Friday, February 26, 2010

A Character Day

So I posted on SWS' Blog a day late today, and it was about characters derailing the storyline.

Now I want to discuss what I as a reader like in characters and how this might help in writing and revisions. I like struggle, internal to the character. A lot of writers like to approach this from a moralistic perspective and that can make for an exciting story. My favorites are battles against expectations (usually social) which force characters to confront and or develop a stronger sense of self. (Yes, I'm a sucker for self-discovery). This can also tread the moral ground when a character has to stick up for what he/she "knows" is right, but the society (of which they are a part) disagrees. Or, perhaps the achievement of the goal forces some moral flexibility or unavoidable actions which creates a crisis in the hero's self-image (they could not avoid some terrible immoral act). This creates the gray area, or the gray character.

But I don't always need or want this grayness. Sometimes I want the author's word choice to shape the characters just-so-much that I care. How do you do that, though?

In revisions of Novel One, I am stepping far closer to characters than I ever have. I am trying to to see the world through their eyes. I have everything so neatly drawn in my mind. I know so much. But what do the characters know? In an effort to bring the characters to the fore, the story lines change. I want the reader's interest in the characters to pull the story through, but I have never taken this tact before (exactly) because I was afraid that "nothing would happen." The path the characters might take me on might lead through an insane number of details that may or may not pull the reader into the story.

So is the answer as simple as keeping the characters morally ambiguous or otherwise in crisis, to keep them interesting?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On the Rules

I'm starting to plunge into the latest rewrite of Silver Mask. I feel like I'm doing two things: returning to my original vision, but altering the current pace. The alterations the draft has undergone, partially due to the number of eyes I had go over the whole thing. Rather than attempting to identify my audience right off, I let varied critique groups tug at my confidence and fill me with rules i hadn't considered. My second-guessing and eagerness to produce a publishable manuscript left me open to their "rules" which led away from what "knew" was true.

Now, I am figuring out what to ignore, as well as establishing where I want to go with my work. Here is a sampling of my ideas:

What I was told--

1) Be wary of similes in Fantasy, your readers might take them literally.
2) Authors need to keep the passages focused on actions to keep readers' interest.
3) Readers' attention spans are short, so be careful of poetry, longer sentences, etc--they won't get subtlety.

What I now think of these things--

1) Similes represent symbolic thought. We don't think literally, and if well-crafted, the simile will not confuse the reader.

2) I subscribed to action for the longest time before realizing that it was my lack of description (which I was already aware of my issues with) that were holding the story back. I had liked the idea of having integrated action and description all the way through a book , start to end. I felt that this would hold the reader's attention better. I was wrong. I now believe that through description with interspersed action (still placing emphasis on setting the scene rather than on what exactly the character is doing)I will create a more solid visual base upon which the reader will extrapolate and attach meaning in following passages.

3) Shorter attention spans is an oversimplified manner of looking at a cultural shift. Yes, we listen to soundbites. Yes Twitter is insanely popular; and yes, action packed books sell well--but we are also an increasingly visual society. Did it ever occur to anyone that action-packed stories require a sort of picture-building that makes the visceral reality of a book take solid shape in the reader's mind? I do think this is part of the equation. An overlooked part. So for Epic fantasy, more descriptive works are preferred because the description allows the world and thus the characters in it, to attain the sort of life the reader is looking for.

Now I'm working on carefully building each scene and the process is teaching me where the real holes in the manuscript are. Yay for the learning experience.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writerly Things

So all of my research (read: blog reading) and my writing is meeting in the middle. I am starting short stories, which I will be seeking to publish after they go through the critique-group ringer. I lover my group, honest, they make me a better writer. But the aim of these short stories is going to be completely different than any I've attempted before. And yet--they could work really well for world building.

Idea: Trace my pseudo-SF world's history which begins with the death of Earth. In short story form, because I'm really a Fantasy writer, and I can only dwell on these depressing science based worlds for so long. But the future world is a bit of a parody of our own, and lets me play with pseudo-academic discourse. The whole thing is fashioned after an idea that the histories of my fantasy world are being translated (and there's an attempt at explaining them, too) by people from a scientific world. Ethnocentrism exudes from the Chontaulleans in their attempt to understand the Yinnians (my fantasy peoples). And at the heart of the debate is the fact that reality is as we see it. But that's big-picture. Small-picture is that as I piece it together and build up the Chontaullean society, there will be many situations for interesting dialogue.

And for the writer, it'll be fun to set up the ultra-rational and hierarchical Chontaull as a satire for the Western World. Take the "we know all" attitude and shove so many holes in it....

Not in a scientific sense, but in the relationships of the many societies I create to play with. I get my kicks watching the products of said societies interact. Yes. Dialogue. Plot. Cultural difference as a tension building device, where both people are right, and are only wrong because they try to force their reality on others and are ignorant of the fact that that is what they are doing. We are trapped in our own perspectives, and good and evil are constructs of these. No one is one or the other, but both. Good intentions lead down dangerous paths sometimes...and everything is about values, beliefs, experiences, etc.

That is why I write, I want to walk these edges and find the answer to human nature in fiction. Ambitious, I know, and improbable. But then, perhaps all I need is to uncover my own perspective to succeed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Bit of Market Analysis for E-Readers

I'm not an iPad lover. I'm still looking for the ideal e-reader, but one requirement of my e-reader will be versatility. I, as a consumer in the 18-34 age range want an all in one device, or something close to it. I want an e-reader/laptop replacement. The iPad is not that.

So I got confused when a few blogs I've been following featured links to articles that praised the iPad. Was I completely wrong? Was the cafe hangout and discussion session I had with my friends poor selection of the consumer market? At a loss, I went to to see exactly who was reading these articles. What I discerned was that the greatest segment of the audiences of and are 35 to over 50 years of age. Generation X and Babyboomer readers, that's who their selling the iPad too.

Fair. Wiki Millenial or Gen Y and you can see that the 18-34 year olds are facing the greatest level of global unemployment in decades. So are we buying? Or are Gen X and Babyboomers expected to buy for us?

If so, they better make a stop by Gizmodo,where a greater number of our generation follow the gadget-news. There, the iPad is a joke. It doesn't meet the expectations of the up-and-coming generation. Sorry, Apple. We went for the iPhone and iPad, but you can't use the same tech over and over and keep our loyalty thus.

So the gamble the iPad (Apple) and the Publishers investing in it are making is based on the buying power of the Babyboomers. I love my parents, but such a marketing strategy is shortsighted.

I really would like to know how short-sighted marketing and production is going to help our economy. But -- I'm just speaking from a Millenial-consumer perspective here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Amazon Versus MacMillan

Two wrongs don't make a right. MacMillan wants to sell bestselling e-books for around $15. Amazon thinks this is outrageous and pulls all MacMillan titles from its store, from wish lists, and from Kindle. Authors--especially bestsellers, are outraged.

Fine. What is making this come to a head in such a dramatic manner? The iPad and Apple's deal with five of the Big Six. The publishers are starting to set prices. Why? The don't feel that $10 e-books are sustainable. They envision a future where brick and mortar stores and digital books exist together (In-Peace-and-Harmon-y, sings the voice in my head).

Now I don't own a Kindle. I own a total of 1 e-book (a textbook) that was required for a class and a digital version was all I could find in the rush born of the realization: OMG I need that book by the end of the week! But a full half of my book shopping -- print books, mind, not e-books-- has been conducted on Amazon. increasingly, the selection at the brick and mortar stores has been "not good enough," their breadth of selection in the genres I'm seeking just isn't enough to sustain my interest.

So here is where I am confused. The publishers want to sell the bestsellers at a higher price in order to make certain 1) they have the money to print the versatility and number of books we-the-readership is accustomed to, and 2) keep the brick and mortar stores afloat. But if the age-group under 34 is growing more comfortable with online buying, and our lives are bound to get more hectic as we slip more firmly into the 30's and then 40's...then online buying only stands to increase. From that perspective, the large-scale brick and mortar store --that squeezes as many subjects under a single roof as it can, but fills the sections sparsely by millenial standards-- is already on the decline. If they are proceeding to earn less of my money... and my shopping patterns are typical of my age group...then the publishers are acting too late. Far too late.

Not that Amazon's business tactics are in any way respectable, but they do know what the online-buying community wants. They give it to us. But, yes-- non-Amazon online stores would be very desirable to me. And yes-- the customers should've been given the opportunity to vote with their money.

I think what this may do to Amazon, and also MacMillan, will be interesting to watch.