Friday, December 30, 2022

much ado about nothing?

It might surprise some how difficult writing can be, although I think I've talked about this before. I've been having trouble with some of the books in this series.

In this latest case, Book 16 of Forgotten Worlds, it's partly due to what seems to be a sensitivity to synthetic vitamin D that isn't pleasant, no matter the form or source of it. I've never done well with synthetic D, but things get worse over time in my reaction to it. Not taking it leaves me feeling so much better and more focused. I was taking it for a while because of winter being here and my levels tested "low", but trying to improve that was hindering my ability to focus. Adding magnesium as some health practitioners suggest didn't help. Not everyone tolerates D supplements. Lucky me for being one of them. 😕  Not.

I've stopped taking it and am avoiding anything fortified, and the creativity is returning where I was struggling to write. This is my life--hypersensitivity to everything.

That hypersensitivity helps in some ways, especially in understanding body language and the nuances of communication, not just with people but also with animals. I had to learn to understand different species' "languages", but once you know the basics, the subtleties mean much more and communicating is to outsiders "whispering". And with people, you would be surprised by what we convey without realizing. Animals are especially fine-tuned to our body language and vocal cues, prey creatures like horses being particularly sensitive. Learning to communicate with animals in body language has made me more sensitive about the nuances of human body language also, and that helps in communication skills that carry into writing.

Writing is an art of communication with many levels. While most people think about worldbuilding, character-building, or description--the bigger aspects--at the most basic level, it call comes down to communication. One could use the analogy of a computer program; at the basics, it's all 1's and 0's (on and off power) that are arranged in specific orders to form symbols, which combine to form words, which form expressions, etc. There's an element to computer programming that's very technical, as their is with writing, but there is more to communicating than technical details. We're not computers. 

Communication is colored by nuances that most people don't think about, the little things that contribute to those larger aspects mentioned above. Our word choices reflect our level of education, our mood, our confidence in a subject, and so much more. Our voice inflection says a lot about our mood and intent. Accents can give clues about where we're from or perhaps have spent a lot of our lives. We also use body language and gesticulations, which has had whole books written on it (look up kinesiology).  Watch people having conversations and in different situations and how emotions influence their body language. The subtleties of communication are something we are socialized to recognize, but most people don't think about it; they just understand from experience and exposure.

In any communication exchange, there are several levels that alter the meaning. Remember that while you think you know what you're saying, someone else may be interpreting something much different. A good example is the old telephone game--one person whispers to another, who whispers to another... on down the line, until the last person says what they think the message is. It's rarely the same.

This is why no one person reads the same story, despite the exact same words in the exact same order. Part of communication is from the reader's (receiver's) perspective, which can change things. You think you're saying one thing, but what comes out may not quite be what you think, much less how someone else interprets it. The receiver of that communication may interpet it differently through the lens of their own life and experiences. Communication has five layers: the sender's idea -> the sender's expression of that idea -> the actual communication -> what the receiver understands -> the receiver's interpretation. This is simplifying it, but it was a valuable lesson from one of my college courses that has stuck with me as a writer. This is why every detail in communicating is so important, and how we can provide nuance to characters.

This gets used in good writing, and there are whole courses on how best to do so, but I won't get into that here. Expressions and nuances of body language speak volumes about the nature of a character and their intents. Some characters will be more aware than others, like any range of real people. Anyone can learn to pick up on the more subtle cues than normal, but one must be observant and learn to understand what those subtle layers of communication mean in a broad cultural sense and coming from specific individuals within a culture. Even the inflection of one's voice and choice of words are clues that only a careful observer might pick up.

And the writer's voice is also unique in these aspects.

I used to sit and watch people at the mall and study them. It was fun when I and another friend who also writes both sat at the college dining hall and talked about people we saw. We'd even go through personal ads and use the clues to expound on what kind of people they were, just based on language and how they described themselves. It was great character practice that I didn't come to appreciate until much later.

That ability to pick up on the smallest of cues is something we all have, some more than others. Writers, in particular tend to be sensitive individuals to be able to convey these successfully for readers. The art is getting the writer's vision of the story to match the reader's interpretation. It will never be 100%, but that's what makes writing and reading so much fun--it's unique to each individual.

All this came out as I was just trying to say that I'm rewriting the setting on Forgotten Worlds book 16, and it's far more interesting. Unfortunately, rewriting takes time. I was halfway done but struggling because I couldn't focus clearly. Now, after dropping the Vitamin D and changing the setting of the story, it's picking up pace again. Lesson learned.

(You can pick up Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds books 1-13 in ebook format from a number of retailers. Links for the series are listed for each book on my website Forgotten Worlds page. Print editions of individual books are being made available.)

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