Tuesday, April 10, 2012

TV I'm Watching: Grimm

Grimm is one of the new urban-fantasy meets fairy tale types of shows.  It does not treat the material in a fairy-tale way, but in the true Brother's Grimm Folkloric way.  This, combined with its Dresden-inspired-police- procedural, actually makes for a delightful combination.

It is darker than Once Upon a Time, and the German cultural references are like icing to fans of folklore.  The shows is fun without dumbing down too much, and an excellent introduction to the difference between folklore and fairy tales.

I'm hoping that the next season of True Blood will help to dissuade audiences that fairy tales are friendly things...

And I must admit the exploration of true monsters and complex relationships to "monsters" is an element in modern fantasy shows that I am greatly enjoying.

The premise:

A police officer finds out that his family is from a long line of "Grimms," a sort of human that polices the monster world (called vessen) and his adventures when his heretige and day job overlap. You get the impression that Grimms of history were more executioners than policemen, but our main guy's forrays into the vessen world are influenced by his tenure as a detective, and so he is doing his best to use the mundane justice system and avoid Buffy-style slaying when he can.  The result is that he is actually building some trust with the well-intended vessen.  Meanwhile, the real enemy hangs out in the background.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Addressing an Epic Cast: Slimming Down POV's

I fall in love with all of my characters.  That's just the way it goes.  So how do I pick favorites to carry a plot? I had to break up the plot, that's how.  I fear I'm a gusher.  Meet me for coffee and you get my life story.  That sort of thing.  And my writing was no different.

So I had to scale back my focus and ask not: "Who's going to carry the plot?" but rather, "Who will introduce the series best?"

That is how I got my answer.  Kyr, Layna and Teshen.

When I knew this, the plot changed.  It became more narrow, allowing me to explore the world from the perspective of my three POV characters.  The depth of the world, plot, and character interactions jumped out at me.

I picked my two end points -- Major Plot, Minor Plot (s)--and how they overlap.  I introduced minor characters (who were previously major characters)  briefly, and let them plant the seeds for the larger plot that will emerge in the sequel.

Book 1 is to a series like Chapter 1 is to a book:

This is my new approach, though I must admit that Silver Mask borders on a Forward, rather than a straight Chapter 1.  It is the slow introduction of the world, the characters, and what is at stake.  But my main characters don't and won't have the keys to see the big picture issues in the first book.  They are there--for the readers to guess at--and some free short stories that I am aiming to release this summer may give even greater hints.  Though those stories do not feature any of the characters from the novel-in-progress.

Perhaps it is ambitious for an aspiring author to plan a series, especially in the climate we have currently in the publishing industry, but I can only make so many concessions.  Clearly, for anyone who may be reading my posts or poking through my site, I think too much :P  Simple is hard for me.  So I aim for it, but I still can't limit myself to just one book in a world.  I admire authors who can.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Epic Fantasy versus Aspiring Author's Limitations

If you're like me, and you've been writing for-ev-er, or following someone who has been doing so, without quite getting to the point of submitting to agents and editors, you might be wondering, "What's up with that?"

For Epic Fantasy there's a Cast of Character issue.  Epics have lengthy casts. That's just how it goes.  When you fall in love with Epic fantasy, as a reader, the complex casts and the character interactions on the backdrop of fully formed world become mundane.  You wade through them, you have a method of keeping track of important points and the tropes of the genre help you to identify what specifically is important to remember.

When an aspiring author launches herself into writing Epic Fantasy, she *ahem* me,  attempts to follow the patterns laid out oh-so-carefully in the genre.

Then, you start running into problems.  You start hearing that you should limit your POV characters. You start hearing that readers should have a solid understanding of where the plot is headed by the third chapter.

You look at your library and think "But they didn't."

Rules for an aspiring author and for an established author are completely different.  Brandon Sanderson is a good example of this.  His brilliant Epic, "Way of Kings" was the first thing he wrote, but he couldn't publish it until he was successful with the Mistborn series and had been picked up to complete the Wheel of Time series. As an aspiring author--no matter how brilliant and wonderful his epic was--it couldn't land him with a publisher.  He had do that with "smaller" books with fewer POV characters and simpler premises.

There are a few exceptions, of course, there always are.

But limiting your manuscript is, in my opinion, a necessary evil for most aspiring Epic Fantasy authors.  It was also something that for years I could not figure out how to do.  In fact, this draft of Silver Mask is what really taught me how to limit the plot and focus on the characters.


What is your favorite Epic Fantasy novel/series and why?  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Changing Character Strengths: WIP

Running late today!  Battling neck pain yet again.  But after food, medicine and me just getting tired if being in pain, I am trying to kick myself in the butt and get a move onto my goals.  This post, of course, will be one check mark on my list :)

Yesterday I posted about how my main character's flaws were changing, so I think it's only fair to look at their strengths and how they've changed.

Kyrriki Ednin -- His strength in earlier editions of this project was his ability to analyze situations, anticipate, and find the best solution to his infinite number of dilemmas. Now, he is strong for his sacrifices and stronger for what he is willing to do for his people--including jeopardizing his own position,wealth, comfort and all the things the other lords and even his people assume he holds dear. He is a hero because for all his faults, all his fears, he will place the well-being of others above himself.  However, these are also traits that Kyrriki is unaware he possesses.

Gellayna Hehriya -- Her strength before was her acceptance and love, but now it is her ability to endure.  She commands her knowledge and education, and finds strength in being able to apply these to situations, create opportunities to better her life and improve that of others.  She might not always like people, but that does not keep her from feeling she has a responsibility to help.  Being able to look past her flaws, her judgments, and not carry grudges helps her to become the heroine of the story.  

Teshen Hehriya -- This character's circumstance has changed more than his character in the prior drafts.  His strength is his ability to inspire others, his cunning, and his willingness to leverage his average appearance to dupe his enemies into misjudging the sharpness of his mind.

So!  How do the strengths sound compared to weaknesses? The aim is for the weaknesses to sometimes overtake the strengths and vice-versa in order to maintain complex characters driving the plot.    However, as some of the circumstances are not their doing, and these things drive them into their situations, it often becomes their reactions to their various predicaments that shape the direction of the plot, as well as the character development.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Changing Character Flaws in WIP

My characters, plot, world--everything has changed so much from the earlier versions of my WIP that I am stepping back to discern the character flaws all over again.  I knew them once, but my characters are so changed by the new circumstances that I need to "get to know them" again.  Which feels weird since I'm a quarter the way trough the rewrite.  But, hey, it will help when I hit the next revision stage.

My main characters and their flaws are these:

Kyrriki Ednin -- The Lord of Ednin is  petrified by fear of losing everything, a fear exacerbated by the murder of his sister and her husband.  He has to overcome the fear so that he can make decisions that will protect his people.  This means that he has to accept that he is the best champion they have, and that hiding is no longer the proper method to achieve his goals.

Gellayna Hehriya -- Gellayna Hehriya takes great pride in her peoples' traditions, but blind adherence prevents adaptability to her circumstances.  She pretends to adapt, because acting is part of the job she was trained for, but must actually accept the world she has found herself in and its dangers in order to affect change. she needs to let her experiences in the empire change her...into something more than a Rextian born in Kordic.

Teshen Hehriya -- Is a bit overconfident in his own abilities and knowledge, a touch narcissistic, and resents Kordic rule of his people so much so that even when he becomes aware that his sister is likely in danger due to his actions, he  embroils himself in more intrigue in the hopes of combating oppression, rather than seeking her out.

I think that will work.  The basic conflict in the WIP is the xenophobia of the Imperial laws, and how one enemy seeks to use those laws as a bid for power while the Empire hovers on the edge of war with lands to the south.  Fear and effectively, racism, are modes of control of an elite over an ethnically diverse Empire that wants to pretend it is homogeneous.  Meanwhile, the diverse identities end up expressed politically, philosophically, and begin to unite and polarize the Empire after the death of the Lord of Rijnic and his wife (Kyr's sister), an act whose significance will bring war.

I'm afraid my academic background is firmly visible in this plot, but so be it.   I'm working on actually reducing the description to something that does not wield such...highfalutin...word choice, but no guarantees.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SciFi/Fantasy TV (What I'm Watching) : Game of Thrones

This is such a good time to be a geek-girl. Oh my happy eyes.  I know there are a bunch of shows that people have massively different takes on, but there are many that I enjoy.

Geeking-out was one of the first things my guy and I shared in common.  From Sci Fi to science documentaries and books, we shared a lot in common from the get go.

So when **** flew into the fan, and the customary dinner out was no longer an option, we fell on some series show-watching for our "time together."

I discovered that TV shows, of a decent quality can actually be inspirational.  This was not something I discovered as a  kid, as my family didn't have cable till I was in High School.  Even then, I didn't spend a lot of time in front of the screen.  

Now, however, I watch plenty.   Is that a  bad thing?  I don't know. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of SciFi and Fantasy shows on that I enjoy,  from the acting and writing to the whole art of some of these shows.   

The premier of its type, at the moment is Game if Thrones, which just kicked off its second season.  What a start it was!  I can't wait to see more.  

I love the fact that the  first season stuck as closely to the book as it did.  While the director said that they will play with the order of events in this season just to keep the predominately now-well-read audience on the edge of their sofas, I can't wait to see what they are going to do.

The scenery is just spectacular.  Every scene is very well placed, and the costume design is perfect. While I know this sounds like superficial details, they are each incredibly important in creating the world.  The setting is so important in fantasies because it creates the mood, the depth, and the basis of relationship to the reader.  While characters drive the story, the setting is like the canvas of the painting.  Without it, the superb detail of the characters would be reduced to nothing more than sketches.  

I think it is easier to get good actors than it is to get a Fantasy setting right on a screen.  Not to say that good acting is easy to find, but look into what they did to get these scenes right of the series -- Iceland, Turkey, Croatia, Ireland...   

You plop the outstanding cast in roles perfect to their ability and add the appropriate setting and wow--they really did a good job bringing this series to life.

I'm not going to go into what the series is about, but I recommend watching and reading it, both.  A perfect way to wind down the evening!

What is your favorite book adaption to screen? Big or small screen?    

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Last Few Weeks & Writing Goals this Week

For everyone who sees this through Facebook, I know you are aware that some family crap kept me offline for a bit.  I not only have little filter between thoughts and mouth, sometimes I write whatever is on my mind too.  But that isn't good or appropriate for everything we face in our lives.  So I took myself away from the internet.

As the troubles died down, and I handled what I could, I focused not on writing, but on reading.

Ages ago I was an obsessive reader.  When a good book had me there was little else I could do.  I would forget what time it was, forget to eat.  Everything paled in importance to the book in my hands.

I've been very frank on this  blog as to where I am mentally right now, and where I have been since graduation. so it should be obvious that this level of obsessive reading has been very difficult to rekindle.  It has been hard to set aside my daily concerns enough to focus on fun stuff.  Fun stuff would make me feel guilty.  But I think I've already been there on this blog.

Returning to reading, in order to deal with stuff and give myself a bit of a mental break from stress was exactly what I needed. More, I think it is a big landmark for myself because it means that while much of my life is far from where I want it to be, despite my best efforts, I am finally learning to accept it rather than stress, rail, and feel otherwise angry/disconcerted/frustrated over my circumstances.

I read obsessively for a whole week.  I finished the Stormlord series by Glenda Larke, which depression had given me trouble actually getting into for awhile.  But I made up my mind to finish book one as soon as we moved.

The book was so good, I read the sequel in a day and a half, and summoned my meager resources to scour Sacramento for the third book.  That means, of course, that we found it at Barnes & Noble (though I *did* try the local independent store, Avid Reader, first). It was glorious, locking out the world and sinking into a brilliant series.

I followed the epic trilogy by reading Fair Game, by Patricia Briggs, and read that one eagerly. I completed it in a day.  The day after, I made my guy read it so we could discuss the ending since we are both fans of the Mercy/Anna world.

So while I had little internet involvement, I quite happily started reclaiming myself.

Next step, of course, is writing.

This week I want to write 5 chapters: ( Chs: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) of Silver Mask.

Rather than setting daily goals and getting pissed at myself when I fall short, I'm going to try setting a weekly goal with a little flex.  So if I have a slow day, well, that's okay.

I think I'll also say it's okay if I complete chapter 10 on Saturday, though I'll aim for having everything done on Friday.  Being kind to myself is certainly *not* an easy thing for me.

So, once again, what are you reading right now and is it something you would recommend or will you get halfway through before setting it aside?