Monday, August 26, 2013

Big Screen Movie Magic

Since I'm working on Fantasy books right now, I've focused in on other Fantasy stories to help keep the creative juices flowing. But seeing Fantasy on the big screen not only helps my brain think up new and exciting adventure, it embeds it in my mind with larger than life pictures.

I had the time to go see Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters on Saturday. It was a story about going on a quest, but with problems, foul-ups and your basic bad guy to boot. Although it wasn't what you'd call an epic film, it had its good points as well as its bad. But this isn't a movie review.

This movie was chalk full of imagination. Of course, I thought the kids always had easy rescues from their situations, and with their super powers, the only real fight was with the big guy at the end. No spoilers. But it gave me ideas and insight into my own story and a new clarity as to just how easy or hard situations will be, depending on how you let the characters get out of trouble.

I decided to go for broke and let my characters climb up the mountain and slide down the other side, rocks and all. That means, the problem will be tough and the resolution tougher.

What about you? Have you seen any inspiring movies lately?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Splitting Infinitives

Have you had a grammar lesson lately?

I was doing a little reading this morning and discovered I have a bad habit. I like to split infinitives. What it that? Infinitives are words starting with to, for example-. To go, to run, to walk. When you split them, you generally add an adverb between the to and the word-to boldly go, to quickly run, to slowly walk. The most famous one comes from Star Trek, To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.

Over time, the rules bend and change about grammar. Originally, English rules were taken from those of Latin. And since an infinitive was not split in Latin, it was carried over into English. That was then, and this is now. To see an infinitive split in writing and not be edited out shows evolution of the English language. We are more accepting of how we use our language.

I'm not an expert on grammar. I don't have a degree in English, nor do I pretend to have some extensive research done on the subject. But I spend a portion of each day as most of you do, hammering out those sentences that create our stories. This counts for something, I hope. And my belief is that we need to create the most exciting, emotional experience for our readers that we can. And if it means to split a few infinitives along the way, I only hope they don't get eliminated when they reach the editor's pen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do You Use Spell-Check?

I recently was clearing out my old emails and found this poem tucked away with save stamped on it. Turns out it was from my sister, Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta). She'd been reading one of my posts that I didn't use spell-check on. What a funny way to remind me just what can happen when you don't edit. Loretta isn't a writer, but has an incredible eye for editing and a talent for knowing the craft. If you could ever get her to read your work, her observations are worth a million.

Ode to a spell chequer

I halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plane lee marques four my revue
Miss steaks aye ken knot sea

Eye ran this poem threw it
Your sure reel glad two no
It's vary polished in it's weigh
My chequer tolled me sew

A chequer is a bless sing
It freeze yew lodes of thyme
It helps me awl stiles two reed
And aides mi when aye rime

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud
And wee mussed dew the best wee can
Sew flaws are knot aloud

And now bee cause my spelling
is checked with such grate flare
Their are know faults with in my cite
Of nun eye am a wear

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed to be a joule
The chequer poured o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule

That's why aye brake in two averse
My righting wants too pleas
Sow now ewe sea wye aye dew prays
Such soft wear for pea seas


My spell-check went crazy went I put this poem in! And yet some words won't get caught by spell-check because they mean something else. Arghh!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Discouraged With Writing?

The Insecure Writer's Support Group posts the first Wednesday of the month and hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. You can visit its group members HERE.

Recently I was discouraged by an article in a newsletter I read about taking your writing too serious and how if your characters and plot were lacking originality, perhaps you need to revamp. The article's viewpoint was that if you are not careful, these four things can happen. 

1. Your characters end up spouting proverbs and glaring moodily into space.

2. Does your story harp on some great payoff in the end, only to let it fizzle out.

3. Your characters spend more time talking about great things, rather than doing them.

4. You plot and characters bring nothing new to the table and don't offer a wink at their own unoriginality.

These four things are good points as a guideline. I agree that you need a balance in your story and your plot needs to give its promised rewards, but I believe that it's necessary to take a serious look at your story as a whole and see if it tells the story your intended to tell. Too many new writers (and me included) start out with an idea in mind and perhaps because of not having a cohesive ending in sight, write a meandering story that loses sight of the original goal. I've solved my problem of doing this by outlining my story ahead of time.

I hope if you are feeling discouraged by your writing that you will take time to step back and remember why you started writing in the first place. It usually will bring you back to that burning desire to let a story out that's been whirling around inside you. It's a precious gift to be able to explore the world with others, no matter what genre you write in.

"Perhaps it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself 'Why?' afterward than before. Anyway, the force of somewhere in space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded. There is no agony like bearing and untold story inside you."

~Zora Neale Hurston from Dust Tracks On A Road~ 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hello, Readers!

I apologize to all my readers for being away so long. I was buried in finishing the second book in what I'm calling The Dragon Stone Trilogy. The first book is called Call of the Dragon, and I've finally name the second book The Puzzle Box. Right now, I'm still without a title for the third book. It is the final installment in a story where the dragon stone is passed back to the dragons and life in the Valley of the Dragons becomes settled once and for all. The evil sorcerer is finally put to rest and the boy of the third book finds out he is a dragon rider and a prince in the Kingdom of Mar.

So much for what my last few weeks have been like. One thing I've learned about during this writing bonanza is the use of description. Especially how we need to pay attention to forward motion in our stories. When we are creating physical description for a character, for example, there is no greater motion-stopper than immobile chunks of physical description. A head to toe assessment of a character that we hardly know is at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive. We need to get to know the characters as we read, so chunks of description don't stop the flow of the story.

I went back through the last two books (the Dragon Stone Trilogy books) and checked for heavy chunks of description. Correcting that flaw helped my stories flow and seem better paced as we got to know the protagonists and antagonist in the stories.

How do you introduce your characters? Do you have a special idea for each character and then show your character a little at a time?