Had a bad day? Go home, and write a gun fight. You'll be smiling like the proverbial fox in the henhouse by the end. Immersing yourself in an imaginary world can be quite therapeutic if you do it right. Do it wrong and you'll end up in a room with thick rubber wallpaper, but I digress. Writers seldom need psychiatric help. We keep our dementia at bay with aliens, zombies, axe wielding maniacs and cookie baking housewives with access to strychnine.
As I begin writing my fifth novel, I must admit I do stare at myself in the mirror wondering why I began another project. Writing is hard. It requires concentration, imagination, and the ability to sound authoritative about things you have absolutely no clue about. Stressful? Nah, I love it. Just because it's hard, doesn't mean it isn't fun. I've always had an active imagination and now that I've embraced writing, the voices in my head leave me alone. Well, that's not true. They still bug me to get more liquor and ammunition, but my wife just says no, and that's the end of that.
To write, I need to isolate myself from friends and family, turn on the PC, and start typing. After a while, the story flows, the characters snap into focus, and strange things start to happen. You find yourself smiling at the jokes, tearing up during the death scenes, and generally feeling what you are typing. When an author can represent the emotion of a scene, it resonates with the reader.
Yet, it's important to not isolate yourself from reality completely. You still need fuel for the metaphorical fire of your imagination, so go people watching. I travel a lot and find airports to be great inspiration. Just find a seat near a walkway and watch humanity go by as you wait for your flight. Most of the multitude will pass unnoticed, but every now and then you are rewarded. I always fixate on the uncommon things. A cane, an oversized purse, a flowery hat, a strange color shirt and trouser combination. That plants the seed and working forward, you can develop solid characters. Why is that old man limping? A war wound, or running from a rabid dog? She looks upset; a death in the family, or long distance relationship gone bad? You decide.
Of course, once you have your characters, you need to place them together in a coherent story and that's the most important thing of all. I script my novels out in point form long before I begin. That way, I have the plot in my mind as I write. Knowing Michael does not meet Jane until after the body is found let's me focus on the dialog. The story, in my opinion, is everything. No amount of hot sex or profanity will help if the base story is poor.
At the end of the day, I'm an author and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just hope that after reading this short article, you think I sounded authoritative about the process of writing.
SJ Parkinson's latest book, also the first chronologically in The Legionaire series is Origins. You can get your copy from Amazon US (paper or ebook) or Amazon UK (paper or ebook). The second book in the series, Mask of the Pharaoh, is also available from Amazon US (paper or ebook) or Amazon UK (paper or ebook).