Thinking Inside the Box

There is the thought that one must not constrain or limit creativity. That you should let it take you anywhere it wants to go. Just sit down, imagine, and let it flow.think inside the box

Don’t “box it up!” But. I want to present to you a different way to look at it.

See, there are some really good reasons to put rules on your creativity, to “box it up,” if you will. In fact, I am becoming of the opinion that it makes you more creative.

So what exactly am I talking about? Well, as it usually happens to be for me, I am referring to writing, and writers, and story-telling, and such. And how does this Thinking Inside the Box apply? I shall tell you. It’s quite fantastic.

So. Imagine you are sitting down to begin work on a new fantasy or sci-fi story. (take your pick — whichever you like working on better)

And so you start thinking up things. In a fantasy, it’d be creatures, like dragons, and centaurs, fauns, satyrs, elves, dwarves, wizards, and how they all interact with each other, and what they can do, and the limits are really… well. They aren’t there. It’s a different list of things for a sci-fi, but a similar thing, all the same. The limit is your imagination. Which can be so wonderful, yet so very terrible. Unbridled creativity can run away, and become lost in the mess of it all.

What I want to present to you is the thought that setting yourself boundaries, very firm boundaries, for your story and it’s world, magic, science, etc. etc., is a good thing. For multiple reasons.

Allow me to use for an example one of my newest favorite books and author.

I recently finished reading the first two books of the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. (working on reading book three right now).

First off. It is brilliant. The story is epic, and the “magic” is really creative and just like “wow, that is so freaking cool.” And you know one of the things that makes the magic cool? It’s limits. There are incredible limitations to the magic of the Allomancers (aka, Mistings, or Mistborn, depending on what kind of Allomancer you are and your abilities), and I believe those limits are what make it really good.

Within the box that Sanderson built for himself, his creativity runs wild. And it is so awesome. Because now that he has laws, laws of physics, and magic, and what not, he is able to think with those in mind, and come up with these amazing things for his Allomancers to do, that are totally “believable.” Because none of it is random. We know what things they can and can’t do. So when they do something that is super creative, you’re like: “I would have never thought of that, but yeah, they can totally do that. AWESOME.”

Sanderson has three “laws” that he uses to apply to writing, and they are pretty fantastic.

(for more about those laws, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Sanderson#Sanderson.27s_Laws )

In his first “Law,” Sanderson talks about “Hard Magic” and “Soft Magic.”

Hard magic is for those magics and technologies that have very set rules. The author sets up the rules, and then the author follows them. Like Sanderson has done in his own writing repeatedly.

Soft magic is more undefined. It allows for the author to reach in, a god in the little world of their novel, and do almost whatever they wish, or need to, to make the story happen. Deus ex machina becomes frequent, and so cheap, and very unbelievable at times, using Soft Magic as your mode of approach.

I would encourage you to read all three of Sanderson’s Laws. I found them very thought provoking, and whether you like them or not, or want to use them or not, it is good food for thought.

What I am saying is that setting up boundaries doesn’t hamper your ability to be creative, but fuels your creativity.

So, next time you are writing, creating a new world, editing your WIP, whatever it is, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to get inside the box. Set up rules. It makes writing easier, actually, because you know the rules. You wrote them down in that notebook over there. But you can do some awesome things within those rules, and blow your readers away.

So yeah.

(And the TARDIS is just awesome, and a great example of this)

Consider thinking inside the box. It is bigger on the inside.

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Night of Shadows – IT’S HERE!

Hello everyone! 

My book, Night of Shadows, is out!

For those of you who don’t know what it is about, here:

Ninja are hired to depose tyrants and protect kings, but they aren’t just assassins. The ninja have a sacred covenant, by which they guard the world from shadows.

Isamu Raiden’s family have been the keepers of this Covenant for thousands of years and the time approaches where this task will fall to him. He has one last mission as an apprentice. He sets out, with his partner Amaya, but when he returns home, things have gone terribly wrong. His clan and family are dead. The ninja responsible plans to break the Covenant and free the Shadow Warrior, plunging the world into darkness.

With Amaya at his side, Isamu pursues the ninja in hopes of catching him before he can reach the Shadow Warrior’s prison. All the while knowing, if he fails, there is no hope for world.

 

If you are interested in getting my novel, it is available in softcover, hardcover, and at the moment, Amazon Kindle, though I expect it to also be on Nook and other eReaders soon (so I am told, anyway).

Here are the links to find it:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Thanks, and I hope you will help me spread the word about my first published book!

~Daniel Beals

Night of Shadows

Night of Shadows

Hello everyone! I have been going through the publication process with Westbow Press, and I just wanted to let all of you know that soon, I will have my first review copies of “Night of Shadows” in my hands, and not long after that, it will be released to the world!

THE BLACK CAULDRON SIMMERS, or What To Do When The Great Pot of Various Ingredients Blow Up In Your Face

Sometimes when Alphonse and I are working on a pot of soup together we have this horrible thing happen to us. The soup blows up. Goes supernova. Indeed, it’s quite tragic. Usually a complete and utter waste of good food. Or was it?

There are times when writing on a story that it’s just not coming. Those carrots refuse to enhance the flavor of the soup!

It’s not that you aren’t inspired. It’s not like it’s that complex. You just can’t write it. And the pot boils over.

What then? What’s going on?

Might I humbly suggest, my friend, that you evaluate yourself. Is this really the kind of soup you need be making?

This is something I have recently done. And I found many of my soups lacking. The recipe for the soup seemed grand enough, but alas, I found that I never could bring myself to put it together. And it’s because that was a soup I never needed to make. A story I wasn’t meant to write.

Don’t force yourself. It’s like eating a food that you abhor. There are times when you are stuck while writing. But really. There are times when you just need to let the story go. You and the inner chef need to sit down together and taste your soup. Carefully. Sparingly. Savor the flavor.

Does it burst into color in your mind? Something that grabs all your mind? Makes you desire to simply eat and eat and eat? If not, consider what this soup is.

There are times when a pot is ignored. It is pushed onto the back burner, and it simmers. The pan blackens on the bottom, and the soup begins to rise. Boils. And bursts over with scalding fury from under the lid. Stories can do this to. And it usually happens with a story that you either one, really care about, but don’t know what to do with, or two, don’t really care about, just keep pouring time and thought into.

So what do we do when the pot blows up in our face?

Evaluate your ingredients — some of them might need to go.

Consider the soup itself — maybe you should make a stew, instead of a creamy potato soup. After all, you would prefer to eat a stew, and don’t care for creamy soup. THEN WHY ARE YOU MAKING CREAMY SOUP?

And last, and many times the hardest thing to consider is this:

Do you even really know how to make this soup? Did you spend enough time preparing the recipe? Or did you see a picture and jump in, commit yourself to something you didn’t even feel led to do, just got caught up in the moment?

The great pot sometimes simmers. Listen for the whistle of the pot.

THE BLACK CAULDRON, or The Great Pot Of Various Ingredients That Shall Become Story Soup

Your first reaction, will, most likely, be that of incredulous surprise. Indeed. However, please do not simply turn away, but do read on.

First, I must say that I received this concept from a friend… Well. More specifically. That friend’s typo. And it has stuck in my head. And so. I shamelessly shall continue down the path this typo has taken me. Thank you, friend! *hugs friend* (you can remain anonymous or not. Your choice. 😉 )

Now. Let us begin!

Shall we create a masterpiece together? Will you join me and create some delicious morsel with which to appease the appetite of the mind? For if you wish to feed the imagination, the soup must be a great one.

Into the kitchen we go, bravely we shall face it; one of the deadliest battlefields known to mankind. For here we create sustenance for this, our mortal frame. It is a cold world, and so, without much thought, we know what we desire. Soup. Yes, indeed, soup. For soup soothes, and soup warms. And there are so many different kinds of soup, each able to reflect your mood, your personality, able to warm your aching bones as you curl in front of the fireplace, and soothe your weary body. This… this is soup my friends. And I dare not attempt to further describe it, as I verily know I could never begin to do this luxurious food justice.

But before I begin, what am I speaking of? What, pray tell, is this Black Cauldron, this thing, this Great Pot Of Various Ingredients That Shall Become Story Soup? What is this so called “Story Soup”?

It is, very simply, just that. A story. A book. A movie. A poem. Soup, if you will, for the soul. Chicken and noodles may indeed feed our physical forms, but it is words and ideas that feed our souls. Our passions.

Now to begin. We are in the kitchen. Do you have an assistant? I do. His name happens to be Alphonse. He is very good with spices, and always knows just what needs to be added, or what needs to be taken out. (Yes INDEED we have special soup; for we can remove ingredients even after they have been added!) Alphonse’s official title is usually “Inner Editor” but today, he is “Inner le Chef”. He places on his lofty white hat, and we are ready. First things first. We need a pot. Yes. A pot. A cauldron. A pan, I say! Shall we cook soup without something in which to hold it? Verily, t’would be a messy meal.

Carefully, with much deliberation, we choose our pot. A nice big one. Who knows how many we might be cooking for, after all. And we must be prepared for however many guests arrive.

It is clean, of course, but we wash the pot before beginning anyway. It mustn’t just be clean. But spotless. Not even a watermark. Alphonse always amuses himself by making faces at his own portrait in the bottom of the pot.

Now we have our pot on the stove. It is time to choose what kind of soup we will be making!

What is first? Eh? Well. We shall begin with our broth! Shall it be watery? Thick? Creamy? Tomato based? There are many options. But this is a simple soup we are making this time. Simple, yet great. Alphonse hands me the chicken broth, and I pour it in.

And then on to ingredients. Carrots are chopped, and chicken prepared. Celery, noodles, spices brought down from the cabinet. Alphonse makes a face as I chop up an onion. The smell makes him cry, but he doesn’t say a word. He knows those tears are important.

With care we put in each ingredient, stirring our soup. Salt, pepper. Garlic. One by one each thing we have prepared makes its way into the pot.

It doesn’t take long for the soup to be done. We taste it every few moments. We add some ingredients. We even take some out. But at last, the soup is done.

This is just the beginning. Do you wish to know what I mean by all this? Do you want to know what comes next after we finish our pot? Perhaps I mislead you, for we are far from done with our soup. For this is just the start.

The secrets of the soup are many. Shall we look at them together?