Author Archives: Pam Uphoff

About Pam Uphoff

After ten years working for oil companies as a geophysicist, I quit to raise a family. As an empty nester, I'm writing Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. Whew! And I thought children were tough!

Show Don’t Tell

Show Don’t Tell

Pam Uphoff

 

We’ve had requests for a blog along the lines of “But how do we do it?” So I’ll take first whack at it.

Short version? You take a short boring bit that gets you past the messy details and into the part you want to write—and you go back and put in the messy details, especially those emotions you didn’t want to slather all over your beautiful clean manuscript.

I’m not good at explaining, but I can try to demonstrate, first draft to final publication.

So here’s wizard, doing some experimental magical genetic engineering.
Telling—he’s passing it off like practically nothing happened:

“No kidding. Now stop trying to divert me from these longevity genes. You aren’t going to experiment on your own dogs, are you?” Q looked at him suspiciously.

“Yep. I did Lion already. Four hours and he’s fine.” He winced at her glare. “I’m standing by, in case he needs to be switched back, and I have wine.”

Showing—make it hurt:

Xen studied the old dog carefully, found the same gene complexes, and very gently started changing them, one at a time. With pauses in between to check the dog for signs that he had done something Really Bad to his cellular metabolism. When he was done, the old dog didn’t seem any different. Lion heaved himself to his feet and walked stiffly out to circle the sheep. Walked partway back, staggering a bit.

Xen sat up in alarm and trotted out to meet him. The old dog laid down, his head drooped.

“Lion?” Xen sank his awareness into the dog. Wish I could see like a witch . . . He’s very low on energy.

He looked into the bubble he called his backpack. A change of clothes, food, water and the Wine of the Gods.

He pulled out the food, coaxed Lion to eat . . . with minimal success.

He scooped the dog up and traveled to Lady Gisele’s garden. Tried to keep his voice steady. “My first patient seems to be dying. He’s low on energy.”

“Humph. Let’s see.” The old crone reached out to stroke the dog. “Indeed.” She reached over to her shelves and plucked off a bottle.

“That’s maple syrup.”

“Yes, dear, and good source of sugar, to get his gylcogen levels up. Let’s see if he can swallow it . . . Hmm, well, a bit of tubing . . . ”

She plucked plastic tubing from nowhere, and wormed it down Lion’s throat.

“There’s a funnel behind you, third shelf, the small one . . . thank you.”

He go the funnel into the tube and poured a teaspoon of maple syrup into it.

“Now, let’s see what’s happening on the cellular level . . . Oh dear.”

Xen was following her vision as far as he could. Chromosomes writhing about, under attack by his ribozymes, ripping into the right genes and then building up the new ones, grabbing the chemicals needed . . . whether the rest of the cell could spare them or not. Whether the cell needed that gene—old or new version, right then.

Cells were dying, fast. Lots of them.

Everything they tried made it worse.

They couldn’t save him.

Xen spent the rest of the day out on the hills with the sheep and the horses.

Cradling his old dog.

Blackie and Silky crawled up to him, crying.

Quicksilver showed up in the mid-afternoon. Just sat down silently.

“So . . . I was over confident.”

“What were you trying to do?”

He hauled out his spells and let her look them over. “The longevity genes.”

“An essential transformation? Xen . . . that is brilliant work.”

Xen shook his head. “It just tore into the genes and started changing them. It was too fast, too much all at once . . . or maybe those genes are multipurposed to something in basal cell metabolism, that can’t be interrupted.”

She sighed. “I’m better at physics. This stuff . . . I can do it, using other peoples spells. I don’t grasp the significance of possible genetic changes, of how to invent them.”

“I wasn’t really inventing new genes. I was changing the genes at eight specific sites to slightly different genes. Known genes, ones that will work fine.”

“In humans. Maybe not in dogs?”

“The Hell Hounds have some of them. Lion had one copy each of three of them. I just tried to give him the other five, and double pairs. He . . . ran out of glycogen, and the changes were messing up the cell chemistry. Even getting sugar into him didn’t help, and when I tried to stop the process . . . well, the chromosomes started falling apart.” He pet the cold stiff form in his lap. “I killed him.”

 

Or how about some cross-dimensional scientific cooperation?

A perfectly adequate mention:

“So, your first scientific expedition from another polity – and it had to be them.” Xen grinned across the table at his sister.

She grinned cheerfully back. “And an interesting trio the Arbolians are. Both the men are natural wizards, with enough training to shield their natures from me, if they hadn’t gone and shook hands. The girl has no power genes but a fair collection of the rest. They all seem very smart, and very much what they claim to be, otherwise. One astronomer, one photographic specialist, one guy to keep everything working. In any case, they’re parked up on that hill busy all night and sleeping all day.”

And then showing:

I am an ambassador. They dare not kill me.

Hadley Greene forced himself to walk calmly and steadily across the plaza. Why must they make everything so large? So far away? We should acquire one of those vehicles. One of those limos. A large black one, worthy of my status. Or white for my purity.

They had always said the power had been too weak in him—they had not allowed him to go on to the more advanced training of the priesthood. Thirty years later, the rejection still burned. Especially now, in his maturity, when he understood that his only lack had been money for bribes or political influence on his maternal family’s side.

And now, so poorly trained, I must walk alone into that vipers’ nest of feral gods. I dare not even bring an aide, who could be influenced, ordered to murder me in my sleep some night in the future.

It wasn’t the sun overhead that was making him sweat.

He didn’t allow himself to stop at the road, nor the base of the steps. By the time he reached the top, the double doors were open, and two men . . . no. Two gods. Unchained, uncontrolled, unmastered . . .

I could take one, for my own. The priests would bow before me. Weak? Ha!
He eyed the two gods. The young one. I want him. He swallowed saliva. But not now. No, I’ll have to find him alone, off his guard. Asleep would be best.

He stopped a cautious distance away, stood straight and tall, and raised his chin. “I am Hadley Greene, Ambassador for Arbolia. I require your assistance for a scientific expedition.”

The young one nodded. “I’m sure that we will be delighted to assist you. May I introduce Dr. Quail Quicksilver? She is in charge of Science and Exploration.” He stepped back and gestured invitingly as a young woman stepped forward.

Abomination! A female with power! But that glow is unmistakable. Except, there is no sexual attraction. Of course, abnormal genes. That would explain it. It’s not a True Female. I could take it, transform it into the God of Women. No. The God of Sex.

He was so deep into plots that he nearly forgot to be afraid as he stepped into the den of the deadly wild gods.

***

“. . . proper scientific study of these dimensions. So we expect your cooperation.” The Arbolian ambassador was watching her with a hungry expression. Sweating.

Q kept her expression politely neutral.

Lust or terror? How can one tell with a hideous perv like this?

And why did the first request for scientific project have to come from them?
The man is a mage of some sort, possibly one of their priests.

I should get a genetic sample for Mother. She talked about these people . . . I thought she was exaggerating.

“I appreciate your interest in science, Ambassador. This looks like a very interesting project. We will support it, and assist as necessary. Have your project people contact me about what they will need.” She stood and extended a hand.

He recoiled . . . stared at her hungrily. “They will contact you.” He turned and walked out.

Crap.

She glanced suddenly at the corner of the office. A light warp unraveled.

“So, your first scientific expedition from another polity—and it had to be them.” Xen grinned.

She shook her head. “Being over protective, Big Bro?”

“Yeah. I didn’t like the way he salivated when he looked at me and Inso.” He walked to the doorway and grinned back at her. “But he did seem to find you sexy.”

He ducked away from a threatened fireball, and she grabbed a tissue and swabbed the edge of her desk. Maybe Mother can sort out his DNA. She dropped the tissue in a bag and sealed it. I do like plastic. It’s going to be a bigger import category than electronics.

***

“We need to do a first survey from several wildly different worlds, and analyze the results.” Lord Marius Menchuro of Arbolia was an astronomer. A serious young man, with none of the ambassador’s hunger. He’d shaken her hand without hesitation, as had his assistants.

Trace and Trill Breesdon were brother and sister. Trill was a photographic expert, Trace an expert at keeping everything working.

“Everything” being a twenty-four inch reflecting telescope mounted on a horse drawn wagon, and a huge camera for taking long exposure photographs, and the photographic lab, in addition to a great deal of camping equipment.

Damn. Now this is interesting. Studying the planets, moons and asteroids for changes from world to world.

“Indeed. Let me introduce you to the maze. I think we have everything—every place—you’ll need for this first survey already easily available.”

 

Another example This time from my eccentric time traveler:

First draft:

When we landed, I started laying out the plans for two space fighters. Then I had to break for a bit to calm down the accountant and sign some late tax papers and so forth. Good grief. I hired him to not bother me. He calmed down eventually. Until I told him it was going to happen regularly.

Final Draft:

Then I had to calm down Natalie and Aura and sign some late tax papers and so forth. Good grief. I’d hired them to not bother me. They calmed down eventually. Until I told them it was going to happen regularly.

“We’ll be away regularly, and come back every September, probably, to recuperate. Just file the taxes.”

“What kind of bloody resort are you?”

“A private one.”

“Your income is from selling rare metals?”

“We like to mine, but it is a bit dangerous. So we needed a nice tranquil spa to come home to.”

Aura crossed her arms, looking a great deal less like a fluffy-head than usual. “We looked all over for you. What is that weird machine in the practically hidden warehouse?”

“A very large three dee printer. Very advanced. Don’t touch it.”

“And the practically hidden airplane hanger?”

“It’s for the airplane. Vertical takeoff and landing, so don’t ask me why I don’t have an airstrip.”

They glowered at me.

I tried again. “Umm, couldn’t find a good batcave?”

Double glare.

So much for popular entertainment . . . But they’d never believe the truth.

“Time Travelers?”

Natalie growled. “Sign here and here. Write a check for this amount. Mail it, dammit. Today.”

“Space Aliens?”

“And here’s my bill.”

“How about I give you signature authority . . . ”

“No! Doing your paperwork is scary enough! God forbid anyone would think I was a part of your amazingly weird . . . group.”

Go through your manuscript, and hunt down those quick little unemotional spots . . . and tell the whole thing. Bleed on the paper. Or laugh. Just don’t let it lay there, neutral and boring.

 

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Survival

I had a Real Life situation, here in Houston in the last few weeks. Hurricane Harvey came to town. And stayed, and stayed . . .
We were lucky. Almost no wind. Thirty-three inches of rain was bad enough. But when the ditches start backing up because the river is full . . . and the predicted crest is five foot higher than the all-time-record that had us sweating last year . . .

Not a problem—we had a good 18 inches to go before we had water in the house. Gulp!!! They didn’t say five feet higher, did they?

But it crested lower than the early predictions, and we sailed through a potential disaster with only the minor inconvenience of not being able to get to the grocery store (or anywhere else) for five days.

And the reason we sailed through it was (1) Prep and (2) Luck.

In life, as with a writing career, you can’t pick and choose the storms that will hit you. But you can prepare for bumps in the road in general.

Where you live will determine the likelihood of various disasters, and those you need to prep for really early on. In California you look at fault lines and wild fire hazards before you buy a house. On the Gulf Coast, you check the flood map.

 

If you’re a writer, you have to consider possible dry spells, either in writing or selling. Even Indie writers have slumps. You can get sideswiped by family trouble, work complications, computer crashes . . .

So . . . how does a writer prep? Go back up all your files. Right. Now. Best writer prep ever. And read the contract. Get an IP Lawyer to read it.

Instead of a pantry full of canned goods, a backlog of stories ready to sell is really nice. A blog with a tip jar and occasional paid writing gigs might help smooth over the potholes. And acquiring and keeping up-to-date marketable skills really is a good idea, so if necessary an outside job could be procured. But then most of us already have a job, and writing is a part-time endeavor that we strive to make lucrative enough to quit.

One of the hardest decisions—in real life as in a writing career—is when to leave.

What to take with you, and what do you abandon? What do you try to get up out of the reach of a flood, in case there’s a house to return to?

For a writer, it’s harder. So much of it mental. When you cannot find the time or energy to write. When you’d have to give up something else . . . a promotion, starting a family, caring for an elderly relative . . . and you just can’t. When you’re sick, especially a long debilitating illness, or a life changing injury.

But how do you pack up a writing career, in the hopes that you might be able to get back to it later?

Can you write a little? Now and then? While the baby’s napping or dictating while commuting? After you’ve tucked Mom in bed, can you write for half an hour before going to bed yourself, knowing there’s going to be a problem at 2AM, as usual?

All too often the answer is no. Stress and lack of sleep are killers of the creative process. So create a space in your mind, where you can go to de-stress. Make up stories, just for your own entertainment. Don’t even try to write them down. Make a stress free place to go, and keep the story telling skills from atrophying.

In a flood or hurricane, snowed-in in winter, you eat the perishable foods, then the canned and dry goods . . . the choice gets more and more limited. You try to plan ahead, and the meals start getting skimpy . . . that Spam wasn’t nearly as bad as you’d feared, and what’s the expiration date on those things back there?

Okay, confession time. My husband and I like Spam. Which may be why I’m blanking on a mental equivalent of last ditch writer’s survival supplies.


But what is a writer to do, when things get rough?

Well, it depends on both the problem and the writer.

During the stormy part of my life, I wrote a lot of short stories and novellas. I had trouble holding a whole novel sized story in my head while dealing one after another with my husband’s serious hand injury, the needs of my elderly parents, an unexpected death in the family, a wedding overseas, and finally my parents’ deaths. Three years of stress, where I was often barely competent to edit and publish older stuff. I’m afraid to go back and read some of it now, to find out how bad a job I did.

But it’s all over now. Done. I sit here, telling myself it’s over. I can write long. A big, complex novel. Any time now.

It’s not easy to get back. But I did salvage that mental ability to create, to see a story and get it down on paper. The ideas have started popping up and insisting on being written. So I’ll trust that the skill to write long will return as well.

So think about prepping for storms, physical and metaphorical, so you can hang out in the rain with no worries. Or at least fewer.

 

One of the new short works:

But you really ought to start here:

 

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Dream a Little Dream For Me

Pam Uphoff

 

“A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.”

Wikipedia

 

But why?

Oh, the theories are numerous. Dreams help us incorporate memories. Process emotions. Solve daytime problems. Play out our subconscious desires.

Frankly I think it’s file cleanup and de-rezing the wetware so we can function the next day, but whatever it is, I really like dreaming. It helps sort out plot problems and throws all new situations at me.

Dreams can be like brain storming—throwing out ideas as fast as possible and only analyzing them later. And they get pretty wild.

The flat-out weird dreams are my favorite.

My Zoey Ivers books? Half BSing on the internet, meshed with this totally bizarre dream . . . I mean bouncing balls that thought they were Elvis, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin?   A computer that thought it was a T-Rex? My Dad the FBI agent walking out into a cyber desert to fight a gigantic rattle snake? WTF?

I got up at 3AM and started writing that one down. Turned into a two book YA adventure. There will be a third book Real Soon Now, and maybe more later.

OK, maybe last night’s that ended with one of my fictional characters screaming in the back room while she was being tortured wasn’t one of the better ones. (Eek! Not Rael!) Was my subconscious trying to tell me I have to be more brutal to my characters? Was this a message that I’m only showing the good side of my macguffins and eliding past some obvious problems.

Maybe it was just free association in a sleeping brain. No deep messages needing dream analysis.

But you know the thing about nightmares? You can play around with the ideas. How did your character get into this fix? How does she get out of it? Be creative. The above nightmare? Oh please, Rael was screaming so the guys in the next room didn’t realize she was actually loose and beating up the torturer, collecting interesting improvised weaponry and so forth.

And yeah, that kid in the dream has a problem! Or maybe he is the problem!

No doubt it’ll all show up in a story down the road.

If I go to sleep thinking of the possibilities for the next scene . . . Okay, it mostly keeps me awake . . . but sometimes an idea falls into place.

Sleep apnea was actually great for this. Once I got that really fun overnight test, I realized that I wasn’t actually just laying there awake, thinking about the WIP. I was flipping between REM sleep and awake so fast I wasn’t recognizing the dream state. But I sure planned some good scenes that way. And typed them half-asleep the next day.

I almost miss that. But with an oxygenated brain, I have plenty of uninterrupted dreams to stock the idea cabinet.

So . . . what do your dreams do for you . . . and what do you do with them?

Oh, and the new book, a complete stand alone unconnected to anything I’ve ever written:

 

 

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Buddies

Pam Uphoff

 

One way to hook a reader right off the bat is to make them identify with your main character.

Another sure-fire way is to start with explosions, gunfire and derring-do.

Even so, once the shooting has stopped, the reader needs to like the MC. Or want to be him. Or respect him or her, admire, find interesting . . . there has to be a connection or the reader stops caring about the MC and that’s pretty much the end of that book. I mean, you’ve got to have a really intriguing problem to keep the reader reading once he stops caring if the characters live or die.

So how do you manipulate your readers into wanting to either be the main character, or to be his best buddy?

Well, try giving him a best buddy in the book. IMO it’s usually better without romance between the two. Doesn’t have to be all smooth, never a disagreement.

Check out books and movies that are favorites of yours. Kirk and Spock. Honor and Nimitz. Frodo and Sam. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Harry, Ron and Hermione. The interactions between characters is a way to pass information about the world and the situation to the readers, but it also shows the character of the characters.

And if Kirk and Spock are one of the best examples of men friends, probably Honor Harrington and Mike Henke some of the best female. Professional and personal support, complete confidence in each other. Liking. Trust. Humor. All the stuff that makes a friend a friend.

We like reading about the camaraderie within a group, even when it seems like small potatoes against a massive battle to Save the Universe. But it’s those friendships that draw us in and make the danger real. That make us care, not just that the right side wins the battle, but that our friends survive.

And for the writer, it doesn’t matter that you can’t write the whole huge battle. You write about what your small group of comrades do. Brief glimpses of the large battle, if you need to add the sense that things are getting desperate, or not. You can paint heroism on a small scale, and make your reader sweat and cry, clinch their teeth and pant as their friend is wounded, a buddy drops. Someone they know and care about dies.

Make your readers cry, because it’s their friend that just went out in a blaze of glory. Make them snivel, as the survivors grieve. Or go in to rescue their commander, because surely there’s some chance he survived.

Having your Main Character be a good friend in the stories, is the best way to make your readers want to buy your book and spend some time in a dangerous place with their buddy.

Take a look at your stories. How many genuine friendships does you main character have?

My favorite “buddy book” of my own:

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Places of Interest

Places with Personalities
Pam Uphoff

I was upset when Harry Dresden’s basement apartment burned down. Really.
221B Baker Street. An indelible part of the Sherlock Holmes mystique.
Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin without their NYC Brownstone? Inconceivable!
And vehicles too. Would Star Trek be the same without the Enterprise? Star Wars without the Millennium Falcon?

Making a tiny part of your make-believe world a familiar place, describing a minute part of a whole world in detail can both pull a reader into a story, and establish a starting point for a world that you just can’t describe in the same detail. Using it as home base for a series starts the readers off knowing where they are: at home with their old friends. Or in danger, and a good thing they’ve got this ship/car/tank/whatever.

I find myself doing that in my stories. The village, the inn, the hotsprings.
And now I’ve got this silly vehicle . . . I didn’t mean for my characters to attach themselves to this battered old wreck. It just keeps coming in handy.

 

“That’s a bit of a wreck.”
Ebsa eyed Acty, then looked back at the dents in the crawler. They look . . . familiar.
The mechanic bristled. “Do you have any idea how short on equipment we are? If the Powers That Be will stop panicking over their precious Special Super Secret Project—which everyone knows has to be those weird Helios people—or wait six months instead of trying to instantly field every team in existence and some that aren’t,” he glanced meaningfully at them, “we could properly supply those teams. We can supply you with everything you need. What is available right now is the crawler we decided to use for spare parts, rather than try to repair.”

From _Fort Dinosaur_ by Pam Uphoff

 

Now it really doesn’t matter _which_ vehicle they check out of the motor pool, but this one has a history that the reader may suddenly recall. Even without having read the previous book, it’s battered and distinctive. It makes this vehicle special, it hints at history and give the world depth. Ahem. It also let me toss in a small data dump and first foreshadowing.

A single place, an office or home with “personality” can be an excellent start to world building. A place for characters to have roots. It’s location in a city, a village, a hundred miles from anywhere. A hut in the forest. A mansion in the ritzy part of town. Or the only house on the street in decent repair, the lawn, such as it was, mown. All these things tell the readers a lot about the world and they’re already making assumptions about the inhabitants.

Looking around at the rest of the Mad Geniuses . . . Dave is having a love affair with Australia. Kate . . . is all over the map, but her Vampire has become the protector of SF cons. Cedar’s got some interesting homes for Pixies and Gods. Sarah’s got a Diner in Goldport. A home on a spaceship called the Cat House.

 

And then, out of nowhere I hit something. Not hard. And whatever I hit was not as deadly solid as the diamond-hard trunks and certainly no powerpod. For one, it didn’t blow up.
Even after hitting it, I couldn’t see what it was. It was . . . dark. Straining, I could make out a rounded outline but barely distinguishable from the surrounding gloom.
My throat closed. It was a darkship.

From _Darkship Thieves_ by Sarah Hoyt.

 

And pets. A character’s reactions to animals can speak volumes about his character. Is he a puppy kicker, or a puppy saver? Does she get upset when her evil cat gets sick? Keep pet triceratops? Tarantulas? A character’s choice of pets tells a lot about the character and about the world.

The black-and-white sheepdog was more experienced at love than the dragon, and he was a young pup still, maybe eight months old. Barely more than a pup. But Dileas—whose name was “faithful” in an old tongue, long forgotten by most men—would go to the ends of the world for her, and beyond, as they were now. His mistress was his all and he would search for her until he died, or he found her.
Fionn knew that he would do the same.

From _Dog and Dragon_ by Dave Freer.

 

Dave tells you all about the dog, and the reader nods, personal experience kicks in. The reader _understands_ the devotion. And with a few more words, Fionn becomes a hero. As loyal and determined as a dog.

### Totally off topic! The above are examples of “Fair Use” of copyrighted materials. But after some outstandingly obtuse argumentation and attempted justification on facebook recently, I thought I’d head off any overreactions (and set a good example of “if in doubt, ask”) by asking Sarah and Dave. Who, of course, gave permission. I didn’t ask that Uphoff woman, she’s crazy and there’s no telling what she might say. ###

So here’s a writing assignment for you.

Make a home, a home away from home, or a vehicle. Some thing or some place your character loves or will come to love. Good Guy or Bad Guy. A Fortress of Solitude or an Evil Lair. A new character or an old one, doesn’t matter. They need a home.
What kind of pet does your character have? None? Well, that won’t do! Get him a pet, find out how much world building you can do while acquiring some odd critter.

 

And the self-Promo

For those who insist on paper and ink, all six of the Directorate stories in one huge volume.

And grab it quick, this is the last free day. Ra’d’s first appearance. Speaking of mayhem . . .

 

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The Absolute Basics

 

I was surprised by the number of people last month who were having trouble with the first step of writing—writing the whole story.

So you’re getting the Kindergarten level talk, in the hopes that you can spot where the problem lies.

So . . . at its simplest, what is a story, after all?

A story requires:
• One or more characters
• A problem that matters to them
• How they solve the problem
• What they are like after having solved the problem

That’s it.

Oh sure, depending on the length and complexity of the work there will be several attempts and failures, before they grit their teeth and give it their all. But let’s start with the absolute basics. Take out that story you’re having problems with, and let’s have a look.

Who’s the Main Character? Not necessarily the only POV character or even the only Protagonist POV character. But who is doing the heavy lifting in your story? Don’t lose track of that.

What is the problem? Why does it matter to the MC? It doesn’t? Well there’s a point you need to address. Sometimes the first problem is the tip of an iceberg, but make it matter TO THE GUY WHO IS GOING TO RISK ALL FOR IT! Do you just need to show the character’s motivation, or are you using the wrong character as your Main Guy Gal Person Sapient Being?

How is the MC going to solve the problem? Does he need to acquire knowledge, skills, equipment, clues? Does he need advice? Does he need helpers? Does he need to study the problem and understand it better before he can solve it? All these things are interesting adventures and the meat of the story. If you’re writing a Mystery, your detective has to go around asking questions, interviewing people, getting beaten up, following red herrings . . . A Fantasy? Must find magical items, companions, steeds, sword fighting lessons, whatever.

Make your character do some work! You can put in a whole lot of world building while getting your hero ready to go. Get some try/fail sequences in there. Nothing like failure to make the MC realizes he needs [fill in the blank].

Think of several ways a sensible person (or hysterical, if that’s what the MC is) would try to deal with the problem. Then have him try one and fail. Get more stuff/training, try the next way, and fail. And the next.

Don’t make winning easy. Make him or her have a desperate dark moment, an emotional crisis, followed by renewed determination to win/solve/escape or whatever. Maybe a whole new strategy is needed?

And then go out there and do it.

And then, after the Big Win, show the character more mature, better skilled, filthy rich, more confident . . . or just going back home. A story has to have an ending. It has to have a conclusion.

That ending is an important part of the writing process.

Figure out what it is going to be. This will give you something to aim at, while you write.

You may decide later that it’s unrealistic, and change it.

No problem.

But if you don’t have a clue, not even “Frodo drops the ring in the ocean, then goes home and lives happily ever after” you are going to have trouble aiming your story. When you decide, “Wait, the ocean won’t work . . . umm . . . oooo! Let’s melt it in a volcano! And it has to be *the* volcano deep in enemy territory!” you’ve at least already got him on the road and collecting companions, weapons, experiences, and magic dodads. You’ve described the world, the people, established the personalities of his companions . . . you just have to get off the river and hike for the volcano.

Then you have your MC after the Big Win. Or if he made the ultimate sacrifice, you show your other characters getting with life, and the big hole left that the character used to fill. But show the reader that he died for a purpose, and achieved it.

And that’s it.

Main Character. Problem. Solution. Aftermath.

If you are missing any of those, you’re mucking about with the trained and honed expectations of a reader’s lifetime of stories.

Now, here is an old post with some story type and basic plot information: Back the the Basics
Which may also help clarify your problems.

But the number one problem with never finishing writing a book, is starting editing before it is completely written. Rereading may be necessary if a manuscript has been tucked away for very long between writing sessions. But in most cases, reading the last paragraph or two is sufficient to get your mind back into the story.

And the second reason many manuscripts are never finished? Not enough time to work on it. Do you need to find more time, or just pull the plug on the greatest time sink on the Earth? Yes, the Internet.

Master it, use it.

If you have trouble leaving it, try writing away from access. Bargain with yourself. “Five hundred words every morning before _any_ internet at all.” or “I can only have a soda/coffee/tea/beer if I’m sitting at the computer, writing.” “News and weather with the first cup of coffee. Then it’s time to go to work.”

Whatever works.

Get out that “never could finish it” manuscript. Analyze it. Main Character. Problem. Solution. Aftermath.

You can do this. I know you can.

And the Promo:

If you’ve never read anything of mine, try this one, the first taste is only $0.99

Or my most recent book:

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, Uncategorized, WRITING: CRAFT

I Quit!

I. Quit.

No, no, not MGC.

But I’m taking a hiatus from my big series and trying some new things this summer.

Now, why would I do a silly thing like that? Well, it’s pretty simple. I’m a (nearly) complete unknown and as such my sales numbers are low. And since I’m in this for the money–yeah, I’ve got an husband bringing home the bacon, but he’s teetering on the brink of retirement, and I’d really like to bump up the projected (post retirement) household income. That means I need to do a number of things. Marketing . . . I’m also working on. But another (and much more fun!) thing I can do is broaden my fan base by publishing in other genres.

But how is a writer of a huge series to break the bad news to her fans?

Well it depends. If the series is at a natural stopping point, it’s easy. This is one of the advantages of an overarching Mega Problem. Once it’s solved, you can give your readers a brief glimpse into the Happily Ever After and then quit.

Hahahahaha! As if!

And the more popular, the more fans will want you notice that there’s a problem behind the problem and keep going.

In my case most of the stories are stand alones . . . but it’s one big saga with a fair amount of background that builds up. But there’s no clear cut end point. It’s just a Cross-dimensional Multiverse full of potential. It has been mentioned that it would make a great SF soap opera.

So again, why quit?

There’s a dozen reasons.

I need to broaden my reader base, so getting out of this specific sub- genre and into Time Travel, Space Opera, and Urban Fantasy sounds like a good idea. I mean, Regency Romance may sell better, but I seriously doubt I could tempt any of those readers to try my older work . . . where SO and UF have plenty of overlapping interests with my old series.

And then there’s the challenge. Something that will stretch my knowledge base and send my research in a new direction. Time Travel hurts my head, BTW. And I have zero knowledge of how Law Enforcement actually works. Which is really necessary when you’ve got a thin blue line standing up against demonically engendered werewolves. Space Opera will be the easiest, what with me being a space fanatic. All I have to do is check that what I know really is so. Ouch! Our knowledge of reality changes so fast it’s easy to fall behind.

I recommend this to all writers. It’s too easy to get into a rut, to coast. “Oh, I know everything about this Universe, after all, I created it. I don’t need to research anything!” Too easy to depend on the character building you did in the previous books and leave your character flat and uninteresting. Or viciously attack and maul him, to give some space for Mr. Perfect to (re)grow. Kill her, because you’ve come to hate her.

It’ll be a good separation, a refreshing vacation. I’ll come back to the Wine of the Gods with a new perspective, new enthusiasm.

I’m breaking the news to my fans gently. Umm, because, being an addict of my own series, I seem to have, umm, let me count. Oh bloody . . . eight stories in the pipeline. Not counting the novella that’s out with the Beta Readers. That will be published next month. So while I’m going to write other stuff this summer, I’ll also get out at least one more big Wine of the Gods book sometime this fall, and the rest at reasonable intervals. So it’s just a slow down, not really quitting.

I can get over this addiction. I can stop any time.

Can you? Tell me how that works, eh?

And, being unfortunately well acquainted with my subconscious, as soon as I post this, it will pop a story into the frontal lobes, crack the whip and make me write it . . . What’s that? Xen teams up with Ebsa, Ra’d . . . and Eldon! To defeat the Cyborg Empire!

Oh, just kill me now!
But first, buy a 99¢ short story. I promise I won’t leave [spoiler] in [spoiler] for too long.

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY