Friday, September 28, 2012
Late night notes
My old cat has been keeping me up nights and sometimes I'm thoroughly awake enough to not sleep right away so I take notes
on things. A few of my notes seemed appropriate for this forum.
28 sep 12 @ 9:11 am
I think I prefer fiction for the freedom and variability it offers. I do nonfiction for my day job and I find my and writing
getting stiff and pinched there, my body tensing, and every word constrained due to the need to ensure that the one right
message is conveyed, aggravated and limited further by fellow employees, readers, etc. who each have their own preferences,
triggers, and hot buttons regarding every minor bit of text and verbiage that might otherwise require less precision and care
While fiction writing demands some care and precision, too, and the author likes readers to understand and fully share their
vision of characters, places story meaning and all, ultimately the story will always belong to the readers and they will interpret
and envision their own version of the story according to their own imagination, fill in the details that the author triggers
in the mind with a few key words and sometimes even create their own image contrary to the details the author provides.
That knowledge frees my writing, my hand relaxes, my thoughts relax, and creativity is free to flow. If I've done a decent
job of writing, the reader will be swept along by a combination of their vision and mine. I will set the stage backdrop and
their imagination will make it a place that they can comprehend, drawn from reminders of past stories, past experiences, past
dreams of their own, and together we will create a unique world with characters equally blended and a story that I have sketched
and they have painted in their minds.
Writer's chellenge: Describe a scene in great detail, at least a page. Reduce it to one paragraph that includes the elements
required for the scene and the story (a chair to sit on, a mantlepiece to lean on, a knife to toy with) plus at most two or
three items to give it the appropriate flavor - rich appointments, a slum alley, a working place or a pleasure place, etc.
Writer's prompt: The central character arrived over night and looks out the window in the morning. To his/her surprise...
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Chaos is contagious?
I tend to equate chaos and creativity. Obviously, they are far form the same thing, but I find one generates the other, especially
when the chaos is my life and the creativity is for stories. A sick cat, lots of deadlines, a wedding to attend...no time
but my mind is busy so I start stealing time in smaller bits to note ideas down and often find myself fleshing out places
in the story that I hadn't previously noticed needed anything.
25 sep 12 @ 9:02 pm
The missing elements are often what I think of as backdrops: like the setting but less visual than action-packed, the reasons
everyone is where they are for the key scenes, the relationships of side characters with each other, not just with the main
characters, the impact of key events on sideline stories, which in turn help build toward a richer, fuller climax. They also
more believable problems and solutions, by providing pieces of the puzzle that might otherwise seem like unbelievable coincidences.
Other times, I am inspired to take a different tone and flavor with a scene, add some humor, introduce a new side character
in order to show a different kind of interaction that current characters allow, in order to show a different facet of a central
character - a student/protegee, a convert, an optimist, an old rival, each of them bound to bring out different characteristics
and add a different kind of conflict and tension to a scene.
Such leaps and changes are not the kind of thing I think of when I'm doing my normal editing and revising on line. Much better
in bits and pieces and jotted notes when I don't have time to be thinking about stories at all but the mind goes where it
will when it's pushed in several directions at once.
Writer's challenge: Take a quick breather with pen in hand. Do something different. Change a pattern for a day.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Still resequencing my story but in smaller bits, swapping scenes, adding a bit of the earlier time line that I hadn't realized
was missing when they were out of sequence, interspersing them slightly differently as I realize the pace, especially at the
beginning is wrong.
22 sep 12 @ 8:56 am
I like to start with action, follow up with slower action but more depth and emotion, but that can't go too long before it
starts to drag and getting that right is challenging. The interspersed timeline helps break it up, but getting the exact
place to put it... Also, those kinds of scenes offer a lot of opportunity for lovely prose and love to work on them. Being
a wordsmith at heart, that makes it very easy to go on too long.
No matter how lovely I can make it, it can go on too long for the taste of modern readers, so it takes very careful editing
to make sure I'm only providing what's needed for that scene, to make sure it is concise prose as well as emotive, and to
make sure the scene isn't overpowered by narrative when dialog could carry the emotion better. This time I docked entire
paragraphs and moved them elsewhere, to when the information more immediately pertains and to where a little bit of narrative
would give the reader time to digest and comprehend some action or dialog, in this case, shifting it to the other time line
since some of the narrative was the "history" that the earlier timeline is showlng. Eventually the pretty narrative
will probably be dissolved into those scenes, but sometimes a few sentences of summary narrative help clarify how action impacts
the ultimate story.
I thought adding scenes and rewriting, which usually ends of growing a scene even if I cut a lot, would lengthen the book,
but it's still solidly in the novella/chapbook range.
Writer's challenge: Take a scene that is dominated by prose and make sure it also includes setting, character actions and
expressions, and the five senses. Take a scene that is dominated by narrative and add a few lines of dialog or action. Read
the results aloud.
Writer's prompt: Exhausted, the protagonist closed his/her eyes and...
22 sep 12 @ 8:35 am
comment: Hello~! I like your blog, it's nice to read the thoughts of someone else going through the same process I am! I
don't see a way to follow you though, so I'll just save it as a bookmark. :)
Thank you! Nice to know someone finds it interesting. Earthlink offers Trellix as a web-site software and it doesn't seem
to have been updated in years, so comments don't automatically get posted and I haven't found a way to offer following in
any format, even as an RSS feed or something. I tried to swith to Google Blogger (Blogspot) and that worked for awhile but
their "new and improved" follow other people's posts. I need a higher speed link and have been researching those,
but just getting high speed internet access without all the package deals and without a dozen hidden fees to actually get
the level of service (speed, wireless, etc.) being promised. Haven't found anything worth it yet. The closest to decent
prices are pig-in-a-poke deals where they only tell you the price of the first year of a two-year contract. That ought to
be illegal. It could be five or twenty times as much the second year, on their whim!
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Strange spelling and weather
Last post was a lesson in why to check your work before you hit the publish button. Actually, I thought I had, which is a
lesson in why it helps to have someone else look at your work, and why to avoid blogging when you're tired. A dog bite (a
big bruise, no blood), end of fiscal year, upcoming events and deadlines, I've done a lot of writing when I was tired but
mostly just drafts that I can polish when I'm fully conscious.
18 sep 12 @ 7:16 pm
Sometimes it opens up the creative juices, or gives the illusion of doing so, and sometimes a wacky idea works, but more often
its an idea I had before and am just recalling, having wearily forgotten I'd already noted it or even drafted it. Mostly
it just gives a reminder of what characters might go through if they are supposed to be exhausted, why sleep deprivation is
considered a serious form of torture. it also cuts my writing short as one of the times I can get the least interruption
is just before bed time.
Fixing sequencing especially requires rest and the ability to concentrate. I haven't found any good way to track where things
were, what needs to come after or before, or remember enough of the sequencing to figure out where it goes wrong.
At some point, if shuffling softcopy in a single document doesn't work, I'll go back to individual chapter and even scene
files, and/or print the lot, though I try to avoid doing that any more often than needed once a story is in the computer.
I usually do it a few times - early on to long hand filler scenes, to read it allow and note as I go, to do a letter by letter,
word by word edit near end. But with hundreds of pages, that's plenty!
In my current story, which I'm thinking will be a series of novellas/chapbooks the way it has been going, sequencing has been
the big challenge and I've shuffled things several times, rewrote the scenes, and resequenced again. The latest one was because
I realized that a couple of he events just couldn't be made into dramatic build-up. Even with much revision, the situation
just always ended up more as comic relief, so I moved it forward, and the set up scenes had to go with. I also noticed rather
belatedly that I was missing a couple of major scenes that must never have gotten moved from another file, or I thought about
or scribbled on paper and didn't get them to the computer at all. Anyway, they are part of the build up I was looking for
and now I have an empty spot for them.
The title of this blog post is because resequencing a couple of scenes messed up my weather in the story. I had built this
whole little side line that gave bits and pieces about orbits and weather and stuff and now they are out of sequence, but
maybe not so much. Look at this year's weather. And nothing but the weather really defines the planet except in my mind,
so... what happens if i change the orbit? And what might be impacted besides weather? If I'm going to be doing an interplanetary
science fiction, a little more consideration of setting is in order!
Writer's challenge: watch a storm approach, stand out in the rain, stand out in the sun, in the cold, fifteen minutes (if
temperatures aren't in the dangerous range!) and write down your observations. How would the conditions impact your character's,
their activities, especially those that take awhile?
Friday, September 14, 2012
Observation of the week - noise is strange
With allergy eyes, maybe my ears have been more sensitive, but I've noticed a lot more different noises this week, or rather,
sound phenomenon, like how quiet an everpass seems until you're at the edge of the bridge, with the highway below in sight.
Sound isn't supposed to obey line of sight rules, but it kind of does, even if its only a couple of bshes and the hallow
top curve of a hill in between. Not silence mind you, just that the car noises weren't any more noticeable than the birds
and the breeze rustling the trees, until those last two steps toward the bridge.
14 sep 12 @ 10:03 pm
Other noises have just made me think they were something else. Now that's fuel for writing, ut the thought, like the sound,
is often fleeting and I rarely recall it five minutes later to think to write down what sounded like what. I think a sound
like a cat in the back yard mewing softly was either a bird or the slow death of our back screen door which is moving more
an more stiffly. TV shos use a lot of misleading tones in the music to convey a mood, like a hint of a scream when no one
is screaning but the mood is appropriate for someone to scream if this were a horror... (There are ways to do that in writing,
too, often when something is described: the terms can trigger thoughts that have more to do with the scene than the thing.)
Writer's challenge: With notebook and pen handy, go around the house and use stuff to make noises. If someone else is available,
close your eyes and have someone else make the noises. Write down your guess on what it sounds like, and have them write
what it really is. Good source of similis.
Writer's prompt: I turned at the sound of...
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
More on Backflashes
i came across a blog that discussed timelines. I didn't find it helpful, but it did make me think about how I have been handling
some backflashes, which can form their own time line in some circumstances. I'm doing that more or less with the story I'm
working on now, some bckstory to provide explanations that I'm avoiding putting into narrative.
11 sep 12 @ 9:25 pm
Originally, I didn't treat it like a time line or sequence, just put it in places that were associated, where the "explanation"
can answer some of the questions that might have been generated by a scene. However, I thought a couple of other elements
of the backstory should be there too, explaining elements that are pretty peripheral until the approach to the climax, when
the last thing I want to do is slow the tempo with a backflash. So I need to put them earlier, but where? Fitting them in
sequence seemed reasonable, especially when I realized only one or two would then be out of sequence, and might be relocated.
I'm working through that now, making sure that the sequence works, that it fits with the main timeline's/storyline's scenes
in a way that it supports rather than disrupts the story flow and still puts the information and insight for the reader in
the right places. Still, the timeline for the backstory matters less than the message of the pieces, which is one of the
reasons I decided it was backstory and not really part of the main story. For story, sequence matters, even if the sequence
isn't the same as the timeline.
Writer's challenge: Switch the sequence of two scenes. Can they stand without revision?
Friday, September 7, 2012
Sometimes when I write about travel, which much fantasy and science fiction is all about, especially when I'm raveling a lot
by myself, I start to thinking of travel as the normal existance of my characters, even if I've set up the circumstances such
that it shouldn't be -- they might not want to be traveling, they might have expected a short trip and it's become s a seemingly
endless one; even if they chose to travel, they might not have realized how homesick they might get, or how wearying the constant
change can be. When I'm home or comfortably settled at my destination I forget how nervous I was at the start of the journey,
wondering whether I've remembered everything, wondering what might go wrong with my schedule or with the weather or planned
meetings and the like. When I'm home, I forget how much difficulty I might have sleeping as I travel, sleeping in the next
hotel, or getting comfortable in unfamiliar settings.
7 sep 12 @ 8:14 am
All of these discomforts, everything not normal makes good story material, but are easy to forget from the author POV since
we are comfortable with the worlds of our own creation. Also, it's hard to consider what the character might consider strange
and unfamiliar if we haven't considered what the character found familiar and normal.
We are always advised to start the story amidst the changing conditions that cause the story, and that often means already
on the move, or so close to moving that there is no initial scene at home, and early backflashes are likely to be about the
cause. Still, it is valuable to both consider for ourselves as authors what the characters would be comfortable with and
to present that to the readers in some fashion.
There are plenty of options: every scene that the character finds unfamiliar and strange gives some sense of that home by
contrast, but only if we don't let the character get too complacent about things that are strange and new. Having a setting
that is more familiar provides further indicators: not every place in entirely different. A friend from back home might have
decorated their new place like home, for example, or someplace else out in the country might have similarities to a country
origin even if many of the details are different. (Hence the popularity of using outsiders to describe the primary culture:
both those things that are familiar to the character and those that are different can be highlighted in their turn as being
meaningful and noteworthy to the POV character). Backflashes to home and family are an obvious choice but not the only option
and work best if the event within the backflash has immediate bearing on the story line's current events.
Writer's challenge: Make a verbal or pictoral sketch of each character's childhood home.
Writer's prompt: A character comes home with certain expectations, only to find that...