Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Lots of writing has been done in the past three weeks. I have been doing some back story work as well as trying to tighten up the ideas behind a story that I let drift to the side. I am really liking the basis of my WIP Assassin’s Ward, and am trying to do the research needed to turn it into a real piece. That being said I haven’t done as much work on the actual writing of the story as I might of liked to.

Right now I am at a bit of a stand still, and I figured I would give you another bit of advice from my “expert in my own head” POV.

Don’t let your character(s) run roughshod over your work. Now, I am all about letting your characters get out there and do their own thing. We wouldn’t want them to be one-dimensional and all that, but there are limits. After all we live in a world with laws and rules ourselves. We can’t really do what we want all of the time, can we?

Okay, maybe you can, and for that I envy you.

Anyway, back to your character. You spent all of your time creating your setting and your detailed plot lines. Your antagonist is the perfect adversary and everything is balanced but for one detail. Your protagonist is being a big giant pain in the rear and won’t go where you need her to go.  She would rather go off to Paris than to visit her aunt in Upstate New York, but you need her to meet the love of her life there. It serves you right for creating a strong-willed, independent minded woman. What do we do now? Have her meet the person of her dreams in Paris? No! There is a reason you wanted Upstate New York so get her there.

Most people are not going to willingly give up a trip to Paris. The reason not to do so must be compelling. It must be a matter of great import and weight. What if her uncle fell ill? True, it’s been done before, but it does have the right weight. Ah, but you want to stick out from the crowd, and who could blame you. Fine, I get it. Instead of her uncle falling ill what if he unexpectedly came out of his five year coma and seems none the worse for wear, and it is her favorite uncle. The man that practically raised her. She couldn’t go to France now, could she.

You’ve got her.

There are going to be times that you need to steer your stubborn as a jackass protagonist to get them pointed in the right directions. What you first plan out almost never works smoothly, and can often be less interesting than the situations that arise through happenstance. In my example above the story has many more things that can now occur upstate than just falling in love. Her aunt will be overjoyed and also paranoid that something bad will happen again. The uncle will feel compelled to make up for lost time, and that includes the time he wasn’t able to “father” your protagonist just as she meets the man or woman she is destined (maybe) to spend the rest of her life with.

Wow! You are good.

Had you not worked at this your character would have either destroyed your whole story by escaping to Paris or would have simply flowed through your plot points as easy as going down a stream. Now there are several things at stake.

These are the ideas I try to take with me as I look at my characters. Early in my writing my characters just flowed, and the stories were fine. Now I try to get more in there and the stories are definitely getting better. I can only hope that I continue developing, and I hope you do as well.

Enjoy and keep writing.

Just a little announcement on my plans to rejoin the ROW world and get myself back on the horse. I’ve done lots of random writing in the last two years, but nothing approaching a cohesive effort. My goal for ROW is to make sure to focus on a given story until it is run down or running freely, depending on the situation. In order to do this I will be writing everyday as well as posting my progress here. If I say that I have been slacking, smack me upside the head and tell me to get on with it. Nothing like positive reinforcement to keep things moving along.

I also want this round to be filled with advice that I have learned through my trials and tribulations. These will be seen on the “Edutainment” portion of my website so that others can try and learn from my daily fumblings.

So here is to all of you doing that which you were put on this Earth for.

Entertain.

Even if it is only yourself.

I was sitting over the holidays and thinking about what to do about my little corner of the blogosphere. I debated letting it go off into oblivion like the laserdisc. I decided against that and figured that the best thing I could do was to give unsolicited advice on writing. After all I have only written a few short stories and one novel length book, therefore I am no expert, but this is what I feel will actually make my advice prudent. You see, I am not going to be approaching my advice from an area of “thou shalt”. No, my advice will be more of “this is how I see it and what people have said when critiquing my work.” These nuggets of advice will be akin to a convicted burglar telling a young want to be how to avoid getting caught by steering him clear of the pitfalls that lead to incarceration.

So there you have the basic thoughts behind what I am looking to do. Lets start with one of the most basic things that every story needs– Characters. I have yet to come across a story that does not have at least one character in it, and to be truthful I feel that there should be at least two characters, although they don’t both need to be living. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Let’s start with one simple principle here. Your characters have to be believable. That’s what I’ve been told, and it is something that I strive for, but what does it mean? After all, most superhero stories have characters that do unbelievable things like fly and shoot laser beams out of their eyes. Are they breaking this rule in some way? The answer is no. The powers of the heroes is not what makes them characters. It is their actions and interactions that matter here. Their motivations and desires are what makes them believable.

So what will it take to be believable? That is one that I struggled with, and still do from time to time. I have boiled it down to two things. The first is that your characters should behave predictably. When bullets go flying the average person goes and hides whereas a police officer will move to action. When forced into a corner by danger most people will fight to the best of their abilities to save their lives. Mothers will defend their children at any cost and someone who is hungry will be fixated on that pile of fried chicken sitting in the middle of the table. Your characters have to do what readers would expect them to based on what you put forth. If a character is constantly going against expectation then you have done a poor job of setting up that expectation to start with, and need to re-evaluate the whole thing.

The second thing that is needed in your character is unpredictability. I know, I just said that predictability was key in a believable character and now I am saying the opposite, but hear me out. One of the things that people do not consciously realize about behavior is that it is actually hard to predict how someone will react 100% of the time. Even when the situation may seem to be the same as a previous one, there are always differences, not the least of which is that it is a different day or time. Maybe on Monday your character is okay with picking up the slack for a co-worker, but on Friday that just cramps his style, even if it is a lesser amount of work. If your character is to be believable there needs to be some level of the unexpected in her if you want readers to invest. There is something riveting about reading along and saying “whoa. I didn’t expect that, but cool.” Just make sure that your unpredictable moments are set up well. You don’t want your readers thinking what just happened is totally off base. Again, this all goes into what you have set up through your entire story.

Earlier I said that your characters don’t always have to be living, and I’m not just talking about ghosts and the like here. The weather can be a powerful character in a story if used correctly, though I am scared to do so to tell the truth. My two points here are just as valid, however. Weather patterns, as a whole, are predictable. The different air and water currents combined with the revolution of the Earth and its axial tilt have set up a fairly predictable set of conditions. Meteorologists rely on all of this to give you the weather forecast, and despite our desire to bemoan that they missed the high temperature by a few degrees or that the 10% chance of rain turned into an all day storm, they are pretty good at predicting what to expect, otherwise no one would even worry about listening to them in the first place. Weather is also unpredictable. A chance of a tornado means that one could be sighted, but exactly where is the question. If a storm is forecasted to dump a foot of snow on an area and the temperature doesn’t reach that all important temperature by half a degree, the storm goes by without a hitch, and the opposite can happen as well. How else do you explain people getting caught unawares constantly by the weather. It did something they didn’t expect, but it was no less unbelievable that it happened.

So there you have it. My first installment of “Advice your didn’t ask for”. Hopefully you can find some use for what I have said here. I know that keeping these ideas in mind have helped me as I work on my next big story. I’d tell you more, but I want you to be surprised when all is said and done.

As always, read, write and enjoy.

NaNoWriMo

Posted: November 1, 2014 in Writing
Tags: ,

So, I am going to do NaNoWriMo for the first time since I started writing. For those of you that don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, where a bunch of half loony, or in my case fully loony, attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. It is supposed to be a new project, technically from what I’ve seen, although I don’t think anyone polices it, so don’t worry. Hell, I’m going to technically cheat myself. I am going to use this challenge as an opportunity to write 5 smaller stories that will be the background stories for the characters I want to put into a more formal project. I figure that it is the effort and the commitment that is important to the whole challenge, so that is what I am shooting for.

I see this challenge as a way to energize and restart my writing career as it were. I let too many things stand in my way, with several physical ailments and what not leaving me too annoyed to write and do the other things I wanted to do. Now it is time for me to really pursue this writing career and write the kind of stories that people will want to turn through. Solid characters will go a long way towards that, and these short stories should give my characters a lot of background to work off of. One of the things that I hope to work on with this challenge is getting my characters to each have their own unique voice within the voice of my writing. We shall see.

From time to time I will check in with a word count and general progress update. I look forward to reading what others are doing out there. If you have a project going and want a cheerleader, drop me a line.

I could go into a long story here, but let this give you an idea on how to better set up your year for success in the classroom. I am inspired and ready to go, how about you?
http://novemberlearning.com/educational-resources-for-educators/ #BLC14

Priorities need adjusting

Posted: April 21, 2014 in Writing

As I sit here writing this it is the tail end of Spring Break. Tomorrow the students will be returning to school ready for the home stretch to the end of the year. I love this time of year, and not because the year is almost over. No, I love this time of year because I get to reflect on how much my students have changed over the past seven months. Today I had that pleasant feeling ripped away from me as I was reminded of how much things have changed for educators. Without getting into specifics let me tell you what the underlying issue is. Too many parents have their priorities backwards.

One of the biggest challenges facing teachers is not the students themselves. No, that part is pretty much the same as ever, believe it or not. The basic requirements of a teenager today matches what was needed twenty even thirty years ago. The biggest challenge is the parents. I have always thought of education being a three legged stool. I’m sure I heard that somewhere else, probably from a wise man known as Pete Maxson. The leg that the parents represent is placed too closely to the leg that the students represent, and that is too often in opposition to the teacher. Let me explain.

In the past year alone I have had students miss more time for the sake of leaving for a vacation than any previous year. I understand to some extent the urge to get that family vacation in. Sometimes the options are limited. What I don’t understand is how parents expect me to jump through hoops so that their child won’t fall behind, but when I suggest something that would require them to do something to help their child out with the same work it is met with an “it’s not my problem” attitude. This attitude is then mirrored by the students who then get upset when I tell the that there are only a few opportunities to address the issue. They seem to feel that their vacation is more important than their education, and that idea comes from their parents’ actions.

As a parent myself, I realize that my son’s attitudes about life I’m general are shaded by my own, and not just with school. If I was constantly allowing him to go into school late because he was a little tired, leave school early to just have fun, or not do an assignment because we wanted to away for the weekend he would see education only as something that gets in the way of the fun, and not as something meant to aid in his future endeavors.

So, what is the solution? That is a good question. One that I am not sure I have the answer to, but let me put forth an idea to all parents and future parents. Make your child’s education a priority over vacation. Sure, vacations are a time to connect with our children, and very important. However, if our children don’t value education and work to their fullest to learn and become better problem solvers and thinkers, their chances of taking their children on those same vacations will diminish as they will lack the skills and knowledge to procure the jobs that will allow them to take a vacation. Values go from generation to generation. I am hoping to give my children the highest value for their lives.

A comfortable pace.

Posted: December 15, 2013 in Writing

This is a post that somehow failed to go through. It was written one month ago.

So, I have been blogging for nearly three years now? It seem not be simultaneously longer and shorter than that. It seems longer than that because I feel that I have shared a lot of my thoughts on the craft of writing as I am experiencing it and on the craft of teaching as I have gone through it. I have responded to many kind comments and have even followed many of your blogs in return. Throughout this time I have also come into my own voice along the way and feel that I have become crisper in my delivery, in my own way. If I am incorrect in saying this, please let me know.

At the same time I feel like it hasn’t really been that long of a journey at all so far. First off, I don’t want this to end anytime soon, so that is a big part of it. Second, I haven’t gotten around to all of the wonderful blogs out there. Third, I haven’t posted nearly ask much as I thought I would have three years in. It is to this last statement that the rest of this month’s post will focus.

When I first started blogging I had these grandiose ideas of blogging three or more times a week. I was sure that the time would be easy to come by and that life would just make way for me. What I didn’t realize was how much time I wanted to spend with my family. Now a days I do a real concerted post every other month. There are pundits that would say that isn’t enough to get a writing career going. I say that it is what I can do, especially if I want to do work on my writing itself. There are many who post more than me, but I can’t justify sacrificing my writing and family time for the sake of the blog.

I have settled into what I call a comfortable pace. I do regular work on my WIP and blog post with some regularity. When the times are right I do more. I guess what I am trying to get at here is that we all need to find that pace that makes the most sense to ourselves. Happy writing and happy early winter celebrations to all of you.