The Trouble With Trouble

I’ve been asked for clarification of a Twitter post I made earlier today.  Since “clarify” and “Twitter” aren’t exactly words that mesh well, I figured I’d make use of my beleaguered blog.

First, the tweet: I have issues coming up with good antagonists. This leads to issues developing plots, which leads to issues writing stories. This annoys me.

Joe from The Podge Cast asked for examples.  I have two right here on the blog.  My steampunky, alternate-history, whatever you want to call it story, the one I tried to get through the Snowflake Method with, is the prime example.  In that story, I have a lot of ideas for the world.  I have characters that are well-rounded and have a lot of depth (at least, that’s how they are in my head).  There are conflicts between the main characters, which is great, but I’m finding the problem arises when I look to outside conflicts.

The characters will tend to do what they’ve always done and avoid their problems.  They’ll go their separate ways until whatever’s wrong cools down, then they’ll meet up again and start the cycle over.  I need something that forces them to stick together.  I’ve got a vague idea of a politician that can cause problems.  The Crawlers are a threat, but humanity has survived and dealt with them for a long while, now, so they’re not an imminent danger.  Pirates?  Maybe?  I dunno.

I get to thinking about the antagonists of my stories, and I start to peter out.  I want to focus on my world and my heroes.  I want to know who they are, where they come from, where they’re going, how they handle themselves in the face of adversity…. Shit.

Now, I’m no expert at this, but whether you want to write character-driven fiction or plot-driven fiction, you need some “bad guys,” you need something there to stand between your characters and their goals.  I seem to have issues with that.

On the positive, though, I’m figuring out that I have issues with that.  Now I know my weakness, I can start sorting it out.  (Thanks, Basher.)  Maybe I don’t have clear cut enough goals for my characters.  Maybe I haven’t thought out an expansive enough world.  Maybe I need to go through a character outline based around antagonists, rather than protagonists.  Maybe I need to find a writer’s group.  Maybe….

I dunno.  I’m sure once I’ve got this worked out, I’ll find some new road block in my way, but it’s a start, for now.

Written by StingRay in: Writing | Tags: , , , , , ,

Snowflake Method – Post Mortem

I realize I never put a cap on the Snowflake Method series I was writing.  That’s largely because I’ve put the project on hold for a little while.  As I got into the steps of the Snowflake Method, it became apparent to me that I didn’t really have a plot that I could outline, even in simple terms.  I have a compelling (for me) premise, but my grasp on the world and the characters is rather weak.

In reading over the outline of the Snowflake Method, I mistakenly thought that this would come to me as I wrote.  That was foolish hope, of course, but it was worth trying out.  Through NaNoWriMo and the Snowflake Method, I’ve learned more about writing fiction than through all the schooling I’ve had.  The most important thing I’ve learned: I’m not ready to write a novel just yet.  If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right, not just fill pages with random words.  A page of writing that has no intention of surviving edits is no better than a blank page.

As such, I decided to take a break and read a book I was supposed to read back in my first run through college, ten years ago: Story, by Robert McKee.  It’s a book aimed at screenwriters, but writing fiction is writing fiction, and nearly all of the lessons contained within apply across the board.  I won’t go into the specifics of what I took away from the book, with the exception of the final lesson.

Near the very end, McKee talks about the process of writing.  What he recommends is almost exactly the same thing as the Snowflake Method, only laid out in broad strokes.  He says start small, build an overall outline, an act by act outline, a scene by scene outline.  When you’ve finished the outlines, you should be able to finish the screenplay incredibly quickly.

The trick, though, is that the work is all front-loaded.  He says it may take only a month to write the outlines and the screenplay, but that’s preceded by five months of note-taking and napkin-scribbling about characters, plots and the world of the film.  And that’s the part that I’m missing.  I tried to skip straight to the outlines, not really considering that I might need a bit more preparation, thinking that everything would come together as I write.  When McKee wrote about time spent taking notes and saying “Here’s a random idea.  Here’s an interesting character.  Here’s a piece of world.  Here’s how things might happen midway,” a light when on above my head.

Here is a path I can follow.  Here is what I was missing from NaNoWriMo and the Snowflake Method.  So, I’m in note taking mode.  I’ve got my NEO, for when long ideas strike me, and I’ve got a stack of index cards tossed in my bag for the small ideas.  When my story is more coherent, and my world better formed in my mind, I’ll return to the outlines, and maybe I’ll get a novel (or possibly a screenplay) out of this premise yet.

Written by StingRay in: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

The AlphaSmart Neo – NotAReview

I received my AlphaSmart Neo in the mail a couple of a weeks ago.  The Neo is basically an old-school word processor with absolutely no bells and whistles.  It lets you type on it.  It has spell check.  It has a calculator.  That’s it.  From what I can tell, you can plug it in to any computer anywhere and transfer your writing directly into any text document you have open.

I’ve been meaning to write a full on review about the Neo.  The problem is, my review ends up sounding a lot like all the other reviews I read while researching the Neo.  What my review boils down to is that I love it.  It’s portable.  It’s easy to use.  I can fire it up, jot down some notes and turn it off in less time than it would take to uncap a pen and write the notes down longhand.  The entry before this about America’s leadership was written entirely that way, behind the register at work, in small snippets as ideas came to me.

I’m easily distracted.  If I have anything that I can do that isn’t what I should be doing, I’ll do that instead.  If you’re at all like me, and you want something to write on that has absolutely no distractions, just stop here and buy the Neo now.  It’s worth the money.

If you want more information, more in depth analysis, more of a real review, here are a couple that I recommend, and I agree with everything they say one hundred percent.

Blogger News Network – Part OnePart TwoPart ThreeOn the Road

Digital Bits


Written by StingRay in: Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

Snowflake Step One (or, New Project ‘Cuz I’m a Masochist)

Edit: I’ll be making revisions directly on these pages.  As such, I’ll try to keep the actual Snowflake step above the fold, and I’ll bold the new changes.  We’ll see how that works.

The first step of the Snowflake Method involves boiling the story idea down into a one-sentence description, preferably kept under fifteen words.

An airship captain must protect his home from is forced to choose between country and family while battling an evolving, alien threat.

What’s this all about?  Well, it’s December, and time to get writing again!  Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment.

Anyway, I took on NaNoWriMo pretty much in solitude.  I tried to get out to a couple of write-ins, but a combination of social terror and misunderstood directions left me writing by myself through November.  I suppose it’s possible to blame that for my low word count, but that’s neither here nor there. (more…)

Written by StingRay in: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

NaNoWriMo Thoughts – 2/3 Done

So, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, which is part of the reason why I’ve not updated this page, nor recorded any podcast episodes, nor participated in any of the online stuff I was participating in prior to November.  Another reason is that my computer’s hard drive died completely, and I’ve been sharing a computer with my wife.  Oh, and my sister-in-law had her baby at the end of October, so nephew visiting has been going on.  And work.  And…. anyway!

In October, a number of people expressed their… objections to NaNoWriMo.  They made a few valid points that I’m seeing in action right now.  50,000 words isn’t really a novel.  The NaNo peeps focus far too much on reaching that 50,000 word goal.  They also ask for a lot of money.  I concede all these points, however, I still think NaNoWriMo is a good thing, so long as you keep a few things in mind. (more…)

Written by StingRay in: NaNoWriMo | Tags: , , ,

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