Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Outsmarting my Inner Critic - The Great and The Small by A.T. Balsara

I despise writing first drafts. That voice in my head gets loud…what a bunch of crap…no one is going to read this…just give up already…It makes writing that first draft feel like I am a punching bag for my own thoughts. The same is true when I try to put an illustration on paper. That first, very rough drawing is fodder for my inner critic.

So I outsmart it.  

[caption: An illustration of Scratch and Fin, two characters from The Great & the Small]

First of all, when I’m writing, I start with an outline, or I at least have a rough idea of where I’m going. Now comes the fun part: I find soundtrack music. In The Great & the Small, I had to figure out how to have a gang of rats run through sewer pipes and air ducts. I found Beauty in Your Eyes by Deep Forest and cranked it. I played it on a loop while I immersed myself in the scene. I pretended I had a camera, and all I was doing was recording what I saw. Here is a snippet of that scene from the point of view of Fin, the scrawny rat who is nephew to the Beloved Chairman:

Fin gritted his teeth against the throb in his foot and pushed himself forward, straining to keep pace with the hulking louts that loped in front of him. Even the smaller females dwarfed him in size. Up. Down. Squeezing through dripping holes and plowing into murky troughs filled with lumpy sludge. Running. Running. Sludge in his eyes, up his nose, through his fur. Running blind, just following the shadow tails and legs always in front of him.

The small tunnels began to change into drier, square metal ducts that were impossible to get any traction on. Fin’s claws scrabbled against the smooth surface. Once he slipped and overshot a corner, smashing into the duct wall with a reverberating gong.

“Quiet!” Bothwell barked. For the next while, except for the pinging of their claws on the metal, they ran in complete silence. Suddenly Bothwell stopped. The rest of the squad came to an immediate halt except Fin. He sailed headlong into the rump of a thick-necked brute called Squid.

“Oi!” The giant sneered down at him. “Wotch it!”

[caption: An illustration of young Pip, from The Great & the Small]

For scenes that were really tough, and required full immersion into it in order to write it, or illustrate it, I had to search for the right music.

[caption: An illustration of Ananda, a character from The Great & the Small, when she first reads about the history of the Great Mortality]

Near the end of the book, in a scene between Fin and Zumi (I’m not telling you what happens!) a song by Amadou & Miriam, M’bifé Blues, put me in that perfect place to write the scene.

Some other songs I used were Delerium’s Indoctrination and Awakening. Both songs have strong bass lines, with singing that almost feels like chanting; perfect for being able to immerse into a scene. When I find the right song, I play it over and over (and over, and over, as my long-suffering family can attest) until I get the scene on paper. Then I play it while I rewrite and polish, and keep polishing until that voice has nothing left to say.

The Great and The Small
A.T. Balsara

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Date of Publication: October 31, 2017

ASIN: B07543NL6H

Number of pages: 292 pages

Cover Artist: Ellie Sipila of Move to the Write

Book Description:

Deep below the market, in the dark tunnels no human knows exist, a war has begun. Lead by the charismatic Beloved Chairman, a colony of rats plots to exterminate the ugly two-legs who have tortured them in labs, crushed them with boots, and looked at them with disgust for as long as anyone can remember.

When the Chairman’s nephew is injured and a young two-leg nurses him back to health, however, doubt about the war creeps in. Now the colony is split—obey the Chairman and infect the two-legs with the ancient sickness passed down from the Old Ones, or do the unthinkable...


Common Deer Press      Amazon      Chapters/Indigo      BN

Excerpt from The Great and the Small: The Market

A loud crash boomed from the fish stalls, making them both jump.
A huge man wearing rubber boots and a plastic apron came charging down the aisle. “You filthy piece of… I’m gonna get you!” He was focused on something on the ground and didn’t seem to notice that he was charging straight at them.
Ananda’s father braced himself, toothpick though he was, in front of her. But the fishmonger barrelled past, following a streak of white and grey. A mouse! The man raised his boot, slammed it down on the mouse.
Ananda gasped. So did others in the crowd. The mouse squirmed in pain, its back paw crushed. A dark splotch of blood bloomed on the pavement. 
The man lifted his boot again.
Everything seemed to slow down for Ananda. “Stop!” she roared. She pushed by her dad and jumped between the man and the mouse. Blood pounded in her ears and her heart thrummed. She held up her hands to block him and shouted, “Leave it the Hell alone!” 
The man stumbled backward, tripping over his own enormous boot. He pulled himself up to his full height and glowered down at her. His face was as red as boiled lobster, and a sheen of sweat glistened on his fat upper lip and quivering jowls. He sneered. 
“What’s your problem, you stupid kid?” he snarled.
Ananda was too pumped with adrenaline to be cowed by this mastodon. She rose to her full five-foot-one-inch height and glared up at the giant. “I’m not the troublemaker here, you bloody, murderous jerk! What gives you the right to hurt an innocent animal?” 
“Are you crazy?” the guy sputtered.
Ananda wanted to sink her fist into his fat ham of a face. “No, you’re crazy! Torturing an innocent mouse who hasn’t done you any harm—ouch!” She was suddenly yanked to one side.
Her skinny father, with his thick glasses and mop of dark brown hair, stepped forward, putting himself between her and the fish-selling Goliath. Tom pushed his glasses up his nose. “Let’s all just calm down…”
Giant Fish-Guy began ranting, waving his meaty hands, drops of sweat flying off him like a dog shaking itself after a dip in the pond. Tom’s voice began to rise.
Leaving her dad to it, Ananda swooped around and crouched on the ground before the mouse. It was white with grey markings. It looked like it had a little cape. It was still moving, its long, pink tail flickering like a groggy snake.
“Come on, little guy,” whispered Ananda. “You’ve got to get up now.”
The small creature seemed to know it had been given a reprieve. It picked itself up, slowly peeled its crushed back paw from the pavement, gave itself a small shake, and lolloped away, holding its crushed paw to its belly. It made it past the gargoyle statue. It had just leaped onto the column when Fish-Guy caught sight of it. He swore and lumbered after it.
“Leave it alone!” screamed Ananda. She went to run after him but was stopped by an iron grip on her arm. “Stop him, somebody!” she shrieked.
By now, the entire market had stopped to gawk. The mouse was halfway up the column. Cursing, Fish-Guy hopped on one foot and ripped off a boot. He threw it. The boot bounced off the column.
The mouse kept climbing.
Fish-Guy threw the other boot. Missed!  
Ananda cheered as the mouse slid over the rooftop. “Yes! The mouse got away!” She jumped up and down, clapping, and swung around. Dozens of people were staring, jaws flapped open. She froze. In the crowd she saw one of the guys from her school. He looked like Ed the Hyena from The Lion King. His mouth was in perma-sneer mode, and his head thrust forward on his neck like someone was leading him by his pimply nostrils. He shook his head at her. “Loser,” he mouthed, and laughed. She’d seen his type a million times. A coward until he smelled blood. There was no way he was going to bully her.
Although prickling sweat had broken out all over her body, Ananda thrust out her chin. She smiled—a bright, fake mask. “Good!” she called to the crowd. “The mouse is safe. All’s well that ends well, right?” She curled her mouth into a sarcastic grin and stared down the hyena.

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1 comment:

Jennifer Herrington said...

Thanks for hosting A.T. Balsara and The Great and the Small!

Common Deer Press