Archive for the ‘Fantasy Roman-Style’ Category

Two weeks ago I brought up several stories which I call my favorites, and that naturally brought me to the idea of influence. You hear the phrases bandied about often by any creative types–“I consider such-and-such my greatest influence”, as in “As a composer, I find Mozart and John Williams to be my greatest influences” for an example, or directors cite earlier movies that formed their interest in the silver screen.

Certainly, as a writer, I count many, many authors and stories among my influences. All writers generally do–after all, that initial exposure to tales that transport us to other worlds or realities far from our own personal experiences engender the desire in some readers to craft our own. Fredrik Pohl, Harlan Ellison, Harry Harrison, John Haldeman, Doyle, Tolkien, Lewis, Shakespeare etc. all count high on my list of literary inspirations.

But… what about other influences, such as music? Take my first example, with music above. I frequently listen to music while writing, matching the mood/tone with whatever I am trying to write. Umbra (and all of its previous iterations) came flying from my fingertips with an ample dose of Alice in Chains, early Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden pounding in my ears. For my darker fantasy stories like “The Falconer and the Wolf“, one of my favorite bands to get me in the right atmosphere is Dead Can Dance. When sketching notes for The Light of Liberty, I turned to Barry Phillips and his version of “The World Turned Upside Down” along with other American Colonial period tunes.

Are there any more? Of course there are. Many people have incorporated their likes and hobbies into their writing. Some cozy mysteries, for example, are based around knitting. My character Ennid the Havoc and his escapades are influenced by my love of MMA (that’s Mixed Martial Arts for those not yet initiated into its primal awesomeness). My interest in genetics features heavily in Clones are People Two. Even if the things we like aren’t at the forfront, we sometimes insert it in small ways. I love goats (Casey, from Umbra), I think rhinos are awesome and I smith silver (both of which will appear in The Opal Necklace, release date TBD) and I’ve an interest in raptors and falconry.

It’s all very simple–EVERYTHING can be an influence on our creativity, and EVERYTHING should be. It’s from these somewhat disparate ideas and influences that some of our richest “juices” flow.

 

 

It’s FINISHED.  The Opal Necklace is finished.

That’s right, my NaNoWriMo torture time is finally over.  What I ended up with was one great big, steaming pile of verbal crap.  (See, Hemingway, you were right!)

Not literally, of course.  Not the ‘steaming part’, anyway.

However, this one is going to go simmer on the back burner in hopes that I can take the excrement and somehow magically convert it into a savory pot of tasty sauce. Or at least an edible one.

By ignoring the manuscript for, say, a month or two, I can come back to it with a fresh eye. I have my technical specialists who look over some of the aspects (thanks Dave and Greg!) but as for the entire thing, I need to step away from it and pretend I am reading it for the first time.

I’ve also been reading Syd Field’s books, in particular the one on Screenwriter Problem Solving.

Anyone who tells you that novels/plays/screenplays are different… well, they’re correct. They ARE different, but only in nuance. They should all convey the story by showing, not telling (c’mon, I know you’ve heard that one a thousand times before), and even the stage play benefits by minimizing the exposition and the talking heads* doing nothing but droning on alone or at one another. I think it was Blake Snyder of Save the Cat! fame who said if you have to have some exposition, at least bury it in the characters doing something exciting (paraphrasing here).

HOWEVER, saying that a novelist cannot benefit from research into how a screenplay is constructed would be the biggest crime of all. After all, screenplays are three-act structures and the same pacing of good films is really the target that I am aiming for. (I don’t particularly like to read rambling, whatever happens, happens kind of fiction, and I don’t like to write it either.)  Everything in the first two acts of the story builds up to the climax, contributing to the resolution and finale. I like to write out all of my scenes on index cards and “marry them” up with the points on Syd Field’s Paradigm. It’s a fantastic way to see where I might be spending too much time in the setup, for example, or rushing my ending in just a couple of pages. Last thing I need is my reader to go looking for missing pages at the end of the book because the conclusion felt so unsatisfyingly short. While I am not suggesting that all books should end up like ready-to-film, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the tension and conflict suggestions I’ve already found in Syd Field’s books.

 

*Someone I once knew happened to rape the whole graphic novel medium by having his characters do little more than talk to each other for the length of the comic, while lounging around.  Mediocre art aside, one particular excruciating page had 16 FACES of back and forth conversation depicting indiscernable facial expression changes, and just their heads. It is called a ‘graphic novel’ for a reason, for heaven’s sake!

Thank goodness that one is not indicative of all graphic novels.  There are quite a few which had no words at all, but the story couldn’t be more brilliantly clearer because the action in the artwork conveyed the entire thrust.  Talk about your “show, don’t tell”!

The Opal Necklace

Anyone whose done any creative writing at all has most assuredly had the old “Show, don’t tell” beat into their skulls by well-meaning instructors.  Nothing wrong with the phrase, and, in fact, it works.  What they usually don’t extrapolate is the “How” part of that showing without simply telling.

I have discovered my method of “How” and it’s very simple.  I ask myself, about everything I describe, how does it make me feel?  (And by me I mean that I filter it first through me, then through the character whose point of view I’m using for the scene.)  Each of us has a plethora of experiences, and quite a few of us like to share these memories, good or bad, with one another.  Look at social media entries on sites like Facebook* -most everyone is more interested in telling us how they feel about something rather than exactly what occurred there: “Having a great time!”  Or the opposite – your car breaks down in a dark neighborhood.  It’s not just the broken streetlamps, or the sound of rats scurrying in the trash littering the alleyways.  These things help to build the tone, but its the reaction to them which holds power, especially in fiction.

Most of our most poignant memories elicit a memory of the FEELING of being in it, rather than a second-by-second replay of events.  The latter would be horrifyingly droll.  The former is what brings others into the moment.  We may not have exactly the same experience, but every human being on this planet shares the same set of emotions, whether they show it or not.  (Or misdirect it.  Some really creepy villains stem from those who absolutely LOVE things the rest of us find abhorrent, but to them it is love.)

This is insanely useful in fiction, as it brings the human element into what is essentially a foreign world (fantasy and science fiction are notorious for high-level play-by-plays of the scenes.)  It allows the reader to sense the world rather than reading what it’s all about.

For example:

The sun crested in the noonday sky, baking everything below.

Consul Norrus felt uncomfortable in his breastplate and leather armor, and cursed.

 

This one rates a “meh” on the description meter.  Barely.

But now I take it to a personal level:

 

Consul Norrus mopped at the sweat on his forehead and squinted at the scorching noonday sun.  His breastplate absorbed the heat, cooking him in the

ridiculous accoutrement his title forced him to wear, and he prayed some small crisis erupted requiring his presence erupted, preferably somewhere with plenty of shade.

 

Now I get a sense of not only of the heat of the day, of Norrus’ discomfort with the armor, but also his feelings about some of the necessities of his position.  This makes him a human –how many of us have been forced to wear something uncomfortable just to satisfy some obligation of our profession or duty?  This brings us closer to him as a person, either as someone we like (which I hope in this case you, dear Reader, will, as Consul Norrus will be showing up as a protagonist in The Opal Necklace) or someone you despise.

Of course, there are plenty of scenes in stories which have character, no point-of-view, right?  Wrong.  An omniscient narrator point-of-view falls very flat without a tone, without a reaction to the course of events they are narrating.  Otherwise, it’s once again just a narration, and probably worthy of setting the book aside.

I want to make my reader sense the scene rather than simply read it.

 

* Or don’t. I won’t necessarily advocate it, because I’m not a fan myself, but it has its uses.

 

 

Clones are People Two The Opal Necklace

 

CLONES ARE PEOPLE TWO is on the virtual shelves, at least on Smashwords and Amazon.  Others will be added shortly.

Now that CLONES is out, I have another story which I’ve been planning for NaNoWriMo.  It’s the same basic premise as the novel I had done two years ago for that same organization, but a lot more thought has gone into it, and a whole other subplot which necessitates a major re-write.  I also am planning to have this thing published some time early next year so I can get started on the second Umbra novel.  Please note that this is a “working cover” for The Opal Necklace.