W is for Wizard and Witch Wedding

April 26, 2014

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

Pretty simple idea here; a wizard and a witch are getting married. The trouble with a wedding story is usually introducing enough conflict, so maybe there are old traditions that witches or wizards aren’t supposed to get married (or to marry each other,) that the bride and groom have decided to break. Probably both families have their own notions of the kinds of magic that should surround a wedding day, and the spells start to interfere with each other.

Maybe one or the other actually doesn’t want to get married, but they’re being forced into it.

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!

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Taking criticism is still tough…

May 24, 2013

The revised version of “Won’t somebody think of the Children”, the one that I spent nearly sixteen months slaving over, (with a few breaks to work on other projects,) is still working its way through the critters.org critique queue. Chapter 4 got sent out for critiques on Wednesday, and I’ve gotten one full critique back of the entire novel by a dedicated reader and I’m waiting on a few others.

The results certainly haven’t been universally encouraging. I really think that the story is much stronger than it was in the first draft, and I’ve gotten some encouraging validation from some readers, but there have also been a few responses that took some wind from my sails. One of the critiques I got from chapter four said that there was no conflict, nothing at stake; and offered three different rewriting techniques for improving a scene. I was disheartened when I first received that, and then twelve hours later, I got a short commenting on my colon use, with four paragraphs of praise and apologizing for not having more negative feedback. 😉

I guess I’m going to have to organize all my critiques, including the feedback from the dedicated readers who haven’t gotten back to me yet, and evaluate it all like a big pot of soup without paying too much attention to any one piece. And always bear in mind that the first revision I did was based off my own impressions of the book, and there are dozens of tools from the Holly Lisle revision course that I can still turn to and use to fix the problems that I never saw, once a critter has pointed out that they’re there.

It may be a tough job, but a writer’s gotta do it at some point!


I feel like a true Story wonk now!

February 22, 2013

It should surprise none of my faithful friends and followers here that I’m a huge fan of the Storywonk podcasts with Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens. A little while back I submitted a question on the Storywonk.com forums, and this week Lani and Alastair really got on a roll!

It’s a great episode, including the jokes about how nice Canadians are, and shoutouts to myself and to Elizabeth Twist, who I mentioned when introducing the questions. (I’m not sure if Lani and Alastair know that we’re both Canadian or if that was just a random coincidence.) There’s three listener questions and a follow-up ramble about reader expectations in the episode, and I’m the second, so  the stuff about my question is mostly in the middle-ish of the MP3 file. They go to town explaining the differences between problem and conflict that were confusing me, (and the trouble with the capital T Trouble,) and share some interesting thoughts about Man versus Himself contrasted against Man versus Nature, both of which might be applied to The Time Bubble Blues.

So surf on over and give that podcast a listen!


Unity of conflict and Sookie Stackhouse

October 10, 2012

I finished reading ‘From Dead to Worse’, the eighth book in the Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire Mysteries series today. I generally enjoy these books, and while I had fun with this one, I felt from a little after halfway that something seemed to be missing. Once I’d finished reading, I googled for reviews of the books, and was surprised that none of the most prominent hits mentioned something important, though a lot of the feedback reviews on Amazon and Goodreads touched on it. NOTE: Spoilers ahoy!

There’s no central unifying conflict to this book, and it muddles the plot considerably.

There’s lots of interesting conflict; possibly too much, as if Harris was tossing everything into the kitchen sink, or throwing it like spaghetti to a wall to see what stuck. There’s a hostile takeover, a werewolf war. Sookie discovers that she has a surprising great-grandfather, which isn’t an easy adjustment for either of them, and her brother Jason’s wedding to Crystal the were-Panther starts off a chain of events that lead to Sookie refusing all contact with Jason. And don’t get me started on the ups and downs of her love life in this one… 😉

But none of these conflicts are pervasive enough to serve as a spine to the plot. The Great-grandfather element is close, especially since it’s introduced near the start of the book and is last touched on close to the end, but Great-grandpa pops in and out too seldom for his influence to really be felt on large swathes of the book. And the last scene seems to be little more than a WTF teaser to queue up a new idea that Harris is toying with.

In contrast, I am now going to go through the previous seven books in the series and try to sum up their conflict in a single sentence:

Dead Until Dark: Sookie has to find a serial killer targeting ‘fang-banging’ vampire lovers… before she becomes the next victim.

Living Dead in Dallas: This is a bit complicated because of the ‘framing plot’ with the Maenad back in Bon Temps, but overall I’d say that the main plot is Sookie’s mission in Dallas to find the missing vampire, and who’s responsible.

Club Dead: There are two interlaced main plots here – Eric’s abduction in Mississippi and Sookie’s mission to rescue him is one. While there, she gets involved with the Jackson weres who try to kill her.

Dead to the World: Again, we’ve got a few interrelating plots – the mystery of what happened to Eric is probably the most significant one, which spawns off the subplot of amnesia Eric’s romance with Sookie. Less closely related is the subplot of Jason being missing as well.

Dead as a Doornail: Tying everything together here is the mystery plot of the sniper targeting shapeshifters. The pack leadership contests are a major subplot, and Sookie’s house getting burned down is really just a side note and red herring.

Definitely Dead: This one isn’t very neat, but I’d say the central conflict is between Sookie and Sophie-Anne, who appears as a major character in a novel for the first time and certainly looms large. There’s at least three layers to the relationship, in that Sookie is trying to impress Sophie-Anne to a certain extent, maintain her independence from the vampire Queen, and above all not get herself killed. Romance between Sookie and Quinn the were-tiger is the B plot.

All Together Dead: There’s a lot going on in Rhodes, but the mystery and the hints of a plot help to unify it together, and that conflict certainly brings the book to a big finish.

I’m glad that I picked up on that, and this series certainly serves as good lesson about what you can and can’t do with conflict. 🙂 Are there any other vampire fans among my followers? What do you think of conflict in these books – or what about your favorite series?


Nanowrimo is one month away.

October 1, 2012

Well, it’s October, and among other things, that means it’s time to get ready for National Novel Writing Month! The forums have been swept clear in the annual autumn cleaning and the new website rolled out. I’m still not sure what I’m going to write this year, but I found a delivery slip on my doorknob this evening when I got home, so hopefully I’ll be able to pick up ‘Goal, Motivation, Conflict’ and another great book from Gryphon press to help fire up my imagination. I also snapped up Holly Lisle’s ‘Create a Character’ workshop book from Amazon, since the big sale was held over for a day and a bit. 🙂

Still really excited about being an ML for this year, and a little nervous. It’ll be a fun ride, that’s for sure.

So let’s see, what else has been going on? I did quite well with my September goals, all except for posting a full polished story up on fanfiction.net, which just took too much time. And I haven’t settled on my October to-do list just yet, but I put in more time this evening on lesson 18 for ‘How to Revise your Novel.’

I’m excited. Did I say that already? Are you excited?


Still waiting for Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

September 28, 2012

As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the Dragon*Con panel by Debra Dixon about ‘Goal, Motivation, and Conflict’ and it reinforced a belief that I already had that this was stuff I needed to understand more to take my writing to the next level. I didn’t rush right home and order Debra’s book, but I remembered to place my order over two weeks ago.

And I haven’t heard anything since, which is starting to make me feel jumpy. I sent back an email inquiry today, just wondering if they had any news on shipping or when I could expect delivery.

I want to have a while to read this book and let the big ideas sink in, then start using them to figure out what I’m writing this year for Nanowrimo. And time is starting to draw somewhat short – there are only a couple days left in September, after all.

Is anybody else feeling anxious about Nanowrimo already? I’m not usually jumpy about it, but between the GMC thing, which isn’t an approach that I’ve used before, (though I remember being exciting about snowflaking my Nano too,) and signing up as an ML, I’m both really excited and nervous about chomping more than I can chew this time.


Goal + Motivation + Conflict =…

July 25, 2012

In going over what I learned at the workshop in Kansas, I keep coming back to something that I heard about on a Storywonk podcase – Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. It’s a good concept about how to make your narrative craft better, and I think that’s where I need to be focusing some of my attention in what’s left of this summer, possibly in connection with Camp Nanowrimo August. But I’m also not sure where to go or what to do to hone that aspect of my craft.

I’ve done a Google search on those terms, and found a bunch of interesting stuff, but unfortunately a lot of it seems to be pretty superficial – defining the terms, going into a few details about how to use them, but stopping at a screenful of information – which is about the right level of info to absorb in a blog post, but most of these places all have just about the same screenful, which is frustrating when I want to dig deeper. For the record:

  • Goal – what your character needs to have, concretely.
  • Motivation – why he needs it, on a more personal level.
  • Conflict – who or what prevents him from getting it. (Or her.)

Have you heard of these terms? Can you suggest a course that I can take, or a website where I can really delve into the mysteries of GMC, preferably with exercises and worksheets and lots of crunchy examples? 😉


Holly Lisle update – the conflict ‘versus’.

January 20, 2012

Well, I haven’t been updating about it in a while because it feels like such a hard slog, but I’m making some progress with the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your Novel’ course. I’m on lesson five now, and – well, parts of it are fun, and all of it’s been informative.

Lesson one was the first big inventory of the novel, marking out lots of different things in pen on the hardcopy and filling out worksheets of what works and what doesn’t.

Lesson two had us learning about promises, and counting details to see how important we were promising certain characters and items were.

Lesson three involved a lot of filling out index cards for each scene, and trying to identify protagonists and antagonists, settings, conflict, and twists.

I haven’t said anything about lesson four, and it didn’t take me too long to get through it. That lesson was about plots, subplots, and the broken sequences that aren’t really plots in your first draft.

Lesson five is focusing on conflict, and it’s starting with the core conflict of the entire book. I wanted to share what I’ve got so far with you guys. I’m not sure if the last part – my ‘versus’ sentence, is a bit too long and unwieldy… of course, I’m not sure if any of you know the HTRYN course, but I’m curious about what you may think as outsiders.

What matters about my story.

It’s about two young parents who come to realize that they’re not going to be able to get their daughter ready for her all life by themselves. They need their community to support them, and the community is apathetic, more interested in the present than the future. They have to find a way to inspire the entire ship with their vision, while Ginny is messing with them because she wants to keep on being the pampered princess.

It’s Tom and Melanie versus the selfish parts of their community.

It’s the two parents-to-be, passionate to teach and prepare their child but unprepared themselves, versus the people in the ship’s community who insist on things always being done the way they always have been, who aren’t going to sacrifice their privileges for the sake of the mission, the future, or the children.

 


Outlining a short story

December 26, 2011

There’s a new short story contest up at the Straight Dope board, and I decided that this time, I was going to put some more thought into outlining it, not just start writing the first idea I thought of when I got the prompt.

That wasn’t particularly easy. I had a notion what I wanted to do when I started, mostly because of the picture, which had a clock and a bell hanging from a chain, (which immediately made me think of time travel or time manipulation,) but when I tried to apply what I’d learned in Kansas and from other workshops and classes over the past year, I kept ending up on storylines that were missing conflict, or a good antagonist, or something else important like that.

And time was somewhat running out – the contest rules specify that you have sixty hours from when you collect the prompt – I sent in my email yesterday morning before leaving for Christmas with the family, (hoping that I’d be able to mull over ideas in the back of my mind,) and so I need to have my finished story in by tomorrow night.

This evening, though, after I printed off some handouts from Julie Czerneda’s site, things suddenly started to fall into place. I ended up writing nearly 1800 words in an hour and a bit, some of which will have to get cut to finish the outline in under 2000 words, but it’s a great start, and I think that I’ll keep the entire first draft without cuts to refer to later. I’d been mulling over the idea of enclosed spaces where time runs slower or faster than normal, and then got an idea about one possible application of ‘fast time bottles’ that really got things moving.

Here’s the outline that I’ve been working off. Note that ‘sequel’ is a technical term that I learned from James Gunn in the Kansas workshop – it’s not a seperate work of fiction, but a kind of scene that’s less active and conflict-driven than the usual kind, but serves to bridge between proper scenes.

Read the rest of this entry »


Novel revision: Structure and conflict

August 21, 2011

Well, I had my final class session for the Storywonk revision class this afternoon, and overall the class wasn’t really what I was expecting.

I learned quite a lot, but I guess I thought that the manuscripts that I had were ready to the point where they just needed some fairly small changes made to them and they’d be ready to get queried.

Now, I don’t think that anymore. Most of the class wasn’t about the small-changes stuff, though Lani did cover that in ‘The paper edit’, which was today’s topic, actually.

But everything up to this point has been on more fundamental stuff – the structure of the book, the conflict, the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist, the role of the major supporting characters – and I’ve started to see that I have a lot of work to do here. I think I’m nearly finished rewriting the basic structure of “The way back home” to up the stakes of the conflict between Naveli and Merlik, but I’ll have a lot of rewriting to do to match things up to that structure.

Which in a way, should be exciting. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m terrified or just disappointed.

So, here’s the first part of my structure – what do you think, does it sound like a story that you’d want to read? Are the stakes high from the beginning? Do things keep on getting worse?

Opening scene: While having fun with her friends at the Royal Jubilee, Princess Naveli is taken prisoner by rebel agents, along with her pet ferret Ereyu, her friend and bodyguard Tuma – and her possibly-crush, the Lady Jenna.

Things get worse: At the rebel fortress, Naveli meets Merlik (change name?) the warlock who arranged for her capture. He scoffs at her references to ransom, and tortures Tuma and Jenna in front of her to try and break her spirit. Naveli tries to use magik to escape, but the rebels have taken precautions against the few elementary wind magik spells that she knows.

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