Monday, December 30, 2013

Vacations are for Writing

It's my annual vacation! I celebrated my 6th anniversary on Saturday, enjoyed a wonderful weekend with my wife, and now I'm back to writing. Sure, I have stuff going on nearly every day this week, but I also have a goal: finish my outline.

My rough deadline is the end of December for this outline. I have a feeling that that won't quite happen, but it WILL be done by the end of the day on Sunday. Just in time for me to go back to work.

Often, I like to spend my vacations doing nothing. I like to sleep late, play video games, and watch TV until my brain shuts down. But I haven't done that in years. Sure, I take advantage of the opportunity to rest, but I also take advantage of the free time. To write! As someone with a full time(ish) job, I don't always have as much time as I'd like. So this is the best time for me to "catch up" on all of the little writing projects I never get to finish.

Okay, not quite. I'm actually pushing myself to get this outline done so I can write another book. And I finally have enough time to get some real work done.

Before I start rambling and repeating myself, I'm going to end this post. Have a great week! There's a good chance I won't be blogging on the 1st. Not because I'll be hung over (designated driver this year. On purpose), but because I have several things scheduled for the day which MUST be taken care of. We'll see if I have the time, though.

So happy new year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Finding Character Balance

I'm writing a book with two protagonists: a young man and a young woman. The young woman is a typical high-school girl who isn't used to having major events happen around her. Life-shattering, paradigm-shifting events that shake up her world and make her realize how small and insignificant humans actually are.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how to balance making this character realistic—with human reactions that mirror a real person's responses to such enormous changes in their life—with making sure she's not just someone who lets things just happen to her. I want to stay true to her character. She's someone who's lived a calm, normal life without anything life-threatening ever happening to her.

But I don't want her cowering in fear. I want her to take charge of her life in a way that shows genuine personal growth. But I also want to make sure that her life's bubble pops in a believable way.

This is a tough line to walk for me. Part of me worries about what other people might think of my portrayal of this character, but the larger part of me realizes that remaining honest with the human experience is more important. She's a capable character, just way out of her depth. And figuring out how to make her learn to swim is proving a struggle. Not because of my fears of being judged as an author. Screw the judges and their petty grievances. I want a character who is real. A person who accurately depicts the struggle to survive in an unfriendly universe. Who has a will to survive, and does so, even if it costs her something.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Drama

I hate drama in real life. Especially when it's drama that could be avoided by being a mature, responsible adult. And MOST especially when I'm the one failing to BE that adult, and I end up making my life more complicated than it needs to be.

Drama can have many forms: situations outside of our control (such as how a friend or coworker treats us no matter how we try to get along with them), household plumbing issues that won't fix themselves no matter how hard we try to make them do so (something I've been dealing with since becoming a homeowner), and decisions we make that we then have to rectify if we ever want the drama to go away.

In fiction, drama is necessary for the reader to stay engaged. I've known people who prefer not to read certain genres because of the type of drama that's prevalent in those stories, but there is a lot of personality-driven tension in pretty much any book worth reading. It's what incites emotions in the reader. Makes the characters appear real. And the potential for personal grown within that book is what drives the reader to keep going to the very end.

There are times when drama drives me nuts, even in a book. But it's necessary in a novel or short story. So even if it's uncomfortable to write, put in the drama. Try not to make it melodramatic (unless that's the style you're writing), but make a character whine, complain, get angry for no good reason, and then make them LEARN from that situation. Because if they don't do THAT, you're just reminding us why people are hard to be around at times.

And let's face it: we read to see characters change and grow. Not to hear them whine and sulk for the rest of their lives.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Moment of Silence

Once again, Colorado has seen a terrible event at a local school.

Please join me in a moment of silence for Arapahoe High School.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Comedy Essential: Believability

When making a joke, it's important that the premise remain within the bounds of accepted reality. Stretching those boundaries is okay, but it needs to be done gradually, and the result has to be a NEW accepted reality. Otherwise it's just not funny.*

Let me give you two good examples of well-done humor that fits WITHIN an accepted reality: P.G. Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster thinks he's clever and intelligent. But his bumbling ends up making every situation he's in worse. THEN he goes to his genius butler, Jeeves, for help. Often enough, the simplest solution is the one Jeeves thought of. And he's typically performed the required tasks to solve Bertie's problems. The jokes always play on Bertie's incompetence and Jeeves's genius. Not much of a stretch in reality, right?

Example two: The entire Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. A two-headed intergalactic president is funny. Not because it's plausible in a real-world sense, but because when we pick up a sci-fi book, we ACCEPT the possible existence of two-headed aliens. And when we accept that reality, it's not much of a stretch to accept a spaceship with an infinite improbability drive. And when we accept THAT reality, a bowl of petunias that's capable of thinking, "Not again?" is just plain laugh out loud hilarious.

Now for the flip-side: I have a broad sense of humor, and generally Whose Line is it Anyway is funny to me. But every time the actors say something preposterous like, "I'll use my outie bellybutton to scale the wall," I cringe. It's not funny. At all. That's not my opinion, that's a completely objective, indisputable fact. Okay, maybe I'm overreaching, but I just think it's stupid. Not funny. But my point is, the reality is beyond acceptable to me.

Finally, I want to give you some homework. Go find two movies and/or TV shows. One must be something you find uproariously hysterical. Examine it for the jokes, the reality in which they take place, and then see if you can figure out WHY you think it's funny. THEN go find a movie that EVERYONE ELSE tells you is funny but you think is the stupidest, most boring film of ALL TIME. Examine that one, too. What jokes don't you like? Why? Is there some way you might laugh at those jokes?

If that's too much, just give two examples from memory in the comments. And I'll see you on Friday!

*As with any rule, there are exceptions, but this discussion isn't about those exceptions. Just like every other set of rules, learn to master them before figuring out how to break them.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Making it Work

As I've mentioned in the past few posts, I'm approaching my new book differently. And it's working! I kept getting an emotional detachment from the characters because I couldn't figure out WHO they were.

So after fiddling around with the first few chapters, I came to the realization that I needed to go back to my outline and figure out what the characters should be feeling in each chapter. Maybe even give each chapter a mini-theme to keep the story on point.

Another problem I've been having is figuring out WHERE this story's going. I don't want it to be a clone of other stories I've written, and I don't want to intentionally rip off another author. I know that every story has already been told a thousand times over, but I want to tell THIS story in a way that makes the readers laugh and cry and wonder why they've never looked at it this way before. I know, a lot of pressure to put on myself, right?

As with most blog posts of this nature, my big point is that it's important to KEEP WORKING when writing gets tough. Sitting around and waiting for inspiration may work for the "inspired artist," but if a writer wants to make a career out of writing, they have to treat it like a job. Getting the work DONE, even when they're too sick to stand, to tired to keep their eyes open, and when all of their friends are out having fun because they got to play hooky from work. It doesn't SOUND glamorous, but then again, many brewery owners think they'll sit around drinking beer all day when they start out. Then they discover that their job is mostly mopping and shoveling up grains. A passion is great, but turning that passion into an income requires commitment, followthrough, and a willingness to do the stuff that sucks when all we want to do is play video games.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Crazy Times? Crazy, CRAZY Times!

This is one of the busiest weeks I've seen in a long time. At least at my day job. It's even busier than the Katy Perry week!

Which means my brain is trying very hard to stay awake. Not a great way to start writing a book. I'm not done with the outline, yet, but that's because I felt myself getting lost with the story. I felt zero attachment to the characters and story, even though I am VERY excited about the idea.

That meant I needed to try something different. And just write. It's crazy. CRAZY, I tell you. Because it's kinda working.

I'm a big fan of finding a system that works and sticking with it. But if the system stops working, it's always JUST as important to find something that DOES work. It feels weird for me to be writing without a complete outline. But the weirder part is that I don't care. The OCD part of my brain is, CRAZily enough, more concerned with writing something than following my pattern.

There's supposed to be a point to all of this, but I think it got lost somewhere. Like I said, it's been a crazy week, and I'm surprised I managed to find my way to the blog today.

However, the weekend approaches! I have to work, but for those of you don't: ENJOY IT! For those of you that do: ENJOY IT ANYWAY! Sunday is my Birthday, and to celebrate, it looks like I'm going to work and bottle beer. Maybe I'll be able to go out and do something fun.

Next week some time, I'm going to talk about more COMEDY! That's right, I'm returning to a TOPIC. It'll be Wednesday or Friday, most likely, but I might pull something out on Monday. Maybe the stars will align and I'll write about funny schmeg all week.

Who knows?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Charity of the Month: Child's Play Charity Part 2

It's December, and that WOULD mean that it's time for another charity, but I want to help Child's Play with their end-of-year push to reach this year's goal. The goal this year is SO CLOSE. Just a few more people putting their best foot forward would push them over the edge.

So please head over to their site, hit the donate button, and send a few bucks their way.