Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Truth is oft stranger...

Okay, while researching some stuff, I stumbled across an article on a giant isopod - a Bathynomus giganteus - that attached itself to a submarine.

Before I show you the picture, you ever play those games where you're a newb and you have to kill like a hundred "giant crabs" to level up? How completely unrealistic is ... uh...

that? (Coconut crabs apparently fight back, too.) On the other hand, with a little butter....

So, moving on, this dude found this thing...

Not too bad, right? Ugly, sure, but it's an ocean bottom dweller, what did you expect? Take a look at the SIZE of this thing.

Wow! You can write some creepy nautical tales with that sorta thing (The giant octopus is soooo overdone, no?)

Anyway, I had to show someone. Aren't you glad you stopped by? ;-)

Wednesday Writer's Report

If you want to write about outdoor adventures, it's important to actually get away from the desk and experience it a little. This is where my roommate and I went yesterday afternoon.

On the trail at Lake Norman State Park, photo by Joey the C.

The ivy covered the trees, like above, in one little section of the trail. Curious phenomenon, really.

The surreal part of the this, for me, is that I'm writing about "springtime", so the nuances of my observations help me to pretend that I'm making things more "real". For instance, there was a lot of detritus, moisture on the ground. Dead pine leaves. Not alot of animals, so we had to stalk the birds and listen to the squeaking of the baby avians.

One of the 6 or so Turkey Vultures we attempted to stalk, who caught onto us a bit too easily.

Lesson of the day: March isn't April. The childhood phrase, "April showers bring May flowers." comes to mind. I'm wanting to write about plush fields and vibrant flowers, and my recent hiking sojourns have impressed upon me that I'm not being accurate. Plant and animal life are struggling to be born, are coming out of winter's slumber, and are just now beginning to show the very first signs of what will be "plush and vibrant".

Aside, I envision a great many ivy covered trees (silver ivy, not green) in the forest where the story begins. Like the photo above. My revision will need to accomodate more for the dead stuff on the ground, methinks.

Last week's entry dealt with pacing, and this is mildly related. I mentioned last week of a "global event" that will adhere the pacing and character POV's, and the story is approaching this point.

In terms of overall progress I spent most of the last week revising the POV chapters to match the new pacing structure. Maybe 5,000 new words, of which 2/3 of them were filling in gaps and transitioning previously written (but incomplete) chapters. That will be one half of the writing tasks for the week ahead.

After that, the story will progress into new material that mostly is just lingering in my head, and follows a couple of rough outlines I've drawn up.

This week's question/concern is "Story within a story". I have two "Global Event" POV chapters to go along with the current (4-5 main characters) storyline.

The overall story does not require more than a chapter for the events in question, so I felt that deriving a separate arc(s) would deaden the relatively brisk pace of the novel as it is.

Why include them? Good question. One is to broaden the scope of the reader to the world, to impress upon them that other tribes and elements are indeed at work. Yes, this lays a groundwork for more complicated storylines in the future, but that's the point of this story, "Catalyst".

I also cover something in the Prologue that is potentially unresolved without these two chapters. There are 6 ugly fellas mentioned in the beginning, and the main story only covers 4 of them. The short stories cover the question that might come up, "Hey what about those other ugly fellas?"

I am of the opinion that a short story within the scope of the novel isn't a bad thing, and will break up what is essentially two broad perspectives at this moment in the novel.

One of the short stories (which I started yesterday, and then alas, got interrupted), involves a main character of the early chapters and is a follow up to actions he suggested that he would take. Otherwise, his POV isn't really worth following where concerns the overall tale.

The second one, however, introduces new tribes, new cultures and new POV's and is really the one that shows the vastness of the world. It needs to be written with a strong hook, arc, climax and resolution so that it stands alone. It will answer questions arising from the prologue - and - due to their cultural perspective, will provide a very detailed understanding of and response to the global event.

But, the resolution involves actions which will take time to put into place, and are otherwise uninteresting and unrelated to the main storyline. Thus, one chapter.

I don't expect to bang out both shorts and the other chapters leading up to the global event in one week, but stranger things have happened. My goal is to finish one main chapter revision and to finish the story I started yesterday. Beyond that, all bonus.

Discussion point for today's (lengthy) post: How disturbing - or not - is a story within a story?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Because I am E-vil.

Thanks to the bloggers at Suvudu, I am now pleased to share this challenge.

I defy you to spend less than one half hour on this website.

Tragically brilliant. I have added her LJ to the blog roll.

That is all. I think that I must needs write some D tribe today. And cook some chicken later.

Sunday Muse-ings. Characterizations.

Inspired by this post that I read last week over here.

I've written, twice, on the concept of fantasy fiction characters, and both times, the essays have been (in my opinion) much too long. So I will try to be succinct.

Although I am unpublished, I guarantee that I can create a character that
a) You will be fond of.
b) You will hate.
c) You will understand / empathize with.
d) You will not understand, to the point that it will frustrate you. (My favorite!)

Moreso, I will not cheat to do it. There are no divine interventions that grant super powers in my world. There is magic, but magic has boundary and cost. There are weapons, but they are not over powered. There are beasts, and they are not all either easily beaten or indestructible.


Not how. WHY.

I don't need a character sheet (but they're spiffy neato, and I like to be organized).

Every character type can be explained, there is no need to be original.

Take Vikings, they're always hot. Er, sorry, Danes. Natural conquerors, the coastal terrors?

(This is a real Viking helmet, by the way. Look Ma, no horns!)

Nope. They lived on a bloody damn rock filled island. They were good at building ships because the deep hulled ships got ripped open by underwater glaciers. (You think they KNEW that longships would give them naval superiority? Heck no. It was just a natural result.) They didn't have enough farmland to support their goats and veggies on their giant icy rock, so they went to trade.

People were rude to them. Trading took too long. They ... uh... didn't have anything TO trade, really, that was the point of going out to the sea (besides the fishing was decent half of the year).

They TOOK what they NEEDED to survive as a people. Then, their success led to more Viking babies, and they needed LAND to fit all these families once they figured out how to do that... so, uh, maybe they got carried away (and that's the part that excites everyone).

Vikings? Glorified fishmongering farmers, man. Yet, in the right context, that's great stuff!


I'm getting carried away again. Everyone has a story to tell. Are Vikings less sexy because they were really just farmers? Nope.

Don't worry about creating the Uber Original Character (TM). Don't worry about the Mega Original World (TM). That stuff can come later, if you're inclined.

Most of the literature classics that have endured time were because the prose itself was just that good. The characters that endure time are ones that people can relate to, because they feel they know the character. That's a reflection of the writer.

No lists, just a couple of KISS rules:

1) Just make them interesting enough to write about. Plain Bob in Plainville wearing Plainsocks and sucking on oatmeal all day is not interesting.

2) Challenge your character with something. And describe *that* in a way that is interesting. Plain Bob gets struck by lightning! (Hey, it could happen to you!)

That's where your mileage may vary. I like subtle coincidences, not massive acts of OMG'ness. I like stacking circumstances like tiny silver coins upon a scale, where each character has a teetering point, and the reader doesn't get to know where that is.

But other people like to do the "If you don't find/do the THING, then - generic tremendous catastrophe - will take place." (Oh noes! optional.)

If *I* did that, the catastrophe WOULD happen (that's not a spoiler, I hope), because frankly, people just aren't that good under pressure. Sorry, it's true.

You don't get to decide what will be interesting to other people. No matter what you write, someone's gonna hate it. Someone else is gonna love it. Bell curve, FTW.

You can be smart and increase your chances. But it won't be by character sheets. It'll be by answering WHY.

Characterization: The HOW is WHY. Make it understandable and interesting. That's all you need to know.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Muse-ings. Psychology of Melee.

All these review blogs have their weekly/monthly "features", so I'm tinkering with different ideas on doing the same.

So, in this feature, I'll mention an aspect of the fiction writing process that I am wrestling with this week. Enjoy, ignore, discuss, as suits you.

(Sorry, can't remember where I found this picture.)

I've spent the better part of the last two weeks reworking an early battle scene. It's not a traditional fantasy battle scene, as both sides are relatively inexperienced in the ways of warfare. I don't get to say, "The vanguard took the river while X's flank fell beneath the cavalry," (etc).

Anyway, this has me thinking of these characters and their introduction to the ugliness of battle.

To do this, I go back in my mind. To my first fight.

Does anyone remember their first fight? I do. I was a toddler! Some little kid in the neighborhood said something mean about a friend of my uncle's and I socked him in the face. Then we threw his "big wheel" over the fence.

But of course, I was a little kid and beyond the memory, it didn't really stick with me.

When I was older, I was taught how to fight. I had a bunch of friends who took karate or taekwondo, and we'd spar with big puffy boxing gloves.

I grew up around a decent amount of fighting - but I was a geek, and I got picked on alot. Duh? I didn't start fights (that's what fight training teaches you), but I could hold my own. Most of the time I did.

Movies always glamorize the sword fights and heroic battles of our protagonists. They should. They're exciting.

However, if you remember your first fight, it wasn't like that. Especially if you got your butt kicked. If it was a long melee, then your muscles ached and throbbed, that day or the next.

The first time you get the wind knocked out of you, or you feel pain inflicted with harmful intent, it's scary.

Martial arts will teach you how to push through that fear, but my characters don't have that benefit at this point in the story.

So I think back to what I remember about my fights, my conflicts. I listen to other people talk about theirs.

When I want to write about the inexperienced fighters, I think back to when I wasn't confident in my ability to defend myself. To ambushes, to scraps in the schoolyard. I think about the fear of getting hurt and how much it played a part in how I acted.

I think about the anger and how often that made it easy to ignore the fear.

In looking back, I recall that certain senses go numb, and others go bionic. So, the POV from someone in the middle of a battle isn't reliable. He's seeing certain things clear as the day and other things he's not realizing at all. If he's determined, he's likely to not even notice that he has broken a limb or strained a muscle.

Certain names and ideas will stick, others will dissipate as the adrenalin pushes its influence through the moment. The sense of hearing is almost completely cut off from anything but the most direct of vocalizations.

Likewise, at some point, no matter the skill or the power, or the outcome, fatigue and strain will command the action. I caught a break on this chapter by getting to ignore that, because the race in question have abnormal endurance. If I'd been writing about another race, the fight would have ended much sooner.

These are the things I consider when I'm writing about melee: the physical condition of the fighters, their relative experience to warfare, and the psychological impacts of the conflict. Those are the factors that matter the most, not the uber sword of doom.

In my opinion, normal disclaimers apply. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Heard at the Water Cooler

Just a couple things I heard... er, read... while floating about the internet yesterday.

Lauren Panepinto, over at Orbit Books, released the cover for The Neon Court by Kate Griffin. She had this to say. Nice looking cover. Very static-y! Bzzt!!

The Neon Court is the 3rd book in the The Matthew Swift Series, behind A Madness of Angels, and The Midnight Mayor (which was just released). Neon is due out in hardcover in March 2011.


Jonathan Oliver, at Solaris Books, announced two new commissions.

The first is two novels from James Lovegrove for "...Redlaw, a science-fiction, vampire tale that promises to be dark, compelling and exciting; and Dust, an apocalyptic science-fiction story on a grand scale."

The second is Gary McMahon, for The Concrete Grove, the first book in "...a horror/urban-fantasy trilogy."

I can see Raine getting all excited about new scary stuff to read.


Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay should note a couple of interesting posts.

The Speculative Scotsman (that's such a cool name for a blog) did a nice article on GGK's recent cover art.

And Pat, (Pat's Fantasy Hotlist), shared some news regarding GGK's Under Heaven, here. I admit I followed the links to Guy's blog about the "behind the scenes" from his writer's desk. Interesting, to say the least.

That's all for this post. Just a few things I found interesting yesterday, thought I'd share. Good hunting.