. Tired or not, I can write all day. The adrenaline, the force that pulses through me, is addictive and one drug I hope never to give up.
Dance and writing are very different and very similar: they are both visual art forms and require the observer to use their imagination; they both take the observer on a magical journey, an escape from reality that the observer craves; they both grab the observer’s attention and hold them captive, and here is the first major difference: dance incorporates music, lighting, costumes, sets – basically, all the visuals are physically provided to help the observer become engrossed in the atmosphere created for them – whereas in a book the observer, with the author’s help, is left to create their own world, their own physical interpretation of the story, all taking place in the mind.
I thank God for giving me the ability to create and imagine. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: “Imagination is more important than knowledge…” He understood the power of imagination, that it is limitless whereas knowledge is not, and as a dancer, dance teacher, and a writer I understand and acknowledge and welcome its power, and I’m grateful for the ability to use it to its fullest extent – tired or not 🙂
When I danced professionally it consumed my world; I could not even contemplate doing anything else. But time past and life, too, and when I discovered the world of writing I realised that dance isn’t all there is. There were other ways for me to express and share what was inside me, what was inside my mind and heart, just that now it was with words. I approached it tentatively, this new, scary thing, and once I tried it and discovered that putting down on paper what was in my head was just a little harder than creating a dance piece (choreography is as natural to me as breathing!), and it slowly started taking hold of me like a powerful drug coursing through my veins and setting my heart and soul on fire! Never did I think that writing would consume me so, and I allowed it to because it replaced my passion and love of dance, soothing the pain of leaving that world behind.
Teaching dance is my job; writing is my new passion, and I cannot think of doing anything else. It’s a good thing I can write ’til I drop dead one day. I don’t think this body would be able to do leaps and turns as well as I used to as the decades go by 🙂
When I write I feel invincible, I feel alive and full of joy, so when the ‘normal’ stuff of life encroaches I get very grumpy. I even hate stopping to have food when I’m in the flow. Ask my hubby; he’s had full on conversations with me while I’ve been writing and I haven’t heard a word!! He’s slowly learning not to mess with me when I’m in the zone 🙂
Tell me about the things that you’d rather give up than have your writing interrupted. I love reading your thoughts! Please share!
- Wayne McGregor’s Wellcome show inspired by science (theguardian.com)
- An author by blood (theshevster.wordpress.com)
- Is Your Writing Style A Tango or a Waltz? (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)
Yes, that’s what I’ve just accomplished! It’s done! It’s being printed – hard and soft cover – and formatted as an ebook to be released very soon, and I walk around, whether at home or at work, in a kinda daze ’cause writing my third epic fantasy novel – all three around 700 pages long! – is like conquering Everest…thrice!!!
Whew! *wipes brow*
What a journey of sheer ecstasy, mingled with the usual blood, sweat, and tears, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. These characters, this exciting, thrilling world is so part of me now I can’t even imagine parting with them. The fourth book, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension, is the last in the tetralogy, and I’ve already started it. I know how it ends, and every time I think about it I can cry. Those tears are for the moment I edit the last word and then, with the touch of a key, send it off to be published. On that day there will be many tears and perhaps a lot of drinking (I don’t drink, by the way, which tells you how bad it’s gonna be!), and my hubby will have to deal with a weeping mess.
I believe my sadness stems from the undeniable fact that my characters are so intrinsically part of me, and saying farewell is like losing part of myself. This story has grown and evolved inside me since I was eight years old, that’s thirty-six years of living with and breathing life into this wonderful tale, bringing life to my characters, and creating a brand new world from scratch; thirty-six years of bringing this story to fruition, to a place where I could finally put it down on paper and realise a lifelong dream of being published and sharing this marvellous story with the entire world!
I know many of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. I understand what Hemingway said about ‘bleeding’ onto the page. It’s the same as a dancer losing herself in the choreography, and a musician losing himself in his creation. It is in those moments that the observer/listener sees the magic, the glory, the power, and joins with the artist in a journey that takes them far away from boring reality.
When I get comments from reviewers saying they are moved to tears when they read my book, I know I’ve bled enough. Then I know I held nothing back, and that I have accomplished what every artist seeks to accomplish: making a ‘normal’ feel, imagine, live, experience, become so utterly absorbed that they temporarily forget where they are.
The Sword Bearer’s Awakening: Book 3 is the powerful, emotional, thrilling continuation of what transpires in Books 1 and 2. Out of the four books I wrote this one first because it is the very heart of the story; it is where the adventure began for me; it is the birth of all the characters and of this unique universe.
I will keep you up to date as the release date nears, and as soon as I have a copy of the cover you’ll see it right here – and all over Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, ect.
I want to take this moment to thank everyone who has supported me during this great adventure, from reviewers to readers to friends and family. All of you make this magical dream possible.
Writing Book 4 is going to be an amazing, emotional experience for me, and even though it will be one of the saddest days of my life when I complete it, I will be celebrating a near lifetime of glorious creation. I will write many, many more stories for I have a boundless imagination that contains an endless supply of fantastic tales (one is almost finished actually, thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012), and I just might continue with The Sword Bearers into the next generation…?
I love hearing your thoughts, so put them down right here. Tell me about your personal journey, and how it makes you feel when you end a project you’ve become so emotionally attached to.
- The Bitter-Sweet Process of Editing – the Path to Becoming a Genius! (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)
I’m finally done with my week-long dance show and now I can get stuck into my writing again and catch up for NaNoWriMo. I’m excited about this novel because it’s new territory for me.
“Write what you know,” I’ve heard countless times in my short writing career, and I believe I’ve stuck to that good advice. I’ve also interpreted it to mea, write what you’re passionate about, what you spend most your time reading and watching on the big screen. The thing is, I love so many genres and I read them all, too. I am as passionate about fantasy as I am about sci-fi, action, adventure, thrillers, horrors, and even some romance.
When I decided to embark on NaNoWriMo I made up my mind to try something new. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am most probably nuts trying to do this for a time-sensitive writing challenge when I don’t have a lot of time to think things through first and investigate and research it for too long. But if you knew me better you’d understand my love for new challenges and how comfortable I am working under pressure. I thrive under pressure; I’ve always had the knack to perform better and deliver and accomplish that which I set out to. Also, I’ve had this idea in my head for quite a while, since I had an awesome dream one night, the kind of dream that sends my imagination into overdrive and I think, Dang, that would make an awesome movie! Now when I write I’m imagining what my story would look like on the big screen because I am a very visual person, coming from a world where everything relies on aesthetics – dance, drama, and art, i.e. the performing arts. Therefore I see my story and then put it down on paper. The moods, the colours, the way the characters look, the environment – it all has to come together visually first and then I begin to create with words.
Let me tell you about Avalin: A Vampyric Legend, my novel for NaNo.
You need to know from the start that the Twilight films made me cringe at anything vampire because of the poorly written books and the awful execution and acting in the films. I roll my eyes whenever I hear someone rave about the films, especially about the glittering vamps! I mean, seriously!! I cannot conceive of vampires being pretty in any shape or form, no matter how “kind” their personalities appear. They are all killers, just shy of animals – capable of love and passion, sure, but killers nonetheless. So when I decided to write my story I knew it needed to be serious, to have gravitas, for the characters to be true to themselves, and for the situations and emotions and circumstances to be as close to real as possible within the fantastical story.
“In the era of the gunslinger, dangerous creatures of the night roam free and undetected.
A beautiful woman, once wealthy and respected and married to a man of great influence, is forced, out of great personal loss and desperation, to become a prostitute. Working in a high-class brothel, she catches the eye of two mysterious men and ends up spending a night with them, only to discover, in the heat of passion, that they are vampyres.
In what she thinks are her final moments, she begs them to end her life of suffering and grief. But these are no ordinary vampyres: they have searched for Avalin for many years, they reveal to her, and now that they have found her they have no intention of ending her life. She has something they desperately need. She is unique, they tell her – one of a kind.
Fascinated, yet sad that her suffering will not end that night, she agrees to remain exclusively theirs, and so the extraordinary legend of Avalin begins. As she gets to know more about her mysterious benefactors and protectors the more frightened she becomes.
These are no ordinary creatures of the night; they have a terrifying secret, a secret that could mean the end of all humankind!”
My story has a fusion of the following: fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, adventure, mystery, thriller, and, I say this hoping not to reveal too much, a little sci-fi.
Those who have come to know me and my books know that I am a Fantasy author with two Epic Fantasy novels under my belt and another two in the current series to come. For Christmas I will soon be publishing a sci-fi short story on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords titled ‘The Door’. Now, fantasy and sci-fi can sometimes be quite similar in my experience, so creating stories in both genres isn’t that hard for me. The story of Sword Bearer’s Journey – Book 2 in my Sword Bearers tetralogy – moves into deep space and immediately involves some sci-fi elements along with the strictly epic fantasy style. For me, mixing the two isn’t hard; I’ve read enough of both genres to know how to write both with comfort (not that my research ever stops if I want to make things convincing).
Personally I think bringing different genres together isn’t a problem. One, two, and even three work quite nicely if done well, but here’s my real question: Can fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, adventure, mystery, thriller, and sci-fi work together?
This is what I am attempting to do. I have taken all the above genres and put them into one pot, and I am attempting to make an awesome stew!! This is an experiment in more than just a genre change for me; it is a combination of every style that I love to read and see in movies, and by the end of the month I’ll see if I’ve been successful.
And then, dear reader/author/reviewer, you can judge it for yourself, for I have every intention of publishing it!
I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. Have you fused genres in your writing? Does it work for you? Have you tried it or even considered trying it? Let’s get a discussion going.
Yup, we’re celebrating the beauty, courage, and glory of South African women today, and I can’t help but think of all the incredible women I have met in my life who have changed and shaped me into who I am today:
Firstly, my mom who gave unselfishly and consistently of herself in every way – although she was a single mom and had to work her heiny off to feed me and make sure I had the best education. She also sacrificed so much to allow me the opportunities to pursue my dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. Through Art School (high school), after-school dance studios (ballet, modern, and tap) and every possible dance competition I wanted to partake in, she made sure I did it all. As a child I was never aware of the enormous pressure she was under – financial and emotional – until I grew up and looked back and understood! So today I honour her and express my love and thanks for being so amazing and generous and caring.
Secondly, I honour all the excellent dance teachers I had throughout my life. From the age of five I had a group of ‘second-mothers’ who moulded me and pretty much created the person/artist I am today because of their incredible talent and passion and love of dance: Mavis Senior (Tap Teacher since I was five); Ethné Ferraris (Royal Academy of Dance Ballet Teacher since I was seven); Ruth Inglestone (Cecchetti Ballet Teacher since I was twelve); Dianne Souter (Tap and Modern teacher since I was fifteen); Adele Blank (Artistic Director of Free Flight Dance Company). These women each contributed towards turning me into a brilliant dancer; their training was flawless and I ate it up!! I loved them all very much and I know they loved and cherished me and the relationship we shared. Each of them gave in such different ways, but combined they created the kind of dancer that could perform any style of dance without much effort. This stood me in good stead throughout my professional career; I couldn’t have been the performer I was without them.
Strangely, although I am now a writer, I still carry their spirit and passion within me. The attention to every detail, the desire for perfection, the drive, the love and addiction I have for the art of writing could not have been mine if I had not met those wonderful women. In a sense, while I have published already, I am still a student, still learning my craft, still achieving perfection and learning how to become better and better. They taught me how to embrace the mistakes and the failures and turn them into successes. Those are lessons engraved on my heart and my very soul where my stories are born and where my spirit takes flight – not in dance anymore, but through words. Just as dance has rhythm, flow, imagination, joy, light and shade, effortlessness, beauty, passion, tension, drama, and magnetism, so does writing! I’m sure you all agree, yes?
I am privileged and honoured to be a woman today, a woman shaped and moulded by such excellent examples of character, integrity, love, joy, and heart.
I’m sure, ladies, that you also have wonderful tales about the women in your life who have influenced and shaped you into the gorgeous, talented beauties you are today. Please won’t you share your stories with us? It would be wonderful to be uplifted and rejoice in your uniqueness – but together as women, the one thing we all share!
To read more about the true meaning and history of Women’s Day in South Africa please click on this link: Women’s Day South Africa 9 August
- I Didn’t ‘Used’ To Be A Dancer – I AM A Dancer. (faithandmeow.wordpress.com)