Tag Archives: heroic fiction

Villain POV and editing

I can’t believe it’s already the end of September. My eldest daughter got married one month ago, and my twins have been back in school for three weeks.

Writing the second draft of my novel (which I’m calling the first draft since I’m calling the novel-like pile of words I completed my zero draft) is going much slower than I expected. I think this is because when I wrote that initial draft I did more “discovery” writing than I thought – the story crystalized as I wrote it.

It took me two-and-a-half weeks to write/rewrite the first 5000 words in which I introduce two of the three POV characters, their goal, the world, and foreshadow the third main character.

I got stuck when I started writing/rewriting the next chapter of the novel in which I introduce the third POV character, his goal, another part of the world, and the main villain. I realized I had no idea how this third hero would interact with the villain initially, before he is aware of their conflict. In my first/zero draft I worked out the what/why/how for the villain later, but not so much in the beginning.

My solution: Summarize the novel from the villain’s point of view.

That brought so much of the story into focus for me. It also clarified the motivations for another character… the one who betrays my main characters.

Miriah Hetherington maple leaves

It’s Autumn! Teddy gets to help rake leaves.

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Writing Classes are the best

I try to go to writing classes when I can because I always leave with some new tools and a better understanding of my old tools.

At the end of June I got to attend the two-day writers workshop hosted by the Locus Awards about creating character, plot, and scenes. It was taught by Daryl Gregory the first day and Connie Willis the second day. Both halves of the workshop were all kinds of awesome.

Both Connie Willis and Daryl Gregory are fabulous teachers.

I just finished typing up my hastily scribbled notes from the class. I’m not going to share everything (that would be a very long post), but I will share a couple ideas that particularly generated ah-ha moments for me.

Inciting Incident
New-ish writers like me hear this over and over again – the story must start as close to the inciting incident (point where everything changes) as possible. Thou must not start with a bunch of backstory to set the scene. But even when I start in the middle of the action it’s hard to figure out exactly where to start and how to give the reader enough information to understand what’s going on.

I feel like I understand what this means a little better. The purpose of an opening scene is to hook my reader. My reader should want to learn more. My opening should raise questions in the reader’s mind to get them to keep reading. My story beginning should make the reader care about my character, so they care about whether or not the character gets what s/he wants.

Once my reader is hooked, then they will care about the character’s backstory and anything else they need to know to understand the rest of the story.

Dialog Scenes
Dialog is way more than just two characters chatting. It can and should be used for all kinds of heavy lifting to reveal plot and character. It never hurts to remind myself that characters should always want something. In dialog, the information conveyed by a character should move them toward their goal. Every speaking character wants something from the other character.

Learning from Material
When I look at my gigantic to-read pile, it’s hard to pick up an old favorite. I knew that reading favorite books and re-watching favorite films or TV shows – paying attention to everything that works and doesn’t work, and figure out why – would be educational. But I haven’t done it much. So right now I’m re-reading “Druss” by David Gemmell, one of my all-time favorite heroic fantasy novels.

These goats have learned to this pulley to pull the little bucket toward them and eat out of it.

These goats have learned to use this pulley system to pull the little bucket toward them and eat out of it.

Have you been to a good writing workshop lately?

Choreographing a fight scene

There are two fight scenes in a story I’m working on, so lately I’ve been reading articles about writing fight scenes in general, and trying to visualize my fight scenes in particular.

Norwescon was last weekend (a fantastic conference, btw) and one panel I attended was “Writing Action” with Craig English, Erik Scott de Bie, Erin Evans, Michael Tinker Pearce, and Dean Wells.

Some of the notes I took in the panel:
• a fight scene must advance the plot – something must change
• get into your POV character’s head
• the action is about how the POV character reacts, not who hits who with what
• ground the narrative in sensory information – smells, sounds etc.
• the POV character should be hurt in a fight, something should go wrong
• establish the emotional stakes before the fight – the reader should care about the fight outcome
• in a life/death situation, people react automatically according to their training (or lack of training)
• setting is important, including bystanders – props can become weapons
• pay attention to how fights usually go in movies and take it in a surprising direction

But first, I had to figure out what happens during the fight in my story. There are several people in the scene, and even though I’m only going to write what the POV character is aware of, I need to know what else is going on. Because, while she is busy with one enemy, the other characters aren’t just standing around!

So I procrastinated threw together a few props and took pictures. Here are a few of them:

fightsceneA

fightsceneB

 

 

 

 

 

 

The POV character is blue. A couple of red shirts turn on shields that attract flying predators. One red shirt drops and gets shredded while my hero and the others fight off the rest.

It was fun setting this up. Hopefully the writing result will be easy to follow.

Happy Writing

Historic Site Inspiration

This Friday is November 1st, and that means NaNoWriMo! Thirty days of writing like crazy with the goal of achieving 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel.

Inchmahome Priory on an island in the middle of the Lake of Menteith as seen from a boat

Island in the Lake of Menteith

This year I will be writing the beginning of a novel that’s been rolling around in my head for some time. It’s a hero’s journey set in a post-science fiction world. To me that means the humans in my world are the ancestors of Earth colonists who landed there centuries ago. Technology has devolved, and the aliens that helped them settle have died out completely but their influence remains. The working title is “Dyoza” after the name of the world.

One of the places on Dyoza is the priory located on an island in the middle of Tcharraz lake. The villain and another character grew up there.

Inchmahome Priory on an island in the middle of the Lake of Menteith near Stirling, Scotland

Ruins of Inchmahome Priory

I’ve taken my inspiration for this fictional location from (the real) Inchmahome Priory, located on an island on the Lake of Menteith, in Scotland near Stirling. I visited there this summer with my family. Inchmahome Priory was established in 1238, but Protestant Reformation ended it in the mid-1500s. It’s a small island, absolutely beautiful, with paths around the edge, and across. I could imagine people walking around the island in quiet contemplation.

Paths on the island, location of Inchmahome Priory in the middle of the Lake of Menteith near Stirling, Scotland

Paths around the island

Happy Writing!

Miriah

Character with a Bow

I’ve been taking archery classes for about four months now.

It looked like fun and I wanted to try it. Also, I plan to write a main character who uses a bow for survival, so I wanted to have first-hand experience. If that sounds like an excuse well… Okay it is an excuse.  I found out that it not only looks like fun, it is fun!

Miriah's best target shooting at 10 yards (so far)

Miriah’s best target shooting at 10 yards (so far)

But now whenever I see characters on TV and in films with a bow, I notice the inaccuracies. Partly because I want to make sure my writing is as realistic as possible.

First of all, a real archer would never hold the bow when she draws, aims and releases the arrow. When you see that archer in a film drawing the bowstring and gripping the bow with their bow hand? There is no way that is real. After safety, this was the first lesson. Gripping the bow with your bow hand when you shoot throws off your aim in an unpredictable way. So a real archer wears a finger sling – a loop of cord that goes around the bow and is attached to the thumb and a finger of the bow hand so the bow does not fall to the ground after he releases the arrow.

Anchor under jaw lineNotice my bow hand is not holding the bow

Anchor under jaw line
Notice my bow hand is not holding the bow

Another thing I notice on TV and film is the fictional archer’s anchor. When the archer draws the bowstring, are all three fingers under the nock, with hand resting (anchored) against his cheek? Is the nock between the first and second fingers with the hand under the jaw? Is the palm turned inward or outward? I have tried all of these techniques in class. In the current modern sport, which one depends on the type of bow, usual range, individual preference, and probably lots of other things I haven’t learned yet.

Anchor at corner of smileNotice my bow hand is not holding the bow

Anchor at corner of smile
Notice my bow hand is not holding the bow

In the fantasy or historic setting of a story, the anchor method would be a significant identifier of where (region or culture) the archer was from. For accuracy, the important thing is consistency and releasing the bowstring without conscious movement – your fingers simply relax. All movement in the bow arm when the arrow is released comes from tension in the back muscles that are working to draw the bowstring.

I’ve learned that you never (intentionally) “dry fire” a bow. That’s what it’s called when you draw the bowstring without an arrow nocked, and release. The energy that would otherwise go into the arrow and send it flying feeds back into the bow instead – it can break the bow. One way that could happen accidentally is if the arrow’s nock breaks. So a good archer always takes care of her arrows and inspects them regularly.

Another thing I will be taking into consideration when I write an archer is that shooting arrows is very tiring. A long bow (the most likely version in a low-tech setting) requires a great deal of strength just to draw. A composite Recurve bow (like the one Katniss uses in The Hunger Games film) is not as difficult to draw (it’s the type I usually use in class), but still wears you out. A compound bow is more high-tech (that would be my choice for a steam-punk setting) and makes it possible to “hold” the bow in the drawn position without much effort.

The character I write who is relying on her bow skills to survive will also need to practice every day. Luckily she won’t mind. Because shooting a bow is fun.

Happy Writing ;-)

An Sgeul Beag (The Small Story)

In my last blog post I wrote about writing intentions and goals for 2013. I have other goals unrelated to writing – like getting more organized and the standard improve-my-health-through-diet-and-exercise. Let’s not forget my ongoing goal of raising two pre-teens to eventually reach their full potentials and be (hopefully) less narcissistic than I was at their age.

Another goal I have is to improve upon my understanding of the Gáidhlig language. Luckily for me, my friend and Gáidhlig teacher Geoff Sammons has thought of a way for me to work on my Gáidhlig and for both of us to blog more frequently. (Yay Geoff!)

Geoff started a story, in Gáidhlig – on his blog, and I added my best shot at the translation in a comment. Now I’m going to post what he wrote plus my translation, then add a few more lines in English. Hopefully we can keep this up, and write a little narrative together.

Sin agad e! (There you have it!) Blog posts, Gáidhlig learning and storytelling fun all in one;-)

Happy Writing!

 castle_scotland

Geoff:

An sgeul beag ùr airson Miriah

’S e oidhche dorcha ’s stoirmeil a bh’ ann. Choimhead a’ bhànrigh a-mach uinneag an caisteal ris an gailleann, dh’fheitheamh i ris an rìgh. Chuala i a-rithist mu dheidhinn an rìgh agus ceannard an fhreiceadain.

Miriah’s translation:

The new short story for Miriah

It was a dark and stormy night. The queen watched the storm from her window in the castle, and waited for the king. She had heard (or heard rumors?) about the king and the leader (of their personal?) guard.

Miriah’s addition:

Sir Iain had served on the personal guard of king Niall’s father, the old king, during the war. Queen Siobhan’s marriage to King Niall established peace between the two kingdoms. But after five years, Sir Iain still did not trust Queen Siobhan and insisted on meeting with the king in private.

And next: Geoff’s addition, anns a Gáidhlig??

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Today, I’m a part of The Next Big Thing blog hop, thanks to speculative erotica writer Victoria Pond, author of My Lady Gambler. The Next Big Thing is a branching pyramid-of-prose for authors to discuss their latest release or WIP. Each author answers ten questions (see below for my answers), and then tags other writers to do the same.

So it’s kind of like a chain letter for writers, without the dire threat of evil consequences if you break the chain. (Oh hey, that could be a writing prompt. Hmm…)

Marymoor Park, Redmond Washington

Rainbow over Marymoor Park in Redmond Washington

At the moment I am primarily focused on writing short stories and even submitting a few. But, I’m going to play along with the spirit of this exercise, and answer the questions based on my novel Work In Progress… using a very broad definition of “Progress”. It’s also the book I started for NaNoWriMo.

1. What is the working title of your book?

Arthropod’s Touch

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the “creatures that need killing” in my book came from watching a murmuration of starlings video. This is truly a spectacular sight, but just imagine if you saw that after watching Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. Now imagine insects instead of birds.

My two main characters were conceived of as part of the backstory for one of my Player Characters in my cooperative writing Role Playing Game. Since then they have transformed and grown into separate personalities who demand their own unique world.

One influence in my world building has been the pervasive inequality in western culture. I tried to imagine an ideal, and was also thinking about the MVP (Minimum Viable Population) concept in terms of humans colonizing a new planet. How would I (or my fictional counterpart) select humans to colonize a new planet with the intent of a) making sure the human race survived and b) increasing the likelihood that a new human culture would develop without a privileged class based on gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. This was the beginning of my world building. I’ve found that a vision of idealized perfection is a great place to start because then I can figue out all kinds of stuff that can go wrong.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Post science fiction heroic fantasy.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Now that is difficult, but I will give it a WAG (wild ass guess).

The brother might be played by Ben Barnes, whom I remember best for the title character role in the film “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”.

I think I’d like the sister to be played by Parminder Nagra, whom I loved as Jess in the film “Bend It Like Beckham”.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Whilst coming to terms with what they are, siblings Kestra and Razmer must  rescue their Sept’s children, expose the Dyozan Bishop’s purpose for kidnapping them, and unite the Clades against a greater threat: the Sturmitera are swarming again and humanity cannot survive another Grand Murmuration.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Until I have an actual manuscript in my hand, this is something of a moot point. My gut inclination would be to go the traditional route. But, who knows?

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I would need a time machine to answer this question. So instead I will declare a goal: to finish my first draft one year from now.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

My hope would be to create something that fans of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books might like. Not that I could come close to her awesomeness! And whilst I’m in the land of wishful thinking, I would also hope it might appeal to fans of David Gemmell’s Drenai Series.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

My mother is a big inspiration and source of encouragement. She provides an attentive ear for bouncing ideas around. When I’m having trouble figuring out a scene or short story, describing it to her helps me clarify it in my head. If I can’t explain it aloud, I know I have some more day dreaming to do. And of course I couldn’t be writing at all without the support of my wonderful husband!

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

One of the things distracting me from writing this novel is the backstory. There is a short story, or possibly a novella simmering in the back of my head about the humans from earth that colonized the planet, and the aliens that are there when they arrive. I may need to write that story first.

That’s it! The Next Big Thing Blog Hop! Are you a writer willing to be tagged for the Next Big Thing blog hop? If so, let me know via comment or email [ miriah (at) live (dot) com ] and I’ll add you to my list here!

Now, I  hereby tag these writers to answer the same questions in about a week. (Or when they get around to it. No dire consequences, remember?):

Jessica Broughton, Genre: Speculative Fiction

Gayle Weatherson, Genre: Speculative Fiction

Frank Kim, Genre: Contemporary and Speculative Fiction