Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Links

I have a few links for your amusmenent this Friday.

First off, HISHE (How It Should Have Ended) has two new videos. One for Tangled and one for Titanic. The one for Titanic hasn't made it to Youtube yet, so I'm giving you the link to HISHE's site where you can find both videos.

Here's a link I found over at Angela Quarles' Blog.  It's The Harry Potter theme on wine glasses. Captures the eeriness of the music quite well, in my opinion.

I have a Pinterest account now. I'd heard about Pinterest before, but never thought I'd use it much. But after reading how other authors use it generate ideas for their books, it sounded intriguing. So I plan on creating boards dedicated to all the things that made me want to write this book in the first place - castles, Britain, alchemy, to name just a few. Once I get a bit more settled I'll put together some general thoughts on my experience.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Your Characters and Their Names

This will be the third Wednesday in a row in which I harp on characters and how to deal with them. Why? Because I have yet another problem with my characters. And this time I have no one to blame but myself.

After working on my story for nearly three years, I have yet to decide on the names of the characters. Yep. You heard me right. Of the 20 or so named characters in the story, I’ve only chosen names for five of them. And of those five, one has since been dropped from the story and another has a name I’m already itching to change. I don’t know if this is a matter of me being lazy or just overly anal-retentive.

The truth is, I’m being very particular about these names because Rowling was very particular about her character’s names. And since I’m patterning my story after her books, this kind of detail is important to me. Rowling often chose names that had some sort of special significance to the story or hinted at a character’s traits, usually deriving them from the Greek or Latin forms. And while I’ve had fun working up lists of possible names based on their alchemical significance (another little quirk of Rowling’s), I have yet to assign any of these names to my characters. I really need to sit down some night with a glass of wine (or something stronger) and make some decisions, but I just keep putting it off.

All this means I’m having to get by with placeholder names, which does have its advantages. For instance, I often use my friends’ names for the characters I like and the names of people I don’t like for the villains. I’ve found it’s much easier to write scenes loaded with conflict when I have a more personal connection. Since my story takes place at Hogwarts, I also need names for all the instructors, so I either name them using their field of study (Professor Herbologist) or their main trait (Professor Worrier). In a few cases I use the same names Rowling used, so my Potions instructor has gone by the name of Snape for a couple of years now.

But I’ve discovered a hidden danger with this method. You can’t let the placeholder name influence the character’s actions. You don’t want your character to behave like the friend whose name you’ve temporarily bestowed upon them. For example, I’ve called my potions master Snape for so long that it’s hard not to think of Alan Rickman (the actor who played Snape in the movies) whenever I play out a scene in my head. My potions master and Snape are similar in some ways, but very different in others, and I’ve had to periodically yell at my character for acting too much like Snape. (Heh. It’s fun to get mad at your characters, isn’t it? That is, as long as your family doesn’t overhear the arguments. L)

So how do you decide on your characters’ names? Do you ever use the name of someone you know?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Links

Not a lot of links today, I've been busy writing. Really.

First up. Are zombies real? Yes, according to Wade Davis. Check out this link to learn the Secret of the Zombie Poison.

Next, if you're into new art forms, here's an image created by a single unbroken black thread. Cool.

Yesterday evening, we saw the most beautiful rainbow from our house.  If the pictures we took look any good, I might post them when I get home.

That's all for this Friday.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why Can’t Our Characters Just Get Along?

When I began writing my story, my MC didn’t have much in the way of problems with the other characters. The bad guy didn’t see eye to eye with him, of course, and one of the other major characters had no respect for him, but other than that, the rest of the cast were on pretty friendly terms with the MC. And the guy who didn’t respect him grew to like him long before the end of the book. Basically one big lovefest, I guess. I didn’t see a problem with this approach at first, but as I learned more about the concept of conflict and tension, I discovered this lack of tension made my story a little too boring.

After reading oodles and oodles of blog posts and craft books pointing out how your characters always need to be at odds with something or someone, I began to change how the other characters felt about the MC. It was a slow process (I tend to get along with other other people and don’t have a lot of conflicts with which to draw inspiration), but now almost everyone in the book either ignors or hates my MC. Even his best friends are constantly telling him what he’s doing wrong all the time. And these changes have made the story stronger. The MC now has to find a way to get along with everyone, since he needs their support in order to succeed with his overall goal.

Besides, it's more fun to write dialogue when the speakers don't get along.

So I ask you, how long was it before your characters starting hating on each other?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Links

Saw the Avengers movie last week end. Not bad for a superhero movie. The story was a little predictable, but who cares? The CGI was awesome.

In other news, I received the Liebster Blog award this week. Thank you, Escape Artist Linda . I’m glad you liked the castle pic. According to the rules, I have to pass this award to five other bloggers. Sounds like a great excuse to read blogs over the weekend.

Friday Link #1
Do you like your eReader? Which do you prefer - a touch screen model or one with physical buttons you can physically feel under your fingers? Turns out you might be able to have the best of both worlds someday. Tactus Technology is already demoing the technology. According to TGDaily:“Tactus uses microfluidic technology to create physical buttons that rise from the touchscreen to give users the experience or feeling of operating a physical keyboard. When no longer needed, the buttons recede back into the touchscreen, leaving no trace of their presence.” Now that sounds like something right out of Harry Potter!

Friday Link #2
For those of you who can’t get enough of Game of Thrones, you can now pick up Beyond The Wall, a series of essays based on G.R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice.” As Wired puts it:, “Beyond the Wall contains contributions from fantasy authors and science fiction experts and takes a closer look at everything from the history and timekeeping in Westeros to the recurring themes of feminism and power in the series to Petyr Baelish’s barely contained sanity. The book is kicked off with an excellent defense of the fantasy genre by the incomparable R.A. Salvatore.”

That's it for this Friday.  Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Value of Not Leaving Your Character Alone

My CP dinged me the other day as being too stingy with my MC’s thoughts. And she’s right. It’s one of the (many) areas of writing I need to work on. Interior monologue is a necessary part of fiction, the time when the character ponders what has happened or what is happening or what might be about to happen. It can be used to deliver necessary information and to keep the reader firmly in the mind of the character. After all, stories can’t always be about non-stop action. Sometime the MC just needs to stop and think about things.

This problem often manifests itself when I write a scene with lots of dialogue. I forget to add the character’s thoughts because I assume the reader can figure out what the MC is thinking by his words and actions. This may be true in some cases, but without those bits of interior thought, my characters can seem emotionless and distant.

My biggest challenge occurs when my character is alone and he’s feeling some sort of emotion (nervousness, fear, confusion). Other writers seem to be able to write pages and pages of interior monologue without sounding either overdramatic or heavy handed. Not me. My attempts to write emotionally charged interior thoughts tend to devolve into a morass of cringe-worthy prose within two or three sentences.

The solution? My CP suggested I bring in a throwaway character to solve the problem. Instead of my MC waiting at a train station by himself, thinking about how nervous he is, I'll have a chatterbox show up. That way my MC’s nervousness can be shown by how he responds to the incessant chatter. I'm looking forward to see how well that works.

Question: Do you consider yourself good or bad at adding interior thoughts?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Links

Just a couple of links today.  First off, have you ever thought about the smell of used books?  You know, that aroma you notice in used books stores.  Apparently some scientists have now classified the smell.  Check out Natalie's blog for more info.

Next, here's a link to an article about the security (or lack thereof) of those free WiFi services you find in coffeehouses and such.  Make sure you're protected from the bad guys!  Hmmm. Sounds like a great plot for a story.

And finally, from Sheryl Hart's blog, a speed reading test. We writers need to learn to read quickly in order to leave as much time as possible for writing.  Head on over and take the test yourself. 

Note:  Staples has apparently removed the test, but Sheryl has located some alternate links.  Just scroll down to the end of the post.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Insecure Writer and Fan Fiction

Today is June's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an insecure writer this month? Because my current WIP - my very first WIP as it turns out, the story that got me hooked on writing fiction in the first place - is fan fiction.

Hardly what real authors would consider real fiction.

It’s not that I have something against writing a publishable story – that’s my goal as soon as I’ve finished this WIP – but right now I’m content with using fan fiction to hone my writing skills.

But the stigma of fan fiction means I never know how seriously I’ll be taken by other writers, and as a result I’m often reluctant to mention the fan fiction part whenever I interact with them. For example, plenty of websites host contests with chapter critiques as the prize, but I never enter for fear of the reaction I might receive if I were to win and sent in a chapter based on JKK Rowling’s world. I can easily imagine the person offering the critique feeling as though their time was being wasted.

I shy away from local critique groups since I can only imagine the response I might get should I hand out copies of a story with the word Hogwarts sprinkled liberally throughout its pages. I’m not using any of Rowling’s characters or plotlines, but I’m not sure that makes any difference.

I finally worked up the courage to participate in Rachel Harrie’s beta reader/critique partner match (Highly recommended, btw. Thanks Rachel!) back in February and was fortunate to find a few writers who were willing to critique fan fiction. Thanks to them, my story has improved greatly in the last few months.

Even so, I still feel like an outcast at times, which makes me want to hurry up and get started on my own story. But I’m not moving on until I finish this one. This was the story that showed me how much I enjoy writing fiction and I plan on polishing this puppy until it shines. Besides, I still have so depressingly much to learn about writing that I need a story I’m obsessed with in order to keep learning.

Did any of you start out by writing fan fiction?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Links

It’s Friday, so it’s time for some fun links.

A couple of days ago, while I was watching TV, my daughter entered the room and announced matter-of-factly that the zombie apocalypse was now upon us. Perhaps readers of zombie fiction already knew this, but I had to ask her what she was talking about. “There’s a story on the Internet about some man eating another man’s face off,” she said. I thought this was some sort of Internet hoax, but sure enough it did happen. Read all about it here.

As if that one incident isn’t enough, here’s a link to a list of other zombie-like behavior’s that have recently appeared in the news. Zombie apocalypse indeed.

The “How The Avengers Movie Should Have Ended” video is now out. Go on over and take a look.

And from Bob Mayer’s blog, a link to an article on the “Amazon Effect.”

Enjoy the weekend!