Tag Archive | challenges

changing faces

I don’t think I’ve never told you about my (someday written) novel, mindskill. So, I was going to summarize it and I don’t think I can do that. There are almost too many plots in my head right now.

The important part: Vanessa is a college student who comes home for a friend’s wedding only to be attacked. She kills the man but in a panic, she flees to avoid prison. Along the way she is told that she has a special skill of telepathy, whose development has thus far been a secret to most people.

She discovers that her father was (he died about six months from the beginning of the book) heavily involved in the development of the telepathy. It was he who gave it to her, because she had the plan of going into law enforcement as well. My idea behind her dad was that he was rather naive in his belief that by allow police to know immediately whether a person was lying or not would prevent innocent people from going to jail and enable better investigations, making the world safer.

Problems I ran into were two fold. 1) How would this be physically done? 2) Why would a kind father do this to his daughter? 3) Other complications that result for questionable things. (Including the fact that this intelligent doctor is very naive and I can’t imagine that happening.)

In part because of those reasons, I discard that plot in favor of writing short stories. But after a little bit of writing short stories, I wanted to write one of (the more rounded) characters in this story. So I started thinking about it and playing with it and I think I am going to have to make a serious change which I can’t say I like the idea of doing.

See, up until this point, I have been thinking of the dad as a good guy. Maybe slightly misinformed but generally good. If I change that, some things start falling into place.

BEFORE: Dad worked in a place generally like America (I haven’t decided if it is or not yet. I know. Bad writer.) the whole time, Vanessa and Dad lived in a nice house, and life was pretty good. Vanessa was busy at school doing school things and Dad was at work but everything was pretty much fine.

Dad insisted on privacy and gave it to his daughter as a gift.

NOW: Mom died (tragically) when Vanessa was ten.  I knew this and this has not changed. However, Dad, in overwhelm grief, runs away to work in, say, Africa, sending Vanessa to boarding school. While in Africa, Dad probably catches up with some people, and they discover telepathy and start selling it to countries as a weapon, playing very much of a double faced game, where they say that America has to buy it or else they’ll sell it to Iran, and telling Iran the same thing, selling it to both the countries with neither of them knowing it.

When Vanessa comes home for summer, Dad is generally detached and distant, but so much that he doesn’t a) realize where this will be heading to in the near future and b) actually give it to her as a protection for when these powers clash.

As a result, when she is finds out that she has the telepathy, she would have actually joined the group that her dad left behind her. Her dad’s death would have been a result of clashing opinions (between him, who wants to continue doing what they are doing, and Karl, who wants to start taking over the government and doing government reformation.(Yes, there is more to Karl; I’m not making him a faceless evil overlord. I’ve given that advice a bit too much.))

It’s drastic, I know. It would be hard enough for her without finding out that her dad was a traitor to the country and probably wanted by someone. But I think that sometimes we as writers need to let go of our preconceptions of characters and think outside of the box. Yeah, sure, we think outside of the box a lot as it is, but outside of outside of the box maybe?

It helps my problems is the biggest reason for this unexpected change. It makes sense too. It changes some things with my other characters, namely Isaiah, who works as a special investigation person, and changes a lot, but I haven’t really written much to change. Only some fifty odd pages that I planned on discarding most of anyway. Still… it helps a lot. And imagine this: you’re reading my book and you just find out that the main character’s dad is actually a bad guy! (And just pretend you didn’t just read this whole post first.) It would most certainly  be unexpected, which is what I always go for.

five parts of any character

I think characters are one of the key parts of any story. One of the largest problems I think that new writers face is having good, solid, 3D characters. As such, here are some recommendations that might help anyone move in that direction.

Keep in mind however that this isn’t just for the hero of the story. This list applies just as much to the villain as the hero, if not more so, because villains are harder to understand. It’s easy to understand why someone would want to save the world from being taken over but a lot harder to convince the reader why the world is being taken over in the first place.

1. Appearance. This is more of a technicality than a mandate, but having a good clue about what your character looks like will save you a lot of headache in the end, when you start editing and find that on page one, she has brown eyes, page five blue/green eyes, page seven brown eyes again and then on page fifteen she has the gray, stormy eyes that melt the heart of her boyfriend or whatever.

2. Interests. In general, what does he/she like? This can play into what they do what they do but sometimes it might just be an aspect of what they miss now that his/her life has been ruined by the author. Everyone likes doing something, even if it is just checking facebook and playing farmville.

3. love. I know, you’re not writing a love story. and since I myself have sworn off love stories this seems an ironic one to include. However, I’m not just talking about boyfriend/girlfriend kind of love. I’m talking about maybe the relationship that the said character has with his/her parents. Or maybe it’s a sibling. This can be a powerful motivator both to do things and to not do things. But having a brother that you haven’t heard about until page 90 being kidnapped and the hero decides, “Oh, you know, I think I’ll turn myself into the bad guy just because he’s such a great brother,” seems a lot weaker than a brother exchange when the kidnapped brother has been a support, someone who’s been sending him money, and someone who hid him from the police on page 30.  Know who your character cares about and, if needed, why (or why not.).

4. Motivation. Take note: this is a big one for the villain. However, almost everyone has motivation to do something. Thing about yourself. Why do you go to work in the morning? Having a character that gets swept along willy-nilly seems weak and like they are pathetic. Now, maybe that is an attribute you want in a character because you’ll eventually work it out of him/her, but be on guard for it. Know why your character does what they do.

5. Weakness. What can’t they do? Not everyone, or very few people at least, are perfect in everything they do. And what I am discovering very quickly is that everything takes lots and lots of practice. It’s very easy to create perfect characters that don’t ever have a problem but everyone has a problem. Everyone either gets annoyed, frustrated, angry or weak-kneed. Try to have a clue about what that is before writing, so you don’t have to edit it back in later.

seven ways to defeat writer’s block

Everyone always gets to a point when they are staring at the blank computer screen, the cursor laughing at them in its blinky way, and they do know what to write next. That is where brainstorming is one of the lifesavers for writers.  As such, here are seven ways that may or may not help.

1. Interview the character. Just sit down and talk to him or her and try to pick their brain.  Incredibly things come to light.

2. Draw a picture from the story. Now, I know that not everyone is an artist, but sometimes drawing a picture gives a new perspective and helps everything seem more clear. It might also give you unique ideas as to what to include.

3. Freewrite. I have never been a serious fan of freewriting but sometimes putting thoughts on paper can be enough to trigger an idea about where to go with the story. There have been times that it helped me more than anything else. And maybe it doesn’t have to be in paragraph format. I oftentimes write outlines in bullet format.

4. Look from the other characters’ perspectives. Especially when writing a singular POV piece, we get so caught up in the POV character that we forget to think about the motivations of everyone else. A story is really everyone’s motivations all happening at the same time and triggering problems.

5. Write it out on index cards. I’ve never actually done this, but  I always imagine when there is a complicated thing the best thing to do is to write out my problems on index cards and play with them on a giant table. Since I can’t see the index cards too well, and because of the time, I never have.

6. Rewrite the whole scene. This seems daunting and frustrating, like going backwards, but sometimes the problem is a surrounding scene that didn’t quite click and sometimes, writers just have to throw it out and start again.

7. Set it aside for a few days. If all else fails, just let it rest. Sometimes the subconscious will work miracles for you. But remember: Come back.

what is this about?

I was going to write today about why I write science fiction but I’ll have to save that for Sunday because I need to vent a little bit.

Last semester at college I took my first, formal English class, just you’re basic English 111. One of the things that the teacher taught was that all papers, no matter what, need to have a thesis statement, that is, a reason why this is being written. Even in our narrative papers about our life we needed to have a thesis statment.

NOw, for developmental psych, we need to write a paper about our lives. I’m finding this very difficult because it is so broad and I tend to write long. What do I include? how much? How can I still make it intertwining?

I asked the teacher today if he could give us a thesis statement about what he would be looking for. Something like,  In my life “I have experienced many happiness and sadness and these things made me a better person in the long run.” would have made me perfectly happy. By asking him for a thesis statement, I am merely asking for an explanation about why he wants us to write this.

But all he can say is talk about what made you what you are.

I can’t include everything with that! I’ve moved seven times already!

The other bad part is that I don’t like this teacher. The best way to describe him is crude. I’m not going to spill the multitude of emotions that came when my parents almost got a divorce to him. Nor am I going to talk about the pretty much poor relationship I have with my dad. Or the struggle I’m having with my brother. I don’t trust him and I sure don’t want to tell him all of that.

I think I now understand why thesis statements are really important. Besides letting the reader know what directly my writing will take, the wrier knows what direction to take. Maybe it’s almost like a prompt in the sense that start writing here about this and just keep going until you’re done with the story or whatever else you’re writing.

An outline would also be helpful with this, although I’m going to write my next story without an outline again. I think I work better on short stories like that.

Anyone else have experiences with thesis statements?

busy, busy

Doing almost seventeen hours of work is difficult sometimes, LIke right now. I have things due  today, plus a test, a test on Friday and again, something due, and a huge project and test due on Tuesday. It is chaotic. For some crazy reason I decided to volunteer for a fundraiser  my college did last night, which meant more time spent not doing school and, even more important, not on writing.

So, besides the fact that I have absolutely  no time to do much of anything, I have no time to write. Part of this is my own fault because I have to do a paper edit of something but part of it is just that I’m too tired.

So, how do you squeeze in a few minutes to write? Because once you start writing, you don’t want to stop, but the process of starting to write is difficult. Any ideas?

(This is also a post to say don’t expect inconsistent posting until after my nursing test on Tuesday.)

what do I really want to write

I began a novel about two months ago that I named for its working title mindskill. In some ways, I began it as a challenge to myself. It was, first of all, the first time I would try to write more than one book from one location; basically it would be a trilogy. Also, it would be the first time I would write a story with multiple POVs that did not appear to be connected. Yes, some people might know others but not everyone knew everyone (until the end).

Basically, the story was about these group of people who had seposomen. Seposomen is this mental ability that allowed these few individuals to sense the actual emotions of people, “hear” their surface thoughts, talk through their thoughts over a distance, and, as a bonus, move things without touching them. The original idea behind them was to create a better world, because with military uses, interrogations could be minimal. In police work, it could help people finding the person who is guilty without sending people to jail who are innocent. (Because you can tell if a person is lying.)

In the story there are several main characters: VAnessa, Isaiah, Eric, and Robert. (I said I’m horrible for writing men.) Vanessa is attacked for some unknown reason and kills the guy. Because of that, she feels for her life. Eric is probably one of her closest friends  and a reporter and is determined to find her, because he knows something is wrong. Robert finds VAnessa and helps her get on her feet and basically hires her to work as part of his anticrime unit, because the police aren’t doing a good enough job. (She is trained as a police officer, although she isn’t one officially yet.) Then we have Isaiah. Isaiah is part of a special investigations  unit and is investigating these interesting attacks against non-law abiding citizens. Some of the characters have seposomen and some don’t.

Why this is coming up is now that I’m winding down on Dragon Slayers, I’m thinking about what I might be writing next. Obviously, I could possibly try to write something along the lines of what I wrote with Samuel Brakborn. Even take one of the characters from there and toss them ahead or behind a few years and see what happens. I really want to write a real science fiction story, now that I’m finishing something more along the lines of a fantasy.

I dropped mindskill though because I didn’t think the characters were really enough. VAnessa is standing around dumbly and just letting everything wash over her. Oh yeah, her dad is dead. Oh well. Oh yeah, I have this weird thing going on with me. OH well. Oh, Robert isn’t letting me do anything. Oh well. Oh, I’m locked in here without a code. Oh well. I’ll just listen like a good little girl. It’s like she doesn’t care about anything.

Then, I was thinking about having a character called Jessica, who lives on one of the planet’s colonies and she is the perspective about how normal people view the seposomen, but I realized that I have that character already so after writing three or four scenes with her, I dropped her. I was going to replace her with someone else but this said character doesn’t have much of a role to play until the second part of the story, so I don’t know if it is a good idea to introduce him now.

On one positive note, I love Isaiah. He is fascinating and interesting and fun to write for. He has secrets and he has hurt and pain and I figured out how to express them well for him.  He has lots of secrets and because of that, he’s a blast to write for.

He is who I want to write about.

I’m not sure though if I can just write a story about him. I think that it would be a lot better if I write more than one character’s viewpoint. (Up until now, that’s pretty much all I’ve done. Shad is solely written  with one POV, minus one scene that I needed there to resolve several issues and couldn’t do it any other way.) I don’t want to just toss in Robert (who is technically the “bad guy” although the reader doesn’t know that right away.) because I don’t want it to be a case of the reader is reading this and finds out about what Robert plans on doing, and then sees that Isaiah figured him out, and then go back to Robert to see what he’s doing, and back and forth and back and forth until its boring and predictable.

I also am questioning the wisdom of starting such a huge project while I am in school. It is easy to say that I can write a 30 page story easily in a few months. With that, I”m not looking at it and judging it constantly and I’m going to get overwhelmed by the sheer impossibleness  of editing it. With what I’m talking about writing, it will be a huge challenge. (Then again, I could graduate, get married, move on with my life and who knows if I’ll ever write this.)

I really think I’m just going to have to sit down with the characters, interview them (because I love the results of interviewing characters) and then decide if the story is worth telling or not. Writing all this down, it makes it seem possible at least. (I wish I had a writing friend right now so badly though.)

Just a reminder. There will probably not be any post tomorrow and if there, is it won’t be until 8 or so at night.

@&amp ^%^@$ &amp

Everyone around us there is swearing. In a conversation I overheard on Friday in the school cafeteria, this guy used f*** practically every sentence. Now, not everyone uses it that much but it is generally the cool think to swear. (Although I rarely do.)

When I created Shad, I thought some about how he would talk. Obviously, I looked at how he was raised. He was raised around suspected criminals in rough conditions and although I know that not everyone who is a criminal will have poor language, these were more minor criminals and poor language always wins out over better language.

As such, I figured it would be rather poor, with dropped words and such. And swearing probably had to play a role into it somewhere. Actually, I liked the idea that he would start out swearing a lot and end up with rarely swearing, so when he does, it’s a shock.

Problem is that I don’t really know how to swear. Honest. When I first began planning on this story, I only would do in such a way as, “Oh shoot, I forgot my computer at home.” As luck would have it (I suppose), I began working just before I wrote it, so I was around some people who swore quite a bit. I listened as to how they used it so I would know. Generally speaking, they can be adjectives or adverbs but if you want to throw them out anyway, it’s all right. THey are very versatile.

But I didn’t want to use real words. It’s one thing to hear them. If I hear them, I can deflect them. But I myself did not want to say them. So when I wrote the fist draft of Shad, everywhere that it made sense to have a swear word,  I just asterisked it out like so: ***********. I figured I could come back and make up some that sound good eventually.

After a bunch of theorizing by me, I created some swear words and began to stick them in. However, some conversations stopped me short.

First of all, someone pointed out to me that books written in the 1700s and 1800s did not have swearing in them, so why do we? I began thinking seriously about using them because, obviously, they aren’t needed. Think about it? Write a dialogue between two characters if you don’t believe me and every time you think a swear word would be good, put in asterisks or something. The story reads fine without them. They’re just stupid people’s adjectives.

Also, swear words are something that turn me off from reading a book.  Thus, I came to the conclusion that even though they would fit with his character, Shad did not need to use them.

After removing them all (Find function is the best!), I discovered some slight problems. Some places called for very strong adjectives that originally i was going to use swear words for. However, I can’t just have him get away with swearing it off with the majority of them gone. (I didn’t remove them all completely. A few were kept.) So instead, because I suspected that Shad to be very smart, I began sticking in uncommon adjectives that he would have picked up in all of his reading. So instead of calling someone a f***** idiot, he could call him a brainless nincompoop or something else like that. It actually added to his character I think because it could signal to the reader the fact that he is smart, before someone else mentions it. (I’m not sure.)

So now, I’m back to no swearing, or more correctly, very little swearing. Because even I say some things. I honestly think a more in-depth study as to the need of swear words might be interesting but I don’t know quite how to go about that.

super bowl for writing

I don’t like football. However, my dad did and he sent me toe commerical for the green police.

Let’s look at this from a literary point of view. Currently, we have a lot of people who think that we need to be completely eco-friendly and all saving the planet and stuff. Why not put something like this in a story? I’m almost surprised I haven’t thought of this myself.

Maybe not to that extreme but you have a separate police squad for enforcement of green policies. Obviously, people who can travel “greenly” will get preference and better places and such. We could even go further and have special taxes for obeying the laws, such as the compost tax for throwing away biodegradable garbage and taxes for not compliance, such as the gas-car tax.

One thing I would like to point out as humorous however; the green police are using helicopters? Since when is that eco-friendly?  Also, if they have green police that badly, they would not sell those light bulbs or offer plastic bags. Lastly, that person who was reporting should have actually said something along the lines of that even the most innocent appearing citizen is actually a danger to the planet and we were victorious in arresting him so quickly.

That is the end of the writing part. I just have to make a few more comments just in case the audi makers are looking for commentary on the internet. That commercial made it actually sound good to have our lives invaded to the point that we cannot chose what to throw away or how to. Or that we can have people randomly going into our backyard and checking the temperature of our swimming pool. The green police is simply wrong in the very concept and it is sickening to think that some people probably even want that kind of enforcement. At least it’s good to know where some companies stand. I wonder how many customers you lost tonight because of that ad.

many things she ought to understand

I posted last about how I could not figure out how of my characters and how do you add depth to a scene. There was a comment (I don’t know if you want me to use your name.) about how you should add details like–like she squinted out the window and pursed her lips in thought before answering.  This is actually something used by authors, if you happen to notice it. Oftentimes it helps to let the reader know who is speaking without having a bunch of “Bob said”s.

However, as I was about to answer her post, I realized what my problem was. My problem is pretty much that I don’t know my character. I honestly don’t understand Natlie.

So I did the most obvious thing to myself; I interviewed her. It went rather like this.

Me: So, Natlie, tell me some about yourself?

My head as Natlie: Well, I like being outside and I like visiting people. I’m so glad that we don’t live in those far away farms where they hardly get to see anyone for ages. Well, months at least, but that’s basically ages.

Me: How is your relationship with your brother?

Well, we get along fine enough I suppose. It’s only the two of us. HE does all the work on the farm and I help him with some of the chores but not a whole lot. But we’ve survived well enough together. However, he hates that I go to town so much. I’m not sure why.

Me: Does he not like you being an archer?

Natlie: Oh, no! He understands that perfectly. I just think he doesn’t like being around people as much as I do. He’s always been really supportive of me doing it, even though it isn’t that ladylike. He didn’t mind buying this bow for me at all.  I think it’s because he figures that so long as I have a bow, I’m pretty much safe from the dragons.

Me: So, if it’s just you and your brother, how did your parents die?

Natlie: It… it was because of the dragons. They–my family–was herding the animals towards the cave that we hide it when they come. It had been a dry year and we had a strong south wind. The grass just caught as soon as the dragon blew fire and–poof!–no more.

Me: Where were you when this happened?

Natlie: OH, I ran away. Not literally mind you. My mother wanted me to kneed dough and I wanted to make flower crowns. So I told her I had to go out back and ran as soon as she gave me the chance. I was only ten then but I never really liked housechores. I just do them because I must now.

ME: So how did Colton survive?

Natlie: He was in the very front of the herd and managed to run fast enough. When I heard the dragon call, I ran towards the cave too. And Colton… I thought it was my fault at first–that they went out and tried to find me. But it was just us.

So, that’s pretty much what I did. I guess it seems silly but it gave me a lot of good ideas. I think I now need to add two more scenes. One scene at the end of the story before the climax so that way people can see Colton’s and Natlie’s relationship and one scene where they see the dragons’ Crossbows burned, bot to make it seem real and unreal at the same time.

Which reminds me. I am highly suspecting that the characters are going to think that this can’t really be happening but I’m not sure how to quite write that so it doesn’t seem like the character doesn’t have any emotions either. It’s a weird thing to write, but something that happens a lot to myself as well.

adding personality?

Today i was (halfheartedly) editing Dragon Slayers. The problem I’m having with it is that the main character, Natlie, (which is Natalie without the middle A. Her real name is Natalie but she doesn’t go by that.) Natlie anyway is having problems with being personable. I have dialog and I think I have perfectly fine dialog but the characters aren’t doing anything. They’re just there talking, and that’s all.

So, unlike normally where I say what I think, I want to know what other writers think. How do you add personality to characters? How do you make a scene more three dimensional? How do you life a scene off of the paper and into the head?

I think I’m going to post the first part of the scene right now too, just so that way you can see what I’m having problems with. So go to here: Dragon Slayers Scene One

I know this is random and I know there isn’t a whole lot of people out here reading this, but if any of you have any suggestions, it’d really help. Thanks.