Going down the Snowflake, part Three.

October 15, 2010

Had a really good day! (Less good evening, but that’s another story, as it were…)

I think I’ve finished step 4 of the snowflake method, which is expanding into a five paragraph summary, approximately a page. I think that it’s on the long side, actually. Here’s a look at the first paragraph:
Richard finds himself in church, somewhat disoriented, but with a sense that there’s something that he needs to do. He wanders the short distance to the UB campus, noticing that he can see auras and troubled by memories of an explosion. Once there, he starts to notice signs and other details that apparently mean something to him, leading him to the chemistry building, where he meets Katie and Jessie. Jessie is busy at first, while Katie sits with him and talks with Richard while he recovers some of his memory. Based on a dream-like memory, Richard goes into the chemical supply rooms and finds Jessie to ask her some questions. They realize that explosive compounds are being stored unsafely and Jessie reports this to someone who takes it seriously.


It’s still kind of amazing to me how well this is flowing – though I guess it remains to be seen what November will be like once I actually start writing!

Going down the Snowflake, part Two.

October 14, 2010

The snowflake continues on!

For the past two days, I’ve been working step 3 of the snowflake method, which is introductory character sketches. I’ve done the sketches for five main characters so far:

  1. Richard, my male lead.
  2. Jessie, the female lead.
  3. James, Richard’s angel boss
  4. Perry, the guy whose body Richard is borrowing at the start of the book, and a possible foil and love interest for Jessie
  5. Katie, Jessie’s straight laced best friend.

I think that there might be another significant character, the villainness who wants the chemical explosion to happen, but I’m not really seeing who she is or where she fits into the rest, so I’ll delay doing her character sketch yet.

It’s been an interesting process, working on a planning method that’s so formal and yet encourages creativity at the same time. Already the characters are surprising me somewhat – when I was starting the entry for Perry I was feeling vaguely uneasy about what his goal was, and then, when I got to the right spot, it just popped out – he’s lost several days of his life and more than anything, he wants to know what happened to him! So natural, and yet it gives a nice sideways kick to Jessie’s possible crush on him and Richard’s reaction to that.

As a sample, here’s my sketch for Katie at the moment…

Katie Hiatt
Katie’s always been more grounded and realistic than her best friend Jessie. When Jessie runs away from school and starts hanging out with strange men, is it Katie’s job to talk her back down to earth?
Motivation: Get a good education, keep good friends, have a little friend.
Goal: Get Jessie agree to go out on a double date, and stop talking about angels and dead boys and explosions.
Conflict: Well, Jessie’s kind of irrepressible when she gets a notion in her head.
Epiphany: A grounded life isn’t the only one worth living, and your friends don’t have to be like you.
Sheesh, does Katie have to make everything about herself? First she starts running around with this guy Richard when he first shows up, askind weird questions. Then Katie takes off, missing Friday classes, and comes back days later, hanging around Richard, but calling him Perry, and ‘Perry’ plays along, pretending not to know who Richard is. And there’s this creepy older guy James hanging around her too. Finally another boy shows up, (less cute,) pretending to be Richard. Maybe she just wants more drama than my boyfriend’s best friend can offer her!

Fanart 2: Isabel/Alex banner for ‘Love will last forever.’

October 13, 2010

Fanart series index.

The second fan-art I wanted to share with you was the first ‘cover art banner’ that I ever made to accompany one of my own storylines. The story in question is fan fiction for the TV show ‘Roswell.’

“Love will last forever” took the death of the character Alex Whitman on the show, and a few moments where Alex appeared to his love interest Isabel Evans, and used that as the basis to set up a ghost love story between Alex and Isabel that sent both of them off on an unbelievable adventure, and for Isabel, a quest to actually bring the boy she loved back to life through alien technology.

Banner for 'Love will Last Forever'

Read the rest of this entry »

Going down the Snowflake, part One.

October 11, 2010

I’ve been wanting to prepare a bit more than usual for starting my National Novel Writing Month piece this year, and a few days ago found an article for the Snowflake method and decided to try it.

The snowflake method is an approach for developing a book idea that starts with a very simple premise and then adding more detail to it – analogous to building a snowflake fractal by adding more triangles pointing out of each line in the earlier design. This idea appeals to my sensibilities as a computer programmer – it’s what’s known as top-down algorithm design in the software field, starting with a statement of the goal and then breaking it down into steps and substeps until each element is trivial to implement.

So, here are the first two layers of my snowflake design:

Step 1: (One-sentence summary)

A dead man, sent back to Earth to do the Angel’s work, falls in love with a living girl and runs away with her.

Step 2: (One paragraph summary, 5 sentences)

Richard is sent to Buffalo by Angels to stop a chemical explosion from going off at the University. In the process, he meets Jessie, and infatuated with each other, they decide to run away once the job is done. The head angel, James the Elder, tracks them down and tells Jessie that Richard has more missions to do, and that he can only stay on Earth by taking somebody else’s body. James switches to another body, a coma victim, and works another mission, unaware that Jessie ‘met’ the true owner of his first body, and likes him too. In the end, Richard has to figure out if he must leave Jessie, fight for her, or let her make her own choice.


Not perfect yet, but that gives me an idea of where it’s going. Step 3 is short character sketches, and it’s probably the point at which I won’t be including the full results here in the blog, but I’ll do my best to keep you all informed of how it’s going.

Blogisode Four.

October 9, 2010

“Very well,” Father Ismay said, looking around at the peaceful wooded surroundings. “I suppose it’s more than time enough that I should prepare for my devotions.” He dug into the napsack that he’d been carrying and pulled out a heavy embroidered prayer rug, spreading it out as flat as he could on the bare dry ground next to the stream. It had been difficult to carry this so far out of town, but from the start he’d known that he’d need something familiar to get into touch with Saint Birgit in this strange venue.

Clast nodded silently, pulling out a one-handed battle axe. For a moment Ismay was worried, and then realized that he trusted the wandering warrior – Clast was simply preparing to stand guard while he prayed. Did he realize just how helpless men of the cloth could be while engaged in their devotions?

That was not a good thing to concentrate on, Ismay realized, as he kneeled on the prayer rug and started to whisper the words of the first ‘O domine Jesu Christe.’ For a long while, it was hard to truly concentrate on prayer and meditation, on account of the unfamiliar setting, and his worries about what Clast’s reaction might be if he did not reach a communion with Lady Birgit before sundown. What if she had already attempted to speak to him, while the two of them were still on the march, and Ismay had not heard that quiet voice in the back of his soul? Quite apart from the hobgoblins, would Birgit give him an opportunity tomorrow night if they did not traffic this evening, or would he need to send word to someone else favored in the order to intercede on his behalf?

Then those concerns faded from his mind, and Ismay lost himself in the prayers, not reciting words that others had written before him, but reviewing what he wanted to convey himself, his praise of the Lord God and thanks for the blessings of the Saints, the trespasses of others that he wanted to forgive, and the failings in himself that he needed to confess. And he spent quite a while thinking of this mad venture that Clast had dragged him into, about his fears – and also his hopes that he would actually be able to help somebody who was in terrible trouble.

The moment of contact with the presence of a saint, when it came, was always intense beyond words. This time, as well as the usual sense of Birgit’s incredibly graceful character, charitable and resolute in equal measure, Ismay caught a fragment of approval. For a moment, he struggled with the sense to immediately rise and charge off to confront the hobgoblins, but Ismay knew that was foolish. Just as it took time in prayer to prepare to step into the spiritual presence of a saint, meditation and deep thought was necessary to understand the contact, and he would have to perceive everything as well as possible before acting.

Surely enough, as he sat and struggled to clear his mind of its own thoughts, many more things became clear to him than had been evident in that one moment of rapport – instructions and advice for dealing with Clast, and about unconsidered roads that his choice to come with the errant might have led him to. He would have to think on such things further, but they didn’t need to be completely resolved yet.

And then, there were the miraculous gifts of his patron saint. Some had been withdrawn, minor blessings like that blessing of cleanliness that were of more use for his ordinary life back in town than they would be out here, struggling against Hobgoblins. If Ismay survived the night, he might get some of those back. Assuming that he would still have use for them.

Rising to his feet and opening his eyes, Ismay crossed over to Clast. He took a moment to concentrate over unfamiliar words, then began to chant in a deep voice.

“In the name of the Holy Abbess, Saint Birgit, I grant the blessings of strength and a sure hand in battle to this man, Clast the errant. In the trials to come, may the protection of Jesus be upon him, that he should not fall in battle, and may his arm be quick and deadly in the defense of the innocent from those who would devour them. In the name of all the saints I pray it, Amen.”

To be continued…

The Nanowrimo excitement grows…

October 8, 2010

Something like 24 days until National Novel Writing Month starts now, and Nano fever is starting to spread. The Hamilton lounge at www.nanowrimo.org is starting to fill up with threads of writers introducing themselves, talking about kick-off parties, prep-ins, regional challenges, and other things. Stringing Words is getting worked up about the approach of November, too!

I need to remember to send in my donation to the Office of Letters and Light.

I also need to remember to write a new Blogisode for tomorrow… eek!

A good review from fellow writers…

October 8, 2010

There’s nothing like hearing some positive feedback to lift your spirits.

I took the flash story ‘The onus of Grace’ to the Hamilton Writer’s meeting on Tuesday, and mentioned that I was thinking about expanding it into a longer piece for National Novel Writing Month. All the responses I got were really impressed and encouraging – a few questions about the setup of the characters, but also tons of praise about how the dialog seemed more natural and conversational than some of the stuff that I sometimes bring, and how the setup was a good way of introducing the idea that my main character had paranormal powers while still ‘hooking’ the reader with a bit of a mystery. In fact, I’m left with the idea that this scene, or some version of it, would be a good way to start the extended version, which wasn’t what I had planned, I’d meant to go back further to what I thought of as the beginning of the story. Hmm…

One of the other writers read a short essay about critique groups, how to tell when you’ve found a good critique group and make the best of it, and that sort of thing. Everybody liked the overall thrust of the article, though we had some minor polishing notes. I’m hoping to get her permission to repost it up at Stringing Words when it’s finished.

And that’s about all for now. Still looking forward to Nanowrimo, busy with work and driving lessons, made a Whedon Halloween Scavenger hunt video that I’ll probably put up on Youtube soon. Also have been working on proofreading one of my older Roswell fan fiction pieces, “Runaway with you.”

Beat Sheet: The Princess Bride

October 3, 2010

I’m still not quite clear on what the theme of this great movie is. Any better ideas?

Opening image: The little boy playing video baseball in his room. Or, if you ignore the grandson/grandfather frame, Buttercup riding her horse into the stable and ordering Westley about. (1-3)

Theme stated: “Hear this now. I will always come for you. This is true love – do you think this happens every day?” (6)

Setup: Buttercup and Westley’s love story, Buttercup’s grief, Prince Humperdink making her a princess, and the abduction all count as setup to me. (The abduction could have been a catalyst, but I don’t quite think so, because there’s one critical element still missing. (4-10)

Catalyst: “I just happened to look behind us, and something is there.” This is the first hint that the Man in Black is setting himself against Vizzini’s plan, meaning to rescue the Princess from the Prince’s clutches. (11-12)

Debate: Hmm… I’m not sure, but I think that the ‘debate’ part of this movie’s plot comes as we get to know the Man in Black as a person, and come to wonder if he’s the villain or the hero of the piece. This starts when Fezzik leaves Inigo – ‘People in masks cannot be trusted’… and ends when Inigo and the Man in Black begin their duel in earnest. (18-22)

Break into two: The Man in Black defeats Inigo in the duel, but spares his life, professing his respect, and charges off in pursuit again. (25-26)

B story: This would be Inigo’s quest of revenge, which is fist mentioned at (20), and isn’t resolved until ()

Fun and games: Plenty of this all around, from the shrieking eels and the cliffs of insanity around (13-17), and including the sword duel with Inigi, (23-24), the wrestling match with Fezzik, the battle of wits with Fizzini, Humperdink’s tracking, and the
Fire-swamp. (27-49)

Midpoint: Everything collapses for Westley and Buttercup at (50), when Buttercup surrenders to save his life, and the Prince breaks his word to her.

Bad guys close in: Westley in the Pit of Despair, Buttercup’s nightmares, continued reveals of the Prince’s nefarious plans, the machine. Fezzik finding Inigo drunk, (and helping him sober up a little,) and Buttercup’s sudden defiance against the Prince which prompts him to turn the Machine up to its highest setting. (51-67)

All is lost: Fezzik and Inigo find Westley dead, at (69-70) The despair here is underscored by the little temper trantrum the grandson throws about who’s going to kill the bad guy.

Dark night of the soul: There’s some comedy thrown in here, with the quest for the miracle. Even after Westley has come back to life, as long as he’s bitter and hopeless we’re still in this beat.(71-76)

Break into three: ‘If we only had a WHEELBARROW, that would be something!’ The plan is hatched, and our three heroes give it their all. (77-78)

Finale: The wedding, the attack of the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, Inigo’s duel with the Count, Westley’s confrontation with the Prince, and their escape. (79-92)

Final image: The four good guys riding off into the countryside, the kissing stuff, and even the grandson doesn’t mind so much now. And the grandfather leaves him with ‘As you wish.’ (93-94)

Blogisode Three

October 3, 2010

“Hobs love to keep humans alive for a few days,” the wandering errant Clast told Father Ismay darkly. “They have a special mix that they feed to on our kind to make us tender and pleasant.”

“Ohh,” Ismay moaned, thinking of brutal monsters holding John and Tabitha Miller prisoner, and fattening them up like lambs for the slaughter. “So, what assistance are you asking of me, sir errant? Am I right in thinking that you do not simply need a blessing of strength before you go into battle?”

“No, father,” Clast insisted. “You must come with me to confront the hobgoblins, to serve as the strong right arm of the Lord God, in the service of Saint Birgit. You can curse the hobgoblins in Lady Birgit’s name, and…” He trailed off, uncertain just how much the virtue of a Saint might be able to accomplish in a melee.

“But I am no warrior priest,” Ismay protested, though he was starting to wonder if this was indeed the path that Birgit had laid out before him. “Birgit is a bold woman, fierce in the defense of the innocent, but – but I cannot join you in this enterprise, before consulting her in my prayers, and that is something that I will not be able to do in this hour, or the next. If time is truly short, then you will need to seek some other aid for the Millers.”

“How long will it be before Birgit expects you to meditate and pray for her?” Clast asked, and Ismay looked up, startled that this layman had asked this question. How did he know so much of the ways of priests and their prayers?

“An hour before sunset tonight.”

“And must you pray here in the temple?”

Ismay stared at his visitor, wondering if he was being mocking by referring to the small village chapel as a temple. “No, Birgit will hear my prayers wherever I am. Let me guess, you mean to have us travel out into the woods near the Hobgoblin camp, rest a safe distance away so that I can pray, and if Birgit gives me her blessings, then we fall upon the Hobs in the fading dusk, as they build their cooking fire?”

“That would suit me,” Clast agreed. “Will you come thus far, for the Millers?”

“I suppose I must,” Ismay said, sighing. “How soon must we leave? Is there anything I will need to take with me?”

“If you have any protective gear, or a weapon that you feel competent to use in your own defense, that would be well,” Clast told him. “I have already gathered the rest of the supplies and equipment that we’ll need.”

“Hmm.” For a long moment, that possibility of needing such things stunned Ismay, and then he left the chamber, heading towards the chapel storeroom and gesturing for Clast to follow him. After searching half the shelves, he finally produced a long, sharp rapier.

“I used to fence when I was in the seminary,” he said. “The bishop gave me this for my trip into the hinterlands, in case I should need to fend off robbers.”

“Aren’t priests forbidden from taking the way of the sword?” Clast asked him.

“That depends on the sect. Saint Birgit discourages the use of blades, but a rapier has no edge, so it falls within the rule.” He cast one more look around the room. “I’m afraid I have no armor, though, though I did once train to march in chain mail. You don’t have a spare set?”

“No, I couldn’t afford or carry such an extravagance,” Clast told him.

“Would my heavy winter robes offer any level of protection, do you suppose?” Ismay asked.

“Well, we can but try it, I suppose.”


Neither of them spoke much on the trip through the forest to the hobgoblin’s hideout. Clast had a few questions to ask about Ismay’s ministry in the town that he had made his home for the past fifteen years, and Ismay asked for a few details about the errant’s travels and the adventures he had embroiled himself in, but the pace was quick enough to not leave much breath for idle chatter.

“Well, I think that this is about as close as we should get to the Hobs until we are prepared to challenge them,” Clast said, looking over the clear bank of a stream surrounded by tall trees. “And it remains not much more than an hour until the sun sets.”

Nanowrimo preparation season has begun!

October 2, 2010

It’s official!!

The National Novel Writing Month website has rebooted itself and done the usual upgrade/facelift for the 2010 writing-novels-in-30-days season. I’m very excited.

I want to post more in the forums this year, if I can manage to find the time to.

I’m looking forward to watching new videos from the Office of Letters and Light crew.

I can’t wait to meet up again with more Nano-ers from the Hamilton area – and the ones that go to San Francisco for the Night of Writing Dangerously.

I think that my Nano-novel this year is going to be a modern fantasy, (urban fantasy, dare I say it,) with a hero who died young and was sent back to Earth by angels, using somebody else’s body to help fight back the forces of darkness. But this guy falls in love with a girl while he’s on his mission, and they decide to run away from his destiny, and things get a bit complicated from there. 😉

31 days now until the start of Nanowrimo…

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