30 September 2011

It's 10AM On A Friday and I Have A Banana: A Not-So-Segue

I just love bananas. They don't have anything specific to do with it being a Friday or 10AM, but they're pretty fantastic.

FUN FACT: While experimenting in the Biosphere 2 (located near Tucson, AZ), one of the only crops the group could cultivate in the semi-tropical environment was bananas.
TIP: Don't ever tell your tour guide you think it was a failed experiment.

Now that I've gotten that bit of nonsense out of the way... last night I went to bed early and I had an odd dream about running through a forest.  I woke up at 1 AM and I knew exactly what I was going to write as my first sentence for my 2011 Nano novel.  I knew how I was going to open the book and I had a sudden insight into Rex, making her more real for me and - hopefully - my readers. 

I tripped over my cat, Aibell, on the way to the notepad I keep on my dresser for just such occasions (simultaneously ensuring that I not only burn a few extra calories but am coherent enough to actually write full sentences) but then instead of ignoring me like a proper cat she decided "no harm, no foul" was her motto of the night and trotted along after me.  My other cat, Aries, was lounging about in the living room and when Aibell walked in he proceeded to freak out and she proceeded to give chase.  I then had to break up a cat fight in the middle of the night before I could write down my idea.

I did get my idea written down... eventually... after my cats calmed down.  More specifically after Aries jumped up on top of the cabinets above the fridge where Aibell, my poor pudgy purr-master, cannot reach him.

I'm pretty thrilled about the opening.  As it's for Nano, I can't write down the actual line until November 1... not officially. But it is going to ROCK. Not literally.  It's not about a rock.  It is about a robot!  A killer robot, as it were, and a forest (thank you dream land!).  It features my main character, Rex, and her trusty sidekick Turq, and will hopefully reveal them as endearing characters worthy of reading more about.

In Other News...
I'm currently reading book #43 of 50 for the year: Hammered by Kevin Hearne.  It's book 3 in his Iron Druid Chronicles and I must say, I'm really enjoying the series.  I was a little hesitant at first and there were a few spots in the first book where I thought "hmmm, maybe I won't read the second one..." but by the end of the first book I was hooked!  The series is witty and entertaining, with enigmatic characters and a twisting plot that manages to surprise you even if you can guess what some of the twists are.  Check out his Twitter feed or his website if you're feeling up to it.

This weekend I'm planning on doing some hard core plotting for my Nano book.  I'm going to be adding a bunch of info into yWriter5 and hopefully nailing down the look and feel of my bad guys.  I may also write a bit of my pet projects.  I haven't in a while, and as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I'm feeling guilty about neglecting them.

Wishing you all the very shiniest of Friday's,

29 September 2011

Sometimes the Voices in My Head Fight For Attention.

NaNoWriMo is coming up, as you may know.  I have an excellent story somewhat plotted out for that month (and by somewhat I mean I have a general outline, timeline and plot and I'm working on developing it in more detail).  But what about all the other stories?  The untold legends bouncing around in my noggin?

Put simply: they're pretty pissed.

My Nano for last year is unfinished, collecting digital dust on my flash drive.  My other pet project is likewise ignored, shoved to the side like a redheaded stepchild - a stepchild which had replaced yet another idea that hadn't fully formed.  I made the mistake of thinking about them yesterday and they've been beating at the insides of my skull ever since.

It's very difficult to focus on one task when the characters from others keep trying to bleed their way into focus.  As if death holds any kind of magnetism for me. [damn, they know me too well...]

So to appease the muses I thought I would write about them here briefly.  Not a story, mind you, but more the general "what this book will be about" -- because I WILL finish them.  They won't give me any other option.  Even if they are never published, the ideas are firmly rooted in my subconscious and I couldn't remove them if I tried... though to be honest, I don't really want to remove them.

My 2010 Nano (unfinished, at this point) has a word count of 33,362.  Pretty close to the finish line, and yet I did not "win" last year.  I kind of think that your first time doing Nano you have to fail, just so you know what it tastes like.  Anyway, I was calling that the "Get Real" series.  I hardly ever get an idea for a book that doesn't span more than one book, so I tend to always write in series'.  It makes sense, since this is what I like to read.

Get Real is a futuristic fantasy novel that takes place in a different dimension where Earth has moved on.  It's about a meek librarian who picked up and moved to a remote town in Washington state with her best friend, when said best friend inherited a house from her ancient grandmother.  The girls are transported to a different reality, her best friend is kidnapped and the librarian finds herself in a strange world, by herself, held captive by the good guys who don't fully trust her and yet insist that she is some kind of chosen one brought back to save their world.  She must overcome a big obstacle - herself - and rescue her friend, saving their world in the process.

I think with a little fine tuning it could be a great story, but it's not ready yet.

My second project is as of yet unnamed, but I can tell you it's a vampire book.  It takes place in an almost-post-apocalyptic world where a war between Witches and Vampires brought all the things that go bump in the night to light, and humanity got caught in the middle.  Vampires are the big bad in this book, and our hero is a vampire hunter with a few major secrets of her own, which come out later in the book (I wouldn't want to give them away!).

I'm 16,778 words into that book, but I've put it on pause to work on my Nano book for this year.

My third and final project I'm calling the Black Series [at least until I come up with a better name].  It is a futuristic sci-fi fantasy book that takes place in our solar system, and is about a bounty hunter who moonlights as a thief. 

Probably one of my favorite and most unexpected aspects about this book series is that it marries science fiction and fantasy, but in a very complicated way.  It has so far proved challenging for me to pull off, so I'm saving it until I can commit to it fully.  I have a bunch of information plotted out for this one, but only 33 words written - and that includes the cover page.

Whew.  I feel much better after airing those out!  Silly, jealous ideas.  Actually, after I pull off this year's nano novel, I'm thinking I might want to tackle the Black Series.  We'll see where the wind takes me.  I have a bunch of other novel idea's written down in a notebook at home, but none of them have any sort of substantial planning behind them other than "what if such and such did such and such and this meant that something else happened that caused blahdy blah?"

What about you?  Do you struggle with multiple story ideas at once?  How do you prioritize?  Do you find its easier to write one book all the way through before moving on to the next, or do you keep multiple projects open at once to alleviate boredom?  If you follow path #2, do you find your characters are similar?  Do you have any trouble switching from one novel's voice to another?
Inquiring minds wanna know...

Wishing you sunshine, daisies and caffeine and all the shininess of a barracuda,

28 September 2011

Visions of Villains, Swirling in my Head...

I've been thinking about my bad guys the last few days.  Thinking about Zed made me think about my bad guys, even though Zed isn't really a bad guy (but he kind of is).

So naturally my thoughts for the past few days have been about mobsters, empire elitists and space pirates.  Unfortunately every time I think about Space Pirates my mind wanders to ICE PIRATES, and I immediately picture my lead pirate bad-guy as leather-clad Robert Urich, with Angelica Houston as a sidekick.  [Check out the trailer here if you don't know to which epic 80's film I'm referring.]

And every time I think about mobsters my thoughts travel to Pizza The Hut.  I get visions of his "robot" sidekick Vinny saying "Or else Pizza is gonna send out for you!", followed by him promptly eating a pepperoni off Pizza's side and laughing "You're delicious!" [See it here]

Then there's this whole business with the Empire.  What other Empire is there except for the Empire - the evil governing system from Star Wars!  Darth Vadar's theme plays in my head whenever I let my thoughts wander to my lead empire bad-guy, and I can't imagine his minions in anything other than crisp, green-gray uniforms and clunky white battle-gear.  [I won't bother putting up a link to that one.]

It's actually become quite bothersome.

I have decided a few things, though. 
Thing number one: My lead pirate bad guy will be mostly human and attractive.  Why should he have to be unattractive just because he's a pirate?  He will definitely not have a beard, though I am considering copious amounts of earrings. He will also covet Turq, Rex's mechanical dragon sidekick, because having a mechanical dragon sitting on your shoulder is way more intimidating than a parrot.

Thing number two: The Galactic Mob can in no way resemble Pizza The Hut or Vinny.  I haven't decided yet if they'll be human or alien, probably some combination of the two... the System that this takes place in is heavily populated by humans. 

Thing number three: The Empire will not wear white or green-gray.  I'm also considering putting a female in charge of the empire as a lead bad-guy.  I'm thinking of taking some inspiration from the Mord-Sith for this character.

I'm not going to go into great detail on any of those three organizations, just the basics about how they got mixed up with my characters, but there will undoubtedly be some description and some cleverly referenced back story, so I'll need to think of something.

I have villains on the brain, and I'm darn proud of it.  Now if only they would coalesce into something truly epic and unique...

Stay shiny!

27 September 2011

About Zed: The Slightly Evil Somewhat Good Guy from System 542

Last night, while I tried desperately to figure out the perfect way to begin my nano novel, I stumbled across Zed.  Now I already knew a little bit about Zed, but this was way more than I had bargained for.  I was driving down Bell Road, minding my own thoughts and BAM, instant Zed.  I may have swerved.

Zed is a unique character in this novel in many ways.  He plays a pretty important role, but he's not in the entirety of the novel.  Originally, I pictured him as fully human and bitter, but I've reshaped my image of him significantly in the last 12 hours or so.  He is now the slightly evil somewhat good guy from System 542. Let me tell you a little bit about him...

If you were to fall in line behind Zed at Starbucks, you probably wouldn't think much of him.  All you would see is a man of roughly six thin but ropey feet, with scads of thick, neatly trimmed black hair worn loose but not overly-long against a hint of pale skin, dressed in a head-to-toe, two-piece outfit of a rich, café noir hue.  You might notice the leather strap around his left bicep and the chocolate-colored knife resting in a sheath of the same shade, but since his arms are folded in front of him you're very likely to miss it.  Even if you miss the sheath on his arm, you'll probably notice that he wears a sheath on his right thigh; one that holds an advanced-style laser gun resting in perfect reach of his long arms - arms that are fully covered by a clingy shirt tucked in at the waist that stretches appreciatively across his wiry muscles as he breathes. 

It isn't until Zed swings around to face you that you would be truly struck by his otherness.   His slender frame is accentuated by a long torso and even longer legs as he moves gracefully in his soft, slipper-like shoes.  Unwinding his arms from their folded position reveals dark, supple gloves covering long, elegant fingers -- six of them, on his right hand.  Every movement seems deliberate and he radiates the energy of a tightly wound coil, ready to spring into action at a moments notice.  Eventually you would look up, and you would really believe that he was not human.  Wide-set, magnolia blue eyes slanted upwards at an alien angle peer out at you from an oval shaped face with high cheekbones and a slender jaw.  His unnaturally wide-set mouth would crack a thin smirk revealing brilliantly white teeth under thin, pale lips.  A straight nose flares slightly as he takes in your scent - revealing barely a hint of a nostril against his blue-cast translucent skin.  Last but not least you would notice two ridges - one each extending from the edges of his fine, straight eyebrows and disappearing into his hairline.  They are the same color as his skin and appear slightly woven, like a rope with his skin pulled tightly across it, giving definition to his otherwise level face.

Zed would laugh at your shock, put a hand on your shoulder and draw you around beside him.  His eyes would take on a mischievous glint as he asks you if you'd ever had coffee with a half Vzilite before, his voice a rich tenor and promising much more than just coffee.  While you blush and try to recover, Zed's fingers would find their way into your purse or pocket and your wallet would be gone with barely the brush of a dragonflies wings to indicate you'd been had.  Making some sort of excuse, Zed would smile and salute you as he left, grinning widely, and you wouldn't notice you'd been robbed blind until you tried to pay for your coffee.

That's just the kind of half-alien Zed is.

Of course, Zed isn't entirely bad.  He is exceptionally greedy, a top-level thief, an excellent (if not slightly frightening) pilot and a more than adequate shot.  But he agrees to cart Rex and Simon around (for a heavy fee) and eventually comes to feel a sort of fatherly affection towards the two strangers.  Being as into Self Preservation as he is, however, that can't last for long.  If it did, what kind of conflict would he bring to the table?  The occasional bar fight? Nah, Zed is much more important and interesting than that.  He's the only one of his kind, after all.

And that, my shiny friends, is what came to me as I drove home yesterday afternoon.  I would have stopped right where I was on the road if I had a pen with me that worked.  Instead I sped home, ran to my door, discarded my things, jumped over the cat and scribbled mercilessly until my hand cramped into a disfigured claw and my cat refused to be ignored any longer.

Zed has a few more secrets and a few more tricks up his sleeve.  I know what they are, but it wouldn't be very sporting of me to tell you just yet.

Stay shiny!

26 September 2011

So Maybe the Universe Doesn't End.

You may have noticed that I've been pretty much obsessing over my Nano Novel. My idea didn't come to me until early September, so I haven't had my usual 3 - 4 months to plan and plot and develop, and I've been viewing this as a blessing in disguise.  It could be a good thing for me, not to know everything before hand.  Part of not knowing everything, however, means that I change my mind. A lot.  So far, this has been a Good Thing.

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."  ~Toni Morrison

Originally, the plan was for Rex to inadvertently end the universe.  Last week I realized that wouldn't be very marketable.  Humorous, maybe, but not marketable. Perhaps for an established author, but for someone just starting out... I very much doubt that any audience would be pleased with the total annihilation of the universe and a big black nothingness for an ending.  Even for an established author, that could really tick off your readers.  So I re-thought the ending and decided that, ok, maybe the universe ends... but then begins again.  Maybe the ending of the book is really the beginning of the book except Rex has some kind of omnipresent knowledge and is getting a second chance to change things.  Right? Yeah....no.

See, that just doesn't work for me, either.  I can't believably write that.  Plus, it doesn't fit in with the rest of the story... not even a little bit, not even at all.  So I've been considering my alternative options, and I think I've finally stumbled upon one that will work.  In the shower, as it were, where all good ideas seem to come from.

I've already decided that Rex will discover a secret, underlying plot by the Empire towards the end of the book, so all I had to do was tweak the ending based on that secret underlying plot and BAM, instant alternative ending that doesn't involve the total destruction of the universe or a cop-out happy ending!  It was staring me in the face the entire time but I was so caught up in the awesomeness of the total destruction of the universe that I couldn't see it. It's amazing what a good shower can do.

Now, I won't give away the ending (because then what incentive would you have to read it?) but I think that it's going to not only be acceptable and believable, but also marketable.  And considering this is the book I'm going to push to the wonderful publishing industry, I think making it marketable is in my favor.  This alternative ending also opens the door for possible sequels to The Memoirs of Rex LaBeau, though I'm not sure if I'll ever revisit her story.  It's nice to know I have the option, though.

"There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."  ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

While I'm on the subject, I have decided (also while in the shower) that my writing is a lot like my new shower [you see, I've recently moved].  My new shower is not complicated, but it is extremely temperamental [literally - har har har]. It functions similarly to a normal shower: turning the knob to the left will give you hot water, and if you turn the knob to the right you'll get cold water.  However, if you really want hot water you have to turn the knob all the way to the left and wait for the water to get warm.  It will remain lukewarm until you actually get into the shower, at which point the water will instantly reach a temperature that will reduce you to human soup.  Naturally, you'll try to prevent the instant boiling of your flesh from your bones, so you'll turn the knob to the right, assuming that the water will get cold.  But the fun doesn't end there!  In order to return the water to a pleasant, moderately warm temperature you have to turn the knob all the way to the left, wait for the water to give you hypothermia, and then return the knob to the center of the dial, thus ensuring a comfortable shower experience.

My writing, like my shower, is either really hot or really cold, and it takes some careful adjustments to make it just right.  And just like my shower, eventually it will get there.  Besides, what kind of fun would it be if I got in the shower and I knew that the water was going to be just right, right away?  Part of the adventure is the journey you take to achieve the ultimate goal - whether it be the perfectly temped shower or a well written novel.  Me, personally, I rather like a bit of adventure in my life.

I wish you all a very shiny Monday!

24 September 2011

I Write, Therefore I Am A Writer

Back story is important for character development.  You need to know where your characters were so you can figure out how they'll act, what they want and where they'll go in your story.  But people have back story too, and today I'd like to talk a little bit about mine.

In my first post, I talked a little bit about my history and the evolution of my reading materials. But lately I've been thinking a lot about what's coming in the future.  And when I look to the future, I see the past.  I see an awkward fourteen year old girl who wore no make up and her hair long with round bangs, who spent a lot of time on her bike with mixed tapes she made after stalking every radio station for her favorite songs.  If she wasn't on her bike, she was either in her room reading or traipsing around the woods, pretending she was an elf or a huntress or a lost princess.  She wore a green-plaid cotton jacket religiously, a pair of Levis jeans, sports bras and simple t-shirts or tank tops.  This girl didn't care what anyone thought about her.  She didn't care that other kids made fun of what she liked to read, what she liked to wear or where she liked to hang out.  But most importantly, this girl knew what was going to happen.  She knew that she was going to be an author, and that it was most likely going to happen by the time she was 18.  She knew that she would be on the New York Times best sellers list, and she knew that she was going to live an adventurous life through books - both her own and others'.

This girl was so confident in herself and her work that she picked up a book she liked by Christopher Pike, found the publishing information, and wrote them a letter.  She told them that she was working on a book and it's not finished yet, but here's a copy of the manuscript.  She told them that she knew they would like it and that she is anxious to be published, because it's all she's ever wanted in life.  She thanked them for their time and sent the letter out, with a copy of her unfinished novel, and then waited restlessly for months to hear back from them.

And that was when she got her very first rejection letter.  I remember what it said... something along the lines of the book not being quite what they're looking for, but that it might fit better in another publishing house.  After that, the girl threw the book away (and good thing, too, it was dreadful) and vowed to start a new book that would be even better.  She'd show them.

But somewhere along the way the girl got lost.  She lost her confidence and her dream and wandered.  Reality hit her and the more research she did into the publishing world, the more she realized just how difficult it was to become an author.  If you don't have an agent, you can't get published, but if you're not published you can't get an agent.  And that information was not easy to come by, either.  Back then, the world of publishing was mostly a mystery to anyone trying to break into the industry.

But now, here I sit.  I've been working on books on and off since then, never finishing a single one.  Maybe I didn't finish because I was afraid that if I did I wouldn't know what to do with it, or that no one would want to publish it.  Maybe I didn't finish because if I did and I failed, I wouldn't know what to do.  Now I realize that it doesn't matter how many times you fail - just that you keep trying.  It's funny the kinds of things you learn as you get older.

Knowledge about the publishing world is easier to come by, now, though it's still just as difficult to get published and make it big, but I'm confident that some day I'll be able to say I'm an author.  It doesn't matter to me how long it takes or how many books I have to write or how many times I get rejected.  It did, for a long time, but not any more.  Once again I can finally say that I know (to some degree) what is going to happen.  I am going to write my nano novel, and I am going to finish it.  Then I'm going to polish it... maybe twice... send it off to my best friend with an English degree and see what she has to say.  I'll polish it some more and then send out queries.  I'll get rejection letters, I'll polish some more, I'll send more queries.  Eventually, either someone will think its worth publishing or they won't and I'll write a different book and start the whole process over again.  Either way, it's going to be an adventure.

I've learned a lot of lessons about myself as I've grown up.  I can finally say that I learned my lesson about writing and have earned my "writing badge".  Like a girl-scout badge on those silly tan vests, I display this badge with honor, sewn into a vest that I wear around every day even if no one can see it but me.  For the longest time I thought my writing sucked dishwater and that I was a failure... I thought I was an imposter, a fan-girl, a loser.  And yeah, my writing wasn't always super shiny, but at least I was writing.  You see, I am a writer.  I may not be an author (yet), but I am, always have been and always will be a writer.

Even if I'm never published, I will always be a writer.

So when I look into the future, I see that girl from the past, and I draw strength from her.  Because she knew what she wanted and where she was going to go, and she had the confidence to hold her head up high.  I have always had that girl inside me, she was just tangled in her blanket - caught in a nightmare called reality.  I'm pleased to say that I have tossed reality out the window and I'm ready to embrace my inner 14 year old.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I have some great idea's, and I think it's high time I wrote about them so the rest of the world can read them.

In other news
I re-skimmed a book I have on POV and character emotion.  I plan on writing in first person, from Rex's point of view.  They are her memoirs, after all.

Stay shiny!

22 September 2011

Things To Think About

I still have a lot of things to think about for my Nano Novel and it's making me want to break out in a rash.  At least then I would have some kind of physical symptom that the outside world could see to validate the craziness going on inside my head.  I could point to my rash and say "See! It is real!  This is all real! I'm not making it up!"

But then I would be itchy.  And, truth be told, I will always rather not be itchy.  Unless the other alternatives are worse.

Part of the reason I have so many things to think about is because my Nano Novel idea didn't come to me until halfway through September.  Usually I get a brilliant (albeit delusional) idea somewhere around July and I have months and months to plan my Nano Novel out.  Based on past failures, this hasn't worked well for me, so I'm hoping that having hardly a clue about my novel this year will work out in my favor.  I'm doing a lot of things out of my comfort zone this year, so I'm just counting this to be one of them.  I think I'm somewhere between a pantser and a planner... a Plantser?

But if you put aside the rash, the lack of a rash, the show-up-late-to-the-party idea and the possibility that I am half plant, there is still a list of Things To Think About.

How does everyone dress?  This includes the Pirates, the Galactic Mob, the Empire, the Lead characters and the Space-Port people.  I have several space-ports on several different planets, plus a commercial ship (kind of like a subway).  I know that at least one of the space-ports is very high-fashion, but what does that fashion look like?  Where is Tim Gunn when you need him?

This one is pretty obvious. There has to be some kind of money or money-substitute.  Is it Empire credits?  Is it trade?  Is it done differently on each planet or by the different races of aliens?  Is it done differently in each system?

Since the Empire has a pretty prominent role in this story, I think I should probably figure them out so I can accurately predict their moves in the book.  How many Galaxies do they rule?  If there's more than one, how do they travel between them?  If it's just one, how do they travel between the different systems?  How do they police them? How do they govern?  I've got this one partially figured out: the Empire spans one galaxy (which they just call The Empire) that has over 1,000 systems within in.  Obviously some of those systems rebel, as it's going to be a very challenging task to police an entire galaxy.  Simon is from System #521 (the Nataari system) and Rex is from System #518 (the Gladios system), so by galactic standards they're practically neighbors. I haven't figured out where Zed is from yet.

To Infinity...
What about the other galaxies?  Are there wars, contracts or trade agreements?  Is that even pertinent?  What about the systems within this galaxy?  How do they work together?

Language is obviously a very big part of a novel.  What unique words, curse words and phrases exist?  (Because you know there's Pirates and the Mob involved.... there are going to be curse words.)  Mostly I'm concerned with curses and phrases/exclamations.  Like we might say "Holy cow!" or "Good Lord!"... what do they say?  "Sweet Starlight?" hmm....

Does it exist? Is it governed? is it relevant? does it contribute to the language at all (curses)?

Just how advanced are they?  Any new elements (yes)? What do they use for energy/power sources?  What about space travel?

What kind?  How many?  Where do they live?  Do they have wars between each other and the Empire?  Is that relevant?

So you see... I have lots of things to work out.  Putting them down in a list like this really helps me to think around them and I've already managed to come up with some good ideas. Some pieces I already knew.

For example, the Empire is the galaxy, and there are over 1,000 systems.  These systems have a traditional name but they were also assigned a number by the Empire.  Long-distance travel is done by Sub-Space-Streams controlled by the Empire, and travel within each system varies.  Religion is not a big element in the books but I do plan on adding in some fun curse words based on a few religions.  There are aliens, a lot of them, but I don't know what kinds yet.  There are new elements, one of which is Xeneo, a rare metal found on the planet Xeneo (where Rex was "born") -- it is her power source but very rare and very secret because her parents didn't want it to fall into the wrong hands.

I think Language is going to be the hardest thing for me.  I need to invent some colorful new curse words and phrases that are both catchy and realistic.  Like Frak.  I mean, come on, that's bloody brilliant.  I don't want to use it, though, because it doesn't seem relevant in my world.

While it may seem like I'm thinking far too hard about such trivial things, the more well-thought out these elements are, the more realistic my novel will seem.  If the fashion isn't considered and the language is simple English, it might detract from other elements of the story.  It needs to be seamless and carefully considered.  Also, I'm an overachiever. So sue me.

All that being said, I'm off to consider some fashion.  Language will have to wait until later.

Stay shiny!

21 September 2011

Fever-Induced Ideas

So... I'm sick.  I hate being sick. It is absolutely my least favorite thing.  I spent pretty much the last 22 hours or so sleeping - which was awesome - and the fever finally broke this morning.


I've been entering some of my info into yWriter5 (which I've decided to use as my writing software this year) today, and relaxing, and napping. I had some soup, too, which was delicious (tomato, in case you're wondering).

Being sick is good for one thing, and one thing only: Fever-Induced Ideas.  I wasn't hallucinating last night or this morning [is it weird that I'm upset about that?] but I did have a pretty neat dream last night and I plan on using some of it in my nano novel.

Also, I managed to figure out Simon's motivation and Turq's appearance.  I haven't quite figured out how anyone other than Rex and Turq look, though.  I know Zed is going to be half human and half alien of some race or another, though I'm not sure exactly what that means for his physical features.  Simon is 100% human, but he was raised by aliens.  I think that's going to require some explanation.

About Simon...
Simon was born on a planet called Ho't in Galaxy 521 in the Nataari system.  Ho't is an agricultural planet, and Simon lived on a farm with his parents, his younger brother and two little sisters.  On Simon's 10th birthday he was allowed to accompany his father to Ho'tara, the capitol city, where they would sell their yield and collect their wages.  

While in the city, Simon's father received an emergency call from home and left Simon in the care of a Nataari family.  When Simon's father never returned to collect him, the Nataari family brought Simon home, only to discover there was no home left.  The farm had been obliterated, the house had been ransacked, and Simon's family had been savagely murdered and left on display.  

It was very obvious that this had been done by a group of pirates (though no one knew which particular group) and Simon pledged to find them and take revenge against the pirates for killing his family. He was then taken away to the capital city of Ho'tara to be raised by the Nataari family.

Even though he was human, as the adopted child of a Nataari family Simon was given new rights that he never would have received as a farmer.  He received an expensive education and flight training and though he loved his adopted family as much as his real family, he left when he was 18 to seek out the pirates that had destroyed his life.

Obviously the things that have happened to him influence his character.  If Simon had been raised on the farm with his family he wouldn't be a very interesting character in this story.  Because of his history he is a little bit reckless, he takes risks, he might be a little bit of an adrenaline junkie and doesn't like to get close to people.  I haven't quite figured out his appearance yet, but I'm thinking some mix of wholesome and wild child. 

He is definitely motivated by revenge against the pirates, though his motives change throughout the story.  His desire for revenge against the pirates is what gets him to the point where he will meet Rex, however by the time he actually comes into the story his motivation has already changed from "Revenge against Pirates" to "Revenge against Empire".  I won't give away exactly why that change happens just yet.

So I think I have a pretty solid story.  I have my basic outline, a timeline and some fun characters that provide conflict and color.  I'm really excited to write this year's nano and I feel pretty confident that I'll be a nano winner this year.

But nano doesn't start until November.  For right now... I'm off to take a nap.
Stay Shiny!

19 September 2011

Character Motivation, Ye Be a Tricky Beast

Ahoy, Mateys! Today be national talk like a pirate day! Abandon all hope, ye who press onwards!

And now that I've tipped my hat to that bit of fun nonsense, on to more important, challenging - nay! - practically insurmountable topics!  I am speaking, of course, of Character Motivation.

"Man's character is his fate." --Heraclitus

Here, here, Heraclitus.  I could not agree more.  Well, mostly.  Because in fiction, a man's (or characters) character can change throughout the novel.  A man may start out one way, but over the course of the novel he may have his morals/motivations brought into question and experience events which would change him. Take Scrouge for example.  If Scrouge hadn't been visited by the three ghosts of Christmas (past, present and future), he wouldn't have changed and no one would have liked the story.  Because who really wants to read about a grumpy, greedy old man who ruins Christmas year after year and eventually dies alone?

The key word here is change.
"Change means that what was before wasn't perfect. People want things to be better." -- Esther Dyson

And boy, do they ever.  Can you imagine writing a story where nothing changed? Nothing would happen!  Sure, there are different character types, changers and stayers, and yeah, those stayers don't really change in the traditional sense.  Their morals and motivations don't change, but the things around them sure do!

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."  -- Arnold Bennett

And change should create new conflicts.  It may turn out to be all hunky-dory in the end.  The underdog may get the girl.  The hero may slay the beast.  The Princess get's rescued.  The world doesn't end.  But whenever something changes it should cause some kind of conflict in your story.  Because if it didn't, it would be boring!

You may be wondering just why I'm rambling on about change.  Why does it matter? What does it have to do with character motivation? Why were you blathering on about pirate speak earlier?  Well, the pirate speak may not have anything to do with anything else [it's perfectly irrelevant, I assure you.] But change has a lot to do with character motivation.

Because your characters can change.  The story can change.  When the story changes, does that cause your character to change?  Does something happen that will change your characters motivation?  And just what is their motivation to begin with?

Today, I wrote down my basic outline for my nano novel.  I wrote it down, from start to finish, how I wanted it to happen.  As I wrote, I found certain characters coming about.  There's quite a few bad guys, and there's my star, Rex.  She has a wily sidekick and picks up a few other characters along the way.  But once I got done writing the outline I thought to myself... why?

Why do these people do the things they do?  Why do they help or hinder her?  Why would they start off one way, and end up another way?  Why would they change? 

So I sat myself down and I listed the characters I had created thus far, and I thought about them.  I thought about who they were and where they were found and who I wanted them to be and I thought about why they did the things they did.  And before you know it, I was plotting their motivation.

Character motivation is a very important piece of any story.  It is connected to everything that happens, whether we like it or not.  If our characters were content to sit on the couch and watch tv, nothing would happen.  Again, change.  Change creates conflict which causes our characters to act on their motivations.

"Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe." --Winston Churchill

As I understand it, each character should have some sort of motivation.  One main motivation, and several smaller ones, depending on the complexity of the character.  As you go through the motions of writing your story, you can put yourself in your characters shoes by applying their motivations to a situation and their motivations can change, if they are changers.  These motivations, whatever they are, have to somehow make it possible for your reader to relate to the character.

It's all very complicated and, quite possibly, more important than the plot itself. Because if you love the characters, you may keep reading, even if you can figure out what's going to happen.

That being said, I'm finding myself thinking more deeply about my characters and their motivations than I have before.  I'm trying to relate them to characters from books and movies that I'm familiar with so I can get a clearer picture of who they are.

For example, I found myself with a rapscallion named Zed.  Now, I don't know much about Zed, but I know that he is at first motivated by greed.  I compare him to Han Solo -- before he fell for the princess... when it was him and Chewy against the world.  Except Zed doesn't have a hairy sidekick.  I also know that eventually, his motives change.  

One of the easiest characters was Turq, Rex's loyal companion.  His motivation is simple: loyalty.  But also self-preservation.

The most complicated character for me, however, isn't Rex (my lead).  Rex's motivations are simple: she loves her parents and wants to save them, as they are all she knows.  She is motivated by her desire to have a grand adventure, and by the ties of friendship she develops.  But everyoen can understand love of a parent or family member.  It's pretty basic.  Those might seem like simple motivations, and maybe they are, but when combined together and interwoven with new characters and with conflicts in the story (does she save her parents, or get sidetracked to save her new friend?) they become more complex.

The most complicated character is Simon.  He isn't the lead, but he's right up there with her, and he has to fill a variety of roles in the book.  He's motivated by greed/revenge at first, but that has to change, and then he has to change again to take us through to the end of the story.  Simon changes the most... and I'm thinking maybe a secondary character should.  If they don't, they might not provide enough conflict for the lead to move the story forward, amiright?

Anyway, it's been a very... thoughtful day for me.  There's a lot of craziness swimming around in my head and I need to make sense of it, but soon... soon it will all come together!

Before I go, I must touch on Rex's parents. Just what is she saving them from?  Certian death.
Rex's parents are called away on an uber classified mission for the Empire.  This is pretty common, as her parents are the most brilliant scientists the Empire has seen in two centuries.  But Rex learns of a secret plot laid out by the Empire to kill her parents, and she is compelled to rescue them.  Now Rex, a naive humautomaton footloose and fancy free for the first time, must outwit space pirates, out run the Empire, sneak past the gallactic mob, roast a race of flesh eating aliens and more to rescue her parents from the clutches of the Empire and ultimately unveil a plot more sinister than she could ever imagine!

[cue dramatic music]

That being said, I'm off to work on some character backstory...

Keep it shiny!

18 September 2011

The Dragon Under the Mountain

I'm writing a futuristic, semi-humorous, slightly-ridiculous sci-fi adventure novel.  You're probably wondering how the hell a dragon comes into play. Honestly... I have absolutely no idea. It might, and it might not.  It could be one of the more ridiculous elements of the novel.  It could be a futuristic dragon... sleeping under a mountain and transforming into something more.  Or maybe a robotic dragon? Hey... now, that's not a bad idea! So maybe I could add a bit of fantasy into my novel. Maybe.  Hat's off to my wonderful boyfriend for the idea, though, because I think I just might include it.  But I won't reveal how just yet. [wink]

So, moving right along.  I promised to tell you a little bit more about The Memoirs of Rex LaBeau. You already know the most basic piece of information:

It's about a girl named Rex who set's out to save her parents and accidentally ends the universe instead.

What you don't know is that Rex... isn't your typical girl.  In fact, you can't really call her a girl at all.  Because Rex, you see, is the first and only humautomaton ever created.  What is a humautomaton, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you: it's an organic robot that was born in a mechanical-womb, created form various metals, elements and human DNA, a humautomaton grows and ages like a human does, with some differences (of course).

And how, you ask, did Rex come to be?  It's simple: Rex's parents are the most brilliant scientists the Empire has seen in two centuries. When the Empire denied their petition to have a child (because it might interfere with their work), they put their heads together to create Rex and raise her entirely in secret.

And I don't want to give away too much else about the story, but I can tell you I have a list as long as my arm with wacky situations for Rex to get into in her adventure to rescue her parents! 

Just what is she rescuing her parents from?  Well, tune in next time to find out...

until then - stay shiny!

16 September 2011

That NaNoWriMo Thing

This year I'm pretty excited about my NaNoWriMo novel.  If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, educate yourself. If you do know about it, congrats! Look me up - I'm Go.Zeki

Anyway, the event doesn't begin until Nov 1, but I'm busy plotting and developing away.  The next two months are going to be dedicated to developing my Nano novel information as much as possible, and all other projects will be pushed to the sidelines (just for the time being).  Unless I get a really good idea.

Moving on... this year I'm branching out and trying a few things outside of my comfort zone.  I'm going to write an adventure novel. But not just any adventure novel... a sci-fi adventure novel.  And not only is it a sci-fi adventure novel, but it's not part of a series. [Side-note: I really enjoy reading and writing series'.  There's just something about the long-term life and development of the characters that I really enjoy.  I feel like series', if done well, really create another world and draw the reader into it. And you can quote me on that.] It's called The Memoirs of Rex LaBeau and, as you might expect, it's a memoir... sort of.

Memoirs, as we know, are someone's version of specific events.  In this case, Rex's version of the events of her life, leading up to how she accidentally brought about the end of the universe way ahead of schedule.  I'm going to start off with her writing at you, the reader, and segue into a first-person POV for the story.  Occasionally she'll comment on things "she's" written, or maybe write an explanation.  Because she's writing the memoirs.  Naturally.

I'm hoping the final product will be a somewhat funny, slightly ridiculous, futuristic adventure novel.  I do plan on incorporating the Traveling Shovel of Death, and I have a pretty long list of situations and scrapes for her to get into and barely get out of.

I don't want to give away too much about the story just yet, since I'm still working on developing the plot and characters (and already its changed ~3 times), but I will show you my cover art!

And how about a synopsis/hook:
I am not a very nice person. You see, I single-handedly brought about the end of the universe. Not on purpose, of course, but that doesn’t change the facts. I mean, really, they should have locked that door. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I don’t have much else to do right now, so I suppose you could join me, if you existed, for the tale. I’m going to be completely honest. Since you don’t really exist it doesn’t really matter what you think of me. But please don’t hate me. Or, if you do, keep it to yourself. 

Needless to say, I think this year's Nano novel has all kinds of opportunity for fun, random events, impossible situations, chase scenes, pirates, and a healthy dose of space-travel.  I'm not terribly concerned with the technology being super accurate, though I know this is often a pet-peeve of many sci-fi readers.  It's not a space-opera, though the story is important it isn't rife with the same kinds of tension that a typical space-opera has (think Battlestar Galactica).  If anything I would classify it as soft-sci-fi, but really I believe it belongs in the Adventure category. As you can see, I struggled with choosing a genre for this year's Nano novel.  But I settled on adventure and after trolling the adventure forums, I've come away with some interesting idea's and plans to make this novel a full-fledged adventure!

Typically, I'm pretty shy about sharing my writing with others.  I am fully willing to accept constructive-criticism, but I know that my writing style, genre and story might not be for everyone.  Which is something that I'm going to have to accept and get over if I ever want to be published.  The trouble is that so often people aren't constructive with their criticism.  They're just rude, or unkind, or clouded by their own vision of what your tale should be.  Also, I always feel like people are judging me based on what and how I write.

OF COURSE PEOPLE ARE JUDGING ME! People judge people.  It's what we do.  It's how we place ourselves in the pecking order and set goals.  If everyone was on the same level, no one would strive to be better.  So we see other people and what they do/have done, and we judge them based on our own experiences, and we judge ourselves based on how they have done and we haven't, and... well, basically we're just a big mess.

But I'm over it. No, really!  This year, I'll post snippets and bits and pieces of my Nano novel right here! I swear!  It might not be good, it might not be great [of course, it might be fantastical], but I'll do it.  I know that I'm going to be judged - even subconsciously - and that's ok. We can't help it. We're a judgmental species.

So, that being said, I'd like to tell you a little bit more about The Memoirs of Rex LaBeau, but that will have to wait. Perhaps in my next post?

Until then... stay shiny!

An Awkward Introduction

Salutations, hallo, përshëndetje, hei, ahoj, bonjour and welcome!

No, I don't speak all of the above languages.  I'm not some crazy genius with a sharp tongue, sly mind and seven degrees.  I don't own a small, expensive dog with a diamond-studded collar -- I don't even own a toaster.  I do own a bathrobe, though. Never underestimate the many uses of a good bathrobe.

What I am is a girl who reads a lot, writes a lot, and eats a lot of fruit.  I've been reading since I was three.  It started off innocently enough.  If I was good my parents would buy me a Disney book at the end of the week.  Goofy Wins the Race and the like.  I read so many Disney books, but I quickly grew out of them.  I started reading books by Christopher Pike and the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine.  By fifth grade, I was locked in a room with a flashlight and anything written by Stephen King. Through high school, I continued to read the collected works of Stephen King, and after high school I began to explore many new authors.  Anything that caught my fancy would end up on my bookshelf.  Now, many purges later, anything that catches my fancy ends up on my Kindle.  At least it's easier to clean up - not to mention much lighter to carry when you're moving!

Ok, long history aside, this is a place for me to write.  I participate in NaNoWriMo, and I write on my own. One day I would like to be able to say that I'm a published author (with an agent and everything!), but right now I'll settle for simply writing.

I may post short stories or excerpts.  I may decide to do a web-novel, releasing one chapter every now and again.  I'll definitely be posting blogs on NaNoWriMo ~ which could include anything from thoughts to word counts to challenges to excerpts.

As for you, whoever you are, thanks. For reading, following or just stopping by.  I hope you enjoy what I write here, but I know that I'm not for everyone, and neither are the voices in my head. So I'll ask just one thing of you: please be respectful. And if you like what you see here, suggest my blog to a friend! Ok, yeah, I know... that was two things, but hey - I'm unpredictable.  That's fun, right? [wink's suggestively]

Have a Shiny Day!