Sunday, November 25, 2012

The End of A Community...

Writer's Digest Community is closing its doors November 30th and pulling back to its original forum. For those of you who aren't familiar with the community, it hosted a place where writers could go and post their work for critiques and sharing. The original forum is less interactive and a little more confusing to navigate, in my opinion.

I'm hoping to find a new place to join with other writers soon, so if you hear of a place that doesn't make claim to your work, please let me know. I'd be interested in checking out any reasonable place. For now, I will continue to post work here, on occasion.

For you members of Writer's Digest Community, I hope to see you in a new arena soon. And keep writing, no matter what!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Layers of Life

Envision a person as if he was an onion. Layer upon layer of life experiences, covered by layers of protection. When we peel away the layers what do we find? We start with the outer layers:

  • Clothing and makeup
  • Hairstyles
  • Gloves and hats
  • Whatever hides the real person

When we get to the inner layers of protection, we approach the core of our being:

  • Basic truths
  • Honesty
  • Religious beliefs
  • Fundamental relationships
  • Political leanings

The next question is: What is at the core of a being? For each person it will be something different. As writers, our job is to have vision and peel away the layers to the core. We need to explore what each character is at its basic layer. Is there light or darkness? Does your character hide behind its beliefs? Do they dress in religion or politics or some other trapping that identifies them as a certain truth?

When we strip away each layer of each character, we can easily identify who they are and where they belong in our story. When we create characters this way we will have a better perspective of our entire work. Try unwrapping your characters as if they were an onion. What is at the center? Will your character have light at the center of its being? Is he/she the protagonist? Or is there darkness, that pervades its core. Investigate your characters, then wrap them back up, layer by layer, according to what you find. It is a fun exercise that reaps its own rewards.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Discussion on Dialogue

Recently I have been getting some feedback on dialogue that has me wondering. What are the rules that you follow? I've been told that good dialogue should be like a tennis match or a ping-pong game. It should be swift, back and forth and short and sweet. I'd like to hear what my friends out in blogosphere say:

Just how do you create your dialogue?

Do you follow any rules?

Where does the monologue fit in and when do you give it the axe?

Does your dialogue dance like a tennis match?

How do you deal with a character who is a wind-bag?

I haven't answered these questions with good reason. I'd like to see what you think and what, if any, is the consensus on good dialogue. I hope you will take a moment to jot down your thoughts and thank you for sharing!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Excerpt from: The Chameleon Effect #11

Chavez works for The Agency and has been assigned to rescue Kira Rostropovich and return her to Vega Minor, where she resides with her parents. After being in prison and being 'bought' by Chavez in an auction, Kira is not happy about being searched by Chavez. But he finds a tracking device on her right before a mercenary, Captain Maddeson, finds them and demands that Kira be turned over to him. Chavez immediately makes a sudden jump across the galaxy, much to Kira's surprise! Kira continues to have nightmares and is haunted by the fact that her life is in danger. She demands to go back to Prison Planet 452, but Chavez has someone to add to his crew complement first.
Kira's dream keeps coming back. Is it a warning? All she knows is that her destiny lies intertwined with the prison planet. Will Chavez understand? It is six hours away from rendezvousing with Dr. Winters, who will attempt to help Kira with her problems. But Captain Maddeson is on an intercept course to capture them and return them to the warden. Will they escape? Dr. Winters has diagnosed Kira with the Chameleon Effect and in an attempt to halt its progress, he will use Chavez's DNA. But Kira has other plans and escapes off Chavez's ship, without a word to anyone.

Chavez’s massive hand whacked down onto the side of the systems array station. “How did she get in there? That’s what I want to know! I kept the cargo bay locked with a special password. Did you unlock it for any reason?”

He continued pacing around the bridge, while Dr. Winters stood completely still. They had been alerted of Kira’s escape when the computer signaled Chavez that someone had opened the outer doors and decompressed the cargo bay. By then it was too late to get in to stop her, even if he could have overridden her commands. So, he watched with impotent anger as she left with Dr. Winters’ ship, and no word of explanation.

Dr. Winters cleared his throat and answered Chavez’s question. “Yes, I did unlock the door. I needed supplies that I’d brought with me. How was I supposed to know she’d try to steal my shuttle?” Dr. Winters stood with his hands held up as he shrugged, trying to understand what had just happened. “Chavez, how did she know how to fly the shuttle? Is she trained as a pilot?”

“No! That’s what I don’t understand either. Her file says she has no technical knowledge of spacefaring vehicles.”

Dr. Winters pointed at Chavez. “It’s the chameleon effect. She is adapting to her surroundings.”

“And part of that is learning to fly the shuttle?”

“Her brain is working faster than ours and she is using her surroundings as an integrated learning situation. She’s assimilating from everything she sees.”

Chavez’s brow wrinkled, as he was lost in thought. “What else can we expect?”

“That’s the thing. We don’t know, because we don’t know where she went.”

But Chavez shook his head. “Yes. I know. Prison Planet 452.”

“Then we need to get there before her. Once they get her back in their clutches, I doubt if we’ll be able to retrieve her. And, I also doubt if they’ll be able to control her, so their only option would be to eliminate her.”

Dr. Winters had been discussing Kira analytically, but Chavez was starting to get upset. He turned and glared at him, all the while suppressing the urge to grab him by the throat and shake him.

“She’s not one of your lab rats, doctor! She happens to be a frightened, but intelligent young lady who has feelings that need to be remembered!”

Dr. Winters paused from his monologue and gave Chavez searching look. “Are you in love, Chavez?”

Chavez sputtered as he back-pedaled from the question. “Me? In love? What a ridiculous question. I don’t have time to be in love with anybody, let alone a mouthy young lady who steals your shuttle and causes me twice the work to get her back home!”

Dr. Winters raised his hands in surrender and backed away from the bridge monitors and a very angry acquisitions agent. He continued backing all the way across the bridge until he reached the double doors that slid open on his approach.

“I’m going to be in my quarters, Chavez. Let me know what the plan is before we get there.”  The doors slid closed leaving Chavez alone on the bridge, with no clue as to how to retrieve Kira.

As he prepared to call in a report to The Agency, Chavez found himself mumbling to himself. “Some cases are harder than others and this one is going to get harder starting right now. I knew it was too easy! But in love? How did that wrench happen to get thrown in the machinery? Winters doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Or maybe he does…?”

It was then that The Agency answered his call. “Greetings, Chavez, how can I direct your call?” It was the same young lady as the last time he had reported in. Someday I’ll ask her name.

Chavez settled his frame into the captain’s chair, exhaustion pushing at his thoughts. “Is Vida in?”

“One moment please.” Her pleasant smile reminded him of Kira. She had attempted to smile once and it lit up her whole face.

Vida, the head of Covert Operations appeared onscreen. She took one look at Chavez and asked, “Don’t you ever sleep?”

“It’s been problematic. But I’ll be able to get in a few hours soon. Kira Rostropov has escaped in a stolen shuttle and is believed to be going to Prison Planet 452. Dr. Winters has diagnosed her with the chameleon effect. Apparently she wasn’t irradiated. What I saw was the beginnings of the markings that appear on her body.” Chavez went on to explain all the ramifications of her escape and how she could hide anywhere, learning from her environment.

Vida was silent for a few seconds. “What a useful tool for a government that wanted to infiltrate another sector. Do we know where she was injected?”

“According to her dreams, it was while she was on the prison planet. The warden must be doing some kind of experiments there. They have all kinds of subjects available to do tests on.” Chavez said.

“Then why did they specifically grab an ambassador’s daughter? What reason was there for it?” Vida asked. “We have to look at the big scope of this. Is it because of her nationality? They needed her gene pool?”

Chavez jumped up off his chair. “Of course! If they were going to use people from her planet, they need to see their reaction to the injection. But why pick someone so high profile?”

“Maybe it’s a warning? To the ambassadors?” Vida shook her head, tapping her finger against her jaw in thought. “No, it’s more like a demonstration? I don’t know at this point, but try to get her back if you can. Her parents would be most grateful. And if you do get her back, keep her tied down until you get her back here for debriefing.”
To be continued...

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Agony of Rejection

Bench In Winter by Petr Kratochvil
Rejection can be looked upon as a repudiation of self, or a slap in the face. But I've learned that along with rejection comes a learning process that can be invaluable to an aspiring writer. For those of you who have the good fortune of never receiving a rejection letter - congratulations! Maybe the rest of us can learn something from you.
I feel fortunate that along with my letter (or rather email) came a personal critique of my story. They actually read the entire thing! And were thoughtful enough to make comments. To me, that's a five star review that can only serve to improve my writing. Had I received a form letter or email, I would have chalked it up to experience and moved on. But with personal comments I can dig in and make some changes that will strengthen my story and improve my style.
Being rejected by a publisher seems to be a part of the writing world. And being invited to submit another story is a plus also. So, before I decide to submit that second story, I'll make sure I have addressed all of their concerns in their carefully prepared personal critique. What an excellent way to grow and learn about writing.
Don't think I didn't have my moments of feeling froze out and rejected. It was my sister, Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta) who pointed out how lucky I was to get a personal reply. She helped me turn agony into victory by showing me that it's all in how you choose to think about your experience. So, next time you experience rejection, find what you can learn from it and turn a negative into a positive so you won't have to spend too much time feeling the agony of rejection.