Monday musings: Travel, beauty and writing

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The Gothic-era Tyn Church in Prague’s Old Square, fronted by newer buildings that now make up its entrance.

People often say travel broadens you. It opens your mind and your heart to new ideas, exposes you to different cultures and people, and tends to make you more accepting of differences.

For me, travel is also inspiring—literally. When I travel, I often get new ideas for stories and novels. These can be sparked by people I see and meet, buildings, streets, forests, coastlines—just about anything.

I recently returned from a visit to Prague and the Czech Republic. If you have been, you’ll know how beautiful that capital city is. If you haven’t been, you should put it on your list of places to visit.

The Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Square, built in 1410.

Prague itself is an arrangement of architecture that, for at least 700 years, has intended to embrace the current styles, yet fit in with the established buildings. As one of the travel guides points out, you can stand in the Old Square and see architecture of the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Deco periods. And you don’t have to walk far to find later examples — the Cubist house of the Black Madonna is just steps from the square.

At least in the centre of the city, it’s hard to find a building that’s strictly functional—almost all are beautiful in some way.

Inspiration

The Municipal Hall is too prosaic a name for this Art Nouveau building on the National Square, home of two concert halls, including Smetana Hall.

Walking through a city that’s new to me gets my imagination going. It’s easy to think of the beginnings of stories, more like dramatic situations. But in Prague, I came up with more of a feeling or a theme than a plotline. The juxtaposition of buildings from every era of the past 700 years points to a Prague characteristic: its continual embracing of the modern while honouring, and making full use of tradition.

It brought to mind a kind of story of two people in a relationship, who are both trying to solve the same problem: one from a 21st-century approach, based in science and technology; and the other taking an older, more traditional perspective informed by psychology and religion.

This building is the home of the Hotel Paris in central Prague.

Prague has always been known as a music-loving city. Mozart loved Prague, and Prague loved him back. Today, you can find street performers at almost any time, any place—and theyre really good. These guys called themselves the De Facto String Quartet, and played a version of Stairway to Heaven that sounded terrific.

I don’t know what the problem will be, yet, nor what the plot points are. But I have the characters worked out. And it will definitely be set in Prague.

As if the architecture, art and music arent inspiring enough, Prague has immortalized its favourite native-born author, Franz Kafka, with this metallic scupture of his head. The sections rotate independently, according to some program that occasionally lines them up to reveal the writer’s likeness.

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Meet the author Monday: Claude Bouchard

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A couple of months ago, Bestselling Reads’ fearless leader, Scott Bury, asked the group’s members to answer a few questions. Some did, may didn’t and Scott has recently moved into “veiled threat” mode with the procrastinators. Such a tactic usually would not impress me but Scott does live a mere two hour drive from my home so, here we go!

How many books have you written?

I’ve written fifteen books to date with my sixteenth currently in the works.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered an instalment of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered part of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

How have the main characters developed or changed over the course of the series?

For one, they’ve gotten older. For whatever reason, I’ve always dated my books and kept up with the years over time so my characters have aged along with all of us. Their thinking has also changed along the way as they’ve adapted to various situations. Without going into detail, Vigilante, the series opener, dealt with a serial killer involved in pure vigilantism. However, as of book 2, The Consultant, a clandestine government group was introduced, thus formalizing (or legalizing) unconventional methods of dealing with crime. It’s been interesting and fun to have these government assassins intermingling and developing professional relationships and friendships with homicide cops.

How has your style changed over that same period?

My basic voice and style have remained relatively intact. I’ve always been fairly concise with little use for fluffy fillers to increase word count and that hasn’t changed. My writing flows more nicely and is less choppy today than it was in my first books several years back.

Has the way you write, or your process, evolved? 

I’ve rarely used outlines, at least not in the sense of mapping out an entire storyline before getting into actually writing it. I will sometimes quickly outline the next handful of scenes as ideas come to mind, in order to respect the timeline of events and, more so, to avoid forgetting those ideas. What has certainly helped over time is the Internet, making required research much easier and efficient than when I wrote Vigilante in 1995. As for character creation, if something needs to be done and I have nobody to do it, I create someone. Travel has allowed meeting people from all over and has certainly facilitated building realistic worlds. In fact, some of my books were set in places I’ve visited, including Paris, Vietnam and the Caribbean.

Is there a particular time or place you like for writing?

Afternoons are when I do most of my writing, though that can vary on occasion. Unless I’m traveling, I write in our study with my trusty desktop and dual monitors. The one exception was The First Sixteen, a prequel novella and the ninth in my series, which I initially wrote in Pages on my iPad.

Where do your ideas for plots originate?

The weird place inside my head which is fed by daily events stemming from all over the world.

Connect with Claude Bouchard

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Monday Musings: Three Tips for Writing Memorable Characters

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When it comes to characters, I like to interact with mine. It helps me get to know them better before I write them into my stories. Sometimes, I become my protagonist and develop entire scenes and chapters in my head.

It may be one of the insanities of being a writer that we create imaginary friends and allow them to speak to us. We instinctively breathe life into our characters by getting to know them as intimately as some of our real-life friends. Because characters grow through the pages and expose the events of a story, the more vividly we describe them, the more readers are able to connect to them.

So … how do we create these memorable characters?

James bond

James Bond

Here is what works for me. Most of my characters, if not all of them are based on people I have met. Some are friends, some acquaintances, and some I’ve met only virtually. Yet, they have one quality in common—uniqueness, or in other words, something that makes others curious about them.

Remember the last time you attended a wedding, dinner party, or some other social function? Who made an impression on you, and why? Did the person have an interesting profession or hobby? A facial tic? An annoying pattern of speech? Whatever the trait, good or bad, it is this oddity that makes a character memorable in fiction.

Whether we know it or not, we incorporate the personalities of real people into our stories anyway, but when we take the time to consciously look for unique traits, we heighten our awareness of characteristics we find interesting. This insight improves our characters’ profiles, and because they are based on real people, it lends an air of realism to them too.

edward scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands

It’s important to pay attention to these oddities since basing characters on established stereotypes robs them of originality. Stereotypes are like clichéd phrases. As they become repetitive and weary over time from overuse, they tend to drag down our prose.

How original is the dumb blonde, the cheating, alcoholic ex-husband, the womanizing bad boy? You know these characters because you’ve read or seen them on television—over and over again. They’ve become predictable.

In real life, we like to meet unique, interesting people. This is the same in fiction, so if you want your characters to be memorable, give them traits that are unique. It’s okay to exaggerate eccentricities so long as you can explain them during the course of the story. In real life, people are unbalanced and inconsistent, but stories have a finite timeline. If you highlight a peculiarity about a character, make sure you expound on the reason for it.

thelma and louise

Thelma and Louise

Here are three simple tips to remember:

1) Show us your characters by their actions. Your characters can be witty and spout interesting philosophies, but in the end, they are what they do. We judge people by their actions, so make them DO STUFF. This will allow readers to discover each character’s motivations as well.

2) Take your characters “out of character.” This goes back to eccentricities. Imbue them with contradictions. Just remember to explain these within the narrative.

3) Give them quirks, tics, and other oddities. Not every character needs to be peculiar, but use these distinguishing features to allow readers to tell your characters apart.

So … go ahead and write about the raven-haired beauty who’s smart as a whip but was born a blonde, the husband who cheated but refused to divorce his wife, the bad boy who loved women but had no clue how to get a date.

The next time you interact with someone, whether in person or not, keep an open mind for weird idiosyncrasies. If you write these well into your characters, your reader will follow them through suffering and celebration, love and heartbreak—every hurdle you throw their way. And your unique characters will stay in their memories long after they’ve finished reading your book.

~ eden

About the author

eden at benmcnallyEden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write and is now a full-time author of multiple genres. She has written three collections of erotic novellas and flash fiction—Spring into Summer, Fall into Winter, and Hot Flash, along with contributing to the anthologies: Allegories of the Tarot, Indie Authors Naked, and Triptychs.

In 2014, she launched the first novel of her trilogy with Dr. Kate Hampton—a psychological mystery/suspense called Stranger at Sunset. In addition to working on her next novel, Eden created Lainey Lee for the Lei Crime Series, a feisty divorcée who finds adventure and romance in Hawaii. Her novellas for the series—A Snake in Paradise and SEAL of a Monk can be found on Kindle Worlds.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! Connect to her via all her networks. She loves talking to readers! 

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