Shhh, I’m Working!

How could it possibly be the last week of July? Why does time in the summer flow so much faster than in the winter? Maybe it’s this excessive amount of sun. It lures you outside with the promise of brightness and warmth, and then zaps all the time away. Or maybe its because I have this illusion of free time, and so I cram in all the things I want to do together, until my time is full of things I would normally spread out over, say, six months.

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Whatever the case, July is nigh gone, and my characters are closer, but still not to the end. I must rectify that! I will! I – oh look, sunshine!

Hang in there, everyone….

 

 

Photo by: http://environmental-life-ministries.org

Foreign Friday: Prologue

“What is past is prologue.” – The Tempest

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One of the best things about summer is that I have a lot of free time. One of the worst things about summer is that every else knows I have a lot of free time. The end result is that all my free time gets planned out for me with (albeit fun) activities that don’t leave a lot of…free time. Good for my social life, bad for my writing. Well, that’s just how it goes.

One of these fun activities was to go and see Shakespeare’s The Tempest performed in an outdoor theater. Brilliant production! If you’ve never seen Shakespeare acted out by people who know what they’re doing, you’re really missing out! Wooden O has been performing “Shakespeare in the Park” for 20 years in my area, and they are truly to be commended.

There is a famous line in The Tempest (which I quoted above), which gave me writing food for thought. Prologues (or so I’ve been told by my personal critic whom I respect most) are often useless, poorly written, and actually miss what a prologue should really be. What should I prologue really be? I haven’t reached that peak yet, but I’m scaling that mountain.

I know for myself that while I always felt that prologues are a waste of paper (because usually the information they give is either marginally irrelevant, or could easily be summed up in a paragraph in the main story), I find myself writing them anyway. There is something about prologues that makes me want to put something down. But is it the sort of information that needs to be placed in a prologue? Is it really the first thing I want readers to experience in the story?

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I know that if done well, prologues can be very tantalizing, or very frustrating. Take the first page of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle – that is a prologue of events to come. There are no words, but the action and the desperate emotion jump of the page at you. Yet the events they are prologue-ing don’t occur until THE LAST VOLUME! You plow your way through the series trying to find out how that single page fits into the story! I’d say that is an excellent use of a prologue (and yes, I am a CLAMP fan.) Another great use of the idea of prologue is the series Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki. While there isn’t actually a prologue, the whole vibe of the story is centered on things in the past. It’s almost as if the main character’s life was a prologue to the events that follow in the series.

What do you think? Ever read a great – or terrible – prologue? Any prologue writing tips out there?

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Foreign Friday: Special Powers

I love fantasy and science fiction, mostly because I love the idea of special powers. Whether its magic or mutation, I am drawn to people who are “special.” However, through my vast readership of novels and manga, I have noticed that a truly clever writer can make a super power out of anything.

Of course, the flashy abilities are very impressive. It’s handy to have a character who can fly, or see through walls, or become invisible, or put his/herself into a special charged up state (often complete with a costume change and an equally flashy weapon.) But it can be just as impressive to read about a character whose real ‘special power’ is something more human. What about a hero whose empathic heart allows him to reach out to the hearts of others? Couple that with a daunting will, and you have the incredibly popular Naruto.

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I love special powers, and have used them with cheerful abandon through many of my stories, but I’ve found that an amazing ability is not enough to make a character truly special, or even memorable. The choices they make, the way they use their powers, that creates a stronger impression of the character than the special power alone.

Take Rose Tyler from the BBC series Doctor Who. She’s a perfectly normal girl, whose determination to protect the person she cares for most led her to obtaining incredible power. But its not the power that leaves an impression on your mind when then episode is over. You’re left to contemplate the strength of her will, and the consequences of her choices. If that is what you walk away with, then the writers did well.

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Special powers are awesome, but they should really be special because of the characters who possess them!

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Penultimate Plans

Have you ever been so bored that you read the dictionary for entertainment? If you are the percentage of the world who would rather do a page of division problems to pass the time, you don’t know what you’re missing. For one, there are loads of words in the English language that the average person never uses, which is really too bad, because some of them have fascinating meanings! Take misfeasance, or penultimate. Penultimate is a great word which basically means ‘second to last.’ That is exactly how I can describe my ongoing work in progress.

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I am at the penultimate scene before the final climax! At last, I get a few tantalizing answers before the main characters go charging off to the End. Of course, I really thought that I’d have reached the penultimate scene a while ago, but so many interesting subplots developed, that I really couldn’t help myself from taking a few detours. But at last, the penultimate moment is here, and if I stop dawdling, I may even reach the Final Scene before *gasp* the week is out!

This week’s goal is to cross over the Penultimate Hurdle! Onward, brave writer!

Photo by: www.henrylim.org

Independence Day!

Okay, so I’m a little early, not that it’s stopping my neighbors from pulling out the big fireworks five days in advance in the middle of the night. As I batten down the hatches of my house for what the weathermen declared to be an “excessive heat warning” today, (and by heat wave they mean like *gasp* 90 degrees!) I find myself lured to my porch swing, and thinking about just taking an early-morning nap.

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But then I think of my novel, so, so close to completion! It may be summer, it may be the week of the 4th, I may be on vacation, and it may actually be hot today (by Western Washington standards, at least) but I have a responsibility to my WIP! The plot is nearly-almost-practically at the climax, and my poor main character is in the hospital. I may be free to slack off, but independence isn’t about “not having to do anything,” it’s about making a stand for fair choices, and taking one’s freedom responsibly! It’s about compromise! It’s about balancing nap on the porch swing with WIP progression!

Have a great Independence Day, and may your bbq’s and fireworks be awesome!

 

Photo by: http://offthecuffdc.com

Foreign Friday: America!

I’ve been watching the BBC show Doctor Who, and every time an American shows up, I have to laugh. The playboy. The power-hungry millionaire. The presidential jerk. The stereotypes are hilarious. It’s often the same in manga, American’s are usually oddly dressed, pushy, and power hungry. The Japanese obvious don’t have any higher opinion of us than the British do.

Of course, we do the same to them…

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(If all Americans were like Captain Jack, I think we’d be in trouble.)

Stereotypes and preconceptions are often wrong, but they are enlightening. If this is what is being noticed, there must be a reason. What do we do that makes this impression, despite the fact that most of us in the good old US are far from millionaires, and love to bash our government and debate the jerkiness of our president? What shows?

As writers, there are a lot of character stereotypes that can be drawn from. The naive heroine. The dark, brooding antihero, etc. But if we leave them as stereotypes, how can we get the truth across? What are they really like? If you dig deep enough, you can break through the stereotype and create a real person.

What sort of crazy stereotypes have you heard of?

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End is Nigh Jitters

[sound of dust swiffing off of the monitor] Sorry I was AWOL last week. The closer I get to the end of a manuscript is directly proportional to the amount of other things that crop up in my life that must trump novel completion. But now it is summer, the season of my most prolific writing! (fingers are crossed).

I am very near the end of my WIP, and the closer I get, the more I feel as though I need to go back and change stuff. The beginning is too slow. One character doesn’t do much, while this secondary character has way too much screen time. The whole overarching plot has shifted from when I began writing. I didn’t give enough foreshadowing to this or that. I can’t finish it like this! AHHHHHHH! I’m a terrible writer!

These, dear readers, are what I call “end is nigh jitters.” They are the icky feelings of inadequacy that keep your WIP as just a WIP, and never a completed story. When I first started out writing, I was of the opinion that edits were for people who couldn’t write well. It took me a long, long time to realize that I was one of them. Actually, most every good writer is one of them, (unless you’re O’Henry. Which just isn’t fair.) Edits are good. Edits make your work of genius shine better. But edits need to happen once the story is FINISHED.

I must overcome my neurosis! I will finish this WIP! I must not look back yet!!!!

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