Tag Archives: writing fiction

Killing Characters and Reality in Writing….

These two topics, killing off characters in your work and the amount of reality you need, can each take a half a dozen posts or more, but I was thinking about the intersection of the two.

My writing can be called “speculative fiction”: the majority is science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy and horror.  Yeah, I’m often working with the supernatural, so how real do I need it? Of course I do put some reality in there to make it easier for the reader to connect, but every day things, like sleeping, eating and using the little boys/girls room is only put in if there is a reason.

My WIP, The Old Mill, is more on the horror end of the urban fantasy-horror spectrum. Not really a “real” genre ;)

About the time I finished my rough draft of The Old Mill, I read a blog post about killing characters in horror. Pretty much the idea was, if people aren’t dying, why would the main character, or the reader, be afraid? Of course you can ask how many people died in the scariest book I ever read, The Shining (not including looking into the past), but that book was written in the 1970s, not the twenty-teens! If you finish the book and six of your eight main characters are still alive, go back and kill four or five of them…

Maybe a little extreme, but she had a point. Continue reading

Drafting and Editing

Fiction

Typically when I write “The End” on a story, that is the beginning of the journey. Revisions and editing are a much longer, and to me, more difficult process than writing. Writing is a lot of fun! Editing? Not so much.

We each have our own methods and our own ways of doing things. I tend to get more granular as I write each draft. Ooops, but hold on. I really need to talk about how I define “draft” here, because it may be different than you think.

Draft Numbering

In ways my background as a computer nerd come to the surface in my draft numbering scheme. There are two or three components. There is the draft number and then the revision number and often a date-stamp.

I follow normal writing convention by calling my original rough draft “1st draft”. If I were really following the software model, this would be draft “0”.

I change the draft number when there are significant changes, usually end to end. This is typically rewriting chapters, deleting large blocks of text, adding chapters, adding large blocks of text, etc. Of course, as I said, as I go on it gets more granular, so I’m not adding or subtracting chapters at draft five! At that time, it is just a feeling that there have been significant changes since the last draft number. Continue reading

Conversations About Dialog

Fiction

What do you consider your biggest strength when it comes to writing?  I think dialog comes close to the top of the list for me.  I’ve had several people remark on it.  Yeah, I keep my mouth closed in real life, but my characters blab away…

Truthfully, I overdo dialog.  In fact, in the past I have had beta readers comment on my over use of dialog. Not all – I’ve had others that had positive things to say about it.

I have started editing “The Old Mill”, a book that I posted here as a serial.  One thing that I discovered, to my dismay, is that I have entire chapters that are 100% dialog.  Some are phone conversations.  Others are people sitting around chatting.  After I did one quick pass through the book I almost felt that it would be easier to make it into a play than a novel.  Not just a play, but an Elizabethan era play, with few stage directions. Or perhaps an opera.

Ouch. How do I fix that?

I am now in the middle of a rewrite. One thing that I am doing is changing it from all first person to third person.  Every chapter is in one person’s POV (well, for the most part), but the chapters can be in different POVs.  OK, most are in the main character’s POV, just third person. But I have added other POVs, which really helps develop the characters and makes the entire story more three dimensional.

Does this help with the dialog issue? Continue reading

Data Dumps

You have a great idea for a fantasy. There are four hominoid races that range from almost good but a little more on the bad side to very good, practically angelic. There are also corruptions of two of the races that are evil.  Of course there are also wizards that really don’t make a race, but are different from the others.  Plus, of course a handful of intelligent and semi-intelligent creatures and monsters, like dragons. They all have their own cultures, religions, myths, personality traits, physical characteristics, ways they use magic (or don’t), etc. And, of course, the world has a rich 10,000 year history plus the “Age of Myth and Legend” which gives another 25,000 years.

So there is all of that detail in your story.  But then we get to the story itself. Hold, though, we need even more detail… Continue reading

Writing Exercises and POV (Part 1)

Lost Star

When I first started this blog I did a series of writing exercises.  Every now and again I do more.  I’m not talking about just following the various challenges, like Friday Fictioneers or Sue’s #writephoto, I am talking about experimenting.  As anyone who read the story I posted yesterday, Honor, knows, I am doing a bit of experimentation again. This time it was triggered by the Ursula K. Le Guin’s book Steering the Craft, which I received for Christmas.

Point of View (POV) and tense are two big choice any writer has to make when starting a story.  They are also areas that are very easy to screw up.  Before i started a blog, I spent some time over at the forums on Writer’s Digest and found that people were very militant with POV.  Pretty much only first person and limited third person from a single person was acceptable.  There could be no changes whatsoever in any work.  One POV, solid like granite. Continue reading

A First Year

Trent-11-9-2018-phone-2-print

I have always enjoyed writing.  I also enjoyed creating stories.  The problem is, those two things didn’t always coincide quite right.  I would write stories in my head and nonfiction for school, work or different organizations, but I always grew frustrated with myself when I tried to actually write those stories out.

One morning in November of 2009 I posted a poetic line about the beautiful, unseasonably warm day.  A friend told me that she thought it sounded like a great first line of a short story.  So I sat down and over the next few days I wrote a story to fit that line.  What came out was the story Indian Summer, which I posted a few days ago.

A week or two later I wrote another story, a “short-short” of about 500 words.  A few weeks later, in mid-December of 2010, I wrote another longer story.  The new story, Five Long Walks, I planned out in my head before starting.

I was hooked. Continue reading

The Haley Branch Blurb Take 2

The Hamlet Symphny - Alt Image

A few weeks ago I posted a couple of draft blurbs for The Halley Branch.  Since then, I have sat on them, not trying to think of them at all.  This weekend I decided to have another go at the blurb.  Here is what I came up with:

An evil 300 years in the making.  A trap set 150 years in the past.

The day should have been a normal “family day” at the Hawkins’ Mausoleum, but a premonition followed Trevor into the crypt. To make matters worse, he couldn’t shake his morning vision of dead woman draped in a funeral-shroud.

After rescuing a girl trapped in the tomb, repressed memories force him to reevaluate everything. Is his extended family a cult with roots going back to America’s colonial past?  Is the evil Benjamin Halley still stalking his tomb after 150 years? Is there any truth to the Power described by the family’s patriarch, Miles Hawkins?

Trevor realizes that he is being manipulated and drawn into a trap set in the 19th century, and fears that everyone around him has already been ensnared.  Who can he trust?  The members of his own family’s Branch, The Bradford’s, like his cousins Bill or Stan?  Perhaps members of the Hawkins Branch, such as the beautiful but jaded Amelie?  The one Branch he knows not to trust is the extinct Halley Branch.

But the Halley’s are the ones who are welcoming him with open, if dead, arms. Continue reading

Practical Editing….

 

 

When you are done, you’re done, right?  When I post something on my blog, once I click publish, it is a done deal.  If I go back and find 10,000 typos?  Oh well, too bad.  OK, I do sometimes go back and correct things, but usually not after the first day or two.

I spent a good chunk of time the last few weeks before I published The Fireborn reading over it to catch errors and typos.  I also had two people go over it for me.  Between the two of them, they caught a dozen or so things that I had missed and had a handful of subjective ideas.  So when I clicked Publish, it was a done deal.  I had done my work.

A couple of months later I heard some complaints that there were a lot of typos.  I knew I would have to go back and fix them, but I didn’t want to.  When you are done, you’re done!  Last week I finally broke down and faced the inevitable.  I had to fix it. Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Blog-Stories

Recently someone told me that her uncle really liked The Monsters’ House, which is the first story in my short story collection, Seasons of Imagination.  I told her that I wasn’t too surprised, given how much symbolism there is in the story.  I then said that I really don’t use a lot of symbolism in my short stories.

“Why not?” she asked.

She had me there: why not?  I think it is because I typically write “flash fiction” instead of “short stories”.  My typical story is made for my blog.  It is usually very short.  Not including the 100-word Friday Fictioneers, my typical story runs about 1,000 words.  They tell a simple story.  The Monsters’ House is closer to 8,000, maybe 9,000 words.  It is complex.  The characters have time to breath and grow.  There is room for little motives and symbolism.

Still, why not?  Why don’t I use more symbolism?  I know it does creep into my stories, sometimes intentionally, usually not, i.e., subconsciously.  But I rarely sit down and think it through. Continue reading

The Telling of Backstory?

I recently completed my second draft of The Halley Branch.  Before I even think about doing a third draft, I need to solve an issue.  Maybe…

I have a bad habit in  my books to have a huge amount of history and backstory to fill out.  Sometimes backstory doesn’t need to be told, just implied, but in these stories, you have to know it to understand the present story.  I also include a lot of philosophy, which often is 100% needed to understand the story.  OK, so how do I get it out there?

In The Halley Branch I have four chapters that are dream like sequences where the main character has a dream or vision that tells him about the past (only one chapter is a dream).  I think this works well, but it only covers a couple of percent of backstory and philosophy.

So what did I do?  I have another four chapters of the main character talking to other people who tell him the history.  It all makes sense in the story and gives us pictures of the characters as much as it gives history and philosophy.  In other words, through the characters’ dialog I am telling you backstory, but I am also showing you vital information about the characters by their action, interaction, the words they chose, and how they chose to use them.

There are two problems, or two sides of one.  A lot of people would call this information dumping, which is really frowned upon today.  And people would say that it is “telling”, not “showing”, which is true.  However, I do have those other 30 chapters of showing, so do these four chapters ruin it? Continue reading