Saturday, April 27, 2013
John Robert Sermon, of www.johnrsermon.com posted an interesting question on our faceboo group page so I thought I'd expound
on the short answer I offered there.
27 apr 13 @ 3:42 pm
The question was about the final battle scene, but some of the answer applies to other battle scenes as well. For final,
and sometimes other battle scenes whose outcomes matter (as opposed to aspects of the fighting being more important to the
story, such as a particular person's death, a dishonorable act along the way, etc.), I usually plan backwards from the desired
ending. Stories are about twists and turns and things going wrong, so I make sure that the plans of those going into the
battle are headed in a different direction (geographically and metaphysically/goal-wise) than what ultimately happens (since
colliding forces will always result in a change in vector). In between: forces collide, plans are changed on the spur with
less thought, reason, and sense than the planning in advance ever accounts for, forces interact and the ending then comes
For the writing part, especially for a final battle/climax, speed and intensity are created by their opposite in writing,
so I go into more fine detail than the later battle scenes: earlier a little explanation is allowed; later, everything should
already have been explained to the reader so that they can just focus on the action and understand as much as the characters
do of the blow-by-blow terminology, available weapons, capabilities, character motivations, etc. The final battle should be
all about the actions and reactions of the characters, with the background all known, the emotions all known, the language
all known, the dialog terse, and only the outcome and the how of getting there unknown to the reader. Not predictable: forces
presented earlier in the story should all be colliding here and no force so overwhelming of those arrayed against it that
the outcome is predictable. If one sides seems to be overwhelming, that's okay, but ultimately, something should shift the
forces into nearly perfect balance--a change of mind, a shift in loyalties due to other side forces, a betrayal, a clever
trick to exclude part of the overwhelming force, whatever, so that the final battle is replete with uncertainty.
If individual characters are opponents, I bring them together at some point either during or as aftermath: it is one of the
few "coincidences" that readers not only accept but expect, since the characters function as representatives of
their sides, driving forces in and of themselves, destined to face off, challenge, forgive, something that brings the big
guy down, raises the little guy up, adjusts the relationship for good or ill, ending or new beginning. They may be rivals,
enemies, frienemies, obsessions, but in the end, the antagonist and protagonist have to both be key parts of the final battle...
As it happens, I just finished revising one myself. It is smaller than the earlier battles, and the protagonists and antagonists
don't physically meet face-to-face, but they do face each other in both a physical battle and a battle of wills and have a
brief dialog. Though it is a small battle, leaving the extraneous external enemy out, it is more focused and important to
the characters, which helps make the fine details easier to incorporate and heightens the impact of the results, I hope.
Writer's challenge: write a battle scene: it can be war-type, fist fight, or just an argument.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Did a quick trip through Tennessee, mostly the state parks, waerfalls, and Smoky Mountain National Park but it included some
unexpected sights, too. For example, we were on our way to the Skyway for viewing the landscape and found ourselves on US129,
aka "the Dragon". The impressive curves (over 300) were a step up from the curves we'd already been dealing with
but the real surprise was the number of pullouts not available for use due to the annoyance of photo dot coms apparently taking
our picture and that of others on the route (Including lots of little sport cars driving at twice the posted speeds--and sometimes
apparently motorcycles, from the t-shirts we saw later, though we mostly saw those on the skyway. The dot coms were painted
on the sides of vans and tents, preventing the use of the pullouts. Fortunately the traffic was light in our direction so
no one needed them going our direction, though it was clear a few people coming the other direction would have found them
useful, to get out of the way of the frustrated sport cars sitting dangerously close on their tales.
23 apr 13 @ 9:48 pm
As usual, travel generated lots of ideaa and I have lots of notes on blog topics but I'm still unpacking and sorting mail
and such so not tonight.
Writer's challenge: Describe a scene where most things seem to be in view but provide clues that something more may be out
Writer's prompt: The two of us were moving fast, talking fast, when around a corner...
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Saw an interesting article that questioned the free use of data, for example for widgets. It's not exactly copyright infringement
to use samples and statistics of posted stuff when you aren't using any of the substance or quotes or anything. The specific
example that made sense to me was the one about language widgets, that are based on all the work of translators of the past,
looking for commonalities to pick the best and most likely translations. Of course, the translators get nothing for possibly
decade of work, the translations are possibly decent, or possibly lack the nuances that a live translator could provide, and
many future translators are out of jobs. Free, legal. Fair? Good?
14 apr 13 @ 9:30 pm
I won't go into the widgets that share more information that was ever meant to be shared and its potential for misuse...
We are all hungry for information and it is a perpetual juggling act between information we want and maybe need, and information
we would rather "the wrong people" didn't have since the dawn of information sharing, gossip, overhearing, and message
passing. The only difference is the scale, and I don't think anyone comprehends how much a few widgets can and has already
changed that scope since fie years ago, ten years ago, decades, eons.
And what about designs? I'm always designing quilts, not all that expectant of earning money from them as many are likely
easily designed by others, as many designs are. Is sharing good? Or is sharing depriving an income to someone clever and
energetic enough to make money from their designs, willing to do the work of writing up the detailed instructions for those
who prefer patterns to invention, and otherwise do valued work? i think many patterns cost too much: a few sales will make
up for the time, but the invention, how much is hat worth, and hom many designs can even a creative person come up with?
I guess it is worth it to those who are willing to pay, but only so long as someone isn't giving away the bulk of it for free.
Writer's challenge: Wonder about something, and write a story that presents two or three of the options.
Monday, April 8, 2013
The last wasn't my clearest prompt. I was envisioning the situation where we look at something as we're rushing past, and
notice what we saw afterwards, or notice that we saw something we didn't expect. I've been in plenty of workshops and writing
groups that used prompts as a direction for a writing exercise. "Write anything" can work but it's sometimes harder
to get started on something new, that way. On the other hand, poorly designed prompts can be very annoying at the least,
by being so limiting that instead of stimulating the imagination, they repress it or push the writer toward a concept that
they consider lame from the start. It might be taken as a challenge: how to make this mess into something intelligible and
interesting. It is as likely to encourage the writer to shove it aside and find something else to do, never a good response.
8 apr 13 @ 8:30 pm
I can't say whether mine are good, bad, or otherwise as that is not something I've gotten feedback on, but I've encountered
plenty of others and aim for the sort that I myself have found inspirational, and for ones that I think will provide a learning
opportunity or might provide some correlation, supporting lesson, or clarifying point to whatever I was trying to write about
in my blog post. They are also intended to share, to some minimal degree, what I myself am experiencing with my writing,
challenges I'm dealing with, directions I'm considering, or other relationship.
The "sort" varies and is hard to define. I avoid specificity in nouns, for one thing: I might say "holiday"
but not specify which one, "building" but not a specific kind unless it is something that has some meaning in virtually
all cultures and potential fictitious worlds. "Home" is okay, office not so much; does one think of the term "office"
in association with a castle? Even though the castellan or clerk might have something office-like in nature, the term just
doesn't fit and so doesn't inspire the way home, work, or other more generic terms would. As a fantasy and science fiction
writer, I am perhaps more aware of such things, but they also apply to historical fiction, westerns, and other genres and
can limit instead of inspire even in fiction where an office might be a perfectly reasonable feature.
Most of the prompts I think of as situational, the beginning of the something, the change that triggers the story, the change
that triggers the writing (like changing the sex of a favored character or side character to pressure the writer to test their
character's development and definition). They can be, in that sense, writing exercises rather that true prompts to help a
writer get started, but i think most writers using prompts are probably looking for exercises as much as anything, anyway:
exercise might or might not generate a new story or might aide in revision to a current one, They allow exploration of different
approaches, suggest scenarios to aide plot, or make the writer aware of something they were missing in their writing, in a
way that no study of technique can achieve.
Writer's challenge: write a prompt and share it.
Quilter's challenge: "block-a-month" is the equivalent of a writer's prompt. Join one or start one in your local
Writer's prompt: The time has come for a character to prove that they can-
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Woo, review that last post to see where I was at and see that last sentence-paragraph got away from me. Writing advice: don't
forget to breathe. Come to that, that will be one of the first things I do when I'm done: read the story to a friend aloud.
Great way to catch run-ons, sentence that twist too much, and repetitiveness. Generally, reading aloud also requires sufficient
specific concentration that I catch wrong-word spellings that spell check misses, and other issues as well. Oddly enough,
it also helps to catch things you wouldn't think would matter for reading: tongue twisters, for example, which if noticed
by a reader (many of whom sub-vocalize), might generate humor where it is particularly inappropriate to a scene. Trite phrases,
overused terms, and lame descriptions also ring out more obviously to the ear than to the eye.
2 apr 13 @ 8:10 pm
Typically, I don't do it until I feel like I might be done. So many unedited messes are more discouraging than helpful and
my early drafts can be cringingly bad. But when I get close, reading aloud can remind me of fix-here notes that I forgot
about, highlight problems I was unaware of, and help with the word-by-word edit that is otherwise hard to achieve (and not
worth the bother early on when so much is likely to be rewritten).
But first I have to get there and it's easy to falter toward end, to turn back to all the things that were neglected in the
heat of writing. Frustration at the difficulty of those final scenes can let in all the excuses and alterntive activities
in (and I have no lack of other things, other books, calling for my renewed attention). My one "trick" besides
keeping at it, doing little things that make the other things less urgent while not turning away from the book, is to give
myself more challenging deadlines to work toward: before the next trip, before the visit or upcoming holiday, or just before
the end of the month, whether near or a little further away. July I want to be working on a different book. Doable. We'll
Writer's challenge: set a goal
Writer's prompt: busy, busy, busy, right on past... paused.