Only 140 words today. Still, I got my butt in the chair, so I get a silver star. Tomorrow I’ll do better.
I forgot to mention that I managed to complete the first draft of a short story on Saturday morning. I celebrated with an impromptu walk around a local lake followed by meeting with my writers’ group. I’m not planning on editing it, or starting the rewrite for a while. I think I’m going to let it sit for a month or two so I can get some distance from it.
After my writers’ group, I sketched out a few thoughts for the next story that I will start writing tomorrow morning. This one involves the Saturnian moon, Titan. So, with the TV on in the background (with one of my favorite writing inspiration shows, “Castle,” playing), I’m reading up on the interesting geology and chemistry that is found on that far off place. I didn’t get any writing done today due to an early morning meeting with my tax preparer, but I have confidence I’ll get some more words on paper in the morning.
A couple of years ago, I set a goal writing a short story every month. I didn’t know then if that was even possible; I just wanted some kind, any kind of goal. Now I’m beginning to think that it’s possible. Two weeks to write, and then at some date in the future, another two weeks to polish and get ready for critiquing. Of course, this will require me having a backlog of ideas waiting. Good thing I always carry around several different means of taking notes. Hi, Siri!
Sometimes, I find it enjoyable to listen to people talking about writing. Over the years, I have found a few podcasts to be enlightening. (A podcast is a audio, or sometimes video, blog. You can subscribe in iTunes or your favorite RSS reader, or just visit the web site and listen to selected programs.) Since I’m writing in the SF&F genre, most of the podcasts I listen to are from writers in that field, but much of it can be applied in a more general sense.
My favorite is one called Writing Excuses, and features four fairly well known authors in SF&F: Brandon Sanderson , Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler. Each episode is around fifteen minutes and focuses on a particular issue or problem in writing. The topics may be a bit “high brow” at times but they approach things with wit and humor. Unfortunately they don’t tend to keep many of the old episodes on line, and they’re already in their eighth year. You can find this one at http://www.writingexcuses.com
Another one I’ve found useful to varying degrees is one from the Odyssey SF&F Writing Workshops. They excerpt lectures that are given at the workshop and present them in podcast form. Many of the presenters are big names in the field (Gardner Dozois, Robert J. Sawyer, Terry Bisson, Craig Shaw Gardner, Elizabeth Bear, Nancy Kress, etc.), and cover topics from humor in speculative ficiton to writing query letters. In iTunes, I can see episodes dating back to January of 2007. The home page for this podcast lists the lectures and gives you some biographical information on the presenter. It can be found at http://www.sff.net/odyssey/podcasts.html
(I had another writing podcast to recommend, but it has apparently ceased operations. *pouty face*)
And finally, a podcast that isn’t really about writing, but entertaining nonetheless. Escape Pod brings you a complete SF short story each week in an “audio book” format. I’ve only found time to listen to a few of these, but they’ve generally been entertaining if you’re looking for a diversion. Each episode is betwen twenty minutes to an hour in length. (They have “sister” podcasts for Fantasy and Horror, if you’d prefer those genres.) You can find them at http://escapepod.org
As I get back into my routine following my volunteering time with FOGcon, I’m reflecting on the art form that is the short story. Many (though not all) authors in the science-fiction and fantasy genres write short stories. In fact, many of them got their start in this particular form of storytelling, and then eventually move into writing novels. It’s a time-honored traditions.
I’ve tried writing short stories before, without much success. At one time I would have said that everything I know about crafting stories applies only to longer forms, not the brevity required for a good short story. The couple of times I’ve tried writing a short story have resulted in critiques that generally say, “This is a synopsis of a novel, not a short story.” That said, the stories I build for my church’s Solstice celebrations definitely qualify as “short stories.”
While at FOGcon, I talked with several published authors all of whom write short stories. I also did a little bit of reading on the web from people who write about the structure of a short story. And, of course, I thought a lot about what I’ve always read about the craft of writing. And I’m realizing that many of the short stories I read in magazines don’t follow the rules that I’m told always have to be followed. It’s a bit perplexing, honestly.
I’ve recently read two novellas from an issue of Asimov’s from some time last year, and neither of them really had a central conflict, or if they did, it wasn’t the conflict of the main character. The evident protagonist was an observer while someone (or in one case, something) else went through the conflict development and resolution process. Character development is also rather lacking in the stories I’ve read. So I’m beginning to wonder if my inhibition around writing short stores is self-inflicted by trying to follow all of the advice I’ve heard and read over the years.
With that in mind, I have decided to give writing short stories another try. Playing with a random brainstorming app I found for iOS, I came across a phrase that was interestingly evocative. I struggled for a bit to try and find a conflict, and then tried turning the conflict requirement on its ear like the stories I’ve been reading. And viola! A plot quickly came to mind. The writing is going well, and I have no idea how long this thing will run word count-wise. It’s all a grand experiment yet again.
(If I seem to jump around with my writing practice a lot, it’s true, I do. This week I want to write a novel. That week I want to write short stories. The next week I just want to agonize over worldbuilding. It’s not a good trait, and I want to be more focused. But first I need to know what I want to focus on, and that’s not yet clear to me.)
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a reward system for when I’m actually working on a manuscript. Every day I write any words on the manuscript, I get a silver star on a calendar made expressly for tracking such things. I get a gold star if I write 500 or more words.
But now, I’m not working directly on a manuscript. I’m doing character design, and world building, and plot development. And thus I have not been rewarding myself. But I find I miss doing so. I look at the calendar’s empty spaces and while I know I did work on those days, since I wasn’t writing words in my manuscript, there’s no recognition of that.
Silly, yes. Unhelpful, yes. But I’m a stickler for rules most of the time, so it’s not surprising that I can slavishly follow them even when it doesn’t make sense.
How do I reward myself when I’m not actively working on a manuscript? Well, I could give myself a silver star for any day in which I sit in the chair and write something about the project, whether it’s a character sketch, the laws of the world the story is set on, or even some rough plot cards. Okay, that works. But how do I go about earning a gold star, which really who doesn’t want to be earning gold stars?
How does one set achievable yet challenging goals when one is brainstorming? It’s a good question. I need to brainstorm that…
I’ve stopped work on the project I started at NaNoWriMo last year. I think it’s still a good project, and has a lot of potential, but I’d hit nearly 70K words, and some of the cracks of the foundations were starting to show through. I was writing just to write, and not moving the story forward. I think I need to let that one gestate for a while. There are large sections of the story that were not worked out well enough in advance, and some new directions the story took. It would be good to devote some dedicated world-building time to the project before I continue on with it. I’m a little saddened because I wanted this to be the first full draft of a novel completed. But in the end, I feel it’s better to have made a good start and recognized that it wasn’t going anywhere than it would be to get to some arbitrary word count and claim some kind of victory.
But that’s not the only reason I set it aside. There’s another idea that’s been taking up considerable amounts of brainspace lately. It seems exciting, fresh and new to me. I find myself thinking about it at all hours, especially when I don’t have the time to be working on it. Of course I get that way with all of my projects, so I don’t know if there’s really anything “there” in this one. Time will tell.
Goodness, has it really been over six months since I last wrote here?
Yes, it has been. Oh, my.
Writing-wise, there was very little activity post-BayCon. I wish it had been otherwise, but wishing didn’t cause writing to happen by its lonesome.
Then I accidentally signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. Yes, accidentally. A friend had mentioned that he was going to do NaNoWriMo this year (he failed to do so), and I wanted to add him as a “buddy” to watch his progress. I had forgotten that signing in during the month of October enrolled you in that year’s competition. Urk. At first I was going to blow it off, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could turn it to my advantage. One of the habits I wanted to establish was a morning writing practice. Well, here was the opportunity to establish such a practice while facing a ridiculous deadline. Now, I have completed NaNoWriMo several times in the past, and I knew I was going to be able to finish it this time, but if I could start writing every morning, get it to be a routine, then my NaNoWriMo could help me after November was done.
And it did. Mostly. After finishing my 50K words, I was able to continue writing in the mornings. I set a daily goal of 500 words. Or rather, I set a goal to sit at my writing desk and write, and a secondary goal of 500 words. My sweetie helped me by making a calendar with squares for each day big enough to put a sticker on. For every day that I wrote anything at all, I gave myself a silver star. On those days where I hit my secondary goal, I gave myself a gold star. I also gave myself Sundays off because Sunday mornings tend to be very rushed around this household.
For almost all of December I was able to earn a gold star. There were only a couple of days where I earned a silver star, and maybe a day where I didn’t get any writing done at all. I was very happy about that! I also started using a “Light Therapy” box while I was writing (a Philip’s goLITE BLU) and it seemed to be doing a good job of chasing the wintery blues away.
January hasn’t been as good a month for my writing, though. Right after the New Year, I started to have doubts about the direction my novel was heading. I knew I needed to do a lot more world building, but wasn’t making time for that. Then I got sick with the flu that has gone around and found I simply was unable to even consider writing. Since then, my writing has been very hit and miss, with misses happening more often.
The crud seems to be finally clearing from the house, and the morning routine is returning to normalcy. With that, it’s time to get my butt back in the chair and get back to writing.
BayCon in Santa Clara is my local big lit con, and I’ve been going to it, on and off, for many years. This year, my partner gave me the gift of being able to spend all the time I want to at the con without having to worry about the dog or anything else. What a precious gift! I was happy to take him up on it since the Guest of Honor was one of my favorite epic fantasy authors, Brandon Sanderson.
While I’m still too… shy? to actually go up and talk with him, I hoped to be able to attend a panel or two that he’d be on and get a chance to hear him talk about his process. I under-estimated a bit.
In the week before the con, the con staff posted the schedule and descriptions of all the panels. For whatever reason, they did not include the names of the participants. No problem, I’d just circle the ones that interested me and figure out how to make sure to hit a Brandon panel after I got the program book. Once I got to the con, picked up my program book, and started scanning the panel participants, I realized that just about every interesting writing-focused panel had Brandon as a participant. Great, now I’m stalking the Guest of Honor.
I’m going to write a bit more in-depth about the panels I attended, but in general, I had a pretty fantastic con, the best con experience I’ve had in many years. I don’t know what enabled me to enjoy this one so much, though I suspect that my flying it solo with no responsibilities played a large part. I was there for me, and was not worrying about what anyone else might think about the panels I wanted to go to, or if they were getting bored in the panel I was fascinated by. I think this is key, and I need to remember it. Sometimes, “me time” is good and healthy.
Friday started off with a panel about “Irreproducible Results” in science and featured one of my favorite San Diego fans and all around creativity dynamo, Allison Lonsdale. It also featured the publisher of the “Journal of Irreproducible Results“. The panelists were quite witty and entertaining, and talked about some important themes, like using fancy statistics tricks to bend the results of science in profitable ways, and preying on people who just don’t understand what science is all about.
After that I hit the “Ghostwriting–Literally!” panel, which featured several authors (including Brandon) who have picked up finishing off works started by other famous authors. There were many interesting observations about voice and paying homage without coming across as a parody.
For my last panel slot of the day, I had several choices. I stated off at one called “Character Slam Books,” curious about what that meant. When they started handing out pens and little journals, I realized it was more of a workshop than I felt like dealing with. So I wound up ditching that and heading to the “Old Star Trek vs. J.J. Abram’s Refresh” panel. I’m a sucker for anything Star Trek, but on reflection, I might have passed on that one. There wasn’t really anything new discussed (other than apparently Khan will be featured in the upcoming installment), and the audience was full of socially-challenged Trek nerds. Now, I am a socially-challenged Trek nerd, but I still understand that Star Trek was fiction. I’m not so sure about some of the people who were my fellow audience members.
Saturday was a great day. I started off at a panel on “Self-Promotion & Publicity for Writers” which was simultaneously fascinating and a cause for concern. The major publishers are really not figuring out this new world they suddenly find themselves in, and are doing less and less for the author, spending less and less on publicity, editing, and just about everything. Authors now can no longer focus just on writing, they need to learn how to self-promote. The panel gave a lot of good ideas, and wound up connecting in interesting ways with an ePublishing panel I would attend later in the day.
Next was a panel on “Styles of Writing” which, led by Brandon, focused on technical aspects of writing around viewpoints: first or third person (don’t do second!), limited or omniscient, past tense or present (or maybe even future), stuff like that. I knew most of the material, but it was enjoyable listening to the pros talk about how they decide which style to use for a given work.
After that was the “Guest of Honor” interview, starring you-kn0w-who, and it turns out that Brandon tells great stories when talking as well as in print. He gave a very entertaining rendition of how he was selected to finish up the Wheel of Time series by the original author’s widow, and he talked about how he broke into publishing to begin with. He was anything but the “sell the first novel he wrote” kind of author. In fact, he had written something like twelve novels before selling any of them. To me, that’s determination and patience. I need to emulate that better.
The next panel was supposed to be about ePublishing, but turned out to be a discussion of a new thing in the writerly world, author co-ops and their influence in the market. This panel featured several members of Book View Cafe, a writing and publishing co-op originally founded by a large number of women writers who all knew bits and pieces of how to get published, but no one person knew everything. They found that by forming a co-op, they could collectively cover all aspects of publishing and promotion for their members. They’ve since grown, adding men, and have turned into an ePublishing house as well, and are now venturing into the world of print publishing. In a day where anyone can put up a novel on Kindle, iBookStore, or nook, and a time when the big publishing houses are doing less and less (as noted before), they are charting a new gatekeeper role.
I ended my panels for the day at one called “Aspiring Writers Toolkit” which turned out to be mostly about critiquing groups, writing workshops, and other ways to get feedback on your work. I found it fascinating, and more so because a friend who had a conflicting panel asked me to take notes. I’ve been a member of an awesome critiquing group (the Penny Dreadfuls in San Diego), and it helped improve my writing a great deal. But I know my experience is kind of rare. I would love to find a similar group here in the Bay Area when the time is right, but finding such a group can be very difficult. I got a lot of links to blogs and other sites.
After meeting up with my guy and finding dinner, we both attended Allison Lonsdale’s concert and had a great time. It’s a pity (for the audience) that she only had an hour! She played a number of old favorites, and a good number of songs that were new to us. Every time she plays at BayCon the audience seems to grow a little, which is great news.
Sunday was my downer day. It seemed that many of the panels I attended lacked the focus of the days earlier. It started off with a visit with Michael to the Dealers Room. We made a few purchases (a CD that I’ve been unable to find elsewhere, a DVD, a couple of books including David Gerrold‘s Worlds of Wonder which had been mentioned in a previous panel, and I’m finding entirely fascinating so far). I also ran into some friends I hadn’t seen in a while and got to talking with some other con attendees who were saying it was one of the worst BayCons they had ever attended. When I expressed surprise, since I’d been having a great con, I found out that they don’t go to panels, they were looking for good social activities, which apparently were lacking this year. An interesting perspective.
Then, off to the panels.
First off was a panel titled “Self Publishing Food Chain” which explored the place that self publishing has in the brave new world. It used to be that self-publishing was called, derisively, “vanity press”. Publishing with a vanity press was a mark that your work wasn’t good enough for a “real” publisher and you were willing to pay someone to publish your books. Not so much these days. The advent of affordable “print on demand” services, the growth of more independent publishing houses, and lately the ability to publish your work electronically, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBookStore, and many other places all add up to an explosion of new venues. Some people are making mad money self-publishing (just look at Amanda Hocking for one), thus completely demolishing many of the old beliefs. And while you have to do a LOT more of the promotion work, you also get to keep a much higher percentage of the cover price. The problem is, with this explosion of self-publishing, how do you find what’s worth reading. While this panel didn’t solve the problems, it did give many perspectives on how some people are taking advantage of it.
Next up was “The Future of WesterCon.” WesterCon, for those not in the know, is a travelling convention, which is awarded by the vote of members of a prior WesterCon, to the people who can make the best case for hosting the convention in their city. The limit is that it must be in what is broadly defined as “the Western region of the United States.” In times past, the convention has been well attended and a “big deal”. But in the last couple of decades, with the remarkable growth of local conventions like BayCon, WesterCon has lost a lot of its allure, along with a large percentage of its annual attendance. This panel explored, along with its very small audience, the reasons for this decline, and what can be done about it. There is hope. Last year, a very lack-luster bid led to a “hoax” bid being accepted, and even winning. But the guys behind the hoax have decided to fully commit to bringing back the awesome. That would be great, and I’m looking to be involved. But at the panel, I was somewhat disheartened. I asked several times what makes WesterCon special, what is it’s draw that would cause people to want to invest in airline tickets and hotel rooms, and the answer I kept hearing was “it’s a chance to hang out with fans from other cities.” I’m sorry, this is not a draw for me. I want something truly unique, something that only WesterCon offers. And now, there is nothing that fits that bill. This was the big downer for the day as I realized that what draws me to conventions is not shared by the people running WesterCon.
This was followed by a bit more GoH stalking, a panel on “World Building Basics.” I found this panel to be rather disorganized. The moderator was not a very strong moderator, there were tech issues, and instead of keeping the panel focused, the moderator just let everyone wander around. I had hoped to get some insights into things like “what parts of world building are crucial, what parts are simply nice to have?”, and “how do you know when you’ve done enough world building for your genre?” Just like with Role-Playing Games, one can spend so much time world-building that no actual game is run, or no real writing gets done. I had hoped to hear a bit more about this process, but instead it devolved into discussions of language building and real-world examples of cultures that were technologically inferior to other cultures and how they inevitably were destroyed (as a refutation of the “noble savage” trope).
I then attended a panel on “The Heroine’s Quest“, a topic I found interesting after a church member gave a similar talk a few weeks ago. It’s a good thing that I had attended that talk since the panel never really reviewed what this story structure, the feminine version of the “Hero’s Journey”, is all about. They instead started off by naming examples of works that featured the Heroine’s Journey structure without explicitly drawing the parallel. “Yep, that one hits all the buttons!” There was some discussion about how the “Maid, Mother, Crone” figures sometimes ties into the Journey. And, of course, there was a lot of talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and how it does and doesn’t match the bullet points of the Journey. As I was listening, I found myself wondering if gender-based hero myths are something to simply acknowledge, or something to try to abolish. Should there be one heroic journey and the gender of the participant irrelevant, or is this an area where gender distinctions are still a good thing? And how should it be addressed in an age where gender is seen as a lot more fluid than it ever has in the past? But, given the remarks made by the panelists, I felt safer not asking my questions.
Finally, I attended a panel that asked the question, “What Makes Hard Science Fiction ‘Hard’”. Another very disorganized and unfocused panel, and the gist of it wound up being that for a hard science fiction fan, if it was a work they liked, it was “hard science” but if it was a work they did not like, it wasn’t. I know there are supposedly other definitions for the term “hard science fiction,” but the fans on the panel each gave examples of works they considered to be hard science that obviously broke those definitions. (Honor Harrington, while I find to be very entertaining military sci-fi, is anything but “hard” with its FTL and it’s telepathy.) I wound up feeling confused and disappointed by the panel.
I hit three panels on Monday. First up was “Top 10 Rookie Author Gaffes” and it was another Brandon panel. I wound up sitting next to a friend who is another aspiring writer, and I think we both enjoyed it. I took a bunch of notes, which is kind of rare for a panel. The speakers talked about gaffes with writing (you actually have to start writing if you want to publish, who’d have thunk?), researching, and eventually publishing and promoting. All of them had great stories to tell (“Oh, man, whatever you do, don’t do what I did!”) and while entertaining, they were also very instructive.
Following that was supposed to be a panel on “Unblocking Your Own Potential” which was supposed to include Brandon and several other panelists. When by 10 minutes past start time no other panelists but Brandon had shown up, it turned into the “Ask Brandon Anything” panel. I really enjoyed this, as he was willing to impart wisdom and stories that I found enlightening. He answered several questions about his work in the Wheel of Time, but kept those answers short. The ones he spent more time answering were things like “How do you find time to write when you have children under foot?” and “How did you discover that writing was a passion for you?” and “How do you get yourself back to writing after a family tragedy sent you into a spiral of depression?” He really gave some thoughtful answers, and everything was treated seriously. He is a great speaker, and when he spoke of the class he teaches every year at a local university, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy towards his students.
Finally, as is tradition for me, I attended “A Shot Rang Out…” with my partner. This panel is an exercise in collaborative story-telling with a twist. During the earlier three days of the convention, there was a box at the info desk for people in the know to deposit suggested phrases or sentences. The story must start with the phrase, “A shot rang out…” and then each participant (there were five this year, including Dani and Eytan Kollin, BayCon’s toastmasters this year) must continue the story told by the previous segments and end with the phrase or sentence they pulled at random from the box. As you might imagine, this forces the story to take very unusual twists and turns as the panelists must attempt to take a crazy, semi-coherent story so far and turn it so they can end their segment with a phrase like “For he is the Cumquat Häagen-Dazs!” This can be a very hit-or-miss event, and last year’s wasn’t so good. This year, though, I thought they did a great job, including elements such as Mr. and Mrs. Cthulhu (they’re Time Lords, don’tcha know?), Malcom not-Reynolds, portal guns, and guardian idiots.
After that we attempted to pre-reg for next year, but found the registration desk closed down. Le sigh. I managed to pre-reg on the web site after we got home, so here’s hoping for a 2013 that was as good as 2012!
Some realizations and insights:
- I’m too focused on writing something that will I want to be published. I need to relax a lot, get a LOT of writing done, and worry about publishing when I can consistently write good stuff at a good pace.
- I need to find all the impediments I have to a daily practice and get rid of them. The only way I’m going to get published is if I write daily, and I’m not doing that.
- As I do get to the point where I am confident in my writing and am getting ready to start trying to publish, I will need to really consider what self-promotion I will be comfortable doing, and what I will need help with. That’s daunting, but planning now makes little sense. By the time I’ll need it, the entire ecosystem will have changed at least once, if not multiple times.
- The upheaval of the publishing industry was a significant theme throughout the convention, and I found it interesting how the various puzzle pieces are fitting together.
- I don’t go to cons for the same reasons that most of the other people there go to cons. I go for the panels and the chance to get wisdom from established and successful authors, and maybe to talk with other aspiring authors. Most other people go to conventions for the social aspects. SMOFs see panels and guests as a necessary framework and a tool to bring new people to the convention, but not the primary focus. I think I’m doing the right thing for me, but I realize I’m the minority audience and SMOFs are not planning conventions with people like me in mind.
- There are a LOT of professionals blogging about writing out there. I found a bunch of new blogs to follow. If I’m not careful, I’ll spend all of my time reading other people’s blogs and not getting any of my writing done!
A few years ago at Baycon, I picked up a writer’s tool called “The Writer’s Tarot”. (They have since been renamed “Story Forge Cards” and after a VERY successful Kickstarter project, will be available to the public sometime this Summer.) It’s not really a tarot deck, but it uses the traditional meanings of many of the cards of the tarot to help inspire story or character development. I’m in the midst of developing some characters for a murder mystery I want to try and write, so on a whim I picked up a deck and did a “spread” that is meant to create a character’s background. I got a very interesting result.
1. The character’s Mother: Black Sheep (inverse), well thought of person suddenly becomes a black sheep and must come to terms.
2. The character’s Father: Profane, pure evil, a blight on man, god, and the universe, nothing but pain, loss and damnation.
3. The strength of their relationship: Desire.
4. The problems between them: The Moon, order prevails, even when things go poorly they behave as expected.
5. The circumstance of the character’s birth: The Angle (inverse), the universe itself becomes the opponent, rising up to prevent the goal from being reached
6. Complications if any: Epiphany (inverse), No matter how dramatically it is revealed, the truth is refused, obscured by cowardice or delusion.
7. The universe’s influence on his or her nature: Vice, even knowing it to be wrong, this person gives in to their baser nature, selfishly pursuing only the most prurient interests.
8. Early strengths: The Assassin, whether driven by vendetta or ideology, this hunter will stop at nothing until blood has been spilled.
9. Early weaknesses: The World (Inverse), no-one can get a break; the world or its people seem to be determined to provide nothing but resistance.
10. Education: Cruelty, Someone deliberately causes physical or mental suffering; can represent an act of cruelty, the effect of such abuse, or a person with a sadistic nature
11. Belief foundation: Health, the body is strong and free from disease, can be a generally good constitution or a return to health after having been injured or sick.
12. Life experience: The Secret, the consequences of the secret being revealed would be catastrophic; it must be kept at all costs.
13. A shaping experience in recent times: Knowledge, information, the wisdom to apply it well, and the power that comes with it.
14. An experience that left scars:Queen of Mirrors (inverse), The secret admirer keeps to the shadows, either too shy to publicly admit their adoration or because the attention may be unwelcome or inappropriate.
15. The state of the character at the beginning (well, at the time of death): Time is of the utmost importance, whether it is the ticking of a bomb, the passage of hours, years, centuries, or millennia.
(Note that the text of the cards I copied here is copyright B.J. West, and I’m being an evil sneak reproducing them here. No harm is intended towards Mr. West. Go out and buy a copy of the deck when they are published!)
I had originally intended the victim to be a relatively innocent person who was killed for malicious purposes. After this “spread” I’m having fun re-imagining him as the supposed son of a mob boss, who is brought up through the school of hard knocks. Recently, however, he discovered his mother had a secret lover, and that the mob boss is not really his father. I’m not yet sure how to work a secret admirer in (maybe someone who knows the truth and was sending him secret messages?), but the time thing is a surprisingly apt thing given the gimmick I want to use to frame the story.
This spread went way dark, and may wind up totally turning the character around. I kind of like it. It’s fun to let randomness be part of the creative process!
All for fun and games, but a useful creative tool. I’ll have to give this a go with the detective character.
An interesting thing happened last evening after I wrote my earlier entry. I was talking with my partner, Michael, about how I felt I wasn’t going anywhere, how I felt adrift, and he challenged me to describe how I was stuck. I started relating the problems I was having with my space opera story, pointing out how I wasn’t finding ways to overcome some of the structural challenges I had gotten into with my outline to date. Right off the cuff, he had a some surprising and wonderful suggestions, most of which wouldn’t work, but some of which had interesting things going for them. The next twenty minutes went by in a flash of suggestions and counter-suggestions, ideas and idea amplification, a back and forth of revitalizing creative energy.
There seems to be a certain fit to the way we create together, to the give and take of our discussions about stories. We’ve both talked about how we each want to be published, but both of us have admitted to our own difficulties in getting there. But last night came the thought that maybe we could collaborate, we could write a story together. This is an exciting thought.
As a side effect of last night, my creative plug is. Ideas are spilling out of my head faster than I can contain and transcribe them. I might have a full outline of this piece put together in a few days, or a couple of weeks. I might even have a name for my main character, a detail that has been successfully escaping me like the Road Runner from Wile E. Coyote.
This. Is. Awesome.