Would my real start please stand up?

I’ve been studying structure and reading my favorite blogs in the off time when I’m not working on my rewrite. There‘s lots of great advice out there if you look for it but there is nobody to give you the “right” answer on how your book should actually start.  I’ve started this book 5 different ways, each rewritten several times … a longwinded lead up to where the story starts, a hook that had nothing to do with the story, a start with no real hook, a start with a hook that actually has something to do with the plot but not the main plot.  Would my real start please stand up?

It’s very good advice to get in as late as possible and get out as soon as you can, but defining those points is easier to describe than it is to accomplish.   I’ve learned that the beginning of the story needs to relate to the main problem of the book, but there is also a lot written about making the beginning of the story grab the reader.   I’ve also learned that it’s a great technique to introduce all five senses to the reader in the first few pages to make it a visceral experience.  That’s a lot of stuff to balance at the beginning, so how do you find that perfect moment?

I feel like I am getting conflicting advice on this so I’m actually doing two beginnings: one that doesn’t start quite as fast then has a nice hook, and one where it skips past that slower part and introduces the main plot shortly afterward.    I like them both, but I think there is actually a “right” answer here.  What I’m afraid of is that the right answer will be different for different people.  It’s making me write the first 5 odd chapters twice.  The rest of the book will flow normally from there.  I think the remaining edits will be pretty straight forward.

I’m going to see what my alpha and beta readers say I guess.  Is that lame?

Clear Ether!

Truth and Consequences

 Philip Dick has been getting a lot of attention the last few years, and has been the inspiration for a few movies that I really like, Blade Runner being my favorite. I just recently finished reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which is the basis for the screenplay of Blade Runner, even though it is hardly recognizable. The book is dark, even darker than the movie. Take Blade Runner and make everyone dying of radiation poisoning and going slowly insane. Dick often asks questions about reality and our perception of it and then takes it one step further. There is an interesting quote in the book I just read, let me share it with you:

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”

I think perhaps there is something to this. It’s not so much that we have to do wrong, but the pressure is always there or maybe the temptation. I’ve read on a few blogs lately about finding your blog voice too, and it all runs with the same theme. We all have choices, we can try to be something we aren’t but I think authenticity can be sensed. Personally, I try to do right and be myself and not try to be something I’m not. I try to teach that to my children as well.

     Contrary-wise, as writer’s we are constantly being something we aren’t through our characters. We put little parts of ourselves in every character, and it gives us a chance to really explore parts of ourselves where we might make bad choices and do wrong. We get to make up stories and put our characters in situations where they have choices too,and we often put them in a position where they have no choice but to do bad things. Does that make us bad?

     Writing in the right genre is part of being true to yourself also, and it’s more than writing what you know, but just as important to write what your have passion for. I know I’m not going to write the Great American Novel. I will be a niche writer, because that’s where my interests lie. I love Science Fiction and I also love the vampire genre, so for my first book I combined them together. It’s been done before, but not overdone I don’t think. Not that it would really matter to me. I’m bringing my own flavor to it.

     Honesty and right-thinking also flavors our happiness to some degree. We may be doing a day job that we aren’t completely happy with, because our true passion is writing, at least for me it is, and I have a great day job. But it’s just not my passion. So maybe I am doing wrong everyday by staying in that job, but it pays well, and I have more than just myself to think of. I look forward to the day when I can write full-time, and I sure hope it makes me happy. I keep telling my kids to follow their dreams, but I didn’t find my real passion until I was well into a different career.

Clear Ether!

Inspirations to Get in Your Character’s Head

In case you missed it, I finished the 1st draft of the WIP.  You get to go on this journey with me as I move to this next phase, the rewriting phase.

     I have two main POV characters, and they are as different as night and day.  For the first pass I’ve decided that I am going to go back through and stay with one character’s story line to the end of the book just to stay in their head and get their voice right and try to tighten up their perspective.  I have a little helper to get me in the right mindset — it’s called music.  =)

Do you like to listen to music when you write?  I do, and I find that different types of music put me in a different mindset while I write.  For Laurent, who is a Nemesi, or what you would call a vampire, I like something edgier, a little darker.  I have a playlist for this type of music which includes Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, and Red.  For Anneliese, my female bad-ass pilot, I like something a little different and have a set with TRON:Legacy Soundtrack, Muse, The Black Keys, Radiohead and 30 Seconds to Mars.  They can help with emotions and feel, they actually have empathy for my character.

How about you?  Do you have a thing that helps you get into your characters head?  I’d love to hear about it!

Clear Ether!

Structure and Style

I have something to share before I get into this week’s topic.  It happened!  I finished my first draft on the 31st of July!  It was a bit anticlimactic, and I was starting to wonder when I was going to be finished.  It seemed like I was paragraphs away from finishing and the finish line keep moving away from me.  I think I wrote another 11k words when I thought I had less than 500 to go.  I had the most productive week ever, with multiple days of 5 and 6 thousand words.  But it’s actually done at 597 pages and 131,464 words.  That was quite a bit more than I originally planned, but with hope it will slim down, as now come the rewrites.  I am going to try to let it breath for a bit, but I’ll likely be breaking out the scalpel and duct tape sooner rather than later.

As I got close to the end I had the chance to go back and review my original plots and attempts at an outline and I have to say they are nothing like the finished product.  I had an idea for an opening scene, that was the starting point, and then my POV character changed and changed again into what I ended up using, and that changed the entire perspective of the story.  I think it’s crucial to get that part right.  Once the ideas started to settle into the semblance of a plot, it became obvious that the original MCs were not going to see enough of the story to carry it through.  That was when I hit on the idea for the new MC, and once that was decided, something magical started to happen … the story started to develop a life all on its own and I just tried to take notes.  Which leads to this weeks topic.

I seem to be getting hit over the head lately with STRUCTURE.  I am reading a few books on writing and a few blogs I follow also hit this theme really hard this past week or two.  It’s one idea on how to get started, by laying down a sort of skeleton of a story and then adding meat to the bones to form it.  It has a definite road map, with the 4 parts.  The first being the set-up, where you introduce the characters and the start of the dilemma to end the first part at the 1st Plot Point, it lays out the stakes.  Then the next section has the MC running into trouble, and helping us, the reader, have empathy for the MC and having to solve a problem, most likely related to the big problem (key plot) and ending with it resolved at Plot Point 2, then another one much like the second, but it is really focused on the Big Plot and the major climactic event at the end of part 3.  Part 4 is just tying up loose ends and resolving the Big Plot stuff.  There are lots of other parts that fill in with subplots and side stories, but that is the basic layout.  I can see this working for a lot of people, but I don’t think it works all that great for me, at least in the intended fashion.  I use it at the end of my process, to make sure I didn’t go too far off course, a way to validate the structure after the fact.

I’m what they call a pantser.  I just start working ideas like working a lump of clay until something forms and I go “AHA!”, then I just start writing.  About halfway or 2/3s in I start working on an outline to get to a satisfactory ending.  I revise the first bits here if I need to, then guide the characters along the outline, but my outline is more like a Lego structure, not one made out of steel.  I like to be able to take it apart and reform it from time-to-time as my ideas coalesce into something with substance.  It’s really very organic, but then I probably have a lot of pruning to do on the rewrite.

The thing I don’t really like about the STRUCTURE at the beginning in the story development phase is that it requires you to be brilliant all at once.  Your plot really needs to be strong or it won’t matter how much meat you put on that weakling.  I find that I have what I hope is brilliance in small doses.   A scene or an idea sparks and grows and I can mold it and shape it and add other ideas to it and then that leads to more ideas.  Like I said, it’s organic like that.  I’m interested in how you develop your stories, I love to hear all about it!

BTW I will be looking for some alpha readers soon.  If you like Sci Fi and Paranormal Romance it might be up your alley, please let me know if you would be interested.


Clear Ether!