resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
9. [personal profile] china_shop asks: Thoughts about writing original fic vs writing fanfic, whether it's different processes, different feelings (or the same process, and the same feelings), or whatever.

My writerly self-image is of a person who is bad at plot and conflict, good at smoothly flowing sentences, and better than decent at characterization.

But characterization in fanfiction is completely different from characterization in original fiction.

Once I've got a character who's fully real in my head, I can do the same thing I do when writing fanfiction: say, "This person refuses to say those words, and insists on saying these other words instead." But it's difficult to get there. Many of my characters come out flat; others refuse to coalesce, but remain a collection of traits that don't come together to form a real person.




Go here to add your own question.

The questions thus far are under here. )
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
[personal profile] monanotlisa asks: What's the hardest thing to write for you, and how do you get around it and yet write it?

Word by word, sentence by sentence, even paragraph by paragraph, I find writing very easy. On top of the usual ways that writers get educated, I was also a journalism major in college, which means I spent hours, literal hours, doing nothing but re-wording a page full of sentences to improve their parallel structure.

But I find it incredibly hard to make things happen.

Left to themselves, my characters want to sit in vaguely drawn rooms and have conversations. Or sometimes my narrators want to describe things. In depth.

This is especially a problem when the story in question involves any sort of worldbuilding. I've built a world; the most fun thing I can imagine is to let some characters just go wander around in it, picking things up and looking at them. You remember in "Groundhog Day" the montage where the Bill Murray character just experiments with the terms of his curse? Tries things that ought to kill him, and wakes up the next morning ... learns what everybody in town is doing so that he can catch people who fall? My writing wants to be nothing but that montage.

And I'm afraid that the only way I can write meaningful conflict is to make a great slog of it. It takes forever for it to come to life and flow -- while I'm waiting for that to happen, I have to write hundreds, thousands of words that are like walking in knee-deep mud, knowing that once the life finally comes into the thing I'm going to have to go back and rewrite all that sloggy stuff to make it sound good. (I think this paragraph contains several contradictory metaphors, but what the hell. It's a good example of what I'm talking about.)

I'm sure there's a point at which I will have had enough practice that it will get easier, but it hasn't happened yet.







Go here to add your own question.

The questions thus far are under here. )
resonant: It feels so good. (So good)


Back when LiveJournal roamed the earth, I first started working on a nonfannish human/alien novella which was described by one beta as “strangely sweet” and by another as “strangely sexy.”

Well, Evernight Publishing today released “Exog,” and you can find it on Evernight’s site here. (Also debuting Peale McDaniel as my name when I’m an erotic romance writer.)

If you’re one of the people who believed in it back then, then thank you!
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
[personal profile] runpunkrun asks: What's a favorite piece of writing advice you've picked up over the years?

I'm going to share two that have been particularly useful to me.

From [personal profile] julad: Make it more difficult for the characters.

And from the sadly defunct Eddie's Anti-Procrastination Site: You just have to keep starting.
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
Everything's all out of order, which I did not intend, but [personal profile] blnchflr asked: what has changed (most) about your writing?

I thought about going back and reading some of my old Sentinel stuff to answer this question, but I was afraid I wouldn't like it when I read it, so I didn't.

I do remember that when I started out, I wrote romance in a more emotionally explicit way -- I wanted feelings expressed directly in words, preferably at length, whereas now I enjoy the sense that profound things are happening while guys say, "Dude, uh, yeah."

My sex scenes have gotten shorter; I don't know if that's an improvement or not. But after a while I begin to feel that the words I'm writing are words that I've written before!

I still find it difficult to create plot --- in the sense of "action that's meaningful in terms of significant story conflicts," but also just in the sense of "things that happen that aren't talking or sex." But it's a lot easier than it used to be, and so my stories are going through fewer backs-and-forths with betas saying, "No, but, see, when it's this easy it's not really a story, is it."
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
[personal profile] rhi prompts: what story did you most enjoy writing?

It's an interesting question, because I find that the stories that I'm now most proud of are usually ones that, on the whole, I did not enjoy writing.

Or -- that's a little strong, but they're usually the ones that were a major struggle, that went wrong over and over before they went right, that even now I can look at and see the cracks and the places where what I had taken on was just that much beyond my skill level so that I fell short of what I had in mind. That was the story with The Teeth of the Hydra in Due South, the last story of the Interface series in SGA, and of course Transfigurations in Harry Potter.

At the other end of the spectrum are low-ambition, low-stakes things. Smutlets are like that, of course. One-shots in fandoms that don't really exist are, too. I think it's because, if there's no fandom to engage with and no other stories to be (as academics used to say) in dialog with, the problems that a story has to solve are going to be fairly simple ones. (Can I, while staying within reasonable tolerances of canonicity, get these guys in the same place at the same time with a little privacy? Can I imagine them having sex while still sounding like themselves?) Where there's an active fandom, those questions have already been answered in a way that satisfies me, and so I feel compelled to take on bigger ones. (Can these two people actually have a relationship that doesn't look like the 'relationship' between a cat and a baby mouse? Canon gives us a character who always chooses some particular thing over everything else; can he choose love over that and still be himself?)

The stories that have been the most fun to write have been ones that were neither cakewalks nor spacewalks but just nice walks. Breaking and Entering in Inception, Higher Education in The Breakfast Club, Abstain in SGA, Amenable in Sherlock -- they're nice lengths, they unfolded in the writing process pretty much in order, they didn't do that thing where you finish a draft and then you discover (or your betas tell you) that it's flat and lacking in bite and you need to go through it again and unfold it into the third dimension.
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
[personal profile] cesperanza gave me this rather blush-inducing prompt: Do you have any tips for us newbies? How do you come up with such original sensory details while the rest of us mortals are doing "Scully smelled like strawberries" or "sandalwood and something else that was pure Blair?" TIPS PLS!

Beginning with the ritual pshaw at Cesca being a newbie ... or needing me to teach her anything ...

In Samuel Delany's Dhalgren there's a scene where the protagonist is in a bar, and he's met up with an astronaut who has walked on the moon.

"Tell me something about it that nobody knows," he says.

The astronaut protests that the story's been told so many times that every single significant detail has been discussed with the press over and over again.

"No, no, I never said significant," the other guy says. "Look at that shelf of bottles. See how, in the last bottle, there's so little liquor that you can see the concavity in the bottom of the bottle sticking up above the liquid? That's not significant. But you wouldn't know it unless you were here."

Read more... )

The how

Jan. 9th, 2012 07:57 pm
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
So I wrote Steve Likes Tony in four days, using Written? Kitten! and e.ggtimer. And what have we learned from this exercise?

Process navel-gazing cut )
resonant: Giftwrapped tentacles (Gift)
Taken from [personal profile] ellen_fremedon:

Tell me about a story I haven't written, and I'll give you several sentences from that story.

I love this meme. It's like getting to wander through the Slash Annex of the Library of Babel.

[edited to change the terms of the meme, because apparently I'm incapable of sticking to "between one and three sentences" unless I write torturously long and complicated sentences with an illegal number of semicolons]
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Turn it on)
My chapter of RWA isn't terribly helpful as a critique group. If there are twelve people at a meeting:


  1. five of them know a lot less about good writing than I do (a lot less; I should tell y'all about the great debate our e-mail loop had on the concept of "show, don't tell")

    1. three of those are also completely unfamiliar with fantasy, to the point where they say things like, "When you say 'elves,' you're speaking literally?!"
    2. and the other two don't see the difference between fantasy and paranormal romance. Which is a distinction that I don't feel equal to explaining in nice words, since as a fantasy lover I think of paranormal romance as "that shit that looks like fantasy but isn't."

  2. five of them are too nice to utter any criticism at all
  3. our two published writers want to find out exactly what market category you picture your work going into, and then give you detailed step-by-step instructions on how you can precisely tailor your characters, conflicts, and word count to get you into some line of category romances.


So most of the time I don't bother to bring pages, but one thing that is useful is to hear your work read out loud by another person. Boy, that really draws your attention to, say, a sentence that has three words in it that end in -ly.

So I went looking for an application that would read selections out loud to me. And since I seem to be working with British characters at the moment, I went looking for applications with British voices, since the difference between "garridge" and "ga-rahge" could hypothetically throw off the whole rhythm of the sentence, right?

So I downloaded a free trial of GhostReader and then downloaded Graham, Peter, Lucy, and Rachel to read me my work in a fairly decent machine-voiced British.

And now I'm sitting in a coffee shop with headphones on, listening to Lucy, who seems quite a well-meaning sort, say, "Oh, fuck, that is so -- fuck --" in a dispassionate voice.

My life gets odder every year.

Clouds

Dec. 31st, 2010 08:12 pm
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
OK, this is neato: put a text file into the box at tagcrowd and it will render you a cloud of the most-used words. If you do this to a story, it's fascinating.

For instance: my current work in progress, in 50-word cloud form:

Read more... )

Like, obviously I need to do a search-and-replace on "seemed" and "really," and anybody who knows me could have predicted "voice," "mouth," and "sound," but isn't it funny that "turned" is in there? "Think"? And look at those mid-level words. "Eyes," "face," "fingers," "head," "kiss," "mouth," and ... "something"?

Anyway. Happy new year, if it's your new year!

[eta: huh. I can't seem to get their html to work. Trust me, it's very cool on their page.]
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
I've never done this before and I'm kind of terrified, especially since I haven't written anything since approximately 1915, but I signed up for [livejournal.com profile] cliche_bingo and you should too!

See my bingo card under here )
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (smrt)
The spouse is reading a book about Shakespeare. It claims that Shakespeare must have had an unhappy marriage, because none of his plays are about happy marriages. The spouse scoffs at this. "Nobody wants to see a play that's like their marriage, and nobody wants their marriage to be like a play," he says. "If you're lucky, your marriage is the opposite of dramatic."

Remember "Moonlighting"? Remember how sexy Maddy and David were as they bickered and maneuvered and claimed not to feel what they were feeling? Remember how fast all that sexy went away as soon as they actually acted on what they felt?

And yet ... And yet. As a person, I like having a relationship that can be measured in decades. As a writer, I like a challenge. And I don't believe that there's no way to write an established relationship except as the grave of a romance or a backdrop for nonromantic derring-do.

You can write a long-term relationship that still has the romantic and sexual tension you need to keep the sex sexy. Not many people do, but you can.

Read more... )
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Wombat pair)
I'm reading novels like crazy this summer*, and I've noticed that one of the novelist's chief concerns is to be forever answering the question, "Well, if it's so bad, then why doesn't she just quit?"



*This is partly, I confess, because I'm now logging all my books at Goodreads and I read more when people are watching me.
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Social)
I don't know if y'all are following Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's online writing community. I try to look into it a couple of times a week, but I hadn't really been connecting with it -- for a long time they were chiefly writing about things (like POV) that fandom teaches better than anyone, or things (like goal and motivation) that I've been struggling with for so long that it makes me tired just to read about them.

Today, though, there's a post on something I've never seen discussed: The protagonist's community, and how to build it.

One thing that particularly struck me was the way she stresses involving the reader in the community by starting out with no community, so that the reader is in on it from the start:

That emotional connection is even stronger when the reader reads the creation of the community or the protagonist’s entry into a existing community through the course of the story (”bonds developed over time”), participating vicariously in the struggles of the characters to bond.


I tend to connect most strongly with the characters who are the most lonesome -- not just isolated but longing for connection. (Benton Fraser was the absolute archetypal Res-love in that respect.) So I don't know whether following this advice would make a story moving for everyone, but it would certainly work for me.
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Genius)
I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. It's a highly quotable book, one of those books that tempts you to drive your companions nuts by saying, "Hey, listen to this." Which is basically what I'm doing.

The book quotes Keith Johnstone, who's apparently a trendsetter in improv theater:

"If you'll stop reading for a moment and think of something you wouldn't want to happen to you, or to someone you love, then you'll have thought of something worth staging or filming."

Then he goes on: "In life, most of us are highly skilled at suppressing action. ... Bad improvisers block action, often with a high degree of skill. Good improvisers develop action."

So that takes me back to what I've been saying about my difficulties in creating action in stories.

One of the ways good improvisers create action, by the way, is by what Gladwell calls the "rule of agreement" -- if one actor suggests something, the other actor has to go along with it.

There's a rule like that in brainstorming, too. And now I wonder whether it ought to work with writing as well?
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Hands)
I've moved this series to my webpage. You can find it here.
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Vanilla)
I've moved this series to my webpage. You can find it here.
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Smutlet)
I've moved this series to my webpage. You can find it here.
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Not Like That)
I've moved this series to my webpage. You can find it here.

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