Monday, March 28, 2011

Finally, A Breakthrough!

The past couple of months have been torture for me and my little kidlit trilogy. Every chapter I wrote felt like I was pulling teeth, and read like it, too. It was dull, dry, and completely lacking what made the first draft so much fun to write. I know writing can be a chore sometimes, but really, if I don't like writing it, why would anyone want to read it?

I started thinking it was because I switched the narrative from first person to third, but that shouldn't have made that big a difference. Sure, I was losing the conversational tone of my main character's inner thoughts to guide the story, but gaining the ability to follow other characters should have added all sorts of awesomeness to my narrative. The problem I was really having is that I had lost my narrative voice and didn't know how to bring the fun back.

That's when I came upon the solution at last, the missing puzzle piece that would not only make my story fun to write again, it would make for a much more engaging read than in any of the previous drafts. Plus, it will draw the reader even deeper into the fictional world I've created, and that's definitely a good thing. I can't tell you what this magical solution is just yet, but I hope to have more news on this soon.

Oh, and I should also have some good news relating to my short stories soon. Stay tuned, exciting things are on the horizon!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Between the Lines - The TV and the Remote Control

Ladies and gentlemen, loyal fans of all ages, I present to you the second part of my Between the Lines series! Since I kicked this feature off with The Alarm Clock, I thought I'd follow up with the second short story of The Everyday Divnities Project...

The TV and the Remote Control

To start, a little background on why I wrote this story. After The Alarm Clock story introduced the concept of gods attached to inanimate objects, I wanted to show a little of the "behind the scenes" action that goes on when someone uses your average household appliance. As adults, we're all familiar with how remote controls work. As kids, however, we sometimes make up fanciful explanations as to why some things work the way they do. Our ancestors did the same thing with everything from natural disasters to physical ailments, attributing it to unseen forces wielded by powerful divinities. Why not turn that same fanciful thinking to something as mundane as turning on the TV? This story, then, is my way of explaining that process through the lens of my fictional world.

It should also be noted that this is another case of not being objective about my writing. Why I thought it was a good idea to edit my own writing before putting it up is beyond me. Previous drafts of my novel were always read by other writers and creative folk, and their suggestions always made my writing stronger. I'll eventually come to realize that and run future stories past someone for editorial critiquing, but that won't happen until The Desktop and Laptop Computers story. Sadly, you'll have to suffer through my poor judgment until then.

Also, this story features more human narrative than the last one, bookending the story with familiarity. While I strive to make my divinities more human by mirroring their world with that of the adult working world, and thus easier for an audience to connect with, I also wanted to create more of a connection by putting some more human faces in there. Remy and Lily were characters from the original draft of Inanimate Gods that didn't survive the transition from single novel to trilogy. Rather than continue to use the boy from The Alarm Clock in this story, I decided to reuse these two characters here for some diversity. Also, any similarity between this Remy and the one I'm friends with is purely coincidental and completely unintentional. (Hi, Remy!)

As for the divinities themselves, the choice to mirror their work with your typical office procedures was an easy one. Ancient mythology often mirrored the societies that created them, giving the ruling gods their own domain, subjects, and symbols of power and authority. They were just like the people who created them, subject to the same character flaws that governed humanity, with some exceptions. In creating the divinities that govern inanimate objects, one only has to look around their own home to realize that we're talking about hundreds of thousands (and that's a modest estimate) of divinities, with domains as diverse as cars, tables, pens, sporks, buildings, chairs... you get the point. We're not talking about twelve deities who can sit on top of a mountain and get the job done, we're talking about a sprawling pantheon of gods who, from top to bottom, could function very much like any modern corporation. You'd have the chief gods on top plotting the course of things, and the lesser divinities on the bottom who enact that vision. The details might change in the divine realm, but the overarching structure of a corporate pantheon made sense when compared to our modern world.

Finally, on the decision to use How I Met Your Mother as the TV show Remy wanted to watch. I confess that I've never seen the show once, despite the fact that two of my favorite actors are on the series. I just needed the name of a funny, sitcom-style show for him to watch, and that was the first name to pop into my head. Sometimes it's just that simple.

Do you have a question you'd like to ask about The TV and the Remote Control story? Go ahead and post it in the comments section below, and I'll post the answers on this very page!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tell the Truth Tuesday, Belated Edition

I was busy on Tuesday, when I should have written this, so very busy with geekiness and my beloved. You'll just have to find it in your heart to forgive me as I come clean about a few things today.

1. It's been very windy here toward the beginning of the week, and I think it blew around a whole lot of crap that doesn't like me. Because of this, my allergies have convinced my nose to go on strike. Hopefully, the nasal work force will be back to work soon, and preferably before I run out of tissues.

2. I still haven't finished my rewrite. I KNOW! I hadn't finished it last year, when I said I would, and now it's 3 months into 2011 and I'm still not done with it! But to be honest (because this IS Tell the Truth Wednesday Tuesday), I think it'll be better for it. I've decided to change up the voice of my narrator, which was feeling pretty blah and you don't want blah in your YA novel. I've also decided to add back in a character I'd originally written out, because he adds a lot of tension and drama, and it kind of needs more of that in the middle part.

3. I did, however, finally FINALLY read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and I need to get the rest of them now. I'm such a sucker for Greek mythology, and this gives it a great modern twist that I really enjoy. If you heard that the movie wasn't very good (or saw it for yourself), I'm here to tell you that the book is leagues better than the film adaptation. Is it too early for a reboot? Can we call it a do-over? Or can we at least hand out copies of the book to everyone who saw the movie as a way of apology?

4. Intensely excited for the upcoming book of The Dresden Files later this year, called Ghost Story. Jim Butcher is one of my literary heroes, because it took him 9 years to sell his first Dresden story, Storm Front. (Just 3 more years to go for me! *cheers*) Harry Dresden is a fun character to read about, and Mr. Butcher's novels keep getting better and better with every book. If you're caught up on the series and can't wait to find out what happened after the last book's jaw-dropping cliffhanger, you can read the first chapter of Ghost Story here!

5. In non-book news, I bought Season One of the awesome zombie TV series The Walking Dead. Though I haven't read much of the comic books, their televised adaptation is, at the very least, exciting and engaging. It makes me wonder why it's taken them this long to realize "Hey, zombie movies are popular. Zombies are blowing up (literally and figuratively) in comics and novels. Why don't we make a zombie TV show?" If you have the means, and you're not squeamish about corpsified people shambling about over the 6(!) episode season, I highly recommend it.

6. Also, I bought that and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Six through Amazon ON MY PHONE. And the only reason I bought them is because they were more than half price. Who could resist? I know I couldn't, and though my wallet begrudgingly gave up the money, he's glad they were at such an amazing price.

7. My allergies are killing my concentration. Time to wrap this up.

8. Wow, this entry is linkalicious. So much good stuff made by good people for you to check out! And I'll be shameless and mention that, if you're tempted to buy any of the awesomeness linked above, a portion of the money made through those Amazon links goes to support your penniless writer as he works tirelessly in the literary forge to craft for you the very best YA urban fantasy novel he can. (What? I have to pay for photocopies of my manuscript somehow, don't I?)

9. I actually thought about linking to my Windows 7 phone up there in #6. I think my allergies are making me a little link-happy.

10. I'm putting together a steampunk outfit over the course of the year. This is not relevant to writing at all, but certainly fits my geeky pursuits. So there.

OK, time for me to dive into the comfort of my bed so I can sniffle myself to sleep. More goodness coming later this month, mark my words. Which are already marked. In this blog. ...Yeah, I'm done.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Hero's Journey - Resurrection

The end is nigh! THE END IS NIGH!

No, really, it is! The Journey is nearly complete. We’re heading back home to the Ordinary World, but we’re changed by the trip. Our old selves are gone, replaced by a new self that incorporates all that was experienced along the way. This, then, is our Resurrection.

A lot of Heroes undergo a Resurrection in the course of their Journey. Typically, this happens toward the end of the story, at the climax. The Hero appears to have died, but returns renewed to the fight to finish off the villain and lead his allies to safety. It’s no coincidence that some of the best stories incorporate this into the final part of their narrative. Not wanting to spoil some of those stories, I won’t spell out any of the greatest examples of Resurrection in storytelling, but I will direct you to some excellent books that illustrate this phase of the Journey so very well: The Princess Bride, the Harry Potter series, and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, just to name a few.

The most obvious case of Resurrection is the aforementioned literal meaning, an actual death and rebirth situation. Seemingly vanquished, the Hero is miraculously healed and leaps back from the brink of death to finish off the Shadow or otherwise right a wrong. Not so obvious is the metaphorical Resurrection. This would be the death of an old way of thinking or being, something that isn’t as easy to see on the surface but nevertheless affects the Hero in a deep and lasting way. This happens most commonly in love stories, but it can happen in any sort of story where the stakes aren’t quite as epic as risking life or limb for the sake of humanity/the planet/the universe/etc. Regardless if we go with literal or metaphorical, it can’t be an arbitrary Resurrection. Such a monumental event needs to happen organically within the framework of the story, and the rejuvenated Hero who emerges should resonate with what has happened in the story thus far. Nothing ruins a mood more than random death, and the new way of being that emerges must make sense when put in the context of the narrative.

The metaphorical example of Resurrection fits perfectly in Rob’s ongoing story. Now that he has a novel in the bag, his old mode of thinking – that he can only write short stories – has perished in the wake of his accomplishment. He knows it’s a goal he can achieve, and he hungers for more. The hesitant aspiring writer has given way to a confident author, a change that isn’t as dramatic as coming back from the dead, but is just as life-changing in his world.

I hate to say it, but our Journey is finally reaching its conclusion! We’re turning off of the great literary freeway and taking the few surface streets back home, where we’ll share our tales with those who were left behind, entertaining and instructing them with our adventures, making their world that much better with the wonders we bring back. Coming soon, the final stop - Return With the Elixir!