Dreaming Your Characters

Dreaming Your Characters

It finally happened. I’ve heard of it from other writers, but I’d never had the experience myself before now.

I dreamed my characters.

Not only that, but I was writing them. It was an odd, but thrilling experience.

dreaming woman

When we dream, our brain does this thing we call sleep spindles. As tuck.com describes them: “sleep spindles are sudden bursts of oscillatory brain activity . . . that occur during stage 2 of light sleep. These brainwaves are called sleep spindles because of how they look when printed out on an EEG reading.”

Scientists have linked these sleep spindles to areas of the brain that have been used during the day. So if you do a task for a prolonged period of the day like sewing, teaching a class, shooting hoops, mindless factory work, or writing then your brain “practices” this activity at night in your sleep, giving you sleep spindles in the exact same area of the brain.

Those who sleep talk are oftentimes acting out their sleep spindles. My wife, for example, is a frequent sleep-talker. She is almost always teaching, admonishing kids to quit goofing around, or gabbing with other educators in her sleep.

I imagine that since I’ve been writing even more each day than last year, that my brain has been spending ample time exercising my writing muscles while I sleep.

Dream Catcher

Here’s the thing about sleep spindles and your sleep talking dreams: you shouldn’t be able to remember them. It’s only your rapid eye movement (REM sleep) that you remember. These are typically the more exciting dreams where you’re trying to find something, accomplish a task, get somewhere, are maybe flying, or (if it’s a nightmare) trying to get away from something. In fact, when we talk about dreams and dreaming, we’re almost always talking about REM sleep.

So, while I’ve been brain spindling it up with an increase of 2 to 3 more hours a day at the writing desk this year, it’s still surprising to see my characters come to life in my dreams. While it’s most likely that I was in REM sleep, just the manner of my dream makes me wonder if I hadn’t somehow managed to remember a sleep spindle dream. If I did, then my writing sleep spindles look pretty cool.

sleep spindles

I won’t give every detail, but here’s the gist of the dream: I was dreaming about two of my characters—the two which are the principle characters of the current chapter I’m writing.

Jazzy and Miles were at a white wrought-iron table in an outdoor cafe, and Jazzy was being offered alcohol. I wasn’t in the dream, but I could hear myself narrating what was happening in exactly the same manner that I hear myself think when I write. The scene had to do with whether Jazzy would accept the alcoholic drink or not due to her Christian beliefs which don’t forbid alcohol but do frown on it in practice.

Then my dream switched to a scene with Maha and a more minor character. It’s a parallel scenario with Maha at a wooden table in at a bar and restaurant in the heart of Delhi. In this scene, Maha is having the same issue, except her Islamic beliefs don’t allow her to drink alcohol at all. I again hear my voice narrating the scene and the actions. Like with Jazzy, I can see my character fully, both from a distance and up close. Her face is troubled because she’s in a delicate situation of appearing rude if she doesn’t accept the drink but will be sinning if she does.

Then, suddenly, a line comes to mind that has to do with Miles back at the previous scene. The dream jumps over to Jazzy and Miles who are sitting at the same outdoor table. This one beautiful line flows out of me so intensely that I see it being written in my handwriting at the bottom of the scene below their table. I don’t see my hand, I just see the words appearing in my unique chicken scratch. After this, the dream goes immediately back to Maha’s dilemma, and I wake up right before I’m about to narrate what she decides to do.

Note: neither of these exact scenes appear in my book, but the characters I envisioned do exist in my mind. What was so cool was that they appeared exactly as I picture them. In fact, they seemed even more vivid and lifelike in my dream than they do when I’m writing their story. They looked much more human. The sweat on their brows, the pores on their faces were all clear when the dream was examining them closely.

It was a crazy positive experience that tells me I’m doing something right. And that thing is writing. If I’m writing enough in the day that I spend time writing in my sleep, this means I’m really giving myself over to the thing that I want to do with my life, which is bring a book into existence through words in my mind being transferred onto a page.

Let me know if you’ve ever dreamed about your characters in the comments below.

book and brain

Notes:
All photos except the sleep spindle graph are from Pixabay. The graph is from Goodnights.rest
I also want to make it clear that sleep spindles appear to do more than help us learn. We’re actually still learning about them. Sleep has always fascinated me, and I think sleep spindles and the unconscious processes of learning are some of the most amazing aspects of unconsciousness—even more interesting than REM sleep. What I’ve written above is what I remember about sleep spindles. So do your own research to see what’s new and what other studies might have to say in agreement or opposition to sleep spindle learning.

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WIP Wednesday #2: The Book Pitch

 

Work in Progress

What the hell is this book about?

I’ve been working on my novel for a couple of years now, yet until recently I never tried writing out what it was about in any succinct but descriptive way. The most I’ve said about it is basically an evasive log line: It’s about a rock band that gains fame through infamy. Yeah, that doesn’t tell you a lot. I finally decided it was time to write out what the hell this book is about when someone in a Facebook group asked members to pitch their books.

Moby Dick book pitch

The Pitch

The death metal rock stars of Overdose II, known for the on-stage suicides of their guest artists, are looking for a new permanent lead guitarist. Will Wesley Hartsell, the sole survivor of a band whose concert was attacked by terrorists, be willing to take their offer? What he doesn’t know is that the mother of one of the band’s “victims” is out for revenge, the wife of their music producer has begun a destructive emotional affair, and Overdose II’s next guest music artist may just be someone Wesley cares about.

Now I’m no expert at writing pitches. And I’m certainly not recommending anyone use my pitch as any kind of template. For a Facebook comment, though, it held up well enough that I was contacted by a member of the group who happened to be an acquisitions editor for a publishing company.

Book Agent: Give your novel to me

I’m really flattered that there’s already some interest (well, someone interested) in my book. I jumped the gun a bit and agreed to send the manuscript in May when the book is closer to done. After really looking into the publisher, I won’t be considering them. While they print quality books, I see that their marketing plan doesn’t include getting their author’s books on bookstore shelves. In other words, I’m looking for better distribution and marketing than they can offer.

In truth, I’m going to end up needing an agent. This means I’ll need a query, but I can wait until the book is completed before I begin to write one.

 

Elevator Pitch

You’re in a elevator with either your dream agent or a decision maker with a major publisher. You’ve got their full attention, but the ride is short. In 50 words or fewer, pitch them your unpublished masterpiece. 

Elevator Pitch

That’s the setup for the elevator pitch. You’ve got to sell it with something brief, enticing, and true. It’s the true that’s hard for me with this novel. It’s hard because there’s so much crammed in it—characters, plot lines, digressions, regurgitations, non-diegetic narrative—that any pitch I write is lacking a major piece of the book-shaped puzzle. Even my slightly lengthier pitch makes Wesley sound like the main character, when in reality the plot isn’t revolving around him in the way that pitch suggests.

“Step back and breathe, Randal.”

Good advice to myself from myself. I need to remember that if a whole plot summary can really really fit inside a pitch, it’s probably a plot belonging to a children’s picture book. A pitch is for selling the book, not revealing all the nuances. And it’s possible that it might even leave out whole plotlines that don’t fit into the short pitch very well. And when you have an elevator pitch, well, you’ve got even less to work with. So make those words count, even if something rather important is left off in the 50-word pitch.

Again, I’m no expert, but here’s my elevator pitch: The death metal rock stars of Overdose II, known for the on-stage suicides of their guest artists, are looking for a new, permanent lead guitarist. Will Wesley Hartsell be willing to take their offer? It’s a musical affair of wills where revenge and love collide.

What’s here?: One of the main plots.

What’s missing?: The other main plots.

Does what’s missing matter?: Not for an elevator pitch.

 

Mock me, not my book.

Feel free to send me your thoughts, suggestions, and corrections. I’d love some feedback on the pitches and my pitch-writing abilities. But be nice to the book—what little you know of it; the novel is, after all, a sort of paginated fetus right now. You can beat up on it after publication.

Critic

 

TL;DR I finally wrote a pitch for my novel-in-progress. I’m by no means an expert at pitches, but my pitch did capture the attention of someone in the publishing world (ultimately, I’m rejecting them). I also prepared a 50-word elevator pitch. Pitches leave out a lot of information, but that’s okay as long as they’re brief, enticing, and true.

The Serial Killer Epidemic: Interview Transcripts

The Serial Killer Epidemic: Interview Transcripts

The Serial Killer Epidemic: Interview Transcripts is my FINAL DIALOGUE for the series. This means that I’ve written my whole short story collection! Yesterday’s post was actually my 52nd dialogue . . . I just didn’t realize my count was off. So this 53rd dialogue is the last piece I’m adding to my 2018 writing challenge. Now that doesn’t mean as I’m finalizing my short story collection that I won’t write another dialogue or two (or dredge up some old piece of writing and convert it into a dialogue). I do have dialogue ideas I just never got around to writing.

Out of all the stories I’ve written over the years, The Serial Killer Epidemic: Interview Transcripts is one of my favorites. Like Expire and The Defining Attribute of a Girl, I actually wrote this piece years and years ago. In fact, I wrote this story even before marijuana was legalized anywhere in America. I guess I felt it coming, since legalized marijuana features so prominently, though my fictional trajectory toward legalization is rather different than it is historically happening.

America Marijuana flag

It surprises me really that this story hasn’t been picked up anywhere yet. Maybe it’s too sci-fi for most literary publishers? Possibly it’s too experimentally literary for most hard sci-fi publishers? Or maybe it has a flaw that 25 drafts hasn’t smoothed out (if there is a flaw, I’m not seeing it)? But I’ll keep sending it out because I really want this dialogue, this short story to appear in print somewhere. And I’m pretty much set on only publishing it in a paying market, which is likely the real reason it hasn’t yet found a home, since places that actually pay writers for the work they do are extremely competitive.

Serial Killer child
image credit: © Ostill www.fotosearch.com

 

The Serial Killer Epidemic: Interview Transcripts is a story in Q&A format. The interviewer, is trying to get to the bottom of a wave of child serial killers. Drugs to video games are blamed. But the truth may be more complex and conspiratorial or—worse—simple and endemic to the nature of modern society. This is just an interview; you’ll have to decide for yourself is the answer lies in between or outside these questions and answers.


FINAL THOUGHTS: I just want to thank everybody who has given so much as one like to any of my posts about this 2018 writing challenge. I’ll be working hard to polish up my 52+ dialogues so I can get some more of them published here and also have a book ready to send out to publishers or agents at the end of 2019.

This isn’t the last you’ll hear of my dialogues, but it is the last official post of my writing challenge. So thank you again for reading, liking, subscribing, and commenting. It’s been an awesome writing journey.

Dialogue_Series_Headline

Holiday Book Haul 2018

Holiday Book Haul

HOLIDAY BOOK HAUL

Book Haul 2018

The holidays are over, and I got a few new books. First up is Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human. This one was given to me by my wife. It was the only book on my holiday wish list I actually received. We started a new tradition this year where we exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend an hour or two before bed reading our gift. I got her Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. We’ve both already read our novels! Libs will be adding hers to her Middle School classroom library. Mine will be finding a space under the D’s on my shelves.

The next two, from my in-laws, are by Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles and Circe. I hadn’t heard of these books before, but my librarian mother-in-law insists they’re getting a lot of attention in the literary world right now. I’m sure I’ll get around to reading these at some point long after they’re either cemented into the literary canon or are a forgotten fad.

The fourth one is Whose Names Are Unknown by Sonora Babb. This was given to me by my best friend, Michael Convery. It’s a book I discovered from this article about how John Steinbeck stole from Babb’s notes to help write The Grapes of Wrath. While it wasn’t on my wish list, I did tell him I wanted to read this novel, so was not surprised when it landed in my hands right before Christmas. For Mike’s gift, I bought him a Swedish translation of Gravity’s Rainbow. It’s a bit of a novelty item, but he was really pleased with his gift. He’s been studying the language recently, and he usually explores languages by translating poetry. I figured a favorite, huge novel in Swedish would be equally both a surprise and appreciated.

The last one is Latin Verbs, a book that my mother-in-law was culling from their family library. I have studied Latin on and off for fun, so I totally appreciate this gift. Maybe 2019 will be my year of Latin??? Though from the looks of my daily schedule, I have my doubts (Just trying to be realistic, ya know).

I would have time to study Latin if I didn’t wish to prioritize reading over straightforward studying. I read a lot of books. Way more than my goodreads page would have you believe; I never listed all the books I read or was reading when I was actually active on goodreads. While I want to get back to studying Latin again, writing will be taking up both daytime and evening hours this coming year. And I won’t trade in study for reading at this point in my life. In fact, I want to read even more books in 2019 than I did this year.

It’s always been a goal of mine to have a big personal library from which I could choose a wide range of authors. If you’d like to support me this dream, you can also buy me a used or new copy of a book. (When selecting the shipping address, don’t accidentally select your own. My masked address will appear under your “Other addresses” section.)

Of course, the best way to support me is to buy a book of mine from Amazon or from your favorite bookseller (Descriptions of Heaven, my one book for sale right now, is never unavailable to buy; if Amazon says out of stock, it simply means out of warehouse copies . . . Barnes & Noble and the publisher carry copies too). The second best way to support me is to leave an honest review if you liked the book. But if you still want to do a little more between book releases, make sure you’re subscribed and gift a book to me, the GreenGuy.

Thanks for all the support! Happy New Year, bookworms!

Bonus: 

I got this book of poetry before Christmas, and tweeted about it already, so I decided to add it as a bonus at the end of this Book Haul post. The book is Blud by Rachel McKibbens. This one also came from my mother-in-law who, like a good librarian, is always introducing me to new and interesting literature.

Blud by Rachel McKibbens

 

 

Ho Ho Ho, Mother-Fucker

Ho Ho Ho, Mother-Fucker

Dialogue #50 for my year-long writing challenge is Ho Ho Ho, Mother-Fucker. When two friends run into an evil Santa, hell-bent on mayhem and murder, they cut him down to size with a critique of the transgression Santa Claus trope.


This was a fun one to write. Here’s some entertaining resources and inspirations for this dialogue:

Evil Santa Claus pictures on The Church of Halloween’s website.

When trying to figure out whether to hyphenate mother+fucker or not,  I found this cool little article on Language Log.

Lastly, a short Loose Canon episode from Lindsay Ellis on the history of Santa Claus.


As I was writing this blog (on Christmas Eve here) I got an interesting phone call, which I made a post about on Facebook and captured an image of it for you.

Christmas Miracle 2018


Don’t forget to check out some of my Christmas stories before you go!

 

Happy Holidays, Bookworms
Evil Santa

We Toss ‘Em

We Toss 'Em

For dialogue #49, I’ve written We Toss ‘Em, a story about two men who are taking out a hoarder’s trash. Dino fossils* are found, but regulations say they must toss ’em into the trash.

*My apologies to any paleontologists who run across the story once it’s published. The two men involved call the fossils dinosaur bones, which is inaccurate. My excuse? Well, I’m going for realism of speech, not accuracy of facts in this one. If you take issue with my fictional perpetuation of a common enough mistake, please make no bones about it, pardon the pun, and leave a comment below.

Trash


To learn more about my dialogue challenge, please see this page.

Winter Reads

Winter Reads

Winter Reads: 3 short stories for you to cozy up to with a cup of hot cocoa.

❄ ❄ ❄When The Dog Gets Ready to Die
Dog in Snow: artwork for Randal Eldon Greene's prose poem "When the Dog Gets Ready to Die"
A prose poem about a sad winter night.

❄ ❄ ❄Aunt Phyllis is Yours This ChristmasAunt Phyllis jess-watters-at designedbyjess
A funny, slapstick story about siblings at odds.


❄ ❄ ❄Man in the Snow
a man in the snow
A meditative story on art in the snow.

❆❆❆

Thanks for reading. Leave comment and let me know what you think and subscribe for more. Happy Holidays!
Hot Cocoa and a Good Book

God Vomit

God Vomit

“Imagine if a giant god came floating through outer space and vomited on us, hurling all this fiery debris down to Earth.”

This week’s dialogue is God Vomit, a creative conversation concerned with the possibility of a strange, godlike Boltzmann Brain. If you don’t know what it is, a Boltzmann Brain is a self-aware creature created from a random configuration of elements and atoms rather than through other means, such as evolution or genetic engineering. Basically, it’s a creature arising from chance. It’s a cool concept, and one I felt worth exploring in this dialogue.

Space God

This is dialogue #48. On my first week of the challenge I wrote an introduction, so I’ll have one to make up some week soon. The truth is, I have more dialogue ideas left than there are weeks in the month. So either I’ll scratch off an idea or two, write extra dialogues before the year is over, or just write them after the new year for inclusion in the future published collection.

Find more about my weekly dialogue writing challenge here, Dialogues: A Collection of Creative Conversations.

 

WIP Wednesday #1: 90K in and Counting

Work in progress

INTRO TO WIP WEDNESDAYS

I’m starting a new blogging segment I’m calling WIP Wednesday. This is WIP Wednesday #1. I don’t plan to post every single Wednesday but occasionally will be writing about my latest work-in-progress on Wednesdays.

This year I’ve been posting weekly about my dialogue challenge, and I’ve found setting a blogging goal related to my creative writing is a great motivator. This isn’t that exactly. Unless I’m doing a weekly post, an occasional update on my next WIP isn’t going to really motive me not to procrastinate if for some reason I am procrastinating. Instead, I hope this new segment will be more topical in nature, letting people know some aspect of what I’m working on as opposed to what I used to do pre-dialogue days, which was only really post when a story of mine was published somewhere.

Since I’ve already been posting like crazy about the dialogues, expect my WIP Wednesday posts to be mostly focused on the novel. Though there will probably be WIP posts about the dialogues once they are ready to be compiled into a short story collection, but I wouldn’t expect any such posts in the near future.

Reedsy Wordcount
Image Source from reedsy’s great article on word counts.

 

WORD COUNT

For my first WIP Wednesday,  the focus is going to be on word count.

I just did a recount of the latest drafts of all the chapters in my novel-in-progress, and I’ve got 89,191 words typed up. Now I write everything by hand and only a small portion of the chapter I’m working on is actually typed up. Using a conservative estimate, I’m without a doubt over 90 thousand words.

When I began writing I feared that my book would be too short to count as a novel. I worried I didn’t have enough to say—enough words—to tell a novel-length story. After all, I write lots of flash fiction and my debut book was a novella of less than 40 thousand words (at least after my editor got through with it).

cutting a book down to size

 

The goal for my current WIP was at least 80 thousand words. I tried to focus on just writing—not word count—and repeated the mantra, A story will be as long as it needs to be, whenever anxiety about my novel’s length cropped up. Truth be told, I failed to brush away my worries and instead have been keeping track of my chapter’s lengths. Here’s the current breakdown:

Prologue: 623 words
Chapter 1: 17,082 word
Chapter 2: 10,943 words
Chapter 3: 8,359 words
Chapter 4: 6,404 words
Chapter 5: 10,034 words
Chapter 6: 5,389 words
Chapter 7: 4,647 words typed (This is the chapter I’m currently writing.)
Chapter 8: 25,710 words

Now that I know I’ve reached the magical 80 thousand, I feel relief because I have certainty that this work is long enough and, with more to write, will stay long enough even after editing. I believe I have something like four more full chapters left to write, including the one I’m currently writing. So I can calculate the average of my completed chapters (not the prologue or chapter 7) at 11,989 words. At only 4 more chapters, that’s 47,956 words left to write if I hit that average. Add this predicted total chapter length of the next 4 chapters to my completed chapters and we’ve got a 132,500 word book.

I have no way of knowing right now if I’m going to be spot on, way short, or a lot longer than this guess. At the lowest, my chapters should be 5 thousand words. I’ve read in places that 5K is a good word count for chapters in most books for adults. As you can see, my chapters are all above 5 thousand words. I think 5K is a good chapter length myself, but that’s not how this book decided to structure itself. It’s perfectly possible that I could end up with four 20 thousand word chapters to finish off my book or, much less likely, end the book with four 5 thousand word chapters.

Isn’t over 100K words too long for a novel?

According to this reedsy article, my book is likely to be a little on the long side for literary fiction. 80 to 100 thousand is the sweet spot. And while the sweet spot is a good place to be because it’s more likely to be accepted by agents and publishing houses, it’s also shorter than I hoped my novel would be. You see, while I fretted about reaching that magical 80K, I felt my book needed to be bigger. It might be best to remember that the sweet spot exists for a reason, but it’s also good to remember the mantra, A story will be as long as it needs to beAnd I always felt this story needed to be longer than the minimum.  Ideally, I really wanted it to be at least 120 thousand words.

Why break the “rules” of novel-length, especially when it’s your first novel?

That’s a great question? The simple answer is the same as my mantra. But it might also have to do with genre; though to be honest, I really don’t know. To me, my book is literary fiction. But a friend of mine said the book I’ve described to him is a systems novel, a genre of both literary and speculative novels.

I don’t know if he’s correct or not, but one trait that some systems novels have is bulk. Word counts in lit fic systems novels are often way larger than my guesstimate of 130K. So if my friend is right, then maybe the word count this thing is bound to be is closer to correct for its genre (though the mantra takes precedence IMO over any other correctness criteria). My friend is smart, so he’s probably right. But whatever the genre, I feel like the more words for this particular book, the better. You can look up articles on systems novels and, after the book out, decide for yourselves if it’s one, and while you’re at it, you’ll probably make a decision on how you feel about the long chapters in my book.

endless book

TL;DR Announcing a new blogging segment: WIP Wednesday. I’ll be posting these occasionally. My current WIP, a novel, is at 90K words and could get past 130K words. This is long, but it might be the right word count for the book’s genre, a literary systems novel, if it’s even its actual genre. In the end, A story will be as long as it needs to be.


Share a little about your WIP in the comments and don’t forget to drop a link to your website so we can follow you.