We are in for a treat today. My kids and I are big fans of Michael Buckley. I should say my kids are fans, but I have an author crush. Michael writes the popular Sisters Grimm series. Last summer I checked out the audio version of the first book The Fairy-Tale Detectives from our library. The plan was to use the story to help keep my kids sitting at the table working on craft projects while I did other things….until I got hooked, too. So much for me getting other work done! The audio performed by L.J. Ganser is outstanding, and the story is, at times, scary, endearing, mysterious, and altogether funny. We went out and finished the rest of the stories back to back. When I contacted Michael about blogging with us today I told him that my son aspires to be Puck, the Trickster King. (Those of you with young sons can relate!) We are eagerly awaiting the next installment due out this spring.
Routines for Writers
I’m not sure I have a routine but I do have some habits that help me get a story down on paper. The first, of course, is I eat an entire box of sugary breakfast cereal at every meal – you know, to keep the brain fresh and flexible. Then I devote a couple hours to cartoons and Judge Judy, and finally more cereal.
After that I’m ready to write! Actually, I’m ready to lift a car over my head but they pay me to write. When I finally get to the desk to start cranking out story I often find that creating the appearance of a character is the most difficult. It’s hard for me to lock into a specific look. One of the tricks I do to help me keep my character’s faces and bodies in mind throughout a story is to “cast” the book. I do this by going through celebrity magazines and tearing out photos of famous people who have qualities like the characters I’m writing about. Sometimes it’s a hairstyle, or a shirt, or even a dress. But a lot of times it’s about demeanor. I tear out photos of people who are slouching, or working out, or laughing or just standing around looking silly. These little things you probably wouldn’t notice about a person if you were standing next to them but they are the keys to making great characters come alive. As they say, a picture can tells a thousand words…all I do is wait for them all to come out.
I also use pictures of actual celebrities to help me imagine personalities. For instance, I write about Prince Charming who I’ve imagined as arrogant and self-assured but he has a real vulnerability to him, as well. To keep him clear in my mind I needed to find some pictures of an actor who has played that kind of role. Hugh Grant fits the bill, especially in the film “About A Boy.” For Snow White I try to imagine a woman who is strong and independent but stunningly beautiful. I often imagine Kate Beckinsale who fights vampires and looks great doing it. Goldilocks is Naomi Watts. The Queen of Hearts is Bette Midler. Uncle Jake is Owen Wilson. Jack the Giant Killer is Ewan McGregor. Some characters are a collection of many actors. For instance, the Big Bad Wolf is an amalgamation of Morgan Freeman, Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Lloyd, and Samuel L. Jackson. I take their photos and tack them up on a board near my computer. When I need inspiration I turn to those photos and ideas start flowing.
Another problem I face is settings but celebrity magazines aren’t much help when it comes to writing about the forests along the Hudson River or a walk in Times Square. In cases where I’m going to write about a location briefly I can usually get by with a copy of National Geographic Magazine but for places that will be the setting for an entire book I usually have to take the pictures myself. The reason being is setting are more than just a collection of pictures. There’s more to them than just a house or a tree. Sometimes there’s the smell of a fireplace, or the feeling of crisp air on your cheek, or the sound of crunching leaves beneath your boots – all of which make up a setting. The combination of my own snapshots and the sensory experience of actually being there helps me generate a setting that seems real to a reader. I have a file on my computer of pictures I’ve taken – trees, houses, mailboxes, country roads, farms, skyscrapers, etc… Having taken the picture myself allows me to leap back into those moments and write about them with details that are honest and authentic.
A camera can be a valuable tool to a writer plus, it lets you get outside and burn off some of that sugary cereal.
Writers are so punk rock,