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Under the sea!

One of my many stories right now is about mermaids. I began wondering then about how far down a storm can be felt, which caused me to stumble upon an FAQ about submarines. Now, normally, I don’t like about.com but this page was actually rather useful. Not only did it give me my answer (Hurricanes can distort water about 400 feet below) but it answers about 49 other questions about submarines. It also gave me a few thoughts about space ships. Might be worth a glance at.

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Land formation and drawing maps.

As I start another fun summer of roleplaying (figured out that I’m excited about that yet), I find myself drawing a map. For the longest time, Alyssa and I have used the same world, Isrlan, but now we are moving on and creating another.

Since she is much more busy than I am, I drew the map. But instead of drawing random things, I did a few specific details. In order to explain why this matters to you, I need to explain South Dakota to you first.

See the pretty river?

South Dakota is literally divided by the river, namely, the Missouri River, but since we abbreviate everything, we just call it the River. That makes East River and West River. For a traveler, that means mainly that when you cross the river you change time zones. For us in South Dakota, East River is mainly farming and baseball caps and West River is mainly cattle and cowboy hats.

But why?

In general, our weather moves from west to east. All our storms come from the west. To the farthest west point is the Black Hills (were Mtn Rushmore is). Mountains cause the clouds to rise, rain on the mountains, and give all the prettiness found there.

However, the clouds run out of water as soon as they over the mountains, so then they hit the Badlands. Personally, I find the Badlands incredible, because the dirt there is basically clay and there are many, many ridges, valleys and storm formations. I could spend a whole day there. (Or hide there with my secret organization that is taking down the government.)

Before too long, however, the clouds hit the River.  This is where it is important, because the river fuels the clouds. The clouds suck up all the water, then move along across South Dakota, raining from the river onward and giving us our lush farmland. However, since we don’t get that much rain, we typically have hot, dry summers. (Expect for last year, but last year we broke record rainfalls.)

With that in mind, I made my map, keeping a river near the mountains to fuel the clouds, so my country doesn’t become a desert. See?

On another note, and I don’t know how this really plays into things, but if you look at my map, you can see a little river about half way between the border and the Missouri River. Besides the fact that “river” floods every year, a lot of weather alerts are determined merely by whether it’ll happen west or east of the James River (Or, since we abbreviate everything, The Jim.)

Life is happy.

I just realized I haven’t written here all week. Bad, bad Abigail. (Nor have I found a job.)  MOving on however…

Facebook status last night:

Today is a happy day. My characters FINALLY started talking to me. Only took them until Chapter 35. I so did not want to start my first draft without them talking though, so we are good now. :D Thank you, Sagi, Ber and Avi! Now Nessa… about you….

Now, besides the fact that all my friends now know I’m crazy, this is really good news.

See, I’ve been having a problem connecting with characters in the way that I need to connect in order to write a good book. The last story this really happened with initially was Shad, and I think that had to do with the fact I thought about writing it for over a year before I actually wrote it.

Instead of trying to force my characters to talk to me, I turned back to how I learned to listen to characters and began writing in a modified role playing format. I call it my pre-first draft and you know how bad first drafts are suppose to be? This is worse. :)

In short, I only add the details I know. I put in dialogue as I feel it works, some emotions, indications that the character speaks, but nothing extra. I’ve been doing this since March and just now I’m figuring out how the houses look.

The problem with this is that if the characters don’t start talking to me by the end of this, it’s really hard for me to edit and typically I toss the story before I finish it, putting a good two months of work to waste.

However, since this is the first time I’ve done it with a novel, I can say  I do believe that this is going to work. Three of my main characters are finally clicking with me, and really giving me a clue about themselves. The only problem I have is actually my main character, Nessa, but she’s a little more complicated than my other characters so I think it’ll be fine.

As for weekly word count, I’ll post that tonight because I’m hoping to finish my current chapter before tonight. (I don’t write from Friday night to Saturday night, since someday this’ll be work, but that’s another post.)

Oh, and right now I’m toying with the idea of naming mermaids “For Keren.” It’s not a very strong title I don’t think, but it’s  a common theme that a lot of the characters say. Just a thought. Maybe “Avicherfa” would be better though, since she is the real motivating factor behind a lot of things.

Edit:

Mermaids last week: 30,470

Mermaids this week: 37,584

Total this week: 7,114

However, I did not finish my chapter. I perhaps wrote… 100 words today. Bad Abigail.

Mermaids versus no mermaids.

If you’ve been around here a while, you probably know that I’m working on a novel about mermaids.  At least, that was my plan. Just Trust Me is the prelude to this novel and I started writing it this month.

However… I’m running into some problems. Mainly, mermaids are *2!%!%!%^! hard to write about!

This leads me to question if I should write it on mermaids. The reasons are as follows.

Why I want to write Mermaids:

  1. Mermaids are awesome.
  2. I’ve discovered a few twists with mermaids that I’d like to play along with.
  3. One of the main components  of my story is the fact that the mermaids are “rescuing” humans, and the humans are living under the sea as mermaids. I can’t figure out a situation that involves that.
  4. All of my houses and town arrangements involve a 3D layout of the towns. I’m not sure how to change that (besides making them able to fly.)
  5. I have heard rumors of mermaids possibly being the next thing after vampires.

Why I don’t want to write mermaids:

  1. One of my components is the fact that mermaids and humans can produce offspring. I can’t figure out how they could do reconstructive surgery and still keep the private areas in tack enough.
  2. I can’t figure out how or what they can eat or drink. Particularly eat. And while I’m on that, what about smoking?
  3. Movement is difficult to describe. Sitting, standing, walking, ect.
  4. I can’t figure out how to do furniture either.
  5. Sometimes too unique of an environment throws readers. I’m here to tell a good story, not show how good I am at creating an environment.

So, I have three options.

A) Keep it as it is and figure all this out. After all, I’m a writer. I should be able to.

B) Create an air pocket under the sea, so they generally walk around on two legs, like the Irish mermaids can, add extra buoyancy which not only allows them to have a 3D movement but then they can jump up, and, if desired, they can swim  through the water well and rescue humans. Then also, they can eat easier.

C) Create a world that involves flying “mermaids,” so I maintain the 3D movement aspect, make it easier for them to eat, keep the legs, so  we have no problem with reproducing, and movement is the best. The problem with this is: what are the humans in this scenario?

Any thoughts?

Things to remember while writing my first draft:

As I work on my first draft of my mermaid story, I’m find myself having to remind myself about how to write. As this is only my second or third novel, I want it to be just like the novel I already finished. So here is a list of things to remind myself as I write.

  1. This will not be perfect.
  2. Write first; edit later.
  3. Your characters talk to you more while you write than when you plan. So write already.
  4. Facebook and wordpress are only there to distract you.
  5. As related to number four, facebook and wordpress do not need to be checked every five minutes. They can live without you.
  6. Mail doesn’t need to be checked either.
  7. Facts about how much caffeine a dog can intake doesn’t need to be looked at.
  8. It’s just ones and zeros. Ones and zeros are cheap and easy to change, so keep writing.
  9. Your perceptions of how good a section is  aren’t reliable. Just because you think it’s boring doesn’t mean that it’s boring. Wait a little bit.
  10. Sometimes character histories have to change.
  11. Sometimes it’s best to wait until later to look up a small bit of factual information. After all, the internet will then distract you.
  12. Be open to change.

That’s all I have at the moment. Do you have anything to add?

Learning to Love Your Hates.

I’ve talked before, extensively actually, about editing. In short, I didn’t do it much as a beginning writer.  I’d go from first draft to second draft and that then declare it finished. (I edited on the computer moreover.) When I made a list of the common mistakes new writers make, not editing was on the top.

Then I read a post about someone who hates outline. I do believe he called it the evil of evils. Albert proposes that we need to do the bad stuff along with the good stuff. That even though I love the ability to create a world, and the characters, and the plot, and write it all together, in order to be a good writer we need to do the parts we hate.

Which started me thinking: What do I really hate about writing?

• I love developing characters and worlds. Although recently I’ve been doing more developing characters than worlds, I love both parts of that.

• I love the ah-ha! moment that comes when I realize the full impact of something, say, how the elections beginning will rip power from Sagi’s hand, and Sagi’s reaction. Or that this one seemingly nice character is really a spy.

• I love writing it all down, watching the characters and the world evolve into something beautiful and yet simple at the same time. Of interlacing the plots together and finally finishing it.

• I really like going back, revisiting the story, and fixing the problems along the way. For those of you who don’t realize it, that is editing. There is something really fun about adding detail now that I understand the characters, their motives and all that.

In reality, that’s all I’ve done. This makes me sad but I can’t say about writing synopses or cover letters or anything of the like because I don’t really know how to do that, and as such, I haven’t done it.

Now that I’ve thought about it, there’s very little I dislike about writing now. The only time I really hate editing is when the story seems too bad to finish. But overall, I have come a long way from doing one computer edit to doing one to two paper edits per book. Hopefully, it has paid off.

Cultural differences

What’s sometimes really hard to remember is that people don’t do things the same in all parts of the world. I have two separate posts related to things that are different from South Dakota versus the East Cost America. That’s just in one country. (I also hope to maybe someday write a story about those differences. I know, it’s been done in many movies, but all from people in Hollywood, and I think it’ll be really funny.)

One of these examples is that the ten children my teacher went to kindergarten with were also in his graduating class.

Anyway, that being said, my sociology  professor likes mentioning similarities between other cultures. I’m not sure how much I trust him on this. I don’t like him for a number of reasons that I don’t want to go into at the moment. However. I’m going to post these here with the idea that it can help the creative juices flowing on what you can change in your world.

• In North America, if you raise your eyebrows, it indicates doubt. However in Peru, it means you should pay me. In the pacific, it merely means yes.

• Movies from America aren’t shown in the Middle East because they are too sexie.

• There is no internet in Cuba. (Rather reminds me of the situation last I heard in Egypt.)

• In Saudi Arabia, it is a sign that the agreement has been settled and both parties are content when you hold hands, even if both parties are represented by men.

• In Europe, both men and women greet each other by kissing on the cheek.

• Here’s a strange one and I’ll actually tell you a story to illustrate it. Someone from my school went to visit Asia. He went to the bathroom and started doing his business. As he stood in front of the urinal, someone came up from behind and began to massage his shoulders. (CREEPY!) It turned out there are some places that pay men to stand in restrooms and massage people’s shoulders in order so they relax while they go.

• I had one more note here that caused me to search the internet. And I found this on Answer.com (which, I know, not very reputable but they are supposedly quoting oxford dictionary.)

The quintessential British offensive gesture for most of the 20th century, formed by holding up a hand with the middle and index finger upright in a V shape, the thumb and other two fingers curled into the palm; the palm facing towards the gesturer. If asked, most people would gloss the meaning as ‘F—you’ or something similar, and it was certainly a very potent offensive gesture until recent years when it seems to be losing its ability to offend.

• Especially in the midwest of America, adulthood is obtained when someone turns 21 and can drink. (Supposedly.)

Now, if I have any of these wrong, please tell me, because I don’t like being wrong and I do question my source. (I really don’t like this teacher.) Do you know any other differences between other countries as far as gestures and the like?

What I consider before writing any story.

I’ll be presenting a workshop on creative writing at my school in about two weeks, so I came up with these things that I always look at before I start writing.

What is the goal of the character?

I don’t say plot because that implies that I know the plot. I’m finding that I typically cannot pinpoint a plot until I finish  and I can look at the whole picture. But my character needs an initial goal and a plan.

How does goal and plot differ? In Shad, one of my stories, his goal was to win in the intragalatic race. As such, he worked towards that and kept struggling to make it through the race. However, the plot actually turned out to be Shad trying to break away being a sweeper and establish himself in the real world, something I didn’t even realize until I looked at the finish product and saw that, based on where the story ended, that had to be it.

What is the ending?

I will not start writing a story until I know the ending. Period. Because either a) I’ll never learn the ending or b) it’s not a good story. Either way, I need to have a clue on the ending.

Now, sometimes for me that ending is vague. Like, I know they are going to run the aliens off of earth, but I’m not quite sure how. Sometimes it’s quite concrete, like, the story will end with Kayla comes to the new home and Shad meets her.

Character’s Point of View (POV):

That seems strange. Well, of course I’m going to tell it in the character whose story I thought of. However, when I began to systematically think about the POVs, I realized that sometimes the obvious character isn’t the best.

For example, I’m going to post a story this week where a mermaid (Avi) has to convince her sister (Nessa) to join an underground liberation movement. Instead of writing it from Avi’s POV though, so Avi keeps having to tell Nessa everything that Avi already knows, I wrote it from Nessa’s POV, which ended up making a very interesting story.

This time also makes me realize whether I really need to tell it in one or two or five people’s POVs.

Person:

This goes slightly into the POV, but something I sometimes decide later and sometimes I don’t even decide until after I pick up the story. In general, I will write in third person. However, some stories call for first.

(Then you have the annoying stories that you write that you intend for it only to be a short story and so you write it in first person only to have the characters tell you its a novel, but you don’t want to write it in first person the whole way, so you need a new way of presenting the information without rewriting the whole short story/prelude.)

Character’s personality:

I think this aspect is a fundamental part of any story. However, I have discovered through a long and tumutious road that a personality doesn’t just come usually. If it does, it is usually perfect. As such, I automatically want to have a clue about how this character acts, is she/he shy, determined, stubborn, brave? And what is the character’s weakness?

Where is the story best told?

Generally, this is obvious. However, not always. And sometimes the setting doesn’t make a difference. But it is something to think about.

I should probably mention that I don’t look at tense. Typically, I’ll write in past tense. If I happen to start writing in present, it’s by mere accident but usually because I hear the voices so well that I just write as they tell me. (No, I am not schizophrenic.)

Where to start with world building.

One of my favorite elements, and I’ll admit, the hardest element as well, of writing science fiction is the chance that I have to create a world. It is just awesome to  be able to put all the ideas I have of how society can develop into a little place all my own, without having to live in it. (There are some of my worlds that I don’t really want to live in.)

However, that’s all blah, blah, blah. The important thing is how to build it. Like I said, this is one of the hardest parts. I start to write a novel, stop half way through, or worse all the way through, realize that something pivotal doesn’t work, and so have to fix that up or figure out how it works. That’s just plain frustrating.

But perhaps I have figured out a solution.

See, I just wrote a story which has been running around here with a couple names; mostly you’ll know it by Ethical    or mermaids. Now the title is Just Trust Me and should be appearing here shortly.

This story, although a short story, can be expanded so this is the prologue of a novel. It’s just set up for that. At first I thought that I will never write her story. However, the more I began rewriting it, and polishing it up, and making this world a decent world, the more I wanted to write it into a novel.

See, it’s a lot easier to write something tiny. I’m only playing around at the moment with 8500 words. That doesn’t take that much time to work through. However, by creating the world at the moment, and figuring out how it can function in a reasonable way, I happen to have myself set up for a very good novel world with not that much difficulty.

Not only that but I already know four of the main characters in the novel, enough that I think they’ll start to speak to me on the first draft.

Now, I don’t think this novel is going to show up in bookstores any time soon. I probably won’t even start writing it until July or August. But–I also think that it does work to write a short story about all of your main characters before you write the novel. Not only does it give you something smaller to work on, but it lets you know their world and their thoughts.

Have you ever tried to do this? How’d it turn out?

All the more reason why to keep writing.

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

Edgar Rice Burroughs