Damn It Words…

I lost momentum, again. It is so very easy to do,  you go from trundling away up the highway of creativity at a hundred miles an hour, and next thing you know, you’re on some unlit country back road with no headlights, and no idea which direction is which. Your stuck, frozen.

Whether it is writing a story, or a blog post – everything you try struggles and doesn’t seem to take you in the direction you want to go. It’s a frustrating experience, it’s not quite a writer’s block so much as writer’s ineptitude. Every idea stumbles, good or bad idea, it just doesn’t work. That frustration leads to some temper tantrum like feelings that are very unbecoming of grown up.

I started writing another block breaker, I had an idea – but I missed something. And whereas before, I at least had ideas to fix it, though they took effort. I don’t now. All I can think to do to is restart it, with plotting… so not really a block breaker.

It’s not just the block breaker though, I was struggling before that, the block breaker was this fantastic idea I’d been playing around with in my head, in hindsight I should have just banked it, and done some planning on it later and done something different. Maybe I still will – it might not be a bad idea to do in November once I’ve finished my main NaNoWriMo project, assuming that I don’t mess that up and don’t finish.

Sometimes these things happen, I know – they’ve happened many many times before, and will no doubt happen many times in the future. All I can do is choose to keep relighting that flame. Which is ultimately what this post is about – it serves no other purpose than to share some feelings and be a finished blog post.

Next up, either a post with some actual content or a block breaker, however short and sweet, there’ll be something.

Block Breaker #4

Block breakers are short stories, random ditties for which the only real purpose is to write something, anything when Writer’s Block strikes. Quality, verbosity, fidelity, consistency – none of these words apply. Just write or die.

So I’m procrastinating from prepping for writing, by writing… here we go again!

P.s. (before the actual script… go figure), this one went a little weird – and it goes in a very different direction for what it initially looks like. I enjoyed writing it anyway, but it’s not my normal thing.


Gone Awry

Sasha threw her cup across the room, she threw off her jacket, placed her gun in it’s holster in the top draw of her desk and locked it.

“Damn it!” she shouted, when she was done, “How the hell did he get past us?”

Her assistant stood, mortified like a dear in the headlights.

“Don’t just stand there you dosey git,” Sasha said, “I want answers, and I want answers now. You were meant to put people on the doors.”

“They were…” her assistant, a normally confident twenty-five year old, named Susan Claire, short with scarlet hair and a trim figure, dressed practically but with touches of flair. In the face of her boss’s anger, her confidence was melting.

“They weren’t covering the main entrance, the main bloody entrance. That areshole just walked out,” her boss said, calming down. “Tell me what happened? How was it we were made to look like amateurs by a two bit conman.”

“One of the silent alarms went off,” Susan said, “A couple of the guys on the front went to reinforce the internal team.”

“Damn it,” Sasha said, “How did he slip past the remaining two?”

“I don’t know,” Susan said.

“Get me the names of the two on the front entrance,” Sasha said.

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Story Telling… I Admire: Babylon 5

I’ve already mentioned how much I admire Dune, and aspire to that level of writing, so since I’m crap at reviewing, we’ll talk about what I admire about my favourites. Another one my all time favourites series, this time  a TV one, is Babylon 5, created by J. Michael Straczynski back in the 90’s.

So let’s talk about that.

A Bit of History (for those don’t remember the 90’s… which is increasingly more and more adults – darn time!)

Back in the 90’s, and in decades before that, the majority of television shows (though not all by far), were episodic, with arcs focused on that episode, and you could probably air many episodes out of order with little to no effect on the stories being told. Most of Star Trek is like this, and it’s fine – it’s what we expected, nay what we thought we wanted.

However J. Michael Straczynski while in the shower, combined two story ideas he’d been playing with a big space opera and a story taking place aboard a dinky little space station. The big space opera would be too big, and too expensive to make in a TV show, while an episodic TV show set aboard a space station wouldn’t have much life, just a few seasons. His eureka moment in the shower was that in combining the two, you could have a five year story that saw a universe at war, and peace, have politics and a consequences play out, and punctuate some action and fallout on the station to contextualise the space opera, without having to invest too significant parts of the budget for space battles.

They were doing this in the early days of the CGI revolution, now everyone with a some 3d program, and a video editing suite can put together a fleet on fleet battle, in HD or even 4k, with some time and patience.

Side note: I actually wonder if they could make Babylon 5 these days, the restrictions of budget and technology helped to create something amazing, but there aren’t the same limiting factors, you can do whole series in front of blue screens without much need for a set, you don’t need expensive physical models, and people are already trying to make CGI people a thing, so you might not need pricey actors either.

So, what is Babylon 5?

So back to the idea – a small contained space, operating as a space UN of sorts. It ties together smaller character driven stories and a grand epic. The factions have unique motivations to them which drive them, hurt them, and so on, and actions for against a faction has consequences for those factions and the over arcing plot.

I’m trying not to get into spoilers, but you have plots involving a character or characters place and interaction with their own state, you have law and order plots, including local (on the station), internal (with the one of the nations of the galaxy), and international, (with multiple nations involved), you have siege and attack plots, Revolutions, enslavement, spies, survivor stories, medical dramas, but also a sense of magical plots, magical tests and quests, mystical items, after life stuff, and I’m not so be with this yet, then you have interpersonal plots with romance, buddy cops, noir detectives, comedies, arguments and misunderstandings. Basically it has everything.

“But!” I hear you shoot, Star Trek has all of that – and you’re right, but except on DS9, it didn’t add to anything it was just adventure of the week.

Now DS9 was doing something similar, but it didn’t feel as in depth, it was more focused, where as Babylon 5 went in a hundred, but coherent, didn’t directions but brought it back together. What DS9 did do though was better communicate the world was ending and the war stories were just more intense, that’s where the budget differences came in I think. Babylon 5 was more cohesive, and the building blocks all lead to how it ends (taking season 4, not 5 in fairness).

So What Is It I Admire, And Can Learn

So ultimately what I admire is the ability to balance personal and grander story telling. Now it is probably easier in hundreds of 45 minute episodes than writing a novel, but when you look at each series, (1 through 4 anyway), they are beautifully balanced.

Where I fail is I get lost in scenes, specifically dialogue ones, I get stuck in circles, the dialogue in Babylon 5 is what carries the story, and it’s not as punchy as a Sorkin series, but still all the important dialogue is focused, and delivers three things each time, the characters personal feelings and motivations, exposition to explain the current situation, and the plan – what actions do the characters intend to do.

I like that, and I think ultimately that’s what I want to learn, and it doesn’t matter if it’s on screen or on a page I think it’s a good way to do dialogue. It will definitely help to have three things before writing dialogue scenes:

  • History
  • Motivation
  • Plan

Doesn’t matter what the plan is, it’s not the plot of the story, it’s just what the characters intend – actually that’s not true, it does matter, because for the dialogue to be important, whatever the characters decide will drive the plot, it’s just a matter of whether they succeed in their intentions, or are denied by another factor.

Also just to mention, as with Dune, I could go through a lot more, but I wanted to pick an element that is of particular interest to me right now.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Prep : Plotting

So I’ve redone the plot I was working on. It’s still on the same world, but I’ve made the story more focused, more character driven, hopefully with compelling characters in the heroes and villains. The over arcing plot of the series I’m anticipating is still the same, a multi world conquest story, but we’re starting off small, and building out.

Going through a standard three act set up, with a major point in the middle of the novel, and a climatic battle at the end, so everything builds becomes bigger from start to finish, as there’s a couple of smaller conflicts earlier on. Nothing really innovative there, but I’m not going for innovative, I’m going for character moments.

Five talkie bits are planned, which hopefully I can keep quite snappy and not exposition heavy, (something I’m quite prone to), outside of those moments dialogue will be functional “Go here,” “Go there,” “Phew! that was close”, with actions and behaviours used to tell those parts of the stories. By no means is this the best way to write, it’s more if I do it, I can avoid a lot of pitfalls I fall into, (like circular dialogue that fails to end at a natural point).

So character wise on the good guy side (nominally the overall plot blurs who’s good and bad, but for the first novel it’ll be quite clear), we have a young character, an innocent caught up in something greater, and destined for something massive, then there’s the wise mentor, and a roguish mentor and defender, alongside a cast of supporting roles like military leaders, politicians, traders, and general people. A goal will be to have more dynamic and engaging secondary and tertiary characters.

On the bad guys, there’ll be a couple of military leaders who have the same goal, but sit in opposition to each other on methods, with one aiming for a domination victory, and the other a very targeted crafty plot.  I want them to be compelling, and to sew the seeds that they are the villains of the piece, but there’s a broader ethics involved which would allow for that obfuscation of heroes and villains later in the over arcing plot.

So –  a lot of work to do to make all that a reality, but at least most of the planning I’d done to this point is still valid and very useful. The history of the world still applies, though I’ve realised if I want to rely less on exposition, I might struggle to get some of it in, there’s only really one point in my plot where I can, (and must), show the history of the world. So, some block breakers are going to be experiments in historical exposition, and exposition generally.

Block breakers are now definitely going to be part of my prep after the recent trouble of number three, I might also do an out right short story as world setup for the NaNoWriMo novel, focusing on one character’s earlier life before the planned story takes place.

Put the kettle on, it’s my birthday…

Well actually it will be my birthday when you read this – I’ve no intention of blogging on my birthday, I intend on making far too many cocktails, and drinking them. Plus I want to try making gin filled cake pops. This fella knows how to celebrate.

But it’s a strange birthday, it’s not a number of consequence, nor is it half way between numbers of consequence… it’s just a birthday, and yet it marks a very interesting point in my life. I’m in a period of change, lots of things up in the air, making some mature decisions… and of late some markedly immature decisions, ultimately trying to get to grips with who it is I want to be.

Yeah, it’s a little trippy and pretentious – but it’s true too. I know I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a young age, but other than a bit of blogging, and one or two competitions, and NaNoWriMo, I’ve not really actually explored it, not as profession, or a life – it’s just a hobby, no commitments. I know why, I’m not very good at it, and that’s okay – I’m not very good at pool, but I enjoy playing anyway. So, writing will be a hobby for me, forever.

Other things need to change though, and hopefully those changes will lead to a healthier, happier and  more balanced life, where I can afford the mental energies to write, to learn, to create, and to play. Those are the things that important to me, and yet I frequently neglect them. I’d like to show my niece a better way to live, just as much as I want to live a better way too.

To get there requires big changes, so that’s the theme of this birthday. It’s not a traditionally significant one, but this year it is to me.

 

P.s. when I wrote this I didn’t realise I’d be ill for my birthday, which really sucks that optimism out of the day. Ah well…

Well Shucks…

I broke my 38 day streak on Duolingo because I was writing, and forgot to do it. Oopsie. I can start again on the streak, that’s not an issue, what’s amazing is though, when you’re in that place and the words just flow, and for love nor money, you don’t want to stop them.

That being said, I value education – so it’s still a little disappointing, was getting quite proud of that streak, my longest yet. That’s the game though, Duolingo isn’t the best way to learn, it does gamify the process, keeps you ticking along with the little burst of endorphins when you achieve your daily target, with it’s treasure boxes and such.

It’s actually something writers can and do employ, I don’t know if you’ve read Dan Brown’s books, but the cliff hangar every few pages or so, forces you to move on and move on and move on, and it rewards you with little endorphin highs… basically it hooks you, and you have to read just one more page constantly. People tend to read them fast because of that little hook.

I’m not a big fan of the Da Vinci Code for a number of reasons, including the bait and switch psychological tricks, the dumbing, and the pretentious nature… but when I read them I fell for them all the same, page after page I would go, think the Da Vinci coode took me a day and a half. I just didn’t think it was very satisfying when I got to the end, but others do, because they’ve never invested so much concentrated focus

I’m picking on Dan Brown here, but it’s a common trick, and sometimes it’s used in good books… but it feels so cheap. It’s the kind of thing supermarkets and junk food purveyors employ.

Still it sells, and sells well – if you’re wanting to write for a living, and not have another form of employment, then you do what you need to do. Ultimately the audience is the judge of anything and everything if that’s the route you want to go down. Just promise me if you work out the technique, you’ll use it with something good and worthwhile.

P.S. There’s nothing wrong if you enjoy Dan Brown’s books, in fact more power to you – I just don’t… As with all art, it’s ultimately a subjective thing, there are no absolutes, you’ve just got to love what you love.

Besides, at least Dan Brown doesn’t bug you to spend £5 to make up for one day not reading, unlike Duolingo – thanks but no thanks.

Rules Are Meant to be Broken

So… I started off with a challenge to myself, that when I was stuck on a project, stressed, or just looking to write for no rhyme or reason. It came with a simple set of seven rules to follow, though more like guidelines. So three entries in, I broke a significant portion of them. Here’s the guidelines, they’re fairly simple

  1. Write
  2. No editing
  3. No revisions
  4. Quality, verbosity, fidelity, consistency – none of these words apply
  5. Quick and short
  6. Share
  7. Move on

So, the third entry is here, it went badly. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I just fancied writing a battle scene, a few hundred words, but I lost control of the narrative.

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