Ah… the corners! Please not the corners!

So I’ve written myself into a corner. First of all, fantastic I’m doing a couple of pieces of writing just days apart, got the bug again, and it feels good, until it didn’t.

So, Block Breaker #3 I’m writing a short fantasy piece… or I’d intended it to be short, literally just a battle scene, actually pretty much one fight between siblings amidst a battle scene… and I spoilt it within a  few words by separating them, and then ending the battle, alluding to a greater conflict with sorcerers. That was fine, the story takes place over  a couple of battles then.

So the corner… that’s where I am now, I’ve written myself into a corner with a big dialogue piece that’s really spun the story out. Going to have to delete it and go back, shorter dialogue that just tells the essentials. Problem is, that goes against my self imposed no editing rules for Block Breakers.

So what are my options to leave the corner, and maintain my rules? Well I can have a slightly disjointed story, where in the first part I’ve gone dialogue and plan heavy, and have a time jump that skips all the stuff I’ve set up, and brings us closer to the main line of the story, think Thanos getting the power stone off screen in the Avenger’s film. Or I could play it out, go for a 15k story, rather than the 1 to 2k’s I’d originally anticipated, (really I just felt like practising writing a fight scene as a warm up for NaNoWriMo in a couple of months), and lastly I could just stop and start something else.

I think the time jump is my best option, may even try and lay the suggestions that it was an epic bit we jumped, I can always do what TV and movies do, and do a spin off story that follows that adventure later, when I need some more practice in the genre, I don’t often revisit characters. Of course, I often don’t finish stories I start, so sequels aren’t a thing for me.

The long and the short of it though, is this is why I’m going to be carefully plotting my NaNoWriMo entry this year, because writing yourself into a corner, or far from the plot is exactly why I don’t finish a lot of stories I start.  I finished NaNoWriMo last year because I had a plan, and even though I drifted from it, I had a path to guide it back to.

But I’m going to keep going with the Block Breakers, because I feel like writing. Probably helps that for the month of September I’m keeping off other Social Media platforms – if you’re interested visit the Royal Society for Public Health , I started on the 1st September, and we’re 9 days in, and I’ve been writing more. I’m choosing not to count my blog as Social Media, (even though it technically is).

So enough rambling, I’ve got a time jump to do, and a no editing policy on Block Breakers to maintain. Hope you’ll excuse some bad writing in the middle, for what will hopefully be an exciting ending.

Block Breaker #2

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.

Not done one in a while, but got an itch.


 

Middling William

by Jonathan Lawrence

I remember the day I first met William, like it was yesterday, even as the decades have flowed by, it’s one of my most vivid memories.

The strange thing is when I first met him, he didn’t leave that much of an impression immediately. He was middling everything, middling height, middling build, middling clothes – I mean everything.

“Ms Rebutem,” William said curt but polite.

“Constable,” I replied, barely noticing him among the crowd of Lookie-loos, here to see the accident. It took me several moments to realise someone had addressed me by name. I’m not crazy, or stupid, but when a tanker over turns as a police officer in London, your focus tends to be on the multitudes that come to gawp, oh don’t look at me like that, the fire brigade and ambulance were dealing with the driver.

“Excuse me, how do you know my name?” I asked him.

“It’s on your label,” he said matter of factly pointing at the velcro patch on my stab vest, it was a more dangerous world back then, “I’m William,” he was returning the gift.

“It also says Constable,” I said annoyed at the middling man, “I’m kind of busy right now.”

“You’ll be busier when that tanker explodes,” he said confidently, there was nothing middling about his voice, it was both strong and calm, easily audible over the throng of by standers, he looked at his watch, “In about one minutes give or a take a few seconds. I’d call everyone back, if I were you?”

“What?” I asked confused and still annoyed, and mildly alarmed even though in the back of my mind I was sure he was a lunatic.

Continue reading

The Tale of the Unreliable Narrator

Recently I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother, it wasn’t something that interested me before,  but I caught some clips on YouTube, and it looked fascinating. Turns out it was a lot more fascinating that I expected, for all it’s flaws, it told stories in a unique way for television, and it might be one of my favourite uses of an unreliable narrator.

Before we begin, let me explain what How I Met Your Mother is, in short it’s an American television sit-com about the lives and loves of a group of friends as they make their way in the world… well New York, it’s told in the style of the main character recounting the adventures from 2030 in a nostalgic fashion to his children.

The wonderful thing is, as he’s explaining it to his kids, there are very obvious obfuscations and biases at play, which telegraph clearly the unreliable nature of the narrator, things like smoking weed suddenly becomes having a sandwich, but because we know he’s editing the story for his audience as he tells it, it’s safe to assume there are less obvious revisions at work.

One of the main characters is Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris, his a womaniser, a pick up artist, and the stories told like his sexual adventures are true and successful, I think in real life though, the success rate was probably less, and the more insane pick up strategies weren’t as extreme as presented, but it’s an exaggerated portrayal of a character. That’s just one example but you get the idea.

I’ve only once used a narrator in my stories, but it’s something I’d like to try my hand at again, see if I can get it right. Technically speaking every story written in the third person is in a sense narrated, but there’s a big difference between the writer telling the story, and the voice of the narrator character telling the story. It allows you to inject bias and passion into the story, you can paint characters in more extreme and clear lights, or obfuscate certain qualities of a character out of bias. Basically you aren’t trying to describes the facts of situations, you can be more subjective.

In essence the author is always the de facto narrator, but usually we aren’t involved in the story, we’re describing the events from a perspective of the all seeing, all knowing, our biases are choosing what we show, and what we hide for later in the plot. A narrator in essence is a character telling the story, either in the first or third person, they may or may not have been involved in the story being told themselves.

I think my favourite examples are probably noir thrillers, think of your stereotypical detective story with the hard boiled private eye or policeman telling you like it is… with lots of metaphors of course:

Continue reading

Perfect Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance

Great title… and really hoping it’s true. Yes, this is another post about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, two months away.

So, it’s now 61 days until NaNoWriMo commences for 2018, and I’m trying for a smarter write, I really want this year to be effortless… it won’t be, but at least it could be a little less difficult.

So… anyway, at the moment I’m putting work into creating the whole world for my novel. Maps and everything. Actually it’s just one of several dimensions within my story, but the bulk of it will take place on one world, I’m kind of thinking this will be the start of a series. This first one is a mysterious stranger story.

And off he goes on a tangent…

Actually, there’s sword and sorcery film kind of like it, now that I think about it, The Sword and the Sorceress (starring David Carradine), I have it on DVD somewhere, weird film, like a Fistful of Dollars, it’s based on Yojimbo. This blog post has gone in a fairly random direction, I was sure my story was original… but there are similar stories out there. However, as I’ve started planning, I know it’s going in a different direction, yes it’s a mysterious stranger story, but it’s not a single town, or two gangs at war with each other, it’s a multi-nation world, with many competing agenda’s – more like Yojimbo meets Game of Thrones maybe.

I’m now trying not psyche myself out, which is something I’ve done in the past. I had a great idea for a sci fi story where people could switch out bodies, in a world that’s like Facebook made real, people earned points for necessary work that couldn’t be done by robots, and got to spend the rest of the time at play, and some of the bodies they used got weird and wacky. Then a while later I learned a film was coming out called Surrogates which had many similarities, and I failed to explore it. Even more annoying Ready Player One then came out a couple of years later, and that had many similarities with what I’d started. No one wants to write someone else’s story, and so you move on.

Here’s the kicker though, I was a moron – it was a perfectly good story, it had a great moral core to it, drama and tension, and the opportunity to have fun and present a dark future. Having seen Surrogates, and read Ready Player One (not got round to watching the film yet), mine would have been different.

So, the plan for my current novel stays, I won’t over-analyse, or deviate from my vision – I have resolution for NaNoWriMo this year… and a blog post that deviated quite a bit, so let’s bring it back.

Back to the point

I’ve been creating maps, and Wikipedia like entries for each of the worlds, countries, and cities (the one’s that are likely to feature in my story anyway), and histories for all these things. I’m aiming to have a deep and rich, feeling inspired by my re-reading of the Dune series. Next up, I’ll start compiling my character lists, and then flesh out their details and backstories. Lastly, I’ll start pulling together timelines, one the history of the main world of my story, a wider history of the dimensions, and then the timeline of my story, of course with plenty of toing and froing along the way as ideas develop. By the time the 1st November rolls around I’ll have a deep guide to lean on.

I wanted to call out some of the tools I’ve been using to pull this world together, primarily Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator which is rich and immensely customisable, with great exports, including spreadsheets (and JL loves himself a spreadsheet or two)

Also Watabou’s Medieval Fantasy City Generator which can generate really detailed random and customisable city views

There’s been a few random name generators on the way so far, but I’ve been using those two a lot and wanted to do a post calling them out, and give other people the opportunity to utilise them.

88 Days… Not all that long

So apparently NaNoWriMo 2018 is creeping up on me, it’s just 88 days away. I need to get plotting, planning, and researching. I won last year… first time in ages, and it came off the back of plotting, so that’s the way I’m going again.

Only, I’ve been so focused on Dune recently, that’s all that’s in my head. Think I need to go in another direction entirely, science fiction is out, maybe a fantasy story in a much smaller space. Shall see what inspiration strikes.

So, for those taking part in NaNoWriMo, what are you doing to prepare, or are you holding back until closer to the time?

Dune – A Tour De Force in Science Fiction

So my previous post was meant to go very differently, it was meant to go very differently, but I decided to focus on the conversion of stories across different mediums. So now we’re back again, and I’m going to see if I can say something intelligent and worthwhile about Dune. I honestly don’t think I can do it justice, but good news it’s my blog, and JL has thoughts to share in spades.

Be warned, spoilers ahead – I’ll make sure there’s a cut in before we get to anything too spoilery.

So…. Dune, the book series by Hugo and Nebula award winning Frank Herbert (Franklin Patrick Herbert Jr.), and it’s easily one of my favourites – I dare say the first book Dune is probably my favourite piece of fiction of all time,.

I still remember my dad giving me the book, I’d been ill, again I think (my memory isn’t always as reliable as I’d like it to be, unlike the Kwisatz Haderach in the story itself), I must have been eleven at the time. At eleven how much of it I could follow is probably debatable, but it’s such a rich story and world that as I grew my understanding and appreciation of it grew with me.

Without going into spoilers, Dune is a series book about the distant future of humanity as it’s spread among the stars. It features themes of survival, power, religion, ecology, economy and evolution, and collectively is a treatise on the human condition as interfaces with the world.

It’s probably the daddy of the epic science fiction, the first book being one of George Lucas’ inspirations for Star Wars. Before it, the idea of so deep a sci-fi story was  rarity. It’s scope is so massive, dealing with from tens of thousands of years into humanity’s future, and the series covers thousands of years from that point onward. The series covers a span of time nearly as great as recorded history today, and the time before the series begins isn’t just dead time, it has a whole back story that you learn as you read through, with many of the functions of future humanity coming about in the thousands of years preceding the books.

Unlike Star Wars, they’re not action orientated – there is some satisfying action in them, but it’s very tactical based, and fleeting, just to support the movement of the story. In fact, overall they’re some of the most dialogue laden stories out there.

So, in short if you like a detailed grand epic science fiction… there’s an awful lot to love. And if you want to go further than the original series Frank Herbert’s son Brian and Kevin J Anderson (who is a major contributor to the Star Wars universe), they’re a lot cleaner writing so easier to read, and some elements maybe didn’t need an explanation, but they do bring the whole thing together at the end and finish of the story in a way Frank Herbert wasn’t able to do before his death, and they do add to the grand richness of the universe created in Dune.

So much to love, the books can be hard to read at times, and you find yourself trying to hold on to factoids, stories,  and ideas as you’ll need them later for reference when something else happens. They’re not a casual reads, but well worth your time.

So that’s a general look at Dune… from here there may be spoilers – somethings I have in my mind to say just can’t avoid it. If you’ve not read the books  go check them out, Frank Herbert’s original series are also all available on Audible if you want an easier time (well read by Simon Vance, Euan Morton,  Orlaigh Cassidy and several others bring the books to life, and they’re unabridged.

Continue reading

The Book Isn’t Always Mightier Than The Adaptation

Okay before I get lynched by fans Harry Potter/Twilight/LOTR/Hunger Games/Da Vinci Code/and just about any story with fans, moving from medium to medium requires change and its not a new phenomenon, nor is it new that people are upset by changes. I’m not here to argue that as films are better than their source material, or even good, my argument is that its only bad one for version to be incomplete without the other.

Ancient History

So, I’ve spent a long term over the years studying texts that were originally part of oral traditions, but over Millennia were converted from a spoken medium to a written medium. The transformation of the oldest stories is fascinating, and if our current culture existed then, a whole lot of people would have been stoned for some form of blasphemy in the conversion of stories as the historical game of Chinese whispers that is oral tradition.

Actually, as it happens, people have died for presenting unfaithful accounts of history and legends. So I guess modern sensibilities aren’t so modern, just less extreme and more easily reported and repeated.

The earliest known stories came from the Lascaux caves in Southern France, it is a series of images progressing through a time period, covering the rituals and the hunt of the people at the time, it’s a story. It’s worth noting that spoken language of some variety probably came about somewhere between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago,  so I’d like to think the story telling was around long before someone thought to record it on a wall.  Continue reading