Saturday, February 27, 2010
Lydia: however many times I've had the flu plus 1
Thank you for all the well wishes yesterday! I'm feeling much better today... which means I must go to work. *sigh*
But before I run off, I had to share this fabulous post from my e-friend, Suzannah, at Write It Sideways. Whether you're ready to query now, or are planning it any time in the future, take a few minutes to check out her list of 15 Resources for a Better Query Letter. Well worth it.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Friday, February 26, 2010
There is a stack of writing books at my feet. I was going to type up a nice little post about character arcs. Last night. And then post it this morning. But...
I. Am. Sick.
And I feel worse today than I did yesterday, so the brain is not working now either. Congested, snot-faced, achy, and the thought of eating anything, even a cracker, makes me want to hurl. We'll have to chat about characters another time. No biggie.
In lieu of an actual post that requires a thought process, I decided to do something here that I've never done before. I'm going to post a snippet from one of my WiPs. I talk about my work quite a bit on here, but only a handful of you have seen any of it.
This is the second half of the second chapter of my sci-fi novel tentatively titled Mirra. This novel is my first attempt at blending a sci-fi story with elements of fantasy. The snippet is about 1800 words. We pick up with Mirra, 17 year-old empress-to-be of the technologically advanced dominant world power, wandering alone in a forest the day after her palace was attacked, and she'd run for her life. This is the first time she has ever had to care for herself.
Give Me A Sign by Breaking Benjamin
Unofficial theme song for Mirra
(I know I'm not the only one who does this. Haha.)
Plump red berries. A whole bush of them lay ahead. I ran with a bolt of energy that, a moment ago, had been nonexistent. The forest blurred at my sides. Wind whispered past my ears.
"Stop," someone said.
I spun so quickly I stumbled to the brush below. From the ground, I scanned the trees, searching for whoever had spoken.
Nothing but bark and leaves. I swallowed, but the lump remained. "Is someone there?"
No answer. The lack of food must have been affecting my grasp on reality. I stood and brushed off my sweat-crusted shirt and pants, then headed toward the bush, slower this time.
The berries were easy to pluck. Soft and ripe. I stuffed a fistful into my mouth and choked at the tangy bitterness. My failed attempt at swallowing landed between my feet with a dull splat. I snatched anther cluster. This was food. Nutrition. It did me no good outside of my stomach.
Perhaps I should swallow them whole, individually. One berry was no larger than a standard pharmaceutical capsule. I could do it.
"Do not eat that."
The voice was clear this time, male, and speaking my language. Again, I studied my surroundings, but it was completely void of intelligent life.
I popped the berries into my mouth, one at a time, determined that doing so would be the only cure to my mental dysfunctions.
After three palm-sized clusters, I was satisfied, and now that my hunger had been taken care of, I realized how weary my legs were. They had not even the strength to stand. Suddenly lethargic, my eyelids fluttered. Sleep threatened to overtake me. I supposed this was as good a place as any for a nap--there were no wild animals about--so I laid my head on the dirt. The images of the forest blurred, and as I drifted into the black, a laugh escaped my lips.
If Mother wasn't already dead, the sight of me now would have killed her.
Cold water slapped my face. I gasped for breath, flailed my arms, and choked on liquid. My head touched the ground, but not by my action. Someone had been holding it. I pushed myself up, coughed bitterly, and tried to decipher something around me other than darkness.
It must have been a dream.
Moonlight danced on water beside me. A river? I couldn't remember traveling toward a river. Or traveling at all after I'd eaten the berries. That must have been hours ago. Had I been that exhausted? Dead to the world. Anything could have happened to me while I'd slept. I supposed I should have counted myself lucky to still have a beating heart within my chest.
My hair was wet, like water had been dumped on me, or my head had been dunked in the river itself. Crazy, I thought. Although I had been known to walk and talk in my sleep when I was a girl. Perhaps the stress had reverted me back to prior habits.
Something licked my fingertips behind me. I turned my head slowly, hoping it was just another figment of my imagination, as the man's voice had been.
Insanity would have been a more preferable explanation than what I saw. A bear cub was licking my hand, which rested next to a pile of crimson berry vomit. I'd expelled it in my sleep? Without suffocating?
I withdrew my hand and wiped it on my wet shirt, then scooted away as quickly as I could. The bear didn't seem to notice. It harmlessly licked the ground. But I still felt the need to run. Far.
My eyesight still bleary from sleep and the darkness, I sprinted, following the bends of the river. Maybe it would lead me to someone. I ran until the sun peeked over the horizon and then stopped for a drink. There were birds chirping above me, cheerfully announcing the start of a new day, and fish swam past me in their aquatic path to nowhere.
Finally, I'd found signs of life. Only animals, though. It seemed I was destined to spend the rest of eternity alone. I longed to feel someone's touch, or even to hear the imaginary voice again. Anything would have been better than this void.
The sun shone directly above me. My nose itched, but burned when I scratched it. Some of my skin had peeled away. My hair felt more tangled than the brush I aimlessly trudged through. I had no destination and my steps led me nowhere. Afraid to eat again, I'd only consumed water since this morning. No, further back. I hadn't eaten since before the banquet nearly two days ago. My feet tripped over themselves. Every third tree I passed served as a support until the dizziness subsided enough to move again.
The birds continued their songs, though I couldn't see them. But they were my sole companions now, I might as well be friendly. I made up lyrics for their melodies.
"Mirra, Mirra, you've lost your way. Silly girl, foolish girl. Mirra, Mirra, death shall claim you. Perhaps today, please today."
I dropped to my knees and watched tears drip into the dirt. They must have come from my eyes. No one else existed in this place. Only me. And soon, again, there would be no one. I wondered what type of beast would find my remains tasty enough to dine on.
Something shuffled behind me, but I didn't bother to turn.
"Get up," a man's voice said.
I shook my head. "I have no reason to."
The shuffling grew louder. I assumed the sound was as imaginary as the voice, until I felt something cold and wet on the back of my neck. Sniffing. I dared a glance behind me and saw a bear. An adult bear. What little energy I had left in me channeled into a scream. The bear stood fully erect and let out an ear-piercing roar.
I curled up and hugged my knees. Closed my eyes, but tears continued to fall in tandem with my whimpers. I prayed my death would be quick.
The first touch on my arm made me flinch. But it wasn't a furry paw or a slimy tongue. It had the feel of a human hand, fingers gently grasping, urging me to move. My entire body shook. The midday sun filtered through the trees and caressed my face with no effect.
There was a face before me, blurred through my tears. The growls and roars of the bear had been replaced with the songs of the birds. My pounding heart slowed.
"Are you all right?" the man said.
I blinked a few times and studied his face. It was half-covered with a moustache and beard. Eyes as dark as his wavy locks of shoulder-length hair regarded me from beneath a wrinkled brow. No man from any society I'd visited on Dabek-mur had such an unkempt appearance. Could this be a Fousan? The idea both frightened and fascinated me.
"Can you speak?" he said, and I suddenly realized that I was not subconsciously translating his words into one of the many languages I'd been taught. He'd spoken Inganno, my native tongue, as fluently as someone who had been raised in my empire.
I attempted to answer him, but the odd cold had seized my ability to do anything other than shake uncontrollably. He looked back and forth through the trees, as if to reassure himself that no one was watching. How could there be? We sat in the middle of nowhere, beyond the boundaries of any known civilization. He removed his coat and draped it over me. I embraced the warmth and my muscles melted. The calming scent of his musk filled every breath.
"Thank you." I nodded politely, then looked behind me. The bear lay motionless, no more harmful than the flies that buzzed around us. I faced the man again. "How did you kill it?"
"Kill?" he said, arching a brow.
"Yes, kill. Where is your weapon?" Another shudder seized me as tales of the Fous people I'd overheard during my youth scrambled to the forefront of my mind.
"My weapon, as you call it, is invisible."
I clutched the folds of the coat, pulled them closer, but the chill remained. "It is true then? You consort with spirits?"
He laughed and I felt a half-smile tug at my rigid cheek. Despite the bristly growth that surrounded his flash of white teeth, this lighter expression softened his features, making him appear somewhat childlike. "Spirits and magic don't exist in the real world," he said.
My shoulders dropped in relief. But if not magic, then what had he used? What could be invisible and still create such a tactile effect? Aside from the wind, of course. Nothing more than a lazy summer breeze had passed all day, though, and the bear that lay behind me was surely dead. Wasn't it?
Not to mention, he'd appeared out of nowhere, but I could only think about one thing at a time. And even that much was proving difficult.
He helped me to stand and dizziness swept over me. I stumbled against him. In an attempt to regain my composure, I straightened and introduced myself formally. "I am Mirra yu Ani des Vimi'trik ... leader of the Inganno ... Empire."
He allowed me to lean on him. "You need to rest, Empress, and eat something that isn't--" He exhaled sharply and cleared his throat. "I can take you in for a short while, until you're well enough to travel again, but then you must go back to your people."
I couldn't refuse such an offer, no matter who it came from. "Where is your home?"
"Far from here. We will have to transport."
I looked around the forest again and saw no shuttle. No skimmer. Not even a pack animal.
"This will not hurt you," he said, "and it will only take a moment." He wrapped his arms around me, joined his hands, and instructed me to do the same to him. "Let all the air out of your lungs. Do not breathe or let go of me until I tell you to."
Fear of the unknown tensed my belly. I took in one last breath, then emptied it. The pressure in my chest increased. I buried my face in his shirt. A brisk wind blew against me on all sides. The ground disappeared. I felt everything and nothing all at once. A gasp in my throat begged to be released, but I didn't dare open my mouth. I couldn't do anything other than hope I somehow survived this strange flight.
After the moment of exhilaration, my feet welcomed solid ground. The man's chest moved outward and inward. "Breathe," he said, his mouth right against my ear.
I gulped for precious air and shook as violently as before, perhaps even more so, completely chilled to the core.
"You're safe now." His voice echoed as if he'd shouted across a canyon.
"Where are we?"
I heard a muffled response. Nothing would focus. Not sounds. Not images. Only touch. He laid me gently on something soft and sleep enveloped me.
© Lydia Sharp, 2009
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Humility is an amazing thing. By putting others before yourself, you draw them back to you. By viewing yourself as low, you raise yourself up.
How does humility make you prosperous? I hate answering a question with a question, but... Are we not more apt to support someone who is truly humble? It is an endearing quality.
The opposite of humility is arrogance, and that is an instant turn-off. It doesn't matter how good your work is, if you have an arrogant attitude, you will fail in the long run.
Humility is not something you can fake. But it is something you can cultivate.
Christina's Prosperous Writer post today includes a blurb from Lydia. Click HERE. Thanks for all your support!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
First off, characterization in writing doesn't HAVE to mean every character is a princess-cut engagement diamond. Personality facets are essential, but cliché is okay. To a certain extent. Like playing chess. Let me finish with my 'splainin' to do:
How many Han Solos are there in literature and movies--the charismatic, skilled, sarcastic rogue? Give yourself a minute and you'll think of several. Mal from Firefly or Gary from Liz Penn's Phoenix immediately come to mind.
How many Chewies? The strong, loyal, strong, protective, strong companion? Vallor from Lydia's Web, Sefu from Kaycee Looney's Calli, and Jayne from Firefly.
The feisty Princess Leia type?
The Luke golden child that doesn't realize his importance? The old, Obi-Wan/Mr. Miyagi sensei?
What about the evil goodguy, who is the goodguy because he kills the badguys? Riddick, Dirty Harry, Mike O'neal Sr (grandpa) from John Ringo's Posleen series.
The point is, there are going to be cliché elements in nearly every character in every genre. They're like chess pieces. Every game uses the same pieces. The skill is in how you tell the story. How you play them.
Unless you're James Cameron. Then it's using wooden chess pieces and making the shiny board light up really pretty colors. Seriously. Even as a military scifi fan foremost and writer second, Avatar sucked. I cannot believe the accolades.
Unrelated, but Lydia posted a few scenes from Ferran, the military scifi novel we're co-authoring, and it sparked quite the debate a few months back on the WD scifi forum. Apparently, the MC can't be gentle in a quiet scene and then brutally kill and humiliate an opponent in the next.
Uh, this is wrong. Are you the same with your kids in a quiet moment as you are when someone cuts you off in traffic? The same with an annoying co-worker as when in bed with your spouse? For that matter, are you the same with your spouse on a winter day under the comforter as you are in a heated, someone-else-is-watching-the-kids-and-I-don't-care-how-much-the-neighbors-complain-because-my-wife-is-that-f'ing-hot-and-I-can't-stand-it-anymore path of destructive ecstasy and marital bliss? No. Same person different moods and reactions.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
There are two people who inspired me to take a good hard look at my "baby" (my first ever attempt at writing a novel, Web (sci-fi), which has been going through revisions for a year and a half now), and ask myself what I needed to do for the "good of the story", not just what I needed to do to get it published.
There is a difference.
We love our stories, right? The characters are real people to us. The settings are real places. We live the plot in our head as if it is real, and it keeps us up at night, rife with worry.
And maybe that's why it's so difficult for us to make changes. We get so attached to the original ideas that we can't fathom letting go. This holds us back, and our story suffers for it.
Back to my two inspirations... the first was literary agent Donald Maass, indirectly, through the pages of his book, The Fire In Fiction. He asks the question, Are you a storyteller or a status seeker? Of course, we would all blurt "storyteller!" without a second thought.
Step back and take that second thought for a moment. It all boils down to your core motivation, in the form of a question we see all too often in writing circles...
Why do you write?
Mr. Maass says, "I feel that novelists fall into two broad categories: those whose desire is to be published, and those whose passion is to spin stories."
It's easy to say you're the latter. But are you? Just how far will you go to give that story the justice you feel it deserves? Months of rewrites? What about years? What about stripping the whole thing down and starting over?
He next speaks of something else we see all over writers' discussions: rejections. It's at this stage in the game that the traits of your true self will start to emerge.
We're told to follow Heinlein's Rules, and I think some of us take it a little too far.
#3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
Yes and no. By the time your novel is done (and I mean DONE), then this is true. If you're still in the pre-submission phase then HELL NO. You rewrite that sucker as much as you need to and make it perfect. If you do that and then get nothing but rejections... well, I'm sorry, but something more needs to be done at that point, too. But I would say that this falls under rewriting to editorial order to a certain extent. You're revising based on a type of feedback.
This is when the storytellers drift a bit from the status seekers. The latter will tell themselves, "The problem is not with me or my story. I'm a victim of sending my work to the wrong place at the wrong time," and that may be true. Doubtful (especially since these are the same people who will send out a batch of 100 or more queries at once without regard to who they're sending them to), but it's possible. And these people will use that as reason to give up, or verbally trash the industry, or keep going but suddenly have this monstrous chip on their shoulder.
The storytellers may be just as clueless at this stage, but they have a notably different reaction: "What do I have to do to make this better?" And this is why storytellers are preferred. They're humble, they don't see themselves as a helpless victim, and they're not afraid of work.
#5. You must keep your story on the market until it has sold.
My whole body just tensed from typing that. Heinlein's Rule #5 is very true, and one of the keys to success in this business. But again, many of us look at it through glasses fitted with fun-house mirrors. It's distorted to think that you should just keep submitting and submitting and submitting without doing some sort of revisions in between.
In a previous post, I detailed a timeline of my submission process that resulted in my first short story sale. Yes, I kept submitting and submitting, and got the story turned around and back out the door as quickly as possible. But I also took the time to go through it again after each rejection (usually an entire day devoted to just that story... after already "perfecting" it for months before that), looking for ANYTHING that might make it better.
At one point, I realized I needed to rewrite the beginning. There were other times when all I did was reformat a paragraph or two. Yes, I wanted to see that story in print, but all the changes made were for the good of the story.
You can "keep your story on the market" by simply not giving up on it. This doesn't mean that it always has to be on an agent's or editor's desk. It's more than okay to pull it back for a while and comb through it again, as long as you put it back out there when you're done.
This process can take years, even for experts. Don't be fooled by overnight success stories (the Stephenie Meyers of the writing world), or by authors who put out a ridiculous number of novels in a short period of time (the James Pattersons).
A fabulous example of a true storyteller comes from my second inspiration, novelist Therese Walsh. Her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was a labor of love for six years. Think about all you've done in the past six years. Now think about working on the same story during all of that other stuff.
That's a long time. And she didn't just nibble at it. She worked. She did huge overhauls in the form of rearranging and complete rewrites. And that is what I'm currently doing with my first "baby." Therese and I had a short discussion about this last month, which was partially responsible for my decision to go ahead into this seemingly insane amount of revisions. Here is part of that discussion. Therese said:
I'm nodding my head as I read about your heavy duty rewrites. Some people who don't know my history say, "Wow, you published your first book!?" They don't realize that book was revised a gasquillion times over six, seven (? I lose count) years. I think a writer can learn so much about the craft and their story through rewriting.
First off, kudos to her for using the word gasquillion. I'm sure anyone who has gone through this process knows exactly what she's talking about. You can't help but lose count over time. When I later visited her website, I was amazed and at the same time comforted by her comments:
I could probably fill three books with all of the deleted text lying about due to this novel.
The only section of the book that didn’t give me trouble was the last... The middle, not so easy... And the beginning was a surprising challenge.
This is basically what I'm doing with my "baby" now. I've got this house of clay, and within that house are the characters, the setting, and the basic plot (the core story). Then I mashed it all into a lump--same characters, same setting, same basic plot--and am currently reshaping it into something more beautiful than before. Something more appealing to the eyes (the reader). Something less awkward and shabby, more inviting. The lines are cleaner. The roof has been patched. The gutters don't leak.
You get the idea.
So I'll ask again, How much do you love your story? Are you a storyteller or a status seeker? How do/will you respond to rejections? How long is too long to work on a single project, and how much is too much to rewrite?
Monday, February 22, 2010
1. Thank you for all the "Happy Anniversary" comments! We had a wonderful weekend together, and appreciate the well-wishes.
2. We have temporarily enabled comment moderation due to a bad case of spamming last week. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope this doesn't discourage anyone from commenting. We LOVE your comments!
3. Did you all watch "Sins of the Mother" on Lifetime last night (like I've been telling you to for the past month)? The movie was based on Carleen Brice's bestselling novel Orange Mint and Honey. There are always differences in a film version, but I was pleased with the adaptation, and yes, it made me cry. If you missed it, check the listings for a repeat showing.
4. Writer Unboxed has an open contributor slot for an aspiring genre-novelist (can be published in other areas but no published novels yet, and working toward novel publication). Click HERE for details.
Okay, I think that's it. (See what happens when you can't blog for three days? Haha.) And now on to my real post for today...
This week Joe and I are posting about characters. First up, the minors.
There are two main issues I've personally encountered when it comes to minor characters. Either they are too dull and give the reader a "who cares?" attitude toward them, or they are the exact opposite... they shine so brightly that the main characters end up in their shadow.
Neither one is good. As with most aspects of storytelling, balance is needed.
Strengths + weaknesses = realistic.
Exaggeration = memorable.
The same rules you apply to your main characters also apply to the minor ones. Everyone must have distinct strengths and weaknesses to be realistic. This realism connects the reader to the story, but you must also exaggerate these personality traits to make them memorable.
I'm going to use one of my favorite minor characters from my first sci-fi novel (simply known as Web for now because I can't decide on a title... another story for another day) as an example. He's a 16 year-old guy working as the mechanic and co-pilot of a scientific research vessel which happens to be in constant threat of attack from assassins. His main strength: he's a child genius, and also an extremely talented card-player. His main weakness: he's a horny teenage guy and as such he does not always think with his head, and he also likes to drink.
That in itself is actually quite ironic (there's that word again! nope, not a coincidence), someone who is known for their intelligence but can't keep his head straight under certain circumstances. The irony keeps it interesting, but his strengths and weaknesses are not so unbelievable that the reader is turned off by his character. And by exaggerating these traits, the reader will remember him.
Whenever we are in a scene where his strength can shine, it does. He will not only answer a question about some little-known fact, he will over-answer it. And the other characters refer to him as, not just a genius, but a walking textbook, or a living encyclopedia. Similarly, if he is in a scene where his weakness can be brought out, it is. Playing cards with other crew members during some downtime, he's going to be the best one in the lot... unless there's a woman within sniffing distance. Distraction with a capital D. Add alcohol to the mix (which often happens when gambling, so again, this is realistic) and I've just turned my genius character into a blubbering idiot.
I could have gone the cliche' route and made him your stereotypical "smart guy"... socially awkward (with everyone, not just women), nerdy, etc. In fact, that was how he started out, but I've since changed him to be a bit more rogue... gave him a rough past (which made sense because, why else would he choose to join this odd crew if it wasn't better than what he came from... and yes, even minor characters need to have a backstory), gave him a wild appearance and a bit of an ego to go with it... but wait, aren't geniuses supposed to be unconcerned with trivial things, like their looks?
First rule of minor characters: STAY AWAY FROM STEREOTYPES. (Actually, that applies to ALL characters, but you see it used more often with the minor ones... unless you're James Cameron. Then it doesn't matter what you do because you'll make millions regardless.) But even so, you have to include a few so-called stereotypical traits to keep things realistic, just don't exaggerate those points more than you would the others. For instance, I gave this character the typical teenager mentality of "life is all fun and games right now", which is, again, ironic because his life could end at any moment with the situation he is currently in. But it allows for humor in an otherwise very serious story. He can also be extremely sarcastic, and cause trouble by trying to have fun. If that doesn't scream "teenager!" I don't know what does.
His role in that particular story is huge for a minor character (and everything I highlight about him has relevance to the plot), but his presence is still kept in its place. He is only shown in scenes where he needs to be, or mentioned by others when he needs to be, so the main characters are not overshadowed. And even with how much I love this guy, his traits are not more outstanding than the ones I've given the three MCs and the two main antagonists. Those are the major players. They need to be kept on top.
But every character must have a specific purpose in your story. If you cannot clearly state their purpose, it's time to rethink their role... either add more to it, or decide perhaps they're not truly needed. Don't be afraid of revisions. Small changes to a character can have a big impact on the overall presentation to the reader. It could be the difference between a thumbs up or a thumbs down on the whole story. Minor characters are not just there to fill space. Give them the attention they deserve in their development.
Which leads into the topic of making every character dynamic, not static. More on character arcs in my next post.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
For a writer, containment has the opposite effect of what you might expect. The society of today tells us to let loose, don't hold back, it's unhealthy to keep things bottled up inside. Most of the time this is true, but as with anything in life, there are exceptions.
Let's look at one aspect: the creative process as it pertains to fiction writers.
Admittedly, this is quite different for every individual. We do have one thing in common, though. We cannot predict when a new idea will hit us. I see this statement often: "I got a new story idea today and I need to get it out before I lose it." So the writer then puts every other project in progress on hold to work on something completely new... then fizzles out. On everything.
I did this a lot in the beginning, but not anymore. Here's why:
You spread yourself thin and accomplish nothing. That's not prosperity, that's stupidity. Sorry to be so blunt (not really), but that's what I've found to be true in every case, including my own. I used to pride myself on how many different projects I could work on at one time. But the only way anything ever got finished was when I pushed the bulk aside and focused on a single project. I still multi-task, but it is much more organized, and I purposely limit myself. It worked for me, it can work for you, too.
When a new idea hits you, yes, you need to jot down some notes. Get out the basics of your plot, or characters, or setting, or whatever it happened to be that flashed in your head during that epiphanic moment (just made up a word, haha). This happens to me ALL THE TIME, which is why I don't have a fear of ever running out of things to write about.
The most recent was an idea for a new women's fiction novel. I spent about ten minutes typing up a page or so of what flashed in my head, thought about it a little more the next day and came up with some character names, then determined quite firmly that I would not even look at it again until such-and-such other project was complete.
Now, just because I'm not looking at it doesn't mean I haven't thought about it. A lot. This is where containment comes into play. You're holding yourself back. Keeping it inside. It builds. Building is a good thing in this case. By the time I'm ready to start working on that project, my mind will be full, and ready to release the ideas in a constant, manageable stream... not a rushing flood that quickly recedes to a dribble.
I'm usually not one for cliche' phrases, but Mr. Tortoise said it best: Slow and steady wins the race.
The above is only one example of how writers can use containment for their benefit. Can you think of any others?
Would you like to be a part of The Prosperous Writer? Visit christinakatz.com and sign up for the ezine (it's free!), then participate in the weekly topics. It's that simple.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Most use both talent and hard work to write. But what made you originally become a writer (or aspiring writer)? Did you want to learn it as an art of choice, like a guitar player or painter, or were you just good at it and figured, eh, what the heck?
This may seem like a silly question, but it's an accurate one. My dearest Lydia (T-MINUS 2 DAYS TIL 10TH ANNIVERSARY, BABY GIRL!!!), is a classic example of a mix of both, but mostly desire. Lydia has always excelled at everything she's done, from breeding and showing horses and dogs to becoming a big-shot manager at work within a few years, to being a mom, to being just plain HAWT. She's really good at that last one.
Ahem. Anyway, she worked at it. She always has a book in her hand, either studying others' styles or picking through a book on technique or craft. Or the industry. It is very difficult to find grammatical errors when critiquing her writing. In short, she wanted to be a writer. So she took her natural talent and made herself one.
It was talent all the way for me. Is that conceited? No. I'm not saying I'm the world's greatest. When you're tall you're tall. Fast you're fast. Strong, strong. Doesn't mean you have to be the world's tallest, fastest, or strongest to be considered worthy of those labels.
When you get straight A's--easily--in every Advanced English/Creative Writing course (quick aside--how can you be TAUGHT to be creative? Horsecrap), win every writing contest ever entered, become published as a preteen, and have every teacher, writing partner and general acquaintance push you into writing, then you can write.
Don't let my blogging fool you. I write here like I talk. Correct for the most part, but with a ton of interjectives. And lazy at times. My actual writing writing is much more better writted. Writed. Written. I also know much more about writing and the industry than I let on. Just thought I'd throw that in, for certain people out there who are constantly insinuating I'm just a loud mouth and bad attitude. Makes me cranky. I'm not just a pretty face.
It's those voices that keep me writing.
So which was it for y'all out there? What first got you writing? Did you have a love for writing, or did you have a talent you decided to explore?
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Thanks to Becky Levine and Writer Unboxed for my FREE signed copy of this AWESOME book! I just received it in the mail a few days ago, so have not been able to digest it all yet, but what I have read so far is EXCELLENT, and the overall presentation is SUPERB.
Complete with sample passages to critique, worksheets, and full sections dedicated to the individual nuances of nonfiction, adult fiction, and children's & YA fiction, this book is a priceless resource if you are involved in any type of critique group. And it appropriately begins with explaining what a critique group is and (sometimes more importantly) what it is NOT. I wish I'd had this a year-and-a-half ago when I first got involved with the Writer's Digest Critique Forums online.
And even if you do not critique the work of others, the tips in this book will help you find weaknesses in your own work and make necessary revisions.
Thanks again, Becky! And thanks to Therese and friends at Writer Unboxed for hosting the give-away!
Monday, February 15, 2010
Although both are contained in the first part of a story, there is a difference between the inciting incident and the catalyst. Both induce change in the story world, but only the catalyst moves the characters into a specific decision-making process that will undoubtedly move the plot in an unexpected direction. How?
The inciting incident must take place in the beginning of the story. After the inciting incident we take a slight step back and learn more about the characters and their current situation. Then comes the catalyst, still near the beginning, but not AT the beginning.
Let's take a look at what has recently become my favorite example for nearly everything, Pitch Black (and it is quite appropriate because our tenth wedding anniversary is this week, and one of the things we did on our honeymoon was go see Pitch Black in the theater. Yes, we went to see Pitch Black on our honeymoon.)
Inciting incident: The transport ship crashes on an alien planet. Yep, that's bad. And the characters must respond to this. Their action is initially just the basic reflex to survive, though. When death is an immediate threat, you act on instinct. There is not much thought involved. This event marks the beginning of the story with a change in the characters' situation, but it is not a catalyst. A catalyst increases the effect of something already in progress.
Ah. There it is. The catalyst is what gives your story a boost of energy and drives it forward. Bingo.
(Aside: The inciting incident does more than just mark the change, it also presents the main story question that will be answered at the end. But that is not the point of this post, so I shall skip it.)
Once we've got these people stranded, we can take a slight step back and make their really bad situation blatantly clear. That's all part of the set-up. After that, we need a boost. Enter the catalyst.
Catalyst: This is something new that must be introduced to the already bad situation, and the catalyst in Pitch Black is also what makes the movie so effing cool. Riddick. As a murderer, he had been locked up. Then he escapes and disappears. Knowing there is a killer on the loose not only amps up the tension, it also forces the group into a bout of decision-making. If they want to live, they have to get Riddick back in his chains (or so they think it is that simple). This puts them into an active state of searching for him, which leads to the discovery of much bigger threats. They're still trying to figure out how to get off that wretched planet, but the fact that Riddick is AWOL makes everything/everyone move more quickly toward reaching that goal.
It's a catalyst.
Notice that by the time they find Riddick and lock him up again, other plot points have emerged, which makes the initial debate more complex. It's not black-and-white anymore. They don't know for sure that Riddick was responsible for the first death; they're guessing. And if they guessed wrong, more people are going to die. Problem is, if they guessed right, people might still die. He escaped once, he can do it again.
This is why I love this movie so much. There is no clear answer as to what the characters should do, so you guess right along with them and hope that their decisions will result in good... just like they are. Science fiction can have all the high concept in the world, but if your audience is not in some way connecting with those characters, you're screwed. They won't care. They'll put the book down, or they'll shut the movie off.
So (before I got side-tracked on the awesomeness that is Pitch Black) you can see how the catalyst has a specific purpose in the overall structure of storytelling. It moves the characters to make a clear decision, puts them into action, and drives the plot forward.
The inclusion of a catalyst is a necessary requirement, in my opinion, and applicable to stories of any type, and any length. Does my story have a catalyst? And is it in the correct place? Those are two questions every storyteller should be asking themselves.
Something I've also noticed in analyzing structure is that the catalyst is invariably connected to the midpoint of the story. In Pitch Black, Riddick says this classic line at the midpoint of the movie, "Like I said, it ain't me you gotta worry about."
The more you learn about structure and understand why and how it works, the more you realize its importance, and the better you can make your stories.
ADDENDUM: I suppose I should have made this clear since most readers here are aspiring novelists. In the basic structure of a 400-page novel (which is averaged to 100K words), the catalyst should have happened by no later than page 45-50. If your novel is shorter than that, give it to about page 40 (or less). That may seem too far into the story, but you'd be surprised how quickly you fill those pages when that's all you have for the inciting incident AND the set up in between. This is also why I'll give a novel until about page 50 to completely hook me before I decide if it's worth it to keep reading. Coincidence? There's no such thing.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Before I answer this, I wanted to relate why my body is at war with itself. There is this little Italian sub shop down in the valley that has awesome subs. The guy also sells homemade olives and sausage and pasta and the like.
His daughters are actually quite lovely, though also of questionable dress. Guys like to go there.
I took my ravishing Lydia in there for lunch one day, with her cute little newsboy beret-ish hat and snug little pants and … ahem. Anyway, the owner said, "Now I see why you never look at my daughters."
No point to that. Just bragging.
I got their stuffed pepper sub today. Best sub I've ever eaten, no joke. Oh. I mean, just like, oh. OOOhhhhhh so good. But hot. So now my stomach is trying to get rid of the sub as quickly as possible. I don't know why, but my tastebuds went nuts. NUTS! They sprouted from my tongue and started yip-yipping and yee-yeeing down my throat, spears held high.
My stomach is currently trying to convince them that they will be able to taste it again if they will let him push everything back up and out the way it came. I'm trying my best to refute it, but I can't click my tongue fast enough to speak their language properly. Also, the stomach is offering them a coke bottle (5 imaginary dollars to whoever names that reference). I don't know where it got a coke bottle. I must have, like, shark stomach or something.
So the battle rages. Whoever emerges victorious, the sub was totally worth it.
As for the question, this is an easy one. I'm sure there are others, but these are the main reasons for a scene break:
1. Point of View change. Unless it's omniscient, this one is a no-brainer.
2. Any length of time that you skip or do not describe. Next morning after the character falls asleep, next week when the job they've just been offered starts, a year, decade, whatever.
3. After an important plot development or plot thruster. Though not necessary, these can facilitate a scene or even chapter break. In fact, these can add to the impact if done correctly.
There are others. Those are the three I use.
Joe pretty much covered it because yes, it really is simple. I would just like to emphasize what he stated in number two. This same theory applies to the beginning of a chapter (which is just another scene start) AND to the beginning of the story as a whole.
The starting point needs to be as late as possible. For example, in a new scene. We all start our days by waking up. Then we do this, and that, and more of this, and a little more that, THEN something happens. Most of the time, you can skip all that, just like you can skip everything that happened in your MC's life before the point-of-change that begins the story.
Scene endings are a little less black-and-white, and can be problematic if you're not sure how to follow structure. There is the obvious falling asleep, blacking out, storming out of the room and slamming the door behind you with finality, etc. But even those require thought as to just WHEN that moment will happen in the course of the scene. It should feel complete, even with a cliffhanger. Jump cuts/cut scenes are an exception, and describing that technique could be a whole post in itself, so I'm going to stop there.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Passion is ...
... what turns that first spark of a story into a bonfire.
... what keeps you going when others tell you to quit.
... what gets you excited about the next step, and the next one, and the next one. It is what helps you create original ways of doing unoriginal things.
... not something that can be taught or learned. It is not something you're born with. It is something you develop of your own initiative.
... what separates the average writer from the great one.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The concept seemed original enough--a new twist on the dragon myth. But when you think about it, we are not really entertained by concept. We are entertained by a good story with good characters.
Reign of Fire has both of those, in my opinion. The main character, Quinn, has a basic goal that we can all relate to: survival. What makes him endearing is that he is not simply concerned for his own skin, but also the others under his care, which includes many children.
Quinn is the protagonist, the dragons are the antagonist, and structurally, this movie couldn't be any more perfect. We're shown the inciting incident when Quinn is a boy. He is the one who let the dragon loose, so he has to be the one to off it at the end. And that is what ultimately happens. Simple, right?
But there has to be more depth than that or it would be quite boring.
Enter depth with a name: Van Zan. This character and his team are made to look like bad guys at first, but really, their goal is the same as Quinn and the gang--survival--they just go about their solution in a different way. Whereas Quinn takes a defensive approach, Van Zan takes an offensive one.
Pun. Totally. Intended.
He's a jerk, but he's earned the right to be (in his eyes, anyway), as you later find out. But his presence is what marks the change in Quinn's story. Again, this follows structure so closely it's almost scary, down to the minute he appears in the movie. Once Quinn sees a different angle, and loses his best friend (of course!), he has new incentive to take action. PROactive instead of REactive.
Then it's do or die time. Literally.
And in the course of these things, it doesn't matter that Van Zan bites it at the end in one of the coolest screen shots this side of the door-kick scene in Transporter, because Quinn must face the dragon, alone, as he did in the beginning. This is the always-necessary circularity that is needed for a good finish, a satisfying ending, both in movies and novels.
As I've said in previous posts about story structure, this movie also has an extremely quick denouement. Once the story question is resolved at the climax, there really shouldn't be much else for the reader/viewer to care about. Wrap it up. Call it a day.
While this movie does have its faults, they are minor enough to gloss over, and completely overshadowed by the fact that some genius screenwriter found a way to reference Star Wars without being lame, so I've officially given Reign of Fire the Sharp seal of approval as one of the New Classics. Enjoy.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
(Yes, I'm having fun with YouTube this week. Haha.)
Irony is a writer's best friend. It's what gets your reader to think, or laugh, or whatever else you want them to do, because irony is one of the most effective ways to get a reaction with the least amount of words.
As Ms. Morissette so aptly shows in her song, the best irony comes as a one-two punch in a single sentence.
"He won the lottery, and died the next day."
"It's a death-row pardon two minutes too late."
"Meeting the man of my dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife."
You can also see the potential for whole stories laid out in each of those sentences. This is why irony is one of the key elements in creating a logline for your work. Logline is a screenwriting term. It's basically your movie pitch in one sentence.
Novelists can sharpen their storytelling skills by creating loglines for their work. We often hear the term "elevator pitch", which is a little different but the same concept: Get someone interested in your story using as few words as possible.
Every effective pitch has to contain some kind of irony. The irony shows the potential for an engaging story, no matter what the story is about. Without that clear potential, good luck finding someone to take an interest in your work, let alone represent it or publish it.
The less words you can tell your story in, the more emphasis can be made that you have a story worth telling. I've talked about synopses before (maybe not on this blog, but on writers' forums). If you can't condense the essentials of your story onto 1-3 pages, the problem may be with the story itself. Similarly, if you can't find the irony in your basic plot and put it into a single sentence, either you haven't put forth enough effort (just one sentence, but hell YES, it takes a lot of work), or there may be something wrong with the story itself.
Think of it this way: If someone were to make a film out of your novel, and the showtimes were listed in the paper along with a one-sentence description of the story, meant to grab the attention of potential viewers WHO ARE GOING TO SPEND THEIR MONEY ON EITHER, a) Your movie, or b) Someone else's movie, what would you want that one line to be?
Why is this so important? If you've never written a synopsis, then you probably don't understand why it is as important as it is. By the same token, if you've never tried to create a logline for your novel, you won't completely understand how it can help you until you try. It can help you write a better query letter. It can help you keep the correct focus while writing a first draft (if you create the logline first, which is often times what screenwriters do to get the creative juices flowing... again, this is effective because there is potential for a whole story within that one sentence). It can help you streamline a clunky first draft by, again, finding the true focus of the story.
Do you have the irony needed to show your story's potential? Can you hook someone on your novel with a single sentence? Give it a try. You might surprise yourself.
For more tips on creating a snappy logline, check out Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder.
Monday, February 8, 2010
(Thanks to Christi Corbett for the awesome Family Guy clip!)
I'm currently buried in rewrites and new-writes. My sci-fi novel, WEB, is going through what I am predicting is my final edit before querying agents. I also have a short story with an April 1 deadline, so I can't put it on the back burner like I have so many of my other projects that I'd rather be working on right now.
So I'm curious, what are YOU working on?
Have a productive day!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Thanks for all your support!
Friday, February 5, 2010
This morning at precisely 6:42 a.m., I was innocently checking my email when Joe stumbled out of the bedroom wearing nothing but his Hanes, and thankfully, also holding a pair of folded up tube socks (semper fi).
He stopped in the middle of the room, stood perfectly still for about ten seconds, then started flailing the tube socks in, what would look like to the untrained eye, no-specific pattern. Oh, but it was.
That invisible ninja didn't see it coming. Crisis. Averted. And since he was invisible, no mess to clean up.
Don't become a statistic. Keep your tube socks handy at all times.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
"Talent is cheaper than table salt. The only thing that separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."
"Writers who succeed in the long run do not succeed solely because they are talented. They succeed because they have cultivated the art of hanging in there."
perseverance [pur-suh-veer-uh ns]
steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement*
steadfastness, persistence, tenacity
Everyone gets rejected (thanks to InkyGirl for the following quotes):
Stephen King got the following rejection for his bestselling novel, Carrie: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach was rejected 140 times before it was eventually published.
Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers before being accepted by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. It ended up winning the John Newbery Medal as the best children’s book of 1963 and is now in its 69th printing.
Judy Blume received “nothing but rejections” for two years. “I would go to sleep at night feeling that I’d never be published. But I’d wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent.”
There it is again ... the word talent. Clearly, the t-word can only get you so far. Success doesn't come from doing nothing. It doesn't even come from doing little. Consistent effort is required. Elbow grease. And once you're published, you don't have a free ticket to ease up. You have to keep producing.
I wrote a short story in December 2008. It won a "for fun" contest online, so I thought, "Hey, I might have a chance with this one." It was something else to work on when I needed a break from my novel so, what the hell, right? I fed it to the wolves (my beta readers), made some adjustments, then started submitting it to different markets (both print and e-zines) in February 2009. Here is what happened over the course of the next six months:
(scratch my head and send it out again ASAP)
personalized rejection with an invitation to send something else
(made some adjustments based on feedback and sent it out again)
(scratch my head again and send it out ... I understand why form rejections are necessary but they are really no help to the writer at all)
personalized rejection with an invitation to send something else
(made some minor adjustments and seriously considered doing a complete rewrite based on this editor's opinion, then talked myself out of it and sent it out again)
personalized rejection with an invitation to send something else
(sensing a pattern here ... they like my writing, but not this story)
(what?! should I even bother with this crap heap of a story anymore? okay, one more try...)
What if I had given up when that little voice told me to quit? I'd still have an unpublished story on my hands instead of a beautiful book with my name in print. Success stories are success stories, not because the journey to that point was easy, no, but because when it seems like you shouldn't, you still keep going.
That's perseverance. And yes, it's that simple.
*definition from dictionary.com
I’m going to look at this from a slightly different angle. Just slightly, so don’t expect a mindless rant.
Getting published is finding the right person. Period. Right place, right time comes into play, as well, but it’s really about your manuscript, short story, whatever, being in the lap of the person that wants it. And that could change by the day. Someone could have just been divorced and might not want to finish a love story. But you catch that person earlier and they’re jumping all over it. Just ‘cause you caught them on the bad day doesn’t mean someone else won’t take it. We’d all like to think we’re perfectly objective when it comes to our jobs, but the reality is that we’re more human than perfect. A can potentially affect how an agent or editor looks at our work.
But why quit? You finished writing the stupid thing and took the time to do revisions and edits. Keep sending it out.
It can be compared to fishing. A largemouth may take a plastic bait the first time it swims by, or it may just sit there, blowing bubbles. Or whatever fish do when they’re not interested in your bait. Make fun of humans ‘cause we think Michael Phelps swims fast, or something. Whatever.
How dumb would it be to cast, reel, then pack up the gear and row back to shore because there weren’t any bites on that one cast? Dumb. Now that fish is making fun of Michael Phelps AND you. Quitter. Okay, that doesn’t fit the illustration, but it’s important to know nonetheless. Fish are like that. They like, post your lures and make fun of them. Oh, wait, that’s bloggers with query letters. Luv u all. All of you, and you know that. Even if you have no idea who I am, I luv u and yer blog. Me’n Lydia were talking about how funny it is that people get bent out of shape because the industry blogs make fun of the…sillier queries and such. Both are funny—the subjects of derision and the people who get all butt hurt about it.
Is butt hurt not the greatest phrase ever? I submit that it is.
Please keep focus. I’m losing you. Stop with the fish stuff and pay attention, K?
Some people are published on their first try. Right place, right time, right person. Fish bit like the lure had beat up its momma. They hit the jackpot. Others are rejected and rejected and rejected, and finally hit. Yet others are rejected and rejected and quit. Most people are in that category, which is sad because that next potential rejection is always the next potential acceptance, too.
What does that have to do with persistence? Simple: you have to keep trying to find the right person for that particular piece you’re trying to sell. Move the boat. Cast into the cattails. Try a different lure (meaning, keep writing and sending all of the stories out).
Look at all of the NY Times bestsellers that recount being rejected dozens or hundreds of times, only to go on to fame once someone accepts them. Are all of those people that rejected them just a buncha ign’ant fools? Probably not. Maybe. But probably not. Some of these writers have been rejected by agents or editors that have had tremendous success with other writers.
You never know when that sale will come. Especially with e-mail and duotrope.com and the rest of the intrawebnet niceties making life easier in regards to submissions, why would you quit?
Yes, People Who Know Me (lumped into one evil entity with capital letters), I realize I quit when I had some good offers on the table 15 years ago, and I only write now because Lydia is so into it. Stop harshing my buzz, People Who Know Me. This isn’t about me.
It’s about persevering. And how you should do it.
"The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
~Frederick Douglass, 1857
For the full speech, which includes many more gems, click HERE.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
It's February. Love is in the air. But I have another reason to be all man-giddy this month. Joe and I got married in February 2000. That's 10 years, for those of you who can't manage simple math. Our anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks, and we plan to celebrate whenever and wherever the mood strikes us.
This is a tribute to my crazy husband. There may or may not be more posts like this throughout the month.
For anyone who doesn't know (which might be all of you), I married Joe when he was a teenager. I'm older than him. I was legally allowed to drink at our wedding, and he wasn't. You could say I rocked the cradle. That would be accurate. I not only rocked it, I broke the damn thing in the process. Splinters. Everywhere.
The above paragraph had absolutely no point, but this isn't a manuscript. I'm not cutting it.
You wouldn't know it by looking at him, but Joe is part black. Which part, you ask? Mainly his ass. If you ever see him in person, you'll know why I say that (okay, in all seriousness, he does have black ancestors, we just haven't been able to trace them yet). Secondary only to the ass is his manner. He will tear you up if he feels you deserve it (some of this is also attributed to his Scottish heritage ... the name William Wallace comes to mind). While this may be off-putting to some people, it has protected me from harm on more than several occasions. Anyone under his wing will receive this same protection, but you may want to take a step back when he unloads. It can get messy.
So I'm a sucker for a good fight in my honor. Seems I married the right guy, then.
Anyone who is a writer and their significant other is NOT, you will appreciate this next part.
This just happened today:
I'm at home while my son is at school. Joe is at work, in an office. We IM each other. A lot. What were we IMing about today? Writing. I haven't taken much time to talk about my works-in-progress lately, but I have quite a few. One short story, in particular, I'm getting ready to submit to an anthology, and we were talking about it.
Lydia: I'm going to finish that flash fiction I started a while back. I found a place that might take it.
Joe: Good... which story?
Lydia: (I tell him a little about it, how much is complete, and what is left to write)
Joe: I know about halberds. If you need help with that part, let me know.
Okay, and this is where it's good not just to be married to a writer, but A WRITER WHO WRITES THINGS SIMILAR TO YOURS. Joe has been a priceless resource to me when it comes to writing combat scenes and making sure my descriptions of weaponry are accurate.
The point is, I love having someone at my beck and call who understands the craft of writing and storytelling, and who knows the frustration that goes along with constantly trying to get your work in print. It's not something you stop doing once you have a story or two published. No. You keep producing, which means you keep going through the rounds of submissions and rejections. Even when you know you're good, this can be tiring and disheartening. Joe has been there through all of my ups and downs in this business, and I owe a lot of my current success to his constant support, both public and private.
Also, as part of his anniversary gift to me last year, he wrote a love story. Never planned to get it published. He wrote it only for me. How awesome is that?
I think I've gushed about my man enough for one post. 'Tis all for now! But if you'd like to read more about what it's like being married to a writer, click HERE.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Can you describe the book in a sentence? Yes:
EVERYONE MUST READ THIS NOVEL.
Not. Even. Kidding.
Click HERE to read my review of Kindred by Octavia Butler. Then go read the book. You won't regret it.
I'm a writer, which means I write. What exactly do I write? Novels. Short stories. Novellas. Flash fiction. Poetry (when I'm feeling extra hormonal). How-to/ tips & advice articles. Personal essays. Book reviews. Movie reviews. Blog posts, mainly here, but occasionally on other sites as well.
That's a lot of writing. I do it daily. In addition to that, I'm a moderator on the Writer's Digest Critique Forums, for the SF/F forum and the Literary Fiction forum, which means, not only do I read a lot, I also do my best to provide feedback for my fellow writers. I also run the Writing Mothers group and the Women's Fiction group on the Writer's Digest Community (different site, same admins). In addition to THAT, I also read novels, magazines, nonfiction books, AND...
The point? I have a lot to keep up with (and that's just the writing part of my life) MY TIME IS LIMITED, and I certainly enjoy reading other blogs on a daily basis. Other writers, agents, editors, and the plethora of info out there about the publishing industry... it's all very fascinating. Even the current ebook wars.
Until you slap it in my face like a Boston Creme Pie and force it down my throat until I cry, "Mercy!" or tap out.
Seriously. Knock it off already.
It's been less than a week, and I'm sick to death of hearing about Amazon and everything that is related to ebook wars, e-pirates, e-publishing, iPads vs Kindles, why print books are only enjoyed by imbeciles who can't keep up with the times (that's so not even close to accurate, I'm THIS close to dropping an F-bomb), etc, etc, yada, yada, yada.
Insert necessary disclaimer here: I AM NOT AGAINST E-PUBLISHING OR E-BOOKS IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM SO DON'T EVEN GO THERE IN THE COMMENTS.
I thought it was an interesting topic, too. I even posted something about it last week (notice I didn't link you to it here, because frankly, I don't care right now). But when nearly EVERY blog I follow is talking about THE SAME DAMN THING, it gets old pretty quick, guys. Enough so that my stomach just turned from the mere thought of it.
Keeping up to date on such things is an occupational requirement for anyone who views writing as a career. But now, thanks to all of you, it has become the part of my job that makes me groan. A quick update when (pay close attention to this next phrase) SOMETHING NEW occurs is just fine. In fact, it is very much appreciated from someone like me who isn't privy to insider information.
But let's keep the emphasis on QUICK, please. And I couldn't effing care less what your personal view is on the topic unless you're bringing something new to the table. I'm a fact person. Give me the facts, make me think about how this affects my future as a part of this industry, and move on to better, more interesting, things.
This has been a public service announcement gone horribly astray. But at least I didn't say f***.
Joe's Take (you knew it was coming):
Amen sista. I mean, how often do I have to have it rubbed in my face? We are all born with different levels of eccentricity and sarcasm. I have a very dry wit. Doesn't mean it should prevent me from being published again. Who dictates a "problem" writer, anyway? I feel I'm willing to work with anyone, even if the doctors may or may not have screwed with my meds and made me cranky…
Oh. Wait. I thought everyone was talking about the "No A**hole" rule. Again.
Never mind. Carry on with the current topic that everyone is posting.
Monday, February 1, 2010
A lot to think about. Naming my son was so much easier. He has the exact same name as his father, except he has a III after it instead of a II. And if we ever have a daughter, her name is going to be whatever we fancy at the moment.
Can't really do that with characters. Especially in science fiction and fantasy. Basic example: Luke Skywalker. Skywalker? That is so made to be sci-fi-ish it's laughable. The fun part about sci-fi and fantasy is that you get to make up more than just character names. There are planets to name, fake cities to name, made up creatures, weapons, and other devices. How do you keep them all straight?
Even though I write a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, many of my human characters have so-called normal names. And something I don't talk about too frequently on here is that I also write women's fiction which takes place in modern-day America.
That is actually what sparked the reason for this post today. I've started a new women's fic project. Once I jot down the basic ideas for the plot, my next step is naming the characters. I can't write a word of their story unless I know, at the very least, their name and a little of their relevant history.
Yesterday, while driving (because that's one of the best times to let your mind wander, haha), I was trying to think of names for these new "babies" of mine. And I don't want to re-use anything from my previous stories. Well, the more stories you write, the fewer your options for the next one. I started a new word doc today just to list all my character names.
Because I almost unintentionally re-used one.
Here is my list just for male human characters: Aaron, Jonathan, Markus, Jzhoren, Corbin, Stephen, Ian, Brian, Ghislain, Jacob, Bradley, Jesse, Eric, Matt, Gavin, Peter, Brett, Devon, Derek, Clifton, Kurt, Nathym, Gazym, Marret ... I think that's it. Maybe. For now.
I've tried a lot of the suggested methods of coming up with character names ... baby name sites, online translators for names that need to have specific origin or meaning, etc, and they all work, but I tried something new this time. As I was driving, I looked for character names in the scenery that passed me (also NOT recommended: looking at the side of the road instead of the road in front of you).
My main character thus became Jackson Clark. The first name was easy. I've been wanting to use that name for some time now, and decided this was it. The last name came from a gas station that I pass ALL THE TIME in my many commutes. Clark, however, was not the first name I considered.
Here are the factors that ran through my head (yes, as I was driving and reading things on the side of the road):
1) It has to sound good with the first name Jackson. This proved more difficult than I'd anticipated.
2) His character is a veterinarian, and often times referred to as Dr. So-and-so. Some of the names I considered did not sound right with doctor before it.
3) He is of no particular national background. A mutt. I didn't want his name to appear ethnic.
4) I want the reader to view him as an "average guy" type from the start. His "specialness" comes from within, and is revealed throughout the story.
It worked. By the time I parked the car, my new character had a name.
How do you name YOUR characters?