Friday, September 22, 2017

Making Up Words

So this post is up late. I didn't have time to write it before. But here it is now.

What I've been thinking about lately, and may have nothing to do with my NaNo project, are conlangs. Constructed languages. That's your Klingon, your Dothraki, your Trigedasleng.

I'd like to create a language sometime, for a story. I think it would be fun. And in a situation like that, you don’t really need a whole language. Just enough of one to say what you want to say and make it feel like there's a whole language hiding under there.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This Is the Road to Ruin and We’re Starting at the End

Well, if you missed the last post, I've moved on from the space story for now because I didn't like where it was headed. I might come back to it later, when I figure out how to make it not suck.

So for the moment, I'm left with trying to figure out what to write for NaNo. I have a few random ideas floating around, but nothing I can expand into 50,000 words. I'd like to actually create an outline for this one, so know more or less how the story goes, and what needs to happen when.

Half the time, I start a story and then can’t figure out how it's supposed to end. So right now I'm toying with the idea of figuring out the ending first, and working my way backwards. That might be interesting. First figure out where the characters end up, then work out how they got there.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Moving On

I was going to write this post about another little thing I realized about my villain, but I'm not going to do that, because it's not terribly exciting. So here's where I'm at. I've created this very dramatic relationship between these two characters, which is going to make for a very dramatic story. And also a very boring story. They say you should write the kind of books you want to read. I wouldn't want to read this. It's a domestic drama set in space. It's not fun. I want to write something fun.

"So make it fun," you might say.

That would be the ideal, but sometimes stories go into a tailspin of mediocrity and it's hard for me to pull them out of it. They just get worse and worse until they crash in an explosion of disappointment and I shove them in a drawer. Sometimes my attempts at writing better just makes the result worse. Of course, it's also possible that I've just learned more, so now I can see how bad it is, but the writing itself remains the same.

I don't think I'll be writing the space story for NaNoWriMo. From what I have, my characters are kind of interesting and have some potential, but I can't slog through 50,000 words of the inevitably boring plot right now. I might come back to it later, maybe write a shorter story. Something where I don't need to add chapters of filler just to meet the word goal.

Now, you might say, "But I thought it sounded like a great plot." And maybe it is. If you're into family drama. I want an exciting, fun story with adventures and explosions. But the corner I've plotted myself into precludes that. Now everyone has to deal with their emotions and grief and try to find a way to move forward. It’s super dramatic, and super boring to me.

So now I have a month and a half to figure out something better, something more exciting. Stay tuned, I guess?

I'll see you Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Conflicting Ideas

My villain character creation is by no means complete, but I think I have a good idea of what kind of a person she is. I understand her reasoning. The question that is now arising is what is she going to do about it? What actions is she going to take against the protagonist?

Now I know the relationship between the two of them. They were basically family once. Now everything's gone and broken. How far is she going to go? Does she want him miserable, or destroyed?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Where Do Space Babies Come From?

The quest for Elsbeth's backstory continues, and the other day, I asked myself, "Self, what did happen to the boy's father?" The boy of course being her son, who still doesn't have a name. I think I thought of something, but then forgot it immediately.

Anyway.

My initial thought, a month ago, was that family dynamics are just different in space. But then Tycho, the protagonist, had both parents and lost them both, collectively, together. Implying a typical family arrangement.

So the question returned. What happened to the boy's father? He can't be dead, because there's a limit on how much tragedy I'll dole out per person. Yes, even I have limits.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Staying on Task

Well, here we are again. And I'm woefully unprepared, as usual.

I keep coming up with all this other stuff for the space story. The protagonist has appeared, complete with a name for once, but I keep pushing all that aside. Because I have to finish Elsbeth. I have to make her a real person. This is what usually happens, and why I end up with shallow characters. I get distracted by shinier parts of the story, and abandon the boring details.

So here I am, wondering how Fomalhaut and Aldebaran1 figure into this story, with this ship endlessly coasting among the stars, but I have to stay here and decide on my antagonist's political views. And religion. And what word or phrase she uses a lot.

I had one goal. Make one good, solid character. And my god, is that hard.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Music of the Spheres

We're returning to Mad's Music Corner for something that's actually relevant to the project at hand. That's right: Space Music.

Now, if we wanted to go all futuristic, we'd probably go electronic. We're not going to do that. I'm not a fan of electronic music, and I can't make a soundtrack out of things I don't want to listen to.

It's a little tricky, because I still don’t know what the plot is, but I hope that this can help us get into the world and the characters a little better. And I'll be linking them instead of embedding them, which should help the post load better for anyone with a slower connection.

So without further mindless drivel…

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Family Comes First

So here I am, trying to complete Elsbeth as a character, trying to figure out all these stupid little details. But then I stepped away from all these questions and asked something that might actually matter: What kind of a mother was she?

I did a little backstory freewriting, and I learned some things. The most important of which was that the protagonist of this tale was orphaned at the age of 12, and since he was her son's best friend, Elsbeth took him in. He became like another son to her. And her boys always had each other's backs. Until they didn't.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Grinding Gears

The quest for character creation continues. Today we're going to talk about those little things that people hate: pet peeves. Now, I'm only going to say that phrase once, because I hate it, for some reason. I think that's one of those things that people call "ironic" but is actually something else.

Anyway, I think dislikes are just as interesting as likes. What drives a person to hate something? Why do those things bother them? Are they like me, in that they just dislike the thing and don't have or remember a reason behind it? Did someone once do or say the thing, it all went bad, and now that experience has ruined the thing for them forever?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

In Space, No One Can Hear You Mispronounce Their Name

I'm going to talk about names. Weird names, specifically.

I have a lot of opinions on weird names. They tend to crop up in sci-fi and fantasy, and sometimes, they're terrible. If I'm considering reading a book, I will turn right around if the characters have stupid names. I get a newsletter or whatever for free or cheap e-books, and I have seen some awful names. As in, they took a perfectly normal name threw it in a blender and hit puree. They were trying to make something exotic, probably, but you can still tell what name they started with.

Also, names that are unpronounceable. I narrate everything in my head, so it's important that my brain can articulate a name. And if everyone in a story has weird, unpronounceable names, especially if any of them are similar to each other, I'm going to continually forget who is who. That's why I haven't read The Kalevala yet. It's Finnish mythology, which I'd like to know more about, but Lemminkäinen is the only name I can ever seem to remember.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tiny Steps in the Right Direction

Well, here we are again. I haven’t made much (or any) progress on my character creation. What have I been doing instead of working on that? That's a great question. Real life has been happening a bit and that's taking a lot of my attention, but I feel like that's not a good enough excuse to be slacking off. I've always tried to make a point to not talk about real life here, because that's not what we're here for. We're here to see me turn myself into a real writer.

I'm not sure if I'm going to use this space story for November's NaNoWriMo, or if some other idea is going to come along in mid-October. I don't know if I'll have enough space-story-hijinks to fill 50,000 words. Maybe if I outlined…

I'm honestly not sure if I'm going to write the space story or if this is just going to be an exercise in character creation. I mean, it might be a waste of a perfectly good character if I don't write it, but… I don't know if that bothers me.

Truth be told, I haven't been feeling super creative lately. I'm hoping that's going to change soon, real life stuff and all. I even have a long weekend right now to get myself back to… me. It's pretty exciting. I'm hoping to actually take a day and get back to the character creation process. I've never been very good at villains or female characters, and I'm hoping I can kill two birds with one stone and create this well rounded female villain character.

Because if I can do that, I can do anything.

Except write this post, apparently. It's taken me over two hours to get this far. So I'm going to call it a day and hopefully have something more interesting on Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The World is My Discarded Oyster

I'm going to continue getting distracted from my assigned task. It's just who I am as a person. I keep finding other things to talk about. And in a way, that's what today's post is about.

How I let myself down all the time.

It's not as pathetic as it sounds, not really. I just build up all these great ideas with such potential and then… meh. I focus on something else entirely.

I'm going to tell you a story. About a story. I wrote this last spring. You can see all the posts about it here. It was the adventures of a small town sheriff when faced with a larger and modernizing world. Okay, fine.

But the world, man, the world.

Friday, August 11, 2017

It Took Everything to Get Me Here

I keep finding myself getting distracted from my task of creating a complete character. "What about the world-building?" I ask myself. "What about the soundtrack?" I mean really, what kind of music does a future space faring society listen to? Probably something electronic and computer generated. Which is unfortunate for me, as I have a longstanding hatred of electronic music. Except this, for some reason.

Anyway, I have all these questions I'm supposed to be answering for this character. Here's a few as an example:

  • What are their biggest secrets?
  • What makes them laugh out loud?
  • What is their best childhood memory?
  • Do they have a natural talent for something?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No Hourglasses in Zero G

I've started fitting out an extensive character sheet for Elsbeth Zogg, sci-fi villain. I'm not going to share all the answers here, because frankly, I don't want to. Describing characters makes me uncomfortable. Extensively describing them, even more so.

Now, I thought that this was just going to be an exercise in character creation, and a plot and everything would come later. World building and all that tiresome nonsense. But I realized something right off the bat when I started the character questionnaire. Something I need to think about in this story. Something I need to figure out.

How do you tell time in space?

Friday, August 4, 2017

For the Evulz: A Reason For Villainy

Remember last time when I said the bad guys can't just do it "for the evulz"? I stand by that. I mean, sure, you can have your Jokers who just want to watch the world burn, but usually there is some underlying reason.

So I started making a list. I'm sure I'll add to it as I go, but I'm off to a decent start. I'm trying to list all the reasons a villain might do his villainous things. Some of them may overlap. Things are rarely cut-and-dried, 100% one thing, so that's to be expected.

The list of why people do bad things, as it stands:

  • Money/greed
  • Love/lust
  • Revenge
  • Hatred (be it racism, prejudice, etc.)
  • Loyalty (to a cause, leader, etc.)
  • Grief/Loss
  • Power

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Building Character

I finished my Camp NaNo story on Saturday. Well, technically Sunday at 1am, but whatever. It's done. I wouldn't call it "successful" but it also wasn't a total loss. If nothing else, I learned a lot about the things I still need to improve on.

So where do we go next?

The next thing I'll probably work on is the in-depth character creation I mentioned last time. Essentially, my characters tend to be flat and lacking a little thing called personality. I always see these questionnaires for character creation, and I never manage to fill the whole thing out. So I'm going to try. I'm going to figure out everything about a character, until they're damn near a real person.

Then the question becomes: What kind of character should I create?

The obvious first choice for a character is the hero. They're the main character. We're paying the most attention to them. But then I thought, maybe I should create a villain. I don't know that I've ever had a good, strong, well-developed villain. And I should. A hero is only as good as his villain. And a villain is, after all, the hero of their own story. They have their reasons for what they're doing, and it's probably not "for the evulz."

I need a vague sort of setting to put this character in, just because parts of their history and personality are going to be influenced by the world they live in. Is this a modern story? Or a high fantasy with elves and shit? Or some kind of galactic space thing?

The trick is going to be creating a good, solid character with motivations and whatnot that the reader won't be rooting for. Sure, there are some villains that you kind of want to win, but I don't know if I'm prepared for that.

The overall plan here is to create a villain, and a hero, and then a plot for them to live in. I don't know how long this is going to take. It seems like a big project that would take months, but if I actually sit down and get my shit together, it could take a lot less.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cardboard Cutout Characters

So we're down to the final conflict against the Low Dwellers in this Camp NaNo story. It still doesn't have a name. I'm open to suggestions. At the moment, it's not super exciting, I guess. They've managed to take out two Low Dwellers, but Catherine is just sort of running through there, getting rescued.

Now, this is a romance story. She's supposed to be the main character. So at this point she needs to woman up and be the heroine of her own damn story. She needs to take a level in badass.

Upon realizing this last night, my first thought was "Kill Nick." See, then she'd have to step up. But we can't do that. Because, again, this is ostensibly a romance story, and it's supposed to have a happy ending. Meaning I can't kill off one half of the couple before they even get together.

As for her being the main character, well, you couldn't tell from the story. She's not even introduced first. It's like… imagine the story's focus to be your actual, physical field of view. The main character is the one you're looking directly at. The natural thing for me to do is focus on Nick, for whatever reason. He's more interesting. So I attempted to not do that, and instead of shifting my focus to Catherine, I ended up staring awkwardly at nothing, watching the whole thing unfold in my peripheral. Now nobody's the main character. This is a problem.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nothing Left to Say

When I set out on this quest to combine three genres into a single frankensteined project, I thought that it would be equal parts of each. One third subterranean fiction, one third occult detective, and one third romance. All equally represented.

But what it's turning out to be is 70% subterranean (they are underground, after all), 25% occult detective, and 5% romance. Is that bad? I don't know. Probably.

I've reached the point where they're about to go up against the Low Dwellers (carnivorous beasties), and the romantic arc has progressed… barely. They're maybe starting to grow closer, but sparks aren't exactly flying here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Interpersonal Relationships

I meant to spend the morning writing, but I got distracted by a genealogy search. All because I wanted to know how old the little desk in my living room is. Answer: about a hundred years old. Maybe a hundred and ten, depending on what age boys start carving their names in things.

I saw an episode of Pawn Stars yesterday, and now I'm on a history kick. Of course, if you know me, you'd know my whole life is a history kick.

Anyway, then I got distracted and traced my family back 1,000 years. What does that have to do with today's post? Not a damn thing, probably, but it's part of the reason it's up so late.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Once More With Feeling

The relationship between my two characters is still in the early stages. So what did I decide to do? Separate them. Now, I don't know if this was a Good Move™ because I don't read romance. I don't know the rules.

"Well then, you should learn the rules."

Why you… you're absolutely right. So I've done a little research, grown a little as a person, all since the last paragraph, and I've learned one thing I'm definitely failing at here.

The reader is supposed to identify with the heroine.

This is a chick-centric genre, after all. You should feel for the heroine, as she goes about her… adventuring and romancing and whatnot. So she has to have *shudder* emotions. At the moment Catherine's upset and kind of pissed because she's all alone and Nick may or may not have gotten himself stupidly killed. But, boy, do I not know how to describe that without making her into a puddle of emotional goo. Like, she's either emotionless or pathetic. There is no in between.

I literally googled "how to write emotions." It did not help.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Different Kettle of Fish

I haven't worked on the story all week. That's my confession for today. It's my weekend, and so I'll write another chunk and catch right back up. It's fine.

I didn't know what today's post was going to be about until I started to try to outline what happens next. One of my upcoming plot points (the next one, actually) is "Discovery of the green herring." Now, that's a play on words, but it's also not.

See, they've just come across an underground river, inhabited by some bioluminescent creature. They think perhaps this vast animal is some kind of amphibian and the source of all their problems. Spoiler alert: it's not. It's not an it. It's a they. From where they are (rather, from where I unceremoniously left them), they are a good distance above the river. So they can't tell that "it" is in fact a whole school of bioluminescent fish, who move as one entity. The green herring. (Side note: worst superhero name ever.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Keeping Secrets

So I'm sure you're all wondering how the SubOccDeRom (Subterranean Occult Detective Romance) story is going.

And well… it's going.

They're wandering around underground, detecting things occultly, but… The romance is going to be harder than I thought. At this point, they don't seem to particularly like each other. I'm going to have to throw them into some peril that will force them to rely on each other and make them grow closer. Because at this point, Catherine is just on a mission to find her father, and Nick is kind of a jerk who doesn't like sharing anything about himself.

On that note, it's becoming a bit of a running joke that she'll ask about where his weird-ass clairvoyant powers come from, and he'll change the subject and say, "Hey, what’s that sound over there?" whether there actually is a sound or not. Is this because I haven’t figured out where it comes from? Partially. I know the basics, but I don't have the specifics. And he just doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would divulge that much information upon first meeting someone.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Stories We Don't Talk About

I haven't been working too much on my Camp NaNo project. I will. I'll reach my goal before the end of the month. I always do.

But mostly, I've been catching up on Supernatural. Every time I get back into it, I wonder why I ever stopped watching it. I mean, it's been around my entire adult life. I have some… emotions… about it. But you know what it tends to make me think of, and what we're going to talk about today?

Fan fiction.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Lost in the Labyrinth

First off, happy Independence Day. Or, if you're not in the US, happy Tuesday.

Camp NaNo: July Edition has begun. I've thrown myself, half-assed, whole-heartedly into it. As per usual.

I kind of have a plot. I'm still working on an outline. I'd like it to be a little more sketched out before I get too far into the story, but we can't always get what we want. I'd have to actually know where it's going in order to draw out a road map.

Right now, my biggest concern is that my occult detective has some occult skills. Of some kind. I don't actually know what they are. He finds things, somehow. That's why Miss DeWitt hires him. She knows the Lower World, to a degree, but it's a labyrinth down there. She needs him to narrow down the search. But I don't know how he does it. That seems kind of important, doesn't it?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Last Minute Plotting

I'm continuing with my amazing skill at writing vague summaries that make the story sound way cooler that it probably will be. I was just doing a little scribbling, trying to get the backstory and setting worked out, and I came up with this:

The Lower World was uncovered some years ago at the bottom of a mine shaft. It's an endless labyrinth of tunnels, marked by ruins of some forgotten civilization. The inhabitants have long since vanished.

Or have they?

Have they just moved further down into the darkness? What still hides in the shadows?

Several expeditions were sent, led by Professor Harcourt "Harry" DeWitt, in an effort to map the Lower World and learn of its former inhabitants. On one such journey to the highest city, not far beyond the modern, human realm, DeWitt even brought his preteen daughter, the adventurous Catherine. She grew up among the ruins and the artifacts, learning the lost language of Subterranea.

And now, on a recently funded expedition to the lower reaches, the professor and his team vanished. A rescue team found nothing, and risked becoming lost themselves.

So Catherine, now grown and an explorer in her own right, must seek out a man with unusual skills, if she ever hopes to find her father.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

To Hell on a Handcar

After writing my last post, I did in fact play a lot of Minecraft. What I can tell you about spending most of your time underground is that you really lose track of time. There's no day, no night, only artificial light. Then you come above ground and you're surprised to find it's dark out, because it's always light where you've been. It's disorienting. I don't know if that's going to have any bearing on this next story, but it's certainly something to consider.

Now, in addition to digging all those tunnels, as I do, I've been laying rails. Minecarts. Transport. All that. So there's that railroad. Then I've just finished that story that starts on a train. And I'm nearly through Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam, which is about, you guessed it, trains. So I have trains on the brain. And I had a thought for the introduction of my main character, occult detective, who still doesn't have a name. And wouldn't you know it, it involves a train.

Imagine this: the story opens on some… something… happening, deep underground. A murder. A mysterious shadow in the dimly lit tunnels. I don't know. It's the teaser before the opening credits, if you will. We leave that unresolved a cut to our hero, on a train from somewhere. Maybe he's on his way back from his last job. He's about to be recruited by Miss DeWitt, on a mission of utmost importance.

Friday, June 23, 2017

For the Love of Clichés

Ah, romance.

I swing wildly between thinking the romantic aspect of my story is going to be the easiest or the hardest part. "Oh sure, I'll just throw these people together and they'll grow to like each other." "Wait, is this a horribly clichéd and contrived plot?"

Now, I've never read a romance novel. I've considered it, for research purposes. But they always sound so boring. It all "Sassy von Heroine spent her life doing X, but everything changed when she met Hero McStudPants." And I don't know if those are just the crappy ones, but that's what I keep seeing. So I just googled "best contemporary romance novels," clicked the first thing that wasn't Fifty Shades… and well, I'm not impressed with that either. I just don't see the appeal.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Will the Plot Ever Twist or Will I Still Resist?

I have so much to do for my next project, and only about two weeks to do it. It feels like such a big undertaking and I don't where to begin.

I need characters.

I need a setting

I need a plot.

You can see the problem. I mean, sure, I have some vague ideas. But it's a far cry from an actual outline.

But we're not going to talk about my shortcomings. Not those shortcomings, anyway. No, we're going to talk about a vital piece of plot that I've never really managed to use.

The Plot Twist.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Review on Revisions

As promised, I read over Draft Two of "My Soul to Take," made a few revisions, and here it is.

So go ahead and read that, because we're going to talk about it.

First off, my whole determination to have a proper omniscience narrator didn't really work out. The whole point of that was to explain the soul thing, because most people don't really grasp the metaphysical junk going on around them. But then Evie just says, "…it ripped something out of them. Like it tore their souls out." And boom, there we are. Souls and things that eat them. So maybe I don't need an omniscient narrator. Or maybe I'm still just no good at writing one.

Second, I have some interesting descriptions. I was trying to think outside the box and not use the same tired old phrases. Because I fall back on the same tired old phrases all the time. So I tried to get creative.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Second Time Around

Draft Two of "My Soul to Take" is, for all intents and purposes, done. And I'm pretty pleased with it. Half the time when I finish something, I just want to put it in a box, in a drawer, in a locked basement, and forget about it for a while. But this one… I like it. I'm not angry and frustrated at it.

So, some highlights.

Just past the midpoint of the story, Jake was starting to not be a total selfish asshole. He'd found a possible way out, but then Evie was in trouble, and he decided to go back and he ran in for his Big Damn Heroes moment.

So in all that, I wrote a paragraph. It was just a paragraph, to get everyone where they needed to be for the next scene. But the more I read it over, the more I like it.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Consequences of Vagueness

Outlining is great. We’ve learned this. We can put all our plot points onto a line and see the skeleton of our story.

But it's just that. A skeleton. It doesn't have any tissue or muscle or ligaments. No juicy bits to bring the skeleton to life. That's what actual, you know, story is for. The scenes and the action and the dialogue. And that all comes later.

The problem arises when later comes and you realize you don't know what's supposed to go on this part of the skeleton.  We know the general shape of it, from the bones, but is this supposed to be a hand or a flipper or a wing? The squishy parts are unclear.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Digging Deep

It's hard to finish one project when you have all these ideas for the next one. So I'm trying to figure out how Jake and Evie are going to escape the soul-eating entity, but then I'm thinking about subterranean worlds in 1912, government psy-ops programs, nerdy romance, and coal mines.

So I'm going to give you an idea of all the stuff I've been looking through.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Antihero's Journey

There's another session of Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and oh my god, I'm so excited!

That right there, that's why I keep doing NaNo. If I ever stop looking forward to it, then I guess that's when I'll stop.

So as it stands, I'm planning on doing my Subterranean Detective Romance for July. That gives me a month to finish what I'm doing and get some kind of plan going. There's a lot of research I need to do for this. I have a whole list of things I need to look into. I think I'll get into that next time.

Today, we're still working on that silly train story. I wrote about 860 more words last night, so I've nearly doubled what I already had. If we're going by my little plot arc thing, I've covered the first four plot points, and am about to reach the fifth.

It's been interesting, this antihero business. I mean, usually your heroes are… heroic. Moral and noble, albeit with their flaws. Jake Barlow is… well, he's an asshole. Also a murderer, but I feel like that's beside the point. Well, I mean, he doesn't have much of a soul, on account of all the murdering, so that probably contributes to his attitude.

That was an issue I had in the first draft. He was supposed to be this indifferent sociopath, but he came off more as just a guy who happened to kill people. I've been trying to fix that this time around.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What Day Is It? And What Year? Have I Gone Back In Time Again?

You ever stop to think about the time you're living in? How the era you grew up in shaped who you are? And how ridiculous it is that we're now living in the future and everyone has a computer in their pocket and they're using it to look at cat videos and send people pictures of their junk rather than curing cancer or developing a universal translator?

115 years ago, we couldn't get an aircraft off the ground. Less than 50 years ago, we put a guy on the moon and managed to not leave him there. Now we've got robots on Mars. That's impressive, people. Be god damn impressed.

I had a point to all this, though it's gotten away from me because I am constantly amazed that we're living in the god damn future. We take for granted the time that we're living in.

Oh. Right. Time.

That's where I was going.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Sound of Years Past

You know where we haven't been in a while? Mad's Music Corner. I think it's time to go back, get cozy, and listen to some tunes.

I know you're all eagerly awaiting all the things I'm supposed to be working on, but we all need a break. And it's a holiday weekend (Monday is Memorial Day, in case you're outside the US). I mean, not for me. I'm still working the holiday, but whatever. I'm taking my three day weekend in one evening.

I didn't set out to have a theme for this, but as I build my list, it looks like we're leaning toward "nostalgia." So take a walk down my own personal memory lane with me.

Lots of videos ahead, ye of low bandwidth beware.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Inconvenience of Knowing Everything

And here we are again. I've had a few ideas for that crazy story that democracy has thrust upon me. But before I can get into that, I have to finish my previous project, which was rewriting "My Soul to Take," which some of you may remember as something I started last year. Then I shoved it in a box with its disappointing non-ending, and I left it there until it started to smell a little weird in the back of the closet. Then I took it out, made a valiant attempt at a plot outline/character arc, and waited for it to emerge, fully-formed.

Obvious that's not going to happen.

So I actually, finally, sat down the other day, and started writing. I'm about 800 words in. I have the first two points on my little plot mountain. It's going seemingly well.

But already, trouble lurks.

Not in the seemingly haunted mansion beside the railroad tracks. Although, yes, there also. But more importantly, in the very fiber of the story. The Fates may weave the tapestry, but are they using the right string?

Point of view. That's what I'm talking about, behind all the metaphors.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Worlds Collide

I randomly came up with the best analogy the other day. I was trying to explain what I was talking about last time, about needing the perfect words and the best sentences in a story that anyone's going to read.

It's like building a brick wall. You only want, good, high quality bricks. You don't want a brick made of Styrofoam, or Jell-O. That's going to make holes in your wall. You don't want a poorly constructed story with holes in it.

Granted, my original explanation had a lot more swearing in it. I try to behave myself on here, for some damn reason.

So I've had a poll running for the past couple of weeks, and I didn’t quite get the volume of responses I'd hoped. But that's okay. The votes are in, and it's a three way tie between Subterranean Fiction, Occult Detective, and Romance. Which means I have to combine all three.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Story That Never Starts

The other day, one of my readers commented about using a more fluid index card/storyboard way of outlining. So I thought I'd try something a little more freeform. Now, I do everything on the computer. Otherwise, I have all these pieces of paper floating around. So here’s what I did.

I wrote, each in their own text box so I could move them, all the events that needed to happen. And then I rearranged them into an order that made sense. Then I added some more text boxes that describe the characters state of mind. In this particular story, it's whether or not he cares about things.

Then, once I had them arranged the way I liked, I headed on over to PowerPoint to make a visual. In a perfect world, I'd use Publisher or maybe InDesign if I was feeling fancy. But PowerPoint is what I have on my tablet.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Redeemable, Like a Coupon

There's still about a week left to vote on the genre of my next project. As it stands, it's tied, which means I'll have to combine the winning genres. And honestly, I'm kind of excited about the prospect.

As for the current project, well…

I haven't finished outlining it yet. What have I been doing all this time, you ask? I don't know. Not outlining, I guess. Motivation is still something I'm working on. The whole getting up and writing every day thing.

So the point in the character arc outline thing where I left off is the point of the story where the character goes on the offensive. He should try to defeat the antagonist (in this case a soul-gobbling entity), and he should fail. Then some other stuff should happen, some more information is learned, and then the final battle, so to speak. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen here. In this case, perhaps the entity remains undefeated, but the character succeeds in saving the Girl.  And then the aftermath of that.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Puzzle Where the Pieces Don't Fit

I'm going to warn you up front. I just took some cold medicine. Like, the liquid kind that's 10% alcohol. I'm not sure when it going to kick in. Things could get… interesting.

There's still a poll over there on the right. Cast a vote! Influence my future! I guess if there's a tie, I'll have to combine the genres. I honestly didn't think of that possibility until now.

Anyway, that's not what we’re here for. We're here for…

Character arcs!

Friday, May 5, 2017

My Path Is In Fact Just a Fault Line

You may notice that's there's now a poll in the sidebar. If you haven't noticed, allow me to direct your attention to it. There it is.

"What a random selection of genres!" you might say, and that it is. I tried to pick a variety that I've never tried before. I pulled them all from this list. And this is just Round One. In the future I'll put up new lists to choose from.

This particular list is a few things I'd like to try, some I'm indifferent to, and one I really don’t want to do, but I think I should in order to be a well-rounded writer and person in general. I'll let you figure out which is which. But I'll try whatever gets the most votes, whether I like it or not. That's democracy.

In the meantime, I'm trying to learn to outline, using a story I wrote last year. There's a lot of things that go into a plot outline, but today I'm just going to talk about one.

Character arcs.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rediscovering a Story

Well, Camp NaNo has come to an end. For April, anyway. We'll be back at it in July or whenever the next one is. So what's next?

Now, it might seem from my cavalier attitude that I just toss projects aside as I finish them. Oh, there's a rough draft down, let's bin it and move on. That's not exactly true. I do set them aside when they're "done." For distance. For space. We need some time apart, so I'll let it stew on the hard drive while I run around with other plots. But I'll come back. Eventually.

If you've been here since the beginning, or you've recently binged the old posts, you might remember a post series called Finding a Story. You can read Part One here or see all the posts in the series here. Basically, I took a story prompt and went bit by bit walked through the process of turning that into a story.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Taking a Page Out of Someone Else's Book

I don't know if I've said this before (I've really lost track of all the things I've said), but I've been much more influenced by movies and TV than other books. I imagine that's why my stories are always so dialogue heavy and description light. They're verging on script territory.

There are two possible solutions to this:

  • Give up on prose fiction and write scripts
  • Read more books

I used to read a lot. Like, a ton. Notably, that was during times in my life when I didn't have internet. That is, in my youth, and that one year when I had my own little studio apartment and couldn't be arsed to pay for internet. If I wanted internet, I had to walk the half a block up to the public library and stay within ten feet of their wireless router, where the idea of a chair and table to set my laptop on was a foreign concept. So I would get movies from the library, and books.

But now I have internet. And a chair. And a table. And so I don't do a lot of reading. I just finished Terry Pratchett's Making Money yesterday, and Goodreads informs me that I started reading it August 5, 2014. I can't fathom how it took me that long to read it. What have I been doing with my life this whole time? To compare, just before that, I read had read a previous Pratchett book, Going Postal in 16 days. And before that, I read Thud! in five. Now it takes me 997? I'm so disappointed in myself…

This illustrates how I don't read that much anymore. That needs to change. And I should probably branch out and read something besides Discworld. But I don't want to! (She said with a petulant whine.)

So let me ask you this: what books, or what authors, would you recommend I read? And why? Do they have vivid descriptions? Engaging characters? Wild plots? You know, give me a reason to want to read it. Don't just tell me "It's good." Tell me why it's good. Tell me why I should greedily turn page after page and not drag it out for three years.

I miss reading. Nowadays, I just watch Netflix and spend too much time on the internet. Living in the future is not all it's cracked up to be. I mean, look at me. I'm writing this on a tablet at 1am while listening to music on YouTube. What happened to staying up late reading just one more chapter and accidentally finishing the book at 3am? Now it's one more episode, one more Reddit thread. One more mile down the Facebook feed. So tied to all this modern technology. Soon all that will be left are machines. And where will we be? We'll be machines, too.

Sorry. Like I said, it's 1am. I get existential after midnight.

They say to write good books, you need to read good books. I've heard that. And I laughed. HaHA! But I scoffed inadvisably. I mean, I keep saying that I don't know what I'm doing. So why would I think for a moment that I did? Know what I'm doing, I mean. Why would I think I knew better than the proverbial "they"?

So yes, recommend books for me to read. Novels, short stories, whatever. Preferably something I can find at a library. I'm not made of money over here.

And if you're wondering if I'll ever finish my Camp NaNo story, the answer is yes, I will. This weekend. That's all the time I have, after all. I just don't know how it ends. With death and misery, probably. You know me.

I'll see you Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Open It Up To Find the Tick, Tick, Tick of a Heart

So here we are again. I still haven't finished that Camp NaNo story. I only have about 400 words left to go. I've just been busy being an adult. (Don't do it, it's lame.) The story's just gotten so far off track that I'm not sure how to get it to go where it needs to go. I've tried to divert it back, and now it's at a point where I have to decide the fate of my protagonist. Does he get to survive? Maybe.

As usual, I've started thinking about my next project before I get finished with the current one. See, the great thing about the blog is that I have to keep writing and working on stories so I have something to talk about. The terrible thing about the blog is that I have to keep writing and working on stories so I have something to talk about. I don't have a lot of time to stop and think and outline something. I have to just dive in so I have something to show for myself twice a week. Ordinarily, my process relied heavily on "ruminating on things for months" but that's not very interesting.

So the question is, what's next? Do I try to chronicle the tedium of outlining a story? Share my exercises in world-building? Explain every decision in my character profiles. That's really up to you, I guess. This is all for you, I think. And maybe a little for me. It keeps me from slacking off to much.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Flawed Execution

All right, the story isn't done yet. I know, I know. It will be. Don't worry. I'll admit, I wimped out a little bit and dropped the goal from 10,000 words down to 7,000 before they were locked in. But I still haven't even made it to that many words. I will. Eventually.

I just haven't been feeling motivated lately. That's a big part of writing. If you can't muster up the will to write, well, no writing is getting done. "But why?" you might ask. "Aren't you excited about this story?"

Well, that's an interesting question. With a maybe interesting answer.

As with all of my stories, I'm excited about the idea. That's why I choose to write the stories I do. I get an idea, I get excited about that idea, and I sit down to write it. And there's where it all goes awry.

Every plot idea in my head is a gem. It's the best story ever, and it's going to be great and everyone is going to want to read it. But then I start writing. And that all goes to hell. Suddenly my great idea doesn’t seem so great. Something is lost between the idea and the execution.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chalk Outlines

All right kids. Today I'm going to talk to you about the importance of outlining. Not because I'm great at it and I can extoll its virtues. Oh no. Think of me more as a cautionary tale.

You see, if you outline your story, you can have an idea of the pace and the flow of the thing. You know what should be happening when. You don't find yourself, barely over halfway through your word count, already at the climax of the story.

That's where I'm at. I have about 4,000 words to go, and the story's just about over.

Don't be like me, kids.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Tense Post

First order of business, I finally heard back from that local publication I submitted to back in the end of January. They didn't want the story. And that's fine. It's actually good. For one thing, I submitted it under the pseudonym I have since decided not to use. And for another, it means you get to read it here. Right now.

Without further ado, I present "Save Yourself."

This was, as far as I know, the only story I've ever written in the present tense. You might ask why. Well, for one thing, present tense creates a sort of sense of urgency, because it's happening right now, rather than being told in past tense from some  future perspective. But I didn't set out to do that. I didn’t have some grand plan about how this would work, and how the story was best told in present tense.

Rather, when I had the idea for the story, I scribbled down a brief moment, ending with "And… the safety's on," which is in present tense. That's just how I scribbled it. And it wouldn't sound right in past tense. So the whole story became present tense.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Leave Our Pieces On the Ground

Now, I've been feeling like a slacker lately, because I haven’t been writing every day. And not writing every day must mean I'm falling behind. Of course that's ridiculous, as you can see from my handy chart.

Whoo! Charts!

I am above the goal word count for each day, so I'm fine. That's the advantage to only have a goal of 10,000. 334 words per day is much easier that 1,667.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Second Guessing and Second Victims

I've been a bit of a slacker and didn't write anything yesterday. But the word count I was supposed to be at was only 2,333 and I stopped at 3,028 on Wednesday. So I think I'm all right for now. As long as I don't give in to the siren call of sleep and laziness too much more.

So where are we at? I'm sure that's what you're all wondering. What progress have I made in this story. It's funny you should ask, because I'm now at the point where I'm beginning to realize that I went astray somewhere in the past week. I've started to make notes along the lines of "Wait, it would make more sense if…" As though any of this makes sense.

When I started this, before I started this, really, I had in mind two particular moments in the life of one character. They existed devoid of any context, and for the most part, any other characters. But now that I've thrown a whole world in around those moments…  things get messy. Both these moments are of psychic visions revealing some piece of the puzzle. They were the first and last visions he had. Whether that's "last in the story" or "last in his life" is still to be determined. But the events that lead up to the latter kind of hinge on someone believing him. Otherwise he's just a guy, saying crazy things, and maybe he's the killer. But someone needs a reason to believe him. At this point, he barely believes himself.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Oncoming Storm

So far so good. I'm already ahead of schedule, and hopefully I'll stay that way.

I did notice something now that I'm writing instead of plotting. See, I had a clear idea of personalities for all these characters. I knew how they should think and act. But once I put them in the story, that all changed. It's like they had one personality when they were alone and a different one when they were around other people. Hmm… almost like… real people. That might just be me who acts different when anyone is around.

Either way, I've just introduced all the characters. Now they can become whoever they want. I can always go back and fix these first impressions later.

Friday, March 31, 2017

On the Arrangement of Aquatic Birds

Story writing will commence tomorrow, when Camp NaNo kicks off.

Am I ready?

Well, that's an interesting question that depends entirely on your definition of "ready." Do I have all my characters figured out? Do I have a plot outline? Do I know who the killer is?

Nope.

But am I ready to sit down and throw everything I have at the page?

Absolutely.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Liquid Nonsense

Okay, guys… I'm writing this Monday night. It was my first day at a new job, which required me to get up at four AM. Also I've had some wine. Not a lot. Like one glass. And some I drank out of the bottle. For… research purposes. So I don't know what we're going to end up with here.

The story is… well, it's still a story-shaped void. Which I'm picturing as house shaped. That's wrong.

I'm still trying to name my characters. The main dude keeps trying to introduce himself as Sebastian and I keep trying to stop him. We'll see who backs down first. It'll probably be me. I'm a wimp. I have a feeling I'm going to have a bunch of placeholder names in this one. Or I'll just name them all Steve. Even the girls. Especially the girls.

I keep looking over at my mostly empty wine glass and thinking I should refill it. And then immediately thinking I should definitely not do that.

Anyway, where was I…

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Pieces Are Coming Together

I have characters! Most of them still don't have names, but I'm getting closer to that. I tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour last night and ended up staring at the ceiling for three hours. But I figured out some story stuff. Not only do I have characters by description, I can imagine what they're like. They're real people, living in my head now. It's getting a little crowded.

So, who do we have now?

  • The main character, a bartender with brain damage, who seems to have some strange abilities
  • Jo Castilla, kind and caring, is on a quest to help… someone
  • The honeymooning couple: he's an architect, she's an avid pinterester
  • The author, who writes romance novels under a female pseudonym, is here researching his next book
  • Mary Jane Sebring, flirty and impulsive, is not going to have a nice weekend
  • The proprietress, who runs the Something Something Inn

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What's in a Name?

In the past year, I've gone from "Maybe I'll get something published someday" to "Let's try to get something published." It's a slightly more active approach. I'm starting to take into account whether a given story or a given scene would appear to a wider audience. I've looked up literary magazines that might suit my style. Basically, publishing has become a goal, rather than a distant possibility of something that might, somehow, happen.

And lately I've been thinking about how I want to be known, should I ever achieve that goal. Is publishing under a pseudonym the best idea?

On the "pro" side, it gives me some anonymity, not putting my real name out there in the world. Those of you who actually know me will know that I have a very common name, and a pseudonym would let me stand out more.

On the "con" side, if I use this name, I have to use this name. As in, that would be who I am. If I was ever known, by anyone, I'd have to be able to sign "Mad Cooper" (and I can't write a cursive "p"), people would call me Mrs. Cooper (some of you may know how I feel about that), and I'd have to adopt this whole other persona.

Friday, March 17, 2017

I Can Show You the World

I still don't have characters or a plot outline. My parsnips remain unbuttered.

The thing about writing fiction that you always hear is "show, don't tell." In other words, let the scene play out, don’t just summarize it. You want the reader to feel in the middle of the action, every sight, sound, and smell.

What about me? Do I follow that advice? I thought "yes" but let's actually have a look for ourselves, and see if I'm feeling a bit too highly of myself. I always thought I was great at showing, since basically everything is in scenes. But, looking back over some past stories, maybe I'm not as great as I thought.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Further Trials in Character Creation

I have managed to create a handful of random characters, none of which seem terribly suited for my current project. I don't really know what I'm looking for, or why this is so hard. There are millions of possible characters out there, and I've managed to make… six. I know that I need a couple more in the story, but I don't know what I want them to do yet. Die horribly maybe.

I'm lying. I did create one possibly useful character: The Armchair Detective. They've watched a lot of CSI and the like and they think they know anything about anything. Clearly they know how to solve a murder, they've seen plenty of episodes. We'll just look at some grainy footage and click the "enhance" button. That's how the pros do it, you know.

We really need a better source for characters. Making them up from whole cloth is terribly inefficient. Unfortunately for me, while I have accrued lists and lists of plots and dialogue and titles, I've never really collected characters. This calls for a trip to the NaNo forums, but I'll do that after I post this, because I know I'll be there all day. It's like TV Tropes. It's a trap.

Friday, March 10, 2017

You Were the Song Stuck In My Head

I picture my stories as movies in my head. I've said this before. It's not so weird. But I also picture them as little fan-made YouTube videos where someone took a bunch of clips and set them to music. And maybe that's a little weird. But it's because I'll assign certain music to certain things.

That's nothing new. It's called a leitmotif. A piece of music represents a person, place, concept, whatever. Darth Vader has "The Imperial March," the Shire has "Concerning Hobbits," Davy Jones has that music box/organ piece, Jaws has, you know, the thing. The idea is, they make you associated the music with the person, place, or whatever, and then when you hear it again, you think of the thing. Basic mind control.

Well, I like to have soundtracks for my stories. It helps me get into the right mindset. If I have a song that I associate with a certain scene, I'll listen to it on repeat while I write that scene. When I was finishing last year's NaNo novel, Cold Blooded, I was down to the last day, 4,000 words to go, just trying to wrap up some loose ends. And I think I listened to Secondhand Serenade's "Goodbye" on repeat for an hour while I dumped all the stuff I hadn't resolved onto the page. And it helped. I figured it out.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Intricacies of Waking Up Psychic

I started thinking after/while writing my last post that I use a lot of examples from books that don't exist. And that's not fair. Because while they might be these entire worlds in my head, from your point of view I'm just saying a bunch of random words. I feel like I should really only talk about my past projects if they’re published. Which of course none of them are. So no one has any idea what I'm talking about.

Of course, it's kind of interesting in this case, with this blog, because for the most recent stories, you all were along for the ride. You were there when I created these worlds and named these characters. But once they're done and moved to the "Probably Never Published" pile, we're all expected to forget about them and never mention them again. That might be easy for you, having only snapshots of them in the first place. But they’re pretty firmly in my head.

That said, I will try not to bring up old stories anymore. We can’t look back now. The future is all we have.

If you couldn't tell from that very long intro, I haven't made a lot of progress in my murder mystery. The current question at hand involves the onset of psychic abilities. Namely, "Why" and also kind of "When."

Friday, March 3, 2017

Where Did All These People Come From?

I'm still hard at work (more or less) trying to plot out this murder mystery. I've decided to write the thing for Camp NaNo in April, so that gives me about a month to construct a skeleton. Plenty of time, right?

Right now I'm focused on characters (while toying with plot structure on the side) and they’re not quite behaving. My initial plan was to have an ensemble piece, with focus on all the characters present. All six or eight of them. But the more I try to develop the idea, the more a single main character takes over. And I guess that's okay. As I said last week, it’s not uncommon for my original plan to go out the window. It's a weakness of mine, and I'm working on it.

With the issue of characters comes the issue of backgrounds. As in, the characters' background. Things like race, religion, nationality, even their hometown. There's just a big question of "why" in the middle of all this.  By which I mean, why is a given character in possession of a given background. If your story is about racism, or the struggles of the Russian proletariat, then a character's background matters.

But what if it doesn't matter?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Murder is Announced

I've finally made some progress on my characters for this murder mystery. I couldn't sleep the other night, so I did the obvious thing and started plotting a murder. As you do.

So far, there's:

  • The Proprietress - Regretfully, she informs guests as they arrive that the internet's a bit on the fritz.
  • The Psychic - He doesn't know what he can do yet, apparently. He'll find out soon enough.
  • The Nightingale - Due to past experience, she has a bit of a complex about helping people.
  • The Couple - Newlyweds, on their honeymoon. Or so they say.
  • The Killer - May be one of the above. May be someone else.
  • The Victim - Is dead. Poor them.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mutating Plot Bunnies

I wrote most of a totally different post before deciding I didn't like it at all. That happens sometimes. And not just with blog posts.

Sometimes I'll have an idea for a story. That first initial seed that sprouts and grows leaves and subplots. It grows into a beautiful rose bush or maple tree or potato plant or whatever. Knowing me, probably the potato. But sometimes it's a strawberry plant, which sends out a runner, that grows its own roots and becomes a whole new plant, leaving the old one behind.

What the hell am I talking about? That's a great question.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rebuilding the Tower

Sorry this post is up late. I got distracted looking at fancy bookcases, and then by various methods of execution (this is fairly normal for me). But here I am, at last.

I've been thinking more about The Tower, my 2011 NaNo novel with only five good chapters. I've been thinking about how to fix it. Should the jewel heist become the main plot, or should something else follow the theft? I'm leaning toward the latter, because I don't think I can stretch a simple museum robbery to fill an entire novel. There's a reason it only takes one chapter.

Now, when writing from scratch, I usually have an idea for a plot, or characters, and occasionally both. With this one, I have the beginning of the plot, and some decent characters. There's Leighton Edward Blackmore III, museum curator and generally creepy guy. There's Ciarán MacClellan, Irish thief and man with a plan. And of course, there's Zel Van Toren, six year resident of the Tower and a bit antisocial for it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How Do We Fix You Now?

I watched a NaNoWriMo webcast about editing the other day, and they said that what you want to start with is an overall outline of the finished draft, so you can see the structure of it. Basically, you start with a big picture, get that the way you like it, then move in to fix individual scenes. Because there's no point in perfecting a scene if it's just going to get cut.

Well, it got me all excited about editing, so I decided to outline one of my old drafts, just to see what I had and what I could work with. I picked my 2011 NaNo novel, The Tower.


Yes, all my first draft novels have covers.

I made an outline, chapter by chapter. And boy, it is a mess. It's, for some reason, a mix of Rapunzel, H.P. Lovecraft, and Dante's Inferno. Only one of those things actually makes sense.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Overwhelming Lack of Exits

Let's talk about setting. The tale that's been rolling around in my head takes place in a bed and breakfast type deal on an island. They're cut off from the mainland. The last boat out has left. There will probably be a storm. (Hint: there will definitely be a storm.) The point is, it's a Closed Circle. Nobody comes in, and nobody gets out. That keeps characters from doing pesky little things like going for help.

"That is such an overused trope!" you might say.

And you might be right. If you look at the examples on the page I linked, there are a ton. Maybe that's because it's super convenient when you don't want your characters wandering off. Maybe it's because it's a lot of fun. You can decide for yourself. For me, it's a bit of both.

Because, see, if you have a way out, insisting you can't leave gives you a little thing called a false dilemma. Which is something I find irritating and try to avoid. Say my options were "try to find the killer and stop them" or "wait around until they kill us too" while there is a perfectly good way off the island. That's not going to work for me. In my case, the choice is more like "stay here" or "swim a few miles in the frigid Pacific."

Friday, February 10, 2017

From the Start It Was Shaky and the Characters Rash

For anyone just joining us, last week I talked about characters, their connections to each other, and using those connections in the course of character creation. And already, this has begun to pay off.

I had one character, a man with a British accent and a newly discovered psychic ability that he doesn't particularly want. I had two… and a half scenes in my head involving this fellow. And a girl, woman, whatever, of some sort. See, psychometric visions are not, in any way, pleasant. More like being electrocuted from inside your own skull. So I had this whole thing with a box and a vision and a nosebleed, and for some reason this girl who decided to play Florence Nightingale.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Making Connections

I was reading something the other day. It was an article on the best point to start watching certain shows, because sometimes they take a few episodes, or seasons, to really get going. Anyway, it said something about a group of characters working best when "everyone kind of has a piece of everyone else." I actually had to stop reading and write myself a note on my upcoming ensemble cast project:

It's not the differences. It's the similarities. Give them something to relate to in each other.

I think too often I try to make the cast too varied. If you have, say, six characters, you want them to be different from each other. Obviously. Because if two characters are filling the same role in the story, one of them is redundant and needs to die. But what happens, to me, anyway, is that each character becomes radically different from the rest.

So one character ends up being an upper crust Bostonian, and another is a poor hippy from San Francisco. They would have been from Portland, but that's too close in latitude to Boston. And then we throw in a Cajun from Baton Rouge (which my brain pronounces in a wacky pseudo-French accent every time) for good measure. Very different characters, from very different backgrounds. They're very different, you know.

Friday, February 3, 2017

How Far We've Come

It's been a year (367 days, technically) since I started this thing. So what do I have to show for it?

  • 1 50,000 word novel
  • 2 10,000 word novelettes
  • 6 short stories, varying lengths
  • 108 blog posts (including this one)

That may not seem like a lot, but that's about 77,000 words of just fiction, while first finishing my degree and then working full time. Nine distinct worlds, each with their own characters and rules and personality. And still thinking of something half-intelligent to say twice a week. That's a lot of writing.

But nothing published, you remind me.

That's true. I set out to be a "real" writer. That is, a writer who makes money writing, or at least is known beyond their group of friends. A writer who has their words printed in a book somewhere. And I haven't done that. Yet.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Pounding Words Into Submission

So, what's new? Well, I've hit 2,000 views, so that's pretty cool. And yes, that's over the course of basically an entire year, but it's still exciting to me. Let me have my moment!

The other thing is that I've finished a story to my liking and sent it off to be considered for publication. The deadline is today, and I excel at waiting until the last second. I finally managed to write a story that's not entirely dialogue. It's two and a bit pages long, and I think there are eight lines of dialogue. I actually set out to write something with no dialogue, and this is what I ended up with.

The story is also written in present tense, which is something I've never done before. Admittedly, that happened because I had one line that ended up around the middle that was in present tense, and it just wouldn't have been the same in past tense. Present tense has a sort of urgency, like all this is happening right now. And that's what this story needed.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Random Screaming

I appreciate everyone's feedback on my last post. The general consensus seems to be "more." And I agree completely. I know that I rushed the ending. I tend to do that. I realize the story's not going the way I want, so I just wrap it up as quickly as possible.

Pacing, that's the issue. Slow enough to build up tension but fast enough to not be boring. It's a careful balance that I have nowhere near mastered. If I think it's moving too slow, I just skip it forward to something exploding. And that's not always the best approach. It's hardly ever the best approach.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What Lurks in the Darkness?

All right, I've "finished" "Losing Daylight." And I'm not feeling it. I'm not good at building tension, it seems. Not to mention, there was world building to be done that there just wasn't room for. So it doesn't really make any sense. I mean, yes, it could be longer. It's nowhere near the max word count. But there's nothing else to happen. He's just… waiting the whole time. I don't think I can fix it enough to appeal to a wider audience, so I'll just share the rough draft with you here, as promised.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Head in the Clouds

Sorry I'm late. I had a job interview earlier, so I didn't want to stay up all night writing the blog post I had forgotten about. So here we are.

I've started writing my story, finally. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. It's tentatively called "Losing Daylight" and it's taking a while to get started. I spent probably an hour yesterday trying to think of a name for the airship.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bottled Inspiration

I got on here to write my blog post, but then I got distracted reminiscing over the 100+ year history of my old university. I'm not even sure how I got started on that in the first place. Oh, bomb shelters. That was it.

I haven't been doing much writing, sorry to say. Mostly just working and sleeping. And thinking about writing. A lot of good that's doing me.

When I'm at work, I just think about how I want to come home and write my story. But when I get home, I just… don't do that. What's that all about?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Burning Daylight

I have an idea about an airship. Technically, I have a writing prompt about an airship.

In the distant future, most of society lives in massive, powerful airships that fly perpetually westbound in order to stay in daylight permanently, because of something horrifying that comes out at night. The reactor of your ship has malfunctioned, and you have to land for repairs…

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

These Are the Wrong Sorts of Ideas

I have a story.

Well, more specifically, I have a scene. I have one character, and I can picture this scene so clearly, but it doesn't have any context. I don't know who the other characters are, or exactly where they are, or why they’re there. I think they're on an island, possibly in a hotel/bed and breakfast type place. I know they were brought there against their will by… someone. For… some reason.

See, no context.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Little Pick-Me-Up

This is my 100th post (yay?) so I thought we should do something awesome. Much as I'd like to debut my brand new masterpiece, I'm not there yet. So how about a return to Mad's Music Corner? The one-year anniversary of my first post is coming up in about a month, and well, I talk a lot about how I'm not living up to the plan I set forth. But we tend to forget (and by "we" I mean me) that I've actually done a lot since then. And we don't need to be all doom and gloom about the whole thing.

So we're going to set our sights a little higher, on something a little brighter. I can be an optimist, too, if I have to be. We passed the winter solstice two weeks ago, so it can only get lighter from here.