Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Random Writing Tips – Beware Frankenstein characters

 

Several years ago, I was designing a character and I kept adding traits: she had an interest in gladiators, a bit of a mischievous streak, a love of old movies and TV shows, etc., etc.  It got to the point where I started to wonder if a real person could have all these traits, or if I was just stitching different people together like Dr. Frankenstein.  It’s a problem that often comes up in TV shows, especially scifi or fantasy ones.  Like in the pilot episode we’ll meet a character who seems like an average person, but after five or six seasons we’ll find out they speak nine languages, are an expert in five forms of martial arts, can hack a computer with only a few keystrokes, and so on.  The vast majority of these talents only show up in one episode.  Like, maybe the bad guy needs some Mayan artifact to finish their doomsday weapon, and this character instantly knows what it is and what museum it’s in because, “Oh, you mean I’ve never mentioned my interest in Mayans?  How odd.” The good guys go to the museum, but the bad guy’s goons are already there so the character grabs a sword because, “I’m an expert swordsperson too.”

Real people do have wide and varied interests and talents: I’m interested in World War II, some people like the science fiction stories I write, I have some gardening projects I’m slowly working on, etc., etc.  Some characters feel like real people, while others are just plot devices.  There’s no clear dividing line between them, so it’s very easy to cross from one to the other. 

I think the main reason this happens is that it is easier for the reader to understand – and also easier to write – if we have basic characters.  Basic characters like the competent hero who can repair any mechanical problem with a paper clip and some duct tape, and the bumbling buffoon we can laugh at because they never do anything right.  Until right at the end when the buffoon somehow flies a helicopter and saves the hero.   

In reality, people are probably closer to the buffoon than the hero, but people read to escape reality.  But this can lead to people just expecting some hero to come save them from their problems.  So maybe next time you’re stitching together your hero, throw in some buffoon to make them more realistic and less the uber-hero.

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Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Interact with your audience

I am not a talkative person.  Even at family gatherings I’ll just sit and listen to other conversations.  The reason I’m bringing this up in a writing blog, is that my quiet nature also applies to social media.  If someone leaves a comment on a tweet, I’ll probably spend a few minutes debating if I should reply.  And the vast majority of the time I don’t.  This can be an issue since one of the common pieces of advice given to writers on how to sell more books is to “interact with your audience.”

Even if I did interact with people, I don’t know where to begin interacting with my audience.  Over the years I’ve gone to several forums and I’ll find a topic like, “Science fiction authors looking for readers.” That’s perfect, I’ll think, and then I’ll see that there are 14,000 comments stretching back six years.  I’ll read the last thirty and see that there are just four people having a conversation about some random topic.  Well, I’ll start my own thread, I’ll think.  That way I’ll be in the conversation from the beginning.  So I’ll start a “Science fiction authors looking for readers,” and nobody comments on it.

Writing a compelling, coherent story is hard enough, but then you have to talk to people to sell it?  Argh.  Isn’t there an easier way?  I know there are “services” that will promote books, I just wish they had $5 Test Package to see if it would be worth it to get the $100 Basic Package. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

Writing Newsletter Fourth Quarter 2021

 

In the past three months I’ve republished 3 of my stories.  They are: “Rest in Peace,” “In the Victor’s Footsteps,” and “Memories.”

I also published the short story A Christmas Miracle?

Things are a bit less hectic, and I have managed to do some more writing.  Not as much as I want, but more is better.

I think the only news item is that yesterday I posted my writing goals for 2022.

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Image from Pixabay.


Thursday, December 30, 2021

My writing goals for 2022

 

Well, I didn’t meet any of my writing goals for 2021.  I think the main reason being I had too many other things taking up my time, from work to helping my parents around the house and farm.  Will 2022 be different?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

My main goal for 2021 was to finish The Uncapped Pen: a collection of fifty stories covering various aspects of writing from author’s arguing with their muse to the antics at writing group meetings.  While I did finish several stories for it and polish up several more, I still have a ways to go to finish it.  I’m giving myself the deadline of July to finish it up and publish it.  Stay tuned for that.

I also wanted to finish some stories to submit to various magazines.  And I do have one that I’m almost ready to send out.  Hopefully I can finish up a few more.

I wanted to work on The Pathfinder Saga: Volume 1, which is the start of this massive fantasy story, but I don’t think I’ve done anything with that since about March.  Instead of trying to do too many things at once, I think I’ll hold off on it until I finish The Uncapped Pen.

Hopefully, 2022 will be better than 2021, but you’ll have to come back next year to see how I did.

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Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Free story idea – Four quick ideas for TV series

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

These are just some quick ideas that could be turned into TV shows.

First Idea – Fantasy cop show

I believe I was watching a not so great movie when this cliché scene happened.  Basically, the bad guy killed the good cop’s wife, or kid, I can’t remember, and the good cop catches up to them and starts beating the crap out of them.  Then his partner shows up and stops them saying something along the lines of, “Killing them won’t bring her back.” But then I thought, what if it could?

The idea is that in a present day world with magic, if someone is murdered they don’t bury the body right away.  They put some special two-part bracelet, or something, on the body and then store it.  If they catch the murderer, they put one of the bracelet parts on them and then execute them with a special spell.  The murderer dies, but their lifeforce resurrects their victim.  And in a world with such magic, they also have truth serum, so they know for certain who all this person murdered and they can bring all their victims back.  If the murderer dies before they can be found, the bracelets disintegrate and they bury the body like normal.

The story begins with them executing someone – who confessed with truth serum – but instead of resurrecting the victim the victim’s body explodes because they executed the wrong person.  This causes concern.  In the original version, the magic world was secret and separate from the real world, and a magic detective gets the help of a regular detective to find out how to get around all the magic.  And along the way they discover some dark plot, and probably have a romance. 

But that seemed too … normal.  So the revised version is that the world is all magic, but the cop goes to a “fantasy” writer – which in this world would be someone who wrote stories about worlds where magic doesn’t exist – to help solve the case.

Second Idea – Superhero comedy

This started with a post on Facebook asking how you would explain to the insurance agency if the Hulk smashed your car.  After hammering some ideas out, I came up with this comedy.  In this world, there are two big cities each with their own batches of superheroes and supervillains.  They are a hundred or so miles apart, and practically in-between them is this small town of maybe a hundred people: Main Street is basically just one block.  On this block there is a small law office, an insurance agency, a hair salon, a pizza joint, and a couple other things.  The stories would be about these regular people living in such a strange world, like the roof of the hair salon was damaged by some villains battle drone, but the insurance company is being a pain about getting it fixed.

Every time one of the supervillains tries to expand their territory to the next city, they basically go through, over, or under this town.  And then all the superheroes follow.  Maybe the speedster in this world has an understanding with the pizza joint to keep a pizza on a certain shelf in the refrigerator for them.  When the speedster has to run to the other city – maybe once a week or so – they make a quick stop to grab the pizza and leave a $20.  They then use their “friction power” or whatever to reheat it.

I was thinking one of the storylines would be this “crazy” guy who blames everything on supervillains.  He gets a flat tire and goes into the insurance agency with some outlandish story to try to collect from the fund set up to pay for all the damage done by supervillains.  The twist would be that while 99% of his claims are just delusions, he’s actually right about some. 

Another possible storyline would be a very minor villain would be sent to work undercover at the pizza shop.  Meanwhile, a very minor hero would be sent to work undercover at the law office, or wherever.  The two start dating, not knowing they’re working against each other.  And maybe to do something different, the hero joins the dark side for love.

Third Idea – Fantasy show

The show would begin with a ten year old kid getting out of a city school with his friends.  They start walking along, but then he gets an odd feeling and looks across the street.  There he sees a woman who smiles at him, but then turns and leaves. 

Fifteen or so years later, he’s in a bar when the same woman walks up to him.  But this time he’s too drunk to get any odd feelings.  She asks if he wants to go outside, and he agrees.  They step into an alley and he starts to undo his belt, but she stabs him.  

He dies, but then gets back up, instantly sober.  He asks what the hell, and she starts to explain that he’s an immortal.  Immortals can sense one another, but they are very few.  In olden days, it was likely an immortal would “die” long before they met another.  But nowadays, it’s really easy for an immortal to go around standing before schools to see if any of the kids are immortals.  That’s the woman’s job.  She found him, and just waited until he was an adult to “kill” him.  This stops him from aging, as well as being a very effective way of showing that he is an immortal.

Immortals can really die, but it takes something like being drawn and quartered.  Which was actually a method used by immortals to execute some of their members in the past, but then normal humans found out about it and thought it really cool. 

With the current population, there’s maybe an immortal born every year.  This has led to some issues in the immortal community.  Most immortals are content to amass some wealth and then live comfortably in the shadows, which has worked for centuries.  But as there are more immortals in the world, and it’s becoming harder to live in the shadows, a second faction has emerged that think they should rule over normal humans.  That leader may have been someone who was repeatedly burned at the stake, so they have a dim view of normal humans.  The two groups are more like political parties than warring factions.  The idea would be that neither side is fully correct, but that each have their pros and cons.

The woman works for the first group, and the story would be her bringing the guy into their world.  Part of her job is finding new immortals, but she also works to try to bring immortals from the other side over.  So it’s a world full of spies and secret agents.   

Fourth Idea – A companion show to the third idea

Basically, this show would cover the same time period and many of the same events, but from the POV of the other group of immortals.  Each show would be self-contained, and show their side as the right ones, but you’d get a clearer picture if you watched both. 

The idea I had would be the main character of this show would be an agent who keeps tabs on the woman immortal in the other show.  Like, he was on the roof of the building across the street watching her stab the newbie in the alley.  Maybe they were a couple two hundred years ago, but it didn’t end well. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Random Writing Tips – Know your limitations

 

If you have difficulty writing rousing speeches – which is a skill few have – it’s probably best to not write a story that requires one.  I watched something recently – I won’t say what – but there was a point where the bad guys were winning and the good guys needed a big, motivating speech.  So the hero stepped up and, said some words.  The good guys got fired up and went on to win the day, but in the real world I sat there going, “What?” because after five seconds I had forgotten what they said.  This ultra-pivotal speech sounded like something a student would say at a high school graduation.  Not to dismiss outright the difficulties faced by youths, but hearing some eighteen year old talking about life’s hardships doesn’t resonate with someone who wakes up each morning wondering which random part of them will hurt today for an unknown reason. 

This big hero speech seemed like they wrote an outline of what they wanted the speech to be about, and they just never got around to writing it so they just read the outline.  And the characters in universe acted like it was a “We shall never surrender,” type of thing.  Which broke whatever immersion I had in the story.

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Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Year end clean up

As the year draws to a close, it’s as good a time as any to do some cleaning.  Do you have twenty blog posts you started but never finished?  Go through them and see if there are any you can salvage for next year.  Did you start to organize your writing notebooks?  Why not finish doing that.  Did you start to follow everyone on Twitter who follows your favorite author?  That’s probably more of a long term project that’s outside the scope of what I’m talking about.

A lot people focus on putting words on pages when they talk about writing.  While that is important, there are a thousand minor things related to writing that are often overlooked.  And these overlooked minor details can often be used as an excuse for not writing.  So if you do them now, you’ll have to find new excuses.