Sunday, November 30, 2014

Joy of Sight 4: Characterization post 1

My process on BG has so far been uneven.  For the first couple years, BG was only something I thought about after watching movies or reading books.  The story changed wildly from one thought session to the next, as did the characters.

The second phase was a free writing stage where I would randomly write whatever scenes came into my mind.  It was as much an exploration of writing as it was an exploration of the characters and the story.

After a long time, a story crystallized from the mess but the structure of the story was still more messy than it was cohesive.  So I studied story structure and spent time outlining the plot for and re-conceptualizing parts of BG.  In retrospect, that time was well spent and a part of me wishes I had outlined from the start.

That outlining fueled me for a long time.  But eventually I found my story lacking in characterization.  My organization of information was all over the place; it was sometimes difficult to find what I had written about certain characters.  My characters were often coming off flat, and they started sounding similar to one another.

So now once again I've returned to outlining, with a focus on writing in depth character descriptions, desires, inspiration pictures, and biographies.  Essentially, it is outlining the structure of each character.  Giving bone structure to a name.  Adding musculature.  Carving imperfections.  Couching them in the world through social and familial connections.  Breathing life into them through the gift of individual intent.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Selecting animals for symbolism

Ever wondered why a certain animal is chosen for a coat of arms for a faction in a story?  Or maybe you've daydreamed about which animal you'd select for your own personal coat of arms?  Or for a crest if you owned an English football team?

So how does one go about selecting such a symbol?  I'm not sure I can tell you, but I recently came across the reproduction of a letter Benjamin Franklin wrote arguing for the adoption of the rattlesnake as the symbol of America.  I found the letter illuminating (besides being convinced that a rattlesnake would have been an excellent choice) and wanted to post it here in case you might find it useful in your symbol creating endeavors.

Benjamin Franklin writes:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shortcuts make long delays

yWriter software

A gentleman called Simon Haynes, an author and a programmer, has written yWriter software and made it available on his website for FREE.  Yes I know you'll still incur the opportunity cost for spending your time checking his site out here and for maybe checking out a couple of the many youtube introductory videos to the software. 

But it shouldn't take longer than around 30 minutes to get a feel for what the software offers (incredible organizational tool for authors) so I highly recommend looking into the software.

I downloaded it and am in the process of transferring my Blind Guardian files--database population time!  This is going to take a while.  But, in my case, that will be a good thing as organization has never been my strong point and I have notes, scenes, and research spread across a desktop, a laptop, and about 7 notebooks filled with scribbling.  At first, I was frustrated that I was spending hours adding characters into the database.  Once the characters were added and I had the fun of having a designated place to put all the random info related to characters (description/bio/notes/inspirational picture of the character!) I quickly realized how much time this will save in the long run.  yWriter is a powerful database that puts all your novel info at your fingertips, I'm loving it more every hour I spend with it. 

If shortcuts make long delays then sometimes the long way around must be the most direct.

In the unlikely event Simon ever visits this page, a thousand thank yous are in order. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Peter Jackson's version of J.R.R. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT

Peter Jackson's version of J.R.R. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT

This is the last time we'll have a brand new movie to revel in Tolkien's Middle Earth.  Long ago I came to grips with the fact that the movies would not stay as true to the source material as I would prefer (the end of Return of the King being the thing that grinds my gears the most; or perhaps it is the failure to develop Faramir further--I'm not sure).

I did not love The Hobbit as much as I loved LotR, so my gears were only ground an average amount when I watched the first movie installment and I felt that Peter Jackson took it upon himself to change the way Bilbo proves himself to the dwarves.  This is a story that is first and foremost about Bilbo discovering himself, and to change important elements of that journey is to change the character of the story on a core level.  How strange is it that LotR and Hobbit were both given three movies but, despite being significantly longer, the LotR movies were truer to Tolkien's novels than The Hobbit movies have been.

Jackson has grown a bit too big for his britches in my opinion.  The whole creation of the white orc seems to imply that Jackson felt The Hobbit, as told by Tolkien, did not have enough action.  Why time was used on made up scenes or why scenes were changed unnecessarily, I'll never understand.  The scene in the cave before everyone is captured and taken to goblin town, for example.  Or the scene where Gandalf brings the party to Beorn's house.  Telling a story, getting Beorn hooked, refraining from telling Beorn how many dwarves were in the party, all while more dwarves are showing up--that is classic Tolkien and classic Gandalf.  Replacing that scene with some ridiculous running from a bear scene where the door is shut just in the nick of time is an absolute crime.  And Jackson's replacement scene is so horribly cliche that it is surprising it's anywhere other than the editing room's wastebasket. 

So given that my gears are being ground by each new instance of Jackson's revisionist take on Middle Earth, why am I excited?  I guess I've just accepted that Jackson is going to do his thing and that whatever he does, a fair bit of Tolkien will still shine through in the end.  And it's a bit harsh to only focus on how Jackson is putting his own stamp on Middle Earth while staying silent on the fact that he does a lot to make Tolkien's world look and feel real.  Jackson, afterall, makes Middle Earth look beautiful.  I mean it looks so good that I think every 2 bit fantasy hack like myself harbors secret daydreams of their own world looking that good on the silver screen one day.  And that's pretty high praise. 

In the end it's a real treat to get to experience Middle Earth and the characters I love, even if what we get is an imperfect version of the original. 

December 17 is when the magic happens.  It should be amazing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The things that keep us writing

So this is a very happy post.

My cousin and his fiancee have both finished their first novels!  I can't wait to read their stories, they're some of the most imaginative people I know.  I've been privy to some advanced reading and can guarantee readers are in for a good time!

Every so often my cousin will send me a text asking how my progress is going and telling me he's looking forward to reading more.  That kind of encouragement is invaluable when you're working on a novel.  I'm certain that kind of support is one of the reasons why both of them have been able to finish their novels (and why his mother, my aunt, is on the brink of finishing hers!)  Finishing a novel is a huge accomplishment.  That's why I'm here yakking about my journey and probably why you're here reading about somebody else's journey to getting published.  So if you find yourself struggling to finish your book and you don't have people around who can encourage you, go out and find some people on whom you can rely.  I wouldn't have done that on my own if I didn't have family that was all writing fantasy novels.  That would have been a huge mistake.  Support is invaluable.  Make sure you have some!

Back to those fresh new novels.

My purpose in this blog was not to advertise or critique other novels, but based on the above I think you can understand why I'm pleased to advertise their novels here.

My cousin's is entitled Riddle of Regicide and is available now for preorder on Amazon as an ebook for $2.99.  You can preorder here.

Riddle of Regicide blurb:

Draxin Stormgarde awakens in the Thieves Guild with no memory of his past, no memory of his family. After being forced into training with Yortaz the evil jester, Draxin learns that the Thieves Guild is plotting to assassinate the king. And he's the person they expect to do it.

During a raid gone awry, Draxin escapes and meets Ravelin, a mysterious royal agent tasked with protecting the king. Together, they race against time to stop the Thieves Guild before the king arrives in town for the annual Elk Day Festival.

Throughout his quest to save the king and unearth the demons of his past, Draxin must outwit a menagerie of fearsome beasts and sinister villains to keep from literally losing his head.

Will Draxin solve the riddle of regicide in time to save the king, or will Yortaz and the Thieves Guild prevail?

His fiancee's is entitled Curse of the Moira and is also available for preorder on Amazon as an ebook for $2.99.  You can preorder here.
Curse of the Moira blurb:

In a world filled with darkness, three races clash. Tension between the divinares, brutarians, and humans has been brewing for years and war is imminent. In this twisted tale of friendship, love, betrayal, and fate, you'll follow the journey of a young woman, Mahlia, as she discovers what it truly means to be a divinare. Mahlia is the last of her race to be born with the gift of sight, but doesn't know what this power entails.

As symbols predicting the future ignite on her skin, she must escape from the Iron Gates, where she's been imprisoned for over half her life, and journey across the realm to find the answers she seeks. But will she have time to learn the symbols' meaning before chaos is unleashed?

You can follow Saxa on her author blog here

As an aside, they did their own cover art and totally blew me away!  If Ryan and Saxa are reading this, best of luck, you two, and I look forward to reading parts of your next books in the very near future!

Here's to our supporters and the things that keep us writing!

You never know where the road might lead

It's been six months since I last posted here.  A thousand apologies to anyone who would have liked to hear more about my journey.  The truth is that I haven't touched my manuscript in that time.  Life has a way of making you feel busy.

Since last time, I've decided to leave attorney work behind me.  Instead, I'm headed back to school to do the thing I always should have done in the first place:  economics.  It was always the subject that stirred my passions and which felt "important".  As a naive college student, the dollar signs that everyone associates with attorneys turned my head and I went to law school instead of continuing with economics.  My experience in law left me completely disenchanted.  I had expected to be a warrior for truth and justice.  Instead I was expected to be calculating in maximizing billable hours and a proponent of truth only so long as it was relevant to the case I was building.  

But there's no time like the present to correct past mistakes and so I've set off on the path toward a new career and the long term uncertainty that goes with a career change.

So now I'm a student once again, while also learning to be a teacher (on evenings and weekends I'm an LSAT instructor for a Test Prep company).  Which is perfect because while my primary purpose in getting my econ PhD is to do research, I am very interested in being the best teacher of economics that I can be.

My professional life has been marked by a niggling thought:  success in this world may be mutually exclusive with idealism.  I'm hoping to find an outlet for my idealism in academia, but I fear politics and pragmatism rule every realm under the sun.  Perhaps that is why I write, so that I may carve out a place for heroicism to flourish.  What do you think?  Can you be idealistic and successful at the same time?