Monday, August 19, 2019

What's in a Pen Name?

A little explanation of my two names: Meg Murray versus Megan Maulsby.

Murray is my birth last name. Maulsby is my married last name. It's not a coincidence that the last names are so similar. My husband and I met in Kindergarten and back then, teachers arranged kids alphabetically. So I have the classroom seating arrangement to thank for how attached my future husband and I became to each other.

When I started writing seriously a few years after I'd been married, I realized I wanted to have the pen name that I'd envisioned as a kid. I dreamt of being a writer; of having books written by Megan Murray.

I credit my immense love of science fiction and fantasy to Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series. I discovered the books as a pre-teen. Seeing a main character named Meg Murry who wore glasses and wasn't popular at school made me feel that the book was written for me. It was the first time I saw myself on the page. As much as I enjoyed Pippi Longstocking or Anne of Green Gables, I couldn't relate to them.

When I started focusing on trying to get published, I felt that using my nickname Meg was a nice tribute to Meg from the series. But I will keep the 'a' in Murray because little things like that are important to my Scottish clan heritage. (I believe the Murrys came from the Moray clan in the northeast of Scotland, while my ancestors are from the Murrays of Atholl--although they're probably all related if you could go back far enough.)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Character Development: Floating Brains

I was struggling last week with some early feedback I got from readers in my creative writing class because it echoed what I have heard over and over again in short story rejections from SF/F magazine editors: There’s something missing in the emotional development of my characters.

The personal feedback reveals that, while my characters are likable and speak like real people, there’s a disconnect the reader has, as if an emotional wall has been constructed around the characters making them distant or removed. I’m sure this stems from my own emotional distance to the people and the world around me. I keep that side of myself in the interior most of the time. I’m frustrated because I keep trying to get at the emotional core of each short story, but something is still failing to come across.

It’s like my characters are floating minds: a collection of thoughts in a head unattached to a body with physical movement. I care about what’s going on in their brains and forget to describe the entire human being. Even though I think that I’m giving my characters full emotional development, I neglect the physical body language and nonverbal reactions they should display on the page. Another challenge is that I can’t really put tone of voice into the dialogue without explicitly describing it. An actor can read a line of dialogue and imbue different meanings to the words just with a tone or a look, but it’s very difficult to accomplish that in a written story.

I’m still struggling to figure out how to improve, and make my characters more than just floating brains.

I'm currently reading Storyteller: Writing Lessons & More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop by Kate Wilhelm, and I highlighted a couple tips about character development:

"Remember that words are often used to conceal rather than reveal, and body language may well convey a truer message many times." (page 89)

"...know your character, the hidden self as well as the public self..." (page 92)

Friday, June 21, 2019

A Writing Blog

Happy Friday, future readers. I am starting a writing blog on my author website to chronicle my journey to improve my craft skills as a writer and storyteller.

A little intro in who I am: a writer aspiring to become a published author in speculative fiction, both in short stories and novels. I love science fiction and fantasy among many other types of stories. I'm one of those readers and tv/movie watchers who can't help but analyze the story themes and character development in everything I consume. Check out my bio page to see a little more about me.

I plan to keep these blog posts short. I'll share small bites of my thoughts in what I'm failing at or succeeding at in my path towards improvement. I'll post links to resources that I've learned from.

Additionally, I'll be writing reviews of speculative fiction media (short stories, books, tv, movies), but unlike typical reviews that assign a starred rating, I'll discuss the story theory behind each piece and analyze it from a writer's perspective.

Here's a link to one of my favorite writing teachers, K.M. Weiland, explaining story theory:

Thanks for reading!