My Problem and How an Expert Storyteller Helped Me Solve It

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Strangers / Blue is by Spanish photographer Rocio Montoya. To see more of her work click on the image.


Lately, I’ve been having a problem with someone I’d thought I was close with. This problem has completely stalled my progression in writing A Gift from Aurth. The only way to deal with it is to hash it out with them now. If I don’t, the story will never get written. But you’ll never guess who the person is. His name is Theodore Mullens.

Yes, I’m afraid so. The person who is causing me all this grief is my own character! The problem I’m having with him is that we are actually not as close as I thought we were. I barely know the guy. Not knowing him well enough makes it hard to write a story about him. Seems kinda ludicrous, doesn’t it? I mean, I’m the one who made him up!

Creating a character is much harder than I thought it would be. There are many things I could tell you about Theodore. I know the year he was born, I can tell you his favourite subject in school and I could pick what he would eat off of any restaurant menu. But knowing bits of information about someone does not mean you actually know who they are. The facts I know are trivial parts of his life I could find out during our first conversation at a party where we’re forced to mingle for a few minutes. Though Theodore is a character in a story, he represents a person. People are far more complex and complicated than their surface-level selves. To write the story I want to write, I have to develop Theodore past the awkward party chit-chat and bond with him on the level of a childhood best friend. If I am unable to do this now, then you’ll stand no chance at it when it comes time to get to know him through reading the story.

How am I going to do this? Well, I have my work cut out for me. When I started writing this post I was hoping for a eureka moment. And I think I may have had it, thanks to an expert storyteller.

 A few weeks ago I posted a TED Talk by filmmaker Andrew Stanton. In his talk, he shares some of his tips to writing a great story. Stanton is the creator of box-office hits such as “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E,” so the man knows what he is talking about. The first time I listened to him, I jotted down notes on basically everything he said. There was, however, one phrase I underlined and starred. He says, “All well-drawn characters have a spine.” The idea behind a character’s spine is that everyone has a subconscious goal that drives them forward. It determines the decisions, words and actions a character makes. Harry Potter’s is the courage to defend the people and things he believes in, Atticus Finch’s from “To Kill a Mockingbird” is equal justice for all and the White Rabbit’s from “Alice in Wonderland” is to not be late for his very important date.

So what Theodore Mullens needs is a spine. I’ve thought about this for a couple of days and I think what motivates Theodore is protection. Not a need to protect others, but instead a need to protect himself. My vision of him at the beginning of the story is someone who is guarded and reserved. He has a fear of appearing vulnerable around other people. He shields himself from his fear by not putting himself out there to experience new things or meet new people. I can’t, however, write an entire story about a guy walking around with two shields in his hands, repelling the world around him. Stanton again has a suggestion. He makes reference to the spine being a temperament that is likely unchangeable, but what can happen in the progression of the story is “recognizing it and owning it.” To me that means Theodore will always have his shields but he will have to learn to put them down sometimes so he can allow himself to experience the world around him. I am not exactly sure how that will work for Theodore just yet, but it has put me one step closer to solving my problem with him and working on our friendship.

This idea of a driving force in a character’s life isn’t limited to fiction. Characters are based on people, so real-life people – you and me – must have a dominant goal that drives us forward too. The best way for me to describe mine is as a positive force that compels me to constantly seek beauty in my life and for others. What do you think yours is? Share it in the comments or on Twitter.

What Would You Become? The Second Property of Aurth’s Magic – Transforms

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“Call Me Human” is by collagist extraordinaire Sebastián Delgado. The fluidity of the lines between the two subjects is how I picture the beginning of magic’s transformation. Click on the photo to see more of Sebastián’s work.

In the character description for Jack, I reveal he is a man with claw-tipped fingers and a wildfire of scales spreading across his limbs. How does a human man come to have such features? There are three properties that define how magic in Aurth reacts to its surroundings. Jack’s features come from the second property, “Transforms.” This property says,

Prolonged exposure to magic will cause transformations to occur to the body. These changes reflect the personality, desires, and subconscious of whomever the magic is affecting. It allows them to be who, or what, they truly are.

Basically, what this means is magic will progressively turn people who go to Aurth into something different than what they were when they arrived. What they become is who they truly are.

As a kid, I did not allow myself to buy or read comic books because I was afraid other kids would think I was a geek and not want to be my friend. I tucked an interest of mine away so I had a better chance at fitting in with other people. Have you ever tried to be someone you are not? Or hidden a part of yourself to fit in with others? These hidden parts of us can be unleashed through magic. A change could be superficial, such as a man getting blue skin because he says blue is his favourite colour. But just because the man says his favourite colour is blue does not mean it’s true. His transformation will come from somewhere deep within him, from a part he has hidden away from others and himself. He may have always said his favourite colour is blue, but really it’s pink. He’s just never embraced the colour because he was afraid of how his masculinity would be scrutinized. There is no need for this fear in Aurth. Magic will turn his skin into the brilliant hue of a pink summer sunset blazing across the horizon. Since it is impossible to escape magic’s effects, the colour would be embraced by him and everyone else around him.

Transformations can also come from our past. For Jack, his transformation comes from a childhood fascination with dragons. His happiest memories are from when he was a child in his father’s arms, being told of knights charging fiery dragons in their mountain dens. As Jack grew up, he forgot these fairytales in favour of becoming a mature adult. In Aurth, no one is too old for anything. A man who daydreamed of dragons as a child will become one in Aurth. He may only have a scatter of scales now, but in a few years he could be soaring through the sky with scaled wings.

These are just a couple of examples of the possibilities magic’s transformative property can create. There is no limit to what people can become. What does the true you look like?

Here are some other posts about Aurth’s Magic

The Three Properties of Magic 
Everything You Need Will Always Be Provided For You – The Second Property of Auth’s Magic – Transforms 

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Take a Moment to Smell the Flowers with Tony the Nim

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Photo by Hannah Häseker. Click on the image to see more of her work.

Do you remember Nims? They are the indigenous race of beings on Aurth who love to dance and craft costumes out of their natural surroundings. Before you continue reading this post, you should probably read my introduction to Nims. Check the post out here. The reason I’m bringing them up again is because I have another main character to share. His name is Tony. He is a Nim of Aurth and he is one of the companions who joins Theodore on his journey to find his gift.

Name: Tony gets its name from Theodore shortly after they meet. Naming individuals is not a part of the Nim culture. Nims simply refer to each other as “Nim.” Not having a name seems odd to Theodore so he begins calling it Tony because he thinks the name suits the little Nim.

Age: Tony is old – really old! Nims have eternal lives. They do not die from old age or sickness. They are, however, not indestructible. Nims can be injured and can be killed. Killing a Nim is an unimaginable act of brutality on Aurth. Since death is rare, most Nims have been alive for eons.

Gift: Nims do not have a gift from Aurth in the same way humans do. They do not have powers. Their gift is their existence and eternal life. Nims were made from the magic of Aurth. It gave them life and in a way, they are magic in a living form.

In the “A Gift from Aurth” film, Tony would be played by child actor Jonathan Lipnicki. He’s the cute kid with glasses from “Jerry Maguire” and “Stuart Little.” CGI magic and a motion action suit would be required to turn this kid into a glowing Nim.

Quirks: Tony is an amputee 🙁

Hobbies: Tony has a love for flowers. Their vibrant colours and wispy aroma fills it with joy. Anytime it comes across a blooming bud, it will stop to smell and admire the flower. It’s favourite colour is pink because it thinks pink flowers smell sweeter than flowers of other colours.

Tony is a collector. It will spend hours foraging for objects, such as pinecones or sea shells, to organize into groups of similar qualities such as size or pattern.

Since Tony is missing half of its left arm, it can no longer do many of the things it used to love. Climbing trees to hang and balance on branches is much harder now. It also cannot craft and weave together costumes with the other Nims. Not being able to create costumes means it cannot participate in Nim costume events at raves.

Physical Description: Tony is one of the smaller Nims at about 2’6”. Its skin is doughy and glows white like the light from a neon sign. Tony’s amputation is about halfway up its left arm. The wound did not heal properly, so the tip is tender and does not glow.

When Tony and Theodore meet, Theodore gives it a pair of sunglasses. Since Tony cannot make costumes like it did before, it wears the glasses with the confidence of a newly crowned prince. The other Nims are jealous.

Origin: Before meeting up with Theodore, Tony was in Nim hibernation under the forest floor. Nims can hide inside organic material such as tree trunks, carpets of moss, or even in the ground. When they start their slumber, the hibernation can last for many years. After losing its arm, Tony went into a depressive state. Being unable to participate in the Nim culture of costuming had a negative effect on Tony’s psyche. Nims are not familiar with emotional pain, so Tony was unable to process its feelings in a constructive way. Being unable to understand its feelings caused Tony to go into hibernation. It had been sleeping for a few years when the sound of a man stumbling over its patch of ground woke it up.

Are you curious to know why Tony is an amputee? When the time is right, I’ll tell you. The tale is not a cheery one. Keep checking back to see what I post next as I develop more of the “A Gift from Aurth” story.

Meets some of the other characters from “A Gift from Aurth”

Theodore Mullens
Shee the Teleporting Black Lioness
Jack the Fire Breathing Flirt 

Watch Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk on Clues to a Great Story and Read About My Promise to You

This week I am going to share something a little different with you. It’s a TED Talk from one of the filmmakers behind some of Disney and Pixar’s top films, Andrew Stanton. “WALL-E,” “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story” are all Stanton’s creations. During the talk he brings up several points I found relatable as both a writer and a person. He talks about how a well-developed story can inspire wonder with its audience. These two things – wonder and relatability – are what I love to experience in a story. Don’t you agree?

“Finding Nemo” is one of my favourite movies because of Stanton’s success with its development. If you have not seen “Finding Nemo,” you must. It’s the story of a relationship between a father, Marlin, and his son, Nemo. Marlin is not ready for Nemo to grow up. When Nemo gets fed up with Marlin’s resistance to giving him independence, he rebels. But his rebellion gets him into some trouble. The film follows Marlin as he tries to help his son and restore order. It’s a lovely, well-crafted story about what a parent is willing to do for their child. On some level, we have all wanted independence, and perhaps some of us have gotten into trouble in doing so. Perhaps… 😉  I am not a parent, but I can feel Marlin’s pain and worry throughout the film. We all understand his love for Nemo. The relatability is clear, but where is the wonder? Well, Marlin and Nemo are clownfish living in a sea anemone on the Great Barrier Reef!

The reason I am sharing this with you instead of my usual “A Gift from Aurth” post is because I have nothing ready this week. I did not reach my deadline. Actually, I ignored it! I ignored it because I was focusing on writing an ebook for the blog and developing the story further. This, in combination with my job, left me no time to write the post I had intended for this week. Going forward, my posts will become a bit less consistent than they have been. I want to provide you with fresh content, but I also want to focus on writing the story. It’s impossible to do it all.

The best way to find out about new posts is to subscribe to the blog. By doing so, you will also be informed when the story concept ebook will be ready to download. You can subscribe to the blog here.

In the beginning of Stanton’s talk, he gives a quote that references a scene he shares from his film “John Carter.” Stanton talks about the responsibility of storytellers to their viewers and readers. He says, “Making a promise to you that this story will lead you somewhere that is worth your time.”

This is a promise I would like to make to you. I promise this blog is worth following to see the development of “A Gift from Aurth.” I promise, it will be worth it. 🙂

Check out Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk about the clues to a great story. Press play!

Everything You Need Will Always Be Provided For You – The First Property of Aurth’s Magic – Provides

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This painting is from a series entitled “How To Disappear” by the artist, Moki. Click the image to see more of her work.

The way Aurth’s magic will react to it’s surroundings can be defined by three properties. These properties are “Provides, Transforms and Gives Life.” A few weeks ago, I did an introduction post on the properties to give you an idea of what each meant. I was vague in the descriptions because I wanted to devote a post to each of them. Today I am going to give you some details and examples of how “Provides” works.

The property states,

“The basic needs of life will always be provided through magic. Shelter, food, clothing and more will appear in someway to those who need it. Nothing more, nothing less.”

This does not mean Aurth is full of free stays at hotels with miles of buffets prepared for you at meal time. Aurth’s version of providing happens as a reactive and surreal change to the environment. The change is dictated by the current needs of whomever is present and in need.

This makes perfect sense to me. Maybe it does to you too, but just in case it doesn’t, let’s go on a little tour of Aurth.

Finding a comfortable place to sleep in Aurth is really as easy as climbing into your own bed at home. As seen in this week’s featured art by Moki, even somewhere as wet, noisy and sandy as the surf could become a bed. If you grabbed at the line where water meets land, you may be surprised to feel it pull back like sheets snuggly wrapped on a freshly made bed. Curling up into the surf would feel as cozy as snuggling up into freshly washed linens, still warm and lavender scented from the dryer. You’d sink into the sand like a newborn sinks into its mother’s loving arms. As the tide rolls in and out, you would be rocked into a deep and sound sleep.

The rumble of a hungry grumble in your stomach could easily be satisfied with a snack found right at your feet. All you would have to do is pick up a rock. I am sure a rock would not be what you are craving but just give it a try. Trust me. Instead of cracking your teeth against a solid piece of bitter stone, your teeth would crunch into the crispness of an apple. Despite the earthly appearance of the rock’s surface, its core looks just as fresh and juicy as any apple picked from a tree in a summer orchard. This rock happened to be an apple. The next one could be a watermelon, or a piece of moist chocolate cake or even a BBQ’ed piece of rib-eye steak. Magic likes to fulfill exact cravings. Do not be worried if you have allergies or food preferences. Magic also takes these into consideration.

The definition of “Provides” includes a disclaimer: “Nothing more, nothing less.” This is because it is impossible to be greedy with Aurth’s magic. It cannot be used for selfish gain or frivolous abuse. Once you got up out of the bed in the surf, the sheets made of waves would collapse back down into the sand. The rocks are just rocks until you are hungry. Once you have had your fill, the ones uneaten will remain as rocks.

In a few weeks I will go over the second property, “Transforms.” Out of the three it is my favorite so I hope you are as excited about the post as I am! Until then, make sure to check back next week for my new post and if you like what you’ve read, subscribe to the blog. Do it by clicking here. It’s the best way to find out about the upcoming chapter downloads.

If you liked this post, you should also read:

The Three Properties of Magic
What’s in it for you? This Is What To Expect From A.G.F.A. in 2016

Where Magic Exists on Earth is Where the Theme for A Gift From Aurth Begins to Take Shape

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‘Dreaming’ is by American painter, Josh Keyes. Click here to see more of his work.

In my past posts you’ve read about the magic of Aurth. I’ve explained some properties to describe how it works and I’ve hinted at ways it affects the world of Aurth. What if I told you magic is not a substance only found on Aurth? What if I told you magic exists right here on Earth? It’s not as obvious as the magic of Aurth so you probably have not noticed it. This type of magic is subtle. It’s present in an everyday, ordinary sort of way. To see it, you have to look for it. Even then, it’s not that easy to see because you have to truly want to see it for exactly what it is. This means looking with an open mind and a whole heart. If you look for magic in any other way, such as with an intention of self gain fueled by greed or to use it as a manipulative tool to control others, you will not see it. You will not see the magic because you will not see it for what it truly is. You will only see it for what you want it to be. So before I tell you where the magic is, take a moment to think about how you look at the world around you. Is your mind open? Is your heart full? Are you ready to see the magic?

The magic of Earth can be found in three known places. Magic is alive in
the existence of life. We share magic through the connections we form with one another. Magic is expressed through us when we open ourselves up to the power of creativity.

What exactly does that look like? Here are some examples of where I have seen and experienced magic.

Life

I live on the beautiful B.C. coast of Canada. Going on hikes in this area is one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. As I walk through the old growth forests, I can sense the life-breathing effects of magic all around me. It is present in the trunks of the towering trees, hidden in the layers of moist moss and it beats through the hearts of each creature who calls the forest home. Magic gives a soul to all living things in the forest. The combination of these souls creates the life force of the forest. If left in peace, the magic in the forest will keep it healthy and will create generations of life to come.

Connection

When I go to a concert the venue pulsates with magic. This environment is where magic brews and it is were magic is shared between people. Magic is the sense of excitement felt between the crowd, the crew and the performers. The event has brought a group of like-minded people together with a sense of purpose and a common interest.  When the music starts and the beat reverberates against my chest and through my ears, magic is what gives me the urge to dance, to sing and clap. My excitement is felt by the people around me and encourages them to do the same. It’s an infectious energy that spreads through the crowd and gets stronger as each person gives into it. Magic makes us call for an encore and magic is what stops the band from refusing our desire for more.

Creativity

The words you are reading in this post were conceived through magic. As I write, I open myself up to its creative possibilities. Magic is inspiration and the expression of self.  It gives a visual form to the once unseen, and the unknown, by sparking the light of an idea where there was once only blank, dark space. Channeling the power of magic through my mind and hands allows me to create something out of nothing. In turn, it allows you to absorb the new idea and interpret it for yourself.

Are you beginning to see the magic?

There are many people who do not see magic in the same way. These people would deny the existence of magic all together. When the existence of magic is denied, its value is diminished. When its value is diminished it becomes vulnerable to threats. Fear, control and destruction start to take over.

This is where the theme of A Gift From Aurth begins to take shape. The story is about the value of magic. Not just the magic of the world around us but also the magic found within ourselves. What happens when it’s value is diminished? How does this affect life, connections and creativity? Continue to follow the A Gift From Aurth blog to read how these questions push the theme of the story forward.

Please share any comments you may have and subscribe to the blog here if you’ve liked what you’ve read.

Here are some suggestions of other posts similar to this one:

Aurth – A Living Being
Is there any hope for “The Lost, Forgotten and Discard”? 

What’s in it for you? This is what to expect from A.G.F.A. in 2016

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In a week, at the end of 2015, the A Gift From Aurth blog will be just over two months old! I know, two months is not very old but I have to tell you, for this two-month-old blogger, it has been a monumental time. I’ve been whipped around on a blogging roller coaster learning curve, had my ego bruised by my lovely editor (she really is lovely) and spent hours tracking down the copyright holders of the images I have wanted to feature in each post. To support my work, I’ve started to make lifestyle changes such as having only two glasses of wine with friends instead of a bottle and carving time out my social schedule to focus on meeting writing deadlines. Most importantly, I’ve taken actions toward making a dream of mine come true.

This is all well and good for me… but what is in it for you?

My most valuable offering is the story this blog is all about. In case you are new to the blog, what is this story? A Gift From Aurth is the story of Theodore Mullens during his time in the magical world of Aurth. People who arrive in Aurth are given a gift from the world in the form of a power. Theodore is the first and only person to arrive and not receive one. The story takes him on a journey to discover why he is the only one without a gift.

So far, through the blog, I have been explaining how the world of Aurth works and have introduced you to a few characters. I plan to continue on this track but what is the point of it all if there is no story to go along with it? Well, starting in the spring, I am going to begin releasing downloadable chapters for you to read! The year 2016 is going to be spent turning the story floating around in my imagination into reality.

The best way for you to find out about these chapter downloads is to subscribe to the blog. Here is a link to the subscription form. Subscribing is the best way for you to get notified when chapters become available to download and read about other Aurth news. (Maybe even a future invite to my book launch party!)

I am looking forward to the possibilities 2016 will bring for both me and you. I learned in 2015 that dreams will come true only if you take steps to nurture them and spend the time required to help them grow. Do you have a dream waiting to be fulfilled in 2016? As I work towards mine, I hope you are inspired to begin, or continue, to work towards yours. Really, that’s what’s in it for us both.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog 🙂

Meet Shee the Teleporting, Black Lioness

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Photo edited from the original, by photographer, Dirk-Jan Kraan. Click on the photo to see more of Kraan’s photography.

The first Aurthian to come into contact with Theodore is Shee, the teleporting, black lioness. I have to stop myself from telling you about this initial encounter because it’s a HUGE spoiler! I will tell you though, the scene includes a traffic light, the sunset and blood. From this bloody sunset on, Shee is a loyal companion of Theodore during his journey through Aurth.

Within a pride, lionesses are the strength. Their role is to protect and provide for every lion who belongs to the pride. This is exactly what Shee is to the group traveling with Theodore. Not only does Shee provide physical strength, she also inspires strength in those around her with her heroic tendencies and a stoic demeanour. I have not mentioned any trouble in the story, but trouble is coming. When it does, you can be sure it is Shee who will be the first to react and protect those she cares for.

Name: Shee

Age: In cat years? Unknown.

Gift: Teleportation – Shee is capable of transporting herself from point A to point B without physically moving through the space between the two points. Not only can she teleport herself but she can also teleport other living things and non-living things. She does not need to make contact with what she is teleporting to teleport it. When teleporting, a flash of white light implodes in the spot where Shee had been. When she reappears, there is a flash of white light that explodes in the spot she is about to appear in. The same thing will happen with things she is teleporting.

In the A Gift From Aurth film Shee would be played by… Sarabi, Simaba’s mom, from Disney’s, “The Lion King.”

If Shee were a fruit she would be a… summer ripe cherry. (I wanted to be more descriptive in this analogy but it’s impossible to describe a cherry without seeming inappropriate!)

Hobbies: Like most cats, in Shee’s downtime she enjoys basking in the sun, deep stretching and stalking – Nims mostly. This stalking is more of a “hide-and-seek game”, then a, “hunt-and-consume” stalk.

Quirks: Shee has a tendency to disappear into the wilderness at times. Theodore is not sure of where she goes but she will always reappear when she is needed.

Physical Description: Shee’s is coated in velvety, rich black fur. Under her midnight coat is white glowing flesh. Every part of her body emits this light. No part is brighter then her eyes which glow like two full moon orbs cast against a twilight sky. 

Origin: Shee is a creature of mystery. Most people of Aurth know, or know of, each other. No one knows Shee. In fact, she was a nameless figure until Theodore names her. (Shee evolves from him referring to her as “she.” Real creative Theodore!).

So that is my description of Shee. Please, add some comments if you can think of another famous lioness we could approach to play her role in the film or if you want to take a shot at describing a cherry in a “G rated” manor. The words plump and juicy will not work, so do not even try going there!

Want to join in the journey of A Gift From Aurth? Subscribe to the blog here. You’ll be the first to hear about news, posts and chapter downloads.