Category: Tips

People watching

When you’re building a story, don’t hesitate to populate it with people you’ve seen. In fact, I encourage writers to carry a notebook wherever they go. I do…usually…I forgot it today. That’s part of why I’m writing this post; I want to remember her.

There’s a woman in the coffee shop, sitting on the opposite side of the store, and there’s something about her that inspires questions. I’ve watched her look at every female customer that’s come into the shop, and it isn’t a gentle glance. I think she’s sizing them up.

Why is she doing it?

That’s the first question I’d answer in order to start building a character. There’s a wealth of material right there. I’ll show you.

She evaluates the other women because she’s vain. It is important to her that she’s the most desirable person here. Why? Someone in her past addicted her to that feeling, whether by constant praise, or frequent humiliation.

Because I write stories that are often dark, this woman might have more to her than these things. She’s not just sizing them up for looks, but for how easy they’d be to feed on. This person is a vampire who only preys on women.

That’s a whole story that arose from observing another person’s behavior! I didn’t even touch on what she looks like, or the sound of her voice. Let’s look at those things.

She’s wearing a middle-green sundress, with a sheer bra (or none at all, based on…what can be seen) and visible panty lines. Her shoes are brown, leather, strappy sandals. The dress has a bow in the back to further define the waistline. A necklace, thin gold chain, with a tiny pendant that matches her earrings.

Her hair color is what I call “fried chicken,” a shade between brunette and blonde. He eye color looks hazel.

Her body is interesting, a long torso. If she were two inches shorter, and even thinner than she is, I’d call her a waif.

At a guess, I think she’s 30 or younger, but not any younger than 26.

She’s spoken to the man she’s with a couple of times, and her accent isn’t typical Northern Virginia.

Oh, she just snapped at the man. There’s a temper in there!

Back to her voice, she almost sounds European, but not so much that I’d lay a bet on it. Maybe Canadian. Failing that, she could be from New England, but there’s nothing that would give me an idea on location.

Here’s the point I’d like to make: there is a whole book in any person you see. Observation and creativity are the best tools in a writer’s shed.

How I love writing!

I’ve added a few new fountain pens to my writing lineup. The current range looks like this:

  • Randy Hamilton tiger celluloid; medium
  • JP Lepine Winston in French Oak; bold
  • Pilot Custom 74 with an opaque navy body (!); medium
  • Noodler’s Ahab flex nib; fine to medium
  • Jinhao #450; medium to big swashes
  • Cadman & Cummins in Elder burl; bold

I’ve also got a few more inks. Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, which isn’t as waterproof as I’d hoped. Diamine Dark Blue. Iroshizuku Kon-Peki. I have to say that the last two are incredibly luscious to write with. The Iroshizuku inks from Pilot have a superb watercolor-like stroke with lovely variable tone.

Trust me. Put the Iroshizuku in the JP Lepine, Jinhao, or the Randy Hamilton…oh, what a writing experience you’ll have! Believe it.

As an author, there’s really nothing like writing your story notes in longhand with a fountain pen. It is responsive, fast, and intimate…just like the touch of an eager lover…just…on paper. Ahem.

I get a little passionate about my work.

Apocalypse Cutting

There are quite a few more machetes and tomahawks on the market these days, and I love it. Some of them are incredibly well made, and others are stamped shit.

The question that keeps coming up is “What kind of blade should I have to re-kill the risen dead?” I decided to take a whack at answering that question.

Katana

You’ll probably not hear this from anyone, but I’ll broach the topic. Do not use a katana unless you’ve got specific training in Japanese martial arts. Why? The cuts and proper techniques are unique. Besides, even o-dachi are not quite long enough to stay out of claw range unless you’ve got skills.

Naginata/Nagamaki

Once again, in the land of Japanese weapons! These are traditional field combat, and home defense blades, respectively. You might find them a bit easier to wrap your brain around. They’re spear-like, except you use swinging cuts. Good for removing heads!

Machetes

Face it, they’re inexpensive, but utterly inadequate to keep you away from claws.

Western Style Longswords

A better choice in some ways. Double-edge blades are easier for untrained people to understand. You swing it back and forth along a plane, and things get cut.

Knives in general

Only if you have to get close, and be sure to buy blades that are long enough to go through a neck in one pass.

Note: this isn’t even a comprehensive list. Please think about what you need, are comfortable with, and budget before you stock up for the end of the world.