Tag Archives: storytelling

Sometimes it happens like this…

Last night as I was dozing off I was visited by Lorelei. There are a lot of new followers lately, so I’ll let everyone know Lorelei is my Muse.

I never saw her, never even smelled her sandalwood scent. Usually, she hits me over the head, but not last night. Maybe I’m in trouble.

I see posts that ask writers what they come up with first, plot or characters. It never happens for me that way. I get little vignettes. There’s a bit of setting, some plot, and a scosh of character. Then it stops. Here’s what I got last night:

I stepped off the monthly bus and removed my new felt safari hat. The plain leather band marked me as an outsider. Maybe I’d get the chance to upgrade it with something a bit more rustic. I wiped the sweat with my sleeve and put the hat back on to protect me from the brutal sun. The driver unloaded my bags and rifle case, then drove on.

The corrugated metal sign across the street was hand painted with The Grey Baboon. I carried my bags to the porch, but brought the rifle case inside. I looked up to see if the roof was really grass, or just on the outside. It was the real deal. The bartender had his back turned polishing a glass.

She sat at a table off to the far right, lounging lazily like no woman I’d ever been around before with one riding boot across a second chair. She wore one of those loose khaki military shirts with epaulets on the shoulders. Her sun bleached blonde hair was tied in back and cascaded over one shoulder.

There were light crows feet around her eyes and her skin was perfectly tanned. It was hard to tell if she was twenty five or forty five, but some of the women in Nairobi had the same look. She was beautiful, but not in that painted New Orleans style from when the boat shipped out. It was more like a perfect wild animal.

She turned over a second glass and filled it from her own bottle of gin, added two drops of quinine and sat it toward me. She took her leg off the chair and used her boot to shove it away from the table.

She pushed back the brim of her filthy old pith helmet. Her nails were cut short and hadn’t seen polish in years. When she spoke, her accent was like a combination of Australian and Heaven. “Welcome to Africa, Mr.–

***

And that’s all I got. It’s almost always that vivid and full of detail. It’s usually just that short too.

I don’t know who he is, or why he went to Africa. I know it’s historical, because he took a boat. There’s no hunting in Kenya these days, and quinine hasn’t been a staple preventative for a few years now.

I don’t know who she is, or how she knows him. She didn’t run up and throw her arms around him. She must be Afrikaans/Boer because of the accent (and the look), but she’s hundreds of miles from South Africa. That could be interesting.

I don’t know what they have planned. It could be as simple as a safari or a land sale. It might be ancient ruins or even an alien crash site. Maybe there is a will to be read.

I may never write their story, but you never know. I don’t usually post on Tuesdays, but these people are haunting me. I kind of wanted to make some notes about them and chose to share it here.

Does anyone else ever get vignettes? In all my reading it seems like I’m the odd one here. I’m usually on my own after that, but sometimes Lorelei comes back. Where do your ideas come from?

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Filed under Muse, Short Stories & Vignettes, Writing

Thinking About Contrast

Who’s sick of hearing about my book promotions? I know I am. Let’s talk about unexpected contrast in our writing.

I love contrast, even to the point of conflicting with reader expectations. Writers should always be willing to move from daylight to darkness, from cheer to gloom. I love the final battle on Endor as an example of unexpected contrast. The Empire, with all its technology is up against a bunch of Ewoks with rocks and sharp sticks. We expect the worst, but that isn’t how it played out.

Bad guys with names like Hannibal Lechter are pretty common. What about a handsome hunk called Matt Stone, with blond hair and a White House behind a picket fence. When Matt turns out to be a maker of snuff porn, we get a little jolt as readers. I like the little jolt. It reflects a bit of real life into the story. Lizzie Borden and Ted Bundy don’t sound like scary characters, and they were real.

What if the computer hacker who can do anything online has to solve the key plot point by reading through a pile of ancient scrolls? I like the contrast. The guy is perfectly prepared for the wrong situation.

Why can’t the demon be a female named Britt?

Who didn’t love the swordsman displaying his skills with a huge scimitar? Indiana Jones shot him and moved on. I was there in the theatre the day it was released. The whole crowd cheered.

I’ve seen plenty of full moons in broad daylight. I’ve never seen a werewolf out then. This I can handle, because humans are at a disadvantage in the dark. Our characters should always be at a disadvantage.

Why can’t witchcraft involve microwaves and stick blenders. (Okay, I did this, but I’m not ready to tell you about it.)

Technology vs ancient. Light vs dark. Cold vs hot. Sexy vs ugly. There are times when this can become a trope, but it can also be a nice tool.

I like the idea that Princess Fiona became an ogre and not the other way around. Doc Brown had to find a way to use lightning to power the deLorean. Contrast tech vs nature.

It’s Wednesday so I’m posting. This one would be a lot more fun with some discussions. Weigh in folks. Do you love or hate contrast in stories? Why?

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The Entertaining Stories Primer

I was going to save this post for my one year blog anniversary. I’ve gotten quite a few new followers lately, so I decided to do it today.

Writers need to do something different to stand out from the crowd. I’m not a big believer in posting random chapters of my work. I want this blog to be a friendly and fun place to come. So what’s a writer to do? I could write original bits of small fiction, but others are doing that too.

Here’s what I came up with. I’ll post about my successes, new discoveries, and general writing tips, and I’ll do it as short bits of new fiction. I created the Writing Cabin; a place I go to work on my stories and promotions. I populated it with characters from my stories. The only problem is it’s similar to a long running comic book series, or a soap opera. New readers need a jumping on point.

All of my stories about the writing cabin are posted under the “Muse” category, just in case anyone is game to look at old posts.

Think of this post like the racing forum you get at the county fair. Here’s what you’ll find at the cabin:

The cabin: It’s a large log cabin in a meadow surrounded by forest. The area is a little dicey. There are likely to be herds of mammoth or ice age bison wandering around. I get there in a high tech gyrocopter. There is an elevator into the basement where I can keep my ride away from itchy bison. The basement is full of story elements of every kind.

Lisa: Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She is a robot that was built in a concept lab. Since her story is finished she really doesn’t have much to do. She moved into the upstairs bedroom and works as my assistant. She’s a strawberry blonde with a big assed gun.

Lorelei: This is my Muse. She’s Greek (duh), brunette, athletic, and kind of bossy. She shows up whenever she pleases and sometimes visits the real world.

Doubt: This is a raven given to me as a gift by Lorelei. He thinks he’s keeping me honest, but I just think he’s a pain in the ass. He makes a multitude of sounds and occasionally mimics human speech.

Visitors: So far there have been plenty of visitors to the cabin. These include a group of dwarves from a story called The Cock Of The South; Bento, who’s a supporting character in Panama; Faith from Wild Concept who psychoanalyzed me one day; Lefty, the left side of my brain, and more. We even had a bunch of bad guys trying out for a role in one of my stories.

These posts are pretty popular and I intend to keep writing them. I always include asterisks so new readers can catch up, but with so many new followers I wanted to post a primer about the cabin.

It’s fun here. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Tell the left side of your brain.

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Filed under Muse

Can writers learn from comics?

I confess, I don’t read enough. I read novels in clusters, then I may not read one for six months. I’ve already explained about my Zite Magazine app, and the RSS reader to follow blogs and such. So I am reading, I just need to find time for more novels.

I also follow several web comics. I can’t decide if this is just a chance to talk about comics, or how this will tie to novels, but I’ll try. It seems I can find inspiration in almost anything.

Comics have an advantage in their visual aspect. They can say more in one frame than I can in a whole chapter. The trick is, I can use that frame to decide how I would write the same scene. It’s frozen, and I can come back to it again and again. Television and movies don’t allow me that option.

One frame, shot from above, of a victim slumped in an alley crying in the rain. Most likely it’s black and white. I can place my point of view character at this angle looking down, I can color the mood, and describe the rain and alley. But I can describe the sound of the rain, and the smell of the alley too. Chock up a point for the novelist.

We can do the same thing with one frame of someone getting chewed out. Facial features, spittle, etc.

Comics regularly run out of gas, and web comics are notorious for doing that. I follow one that is about zombies, and a zombie didn’t appear for a year. (They have again.) There are some lessons here too.

Sometimes our big ideas aren’t enough to fill a novel. I’ve personally done this, and oh crap I’m only at 30K words- what now? The other lesson is that not every story needs a sequel, or to be serialized. I wrote one where their “happy ever after” is enough. Going back to them would minimize what they’ve already been through.

Comics are great for character interactions and styles too. Some do snarky humor very well, others are into self depreciating humor. These are nice tools to add to my kit. Remember, I have the luxury of going back one frame at a time to see how they do it. You could record something and go back using your remote, but this is a post about comics, work with me here.

I follow some, just because I like the artwork. None of us are immune to choosing a book with an awesome cover. This tells me that cover art is important. I also admit to following some girlie comics. I like looking at girls, and use pin-up art as my phone wallpaper. This has nothing to do with writing, and you are welcome to be judgmental as hell. Knock yourselves out.

I might as well include a few links. You might enjoy these as much as I do. In skullkickers, two dipshits are heroes for hire. They always manage to screw things up, and come out fine. I used this character interaction in a story called Panama, that I’m trying to get online. I’m not too thrilled with the new artist on the current story, but I’m hooked now and will stay with them. Check it out here: Skullkickers

Spying with Lana deals with some adult themes, so you’ve been warned. It’s great for snark, and self depreciating humor. Check out Lana, if you read the warning: Spying with Lana

I’m new to Giant Girl Adventures, but it’s been a blast so far. Roni is an imperfect character if there ever was one. I don’t know what I’m learning from her, but I like it: Giant Girl Adventures

My favorite is Girl Genius. I started reading Prof. Phil Foglio in the back pages of Wizard magazine. (I think it was Wizard, I’m old, give me a break) His comic, Phil & Dixie, was the reason to buy the magazine. He’s lost nothing over the years. I like steampunk, and mad scientists, and this comic does it with a dash of humor too. Here’s the link: Girl Genius

I’ll throw this one out there too, knowing it may piss some people off. It is over the top adult oriented.Nudity too, and the themes aren’t for kids. (Or some adults.) This is more for the 50 Shades crowd. It has the best artist ever, and the realistic character interactions are worth my price of admission. This is one I can learn from, since the characters are fully fleshed out, and in their weird world are realistic people. It’s set up on deviantart, and you have to surf around to read it in order. Check out Sunstone if you understand the warning and are willing to surf around a bit. You’ve been warned.

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