Tag Archives: research

Mix and Match

Before you ask, no, I’m not done with my summary yet. I have been working on it, honest! I’m up to over 3,400 words as I write this, but I hit a snag. It’s not a problem with the story so much as that I had a new idea that has got me thinking about a different, and hopefully better, way to bring some conflict into this tale. And that brings me to the topic for today.

A good trick for many authors is to mix and match things that may, at first glance, not seem to fit together. My idea does this.

My NaNoWriMo story this year is about civil war, as the ramifications of the Republican political platform have been weighing heavily on my mind lately. The backwards thinking of the right-wing extremists that have taken control of the GOP have convinced me that this election is the most important vote of my life. And I couldn’t help but to (literally) demonize the crazies by including a supernatural influence in my story. I also thought that this would be a good way to rewrite the first NaNoWriMo book and include the Valkyries I have been writing about since then.

So since I have tossed all these ideas into the melting pot, you can guess that the resulting plot summary is all over the map. As I was working on it tonight I think that I may have come up with a way to bring all this stuff together into a single, cohesive whole. Either that or I have lost it completely and my story will end up even more of a mess than before.

Before I explain my idea, I need to tell you a little bit about myself. First, I am half Norwegian (on my mother’s side). That heritage is why I chose to write about Valkyries in the first place. I had a basic knowledge of the Norse mythology, and over the last couple of years I have amassed a small collection of books that have helped me expand that understanding into something that I can use in my books.

Second, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That’s right, the Mormons. The same church that Mitt Romney says he belongs to, although I don’t think that he is living any of the principles that the church believes in. But I won’t go into that now. If you watched the debates over the last few weeks you should know by now that he is not now, and probably never will be ready to be a good President. And if you disagree with me then you obviously haven’t been paying attention and I probably wouldn’t be able to convince you otherwise, so we’ll leave it at that.

So taking those two things into account, while I have a great respect for my Norwegian heritage, my faith in the LDS church is also very important to me. My first NaNoWriMo effort included some heavy references to my church, and I do want to include that in this book as well. But that brings me to a problem, as well as a possible solution.

The problem is that if the Valkyries and the related mythology are such a big part of this book, how does my main character resolve the conflict between his introduction to the supernatural world and his faith in the Christian God? (No matter what you may have heard, the LDS faith worships the same God as the Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, etc., etc., etc. We just don’t think they are doing it right.)

My solution was that the Christian God is superior to the Norse gods. If you read the Norse mythologies, deities such as Odin, Thor, Loki, and the others are all represented more as super-powered humans than actual gods. As a matter of fact, I think that there are some experts on this mythology that think that the Norse pantheon is actually a tale of a group of actual people that has been exaggerated way out of proportion over the course of history. They think that these adventurers simply had a really good bard to tell their stories, making them into the stuff of legends.

What this means for my hero is that he can keep his faith while fighting side by side with Thor. He can take comfort in the prospect of going to heaven while he is battling the demons of Loki’s army.

Working with one of the Einherjar (the warriors of Valhalla) may be a little harder to explain, but I’ll figure that out when I get to it.

So here is where we come to the idea that could bring this all together. As I was thinking about the Norse mythology, I started thinking about Ragnarök. The Norse Armageddon was something that I had thought about including before, but now I think that their version of the end of the world could be the one thing that pulls this all together.

I think I can plan the book so that my hero is thrown into one scenario after another from the prophecy of Ragnarök. The parts would have to be changed in order to more include more demons than giants, but I think that this could help to focus the plot into a recognizable pattern. Not too recognizable, as I want it to be a surprise when I pull out the reveal that this s all a lead-up to Armageddon, but I think it could definitely work.

So that’s where I’m going to have to focus my efforts. I’m going to try to finish the summary with that end goal in mind, and then when I break it up into a usable outline I can interweave the Ragnarök theme into it as appropriate.

Please let me know what you think of this plan. Is this a workable idea, or am I way off base? Any input would be appreciated.

I’ll check in again on Sunday. See you then!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under About Me, NaNoWriMo, Politics, The Writing Experience

Stealing from the Best

I’m still plugging away at my plan for NaNoWriMo in November. I was playing around with some ideas for the plot this morning and had a bit of an epiphany.

My idea has some small parallels with the original Star Wars trilogy. Maybe I should pattern it after the movies. Then I would have not just one, but three books that I could write.

Now before you get all hot and bothered about stealing ideas from other creators, let me remind you of one thing: THAT’S WHAT WRITERS DO!

Seriously, there are only so many plots available to write. Every author takes one (or more) of them and creates his own story from that basic idea. I’m certainly not going to plagiarise George Lucas. There is no way that I can write about my Valkyries fighting a demon incursion and have to worry about George setting his lawyers after me.

What I mean, is that I can write my story in such a way that my characters will be hooking up with a rebel force and at the end they will take down a major demon stronghold. It won’t be the Death Star, but it will be big, nasty, and destroying it will be a huge setback for the demons. After that I can write a second book in which the demons “strike back”, and lastly one in which the rebels, led by my main characters, take down the evil empire.

Although I won’t be copying the movies, I do want to watch them again before I start writing. I’ve got a whole stack of other dystopian films to go through as well, so I will certainly be busy for the next month.

I may end up changing my mind about this idea, but for now that is what I am going with. Let me know what you think. I could use a second (or third, fourth, ninety-eighth) opinion before I make a big mistake. Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out who will be the evil emperor behind all the chaos.

Speaking of evil empires, I learned today that the governor of my state (but definitely not MY governor), the weasel Scott Walker, is going to start a national narc campaign. “If you see something, tell somebody.” This whole idea gets under my skin in so many ways.

First off, remember that this is from a man who has to have a legal defense fund, has had several of his political “achievements” turned over because they are illegal and/or unconstitutional, and who has spent most of his term touring the country because he is afraid to show his face in Wisconsin. If this goes into effect, you would think he would realize how many calls they are going to get about him and his cronies. Not a good idea.

Secondly, if I remember my history correctly, the Nazis had a similar program to flush out Jews. I know Joseph McCarthy did at the height of the Red Scare. This is how it started. A seemingly innocent program that sounds like it is only intended to flush out the criminal element, but it quickly turns neighbors and co-workers against each other.

For the last ten years we have been trying to regain our privacy and freedom from the “Homeland Security Agency”. The paranoid extremists took the opportunity given them by the tragedy of 9/11 to get a toe hold into our democracy, and that crack has only widened over the last decade. I really don’t think this country needs another witch hunt. It will bring nothing but pain and injustice to a country that needs, more than ever, to come together.

Whatever happens in the next couple months, I hope and pray that we as a nation will be able to come to our senses and go back to the good and decent country that I grew up in. Please remember to VOTE in November. Do your part to make my dream come true.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with another update. Don’t forget to leave a comment for me!

2 Comments

Filed under NaNoWriMo, Politics, The Writing Experience

Where to Begin?

I have an idea.

I started working out the details of the setting for my story. It’s important to know something about their world so the characters have a background to work in.

I have identified most of the major characters and given them a place in the world.

Now I need to take all of this and plan it out so that my idea, characters, and setting turn into a solid story. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

The first problem is that the setting for my story is a little overwhelming. My last post gave some of the details of that world, and if you read it all the way through you are probably as depressed as I am about the current political situation in the United States. I’m not sure how I am going to be able to make it through the next six weeks before the election on November 6. The only comfort I have is that, based on the polls, Romney really doesn’t stand a chance of winning. But then, elections have been bought before. Just look at the results of Scott Walker’s recall election for proof of that one. I’m also still convinced that George Bush rigged both of his election victories.

Another problem is that I am using characters from stories I have already written. This story is kind of a new spin on my first NaNoWriMo project, with the addition of the main characters from my two Valkyrie novels. The main character from my first book, however, will be a bit different from the way he was originally portrayed, and the story itself will be a lot different.

Since I am using the main characters of three of my previous novels, I want to give each of them a chance to shine in this one. So I will need to figure out how to switch between character viewpoints as I write. The book I just finished used multiple character viewpoints, but I don’t think I did it very well. I’m hoping that with a little more planning I’ll be able to do a better job of it this time. I’m thinking of switching viewpoints between chapters, and with a little preparation I’ll be able to plan each of my chapters in advance and decide which character will be the focus of each point of the story.

The last problem I have is figuring out how to present my idea as a solid story with a plot that people will be able to follow. Right now my idea is solely a civil war to reclaim the country from the dark forces that have taken over the Republican party and stolen the last election. That’s a pretty vague idea. What I really need to do is figure out how my characters fit into this idea. I need to figure out where they are when the story starts, what pulls them into the rebellion, how they manage to win in the end, and most importantly, what vital parts of their personality are revealed and change over the course of the story.

Because it’s really all about the characters, right?

Seriously, while I honestly think that the Republican party has recently become not just a bad idea, but an active evil that needs to be stopped, I don’t want this story to just be my own little political rant. I’m not here to get up on my soapbox and scream my beliefs to the world. I’m here to tell an entertaining story, and hope that my readers learn a little bit about both themselves and the world they live in by the time they reach the end. And hopefully what they learn will help to make this world a better place for all of us.

I don’t have a lot done yet. I think I may need to re-read my previous stories, if only to get some of the names and character details straight. I’m still mulling over how I’m going to start. I’m watching some dystopian movies for ideas. I just finished watching Soylent Green, which was eye-opening for me. It’s actually a fairly good representation of the world I think we are headed for if the Republicans take control. High unemployment, people living in the streets, crime is rampant even among the police, women are treated as “furniture”, and the big corporations can do anything they want because they are in charge of it all.

As always, I appreciate any comments you might have for me. What is your favorite dystopian movie? Leave a note about it and I’ll see if I can find a copy to add to my viewing list before November 1. And check in again on Wednesday for another update.

1 Comment

Filed under NaNoWriMo, Politics, The Writing Experience

Vacation/Research

I didn’t get a lot of writing done in the last few days (almost none, in fact). The reason for this lack of butt in chair is that I was on vacation with my wife. We traveled to Door County, Wisconsin. It is a well-known tourist spot for Wisconsinites, and although we have lived in Wisconsin for decades (me about 25 years, she her entire life), neither of us has ever been there. So we decided to rectify that omission this week in celebration of our 15th anniversary.

It was a long trip north from Madison. Almost a four-hour drive, so we left before 8:00 AM. It wasn’t easy for our little car, but we took it easy and our GPS kept us mostly heading in the right direction. I thought that we were going to have trouble finding WiFi access while we were up there, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it almost everywhere, including the little B&B we stayed in. It is called the Cornerstone Suites, and is a converted barn.

They have four suites available. We stayed in the Garden Suite. It was fabulous, and I would definitely recommend it. We would have loved to stay longer, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford it this year. But it will definitely be top on our list when we go back.

Our anniversary wasn’t the only reason we decided to go to Door County this year. The other reason we went is because I wanted to do some research for the Valkyrie book I wrote last fall. I set the story in Door County and I wanted to check out some of the places in person that I had written about earlier. I also wanted to take some pictures that I could potentially use for a book cover. I think I was successful in both endeavors.

We started by going to Cave Point County Park. This is the place that I wanted to use for my book cover. The shoreline is very rocky, and the waves from the lake have work caves into the shore. It’s really cool, and I took a lot of pictures like these:

     

     

          

Next on my list of things to do was visit Washington Island. It is a large island just off the north tip of the mainland. It is accessible by ferry, and we caught the last one of the day. The Island Clipper took us through the infamous Death’s Door channel and we landed on the island at about 4:45 PM. That only gave us fifteen minutes to explore, but that was okay with me. I was mainly interested in the boat ride and not the island. Once again, my camera was busy on the trip over, and I got shots like these:

                         

After the ferry, my wife and I were pretty worn out. We stopped at a farm market and picked up some of the cherry goods that Door County is famous for. Then we found a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. The waiter joked that the food was excellent but the service left something to be desired. I won’t mention the name of the place, because when we left we were agreeing with him. The food was great, but our waiter was a bit slow. He was very accommodating, and brought us everything we wanted, including some non-alcoholic cherry spumante, which was really good. But they charged fifteen dollars a bottle for something that we could have bought in the store for six. The total bill (including tip) was $120, which is a lot of money for dinner for two. I’m sorry to say we probably will never go back again.

The next morning we had to check out by 11:00 AM, so we didn’t do much, just laid in bed and read a little before breakfast. We went to a little cafe which had excellent, but simple fare. My wife had cherry pancakes, which had whole cherries baked into them, while I had a nice ham and cheese omelet. Then we went back to the B&B, packed our suitcase, and left for home. We stopped at the Door County Maritime Museum on the way back. I was hoping to find something about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but was told that they had that exhibit last year. This year the star attraction was about pirates.

I did manage to learn some cool things though, and it was worth the stop. We probably should have spent more time tooling around town, but my wife wanted to get home to her animals, so we didn’t stick around. The only stop we made on the way back was at a Subway for lunch, and we made it back before 4:00 PM.

The rest of the day on Friday and all day Saturday we mostly spent in recovery mode. We read our books and watched a couple of movies. In short, we just enjoyed being home together. That’s got to be the best way to end a vacation, in my humble opinion.

So I managed to get lots of pictures, and the places and things I saw up north were definitely worth the trip. It gave me a few ideas for some revisions in the book that I will be pondering over for a while.

Speaking of edits, I am still working on the revisions for the first chapter of my current YA project. Even though I did almost zero writing for the last few days, I think the time off helped me to gel some of the ideas in my subconscious, and the next draft should end up to be that much better for it.

I’ll be checking in again on Wednesday. I hope to have the revisions done by then and maybe be finished with Chapter Two. See you then!

1 Comment

Filed under About Me, ROW80, The Writing Experience

Premature Editing

I seem to have a problem. As I have been writing the first draft, I have been feeling less than satisfied with the work that I have done so far. I showed the first couple thousand words to my writer’s group, and they agreed that it isn’t working. So the dilemma is, should I start rewriting it now, before it gets worse, or push on until I finish my first draft?

Most writers will tell you that doing major edits before you finish the first draft is a good way to make sure you NEVER finish the first draft. Most of the time, I would agree. But my writing group has pointed out a couple of big problems with the start of my book, and I am wondering if the edits needed for my story would be a good exception to that rule. So I’m thinking about holding off on further work until I redo the opening.

Here’s the scoop for the first problem: I wrote a short prologue, which described how a comet smashed into an alien planet, knocking a piece loose, which then traveled through space until it came to Earth, where it started irradiating the food in a remote cabin. My group felt that the perspective was confusing, as I first described the comet, then told how it smashed into the planet, then described the rock breaking loose and drifting through space, and finally how the rock landed next to the cabin.

While I was writing it, I thought it was a nice little cycle, showing first one cosmic collision, and then another. I wanted to be clear how a piece of another world was the cause of the super powers that I was going to give the kids. My writing group understood that part, but they thought that the backstory of the rock was probably a bit too much. They suggested I focus solely on the rock and forget about how it was set in motion by a comet hitting its home planet. I think they might be right, and I don’t really need the prologue at all, so I’ll have to think about what I’m going to do about this.

This is something that doesn’t NEED to be rewritten right now.

The second problem is this: I’m writing the book in third person, but I thought that it would be nice to go deep into the characters as I wrote the opening, telling the story from each of their perspectives in turn. I thought that would be a good way to get into their heads, and while technically it was still third person, it was practically the same as being in first person, with the exception of the pronouns.

That was a mistake. I opened from the point of view of one of the boys, and the whole scene was about him. None of the other characters were introduced at all. In short, the entire scene could probably be cut.

Another problem with that scene is that the boy in question is supposed to be aggressive, with serious anger management issues, and while I alluded to that somewhat in his scene, the next scene where he interacted with the second boy made him seem more of a nice, friendly boy, with none of the aggression that I wanted him to have. The story would be more interesting if there was some kind of conflict, like perhaps between the two boys. The problem with making them enemies is that eventually they need to work past their differences and work together as a team. And that might be a bit too much conflict for the kind of book I want to write.

So here’s the scoop. I really think I need to rewrite the first chapter. I can change to a true third person perspective and drop the individual character viewpoints. I can add more conflict, either between the boys, or another option is to have the angry boy defend the other boy for some reason. That would insert some conflict while also giving them a reason to be friends. And I want the first day at camp to end with the four main characters starting to build a friendship that will solidify into a team later on.

This is something that I think really HAS to be done. If I don’t, the personalities of the kids and their relationships won’t be adequately defined for the later scenes. And that would just mean more problems that would have to be edited later.

What do you think? Is this something that I should allow myself to do? Or should I push on and try to keep the future editing choices in the back of my head as I finish my first draft? Please leave me a comment with your thoughts.

I’ll heading north for a short vacation in Door County for the next couple of days, which means I probably won’t get much writing done for the rest of the week. However, I will be checking out some of the sites I used in my last novel, taking lots of pictures and getting a personal look at the places I wrote about. I’m hoping that will help me when I start rewriting that book later on.

See you on Sunday!

3 Comments

Filed under ROW80, The Writing Experience

Almost Ready

I have been thinking, and thinking, and thinking, and now I am almost ready to start writing. The plot outline is coming together, and even though there is a lot of research I would like to do, I am going to start writing on July 1. I am also going to be joining the next round of ROW80, which should help me to focus on the book. My goal is simply going to be to finish the first draft by the end of September. That shouldn’t be a problem.

Today I went through my list of scenes and compiled them into a Word document that I could use as a basic outline. I thought that putting them all on one page might help me figure out where outline might need a bit of reinforcement. There are several places where I think I can expand on my initial thoughts, and in the end it should be stronger, as well as keep me more focused as I write.

Of course, all of this work on the outline might change as I start getting into the story and begin building a closer relationship with each of the characters. It is going to be hard for me to do this, as all of my writing so far has been using a first person viewpoint, and now I am going to write from the third person viewpoint and have FOUR main characters! It’s definitely going to be a struggle for me, but I don’t know of any other way to do this.

I’m planning on starting with a short prologue, showing a meteorite falling to Earth. That little rock will be the source of the superpowers. We’ll probably never see it again. After that I will introduce the kids as the get off the bus for their four weeks at the camp. I was thinking about giving each of them their own scene, showing how they feel about being there and giving me a chance to show the camp from four different viewpoints, but that might make the opening drag on too much. I may be able to condense it into one or two scenes and still give each of them a short introduction. I also need to introduce some of the camp counselors, because they will be important later on.

After the introductions, I’ll go through a little bit of camp routine, and then the campers will go on a nature hike. While they are in the woods a storm will come up, forcing them to seek shelter in a nearby cabin (which is also where the meteorite landed). Some of them will get injured, including one of the counselors. The other counselor will stay with them until the storm passes, then tell them to stay put while he goes for help. The kids will get hungry and eat some food they find in a cupboard, and promptly regret it. The food has been contaminated by the meteorite and they get sick as their bodies change and they get their powers.

A few scenes showing how their powers manifest, and a pact of secrecy, and then they will find the dead bodies. The cabin is also the lair of a serial killer, and the kids decide they will use their new gifts to catch him. Unfortunately, their plan doesn’t go well, and when he shows up one of them dies. The injured counselor is also murdered.

They run back to the camp to get the police, but when they get there they have trouble getting people to believe their story. Their problem is compounded by the fact that when the police investigate the cabin they don’t find any bodies. The kids are now in trouble, but the camp is responsible for them for another three weeks and they convince the police to give them another chance.

The next three weeks are hard for the young superheroes. They get together as often as they can to practice their powers and plan their revenge against the killer. They are forced into action on the last day of camp, and escape back to the cabin, where they are promptly caught by the villain.

Things are looking grim for our heroes when out of the blue the dead kid appears, alive and well. It turns out one of his powers is regeneration, and he came back to life and escaped while the killer was hiding the other bodies. His sudden appearance startles the bad guy, allowing the kids to turn the tables and tie him up. They take him back to camp and turn him over to the police with enough evidence to put him away for life. The kids are heroes and are sent back home to their parents with thanks.

My thoughts for the end of the book are that the killer has also developed some superpowers, and he uses them to escape, vowing revenge against the kids that caught him. This would leave the story open for a possible sequel. I’m not planning anything as a follow-up just yet, but if I get any ideas it would be nice to have that option.

So that’s the plan. I’m going to take some more time for the rest of this week to expand a bit on my character sketches and fill in some of the gaps in my outline, but I really think I will be ready to start writing on Sunday. This is the first time I have had a complete story planned before I started writing, and I really hope that will make my writing stronger. It would be nice to finish a first draft and not feel like it was a wasted effort. I think that every single one of my previous stories is going to need a complete rewrite, keeping only a bare minimum of the original. Hopefully this one will only take minor editing.

The last post on the ROW80 blog said that the official start of the next round will actually be on Monday, July 2, so check back with me then and I’ll give you an update on how I did for my first day of writing. See you then!

Leave a comment

Filed under ROW80, The Writing Experience

It’s Starting to Look Like an Outline

Even though I gave up on my outline plan early on, I haven’t given up on outlining. The work I did on the brainstorming and working out some of the details really helped me get a handle on the story I want to tell. I also now have an idea about the kids, the camp, and the source of their powers. I still need to work on the killer, and some details about where the main action is taking place, but at least I have a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end.

I decided that the powers are going to come from cosmic radiation infecting the MREs. The radiation will come from a meteorite found by one of the camp counselors. I’m thinking of introducing this using a prologue showing the counselor finding the rock and putting it in the cupboard. I’m toying with the idea of having something happen to the counselor, but I haven’t decided yet how that will go.

I have also been thinking about the camp and its counselors in another way. My original plan was to drop the kids in the middle of the woods after a tornado and having them have to deal with being alone, injured, and far from home. Then I started thinking about the possibility of using one of the camp counselors as the killer, to bring the murders a little bit closer to home. The problem with that idea is that I don’t want to disparage the good work that camps like this actually do. I have the utmost respect for the people who work with troubled teens in an effort to get them back on track, and if I make one of the counselors the killer that could get a bad reaction from the people involved in those efforts. On the other hand, maybe there are people out there involved in these types of programs when they shouldn’t be. It’s kind of like the problem with the Catholic priests abusing the altar boys. 99% of the priests may have been fine people who wouldn’t even think of doing something like that. But the problem continued for years because nobody wanted to say anything against the church so that they could do something about that 1% who were ruining the lives of those young boys. I think it might make the story more powerful, and certainly make it harder for the kids to bring the killer to justice if it was one of the counselors. It would also open up the story to allow me to bring in some of the other counselors to show the good work they do.

It’s a conundrum. If I go with that plan, the storm would still happen, but the kids won’t be swept away in a tornado. Instead, they could be isolated on a backpacking or canoeing trip, along with the killer counselor and maybe one other adult. The killer might bring them to the cabin where he has been killing his victims simply to provide shelter from the storm, and then have to cover his tracks later when the kids start finding the bodies. I’m still trying to decide which way to go. Does anyone out there have any advice?

Another concern that I have is in regards to the camp. It has been over 25 years since I attended any kind of summer camp, and I simply don’t have any experience with the kinds of programs that they might use for troubled teens. I’m thinking of putting in things like one-on-one sessions with counselors, as well as group therapy where the kids share how they got into trouble in the first place and why they want to turn things around for themselves. What I really need to do is contact some of the camps in my area and ask some questions. The problem is that the two closest ones that I found are a six to eight-hour drive from my house. I was planning on going on a research trip for my vacation in a couple of weeks, but my plans were to head in the other direction and do some research for my last Valkyrie story. I’m willing to change my plans, but my wife isn’t so adaptable. She wants to stick to the original plan and maybe deal with the summer camp issue some other time.

I wonder if some of the urban programs might serve as a model for what they might do in the wilderness? Either way, I have research to do. I’m not sure if I will do that research before I start writing, or after my first draft, but it will have to be done eventually to make sure I don’t screw something up. This is actually a reason for me to use the tornado idea. It would let me pull the kids out of there before I have to start worrying about how the camp operates.

I’m going to go back to my modeling website to find a good villain or two. If I’m going to have a good counselor to offset the bad one I will need to pick out one of those as well. Or maybe I could go back to one of the websites for the real camps and pull out a picture from their photo gallery. That might be even better.

My plan is to finish what I can of the outline this week. I would like to start writing on July 1, but that depends on whether or not I do my research before or after the first draft. I’ll probably go with after, even though it could mean a drastic rewrite after the research is done. The good thing is that I would be writing again, and considering the length of time since I have done any actual writing, I think it would be better to jump back in even if I’m not quite ready.

Thanks for sticking around with me. I’ll post again on Wednesday to let you know how close I am to being ready to write, and I’ll probably be joining the ROW80 group again for the next round starting July 1. See you later!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writing Experience

Making Sense of It All

Last week I spent a few days doing some brainstorming. I started with a What If question that led to another, and another, and another, until I had eighteen questions in all. Those eighteen questions gave me a basic plot outline, taking my characters from introduction to ending. Then I started filling in the blanks by asking more questions to help me refine and further define the original questions. That led me to a list of questions five pages long, and over 2000 words. Now I think I am ready to start answering at least some of those questions. But how do I do it?

I started by printing my list. And then, of course, I forgot it on my desk at work. So the plans I had for this weekend kind of went up in smoke. I suppose I could print it again at home, but I’m not into wasting paper, so I’m going to do what I can without the printout. I still have the file, so it’s not like I don’t have the list, it just means I have to either flip between programs or set up my second monitor in order to be more efficient. And I like to be efficient. That’s one of my own OCD characteristics, I guess.

Speaking of characteristics, one of the questions I had to ask in my brainstorming session was “What are the character’s personalities and interests?” I have really got to answer that soon, as I still don’t really know much about my characters. So, in an attempt to get started on that, I made a list of things I would like to know about each of my four main characters. It’s not much, but it’s a start. The list covers three main areas: History, Personality, and Interests. Here it is:

History:

  • Parents:
  • Grandparents:
  • Siblings:
  • Other relatives:
  • Significant other:
  • Friends:
  • Enemies:
  • Wealth & Class:
  • Style of dress:
  • IQ/Grade:
  • Significant events:
  • Blessings:
  • Curses:

Personality:

  • Wants:
  • Needs:
  • Strengths:
  • Flaws:
  • Character arc:

Interests:

  • Hobbies:
  • Favorite classes:
  • Favorite books/movies/music:

As you can see, the list is fairly basic. The largest section is the character history, and a lot of that section asks who else is in their family. That part is probably going to be the hardest one for me to fill in, actually, as I have trouble giving names to my characters. To be honest, most of the names that I have chosen for my characters are actually the real life names of the models and actors that I chose as inspiration. I started with different names, but then I decided that it may be helpful to use real names to make the kids reading the story relate better to the characters. After all, if they know actual people with the same or similar names, maybe they wouldn’t think so much about the fact that it was written by someone four times older than they are.

I plan on spending the next week going through all of my questions and figuring out how to answer them. I’ll fill in any holes and trim out any unnecessary fat. And then I’ll see if I can figure out how to present all of that information in an exciting and entertaining way. The main thing is that I will have to make sure my writing makes the characters come alive and doesn’t leave the reader feeling like something was missing. Without, of course, making it seem like they just sat through a three-hour lecture.

Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.

My final thought for the day is that my attempt to follow the schedule in the First Draft in 30 Days book is a failure. I can’t say it is a complete failure, even though I didn’t get past the first week, because it taught me a lesson. The lesson is that the method doesn’t work for me.

Writers are individuals. Maybe even more so that most people, because they try to have a deeper connection with both themselves and others as they write. The purpose of telling a story is to connect with someone else, to share a piece of life, even if it isn’t real. And although there are many, many, many books giving tips on writing, in the end you have to pick and choose what works for YOU. If you don’t, you won’t get that connection with your reader because you haven’t really connected with yourself.

I’ll probably post again on Wednesday, so check back and see what I’ve been up to. I’m going to try to work out some of the details for at least one of my characters by then. See you then!

2 Comments

Filed under The Writing Experience

Finding My Story

I have been trying to work on an outline for my new story, but I am having a lot of trouble nailing down the plot. This is probably due to the fact that I started this process with only an idea that I wanted to write in a particular genre, and not with an actual idea of a story. And so it shouldn’t be any wonder that now that I am working on the outline I can’t seem to nail down anything that seems worthy of writing.

Here’s the scoop. I decided that instead of working on editing my paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels, I would take a break from that whole world and write a mid-grade mystery story. I have no experience writing mysteries, and they aren’t something on my regular reading list. I also haven’t read a lot of mid-grade fiction recently, other than the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins, the same woman who wrote the Hunger Games. This puts me at a bit of a disadvantage while I am trying to figure out how to write this book.

When I think of mysteries for kids, the first books that spring to mind are the Alfred Hitchcock & the Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur. The series began in 1964, and I believe it was reissued in the 90s under the shortened moniker of the Three Investigators. Apparently it is still popular, or at least enough to spur the production of at least two recent movies based on the books. The main characters of the books are three young boys, with the brains of the outfit being Jupiter Jones. They kids work out of a trailer in the middle of a salvage yard, and they have all sorts of adventures that usually involve a supernatural element, kind of like Scooby Doo and the gang. And it is up to Jupiter Jones and his crew to solve the mystery and bring the criminals to justice.

There are also several other classic mystery series written for kids, like Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and the Boxcar Children. I have recently picked up the first five books in the Boxcar series to use as an example for this effort. Of course, reading these books also gives me more ideas for alternative ways to write my own book.

And that, of course, is my main problem right now. It seems like every time I make some progress working out my plot, I have another idea for a different way to write it. I started thinking about writing the story with three or four main characters that are investigating a mystery, like with the Three Investigators books. Then I thought it would be cool to give the kids superpowers, because I like writing about the paranormal, and that sort of book seems to be pretty popular nowadays, even with younger kids. Then I started thinking about having a government conspiracy, or a secret lab, that was responsible for giving these kids their powers.

Then I got sidetracked and thought maybe it would be better to have one main character with the superpowers, but one of her powers was to trigger powers in others. I thought maybe she would be in a foster home because her parents disappeared years ago and are presumed dead, but she thinks they are still alive, and the mystery they have to solve is to find her family.

Then my thoughts took another turn and I started wondering about maybe having the kids meet in a summer camp. I haven’t gone very far along this track yet, but I thought that maybe it would be easier to write without offending anyone, because I don’t want to risk disrespecting the foster family programs. And I would also be easier to deal with their powers, as the camp could be responsible for giving them their powers, as well as training them how to use them. But the mystery angle would be more difficult to fit in.

The most recent distraction, as I said earlier, was to maybe have all the kids either orphans or runaways, and living in the wild like the Boxcar Children. The danger with going this route is that it may seem to reminiscent of the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson, and the mystery plot would again be harder to fit into this kind of story.

All of these notions have their merit, and maybe what I need to do is figure out which parts of each idea would be best to keep, and which won’t work at all. Maybe I’ll end up with a group of kids on their own living in an abandoned summer camp while they search for their parents and developing powers from something that was left behind. Or maybe something completely different.

Do any of you have any advice?

2 Comments

Filed under The Writing Experience

The Outline Begins!

On Friday, June 1, I began a 30 day outline plan. I am using the schedule provided in the book “First Draft in 30 Days” by Karen S. Wiesner to get this done.

Day 1: Character Sketches.

This didn’t go very well. I hate doing character sketches, so I didn’t do a whole lot. I started by naming the main characters and deciding on their hair color and ages. Then I went to a teen modeling website and found pictures of kids that I could use for inspiration. They will help me picture the kids in my head as well as provide a basis for description. I haven’t put anything down on paper yet describing their actual personality though. At this point I don’t know anything about them, they are just faces in a crowd.

Day 2: Setting Sketches and Research List

Again, this didn’t go very well. I made a list of possible places where the story could go, and tried to find pictures online for the area. I plan on setting the story in the neighborhood where I grew up, and use my old house for the main character of the story. The trouble is that this town is in another state and I haven’t been there for almost thirty years. I asked my mother for pictures of the old homestead, but she is currently on the West Coast visiting my older brother and almost certainly doesn’t have any of those pictures with her. The good news is that her house is nearby, so if she can tell me where her photo albums are I may be able to get them myself.

Another thing that I did on Day 2 was rename most of my characters. I decided to actually use the first names of the models I selected instead of the ones I had originally chosen. I made them all a year older as well, to match the ages of the models, but I may change that back later. The problem is that if they are a year older, then they will be freshmen in high school instead of in the 8th grade. Since I left that town before I started high school, I don’t know what the high school was like. That makes it a bit harder for me to use the place in my story. Of course, I barely remember the middle school that I went to, so it probably doesn’t matter either way.

As far as the research list goes, I didn’t do that at all. Since I am still unclear on most of the plot, I have no clue what I will need to research. I’m hoping that will change by the end of today.

Day 3: Plot Sketch

Today I need to figure out the high and low points of my plot. I need to decide exactly what kind of story I am writing here and make sure it is something that people will want to read. I have a general idea of what I want (detective story with elements of the paranormal and a possible government conspiracy), but it is time to get the half-formed thoughts out of my head and onto the page. I don’t need to work out the whole flow of the book today, but I need to at least get it started.

The next two days are scheduled for writing my summary outline, which will be where I set out all those other details. After that is almost a week of research. I think that I will probably end up using a lot of that time ironing out all the details about character, setting, and plot that I glossed over earlier.

I’m not sure how well this process is going to go, but I am hoping that by the end of June I will have a decent outline and will be able to start writing the story on July 1. I’ll post regular updates to let you all know how it is going, so stay tuned!

1 Comment

Filed under The Writing Experience