Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Breakthrough!

So, I've been puttering around, trying to decide which story to write next...for about a month now. I have three ideas that I really like, but I just couldn't motivate myself to sit down and write any of them. So I just kept thinking about them, conceptualizing, plotting, etc., hoping something miraculous would happen. And it did!

Now, you have to understand something: the problem I was having was that, although the characters in each of my ideas were relatively well-formed and motivated, their adversaries were not. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this a month ago, or I could have saved myself much time and anguish. Even so, I did what I always do when I have a writing problem that I can't identify: I started reading. Invariably, if I delve into the kinds of books I love, somewhere along the way the answer comes to me. In this case, it was a book, a computer game, and a blog.

The book was Cornelia Funke's Reckless. I haven't finished it yet, but I already love it. Funny enough, it wasn't anything specific in the book that flipped the switch, but reading always gets my mind and imagination working; thus, the idea came while I was reading, but it wasn't inspired by the book. The game was Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn; this provided the seed for my breakthrough when I realized that one of the enemies I fought earlier was actually the sibling of what I assume to be the ultimate villain in the game. (Again, the events and story of the game aren't what helped me solve my problem, it was the concept of siblings. I'm not plagiarizing, I promise.)

The final piece I owe to fellow blogger Bekah Snow. She's writing a wonderful 6-post guide to querying and synopsizing. I read her first two posts (Goals and Motivations of characters) several weeks ago. While I was reading Reckless, Bekah's posts combined forces with the idea of siblings I'd noted in my game to figuratively punch me in the face (and before you jump to conclusions, no the villain is not the MC's sibling or any other family member).

Thanks to this epiphany, I've done more writing in the last two days than I had in the six weeks prior to that! And I feel GREAT! (thanks, Tony!) And if any of you have looked at my Projects page, I'm working on Dathan the Sorcerer.

Some times I love life way too much! So, have any of you ever had such an Ah-hah moment in your writing? Tell me about it!

Friday, April 22, 2011

How Do I Write Suspense Well?

Laura Diamond brought up the topic of suspense on her blog today. I especially enjoyed the interview with Alfred Hitchcock, but it left me with a burning question: how do I write suspense well? This has always been kind of tricky for me: I have to have at least two people read the scene and tell me why it doesn't work, rewrite, have them read it again, rewrite again. It can take as many as four or five iterations of the same scene before I get the reaction I'm looking for. But the problem is that I can never duplicate it! I have to go through this process with every single scene! (or at least every scene I want to be suspenseful).

From what I've seen/read/heard, it comes down to two or three things:
  1. High risk factor (something big is at stake)
  2. Ignorance of the character (the reader knows something dangerous the character doesn't)
  3. Legitimate potential for disaster (the reader believes something terrible can and very well might happen)
I feel like I'm back in my high school calculus class: I have the formula, but I can't make it work! It's the most frustrating thing IN THE WORLD!

So, today I'm looking for input: what do you do to create suspense? How do you bring those three factors into play? (or did I miss the mark completely with my analysis?)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hey, big day!

So today is a big day...after being away from my blog for a few days (not by choice, it's just been a super busy week), I come back to find:
  1. I have 10 followers now! Hooray for double digits! I really appreciate you guys, especially when you leave comments for me!
  2. I've been nominated for an award by Anassa, over at Specnology! Thank you so much!

    Apart from having one of the coolest names I've ever come across, Anassa has a really good blog about writing, technology, technology in writing, and all sorts of other good stuff. She also posts periodically on Science in My Fiction, which is another great blog for sci-fi writers to read.  And with her permission, I'm actually going to pull the rules/qualifications for this award right from her sight because it's a lot faster and easier than typing them out all over again.
The rules for this award are:
  • Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
  • Share seven random facts about myself.
  • Pass the award along to 15 new-found blogging buddies.
  • Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
 So, thank you again to Anassa! Now on to my 7 random facts:
  1. I have two malformed ribs that stick out farther than the others. (you can't really see them, but you sure can feel them and they drive my wife nuts!)
  2. I mentally edit pretty much everything I see (unless I wrote it, then I'm blind as a bat) and have a tendency to judge things when I find errors in them (it's borderline compulsive).
  3. When I was a child, I would staple sheets of printer paper into "books" and write my favorite stories in them (complete with illustrations). Robin Hood and Star Wars were the two most commonly reproduced.
  4. I have an odd fascination with Disney movies. I realize that's strange, considering that I'm A) an adult, and B) a man, but I really don't care. I think Disney comes up with some of the best movies. Period. Incidentally, I LOVED Tangled. Disney kind of got back to its roots with that film and I definitely approve.
  5. Stories are one of the biggest driving factors in my life. Stories are not only the reason I read, write, and watch movies/television, but also the reason I play video games, listen to music, and even talk to people. Stories are what make life/people interesting!
  6. I am an Eagle Scout and am very proud of that fact.
  7. I kind of get a kick out of seeing how many times I can make my wife say "You're such a geek/dork/nerd" in a single day, mostly because she still loves me!
Now for my blogging buddies. Like Anassa, I can't come up with the full 15, so I'll do the best I can, in no particular order.
  1. Teralyn — A Writer's Journey. Teralyn has been a great friend and really helped met learn the ropes of blogging. She actually just used one of my posts as a guest post on her blog. I'm super excited. Thanks Teralyn!
  2. Brooke — Brookenomicon. I realize Anassa already nominated Brooke, but I don't care. Brooke has been another awesome friend, and Anassa has way more followers than I do! Brooke has an awesome blog and awesome taste in genres (we commiserate over how steampunk and urban fantasy aren't what they should be anymore). She is also the editor of Hogglepot, an online publication for short fantasy.
  3. Shallee — Life, the Universe, and Writing. Shallee is one of my oldest writing buddies. She and I have been friends since freshman year of college. She runs a great blog and, more importantly, is probably my most valuable readers/editors. Thanks for all your help, Shallee!
  4. David Powers King — Dave is one of my first followers. He has some really great insights about writing and is also one of the nicest people I've never met.
  5. Rosie — East for Green Eyes. First off, awesome blog title; it catches my attention every day. Second, she has one of the most engaging and entertaining blog voices I've found so far.
  6. Chantele — My Writing Bug. I love Chantele's Wierd Word Wednesdays! They're so fun! She also leaves some of the best comments on my blog.
  7. Michelle — Perfecting the Craft. Apart from having a really cool profile picture, Michelle has given me some really good comments. I also admire how she uses her blog to promote her beliefs and values; that takes courage because people on the internet can be really mean.
  8. The Golden Eagle — The Eagle's Aerial Perspective. I don't know this girl's name, but I love her blog because she also talks quite a bit about science and technology. Her A-Z blogfest posts have been fascinating!
  9. Kimberly — Meeting with My Muse. Kimberly is one of my more recent connections. I haven't known her too long, but she's already given me some good advice. And I love her A-Z blogfest posts: short, sweet, and to the point, as the saying goes. They're also very useful!
  10. Bekah — For some reason I can't get Google Reader to follow Bekah's blog, but I still love to stop by and see what she's got to say. Her last couple posts have been about query letters. And they are AWESOME! Keep it up, Bekah! I need all the help I can get.
  11. Faith — Faith has given me some of the best advice on voice that I've ever heard. In a nut shell: don't worry about voice now; just keep writing and it will develop with time. Or at least, that's what I took from her!
So, few as my readers may be (for the moment), go visit each other and see if you make any new friends!

P.S. — Since I started writing this post, I have gained another follower! Thanks Blogger Girlz!