Sunday, November 6, 2016

WRITE NOW WITH TERRI DELCAMPO - WRITING: THEN & NOW

Sorting out some prompts for my children's blog, (The RoJo Adventure Blog) I came across some journaling prompts for young writers.  I read them over, thinking of myself when I was just beginning to be fascinated by writing out my thoughts and fantasies (it was a teen idol named Bobby Sherman at that time – 1968).  I thought it might be fun to respond to the interview. 
Why do we write stories? 
1968
Because I am always making up role-playing games for my friends (stories I make up from Star Trek, Hogan's Heroes, movies, plays, and sometimes real-life) and I read a serialized story about Bobby Sherman in "16 Magazine" and thought my stories and fantasies were more interesting.  Plus, it gave me something to do between issues.  My ideas turned into a 145 page novel I wrote over the course of two summers, called "The Picnic Spot". 
2016
For me, writing is everything.  There is nothing of my life that I haven't put into my books and articles.  It's an intimate form of self-expression, housed within outrageous ideas that I can make real for people.  Also, it gets everything out of my system.  When things piss me off, I start thinking about them as book fodder, and it changes my point of view.  I start looking at things through a character's eyes, and I take things less personally – and my character can get revenge though I cannot in real life.  My novel "MEDS" is a perfect example of that. 
What are your favorite types of stories?
1968
Romance (but I always picture Bobby Sherman!), and Little Women stuff.  I love Star Trek, and like friendships like Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Spock.  They bicker sometimes, but stay friends. 
2016
This is perhaps the biggest change in me.  In 1968 I hadn't read Poe yet.  The moment I read "The Telltale Heart" in English class (Thank you, Mrs. Powell!) my writing took a definite turn for the macabre. My mother read some of my stories and actually worried that I was depressed.  Far from it, I had found my writing niche – I was exhilarated!  I do believe that horror needs heart – no pun intended.  In short stories brutality can rule, but in novels, I need a romantic thread and a peppering of humor to break up the intensity.  A thread of humanity, of course.
Do you enjoy writing?  Why or why not?
1968
I love writing.  I can never wait to get in my room, get my homework done and start working on my novel.  I have my grandmother's typewriter, and I do about five pages a night.  It's just me and Bobby, and we can't hear my mom and dad bickering or anything going on.  It's our world. 
2016
Well, my world has expanded a little beyond 'me and Bobby.'  Thinking about it, I might just write a story about Bobby Sherman.  He's a sweet memory of my childhood.  However, horror writing gave me many dimensions in which to write, and I love every one of them.  Writing is beyond enjoyment for me.  It's what I do – a big chunk of who I am.  Sometimes I take a break from writing, but not really – I'm always jotting down notes for some project or other.  If I need a break from horror, I write blogs or children's stories, but I am constantly writing, seven days a week, sometimes 16 hours a day. 
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
1968
The stories in 16 Magazine started me fantasizing about Bobby Sherman, but my stories aren't like the magazine's. More like 'life with Bobby,' that's fraught with mishaps and drama that I thought might happen in a pop singer's life. 
2016
Everywhere.  Absolutely everywhere.  In the news, in my life, in people around me and their lives – everywhere.  If something seriously pisses me off, (like finding out one of my dearest friends was raped by a priest all through his teens) I start plotting and writing and building a story around it. (That one turned into my novel, Holy Terrors by the way.)  I used to joke with my customers at CVS, that if they were rude to me they might end up in one of my books – and they wouldn't like it. I never gave that warning to the district manager and pharmacy supervisor who were complete bastards, though, and wrote my novel MEDS from my experiences working as a pharmacy tech. 
Why is it important to tell stories?
1968
Because it lets me escape into my own world for a little while each night, and just imagine.  In school it's fun in English class because other kids listen to the stories I write, especially my spelling/vocabulary word sentences because I use more than one word in each sentence, and sometimes I just write all the words into a paragraph and make it a little story.  My teacher lets me read them to the class. 
2016
The situation has changed, but the reason is much the same.  I like to imagine.  I like to create my own world(s) and I like to have a little bit of control – something that I don't always have in real life.  After I've written a book and gotten all my thoughts and ideas onto the page, I enjoy seeing how others react – although that comes after the writing.  I write for me. I publish for others. 
What is your favorite story?  What do you like about it?
1968
My own or others that I've read?  I'm working on my first novel, so I guess it would be my favorite.  I like "Little Women," by Louisa May Alcott, "The President's Lady," by Irving Stone (I saw the movie and got the book out of the school library), and Nancy Drew. 
2016
Choosing one of my own would be difficult, because to me, writing stories is like giving birth.  Into the Mist and Reflection were early novels that started out as screenplays which I later expanded. Holy Terrors was written from sheer fury.  All three books have characters who continue on in Owl's Nest (via Owl's Eye View) to this day.  As far as my favorite books – there are far too many to name here.   All time favorite – It by Stephen King, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  Two very different books, of course, but Jo in Little Women was a strong female lead who was a writer.  Her ambition burned within me, and I strongly identified with her.  Mind you, I read everything, fiction and non-fiction, and love reading almost as much as writing.  I think reading is a definite prerequisite to writing.  It's how you learn the craft.  You read the masters. I learned much more about crafting sentences and chapters by reading Poe, Verne, King, Rice, Stone, Ludlum, and Strunk & White than I ever did diagramming sentences in English class (though I learned many basics there that stuck).  Even now, when I'm editing other people's work, I refer to books on my shelf to see how the "the big boys and girls" do it.  Not so much for grammatical application, but formatting, publishing layout, and book set-up. 
What if someone wrote a story about your life? What would it be about?
1968
A girl who grew up until age nine with all grownups, and liked to hang out with grown-ups more than kids her own age.  I always got along better with my teachers than with my classmates.  I am mature in a lot of ways, but still a kid in some. 
2016
Boring.  My life has been ordinary with a few dramatic spikes and some interesting quirks – like my dad was an undertaker.  I saw him embalm (at my request) when I was eleven.  He was also a boater and I spent almost every weekend of my childhood on the Elk, Northeast, and Sassafras Rivers, swimming and riding the bow shrieking "Faster!  Faster!" as the boat bounced over waves and sprayed water in my face.  But I did the usual stuff – worked my butt off in high school, dropped out of college after a semester to get married, raised two sons (and to a degree, a couple of their friends who were fixtures in my house), got divorced, took cubicle jobs, got downsized out onto the street, got adopted by my Georgia family, had a car accident that left me disabled, moved in with my son and his family for awhile to help out, moved back to Georgia after three years, fell in love via Facebook, with my writer/publisher husband, got married, and still live in a studio apartment in Georgia.  See?  Boring.  That's why, through it all, I've always written – because the bits and pieces of me that I write into my characters are far more fascinating than my whole life story. 
What makes a story interesting?
1968
Something different than everyday life.  Drama.  Romance. How people in a story react to things – how that is the same and different, for the person reading the story. 
2016
I had it right then.  My novels are character driven.  Relationships are important.  I come up with strong characters and put them in outrageous, impossible, horrific situations and see how they either bob to the surface, or sink into the abyss.  Unpredictability.  If you can figure out the mystery, guess the outcome of the book, why bother reading it?  Even my first novel, written at age 11 had tragedy and humor along with the romance – and, incidentally, was not a formula novel.  I think if I find a story quirky and interesting, and I can relate to my characters my readers will too.  At least I hope so.  And I always make sure my material is well-edited – clean of errors.  Nothing loses the interest of a reader faster than trudging through poorly written slop. 
What things does every story need to include? 
1968
Good and bad characters, and a lot of emotion, conversations between characters that sound real. 
2016
The full gamut of emotions – horror, love, hate, anger, happiness, humor, boredom, etc., that anyone can identify with.  Suspense.  A kick-ass storyline. An unpredictable plot.  Realistic dialogue. Most important, believable, well-layered multi-faceted characters. And once the story is written – rewrites and fastidious editing. 
Do you prefer to make up stories or base them on real life?  Why?
1968
I make up stories, but I put my own feelings into them.  And some of the compositions I write in school are based on my friends and relatives.  Some of them I just write, using spelling and vocabulary words, and are just crazy stuff I make up for fun. 
2016
Same answer but expanded a bit.  I write four non-fiction blogs, a children's story blog, a monthly dark fiction magazine, and horror/supernatural novels and short stories.  So my writing preferences are both fiction and non.  Why?  I write fiction because it's my comfort zone – horror, because I can express my most outrageous ideas and fantasies there.  I write non-fiction because I'm an opinionated bitch and if I held it all inside my head would explode. Also, three of my blogs (Healthy Nudge, Write Now, and Disability Challenges) are comprised of articles I write to share my life experiences with others that hopefully will be helpful.  I started writing children's stories for my grandchildren who live between 800 and 2000 miles away from me.  I started publishing the stories in a blog for them so they know I always think about them, no matter where I live or what I'm doing.  While the non-fiction blogs are important to me, my heart is and always has been, in writing fiction.  I can tell any story I want, and take it to outrageous proportions, and scare the crap out of my readers.  What more can a writer ask? 


1 comment:

  1. Some things change and others don't. Your life is an example of that, Terri. Since an early age, you have had the desire not to live a boring life. Bravo. Through your words, you have found more adventure than most people could ever hope to find. May your writing always infuse you with spirit and hope.

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