Thursday, May 31, 2012


What is canon?  Canon is information that is assumed as true because it has been published.  If a planet was blown up in a space opera novel, the author had better have a good explanation if it's opening up trade routes in the sequel.  Even if you're on your first novel, you can pretend what you've written earlier in the novel is canon.  This can help you if you're discovery writing or writing a thinly outlined scene, because there are somewhat limited possibilities for what characters can and will do.  If you've established the fact that a character is highly arrogant, you don't have to scramble quite as much deciding what he'd do in given situations.  However, Canon can also be a pain.  If you made a mistake and had a nation that was conquered back in chapter three declare war in chapter twenty and you don't realize it until chapter twenty-five, well, you have a problem.  (This example can be called a discontinuity error)  Luckily, canon/discontinuity errors can be fixed if you're within a novel, and if you don't catch a series-spanning problem than your editor probably will.  Keep track of your canon, and good luck with your writing.

Patrick Stahl

Have you ever had an error of canon cripple your novel or found a discontinuity error in a book or series that you were reading?  Leave a comment, I'd like to hear about it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Destroyers

            I am not a survivor.  Time and time again I was warned that I would die.  I really should have listened.
            Far below me, at the bottom, a cloud rose out to me.  Fish swam vigorously up toward me, evading it.  I watched as my close friend, an amphibian verok like me, disappeared into the mud that could only be thought of as encroaching death.  He was the bravest verok I knew and arrogant in his courage.  I used to think the Destroyers could never hurt me just as he did.  I was wrong.
            I began paddling even closer to the surface, the light of morning a beacon.  My class had been taught what to do when the Destroyers came every twenty years.  I wished that I had paid more attention.  I realized that the knowledge would have been extremely valuable.  As I broke out of the water with a splash, I almost forgot to breathe.  When I finally did draw in a puff of air I had an overwhelming fear that it would be my last.  I dove.
            Which way should I go? I asked myself.  I jerked to a random direction and swam hard, never answering my own question.  Glancing downward, I saw that the cloud was rising slower now, giving me a boost of speed with the new sense hope.  I noticed nothing ahead of me to increase the emotion.
            Time churned away like the foam I stirred in my haste, bringing fatigue and little else.  There were more organisms surrounding me here, sharks and vibrant fish going through the same situation as myself.  A few of the younger ones called out to their elders, asking what to do.  They told them to continue swimming as fast as they could if they wanted to live.  Some of them, too weak to comply, moaned as they descended at a slant, screamed when they entered the killing cloud.
            If nothing else I am strong.  I’m still alive, aren’t I? I thought.  My rational side slapped me.  Arrogance is the thing that brought you here! it screamed.  If you still think you can survive this by yourself you’re stupider than I thought.
            I sped up for a moment and crept closer to a large grey shark.  That gave me at least a little bit of comfort.  Where is the rest of my kind? I wondered.  Veroks aren’t the most intimidating beings, yet I would have felt a lot better being with some of my own blood beside me.  Then I saw something that did even more for my confidence.
            Ahead of me stood a massive stone structure.  The cloud, now only an elder whale’s length below me, rose higher around its sides, although the effort was clearly futile.  My energy was wavering, but I swam faster anyway.  I was overjoyed.  I’m going to ma-   The gate hit me in the face as it swung shut.
            I really should have listened.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Summer Hath Begun

My summer begins today.  It will be a summer filled with reading and writing, as I've intended to do for a few years now.  I apologize for last week's poor flash fiction piece. I didn't start it until very late in the day and didn't have time to redo the story.  This week's story should be much better.  I've actually spent a little bit of time outlining, so I'll sort of know what I'm doing.  Speaking of outlining, this week I will be working on the outline for my novel and beginning the first chapter.  I am going to attempt to complete the first 50,000 words this summer.  Hopefully I'll do better on this try than I did in my novel's first form that I began four years ago.  I'm changing the plot a good bit, which should strengthen the whole thing.  The outline should help a lot too.  Surviving the first break in action will be the toughest part.  I think having read The Eye of the World this time around will make it easier, as Robert Jordan was a master of epic fantasy (which I'm writing) and writing the tough parts (i.e. going from one relatively boring place to another while making it somehow exciting).  I will also be completing my short story WIPs over the summer.  I'll keep anyone reading posted about how everything goes.

Patrick Stahl

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guest Story Editing Part 2

        Fluffy and Wiggles did everything together, but one day...
        “Come here Wiggles! Somebody didn't finish unloading the dishwasher!” Mrs. Purple Fluffy Butterfly Vampire (who everyone called “MPFBV” for short) exclaimed from the kitchen.
        “Sorry, I'll be right back!” Wiggles said as he fled the sitting room, where he and Fluffy were previously playing a board game.
        Fluffy started to wander around the cozy room, noticing everything. He spotted a small bowl of saltwater taffy on the mantel. Ooh, these look good! He thought to himself. It's not like they'll miss one tiny piece of taffy. He spied around the room to make sure that nobody was coming anytime soon. He grabbed the smallest piece that he could find, to quickly shove it into his mouth and begin to chew. Ooh, chocolate! My favorite

       All was well and good for Fluffy and Wiggles for a great while, but one day the situation changed for the worse.
       "Wiggles!  I could use your help for a moment," Wiggles' mother shouted from the kitchen.
       "Sorry, I'll be right back," Wiggles said as he rushed out of the room.  He knocked over his board game token in his haste.
       Fluffy set down the dice she had been gripping between her cloven hooves.  She decided to have a look around, as she had never paid full attention to Wiggles' living room before.  The room looked quite mundane.  The walls were a pale beige, the fireplace and carpet both a rusty red-brown.  A small fire crackled gently in the hearth, flames illuminating the mantle above.  Despite the rest of the room, the mantle looked quite interesting.
       A variety of items were strewn across the shelf.  Pictures of bats long forgotten sat near to ones of Wiggles, his mother, and his father.  Vibrant purple candles were lit on the sides, filling the room with a mysterious scent that Fluffy hadn't even realized until now.  Defeating the other objects in appeal, the center-most item on the mantle stole her gaze.  An intricate glass bowl held her favorite treat, chocolate taffy.
       Fluffy glanced around her to see if anyone was looking before she walked up to the mantle and ate a piece.  The one she chose was the smallest in the bowl, figuring that it wouldn't be missed.  She returned to her place at the game looking no less innocent than before.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Write About Dragons

Facebook is generally not a place that I find cool stuff on.  There is one exception, however.  Through a post by Brandon Sanderson I discovered, a website dedicated to displaying Brandon's Creative Writing class lectures from Brigham Young University.  The website is maintained by Scott Ashton, a former student of Brandon.  He is the recorder and editor of the video-format lectures.  The website is an incredible resource for me in learning as much as I can about writing.  Brandon is an incredible writing professor.  Obviously, I highly recommend the site for anyone who enjoys writing and wants to hone their skills.

Patrick Stahl

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The M.I.C.E. Quotient

Orson Scott Card is a famous science-fiction writer.  He is also the father of a special plotting method called the M.I.C.E. quotient.  This method was first detailed in Card's books Character and Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  M.I.C.E. is an acronym representing the words milieu, (a French and defunct English word for "environment"; used here as setting) idea, character, and event.  Card believed that every story is based around one of those principles, although most stories contain elements of all four.

A milieu story is one based around an interesting setting and generally has a plot in which the characters start and stop in the same place.  An idea story is built up from a central premise and involves developing information about that premise.  A character story begins with one of the characters and fleshes out around that character, with the character him/herself going through a well-defined character arc.  An event story has basis in one or more occurrences of very high importance.

The M.I.C.E. quotient can be a helpful tool for authors having trouble developing their plot, especially aiding outliners.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Cat Lacking Curiosity

            Juggling knives requires high concentration.  Stalking through a forest a stone’s throw from an enemy camp does too.  Lander is doing both at the same time.
            Eyes set with a rigid stare at the hilt of the top knife, he creeps forward, bent low.  Undergrowth crumples beneath his boots, but it’s practically inaudible.  He is unfazed by the trees in front of him, sidestepping as if a wall required the action.  The tracks he is leaving could be from any creature to most on-lookers.  In fact, an animal is a more reasonable explanation than a man.  Lander is a little of both.
            Few people believe that he is truly of any beastly race, and they’re technically correct, just don’t tell his adversaries that.  Being raised by panthers between a traditional upbringing and military enlistment changed him.  He doesn’t have claws, he doesn’t need them, his throwing knives do the job just as well, but the strikes are as precise as cats’.  In addition, the naginata-type spear on his back tears flesh better than any feline can.  Lander has only one disadvantage: he’s in over his head.
            A bush rustles a few paces ahead of him.  He pauses, grunts, and continues.  It’s fitting to say that cats are vain and he isn’t an exception.  A snarl wouldn’t still him for much longer.  Curiosity is the one thing he’s lacking.  Lander drew the short straw on that one.
            As he reaches the shrub, a soft growl reaches his ears.  There’s nothing odd about that, animals growl, he thinks.  Lander gives the bush a swift kick and begins to move on.
            Some plants growl too.  This one enlarges spontaneously for added effect.  It’s much more deadly that way.  Thickly woven foliage splits into tendrils that cling to his arms and tug.  Flailing, a gash opens from one of his snatched knife blades, immediately followed by a shrill scream, yet everything proceeds.  His legs are captured, calves sliced by the restriction.  Lander can’t sprint away from this foe. 
            The creature spreads open at its wound, a maw opening to his height.  The mouth seems to be black in the darkness.  He struggles, using his teeth to gnaw at his restraints.  A single tear runs down his face, his eyes still hard and unbelieving.  They widen for a moment no longer than a blink.  The beast bends forward to enclose him and they soften.  Lander grumbles a curse and stills.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Week Ahead

My blog is now one week old and I've managed to gain one follower in that time.  Even still, I'm very thankful to have that one follower.  I expect this week's posts to be as stated in my initial schedule with the addition of a Saturday post that I set a temporary precedent for.  Tomorrow's flash fiction piece will be a combination of action and horror, due to a vote being cast for both genres on my poll.  I don't have much else to say, so I'll end my meager post with a funny quote by Robert Jordan.

"I've written a few million words so far, and you want me to summarize in six? Well, here goes. Cultures clash, worlds change; cope. I know; only five. But I hate to be wordy."
—Robert Jordan

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Guest Story Editing Part 1

My cousin, Maren Shenal, asked if she could have a story that she'd written posted on my blog, with permission to edit it.  I accepted and decided to put some emphasis on the last point.  To keep the size of my posts at a reasonable length, the story will be broken into sections, with a section each Saturday.  Today's section is posted with the unedited version above the edited version.  Here we go...

        It was tough for the citizens in the Pumpkin Town of Sugary Treats...
        “Hi, whats your name?” asked Fluffy.
        “Hi, I'm Wiggles the Purple Fluffy Butterfly Vampire, but everybody just calls me Wiggles. What's your name?”
        “I'm Fluffy the Mystical Rainbow Unicorn of Darkness, but everyone just calls me Fluffy.”
        The 2 very different creatures soon created a tight friendship.

        Deep in the grasslands of a far-off land stood a rather queer town.  That town was named the Pumpkin Town of Sugary Treats.  The citizens of Pumpkin Town were all jolly fellows, quirky, but happy just the same.  However, they had some hardships too.  Now, these conflicts were small and almost always funny, and in the case of Fluffy and Wiggles the situation was both.
        "Hello, what's your name?" Fluffy asked, seeing a new boy on her way to school.  He was clearly a butterfly, although his sharp teeth were startling.  His coat of dense purple fur removed the fright.
        "Hello, I'm Wiggles.  What's your name?"  Wiggles had a similar reaction to Fluffy, whose long horse-like body was fitted with a large black horn.  Despite the horn, her hair sparkled with the colors of the rainbow, giving her a look of innocence.
        "My name is Fluffy.  It's nice to meet you," she replied.
         The two odd creatures became fast friends, and soon they were all but inseparable.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Writing Excuses Plug

There are many excuses that writers can make for not writing.  The podcast Writing Excuses shatters them.  With a top-notch cast of horror and sci-fi writer Dan Wells, epic fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, space opera web comic writer Howard Taylor, and fantasy writer Mary Robinette Kowal, this podcast is packed with great advice for aspiring writers.  In each episode they cover a topic of writing in less than twenty minutes with the (slightly inaccurate) tagline "fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart."  I've learned a lot from this podcast and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know how writing works or would like to take a shot at publication in the future.  You can find Writing Excuses on iTunes or from their website (

Patrick Stahl

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Discovery Writing

There are two types of writers in this world: discovery writers and outliners.  Neither camp can be considered better than the other.  Stephen King is a prolific discovery writer, while J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the world's most loved world-builder and outliner.  I cannot consider myself a full discovery writer, as I use some form of outlining in most cases, although I am closer to being a discovery writer than an outliner.  Discovery writing is the term used to describe writing with very few notes and either an extremely vague outline or a lack thereof.  It is a balanced art.  Discovery writing can make writing simple when the writer lets loose and types away without a huge amount of regard to what exactly is happening.  It can make it difficult when the writer realizes that he needs to get the plot moving before alpha readers doze off or that his pacing is cringe-inducing.  I discovery write almost all of the flash fiction that I write and usually the specific scenes of larger works, with a skeleton outline of what happens in each section, chapter, or leg of the journey.  Brandon Sanderson, an epic fantasy writer, said in a lecture that discovery writers tend to take a lot longer editing, as they tend to go off on tangents quite a bit and want to get each scene to a decent form before continuing to the next.  Unfortunately, that seems to be fairly close to the truth.  Despite this, I will continue with my writing methods until I hear overwhelming support for outlining, which I don't foresee happening.  I'm rather stubborn.  That's not to say that I'll never write a story as more of an outliner than a discovery writer, I am going to use an outline for my novel for one thing, although I don't know quite how dense it'll turn out to be.  Anyway, that's about all that I have to say about discovery writing.  Good luck to anyone reading this that is a writer or aspires to be one, whether they discovery write, outline, or do both.

Patrick Stahl

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Machine

            The heat rose slowly, steadily.  Broiling noises emitted from a ventilated pool.  A faint click sounded, accompanied by the engagement of curved metal blades.  The blades began to spin, whipping around two substances that filled the chamber.  One of the liquids, an amber-hued fluid called anundrexos, served as both a quieter and fulfiller of the other.  It kept the second liquid, blood-red and highly explosive erundam, from obliterating its holder before its use and removed oxygen from it.
            As the erundam heated and oxygen streamed out of it, kerium and blasteria remained, the elements at odds.  The two metalloids acted like missionaries of separate religions, opposingly-charged ions attempting to convert the other.  Neutral anundrexos quenched any attempts for the erundam to explode.
            At one end of the chamber, there was a separate pocket that produced the heat for the larger cavity.  Inside, highly-enriched coal burned with ventilation at the top and back.  The dense material seared at over one thousand degrees centigrade.
            The other end of the chamber had a sealed port that led into a tube.  The tube sloped down with magnets lining it, the magnets only strong enough to attract anundrexos, separating the fluids.  Pure deoxidized erundam streamed into an elliptical chamber of fast-moving water pushed by convection fueled by small ports of heat that switched on and off.  The erundam changed into viscous foam exploding out of a door at the end of the water tube.
            The foam spewed at a high speed down upon a company of approaching enemy infantry.  The gunmen were obliterated on contact.  At the same time, the felons employed to control the machine’s furnaces cheered.  Chemists reloaded the machine with ample erundam and anundrexos.  With the machine at top heat, subsequent rounds of foam discharge quickened drastically in pace.  The soldierly genocide continued.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Post/Schedule

It's quite obvious that this is my first post.  I created this blog to help me out as a writer and to entertain myself and hopefully others.  I'm not entirely sure how this will go, as it's my first time blogging and I'm not too familiar with it, but I'm going to give it a try and hope for the best.  I am going to try to post four days a week with a fifth day devoted to blog maintenance.  My maintenance and update day will be Monday in most cases.  Tuesdays will be for a general post involving anything from sports to movies to fun facts.  Wednesdays will be my weekly flash fiction story day, on which I will post a very short story (around 500 words or so).  Thursdays will be for a post on writing, with information about the craft and such.  Fridays will be Plug Day, including a post in which I will give shout-outs to podcasts, other blogs, movies, or anything else that I really like.  I cannot guarantee that this schedule will be definite, but as of now it will be the framework for this blog.

Thanks to anyone reading,
Patrick Stahl