You gotta love all the prefixes and titles added to this morning's lunar eclipse. It sounds really impressive, and I suppose from a purely statistical point of view it is, but in the end, this morning's eclipse just a run of the mill lunar eclipse.
Having worked for a news station I know the desire to sensationalize things and find the more eye catching, tweet-worthy headlines you can, but I have to say, if nothing else, all this hysteria over the eclipse made me think of writing. But, I guess, what doesn't?
As I stood outside at three in the morning, freezing my tail off while watching a camera shakily zoom in and a surprisingly hard to find moon (before the eclipse!) I couldn't help but think about the way people had to look at the moon ages ago. At how they sought to explain phenomena like this before they had the science and equipment to adequately study it. And this, of course, leads to wondering what a fictional civilization I might create would think of the "blood moon." Would they have a concept of a "blue moon?" Would a super moon even be noticed, or simply chalked up to a deity leaning in closer to peek down on their creation?
Now, these are some high fantasy concepts, but I have creatures and races in The Paladin that had some kind of origin, right? What did these creatures think when they shook across from Man in the darkness and looked up at the same moon? At the same stars? Would vampires be more likely to find the true nature of an eclipse due to their long lives, or would that simply give them an excuse to never change their viewpoint?
Here's your homework: take an astrological phenomenon and give it a psuedo-mythological explanation. Imagine a culture that is trying to explain why the moon turns reds during a lunar eclipse. Is it blood? Has a second god killed their moon god? Does it, mayhap, portend the flames of war? Or the death of the king? Give it a logical, though ultimately incorrect explanation. Humans are creatures of pattern. We see something, we must associate it with something else. What can you come up with?
Don't forget to be awesome!
PS. If you wanna see some footage I shot of the lunar eclipse, check out my a video I shot on Twitter.
Paladin Playlist 18
Now if there's ever a song for a good mental montage while writing, Cage The Elephant's Ain't No Rest For The Wicked is ... well... it's certainly one of them. Kidding aside, when I need a mindset for either a couple of miscreants on the town or just some friends doing dirty work, this is a great song.
As Reagan trains Jonathan, it feels more and more like this is the right song to have going as they head go on outings. I can actually see a montage of the training scenes for a potential movie to this song. It's just perfect for a pair or even a small group to get up to no good to.
So, enjoy Cage The Elephant's Ain't No Rest For The Wicked.
The littlest details
I have a habit of creating characters to fill a hole, then realizing that they're useful for a several other scenes. Several of my favorite characters have begun simply as "I need someone to carry this message to the main character" or "Well, I suppose someone needs to man that station." Paying attention to these people pays off big when you need something down the road and the best to make sure they're useful when the time comes is details.
So your MC is going to the library to check out a book on car repair. Why they're not looking online is irrelevant, maybe it's a story from the fifties? Point is, at some point in your jaunt to the library, they're likely to need assistance from or at least bump into the librarian. What is that character like? Now, in your mind, they probably just exist to show your character where the book is and feed them an ever so important bit of narrative that leads to your character discovering their hand-me-down car is actually worth millions because it belonged to a famous gangster once.
As you continue in the story, you'll likely find that that librarian can come in hand again. If you've fleshed them out, given them motivations, desires, wants, and needs, then they can crop up naturally throughout the story. Perhaps it turns out your librarian is a 1920s gangster buff and the description your MC gives of their car jogs the librarian's memory. That's great for the plot. But if you want to make people believe in your librarian and, maybe even get attached, how about they chew on pencils when they think? Or maybe always bring an orange in their lunch? It's these little details that breath more life into the characters that otherwise would've been just a flash in the pan.
For me, characters like Katie, Samantha, Giz, and Simon all have little quirks that don't necessarily advance the plot, but they keep the characters feeling real. Here's one to keep an eye out for in when the novel is released. One of my characters loves Boo Berry. Is it critical to the plot? Not really, but it's a little touch that makes them feel more human.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
So one of the issues I’ve been having lately is rewriting scenes to feature entirely different characters. Not just adding a new one in, but, more less, substituting characters because previous scene rewrites have changed the narrative.
In this instance I’ve had to accept that Reagan holds more importance to the plot than other supporting characters and that means I can’t skip over important scenes with him, then expound on scenes with others. It sounds pretty obvious in retrospect but like I said the other day, I’m still getting to know these characters. This is what editing and rewriting are for.
It it is pretty fun though, because these scenes can change dramatically by changing who’s in them. Reagan acts so completely different from Giz, that swapping them out means a lot of rewriting. It’s like having your own personal “what-if” scenario.
Okay, today’s homework. Find a favorite scene from your favorite book or movie and swap out at least one character with one of the others from that work. What if Inigo Montoya was actually the man in black and Westley had fallen in with Vizzini’s crew? Give it a shot!
Writing Exercise: RPGs
So a late update tonight. I GM'd an online RPG today and it went a bit late, but it does give me a good subject to talk about. Writing on the fly!
Anyone who's ever played DnD or a similar system knows that it's all about collaborative storytelling. Your Game Master has a master plot they keep in mind, but all the decisions are made by the players. It can be be intense to be a GM, having to come up with characters, scenarios, and encounters to suit the whims of your players can really test your mettle as a writer.
I like to think of it as a writing exercise. I mean, if I wasn't doing this, what would I be doing? Writing out scenarios, dialogue, and encounters for the characters in my novel. Instead, I'm doing the exact same thing, but without the benefit of knowing ahead of time how it's going to end.
Let's face it: if you've ever GM'd you know players don't do what you want. They test the limits of your world and your rules, the seek the boundaries, and they go wherever the heck they want to! That means when they go to a different part of the city than what you expected, you have to make that place feel real. If you describe a potions shop or an inn, you're going to have to describe the people inside it. They all have to have names, motivations, fears, and dreams! And you have roughly three seconds to make all that up.
Then, instead of calmly (or hectically, I don't judge other writers) writing out dialogue between two characters your control in your novel, you have to act out the dialogue of ONE and hope your players don't go so far off the rails you don't have an answer for them.
So, to any writers out there looking for a challenge, I have a weird, but predictable one. Go GM a session. See all the preparation it takes. It's just like writing your novel, but you have to have back up plans. You gotta outline, define characters, create tension, have a villain. It's just writing a novel, but with friends!
Give it a shot!
And... be excellent to each other.
Meeting your characters
I have to say that if nothing else, the editing and rewriting of parts of The Paladin have allowed me one great pleasure. I'm getting to know my characters better. See, at chapter one, I didn't really know who Jonathan or Reagan were. By chapter twenty, I had a good idea. By chapter fifty, I knew for sure.
Now I'm getting the chance to do some rewrites of the early chapters and all the things I've learned about my characters through writing them are coming in very handy. I'm seeing that I didn't expound on characteristics of certain characters early on when I should have. It's giving me a chance to go back and add in personality quirks that I only decided on halfway through the novel.
Better yet, since I'm adding a few new scenes, I'm getting to play with them in new settings. A few characters are even swapping around, which allows me to let the scene play out completely different.
I think it's important to pay attention to your characters as you go. Keep an eye on how they're acting, how you're writing them. You won't really know them until you've completed that adventure with them. And, if you're like me, the character you imagined will be completely different from the character you've written.
Don't Forget to be Awesome.
Writing and Editing
When I made that title, I didn't mean to speak about the two concepts separately. Perhaps it would've been more accurate to say "Editing through Writing?"
Right now (write now, ba dum tish!) I'm both editing and writing. It's... awkward to say the least. The back half still needs some little tweaks, some words cut out, and a little polish, but the front end has sections being entirely re-written. I just finished the new chapter one and it's several pages shorter than the original. You'd think it'd just be a matter of cutting things out and tossing them to the four winds, but I'm actually having to write brand new stuff.
When I cut out an entire series of scenes involving a doughnut investigation (see my sample chapters while they're still there!) you might think that all I have to do is just sew up the loose ends and move on, but there's a lot of exposition that needs to still be conveyed. I'm not so much removing these things as condensing them. So, that means writing fresh material. Also... because I apparently CANNOT just clean up writing, I've taken the opportunity to fix the flow of a few elements by introducing completely new content.
For clarification, I'm not adding the new content just to add it. I've been talking with my awesome betas and there are a few things that needed clarification, a few things that needed to be pumped up a little, and that's what these new scenes are for. I should be freeing up more than enough room to come out of this with a net gain for our fair city, er... for the novel's word count. Or decrease in word count. I'm a writer.
Be Excellent to Each Other
Writing and Rewriting
So I'm knee-deep into a rewrite of the first half of The Paladin. I was a little sad to have to cut some stuff, but I'm freeing up a lot of room to expand on a few things that really needed it.
Downside of all this, I'm going to have to take down and replace the sample chapters I have up on the front page. I liked what was in them, but the novel has to be flexible until it's published. I've managed to convey the first ten or so pages of the original in under six, so I'm happy with the amount of content that's coming out. It's faster paced and the narrative feels like it flows better.
The upside here is that with the extra room I'm freeing up (which, admittedly, one would think I would just leave empty since I'm trying to cut out somewhere around 30,000 words!) will give me a little bit of space to play with a few new things. For instance, I have some training scenes with Jonathan and Reagan once he joins the Paladin Order that were a little slow. The newer version not only adds in more things for Jonathan to do that are interesting, but push the plot along and help flesh out his character more.
I think that's the most exciting part about this rewrite. I'm trying to find the positives about redoing a huge chunk of it and I think focusing on making Jonathan more relatable, more relevant, and more interesting is definitely a positive.
So, it stinks that I'm having to redo a bunch, but I've actually come up with so much more that will make things work out better than before. I think that as I finish them up, I'll make sure to make note of it here in the blog.
What do you guys think? Should I post the chapters in chunks like I did with Wolves and Wild Roses?
Paladin Playlist 17
Occasionally you need a song for a good fight. Not just a brawl, but something with guns going. Shots ring out. Your MC ducks behind cover to discover they have only two shots left. Gritting their teeth, they rise from behind that totaled vehicle, aim, and squeeze the trigger.
Click Click Boom by Saliva is perfect for these situations. When you have fist fight, a kung fu battle royale, you're going to have nonstop energy and blows hitting until the end of the scene. But a good gunfight has peaks and troughs. The tension is always high, but not because your character is getting kicked in the face. It's because someone has a bead on them and if they move wrong, BOOM! It's ducking behind cover, picking your moment, then diving out to squeeze off that one in a million shot that takes down the big bad.
Let this song course through your veins while you write your shoot out. Let the tamer moments build the suspense, inching toward the inevitable moment your protagonist has to either surrender or stand and fight back.
Enjoy Saliva's Click Click Boom.
So one of the many podcasts I listen to these days a great writing centered one called Writing Excuses (Fifteen minutes long. Cause you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart!) I highly suggest for any would-be writers as it details a lot of good writing advice and even tops off every episode with a homework writing assignment.
The show is hosted by professional writers from different walks of life, mostly novelists. Currently they have, amongst three groups, Maurice Broaddus, Amal El-Mohtar, Valynne E. Maetani, Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells.
Each week they visit intriguing topics like how to structure a novel, points of view, reinventing yourself through new genres, and tons more. They're currently on their 13th season, so there's LOTS to binge on your way to work or while you're doing housework.
I bring this up because of lot of the best writing advice I've been picking up lately has come from this podcast. It's full of great stuff for both rookies and and seasoned pros. They have people who's expertise runs the gamut, from novelists to screenwriters, with some guests even referencing anime, manga, and video games! Currently, my favorite was a writer who authored several erotic Choose Your Own Adventure novels. The panel of hosts couldn't believe such a thing existed and she spent a good several minutes elaborating on it before someone had to steer the conversation back.
So if you swing by my blog looking for writing advice, I highly recommend you steer your podcatcher of choice toward Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
Be Excellent To Each Other.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.