Tag Archives: Stories

Stand By..

I’m here, I’m alive.

I’ve been attacked by ferrets, beating them to death by using one of their kind as a bat of furry fury and manliness.

Actually…

I just took a little time off, relaxing and spending some time down the rabbit hole (my imagination you perverts…).

So after not checking my email and my friend’s blogs for nearly 3 weeks, I have close to 250 emails about posts and comments to go through. So if I don’t comment or check your post, don’t be offended – i’m just catching up.

As for posts forth coming, I have some news about writing that I’d like to share when I know I can get away with it.

I also want to reblog the short story I posted a little while ago, I tweaked it after Danielle’s feedback. Lets see how that goes.

So what did I do? Spent most of Christmas vacation in the emergency room and taking care of my fiancée with a football injury. I had to pain-killer sit, that was fun. She didn’t really have a football injury, but apparently it was painful. All is well now.

So here is some zen.

Check it out, somebody made submarines for hamsters. No seriously…. check it out. Apparently my ability to make hyperlinks is borked (technical term), so go here: http://www.obviouswinner.com/obvwin/2012/1/2/hamster-powered-soda-bottle-submarine.html

 

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Completed

I completed my short story, queue celebratory music.

*Dances*

Why aren’t you dancing? Start dancing, it is a happy time.

*Dances harder*

DANCE FOR ME!

No? Okay..

Fair enough. Lets move past this, pretend this ugly moment didn’t happen. Not me freaking out on you for your lack of celebration, but my horrendous dancing skills. The pumps and spangles were too much I think.

/red face.

Alright, moving on.

Violence Breeds Violence, Repression Breeds Retaliation is a done deal. I have edited and find it fluid and enjoyable. Next step is to let my editor (fiancé) rip it into pieces and then for me to put it back together. Then I will release it to beta readers and get some feedback. Do some tweaking here, some finagling there and BOOM! Story is ready to be shipped off to be weighed and judged in Writers of the Future.

It feels nice completing a story. Although calling it a short story is a stretch, it is over ten thousand words.

I have a few other stories to work on. I’d give you details on them, but I don’t want to until I am done writing them. Here is a general overview though.

  • Another story set in my manuscripts world just like VBV,RBR is.
  • Fantasy book project set in some mountains, with a goat and shenanigans.
  • Fantasy series with a friend (super-duper secret stuff).
  • A fun little science fiction story in which I blow up physics.
  • Western with a fun little twist.
  • Science fiction in which humans are enslaved, but why is the kicker. (Not Battlefield Earth).

There is more, but these are the stories that I plan on finishing by next Summer. That sounds like a long time, but it isn’t. I have more ideas and stories I want to write than I have time.

Anyhow, time to watch The Walking Dead and get ready for bed.

Hope you all had a good weekend.

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How I Construct Characters

When I’m writing a story, typically I have 90% of the history, personality, quirks, mannerisms of my characters down before I even touch a key. I seem to work through this in my head very fast, at least what I have gathered from talking to other writers.

I create characters depending on the direction of where I want the story to go. I can create a character that is basically a lantern – there to further the plot or shine light on what is happening – or I can create an antagonist you, in theory,  love to hate and hate to love. So instead of going on about all the possible ways I do this, I am going to show you.

WARNING: THIS IS LIKE FINDING A SPECIFIC NOODLE IN A PILE OF SPAGHETTI, BUT YOU GOTTA START SOMEWHERE

BEGIN THE INSANITY!

This story is going to be about a man going to the grocery store to buy a few things from his wife’s list.

What is the purpose of this character? Do we need emotional contrast to our main character? Do we need a geologist to pass off vital information to help further the plot along? Do we need somebody to be counter-energy to our main character’s Feng Shui? Do we need a main character because we haven’t created one yet?

So, the main character is a man going to the store. What kind of man is he? This is a severely loaded question, which in its own right could be an entire blog post. I will throw out some examples to help.

Is he a good-hearted man who seems to be trapped in an endless wave of bad situations, making him challenge his own intentions?

Is he a bad man seeking redemption from cheating on his wife, leaving his kids behind, and running from conflict his entire life?

Is he an old stodgy man who served in war and is very methodical, controlling, and detail oriented?

Is he a pencil pushing play-it-safe kind of guy who did everything in his life that was expected of him, and because he is shackled by societal expectations and niceties his inner tiger is about to burst out?

The possibilities are endless, but what is most important is that you come up with something interesting, real, and with depth. Even a shallow character can be made interesting, if we understand why. The why is the nuts and bolts of it, but we are drawing now and will come back to color in the details of why here in a second.

So let’s go with the pencil pushing idea. Now we have our flavor of character, he needs a name. The name is very important, names reveal a lot about a character. So given what we have decided about his personality, we need something that reflects him.

In my mind I am picturing an everyday run of the mill kind of guy. Somebody who eats the same thing for lunch everyday. So lets look at common names; Ed, Ned, Steve, Randy, Joe. Or we can go with something a little more old school, something that somebody with play-it-safe parents would have chosen, Herbert comes to mind.

I like Herbert. He sounds like the kind of guy that bites the inside of his cheek when he is nervous. Perhaps his stomach gets upset when he becomes really stressed.

So Herbert is the kind of guy who buys from the same car manufacturer because when he bought his first model it worked like a charm. Why screw with a working formula, doesn’t matter if it could be better. Throughout the years they have continuously owned the same breed of dog, beagle.

Herbert is a hard-working guy. He wears khakis and a button up shirt to work everyday, even when it is casual Friday. The font on his business card is the wildest he has ever been, calibri of all things. He married right out of college, which he had a 3.9 and perfect attendance. Over the years his wife has accustomed to his particular brand of detail oriented method of every day thinking, so she has molded her thought patterns to be similar. After all the house is paid off, the kids’ college is paid for, the cars are in perfect condition with routine oil changes.

Herbert’s wife leaves every Thursday night to get her hair done at the local beauty parlor. She leaves looking the same, she comes back looking the same. But they are running low on a few things to make complete and scheduled meals with. She leaves a note asking him to run and pick up a few things.

Now, we can start writing the story.

Herbert had a bad day at work. He completed his work load on time and to perfection, as par. But today an intern started and he wore a bright red Italian tie with monkey’s on it. It was obnoxiously rebellious in his software company’s dress code. Not enough to break it, just enough to walk up to the line and laugh at it. It made Herbert think about how shocked his coworkers would be if he would wear such loud piece of rebellion.

So, Herbert heads to the store. He is buying russet potatoes, carrots, sliced deli meat, and juice when he comes across easy cheese. He stares at it, the easy cheese stares back at him.

Later that night Herbert’s wife comes home. She asks if he went to the store as she is checking the newly added contents of her refrigerator and pantry. She notices the easy cheese and becomes confused. She asks him if he bought it, seems like an odd question but it is outside of his character, he has never bought it before.

He walks over, picks it up and pops the cap off. He places it in his mouth, pushes the nozzle and lets rebellious and creamy cheese flow into his mouth.

His wife stares in awe at him, hardly believing what she is seeing.

He puts the cap back on, and walks away. A hero in his own mind and his spare time.

Partially end the insanity!

Now this might seem a little odd, it isn’t as fleshed out as it could be. This is true. Here is the kicker.

I have Herbert’s entire life mapped out in my head. Everything. Probably 15% of it will see a story. It will forever exist inside my head congregating with the other stories. Want another twist?

Herbert is a side character I would use in a completely different story about a disgruntled worker bringing a gun to work and shooting his supervisors.

This might not be the most efficient or sensible way of creating characters, but this is how I do it. Each one has their own story, their own life. I might use most of it, I might use just a snippet. The idea is to paint in such bold and broad strokes that when I lay another and often completely different story over this lives, you see them bleed through as I want you to. This, like any other method though, only works up to a point. Everybody has different experiences and will respond to things differently. I just want you to notice.

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Paranoia Is Its Own Reward

So, the heart-dropping-in-stomach news is that I did not win any of the competitions that I have entered. As I stated before, sending your writings out to be judged feels like sending your child out into the world to be weighed and measured, so with the sad panda news of hearing that your child didn’t measure up, what do you do?

For me, my biggest issue is not knowing what was wrong or hearing any feedback on what made my story unworthy. I understand that the people reading and judging each story don’t have the time to piece together a critique, logically I understand this and agree with it. Emotionally the race horses of paranoia are darting around my head going, “AHHH! What was wrong! Was it the pacing, I bet it was! Too much exposition, that has to be it! Etc, etc.”

So now I go through and look at my story and really, really try to break it down more so and examine the elements; What I can improve upon, what is good, what should be cut out, all of that good stuff. In this, as my title says, paranoia is its own reward. Hopefully looking at it with fresh eyes will reveal something new.

The big competition I didn’t win that I was fairly hopeful for was Writers of the Future. I got the email earlier this week and it simple said I didn’t win the quarter, but submit again. If you go to their website and look, there have honorable mentions and semi-finalists. So I wonder where I placed, if at all in the rankings. They haven’t posted the results yet so I await for that now. The next deadline is September 30th, my big goal over this three day weekend is to get another story ready and submit again. All through I didn’t win this time, I’m determined to win the competition…. eventually.

On that, I have to leave and go with my eager fiancée to register for gifts. Hope everybody is enjoying their weekend so far.

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Weird Quarks

Post Strangulation

So you are writing your story and your characters feel a little flat. Know what they need? Quarks. They need these little idiosyncrasies to make them human because guess what, we are all a little goofy and have little things we do that are unique.

An example of a quark? It is common knowledge that Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t achieve an erection unless he strangled a bear with his bare-hands. So what interesting little nugget of borderline insanity does your character have? Do they hate dogs but love cats, what about the opposite? Do they have to get completely naked to use the bathroom? Do they flip a coin to decide if they will kill somebody. A hardened veteran cop who secretly loves Sex and the City is always a good time.

One of my characters is terrified of a specific type of insect, another can’t eat anything on their plate if the food is touching, and another hears a voice that echoes the deep dark thoughts sane humans repress. Can you spot one in this post?

The range of quarks that can be used is staggering.  These little peeps into the characters help the reader feel they are real, interesting, and worth their time.

So what little quarks do you give your characters?

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The Politics of Writing

So I have been reading about the politics that writers find themselves wrapped in sometimes. Apparently if you are liberal or a conservative, some writers and readers won’t read or even acknowledge your work. I find this to be asinine, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because … well people distance themselves from anything they disagree with. I rarely talk to somebody and them say, “Yea, I don’t agree with you but I enjoyed talking to you about it.” I say things like that to other people, if they aren’t being douche bags. I’m not saying I’m a model for this sort of thing, but if people could just respect the other side a little more, overall life would be easier.

When it comes to stories, does it matter if you disagree with something central or minor? If the story is enjoyable can’t it be looked past? I don’t believe in communism but I still read and have enjoyed books where they was a central theme. I have stories where I don’t personally subscribe to the political ideologies contained within, but I find them interesting and worthy of exploring. If a book is on post-apocalyptic global warming, why label it tree-hugger trash? Even if you don’t think it is a real thing, if the story is good then who cares?

I don’t care about the author’s politics, religion, gender, sexual orientation, preference of boxers or briefs, ranch or thousand island. My point is if the story is good, if written well, then what does it matter? I don’t believe in elves, but I own a lot of fantasy books. Seriously, what does it matter?

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