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Today I’m going to release a little secret.
Those who know me in-person might find this to be nothing new, as I am capable of blathering about topics that most folk tend to otherwise be averse to bringing up. And yet, to the contrary, I am extremely secretive – almost to the point of paranoia, especially when it comes to my writing. It’s a good front – when people tell me secrets, I bloody keep them, but the way I’ve gone on about subjects (personal or taboo), I like to imagine that people perceive me as somebody who has no secrets.
Well, it’s akin to what Bill Cosby once said: “Fathers are the geniuses of the house because only a person as intelligent as we could fake such stupidity.”
So, the post’s titular ‘snapshot’ is how I am structuring my book-in-progress, through Points of View. Because I read/heard somewhere that it’s good to share your work, and the progress, your plans, your tribulations, what-have-you. I’ll attempt to keep it brief.
In essence, the Novel is – currently – divided into twelve chapters, following the experiences of three main characters. It is planned to have four chapters dedicated to each of the main characters, each of whom follows their own storyline, but is connected – in ways they don’t quite see – rather closely to one another. Think A Game Of Thrones in how George R.R. Martin divides each chapter by character perspective. He even goes so far as to entitle the chapters by the characters’ names, doing away with numbers altogether.
So we have twelve chapters, three main characters, four chapters each, interwoven. I’ll even give you names – Radh, Zayne, and Jacquel. For my own organizational purposes, I label the chapters RA, ZA, JA, then RB, ZB, JB, and so on. Here is a literal snapshot:
This kind of thing on its own is not particularly unique, I am aware. But I’m not shooting for unique chapter layout here, this is just what I’ve come to like in my reading and how I’ve come to enjoy organizing this novel.
I’m also fond of quick, non-main character PoV’s, sometimes as short as a page or two, just to give another … perspective … on the events at hand. Peppered throughout the work are shorter chapters the follow the PoV of some minor character who has something to do with one of the three named above. I think that most written work that follows the perspective of one single character walks on thin ice, but as with all things, there are exceptions. Epic fantasy by definition often has an extensive cast of characters, and denying a reader the chance to see things elsewhere can really make the piece feel… small. Or at least constrained.
The first three “intro” chapters begin with a non-main character PoV, which serve to inadvertently introduce the character of this storyline. I do this in part because it’s fun, and in part because it is different; it sort of flies in the face of what I’ve read how most stories “should” be written. That is, in the first page/paragraph/sentence, the readers need to know who the main character is. If this were true, then that guy in the beginning of A Game Of Thrones would not have been executed in Chapter 2.
Personally, I think that action, pace and story take precedence. The readers are smart and can figure out who the main character is soon enough without having the name be first or second word in the first sentence of the first paragraph. The beginning of a book do one thing before telling you who to root for: what kind of book it is you’re reading. Martin did an excellent job of telling us his Song of Fire and Ice series was not going to show mercy for his characters. Tolkien showed us that his book is long-winded and extremely in-depth straightaway, and Herbert (Dune) showed us pretty early on that there humanity has come a long way, and what that entails.
Memory plays a big role in my Novel-in-the-works, too. While I don’t like to use flashbacks solely as an excuse for exposition, each chapter (with the exception of the first three “intro” chapters) is prefixed by a memory of something relevant to the events about to transpire, such as “where the character got their martial training” or “how this character fell from grace.”
It’s a joy to plan, and occasionally it’s a bit arduous to write, but it’s a labor of love, as they say.
That’s all for now, dear readers.
Today’s post is a two-parter, and the first of the Tidings category. I spent a whole three seconds considering whether I should start every Tidings with a “Hear ye, hear ye!” Let’s just get into it.
Firstly, and this is nothing huge but I figure worth mentioning regardless, is that I’ve begun reading The Lord of the Rings. Gasp. Shudder.
“Why, Jesse? You’re maintaining a blog that not only concerns itself with fantasy, but has it in the very title. How could you not have read it?”
Truth is, I’ve tried in the past, when I was younger, less ambitious and less disciplined sapling. I think I got about as far as Tom Bombadillo, then put it down, and since never picked it back up. What’s the deal? I have huge respect for the work of Tolkien and (I regret to say that only recently) I have been learning more and more about the man himself. I suppose I have no excuse. I’ve been consuming other fantasy from other authors, and LotR has always sort of been that foundational bedrock I walked on but found too intimidating to dig up. Not to mention my head is filled with imagery from the films, as those were a family favorite and were played frequently in my home as a sapling.
I suppose, with the urging of a trusted associate of mine, the time has simply come. One can’t be rushing into some things, even if it takes a lapse of about 12ish years to re-pickup a book.
I’m also happy to report that I’m digging it. As I hinted at, the movies are borderline memorized (partially against my will), but there is apparently enough in the source material to make it seem as a rather different adventure, though of course the skeleton of the story is unchanged. Someone would have told me, I think, if that were the case. But regardless, I aim to complete the entirety of the Lord of the Rings, then after a breath of air, delve into the Silmarillion.
But one step at a time.
Secondly, I’m also happy to report that a short story of mine has been accepted by Beyond the Imagination magazine. One must start somewhere.
Since my visit to Florida, during which I was able to get a huge volume of prose written, I’ve been struggling to not only transcribe it from my notebook to Scrivener, but a wave of that type of fervent creative energy hasn’t quite hit yet. I blame not being in an airplane and returning to Where They Think I Work … where I remain for now, but not for long.
I came up with and will be implementing a format/formula for how my story will be presented, the details of which I will gladly get into in a later post. Suffice it to say that many gaps have been filled where there was simply floating ideas before, and the feeling is utterly exhilarating. By the time this post goes up, I will have willed myself into a Transcription Phase, where I shall set up my $1.00 notebook upon a music stand review some newly discovered music.
People get their inspiration from all kinds of sources. Anyone familiar with this blog would know that I often recommend folks to go out and do things. But often enough it’s not so much the things we do that give us perspective and life experience, but rather the things that happen to us.
I’ve been debating on tackling a short story idea that has sort of manifested as a result some Life Circumstances I’ve had to wad through. On one hand, they say write what you know, and on the other, the Writer within me observes the world at all times with one of two thoughts happening: “How can I use this?” and, preferably “I can use this.”
It is my rudimentary understanding that people don’t really write all that much if they’re happy, or more to the point, write so much about happy things. Lack of conflict is boring, every storyteller knows that. The question is, how can one utilize their emotions, their tribulations, their experience, constructively.
I once did work for someone who took this idea by the reigns and went and wrote a book about some serious relationship turmoil she had been going through for a year. Not long ago, I met up with an old friend-of-the-family who was in the process of her own autobiographical novel. I confess having done something similar once – a rather specific scene – in a yet-to-be-refined-and-published work of mine, but the entirety of that scene was fictionalize. The only part that was true to experience was the emotion involved.
So my short story idea has in part been inspired by what these folks I know have done (and do), as well as the Life Circumstances themselves. The tricky part is, for me, that my goal is not to tell a believable human interest story set in the Real World. My goal is to express myself, but through the filter/lens of my adored medium: Fantasy.
I have read that whenever a writer writes and an author authorizes, every character they create has some piece of the creator in them. Makes sense, yea? How much or little is up to you, but in the case of this short story – sort of a standalone origin story for a non-protagonist character in my novels – there’ll be just enough to make the person expressive for my own therapeutic purposes, but also (hopefully) interesting enough to give the character unforeseen depth.
On the other hand, I could just end up churning out another rag. But I prefer to be optimistic. After all, as of this post, I’ve got a month to see if I can pull it off in time for Writers of the Future.
Happy writing, dear readers. As a closing, here is an excellent and optimistic chiptune track I discovered recently.
So the short of it is that, as of this post, I just returned from a four-day excursion to Florida. As a (rural) New Yorker, in February, this is a cataclysmic change of scenery, seeing as I’ve never before been to Florida except “when you were a baby,” (doesn’t count, Dad) and some years later as a teenager (where I was mostly stuck indoors). In other words, I was in a town just outside Orlando – known as Kissimmee – and as a sentient adult with (limited) independent mobility (we had a golf cart), I was able to actually explore the locales.
But no bloody alligators.
The purpose of the trip was in fact to visit my ninety-seven year old Hungarian grandmother, whom I have not seen personally in upwards of ten years. She is as pruney and dependent as any near-centennial could be expected to be, but she is a woman who is more at peace with the world than practitioners of Buddhism I’ve met, and retains a sharp mind. To put it short, this is a lady who is the closest thing I have to a living ancestor, someone who lead an extremely busy and good life, and is now in the process of winding down. “What’s the point?” she’s said with a shrug and a smile, in regards to people mentioning that they hope she makes it to ninety-eight.
The family at large is about as prepared for her passing as she is, and her children (my mother among them) visit frequently. It would seem that Nana is largely unconcerned with herself, often insisting that the rest of us not be terribly bothered by … things about her, though she is delighted to see us regardless. It’s just like a cantankerous old German blacksmith once told me: “Ze Hungarians, yes, zey are hard-heads.” I assume he means stubborn, but I’ll keep that in mind next time I get into a street fight and must resort to assuming my well-trained Ram Stance.
But it is a sobering moment, to meet someone who was almost born in the 19th century. We were in a cultish, Lutheran/Methodist (I don’t remember which and honestly don’t care about the difference, and neither does Nana) golf course slash elder-person habitat. Not a mountain in sight, and I’m a country-boy-turned-computer-jockey – I feel lost without mountains to put my back against when orienting myself, and the fauna.
Lizards! Egrets, whooping cranes, and lizards. Anoles, to be precise. Like, everywhere. Anyone who’s been to Georgia or further south must not find this interesting, but as someone whose principle source of reptilianhood has been garter snakes and painted box turtles, it felt like going to another country. Seeing all the Spanish Moss and unraveling palm trees heightened this sensation.
Aside from observations of flora and fauna, and the memorable company of a progenitor of me whom I, like I said, hardly saw for most of my life, there was considerable progress in terms of writing. Alone in the apartment we rented or cramped in the giant tin bird on the way two and from from the Land of Flowers, I nearly filled out half a notebook full of prose.
To that end, I may have discovered my ideal writing retreat: somewhere 40,000 feet above the ground where sunlight dances off golden cloudscapes and where claustro-acrophobics curse existence.
Happy writing, dear readers!
Never been much of a fan of time-travel themed stories. Perhaps it is a concept that is inherently paradoxical, and often in pop-fiction it serves as little more than a means of saying “What if a modern character were placed in [this time period]?” Or of course vice versa. Aside from the shear physics-defying mechanics and technology that would be involved, usually there’s a bit of accountability lost in some of these stories.
Now don’t get me wrong, few can argue the greatness of Back to the Future. And sure, there’re others that come to mind, but there’re also a few less-than-good ones that come to mind as well. As far as I’m concerned, Time Travel as a genre or theme is kind of a turn off for me.
Now, had I known this, I might not have tried a certain audiobook I picked up from the Humble Bundle some time ago known simply as Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Having finished it with a smile, I can safely say that I was pleasantly surprised by the time-travel element that sorta came out of left field for me. Now, this can be totally attested to my ignorance of Margaret Peterson Haddix – and her Missing series – but I’m not afraid to admit it.
Let’s just say this: Normally, I don’t like Time Travel (much). Normally, I don’t like Young Adult, either. But Found was both of these, and I rather enjoyed it. I wonder whether not knowing anything about the book beforehand before reading it enhanced my experience, but I know for certain that no previous knowledge might have prevented me from experiencing it at all. Let that just be a word of caution to everyone out there!
Try reading something outside of your genre, or outside of your interest-range. Or, better yet, pick up a book (or have someone pick one for you) that you know nothing about, and just give it a shot. I have heard of a ritual that people will do where they give each other book-gifts, with brown paper bag covers – so no one but the giver knows what the title, author, genre or whatever is. I guess I’d do this if I knew more people who read books, but hey, in the meantime I’ve got a pile of audiobooks from that Humble Bundle left to go.
Not to mention something that was handed to me by a stranger once, a little paperback called Random Harvest by James Hilton. Was told it was immensely popular – a New York Times bestseller - and, looking at its Wikipedia entry, apparently it was.
But anyway, as for Found, I’d recommend it for anyone into Time Travel, Young Adult Fiction, or mysteries. This is something I would, along with Redwall and The Hobbit, read to my nephew one day.
What books have you found surprising in either content or quality?
So some of you may have heard the latest bits regarding crocodiles learning to climb trees. Apparently this has been reported in the past, but never really took hold and spread in the public consciousness/media.
The crocs do it more likely to bask in the sun than to hunt though; as predominantly aquatic reptiles, though they might be able to get themselves up a tree, they’re not really equipped for lashing out and grabbing things like birds and inquisitive tourists, unless they’re willing to take the fall on the way, and I don’t see that happening. Anything with a mouth can bite, sure sure, but it’s not like crocodiles suddenly learned to do this anyway.
Here I am speaking like some biologist trying to calm down the masses from the brink of panic. Honestly, I just like animals, and the fact that I happen to be visiting Florida at the end of this week seems to be most apropos.
So here’s to some of the oldest, biggest, and most ferocious reptiles in the world. I’m grateful they’re not the saltwater variety down near Orlando.
The flash of tree-climbing crocodiles, though, brings up an interesting story-telling concept. Take it as a writing prompt, if you will, but the idea of a creature that everyone can recognize and name (the discrepancy between alligators and crocodiles notwithstanding) seemingly doing something unexpected is just a story waiting to happen. What’s next, apes being capable of language?
What unexpected animal behavior would you love to see? Better yet, what unexpected animal behavior would you write about?
As much as I dig the Starsiege: Tribes game, back in the day anyway – though I feel compelled to mention that the soundtrack for Tribes: Ascend, the latest one (which I haven’t played much), has a few tracks that’re utterly phenomenal – what I am talking about today is something quite different.
Having recently discovered Seth Godin, an author of a multitude of books that tend to focus on personal change and entrepreneurship. I like to consume these so-called self-help styled texts in between fiction works to shake things up, and Tribes is – in a nutshell – about leadership, about how people in modern society, more than ever, are conditioned to follow, and how because of this, leaders are needed more than ever. Regrettably, negative people will shoot down what Godin has to say as nothing new or helpful. Clearly, his works are not for those folks. I found his writings, even if some of it was obvious, to be worded in such a way to be made quite clear to me, and that’s all I needed to make some changes.
Now to understand his concept of tribes, as well as leadership, it must be said that for one, being part of a tribe is a natural human tendency. We’re pack animals, after all (though I have heard humans being referred to as herd animals, on occasion). Therein lies some of our greatest strengths, but also some of our weaknesses. Following a group is not always a good thing, but it’s not always bad either. To be in a tribe, there must be some sense of belonging yes, but also exclusion. This, too, is not always as bad as it sounds.
One’s tribe need not be that of bloodties, such as a clan, but rather a group of people who share ideals, goals and world views. The tribes of Apple and Google are cited as examples, who not only have formed a corporate tribe – for the employees – but also a tribal following. The same can be said for churches, political movements and anything to do with improving a skill.
As an author, Seth Godin also has a bit to about self-marketing and entrepreneurship, which easily ties into the main point of being a leader. And, perhaps biggest of all, he emphasizes that leadership is not a born skill: it is acquired. It can be learned; charisma is a choice, not a gift. After interviewing a large body of leaders from many fields, it was found that there were those who were shy, those who were extroverted; those who were great at public speaking, and leaders who froze in front of a crowd. It isn’t about forcing people to follow you, it’s about finding like-minds who see something in common, and wish to realize that goal, whatever it is.
I also took away an excellent tidbit that I found hugely inspiring for a secondary character in my own fiction. This character is meant to be one of the greatest leaders of the age, but how could I write a leader without falling into cliches about Just Doing It And People Miraculously or Before The Big Battle pep-talks? Certainly there are many ways, but as I said, I was inspired by a simple point made by Godin: What makes a great leader is not someone who tells everyone what to do – it’s someone who allows their “subordinates” the freedom to do what they do best. In other words, the leader knows his men/women/soldiers/etc., and trusts them to do what they do.
One really ought to read Seth Godin’s books; I intend to absorb more, and have myself been inspired to lead, even if for a start, it means steering my life the way I want it to go. I urge you all to do the same!
Happy writing, dear readers!