Saturday, March 31, 2012

A for Artwork & Writing

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! For Sunday, April 1st, I'm showing you how artwork is created, and how the process is very much the same as creating a story. Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta) was kind enough to share with us five stages in developing a picture. This picture is taken from her illustration for "Stopover At The Backworlds' Edge" which is part of M. Pax's "The Backworlds" series. (see here)

I was thrilled by this step by step advancement to a final picture! Just like in writing, you have an idea and you outline it. See the pencil sketch below.

Then, a first draft.


To the editor? Or more re-writes.

Finished manuscript.

Obviously, there are many stages in between these both in art and composition as we perfect our craft. And just like with my new stories, I'm aware that besides research for the picture, Loretta is continually looking for new ways to create better and better artwork.

Loretta is currently working on the bookcover for my August 1st release of "Medieval Muse". A novellette that will be offered as a free read.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Should You Write What You Know?

Sooner or later all writers face the proverbial "blank page". They are faced with a deadline and can't think of anything to write about. If I was lucky enough to see the world in conflict, crisis and resolution, I would have no problem writing what I see around me. But choosing a subject from what I know can lead to dull and mundane ideas when I am thinking that nothing ever happens to me! How do I slove this dilemma?

It is true that you must draw on your own experience when trying to write a story. But the trick is to identify what is interesting, unique and original in that experience that will surprise and attract the reader. Looking at what you know in a new light will draw out new fiction from old experiences. Recognize among all the paraphanelia of your mind a situation, idea, perception or character that you can turn into a story.

The kind of "writing what you know"that is least likely to produce good fiction is trying to tell exactly what happened to you at exactly such and such a time. Probably all good fiction is autobiographical in some way, but the awful, or hilarious, or tragic thing you went through may offer as many problems as possibilities when you start to turn it into fiction.

Try writing a brief summary of what happened, no more than a hundred words. What kind of story might this be? Can the raw material of incident, accident and choice be reshaped, plumped up, pared to the bone, differently spiced? You experienced whatever it was chronologically, but is that the best way to bring its meaning out? Perhaps you experienced it over a period of months or years; what are the fewest scenes in the least amount of time that could contain the action? If you are the center of the action, then you must be thoroughly characterized. Soon you can begin to shape your fiction into an idea that has turned that blank page into a full, exciting story!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Computer As A Tool?

For most writers, the computer is an excellent aid to spontaneity. Words can flow more easily on a computer as you type without constraints. The knowledge that you can easily delete quiets the internal critic and frees us to write whatever may come. You can follow the thread of your thought without pause.

However, when it is time to reread your writing, it's time to step away from the computer. The computer isn't the same as the printed page. On the computer, it's too easy to overlook problems. Most writers print out hard copies of their drafts and go over them with pen in hand, taking notes and making changes. It allows them to read carefully, jumping back or skipping ahead to get a better sense of the story pacing, noting weak word choices or clunky sentences. Reading aloud or using a critique partner are other techniques that are helpful.

Computers are great tools, but they can't do everything. The finishing touches still remain within the realm of pen and paper. I use it to play with sentences and insert words to ideas I've copied down in a notebook. It's an idea notebook that I play in. Then, I transfer it to my computer. How do you use your computer?

"The difference between the right word and the almost right the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."~~~Mark Twain

"If you haven't surprised yourself, you haven't written."~~~Eudora Welty

adapted from: "Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Altruistic Character

To define this altruistic character, first we have to define what altruism is. It is the unselfish interest in the welfare of others as opposed to egoism (or the excessive concern for oneself).

In everyday speech, an action would only be considered "altruistic" if it was done with the conscious intention of helping others. But, behaving nicely to someone in order to procure return benifits from them in the future is just delayed self-interest, or egoism. Pure altruism requires a person to sacrifice for another without consideration of personal gain. When asking whether human beings are being altruistic, we want to know about their motives or intentions. We want to look at the end result of their actions. These will tell us if this character is an altruistic character.

Is this altruism even possible? One reason people doubt that altruism exists is because looking inward, people doubt the purity of their own motives. Freud and Kant observed that people's true motives can be hidden and that actions can have multiple motives. But there's a less flattering reason: denying the possibility of pure altruism provides a convenient excuse for selfish behavior. Now that we have discussed altruism, let's go back to the character study.

When you are doing a character study on your characters, you may find that you come across a character with a truly unselfish motive for his actions. But this person should not be confused with people who let others walk all over them. That amounts to lack of self-respect, not altruism. The truly altruistic character may have a healthy respect for self and others and can have a personality like Mother Teresa or Batman. Both were considered altruistic characters.

Have you created a truly altruistic character? Or are their motives selfish? Are they lacking in self-respect or are they egotists looking for a reward for their actions? When you create your protagonist, will your readers see a believable character or will they see him through a thin veneer of egoism? How will your readers feel at the end of your story - happy, sad, ashamed or fulfilled? The answers remain in your hands as you mold your truly altruistic character.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Journey To The Edge

M. Pax has announced that the first book in her Backworlds series will officially be released on May 7th, 2012. It'll be a free read, telling the story of how Craze and his friends ended up on Pardeep Station.

The Backworlds. In the far future humanity, bioengineered to deal with different environments, has spread to the outer planets in the galaxy, called the Backworlds. After the war with their creators, the Backworlders are scattered across scant pickings. Hoarding meager fortunes in his favor, Craze's father kicks Craze out, steals his gal and brands him an outlaw on the homeworld. Stripped of family and friends, with little money and even less knowledge of the worlds beyond his own, Craze faces an uncertain future. Boarding a transport to Elstwhere, he vows to find success and make his father pay.

It'll be available for download May 7th, and if you check with M. Pax at her blog, she can tell you when it goes live.