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26 October 2011

Nanowrimo!

Nanowrimo (National Writing Novel Month) is fast approaching and for some reason whenever I think of it my brain flashes to the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men! scene from Family Guy.

Perhaps it's because the prospect of writing 50,000 somewhat coherent words in novel form in a month will turn me into a wacky waving arm flailing nut.


So, what have decided to write? You would think it would be The Beggar's Wife but lately whenever I think of that story it no longer excites me. I outlined it to be a MG/YA story but at the moment my heart simply isn't into the fairy tale world. Since I am not as excited as I should be, I've decided to shelve it and write something else during Nanowrimo. I might revert to my Paranormal Fantasy idea tentatively titled "Spell On You" (inspired by the Screamin' Jay Hawkings song famously covered by Marilyn Manson).

I guess time will tell and according to the clock on the Nanowrimo site it's 5 days and 6 hours.

30 September 2011

"It's the journey, not the destination" - part 2

In the previous post I mused about potential motivations for King Thrushbeard. I see him as a crafty, roguish character who can't back down from a challenge. I also envision him as someone who isn't used to rejection, or at least can't accept being rejected by a woman. The princess definitely offends Thrushbeard's vanity. Otherwise, why bother with the cloak-and-dagger marriage?

This brings me to part 2 of this discussion: why is the princess arrogant, willful and rude?

Since her father is forcing her to marry, a simple explanation is that she simply doesn't like being told what to do. Honestly, who does? Even though she has to go along with it, I think the princess should be crafty enough to realize that the only way she won't have to marry is if no one will want her. At least it's one way of securing her independence, even if it is a little misguided and childish. So she decides to scare away her suitors by being haughty and completely unappealing. But this is only part of the puzzle. I think I might give her a bit of trust issues, token fairy tale curse drama in order to make her character more interesting.

We shall see.

29 September 2011

"It's the journey, not the destination" - part 1

The destination of every fairy tale is the happily ever after: wishes are fulfilled, true love conquers all, villains are  punished, and world order is restored. I deliberately chose to modernize a fairy tale because I'll be going in knowing all the checkpoints along the road. What I will be filling in is the why of the journey.

I'm treading the familiar ground of my previous post about character motivation, but I believe it is vital to understand why characters do what they do in order to make them believable so that in turn the story becomes believable. Character motivation is the first roadblock that I as a writer need to clear. Only then can my characters begin their journey.

Before things are set in motion, let's take a look at the world at rest. Since I am basing The Beggar's Wife on Grimm's King Thrushbeard, I already know I will have at least three characters: a princess, her father, and King Thrushbeard who disguises himself as a beggar.

In this post I want to focus on King Thrushbeard since I find him to be the most problematic character. According to the fairy tale, when he first meets the princess she is nothing but rude and ridicules him by giving him a terrible moniker. With only her beauty to recommend her, one is left wondering why King Thrushbeard would want to marry her at all.

There's something disturbing about a man who concocts an elaborate plot to marry and humble someone just for insulting him. Is his pride so frail that he is motivated by revenge? Does he simply hate women and is compelled to put them in their place? Or did he see past the princess's beauty and arrogance to some hidden goodness deep down inside her?

King Thrushbeard definitely has a devious quality to his personality that I find intriguing. He is a scoundrel, albeit a likeable one. In other words, he has a hint of Odyssean guile.

26 September 2011

Character Motivation

I love fairy tales, particularly the Grimm fairy tales in all their visceral glory. One of my favorites is K├Ânig Drosselbart a.k.a. King Thrushbeard.  The tale is essentially a "taming of the shrew" story. The haughty princess snobbishly spurns her suitors and as punishment is married off to a beggar who subjects her to a series of humiliations meant to break her proud spirit. Once humbled and properly put in her place, the beggar reveals himself to the princess as the spurned King Thrushbeard and all ends well. When all is said and done, the story plays out like typical patriarchal propaganda: men know best and women must be subservient to their wishes. 

Illustration by Arthur Rackham
For the love of you I disguised myself...All this was was done to humble your proud spirit and to punish you for the arrogance with which you ridiculed me.


For The Beggar's Wife I would like to update King Thrushbeard with 21st century sensibilities. Which brings me to character motivation.


In fairy tales we never get to find out why a character is behaving in a particular way - these stories are too busy moralizing to delve any deeper. In novels, however, the reader wants to know the reasons why characters decide to do particular things. 


  • Why is the princess so arrogant and mean to her suitors?
  • How can a father be so cruel as to marry his daughter not only to a stranger but to a beggar?
  • Why would King Thrushbeard fall in love with a snobbish princess only to humiliate her and seek to rid her of the very arrogance that presumably attracted him to her in the first place?



If characters are properly motivated, then their actions and the story itself becomes believable. My goal is to find answers to these questions. Since the novel will be based on a fairy tale, I already know what will happen. The question that remains as it transitions into a novel is why.

24 September 2011

Award time!

Since I hadn't checked my blog in so long I didn't realize I had received two lovely awards.

My sincerest and deepest thanks go to both Deirdra-Eden Coppel and A.M. Supinger for giving me the CREATIVE BLOG AWARD and VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD respectively.

As part of accepting the VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD I need to share seven things about myself as well as pass this award to five newly discovered bloggers.

So let's get the personal stuff out of the way.


Seven things about myself:

  1. I've hiked along the continental divide.
  2. I've had my palm read in Thailand.
  3. I watched the Hale-Bopp Comet grace the night sky.
  4. In 1999 I didn't party like it was 1999.
  5. Books I've read more than once: The Last Unicorn and Stars My Destination.
  6. I slept through a Category 5 hurricane.
  7. I've been to (or at least passed through) every state of the Eastern Seaboard.

Now I shall pass the VERSATILE BLOG AWARD onto 5 newly discovered bloggers (in no particular order):

At a Crossroads



To quote The Clash: 
This indecision is bugging me.

It's been a very long while since I last posted on my blog. Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to the state of my writing. My greatest difficulty is deciding what to write and sticking to it.

I am standing at a crossroads and I honestly don't know which direction to take.

I have several stories in varying states of progress. The ones that I keep obsessing over are the following:

FantasyThe Beggar's Wife
Paranormal Fantasy: Spell On You


I know I need to just choose one but which?

I'm tempted to just to write these titles on little pieces of paper, put them in a hat, and focus on which ever one I randomly pull out. I think that's what I will do for Nanowrimo.

 

04 May 2011

Identity Crisis

I haven't written in a while.

I'm sort of having an identity crisis since I keep asking myself am I writer or am I a wanna-be writer? Part of what is holding me back is the chasm that exists between effort and reward. In other words, I am coming to terms with the very real likelihood that I am just writing solely for myself. My stories may never be published. Writing is definitely different from most other endeavors since it typically requires an audience. It's hard to write in a vacuum.

So I ask myself am I OK with that?

I still haven't come up with an answer.

27 April 2011

Endings. They are my enemy!

I am having a hard time coming up with endings for several works in progress. Because my writing tends to stall I am trying to outline first before plunging headlong into the stories. I feel if I have a clear picture of how I want a story structured I will stand a fighting chance of actually finishing it.

When I think of endings I always think of the last two lines of T.S. Eliot's famous poem THE HOLLOW MEN:

This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

That's how I end up feeling when it comes to my stories - like a whimpering fool. My stories just limp their way towards an ending that always seems elusive and out of reach. In my effort to revitalize my muse I re-read what Orson Scott Card had to say about structuring stories in his two books CHARACTERS & VIEWPOINTS and HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY.

To paraphrase, he recommends one first determine the type of story one is writing based on the MICE quotient (Milieu, Idea, Character, Event). Each type of story creates expectations in the reader of both a particular beginning and an ending. For instance, if one is writing a Character Story then it has begin at the point when the main character is unhappy with their current role in life and seeks out to change it. It's ending therefore has to be the point when that character does one of three things: finds a new role, willingly returns to the old one, or despairs.

That said, I believe my problem is not so much in figuring out an ending but in determining the type of story I am telling. I think most of my stories are a mix of Character and Event stories. I just need to determine which type dominates. Once I do, I think the ending will become clear in my mind.

19 April 2011

Unheeded Advice

Apparently, I cannot put good advice into practice. Like a moth to the flame I allow myself to be constantly sidetracked by new ideas and end up with nothing.

These are the tentative titles to my current works in progress:

Third Encounters of the Worst Kind - a speculative flash fiction piece sitting at 615 words, in desperate need of an ending.

The Necromancer's Daughter - intended as a sword and sorcery short story, sitting at 490 words.

I have plenty more on the back burner. I don't even want to list them because I think it will just depress me.

13 April 2011

Siren Song

One of my Works in Progress involves a romance so I checked-out "The Art of Romance Writing" by Valerie Parv from my local library. In e-book format no less!

It's full of excellent advice and tips - not for just writing romance, but writing in general. The one that stood out for me, since it is my biggest problem, is what to do with new ideas when you are trying to focus on the "old" one.

She compared new ideas to Siren Songs that try to lure you away from your current work. Her advice is to simply jot them down, file them away, and get back to your work in progress. Why? Because a writer needs to finish what they start. Whether or not the book succeeds, at least you have a completed novel.

I desperately need to put this advice into practice because when it comes to new ideas that interfere with one I'm working on I keep crashing against the rocks.

07 April 2011

Resisting Revision

Before I discuss today's topic of revision, I want to thank my two followers from Hatrack Writers Workshop. It's good to know that I am not talking to the wall! I hope that in the very least you will be entertained by my musings.

Now to today's self-imposed topic of resisting revision.

I am currently working on a new story. I have a general idea of the beginning, middle and end but I am finding it difficult to write it because of my bad habit of expecting the prose to flow perfectly from mind to keyboard. Instead of just writing whatever comes to mind, with reckless disregard to the rules of grammar and story structure, I agonize over every word and turn of phrase.

The result of my belabored efforts for the past several hours? Two sentences. I would hardly call that progress or time well spent.

05 April 2011

Gathering Dust

It's been months since I've updated this blog which only goes to show I really let things fall by the wayside.

While my blog gathered dust I did manage to muster enough courage to send out two Flash Fiction stories, "Langley" and "Ping Ping In Love." The former was sent to Every Day Fiction and even though the story was rejected I did get some feedback from the editors. The latter made its rounds through Asimov's, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and Daily Science Fiction. It was also rejected. Both Asimov's and Daily sent form rejection letters, while AE's rejection was personalized - they said they would consider more of my work in the future. 

Even though the stories were not accepted, I consider it a small personal victory since (a) I stopped being afraid of rejection and sent out the stories and (b) actually got feedback from editors. 

So, I guess it's back to writing!