Tag Archives: story structure

An unexpected extra on planning

I recently spent several days going over my cork board version of outlining. Some of you really got into it, while others waited for a different topic. It's okay, there will always be another topic.

For those who liked the posts, I learned most of it from a writer named Alexandra Sokoloff. She started life as a screenwriter, and now writes novels. She knows more than I do about the process. I did my usual gathering of nuggets and used the parts I liked.

She isn't on WordPress, so it isn't easy to simply re-blog her post today. She's doing an act breakdown of Silence of the Lambs that's worth reading. She explains some of the fairytale aspects, use of scenery, and subtle things we novelists can learn from.

For those of you who are interested, here's a link to the post. I used a copy and paste to add her to my Reader stream, and the RSS link to follow her in that reader too. Her site has a ton of information, and I wouldn't want to miss anything.

 

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Planning your novel, part four

I’ve given everyone a pretty good idea of how I set up my board, and how I move my cards around to get between the cornerstones of a story. I’ve also explained how you might use a different style and still benefit from a storyboard. Today is all about the bells and whistles that really help me with a story.

My app comes with a drawer that holds things in addition to index cards. Some of these are very handy, others not so much. I have no need to put a contact card in my outline. (Maybe a pizza place that delivers?)

Note: if you want to try a physical storyboard, you can do all the same things.

I want to start off with the checklist option. There are certain things that you want your character to do. Why not make a checklist and include it in your outline. This is a good way to keep from getting out of logical order. Here’s a decent example:

The stages of grieving

 

We put our characters through a lot. It’s more realistic to have them experience a loss by following the stages of grieving. In a novel you might be able to skip a step, but it details how most folks would act in the event of a loss. This is one example. You can use a checklist for all kinds of things.

My app comes with some cool little arrows. Since I can change the colors, I can coordinate what they mean with the key elements of a story.

In this example, I might add yellow arrows to take my main character from Ron Weasley all the way to Gandalf.

I’m an old guy. I don’t always remember minutia from day to day. When writing a novel it could be month to month.

If I know I’m going to use the old falling anvil trick in Act Three, I need to hoist the anvil somewhere in Act One or Two. The pink arrows can really help with that.

I don’t always follow this advice in my outline, but when I have, it makes everything much easier. There are still plenty of times I’ll have to go back and modify chapter three while I’m working on chapter 29, but it still helps.

I don’t color coordinate anything, but the potential is there. I did it for the purposes of this post. I use a lot of sticky notes. Again, my memory is still there, it just isn’t as fast as it used to be. Sometimes, at the end of a writing day, I’ll add a note about some idea I want to use in the next writing session. I call them “Hey Dummy” notes. It helps when the next writing session is fourteen days away. Here are some ideas for sticky notes:

When I finally get back to writing, I review my “Hey Dummy” notes and delete them.

I also read back and forward a bit. The story always deviates from the outline, and there is no law that says it can’t.

I’ve even been known to change the outline, because I’ve come up with some brilliant idea while writing.

Of course, I’ve also abandoned the outline completely on occasion. At least it got me started on the right foot. The cornerstones of three act structure were still useful to keep my story on track.

Its more typical for me to start writing before the outline is finished. I usually pay the price and have to go back, update the outline, and plan out the rest of the story.

One of the best things about a storyboard is pictures. Pictures really help with descriptions. I add them to my board at key places. Since this is the private part of your work, you can grab anything you like off the internet. No need to worry about copyright. Here’s an example from Arson:

Everyone’s favorite pyrophilliac has a distinct hairstyle. (Maybe she’s just my favorite.) She would never wear that horrible bow thing.

She also has some unique items she uses for work, and to decorate her office.

I find pictures to be extremely helpful. If your character has a unique style, you can pin some clothing or other bits to your board.

Maybe you want some actual crime scene photos to remind you to include specific details like pin flags or number markers.

 

True story time. When I was writing Arson, I was also outlining The Cock of the South.

Outlining is something I can do while my wife plays her music or watches American Idol. It doesn’t take quite the concentration that writing does.

I decided to completely outline the whole story. It was one of those personal challenges I talk about on occasion. I learn by trying new things, and this needed to be tested.

My app lets me seat a board within a board. I filled this storyboard with pictures and character arch reminders. I wound up with a board for each section.

The payoff was writing the whole novel in three months. Remember, I have a family and a full time job. I only get to write on Saturday mornings and one rotating day per week. Researching during the writing process was kept to a minimum. It was just writing. It was almost as if the only thing I had to concentrate on was making sure my cast of characters stayed unique and engaging. The image is how the links to the subsequent boards are displayed.

I’ve never taken it to this level since then. I should, but I always get too excited and want to start writing. My next challenge is to outline multiple projects and make them fight for my writing time. The losers will still be around, and may get a chance later. Here is a section of the board from The Playground. It shows some of the bells and whistles together on an actual storyboard.

My boards don’t start out this way. Most of them are a collection of loose notes. I won’t even fill out the premise or important act points until later.

Lorelei, my Muse, has been haunting me again blessing me with her presence. She’s been giving me ideas about all my potential stories. I decided to start a board last night so I could share one here.

This story doesn’t even have a title yet. The premise and act cards are still untouched. None of the cards are anything more than random ideas. My sticky notes are all about things I need to research. They aren’t even in columns right now.

I’ll move them into columns when the time comes. The research stickies will get discarded and replaced with data. If you want to expand the picture, there might be a spoiler or two, or everything could change. I might not let this one off the island. It’s a fair enough example for this post.

I’m a little hesitant to return to a paranormal story right away. I’ve written two, back to back. Since this one is set in history, it doesn’t lend itself easily to fantasy or science fiction. It will have to compete for its writing time.

Storyboards provide a nice visual. It’s easy to see when you don’t have enough material in one of the acts. It’s usually Act Two. The beginning and ending are easier to come up with, because they’re more exciting. One glance can show you the problem.

Read Part Three here.

Let’s call it. This was my sequence on story boarding. I’ve learned so much from other writers that I thought it was time to share. My process formed by grabbing bits and pieces from other writers. Are you going to attempt a storyboard? Did you gain a nugget to add to your own style? Is it all bullshit that stifles creativity? Is storyboarding a mental version of water boarding in your mind? Could it be useful under some circumstances, but not others? Maybe you have a tip to offer? Let me hear from you.

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Planning Act Three

My regulars know that I usually don’t post on Thursdays. I’m excited to get this post out there because the next post is where I show you how to bring a storyboard to life. I’m looking forward to that one.

Here is my reminder for act three of the story:

This is the big boss battle. Everything you’ve been building up to happens here. Love triangles are broken, ships are sunk, throats are cut, revenge is taken. Any reward you have planned gets issued, and you drop the curtain.

I don’t even use a card for the ending. I made one, but it’s not worth displaying. The story ends. Act Three is usually the shortest act, so it deserves the shortest post.

All the structure part of this series is to show you what I personally do. You can glean the interesting stuff and leave the rest, but check back tomorrow.

If you only fill out these important points in your planning, you already have a decent outline. Maybe you prefer a few lines in a notebook instead of a board. That’s cool too, just write between the important points.

I like to use movie examples, because more people are likely to have seen a film. Here are some examples of the big changes these cards represent:

  • Sheriff Brody says, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
  • Wyatt Earp stands in a downpour and it washes his dead brother’s blood from his shirt. Part of his soul washes away too.
  • A dying cop, (played by Sean Connery) grabs Elliot Ness by the shirt and says, “What are you prepared to do?”
  • Harry Potter walks into Hogwarts for the first time.
  • Davy Jones asks, “Do you fear death?”

Maybe you prefer a different story structure. Your cards might say:

  1. Put the character up a tree.
  2. Throw rocks at him.
  3. Get the character out of the tree.
Maybe your cards follow the Pixar method:

1.) Once Upon a Time __________

2.) And every day ______________

3.) Until one day _______________

4.) And because of this __________

5.) And because of this __________

6.) Until finally _________________

7.) And ever since that day _______

I like three act structure. I make extra cards to go between the important parts. I might have seven cards in Act One, but the first one starts me off. I don’t make the cards in order either. I may have two cards for Act Three while I’m working on Act one.

I move the cards around. Sometimes they just fit the story better in another place. I don’t have to scratch out my notes and try again. I just drag the card to a new location. Sometimes I drag it back.

Early in the game, my cards are only a word or two. I go back and add info as it occurs to me.

I’m about to start outlining four potential stories. I’m going to add a card here and there until one of them demands to be written.

Tomorrow is all about the cool things you can do with a storyboard, beyond index cards.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Four here.

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Posting early today

I decided to check blog comments first thing this morning. There weren't a ton, but it was a progress update, and those don't get as much action. This is going to be another progress update, because it's practically a national holiday in the U.S. Many people aren't worrying about blogs today.

For whatever reason, my Muse has returned. I'm deep in the middle of writing The Playground, and that usually means low word count. Today I managed 2343 new words. That's not terrible. The total is up to 45,408.

Right now it's all about moving the players together. They can't fight until they all wind up in the same place. My anti-hero thug is completely situated. He found something, or should I say someone, that niether of us saw coming. I'm going to go with it and see what happens. If nothing else, she can stitch him back together when the time comes.

The stage is all set. He's got a whole day on the heroine, and may accomplish his goals before she even shows up. That provides some good tension. (His goals aren't pretty, and usually involve a lot of blood.) I think I'll set him up to get jumped by the gang he's been opposing all along. Sorry, dude, but a crippled and bleeding antihero becomes an underdog and makes the story more interesting.

My Muse, Lorelei, keeps sending me short story ideas. So far, I've just been jotting notes in a notebook, but it's like resisting the siren's call. I'm afraid if I start on one, I'll abandon The Playground without finishing it. Maybe she decided to help me finish The Playground just so I can get to the short stories faster.

Right now, I need to do something else. I hit it pretty hard this weekend, and while the big game doesn't have a lot of appeal, it isn't a computer screen either. Maybe I'll watch an old movie or something until kickoff.

Whatever your plans are, I hope you have a great Sunday.

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Notes, from The Twilight Zone

These are exactly as presented, notes. Feel free to chime in about any of my points, or about any decent short story tutorial you enjoy.

Regular readers know I bought the entire series of The Twilight Zone. This is an attempt to learn something about writing short stories. I’ve watched two disks out of about twenty-five.

In watching the earliest episodes of The Twilight Zone, I’ve already learned some things. I really enjoy these stories, and the list of old actors are like seeing old friends again. That’s a distraction. I even got out a pen and paper to help me focus.

I’m happy to see that I’m not insane for writing more than one genre. Twilight Zone included science fiction and paranormal stories. I haven’t seen any real fantasy, but there are small elements peppered here and there. It can be done.

The first lesson is that I can’t replicate Serling. (Or Hitchcock from another old favorite.) Using a narrator to bring the audience up to speed is about forty years out of style. I’m not dissing on those who like omnipotent point of view, but I’ve only toyed with it in micro fiction. Serling brings the audience into the story in a few quick paragraphs.

I may be able to replace Serling with a good hook. (Maybe) Some line that draws readers in. “All children, except one, grow up.”

It’s probably best to start with character, but setting may work on occasion. This character must be interesting. If it’s a bad person, the character should be harming someone the audience would root for.

Add the strange spice right about here. What kind of story is this? Paranormal, fantasy, or science fiction. Get it on the page early. Twilight Zone uses a lot of peddlers. Not much use in a modern story, but we have pawn shops, fences, even auctions.

Whatever the strange spice brings, make it light. It can be charming, fun, mildly amusing. The reader might even be envious of something special a character gains.

Change the strange spice to terrifying. Make sure the reader is uncomfortable at this point. Better yet, make it personal.

End with a twist the reader never saw coming. (Good luck.) It may be helpful to write the ending first.

There is no time for a full hero’s journey. Things like training, gathering the team, and mentors have to go. It’s a short story, get to the point.

Important, the science fiction episodes dealt with the culture of the day. Space travel and nuclear war were on everyone’s mind. Today we might have genetics, GMO food, overpopulation, global warming, or depletion of resources in land or sea.

I’m pretty happy with myself as far as my story elements. Lisa, the robot, has GMO skin. Prejudice plays a role in Wild Concept, Panama, and The Cock of the South. Arson has socialized medicine and big insurance as the villain. Yay me!

The seven deadly sins seem to have been as much a motivating factor then as now. Still valid plot issues.

I was slightly surprised to see a robot girl in one episode. They didn’t take time to explain her, like I could in a novel. She was not the main character, Jack Warden was.

Some science fiction elements are timeless; time travel, space exploration, artificial intelligence. I can still use these.

I have no doubt my Muse will be inspired. I’ve already noticed her sandalwood perfume in the air.

I may discover a few thing more as I enjoy these shows. If I do, I’ll share them. It’s hard to come by a good tome about writing a short story. It seems they skip over minor failures and successes, to just deal with the big ones.

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Writing: Inclusive or Exclusive?

I’m just thinking with my fingers on the keyboard tonight. I think I’m on to something and writing it out helps me. Maybe one of my commenters can add something to clarify it. I may be adding some of this to my living document soon.

Some story elements come across to me as being inclusive or exclusive for the reader. There have been good stories written both ways. I’m convinced this is not a popularity contest, but I’ll keep an open mind in the comments.

Inclusive:

In my definition, the reader could participate as one of the characters in the story. There is a special world, but it’s within the reader’s reach.

The best example I can come up with is the Harry Potter world. Some magical folk are born to muggle parents. Since the idea isn’t delved into in depth, the reader can keep the hope alive.

These stories include Kung Fu ideas, sports stories, sword swingers and more. The idea is that if one trains hard enough, it is possible to join the cool kids.

Exclusive:

The world element excludes the reader from playing along. It’s possible that stories about Royal families would feel exclusive to the reader. This doesn’t mean we don’t like reading along, but that world isn’t our world. Stories about oracles and seers might feel the same way, depending on the point of view. Some sports movies could also come across this way, depending upon how elite the event is.

I think maybe The DaVinci Code type stories could fit this category. The world is so unique, and small, I have a hard time joining the search. Doesn’t mean they aren’t fun reading. Like I said, I’m thinking as I write this.

One thing I’m convinced of: the author has to pick a lane and stay with it. Let me illustrate with the big failure of Star Wars. In 1977, I could have become a Jedi. All I had to do was harness the power of The Force. It remained that way for a couple of decades. You know you tried to move that gum wrapper using The Force, just admit it. I did.

In 1999 everything changed. The description of how metachlorians work excluded me from The Force. Now it’s just a consequence of birth. The franchise lost some charm for me. I’d already formed an opinion, and I was wrong +/-20 years later.

I think it’s important to establish this element early, and to stick with it. It’s like the lesson to establish a character description early, or not at all. Dumping it in chapter 12 will conflict with visuals the reader already has.

I had a mild idea of this when writing The Cock of the South. I wanted readers to imagine the story going on. I wanted the reader to believe they could join the Black Hats, or the Amazons. I even made sure humans were welcome in this society. I’m not saying this is a better way to go. I am saying I challenge myself with each story, and this was one of my challenges.

This has nothing to do with sequels. I’m not in love with them, but would consider it if sales justified it.

A story about Major League Baseball probably excludes most people. (And all women.) A story about a child who works hard and makes it to the majors, probably includes most readers. (This could be a female breakthrough story.)

Thinking about Wild Concept, it’s exclusive. None of us will ever be an experimental robot. What if I’d written it from a different point of view? What if I’d added a sidekick/biographer as the point of view character. Readers might imagine having a robotic friend. Maybe??

I’m looking for an element of clarity here. Writing it out helped some. Let me hear it in the comments. Am I close to a breakthrough, or just confusing myself? Is one style better than another?

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Draft Day, 2013

I really should wait to write this one. It’s probably a bit better for me closer to publication day. Maybe I can recycle it though. There is a not so subtile writing tip in here. I’m writing it in my usual corny style. What’s not to like? You get some fiction and a writing tip.

This happened in the Spring of 2013.

***

I paced back and forth at the bottom of the stairs. My Muse, Lorelei, sent the engraved invitation a month ago. Lisa, the robot, and I would be attending the character draft, live, to make my pick.

Lisa came downstairs. She had on her tight brown suit and stilettos. Her strawberry blonde hair was pulled back in a tight French roll. She was letting her freak flag fly today with her tattooed right leg in full view beyond her knee length skirt. She put on a pair of black framed glasses and said, “Let’s go.”

We went outside and climbed into my gyro-copter. “What’s with the glasses? You have perfect vision.”

“It’s part of my look today. Girl Friday, agent, maybe even bodyguard.”

I took it all in stride and flew us to the stadium. As I headed for the entrance, Lisa reached over her shoulder and clicked the lock. “Boop Boop.”

Our seats were left of the stage and right above the floor. The floor was a mosh pit of heroes. Grizzled old cowboys stood between overbuilt superheroes. Wizards and elves mingled with Classical Greek heroes, aliens, even a god or two.

The announcer, Vin, adjusted his tie and looked into the camera. “This just in, Batman is once again reserved by DC Comics. The first pick was The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Looks like they get to ride the range one more time.”

The color man Chris chimed in. “That was a smart pick, Vin. It’s tough to get two main characters for the price of one. Interest faded in them over the years, and no one saw this coming. Who’s next on our list?”

Vin looked at his computer screen. “It looks like C. S. Boyack is up next. Boyack has fifteen minutes to pick a lead character or he forfeits.”

The spotlight scanned the audience and landed on Lisa and I. Lisa opened her briefcase and grabbed an envelope.

“Hey, Vin. Isn’t that Lisa Burton with Boyack today.”

“Looks like it, Chris. I hope Boyack publishes her story soon.”

“She still looks good.”

“Oh yeah, she’s hot.”

Lisa handed me the envelope, and a runner grabbed it.

As the runner headed for the table, Chris said, “I wonder who he’ll pick. He seems like a Hercules kind of guy to me. Wonder Woman has been drawing some interest too.”

“Don’t forget, copyright expired on Holmes and Watson. They’re free agents this year.”

“True, but to get them both would take some doing. Boyack would have to trade a couple of his supporting character picks to another author.”

“Isn’t that similar to how Boyack landed Theodore Roosevelt and Billy the Kid in last year’s draft?”

“That’s how it’s done in this day and age, Vin.”

The runner handed my pick to a model, who strutted across the stage and handed the envelope to Vin.

The entire stadium grew quiet.

Vin tore the envelope open and held it toward Chris, who pulled out the papers and read, “C. S. Boyack chooses, Patty Hall.”

Vin dropped the envelope and turned to his screen. He whispered, but it still came across the speakers. “Who the hell is Patty Hall? She isn’t even on my list.”

Chris dug into a dusty cardboard box under the table. “Right here. She’s a fifteen year old high school freshman. Holy cow, get this she’s crippled.”

“Um, Chris, I think we’re supposed to say handicapped.”

“Can we get a ruling on that, maybe it’s differently abled. And get a microphone over to Boyack. I’ll bet he has a trade lined up with a romance author. I’ll bet someone has a football jock they’re going to trade for a weak sister or a dying kid.”

The spotlight scanned the crowd below. Atlas and Perseus moved to the side as an unruly shock of brown hair passed, barely coming up to their arms. Stretch Richards stretched himself eight feet higher as Patty passed between his legs. She nearly knocked Laura Croft over as she stomped toward the stage.

A microphone and camera got shoved in my face. “Veronica Staley here with C. S. Boyack. Mr. Boyack, can you tell us who you’re going to trade Patty Hall for?”

“I’m not trading her. I’m keeping her.” I leaned over and told Lisa to go get Patty.

“Mr. Boyack, you’ve written some pretty heroic characters in the past. How does Hall appeal? I mean, you took her in the first round.”

“Look down on the floor, Veronica. There are legendary heroes everywhere you look. It’s going to be hard to take them on a journey and show how they change. I mean what kind of change can you make with Conan?”

“Maybe so, but he could slash his way through a story like no one else.”

Patty stepped onto the stage, and had her picture taken with the model. The crowd hushed once more as they saw her leg braces for the first time. The monitor off to the side read, Boyack commits major error in the first round character draft.

“That’s true about Conan, but Patty has a story to tell too. She’s facing a bit of adversity right out of the slipcover. Adversity makes books interesting. It’s hard to do anything with a character who’s already lived happily ever after.”

Veronica turned back toward the camera. “Back to you Chris and Vin. Boyack is happy with his selection. I’m hoping someone takes a real hero in the next round.”

I was in a foul mood. I was ready to leave, but had to wait for Lisa to pose for pictures, and sign a couple of her calendars. When she led Patty back to our seats, we headed for the writing cabin.

***

There you have it. I look for characters who might be undervalued, and can go on a journey of personal growth. I’m not willing to start with an icon, or unbeatable warrior and try taking them on the same kind of journey.

Patty is the main character in Will ‘O the Wisp, coming to a Kindle or an app near you in 2015. She goes on quite an adventure too. I think you’re going to enjoy it.

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My roller coaster day

I had two goals this weekend: First, I wanted to get through edits on Will ‘O the Wisp, Second, I wanted to finish a book I’ve been reading.

It’s another bachelor weekend, and it sounded realistic. I never got to the story I’m reading. I wonder if all writers go through this?

I started at 7:00 this morning. I was part way through the edits, but the document was 193 pages long. Let the horror of that statement sink in for a bit. Okay, they were electronic pages and the numbers change depending on how I hold my iPad, but still…

God, I suck! Why did I ever start writing?

God, I suck. Why did I write this piece of garbage?

I don’t think this rule is right?

Spend three hours with The Purdue Owl, and other sources. Some of the rules are flexible. They’re more like guidelines, Arrrggghhh.

If the rule is flexible, I like my method.

Oops, I was really wrong here. God, I suck.

Consistency, consistency, consistency; even if I’m consistently wrong. Do I suck at this?

Wow, that was a good passage. Go back and read it again. That was the opposite of suck.

Oops, I’m supposed to be editing, not enjoying the story. I mean, I know how it ends.

Put a comma in, take a comma out. I hate rules.

Did I really think that up? That was really creative. Keep reading.

Back to the editing. This isn’t so tough.

Read three chapters and really enjoy them. God, this is a good story.

I hope people will read this, it’s really good. Back to editing.

Doh! How did I duplicate a chapter number?

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Editing is like being a character in one of my stories, only without bullets and hair loss.

Back to The Purdue Owl. Okay, I’m wrong.

This is the best story I’ve ever written. I’m a rockstar!

It’s 7:00 PM and I’m finished. I took an hour break for a sandwich, and to sandblast my eyeballs. I’d like to get back to the book I’m reading, but I don’t think my eyes will let me.

I am so grateful to the person who helped me with this. I’m more of a big picture kind of guy. Plot and characters are more appealing to me. The microscope work is not my forte.

Sure, I have to read through it again (more than once), and another friend offered up some structural comments that should really help. Still, I’m happy. This is going to be an awesome story, and it’s suitable for young adults. I’ve never written one that I thought was completely safe for the younger crowd.

Maybe I’ll tackle my reading tomorrow, but I have an appointment with Smaug and Bilbo in the afternoon.

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What I’m Working On

I’m knee deep in edits for The Cock of the South. It helps me sometimes to talk about it, and I decided to take you along for the ride.

This is an epic fantasy set in a Greco Roman environment. The main character is a dwarf nick-named Cobby. I wanted to change a few historical facts around and establish this as an alternate environment early on. I decided that Remus defeated Romulus. This makes the dominant civilization the Remsians. (Not the Romans for you non history buffs.)

Cobby was raised in Remus by humans, and never actually told he’s a dwarf. Disaster strikes early on and Cobby runs for his life. He finds more than dwarves along the way and they all have a common problem; Remus.

Cobby is a member of the Southern Dwarves, a destroyed race whose remnants are scattered. He meets other fantasy creatures along the way, some intelligent, some animalistic.

The story takes on an exodus quality and gains a cast of thousands. (Don’t worry, they don’t all get dialog.) I mixed in a little bit of American “hang together or hang separately,” put it in a cocktail shaker with a generous helping of blood and shook my ass off.

I acknowledged the fact that some problems can’t be solved. Missing persons can’t always be accounted for. There is no Interpol or milk carton to put pictures on. I’m back to The Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” People are cruel and death is brutal. This one may not be for children.

I decided to acknowledge the gods, but didn’t bring them into the story. They don’t give a crap anyway.

Fairy tale structure has always appealed to me, and I wanted to try it. There are a few threads built into the story. Cobby’s father is a soldier, statesman, and merchant. There are three sons that reflect one of these qualities. Cobby is the merchant. To succeed in his story, he has to accomplish all of these. I included some other elements too, like gifts from friends, an oracle of dubious quality, and more.

I’m pretty happy with the story and the environment. I’m going through it word for word, yet again. I still need to do a word search for my personal sin words. This might take some time, but I have time. I refuse to hermit myself away and give up date night and such.

I’m also searching for a cover artist who can do some Frazetta style fantasy art within my budget. I’m sure I’ll find something, but I’m open to suggestions if you know someone. I’ve looked at some fantastic art recently, but none of it has been exactly what I want. I may have to take The Rolling Stones’ advice myself.

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a Looong day of Editing

I’m trying to hustle and get my Arson manuscript ready for Amazon. Now that I have cover art, it’s time to get my butt in gear. I keep a long list of words that can usually indicate a place that should be rewritten. These are mostly weak verbs and filtering words. Sometimes I’m stubborn and keep what I’ve written, but I’m usually better for the effort.

I can search for specific words or phrases, and this speeds things up. I spent an hour going through my MS twice; once for your, and once for you’re. When I came to “thought”, I was in a conundrum.

Perry is kind of a jock who became a firefighter. I never realized he was such a thinker. The goal is to stop telling readers what he’s thinking, and show them what he’s thinking. That wasn’t my problem. The problem is when internal dialog and spoken dialog are in the same paragraph.

I asked my blog friends what they prefer and headed for the writing cabin. It’s about time to outline a new project, and it would keep my mind off things for a bit.

I landed and rode the elevator to the basement. My ears were assaulted by a rousing rendition of Miserlou. It only got louder as I trudged upstairs.

Lisa* had the guitar and was rocking out. Doubt** was doing something like the swim and a flamenco dance. I slapped my hand over my forehead and said, “I thought we weren’t going to encourage him.”

“I’m not,” she said. “I was practicing and he took it upon himself.”

“Uh huh. Does Bunny approve of your choice in music?”

“He’s upstairs chewing on some fresh branches.”

“I need to start outlining my next story. Can you find me the index cards and the cork board?”

She sat her guitar down and ran toward the stairs, “Right away, boss.”

Doubt flew back to his perch in my office.

While Lisa got the supplies, I looked at my MS again.

Doubt croaked, “Italics, italics, italics.” He even said it in italics.

“What do you know? Stupid bird.” I checked my blog and the answers were overwhelmingly in favor of italics. I glared at Doubt and said, “Shut up.”

He paced back and forth and said, “Ha, ha, ha.”

“Maybe we’ll try Timbuktu the next time.”

Lisa sat up the cork board, cards, and pens. I went to work on my premise. It wasn’t great, but I could improve it later. I handed it to Lisa and she pinned it top center, like some kind of game show hostess.

I got a good start on Act One. I even added a few photos that Lisa printed for me. I moved some cards around. It felt better introducing the characters in a different order. Chapter one has to suck readers into the story, and a different character seemed better suited for that.

I smelled the sandalwood before Lorelei*** showed up. Somehow, her shorts and sandals looked great with her baggy Greek National soccer shirt. She looked the storyboard up and down. “Looks like you’ve been slacking off. I thought you’d be nearly to denouement by now.”

“Well, I wanted to go mushrooming. I still want to go fishing too.”

“That’s fine, I just thought you’d be ready to write by now.” She looked at the pictures and smiled. “Who’s this Neanderthal looking character? He looks absolutely brutal, is he your villain?”

“Yes and no. He’s more complicated than that. He gets an interesting story arc.”

She strolled over to Doubt and gave him a treat. “This looks like beach sand in his tail feathers. What have you been doing to him?”

My jaw dropped open. “Um, you know. He gets into things. Who knows what he’s been into.”

“Keep working on the storyboard, but it needs some help. You should use the left side of your brain to help with story structure and organization.”

Lisa made a check mark in the air so I could see it. Lefty isn’t real creative, but he’s good with plans, charts, and maps. Maybe he could help next weekend.

I grabbed my hat and said, “That’s all folks. I’m going home to work on Arson some more. I can email card ideas to Lisa if something strikes me during the week.”

*Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and helps me at the writing cabin these days.

**Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from my Muse and is supposed to be helpful. Mostly, he just pisses me off.

***Lorelei is my Muse. Thank God for the distraction of World Cup, or I’d be in trouble.

 

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