Tuesday, September 28, 2010
slowing it down
Today's story post has no dialog. It has some action but passive, and a definate contrast to the high action of the previous
scene. I don't think the contrast is a problem, and often contrast and variety add texture and interest, but I wonder sometimes
if I should do something to more directly tie it to the next scene or something. The tricky part I guess is differentiating
between slow action (and a lack of dialog) and narration. Long narration is usually a problem, telling instead of showing,
but do characters have to be talkative? Or does silent, especially slow action come across too much like narration to retain
a reader's interest?
28 sep 10 @ 9:12 pm
Friday, September 24, 2010
Made it to Friday!
The story on the Fantasy Explorations page currently uses some thee's and thou's, though under very specific circumstances
and not much else in the way of forsooth language. It was a way to differentiate between people who were using the same language
with different accents, for one thing, and seemed to help emphasize the older culture of Werald as a contrast to the closer
to industrial culture of Mattias.
24 sep 10 @ 7:10 pm
In the other story I'm working on, I have several languages, none of them expressed in anything but English with a reference
to the language in use or the people who can understand it, but I have more cultural/class differences to play with, so the
"accents" are degrees of education and sophistication in speech, which applies far less Beyond the Wall.
It may not be necessary to differentiate with that degree of speech pattern but in general I find it useful as a clue to who
is speaking, a reminder to myself of the speaking styles of different characters so that they are unique as possible, even
if only subtlely so.
The one thing I have usually avoided for the difficulty of doing it well is characters who are only minimally capable of using
some language. I've done it once in a while but mostly avoid it by summarizing the results because it makes for painful reading
for more than a few phrases.
How to you handle languages?
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Yeah, I know, Wednesday comes after Tuesday
You'd think it would be easier at home but between realizing that one of my books needs even more work than I hoped and the
new tv season, I immediately lost track of what day of the week it was. I'll have to see how it goes and whether i need to
adjust my schedule.
22 sep 10 @ 10:33 am
From the increase in readers this past week combined wth the lack of response to my last inquiry, I assume most people are
only reading the story page rather than the blog, but that's okay. Most of my blog is dedicated to writers and more readers
are to be found out there in the audience than writers.
They should have a fair amount of overlap but I've found that the more serious the writer, the harder the time they have making
time to read. At several conferences, speakers have given advice to make time, to stay in touch with trends and expose themselves
to other authors and all. At Context, one was more specific, said to check out the few most hot sellers in your writing genre
and aim for five or six a year, which is probably a realistic number even for fast readers among writers. The harder part
may be picking and choosing unless you encounter a phenomenon like Harry Potter that gets a lot of talk in every channel,
but not too many books make it to even t.v. news and pop fiction discussion.
(Well, what some people label science fiction does, but it tends more to tv shows and movies than books, from what I've seen,
the spy stories and Disney contemporary fiction with fictitious science thrown in, like Flubber. Is that really what some
people consider science fiction? Would we find it a on the Science Fiction/Fantasy book shelves? It's at least not the genre
I aim for, so not the reading material I would choose.)
Writer's challenge: Find one currently popular book to read and give us a book review.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Workshop on Plot Stuff
This was probably the one most useful of all the Context workshops, which is to say it had some advice I could use immediately
to help beef up a couple of my stories that I've had concerns about. The main thing was a slightly different approach to
the "story arc" than I've seen elsewhere. It didn't contradict the "W" or "M" effect I've been
told elsewhere, just filled in a couple of suggestions about the sides and points: A start, a change in course, build up and
seeming success or the seeming inevitability of success in the initial goals (the peak in the W form) with something of a
rest or even a celebration, only to discover that life is never quite that easy: maybe a recognition of a more worthy goal,
a more mature goal in the case of young adult stories, maybe an expanded goal with a bigger view rather than a personal one.
Strength here can be key in framing the ending and strengthening it. then increasingly layered problems and complexities,
a set back when it seems progress might be being made through the effort and struggle, creating the framework for the crisis/climax,
then the ending and wrap up.
17 sep 10 @ 8:31 pm
What I think I have primarily been missing is the adjustment in the middle. I was still going with just the "arc"
framework, but the story arc is more like a measure of intensity, not plot. One steady line of struggle, one direction of
progress, they all have the same problem as unrelieved drama or intensity: change is needed. For plot, that means the direction
the protagonist is heading isn't the direction she's facing at the end, more or less by choice, though the choice may be reluctant,
and maybe with more than one change in goal and effort.
So readers, which page are you reading? My stats thing says that many of the readers of this blog read only one page. i
can't tell though if it is the story on the Fantasy page, or the blog. I appreciate your interest, regardless.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Some Context Notes
They even had the right kind of cord for a hookup in the room. How cool is that?
14 sep 10 @ 9:15 pm
So I'm getting a few notes typed and sharing them with you. I don't have the fliers with the panle members listed and as
alway, who knows what was said versus what I took away as "understanding" and interpretation, but here's what I
wrote for the session on Humor in Literature (mostly horror writers)
Comedy is not only its own format but a common element in books of many genres, including dark horror. It is used as comic
relief, a break in the intensity (too much intensity too long comes across as flat and dull, too). It can be provided by certain
characters, situations, or a timely comment that is not in itself funny but come across as such because of the irony. As
comic relief, it should be brief and scattered (the general opinion was that one of the problems with the later Star Wars
was that the rabitty character was too prevelent, more than just copic relief).
Comedy can be created by taking even intense features to an extreme, beyond extreme to absurd/existentialism. Brazen works,
too (Such as in Good Morning America). While some people think there is a formula for this, truth is that what works one
time may not work again or in a different setting, or with a different audience. The author's goal can never be to make everyone
laugh; it's enough if some of them laugh and one of the authors said they had other people read his stuff: if one of them
laughed, he would keep it (for example, if it was something he just thought might sound stupid). Sometimes humor works with
a group audience, if you know the group including their knowledge base and attitudes toward certain topics.
Organic humor is nice but by definition often accidental, unexpected even by the author, and will often get a different reaction
from the same people at different times (due perhaps to a mood or reading pace or other external differences).
Comic horror may sometimes be satirical, such as Pirannah 3D which gets audiences laughing and cringing at the same time (college
boys as the main audience for that one, with a "girls gone wild" flavor, nudes, gore, etc.).
Dark humor often mocks its own genre. Mainstream horror tends to be all drama, unrelieved, even to the point of melodrama.
When it's taken too far, it builds u pto the absurd and becomes the comic B-movie phenomenon.
Humor is also part of a classic element of psychology: crying as tension unresolved, laughter as tension resolved. You can't
take comedy seriously, but drama that isn't working can be broken up by releasing tension, without turning it into a comedy,
just being there in the moment.
Movies are easy to compare to but dangerous: visual gags in cinama are much easier than humor through narrative, as it is
very contextual, especially in non mainstream genres which depend heavily on certain shared background knowledge or internal-to-the-piece
knowledge with the right understanding.
Dry humor is not laughter-causing per se but sledge hammer, over-the-top serious.
Stephan King may be formulaic, but the reality is that it works reliably (and that level of success requires stamina), a little
comic relief to add texture to a dramatic work rather than comic/satyrical.
The discussion got way off topic into the business of writing, the impact of the Great Recession, issues of college enrollment
going up for lack of jobs, and the result change in some of the reading audience: books as a cheaper, time-filling entertainment,
and also pushing toward e-books as cheaper to produce and more widely available means to read it. (But most people still
don't read novels at all) Even though many of the authors at Context have published mutliple books, most still have "day
jobs" which makes writing steadily and rapidly hard and pushes toward some formulaic patterning.
There was some discussion of future trends in the face of still-bad economy: Escapist type stuff including stories about
what it is like to be rich, happy stories (the dark stuff is more typical of when life is actually generally good, the fears
not real), and other things about what people don't have rather than about what they do. However, this time a lot of rich
people suffered, a lot of people on the way up suddenly not able to afford their homes, so it may be considered in poor taste
if not handled well. Even much of the middle class could genuinely afford to hire help for a brief period (though we haven't
been calling them "servants") so the dive has a different flavor and the "service industry" we were supposedly
moving toward isn't an answer in the absence of enough people to hire them...
Maybe less thought-provoking satire and more situational humor and the absurd (wall street policing itself... (fraud and
forced economies are both counter to a free market; elsewhere someone pointed out that several corporations have bigger economies
than most countries in the world and potentially corresponding influence on the world's economy, including the ability to
put competitors out of business, control technology development, etc, not new ideas in science fiction but still not to be
believed by the general populace).
For a while, it was old fashioned text plus zombies...
Humor can be achieved through the way something is said, including "mean" dialog, distinctive local dialects and
behaviors taken to an extreme (obviously fake), or by taking to extreme things we don't like and then eating them.
A test of good character is one that can make the audience both laugh and cry.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Back on track for a day
A time management course I recently took suggested an A-B-C system for prioritization. Logically it makes sense, but A's
are both important and immediate, things you really have to do, Bs important but not quite as immediate, and Cs long term
value. But what do you do when the A's get longer than the time available? I felt like that all week, but somehow managed
to get a couple of Bs and lots of things that weren't on my list at all. I guess it sort of worked, though I need to get
to more Bs and Cs in the long run. For now, it got me here and I've posted another scene on Fantasy Explorations. Next week,
I have another long list of to-do's but as I'll be traveling, more of them are limited by circumstances, and plenty of them
will be fun. I'm making another stab at bringing the computer along though some times it can be a burden. I have a book
to re-review, the many changes on my last revision to type in, and a rocky expansion to write for what used to be half a
book but I decided needed a book of its own and lots of pieces to be filled in with scenes instead of a sentence or two of
narration. The events are kind of planned--I've refered to several events in later scenes, or implied others that were predicted/expected
and need to take form in some version, if not that expected, several smoking guns to follow through on. Between them I should
have a worthwhile book if not necessarily a long one. And if I can get on line... more research on agents.
10 sep 10 @ 10:00 pm
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Its still irratic
Yes, this isn't Tuesday, either. This coming Friday is still a possibility, but it will be potluck the following week (It
is possible to get tired of travel, even by train, but life has its demands). It will fair to test my ballencing and juggling
acts but I'll do what I can. Story wise I am still plowing through my couple of "sequels" in hard copy, the second
time through the second (book 3 of what has become a four book series so far--yes, I need to spend more time agent hunting,
but the writing and revising is to me the fun part, and I finally feel like I'm getting them in decent shape, scenes that
need writing not withstanding. Next I need to go through and put all the changes (probably five or six words minimum per
page, more often several sentences deleted or paragraphs added) in the computer, then all the highlighted names in a check
list (to make sure my characters and towns and all have the same name throughout, and the same eye color and such), then the
mega spell check (including looking up words that won't show up in the computer dictionary because they are technical, esoteric,
or archaic). That usually takes me a couple of days, partly because no matter what I'm looking for, I'll find other things
that I decide could use a little polishing. For the story I've been posting on the Fantasy Explorations page, I hardly dare
look at the pages as I'll start fixing things and never get done with the post, and that gets complicated because I have to
fix my file copy, too, and it's already a moving target at the best of times.
8 sep 10 @ 8:26 pm
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Sorry about the late posting. I'm in the process to reign in control over some of the chaos of my current life, but like
house cleaning, it seems to generate more chaos in the process. One of the tips I've heard repeatedly is to focus on one
thing, but with me, that hasn't worked. I can concentrate all too well, and if taking care of the house isn't the one thing,
laundry, bills, and dishes start to get neglected, and if I focus too much on that when I'm home, nothing else gets done so
right now I'm trying to rebalence the juggling balls instead. A quick overnight trip didn't help, either.
4 sep 10 @ 9:09 am
Anyway, the next scene has been posted. on Fantase Explorations. What do you think of the land name "Divinia" for
what is, at the moment, a rather evil land? I had it as Dale for a long time, but decided it was too generic, but I didn't
want to go with something that was too dark and gloomy and horror-like either, since the name was what used to be used by
good all humans living in their pleasant valley, with perhaps similarities to Switzerland, surrounded as it is by mountains.
I considered that it might have a name change with the change in hands, but trogs didn't seem the likely sort to care about
names or insist that a new one be used... So I decided an opposite might serve its own purpose through irony. Opinions,
as always, welcome.