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And see if we can find out anything interesting from the remains.

The traditional model for a storyteller is for them to dig as deep a hole for their protagonist as they can, and then start throwing whatever comes to had at them to see whether they can climb back up the pile . . . or get buried under it instead. In order to keep their stories from being "shallow" most authors try to dig down to bedrock. Others go even deeper, chipping or even blasting their way down through layers that aren't even visible in the works of those that stop when they hit solid stone. The two questions that this brings to mind are: does this actually improve the books in any way, and how do they decide how deep to go? Actually, there's a third question as well, and its answer probably answers the previous two. How much variation is there in the readers' perceptions of how far down the bedrock is?

A further twist of the metaphor brings us two other categories. Some writers excavate a very precise foundation for some future construction and take on whatever obstructions get in the way of achieving that goal. the things tossed at the hero are specific as well; they are the materials that will eventually be used to build that structure. Others follow the contours of the earth, digging around buried boulders and following seams of softer dirt to see where they go. In these cases what gets thrown down onto the long suffering sap is usually primarily the stuff that had been dug out from there to begin with. Most often, it's a mixture of varying amounts of these two styles. Is it "shallower" to stop at the depth needed and not go any deeper, or to go as deep as you can but not find out what happens when you dig into that chunk of sandstone over there?

Seeing as how the idea here is to try and look at writing in different ways, anybody got any further extensions for the analogy? I suppose we could tack on the old saying about the frogs trying to churn their ways out of buckets, but that thought might have been influenced by a story I read recently where it certainly wasn't milk that was poured in onto the frog.

Oops

Jul. 27th, 2008 07:42 pm
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I hate coming across glaring editorial failures while I'm reading, in part because I can't help but think of how the author must feel/have felt upon discovering the mistake. In this particular case, it was a scene roughly a page and a half long that was supposed to be moved from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the chapter after the next. Instead it got duplicated, resulting in there being quite a few more dead bandits to dispose of than really makes sense. I could tell from the level of polishing which instance was the intended version, and which had crept in from an earlier draft, but it was still jarring. And a pointed example of why, as you goes through the many revisions of a story, you need to keep getting new people to test it on who don't already know how the story is supposed to go.
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I bitterly repent my long ago disbelief in the old writerly saying: "Ideas are the easy part."

This one is especially bad, it's epic fantasy. I don't handle volume well enough for epic fantasy. Compared to Goodkind, Eddings, or Jordan, my attempt would most likely look like the outline of an epic fantasy story. But it's such a neat idea...

I guess I'll just add it to the list . . . wait a minute, if I combine it with that one that was too obviously derived from a major movie series (not originally fantasy), hmmmm. Of course, that does completely throw out the existing plot outline, but that was part of the problem with it in the first place.
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I have just written the prologue to a novel. It jumped almost fully formed into my head and after typing it out, I like it. Even in it's rough draft form, I want to read the book that it's attached to. The only problem is, I doesn't offer me any hints about what story I'm supposed to write after it. Oh, sure, it gives me a bunch of setting stuff. Enough to know that I have only one other story fragment that might even possibly intersect with it. Unfortunately, while a creation myth can do a wonderful job of getting someone into the mindset of a fictional universe, it doesn't tell you jack about what your plot should be or any of your characters. Although, if the teller of the narrator of the myth is a character rather than a general narratorial voice . . . well, at least I've got some sketches for one personality.

But still, it would be nice to have somewhere to go from here rather than having to stop because I've reached the end of what I know.


*do those of you who refer to it as your Muse get better results? It doesn't really sound like you do, but maybe it's just that the complaints end up on livejournal, and you're too busy to post when there's nothing to complain about. I know I said I wouldn't use that term until I was allowed to complete something, but that threat doesn't seem to have made much of a difference.

Um, wow.

Apr. 15th, 2008 01:43 pm
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Edit: I just looked at the publication date, and found out that it is a re-release and was originally published in the early seventies. Why was anyone willing to touch a later series based off of this piece of drivel?

Original post retained because it's just as true of a reprint as it would have been of a new book.
I just read a new book by an acclaimed author who has been writing since before I was born. It was complete and utter garbage. I can't imagine why an agent or editor would be willing to let it be published, considering the damage it could do to the sales of the author's other books. If this was my first introduction to this author, I wouldn't ever have read any of the other books.

Plot, characters, descriptions, dialog, none of these was higher quality than what you would expect from some fourteen year old's fan-fiction. In fact, that is what it most closely resembled, an amateur dabbling in an established universe. And the main character was an unabashed Mary-Sue, whose only flaws were those that resulted from being perfect. Ferchristsake, he even lost an arm and ended up being able to do anything physical better than a two armed person could.
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This time I'm asking for your input because I have two options for WHY something happened and either one gives me fun things to do to the characters. I haven't been able to decide on my own which set of consequences I like better, so I'm letting you join in the fun. Too bad basic accounts can't do polls...

Option 1: Magic is an energy field radiating out from somewhere like light or gravity. Can be locally concentrated or dispersed, but only by things on the same scale as the area to be affected. (lenses or or clouds for example) Overall amount available is entirely dependent on things that affect the source, regardless of local conditions such as whether it is used.

Option 2: Magic is a free floating substance, capable of drifting on it's own. Would have strong concentrations near what ever processes generate it, gradually decreasing with distance as it disperses into the environment. Fairly easy to concentrate or move around, but can also be used up until more drifts in.

Option 3: Something else. I've got plot possibilities based on one or the other of these ideas, but I agree with most professional writers: ideas are easy. Chances are, any other explanation for why this event occurs would prompt me to think of the consequences in this situation, and they might turn out to be better than either of the sets I already have.

Option 4: It's your story, you figure it out, ya lazy bum! (not mutually exclusive with any of the other answers ;)


Edit: I have got to remember to view these things after posting them. That way I can catch things like the failed html tag and the duplicate "Option 4"s. Somehow I never notice these things in LJs spellchecker even though I always do when typing in other aplications.
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Don't use medieval surnames (smith, cooper) in combination with unusual (or made up) first names. There aren't enough reasonable sounding 3-5 letter names to go around. While a John smith wouldn't be remarked upon even if two unrelated books both had one, the current book I'm reading has a main character and her two best friends with names remarkably similar to ones in books by three other authors. I know that you don't want every Elizabeth to be a 'Liz' or a 'Beth', but there's no way that you'll come up with a unique contraction of it, and it's quite possible that a last name that sounds appropriate to you also did so for someone else.

Further note to self: countermand that if doing something that's actually historical.
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Okay, came up with an alternate motivating factor that lets me (mostly) keep the scene I started with. This is good, because I need to practice actually sitting and writing. If I had to make too many changes I'd be stuck spending too much time sitting around and wondering how to get from point A to point B, rather than paying attention to the scenery revealed along the way.

False start

Jan. 8th, 2008 10:06 am
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Well, I figured out my remaining stumbling blocks, started writing, and got 600 words of useful information about the main character. Unfortunately, one of those bits of knowledge is the realization that she wouldn't have gotten into that situation in the first place. So it's time to regroup, and figure out a new entry into the story that fits this new perspective on her.
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Okay, serial numbers filed off. There's still similarity, but it's of a "These use the same theme" rather than "the author must have read _____". And it's neither a particularly uncommon theme, nor one of Heinlein's better known works, so I had no proof that anyone else would have made the connection anyway. I just had the idea, went "hey that works," followed by "wait, that seems more like a memory than an idea," followed by "oh wait, I know where I read this before..."

Now I just need to know why [2nd named character] gets killed/disappears at the end of the section, so that I can lay ground work to make it not unexpected. If I could do without this, I could just start writing and hope I find out along the way, but this is part of the differentiation from the other work in question...
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Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] quilzas' comment about skin color, I now have a main character. I can't actually trace the thought path, but at some point I considered making him an albino and that thought turned out to be a catalyst. Not only do I know what the main character's origins and skill sets are, I also know in a general way what happens in the first section. Now I just have to file Heinlein's serial numbers off of it, and figure out the start of section two so I know what direction this one is headed. After that, I think all the conceptual hurdles will be done, and all I'll have left to do is, you know, write it. Everything else should be able to fit in where ever the narative takes me.

Of course, just writing it will take me somewhat longer than those on my friends list. Considering that this:
31 words

Touchtyping online


is about half what I keep seeing other people post. Oh well, as I type I'll get better.
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Considering when I posted it, I suspected that this post might fall through the cracks, between everyone posting holiday stuff and everyone doing holiday stuff. But since this story is getting obstreperous, I'll rephrase it and see I can can get some response. Even if it's just "Get your own creativity, or use that die you mentioned!" :)

I have a story bugging me to be written with, by and large, a blank file for a main character. A better example of how this could be than the ones I mentioned before is Brian Jacques' Redwall. Matthais was a novice in the order, but he could just as easily have been anyone else as long as he was A: a mouse, B: physically fit, and C: at the abby when Cluny the Scourge came. It's not that I don't have ideas for who my main character could be, it's that I'm having trouble narrowing the field down.

Besides, I know fully well that even if my [sarcasm]muse[/sarcasm] lets me finish this before it gets distracted by another shiny, the odds are that this will never be read by anyone other than my proof readers. So consider this market research :)

So what do you want to see or think is over used? Male? Female? Sexual preferences a secondary theme, or kept out of the spotlight as much as possible? (I have no idea whether or not it will play into this or not myself) I need someone young and/or inexperienced, but as I said last time: mage, page, noble, or thief? A distrusted merchant from outside who gets drawn into internal politics? A street urchin who manages to be in the wrong place at the right time? A noble scion who wants to study high magic, chafing under the studies necessary for an heir?

Yes, I know that none of these is very original... when described like this. On the other hand, everyone's skeletons are pretty similar too. And of course, since no plan of attack survives first contact with the enemy the end result may not resemble any suggestions I get at all. But I need a starting point, and I would prefer to have one that isn't overused and people are interested in.
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...because I haven't finished any of my other projects yet, but my subconscious just kicked me in the shins. *glowers at it as it lurks smugly in the back of my skull* I am not going to call it a "muse" when it's behaving like this, that'll be a reward for it if it ever lets me finish anything. *wanders off muttering under his breath*

Anyway, I need help with a character. I have a setting, I have events, I have a bunch of secondary characters. I even have a few traits for the main one, but I don't have anything to attach them to. The best explanation for how this could possibly be, would be a series like Harry Potter or Miles Vorkosogan. That statement might confuse you further, since those stories are directly about their respective main characters, but think about it. Harriet Potter would be significantly different in it's final form, but at conception it would be very similar. And did Miles' bone condition and admiral father define him? All that was required for the first book was some medical problem and prominent parents.

If you happen to have an extra character hanging around looking for work, I'd be happy to look over their resume and see if they meet my criteria, but I'm primarily looking for generalities. Male or female? Mage, page, noble, or thief? What do you feel is over-used or what do you think we need more of? Like those already mentioned, or Luck in the Shadows or The Belgariad, these choices will end up mattering little, but they will color everything. Don't let the fact that this decision will effect the majority of scenes in the book, it is just window dressing after all. If I don't get any responses, I'll just roll a die.

Explanation of the world this character will inhabit )

Seriously, a couple of secondary characters are arguing over which gets to be "best friend" and which gets "love interest," and if I don't at least decide which one the main is attracted to there may be bloodshed. There may still be fights if one or the other doesn't like the result of that decision, but at least that merely produces more filled pages :) For that matter, how this society views homosexuality hasn't come up yet, but it might soon after this decision is made. Do you have a preference between the openness of Diane Duane's Tale of the Five, the struggling against social mores of... a series who's title and author I'm drawing a blank on damnit, or the more usual "Who knows, it never became relevant to the story?"

Any other pieces of information you would want to know before making your suggestion?
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The problem with internet forums is that you can type a couple of thousand words and not have anything to show for it except for the possibility of new virtual friends. Sure, the same could be said for face-to-face conversations, (minus the typing) but you're much more likely to generate that good pealing in person. And besides, it takes me much less time to say that much than it does to type it. So here is something I posted as a comment elsewhere, in lieu of coming up with something new to type here.

I get the urge to write something when I'm reading or watching a story and go "hey, that's not [how that character should act/what was foreshadowed/a believable plot device/etc.]" Since I don't feel any desire to write fan fiction, I immediately strip out and replace any elements of setting, characterization, and plot that aren't essential to the situation that triggered the urge. The new elements, of course, bring along the necessity to make minor changes to the situation so that they'll fit, which may trigger further alterations to the new elements. The cycle usually results in something that is almost, but not entirely, completely unlike tea, err... the original.

This does a lot to explain why I have so many fragmentary pieces siting around waiting for another piece that matches up with it. And it shouldn't be taken that I have to experience bad stories to get inspiration, indeed better original stories generally result in more interesting final results. But if you see me asking for inspiration, it's because I'm trying to kick-start my creativity without the normal book/movie/tv show trigger. Once I've managed to fit at least two fragments together I can usually take it from there, but when I have just one... well... the tendency is to follow the original a little to closely.

Chapters

Nov. 12th, 2007 03:43 pm
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I've been thinking lately about the difference between short stories and novels, and how the internet blurs the distinction. I've read two works online (well, considerably more than two since 1995, but these two in particular make great examples) one of which was 6 chapters long, and the other 9. I was playing with the settings of my word processor, trying to achieve a page layout that accuratly mimicked that of a book. You know, two pages visible at a time, appropriate font and size, proper number of lines per page and characters per line. Something I could set up as a macro and make reading on the screen more enjoyable.

As a test, I dumped the first of the 6 chapters into it, and was surprised to find that it occupied nearly fifty pages. At first I thought that my copy had stuttered or some such thing, because that would most likely make the full story a full fledged novel, just tossed out there because the author didn't consider him/herself "good enough" to even consider sending it to a publisher. After checking, I could find no fault with my setup and the first chapter really did comprise of over fifteen thousand words. Curious, I tried a chapter of the other story I mentioned earlier, and came up with a mere seven pages.

This further confused me, because even beyond the number of chapters, I had the impression from my memories that the apparent three hundred page novel was shorter than the apparent fifty five page short story. Re-reading them both, I came upon an answer for this conundrum. The longer work (from an individual who doubts his skill, no less) I devoured in large gulps, as I tend to do with books I like. I paid no attention to how many times I had to hit Page Down to reach the end of a chapter, I was too busy enjoying the story. The other, I was far less engrossed in, and seven printed pages still provides a fair number of screens of texet.

So it seems that online, the "length" of a story depends more on the opinion of the reader and the divisions that the author decides to include than it does on the actual verbiage. This makes such breaks far more (or possibly, far less) important there than they are in printed works. What is your opinion on the matter? What do such divisions add to a story, and/or if you write, what do you use them for? I have my ideas, but I'm curious to see how they fit with others.
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Interestingly, the Gender Genie consistently rates my fiction as being written by a female, while rating my prose as being male. I don't remember if anyone who reads this is among the small number of folks who have read my more recent attempts at fiction, but if there is, is there really that much difference in style?

If their is nobody who can answer that question, I'll have to dig up something that's in a complete enough state for me to admit to publicly. For that matter, I think I will anyway. I'm curious, and multiple opinions on it would be interesting.

Writing

Oct. 20th, 2007 03:21 pm
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Sort of like my father has his Old Guy and the Demon, now I'm stuck with an angel talking to a cop in a bar. Only it's nowhere near as interesting. The cop (and the reader) needs some exposition, and the angel wants to provide it, but it's still a big ol' chunk of history/mythology. I'm left looking at it going "What if anything can I make another home for? Does it really all have to be right here?" I mean, we're dealing with a recounting of the "real" story of the fall of man, and the reasons why the mean nasties are doing mean and nasty things. The cop needs it in order to go left when he would have otherwise gone right, but it's still slow and rather dry. Maybe I'll try shuffling things around and see if there's anywhere between point A, where the cop exits a preceding scene at the end of his workday, and point C, where he turns left instead of right, that a lull would fit better.
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Sidetracked again :)

Assuming the existence of Luminiferous Aether.

A weapon is designed that projects a bolt or a beam of distortion in the aether and when a solid object gets in the way of the distortion it's molecular bonds gt broken as space gets stretched and twisted around them. What would the beam/bolts look like? The effect itself would be invisible, but there would be some light released by the destruction of air molecules in the way. furthermore, there would be blue shifting, red shifting, or both, of both that light and any light passing through as the paths of the light rays get stretched or compressed. It'll be a very subtle effect in any case, but would it be on the order of visibility of a laser, or of a laser in a deliberately fogged area?

Flightiness

Oct. 3rd, 2007 12:42 pm
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Okay, so I also have a problem with keeping my mind running along a single track, and that just adds to the problem mentioned yesterday. Today I can't stop thinking about quarks, virtual particles, field theory, and high energy physics. I don't think this can be tied in with the other idea, without creating the most recent book I read. There are some differences, sure, but it would still be quite recognizable. So these thoughts go some where else, probably with the spaceship drive problem over there. And then there are the two stories I've got the most done on, neither of which have anything to do with this. Unless... How annoyed would you be with a cyberpunk book that started throwing theology around? Actual Good and Evil don't really fit the genre, and I personally have always found the books that mix dystopian futures with magical beings to be somehow "fluffier" and and I almost automatically held them to lower standards. It might just have been the writing styles of the few I encountered though.

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