Sunday, April 15, 2007

"The BIG Question"

Moving forward with "Proud Souls" and the many questions posed by friends and loved ones, I felt it was time to address a seemingly popular inquiry, one that (I confess) I have overlooked and down-played. And as we get closer to the release date of my first novel and the word is spread and more and more people contact me to share their enthusiasm and excitement for the "big moment", the more I am pressed to address this one important and particular question. It is one that I must say--as I write the draft for this blog on paper and in within my mind--sounds almost as amazing as it is ridiculous.

And what's the big question Bobby? Well it's simple and still somehow complex: How do you write?

That’s it! People want to know how I write…how does one write…how does Bobby write…how do we write? How do you write?

Well honestly, every author has their own methodical process and practices for creating stories and if you like to do research on the Internet, you can find hundreds of how-to guides that tell you the best means for preparing a story, whether it's creating an outline (which I am totally against) or performing what is called a Fast Draft, or writing your first draft on paper (freehand) or beginning the task of creating character sketches, yada...yada...yada... Now, I am not going to fall into the trap of writing the Bobby Ozuna How-To Guide to creating stories and pose myself as an expert on the creative process, but instead I would rather share my ways, both conventional and non-conventional, and let you do with the information as you choose. Fair? Here goes it...

For starters you must allow yourself the freedom to be creative. Writing is an art form, not to be put into a box or constrained with guidelines by how-to experts. Watch children when they finger-paint or color your sidewalks with chalk, they do it freely without ever knowing the "consequences" for not following a particular set of rules and in doing so they are free to become as creative as they wish. If you pay especially close attention you will see something in them that is lost by us as adults...it's called a smile...and it comes with being free to live with what's inside you. Ask two entirely different artists to paint you a picture of an identical tree and you will get two entirely different images, because each painting or drawing represents a portion of the creativity within the artists mind. That is the beauty of art, whether it is in paints or chalks or charcoal or with the written page. Writers are artists too, responsible for creating imaginative worlds and romantic dialogue and hero's that remind us of the greatness tucked away within ourselves and villains that remind us why we choose to sleep with night-lights. They are poets that help sustain the brokenness of life and heralds that mark the second coming!

Now, as I step down from my soap-box, I will say this. NOT just anyone who picks up a canvas and paints can create a work of art or anything seemingly close to what a normal class of society would call art, period. There are techniques that must be learned--contrast, shadowing, size and perception--these are tactics that must be studied, practiced and then applied, in conjunction with the natural flow of creativity, and the end result we can freely dub--art. The same stands true for writers. My initial stories some eight years ago were funny and creative and if I stood amidst the masses in a room or party and shared them, they were just witty enough (in both dialogue and approach) to capture a room's attention. When I put those same stories on paper however, they were a bore and I quickly lost my chances of gaining a fan base. But in time, after studying a better quality of writing by reading a better quality of books, paying attention to the details of humanity around me and listening to the sounds of my own soul as it beckoned me to use my gift, I learned to create a better structured story, with a flare of creative quality all my own. And that is what you must do, if you wish to learn to write.

Okay Bobby, you might say. Now we understand we simply need to write…but HOW do you go about writing? Another great question....

Now, many of the ideas for my stories come from somewhere within my head; some are thoughts and others are portions of dreams I have pieced together over a series of days or weeks or months, as I am a regular dreamer. Some of them are pieces of my own experiences, things I wish to share of myself and the places and people I have met along this journey called life. Others are portions of ideas for stories that I felt would make a great story, something I completely conjured from within my own imagination. But a vast majority of the time, the stories I create begin as thoughts, and then a voice, and then a dream, and then an image I cannot brush away from within my mind…once the characters introduce themselves—their history, their lives, their desires, and their emotions—the images do not go away until I do them justice by creating their world on paper. I know the story is over, when the voices go away and I am at peace enough to get a good night’s sleep.

I can work on more than one story at a time, so long as I am attentive to the voices and understand and learn not to overextend my focus on a particular character (as all my stories begin and end with characters as opposed to setting or action) because in doing so, I might try to force a character into creation, during a moment where my soul is listening to the shouts of another character for another story. (This is that whole “don’t cross the streams” thing from the 80’s…)

I always write my drafts on paper. I have a perfectionist tendency to DESTROY my creative flow when attempting to type my drafts on a computer’s word processing software because each and every time I see a red or green squiggly line below a word when I am typing too fast to try and keep up with my own thoughts, I have to stop, as if that red or green line is SHOUTING and reminding me that I have just committed a typo, an error, a flaw. With every stroke of the Backspace key, more and more creative juices are lost, spilt over my keyboard and ruined. Therefore, I write my drafts on paper, in handwriting so bad I can hardly interpret my own words the next morning. Luckily, I know the story as it is built within my head, so I seldom need to read my drafts in a line-by-line fashion, rather I just watch the story unfold within my mind and I begin typing. It is during this portion of the creative process that I begin filling in “gaps.” It is here that I begin to learn the characters and see them for who they are and allow them to introduce themselves to me. I try to walk like them, and talk like them, and become them, like an actor on a stage play, for only a moment, allowing myself to capture the true essence of their nature on paper. When I write dialogue, I act out the scene. When I draw a moment, I try to show it from the character’s point of view, because naturally, the writer should not and does not exist within a story.

After I have completed one full draft, start to finish, I begin the grueling and painful process of re-writing, editing and proof-reading. This is the part of writing, no author enjoys (at least I couldn’t imagine how they might). It is here I take a physical printed format of my story or chapters or portions at a time, and begin reading it aloud, so many times, that eventually I can’t “see the forest for the trees” anymore. When this happens, I hand the story off to one of my handful of closest friends and confidants and ask them to read the story, each one giving me a different take on the story, whether it’s perception, point-of-view, characters, settings, emotions. I do have to force myself to step away from the story for a few days, take in what criticisms and critiques have been offered by my friends and colleagues and then I finalize the story.

Remember, writing is an art form, not to be boxed in or constrained with guidelines, although there are rules for writing like there are rules for anything in this world. Take some time to study the craft, read better quality material (and that’s an argument entirely to itself) and make writing a part of your life, your habit and your daily routine. In time, as with anything else, you will get better and as you work to critique your own work, you will better understand how to develop the stories before the first words are ever put on paper.

~Ozuna

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