This year, I decided I would write every day – and it didn’t matter if it was 5 words of fiction or 5,000, as long as it was every single day. No, I didn’t decide this on January 1st; that would have been far too convenient. I decided to do it on January 18th, right as I was in the middle of working on the pantry turnover project.
(Every year, I put a sticker on each and every item in the pantry. This way, I not only go through the entire thing, but I also get to see exactly what is still stickered from a year ago, and hasn’t been used yet. It leads to a month+ of interesting one-off meals, using up oddball ingredients, along with much lower grocery bills for the duration, organized pantries, and the sincere but unkept vow not to have so much “Oh! I want to try that!” that I never got to next year.)
This is relevant because this year I got a pack of gold star stickers for the pantry, and ended up with almost 500 excess gold star stickers. Having them right there, I resolved there was no time to start like the present, and put up the gag-gift wall calendar (shirtless men in kilts, with sayings like “Once you go plaid you’ll never be sad”), and started giving myself a gold star every day I managed to write at least 5 words of fiction.
For those of you rolling your eyes or laughing at the mental image, hey, writing may be serious business, but no one said we had to take it seriously!
Violence, and violent action, can be difficult to portray. Yet the ability to do so is a necessary part of the fiction writer’s repertoire. Violence is a part of the human condition. If we hairless apes have learned anything in the last 5000 years of existence on planet Earth, it is that violence is a part of the human condition. Thus it becomes us to study the best examples and see how we can go about doing the same.
All stories have a conflict in them. Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs Himself . . . there are lots of possibilities. Some conflicts are universe-shaking, others are far quieter. The English have a sub-genre of domestic dramas nicknamed “Aga Sagas” after the Aga stoves found in many homes, which gives you a sense that the stories are not about saving the planet from invading alien hordes.
Which leads to a question about your conflict? Do you have an antagonist or a villain? The two are not mutually exclusive, but you do not have to have a villain in every story. Some don’t call for it. Read more
I was invited to an anthology.
No, that’s not quite right. I looked up from my food, as Jim Curtis said, “You need to write more.”
I cleverly replied, “What?” He looked at me. I looked at him. “Uh… I haven’t gotten the latest chapter to you to beta, but I am working on it…”
“No, I need you to write something 8,000 words.”
“Jim, I haven’t figured out how to write a sequel, and you want me to learn to write a short story?”
“Yep. I’ll shoot you the anthology contract.” Read more
I was reading a lovely old Magaret Mahy book (it’s a children’s book) called ‘BLOOD AND THUNDER ADVENTURES ON HURRICANE PEAK’. It’s a delightful absurdity about the Unexpected School on Hurricane Peak above the great city of of Hookywalker. The villain of the piece is Sir Quincy Judd-Sprocket, a wicked industrialist (and former scholar of the Unexpected School) and the weighty and weasely hench-villains Amadeus and Voltaire Shoddy. The heroes include the famous inventress Belladona Doppler, and her cousin somewhat removed Heathcliff Warlock, not to mention the Headmistress, Mrs Thoroughgood. Read more
Before we go any farther into the stories, let’s stop and review.
We’ve looked at openings, and setting the scene. We’ve outlined some characters, and either hinted at or stated what the conflicts are going to be. We don’t have antagonists/villains yet, or motivations for the Bad Guy/Gal/Thing.
Before you go too far in your work, step back a little. One thing you need, especially for a book or a work in a series, is a Story/Series Bible. You can call it story guide, whatever, but it is a single document with all the important information about characters and settings in it. How detailed and how long depends on you and what you are using to write the story. Read more
I’ve thought, more than once, about story ideation as feeding the sausage grinder. I’ve made sausage many times over the years. I can remember making caribou sausage in Alaska, and making sure we ground bacon into it, because otherwise there’s just not enough fat. And when you make your own sausage, you know what’s in it… although that is also a myth. The whole thing about being grossed out over sausage making? Because unless using every scrap from the animal and paying it due respect by not allowing it to go to waste bothers you… Upton Sinclair made up a bunch of what went into his ‘expose’ that was really fiction. Just like a lot of documentaries on Netflix, it’s all about the shock factor, not so much the actual data and science. The more things change, the more they stay the same.