Write like a crazy lady and oh, Father!: Protagonist development, writing, and inspiration.

Published September 2, 2015 by AntiqueMystique1

priest black and white cover 5-12-14 smashwords1400It was no wonder nobody could find my stories over at Amazon. And that’s what happens when you just realize Author Central has a place to claim your book. Well, now that explains a lot and so does my inexcusable lack of loading tweet deck to promote my work like clockwork.

I claimed my stories, wrote my experiences with my first novel, Abide with Me, and found out I have more reviews to write to include with all of my stories. Whew!

If you’re me you can crank out 81, 356 words and 155 pages in a span of three weeks, give or take. The bad draw back to this is time constraints, loss of sleep, plot ideas and characters that are vying for my immediate attention. So better do what I do: keep a spiral bound notebook and pens handy and write like a crazy lady.

I’m a prolific writer. I absolutely love to write very long, descriptive fiction and horror stories. I will never declare “I’m the next (_______) and I’m the best!” Fill in the blank with your favorite author. I’m not the best out there.

The hours, weeks, months and years it takes to crank out a labor of love on Word pad is exhaustive, fun, and catatonic. But it doesn’t end at the last paragraph. If you can’t afford an editor and/ or just don’t trust your precious labor of love to anybody else, you can edit your work yourself. And that’s one of the most exhaustive processes. It’s very long, mind-numbing, and taking frequent breaks is a must!

Editing is the process where you nit-pick every chapter and paragraph. Hey, I’m guilty of seeing extra ‘h’s’ where there should be only one ‘h’. If you have paragraph return switched on these configurations are easy to spot and correct. If you don’t have paragraph return switch on and it resembles a backwards “p”, then you’ll never know how in a million years a word starts off something like this… “H h h is”

Wha—? Where’d those two extra ‘h’s’ find their way into the sentence. Ah! And its back to more editing with paragraph return switched on. Now, if you have a novel, I believe if its 80,000 words or more, it’s considered a novel and those are butt kickers to edit and proof-read. It will cause eye strain. And I recall my first several re-visions long before I knew about the existence of paragraph return, my brain felt like it was sucked dry. I simply had no energy to invest in the late night/ wee hours of the morning re-writes.

And then, there’s the muddled effect I come across way too often in certain scenes in my story. In my mind, I see the action taking place. I see what my characters see. I write how I think it should go and it’s really scatter-brained in word pad. In fact, I will need some additional help writing in some action-packed fight scenes.

Well, when searching for that right context to describe a knock down, draw out brawl between four or five characters, how about visiting an actual locale, instead? Oh, and while you’re there, don’t forget to cross yourself. And I did just that.

I got off early from work and across the street is a Catholic cathedral. There’s nothing special about its façade. But when you step inside it resembles a business lobby with the exception that it has a cruciform fountain filled with blessed holy water. Yup. Holy water. Once in a blue moon I would stop in to fill a bottle or two with holy water. Hey, can’t hurt to have some on hand even though I’m not Catholic. I had never been inside the actual Cathedral itself. I do drive by it all the time on my commute. And it wasn’t until the day before I had decided to pop in and see what they had to offer.

My mind was picked clean of any plot ideas to wrap up my sequel to one of my self-published vampire stories. I admire the cruciform fountain filled with holy water. For some reason I always gravitate to the fountain first. Then I gazed at the very spacious Narthex that resembles a business lobby. Dotting the walls are various portraits of saints, popes, and name plaques.

There was a lot of Spanish religious CD’s and other paper items written in Spanish. Yet I knew if I tried to go around the book shelf, I might find what I’m looking for and sure enough, there was free literature in English. But what I liked seeing was several saint holy cards. Okay, the saints names run together in my mind. I was up very late until 5: 50 am pulling an all-nighter and I managed to get myself to work running on very little sleep. But curiosity compelled me to stay a few minutes. I scanned the free literature and free holy cards, bookmarks, prayer cards, etc. Then a gentleman walks by and I very politely get his attention and ask if the literature, holy cards, bookmarks are free since there’s no sign stating it.

He was helpful and suggested some literature and told me he was going to go say the stations the cross. I had told him that I didn’t see any pamphlets on how to pray the rosary. And he said that the next time I stopped in, he’d be sure there were some left out on the bookcase. I kindly thanked him for his help and thought that was it. I proceeded to browse through the literature and a two minutes later he re-appeared, not sure if I was still around and told me, “I know you know this gonna sound crazy, but the Lord spoke to me and told me to find that girl and show her how to pray the rosary. That is, if you have thirty-five minutes? If not you can stop in any time.”

I thought about it, then thought about my poor celery and hard boiled egg going rancid in the heat of the vehicle in my lunch bag. The ice packs were likely warm, but not one to miss an opportunity, opted to take the man up on his offer. He told me his name and said he was new to the Catholic faith. I listened to him and we sauntered in the chapel.

It was dimly-lit with large inset lighting shining down. Cement columns that stretched from floor to vaulted ceiling. The walls and ceiling were dreary—sucked of color except their cement grey. The Cathedral gave off a cold, almost unwelcoming vibe. The nave was tiled. Pews were empty. Prayer candles flickered and it was the first time I laid eyes on a row of inset confessionals. They spanned a portion of the Cathedral. I didn’t see any priests wandering about and the place was very quiet. I felt both awed seeing the vaulted ceiling and intimidated by it as well. My eyes drew up to the altar. A massive catacomb of ramps and doors on either side likely branched off to the sacristy. But what intrigued me most, (and sent a slight chill down my spine), was seeing a massive crucifix suspended by chains from the ceiling. In near descriptive detail (sight unseen until this day, mind you), I had written a similar hanging crucifix in my fictional church in my sequel when I was describing what my fictional church looks like interior-wise so the reader could hopefully get a sense of being pulled into that scene.

Perhaps I’ve been clacking the keys too long. Maybe it was just coincide that it struck me with such awe and surrealism that my description nearly matched something I hadn’t even seen yet until that day. Oh, and I’m Lutheran. I sense a twinge of You don’t belong here oozing from Cathedral walls that went straight up. The shadows made the cement walls appear nearly black in places where light couldn’t reach. Stain glass windows were long and very thin. They didn’t depict the large breath-taking imagery churches are known for. Instead, these slim windows gave the impression of prison bars.

The man that showed me around became emotional. He just had never guided anybody around this Cathedral before nor had the Lord personally spoke to him until that day. I’m not one to doubt the Lord’s mysterious ways nor would I ever doubt those that claim the Lord speaks to them. I like to keep an open mind.

This man showed me a half-circular room with Our Lady of Guadeloupe statue, painted lime green walls and forest motif. On either side were small stands containing small photos of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mother Mary. I want to say this man referred to it as a shrine room, but could be wrong about that.

I have heard of the saints and read about them. In fact, St. Paul (the missionary), is one saint I do like primarily due to my attending St. Paul’s Lutheran in the later half of my grade school years and at the last leg of my Seventh grade year. I highly praise St. Paul’s Lutheran for shaping my later school experiences with fond memories. I can’t say my start in public school and tenure in that system ever taught me much. In fact, it was the exact opposite. There was (probably still is) a severe lack of well-taught, Christian-based curriculum. And I was quite shocked to read about lately in Yahoo news about an old portrait of Jesus being removed from a public school after one person complained about it just recently like this year. And the Jesus portrait was a fixture of this one school going way, way back and they were trying to find the donator who donated it back in 1958. I thought, One person complains and they get their way like a bratty child? I heard about the separation of church and state: but seesh!

And I wasn’t about to admit the other reason why I was at the Cathedral. I found myself at a very confusing point in my vampire sequel and needed to visually see the layout of a church so I could wrap my head around the fight scene that breaks out in a fictional church in my sequel. So I strolled down the nave, tennis shoes squeaking over buffed floor. The man that showed me around let me decide if I wanted to kneel at the communion rail or stand while he proceeded to teach me an extremely fast way to pray the rosary.

I knelt at the communion rail and the cushion wasn’t kind on the knees. I believe it was burlap and not stuffed. Before the thirty-five minutes were up, my body ached from my torso down to my knees, legs, and feet. My legs tingled painfully but I didn’t complain. It didn’t feel odd to kneel at the communion rail since I had been a member of my Lutheran church for a few years. I always looked forward going through the communion line they have at my church, and many times, have knelt at their communion rail which has a much softer cushion.

While the man was teaching me to pray the rosary, he would explain to me the Joyful Mysteries, The Sorrowful Mysteries, The Luminous Mysteries, Our Father’s, Apostle’s Creed, Glory Be’s, and there was a lot that was mind boggling to me. But I was very appreciative of the time he took out of his busy day to show me how to pray the rosary.

The only other person I noticed in Cathedral was a snow-haired older man that waltzed out of one of the side doors I suppose that led from the sacristy. And you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t name off every little nook and cranny of a Cathedral’s layout. I know where the Gospel and Lectern sides are in a church and where the transepts intersect in a cross-shaped church.

While this man and I were going through the rosary together—and I’m glad he produced a rosary since I didn’t carry one on my person. I do collect rosaries of all kinds and enjoy them. However, for a Lutheran to collect and try to use them I suppose is weird since I’m not Catholic. I paid attention to what the man was going over with me. Meanwhile in the back of my mind I could actually see my fictional characters in a place similar in layout and design as this Cathedral. Oh, and while we were going through the rosary, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a shadowy black figure took their seat in one of the pews.

And when we were finished, the man wanted to introduce me to Father—I didn’t catch his name. It was my first time meeting a priest of the Catholic faith in person. And I really didn’t want this man to interrupt him since he was praying with a rosary ring on his thumb. The priest was a very soft-spoken man. And the man that showed me how to pray the rosary was trying to get some feedback from the priest on how he did.

“I did good, didn’t I?” this man repeated his question to the priest, who didn’t look like he wanted to be bothered.

“Yeah you did. You slipped up on the forty days after Jesus was born.” The priest slowly spun the ring around his thumb, counting each bead.

I think the priest was directing the comment at me since he overheard most, if not, all of our quiet conversation.

What happened is that I got way ahead of myself, confusing the account when Jesus died and on the third day he rose again. And when the man was telling me forty days after Jesus was born that’s when I had unwittingly added, “And Jesus died and on the third day he rose again.” I’m sure that got under the priest’s skin.

Well, the priest and I shook hands and introduced ourselves. He reminded me physically of Norm Abrams. The priest forced a smile and very quietly answered all of the man’s questions. I couldn’t shake the strong impression that the priest was timid—not really shy, per se, but very reluctant to even speak. Until this day, I didn’t realize just how sheltered Catholic priests really are. And maybe I intimidated the priest by just being there. I’m sure it’s not everyday that a Lutheran stops in. And I wasn’t going to reveal I was also there to absorb the silence and picture my set of characters in the Cathedral and oh, yeah they’re vampires and one of them is a priest.

When I was revising and revamping Abide with Me I spent a good two solid hours in the Chapel at my church during evening service around Advent and sat in my favorite spot: third row and down front. I brought with me a notebook and pen and began taking notes of what the altar looks like from the pews. Since I had been a communion assistant and was heavily involved with my church life at this time, I sauntered up to the altar and gazed out at the empty pews, then returned to my seat. I had the visual aspect I wanted to bring to one of my main protagonists in Abide with Me. To see a church setting through his eyes, not mine. I’m just the writer trying bring as much realism as I can to my protagonist’s vocation.

To really submerse myself I bought a few Gregorian chant CD’s (which is truly beautiful and highly recommend them) for mood music. When I’m writing I like to listen with headphones so I can prolifically write without distractions. The Gregorian chants set the stage for certain scenes in Abide with Me. Other times, if I need something spooky, haunting, or some action, I’ll listen to Midnight Syndicate and the original Creepshow soundtrack.

I left the Cathedral that other day with a better idea of how to re-write the fight scene in my sequel, but parts of it are very muddled and the action will have to be refined. Oh, and I put in a lot of fluff which readers likely don’t want to see. Therefore, I promise, I do plan to cut back on the useless fluff in the sequel. Still not sure when I’ll get around to self-publishing it. When I do, I will tweet it out and post links here as well.

And that wraps up my first trip to a Catholic Cathedral, meeting a priest for the first time, and learning how to pray the rosary and where I get my story ideas from. Thanks for liking, following, commenting, tweeting, re-blogging, etc. I sincerely appreciate it. 🙂

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2 comments on “Write like a crazy lady and oh, Father!: Protagonist development, writing, and inspiration.

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