Thursday, January 31, 2013

Avoiding Literary Indigestion

If you've explored all the intricacies of your magic system on page one you're going to lose ninety percent of your audience right off the bat.  You simply can't throw that much abstract on a person that fast.  That's where learning curve comes in.

World-building, character details, etc. need to be built upon over the course of a manuscript, not covered in the first scene.  Each time you teach the reader something new about your world they need to digest it.  If you toss a ton of info down your readers' gullets too fast they'll get literary indigestion.  Not a pretty sight.

Info-dumping is your worst nightmare.  You can do similar things if you're a good writer using a Watson character or otherwise through dialogue, although you still must do it incrementally.  If you simply must get all the cool aspects of your story written down, put them as a list of notes in a separate file, don't add them to your manuscript.

Most people don't like heights.  Readers are similar in the literary world as they are in the physical world.  Thus, steep learning curves are scary and can lead to falling off the edge.  You really do not want that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Master of Weighty Tomes

Orson Scott Card's Xenocide has been a bit of a disappointment, as his writing style doesn't quite fit the six hundred page novel format.  However, one notable author penned far longer works smooth as silk.  He was none other than the great James Oliver Rigney, Jr., a.k.a. Robert Jordan.

Never before had I read such a long book that never felt like it dragged.  Robert Jordan could take ten pages of description and keep you focused no matter how dry it was at its core.  In The Eye of the World, one piece of dialogue by Moiraine stretched out to about five pages.  At the time I had never seen one character speak for so long (nor have I since, that I remember).  It astounded me.  Never once was my attention detracted.  Brilliant.

There's much to say about Mr. Jordan.  I have hardly begun to delve into his several million word contribution to literature and am yet to discover his secrets.  I'll be sure to reflect if I ever find them.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Troll Hunter (Part 1)

I'm on vacation and only got the first scene done today, so I'll call this the first part of a longer story.

     A bay mare hustled into the castle bailey.  The clop of its hooves on the cobblestone could have been rumbles of thunder.  Atop it straddled a women vested in half a suit of armor.  Her hair flowed behind her in tangled bunches.  She puffed almost as hard as her mount.
     “What is it?” one of the nearest lords inquired.
     “Gretmot,” the messenger choked, “has been attacked.
     The lord’s eyes sprung wide.  “The western fortress, besieged?”
     The messenger’s gaze dropped.  “They were breaching the gate when I left.”
     “Who did this?” another lord asked.  He wrung his calloused hands.
     “The hill trolls seem to have struck up an alliance with an ogre.  I think he was of the northern tribe, by his tattoos.  Beastly with a tree trunk.”
     The crowd of lords and ladies thickened.  The Prince was the last to join them, dressed in velvet robes of azure and crimson.  “Fear not, milords and ladies.  I shall have the best of my knights on the task at once.”  His gaze met the messenger.  “As for you, Lady Edlewine, I suggest you fix your armor.  We’ll need a first-rate troll hunter.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Writing Speeches Under Duress

I've mentioned before that I do extemporaneous speaking.  My delivery still needs some work, but my content is going pretty well.  There are many challenges proposed by extemporaneous speaking, yet each can be overcome with due effort.

Thirty minutes may seem like a lot of time to prepare for a speech.  It isn't.  I am tense as a first-time skydiver when prepping.  Research takes the bulk of my time, as I'm not inherently learned in politics and economics, the biggest topics, and sources must be cited.  The intro is generally slapped on at the beginning or end of prep, while the conclusion is usually ad-libbed.  I use anecdotes or crazy comparisons most of the time.  The key to mastering the time crunch is still unknown to me.  My only advice: don't waste a moment and work like heck.

Taking an otherwise simple yes/no question and developing your answer with three points can be tough.  It can also seem impossible.  Sometimes I have to fudge the last one, using a short, weak point.  Doing so ups the stress even further and hurts the entire integrity of the speech.  However, sometimes it needs to be done.  In those cases, you just have to pack as much info and sources into it as possible.

I'm not even going to mention the actual speaking part.  My skill in that area is developing, albeit slower than I'll like and still beneath my seasoned competitors.

Depending upon the weather, I may or may not have a speech meet tomorrow.  It'll take a lot of help from the man upstairs to keep me from getting last.  Again.  Hopefully my decent ability to write speeches under duress will prevail.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Schedule Tweak

I'm tweaking my schedule a bit.  Due to my general laziness on general posts, I'm specifying the posts as literary criticisms.

Literary criticisms will be an umbrella-term for book reviews, mid-book analyses, and writing style evaluations, both for individuals and general styles.

As I posted a book review yesterday, I'm keeping this as my last general post.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Corner of the Universe

My goodreads review speaks for the book:

A masterful read.  Ms. Martin delves into the human condition deeper here than in any other book I've read.  I was nearly brought to tears not only by the sheer emotion evoked, but by the beauty of the prose.  The tome brings mental illness into the light in a very true and respectful way.  You cannot help but be affected by the words, revealing the truth in the phrases "Don't judge a book by its cover" and "You are one of a kind".  Even better on a second read-through, it claims a spot as one of my favorite books.

I recommend this book to everyone.  It is a must-read if you love middle-grade.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More Than I Asked For

     At last.  I have found a plot of untainted land.  The air is thin and fresh.  
     Grass dances in the breeze beneath my feet.  The wind feels warm.  Too warm.
     "What's going on?" my Molly asks.
     "Nothing good, Dearest," I say.  The gale changes direction on a dime.  It cools.
     "Lucius?"  My Molly is quivering.
     I pluck a rifle from by back and load, although it can't be much help.  I'm shaking too hard to aim.
     "I think we should go back to the air-rider, Lucius."
     I take her hand in mine.  "Just a moment more.  I've waited my whole life to see a wild place.  I cannot leave so soon."
     "What else is there to see?"
     "A beast, a bird, something.  Not a zoo experiment.  A true animal."
     "A true animal?"  This time it isn't my Molly's voice.  It's a grumble, shaking the ground, searing the earth like an oven.  My Molly falls into my arms.  I nearly collapse myself.
     "How about the greatest of them all?  The arch-lizard, fire-raptor, scorcher of man."
     Tears fill my eyes.  "A dragon?" I manage in a quiet mumble. 
     A booming rumble takes my hearing for a second.  My eyebrows melt away.  "I am the dragon.  A pity you can't see me before you die.  I prefer my prey roasted."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Writing Genres You Aren't Adept At

I had never read any science fiction when I wrote my first sci-fi flash piece.  How did I do it?  Let me explain.

I knew enough about sci-fi to not try the hard variety right off the bat.  I had written some mainstream military/war, so I figured military sci-fi wouldn't be too hard (haha).  Several hundred words later, Zento the Mercenary resulted.

The basics of writing speculative fiction apply to each genre.  You need a strong central character, a really cool setting, and a thought provoking plot.  The character, Zento, was a classic space mercenary with a couple of exceptions.  He wielded a crossbow and did it for the thrill, not the money.  The setting was far from flashy, not considering the literal sparks, one of my larger flaws.  Zento the Mercenary is definitely flawed, although not too horrible compared to my other pieces at the time.  The plot was simple, as most flash fiction is.  Most sci-fi, however, has a fairly complex plot.  Military sci-fi is somewhat lacking in the area, but still needs to be well-constructed.  Luckily, I learned from my mistakes.

Romance is another genre I have little experience in.  While writing the few, all unpublished romance flash pieces I had to delve into my real emotions to make an impact.  Perhaps one day I'll post a short romance as a Sunday flash.

It can be hard writing genres you aren't adept at.  Unfortunately, if you want to be a great writer you need to.  You don't want to be the person who can only write one genre.  Mastering them all is far from necessary, yet delving into a dozen of them can put an ace up your sleeve.

I leave you with a short Hunger Games-inspired poem I wrote a while back that has a link to the chance-taking of writing new genres.

Roll the dice
Take a slice
Of the pie of life you savor
"May the odds be ever in your favor"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I feel unusually tired today.  Odd enough, I think it might be because I haven't done much the last few days.  Monday I had the first four periods of school off because of a minor English standardized test and today I got the same time off because other people were testing (new security measures).

Oh well, I'm too tired to think of something profound to say, so as far too often I do, I will leave you there.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Two Drowning Men

     Two men sat on the edge of a dock, their limbs tied.  Both fell into the water.
     The first man thought, "Father, save me."  His bindings loosened and gradually came off, but by that time he had already drowned.
     The second man thought, "Father, save me."  His bindings too loosened, and when they did he stood and was saved.

[Message]   The Lord helps those who help themselves.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Try-Fail Cycle

Unless you're reading flash fiction, the protagonist will probably fail to resolve the conflict on his first try.  There would simply not be enough story.  That's where the try-fail cycle comes in.

Did you ever have to fill out one of those plot-arc diagrams in school?  They never even told you that they were an arc and most of the time they were simply a hill that ended up a little taller at the right edge than the left.  Most plots don't work that way.  The plot is more of a series of hills getting progressively taller at their peak.  Each time the reader thinks the hero (or anti-hero) will succeed they are likely to fail, dropping the tension for a while before sharply raising it again.  Thus, he/she tries and fails in a cycle, hence the name.  Eventually, the conflict will be resolved and the final hill will slope downward a varying amount (depending upon how much of the book takes place after the resolution).

The try-fail cycle is just one of several major plot types, but it is one of the more commonly stated forms.  Use it wisely.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013


     A young man clad in royal blue came into the Captain’s room.  The captain sat at a large brown desk littered with papers.  “Yes, sonny?” he questioned after looking up.

     “We’ve been hearing an odd noise on our sonar for the last twelve nautical miles, Captain,” the sailor replied.


     “Well, Captain…”

     “At ease,” the captain interjected.

     “Yes, well, the sound is unidentified.  Its frequency is so high we almost can’t even pick it up, and it’s incredibly loud.  This is no animal, and there are no known ships able to make this kind of noise.”

     “Tell them to keep moving.  There’s no use worrying about it, it’s probably just a malfunction in the sonar.”  The younger man saluted and left the room with this statement.

     The ship rocked violently.  Water jetted up over the top deck and fell with a clatter like heavy rain.  A black shape jutted up at the bow.  The shape had eyes!  A group of sailors ran around in literal madness at the monstrosity that had wrecked their vessel.  The beast took one massive claw and drug the ship under, then fell back into his long slumber…

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Poorly Played, Stephen King

I've never read a Stephen King novel, but I am currently reading his informational text On Writing.

The book is broken down into four parts.  Getting them out of the way, the second and third parts detail what writing is and a writer's toolbox respectively.  He did a decent job on them, although they could have been much better compared to his first piece.  That piece is a memoir of events in Stephen King's life.  It reveals a lot about how Mr. King developed as a writer, more specifically as a writer of horror and self-insertion.  I loved it.  It was conversational, light, and he didn't tick me off.  In his fourth, final, and probably most important section, appropriately titled On Writing, he made some comments that annoy me greatly.  I most certainly disagree with him that television is the bane of writers.  Who makes sitcoms happen?  I dunno...writers?! (1)  Their dialogue and wit can be extremely helpful for writers, especially the dry and the sheltered.  Mr. King struck another nerve when he wrote that bad writers could not become competent, nor good writers great, only competent writers good.  Not!  Evidence: were you as skilled at writing when you were in preschool, first grade, eight grade?  Even referring to innate ability you probably swayed one way or the other.  Yes, I am indeed saying that you can become worse as a writer.  But I digress.

I'll finish On Writing.  As I've stated before, I very rarely leave a book unfinished.  However, I may not bother to read his novels.  It might be a mistake, heck, it's probably a mistake, but I'm not sure how supportive I want to be now.  Am I overreacting at the moment?  A little, I'm sure.  Yet when you diss T.V. and the ability to grow as a writer, both in skill and God-given ability, you won't find me becoming a disciple.  Poorly played, Stephen King.

(1)---Pardon my terrabang.  I am, by the way, an advocate of the crazy punctuation in blog posts.  However, novelists should probably avoid it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: Looking Back

 I accomplished a good bit in 2012.
  • Started this blog
  • Wrote 122 blog posts
  • Wrote over 30 flash-fiction pieces
  • Started a Twitter account
  • Read a few books, including my first sci-fi tomes
  • Assisted a Varsity soccer goal
  • Maintained wicked grades
  • Received a paper rejection with a personal note
  • Received my first half-dozen or so electronic form rejections
  • Polished a short story
  • Critiqued several chapters of other writers' manuscripts
  • Began a novelette (or long short story) that has promise