Why reading is good for your health

Sometimes a book is the only thing that can make the world right again.

As someone who writes, I think it is fair to say that I have a lot of time for books. I am going through some training at work at the moment, and there is an awful lot of talking and discussing involved in this training. But I have also been lucky to be provide with a recommended selection of books to choose from within my areas of focus, and I am actually loving the opportunity to graze these at my own pace in my own time.

I guess when we are in need of a boost in life, to reset our expectations, direction, expand our knowledge, or simply refresh ourselves by an escape from the hum-drum routine, a book is the only vice you need.

All books should come with a warning…Reading is seriously good for your health!

Do writers know what they are doing? #writingcommunity #amwriting #plotting #plottwists

Yes, I admit this is a bit of a provocative statement, and sweeping, but I wanted to address an argument I was having with my Husband.

And why not use the internet? Nothing like airing your domestic disharmony in public!

This isn’t a new argument, we have been over it a few times and he’s just not seeing my point of view, even though it’s about writing and I’m a writer and he’s not! So I thought I would get the writing community to wade in on my end. Just in case there is any confusion here, I am a woman and it’s a given that I am always right 😉 Right?

To give some context for this, my husband is an extremely logical person…and I’m, ah, not. I mean I can be logical sometimes, but mostly I take leaps and jump from events to conclusions. I don’t want to get into the nuances of logic v emotion. But in short, I’m comfortable that there isn’t a ‘plan’ or even a ‘logical’ progression to the way a story plays out.

So what was this burning issue provoking domestic disharmony?

Well, it’s George R.R. Martin’s fault.

Specifically Hodor.

I’m really hoping most of you are at least familiar with GoT, but in case you are not…there is a character called ‘Hodor’ and all Hodor says for many seasons is ‘Hodor’, doesn’t matter what folks say to him, situation, stress levels or emotional state, all he says is ‘Hodor’. I think it is season five or six where we discover why this is.

My Husband: That is so amazing, George R.R Martin must have planned this from the start.

Me: I seriously doubt it.

Now, it’s quite possible he did plan it…I’m open to this option. Writers do plan stuff. I plan stuff, but it’s more of a fuzzy framework in which to play, and I change my mind as I go, and add bits, and I blatantly ignore said framework when a new, more interesting, idea pops up.

And I make connections to old seemingly insignificant details all the time.

It’s one of the reasons I think colorful, if somewhat inane details, are so important to a book, because they facilitate connections later down the track. I am always doing this, some minor detail I wrote right at the start will suddenly present itself as a plot twist. It’s part of the process and it’s the way writer’s brains work.

I’m sure someone has asked George R.R. Martin if Hodor was planned right from the start, and perhaps he was. My argument isn’t about whether or not Hodor would always ‘hold a door’ from the moment he arrived on the pages of that draft all those moons ago. But it is possible that he wasn’t, and it is my firm opinion that writers do take strange quirks and details and repurpose them later.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Have you ever planned a major twist right from the very start?

Have you ever stumbled across a plot twist as you were writing, pulling in an early event or detail and repurposing it towards the end?

Happy reading and writing 🙂

…and for those who want the answer to the burning did he / didn’t he question.

How Does Game of Thrones Author George R.R. Martin Really Feel About That Hodor Reveal?

Why readers love the underdog #writing #amwriting

In all aspects of life, people are drawn to the underdog.

  • the geek who saves the planet and gets the girl/boy, while the jock is passed by.
  • the outsider team with part-time players who topple the mighty favorite with the money and star players.
  • the ‘David’ meets ‘Goliath’.
  • the poor farm boy / girl who becomes the great warrior / saves the universe / becomes the hero of the quest.

There is a reason why we love the underdog, and it all comes down to psychology.

As a writer, understanding the reasons and psychology behind our love of underdog characters can greatly help us when we are crafting our work.

Why do we love the underdog?

1. Challenge

As the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

The greater the effort required, and the closer, more nail-biting the ending is, the greater our sense of fulfillment and achievement. While there’s nothing wrong with natural talent (who doesn’t want it), stories are not made out of millponds, we need challenges that require a gargantuan effort to overcome.

And our trusty underdog delivers.

2. Reverse psychology

When we back a ‘winner’ that gives us the same euphoric winning feeling. So, while the underdog by definition is the least likely to win, we have been conditioned by the stories we have read, watched and heard to expect the underdog to win.

3. Pleasure at others misfortune.

Yes, humans are sick bunnies. This is the whole reason why shows like ‘the office’ are so popular. We love watching other people fail from the comfort of our safe lounge chair. Evil hands are rubbed together as our hapless hero faces an uphill battle just to stay afloat.

4. Equality

You are all sighing in relief now! No, humans are not completely evil. While we love to wallow in the misfortune of others, there is a huge thrill when the underdog perseveres, overcomes their many misfortunes, and endures challenges along the way….as long as they succeed.

And in those few stories where they don’t succeed, we often feel cheated.

Life and society is full of ebbs and flows.

Great civilizations rise and fall, and the only thing that is certain in the uncertain nature of the world, is that nothing stays the same.

The top team will not remain the top team for ever.

Good and evil.

Power and poverty.

Every dog will have its day.

How we love to love the underdog.

Why writing a book is like creating a parallel universe #amwriting #writerslife

Choose your own outcome…

When I was little there was a children’s book I read, and in the book you got to choose what happened next. Such books were not new then, and they are still around now. I saw an adult version of this not very long ago. You know the kind…

Lots of exciting stuff has happened…do you:

  • Open the door – go to page 64
  • Turn around and walk away – go to page 72

This got me thinking about the writing process, and how, when we write, we sit out of time, as if we are sitting on the edge of countless parallel universes.

Nobody knows the exact way the book will turn out when they start to write. Writers are always talking about the way characters can surprise them, or how the story can twist unexpectedly. Our imaginations, our life journeys, our jobs and the people we spend time with can all impact the words we write on the page.

In what other ways, do we the writer, impact the story?

What if we sit down to write a chapter today, would it be the same chapter if we wrote it tomorrow instead? Would it be close, slightly different, or very different? And if it was different, could it shape the entire rest of the book?

Hence my parallel universe reference.

It’s a little mind blowing to think that if you sit down at your keyboard you may write a scene in a completely different way just because you are feeling particularly happy or particularly sad. And what if the phone rings and interrupts you, and when you come back you have decided that a character needs to die, or fall in love, or something else that you had no inkling of before.

It’s in that moment when you decide to stop writing, when you move away from your keyboard for whatever reason, must a new parallel universe inevitably pop up? Like a deck of cards on endless shuffle, or a kaleidoscope shifting sand, you never know exactly how the dice are going to fall until they do fall, or in writing terms, you sit back down at your computer. And when you do everything has shifted and you sit down to a different place and a different head space.

Every time we write a story, we could have written a million more.

Would those other variations have been better or worse or just different?

Life too, is full of choices and the consequence of those choices impact everything that comes after, so it seems only fair that our fictitious worlds should be subject to the same whims.

We might think that there are a million stories or a million lives we could have lived, but ultimately there is only one story, just as there is only one passage through our life, and that is the one we choose to write.

What do you listen to when you write? #writerslife #amwriting

Being quiet

I am guessing not everyone will share my sentiments, but for me, there is great comfort in being quiet when writing. I write best when I am sitting in my little pod office, with the lovely view of trees, and…absolute quiet.

My husband used to be incredibly noisy, which did present some problems on occasion! Recently, he has become an avid reader (he reads way more than I do now!) and I am delighted that he does this in the quiet. For the most part, when I am writing, I am left alone in this noiseless state. I do deviate occasionally, but more on that below…

E.B. White “I never listen to music when I’m working.”

Background chatter

Yes, this is the writing chimp editing in a coffee shop!

I am a self aware introvert. I accept this is what I am. That said, this desire for silence is a little extreme even amongst the introvert brigade. A few years ago I read the aptly named ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain, a book all about being an introvert. In it, she talks about her writing routine, and she found it more productive to sit in a coffee shop to work on her book. The background chatter, and the unobtrusive presence of people helped her to focus. For her, too much isolation was actually a bad thing.

Pop music

The concept of writing anything of worth while listening to pop music is beyond my comprehension. But E.L. James  found Will.I.Am blasting in the background an inspiration when tackling her ‘naughty’ scenes! Each to their own…

Classics anyone?

Classic music can create a powerful mood in a movie, but what about when we write? I do have a few pieces that I enjoy occasionally when I want to create a pull in a particular emotional direction. I am not alone in this one…

In an interview Edmund White, the writer of award-winning fiction, biographies and memoirs, said he liked to write to chamber music by Debussy, especially the cello sonata.

Chill-out tunes / a beat without words 

This is probably one of my favorite deviations from silence. I love things with a good beat if I’m writing an action scene. It’s a great tool for visualisations!

Ambient music

A final shout out to the ambient music. Birds, wind, waterfalls, waves, the stuff you hear when you go to the spa…if you go to a spa, that kind of thing. Ambient music is all about creating a mood. There is generally no beat to it (although there might be), just drifting notes that (hopefully) create a strong or peaceful mood.

So, what do you write to?

Thoughts and suggestions? Have I missed any obvious ones? What do you like to write to?

Angels and demons, a writer’s life #writingquotes #writing #amwriting #writerslife

Most people carry their demons around with them, buried down deep inside. Writers wrestle their demons to the surface, fling them out onto the page, then call them characters.”

~C.K. Webb


People are contradictory by nature, driven by emotions that manifest themselves in actions defying logic or reason.

We are ancient beings trying to live in a modern world, fighting buried instincts that we defeat only some of the time.

Our failings, and our strength to rise above them, are what makes us so interesting.

Our emotions can make us altruistic, and brave, but they can also make us monsters.

Our cognizance of our inner demons is what separates us from the beasts. It is what makes us human.

As writers we love to explore those inner demons and angels, and what keeps us hanging between the two worlds of instinct and moral code.

From the petty jealousy to the rage that can drive us to kill.

From our ability to appreciate fine art to a parent’s love.

Emotions in all their manifestations, their consequence and their repercussions, give writers a reason to write.