Substance

Work goes slow sometimes. I have learned so much this year that I know I shouldn’t begrudge my slower writing (Or more accurately, lack of speeding up my writing) throughout it.

Part of me regrets not sharing more of these revelations on this blog, as much of what I talk about is writing.

I have learned about characters and how to make them live and change. I have learned a fair amount about sentence level stamina and the little ideas that make up the body of stories. Very importantly, I have learned a lot about the nature of exposition in my own fiction.

And yet, I feel as if I waited until now to truly express the amount of understanding I have taken away from all the practice since the start of last November. I don’t feel like waiting any longer. A lot of these revelations are things I’m still only beginning to understand.

Part One: Characters
-Characters need to start with a simple core personality trait, so readers can understand them.
-Characters will confuse readers without larger than life aspects that define them and make them distinct.
-Characters need believable motivation, even in crazy worlds. Especially in crazy worlds.

Part Two: Sentences
-Practice is key to making sentences varied and interesting. Paying attention to the individual meanings of words can be helpful in finding better ways of saying the same old somethings.
-Describing physicality is important, and not just for objects, but also for characters and especially creatures.

Part Three: Exposition and Me
-To go back to description for a moment, filling in world detail is fine as long as its necessary to understand the story in motion.
-Information dumps are not for me to avoid, but instead they must be tackled and explored and made readable. In worlds as weird as the ones I write there is no room for Hemingway-esque lack of exposition, and the same goes for my characters.
-The only wrong way to do exposition is the way that bores the reader.
-I’m passionate about the various odd universes I have created. They are a major reason I write what I write

That’s a quick overview of the stuff that I’ve been practicing this year, and this post is here to help remind me as much or than it is to spread any sort of wisdom I might claim to have. I’m not wise, but I’m learning.

Have a great day everyone!

Moving Dreamward

I did some editing of a year-and-a-half-old novel yesterday and was quite pleased with the text as I found it.

This particular novel is a young adult science fiction that involves technology centered on dreams, the very one I brainstormed on my guest appearance on the wonderful Roundtable Podcast almost two years ago now.

I still feel strange that its been so long. Regardless, I am still going to edit this thing, and hopefully wrap the process up so I can submit again sometime in December. I’m still concerned about the number of minor characters in the book that haven’t got enough face time to be important, so that’ll probably form the majority of the challenge this time around.

I’m still approaching the end of the current rough draft, and starting in November I’m beginning to write another book as well.

On top of my own writing and editing I still have fact-checking and freelance writing to do at some point by the end of the year.

I’ve got things cooking. Hopefully I’ll be able to show you folks something I spent more time on sooner rather than later.

Time is always against individual humans. It’s time to claim some temporal places for myself and get to work.

Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

Life of Revenge

When I was a kid I played some real time strategy games with my brothers. Starcraft and Age of Empire II were the main ones that I loved, though I also played the original Warcraft Orcs and Humans as well. I’ve been playing Starcraft II lately, but that’s now what this post is about.

This post concerns Age of Empires II.

For those of you not familiar with the game, Age of Empires II is a historically-based game where you play as different civilizations such as Mongols or Saracens, Mayans or Turks, Teutons or Koreans, and its based in the middle ages time period as far technology level.

In the game there are number of campaigns where one historical general or leader is followed. In this case, the title of my post refers to the name of a mission in the Mongol “Genghis Khan” campaign, wherein the player, as Genghis Khan is trying to destroy a hated rival.

Life of Revenge. There. After that lengthy explanation of the shared title, I’d like to add that this is apparently consistent with some accounts of Genghis Khan’s way of living and there’s evidence he believed it was preferable to the alternative of clemency.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, the mongols under the Great Khan got a lot of revenge, and perpetrated many horrific acts.

Revenge.

As far as I’m concerned revenge is pointless for the individual and most likely for that nation as well, at least in the modern world. But that’s getting into politics I don’t feel like discussing at the moment.

The difficulties of not seeking payback on the personal level are mainly mental. Part of my personal psyche, at least, is preoccupied with punishment, though that part used to be far larger and more powerful than it is now.

Why am I discussing revenge? I don’t know really. Perhaps I really am thinking about the book I am near wrapping up.

Within these six chapters a major antagonist will be looking for revenge.

Can forgiveness be the outcome instead?

How possible is it for people to truly forgive each other for great pain?

I admit, I don’t have answers. I will keep looking.

Pure Concept

I love making ideas. Back in college I frequently got frustrated with people who were, or wanted to be writers, but who were ‘waiting for good ideas’. Perhaps they thought the right idea would vindicate their desires more quickly than writing the first thing that excited them. No matter.

I was probably wrong to be frustrated with them, but personally, I stopped waiting for the right idea when I started writing.

Or so I thought.

Truly I have so many story ideas on the large and sweeping level of design as I ever need. I defnitely don’t wait for anything like that. The ideas that trip me up these days are the little ones involve the execution of the larger ideas.

As Rudy Rucker says in his writing guide, which I found so helpful I’ve more or less memorized it, fiction is fractal. The deeper you go, the more there is to see.

This applies on the idea level. Once one delves down past the upper levels I find it more and more difficult to manage the ideas I work on. And I have to make more little ideas to fit inside the big ideas. Where my technique is lacking is potentially in this stage.

I love random number generators, so I’m now planning to come up with an idea generator for the paragraph level of my story.

We’ll see if that helps. I sort of doubt it will have much effect, but I might be able to vary things up a bit with some reminders of what to do. At the very least, this should be fun.

Have a good day!

Numbers Game

Sometimes measuring productivity is important.

I think I’m reaching that point again, as I feel like I’m doing mostly pretty well with writing at the moment. But the numbers still hold me back from great productivity.

It’s about my time commitment. Over the past year I have rarely spent more than an hour or two actually writing on any given day.

That will be expanding today. I have my plan set in motion already, involving relaxation during the course of writing. If I can’t relax while I’m writing my mind wanders and I got to check email or facebook.

I’ll detach from the net and keep focused by enjoyment alone. After all, I am now in the final eightth of the book, whihc is more or less the climactic build of this novel. It will last for a few days, but then will be complete.

This lengthy adventure is about to begin for the day.

I plan to enjoy the process.

Character Categorization Pt 3: Thoughts on a New(ish) World

In one of my created settngs, people can have a limited ability to create new semi-designed universes from a particular rare and powerful ingredient.

That’s where I started with fooling around in my brainstorming yesterday.

A customized shield universe, created as a strongpoint against an evil force interested me.

I imagine this universe as full of deathworlds. If you’ve never read the concept of a ‘deathworld’ this is a trope of planets full of lifeforms hostile to human (or alien?) life. The deathworlds in te shield universe are intentionally designed to lash out into space and pull invaders into them. These are the landmines of this fortress universe.

But landmines alone aren’t enough to defend a fortress. What kind of people live in this shield universe? Many, many kinds.

First of all, there are the magical folk (Makers) from the parent universe. At one point they were in control of the whole fortress universe, but they have lost some territory to nonhuman foreigners who are among the threats they built this universe to defend the parent universe against in the first place.

Next, are the magicless people, who form an underclass conscripted into this universe. And the hybrids between the makers and the magicless.

Factions abound, and this post could get really long if I posted everything I had brainstormed.

I guess I’m not ready to do that yet.

So I’ll leave you with this teaser, and ask you to have a good day.

Ways to Classify Characters: Pillar Universe

Yesterday I posted about roles in science fiction and fantasy stories. I also had a conversation on a similar line where my brother and I concluded that roles on a wide scale are basically world building details. We concluded this because once one stops talking about specific characters, or takes the discussion to the level of a system one is necessarily talking about the larger world.

That said, here is a dose of the worldbuilding I did for universe of the book I’m nearly done rough drafting.

For the purpose of roles one breaks characters up into categories, and for now I’ll describe some of those categories for this universe.

Species and Subspecies – This is a very broad set of categories because most of the book focuses on humans. So humans have subspecies in this world, five of them diverged and changed over generations apart.

After that could be nationaity and region of origin. Then, to further detail would be profession and below that specialty and so on.

I see one thing I do not like so much about this setting is the lack of iconic clarity in roles. If a character is, say, of the bandojen subspecies and an engineer specializing in robotics, that fits an archetype I built for the world, but it doesn’t necessarily have the sort of zing I want to read. Or maybe in that example it does. I’m conflicted on it.

How iconic do I want certain roles to be? How specialized and restricted? How distinctive must a roole be to truly shine?

Questions, questions.

I’m asking, but I’m not getting answers until I get back to the book.

Have a good day everyone!