More Thoughts To Come

October is one of my favorite months.  I love the cool weather, I love the ramp-up to NaNoWriMo (more info on that at a later point), I love Halloween. Fall is my season.

But it also marks a number of anniversaries for me. Two years ago, my entire nuclear family dissolved out from under me.  Things are better now, my parents are finding happiness and I’m healing over a lot of relationship wounds that I’ve been carrying since I was seven.

One year ago, my grandfather passed away.  I travelled 1200 miles in 12 hours to be with my family, and made it to his hospital room just in time. It was an intense experience, but not a negative one.  I’d do anything to have my story end as well as his did.  I love him a great deal, and it hurt. But I wouldn’t change a moment of the experience.

October, my favorite month, makes me think about endings and rebirth.  So for this first October post, I’m going to write about my first experience with death. Warning: this is another major bummer of a post.  But it’s important, and it’s on my mind, so here goes.

Her name was Sarah Foster, and I was eight years old. Continue reading

The Blank Slate

Everyone who knows me well knows that I’m not a fan of heroes.

They’re all the same damn person. White-bread moral paragons of virtue who all follow in the footsteps of Luke Skywalker, pacing through the Hero’s Journey like it’s a track ride at Disneyland.  Yes, they have quirks and quandaries that make them their own person, but overall they fit a stereotype.  Even well-rounded, well-formed heroes just seem to pale in comparison to their surrounding cast.

I’m just not a fan.

I’m not just hating on heroes to be edgy, I promise.  This is grounded in proper literary analysis.  Namely, the white-bread moral paragons of virtue are a subset of what I hope is a fading literary trend: The Everyman.

This is how to avoid falling into that trap.

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The Conflict-Driven Plot

As I’m editing through The Thrilling Adventures of Clara Delaney I’m asking myself a lot of questions.  What works? What doesn’t work? What should I do for the next book?  Overall it’s a pretty solid story, but where are the weak points?

My biggest difficulty: conflict.

I am perfectly happy watching my characters sit around and get drunk or talk for the entire book, which does not make for entertaining reading.  This is troublesome for someone who wants to write space adventures.  

So here are some ideas for creating conflict.  And a lot of questions to ask yourself when you need to push a change in plot.

 

Know Their Motivation

Your characters will not always be on the same side, and that goes a lot deeper than the usual “good VS evil” dichotomy that most genre fiction is so fond of.  An antagonist worth reading about isn’t just motivated by being evil– they need a reason.  The same goes for a hero: doing good for the sake of good is boring.

So think about what drives them, from their day-to-day needs to their overarching narrative.  Conflict arises naturally when two heroes find themselves at cross-purposes, not when a hero and a villain clash.

I don’t really believe in villains.

 

Know Their Background

Cultural values, privilege, personal history: everything that makes a person who they are is a source for conflict.  What do your characters value? How can it be endangered? What do they fear? How can you make that happen?

 

Change Them

Taking the previous point deeper: how can you change those values? How can you challenge them? How do you want your characters to change over the course of the story and what’s going to cause that?

A lot of this is just basic characterization stuff, but if you’re a character-driven writer, as I am, this is how you form your plot.  Put people at odds, force them to find a solution, and watch how they grow.

It’s working for me so far.

Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference 2016

Oh my god oh my god oh my god, did I have an amazing weekend.  For anyone who hasn’t attended a writers’ conference before, do it.  If you’re able, do this one.

Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference.  Go look at the website.  Easily one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to and I already cannot wait for next year.

The people were phenomenal, the sessions and panels were a huge education, and the speakers-slash-presenters were amazingly friendly.  Wendy Corsi Straub (@WendyCorsiStaub) said in her keynote speech that this business is a roller coaster, and she wasn’t kidding.  The whole weekend (while phenomenal) was definitely a rolling tide of hills and valleys for me.

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State of the Blog

Being an adult is weird.

Those of you who know me personally know the reason the blog’s been on hold for a couple weeks: I recently started my first Actual Grown-up Job (with a desk and everything), I’ve been doing a ton of work with the Iowa Writers’ House and I’ve been editing The Thrilling Adventures of Clara Delaney to try and hit 85,000 words before I start doing a serious bout of querying.  

Anyway. Here’s more information on all that stuff.

 

Iowa Writers’ House:
This is a shameless plug for an awesome organization.  The IWH is a group of writers located primarily in the Iowa City area (but currently doing work throughout the entire Creative Corridor, and aiming to work with the entire state) that work together to create an amazing creative community.  We have workshops with amazing writers (one just finished up with Sabata Mokae), social events with other area writers in Iowa City landmarks, and the Rooms.

The Rooms are awesome.  They’re communities of writers within a genre that get together and write, discuss aspects of their work, or just get to know each other.  So far we have two established Rooms: the Great Green Room (children’s literature, hosted by an awesome group of ladies that include published authors Sarah Prineas and Delia Ray) and the Violet Realm (sci-fi and fantasy, hosted by the awesome Erin Casey and myself).

Twice a month, the Violet Realm gets together to listen to a short lecture about some aspect of writing sci-fi and fantasy.  It’s either facilitated by a member of the community or one of the hosts– we’ve had talks on fight scenes, conlanging (guess who facilitated that one), mapmaking, and a ton more.

If you’re in Iowa, check us out.  The Violet Realm meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month in the Iowa City Public Library, room B.  Everyone’s welcome!

 

Check out the website for the Iowa Writerss House:  http://iowawritershouse.org/

And the Violet Realm: http://iowawritershouse.org/the-violet-realm/

And like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iowawritershouse

 

Blog:

Things are settling down, so the blog’s back in business!  I’m afraid #livetweetbooks is on an indefinite hiatus, though.  Between IWH, a 9-5 job, and working on actually writing, I don’t really have the time to carve out anymore– so it’s going on the backburner of fun ideas.  It may come back to life if I find a really good book to talk about.  I’ll still probably be posting reviews now and again.

 

Writing:

I’m planning on starting the beta-reading process for The Thrilling Adventures of Clara Delaney at the end of the month: once I get it up to 85,000 words I’m going to consider it in the final draft stage.  Which means I’m looking for beta readers for both the query letter and the manuscript, starting in May.

Also in May (after the 17th) I’ll be looking for beta readers for a poetry chapbook.  I’ve spent the last couple years compiling poems I’ve written from… well, kindergarten, up to my poem-a-day challenges the past few years.  Thinking of calling it Quarter-Life Crisis, although that’s a work in progress.

Last thing: I’ll be at the Pike’s Peak Writing Conference next week!  Check it out here.  The events look amazing and registration is still open, go check it out.

 

Job:

I’m working 9-5 at an actual job now and I’m pretty sure all the stuff on my desk cost at least half of what I made last year, if not more.  The people are awesome and the job is interesting and it’s very surreal.  We have a team-building exercise planned. And a water cooler.

So that’s that.