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 CiarĂ¡n 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.