Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Links of Interest

RAISING THE STAKES WHILE KEEPING IT REAL:


SUGGESTIONS FOR NEWSLETTER CONTENT:


EVALUATING A HYBRID PUBLISHER:


CREATING AN AUTHOR BUSINESS PLAN:


YET ANOTHER ARTICLE ABOUT WRITING FIGHT SCENES:


REVISE OR KEEP GOING?


CREATING A DYNAMIC ANTAGONIST:


FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO WRITE A STORY THAT MATTERS:


LOAD O’ LINKS:


WHAT’S YOUR GENRE?


FOUR TIPS FOR WRITING A ROMANCE NOVELLA:


BETA READERS:


WHICH GRAPHIC FILE TYPE SHOULD YOU USE?


CHOOSING A SMALL PUBLISHER:


THE AUTHOR BUSINESS, CHOOSING A PRODUCT PLAN:


STAYING IN CHARACTER IN POV:


CREATING YOUR MARKETING PLAN:


CREATING VIVID DESCRIPTIONS:



Monday, May 25, 2015

Squeezing Every Drop Out of a Premise

I am not a big fan of zombies because massive bands of stupid, shambling dead bodies, exploding brains, decapitations, and all-you-can-eat humans are boring in more than very small doses.  I like my bad guys to have brains, not eat them.  

I made an exception, though, after I watched a few trailers of iZOMBIE which seemed to be a paranormal mystery like TRU CALLING and PUSHING DAISIES.  I’m glad I did.

The premise is a mixture of two designer drugs created the first zombies.  As long as the zombie has brains to eat, he remains human in intelligence, etc., and he can pass as a human although his hair and skin turns white.  Too much adrenaline brings out the red eyes and the rage but most can control it.  The zombie can turn others into a zombie with a scratch or bite.  

The heroine is Doctor Liv Moore, a medical resident, who is turned at a party gone really bad by drug designer, dealer and zombie Blaine DeBeers.  She realizes she must totally change her life.  She breaks her engagement because she fears infecting her fiancĂ©,  pulls away from her close family and starts working as a forensic coroner for the police department for easy access to brains and to avoid turning her patients into zombies.  

She discovers that she gains memories, personality traits, and skills of the dead person from his brain so she convinces a police detective that she is psychic and helps him solve murders.  Each week is a new case.  Humor, a bit of romance, and an ongoing arc about Blaine’s evil schemes fill out the series.

Liv’s absorption of other’s personalities and lives adds humor as well as commentary on her own struggle with her changed life as a zombie.  

NOTE: IF you think you’d like to watch the series, stop now because SPOILERS.  iZOMBIE is almost finished with Season 1 on the CW and is renewed for Season 2.  You should be able to find the whole series at iTunes, Netflix, or some other legal site online.

The series would have been interesting enough with just the murder-of-the-week format, but the creators put some serious thought into the possibilities of the premise and really added a bunch of interesting worldbuilding.  Blaine, the drug dealer and entrepreneur, turns rich people and people who will protect him and his business into zombies then makes them pay premium prices for brains he supplies, and they can’t get elsewhere.  His zombie protectors include several people high in the police department and a rich and powerful politicians.  

He starts his own high-end butcher shop as a front for his brain harvesting and even offers zombie haute cuisine.  His minions get most of the brains from the homeless and runaway kids, and he’s found ways to hide the bodies so very few are suspicious.  

Now that the rich have figured out that they can gain new experiences and sensations from others’ brains, he’s started finding people to murder to fit those interests.  Right now, he’s after an astronaut.  

The point of this analysis is that a simple worldbuilding premise can be so much more if you really think about it, your characters’ personalities, and the possibilities and changes that one element, like zombies, can make to the real world.  

If you do, you can move beyond a one-cool-idea plot to a much richer experience and world for your reader.  


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Links of Interest

THREE TRAPS TO AVOID WHILE WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT:


TIPS FOR SELF-PUBBING A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL SUCCESSFULLY:


HOW TO UNCOVER YOUR CHARACTER’S EMOTIONAL WOUND:


WHY “AGE OF ULTRON” DOESN’T WORK WHEN “THE AVENGERS” DID:


AN INTRO TO SATIRE:


THE MIDPOINT REACTION TO ACTION:


TEN TIPS FOR TWITTER:


WRITING A GREAT FIGHT SCENE:


GETTING AN AUTHOR PICTURE YOU LOVE:


STRUCTURE, THE ACT TWO CHOICE:

INCORPORATING SCIENCE INTO SCIENCE FICTION:


LET THE MAIN CHARACTER DRIVE THE BUS:


WRITING A GOOD ONE-SENTENCE DESCRIPTION OF YOUR NOVEL:


BEGINNING YOUR BOOK WITH THE RIGHT KIND OF ACTION:


THE PRIMAL PLOT:


FAILED POINT OF VIEW, HOW TO SPOT AND FIX IT:


PREPARING FOR A BOOK LAUNCH:



Monday, May 18, 2015

Overusing Pronouns

QUESTION: It's recently been pointed out to me that I sometimes overuse "he" and "she" when referring to my characters in narrative as well as action. I also use direct referral by calling my characters by their names, and their general persons -- i.e., "Bob," "Jill," "the man," "the young woman," etc. -- but I find that these phrases soon become old too. What should I do?

Show what the viewpoint character is feeling and seeing. For example, Tom remembers giving flowers to Jane.


Tom recalled how Jane's face lit up, her cheeks equaling the pink of the roses she clutched to her breast. She had smiled shyly at him, and he'd fallen in love at that instant.

OR

Her face had lit up, her cheeks equaling the pink of the roses she clutched to her breast. Her shy smile had won his heart in that instant.

The second version is a more intimate viewpoint, and I've varied the sentence structure a bit.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't use a character's name as designation more than once a page unless it's a scene with a number of characters.

It's better to be a bit boring using the character's name, which the reader will skim, rather than to confuse the reader as to who is doing what action. This stops the reading process completely which is the one thing a writer should avoid at all costs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Links of Interest

SIX WAYS TO ADD TENSION TO EVERY PAGE:


TRICKS TO FINDING TYPOS, ETC.:


USING STORY STRUCTURE:


WHY YOU NEED OPPOSITION IN A STORY AND HOW TO CREATE IT:


WHAT TO DO WHEN A SCENE IS STUCK:


TIPS TO WRITING A SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER:


REMOVING A GOOGLE MANUAL PENALTY FROM YOUR SITE:


USING MORE THAN THE STANDARD FIVE SENSES:


USING COMMUNITY TO SELL BOOKS:


TWITTER AND PROMOTION:


CREATING A GOOD ANTAGONIST:


THE THREE ACT STRUCTURE EXPLAINED:


FAIRIES/FAE AND FOLKLORE:


TEN WAYS TO TIGHTEN YOUR WRITING:


FLESHING OUT YOUR CHARACTERS:


USING MULTIPLE POVs:


IS YOUR STORY IDEA STRONG ENOUGH FOR A NOVEL?


THE ACT ONE PROBLEM:



Monday, May 11, 2015

From Result to Cause


Often, when you are worldbuilding, or creating a character, a supernatural race, or whatever, you know what you want or need for the story or the world to work, but these elements must be an organic part of the whole, not just something stuck in.  

For these elements to make sense to the reader, you have to work backwards to find the causes that fit your results.

I’ve used this method many times to discover what happened in a character’s past that makes a character like he is, to build back plot, or to world build.

When I started writing STAR-CROSSED, my science fiction romance, I had a few ideas about my alien world Arden that were dictated by plot necessity.  

Its gravity would be slightly heavier than Earth’s so my Earth men wouldn’t be as strong as an Arden woman whose muscles developed for that stronger gravity.  

It would be fairly close to Earth in living conditions and weather because I didn’t want to emphasize day-to-day differences.  Instead, I wanted to focus on the difference in the culture to ours.  

The dangerous wildlife would make it almost impossible for a human to survive on his own in the wilderness so escaping from captivity would be a slow death sentence.

Beyond that, I really didn’t think out the specifics of the planet’s wildlife.  

In the first scene with my heroine Mara, I decided to give her an alien pet to make the scene more otherworldly, and I decided on an animal similar to a cat but with long rabbit-style ears.  I chose a kind-of-a cat because I wanted the pet to be relatable to non-science fiction readers.  

Floppy, the rab-cat, hopped up onto Mara’s lap and promptly told me he was as intelligent as a human, he would take care of Mara--no human male needed, and he was in the story until the end.  

Being well-trained by my pets to be obedient, I agreed with his assessment of the situation, and I realized I needed to work backwards from Floppy to make sense of rab-cats in relation to the other parameters I’d set up for myself for the world.  

I ended up writing an interview with Floppy which details my choices, and since it is more entertaining than a bland recital, here it is.  



Floppy, the sentient alien kitty, from STAR-CROSSED was kind enough to let me interview him.  His interpreters were busy, but, fortunately, he is quite proficient at writing human Basic so he typed his answers on my laptop.

Floppy is a bit larger than the average Earth cat, and has a solid black, smooth coat, emerald green eyes that dance with intelligence and mischief, and elegant long ears that resemble a rabbit's.  Those ears move with grace as he speaks in his own silent language.

"Thank you for letting me interview you."

I am always happy to talk to my biographer.

"Biographer?  STAR-CROSSED is Mara's story."

No, it isn't.  It's the story of how I helped her find happiness with a true mate and children of her own.

"I guess it is.  My error."

She deserves every happiness, and I could not find my own happiness until I knew she was happy.  I kept her safe through our adventures.

"I thought Tristan did that."

He helped as did others.

"Very gracious of you.  I'll start with some questions others have asked me about you.  Here goes.  What's with the bunny ears?  Cats don't have bunny ears."

Humans call my race rab-cats, but we are not Earth cats, and we're not rabbits.  We're the sentient cat race on the planet Arden.  

"Cats from another planet?  That's ridiculous."

The cat is the perfect predator.  Why shouldn't it evolve on more than one planet?  Many planets have a vermin similar to a mouse so many have some form of cat to keep it in check.

"That still doesn't explain the ears."

The most feared predator on my world is the tyrlin.  Tristan compares it to the Bengal tiger on Earth.  It kills and eats every creature which crosses its path, and if it is not hungry, it kills for the pleasure of it.  It hunts more by sound than scent or sight.

"So its prey evolved into absolute silence."

Yes.  No cries or songs, and stealth in its movement.

Rab-cats also hunt prey so we had to evolve with excellent hearing as well as sight and smell.

"So the big ears help you hear quiet mice?"

Exactly.  We also developed intelligence, and we created a silent language by using our ears.

"Clever kitties.  What do you think of Earth cats?"

Mara is owned by a cat.  Sheba was very kind to me when I first came to Mara's house from the vet hospital.  She licked my face, purred, and slept curled around me to comfort me. 

"You were nearly killed by a tyrlin when you were a kitten."

Yes.  It killed my mother and was trying to kill me when Mara lured it away and blasted it.  She took me to human doctors then brought me to her home to live.

"I'm sorry about your mother.  Why were you two alone in that meadow with tyrlins about?"

An earthquake destroyed our home and killed my father, my brothers and sisters.  There was nowhere safe to live or seek refuge.  The earth would not stop shaking so no den was safe.  

Our only choice was to cross that meadow and reach the rab-cats who lived in the hills beyond.  My mother hoped the tyrlin would be busy looking for the dead of the quake.

"How horrible!  I'm so sorry."

It was a long time ago, and my heart mother healed me and loved me after my fur mother died.

"Heart mother?"

Her heart chose me although she is not rab-cat.

"Back to Sheba and Earth cats.  Do cats talk?  And what do they say?"

They are not as evolved as we are.  They talk, but they have little to say to others.  Feed me.  Hold me.  Leave me alone.  That is all they feel they need to say to humans.  They speak with their voices and with their bodies.  A slight twitch of the whiskers and a flick of the eyes in a certain direction can say volumes.

"I know.  Pan, the cat who owns me, will twitch his ear to beckon me toward him, then glance down at himself then up to me when he wants me to pick him up and hold him.  He's only vocal when he's starving to death after being away from his food bowl an hour or so.  If he's silent, I know he just wants to be held."

He doesn't need to be vocal for most of his needs because you read his body's language.  Some humans only understand a loud meow, and others don't even understand that.

"Some humans are pretty blind."

Yes.  You did not know I was sentient when you began my story.

"No, I didn't.  I thought you were an alien pet, there to make Mara's first scene obviously not on Earth.  But you set me straight when you jumped up on Mara's lap and took over the plot."

I do my humble best to set humans on the right path to happiness.

"One thing I don't understand.  After I realized you were sentient, I wanted to change your name to something more dignified than Floppy.  Why wouldn't you let me?"

Floppy is a perfectly dignified name.  In fact, in my native language, my kitten name meant almost the same thing.  My ears were quite long, and I hadn't quite developed the strength to control them completely.  

My parents never lived long enough to give me another name so Floppy I will stay to remember them.  

"I can understand that.  It's amazing that Mara chose a name for you so close to your real name."

Mara sees with her heart so she sees truly.  I forgot that for a time when Tristan entered our lives.

"She is an extraordinary person.  Thank you for this interview."