Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Words without thoughts never to heaven go

...perchance to dream

Sometimes it's as simple as a picture. A video. A song. Something leaps out at you and your brain latches on to it, churns it over and over letting it tumble through your head, sometimes without you even being aware of what's going on. Later, it will explode. It will come flying out of your mouth, or your hands and there will be birth, creation.

It happened the other day. I was glibly cruising the internet when my husband started watching a video. My chair inadvertently slid over to his side of the room and there I was leaning in to his shoulder watching it with him.

I went back to my computer and that was that. I thought. Then for some reason it reminded me how I'd been reading Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling, which I referenced in my last post. It took about two hours before the two elements smashed together and I could swear there was even a big bang inside my head. I ran in to my husband from doing the dishes, as is the perfect time to have inspiration wash over you, and said, "Ooh ooh, I know what I'm going to do about my book!"

As I told him one thought, 12 more seemed to just hop right out of me in succession and then my brain jumped to my previous manuscript, waiting to be edited, and went nuts on that one too. Crucial problems I had been mulling over for a few months now. That coupled with my ideas that would have improved my first novel (you can buy it!), and I had suddenly become infused with a shock of ideas. As an aside, I believe 'shock' is the official word for many ideas gathered together. I believe it, that doesn't make it true, just true enough for me.

Which brings me to this. I have noticed that many people ask a certain question when you tell them you are a writer: Do you write every day? I am always befuddled by this question. My inner guilt monster needles me and wants me to answer definitively, 'Yes! Yes I do.' Which isn't true. So I often lamely proclaim, "I try". Which is silly. The truth is, I do not live in a bubble. I have this whole life thing going on and there are times when I sit down to write and have nothing to say or too many issues to solve that forcing myself to write one sentence or ten or whatever the magic number in anyone's head might be, is insanely unproductive. A lot of times I read. I feed the beast so to speak. Other times I prefer to busy myself with that life around me while thinking. I mull over minutia, I question intent and direction, I daydream my worlds into life, I ask myself what would my character do and work at not answering what I would do.

You know how reading a book can possess you? Pull you into its world and hold you there? Make you believe it is real? It's magical. To make something that will draw the reader into that state, there first must be a dream. I go through the world around me with my head in the clouds. I've done that all my life. So, either I could continue to be half of something else while dreaming, or I could be a writer and let the dreams live.

I wish I wrote every day. I wish I could say I'm a dedicated, disciplined super-star writer. But I'm not so sure that writing every day is criteria for that anyhow. I am realizing that creating a fully flushed out story is not just about clacking away at the keyboard. That is one small element to the whole process. From beginning to end there is so much more. Even on levels unrealized, writing can happen while doing the dishes.

From now on I will answer this question with one sentence: I dream every day.

If you have not voted for my character's name, please go to the sidebar and vote. If you have already voted, please go tell someone else to come here and vote. I only have 8 votes so far. We need a larger sampling of opinion folks!  Let's go.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Eagles and Transporters

Transporters, though an awesome idea for technological advance, were killers. In the Star Trek universe, the story of a ship traversing space saving lives and planets and fighting evil could not sustain the constant eagle element of the transporter and in the end for almost every episode they had to find excuses why the transporters couldn't do what they should have done.

What is an eagle element? Many readers of Lord of the Rings will understand this reference. In short, the story of the Lord of the Rings goes like this: there was a ring belonging to the ultimate evil bad guy. The only way to stop the evil bad guy would be to destroy the ring. The only way to destroy the ring was to travel through said evil bad guy's land, climb a mountain, walk into the mountain where molten lava pooled and flowed, and throw that thing straight into the molten lava. In the book a hobbit, a not-so-heroic character becomes the ultimate hero against the ultimate evil guy by taking the ring on that journey. When the journey ends the main character and his companion are stuck on an exploding volcano. To rescue them, giant eagles fly in and carry them out. A convenient escape, however picturesque. And herein lies the difficulty. Had it been that easy, then the eagles could have simply flown the ring in themselves and done the task quicker, safer and easier than anyone else. I've seen some deeply thought out arguments why the eagles could not do this smattered across the internet. The main one being that the operation had to be covert and eagles would not be covert. I seriously question that argument but to waylay long drawn out posts and debates, I'll talk about that some other time. Tolkein's answer? He blithely allows the eagles to excuse themselves from tasks such as these because 'they don't get involved in the affairs' of Middle Earth humanoids.
by Toby Carr on DeviantArt:

Please don't zap me through the computer and blow my screen up because I deride the great Tolkein. I love the books. But I hate the eagles. I hate the convenience of them, they kill so much tension and conflict and leave a giant gaping hole through the entire storyline.

Star Trek's eagles are their transporters. Every time they are in trouble, every time someone is about to die the transporters can't cut through the static, or they can't take them out without disturbing some field, or they just aren't working. A technology like that, which would be crucial for saving lives and they don't make sure it works at all times? Makes no sense. Transporters kill tension. Transporters kill storylines and in the end they become lousy pieces of technology because of it.

Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling as compiled by storyboard artist Emma Coats has this rule:

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

In the same line of reasoning, a major tool such as the transporters conveniently being out of commission in time of need (not once but repeatedly) feels like a cheat.

Speaking of storylines...don't forget to vote on my next protagonist's name. The survey is in the sidebar to the right. I need more votes. Go. Vote.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And Ever Onwards

I am finally revving into writing my next manuscript.  If you were wondering how I do things, here is my macro:

Write a manuscript.
Leave it alone.
Begin editing previous manuscript.
Edit till your eyes bleed or you have done a minimum of five passes. (I'll elucidate that in another post.)
Format. Format. Fret. Fret. Organize. Publish.
Repeat from step 1.

So, the actual straight writing of a story takes up only a fraction of the time spent creating a book. For me, anyways. That is sad because the fluid, frantic, buried-head days of writing a story till it's messily done is my favorite part. On top of that, that macro up there does not include the 1a step which is, name your character or stare at that computer till drool and unwashed hair seep in, because I have this horrid inability to continue writing without a proper character name.

Which is where you come in.

You see, I'm at step 1 again. I have a manuscript waiting to be edited and a story bursting in my brain to get out. Truthfully, I have several but this one called shotgun. My current protagonist has suffered through three names so far and I'm still unsatisfied. She can't be real without a name.

And that means, I currently look something like this:

So, I've come up with a plan. The collective you are going to be my Penny Escher.

I'd like you to name the protagonist for me. I've made a survey of my top four names. You'll find it in my sidebar over there to your right. Pick one and save me so I can get the flow going again. The survey will be open until noon on January 31st. I will announce the winner shortly after. This won't do properly if only four people use the survey. I won't bore you by being self-deprecating about my number of visitors. Instead I simply want to ask you to forward this to as many people as you can so that we can get a nice boatload of votes in. I'd tell you it's your civic duty, but I doubt I have enough authority to enforce that.