By Jim Kuiken
Remember last week I told you about having one of those days (or weeks) when you have something to do, but just Don’t Wanna? Well this week, it’s about the exact opposite. When all the numerous hamsters in my head are awake, all running different directions, some on the insides of the spinning wheels, and some on the outsides…even those just along for the ride, enjoying spinning around while the other hamster in that wheel is running his little legs off…
The day after I posted that article about “Not Feelin’ It”, I had just come back from spending the day out on a boat during the 2017 Hearts for Heroes annual fishing trip, and after a great dinner, went to the hotel room and drifted off thinking about all the injured and wounded veterans having such a good time, and all the fish we caught.
The next morning, still tired from the previous day, I laid there in bed drinking coffee, and watched a “teen” movie – Chasing Mavericks – about a young surfer and all he went through – which, despite some negative reviews (which I normally ignore as elitist snobbery), I really enjoyed – before I got up and went to take my shower.
That’s when all the hamsters woke up and started running full speed in all different directions. All kinds of stuff just started happening in my head. I got so distracted thinking about everything that I didn’t even remember shampooing my hair, and didn’t realize it until I was re-shampooing and it foamed all up.
Now don’t try to tell me that never happens to you…
What I was thinking about was the movie. Well, not just the movie, but something happened that doesn’t normally happen to me. When I watch a movie, I suspend everything and just watch the movie, absorbing it as it is, and not thinking about all the plot action, nuances, and character development, etc. I just enjoy the movie.
I had done that while watching the movie, but now, with the movie over, it started playing in my head, and I started thinking about the characters and what they went through. The protagonist, the setbacks and suffering he went through (as a character development technique), the plot, sub-plots, supporting characters and minor side-plots, the antagonist (which was the sea), and the minor (human) side-antagonists – the whole thing just developed a storyline, plot map, character development techniques, making the hero suffer and overcome, etc., etc.
It was like writing or editing a book…all the elements were there, and for the first time, plainly visible to me.
While watching the movie, I wasn’t analyzing, I was just absorbing, watching, feeling…and it had the effect on me that I’m sure the writers intended. Although it was very closely based on the true story, the screenwriters, director, etc., had laid it all out in the plot that evoked the ups and downs, the emotion of the story.
But afterwards, my analytical mind took over, and from all my studies, observations, mentorship, presentations, etc., it allowed me to see the trails of the action development, the characters and plots, the intertwined storylines and themes, supporting action and theme lines…the complete story map…and they just opened up like flowers on a vine, so that I didn’t even remember the shower, drying off, getting dressed, or sitting there on the end of the bed.
My head had finally “let loose the hamsters”, and much like the Kraken, my thoughts had risen to the surface and overwhelmed the present, while my mind was absorbed within the story structure.
It was an awakening, and a realization that all the work I had put into becoming a good writer had actually been worthwhile. I’ve always been a good storyteller, but understanding the nuances of writing a good book are extremely important if you’re going to spend the rest of your life being a writer.
I know what I’m writing is reaching people. I see it in the reactions to several of my posts (blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, RallyPoint, etc.), but especially in some of the great comments and reviews from people who have read some of the chapters from my current book, The Making of a Warrior. They don’t talk about the plot, the character development, the storylines…they talk about how it makes them feel, that it feels like they’re actually there, what they see / hear / smell during the action sequences, etc.
That’s the point most writers seek. Although the writing has to have the required elements, they should come together in a compelling story that brings the reader in, and makes them experience the story, not just see it from the outside. It’s the writer that has to understand the process and elements of writing…so that the reader can live inside the story.
Sometimes you just have to let the hamsters loose…