Thursday, May 29, 2014

Doing Unintentional Research

Sometimes through normal conversation you can do a lot of research into subjects that could, at some future time, aid you in your writing.  Writers should have a wide range or knowledge on many subjects in order to give each of their tales unique flavor.  Speculative fiction writers, who ask and answer theoretical questions through their prose, need to do research, either intentional or unintentional, in order to form their questions.

Recently, I was talking to my uncle who is a civil engineer.  It's a field I have minimal exposure to, other than through him.  I never talk to him specifically for the research, I just enjoy hearing about his work and so forth.  However, at the same time I try to keep some notes in my head of details that could help me write a character who is a civil engineer or write a plot that somehow ties in the field of civil engineering.  I got a really interesting idea for a fantasy story this last time I spoke with him, boiling down to a world with a god who acts as a sort of civil engineer with magic, allowing it in certain places at certain strengths or not at all in some places.

Any time you're learning about a topic you aren't overly familiar with you can be performing unintentional research that can benefit your writing.  Why not reuse some of the random facts you pick up on day to day?  You just might have a story worth of them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sinking Among Lilies

"Sinking Among Lilies" (if you can't tell, this is hyper-linked to where you can read the story for free) is an adventure fantasy novelette by Cory Skerry, published in 2012 by Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  It's not my favorite novelette in the world, but it's one of the better ones out there.  Its place in The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Four is not for nothing.

The characters in this story have some odd, and occasionally jarring, quirks.  Many of them are cool and fit the subgenre well.  A few of them are annoying.  The split is such that I can't give much complaint.  The first-person narrator is (sort of a minor spoiler, although the story doesn't exactly try to hide the fact) female, which makes the rest of the story feel more elegant and a bit more heroic in a sense.  Her tone matches the content well.  I think the characters were meant to be a bit more sympathetic than I felt they actually achieved, but it'll more than likely vary from reader to reader, so I don't find it a glaring problem.

Plot-wise this story gets about a 17/20.  It's traditional, contains well-written twists, and plays along with the characters expertly.  The story would have come out of another round of revisions a bit slicker in this area, I think, although it's possible I'm being too critical here.

The setting felt a little dis-jointed from time to time, but overall its very well done, especially for the adventure fantasy subgenre.  It's classically-styled, yet utterly unique.

"Sinking Among Lilies" didn't steal a "High" rating in my personal records, but it managed a "Moderate-High" handily.  If you like short adventure fantasy stories, you'll probably enjoy this story a lot.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Heated Discussion Between Two Telepaths on a Motorbike

(Note: This story comes from the same setting as my Zento stories, which you can find via my "Zento" label.  A few of the references in this story may not make sense to you if you haven't read certain Zento stories.)

            Ever’clin hopped on the back of Clar’wein’s motorbike and accepted her mental request for a telepathic linkup.  He pulled a helmet from the otherwise-empty sidecar as Clar started up the engine.
            Here we go, Clar pathed.
            Ever put his arms around Clar’s waist as the bike lurched forward.  Where are we going again?
            To the sushi place on 7th.
            Isn’t that the joint that serves Earth fish?
            Clar motioned for Ever to lean into a sudden turn between two emissary buildings.  I thought you liked Earth fish?
            Karonti fish are my favorite, but good ol’ home-farmed Goran 4 fish are almost just as good.  Ever thumbed the scar above Clar’s currency chip, placed quite controversially on her belly.  And both are a lot cheaper.
            Clar twisted to glare at Ever.  You forgot, didn’t you?
            Forgot what?
            The monitor above the next intersection flashed “caution.”  Clar slammed on the brakes.  Ever’s stomach flew into his throat.  Our relationship could stop that fast, Clar pathed.
            Ever shifted to massage Clar’s shoulders.  What are you going on about, Clar?
            You really don’t know, do you?  Clar separated herself from Ever by throwing her weight into an acute veer.
            Flailing his arms to keep from splattering on aptly-named Diagonal Street, Ever pathed, What the eternal fires, are you trying to kill me?
            No, but I’m starting to think about it.
            Wouldn’t I have heard if you were
            Go to Goran 1.  The left handlebar of the motorbike came within a finger’s width of the side mirror on a hovertaxi.  Clar jerked the bike back into the center of her lane.
            Clar’wein, please.
            You really don’t have a clue?  Not even a guess?
            Your birthday?
            That’s in twenty rotations.
            My birthday?
            Clar slapped Ever across the face.  It’s our one-year anniversary.  We honey-mooned on Earth, so I thought it would be romantic if I brought you to a restaurant that serves Earth food.
            Ever sighed.  Honey, our anniversary was almost forty rotations ago.  I bought you a bouquet from Goran 3, remember?
            That was our Goran 4 anniversary.  Clar slapped Ever on the opposite cheek, nearly driving into the back of another motorbike as she did.  Today is our Earth-year anniversary.
            Ever coughed.  When was the last time I told you I loved you to Goran 6 and back?  And Earth fish.
            The motorbike slowed going into the parking lot of Fish From Earth’s Briny Blue.  By what calendar?  Clar laughed.
            Ever wiped a lake of sweat from his brow as he replaced his helmet and dismounted the bike.  He broke the telepathic link as Clar cut the engine.
            “Wait just one Earth minute,” Clar said aloud, shoving Ever to the ground.  “There are seven planets in the system, not six.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Link to an Awesome Google Hangout Featuring Brandon Sanderson and Brian McClellan

I intended to write a post for today, I really did, but if I'm going to get sleep tonight I'm going to have to throw down a link instead of a homegrown writing advice post.  This hour-long video is more informative than months of my normal writing posts combined, so I don't feel too bad.

Brandon Sanderson and Brian McClellan: Crafting Spells and Stories

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Sculptor's Son

"The Sculptor's Son" by Jason Gorbel is an amazing fantasy story published in the first issue of Fantasy Scroll Mag.  I gave it a "High" rating in my personal records, putting it in the top 10% of the SFF stories I've read in the past eighteen or so months.

The three characters in this story have distinct personalities that can be noticed very quickly.  The protagonist and a rabbi are put in a tough spot because of the protagonist's son and the ways that they wiggle themselves away from that tough spot are characterizing and realistic to the furthest extent of proper prose.  The protagonist is one of my favorite characters of any short story I've ever read, regardless of genre.

The setting is simple, yet elegant.  It's borderline magic realist, contemporary.  There's one main genre element that makes the story.

This is a very character-driven story.  The plot follows the protagonist as he is pushed toward a decision that he originally does not want to make.  That aforementioned genre element also lends an "idea" story element that boosts the story's appeal.

As an awesome tale that succeeds as both an "idea" and "character" story, I would recommend "The Sculptor's Son" to everyone who can read the English language.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Second Blogiversary

Today is the second blogiversary of Into the Ravenous Maw.  In year two I posted 184 times.  The quality of my posts has greatly increased from year one.  I've only added 22 followers through Google Friend Connect, but I've earned a decent following on Twitter that boosts my social media presence, so I'm okay with that.  I'm not setting a follower goal this time around, but I would like to set a goal of averaging at least one comment per post (not counting my replies, of course).

And yes, I am counting this as a Thursday writing post.  If you'd like to read a truer writing post, how about Scenes and Acts in Prose from just over a year ago?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds

I'm not overwhelmingly fond of this story's title: "Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds."  If you really think about it, it makes sense, but it's still very strange.  The best classification I can come up with for this E. Catherine Tobler short story is post-apoc sci-fi.  The subgenre is up for debate depending upon how deeply you look into it.  It was published in the latest issue of Clarkesworld Magazine (#92).

There are very few characters in this story.  Normally I don't like that in a story just over 4,300 words long; here it works.  The story is focused on the lack of characters beyond anything else.  In fact, the main goal of the protagonist is to find other people.  The characters that are there are pretty good.  We get a limited view, as it's first-person and devoid of dialogue, but what the narrator's view is smooth enough to keep the story going.

At first I didn't think this story had much plot.  After thinking about it for a while I realized that it actually has a very traditional plot.  There are even two try-fail cycles before the resolution.  I'm not sure what that says about the story, whether the plot was too thin or perfectly fine.

I don't read a lot of stories from this sort of setting, so to me it was somewhat refreshing.  If you read a lot of post-apoc it may bore you a bit.  In any case, it ties into plot and character perfectly, which is a major plus.

This story ties plot, setting, and character in a decent bow through conflict.  It has a few weak points as far as language and such goes, albeit none to a crippling degree.  If I had realized what was going on with the plot as I read and not several hours later I may have really enjoyed it.  As it were, the story is most certainly worth reading for sci-fi fans and somewhat worth reading for everyone else.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Passed With Flying Levin

I managed to enter round 19 of the Flash Frenzy contest approximately thirty seconds before the deadline.  (Wipes moisture from brow.)  It's one of my less plot-intensive, more literary fantasy flash fics (360 words), but magical all the same.  I hope you like it.

"Passed With Flying Levin"

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How First-Person Epistolary POV Can Make a Narrator Unreliable

(Note: I'll admit upfront that I wrote this essay for an English project involving The Great Gatbsy.  It's certainly relevant for any case of first-epistolary though, so I don't feel too bad posting it here along my usual, generalized writing posts.)

The Great Gatsby utilizes first-person epistolary point-of-view.  In doing so, it presents the thoughts of the narrator, Nick Carraway, in a “looking back” sort of manner.  Nick remembers events that happened a few years in the past during most of the book.  This lowers his credibility somewhat.

Typically, people do not perfectly recall events that occurred multiple years prior.  Nick makes the happenings detailed in The Great Gatsby seem in perfect clarity.  More than likely, the epistolary format of this book causes a low credibility in Nick’s descriptions.  While the larger course of events is probably of high credibility, the specifics are not.  Unless Nick had a perfect memory, as virtually no one does, many of the details given in the book are fluffed out with falsities.

The credibility of the narrator of The Great Gatsby is low overall.  While the major plot points are likely very close to “reality,” the first-person epistolary point-of-view grants a low credibility to the vast swathes of nitty-gritty description.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Plea for a Crit Swap

I'm breaking my usual blogging schedule to issue a plea.  I recently finished transforming a 1,500 word military/war/action story into a 2,500 word gunpowder fantasy.  It hasn't been long enough since I finished the draft for me to be properly objective about it, but this is probably the best story I've ever written.  I'd really like to have a decent amount of feedback on this story before I start edits.

Details: this story is violent, somewhat gory (although not excessively, nor to an R-rated level), and written in first-person past-tense.

I'm willing to swap crits with anyone, my story for any story under 10,000 words that isn't erotica or pure literary.  I provide very detailed critiques, including copy and line editing feedback.

If anyone would like to accept my offer, please contact me either through the "Contact" tab above or by commenting on this post.  Thanks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Folds of War

"The Folds of War" by Marcus Gallagher-Jones is a strong work of fantasy flash fiction (or science fiction, depending upon how you look at it).  I rather enjoyed it.

The magic system in this story is almost unique.  The only story I've ever heard of with a paper-based magic system has not been published yet: The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg.  Considering the magic system along with the location and cultural notions present, the setting of "The Folds of War" rocks.  Or maybe I should say it "papers," since paper beats rock.  (This is the part of the criticism where you either laugh or groan.)

The characters in this story are magnificent for such a small word count.  The protagonist is sympathetic, competent, and humble.  His humbleness is what really makes this story shine.  (You'll understand at the end if you read.)  He isn't all that proactive, but the story needs him to be docile in that regard to work.

I thought the plot unfolded well.  (More laughing or groaning.)  It was simple, yet elegant.  The format was nontraditional in some ways that actually made it a better story.

If this story had been given one more proofread it may have taken my top spot for Favorite Fantasy Flash Fics of Forever.  There are several little instances of awkward wording spread throughout the story.  Other than that, "The Folds of War" is truly spectacular.  If you haven't already, give it a read (through the link above).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ten Shillings If It's Fresh

Today I'm linking to my first steampunk story, coming in at the maximum 500 words for the Finish That Thought weekly flash fiction contest (Warning: it's pretty dark): "Ten Shillings If It's Fresh."  (I did not win the contest, but it was still a good story, in my opinion.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Taking Breaks

While it's important to write a lot when you want to become a good writer, it's also important to take breaks from time to time.

It's probably horrible for momentum, but I find it best for my creative flow to take a minute or two off every quarter-hour or so to let my thoughts drift, use the restroom, etc. as I write.  When I come back I can usually hammer out a paragraph and then craft my way further.

Taking longer breaks is less advised.  When I don't write for more than a week at a time my quality and inner-editor perception wane.  Lately I've been trying my best to not do that.

This being said, I'm ending this post right here and resting from the A-to-Z Challenge until Sunday, when I'll be linking to a dark steampunk/horror story I wrote Tuesday afternoon.  Have a good day!