Updates and Reflections on Writing Excuses 13.12/13.13/13.14

Updates

Catch-all catch-up post today while I’ve got some mental time to focus. Warning: this is longer since I’ve got so much to catch up on.

First to announce that I have finished my line edit pass on my novel and will be posting the call for beta readers within the next few days, so if you are interested, watch for that post and the instructions for getting access.

Next up, I’ve had a lot of thoughts running around in my brain about trustworthy writers and a community supporting them, so I’ll be kicking off a series on that soon.

Third – reaction posts for Writing Excuses.

13.12 – Q/A on Heroes, Villains, and Main Characters

I figured for the Q/A, I’d just answer the questions.

  • How do you make planned power increases not seem like you’re making it up on the spot?
    • Foreshadowing. With sufficient foreshadowing (this could mean as much or as little as needed), pretty much any planned power increase/superpower/level up/character change can be revealed and it not feel like you’re making things up on the spot.
    • For me, the biggest way to know if I need to fix my foreshadowing is to give it to readers.
  • What do you do when your villain is more interesting/engaging than your hero?
    • I think this may be more a problem of a particular type of story. I tend to write character/relationship stories more than idea/plot stories. I think idea/plot stories can suffer from having boring heroes/main characters because the story isn’t about them, but about the problem they have to solve.
    • This is where I think Mary’s approach of using the nested MICE quotient can solve this issue – if your villain is becoming more interesting, maybe you need to work out a character story for your hero so that there is something interesting about them that doesn’t require require them solving the plot.
  • How do you know when a character is unnecessary and needs to be removed from the story, or killed off in the story?
    • Do they show up in more than one scene and do they do more that just deliver exposition/news.
    • I had this show up during my cut edit in Jan/Feb. I had a character I thought I could cut from the first scenes because I thought I only had her delivering exposition, but had forgotten she showed up later as a complication to be exploited by my antagonist against my other mains. Removing her early removed my ability to leverage her later when I needed her as a way to ratchet up the pressure.
  • What tricks do you use when you want the reader to mistakenly believe a character is a hero, rather than a villain?
    • Haven’t done this, so can’t comment.
  • Which is more fun for you: creating a villain, or creating a hero?
    • Neither – as I’ve mentioned before, I have a really had time thinking of my characters that way. I much prefer labels of protagonist and antagonist. And what is most fun for me is figuring out how those two will relate in their relationship – friends, enemies, family, etc.
  • How many side characters can you reasonably juggle in a novel?
    • Me at my current level? – 3
  • What are the drawbacks to making your villain a POV character?
    • Have only writing protag and side character POVs, so can’t comment.
  • If your villain doesn’t show up until late in the story, how do you make their eventual appearance seem justified?
    • If I reword this as “If  your secondary antagonist shows up late,” then I can answer, and the answer is the same as the first – foreshadowing. In Betrayed, I have some very big consequences affecting the world that resulted from the actions of this secondary antagonist and they show very early – second scene.
    • The main characters were aware of the results, but didn’t know anything about this character. When my secondary antag shows up at 2/3rds through and all those consequences get tied back to this person, my readers now have a name to go with all that stuff they’ve been reading about.
  • How do you get readers to like a character who is a jerk?
    • I tried this in my trunk novel The Liegiver, but I don’t think I did it well, so I don’t think I’m yet qualified to answer.

 13.13 – Character Voice

I feel like this is a topic that comes up a lot on the podcast. It isn’t something I normally think about – when writing or reading – but I can see how it can be effective. One of my level-up moments came when reading Brandon’s Wax and Wayne series – Wayne has a very defined character voice and it works to set him apart, but what I really like is Brandon uses this voice to inject humor without needing to “tell jokes”. The humor comes only from how Wayne sees others.

I want to get better as this.

13.14 – Character Nuance

This podcast goes hand-in-hand with something I learned while listening to Robert McKee’s Story. I have this from my notes I took while listening to McKee:

  • Character and Plot are one and the same
    • function of plot structure is to provide more and more choices for the character to make under pressure
    • function of character is to make choices that seem rational to their internal self within that structure.
  • Character design begins with two primary aspects: characterization and true character
    • characterization: sum of all observable qualities
    • true character is behind this mask of characterizations – who they are really
    • KEY TO TRUE CHARACTER: true character can only be expressed through choice in dilemma

What McKee said is just a restatement of what I think Amal and Mary expressed – contradiction within a character is not necessarily contradiction if you can show how that contradiction plays out within the choices that character makes within the framework of the plot.

I think a lot of what Brandon and Maurice said point towards the second main bullet – the hats we were and the way we interact are part of those characterizations. How Maurice talks with other writers versus family in Jamaica are observable characteristics. But who they actually are would come from the choices they’ve made under pressure. Example from Brandon’s life that he’s talked about on the podcast – he’d written a dozen novels before his first one sold and spent his evenings writing while working the desk at a hotel. That pressure of having failure after failure and yet choosing to continue on showed some of the true character that is Brandon Sanderson.

The other reaction I have is to the homework – and a reminder that while “personality test” are fun, Myers-Briggs/Sorting Hat/Color Code-type stuff doesn’t really hold water when studied empirically. One that does have scientific backing is the IPIP-NEO test of the Five Personality Domains. And honestly, if you could go through and at least figure out where on the spectrum in each of the five domains your character is, you’d be in good shape.

Updates and a Return to Blogging

First, let my start out by saying I’M DONE!

<insert dancing.gif>

My cut revision to remove 10% of the words from my first novel has been completed. My target final word count was 98,792. I finished at one word below target. Cutting 11,000 words from a story that I already felt was reasonably solid has taught me a lot about concrete writing and about removing redundancy. If you’re a writer and haven’t yet tried doing an extensive cut, I recommend it. From a craft perspective, it has already changed the way I write, and made it for the better.

This is also the point where I tease that I will be asking for beta readers of the completed cut to make sure I haven’t gone too far and ruined what I had. So be watching for a post recruiting beta readers.

Up next, for the next two weeks will be business related writing – I need summaries, queries, and bios built as I start sending this book out for representation. And I’ll be returning to blogging on the series I have planned – writers productivity, mechanical keyboards, and podcast reactions.

And most especially towards the idea of what constitutes a trustworthy writer and what I can do to foster a community of them.

So, expect a few more posts over the next few weeks as compared to the recent past.

SITREP – 2018-02-19

So I apologise for missing last week’s reaction post. I’ll be missing this week’s too as I’m on a self imposed deadline to complete my 10% cut revision of my novel by Thursday.

Fingers crossed – I’ve only got 5 chapters left to do.

At that point I’ll be putting out the call for another round of readers while I prep summary, synopsis, pitch, and query letters.

So if you’d like a chance to provide feedback regarding my novel, keep your eyes peeled.

For those who alpha read for me before, I’d like to have you read again of possible.

Thanks!

Current State Report and Writing Excuses 13.02

Things are going to be a little different this week. Between the holiday, some bad sleep, more stress at work, and bad timing, I haven’t gotten all the writing work done I wanted to. I have gotten the book work done I needed to, but not the blogging. So, you get one this week. Maybe two if I’m able to finish up some stuff.

Current State

I’m 25% complete with the current revision of my novel Betrayed. That is the part of writing that has been going well. I also got back a response from a beta reader which pumped up my enthusiasm a lot. So, I’m quite hopeful that the book will be in the right shape for querying agents when I’m all through with it this round.

Once I get to 50%, I’ll start really working on the pre-writing for my next novel. Which means between now and then, I need to do some research on pets and AIs. Fun stuff.

In physical tool updates, I ADORE my new keyboard. I’ll be trying to get some questions addressed that folks have asked, so please be patient. But my hand pain is completely gone, and I’ve been pushing pretty hard the last few days. So, it was expensive, but so far, worth it.

Last, today marks the start of a new habit forming session which I’m doing with my youth at church and with my writing group. My young men wanted to learn about how habits work and so last night was a chance to explore habits, and the result was me realizing that my recent writing approach has been killing my sleep pattern. I needed to make a change.

So the new goal is sleep early, up early, with my writing spread throughout the day, rather than all writing done in a rush at night. Day 1 feels pretty good so far.

My Reflections on Writing Excuses 13.02 – Writing Active Characters

This week, the hosts looked at writing active characters and first reaction out of the box for me: “Holy cow! New Chicago team!”

Yes, it looks like the crew changed up this season. I’m sure if I followed the podcasters on anything more than just the podcast I would have seen this coming, but it was surprising to me. It makes a lot of sense. What a great way to keep things fresh. It’s too bad in one regard, because I really liked the old Chicago crew. Looking forward to getting to know the new folks!

Episode Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟

Humor: 🌟

Usefulness to me right now: 🌟 🌟 🌟

So, perhaps it’s because I’m in the middle of revisions rather than drafting, but this doesn’t feel quite as useful to me at the moment. For a passive character, Brandon gave the example of having someone who always stands around and watches important events rather than being in them.

Current project – not an issue.

Book I just finished in November ? Might be an issue. So, not as useful at the moment, but it may be something I’ll need to address in future stories. I might have that tendency.

Overall, though, a good episode, though because of the new team who haven’t answered this question previously, the answers seemed at surface level. I hope they find their legs as the season goes and give good, meaty advice. Good enough for the very early writer, but I think they can all dig a bit deeper.

Something that didn’t get covered during the episode: my personal belief is that inactive characters are a warning sign/diagnosis criteria of plot problems. If your character isn’t interacting well with the events of the story, you might be telling the wrong story.

And I don’t necessarily mean redoing the story so your main character is at the center of events.

Maybe you have a seemingly passive character observing an action/adventure story, but rather than re-plot the action story, you need to be telling the coming of age story inside that adventure, of someone wistfully longing to be bigger or better than they are.

Or you have a relationship story where the a seemingly passive character can’t talk to the object of their affections. So maybe try telling the growth story inside of that problem.

In reality, this is just another variation on Mary’s favorite tool, the MICE quotient, with a story nested inside another story. It’s great because it allows you to have layers that might not come up in a straightforward tale. And it can let you keep what you’ve already worked and tweak it rather than starting over from scratch.

So, if you do find your characters being too passive, take a look at how to fix. It may be just a change of paradigm.

K, I think I’m going to call it there for the week.

I really enjoy the comments that I’ve been getting. Many thanks to those who have been reaching out. And with how busy the week has been, I’ll be responding to a couple of previous questions later this week, so hang in there.

Drop a line below and join in.

Star Wars Finger Puppet Templates

Now for something completely different.

image

We saw these Star Wars felt finger puppets a few weeks back, though they were posted to Make and Takes website a few years ago. Simple felt finger puppets using basic shapes and easy to put together.

Of course, once we sat down to start working on them, I wanted to come up with a faster/more efficient way of cutting out the felt pieces. That got me hand drawing which rapidly turned into an Inkscape project because I knew I could reuse elements.

Luke Skywalker
Inkscape Luke

It spiraled out of control.

Yoda and Darth Vader Template Page
Yoda and Darth Vader Template Page

Once I had gotten all the felt templates done, I realized just how far I had gone and knew it would take us a while to get the puppets made, but the troops were getting restless. So, I took the templates and turned them into printable/colorable pages that could be used to make finger puppets out of paper.

Leia and Han Coloring Page
Leia and Han Coloring Page

image

Huge hit and it gave us time to get the felt ones in work.

So, all the templates have been compiled into a downloadable PDF – felt template, a color printable, and a black-and-white printable for coloring.

Included in Volume 1 are Luke Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and Yoda.

Star Wars Finger Puppets vol 1

More will be coming soon as I’ve already been asked for Darth Maul and R2D2 and C3PO.

The Writing Process – A Blog-Hop Post

Tag! I’m it.

This post is about my current writing process and the work that my process is both forming and informing. The idea is courtesy of M. A. Chiappetta. She and the ladies at Purple Ink Writers started this blog-hop with the intention of getting some discussion going about the writing process and the things that we writers are working on right now. I want to thank Michele and company for tagging me as part of the hop and hope that it can provide some insight and exposure for me as I continue my work.

They came up with four questions to answer and explore for this post, so without further intro, let’s jump in. Continue reading “The Writing Process – A Blog-Hop Post”

Camp is in Session

Day 1 is done and so far I’m on pace for my goal of 22000 for the month. But it is pricing harder than I thought it would. It just goes to show that just because you’ve done something once doesn’t make you an expert.

The advantage I have now over last November is that mentally I know I can do it. I find it very similar to running. I may not run a 5k very fast but I know I can finish one. The mental aspect of the challenge is gone.

So even though I haven’t yet gotten my words in today, I’ll get them in before bed.

Update Theme and Layout

After seeing the immaculate blog layout of one of my new reader/writer acquaintances,  I realized that my blog wasn’t really optimized for people to navigate, especially their first time accessing the site.

So, I have moved to a new theme that allows a better static starting page and have made the menu easier to navigate while reading the book.

The menu now has a section for all of my writings (as I plan on adding more of my work here, both for critiquing and for reading) and the pages for the novels will have the chapters listed for clearer navigation and finding the next chapter.

I hope the changes improve the site and make it easier to find your way around.

Welcome Critters!

Welcome and thank you for your interest in providing me with critiques from Critters.org.

The chapter posts are  password protected to prevent “first publication” disputes and to limit access to the manuscript. To obtain the password, please fill out the form below and I will email you the password.

Please use the same email that you have registered for Critters.org so that I can award points after you have finished critiquing.

NOTE: I will never use your email for anything other than communicating about your critiques or my novel.

Please also read the Welcome and Ground Rules to review the type of critique I am after. Critiques should be left as comments appended to the chapter posts.

Here is the link to Chapter 1 so you don’t have to hunt through the archives.

NaNoWriMo is DONE! And so am I!

The month of November is nearly over. Out there in the world, 300,000 people rush to finish. But I am not one of them.

Because I finished last night!

NaNoWriMo Winner

Inline image 1

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) will officially end at midnight tonight, but amazingly, at 50,703 words, I validated my novel last night at 11:30pm. That’s new words – the book is about double that, but I wanted validation of my efforts this month. I honestly cannot believe that I did it. Eyes feel slightly crossed and everything has a muzzy sensation, mostly I think due to the hours spent in front of a screen and the lack of sleep. But it’s done!

What does that mean for you, my fair alpha readers?

It means that my basic, very, VERY rough draft is done. It also means that now, instead of working on new words, I can focus on revising and posting what I’ve done. And THAT means chapters will be coming fast and furious. My goal is to have revised and posted all chapters, the whole book, by Christmas Eve.

I’m calling it Alpha December; 25 days of non-stop revising and posting for your holiday reading pleasure.  Based on the fact that Chap. 11 is already up, that should translate into a chapter every two days to meet my deadline.

Sleep deprived? I can manage another month.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to start reading, I still very much look forward to your feedback and hope you will have time to read.

If you have started, but haven’t taken time to comment, please do so. Even an “I liked it” is helpful if you don’t know what else to say.

For those who have been steadily slogging along, reading and commenting as I post, I thank you. I hope you are enjoying it. And I hope I make your holidays a little more fun with a new story. Thank you for your patience.

And to any others out there who have had a story percolating in the back of their minds, I challenge you to start. Get it down on paper or screen. Camp NaNoWriMo starts in August and again in September, so you’ve got some time to prep your story if you want to go for something official. But start. It’s worth it.