Getting the Right Wrong

As a kidlette I read a lot.  Since I was reading at an adult comprehension level when I was seven, there was very little Dick and Jane in my life, and a lot more Hell at 50 Fathoms, which I read at least a dozen times before getting out of the 6th Grade.

The one genre I was into, however, was science fiction.  I got my hands on most of the Golden Age authors and bought their books, read them cover to cover again and again, and went looking for more.  There was something awe inspiring to live in that time and know your book store would soon carry the new Clarke, the new Asimov, the new Heinlein, the new Ellison . . .

There was something that the writers back then spoke of when talking about science fiction and fantasy.  It was known that some of the things they wrote about were, perhaps, going to never come about.  There were items and subjects and characters that might not ever be anything but words on the page.  And they knew this, because–hey, writers, we make stuff up, right?

The trick, they said, was to follow your internal logic, and to keep your rules consistent.  If your technology could only do A, B, and C, you damn well better not have it do E at some point.  As David Gerrold once point out, if you write your story so that people can only use their right hands, then you damn well better now have the hero save the day at the end of the story by using their left hand.  Anything that plays hard and loose with your internal logic, that violates your rules and laws, it cheating that would make Lance Armstrong say, “Dude!” while giving you the stink eye.

When you’re writing anything–not just science fiction, but anything that requires some “facts” to come into play–it’s always best to do your research and make certain when you’re setting up your premise, you are working with something that not only makes sense,  but is also something that can’t be taken as complete bullshit.  Given what we know about space flight these days, it’s difficult–if not impossible–to write a story about some kids cobbling a rocket together in an abandoned field and flying it into orbit.  Oh, sure, you can adjust the rules of your universe and all that, but you best make certain that is spelled out so people don’t scratch their heads and go, “Huh?”

I’m in a few groups on Facebook where I hear and see about new novels and stories from people like me, writers who hope this will be our job one day.  I saw something like that the other day:  a new book, by someone I know.  I’m checking out the blurb, and right off the bat, I see something stated as a major plot point–

That is totally, scientifically wrong.

Now, I do things with time travel and faster than light space drives.  I can hand wave with the best of them, and I always try to keep my facts straight when I do this.  If my ships go this fast, I find out the distances between two stars and calculate travel times.  That’s how you do things.  When you’re stating as fact something that can be fact checked on any number of databases as all sorts of wrong, you’ve pretty much ruined the story for me–and probably for a number of readers as well.

Your stories live and die by facts and rules.  Create your rules based upon the first, and never violate the later.

Otherwise, you could find yourself becoming the Next Big Internet Meme.

 

Reliving the Good Old Bads

There are times when I take too much enjoyment in what I write.  Doesn’t happen much, because I like to keep things in the real, but with my newest story, I find myself thinking about a time when I wasn’t at my happiest, and how I thought times might get better, but probably wouldn’t.

In other words, I’ve been thinking of The Undisclosed Location.

Last year at this time I was away from home, taking up residence in a strange town, and starting work at a strange company.  It wasn’t the best situation at the time, and I wasn’t happy about having to uproot and spend so much time away from that which I found familiar.  I did my best, I tried to get through each day–not always with success, I should point out–and I wrote.  I wrote a lot.

The worse thing about the place was the people.  The company felt cold and impersonal, the people unfriendly and too eager to guard their own little ponds of power.  I’ve seen this happen in other companies, but here it was so blatantly obvious that it was impossible to ignore that you, yes you, were always going to be looked upon as an outsider for you entire stay.

Needless to say, I didn’t have a good time at this company, and with having to maintain two abodes and travel back and forth on the weekends, I actually lost money on the deal.  My loathing for the place was so great that when 10/11/13, a Friday, rolled around, and I was told that my position was being eliminated, I wasn’t upset in the least.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, actually.

My main male character in Suggestive Amusements is a person who doesn’t like what he does and doesn’t care for the people he works alongside.  He would rather be a writer, which makes him sound like me, though I’m certain that’s just a coincidence.  He is constantly reminded that his life is in something of a dead end, and if he could move away from his graphic design work and into tale telling for a living, he’d happily leave that old life behind in a moment.

As I started writing about what happens to Keith next, a few weeks after Erin the Muse comes into his life, I find that I’m getting into his life at work, and in particular his relationship with his manager, I began tapping into some residual feelings I have concerning my former employer, and the people I’ve worked on.  It is said that, as a writer, you should write what you know.  I guess I’m knowing too much about what I didn’t like, and it’s showing.

I know I shouldn’t take that personally, then let it show up as attributes in my characters; I shouldn’t allow them to live out the things I may have wanted to do from time to time . . .

Then again, there is always a bit of us that shows up in our writing.  Sometimes it’s an experience, sometimes it’s a life event.  You can’t avoid it–

We have to write about everything:  it’s why we’re writers.

 

Not the Characters You’re Looking For

Last night was an off night; I was busy doing other things, and getting over the cold that was trying to force its way back into my life.  I think I’ve beaten the cold–again–but give it a few more days when the temps are back down in the teens and I can’t warm up to save my life.  Such is winter in Chicago:  one day it’s in the 60′s, the next it’s in the 30′s and snowing.

I was chatting with a friend about the current work in progress, Suggestive Amusements.  I was saying that this story felt different to me, because it doesn’t fit in with any of the things I’ve developed before now.  The characters are new, the situation is new, it’s taking place in a universe that’s pretty much ours.

The story has felt a little strange for me, because I’m not dealing with characters I know; I’m dealing with unknowns.

Allow me to put this in context:  a few of my stories tend to exist in universes that are expandable and wide-ranging.  I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the characters, to make them living, and then make them a big part of those worlds.  To say I spend a lot of time developing things is something of an understatement.

Suggestive Amusements is different.  It’s an idea turned into reality, but everyone seems a bit . . . distant.  It’s like you’re watching a scene from afar, and you’re never actually part of the action.  The characters are new, they are shiny–they seem a little incomplete.

It’s a strange thing to create characters for a world that might be a one-off, something you write one time and then never visit again.  I’ve not done that very often–or have I?  When I think about it, more than a few of my stories have been this way.  Why would this story be different?

Hell if I know.  This is the way my mind works, I guess.  It starts setting up barriers when I hit the twenty thousand word mark, I suppose.  I’ve taken more time off with this story than I have with any other, and it makes me wonder if I think it’s worth while.  Good old writer’s doubt, kicking me in the butt again.

There was an info graph I saw a while back that showed the various stages of writing.  You always start out fresh, thinking your story is the greatest ever, and somewhere in the middle you convince yourself that it’s the biggest piece of crap to ever be fostered upon the world.  The person I was chatting with last night said she felt as if she was putting “poop on the page,” and was discouraged by her output.  I felt the same way at times; I think I’m feeling sort of that way now, even though a few days ago I liked what I was writing.

I wonder if this is common, that during the course of telling a story, you fall in and out of love not only with the story, but with the act of telling your tale.  It wouldn’t surprise me, because writers are mysterious creatures, almost as unfathomable as muses, and twice as complex.

After all, we have to suffer for our work, right?

 

The Starving Soul

The cold is trying to come back; I can feel it.  I actually felt it last night, sneaking about in the darkness of the bedroom right before I headed off to sleepy-time.  Pain in the ass, it is, but I’m not going to let it get me down . . . even though it’s doing its best to do just that.

But to hell with the cold.  I’ll beat it one way or the other, and tomorrow the Chicago area will find itself somewhere warm, with the temps getting up close to seventy.  Changing climate?  Shirley you jest!  (I know you saw what I did there . . .)

Chapter Seven was begun last night, and I was on a good run last night.  Had Yessongs playing on the computer, and I must have been in a great mood, because I was typing away with few distractions.  I’m at the point in the story where my character Keith finds he’s come home after an evening of sybaritic pleasure with the lovely Elektra, and discovers he’s written something—a lot of something.  Then Erin appears, they have a little back and forth about where she was sleeping, and then . . .

This is where I left off the chapter, almost thirteen hundred words from the beginning.  It was a fast thirteen hundred, too:  I did it in about fifty-five minutes, making this the quickest writing I’ve done in a long time.

The whole gist of the chapter involves what we do for work.  A couple of times Erin, the muse, tells Keith he has two jobs:  one that pays the bills, but doesn’t “feed his soul”, and another that allows him to engage in all the things he wants and loves.  This is nothing new for anyone who isn’t a professional writer; if you’re like me, and you write, you do so with the hope that one day this is all you’ll ever do, and you aren’t thinking about being crazy-ass Twilight rich, you’d be happy if you could knock down high five figures every year . . . though I will take the crazy-ass Twilight rich, because who doesn’t want to laugh at haters who come online just to tell you that the first five minutes of Up tells a better love story than your crap, because after your laugh you’re going to dive into a room full of money, Scrooge McDuck-style.  Haters gonna hate, right?

We all wait for that message that says someone has read your manuscript, and they found it worthy of publication.  It’s after this that you work your butt off to produce another work that will be published, and if and when that’s bought, then you write another, and so forth, and so on . . . and before you know it, people are on Facebook posting, “You’re book suzks!  You should stop righting, because your story is told better by The Host!”  At which point you either flip the computer off (not turn it off, but flip it off, if you know what I mean) and get back to your current work in progress, or you laugh and look for your bathing suit.

At some point you have to ask yourself:  would I miss a day of “work” to work on my story?  I have asked myself that question—

I know the answer.

Six of One Down

Last night, after almost three hours of writing, I finished Chapter Six of Suggestive Amusements.  To say it was a chore is something of an understatement; I was tired, my neck hurt, and it seems like I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.  It felt like the time I had a concussion and life was just one Memento moment after another.

Now, where was I?

I’m up into early novella territory at the moment:  twenty-two thousand, seven hundred twenty words over six chapters.  Not a bad little word count, if I may say so.  If I work out my math this gives me a final count shy of sixty-five thousand words, but I know there are a couple of chapters ahead where that count is likely to get bumped even more.  If I had to make any kind of guess, I’d say this is going to end up somewhere around the seventy thousand point, which is not a bad point to be.

The more I get into the story, however, the more I wonder about the genre.  I’ve finished a good scene that followed the aftermath of sex, and ended up with getting into something that, as I put it into the computer, starting making me wonder just how nuts most guys are.  (No spoilers, because I’m really the daughter of River Song and I take after Mummy.)  But it’s not a story where sex is a big thing–even though the story my main male character is suppose to work on is going  to be a bit of erotica in its own right.

It’s also got a bit of a fantasy vibe to it–I mean, you’re watching someone who’s suppose to be a Greek goddess-like creature crashing your party and telling someone to get their ass to writing–but it’s not actually fantasy.  Oh, sure:  you’re going to see the muse talk with a sister muse over a cup of coffee, but it’s probably going to look more like Training Day than Fables, though I won’t rule out the swearing of the former.

It’s this lack of solid genre that sort of puzzles me.  To me, I’m only telling a story.  To people buying–and they will . . . they better–they want to know:  is it science fiction?  Is it fantasy?  Is it erotica?

To me, the question becomes:  is it entertaining?  ‘Cause if it isn’t, that means it sucks, and who wants to read this crap?

I’m of the mind that this story is going to be full-on epublishing material.  Oh, sure, I can shop this around, but I’m starting to think that if I’m going to have stories that fall into categories that seem to be all over the place, I might as well throw it up into the epublishing cloud and let people have at it.

For the record:  I consider this science fiction.  You have a writer, you have a muse, you have a woman who’s getting friendly with said writer.  And there will be some scenes of fantasy, and things that you can’t explain.

There is a place in the sun for this story.  It’s right over there, as a matter of fact–

Transitional Positions at Night

This is coming to you after a somewhat late night, and a very early morning.  It was a long day yesterday, driving in snow and cold, entering data that was way too boring, then making my way back home.

I settled in to write, and I knew what I wanted to say–

But the body just wasn’t willing.

This week played hell with my schedule.  Today will also play a little hell as well, since I find myself having to run all over again.  But I have tonight to myself, no pizza or television or idiots wanting to argue things of which they know nothing.  Just writing.

Maybe I can finished the chapter.

I left my character together, still in bed, but this time sort of arguing about something that will eventually become the main plot of Keith’s soon-to-be novel.  Yes, the muse gave him something to work with; they are mysterious creatures, and to get your ideas you just might have to sleep with someone.  I know:  it’s a hard thing to do, but sometime you have to make sacrifices for the sake of creativity.

Even though I feel as if I don’t know what to say in my writing, when I’m saying the things that are now being written in Suggestive Amusements, the final product seems right.  Sure, I may need to go back ad polish a statement after I write it, only because the first time I lay it down I’m kicking it out of my head and forcing to lay shivering upon the ground, so when I have a moment to look it over and decide if it’s worth while, if it is, then I clean it up and give it a little polish, and maybe even a hug or two, just because I’m that sort of person.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t do huge rewrites when I’ve finished with my first draft.  I have the plot and most everything else down, so why start mixing things up?  I’m certain things will change one day for some story; I can’t be like this all the time.  For now, however, it works great.

I won’t say this is the best thing I’ve written, but it gives me a good feeling.  It’s from an idea I had years ago, an idea that I wrote a piece of fetish fiction around, and who know if there will be any more stories centered around this idea.  It’s the way ideas are:  you never really lose them: rather, they sort of hang around waiting for the time to come forth and allow you to use them for something good, great, even fantastic.

I was even thinking of another idea last night, between trying to write scenes for the current work in progress.  That’s me; can’t ever stop thinking about fiction.  One of the reasons I was awake so early this morning, when I so wanted to sleep in, was because something came to me about Elektra, one of my main female characters.  Something she likes; something that sort of drives her fantasies.

Yeah, I hate getting woke up like that.

At least it might end up in the story.

Bedroom Recollections

You want to get ahead; you want to keep pushing forward.  But this week–let me tell you, it seems like every time I turn around, there’s something in real life that’s keeping me from writing my next great novel.  Assuming that it’s going to be great . . .  Recollections

Still, you write.  I get on the computer and start putting words into the machine.  I left my couple in bed, making small talk, mostly about my main female character getting tired of where she lived and taking a job in Las Vegas.  Where do I go from there?

Well, I had a few hundred words to make my main male character feel a bit of envy.

See, my male character is a Las Vegas native.  Born there, schooled there, worked there.  His dream is to make it “big” as a writer and move the hell out, but neither has happened yet.  He’s starting to feel like a bit of a failure because he’s stuck in the City of Big Dreams and Drained Bank Accounts, and here he’s hooked up with a woman who one day said, “Screw it, I’m outta here,” packed her crap inside her car, and hit the road because someone offered her a job.  Good job, bad job:  it didn’t matter.  It was a job, and it wasn’t in New Mexico, so she said, “Yes”.

In a way I feel like my main male character.  I’ve lived in Red State Indiana my whole life, up in the northwest part near Chicago.  There was a time, years ago, when I wanted to move out, when I wanted to head west and keep going until I hit the ocean.  One time it was California, one time it was Seattle; these days I’d love to live in Portland, where I almost did have a job in 2006.

From time to time I do have a dream of getting the hell out of the state and heading towards the mountains, towards the desert, towards the forests, and not stopping until I see a lot of water standing in my way.  I feel as if I outgrew Indiana a long time ago, but one thing or another has kept me from moving on–

Maybe I’ve been waiting to hit it big.

Were it not for certain obligations, I think I would have blown this pop stand a long time ago.  Jean Shepard–he of A Christmas Story fame–grew up in Hammond, IN, so he’s mostly known as an Indiana Writer, and a number of his stories take place in northwest Lake Country.  A writing instructor once told me that they went to a reading Shepard gave on one of his infrequent visits to Indiana, and during the question and answer section at the end, someone asked him what his favorite part about returning to Indiana was.  The instructor told him his answer was, “Getting on the plane and leaving.”  Needless to say, he didn’t endear himself to anyone at the reading.

I’ve had moments where I’ve thought about getting “known” through my writing, then leaving the state, settling somewhere else, and having to field the requests to return to my old stomping grounds to talk about what it’s like to “be a writer.”  Oh, the things I could do, the things I could say, the trouble I could get into.

So I need to do a few things first for that to happen . . .