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The short story, once the absolute heart of the sf writer’s career has long since dwindled off to become so irrelevant that many a successful author never writes one, and certainly many (me included) never sold one prior to selling a novel.
Author photo of a Deutschmark from during the Great Inflation of the 1920s.
Sometimes, authors start the story knowing who the main character or characters are, and build the story around them. Other times, an idea leads to noodling around with world building and then characters sort of wander in. And a few times, world building comes first, and the author looks at her wonderful world, sighs a little, and starts auditioning characters so she can explore her world (and sell it to readers).
I tend to alternate between idea and character. In the case of the Powers books, the “what if” idea came first, followed by lots and lots of research. Specifically, since the world Joschka and Rada inhabit in the Cat Among Dragons series is slightly off-kilter from our history, I started working backwards to see what would have to happen to make it that way. And then hit WWI and really had to dig into the material, which took me back to the Austro-Prussian War, which led to… You get the idea. But I needed a protagonist. And not Joschka. Read more
I spent some time on Saturday in a large plastic water-tank (about 6000 gallons) – A tank I had inadvertently put a crack into, and was now trying to weld. The tank has been used for at least 20 years to pump muddy dam water uphill to allow garden irrigation pressure – so it had more than a token amount of silty mud in it, and we couldn’t drain the last of the water out.
We tried leverage and to use a suction cup glass transporter to pull the edges of the crack into alignment – but alas, it didn’t handle the convex surface well, and it required more force than the suction could handle. So it had to be dealt with from the inside. Read more
It is a trope that has been overdone, especially in fantasy, or so everyone seems to say. A prophecy of a Chosen One, a child born to be special, or a man or woman blessed by the gods to be better, stronger, wiser, braver, the one foretold who will save the world. And so he or she does.
I suspect my mind wandered this direction because this is the time of year when readings and songs talk about a Chosen One, a hero sent to save his people, a messenger of G-d. Now, the idea of signs and foreshadowings is not limited to Judeo-Christian traditions. King Mithridates used the legends of Alexander and Cyrus to have himself shown as one foretold. Some Chinese traditions hold that the mother of Confucius was visited by a special animal, a ki-lin, that foretold she would bear an especially blessed and noble child. Read more
I’m quite fond of this device, though I admit that in its simplest form (“and then I woke up and it was all a dream”) it has been done to death. No, I didn’t think Agatha Christie was cheating in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and I enjoyed the double-impostor twist of Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree with its narrator who misleads us delightfully by telling the truth… just, not all the truth. So I was pleased to see a new twist on this in one of the fantasy novels I’ve been reading via Kindle Unlimited, and I’ve made a note of the author for further reading.
In W.B. McKay’s Bound by Faerie the narrator is hired to retrieve a magical artifact. She’s warned in advance:
Today, however, we’d gotten word that Lou was in possession of a heavily enchanted necklace. I hadn’t been given any particulars about its power, just a strict warning not to put it on and a description.
Of course she puts it on – what do you think? It’s part of the rules of the game, isn’t it? Psyche brings in a lamp to gaze on Cupid, Beauty picks up the only remaining spindle in the kingdom, and McKay’s Sophie Morrigan puts on the necklace, part of whose enchantment is the power to lure her into doing exactly that. Read more
Just Can’t Wait To Get On The Page, Again
I’m writing to you from the distant past, to whit: yesterday morning. By the time you read this, I’ll be retrieving Wee Dave and Wee-er Dave, and heading to the transpo hub to acquire Mom Dave. That completed, we’ll head in a direction to lodge for the night at a southerly cousin’s locale. I’m looking forward to this. I’m told there’s a yurt. From there, we’ll head in easy stages eastward through various terrain to ultimately land with Mrs. Dave’s parents at their farm of a much higher elevation. (If I push this too hard, the naming conventions are going to get obnoxious.) The littles will tromp with Grammie while Gramps and I stalk some prey. Should be fun.
A schematic of a patrician’s home/ware-house in the Hansa Museum in Lübeck, Germany. Author photo.
Well, that’s what all writers do, isn’t it? We get inside the heads of fictional people and other critters, find out their motivations (or give them some) and then see what happens. Right?
But what if you need a character with a mind that works in a very different way from yours? Read more