Saturday, April 30, 2016

Marginal Benefit of Additional Words Written

I'm super proud of my character right now. Which is silly, because I made him do the thing. But I'm not proud of me. I'm proud of him. My small town sheriff is questioning an economics professor whom he suspects is lying about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. Also, I'm not really worried about my upcoming Microeconomics final.

“What were you looking for in the library?”

“Books, obviously. I wouldn’t know how to simplify it...”

“I know what books are, Professor.”

“Oh, of course! I only meant the study of economics. It’s a very complicated field.”

“Right, sure. I’m sure you’re interested in how the Chesterfields have held the monopoly on sugar for the past century or two. See, there’s a huge startup cost in establishing a cane field, and that’s been a barrier to anyone else hoping to enter the industry.”

“How did you…?”

“Like I said, I know what books are.”

That probably isn't as great to everyone who isn't me.

Okay, I've finished the story. And by finished, I mean reached 10,000 words. There's still a little more actual story to write, which I will probably do tomorrow. Today. It's 1 am, so I'm a little fuzzy on that.

As per usual, I'm already thinking about my next project. There's another round of Camp NaNo in July, plus the two month between then and now. I'm thinking about doing a revision project. I have a YA (Young Adult) novella lurking in my NaNo folder that is just begging for another chance. I'll get more into that on… Tuesday, probably.

Friday, April 29, 2016

In the Study, With the Revolver

Here we are, embroiled in a murder mystery. Of my sixteen possible suspects, I've narrowed it down to four who were up to something. Two of those were involved in an illicit affair. The other two, well, at least one of them is a killer. Maybe both. I haven't really decided yet.

A large part of my writing on… Wednesday, I think, was creating all of these people. I included the list in-story as the notes of a deputy. I think I'll just share the whole list with you, because the highlight of this endeavor was giving all of these high class folks really ridiculous names.

Constance Chesterfield-Montgomery – matriarch and owner of estate
Madeleine Montgomery – daughter, unmarried
Harrison Montgomery – son, married to
Ann Montgomery – seems to be looked down on for working class background
Cormorant Chesterfield – nephew, son of Constance’s late brother
Garrick Pomander – owner of Serenity Grand Hotel
Phineas Van der Mort – owner of funeral parlors in Serenity, Brighton, and Lower Greyhaven
Sylvia Van der Mort – his wife
Crispus Haversham - lawyer
Doreen Haversham – his wife
Jeriah Clutterbuck – bank manager
Florence Graymarsh – his lady friend, exact relationship unknown
Stanford Margrave – professor of economics, up from the University of Gearheart
Nepheline Margrave – his wife
Vanessa Paddington – his research assistant and possibly something more
Arthur Jameson – butler, employed for past 40 years
Morris Bluestone – victim, business partner to late patriarch Quincy Chesterfield

Now that you have the players in mind, I can tell you that the professor and his research assistant were doing a little off-the-book studying, and cousins Madeleine Montgomery and Cormorant Chesterfield were in undisclosed locations, possibly shooting a guy in the face.

I don't think I've ever really written a murder mystery, so I'm really just making this up as I go. Maybe someone else will meet a terrible fate before the night is through. Muahahaha!

By the time you see me again, assuming I don't post again before Tuesday, Camp NaNo will be over, and I'll be plotting my next project. See you then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Murder Most Foul

Apparently we're in a murder mystery now. I don't know, these things just happen. I needed something else for them to do in the midst of this storm. So they're being called to brave the weather to solve a murder at Mulberry Hall. I've just been naming things with the first thing that pops into my head, and it's turning out gloriously.

I stopped the action for a second to give a little backstory on Mulberry Hall, and it's fantastic.

Mulberry Hall was an old brick estate, long owned by the Chesterfield clan. Parsimony Chesterfield was a sugar merchant over a hundred years prior, and his kin had held the estate ever since. Presently, a party was being held by matriarch Constance Chesterfield-Montgomery. Not all of her guests were enjoying their evening.

I have no idea where this is going, but I'm super excited to find out. This is the kind of thing that keeps me writing. I have be engrossed in the story, otherwise it's just drudgery.

The basic idea I have for this next bit is that there's a party going on, someone got murdered, and there are far too many suspects. I'm going to cut this post short because A) it's getting late, and B) I really want to get a little further into this story.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Skrtch, Skrtch, Skrtch

I did promise at the beginning of the month that I would throw in bonus posts to share excerpts that I particularly enjoyed. Well, the time has finally come. Everyone is still sitting around tell ghost stories, and I've tried to fit each story to the character telling it. In the case of Keri Abiram, resident doctor, I thought she should tell some gross medical urban legend. But what really sold this idea was the two reactions to it that came to me randomly (Who are we kidding? I was in the bathroom). Here, see for yourself:

“I have a story,” Keri said. “There was a woman, and she kept hearing this scratching sound. Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch. She thought there must be rats in the attic or something. So she went up into the attic, and she could still hear it. Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch. But no sign of rats. She met a friend for lunch, and told them about the phantom rats. And there in the diner, she could still hear it. Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch. She started to think that maybe she was going crazy. Everywhere she went, she could still hear it. Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch.

“So she went to a doctor, to try to figure out was wrong with her. The doctor thought that she might have hit her head on something, because she had a bump on the side of her head. Maybe she had some kind of traumatic damage from the impact that was making her hear things. So the doctor looked at the bump, and it was this big, infected abscess. The lanced it, and all of these maggots came pouring out. Apparently a fly had laid its eggs in her scalp, and the maggots had burrowed into her head, and were crawling around in there. Skrtch, skrtch, skrtch.

“That’s disgusting!”

“That’s not even a ghost story!”

I don't know why, but that's super funny to me. I'll see you all for our regularly scheduled post on Tuesday, if not before.

Friday, April 22, 2016

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

I'll admit, I've been slacking in the writing department this week. I could claim that it was because I had a Business Law test on Tuesday and a Microeconomics paper due Thursday, but really, I blame Netflix. And my lack of self-control. I have a lot of catching up to due, word count-wise.

The current part of my story is what I call the Storm Episode. I love storm episodes. And jokes about pants. Anyway, you might ask how a short-ish story can have episodes. Really, that's how it's being written anyway. Every part is its own little plot of "Eli vs. Whatever." Eli vs. The Explorers. Eli vs. The Angry Drunks. Eli vs. The Mad Bomber. And now, Eli vs. The Thunderstorm.

I love it every time a show has a storm episode. I enjoy intense meteorological occurrences for some reason. Also, it took me about five tries to spell "meteorological." It's 2:30 am. Every chance I get, I like to include a storm episode. In this particular case, I have a group of five people, stuck inside (high winds can be treacherous when you live on the edge of the world), with the power out.

I decided they should tell ghost stories by lamplight. At this point I realized that I apparently don’t know any ghost stories. Not any good ones, anyway. I did have one character, who isn't super bright, tell the famous ghost story that I once told at the age of six or something:

It was a dark and stormy night. Everyone was asleep. I don't remember the rest.

I do feel the need to point out that it wasn't that I forget the remainder of the story. It was that I was making it up as I went and that was as far as I got. In the years since, I could have made up the rest, but that would ruin that perfect gem of dopey childhood.

So I decided to look up campfire stories and the like to get more ideas for my storm episode. But it's the middle of the night and I'm a weenie and I don't want to read them. It's pathetic, really. I half remember a story about a spectral black dog that foretells death, and I'm trying to piece it together enough to include it. I wish I could remember where the hell I read it, because that would be super helpful. Apparently most of the stories I know are from the collection Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Anyone remember that book? And those creepy-ass illustrations? But the black dog story isn't from there. There was something about hiking in a canyon, I think. It might be "The Black Dog of Hanging Hills," now that I've looked some more. Or some variation of it.

Basically, I have to come up with at least one story for each of my five characters to tell. And the story they choose should reflect on who they are as a person. So it's part filler and part character exploration. Bonus.

I really should quit writing this and get back to writing the story. Until next time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Saga of Steve

Recently I mentioned throwing a random guy named Steve into stories. Not just mine, but those of my NaNoites as well. This is a long running joke that goes back to my very first NaNo novel in 2010. It was a Steampunk story involving Nikola Tesla, Jekyll & Hyde, The Time Machine, Sherlock Holmes, and Jack the Ripper. See, ol' Jack was a Morlock from the future who came back in time to, I don't know, eat people. Lots of random things happened in order to keep the word count up.

At one point, unsure of what to do next, I asked my Facebook friends, "What should happen next in my novel?" with no context or clue what the story was about. One suggestion I was given was, "Steve takes one for the team." So then I had to create a character named Steve, who was then murdered horribly by Jack the Ripper while my other characters escaped.

Then, it became a running joke. In total, Steve has appeared in some form in five of my projects (yes, I just stopped to count them). The funny thing is, the joke is that "Steve is a douche, and he's probably going to die," even he only actually died in the first one.

Steve is also the only name that's allowed to be repeated. As a general rule, once I use a name in a story, I can't use it again. I think I started that to prevent me from reusing the same names I like over and over. If I do reuse one, a certain number of years must pass first. But not Steve, he can show up in every story if he wants to.

I started sharing Steve with the other NaNo writers around me. See, there's a lot of recurring elements across NaNo novels, like the Travelling Shovel of Death and a fellow named Mr. Ian Woon (an acronym of NaNoWriMo). So, I've made it my mission to infect as many novels with Steve as I can. I created the Big Bag of Steves for my regional gatherings, and I even offered the list up online to spread the plague of Steve even further. It's my goal that one day, every NaNo novel will contain a random character named Steve (or some variation thereof).

So if you, silent reader, find yourself working on some fictional endeavor and needing a random character to do something, I encourage you to add a Steve of your own.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Some Material May be Inappropriate for Weird Viewers

We've been keeping thing pretty PG, but now it looks like they're going to get a little PG-13. This is the kind of thing that I feel embarrassed to be writing, and vow will be cut out before the mythical final version. I cringe as I write it, and hope that no one is looking over my shoulder.

And that's all completely ridiculous. The scene in question (and many scenes like it before) isn't even remotely inappropriate. I'm not even talking about today's sex-crazed standards. I mean in general. And because I have sworn to never show another living soul, I think I should share it with you.

For context, our hero, Eli Makela, got slashed with a broken bottle (I mentioned this last week), and "the doc" (and his ex, apparently), Keri Abiram, fixes him up. The following day, she returns to check on him.
Eli climbed the stairs with Keri behind him and stopped in his kitchen. She closed the door behind her and walked over to him. She went to lift his shirt, but for a moment she just stood there, locking eyes with him, with her hand resting on his hip.

He raised his eyebrows. Not in a judgmental way, but just as a question.

She blinked a few times and looked down, getting back to the reason she was there.
Upon sharing this tidbit with you, I want to go crawl in a hole somewhere and hide until everyone forgets I exist. That's how awkward I feel about this scene. That's weird, right? It's not like there's explicit hardcore banging going on. I can't even say what it is about this scene that seems so wrong. Aside from the fact that it's poorly written. But even with the best words and the perfect syntax, it would still be awkward. I'm still determined to cut this out of any later version, even though the cat is out of the metaphorical bag.

In the grander scheme, this might give you an indication of why there is basically no romance in any of my stories. I can't even put two people in close physical proximity without getting all squicked out. In a few of my past scribblings, there have been characters who shared some sort of romantic affection. And sometimes they'll share a kiss. The thing with this is that it can only happen once in the story, and I have to write it and get out quick like I'm dropping a frigging grenade. I only hope I can escape before someone notices that it happened. Or the romantic subplot explodes, destroying the entire work in the process. One of these days I'll learn to stop using metaphors.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I find the simplest, most innocuous things to be hugely inappropriate. Feel free to comment with your thoughts on the matter, and whether physical contact between two characters is just too much. Or whether you think I'm a weirdo. I'll take whatever.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Breaking Blocks

I'm going to be honest, I haven't written anything super exciting. That's the problem of having a word goal of only 10,000. That means the daily quota is only 334. So we're not exactly flying through this. I did write some dialogue that I liked, but I don't think it stands on its own very well.

So I guess we're going to talk about writer's block today. I wouldn't say that I'm blocked, really, but I don't really know what happens next. Luckily, I have a whole pile of things to deal with just that. As Municipal Liaison for NaNo, I like to provide all kinds of helpful stuff for my NaNoites. I have two bags of little paper slips that I take to write-ins.

One is labeled Scene Unstickers. These are random events that can happen to get a scene moving, such as:

  • A fire breaks out
  • Someone makes a confession
  • Someone is running late
  • Two words: Tequila shots
  • Someone DIES!

The other is the Big Bag of Steves. It involves the many misadventures of a guy named Steve (there's a story there I'll eventually explain). These include:

  • Steve shops for kiwis out of season
  • Steve doesn't look where he's going
  • Steve doesn't think it's poisonous
  • Steve calls everyone by the wrong name
  • Steve wants to invade the North Pole

The idea is that you draw one of these out of the bag, and try to steer your story toward making that thing happen. This might not be the best part of your story, but the idea is to get the story moving and the words flowing. Hopefully this random thing will lead to other things.

As for my story, The Shattered World, some random thing needs to happen right now, to get things moving. So later today I'll probably be diving into my stash of inspirational tidbits, and we'll see where it goes from there. Hopefully by Friday I'll have something more exciting to report.

Comment, subscribe, whatever.

Friday, April 8, 2016

First, Do No Harm

A strange thing has occurred in my story. It might not seem strange to you, but the fact is, it’s never happened before. I introduced a new character first referred to as "the doc." When I first wrote those words, I didn't have a character in mind. When these things happen, regarding probably minor characters, I decide things like gender, age, personality and whatnot kind of randomly, whatever pops into my head. In this case the character became female. No big deal.

But then, our hero Eli, who has gotten himself into some trouble, says this about her: “You think that’s necessary? I mean, she’s probably busy.” It seemed innocuous, but I suddenly something from this hesitation. They have a history. Of a romantic nature.

Big deal, you might say. People have exes all the time in fiction. They sure do, but not in my stories. No one has ever had a relationship like this in anything I've written. I'm not sure why, but I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to and between these characters. From what I have so far, their interactions are civil, even friendly, but kind of awkward. And then there was a whole conversation about sheep with knives, but I'm not going to get into that.

One thing you should know about me is that I have a longstanding habit of doing mean and violent things to my characters. If you are a main character in my story, there's no way in hell you're getting out unscathed. Typically, these are the sorts of things that I would probably cut out of a final version. They just end up in the first drafts because I enjoy causing pain and it takes up words.

However, in this story, I don’t think I can cut it out. Being sheriff of Serenity, Eli found himself breaking up a bar brawl between some locals and some Mesadians who were up for the bridge building. The details aren't important. What is important is that Eli gets slashed with a broken bottle in the course of this, which he tries to blame on a knife-wielding sheep (don't ask). Point is, it's this incident that introduces the doc. And I can't think of a better way to do it. It just seems right. So it has to stay in any later versions, unless I cut out her character entirely, which would be tragic.

Why would I have to cut out the violence to begin with, you ask? Because no one but me wants to read that. Why would I want to read that? I don't know, I'm a little twisted. There's bound to be something wrong with me. But if you read a story of mine, rest assured terrible violence will befall my main characters. Sometimes repeatedly. And that's something I have to stop if I ever want to publish anything.

Anyway, until next time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Onwards and Upwards

First, a bit of news. I heard back from the Trestle Creek Review. They have elected not to publish "A History of Falling Off the Wall." So this was my first rejection letter. And while, yes, this is kind of upsetting, it's also a good thing. For one thing, it means I tried. You can't get rejected if you don't put yourself out there (a phrase I really hate, incidentally). For another thing, this tells me the sort of direction I should be moving. I now know what people don't want, so I can try to write something else that people will want. It's a learning experience.

With that out of the way, let's talk about Camp NaNo. At this second, I think I have about 1600 words of my 10,000 word goal. I'm not worried about the numbers at all on this one, which is nice. With a 50,000 word goal, sometimes it can get kind of overwhelming and disheartening.

Anyway, so far the story is progressing nicely. I think I've landed on a narrative voice I like. That's always the hardest part for me. Most of the time, it starts out kind of irreverent but devolves into these cold, clinical descriptions. I'm not sure what that happens. It's like the narrative is afraid to have personality. I don't like it, so I don't know why I keep doing it.

But you're here (probably) for the story. Here's how it opens, with an introduction to the world that all potential short stories will take place in.

The world was flat. That was a given. Whether it was the only one was another matter.

Two thousand years ago, some cataclysm had occurred: The Shattering of the World. The continents had violently split apart, leaving the central landmass of Mesadia as the biggest fragment, with the other hovering distantly in the sky around it. Everyone assumed that the inhabitants of the other pieces were lost to the void.

Everyone was wrong.

Two hundred years ago, Mesadia’s telescope technology progressed to such a point that they could see the surface of Astranga. And they learned that they were not alone. The University of Gearheart, in Mesadia’s capital, began a program to construct vessels to traverse the void between the continents and train aethernauts to pilot them. One hundred and fifty years passed before the University could complete its task. Once the first ship successfully made the voyage to Astranga and back, other ships followed, and eventually, the cable-draggers.

Thousands of miles of cable were strung between Mesadia and Astranga, which went on to support the train system. Casual travellers could make the three day trip in comfort and relative safety. Over time, more and more world fragments were connected.

Today, the only sizable fragment that remained unexplored was Esphoros. Funds had run short in the program, and it was long theorized that Esphoros was uninhabited. While most of the other fragments were situated at or below the same plane as Mesadia, Esphoros had drifted upward after the Shattering. At certain times of the year, the continent would block out the sun in Mesadia.

Now, in the year 2016 PS (Post Shattering), Chancellor Gillivrey, ruler of Mesadia, okayed the University of Gearheart for one more exploratory mission. They were going to Esphoros.

This first story introduces us to Eli Makela, sheriff of the small farming town of Serenity. Serenity is about to have an influx of rather unwanted tourism. In this excerpt, Eli meets the explorers who have just landed.

When he reached the field (and shooed the onlookers away), the ship was just opening its hatch. Four people stepped out and looked around. The man in front noticed Eli approaching.

“Hello there! We come in peace.”

“Uh huh,” Eli said, stopping fifteen feet from them.

“Fear not! We are but humble travellers from the world below: Mesadia. For there lies a vibrant and friendly populous,” the man said, stating the obvious.

“Yeah…” Eli said. “We can see you.”

The man faltered. “You can… Oh. So you knew about the other world fragments.”

Eli nodded.

“So then why have you not sent down an expedition of your own?”

“What for?”

“For…?” the man asked, flustered. He shook his head. “Forgive me. My name is Solomon Maccabee. I’m the captain of the Akation—the ship here—and this is my crew. And who are you, who has come out here to make first contact?”

“Sheriff Makela, of Serenity—” He pointed behind him. “—the town here—and I came out here to tell you: You can’t park here.”

Let me know what you think so far, and I'll be back on Friday, if not before.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Bridging the Brink of Insanity

At this particular moment that I'm writing this particular sentence, it's not yet April and therefore not yet Camp NaNo. This is what we call the "planning phase." So far, the plan is a little sparse. Lacking any better ideas, I'm going with the flat world idea I mentioned… recently. The advantage to this is that by creating a whole world with various goings-on, when one story ends, I can just start another in the same world.

I have a few notes so far, though I'm not sure if any of them are terribly helpful. Here is what I have:

  • Opening lines: The world was flat. That was a given.
  • There should be a religion/cult that believes that God split the world for a reason and they shouldn't be reconnecting it.
  • Okay, bear with me… the story of a small town (with a small town sheriff) on one of the outer chunks, and once the bridge is built, the influx of the "bad element" from the mainland. What?

What, indeed.

So I don't remember if I explained this earlier, but the idea is that the more metropolitan mainland sends out explorations to the outer lands. All (or most) of the pieces are inhabited, and the population has been divided by some past cataclysm, the Shattering of the World. Anyway, the mainland sends out these air/space ships, dragging thousands of miles of cable. Once both ends are secure, they string these cable car train things on them, so that people can travel between the chunks.

Now, questions of science are bound to pop up in this. To which I say, "What science?" Things work because I say they do. Don't worry about it. It's just a story.

So the plan for the month in regards to the blog is that I'm going to try to keep to my Tuesday/Friday schedule, but I will probably also do smaller posts in between to show off a favorite scene and whatnot. Also, NaNoisms. NaNoisms are mistakes and typos that result from trying to type a lot of words in little time.  And they are hilarious. Some examples from past years:
The door opened and a woman in her 60s opened the door
- You don't say.

…with the back full of crate.
- Just one crate. Full of it.

“Magnets,” Malachi said with a yawn.
- A nod. You're not getting bored Malachi.

We’ve been whacking our brains
- Ow?
So that's what you have to look forward to. Congrats. Or sorry. Whichever applies.