S is for Scavenge like it’s the zombie apocalypse

April 22, 2014

For the A to Z challenge this year, I’m sharing science fiction and fantasy story ideas…

“Scavenge like it’s the zombie apocalypse.”

I wrote that down fairly early in my A-Z planning, and if there was anything more that it meant, any characters or coherent plot, I’ve forgotten about them. It’s a cool sounding phrase, though, isn’t it?

Presumably, in the story, it’s not actually the zombie apocalypse, but somebody’s scavenging as if it were. Is it some other kind of apocalypse, or a reality tv show? Is the scavenging character just crazy?

If you’re interested enough to pick this up and write your own version, feel free; ideas are cheap. And let me know! I’ll be keeping the notions vague enough that lots of different stories might be written from them.

Thanks for visiting!

Walking through the Despair of revision

March 19, 2013

Well, I’m on my way. This week, I have started my second Holly Lisle novel revision. This time, I’m editing my 2010 modern paranormal romance/adventure manuscript, “The Angel’s Charlie.” And I’m looking forward to the revision process… mostly. I know that it’ll take a lot of time and effort, but I’m excited at the prospect of turning a first draft that I love into a much better story.

Right now I’m nearly two thirds of the way through the first read-through of my current draft, filling out the worksheet that Holly named ‘Despair’. (Possibly with a bit of tongue in cheek.)

For me, the process has been a little harsh and grueling, and I can’t keep at it for that long without taking a break. As you read, you make notes on where your book falls into five different categories; places where the story falls apart, character elements that add to the story or detract from them, world detail that either works well or doesn’t, places where you catch yourself skimming as you read, and places where the story is really what you hoped it could be. And it’s fun to dream just a little, as I work, of the places my book could go if it turns out to be that good all the way through when it grows up. 🙂

Looking for my Gnomes in new places

January 9, 2013

Well, I finally got around to reading through some of the critiques I got back in December for the first sample chapter of “The Gnomes are Missing.” There were some very nice things said in all those emails I got from critterfolk, and a few problems raised that I have to agree with.

I took a little while to think about it, and decided that I needed to turn the project around at this point. When I started with ‘Gnomes’ in late November, I really hadn’t planned it at all beyond ‘Hey, this will be a great thing to write now that I’m done with “Snow Job,” and maybe I can send it to CSSF novels.’ I took maybe 15 minutes to organize a few character thoughts at a local write-in and then dived into the first scene.

So, now, I’m going back to the drawing board. Based on what I’ve discovered about the Gnomes and their friends in Nanowrimo, and what people have said via critters and Six Sentence Sunday, I’ve started a new list of characters, changing around some of the personalities and relationships I began with in Discovery. Next I’m planning to do the five-page plot synopsis, (or as many pages as I can wring out of myself,) and then go back to rewrite the sample chapters with a clearer idea of where I want the story to go.

It’s going to be hard to put some elements of my trial run aside, but I’m also excited!

Workshop scene assignment

July 6, 2011

Okay, one of the assignments we were given last week in this Short Stories workshop was to write a scene that would get critiqued by everybody, and we’re doing the critiques tomorrow. I thought I’d share it with you guys, and I’d love it if you let me know what you thought!

First, here’s the notes I took for the assignment:

Write a scene.
Do a number of these things:

  • Introduce change
  • build action
  • complicate the plot
  • increase tension and drama
  • move the story along
  • build conflict
  • introduce characters
  • create suspense
  • Provide information
  • use at least three senses
  • create atmosphere. (weather, structures.)
  • Develop theme.
  • Movement in relationships (emotional)

Include at least three senses.
Conflict and resolutions
max of 1000 words, but the tighter the better.
Open it with a sentence that you could only use in spec fiction, or that means something different in spec fiction than mainstream.
each sentence should do something new, to progress the scene, and pull the reader along.
Include a hook.
Possibly an opening scene.

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Workshop homework

May 19, 2011

I’ve been putting off my homework for the Storywonk Discovery writing workshop. It’s been that kind of crazy week, especially with CSSF and Dragoncon to plan for.

But the class on Sunday afternoon was really good – the first half was about voice, and the second about characters. There’s a homework assignment for each part.

Voice assignment: take an excerpt from your private writing, to someone who you feel very comfortable expressing yourself with, a situation where you’re not tap-dancing, trying to appear clever, or writing for a public audience. Study that passage for the details of its style; look at the length of the sentences, whether the language is flowery or simple, funny or serious, formal or casual.

Then you try to write a very short story in the same voice and style as that, take a similar excerpt from something that you’ve written before, and compare the two fiction pieces.

Character exercise: Think of a scene for your book in your main character’s POV. Outline it in your head, and start to look at your character’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Then write the scene, highlighting those aspects of his or her character.

So – I’m looking forward to getting into these, but I guess I haven’t taken the time for it. I really should put in a good hour tonight, and maybe post some comments to the class forum if I’m having problems.

Lisa Winfield

April 14, 2011

L is for…

Lisa Winfield is probably the breakout main character of my 2008 Nano book, ‘Chatterboxes.’ (I also wrote over 50,000 words of one of my Firefly Kaylee fanfics during November 2008, but that’s another story, literally.) Chatterboxes was originally conceived of as an ensemble book, but Lisa was the one who I spent the most time on prep with, so she’s the most vividly characterized, and the book begins and ends with her point of view.

I drew a lot from myself and my family to flesh Lisa out. She lives in Stoney Creek, not that far from my own apartment on the East side of Hamilton, where she and her best friend Kay share half of a duplex. She works at a Pizza Pizza franchise, spends a lot of time in trivia chat rooms online, and wonders if she’ll ever get back together with her ex-fiancee, who cheated on her but who she still loves. Like me she’s an extreme introvert who tries tof force herself out of her shell in certain situations and is often dissatisfied with the success of her attempts. I also borrowed somewhat on the character of Meredith Grey, from ‘Grey’s anatomy’, particularly in connection to some of Lisa’s verbal tics and her sarcastic attitude.

I’m not quite sure what else to say about Lisa in a blog post, except possibly to share one of my favorite moments with her, which comes from a fairly intense scene near the end of the book, where she and her new friend Kelson have been captured by a villainness who is trying to find out their secret.

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Three Weeks to Script Frenzy!

March 11, 2011

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about what I want to do for Script Frenzy for a little while now, and here’s what I’ve got so far:

My Logline: A naive salvage pilot and engineer from Earth get lost in a distant part of the galaxy on their way home, and involved with a charming Alien Mafia Lady who has the star charts that can get them back home.

I actually worked backwards to this, thinking that I wanted to write something science fiction and going through some of the story genres, before settling on a Golden Fleece, and wondering what would make a compelling ‘Road trip through Space’ kind of movie.

Let’s give it the Blake Snyder chapter 1 logline tests:

* An ironic hook? Well, yeah. The irony doesn’t have anything to do with the science-fiction aspects, just that my poor working schlub heroes are getting in bed with the crime lord, as it were.
* Compelling mental picture? It works that way for me. I’ll try to get some more feedback on it from other people over at the Script Frenzy forums.
* Audience and cost? I think it gives a pretty good notion of the cost to start with – it’ll be a bit on the high-side, because science fiction space effects don’t come cheap, but will be closer to the range of a typical crime thriller than a really big sci-fi action-adventure blockbuster. And you’ve got science fiction nuts in the audience, and crime thriller types, and anybody who really appreciates fish-out-of-water comedies.
* A Killer Title? Okay, I admit I’m coming up blank on this one so far… how to sum up all of that, especially the irony, in a title??

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Brian Henry exercise number three – Cup of tea assignment

February 4, 2011

Okay, I’ve got one more bit of writing from the Oakville Brian Henry plotting workshop to share today – the assignment was to write something about characters coming to a decision while doing something mundane – such as preparing and drinking a cup of tea. I went in a slightly different direction for it. Please, let me know your thoughts, I love getting feedback on little snippets of writing like this!


The file organizer box sitting next to the videotape shelves was the logical place to start.

Of course, it wasn’t as if the shelves held videotapes anymore. Who had videotapes these days? VCRs have finally gone the way of the eight-track player. So there was a remarkable assortment of burned optical disks, paperback books, USB cables, DVD box sets, and scrap paper on those shelves. There might even be some receipts on those shelves, and I’d need to look through those if it came to that. But the file organizer box was first.

I sat down in the armchair and opened up the box on my lap. Twenty different labelled pockets, all stuffed full of receipts. So much for the paperless economy, huh? Credit card receipts, utility receipts, bank receipts, miscellaneous receipts that defied description, and… there it was. Investment receipts.

Investment receipts showing ninety thousand dollars that I’d sent to the fund people. Day before yesterday, it had probably been worth a hundred grand. Today? Who the hell knew.

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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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Blog the cat: Introduction

January 8, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.

I’ve been meaning to do more with Blake Snyder’s book ‘Save the Cat’ than just play around with beat-sheeting movies, so I’ve decided to make it into a weekly blog series. Hopefully, that will keep me at it.

The idea is, one chapter per week or so, I’ll read, discuss some of my favorite bits, post my answers to the chapter exercises and so on, and invite questions or comments from the peanut gallery.

I’ll also be starting another ‘chapter a week’ series next week for Wednesdays, that’ll be a YA fantasy novel released in hardcover in the past year, from an author who will be at Ad Astra convention Toronto in April 2011. That title will be announced next Wednesday.

So, ‘Save the Cat.’ I figure that this week, aside from explaining the concept, I should skim through all of the material before the start of chapter 1, though a lot of it isn’t particularly compelling reading. Chapter 1 will be next week.

Cover picture, with the cat hanging off a thick rope. Cute.

A few pages full of those glowing reviews, mostly from movie and TV producers apparently, along with a movie magazine, a writing website, a successful screenwriter, an agent and a VP development at a studio.

Publisher and editor credits, copyright notice, library of congress data, table of contents, acknowledgments.

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