Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Doctor Who Taught Me About Writing

A few weeks ago, I saw the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary show. Twice, actually. Once on television and then again with my daughter at the movies. I enjoyed both viewings, but after the second, I began thinking about how the movie worked. Especially in its use of foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is when the writer gives the reader (or viewer) some sort of clue or hint about something that will occur later in the story. There are many reasons to foreshadow, one of which is to deepen the story, but foreshadowing can also be an important tool for the writer. It allows the writer to deliver necessary information to the reader without revealing the importance of that information too soon in the story.


For example, about halfway through the Doctor Who movie, when the Doctors needed to escape the Tower of London—yes, I said Doctors. The eleventh and tenth Doctors were both in the show, along with the “war” Doctor from 400 years in the past. (Hey come on, they’re Timelords.  They're allowed to do that kind of stuff.) Anyway, when they needed to escape from the Tower, they came up with a plan to program a horrendously complicated subroutine into the war doctor’s sonic screwdriver so that 400 years later, the current doctor’s sonic screwdriver would have the completed calculations for their escape. Turns out they never got around to using those calculations, since Clara showed up to rescue them at that point, but no matter—the scene had already served its real purpose. The idea of using sonic screwdrivers in this way had been planted into our minds, so when the same technique was used to solve the big problem later during the final climatic scene, no time was wasted having to explain the concept, so the scene moved along quickly.

 The use of foreshadowing to prepare the reader for solutions the MC will use later on is common. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for example, Rowling needed a time traveling device to solve a story problem she’d created, so she invented a pendant capable of carrying Harry back in time. Of course, having this item suddenly appear right when Harry needed it would have seemed contrived, so Rowling introduced the pendant to us early and gave it its own subplot. Then when Harry needed the pendant to solve the big problem at the end, its presence seemed perfectly natural. 


In the Doctor Who movie, a similar technique was used when the Doctor was shown (at the beginning of the movie) a special 3D painting described as Timelord art. Turns out that painting (and the concept behind its technology) was necessary to solve two big problems later on in the story, but for the audience to accept its use as a legitimate solution, we needed to be introduced to the concept of Timelord art early on. And simply sticking the painting into the same room as the Doctor wasn’t enough. There had to be a reason for its existence or the viewers would have been suspicious. So the writers came up with a subplot for the painting (which I won’t go into here), giving a valid reason for its existence and preparing us for its use in the final scene. And everything was done so smoothly, it never occurred to me that the painting had been a plant from the start—a fact I was able to appreciate during my second viewing.

If writing has done anything for me, it’s made me better at spotting foreshadowing during movies. Much to the annoyance of my wife.

What about you? Do you spot foreshadowing in movies more easily these days?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Links -- Volume 12

We're approaching the end of the year, and to be honest, it can't come quickly enough.  Why? Because it means I'll have more time for writing.  :)

The night class I teach will be finished in about a week and a half, and as of two days ago, I'm officially done with my daughter's FTC robotics competition.  The actual competition isn't until tomorrow, but there's been too much politicking and backstabbing going on within the team for my taste, so my daughter and I have decided we've had enough and have pulled out of the team.  Hopefully her joy of working on robots will return with time.

I also have a special link for you today.  The Insecure Writers Support Group now has a website and everyone should go on over there and check it out.  There's even a contest that will last until the 16th of December, so be sure to sign up.  I'm starting a rumor that the founder of IWSG, Alex Cavanaugh, will embarrass himself publicly as one of the prizes.  :)

Here are today's links.  And as always, have a great weekend!


Getting to the Core of Character Motivation

When Bad Things Happen to Good Books

The Red Roadmaster

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Weak Character Voice

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dream Destination BlogHop - Day 1

Today is the first day of the Dream Destination Bloghop hosted by Lexa Cain and Julie Flanders. And as part of that bloghop, I get to tell you my dream destination.

Britain. Anywhere in the country, really, but I'd love to visit Cumbria.  I'd prefer a location near one (or more) of these:

Castle Bodiam - Courtesy Misterzee

Castles are the coolest things. Can't get enough of them. I’ve been to several in Britain and would love to see more. Perhaps one day.

Anyway, be sure to visit either Lexa Cain or Julie Flanders between December 5th-8th and enter the rafflecopter. Lots of prizes!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Being a Slow Writer

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because slow writers like me are fighting an uphill battle.

I’ve posted before about being a slow writer, and when that slowness is coupled with a busy schedule, progress on my WIP often drops to a snail’s pace. And this year has been particularly vexing in that regard. (The details will be the topic of a future post.)  Nevertheless, I've come to accept being a slow writer.  It's who I am. Of course, I still fantasize that one day I’ll be a fast writer, but I’m not holding my breath.

But in these heady days of publishing—especially self-publishing—everything I read suggests an author needs to be prolific to be successful. Book promotions, for instance, are often a waste of time unless the author has several books available for purchase. Several books? Yikes! At the rate I’m going, I’ll be retired before I finish three books.

 Hmmm. The time I’m spending on this post is already making me antsy. I think perhaps I should wrap up this post and get back to my story.

What about you guys? Does not having a lot of published books worry you? Do you feel pressured to finish books as quickly as you can?