Sunday, October 30, 2011

The balance between normalcy and paying hommage to the premise

As diverse as the genres are, they all face the same issue, how much every day situation to mix with the ingredient that defines the work's genre. In erotica, it's how much every day situation to mix in with the sex. In romance, it's how much plot to mix in with the navel gazing and romantic angst. In fantasy, it's how much dining and conversation to mix in with the magic and world building. Oversimplifications, obviously, but the point is valid. Readers are lured to books by the genre. What happens after that depends on the cover art and the author.

When I first started my sci-fi WIP, I fretted regularly about inserting too much of those things that make like normal. Pass the salt, please, that sort of thing. At some point, I stopped worrying about it, and just wrote the chapters as I envisioned them, complete with stopping the science in order to allow the characters to grab something to eat. I'm not experienced enough to know if it's too much. It'll be a concern throughout the process of revising and querying. But it feels right to give the reader the whole picture. It gives the reader a contrast between the reality he may live every day, and the other worldliness he's looking for in a sci-fi book. It makes the characters feel more human, more familiar, and hopefully it makes it easier for the reader to slip into the fictive dream.  Without it, it would be like that plaque in the picture, part of the story would be illuminated, and it would shine, but the rest would be obscure, and the reader wouldn't get the whole picture.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Setting is a loaded gun

They say men are visual creatures. I have to agree.

I feel a compulsion to provide the reader with a setting for every scene in the book. I know some authors get away with not providing one. Asimov is notorious for having scenes in white rooms with no walls, but the brief descriptions of settings he gave were magnificent. Tolkien, on the other hand went into so much setting, that his books, as brilliant as I think they are, dragged in certain parts. I don't want to drag the story down, but it's hard not to pass along the setting. For every scene in the book, there's a setting in my head. It's dangerous.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The ugly duckling first draft

It's still an ugly duckling. It feels like some headway is being made, but progress is slow. I'm at what I'd call the beginning of the end. It's a part of the story that was the foggiest going into the sequencing and smoothing out phase. I was very clear on the beginning, there was a distinct early middle, and a distinct ending. Transitioning from that early middle to the end has proven harder than any of the writing up to this point. All the pieces have to have been developed just the right amount, and it has to fit like a glove. Right now, it doesn't.

Because it's hard, because I have to sit there and re-configure this section to make the transition smooth, I pick up the computer with less enthusiasm than when I'm on those juicy parts that were so much fun to play with in my mind. I'd love for these parts to be just as juicy, but I fear I'm not smart enough to make it happen, so I'm going to have to go with functional, and semi-entertaining for now. Damn it.

I figure in another couple months, I'll be into the end chapters, and that'll make it cruise, because those have already been rehashed in my mind so often, that they are too clear to take long. I know what I want them to look like, and it'll just be a matter of sequencing events, and cutting anything that isn't part of that vision.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The good and bad of description

We all know people who are engaging when telling verbal stories. Typically, there's a flair to the way the story is told that elevates the storyline. Had the same story been told by someone with a monotone voice and expressionless eyes, it wouldn't nearly as interesting.

We writers don't have the luxury of facial expressions and hand gestures to aid us. We don't have props like mood music that a movie uses to enhance the pleasure of the customer. So it's all about the words, ideas and colors we can paint. If that's the case, how long would it take to describe the scene above? Too long.

There's a part of me that resents that the words I offer up are dependent to a large degree on the reader's experience. I have to keep the words limited, so a flower arrangement in a silver vase on a marbled counter top will have to do. Those words will elicit a different vision in every reader's mind. Then there's the part of me that likes the fact that I really can't mess it up this way. Someone may not like the arrangement above. If I was able to describe it perfectly, some would scrunch their nose and wonder why the MC likes the arrangement. But if the description is vague and the reaction of the MC clearly shows he likes the arrangement, as long as the reader is in the fictive dream, his mind will conjure up a vision that is pleasing to him. It almost feels like cheating.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The birth of a whodunnit

So it's been a while again, since the wife and I had a roll in the hay. Whenever that happens, fantasies appear out of thin air. I don't seek them out, they just happen involuntarily, particularly right before I go to sleep and right after I awake.

Typically, whenever that happens, I run to the wife and beg, or just do it the old fashioned way and get her drunk, but this time I thought the fantasy was kind of interesting, so I abstained from chasing the wife a few days and re-visited it. That's right, that's how fucking sick I am, I'll abstain from having sex with the wife when I want it because I think it might ruin a potential story. Because, believe me, once the sex is over, the fantasy disappears and it's back to my usual dull thoughts.

At first I thought it might turn into an erotica story I could take a shot at writing. I tried once before under similar circumstances and didn't like the outcome. The characters were simple. The plot was built for a quickie. It was essentially a raunchy Penthouse Forum story. But this time I gave it a little more time and the surrounding characters interested me.

Of course, the starting point is the hero, that would be me. The fantasies center around the ideal me that I want to be. Huge in the crotch, smartest person on the planet, just the right mix of tenderness and machismo, you know, the usual shit.

The female role is a little more complex. It was actually one of the characters in the fantasy, my mother in the scene played by some woman other than my mother, because this woman would have had to have given birth to a perfect son, and my mother didn't, so they are different. Anyway, she makes the comment that the girl the hero falls for is someone has the looks and personality she expected him to go for because all his life he has liked those specific traits in women.

This got me to thinking about my own characters. My leading ladies are very similar. They all somewhat resemble my wife. Then I though back to the girls I dated and came to the conclusion that I like very specific things in women, and I've been putting those things in my MC's love interests. That's fine for a first novel and it's good news for my marriage since I find those things in the wife. But I don't want all my leading ladies to be that similar, so I'm going to have to guard against it and try to make them different somehow. And I don't mean just to give them different vocations and histories, I mean to make them different at the core.

Anyway, that's a worry for another day. Now, this morning I was cutting the grass and thinking about where that story might go. I sat down the last few days and pounded out about 5000 words of the beginning scenes, and I have about another 3000 that I want to hammer out before I put the thing down and return to the sci-fi book. That's a lot of words for me to type out in three days. So, I was pretty sure as I was cutting the grass that this one was going to turn into something, but I wasn't sure what. Then I got to thinking about the main character, the guy, the "me" and how perfect he was. That guy would know how to solve anything. He would sweep the female off her feet and give her a perfect life. He was flawless. o, naturally, I did the only thing a writer could do. I killed him. Voila.

I have six suspects from the first scenes, seven as far as the police would be concerned if you count the woman that because the MC when her perfect fiance was killed. Don't ask how a perfect guy can have six people who'd have motive to kill him, it's my fantasy and I like to "gift" the woman in the lead role by choosing her over a rival, beating off rivals of my own, have some parents to win over, and there were other circumstances that grew out of the first saucy scene.

So, that's how my sultry whodunnit was born. Can't wait to find out who actually did do it, because I have no clue at this time. All I know is that the leading lady is slightly mad, just like the wife. Now I can finally go ahead and get the wife drunk.

p.s. I chose the picture because I made reference to birth, and I thought the picture might be what it looks like for the baby on the way to the hospital just before it comes out (the mesh is the panyhose)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Don't lose your head like I did

On November 9th, 2007, I posted the first chapter of what would become my current WIP. In that scene, I had an experiment gone wrong that created a mini black hole and sucked a roomful of people into it. In 2009, the movie Star Trek came out. In the movie, there is a black hole created that sucks the planet Vulcan into it. And recently, I've seen advertisements for a sitcom in which someone creates mini black holes. Hollywood beat me to it. At first, I was frustrated. I think it always helps to come out with a premise like that first.

But I started thinking about it, and the black hole creation had always bothered me. It is impossible to create one because of the massive gravity required. I didn't know how I was going to get around that fact. Then it hit me. Do it some other way. I can have the effect by way of a different mechanism, and I can even ridicule the notion that a black hole can be created, and thereby gain a touch of revenge against Hollywood for stealing my black hole. (No, I'm not accusing anyone of plagiarism, I'm just happy I get to still have the effect, and use a more plausible explanation for it.)

Chin up. Don't get mad, get even.