Welcome back, all. I’m sorry to have to do this, but I’m going to require three sample chapters and an outline from each of you by this time next week. The theme is kitchen sink space fantasy: anything that can happen, will happen somewhere.
I’m kidding. Really. That was an attempt (ED: a ham-handed attempt) at subverting your expectations as readers. I’m required to apologize for that (ED: extremely ham-handed), but I would have anyway. For similarly unwieldy subversions turned into tropes, take a glance at daytime television sometime. Or anime. Or fanfic. Shoot, even a goodly mess of scifi abounds with examples of writers attempting to put one over on the reader.
There are times I hate being a writer. One of the things it does is set me at odds with normal (or really, abnormal but not writers) human beings, and prevents the enjoyment of simple pleasures that involve story telling.
I used to think I was alone in this, but the last few Liberty cons have quite put paid to that idea, as I hear colleague after colleague say things like “I used to enjoy reading, but now I find myself analyzing it” or “I loved movies but now I can see the mechanics and the effects.
After doing the usual minuet to get An Annoyance of Grackles live on Kindle and almost-there on Createspace, I’ve taken a couple of days off to be shamelessly frivolous. I indulged in Dorothy Grant’s new book, Shattered after Midnight – there’s a review here – and watched a DVD I’ve been hoarding of the operetta Countess Maritza all the way through, sung in German with English subtitles. I was sort of familiar with the operetta — a CD of highlights is among the music I like to listen to while writing the Applied Topology series, light and frothy — but I’ve never been able to follow the plot summaries in English.
Now I know why. The thing is as close as you can get to being entirely plot-free. It was like being served something covered with whipped cream for dessert, plunging your fork into the whipped cream and diving down to reach… more whipped cream. I got the feeling that the librettists couldn’t bear to let their characters suffer; no sooner would a problem be revealed than a new deus ex machina would come onstage to fix it.
And the most annoying non-plot bit concerned Baron Kálmán Zsupán. Read more
That plot’s not going anywhere without some help.
Your hero is pondering something of world-shaking gravitas, and
You hit a wall. Or your readers hit a wall (hopefully just your alpha readers). And you cannot unlock the scene for love, money, or little green apples. What do you do?
You can skip to something later in the story and write that, after marking your file with [fill in]. You can go rotate the cat and clean the living room just to get away from the screen or notepad, but you must return to the work at some point in time. You could go to the old faithful “Just then, a shot rang out.” Or you can try doing the scene essay-style.
At the urging of my wife, whose work is familiar to readers of these pages, I’m trying something new in a couple of weeks.
Last December, I was noodling over an idea for a new military science fiction series to expand my portfolio. My Maxwell series has reached five books, and has at least as many left to run; my Laredo War trilogy is overdue for completion of the third and final book (health issues got in the way); and I have a Western series (currently at two novels, with the third due this year) and a stand-alone fantasy novel as well, with a fantasy trilogy on the table as a more distant project. I felt the need to add another string to my bow – hence the noodling.
Dorothy challenged me to try something different.
The other day Peter blogged about the immense vulnerability created by the Internet of Things. His comments have given me to think about the connections that crawl spider-like over our entire landscape, both physical and mental, and the weaknesses they expose.
Our privacy is being eroded at a rate that would have appalled Winston Smith.
Ahem. Picture if you can the scene. Individual –who has never read any of my books – approaches me and says: “I’ve heard you’re an author. I’ve got this great idea for a story. You write it and we’ll split the money!”
At which point Dave gets arrested for attempting to push the head which held this ‘great idea’ through the nearest brick wall. It’s a squeezing process, (rather like dealing with a sponge or a mop) to get the wonderful ‘great idea’ out, so I can seize it, and run away with it and write it. Because, naturally, we authors are like that. We never ever have ideas of our own, more than we could write in this lifetime and several more.
No, of course it’s not that this is something that non-writers have done to me more times than I care to count (I have learned to wear shoes on these social occasions, which is bad, because it severely curtails my counting skillz). Read more