Tuesday, August 30, 2011
When the fur flies
At the moment it's because our cat is shedding. Either it's going to be an unusually bad winter despite the current heat
else she's really confused about seasons due to her recent extended visit to a cooler climate and return to the heat zone.
30 aug 11 @ 10:03 pm
For stories, though, especially science fiction and fantasy, fur flies for other reasons, most often the classic hand-to-hand
combat. It's a common form of conflict, and if characters are warriors, might happen frequently, but like any texture, it
can get monotonous if too frequent. In the book I'm going through now, I have lots of battles, but some of them are off stage
because the real conflict as it relates to the story is how the people react to the battle results or the events that occur
during the battle. Sometimes the battle itself matters, but the mood isn't right for a fast-paced scene so the battle problem
is developed through dialog or a memory. Variation in the story texture is thus achieved, but I still have to be careful
not to make it a steady yo yo, or too regular of a roller coaster, too. Even roller coasters vary with spirals, up and downs,
and flips, to keep it interesting despite the brevity of the ride. Adventure stories must do the same and getting the right
blend is no easy feat. I keep working at it, with more difficulty in some stories than others.
Writer's challenge: take a story you've written and map it out like a series of carnival rides: one for adventure and pace,
one for emotional ups and downs, one for degree of conflict in each scene: what kind of rides have you drawn?
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Back to normal
Not AMTRAK, but me. I'm home for awhile after trips that took me to and through many states using several modes of travel.
Didn't do much in the computer meanwhile, just bits of editing and revising, but quite a bit of journaling and talking and
moody thoughts (as my last post might have suggested). Changes and long hours at work (not all for the worse), too little
time for home since my return, and a cold, but things begin to stabilize and I'll catch up on it all slowly.
27 aug 11 @ 11:31 am
Of course, inevitably I add to my own work. I bought more yarn to finish a couple of my side crochet projects, which gives
me more extra's to put into the "scrappy" afghans I've been making this summer.
I write much the same way- try to fix something and merely give myself more sections to a story that need to be worked out,
adding more than fixing. Sometimes adding also fixes but in my case, often not. The problem is usually not enough conflict
and my additions add complications, but not necessarily conflict. conflict is the real core of story, conflict with self,
with nature, with circumstances of life, with opponents of various sorts. Some stories seem to add conflict merely be adding
enemies, and they get published, so I guess it works to a degree, but you can have dozens of opponents and no conflict at
all. The conflict must come into play in every scene, not directly with the opponent, but with the impact of the mere existance
of an opponent (even ones self, with uncertainty, subconscious reactions, and such). Tht conflict must be part of every scene,
and cause a change in each scene, between the beginning and the end: a decision made, a problem identified, a reaction to
a new fear, a new reaction to an old fear, something. A learned thing can be enough for the occasional scene, but I sometimes
think too many of my scenes have only that, and not necessarily a thing learned through any kind of conflict. Mere observation
is rarely enough to generate interest within the reader, and to depend on observation and learned things as conflict and change
is to build a house with all horizontal planks or slightly slanted ones and no vertical ones at all.
Writer's challenge: write a scene with only the protagonist and include both a change and a conflict. Hint: the source of
the conflict can be a previous event. If possible, include action as well as thought.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
If you are impatient and expect things to happen on schedule, don't take AMTRAK through the Midwest. Flooding on lines in
the north, a bridge in the south, and a tight schedule with all the resulting traffic on the central line through the middle
states mean that the trains are running late regularly and will be for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, a patient
mindset and a flexible schedule mean train travel provide a lot of time to stare at the hypnotizing landscape out the window
and day dream, and there's hardly any better occupation for a fiction writer than day dreaming except writing.
18 aug 11 @ 8:21 pm
I did a bit of writing, mostly journaling, a little revising on the old story I've been revamping, several notes for ideas,
but mostly imagining the different ways the story could go to be more of a story. I came up with one story line for the world
and characters a while back, but besides being much more a sequel than a first book, I've almost dug myself into a hole with
it. That makes for good story but a difficult ending that I haven't solved yet. This time, i think i identified some of
the forces that will help create the story: the need for a higher level cause for the character, to get them and the story
out of the very personal hole they are in, another more clear opponent to their efforts (In contrast to the more subtle one
that seems to be a friend of sorts but for his own ends and obsessions, not for their benefit). Not a story yet, but a few
more players, a few more forces whose conflict will lead to a story.
Writer's Challenge: find some time away from phones and computers, preferably in a place with grass or sand or water to watch
for a few hours. Do nothing. If you get bored, do nothing for another hour.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
what to work on
I'm still playing with ideas for the combined pieces and a totally new story but it goes slowly. Meanwhile, I was reminded
of another story that I haven't given up on but have been neglecting (in part on purpose--I needed to step back and relook
at it as a whole instead of polishing, to fix story line segments and the whole arc. I had come up with a new turn, but still
think it more like a second book than the core, starting story. And already the step back has helped me recognize when characters
were doing what I might do, understanding the whole situation and everyone's motivations, not what they would do with their
far more limited perspective, and noticed part of what was wrong with the story arc, helped by the recently HNS sessions.
One of the things a speaker said reminded me of a generic description of story arc that I had heard in the past, specifically
that at some point, often early on, the character realizes that the problem they are getting a handle on is part of something
bigger, or only a symptom, or not the problem that they thought of it and the problem is bigger, more complex so the story
builds. I was trying to make the problem more complex, but too directly, too much disassociated from either the initial problem
or attempts at getting a handle on it, defining it, solving it.
9 aug 11 @ 10:39 pm
This time I relized I could take the version of making their part in the solution bigger, so that it wasn't enough that they
solve the problem for their own sakes, but solve it for others, because they have a somewhat unique position to do so for
those who can't help themselves. There's still plenty of different directions that can take, but it gives them something
to strive for more meaningfully than I was managing before. Maybe this time I can keep the momentum going, with a force of
direction and intent on the part of the main characters, and more clear direction to stop by the enemy as well as their own
goals, which were already a temporary faite accompli.
Writer's challenge. Find some old story notes or drafts and take a fresh look at it. Can you take it in a new direction?
Friday, August 5, 2011
a change in direction
Instead of the historical stuff, a turn to the future. An article about the 6 figure number of apps that are now available
spun my mind and turned it inside out and it made an effective distraction from the chaos and mundanity of life hastles this
week. Though it was all about reality and contemporary life, it was a clear view of a likely trend in science fiction (if
we can get the writers with the right knowledge, publishers with right insight...): cyber war.
5 aug 11 @ 9:04 pm
Cyber's not my thing. I don't understand it well enough to write about it effectively, and my imagination cut out way before
identifying not only the kind of aircraft flying over head but the flight and it's destination - from an app (how much would
it take to includes the passenger manifest, as well?), but I was in a mood to play with titles and wondered if they might
prove inspirational. Here are a few I came up with:
War Without Blood trilogy: The One Soldier, Weapon of Media Destruction (or Weapon of Mass Disruption), and Microwar.
The Geek Soldier Trilogy: Andy's Guardians, Blood Disk, Power Grid
The Geek Soldier Trilogy: Netwars, The Battle App, I-Sider EXC
which thought led to:
The Geek Soldier Trilogy: Geek Control, Geek Alternative, Final Delete
With that as food for thought, I offer today's
Writer's challenge: pick one of the title's above as your prompt, write a story for it, and submit it to some web magazine
or web publisher. Let us know what happens