Doctor Who: The Doctor Accessorizes

A Twitter friend (and on Twitter one uses “friend” loosely, since in a lot of cases one has never actually met any of the people) asked today: “If you were playing The Doctor [on Doctor Who] and had to have a gimmick as part of your outfit what would you choose eg bowtie, Converse etc??” [asked by @bluebox99]

My initial response was some kind of cool/weird coat or jacket because I have an especial fondness for jackets, blazers, coats, &c. And then I considered jewelry, maybe a signet ring of some sort. Could be interesting to build a story around the potential significance of such a thing.

But then I thought: What about a tattoo? How would it be if The Doctor regenerated with a tattoo? What would that mean? You could maybe build an entire series around that question and its eventual answer. What would the tattoo be of? Where and when might that image pop up? What if someone recognized it, even if The Doctor didn’t know what it was or what it symbolized? How cool could that be?

A Writing Meme

1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

When I was an undergrad (this appears to be the day for undergraduate nostalgia), I took a course called Parageography, which is “the study of imaginary places.” It was developed and taught at the University of Texas at Austin by Dr. Douglass Parker, who structured the course as partly literary–we read things like The Wizard of Oz and Orlando and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–and partly creative writing in that we were required to come up with our own, well, worlds. We made languages and maps and all kinds of things. My world was called AElit, and I wrote part of its holy book (the Teuchos) in actual AElitian. I came up with an extensive theology, etc. I even started writing a novel based in this world, and I hope some day to finish it. I go back and tinker with it now and then.

2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?

How many characters do I have in what exactly? Right now I’m writing a play with two characters and a third poised to make an appearance later on.

3. How do you come up with names, for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

If I’ve got a character fleshed out enough, the right name will come to me. I’ll cast around for a bit until something fits. Same for places. I couldn’t begin to tell you where I came up with AElit except maybe I had been looking at a bookshelf with an old encyclopaedia and thought I’d like to use an “ae.” Or maybe it was an archaeology text. For my deities in that particular world, though, I used Greek and Latin roots. Like the goddess of death is Telamenos which, if I’m remembering right, means “ending spirit.” I recall a different Classics professor being very excited by that for some weird reason.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Well, you know, I started out writing stories based on movies and television shows that I liked (which is why I went into screenwriting later), so all my early characters were borrowed. Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, etc. I guess one of the first stories I wrote that was original is one I sort of came up with while playing with my best friend. We were the Hemlock sisters and we solved mysteries. I was Elizabeth and my friend was Lauren, and we lived with our Aunt Miranda (“Aunt Randi”). Later I wrote a short Hemlock sisters story for a reading class. I still have it somewhere, I think.

5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?

Good God, I don’t know. Akkad and Sekhmet are probably my youngest in terms of age; they’re just shy of 13. And Tithendion would be the oldest, since he’s basically the father of the gods. But the Hemlock sisters are oldest in terms of when they were created. And these play characters (Arthur & Dilly) are youngest, I guess.

6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?

Mostly it’s important that I be alone. Not just in the room, but the whole house should be empty. And I’ve found it difficult to write where I currently live for whatever reason, so I travel a lot to write. Mid-afternoon and late at night are best for me. As for computer or pen and paper, I do both. Sometimes it depends on the story, sometimes it depends on where I am and what I have access to.

7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?

Music inspires me, so I get a lot of ideas from it. But that’s usually when I’m driving and listening to the radio. And there are songs that make me think of my characters. I do sometimes listen to music while writing, too, but most often I don’t.

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

I’m not sure what I write. Fantasy, I suppose, and sometimes mystery. I started a YA novel that I never finished. I’ve got a paranormal romance novella going at the moment. Which is funny because I’ve never read any paranormal romances. I do like to read mysteries and historical biographies and Regency romances. I used to read a lot of fantasy, too, but got bogged down by so much of it.

9. How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

I haven’t a clue where they come from. I usually start with a situation, I think, and populate from there.

10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!

My fanfic characters get into way weirder situations than my original ones, but let’s assume you mean my originals. Well, Seladion and Amaurodios get kicked out of Argyros (think of angels being booted from Heaven and you have the gist), David and Andra have a past history as Greek gods, and in one of my plays two of the characters are possessed by ghosts.

11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?

I guess this depends on the project, but I often enjoy writing Seladion because he’s just so sly and can be so nasty. It’s fun. Akkad might be my least favorite, since he whines a bit.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world­build­ing? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Oh, the AElit stuff by far. I trenched in and created something very complex there. A whole other language, in fact, and snippets of their literature (plays, prayers, inscriptions).

13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?

It’s funny because AElit isn’t actually my favorite culture to write, which may be why I haven’t finished it yet. I’m having fun with the film set culture in “The K-Pro.” And I also like setting things in ancient times, Greece and Rome and Egypt.

14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I have a map of AElit but there’s no digital file.

15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!

I like a lot of Neil Gaiman’s work. Stephen King, too. These guys know how to tell a compelling story.

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? 😉

I write attraction. I write sexual tension. And sometimes there’s even some actual sex, though I’m of the pan-the-camera-away type, so my readers usually only get a taste of the foreplay and the aftermath.

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

Of mine? “The K-Pro” has two protagonists, and I like them both because they are very real but also just slightly unreal. Being incarnations of Greek gods does that to a person, I suppose.

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

Him in “Warm Bodies” maybe. There’s something weirdly malicious about him . . . It’s a short play, but I could see taking that character and doing some more with him.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Alfred in “The K-Pro.” He was just going to be a funny but annoying co-star but he’s been given a bigger role than I originally planned.

20. What are your favorite char­ac­ter inter­ac­tions to write?

Banter. I’m a dialogue person (screenwriting again, and now playwriting I suppose). And I’m good at character-driven interpersonal relationships.

21. Do any of your char­ac­ters have chil­dren? How well do you write them?

Some of my characters are children. They’re definitely more difficult to write. I have to think about what I liked and did at that age and hope I don’t sound dumb.

22. Tell us about one scene between your char­ac­ters that you’ve never writ­ten or told any­one about before! Seri­ous or not.

I can only think of fanfic scenes I scrapped. Like Sherlock’s first encounter with Charles Whitcombe–I had to know in order to write the rest of that story, but I never actually wrote the mental scene I came up with. Or there was a scene with Sherlock and John in a church, and Sherlock gives John his coat because John is cold and his jacket isn’t heavy enough.

23. How long does it usu­ally take you to com­plete an entire story—from plan­ning to writ­ing to post­ing (if you post your work)?

Depends on the story. Some come fast and some have taken years (and continue to take years).

24. How will­ing are you to kill your char­ac­ters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most inter­est­ing way you’ve killed some­one?

I don’t have a problem with killing a character off, even a major one. Writers have to be fearless in that way, and be willing to go where the story demands. That said, I’m not sure I’ve had any especially interesting deaths.

25. Do any of your char­ac­ters have pets? Tell us about them.

In my unfinished YA novel, there was a cat named Nacho.

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your char­ac­ters? Do oth­ers draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite pic­ture of him!

Oh no. I can’t draw. I’ve tried, and I dearly wish I could–I even took classes. My brain just doesn’t work that way, though; what I see comes out as words not pictures. So instead I cast my characters. For example, Dixon in “20 August” was a young Ewan McGregor.

27. Along sim­i­lar lines, do appear­ances play a big role in your sto­ries? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about design­ing your char­ac­ters.

Well, I mean, I describe my characters but I try not to belabor the point. I don’t know how it is for most people, but when I start reading a book, I almost immediately formulate mental pictures of the characters on my own, often regardless to what the author has written. So unless it’s just that important that he or she look a certain way, I touch on it and move on. Though I do like eyes. I’ll often talk about someone’s eyes.

28. Have you ever writ­ten a char­ac­ter with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties? Describe them, and if there’s noth­ing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

Oh, I’ve written people who walk with canes or something. Nothing major.

29. How often do you think about writ­ing? Ever come across some­thing IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

I think about my characters and stories a lot. While driving, when a song reminds me of them, when I see or hear or read something in the news I think I can use . . . In stores I’ll walk past clothes and think, so-and-so would wear that, or I smell cologne and think, he’d smell like that. I feel like it’s important to know these things, to know my characters intimately.

An Apple a Day . . .

Last night I was looking at Facebook on my iPhone while simultaneously answering Jeopardy! clues from the television, and I saw one of my friends had posted that Steve Jobs had died. When I asked my husband about it, he grabbed his iPad off the side table and checked the online news feeds but didn’t find anything.

Not 10 minutes later, however, Jeopardy! was interrupted by the CBS News Desk in London (why the London desk when we’re in Boston I have no idea–it was, like, 1:00 a.m. over there) telling us that, yes, Steve Jobs had died.

My history with Apple products has been checkered; like many people, I worked with PCs for a long time before switching. In truth, I went back and forth. My home computers were PCs, mostly because they were less expensive. But a lot of places I worked (film production offices, publishing houses) used Macs. At the University of Texas there were computer labs filled with PCs and separate Mac labs used by students who needed that specific software for their studies. I used Macs when learning Quark for book design and production. I certainly prefer Macs for audio and video editing as well.

Only recently did our household switch to Apple. It started with iPhones of course. Gateway drug. Well, no, we’d had iPods for some time before the phones, I suppose. But then we moved on to my getting a MacBook Air for my birthday, to replace my oversized and aging Dell laptop. And a Mac Mini to replace our dying desktop computer. And then I got my husband the iPad for our anniversary. I’ll be getting the updated iPhone 4S soon because I have the original iPhone 3G and am due for an upgrade.

I can’t say I know much about Steve Jobs as a person. I’m just one of many end users of his company’s products. I can say that he and his company created wonderful things, things that have changed the way the world works. That’s an amazing impact to have.

I’ve been enjoying some of the quotes I’ve seen popping up, things Jobs said, like about following your heart and intuition. Right now I’m having some trouble gathering the courage to do some of the things I really want to do–I keep thinking there’s just no way I’ll ever be successful–so these quotes have been a nice bit of inspiration. They give me hope. I’m never going to be a Steve Jobs and change the world, but I can do little things to change MY world and MY life and become the person I want to be. So thanks, Steve, for that.

My Writing Process

I sometimes get asked (as I’m sure many writers do) what my “writing process” is or involves. It’s rather complicated, actually. It involves a lot of daydreaming, usually while lying on my bed clutching my stuffed dog (a Patrick Puppy from FAO Schwartz).

Before you say, “Well, that sounds easy!” let me assure you it’s not. For one thing, I have a husband, three children, and a cat that seem to want or need me almost every second of the day, so finding enough minutes to string together for daydreaming is a trick in and of itself. And a lot of times I’m so tired, I can’t conjure anything to daydream about. And the daydreaming bit is crucial to the writing because after I get something worked out in my head, I go, well, write it.

Once I’ve got something well and truly underway, however, I can usually go sit at the computer–again, when I’ve scraped together the time–and work on it without needing long sessions on my bed or couch. It’s only when I hit a wall that I go back to the virtual drawing board and begin dreaming up new angles.

The next question is, I suppose, “But where do you get your ideas? How do you decide what to daydream about?” And that I really can’t answer except to say I gather these thoughts from everywhere and anywhere and weave them in my mind. It might be that I marry a song lyric to something I saw on the side of the road, or a line of dialogue pops into my head and I feel the need to build a circumstance around it. A horror story I never wrote because I really couldn’t bear to put it on paper was prompted by a weird drive during which the family and I drove through a small town and saw not a single soul, then turned onto a road that ended in some kind of family-owned smokehouse. Truly eerie. And I had this terrible thought that, if we were to go in there, they would take my baby (she was 8 or 9 months at the time) and turn her into sausage. I imagined her crying and–worse, far worse–the sudden stopping of that crying when they cut her throat. So you may see why I couldn’t write this, but there you have it, one of the places and situations that “inspired” me for good or ill. (And for the record, we turned around and left that town as quickly as we could, and we never did see a living soul.)

The final bit of my process is the hardest part. Whenever I finish something, I want to send it out right away. But of course it’s always better to wait, let the work simmer, then revisit and edit prior to sending it anywhere. Getting others to read it is an option, too; they may see things you don’t. Bottom line is: you want to send out a polished gem, not just-mined ore.

Sparkfest – Day 5

Last day of Sparkfest!

It’s funny because I wouldn’t necessarily look at the things I write and immediately think: Well, I wrote that from experience. But experiences do color everything we write. One doesn’t neatly separate the writer from what has been written.

I’ll give a specific example of a scene I anticipate using in my “K-Pro” story. I was alone and traveling abroad (I like to travel; I find it another way of finding inspiration, especially when I’m alone and can absorb without distraction), and I got lost in a large international city. This was before I had a handy cell phone or any such thing. Yes, I’m that old! But a gentleman came along, and I suppose I looked rather distressed, and he did this interesting thing where he put his hand on the small of my back as if to guide me. And it was sweet and reassuring and a bit startling all at once, and something I’ll never forget. So I will take this action and use it in my story, because I think my male lead character is the kind of person who might do something like this, and I will embellish it a bit because that is what writers do. I will take it that step further–imagination makes it easy to picture that, when the woman turns, naturally the man’s arm will come around her and there will be a kiss. Yes?

Travel “sparks” me in that it becomes part of my broad experience and gives me new and different perspectives on the world. I could write about the place I grew up, and my family would certainly make an entertaining story in its own right, but having traveled gives me the ability to pick and choose from a variety of people and places, it gives me more material to build with so to speak. From the farmlands around my hometown to this stranger in a foreign metropolis, I can combine and create an infinite number of possibilities, rounding them out with my own imaginings.

And kisses are universal.

Sparkfest – Day 4

What else can I say about inspiration and/or spark? One can go the conventional routes: art and photographs that inspire, people watching and overheard snippets of conversation. I’ve mentioned before that I find poetry inspirational as well.

I think writing is a sort of engineering. One draws the necessary materials from a variety of places and fashions them into something new and different. The elements all remain, but they are used in unusual ways and are sometimes disguised. Depending on what you’re building–writing–you may want one thing to show through or another, or you may want to hide most of the construction by decorating (just don’t overdo it).

As you might notice, I tend to think in metaphors.

My parents are analytical people, and I inherited a certain amount of logical ways of thinking from them. But my family has a history of art and poetry, too, and while I’m useless at drawing or painting and my poetry is weak at best, I definitely got the creative gene. Sometimes spark is on the inside, settled like a seed. My insides are tangled with vines of various sorts that need pruning now and again but serve me well in a variety of ways. Climbing, swinging . . .

So yes, I think my tendency to take one thing and equate or relate it to something that most people wouldn’t match it to (see yesterday’s post about music) has something to do with the blend of problem-solving skills and creativity I inherited. Take my story “A Society of Martlets” for example. I was looking at the family crest, which has martlets on it, and thinking I like the word “martlet” and might like to use it somehow. And I was reading a book about Edward III and it touched on the dissolution of the Knights Templar. I can’t remember why I was thinking of Lambeth, though. But somehow I took all these things and knit them together anyway.

History is a great place to dig for ideas, by the way. There’s so much of it and so many possible angles. I tend to go backward instead of forward for whatever reason; I don’t write future fiction or anything like that, never minding my love of Star Trek and Doctor Who. Maybe I can blame all those Indiana Jones movies as a kid for that?

Sparkfest – Day 3

I’ve mentioned this before, but in terms of inspiration–or “spark”–I find a lot of mine in music.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve linked songs to story. Maybe it’s because my favorite songs as a child told a story; I especially liked “Chanson Pour Les Petits Enfants” and “Band on the Run” and “The Gambler.” So somewhere in the back of my mind, every song became a story (and I guess in a way they all are), and I just began to fill in the missing bits.

When I got to that age where one begins to make mix tapes (CDs and playlists now, I suppose), I would pick a character or TV show or movie and put together songs that I felt were connected to them in some way. My cassettes were stories of a sort, and my friends would come to me, bewildered, and say, “I never would have thought . . . But I absolutely see now how these things fit.”

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember not everyone sees and hears things the way I do. Being a writer means living somewhere in your head, and the words are the open door when you invite someone in.

I was working on a major motion picture at one point, and they let me help put together the soundtrack. And while the movie itself was only so-so–it was never big at the box office and only rarely ends up on a movie channel late at night–the soundtrack became a bestseller. Too bad as a lowly PA I didn’t receive any credit! But I can look at the track list and know I was the one to suggest the Rolling Stones.

So yes, sometimes when a song comes on the radio and I start to really listen–because for me lyrics are just as important as beat or rhythm or melody–something will spring to mind. The song sparks my imagination, and I find I must go play with whatever idea has been ignited.

Sparkfest – Day 2

So my post earlier today was about the two big projects I’m currently working on. In keeping with Sparkfest, then, I’ll talk about what, well, sparked them.

The play came from a drive. Quite simply, I went over a bridge. I was thinking at the time that I needed an idea for this play, and I might’ve seen something about the lottery out of the corner of my eye? Somewhere in there, the first line of the play sprang to mind: “The day Lucky jumped off the bridge was the day he won the Lotto.”

The “K-Pro” story was something that simmered for a lot longer. I have a tendency to lie in bed and think a lot. Daydream, make up stories, whatever. But this story is an odd blend of personal experience–that is, time I’ve spent on film sets and with actors (one of the main characters is an actor), time spent abroad, and my own history. They do say write what you know. I’d probably add: but make it more interesting.

Sparkfest

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and making up stories for longer than that. So I can’t really say which book did it for or to me. In fact, since I wanted mostly to be a screenwriter, it’s far more likely a movie or television show is the culprit.

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Right now I’m writing a stage play, and I’d say there’s a bit of Tennessee Williams in it, though I’m picturing a young Ewan McGregor as my lead, and I’d say that more than Williams is inspiring a lot of my choices.

I’m also working on a novella, and again I have an actor in mind as my main male character while drawing the female protagonist from personal experience.

Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?
Oooh. Neil Gaiman maybe? It’s funny because I read Dean Koontz and Stephen King for years and years–used to steal my daddy’s paperbacks–and they were very dark and strange and gave me a lot to think about (Twilight Eyes, Lightning, and The Dark Half pop into my mind here). BUT . . . It wasn’t until I started reading Gaiman that I sort of learned how to look at things a bit differently.