reading

On Understanding Why I Stop Reading

I am reading Legacies (Corean Chronicles #1) by L.E. Modesitt Jr right now. I have tried reading it about four times now. I am maybe a hundred pages in. I feel like this time I will finish successfully. It could still take a while.

I have finally figured out one of the reasons why I keep stopping. I don’t believe in the romance between the main character and the girl. Maybe it will change as the book moves forward (though I got doubts!) but the love interest character is not convincing. She’s so minor she hardly counts as a character! That, for the love interest, is not right.

The character I like most right now is not the main character, but his grandfather. That’s not right, either. Something is wrong with these characters; I just don’t know what.

I love the world. The world is why I am keep going back to it.  All the creatures, the magic, the odd sheep. I just wish the characters were better. 😦

Writing

Changing Character’s History

So I just realized the major I’d chosen for my character’s college years was entirely wrong. Oh, it never felt right in that bone deep where you just know something is correct. It was the Romance Language program at Harvard, in case anyone was wondering. But I thought it would suit.

I realize now that it really doesn’t. I know more about his life and his passions than when I decided that (a year ago). Now I know a degree in the fine arts will suit him much better. It won’t affect his job much. But I thinking it will be a much better match for the rest of his life. In fact, it might make his work easier (it involves a fair amount of art-ish stuff.)

This is the third time I changed his major on him (first was lit and than law). But it feels right now. Really it does. It feels right in a way it didn’t before.

Fortunately, I haven’t mention it too many places, so changing it will be easier. Working other mentions of it in the text should be relatively straightforward, too.

Writing

Rereading the WiP

So I came back to the WiP after not writing for a month. It was a good month, just not one meant for writing. Or blogging. Or reading, even. Well, I read more than I blogged or wrote, but even reading was minimal.

So I felt the urge to write again and opened up my file and I find I have forgotten details of my own story. Like, names. They include the names of various business and characters and so on.

Okay, yeah, the characters are minor and so are some of the business. But really!!! Does not remembering mean I should not have attempted to turn into something other than stock characters? I am not going to spend hours and hours on characters that only appear a handful of times, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get names and at least a few words of description. Does it?

Also, I didn’t expect to forget little details of the lives of the secondary characters. That’s even worse than forgetting the names of minor characters.

I realize now I have to reread the whole damn thing and resist the urge to edit while reading. I wasn’t expecting to have to do that. There are lots of pages. Thousands and thousands of words. It’s going to take a few days before I can actually start writing again.

General · work in progress · Writing

Scenes and Little Details

I was rereading a scene in the WiP the other day and I noticed I didn’t include a lot of details about the setting. Just the street, towering buildings and little potted trees.

Okay, yeah, he was just walking down the street, so he wasn’t thinking about the crowds. That’s important, since the WiP is 1st person and crowds aren’t something he’s going to notice.

I know he’s weaving through the crowds, and avoiding the tourists who walk five in a row and take up the whole width of the sidewalk. But it’s not something I mentioned. And now, thinking about it, it could come off as though the sidewalk is empty.

The crowds aren’t important, just one of those little city-setting details.  The crowd plays no role at all; he is more involved with his own thoughts and how it feels more like December instead of October.

When I wrote that scene, I am pretty sure I was thinking most people would automatically picture a street crowded with people and cars. But maybe not. When we arrived in FL last year, the drive from the airport to the hotel was a little scary because it was dark and the highway was empty. Maybe one or two other cars in the distance. It was 8 on a Saturday night. That’s after dark, but not that late, especially on a weekend. And, in all honesty, I have never seen a highway that empty. It was nerve-wracking. But for people who live there, it would be normal.

So now I am wondering, should I mention the crowd? A line on the sounds or smells or feel of a crowded street?

General · Writing

On Writing a Fight Scene

Earlier this week, I was at the place where I went wrong with the novel in progress in the first place. There is a fight in the very first scene and I didn’t want to write it. But I came to the realization I can’t avoid it. I am realizing now this is an early point where I could take the novel in a couple different directions. So early, I didn’t even recognize it as such a point.

Thing is, his job involves a fair amount of fighting. Plus, he practices mixed martial arts. (A childhood passion, which he refined and polished in adulthood.) So I shouldn’t be especially surprised if a fight shows up on the first page (or the third page as it were). I didn’t want to write it because I am not good with fight scenes.

I grew up admiring Drizzt Do’urden’s fight scenes, but I have no idea how to even begin writing scenes like those. Not that I could anyway; my guy isn’t really good with swords. I don’t know much about any kind of martial arts, either, though I have some idea of which ones he does.

But still – the fight was necessary and I set to it. And you know what? That fight, the one I’d built up so much in my head and avoided entirely in my first try? It turned out to be all of one paragraph. One paragraph! Less than a hundred words. It’s not even a proper fight scene. I don’t know whether to relieved or disappointed. I mean, I was all set to write a real fight scene.

My fight scene almost disappeared because the guy panics and runs and trips. I’d envisioned more of a Bruce Lee fight, with lots of punches and kicks and cool gymnastics. Instead, I get a handhold. The panic makes sense, though, and so does the tripping.

The real villain hasn’t showed up yet. So I could have a real fight scene in the future!!!

work in progress · Writing

On Scene Breaks

I am done with the third scene! It would be a relief if I knew I really was done with it. That is, the next scene, the forth, takes place in the same spot. Only difference, someone else walks in. Is that enough? The setting is the same. It happens immediately afterward, so there is no break in time, either. So I am not sure if this is the right time to break to the next scene.

At first, I even thought it was the same scene. But two sentences in and it felt like a different scene, you know? Besides that, I was done with my short description i. e. She makes a potion and something goes wrong. But I am not sure. Is the mama dragon walking in enough to make it a different scene? That’s really the only difference – a character that hadn’t present been before.

There are also differences in how the MC feels, but that’s caused by the mama dragon coming inside like she does. For that matter, the spell’s disruption is her fault, too. So it comes down to the face that mama dragon wasn’t there before and is there now. Is it enough to make a new scene? I wish I knew.

fantasy · Short Story · Teaser Tuesdays · work in progress · Writing

Writerly Teaser Tuesdays

An excerpt from the short story WiP. It is was inspired from two photos. It is fantasy, involves a baby dragon, and a princess-witch. It may have healing magic of sorts – I hope anyway, because otherwise the baby dragon will be dead and I don’t want that. I also don’t have a name yet for the girl. Hopefully that will come soon.

She caressed Ajani. His purple hide was scaly under her fingertips, scaly and rough as tree bark. It should be as dewy as a new leaf, especially since he was still just a baby. He stirred on the window seat, raised his small head to peer up at her. At least his eyes were still a bright, beautiful gold. “You’ll be well again,” she murmured to him. She would make certain of it. She was almost out of the potion, but if she had to, she would stay up all night to make it. He would get well again. He would! He was hers and she was keeping him.

His long, painfully thin tail warped around her arm and he mewled piteously. He lurched toward the window, dragging her arm with him. His claws scrabbled on the glass and she caught her breath.

A dignified, gloriously violet dragon walked under the triple-arched entrance into the courtyard. It was the only entrance large enough to accommodate a full-grown dragon. The females were always bigger and Nneke was bigger than any other. She stood a full seven feet tall from snout to hind-legs, with an additional seven feet of tail. She was also poor Ajani’s dam. When she knew for certain he was gravely ill, she cast him out. Dragons did not suffer weak babes.

“Hush,” she said. “Come along. We will go somewhere else.” Somewhere with no reminders about how his mother had rejected him. She gathered him up in her arms, blanket and all, and made certain her grip on him was secure. He weighed no more than one of her silk dresses.

fantasy · Short Story · word count · Writing

On Introductions and Hooks

I encountered the concept of hooks maybe a year ago. Before that I thought hooks were the really catchy part in a song. In stories, the hook is the thing that makes you want to go on reading. At the time, it was a bit of revelation. At the time, I thought it sounded like a trick, but I am not sure now. I can just picture a hook digging into the reader’s belly, urging her to read for just one more chapter. Just one more chapter!

So, anyway, my first page has to do hook the reader, introduce the character and the situation. As I write fantasy, I also need to introduce the world and the magic. It is a tall order for 300 words. Since it is a short story, I figure I will keep it simple – dragons, princesses, witches, very little actual magic. I had only written 20 words before I discovered the dragon was sick, the girl was a princess and a witch. Now I am worried because I don’t like killing characters, but the second picture is of a cemetery and I am scared the dragon will die at the end.

But I don’t think the really sick dragon is the hook. I don’t know what my hook is. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote the first 266 words, but I am thinking about it now and I just don’t know. Is it even something I should worry about? Maybe hooks are part of the editing process, not the writing process.

Book Review · reading · Writing

On Gender Confusion and POV

I am reading Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson. I have no idea if this is his firstbook, but it is pretty good. Right off the bat there are flying bullets, ghosts, trouble with coworkers and a female ex. It is also urban fantasy, and like many other urban fantasies, it is written in the 1st person POV.

That was the problem right there. In the 1st person, the main character is not “he” or “she”; the main character is always “I”. “I” does not give you an clues into the gender of a character. I thought the main character of this book was a woman! Can you blame me? Most urban fantasies have women main characters. Yes, there was a female ex, but I thought that just meant the main character was gay or bi. Most stories these days have gay secondary characters and a few even have gay or bi main characters. So it is not such a stretch. Well, I don’t think it is.

Imagine my shock when I discovered the main character is a man. Probably, I would have been less shocked if I had bothered to read the back blurb, but this book was recommended to me by someone I trust (someone who didn’t mention the maleness of the main character!!!). The cover should have been a clue as well.  But it shouldn’t depend on the cover and back cover blurb.

As a reader, the gender of the main character should be obvious to me from the beginning, regardless of POV (unless the writer is playing games and the main character is androgynous on purpose).

As a writer, I always know the gender of my characters. Expressing that in the 1st POV, in a way that is smooth and not obvious, is more difficult. Trent Jamieson probably knew the gender of his main character before he started writing. I don’t know why I concluded that the main character is female, except to say that I was expecting a female main character. Maybe that’s enough, but it is not really satisfactory. I wish I could point to one thing in the first few pages that could make me believe the MC was female.


General · Short Story · word count · work in progress · Writing

Bird by Bird: Plot

At the beginning of Bird by Bird, starting on page 54, there is a short section entitled Plot. In this she says not to worry about the plot, but about the characters. You should get to know the characters, their relationship, and the plot comes out of that.

Well, I know my characters. At least I know as well it is possible to know a character in less than 1000 words. I know they are adversaries. If this was a typical urban fantasy story, they would also be attracted to each other. They haven’t come to life for me,  not like in other stories I’ve written. I haven’t known my MC for long enough for that to happen and the adversary has been around for barely a paragraph. Maybe that is the problem, but it will be 2000 words at most and that isn’t long enough anyway for characters to take on a life. Not for me.

Anyway, I will just keep on writing. If it is no good, I can always press delete.