Saturday, March 10, 2012

The true worth of silly stuff

This blog is the joint product of a writers group. Which probably leads you, the reader, to ask: What does a writers group do? Good question.
If you ask members of 50 different writers groups what their group does for them, you’ll probably get more than 50 answers. I base this prediction in part on the knowledge that people differ in what they want from such a group, and in part on my own inability to give the same answer as to what our group does twice in a row.
I enjoy the somewhat free-form aspects of our writers group meetings and our twin focus on encouraging each other and doing 3-5 minute writing exercises. I’d never done these before I joined this group. If you haven’t, all I can say is, it’s kinda the writer’s version of speed-dating, but way more fun. 
For instance, one week one of the prompts had us incorporating the following list of random words into a story: acolyte, tiddlywinks, pickles, galaxy, is, razor. Here’s what I came up with:
Here we sit on the razor edge of the galaxy, where time is slowed by the speed of our rotation, playing tiddlywinks with data chips for the treat of winning one of the few remaining pickles from ships' stores.
Who knew how delightful a pickle could be after months of vitamin drinks, yeast-protein and various processed starches? We, the acolytes of the religion of galactic exploration, had outrun our supply lines in our enthusiasm for discovery. Which might not have mattered except that the Frangle drive broke down.

Or the week we played around with writing prompts about endings. The first was to write the end of a dialog. So I did this to the closing lines of Hamlet

"We need to get a script together NOW for our next project, you know," said Tim. 
"Yeah, " said Harry, "but the three kings theme has been done to death, and so has the play within a play format." 
"True," said Tim. "Even Star Trek did that one, with Shakespearean actors putting on their play on the Enterprise as subtext for the plot." 
"OK," said Rafe, "so, how about a classic murder mystery?" 
"BO-ring," said Tim. 
"Maybe an overthrow of government with romantic overtones," said Harry. 
"Oh, yeah, set in space," said Tim. 
"Umm, isn't that Star Wars?" 
"Don't be a killjoy, Rafe," said Harry. 
Tim chimed in. "We could have the protagonist die at the end." 
"Hmm," said Rafe, “I guess I could work with that. But no little talking teddy bears." 
Harry grinned. "How about rainbow pastel ponies?" 
"Now cracks a noble heart," said Rafe 
"Good night sweet prince," caroled Tim. 
Harry joined in. "... and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." 
Rafe raised his notebook and cracked Harry over the head. 
Harry ducked and yelped, "Why does the drum come hither?"
But the followup prompt that week was to write about the end of everything, which really ups the ante.

Everything the priests told us was wrong. The poets came much closer with their talk of destruction by fire and ice, but that's only because anything this ... universal ... fits poetry better than plain prose. And fiction seems more plausible than the entropic death of the universe. 
Well, the universe may have millenia or even eons left before that time but our corner of it will come to an end soon enough. The larger star of this binary system, about which this planet orbits, shows daily greater instabilities, surface and subsurface. 
So tonight, the interstellar research institute sends this message out, both broadcast and engraved on the inner skin of a rocket. I'm not sure why, but someone might find it.
These things crack me up, but more than that, I look back on them amazed that they came out of my brain. Turns out, having to write something on a totally random subject can produce unprecedented subjects & styles. The other amazing thing is how completely different each writer's speed-writing efforts can be. As we read them aloud around the table, we run the gamut from mystery and suspense through scifi/fantasy, humor and romance to bad puns. Maybe some week we'll gather a sampling of just how different the writing-prompt products of different writers can be and post them here.

The Multiple Perspective Approach

There are various ways to write a book, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, a first-person perspective book is great for character development but the problem, as I see it, is that that is the only way a writer can show things happening in the story.  It seems to me that characters end up hearing things or being present to events almost haphazardly.  I know there are writers who do this well and can pull it off amazingly, but that's the case with all writing.  Some authors can pull off writing styles amazingly.
The omniscient third person where the narrator can tell the reader everything they need to know about the character the first time the character is introduced.  This makes it easier to describe things that happen that are pertinent to the story without forcing, in some manner, the main character to be there.  The drawback to this style is that it tends to give too much away to the reader.  Some readers like this, of course, because some people like to know what's going to happen or they enjoy the feeling of what I like to refer to as 'Game Show Syndrome'.  What I mean by that is, when someone watches a game show and they know the answer but the person on the screen doesn't, they sit there yelling the answer at the person even though they can't hear them.  This same thing happens with books and movies.  The classic of course being, "Don't open that door!"
There are many other ways to write than the two I listed above but those are two common ones.

The perspective I use and personally love is the multiple perspectives.  This approach still is kind of a meshing to some of the others.  It allows the writer to still be able to draw the reader in and influence their opinion of the character while allowing the freedom to show things happening in other parts of the story that may still be important to the overall story.  If done well, the story will come together and mesh well while still providing some good intrigue.  If done poorly, like when I first started writing my story, all the characters just end up seeming like the same person or different character attributes of the same person.   To me it seems that using more than one main character allows the writer to toy with the reader's emotions and get them to second guess who the 'bad guy' is in the different character relationships.

Friday, March 2, 2012

About my first book.

   I realize in my last post I spoke of my book, He Came Around the Corner, and that was the first mention of it anywhere.
   So who cares?
   Well the hope for all writers is that people will care when they write a book and I, like most writers, write to influence those around me.  The purpose of writing is not always to make someone think about something profound and philosophical, although that is sometimes the case, particularly with some classic novels.  Sometimes writers will write just to make the reader feel enjoyment from what they read.  This is why I write.
   The funny thing about writing fiction is even though books are put into archetypes, they will often fit other archetypes as well.  For instance, a mystery novel could have a strong romance element in it.  My book is a Young Adult (YA) Fantasy but it still has other elements in it.  The next secondary element, after being Fantasy, in it is the romance.  The romance of the book actually causes one of the profound questions to appear in the story: What exactly are we capable of?

   My book is about two teenagers, Drake and Athena, at the end of their senior year of high school.  On the night of a school dance, what they know as the world they live in changes.  They find themselves alone in their town, everyone they knew and who lived in the town vanish.  The power is gone and only things on batteries and generators will work.  On top of all that, the two of them have to fight for their lives because where ever they go in town, there are orcs who want to kill them.  The only thing keeping them alive are Drake's new magical ability to summon a sword and their knowledge of the town they grew up in.