the playground in my head
I’ve know that for a long time, I’ve always considered “strange” ways of getting plots as questionable. Like the story about how J. K. Rowlings saw Harry Potter while on the train and heard that if she wrote about him, she would be rich. Even Twilight I might have questioned in the beginning.
The fact is, however, that dreams play an important role for us writers of non-everyday fiction books. Look at it this way.
Our brain/subconscious/whatever you want to call it gets thousands and millions of signals a day. Each one of the signals the brain has to interpret. Some of these signals get picked up by our “plotting” section of our brain (Yes, I am really a nursing student) and gets flagged as a possible plot. We then, in our immense logic and foresight, either store the plot idea/detail or discard it as garbage. It all is based on the logic of the moment and must behave very grown-upish.
However, when our brain/subconscious is asleep, it suddenly gets to go to the playground and play. For once, our plotting section is allowed free reign over the whole brain and can do whatever it wishes. This, obviously, results in some very strange dreams but it also allows for thoughts, memories and the like to be connected in such a way that our adult subconscious never would bother to connect it.
Dreams, in essence, literally can be created into plots because of the randomness and chaos associated with dreams. So let the randomness win.
more on creating good characters
After skimming a bunch of writing books, I shall share a few tips I found in them, one of them being that an editing book written in bullet form would be nice.
(Maybe the first half as bullets, like, when starting a sentence with an -ing verb, make sure that the two verbs can be done simultaneously. Incorrect: Tying his shoes, he ran down the stairs. Correct: Whistling Yankee Doodle, he pranced through the lobby. Then, See page 302 for details. Perfect editing book in my opinion.)
Some of these I’ve surprisingly already said, now that I’ve thought about it. You can look at my post last week about the five parts to any character. Obviously, this is a little different but I think this list is better. The other list, however, has some parts that shouldn’t be forgotten.
These came from the books Creating Characters : How to Build Story People and Manuscript Makeover. Both of those books looked rather decent actually.
Anyway, here we go with the character details.
1. Characters need strengths. All characters need something that they can do pretty well, because everyone has some kind of strength, even if that strength might be being a jack of all trades.
2. Characters need weaknesses. When was the last time you ran into someone who didn’t have a problem or flaw, and not the physical kind of flaw either? I’d like to get a list of weaknesses that people notice going, so maybe I’ll do that soon. Please recommend one if you know.
3. Characters need motivation. Why do they do what they do? What pushes them to succeed?
4. Characters need backstory. What haunts them from their past? This is a really fun one for me, although I have to make sure not to kill too many people. [insert evil grin here.].
5. Don’t overload the characters. In other words, one strength does not make up for seven weaknesses. It’ll look too fake.
6. Spice them up. This meaning you add uniqueness to your character. Not that I’m trying to say anything about myself, but I am probably a perfect example of this. I wear long, full skirts, have my long hair somewhat covered, and then roam the science fiction aisles looking for books to read and can type a hundred words a minute on my laptop. Not two things you would think go together.
I think those things would be enough to make any character pretty decent in most any book.
Also, for anyone who cares, this is my one hundredth post on this blog.
building blocks for telepathy
In a book I plan to write in the near future, I plan to create one of the early forms of telepathy. So, however much I hate my physiology class, I’m learning some very valuable things from it that would apply to a well to any form telepathy and that I will share.
Since telepathy would be similar to a general sense, it is fair to say it would function as a special sense like our sense of hearing or vision would. In order for that to happen, there are some basic structures of senses that are a part of every single sense.
First, we need a way to sense the actual stimulus. In my example, it will be the stimulus of another’s thoughts that are somehow detected.
Next, we need it to travel someway to a processing center.
We need a processing center.
And then if we were to have people to communicate telepathically, like I plan, we need a way to send the messages again.
NOw, I’m not a brain surgeon or anything here. I’m just taking a physiology course. But let’s just say for example that brain waves can actually be transmitted through air. A special sense in our brain would detect them and send the message via our nerves to a special processing area of our brain. Once in the special processing area, it decodes the message, say, your thoughts, and so that I can understand them like speech. Then, I send them back either the same basic way or a different way. If we are going to do it like speech, it would be a different location. Actually the speech center would probably have to be tied in just because.
Does this make any sense?
Now, I’ve read a few books that have telepathics in it and sometimes they can move things mentally. I’m not sure if this is a vital skill or not for my story. But after writing down this whole process, this second function would have to be something completely different.
This is also where I get stuck. Because I can logically understand the concept of our brain being able to have a special receiver that receives messages from other people’s heads. But how would something be moved without touching it? Logically, I can’t even figure this out, excluding most science, because our brain merely exists like a giant, self forming computer. If I ever figure it out, I’ll tell you. Maybe i’ll just drop that part, but it removes some really awesome scenes from my story.
one idea, many stories
So, on Sunday I wrote about my love story plot that I’d love to write. Much to my dismay, I’ve been toying with this idea ever since Sunday. I had an almost breakthrough that made me consider actually writing it, in spite of my swearing off of love stories. The idea is that I should just set it in a sci-fi setting, which I need practice writing in anyway,
Now, I have two ideas.
Just so you know the background: Arranged married goes wrong when the guy, who was rumored to be the guy, because he’s handsome, athletic and nice, has been in a very bad accident and is in some sense deformed, although it is not completely obvious. Girl is unaware of this initially, although would eventually find out as much.
So now, my two plots. Plot one from that is basically that idea. Guy was hurt, guy is slowly getting better so the girl doesn’t know. Girl finds out, freaks out and decides that she can’t marry him no matter what and blahblahblah. Well, as it turns out the other girl who has been caring for him since the accident has secretly fallen in love with him and somehow he finds out and he loves her and tada! Doesn’t end happy for the first girl but it ends happy for everyone else. (If I wrote this, it would be in the maid’s POV, just because anything else would be too difficult, and the other girl not as much fun.)
Story two: Guy’s a soldier; he got hurt; he comes home. Parents say while you’re covering, now is a great time for you to get married. And forget about all that silly soldier stuff anyway. It’s not like that was good for you. Girl shows up, and it’s okay, although no one tells her what happened. (oooh, maybe he didn’t tell his family how badly hurt he was.) Problem is guy doesn’t want to marry girl because guy wants to still be a soldier and do good things like that. Girl doesn’t want to marry guy because by some twisted fate thing, girl has fallen in love with guy’s brother over the past year that they have been sending letters. Obviously, neither of them know the other’s dilemma, but if either of them decide not to get married, then it is worse than if they were found with a bunch of illegal drugs in their possession. Eventually, they find out everything and the guy breaks it off and runs off to be a soldier again, girl marries guy’s brother, and everyone is happy.
Both these stories could be written in a well-crafted science fiction society, so I would steer clear of the fantasy stuff I’ve been writing recently. It would actually be even more of a challenge to myself to make a believable reason as to why the society has arranged marriages and what their rules are. (Such as, if we are going to allow arranged marriages, we need to have a rule that there can only be a three year difference between the couple and so forth.)
I would like to write both these stories and I think, especially the first one, might be boring for me by the end. It’s not like Giant’s Wife where it ends with a BANG! Bu the second one might be a good thing to write because the second one I can incorporate into mindskill later on, as one of the characters. It would give background, society and so forth and might make for a much better story for me.
So, maybe I will write it. I’m not allowed to write anything else until I finish editing Dragon Slayers, which I have not done any of yet. Bad Abigail I know. But at least I can plot.
I WANT TO WRITE A LOVE STORY!
After finishing Giant’s Wife, I said that I swore off love stories until I’m at least engaged. Why? To summarize, because I haven’t even dated yet, so I don’t know how to exactly write about it.
This morning I came up with a brilliant plot though.
Guy, we’ll say a lord, gets maimed in an accident. Very badly maimed where his whole side is at best useless. He lost part of his arm and can barely walk. But he doesn’t want anyone to know because he’s slightly ashamed and he used to be really athletic and now he’s lucky if he can make it from his room to his office. He’s getting better but it’s slow. This is a recent accident though
Girl was married earlier to him by proxy, had been postponed in coming to him for some unexplained reason on his part, and then finally arrives. That’s all I know. They get married shortly afterwards.
They get married.
But guy acts weird. Things like, he doesn’t ever rise or walk much in her presence. He always has a cane with him, which could be an ornament but it’s still weird for normal, everyday life. He also doesn’t show his hand/arm much (because he wears a prothesis) or uses it. He also keeps to himself and never once sleeps with her.
Now, I don’t know where this would go much. My obvious solution would be that the girl starts to love the guy and then finds out and then is like, “Oh well,” but that’s so cliché.
The next idea was something along the lines of a servant of some kind who has been helping him recover for the last six months has basically fallen in love with him. He wouldn’t notice because he’s a nice, strong, lord, she’s just a common, and they are technically already married.
Then, the girl finds out, declares that she didn’t bargain to marry a maimed husband and wants out and he, because he’s feel all miserable, agrees and lets her go back. At some point in time, the servant girl comes out that she loves him and he finds out that he loves her and–tada!–everything’s happy.
The only problem is I can’t write it because I refuse to write a love story like this. I would like to pursue this idea more or less and see where it goes, because it sounds interesting. (It actually sounds like something that my friend and I would roleplay if we still did.) It would be a blast. But I can’t because I am not going to write a love story.
Why does love have to be such a difficult topic anyway?
Maybe I’ll try to convince my friend to roleplay this summer.
On a different note, I’m trying to think of short stories to write for the characters in mindskill (besides Isaiah) because then I would get to know the characters better and I like that idea.
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.
villains and antagonists
When I first began writing for real, I wrote a story called Hope. Originally, in the story, these aliens invaded earth, basically enslaved the people in the sense that they had to pay really high taxes and if they did anything wrong, they disappeared or are killed. Earth became very much of a farming community again with each community self supportive. Hope gets mixed up in a revolution between the humans and the aliens and much of it is about how that revolution starts and ends.
I posted this on an online writers group, because they said let’s post our current stories, and I got an interesting comment back. Don’t make the aliens faceless.
See, it’s really easy for aliens to walk around with much personality, evil little green creatures who are determined to bring down the doom and destruction of humans to Earth. But it is much better to know why the aliens function as they do. Why did they invade earth anyway and why do they think that they have the right to enslave humans?
Because of these comments, I created a character called Ka’yam. Ka’yam was one of the aliens who actually lived on EArth. For the reader, she was the eyes and ears of the other side, without using her to annoying build up the tension. She was awesome and easily become one of my more favorite characters in the story.
This advice that I was given years ago has been my guideline for villains since then. When I began writing something that would involve the villain taking over the government, I needed a reason why he wanted to do it and what he hoped to accomplish. He wasn’t just after it for the power or would handle things like the evil overlord list; it had be something more.
I think that this is something that a new writer needs to keep in mind. It is easy to make the villains faceless but we have a much better story if we don’t slip into the easy place of not knowing our antagonist.
how much do dreams effect what we write?
Friday night I had a dream that pretty much involved someone saying that they would protect me with their life (I didn’t believe him) and then Muslims getting mad across the country and a huge civil war breaking out in America. Actually, it was planned, but whatever it was, we had to flee for our lives because of a war on American soil.
So I began to think about one of the stories I have stored up in my head to write later. The basic idea of the story is a series of conversations between a mother and a daughter. The daughter’s in college and joined some kind of militia. She keeps saying that she will fight for freedom when it comes to it. If she needs to, she will fight. The question of the story though is where do we draw the line about fighting? And will you really fight if it comes to it?
At the end of the story, the country is basically collapse and the mom, who has always been the levelheaded one throughout this whole story, trying to put a check on the daughter’s enthusiasm, is the one who goes home from one of the conversations, takes out her shotgun, and drives to the militia camps that are actively fighting against the tyranny, while the daughter is the one questioning if it is time to fight.
Now, I’ll admit that dream on Friday scared me a little when I woke up. (Now, mind you, in the dream I have to chose between fleeing with my hamsters or my birds (I don’t have birds), so that might have been a bit traumatic. :) ) I honestly don’t know how much I would like to fight in a war. I felt cold and dead and scared at the prospect of having to at least flee and that I had to consider if I am actually willing to fight. But I’m also thinking that I have my next story to write, because I think it might be rather interesting, if I do it correctly. (I should model it slightly after Hilter’s Germany. THat could be very interesting.)
This would not be the first story I wrote in part of a dream. I actually wrote all of Giant’s Wife because of a dream. And if I hadn’t sworn off love stories, I would have written another story based off of a dream about a banished prince and a cursed country. (I apparently dream a lot about love stories.)
Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve written many stories off of my dreams. I found a story recently about someone defending their home against aliens. It actually was along the lines of the story I mentioned up there, except that I dreamed it years ago.
So I’m wondering how true it is that our subconscious will work on stories while we’re asleep. It only seems to work well for me when I’ve slept for a long time, until 10 or 11 or so in the morning. But some of the ideas are quite interesting but oftentimes I can’t seem to remember enough of the details to write a story off of it. So perhaps it is better just to let them go.
Still, I do like the idea behind Giant’s Wife, even if it needs help. And the one that I mentioned previously isn’t as much of an idea for a story as much as a reinforcement for the story I already thought of. I must admit, however, that I do seem to get the best plotting in when I’m in that half awake, half asleep kind of phase, if I can remember any of it. So I suppose the question does come back to: how much does our dreams effect what we write?
A long, long time ago, (well, in 2003), I met someone named Alyssa on a message board. We started doing silly stuff on there with exchanging a “story” because the message board had a glitch where if you previewed the message, you could place whatever name there you wished. (This was before we have the now-traditional message board layout.)
This little exchange evolved into a story over the next six months and then over the next year to two, it become a four book series (which we never wrote up, except for the first one.) This story became known as ETOLT, based off of my username when we began (lizard tongue) and my evil twin causing chaos for her.
From the spring of 2004 until she went to collage in 2009, we wrote so many stories. We role played them. She would take some of the characters and I’d take some and we would just exchange back and forth between the two. We had some awesome stories, everything from an arranged marriage between a girl who previous eloped, was sold as a slave a month later by her husband, and then was rescued by the person she was arranged to marry and told that they would live completely separate lives, to a man who decided that being a torturer was too much and too stressful on his family, so he ran away to another country.
If we were to actually write all of our decent stories, we’d probably have close to 20 to 30 books. Obviously, we won’t, because we both write our own stories as well. We did however write the first one ETOLT story, but never got around to doing an incredibly serious edit. (We wrote it over three years or something like that and our writing skills developed a lot during that time, mine particularly.) If you really wanted to buy them, she actually self-published them for her graduation as two separate books: For Isrian, Breaking Dawn and then a conglomeration of various other stories. from that same series.
Anyway, I learned some very valuable skills from role playing for that time and if you can figure out how to do it and a friend who can, I highly recommend it. And… I was going to make a post about what I learned (which I might add) but I think that I’m going to first say how to start this.
First of all, obviously, you need a friend who can exchange posts with you. I found it perfectly fine just to do it with just one friend. If you have a lot of friends involved, it will go much slower and you can’t plot as much.
So we now have a friend. Next, you need a place to exchange posts. If you want to at all save these messages (You do, trust me. I just spent two days reread a lot of our stories.), you want to use a message board. I highly recommend proboards We’ve had only slight issues with them once, and they fixed that problem. Compared to MSN (which forced me to reset safari every couple months and went so slow sometimes that we’re talking minutes to load a page) and any of the other places, this one is by far the best and easiest to use. And it’s free too. Always a bonus.
So, we now have a friend and a place to write. Next, you probably what a story. Sometimes, we just started writing, let the characters figure themselves out. and go from there. So long as you can plot at the spur of the moment, it might not be a bad idea. Just have a clue about what kind of plots work best. We knew that we could never just do a general girl falling in love with guy story. We always had some other complication, like, their marriage arranged; he thinks she’s flakey and stupid; he thinks he’s married to someone else who he loves but who is dead; he doesn’t want to be married at all, she’s had bad situations with her last marriage; he’s a criminal; she killed his sister as a spy, ect.
Sometimes, we would have a situation that the character just found themselves in, like in one of our stories the character just found herself without a family, her house sold because of debts, and completely alone. We then decided after one scene that she should be married spontaneous (We usually had our stories take place in fantasy lands, so spontaneous and arranged marriages worked well for us.) and my friend plotted him, I had her, and everything went rather well.
Finding the story is the hardest part. I will admit that right out. Some of the best parts about finding a story is that you get to keep secrets/plots from your friend, anything from something little to something huge. Plotting is the best for these, because you don’t always know how the other person’s characters will react, whereas with your own writing, you pretty much do.
After that, you just start writing. We wrote it like this:
*puts out the food* So? Who is she?
Mary is her name.
And who is she? How’d you meet her?
She’s a maid at the palace. I met her at work.
In this, I was Sue, she was Jonathan. Each of the different dialogue exchanges was a different post.
Obviously, a huge drawback about writing like this is you can’t change much of anything. Once it happened, it happened, and you have to just keep going.
You also probably want to have a certain time to write this back and forth. Without having a set time, the story will go very slowly unless you are together for some amount of time. In high-school, we wrote it for hours at a time, from about four until nine or ten at night.
I will admit, I miss doing it with her. We’re talking about this summer writing one of our stories out for real. (Which, I’m not fully sure how that is going to work out, considering that I have summer school and work (hopefully).) I can’t wait. It was really awesome to do.
Probably in the next real post, I’ll mention some about characters and why this helped me so much.
One more bit of advise. When choosing a friend to do this with, find someone with similar values and morals as you. We only went so far with some things, where as someone with less stringent morals might have done much worse than we did.
idea to story
I have some ideas. A lot of ideas. Ideas that are rather strange or maybe even questionable like, “How can you think that?” kind of questionable. I figure these things out through writing sometimes. Sometimes, I comment on them through writing. (In all honesty, Dragon Slayers was based on my thoughts.)
The question is, however, how do I get from the possible situation (say, daycares severely increases the risks of autism) and make it a setting with an interesting story behind it?
I’ve figured it out thus far on a plot by plot basis but I’m thinking there has to be a formula or something to figure out how to make the story consistent.
Examples thus far: Dragon Slayers is a commentary about the stupidity of endangered species. (I honestly can’t wait until someone else can read that, just in case I’m off with how the story goes.) But I set it up to focus on one girl’s family, and how they react to it,
I have another story with the commentary on universal healthcare. (if I ever write it, I don’t expect it to be as bad as I portray it right away. It’ll take a long time.) I see universal healthcare as a possibility for the government to decide not only who is important and who is not but who is worth saving and who is not. Basically, in my story, the government flags some teenager as a public threat because her uncle was involved in some protests as a college student. Because of this family connection, she ends up dying of type 1 diabetes. I end up showing this through a series of flashbacks during the funeral.
But I have so many other ideas that are just speculations about how the wold might be if, (in all honesty) the liberals took over. Things like what happens if daycares actually cause autism. What happens if we ban cars due to global warming? What happens if we reorganized education so that parents can choose if education is important or not, and the child is provided with an education based off how much the parents care? Just thinking about it now, what happens if we allow guns practically everywhere with ease? How far will the government go before people decide they need to have a revolution? What happens if it is decided to go totally green on the common person?
I have so many of these speculations and I don’t know what to do with them. I’d like to write about them, just short stories that allow people to wonder just like I do. But just because I have the speculations doesn’t mean that I have a clue about how to implement the speculations into writing a story.
I suppose it doesn’t matter right now, because I have so many other stories to write. I actually want to write my arranged marriage story (that I’ve had to totally block out of my head because of school.) And I could write about the healthcare story. And I desperately want to edit Shad and Dragon Slayers over the next two weeks.
So, I suppose I have more than enough before I have to figure out this all-important question. I just wish I knew how to write better oftentimes.
(By the way, it’s good to be back.)