So, on with our stories.
Story 1. “Magic in the Darkness.” When we left Imre and Csilla, we had established a broad setting (Budapest, modern day), and two characters – Imre the mage, and his Familiar and seeing-eye dog Csilla. Csilla is a Hungarian Kuvazs, weighs 45 KG (100 pounds) and will herd her charge whenever the opportunity arises. This could be good or bad, depending on how the plot develops.
The story begins with Imre working, repairing a piano. Blind piano tuners are not all that rare, so this fits his character. It is assumed in the Familiars universe that one cannot make a living from magic alone, so he has a “regular” job. More setting, and a reason for him to go places, with tools and with a seeing-eye dog.
This is a short story, so we need a story-problem or plot driver early on. Imre is not a shadow-mage, so he does not go looking for trouble. That makes things a little more difficult. Trouble has to come to him, or he has to stumble onto it (metaphorically speaking, if Csilla is doing her job). So . . . What if we have a person with an unusual instrument that needs to be tuned. A person with something odd about them? He is working on a spinet piano that has seen better days as the excerpt begins. (Maria is his wife). Read more
What’s behind the words?
It’s rather like “what’s behind the curtain?” The answer of course may be ‘very little’ or ‘a funny little man’ (pay no attention to him. He’s a wizard, and they are irascible (if not subtle) and quick to anger, especially if you notice their trickery.) Read more
So . . .
I’m writing a new character in the Familiars world, one who appears in a previous book but who gets fleshed out in a sequel. He’s, well, not to have any spoilers, but by the time he appears on his own, his issues have subscriptions. He’s not a happy camper. And then he’s tossed into trouble.
What does he do?
Ah. Flee, fight, freeze, or yes? Read more
If you haven’t seen Ford vs Ferrari yet, you need to correct yourself. Yes, it’s a car movie. No, you don’t need to know a great deal about cars. Hell, go in knowing nothing. Because in the end, this movie isn’t about cars. It’s about men. Being men. Doing manly things. Without being negative! You heard that: Hollywood has delivered a wholesome movie about men! In the prescient words of Tychus Findlay: “Hell, it’s about time!”
We try, as writers, as purveyors of fictional stories, to make characters who can handle the challenges set before them. How a character responds is entirely up to the writer, and the limits of the world in which their characters are interacting. Read more
Sarah has mentioned the importance of “reader cookies” – those genre allusions and tropes, or better, tropes turned upside down, that keep the reader happy as he goes through the book.
But what happens when you get a book that’s nothing but cookies? How long does that keep you happy? In my case – not very long.
I recently came across a case in point, a comic novel written around the Norman invasion of England in 1066. You might think that’s not a great subject for comedy, but the writer pulled it off… sort of… tongue firmly planted in cheek, in the style of 1066 and All That, but applied to fiction. For the first few chapters I kept chuckling at the irreverent views and up-ending of conventional wisdom, reading specially good bits aloud to the First Reader. Read more
No, not the Evil Warlord or his minions. I’m thinking of the characters that spice up a story by being Good but Irritating, or even Morally Neutral but Obnoxious. The ones that keep you reading not just because you want to see your hero save the world, but because you want to see Obnoxious meet his comeuppance, or because you laugh every time Monumentally Tactless splashes the other characters’ social strategies in their faces, or because it looks as though Good but Irritating may frustrate the hero’s personal desires even while helping him save the world. Read more