Blogosphere Monday: Tossing it out.

January 31, 2011

Blogosphere index.

Well, you meet some of the coolest people doing blogfests.

I didn’t really have time to do the full circuit, (or anything close to it, ack!) on the Top Ten Songs blogfest, but I did manage to drop by for everyone who commented on my entry, at least. And one blog particularly caught my eye: Tossing it Out.

There’s cool stuff over on Arlee’s blog about Nanowrimo, the philosophy of writing prompts and what it means when you say that you don’t have anything to write about, but definitely the coolest thing at the moment is the A to Z challenge:

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Sunday Blogisode Nine

January 30, 2011

Blogisodes index

As we drew close to the planet, I was actually on full-time duty as navigator while Gary piloted – it was my job to observe and find out more information about the natives as we approached the space that they were occupying.

“The space habitats are definitely viable and inhabited,” was the first report I made. “I don’t have quite enough resolution to catch a clear look of the inhabitants, but they look… well, they seem to be walking upright, like humans, but I’m not so sure about ‘biped.’ Might be three or four legs each, in addition to arm-like appendages. And there’s some other living creatures that might be livestock, or… well, it’s probably pointless to guess without more information.”

“Why didn’t we plan to go to one of the habitats?” Jody asked crossly. I could tell that she was really getting tired of the acceleration couch, and maybe the pain drugs that Gary had given her were wearing off.

“A few reasons,” the exec put in when nobody else volunteered. “Mostly we had no idea if they’d have a dock facility that would fit this ship. Especially since we couldn’t observe one of their own ships in flight…”

“Hey, I think one’s launching!” I exclaimed. Exec grunted doubtfully. “Just let me capture the video… sheesh, it’s a fast little bugger!”

When it was all done, I played the footage on the screen in the passenger compartment, so that the rest of the team could see it – a somewhat shaky re-enactment of a tiny little capsule speeding through space towards a distant space habitat. I’d have loved to get a clear look at the docking procedure, but the end of the trip was extreme range, and the capsule flew behind the destination habit just at the end.

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Blog the cat, chapter 3 – Characters

January 29, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.
In Chapter Three of Save the Cat, “It’s about a guy who…” Blake Snyder talks about how important characters are to a movie idea and pitch. I’m starting to like these offbeat chapter titles, by the way.

I’m certainly predisposed to the idea that well developed characters are central to telling a story, and that the characters should fit the plot well. Blake starts by telling how good characters give the audience somebody to identify with, somebody to experience the story for them. He also covers how descriptive adjectives for your characters can make the logline more compelling, which is interesting especially since I’ve been hearing a lot about how important it is to avoid overusing adjectives in prose fiction, but a script logline is certainly a very different kind of writing, so it’s not too surprising that the rules should be different there.

He gives this checklist for character-related elements to look for in the logline:

  • A hero
  • An adjective to describe the hero
  • A bad guy
  • An adjective to describe the bad guy
  • A compelling, identifiable goal for the hero

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Another Brian Henry exercise to share.

January 28, 2011

Well, I figured that again, I’d share one of the little passages that I wrote at the Brian Henry workshop last Saturday, which was really fun, especially his slightly tweaked version of the Snowflake method.

I’m not sure if looking at an exercise like this is really the best way of judging what I’ve learned at a workshop, by the way, but they’re fun to write, and probably show a bit about how I was thinking about the workshop topic. For this one, in the morning, we were talking about how to structure short stories, and how they can grow up around a very small seed or prompt. This was based on a prompt that somebody called out, which was: “By the time I got to ______, the turtle wasn’t there anymore!”

————

“Purpose of the trip?”

I was taken by surprise at the fact that they actually asked the question outside of tv shows and movies. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, after all, they have to get cliches like that from somewhere. But it wasn’t like I was used to dealing with customs and immigration officials. Heck, I could still count the number of times I’d left Massachussets on the fingers of one hand.

“Umm, well, I’m looking for a – that is to say, business. Or education, more than anything else – or educational business. It’s a student field research trip.”

The uniformed official considered this. “So you’re being sponsored by an American university?”

“Yes.” I dove into my carryon looking for something official with the Harvard letterhead on it, until I was waved down, a gesture that I took to mean that I shouldn’t bother. “Is there a local school that you’ll be working with?”

“I… I’m not sure,” I said. “A local zoologist, at least – Doctor Hector Guerras. I think that he’s with the Institute of Reptile research in Daracas, not an instructor at a school.”

“Very good. Is the Institute arranging for your lodging?”

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An iPhone riddle…

January 27, 2011

Is it an iPhone yet if it doesn’t have phone service?

So I went down to the Bell mobility store at the mall on Sunday and came back with a 32 gigabyte iPhone 4. There’s a lot of things I like about this little gizmo already – the touchscreen interface is pretty slick, and there’s an app specifically for moderating WordPress blogs.

But it looks like I won’t have mobile voice or data service from Bell until Tuesday next or so. This is because I wanted to move my home phone number to the iPhone, and apparently there was a holdup because Telus needed more information on the file before they’d port the number. (I don’t know what Telus has to do with my home phone at this moment, unless they work with Cogeco.)

I’m also rather planning to trade the 32 gigabyte model back in for the 16 gigabyte and save some cash, partly because I wasn’t blown away with the video player interface, and the only thing I’d really be using the extra storage for is videos. It’s still an alright video device, but trying to navigate within a particular vid with the slider is finicky, and I’ve been having recurring issues with the video player controls not coming up when I tap on the screen for them. So I think that the 16 gigabyte model is the way to go. But apparently Bell can’t do the exchange until the sim card is active with my number, so I’m waiting on that too.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter three

January 26, 2011

A wizard of mars chapter index.

So, we’re finally on Mars, and apparently the ‘message bottle’ is exactly where Kit always thought that they’d find something, but couldn’t pinpoint it. (Is that foreshadowing also, perhaps?) Irina and Nita talk a bit about Mamvish, and Irina mentions a detail that I almost included in last week’s chapter review, because I’d been reading ahead a bit and thought that it had been introduced earlier.

Mamvish is an ‘abstainee’ – which means that when she had her Ordeal, her big showdown with the Lone Power to prove that she’s worthy of keeping her powers… the Lone Power defaulted, sent a message saying that he wasn’t going to mess with her. Apparently that has something to do with why she’s such a badass high-power wizard, but it’s unclear which way the cause and effect goes.

Incidentally, I do wonder how literally it’s true that every wizard confronts the Lone Power directly on their ordeal. From what we heard about Ronan’s time-sliding ordeal in Ireland, (in ‘A wizard abroad,’) the maker of entropy didn’t put in a personal appearance, and though he didn’t say that he told Nita the whole story, I’m not sure how Balor could fit in. Ronan had to face the darkness inside himself, though, so maybe that fits.

Moving onward – Kit has to use the ‘Mason’s word’ and reach through solid rock to get the bottle out, but Nita’s cell phone goes off just once he’s got it – Dad’s calling, and he’s pissed, probably something to do with Dairine that’ll send Nita off on a subplot for half the book. She makes sure that Carmela can get a ride back home to Earth, and then transits home, leaving the rest of the chapter POV to Kit. Incidentally, I can’t remember, did Nita have a cell phone during “Wizards at War?” She definitely didn’t during Wizard’s holiday, because I remember her calling her father’s cell phone using her manual, and Dad getting a call from Mars on his cell phone at the end of it, foreshadowing the arrival of this book.

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Blogfest – top ten songs.

January 24, 2011

Blogosphere Index

Well, if I’m looking for somebody to feature on Blogosphere Monday, and I see a fun-sounding Blogfest scheduled for the right day… I’m gonna do the blogfest. That’s just kind of an obvious one by now. Even if it keeps me up until past my bedtime, sigh.

So, from Captain Ninja Alex – the Top Ten Songs Blogfest!

Now, trying to pick my top ten favorite songs at the moment, or of all time, is one of those impossible tasks, so I’m going to instead go for picking ten great songs where I can actually tell a little story about why I like them so much. Be warned, my taste in music does does skew a little to the right – as in the Country music, but I’m trying to not load the list too badly in that direction.

10. I never really knew what music to connect with the name ‘Billy Joel’ (aside from “Uptown Girl,” which seemed catchy but shallow,) until I caught myself humming “The Longest Time” after it had been playing at a Hamilton write-in and made a memo to look it up. From the Billy Joel Essential collection on Itunes, I found “The Downeaster Alexa.”

Again, the celtic melody and harmonies draw me into this number, but it’s the lyrics, and the story that they tell, that really make me love the song – the vivid way in which it portrays a fisherman’s life, and the stoic resolve with which the protagonist clings to what might be a vanishing trade.

“Tell my wife I am trawling Atlantis / And I still have my hands on the wheel.”

“I was a bayman, like my father was before / Can’t make a living as a bayman anymore.”

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Sunday Blogisode Eight

January 23, 2011

Blogisode index.

So I took the seat to Gary’s right at the controls, strapped in, and went through the rest of the pre-flight checklist with him. Soon enough we were on our way out of the flight bay, and zooming ahead of the Discovery to Achernar four. Once the flight was well underway there wasn’t much for either of us to do at the controls, but nobody seemed to want to speak up or start doing anything to fend off the boredom.

Jody finally said something about twenty minutes into the trip. “Aren’t you guys going to turn off the seat restraints sign and resume standard gravity?” The pinnace had artificial gravity generators built into the deck, like Discovery did, but Gary had never activated them, even though the main thruster was pushing all of us backwards into our couches at a little over double our usual weight.

There was a few seconds worth of silence. “No, sorry honey,” Gary called back. “The mission requirements are specifically that we get to the planet and land with all possible speed, considering the medical emergency. Unfortunately, that means that we can’t divert the power for reducing g-force.”

“Oh,” Jody said, and I could hear her sigh from up in the cockpit. “I still have a headache, and the pressure is making it worse.”

“Ensign Quinton,” the exec officer snapped. “Were you examined by medical personnel before reporting for this duty?”

“Yes, sir,” Jody replied, her voice stiff with the chain of command. “Doctor Haverman looked me over himself – he did remark that he’d like to have me resting and under observation, but understood that I was needed on this mission.”

“He consulted with me before coming to that conclusion, sir,” Colin chimed in. “I did ask about the likely progression, and it seemed that Ensign Quinton would be able to function for long enough that we could complete our task and she could then receive treatment.”

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Blog the Cat, Chapter 2 – Story Genres

January 22, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.

So, in Chapter 2 of Save the cat, “Give me the same thing… only different!” Blake Snyder talks about how to dance with cliche – you have to be in the vicinity of a cliche, because otherwise your script is probably so out there that most viewers won’t be able to relate to it at all, but not too close. He ties this back into the scenario of pitching your movie – that not only do you have to be able to explain what your movie idea is, but also what it’s most like – and that you have to be very familiar with other movies in your genre, so as to know what the specific cliches are and put your own spin on your story.

He then starts going into detail about his own working list of ten genres or categories, which aren’t organized along traditional lines, because a term like ‘Romantic Comedy’ or ‘Hard Science Fiction’ doesn’t explain anything about the storyline, which is a good point. To run down the story genres quickly, we have:

Monster in the house: Dangerous ‘monster’, (who could be a person,) and people trapped inside an enclosed ‘house’ with it. Lots of running and hiding, usually at least one of the people is morally responsible for the monster being there, and they die while others manage to escape at the end.

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A short dialog exercise.

January 21, 2011

I went to a Brian Henry workshop on Dialog last weekend, and I’ll be seeing him again tomorrow for a workshop on Plotting a story. Last Saturday was a great experience, despite the somewhat trying weather – there was just a small group of us at the Saint Catharine’s library, and I learned a lot of useful tips, as well as being able to talk with some other aspiring writers.

Since sharing the ‘Devin’ short story went over well last week, I think I’ll post the dialog writing exercise that I typed out on the Alphasmart Dana for that workshop. Again, this is copyright Chris Kelworth, and I’d love to hear your opinions on it:

 

“Okay, come on, give me the details.” My brother Derek pulled out his android phone and sat down on the couch, ready to thumb-type, with the corners of his nose wrinkling slightly.

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