Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Presto-Chango of SFF

Don't really remember what I was thinking.
Can't explain myself.
Too lazy to come up with something better.

I'm writing a new book, and I spent some time trying to plot everything out a few weeks ago. I was poring over basic plot arc guides (I really like the ones Jami Gold mentions here), and I was studying the plots of some of my favorite books and generally wracking my brain to come up with a plot that is awesome, action packed, and at least a little bit original.

That was when I noticed: Every single fantasy or sci fi book starts in one location and then suddenly transfers to another location for the majority of the action.

Just for example:

  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: Starts in England, moves to Narnia (Ahhhh, Narnia. I would so like to visit some day.)
  • Ender's Game: Starts on earth at Ender Wiggin's home, moves to the Battlestation.
  • Sabriel: Starts in a boarding school in a mostly non-magical land, moves to the Old Kingdom (full of formerly dead things, a talking cat, and, in general, a ton of things that want to kill Sabriel. Don't worry. She gets through it.)
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown: Starts in a house full of dead bodies, sucked dry by vampires, and leads to a road trip for a girl, a boy who wants to suck her blood (but isn't quite a vampire yet), and an mentally insane, powerful vampire.
  • Dune: Starts on the beautiful, lush planet of Caladan, moves to the hostile, bone-dry planet of Arrakis.
  • Harry Potter: Starts off with those deadly dull Dursleys in their perfect little suburban haven and moves to the awesomeness of Hogwarts.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Well, that's just a coincidence. She's just picking the wrong books." But, seriously, EVERY SINGLE SFF book I could think of started in one place and then pretty quickly moved to another. I got up and started looking through the books on my bookshelf, and I couldn't find an exception.

I will admit that I did come up with one exception, but it honestly took me DAYS to come up with this (spoilers lie ahead):

  • Cinder: a Cinderella retelling of an outcast, cyborg Cinderella and her fight against the evil, mind-controlling Queen from the moon.
And I'm not even positive Cinder counts. Cinder takes place in the capital city of New Beijing. At first Cinder's at home, getting used and abused as a maid or whatever. Then she gets booted out of the house (setting change!) and trapped in a lab where she's to be used as a guinea pig. But then she gets back home by the second half of the book, so I'd say Cinder's living at home for the majority of the plot/action. So, technically, it doesn't fit my original premise of the majority of the action taking place somewhere other than the starting location, but it still has an important setting change.

And seriously, guys, that was it!

Oh, okay. I did have one friend come up with: 1984 and Farenheit 451. I remember 1984 has a few different settings, but I suppose the majority of the book takes place in the MC's normal city life. And, anyway, both of those books are just horribly depressing. That has nothing to do with setting. It's merely an observation that for some inexplicable reason makes me discount all observations about the books. I mean, I have no desire to write a super-depressing book, and apparently that's what a lack of setting change gets you. (Nope. Don't bring logic into it. I don't want to hear it.)

And yet, I don't think I'm going to have any major setting changes in the new book. So wish me luck. Apparently I'll need it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Multi-POV Challenge

Took a million of these weird photos back when I started my blog.
By this point, it's too late to figure out something better, so you're stuck with them.
Plus, I'm lazy.
And apparently weird.

I've started plotting my "new" book. Okay, so it's actually my old book from back in November (NaNoWriMo), but since I pretty much scrapped the stuff I'd written in November, I'm going to go ahead and call this a new book.

I've even got a title for it: Steel Heart (subject to change, as the commercials say).

It's about two 16 year olds in a futuristic city where the military rules. One is from the poor section and the other is from the military elite. My favorite part is the world around the city. In the forests surrounding the city I've created a sort of sci fi Narnia with robotic talking animals and humans who mutated themselves to use chlorophyll to supplement their food energy intake (aka Dryads).

This story is told from two different point of views (POVs), and plotting it out was making my head spin. I could not wrap my brain around all the moving parts and get it all to mesh together.

So after I'd written page after page of useless notes trying to get my plot to work, I was struck by inspiration: plot what happens in the lives of the three main antagonists first. Then work out the two protagonists' stories.

The antagonists, not being the focus of the story, have much shorter arcs, but they're the ones who dictate much of the beginning action, so what they're doing is really important.

Once I had the antagonists' stories written down, it was much easier to weave their attacks and plots into the beginning stories of my two protagonists and work out the heros' reactions and how they'd try to overcome all the obstacles the antagonists threw at them.

And then once I had each individual story written out, I wove them all together into a master plot outline that's six pages long (single spaced), and I'm really quite proud of it.

Now we'll just have to see how well I actually follow it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Captured by an Idea

It's kind of funny how contrary our brains can be. I've read others write about it over and over. They're in the middle of a manuscript. Maybe they have a deadline. Maybe they just really want to plow through that first draft. They're well on their way when all of a sudden an idea gets a hold of them and won't let go. Instead of finishing the manuscript that it would make the most sense to finish first, they just cannot get this idea out of their heads. It nags at them and pokes at them and will not let them be.

Well, it's finally happened to me. Before I went back to do another massive overhaul on Dragon Bait, I was about 35k into a Contemporary YA manuscript. I liked the characters. I liked the idea. I was well on my way. I even started making revision notes and re-familiarizing myself with the story so that I could start writing again.

But then I read Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and I didn't want to write a boring old Contemporary any more. (To be fair to Contemporaries, I don't really think they're boring. But imagining a whole new world is really fun.) I wanted to write about a world all my own. I wanted to go back and work on my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel.

I managed to "win" NaNo (aka write 50k words) during the month of Novemember with a YA sci fi. It was a fun(ish) experience. A lot of writing and not too much of doing else (other than go to work). I was quite proud of myself. But after I'd finished writing my 50k, I started to feel like the whole idea kinda needed an overhaul. The antagonist just wasn't enough of a problem for the heros. The cool world I'd envisioned wasn't used to its full potential. And while I still liked a lot about it, I felt like I'd pretty much need to scrap those 50k words and start all over again. Very daunting.

As you can imagine, I wasn't too keen to get to work on this novel when I had a perfectly good novel half finished. But my brain got the better of me. It was quite insistent. Robotic animals and teenaged leaders in a grim futuristic world called to me. So off I go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Shakespeare and the Invention of the Elbow

Yup. Still going strong with the "Glove on Head" photo series.

I'm waiting on query responses and sending out queries and it's a rather disheartening process, so I'm going to write about something completely different.

Reddit: The Backstory

I may have mentioned (quite a few times) that I'm a bit of a Reddit addict. I waste far too much of my life on that site. But sometimes I learn cool stuff and see awesome pictures. I'm pretty that Reddit was where I saw a video about words that Shakespeare invented. The invented word that stuck out the most for me: elbow.
(I considered putting in a terrible pun about an elbow jabbing me right here, but I refrained. Please go ahead an admire my fortitude.)

Funny Elbows

My husband's commentary was, "What did they call it before Shakespeare? The bendy bit on the arm? No, not the wrist, the other bendy bit!"

Sorry. My husband has deluded me into thinking he's clever. He makes me laugh, and that's really what counts, right?

The Actual Shakespeare Resource

My somewhat random but still writerly-related link for the day is this site:

The site has Shakespeare's complete works, like, yanno, his plays. Which are, of course, out of copyright and quite legal.

And then there's their nifty list of words Shakespeare invented. If you're anything of a word nerd, this unreal, majestic list will cause utter amazement, even from the most obscenely jaded. (Oh, just go read the list for yourself.)