Archive for About Writing

November Underground Rewrite – 01

I was pleasantly surprised by the opening of the novel when I went back to reread it. Sure, link It was sloppy, find but I’d also put some good things in it. It’s a brief vignette focusing on a teenager girl living on a ranch outside of Austin who finds Ludd’s body and some other strange things. She’s a throw away character, shop we won’t see again in the story, but she lets me set a tone that is at once dark and full of the anxious-heady possibilities of the times (and of day, as I write this it is January 20, 2009). I also use her to introduce the year 1970 in a personal (albeit superficial) way – which is what I wanted. I didn’t want to get bogged down to much in setting the time at the beginning more than I had to. The politics, war, technology, will soon become clear through the plot. Finally, the girl who is excited about going to the university and leaving her ranch home which she as backward (behind the times) allows me to use the word “anachronism” in the first few paragraphs of the novel.

I am less pleased with the introduction of junior reporter Franklin. I like the way he stands in the crowd and yet apart from it. All the pieces are there, but the execution needs work and in the end it’s the execution that matters.

The beginning is rough. Every word is worth double, as I need to manage interest and carefully set expectations. I’m hoping that once I get past the beginning the rewrite will go faster.

Lennon 45: The Next Big Story

In its current form, case my new BIG story is 30, price 000 words: too big for an outline, no rx too small for a first draft. I really like how this one is going, but there is a lot more work to do. The plot is pretty complete, but the characters, subtext, and voice is mostly still in my head.

In some ways the new story (working title “Lennon 45”), is the opposite of FAILUR. Failure is about a couple of malcontents looking for action (or looking to do something worthwhile). Lennon 45 is about a young reporter who is ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ – danger finds him. I had in mind films like “North by Northwest” and “Three Days of the Condor.”

Lennon takes place in the fall of 1970. The 60’s a literally over, but the Vietnam war continues. The previous spring, the public learned that the war had expanded to Cambodia. One student protest over the expanded war, the ROTC program, and the low admission of black student at Kent State resulted in four students (including two not in the protest) being shot and killed by the National Guard. To many people, the president, Richard Nixon, seems cold and unsympathetic to the slain protestors. Nixon does meet with student leaders and decides that they are willing or unwitting pawns of international communists. In the fall, just before my story begins, the Weather Underground has just broken Timothy Leary out of prison (for which they were paid $25,000 by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love) and Janis Joplin has died.

My story is not a about the historic 1970. It is an adventure set in a fantasy 1970 of Russian spies, government conspiracy, mass behavior medication experiments, underground radicals, and dangerous science.

More to come, as the story develops.

Life Out Of Context

When I started FAILUR, I wanted to have the characters floating in a world without any sense of context: no history, no politics, no science. I wanted that characters – who were essentially searching for relevance – to live in a vacuum. It was that their world had no history or that there was no science, it was that most people (including my protagonist) lived in modern world without thinking about it, without any idea about how history or science affected them. Without context, people turned to marketing to find something that passed for meaning. Without context, people were easily manipulated by politicians and special interest group. In other words, I wanted to portray modern culture as it is.

Now, in a political season, it is very clear how this works. Candidate (or often their segregates) make gut-level claim that often fall apart if one looks back even a few weeks in the past, their arguments fall apart. One reason that I love the Jon Steward show is because they juxtapose politician’s words with the most obvious of contradictions – something that the “real” news media pretending that they are unbiased fails to do. I believed that is people applied a rudimentary understanding of history, culture, civics, and science, most politicians would be blown off stage with the force of the audience’s contempt and laughter.

But I digress…

With FAILUR, I strained to put my characters in a world without context. It didn’t work. Early in the planning stages I built a political world for my characters that became integral to the plot and themes of the story. Even with this, the whole time I wrote the story, I wanted to make more connections with the real world.

One thing I am enjoying about writing “Lennon 45″ (the working title for my next novel or screenplay), is that it has a sense of context. I get to include politics, culture and technology from 1970 and before. My characters are affected (often indirectly) by the shootings at Kent State, Amazon Mythology, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Operation Overlord (a.k.a. D-Day), the Philadelphia Experiment, the Bohemian Club, over-sized punch card computers, and good old vinyl records. I doubt that I will be praised for my exhaustive research or ultra-realistic setting, but it is making the writing more fun.

A Break from the BIG Story

I’m feeling rushed. This is nothing new. I always feel rushed.

I promised myself that I would write something here once a week. It was my way to keep myself in balance. Otherwise I become too anxious about the BIG STORY. I want it done now. I can never do enough on the BIG STORY until it is done. In my heart I still chase the BIG dream of the BIG novel, that turns into a BIG film, and launches the BIG writing career.

I keep chasing the fantasy.

Doug, at work, keeps saying that the Internet is the future. He is looking at pod casts. I believe he is right. The internet, new media, is the way to go. It is still open enough that you can carve out a niche without being beholden to big dinosaur industries. I need to spend a little more time, looking into it, but I’m too busy chasing the BIG dream.

I don’t have a title yet for the new BIG story. I’ll tentatively call it Lennon 45. While I’m unhappy about the speed of progress (I’m never happy with the speed of progress), I’m pretty happy with the story so far. The “outline” will be about 25,000 words. I think to myself, that all I will have to do is to add 2 words for every word in the outline and I will have another novel. Of course this isn’t exactly true. I’m going to have to put an awful lot of characterization and style into those two words.

The new BIG story follow a young reporter in 1970, who gets into a mess of trouble when an ex-girlfriend – now a Weather Underground like radical – comes back into his life. It’s wrong place at the wrong time story consciously channeling Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Three Days of the Condor, but with a light Science Fiction edge. I am having some problems with the B-story, which follow an FBI agent (I’m probably changing this to a Police Detective). The B-story is still a little too functional. Both the reporter and FBI agent/detective are archetypes from old movies and television, but their world will be much more subversive.

Well, I’ve better get back to it. I’ve only got a little time to work on the BIG story, before I’ve got to do something else.

If Ghosts were Cockroaches

If werewolves were real, generic mostly likely we would have killed them all by now. Or maybe they would have killed us. If somehow we’d all managed to survive we would have come to a state of equilibrium. If werewolves real they would be very mundane. When the news reported on how a new bill in Congress changed federal werewolf policy, most people would turn the channel to see if they could find out what Brittney is up to.

If vampires were real, there would be degrees programs in blood management. Blood bank chains would be run by multinational conglomerates. Jobs in the blood industry might pay well, but you wouldn’t see a lot of TV shows about glamorous characters working in it.

If ghosts were as common as cockroaches, there would be all sorts of sprays and powers to get rid of them. If the exorcism industry wasn’t well regulated, these home remedies would probably be toxic to humans. Chances are no one would pay much attention to the regulations because when you had ghosts you’d just want to get rid of them as fast as possible, and it you didn’t, who cares? You’re too busy to worry about these things.

I’m sorry. Am I being a killjoy?

Any sufficiently familiar magic is indistinguishable from technology. Monsters are easily integrated in our lives.

Logic Problems

A: Socrates is a man.
B: All men are mortal.
C: All men are Socrates.
- Woody Allen, vcialis 40mg Love and Death

Recently in my writing I have found myself repeatedly fighting against logic. This bothers me because I’d always assumed that my stories would be more logical. The problem is that almost every time that I find that a story is getting too boring and tedious it is because I’m trying to provide a logical explanation for the characters and action. Increasingly I’m making jumps in my writing. What’s worse is that sometimes I like it.

The truth is that when you control the whole world, you can make almost anything logical. But often the logical explanation is BORING, SLOWS the story down, or BREAKS THE FLOW. In FAILUR, I didn’t want my protagonist to have a cell phone (cell phones can be a problem for suspense), even though it was an obvious choice for him. In the story I’m writing now (I don’t have a title yet, my working title is Anachronism), I didn’t want my hero, Franklin, to go to the police after he is attacked, even though this is the smart thing for him to do. In both cases I’ve made up perfectly good reasons why they don’t do the sensible thing. But my justifications were tedious. I’m not sure that anyone would want to read them. I’m temped to add footnotes for people who miss the detailed explanations.

I feel guilty about this. Good writing feels natural. When logical gaps are noticed it makes the story seem contrived. Nevertheless what I am working on now in my writing is keeping the narrative interesting. In the past I’ve wasted too many words trying to get the plot accurate. Playing a little loose with the logic has been liberating. Like binge drinking I’ll probably regret it later.

BTW – NO logic gaps are allowed along the main line of the character arc.

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy – Part 4 : Fate’s Exception

One of the few exception to my rules that names in FAILUR be meaningless or deceptive, salve was Chloe. Chloe is a friend of the main character. She’s an actuary. Her name was chosen because it was similar to Clotho, the first of the three Fates (or Moira, the “apportioners”).

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy – Part 3 : Mary Sue

I’d considered calling my protagonist “Brian Wittenbrook.” (see Mary Sue). I’ve had a fondness for authors who write improbable stories about themselves. Stephen King put a writer called Stephen King into his Dark Tower series. Kinky Freidman regularly writes novels about a character named Kinky Freidman solving crimes. And of course Dante Alighieri wrote about “Dante” who got Vigil to give him a guided tour of Hell, buy where he got to see his enemies tortured. Later he visits Heaven where his host Beatric is a woman that Dante had a crush on who died at 24.

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy – Part 2 : Lies and Manipulation

The name “Amanda Cross” (Warren’s lover) on the other hand, discount has two or three meanings, but in the story the name is not given to her by her parents. Amanda chose her name herself for her own reasons (real life influence)
Generally, when names have meaning it my story, it is because the name was chosen by the character. Amanda chose her name for personal reasons, but most of the time names were chosen by their owners to decieve or manipulate.

While several characters and group use pseudonyms to advance their agenda, the most obvious example is “Concerned Citizens for Freedom, Propensity, and Children.” This the name of a special interest group that is funded by a think tank who wants to manipulate public opinion to support their public policy agenda (see Astro Turfing and Front Organization). The name is deliberately over-the-top, but really is much different from all the “Concerned Citizens,” “experts,” and “spontaneous” grass-roots movements you see giving their opinions on CNN, on blogs, or in the letter to the editor section of the paper.

False names designed are central to my story which takes place in a world of false choices contructed by marketing and political manipulation.

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy – Part 1 : Meaninglessness

I gave my protagonist the name Warren, prescription because I had no strong associations with the name. I have known some Warrens, remedy but none recently. I’m sure I could make some reasonable connection to some Warren from pop culture, viagra history, or literature, but that was not my intent. Warren was named in similar way that Pam and I named our son. After filtering out the names that would earn him beatings on the playground, we chose a name because we liked how it sounded. Like many names in the novel, Warren was chosen because it has no special meaning.

Any Similarities to Persons Living or Dead

My novel, FAILUR is pretty much a story about my life in my late twenties, except for the ghost, the serial killer, the fortune telling, doomsday prophecy, and of course all the werewolf and vampire stuff. Admittedly, the beginning of the story is made up. Unlike my protagonist, Warren, I was not successful after college. The middle of the story is true, though I embellished Warren’s relationship with Amanda. I did have any relationships as good as their in my late-twenties (though I did have some as bad). Amanda herself is an amalgam of some of the women I dated, and even more women I almost dated. She is also based on women I didn’t really know, but how I imaged they were. She is smart and creative, but self-defeating; passionate, a little screwed up, restless. Also, I moved the setting from complacent outwardly mild Clinton-esque milieu of my twenties to the fear and terror Bush post-911 world. Some would argue that I am not as hip as Warren and his friends, but actually the novel is meant to be subversively anti-hip. Everything else is true, except for the ending. Warren is bolder than me in some ways. My own recklessness was lackluster at that age. I never got into anything like the physical peril or public danger that Warren and Amanda’s anxious wandering eventually lead them to.

All the stuff about the politicians, special interest groups, and broadcast media is absolutely true.