Writing From the Right Brain

I believe that to keep your mind young, you need to feed it often. Learning helps us to use parts of the brain we may have neglected during the daily grind of routine life. For many, our daily jobs become mindless, something we’ve done so often, we are not challenged to put much thought into them as we go about doing what we do every day. But there are little details you will not miss with a brain in learning mode. Things that will give you different perspectives you never had before. By challenging our minds to learn something new, we force stimulation on a lax brain. And this is the one of many reasons I’ve started learning another language.

One of the things I’ve learned from my Chinese lessons so far is that the language is almost musical in sound. That when talking, the tones, the highs and lows, are like singing. Before I started learning Mandarin, I did not hear this when I’d come upon two people conversing in it. This observation has affected my writing, and the way I not only see our world, but the way I see other worlds, the ones I create. How do people who communicate telepathically sound to someone? Do they speak in pictures. Do their words have sounds in our heads? What do we sound like to them, since our speech is more verbal than visual? So where am I going with this? Humanity’s view of language can be very narrow, when communication as a whole is very broad. As writers, our job is harness communication.

When compared to other tongues, the English language can be very flat indeed, but even so, there are different tones to our language throughout the country that keep it from being drone. The South has a slow drawl, and we often hear people describe it as honey. And it’s not a surprise to many of you when I say that. But did you know the East Coast tends to lose their r’s and that the speech is often clipped and rushed, much like the pace of the bigger cities. Out West, everything slows down, including the language. In the middle of our country, vowels are drawn out, extending the time it takes for the person to say the word, and though you do see this in the South, it’s much slower in the Midwest. Another observation I’ve made, it can drive an Easterner nuts. Many Easterners will finish a sentence for a person who speaks slower than they are accustomed to. Bad manners? Maybe, or perhaps the trigger is a geographical impatience, the same one you hear in the language.
 

This brings my thoughts back to a wonderful art teacher and a particular class I had in high school. I remember walking downtown with my art class, talking about observing, seeing with our right brains. Now, as many of you know, the right side of the human brain is what many refer to as our creative side. When we write, paint, draw or partake in any exercise that demands creative thinking, this is the side of the brain that is most active. There are exercises you can do that will fire up this side of your brain and there are books out there that will help you with this. Learning Chinese, I have discovered, is one of those exercises.

Don’t laugh. I’m 100% serious.

Back to my art class. We were doing an exercise on right brain thinking that day. As we stopped in front of a large glass window of a store front that displayed mannequins dressed in various garments in different poses, my art teacher pointed at it and asked, “What do you see?”

“I see a woman in a red dress, a man in jeans and a tee shirt,” one student piped up. Several more comments followed describing the display. What came next, I will never forget. A quiet girl spoke up from the back. I see cars moving behind us. The clouds in the sky, curious faces peering back. That girl saw a different world than what was before her. It was for me, a creative epiphany, and it has had a huge impact on my writing, as well as my art ever since.


You always hear the advice, engage all the senses in your writing. But this doesn’t always mean using them in every paragraph as you write. It means opening up your mind and really seeing, experiencing what your characters see and feel. Much like looking in the window. Ask yourself, what do they really see and feel, smell or hear?


While learning a new language, I had another illuminating experience. I realized that there is song in language. Yes, I’ve been told this, but I don’t really think it sank in until that moment while learning to speak Chinese, what they really meant. Merely writing a story is one thing, singing it another. We’re often told by our editors to listen for tones, to change sentences with the same structure, to vary. Don’t repeat words, they echo (Unless the point is to emphasize them.)And Sally selling sea shells by the sea shore, might twist up a brain, as well as a tongue. This is why you often hear advice to read your story out loud as you edit.
 

You, my fellow authors, are listening for the song, not just the mistakes.
Okay, let’s review. What I’ve learned so far—Basic Mandarin. What I’ve really learned—the ability to hear the song in the words. So that leaves me to ask you. What have you learned today?
 

Keep learning, you never know what you’ll discover.
 

Want to exercise your brain? Read a cerebral book, like Clone the Book of Eva.

Where I get my inspiration

Okay, this is a common question authors get. What inspired your story? To be honest, life. It could be something as simple a an event I witnessed while people watching, or something more serious in the news.

In this case--Who's on first? Have you ever heard of the famous comedic skit with Abbott and Costello, where they're discussing a baseball game?

Yeah, that.

Here we go, a excerpt from my novel, a work in progress and unedited, Intergalactic Bounty Hunters Inc.

My father was a sentimental man. He had one style of clothing, a dozen of the same tops and bottoms in his closet, all one color. Blue. He ate the same thing for breakfast every morning, loved one woman all his life and had one ship, even after she was nothing more than a pile of scrap.

She was destroyed in an accident. Okay, yeah it was me, but I swear I didn’t see that barge when I dropped to dock. In my defense, I’d just gotten my learner’s permit and had never vertically parked. The Siren’s main supports crushed like foil. Not a pretty sight, bent frame, hopeless to repair. Boy he’d been angry. It was a good week before he spoke to me. By then, I’d been forgiven and he swore he’d turn me into the best rocket jockey in the galaxy. For my own protection.

He bought a fixer-upper and a real beauty, an out-of-service stock hauler named The Lucinda. We never were quite able to get the smell of animal dung out of the main bay, no matter how much we scrubbed, and trust me I scrubbed every bare inch of metal on that ship. It took me three weeks to clean the bay alone. To this day, add a little humidity and you get instant fragrance.

With a few upgrades, she wasn’t a bad ship. Still he refused to acknowledge her as his baby, referring to her only as Ship. “Get the equipment off the Ship. Did you clean the Ship’s deck? You flying this Ship, or am I?”

I think it was his way of hanging onto the past and his one true love, The Siren. So after a while, the name stuck. Everyone called her Ship and every time we made an approach, it never failed to raise a few hackles. Which I guess was okay, dad would have liked it that way.

As I glanced out the glass at the prison station, I knew it would be no exception. Here we go again.

"Approaching ship, please identify yourself by designated name or registration number."

"Ship on approach."

"Understood. Please identify yourself approaching vessel."

"This is Ship."

"What ship?"

"My ship."

"Identify yourself immediately."

Nicco gritted his teeth and gave me a frustrated look. “Could we just name this stupid barge?”

“Approaching ship, you are entering restricted space. Identify.”

“This is Ship."

"What is the name of your vessel?"

"It's just 'Ship'."

"Thank you, Itzjuship. Please follow the vector we are relaying to your Nav Comp now and dock in bay twelve."

Nicco hit the com and spun in his chair. “Either you name this thing, or I am.”

“She’s got a name. Ship.”

Relearning the way I write.

I've recently discovered how difficult it is to cut the smut from my stories. I originally got into writing erotic romance because there were more publishers looking for it when I became serious about publication. At the time, ePublishing wasn't popular among readers and a lot of my friends, families and associates scratched their heads, asking why I didn't want to be in print. The answer of course, was simple. I did. But to get from point A to point B, I needed to get some publishing credits first. Now with over twenty books under my belt, I'm returning to my roots and working on stories I put aside to build a career.

So, what is so hard about toning it down? A lot of things. For one, when hotter was expected, so too was the language. You called certain parts of the body what they were. Dirty words become a habit, a hard one to break. Hey, I'm not saying they don't have a place in New Adult, but part of the reason I've gone down this road is because I want to tone down the sexual content in my work. I don't mind writing erotic romance, it just isn't where my heart is.

Cutting the smut also screws with the tension. When you have a great deal of focus on the couple's sexual relationship, you have to get back to the frame, strip the meat off and start over. The plot may be solid, but there will be changes, especially when the focus shifts to other things besides sex. Now, I have pretty strong plots and world-building, and this works in my favor, but I have to find other ways to crank the tension, besides the emotional connection between the hero and heroine.

So, where am I now? I have several stories in the works, a couple submitted to various publishers. One of my favorites, I published for a short stint under my other author name. This title has been reworked and I have two of the tales in the series completed and two half way there. This particular series, I consider some of my best work.

Anyway, that's were I'm at right now. Check back for updates. I promise to keep you posted.

~ Paxton