Tag Archives: plot

Nothing to Report

Honestly, I’m more than a little disappointed in myself. I haven’t written anything of substance all week. There was actually only one day this week that I opened my laptop to write. Really, the most constructive time spent on this book was the half hour spent talking about it with one of my writer friends over lunch. While she didn’t give me any answers to my problems, she helped me get a little bit of perspective on the doubts I have been having.

This week I must do better. One of the things that she suggested was to forget about my concerns regarding the weak middle section of my book and just start writing it. Hopefully getting some words on the page may spark some inspiration that will help strengthen the weak spots.

We also discussed the scope of the finale. It would probably be better not to try to make the hero try to save the world. It would make it much more personal and emotional if he is simply trying to save the struggling little family that he has grown to know and love. He doesn’t have to be James Bond, simply a caring human being.

That’s it for today. Time for me to open my novel file and get to work. See you next week!

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Second Thoughts

I didn’t get a lot of work done last week. I took a little break to read a new book from one of my favorite authors, Alex Bledsoe (it was great, by the way), but after I finished my reading I had trouble getting back to work. I think that a big part of my problem is that I am having second thoughts about both my character and my story.

Like I was saying last week, I would love to get some feedback about my story idea to see if it would be something that people would like to read. I’m still waiting. As for my character, I’m having trouble with the idea that a man would still be in such pain over his wife’s death as to be suicidal after twenty years. That just doesn’t seem very plausible, does it?

I was basing my character idea on the main character of the Lethal Weapon movies, Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson. He is so distraught by his wife’s death that he has trouble going on without her. He considers suicide, but is unable to actually pull the trigger. The only thing that keeps him going is his job as a detective, but even there his behavior clearly shows he has a death wish, as he continuously takes extreme risks that could easily get him killed.

The problem is that, with my character, he has had twenty years to move on and learn to live with it. You would expect that after that much time he would either have pulled the trigger or taken that one step too far and gotten himself killed. He wouldn’t still be pining away and sticking his gun in his mouth whenever he gets depressed.

So there goes my first scene. I was planning on opening the book with him having a nightmare about her death and reacting by reaching for his gun. Now I’m thinking that I should drop both the nightmare and the suicide attempt. I can open with him having a nightmare, but I don’t have to describe it. I can mention it, and leave the reader hanging as to what it was about. And I can work in something about his attempts at suicide as a reminiscence he shares with one of the other characters later on in the book. For now, I can simply get him up and moving towards meeting the rest of the cast.

So that’s what I’m working on now. I’m also rethinking how the whole University of Magic comes into play. I was planning on having the young mother he helps to get there be involved somehow, and I think that now I know how. They were going to be working on summoning spells, and maybe she could be involved by trying to contact her recently deceased husband.

I guess what I need to do is nail down how each of the major characters is going to fit into my story. The main character isn’t the only one that can have a story arc and learn something from their adventures. Maybe he can teach her how to deal with her pain. After all, he has been there himself.

As for my need for feedback, please leave a comment if you have something to share. Otherwise, maybe what I need to do is get back in touch with my writing group. I haven’t participated in several months, and maybe it’s time I check in and see how they are doing. I’m sure they could help me fill in the holes and brainstorm stronger plot lines.

That’s it for this week. See you next Sunday!

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Planning Problems

Some of you might be wondering if this blog is about running into problems while planning for my new book, or whether it is about planning the problems that my characters will be running into. Honestly, I’m not sure there is a difference.

First off, let me say that I am disappointed in all of you for not leaving a comment on last week’s post. I was looking for some feedback on my story outline because I am suffering from low self-esteem and kind of think that it might suck. I don’t want to write something that sucks. I want to write something special that people will appreciate and enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the story idea I had is fairly tenable, but I also believe that it could be better. Possibly a lot better. But I’m having trouble figuring out how to fill in the holes and kick it up a notch. So if any of you have any ideas you would like to share with me, please do so ASAP. Thanks.

All right, now that I have that off my chest, let’s get on to where I am in my plans.

I actually haven’t gotten much more done since last week. I tried plotting out the individual scenes that I want to include in the different parts of my book, using a three act structure, but my inspiration ran into a wall as I neared the midpoint and I couldn’t work out what happened next. I’ve got an idea of what is supposed to happen at the midpoint, as well as the ending, but I’m starting to think that that is where my plot falls apart and starts to suck, so I’m having trouble working out the scenes for it.

So instead of planning scenes for the last half of the book, I started writing the first scene. I figured that doing some actual writing might give me some inspiration for filling in the holes in the outline. I’m not sure if it worked, but I did manage to get some words on the page, which led me to working out some of the character details for some of the other people in the story.

The first scene was supposed to be similar to the scene in the Lethal Weapon movie, where Martin Riggs takes out his pistol and considers eating a bullet. I wanted that pain to be one of the first things you see about my hero. But I also wanted there to be some background to it, so I thought I would start with a nightmare that triggered those suicidal thoughts. The nightmare turned into my first scene, and the gun was the second scene. I also decided to watch the movie again to get a better idea of how to write a scene like that, as well as for inspiration about how the loss of a loved one could trigger that kind of death wish. Seeing the film again really helped, and I have a bit of editing to do to tighten up that scene and make it hit even harder. It also made me wonder whether or not I should cut out the nightmare sequence, or at least move it to later in the book. Maybe less is more, and would help make the readers more likely to keep reading so they can find out why he is thinking of killing himself.

As I mentioned, another thing that came out of writing those scenes was the need to fill in some more character details. For instance, I had to come up with a name for Alexander’s dead wife. Once I had that, I filled in some of her history and personality, to help define why he was so in love with her that he can barely manage to function now that she is gone. Once that was done, I also worked out some of the details of the young mother that is going to come into his life now. I decided that one of the reasons that he decides he has to help her is because she reminds him of his dead wife. Not necessarily physically, but in her personality and the way she confronts him. She is the daughter he could have had “if only….”

I expect I’ll keep writing and planning together for a while, filling in the holes and working out the details. But I’m probably not going to be writing every day. I broke my 227 day writing streak on Friday, and I didn’t write anything yesterday either. But this year isn’t going to be focused on how many words I write every day(Sorry, Magic Spreadsheet!), just at writing the best book I possibly can.

We’ll see how it goes, and you can keep up with the word count of my manuscript by following my word count meter here. Otherwise, I’ll be back next week for another update. See you then!

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New Year, New Novel

As promised, today I’m going to give you an update on how the planning for my new novel is going. I have to warn you though. I have been busy, so this post is going to be a long one.

The working title is The Reluctant Hero, as you can see by my new Word Meter on the right. I’ll probably leave the Dirty Little Freaks meter there for a while just because I am proud of having finished it. I did get that last story done before the end of the year, and it wasn’t too terrible. It was about a woman who was lost and stumbled across a secret laboratory. She was taken prisoner and injected with a serum that turned her into a superhero. That’s about it. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the story, like how did she get lost in the first place, who was running the secret lab, and where they all went while the serum was doing its work. If I ever figure out the answers to those questions I might revisit that story, but meanwhile at least it served its purpose as a writing exercise.

Now, back to what you are all waiting for. The new novel!

All right, so the first thing I had to do was decide what I wanted to write about. As I told you last week, my only real idea was to write a story using the old theme of the reluctant hero. Someone who was pulled into a dangerous situation and forced to step up in order to save not only himself, but the whole world. Or at least more of it than would normally fit in his pajamas. So the first thing I needed to do was figure out who this guy was.

I started with a character sketch. I don’t mean a picture, although that will probably come in at some point. No, I mean a description of the character, including name, age, general appearance, and most importantly, his history and personality.

My main character is named Alexander Lunde. I chose the first name because it actually means “defender of mankind” in some languages. Or, at least, that’s what my Scrivener name generator told me. The last name is pretty much just random, except that I thought he should be of Norwegian descent. Just because.

I won’t get into his height and weight, eye and hair color. The important details are that he is a widower. His wife died in “the disaster” and he blames himself, so he lives alone, cutting himself off as much as possible from everyone else. If you want to get into the psychobabble, I suppose that he has low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like he deserves to live among other people. Another reason for his life as a hermit could be that he can’t stand the thought of losing someone else close to him. So he pushes people away, and generally comes across as a grumpy old man.

So that’s where I started. Now, you might have noticed a couple words in quotes in the description above. That was my next step in figuring out where I was going with this story. What, exactly, is “the disaster”?

Well, I decided that I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic tale. That meant that there should be at least the remains of technology available in the ruins of civilization that were still left standing. However, I also like the ideas of magic and monsters. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are high on my reading lists. So what kind of disaster could I come up with that had both science AND magic?

And, if at all possible, dragons.

My brain struggled over this for a while, and finally, out of the storm came this little gem. A comet passed extremely close to Earth, and billions of people went outside to watch as it neared the closest point. Unfortunately, those were the people who died. The comet gave off a strange form of radiation that killed everyone that saw it. The radiation also triggered a reaction deep in the Earth’s core that rekindled a magical force that had been largely depleted over the centuries of humanity’s history. After all, the legends of gods and fairy tales had to come from somewhere, right?

So now I’ve got a man with a past. What about the world of the present?

My next step was to figure out what was going on right now. I had to determine what the world was like in order to figure out how my story would fit in to it. After all, if my reluctant hero was going to have to save humanity, I had to at least find out what he was saving them from.

I already knew it was going to be post-apocalyptic, so that gave me a start. Few people, primarily gathered into small communities, largely either living off the land or scavenging through the ruins. With the magic influence, I decided that along with the bandits that would undoubtedly threaten any travelers, as well as established communities, there would also be fantastical monsters. Goblins, ogres, creatures of both dreams and nightmares, and, most importantly, dragons.

Another thing I had to decide was where it was going to be set. Of course, like most of my books, I decided to set it close to home. Personally, I think that Madison, Wisconsin, would be a fine place to live if most of the people were gone. Especially the idiots in that fancy domed building downtown. There are also plenty of farms and wooded areas around the city that would be excellent places for the survivors to use to start over and support themselves. There are even a few state parks where my hero could live without being bothered.

And there is also the UW campus. Let’s face it, if magic came back into the world, can you think of anywhere better to set up a school of wizardry than the research facilities of a major metropolitan university? It was a perfect place for people to gather together to start researching how to use the new forces of magic that were now available to all.

And that gave me the idea for the plot. These new wizards, just figuring out the “science” of magic, could easily cross one of those lines that are better left uncrossed. In the fantasy books I have read, one of the biggest dangers of using magic is summoning a demon. When dealing with evil creatures from another plane, not only does your spell have to be perfect, but you also have to have an iron will in order to keep body and soul together. Otherwise, what you end up with as a monster terrorizing the neighborhood while bloody chunks drip down the walls of the summoning chamber. Not good.

So I have a hero, a setting, and a climax. Now, how was I going to get Alexander from being a hermit to saving the world from a demonic invasion? And where were the dragons going to come in?

The answer, of course, is to bring in other people. I had to force him to spend time with others in order to be in a position where he had no choice but to be a hero. And who better to transform a grumpy old man into a loving “grandfather” than a little boy (or girl)?

Here’s the rough outline of the plot that I came up with:

Alexander is out hunting and finds a small family en route to the campus that is being attacked by bandits. He saves the family, but the father is injured and the bandits got away with most of their supplies. He reluctantly takes them in while the father recovers, which gives them time to bond with him, despite his efforts to push them away.

After the father recovers, the two of them go into the local town to restock the family’s supplies so they can continue their journey. On the way, they find a dragon’s egg, which they pick up and bring into town. Unfortunately, the dragon tracks them there and attacks the town, killing the young father before it, too is killed.

Alexander goes back to his house and breaks the news to the young wife. She is upset, and Alexander feels really bad. After she calms down, she tells him that she still wants to continue her journey, and she makes him promise to take her. He still has the dragon egg, and decides to take it with them so the people there can study it.

This part needs a bit of work. They get to campus and he sticks around while the girl gets settled with her family. At some point he discovers that the wizards are experimenting with summoning spells. He goes to watch and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Demons start flooding through the portal, and Alexander is hurt badly while trying to fight them off.

The ghost of Alexander’s dead wife then appears to him and tells him that it isn’t his time to die and that he needs to keep fighting or the young mother and her children will die. Her spirit then takes over the unborn dragon egg, which then hatches and helps Alexander fight off the demons and close the portal.

In the end, Alexander, the baby dragon, and the little family go back to his cabin in the woods and live happily ever after.

It’s pretty rough, and as I mentioned, I know there are some problems with the plot, but at least it is a starting point. I welcome any comments, criticism, or suggestions that will help me make it better.

That’s it for today (whew!). I’ll see you next week with another update on my planning. I hope to be able to work out some of the weak spots in this outline and fill in some gaps with a list of the scenes I’ll need to use in order to make this a decent novel. Later!

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Let Your Freak Flag Fly

This week I reached the end of my Dirty Little Freaks collection of short stories. The last one was titled The End, but I may change that after editing. The plot, in a nutshell, was about a young man telling about a day that was both the best and worst day of his life. It started out nicely enough, with great weather on a late spring day. He took his girlfriend to a secluded picnic spot on the lake that only he knew about. They swam for a while, then went back to shore to rest. Since it was such a nice day, he fell asleep, and when he woke up his girlfriend was being abducted by three dwarves. He chased them and caught up to them just before they entered the cave that was their lair. He managed to get her out of their clutches and she hailed him as her hero. They both thought it was over, but as they walked away he fell into a pit and a dwarf crushed his skull.

Not my best work, but it wasn’t too bad for something off the top of my head. A lot like most of the stories I wrote over the last year. Most of them only suck because they weren’t thought through before I started writing. They all contain a kernel of a good idea that just needs a little nurturing in order to become great.

So now what?

I’m glad you asked. Over the next few days I think I’ll work on finishing one of the in-between stories that I started when I was ahead of schedule one week. I’ll also be starting to brainstorm some ideas for the novel I plan on writing next year. I would like to have some of the highlights of the new book down on paper before I start writing. It would be a welcome change for me to know a little bit about my characters and where the story is going before I shoot off into another dead-end.

My character idea so far is a reluctant hero. Someone who would rather just be left alone, but circumstances beyond his control drag him out into the world and make him the center of attention. He has to learn how to deal with other people and their problems in order to solve his own.

As far as the plot goes, I have no ideas. I know that it will need to fit in with my intended character arc, but other than that it could be anything. Fantasy, science fiction, horror. Maybe a mix of all three. I might even throw some romance in there if I can figure out how to make it work with the character.

Thanks for sticking with me over the last year as I wrote my stories. I ended up with over 136,000 words and 57 first drafts. And like I said at the beginning of this post, each of them is an idea which can be used to write something better. And maybe someday I will.

That’s it for today. I’ll see you next week to let you know how the planning for the new novel is going. TTFN!

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The End

This week I start the last short story in my Dirty Little Freaks collection. So I suppose it is fitting that I have decided to call it The End. I’m not exactly sure what the story will be, but that is my theme so far.

Last week’s story was about a girl who went home early and found her father draining the blood from one of their neighbors. Apparently she and her whole family are aliens living in disguise on planet Earth and need human DNA in order to fit in. Kind of a weird story, with some creepy psychopathic elements to it, but nobody actually dies. The stolen blood is replaced by something else that takes its place until the donor can make more.

I know that there are going to be a few days left at the end of the year in which I could write another short story, but I don’t think I will. I might take that time to work on the plot for the novel I intend to write next year, or I may just take a break. In either case, there won’t be 53 weeks of short stories, only 52.

Besides, I have already written five extra short stories this year, counting the writing contests for OddCon and WisCon, and the three extra I wrote while I was ahead of schedule in September. So I have done what I set out to do and I have nothing to apologize for if I stop on the 28th instead of the 31st.

That’s about all I have to say this week. I’ll be back next week for another update, and I’ll let you know how the last freak turned out. See you then!

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Running Out of Steam

I have to say that after a year of writing short stories I am finding it a little hard to find inspiration. I have covered so many different things over the last fifty weeks that finding something new to write is becoming an issue.

Or maybe the problem is just that I am getting tired of doing this over and over again.

Last week’s story was about a party hosted by social vampires. They enticed people into their lair and drained them dry, making them pay for food and drinks and subjecting them to all sorts of depravities, leaving them broke and broken and willing to do anything to get back in. It actually wasn’t much of a story, more of a lecture about how the party started and one man’s efforts to fight back by using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to warn people to stay away. But it could be an interesting premise to write an actual story about. All I would have to do is find the right characters to write about and put them in the thick of things.

I think that maybe this week I’ll take my inspiration from Twitter. I can read a bunch of posts and see if I can find something that inspires me with a “what if?” thought. Otherwise I have no idea what I will be writing this week.

As the year of the Dirty Little Freaks winds down, however, my mind is pushing ahead to next year. Although I hit 200 days on my chain on the Magic Spreadsheet, I think I’m going to stop using it next year. I’ve done what I needed to do and I really don’t have any more to prove. I just want to focus on writing a good novel next year, which means planning it out so that it will be the best story I can write. No more freestyle writing where I have no idea what is going to come out of my mind and onto the page. No more discovering the story as I write it. I want to know what the story is about ahead of time in order to decide whether or not it is worth writing in the first place.

I also want to get some reading done. I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading this last year, and I have an awful lot of books on my shelves that are gathering dust, and I haven’t even cracked their covers yet. I’m talking physical books here, not e-books. Don’t even ask about how many unread books are on my Kindle. It’s obscene.

That’s about it for this week. As always, I’ll fill you in next Sunday on my latest story. And if I’m lucky I’ll have found the inspiration for next year’s novel. See you then!

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Weekly Update

Nothing special to report today. My last story was about a young man walking the line between good and evil. He had grown up without his father and had fallen in with someone in high school who was a bad influence, introducing him to drugs and alcohol. Now that he is out of school, he is finally realizing that there is no future in that relationship, but he doesn’t know how to end the friendship. His uncle sits him down and tells him a story about how he and the kid’s father had crossed that line in their youth, becoming drug dealers and living on the wrong side of the law. He told him how his father had been killed during an ambush while they were making a pick-up from their supplier. That story, along with an understanding of just how much his uncle cared for him, was the deciding factor in making the decision to drop his friend and give up the party life.

It’s not a great story, but it is one of the few that I have written this year that hasn’t had a paranormal or seriously disturbing influence. It was kind of refreshing to write something without a demon or monster in it. I probably won’t be able to continue the trend, but at least I managed the one.

That’s all for today. I’ll check in again next week with another update and fill you in on Dirty Little Freaks story number Fifty. See you then!

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Another False Start

I did it again this week. The beginning of my story was one thing, while the story itself was something completely different. In my defense, however, if this story was a lot longer I might still be able to bring it back around to where I started.

When I begin writing a new story, I try really hard to make the first sentence “pop”. I want to grab your attention right out of the gate. A lot of good writers do this. If you can seize hold of your reader right away you have a better chance of keeping them involved when things slow down.

In this story, I set the scene as my hero lining up to take a shot at something. I didn’t say what it was, just that the fate of the world rested on his shoulders at that moment. And it was all because of something that had started just a few days ago. The rest of the story was told as a flashback, remembering how he had met the woman who had put him there, in that place, with that responsibility.

The problem was that it was supposed to be a short story, and what I wanted to tell was more like a James Bond blockbuster. There was no way I could fit all that into under 10,000 words. So what it ended up being was just a beginning scene. I kind of wrapped it up at the end, but there is so much more to tell in that story. Unfortunately, the rest of it will have to wait until I have more time to spend on it, along with all the other stories like it that I wrote this year.

Which brings me to my next question: What will I be writing next year?

This year of writing a story a week has definitely been interesting, as well as productive. But I’m getting tired of these quick and dirty tales, and would really like to dig into something with some more meat on it again. I want to write another novel.

However, this time I don’t want to just start writing and see where it takes me. I want to take some time and figure out what the story is before I start. I want to know who my characters are at the beginning and where I want them to be at the end. I want to decide what the story is trying to say about life, the universe, and everything before I put my fingers on the keyboard. And, perhaps most of all, I want it to be outstanding.

The stories I have written so far have been okay. I like my characters, even though I have been told that they are so similar it is hard to tell them apart. And even though I put them in danger, there can also be a bit of deus ex machina involved in getting them out of trouble. It makes the story less believable and makes disengages the reader.

I’m not sure what I’ll be writing yet. I could take one of the shorts that I have been telling you about this year and expand it. Or I could write something completely new. It could be horror, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance. Or maybe I might try writing something a little more serious. An attempt at real literature. Something that you might see on Oprah’s book club.

Actually, probably not.

The first step is probably going to be the characters. I think they are the most important part of the story, even more important than the plot. The plot, of course, would be next, but it would fit the characters and the arc I want to take them through before the end. Those two things will help me decide what kind of genre I will be writing.

I guess that’s about all I have to say this week. Congratulations to all of you who participated in NaNoWriMo this year. I wasn’t one of them this year, but speaking as a winner for the last three years I know how hard it is. And even if you didn’t finish I still think you deserve recognition. Hooray for you!

See you next week, and keep on writing!

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How Did I Get Here?

This week my story started out with a boy running from some bullies. Then I turned it into a flashback and by the time I had finished it was essentially an origin story for a superhero like Batman. He found a secret hideout underneath an old, empty warehouse that was full of technology that was beyond what the rest of the world had available. He’s not quite sure if it is alien in origin or not, but he thinks that he can use it to make himself into a hero.

The story isn’t bad, but the first few paragraphs really don’t fit where the rest of the story ended up. They will probably all have to be rewritten or maybe cut altogether for the second draft. It’s kind of an intriguing premise though, and I might just have to explore it again some other day. In the meantime, though, I’m on to story number 48.

It’s hard to believe that we’re this close to the end of the year. It has been a long run, and I think writing all of these short stories has been good for me. They have certainly given me a chance to come up with some interesting ideas for the future. If you have followed my blog, you also know that they have also given me some reason to worry about my sanity. But then, most writers probably think that at one point or another in their careers. How often do you think Stephen King has written something and thought to himself, “What is wrong with me?”

Anyway, since I have spent most of this weekend watching Doctor Who in honor of the 50th anniversary special, I started this week’s story with my main character using some British idioms and references. I probably won’t be able to pull it off for the whole story, but it’s one of those writing exercises that I thought might be interesting. I’ll let you know next week how it went.

Speaking of the Doctor, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to come up with that kind of immortal character? There aren’t many fictional creations that have the worldwide attraction and recognition of Doctor Who. It’s also interesting that the ones that I can think of are British creations, like James Bond and Harry Potter.

Time for a challenge, kiddies! Name some other fictional characters in a long-running series that are widely recognized across the globe. Go ahead, I dare you!

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