Tag Archive | writing

Pixar story help.

I woke up today and determined to write a blog post. Unfortunately, this isn’t what I planned on writing.

Here’s a list of about 22 tips that writers can use for writing from Pixar. I think my favorite is 19:

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

And 9:

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

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Changing POV changes everything sometimes.

I started playing with this new character. His name is Reve. Well, technically, it’s Reve sau Callingbordon but we’ll just call him Reve.

I’ve now written almost three stories with him as a character. He’s fun to write about. He’s very quiet, doesn’t get angry easily, and works hard. His race also has this mental ability for sense just emotions, but it varies and his rating is really high, yet he doesn’t care about it. His father is dead, his mother is blind from a work accident and he has four younger siblings.

I’d give you more history, except what I keep doing with him is writing short stories about him. It’s fun. It’s, like, how did he get his original job? Or, what happened with his first assignment? Those kind of things.

One day a couple weeks ago, I was walking across campus. It was the early morning time, when it’s cool and crisp and just beautiful. I began to think about how his character would respond to walking across campus like that and from there, developed a story.

The basic idea went along these lines:

  • He sees a girl being mugged. Fights off the guy and kills him. (This is well within his personality.)
  • Turns out that the way in which he killed him was totally illegal. He didn’t know.
  • Meets his lawyer, who basically gives him no hope and is totally clueless.
  • Meets a psychiatrist, who figures out how much he didn’t know.
  • Gets free from everything.

Can you see the problem with that?

Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. The problem is that Reve doesn’t do anything. For the majority of the story, he sits in prison. He can’t do any research, he won’t fight, and he’ll just do nothing.

I kept thinking about how I could change the story so that he does something but I couldn’t. He wouldn’t get mad at the decision of the court. and shout at them (or kill them). He wouldn’t try to escape. He would wait and see what happens. I basically wrote 5,000 words and didn’t know how to actually finish it in an interesting way. I was so stuck on this I almost wrote a blog post bemoaning my lack of inspiration in hopes it’d give me an idea.

I mentioned my problem in passing to my mom, partly because I drew an awesome pictures to go with it (that I was going to share but I can’t find my scanner) and it frustrated me I’d never get to use it.. She asked me what happens to the girl. What does the girl whose life he just saved do? And that started me thinking.

Now, I’d prefer to write it from Reve’s POV, because this will technically be a purple guard story. But Reve’s POV is boring. The girl, however, I can see her doing a lot. It’s a different POV, which makes it harder because I have to develop and understand a new character. Moreover, she won’t show up again that I can tell. Sure, they might develop some kind of friendship, but nothing lasting. Yet, by changing the POV, I can explore both a pivotal moment in Reve’s life, and the development of the mental ability that is found in these people.

It works. It makes it interesting. And, overall, I’m pretty excited about this development. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll be written for a couple weeks yet.

However, this reminds me just how important it is to pick a good POV.When people (okay, at least myself) started writing, I’d always go with the obvious POV. This story is about XYZ happening to Jane Doe, so obviously the POV is Jane’s.

However, the more I experiment with writing, the more become away that the POV isn’t something you can randomly assign. The story changes depending on what POV you use. And sometimes that means changing the story in the middle to get the right POV.

So, have you ever noticed a situation where changing the POV propelled your story to completion? Would changing a POV help right now?

World-building – an obvious google search

I don’t know how I have never found this before. I’ve been on the SFWA website before. (It’s actually pretty cool there.) I’ve even posted articles from there.

However, I found this for the first time.

It’s a world building questionnaire.

And it is totally awesome. It has everything, from how big is a town, and how did humans get to the world.

If you write sci-fi or fantasy, I would seriously check it out.

I would also check out this persons rants about what makes bad world building and the following comments. The interesting thoughts there that I saw are:

1) Rulers usually throw money at people who can heal people and people who can destroy people. So why don’t healers (magical of course) get more money?

2) If the magical people have magical power and can throw fireballs at whoever, why isn’t a magical person king?

Oh, and if you were wondering, my google search was world building questionnaire. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

College abroad

I love learning about different cultures, so when my friend wrote this comparison between her life at a college in Georgia (USA) to her life in Reading, England, I had to read it.

Since it pretty much covered all of my confusion, here is the article for you to read as well.

Dear RP* friend,

RP = Role play. We would both have some characters and they would interact to create a story freestyle on a message board. 

We met because of a message board glitch. It allowed me to change my name to the evil twin of my name, and then hold you prisoner until you did something. I don’t remember what. But that is what began ETOLT.

We wrote ETOLT 1-4, then we began writing new stories. Even now, that we are both in college, we write stories over the summer while you “work” and I do nothing because I can’t find work. We even still reference our characters.

Did you know how much you helped m learn how to write though?

In some ways, I look at the time after we met to the time that I finally finished my first novel as taking such a long time. I would hardly do any writing because we’d be constantly RPing.

Yet, those weren’t wasted years. I learned so much about listening to a character and letting a character act as they want, and not as I want them to.

I also learned about dialogue and how valuable it is to have good dialouge.

In some ways, I learned about how how to cut out to boring stuff. Sometimes, when I read through our old stories, I hold my head in misery against the bad sections of just the characters doing literally nothing. We didn’t figure out right away to cut a scene if nothing happened. But that’s okay, because it went into my writing.

It’s also because of our RPs that I am now able to draw, although that has nothing to do with writing.

Sure, I do sometimes miss that we can’t do it all year, but that’s okay. We both have very busy lives now. I just thought you should know how much you actually helped me become the writer I am, because we all need help writing at some point in time.

Dear sister, or, Goodbye to a writing friend

Dear sister,

I began writing because of you. Did you know that? Sure, I also wrote because of Star Trek, but real computer writing began because of you. It started when I told you stories at night. Do you remember that? We’d stay up and I’d tell you an ongoing story. If we had to go to sleep, I come up with a cliff hanger quickly. However, telling you stories at night took too long, and we couldn’t record them, so I began to write them down for you. In the car on the way to Springfield on February 14th.

Jennifer Bullinger stared at out the scene before her.

However, I didn’t show them to you then. I showed them to our brother. He liked them and became my first helper in writing. But then again, he was eleven and I was fifteen. Neither of us knew much about writing.

I gave you these books to you for your thirteenth birthday. You still have them too, upstairs on your bookshelf. By the time I finished my first official novel, Hope, our brother didn’t want to read it and I wasn’t sure I wanted him to read it. He had become too logical.

However, in between those four years, you had matured. I began sharing with you ideas for my stories. You helped me tighten and improve plots; in many ways,  you became a bouncing board for my ideas. Even though you don’t always say much, you sometimes said enough and sometimes you realized that all I needed to do was talk aloud.

From when you were thirteen to sixteen, you helped me. I’d tell you ideas and you would tell me what you thought. Often, you were one of the first people to hear about a story idea. You were the first one to know why Sagi hates the Yoni. You know all about Shad and my mermaids. You heard my mental discussions about whether to give my mermaids legs or fins. You know a lot about my stories. More than any other reader.

And, whenever we get to share a room still, and I ask if you want to know a plot or two, you get all excited. You want to know them. You want to know them all.

Do you even realize how much you know about me and my writing? You are one of the only people who know I submitted work for publication. Only you, in our family, know about my blog. Only you know that I am considering submitted short stories for self publication. You gave me some serious help with my synopsis.

Often you are one of the first people to read what I write and you would get mad when you weren’t. You have no idea how much help you gave me when you would read it so I could ask you questions. Those times after you read a story helped me more than you could imagine.

You told me that you want a book dedicated after you, as payment for all the help I’ve given you. I agreed then. Jokingly I’d tell you that it would be to, “Elianna, because she thinks that she deserves a book for listening to all my brilliant thoughts when in reality she did so little.”

You know, it hasn’t been the same since the summer though. I don’t think it’s me. I want to share. I almost need someone to share all my ideas with. (I go insane sometimes with all my ideas.) However, you aren’t doing what I really need you to do. You aren’t reading anything.

Since September, I’ve written three short stories. All three of them are pretty good. (It’s not like summer of 2010 when I wrote a bunch of bad short stories.) But you not only have not read them, you haven’t even suggested that you want to read them. Counting those, it now places the number at five stories that you have not read of mine. Five. And yes, I’d like to know what you think, but I can’t force you to read them. I can’t demand that you do anything.

But I can’t discuss things with you if you don’t read then. I don’t think I’m asking too much. Maybe you do like hearing the plots; I don’t know. But here’s what I do know. You aren’t helping me anymore. Not only that, but you don’t want to.

It finally hit this weekend. I just suggested that it is hard because I want to write to more sections of story, but I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. Sure, I have a best friend at school, but she isn’t helpful in that area. I just e-mailed you on Thursday suggesting that it’d be helpful if you read it. When I asked if you saw my e-mail, you responded with, “I saw you were complaining.” Not meanly. Just in your normal voice of, “Yeah. I saw it. But I didn’t really think about it.”

Do you know what you told me then?  You basically said that you don’t care about what I write. You don’t care about my stories.

I realize that you’ve grown up. You’re almost eighteen now. Maybe you don’t have time for silly little stories your older sister writes. But I’m going to miss you nonetheless. I’m going to miss telling you all the ideas that come into my head. I’m going to miss getting your help with problems. I’m going to miss having characters that only we know about, like secrets sisters share. Or making Shad into a character on the wii.

Because even if you’ve grown up and you’ve moved on, I haven’t. I’m still writing. I’ll always be writing. Even if you aren’t going to read.

So I’m sorry it came to this. I really hope it wasn’t because I am at college now. But either way, I think I understand.  Just so you know.

What does a ruler do?

(I wrote this on May 12 and, thought I thought I published it, I guess I never did.)

We all know about the president, or the king of a country. However, as I begin to think about my characters, some of who are some kind of ruler, I wondered what do they actually do? What takes up all the time in a day?

This, obviously, sends me to google. Here is all I’ve found.

Starting off, I found this great website about the Queen of England’s schedule.

This isn’t terribliy helpful, although it gives a background of the presidental job history. The only good line of a schedule is found here:

This past Wednesday was a typical day. The record shows that Bush had breakfast at 7:15 a.m. with the king of Jordan. He had his usual 8 a.m. intelligence briefing. He held meetings with senior staff and the secretary of defense. At 10:40, he motorcaded to the Capitol, where, at 11:05, he participated in a ceremony honoring heart surgeon Michael DeBakey. Back at the White House, his schedule included a photo op with organ donors, Perino said. At 2:10 p.m., he had a meeting with some business leaders, and at 2:30, he met with Republicans from Congress. At 3:35, he briefly addressed the media about National Small Business Week.

Invariably, Bush has an exercise period in the mix, and almost invariably, he stays at home in the evening….

Then lights out at 9 p.m., or not much later.

Bush very rarely goes out on the town. He seldom appears before audiences that aren’t carefully screened in advance. By his own account, he is immersed in the war he began.

Here is the actual President’s schedule, just in case you’re ever curious.

This is an interesting article on the events of 9/11 and Bush actions during it.  I actually only read through his stay at the elementary school. It is obviously written by someone who is annoyed at Bush, since his whole article seems to be written in order to cause people to demand why Bush didn’t respond. However, I’m thinking of it more from a writing perspective. A plane is highjacked one random day, what are they thinking? Oh, wait, a second plane is now as well. And how does a 40 minute delayed flight effect things? When the plane was highjacked at 8:13, would anyone have imagined it would be crashed into the towers thirty minutes later? Now, take that apply it to your writing.

This is just a cursory overview of what the president does.  Not helpful to me, but maybe to you.

Here I have an interesting job description for a prime minister.

College takes way too much time. (And when is a story actually done?)

That’s pretty much my only excuse for not posting. I get distracted doing homework, classes and other things like that.

Anyway, the real reason why I’m posting (besides that I’m on spring break and have time to post) is because I “finished” two stories this week.

I know. Impressive.

What do I mean by finished though? Well, I wrote them, determined they had a strong enough plot (in one, I had to add more tension), edited them repeatedly and honestly don’t really know where to go from here.

The last time I actually finished something, I either came to the deadline or got bored with it. (That’s how I decided Shad was actually done. Bored. I think I read that advise somewhere.) But right now, I don’t have any deadlines. I’m actually really excited about the stories. (And I don’t have anyone to read them [RIGHT NOW!], because my sister, who used to read everything of mine, is so behind and lazy about it that I’ve pretty much given up on her reading anything. Even though she THINKS she’s doing me so much help. (Which she used to. Not anymore.))

So how do I know it’s finished?

I don’t know. The plot seems good to me. The writing seems good to me.  Overall, I think it’s done.

But I’m just waiting for someone to read it and tell me that “Erm, Abigail, this makes no sense.” or “Abigail, this is really stupid. I don’t get Reve at all.” (I know. I character I haven’t mentioned before. He’s new, he’s not demanding a novel, but I still have written two stories about him and intend to write a third maybe someday.)

And (though I have used Critters in almost a year), if I used Critters, it’d take me a month to get feedback. Who knows what I’ll be doing in the middle of April?

Basically, I’m impatient. I want to be done with it but I want to work on it while I like the story. And I know. Everyone says to let a finished story sit and see how it looks in a month. But–I get so distracted that may mean I never actually finish it.

So I suppose I should just say it’s done and post it here.

Anyone else have any thoughts on when a story is actually done? 

The benefits of creating my own world. :D

Yes. I did just use a smilie face in my title. Because I’m happy with myself.

Here’s some background: Sagi, a character in my mermaid novel, has some serious relationship issues involving some serious wife betrayal. He’s been angry at her and kept that anger for much of the past twenty-some years since her death. He’s done is best to avoid any relationship in that time, focusing instead on getting himself into a position that will permit him to be elected when the time comes.

Here was my problem: Within the matter of about a month and a half I think, he meets Chava, begins to have a serious relationship with her, and proposes. For someone who wanted nothing to do with marriage or a family or relationships at all, that seemed really fast. (Okay, maybe I really shouldn’t be writing about any complicated relationships since I haven’t ever HAD one period, but oh well. They demanded it and who I am but the writer to argue with my characters? )

No matter how I looked at it, that seemed FAST for Sagi to move.

Then I came up with a brilliant solution. What if the mermaids don’t really date? They meet someone, go out a couple times to see how things are. Probably at this point in time, there are some good personality tests they take to see if they would be compatible (that’d be basically what people would call “the next step”) and if so far there hasn’t been any major problems, they are engaged.

I don’t know if an engagement would be long, like the idea that we are still learning, or short, since most non-religions people seem to be under the opinion that you should live together for a while to fully get to know the person before marriage.

I also would need to create into this society the fact that divorce is frowned upon. (Society drives a lot of what people do after all.) Possibly even highly taxed.

However, if I have it set up so that Sagi’s relationship with Chava before she even mentions that maybe they should take a test has been going on for a long time, then that would explain more with Sagi. (It also would explain why he married his first wife even better.)

Overall, I am very pleased with this plan. Obviously, it needs some ironing out, but not only does it solve some minor plot issues I’ve been having, but it creates the mermaid world as a world separate from the human world, which I like.

Now I just have to write today. Haven’t for two days now. :(

EDIT: This also fixes my problem of why it is culturally acceptable to have a wedding within a week, though the forcing part is still a bit vague. I must work on that. (It’s a political marriage, if that makes any difference.) Oh, and I did write today.

Have any of you ever changed a part of your society to make your plot work better? Did it work for you? 

Inside a writer’s brain

Keep in mind with this post, I’m still learning. I think I’ll always be learning. That’s part of being a writer.

SAying that, here’s how I actually go from an idea to a good novel. (I think.)

1. Come up with an idea. The idea comes from anywhere. Someone sitting with their hands covered in blood at night. My teacher saying “Save the Males.” An imagine conversation that I have while sweeping the floor.

Often, these ideas will eventually connect themselves. In September I made a space ship out of a piece of wood and some string. I had a rough idea about some guy who wants to run the mail route. Then a couple months later I had a conversation in my head that eventually developed the idea of Shad as a sweeper. The ideas I enjoy most are the spontaneous  ones.

Sometimes, I need to force it a bit. Such as, why does Sagi hate the Yoni so? That took me a couple days of actual forcing to get, but it worked out.

2. Clarify the idea / write an outline. This section will include anything from writing an outline to learning about the characters. I have papers and papers where I’ll write comments about the characters, the motivations. If I need it, I’ll even write the timeline. This is all the pre-planning phase and this is where, if a story isn’t work out, I should drop it.

This is also my weakest area. I do not do enough planning because I rely too much on the characters eventual talking to me. Because of that, I end up having an extra step that I don’t always need.

3. Pre-draft writing: THis is the part of the writing where I actually begin the write the book. For some stories, I plan them well enough I don’t need to do this. However, this is my chance to take all my ideas and just spit them on the page. I need to do that. Otherwise, I’ll just keep staring at the outline and thinking, ‘This looks good. I’m ready to write.” when in reality I have no clue what their houses even look like. (Very important for science fiction stories, don’t you think?)

While writing this, I’ll put anything on the paper. I even changed my mermaids from fins into feet in the middle of it. Because I knew I would be going back, explaining, expanding and fixing.

Note: I’m sure some writers out there will call that actually my first draft. However, because it’s so bad and so vague, I call it the pre-draft. This is where I’ll drop a story if I need to.

4. 1st draft editing: Now, I go through my pre-draft and fill in everything. The things I learn about the characters are added. I add details of dress and mannerisms. Words become uniform throughout the book. By the time I’m done with this part, I have a first draft and a pretty good idea about where the story is and where it goes.

This is where I am at with my mermaid novel, if you care.

5. 2nd draft editing:  Now I’m ready to actually improve the text. I’ll change things from, “Avi felt angry at Eyal for his betrayal.” To something more along the lines of, “Avi wanted nothing more to do with Eyal after his betrayal.” I remove passive words if I see them and overall just make it an easier read.

6. Paper edit:  Now I actually need to invest money. I print out the novel on paper and begin the long, long process of editing it, then inputting the corrections. This not only lets me see my errors better, but I, for whatever reason, can play around with the words more. It gives me more freedom. Don’t ask me why a computer doesn’t do that; I don’t know. This is a really, really important step. By this time, I’ll probably show it to a few special people.

Right about now is also when I should start working on a synopsis.

7. Second computer edit: Now, I go through the story again, this time highly critically, and fix all of the errors I see. Anything! I remove as many passive verbs as I can. I keep the story tight and interesting. From that, I see what else I need to do and go from there.

By now, I pretty much get bored with my novel for one, and for two, I don’t see much of anything else that needs to be fixed.

Obviously, all writers are different. If you’re a new writer, you’re going to do less or more. I actually only did a one time read through–on the computer–of my stories and thought that was good enough when I began. So I’ve come a long way.

I’ve also seen how you can edit by putting on five different kinds of glasses. Something like, first you look at it just for structure, then you look at it for clarity, then grammar, ect. (I don’t remember them all.) That doesn’t work for me. I have to fix everything at once. Also, just because this is how it seems that I work doesn’t mean that’s how I do it for everything I write.

And, like I said, I get bored. But I’ve also heard that when you get bored with a story, that’s generally a sign you’re done with it.