Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Open Thread

Sorry for the late post, everyone. I got distracted with work and forgot to check in. Sarah is away from her computer today, so we're going to have an open thread. Anything relating to writing is fair game. If you have any comments or questions, post them and we'll do our best to answer -- or to ask more questions (We're evil that way ;-P ).

Something else to consider, if there are specific topics you'd like us to blog about, list them in the comment section. We're always looking for new ideas and inspiration for the blog.

The floor is now yours!

35 comments:

C Kelsey said...

Two things. I have discovered that there are only so many different ways you can write, "and I jumped on his back, biting and clawing him." :P

In my rough draft story I had a character literally show up out of the blue. I didn't know why this character was in the story, where he came from, or what I was supposed to do with him. So I deleted his appearance. I started writing more, and he came back. So I figured my subconscious was telling me something. I left him in to see what happens. When I finished the rought draft, I couldn't believe the ending. That surprise character was the emotional anchor for the entire story. He *had* to be there. Without him, story would be much poorer. It blows my mind. I've never had that happen before.

Jonathan D. Beer said...

'He crept into the room, sword raised cautiously. He edged through the open doorway, foolishly failing to check the blind spot behind the door. One step, two. Perfect.

I jumped onto his back, biting and clawing him.'

Damn. Nope, I can't think of any other ways to write that either :p

I have an issue at the moment with a new story I am planning to write. I have the major plot points more or less ironed out, but the POV and main protagonist is not playing. I have created a character who would not act in the ways that I need him to in order to hit these plot points.

How do I get the bugger to behave?! :)

C Kelsey said...

I know, it was really tricky writing a fight scene that pretty well devolved into "scratch, bite, scratch some more." I had fun working through it.

I also ran into your problem Jonathan while I was writing this story. My characters wouldn't do what the plot said they should do. The answer for me was that the plot wasn't quite right and I was making things to difficult.

Synova said...

I had the thought last night that one of my characters was a nihilist. I think that's the right word... fatalist, maybe, but she is an assassin so... Nope. Looked them up and both are wrong. I was thinking that maybe she's just tired and doesn't care anymore.

See, I'd figured that she chose the guy she chose in order to assert her will in the world, but now I'm wondering if she just got tired of guarding herself and is giving up, and maybe she can't stand the idea of not having a choice once she loves someone (which is what will happen) so maybe what's going on is sort of angling for "suicide by cop" on her part.

And since I was having a terrible time figuring out how to get them together when she cared so deeply about his potential rejection of her, maybe it will be easier to do if she doesn't care at all. Maybe she's even sort of hoping for rejection.

Oh, my... and probably this ought to be from her point of view.

Up until now it was from his.

C Kelsey said...

Synova,

Interesting. Perhaps she feels stuck doing whatever she's doing, wants to do something else, but doesn't know what the thing that will make her happy might be?

Perhaps it's just my way of thinking, but I think it might be more interesting if events remain from his perspective. Outside, looking in.

Amanda Green said...

Actually, Chris, there are any number of ways you can write it. It depends on who your POV character is, what the setting is, etc. What I'm getting at is it is a matter of details. You can vary how "I" jumped on his back. What it felt like when the pov character did, how the other person reacted, etc.

As for the biting, again, it's all in the description. What's your POV character thinking as he bites, or is bitten. Is there the flow of blood, how bad is the pain, etc. Same thing for clawing.

It's those descriptions that bring your reader even more into the story. I'll go back to the Hitchcock reference I made in another post: remember the shower scene in Psycho. We're in Janet Leigh's head then. But we are cued by the music and then by the sight of the shower curtain being thrown back, the knife, her hand clasping the shower curtain and it ripping from its rings as she falls. Then there's the swirl of "blood" going down the drain. We didn't see anything, or at least not much. But we knew what had just happened. You want to write that sort of emotional connection through your descriptions so your reader feels and knows what your POV character does in that fight.

Hope that makes sense...not sure it does. I'm still looking for enough caffeine today.

Amanda Green said...

Jonathan, sometimes you have to just let the character take you where he wants to go. Go back and check our archives on plotting. Some writers are plotters. They plot out every twist and turn of their book before they write. They never leave their outline or notes.

Others are pantsers who just write and let the plot come as it will. Then there are others -- and I'm one of them -- who is a bit of both. I know the basic premise of my story and how I want to get from point A to point B. But that is about it. The reason is the more I plot before writing, the more frustrated I get when my characters don't do as I want them to.

Sometimes you just have to let them have their way and write as they want you to. Finish the book or story. Then go back and edit.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, scratch, bite and scratch some more can be difficult to write. That's why you need to make sure you get reactions, thoughts and emotions in. You have to be sure to paint the full picture for your reader.

And yes, sometimes you have to trust your characters to let you know when the plot isn't working. But sometimes, they're just being headstrong and you have to smack them until they behave ;-p

Amanda Green said...

Synova, it sounds like at least part of it needs to be from her point of view. Are you writing in first person or third?

C Kelsey said...

Amanda,

Yeah that's what I ended up doing (I think... I've been letting it set and I'm not certain my memory of what I wrote for the fight is going to necessarily jive with what I *actually* wrote).

I think what brought that little bit of musing up is that I've seen recently quite a bit of the "I did this, and this, and then that some more" (wash, rinse, repeat) in published novels. This made me put a lot of time into trying to make certain that I didn't do that.

warpcordova said...

You ever have a book that screams to be written from a first person POV and yet when you go about doing so it seemingly can't be done?

Yeah, that's where I'm at right now. I just don't know how to write in first person, and the book(s) require that it be in it. Guh.

Other than nuking everything til it glows and then double tapping it in the head as per Zombiepocalypse 2020 SOP, any suggestions?

C Kelsey said...

warpcordova,

Is it the plot that is impossible, or are the characters being mean and not playing with one another? I have had luck in the past by taking the characters and putting them in a setting other than the story you want to tell. Sometimes they start to play together that way.

matapam said...

Warped, write it close third person, when finished, decide if it would be improved by going back and changing it to first, or whether this allows you to sneak in an occasional outside POV that helps the plot along.

CK was this the Werelion doing the jump, bite, claw? Describe the detailed actions and his reactions. "He reared and sank his front claws into the man's shoulders, angled his head as he opened his mouth. His teeth sank deep, blood spurted into his mouth..." Then his reactions. Is he new to this? Does the taste of blood thrill, shock or horrify him?

Jonathan. Your subconscious is telling you something. You might as well listen, it won't shut up, trust me. Ask yourself what kind of character _would_ act in the way you need for the plot. Add such a person. See what happens. (Poor man, should I warn him the SOB is bound to walk of with the girl, too? Or just let him find out for himself?)

Synova, the jaded, tired character who finds a new meaning in life is sort of a "sin and redemption" plot staple. And very popular, too. I think readers can identify with people who just get overwhelmed and give up, lose track of their principles but just can't seem to find the time, energy or direction of "out". Perhaps your character chose who she did *because* it seemed so much easier if there was no messy "love" involved.

Amanda Green said...

Warp, I agree with Matapam, write it in close -- or limited -- 3rd person. Try at least a couple of chapters like that and see if it works. If not, my only suggestion is what I've had to do before, become that character. Close yourself up somewhere where you can talk and pace and act out as necessary to "get" the character. I say do it in private because folks tend to look at you funny when you start talking to yourself and acting out fight scenes -- or worse ;-)

Seriously, why do you think you can't write in first person? What is it specifically that is hanging you up?

Amanda Green said...

Chris, I've see a lot of the "I did this and then this and this" as well in published novels. A number of them have been from the big publishing houses and from authors who should know better. Whether it was just the authors writing something they didn't want to, or couldn't figure out how to, or a lack of good editing or what, I don't know. But it is eyeopening when you see it.

It all goes back to the old adage of show don't tell. Yes, especially in first person, there has to be some telling. But a lot of it can be changed -- and for the better usually -- by describing what happened and its impact on the characters -- than by sleepwalking through the motions.

C Kelsey said...

matapam,

This is indeed a werelion, but this one is a she. I seem to be doing some serious character jumping evertime I start a new story. I know I'm still missing a few reaction things, but I was able to draw on the characters position in the pride as a means of dealing with the combat. I am missing an "eww yuck!" gag moment, but I'll incorporate it after I get some initial comments and go back for the rewrite.

Amanda,
I'm certain there is still more telling than showing than I'd like, but hopefully I'm making progress on that front. If it reads the way I think it does, I'm going to be particularly pleased with the ending.

warpcordova said...

Amanda,

I actually wrote it originally in close third person and while people liked it, they didn't love it. I changed a few things but all along felt as though it should be in first, so I'm trying to rewrite it.

I think my main problem is whether or not I should be using certain tense verbs, which throw me off in third person. I was never taught English properly, so you can imagine when someone says "your verb tense is wrong" just how scared I become... I have no idea what the hell they're talking about.

Amanda Green said...

Jason, if you want to send me a sample to see if I can see anything I think you might want to try, do. I can't promise to look at it before the weekend, but I can carve out a few hours then. My email is amandgreen at gmail dot com (and make sure you don't add the last "a" at the end of my first name)

Amanda Green said...

Chris, I'm sure you're getting better. Writing is nothing if not a continual learning experience. When it quits being that, you've either died or you've quit caring, imo.

C Kelsey said...

Amanda,

Yes indeed. This story is the first I've ever completed where I had a very particular set of goals. I wanted a flowing story that achieved particular emotional changes in the reader. I wanted the characters to be real people. Most important, I wanted to write a story where the characters underwent experiences that changed them. I wanted to make certain that there was growth throughout.

Kate said...

Jason,

Just a wee little secret - if the voice of your character is right in a first person piece, tense doesn't really matter that much.

That said "normal" fiction tense is simple past tense. "I went to the store and bought some milk." Occasional excursions into the rather less active past perfect (I think - I'm not that hot on grammar either) "I'd gone to the store and bought some milk" usually signal something that happened in the character's past relative to the story. Other tenses just aren't that common in narrative - although you do occasionally see first person present.

If you really want painful grammar, I can send you one of my orc stories (grin). Orc grammar is internally consistent and makes people who like correct English cringe.

Stephen Simmons said...

Jason - Like Kate said, just make it "sound" like the character would sound, if it's first person, and the tenses will take care of themselves. I have one story (which sold) that's entirely first-person present-tense, because it's a poorly-educated girl barely out of high school, and that's the way she talks. (And then I go up to her and I say ...)

Synova said...

Amanda,

I'm writing this from a close third. It's all very much in the planning stages. The scene I'm thinking of might be the beginning of a second book. I don't know yet if I ought to alternate view points or stick with one or give various characters each their own story. I'm leaning toward one view point per episode/book as a basic sort of structure.

Nothing is going to go much of anywhere until I figure out the villain, but I'd had this idea for a romance between these two except that there are reasons that she simply can't have any romantic experience whatsoever and I'd initially had her making the move on him. But I couldn't think of a situation where she'd do that. And I couldn't see him making the move on her either. But if she's come to a point where she's just tired of her particular problem she might make the move on him after all.

I think this might just turn it around. If she's setting this all up with an "arrest me, reject me, shoot me, love me... its up to you" sort of attitude her inhibitions aren't going to be an issue.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

C Kelsey,

That is one of the joys of being a writer. Trust yourself to let the muse lead you.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Jonathan, perhaps you should let the character go where they want to go and see what happens.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Synova, would it be possible to use two Points of View? I like doing that to show how each person misunderstands the other's motivation.

matapam said...

Warp, if it's already in third, and not right, then go for first person. First can have an immediacy and impact that some stories need. Verb tenses won't change very much.

Da Curly Wolf said...

Open thread huh Amanda? Well..feel free to waltz on over to my place, and port the questions I just asked over here for the open thread if you want.

Synova said...

Rowena, I'm sure it's possible to use both points of view. I'm just not sure what the story is yet, so it's hard to figure what would be the most useful. I have an idea of a few of the characters and the political universe and some of what will happen and what type of story I'd like it to be, but I don't have the villain at all and I don't have enough on the various heroes internal journeys to get it all to gel.

I'm also dealing with the structural problem of having events that have to sort of drag out over four pregnancies. I might have locked myself into a corner with that one.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Synova, sometimes the only way to find out if a story will work is to write it.

matapam said...

Synova,

Twins. Quadruplets. Pets. Step children or fewer children.

Heck, I've got a Niece-in-law that had three before she was 21. Spacing of 13 months, and eleven months. Older woman I worked with had five kids, all close in age. "Well, every time I went back in for my six week checkup, I was pregnant again. The doctor didn't give me any argument when I asked him to tie my tubes after number five."

It may sound insane in fiction, but it happens in real life.

Synova said...

matapam, LOL! I always wanted twins. (I also always wanted to be a red head and have glasses.) But anyhow, she doesn't need that many kids, she needs to be pregnant that many times because of the triggers worked into the gene splice that slow the transformation process to something that won't kill her. All on account of the bad guys using an existing mechanism to repair genetic issues in the unborn as the delivery vector to piggy-back their illegal genetic code. Which they, all "Friday" style, hired her to courier for them, but they actually put it in her and were planning to cut her up into very small tissue cultures. She objected in a rather bloody manner and thus does the assassin/courier meet the handsome enforcer/agent.

If necessary I could just decide that it only takes one pregnancy to slow it enough that she survives having the splice replicate and attach to the chromosomes in all of her cells. I'd just rather it takes longer.

Rowena, It always helps to hear just to write it and figure it out by writing through it. It's one of those things I struggle with because I just really hate the idea of doing all that work and having it not be right. And knowing that I'm sabotaging myself that way doesn't make that feeling any less strong. So I appreciate hearing it.

Maybe if I skip the manuscript format and change to a funky font and just "think on paper" it will work.

matapam said...

Synova, how evil!

What could be more infuriating as a cure, than to get pregnant? You may need to talk to a biologist about how the metabolic or hormonal changes of pregnancy could be used as a trigger to stop this splice. Perhaps the hormonal changes make the splices do something abnormal, that triggers the immune system to destroy the infected cells? One pregnancy might be enough to get all the infected cells.

Might.

How is she going to calculate the cost/benefit ratio here?

Does she plan to grab some fellow she doesn't particularly like, marry him, have a baby, and take off? How badly awry are those plans going to go?

Synova said...

I know it's all biological handwaving and I'm really glad I wrote it down because it made sense at the time. The idea is that the splice has to be attached to a vector and the evil scientists who made the splice borrowed and existing vector, probably a virus based one, that was originally intended to be applied to a fetus "in vivo" in cases of inherited genetic disorders, so had elements to isolate it from the mother as well as elements to ensure actual conception. The evil scientists broke it so it spreads to the mother but it will still receive and correctly interpret protein messages when it is successful with a fetus and temporarily turn itself off.

I fully intend to hand wave and imply and avoid specifics!

(My cousin actually has a PhD in biochemistry and has done work with viral delivery of genetic stuff for cancer treatments... which she says you don't exactly advertise that you're using viruses for because people react poorly. The idea, she said, was that you send two parts with two separate viruses... one to tag the cancer cells and give something for the other to latch onto, so it knows what cells to attack. I honestly have no idea if anything came of that research or not.)

Synova said...

I think that the evil scientists didn't use a more normal vector meant to do gene splices in an adult because they'd be designed to go slowly on purpose and it would be sort of hit and miss for a long while to get cells that were already transformed.

But anyhow... by the time she figured it out she was pretty near gone and the fellow "at hand" was the agent on the trail of bodies she was leaving behind.

She tried really hard to get him to kill her, but since that didn't work...

But all that was before, on my mental time-line. My problem upthread was a year-ish later... how does she go about talking him into doing it again when it's not an emergency? Which wouldn't be a problem at all except for (long story) the fact that she'll "mate for life" with the first fellow she falls for so hasn't so much as allowed herself a crush and certainly not a date. Reaching that low point where she just doesn't care which way it goes seems like a good way to get her to do something rash.

Hm... I always figured I wasn't mean enough to my characters. Maybe that's not true.