Tag Archives: tension

Date night, etc.

We’re flat broke right now, which is becoming a common situation. We’ve been holding a gift card we received at Christmas and today was the day to use it. It’s to an upper level restaurant called Barbacoa.

They seated us on the shady patio right beside the lake. Here is the view from our table.

Our meal was wonderful, and it was nice to spend some quiet time away from the house even for a couple of hours.

On the writing front, I still managed around 1800 words today. I used the voyage to create a lull between the action scenes, but kept things lively enough so they aren’t boring.

They arrived in a neutral country with the intent of conducting business. This is the one I think needs a better name. I’m calling it Tusconi for now, but hope to change it later.

Tusconi is a neutral country, and intends to keep it that way. They do business with everyone.

Lanternfish is at anchor, but they are under multiple fifty-pound siege cannons from the Tusconi, Tuscans, Tuskers, whatever I can call them.

Their enemies are also at anchor in the harbor, and other guns are covering them. Tusconi will buck no hostile activity, and yet the crackling energy is present. Any hostilities between these enemies would be fatal at the hands of the siege guns.

I use a storyboard, but all I have about this stop is the crew picking up ordinance. I need to figure out a different kind of tension for this section. Everything doesn’t have to be naval battles at sea. (But I still need to figure it out.)

My hope is to engage in some snotty dialog with the enemy captain or something. I might be able to mislead them as to where Lanternfish is headed somehow. Maybe learn more from them than they intend to give.

Maybe my pirates can goad the enemy into starting a fight, and let them pay the price for doing so. Could work.

It’s a different kind of section, and I may need a different mindset to get through it. Tusconi is even welcoming to monsters as long as they behave. The root monsters never behave. It might be fun to have them running around in plain sight for a change.

I’m pretty happy with my last fictional country, so my fingers are crossed here. If it takes me longer to work this section, so be it. I am not giving myself any deadlines on this one.

After they leave, they will be fully equipped and armed. The story will change to one of active pursuit of the end goal, with enough muscle to back it up. I’ll probably let them engage in a bit of piracy along the way.

While the end goal applies to the main characters, the bulk of the crew is looking to get rich at some point. A happy pirate crew tends to follow orders as opposed to one that wonders what’s in it for them.


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Let’s talk about a different kind of character

I'm kind of swamped for time right now, but I nearly always post on Monday nights. I've been putting this post aside for a few weeks, but I need a quick topic tonight so here goes.

The world is buzzing about last night's episode of Game Of Thrones. I'm sure The Battle of the Bastards will rank as one of the highest rated episodes they have. I want to talk about a different part of the show.

This may be because of some wonderful actors and performances, but I'm developing a couple of new favorites on Game of Thrones. These are supporting characters, but they really appeal to me.

First up is Sandor Clegane, better known as The Hound. This guy has been through some crap in his life. It started with his brother, and wound it's way through many parts of Westeros. He isn't a good guy, and has done some terrible things. Somehow he maintains a sense of justice though. He occasionally manages to do the right thing.

His form of justice is brutal and violent, but he has an idea of what is right. He's crass, he's rude, and I can't get enough of him. Whenever he's around, things are going to happen.

To be honest, I can see similarities with my character Clovis from The Playground. This isn't by design, and The Hound didn't really come into his own when I was drafting the Clovis chapters. The similarity is there though.

I nearly combined Ser Bronn with The Hound, because there are some similarities. Bronn isn't quite the asshole The Hound is, but he's been a warrior all his life. He's seen things. He's done things. He brings a certain male humor to his scenes. He says things that someone who's spent a lifetime as a soldier might say.

My protagonists tend to be kind of stoic, and I like to use colorful supporting characters to lighten things up. Bronn's relationship with Ser Jamie Lanister is styled similarly. Jamie is a little dry, but Bronn lightens the mood.

Bronn has hopes and dreams. He helps Jamie, because he expects lands, a castle, and a woman out of the deal. He's fleshed out quite well in very few scenes. Everybody wants something.

The third one I nearly left off, because he doesn't bring character to the character. He is Gregor Clegane, better known as The Mountain. This is the sibling that gave Sandor Clegane such a hard time growing up. While The Hound is a big dude, The Mountain got his name by being even bigger and meaner.

The Mountain died and was brought back by some arcane magic. He doesn't get lines anymore, and he's kind of like a Frankenstein creation. Imagine an eight foot tall man in golden armor, (with a helmet so you can never see his face) but he's built like a weightlifter not a basketball player.

I like him for a completely different reason. He brings a certain menace to every scene he's in. He doesn't even have to do anything, the sense of foreboding is always there. They accomplished this by selling him well in the first place. Of course tearing someone's head off (literally) on occasion serves to remind us who he is. After that, all he has to do is be in the room and I pay attention.

I have a similar character in The Playground. Their creation is similar, I should say. In Playground, Morley is a poltergeist. A poltergeist can move things around, so they stitched up a body for him to move around. He's kind of moody and can get his feelings hurt, so he differs from The Mountain in that way. Nothing phases The Mountain.

In Game of Thrones fashion, I expect any or all of these characters to come to a bad end. They try to make viewers like someone as a setup to killing them off. I'm not opposed to this, but it would be nice to see one of them survive.

To draw some kind of rushed conclusion, I like colorful characters who support a more serious main character. There is more to The Hound and Ser Bronn than random red shirt characters. We feel for them to a degree.

I also like pending doom. The tension The Mountain brings is wonderful. Now that I know who and what he is, the menace is always present when he's in the scene. This allows the show runners to include dialog and stories from the other characters, but the tension never disapates. It's a neat trick, and you can bet I'll remember it.

Sorry about the rushed quality, but I'm swamped for time. Any of these characters is deserving of an individual post. Has anyone else developed a fondness for these characters, or is it just me?


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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.


Filed under Writing

Great Day Overall

It’s late now, 11:30 PM where I am. I wound up getting through a few chapters of my manuscript, but it’s slow going. I have a hard time not getting caught up in the story and remembering to edit. There is one thing I need to go back and improve before bedtime.

Critique group was great. I submitted a section where I wanted to slow the pace a bit. Lots of things happened to Patty, my MC, and readers need to catch their breath. My group suggested ways to improve the writing and make it smoother. I think they’re spot on, and will tackle that tomorrow. Then it’s right back into the crucible for Patty.

One of my group members suggested a cover artist for The Cock of the South. He showed me a cover the fellow did, and I like it. He was supposed to be in Boise tomorrow, but something came up. That’s okay, email works just fine for me.

My daughter was available tonight, so the three of us went to Carino’s for dinner. Why isn’t it Johnny Carino’s any longer? Doesn’t matter. It was nice spending the evening with her.

I took a chance on writing some micro fiction. I’d like to learn some of these skills, and there’s no better way than jumping right in. I showed it to a writing friend, she liked it and suggested some improvements. That’s a project for tomorrow. My daughter read it at dinner, making her the only member of my household to ever read anything I’ve written. That meant a lot to me.

I stayed up to watch Gravity on HBO. Great movie, with lots of elements I’ve studied. Isolation plus danger is a great way to hold viewer’s attention. It holds readers too. The untrained woman makes a much better heroine than the experienced veteran astronaut. The odds are stacked against her. Great use of ticking clocks too. (Running out of oxygen, timing the return of the debris field, even waiting for the space station to pressurize.)

It’s time to go back to my editing project and change the one thing that occurred to me after I stopped. We’ll see if I can stop myself after that. Have a nice evening everyone.

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Critique Group Tonight

Critique group was awesome tonight. There were a lot of good comments about Will ‘O the Wisp, and it seems like everyone is excited to see the next part. I really tried to ramp up the tension and I feel kind of successful now.

I asked them ahead of time to help me work on a specific style issue. It’s a weak spot in my story telling, and I want to work on it. They took extra time to offer some tips and tricks. I’m kind of excited to try everything out on a section they haven’t seen yet.

If I gain a bit of success, I’m going to work through the whole book and make some edits. Then I’ll go back over my older works and see what I can do with them. Even the stuff that’s already been published can be upgraded, but it will take me longer to get to those.

I feel like I put a new tool in the toolbox. I’m sure I’ll have to practice with it, but I like it.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here. I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking I know what I’m talking about and misleading you. If I ever feel like a journeyman in this area, then I’ll talk about it.

One member of the group took advantage of the free download promotion for Wild Concept. (Thanks Jim!) He said he’s about three quarters of the way through and enjoying it. I hope everyone who grabbed a copy is enjoying it.

I still need to use my new tool on Will ‘O the Wisp. Then I need to start editing Arson and getting it ready to publish. There’s much more work than that, but I need to break it into chunks. I’m one of those that can’t do everything at once. These two jobs are enough for right now.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. It’s a holiday in the USA and most of us get three days off. If any of you are lounging around the pool, you might consider taking a look at my historical paranormal novel, Panama.


Filed under Writing

Putting New Work out There

I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to talk about some television shows, and try to draw conclusions for novelists. This may not work, but I’m going to try it. I’m choosing television, because more of us are likely to have seen the same show than read the same book.

Besides, it isn’t nice to call out a novel, which is the work of one stressed out author. Television is a team event, and it feels safer.

The idea is that new work has to meet certain landmarks. The idea is to keep me interested. This feels the same whether it’s a program or a novel.

One caveat. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Any of you who read Wild Concept probably noticed a few. I’m not perfect, but I can still talk about this stuff. I’m a sucker for Science Fiction, Paranormal, and Fantasy. These shows all fit that bill in one form or another.

Sleepy Hollow is our first show. Ichabod Crane is resurrected in modern times. He’s the only live character in the show that wears clothing from the 1700s. He’s a nice looking white fellow with a pony tail. His modern day partner is Abby. She’s an attractive black girl. Oh, and the main bad guy doesn’t have a head.

Ichabod and Abby have a cute relationship. He’s way out of date, and as she helps him there is a nice, nearly romantic, tension that gets my approval. There are a few funny bits woven into a darker story line. Most of the lighter parts take place in broad daylight, and the dark stuff happens at night. You would think this would be pretty obvious.

For the novelist here are the points I appreciate. I can tell the characters apart. Black girl, white guy, no head – got it. Nice mix of light and dark, in more ways than one. I like Abby and Ichabod. I will go out of my way to watch this next year.

Authors don’t have the ability to use those kinds of visuals, but we have an advantage too. At least every page or two, we have to write “Ichabod said.” Pretty hard to get lost or confused. We can weave in light and dark moments, along with light and dark settings. The trick is to make our readers like the characters they’re supposed to cheer for.

I don’t give up on a book, program, or movie easily. I used to watch a show called Copper. I gave it about three episodes and quit. The stories were pretty good. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight. They all talked alike, refused to shave, dressed alike, and the actors looked alike. After about the fifth time asking “Which one was that?” I was finished.

Writers can give our characters some quirks. As long as our names are distinct, we won’t have much problem. If needed, one of them can go everywhere with a toothpick or something.

Almost Human is a decent bit of science fiction. It involves a white male cop, John, who has a prosthetic leg. His partner, Dorian, is a black cyborg. These guys bust on each other like actual people. They aren’t marionettes simply following a plot. They each have a quirk that makes them slightly less than everyone else. John is a grouchy old school kind of guy. Dorian is high tech and does some surprising things. Great sci-fi effects here too.

As a writer, putting opposites together might be a good idea. There’s a stress between John and Dorian, but they have a common goal too. They’re willing to go some crazy places with the stories. When Dorian scanned John’s balls it was hilarious. I like these guys too. Likable characters, I want to watch more.

Turn is a new show. It’s about an American spy ring during the American Revolution. The characters are distinct enough. Abe looks vaguely like Tom Hiddleston. It’s easy to tell him from the others. The settings are mostly gloomy, even in daylight. I’ve never seen anyone happy in this show ever. It’s pretty easy to tell that the Americans are the good guys and the British are the bad guys.

Abe ratted out some redcoats. The only one that needed to die, survived. He’s in American hands, but it’s all over for Abe if this redcoat escapes. This particular redcoat is an asshole. This works for me. Tell me who not to like.

There are good points and bad points to this one. Abe has a wife and son. We’ve seen him philandering with the local tavern owner lady. This doesn’t exactly make me cheer for him. It was three episodes before they told me that two brothers were both engaged. Abe was verbally engaged to the tavern lady. His brother, in writing to the other woman. When Abe’s brother died. Abe married his brother’s fiancé to honor the contract. Things like this actually happened in the 1700s.

They needed to tell me this earlier. I wasn’t exactly endeared to Abe when he was unfaithful to his wife and son. I might have turned away and never learned the truth. This story line brings a nice tension, particularly when the wife gave her approval to the tavern lady.

As a writer, I think it’s important to define the villain and the hero PDQ. If everyone sucks, readers might look elsewhere. I’ll give this one a couple more episodes, but I’m not sure.

Salem premiered last night. This looks at the Salem witches as if witchcraft were real. John Alden is obviously the hero here, I just don’t like him. He left his love, Mary to go fight Indians. he didn’t return for seven years. Go figure, Mary married someone else. There is a plausibility problem here for me.

This guy left for seven years, never wrote, and walks in like nothing changed. Mary is the main witch now, of course. Everyone scowls, everyone’s dirty, and everyone’s violent. (Okay, Mary seems to stay clean, and she’s always in black.) I have no reason to like a single person in this show. There is a redhead girl with a charming smile. She’s the only character that smiled in a whole hour. She’s a third tier character, and I’m cheering for her.

They could have taken 30 seconds to show Alden doing something nice. Lift a kid up to pick an apple, pet a dog, something. Lots of scowls, dirt, and grumbling from Alden instead. On the plus side, there were some cool special effects. This includes the coolest place to hide your toad familiar I’ve ever seen.

Not only do the characters need to establish who they are, the concept needs to have some degree of reality. Seven years, and Alden expected Mary to wait for him? He didn’t even write. I’ll give it a few more episodes.

So as a writer, I want to define who the hero is, and who the villain is. I want the characters to be different from each other. I want to use a contrast between light and dark, both in mood and setting. I don’t want to base part of my story on something that isn’t realistic. I also don’t want to withhold some important information that might cause someone to give up on my story. If I can include a bit of humor, so much the better.

So how many pages do I have to accomplish all this? I’m guessing about twenty. I think there’s a need to establish something on every page up to that point. What do the real experts have to say about this?


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