Monday, July 29, 2013

The context of context

You know your characters.  Or, if you’re more of a pantster you will know your characters. They know who they are; they are the geek, or the brain, or the jock (broad strokes here folks).  But what happens when they are taken out of their normal environment?  A person may be the brain until she’s suddenly surrounded by a group from Mensa.  What affect would that have on who she is? On who she thinks she is?

We all have our sense of who we are.  This is directly related to the social group we are in and can fluctuate based on the grouping.  We might be the popular one with our nerd friends, the geeky one with our mundane friends, etc.  The same is true for our characters.

This all came to me at Comic Con last week.  I’m a geek.  A serious geek.  But I was sooooo out geeked by many folks it wasn’t even funny. But at the same time it was GREAT to be around my kind.  Folks who understand fandom, who understand all the cool geekiness that is Comic Con.  To not get “those” looks when I talk about my stuff.  It did change my sense of geeky self.

As writers, we need to do the same thing to our characters.  A story is based on what changed in our character’s life and how they took care of it, or completely re-vamped their life. We’re taking them out of their normal context, and setting them in a new one. 

So what about your characters?  How is their sense of self changed by the circumstance you put them in?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Variety is the spice of writing

It’s that time of year again- CONVENTION TIME!  Ok, yes, I know conventions and conferences happen year around, but my favorite big bad pile of insanity and creative energy is this week- aka Comic Con International, San Diego.  Also known as the giant monster convention to end all giant monster conventions.
Being an uber geek I’ll be attending Comic Con again this year (year 22 for me ;)).  Now even though the focus at this convention isn’t only about writing, it does have a growing number of writers, editors, agents, and publishers there.  Not to mention the extreme burst of creative mojo that slams into you when you first go in and surrounds you until you leave for good on Sunday.
The thing is this creative mojo doesn’t just come from all the folks in the book industry, but from the insanely huge amount of talented creative folks.  Art, collectables, film, TV, music, everything of a creative bent is there in some form.  And I just enjoy it all.
There are many recommendations for writers to go to writer’s conferences—and I totally agree.  There is a narrow focus that just helps get the writer brain moving at these. Things like RWA Nationals and dozens of smaller local writers conferences should be sought out- regardless of what you write.
Good writing is good writing—regardless of genre.
But I think folks should be exposed to as many different types of writing and creativity as possible.  In most cases, books are not JUST one genre.  Think about it.  I write SF/F with romantic elements- but in my books there’s almost always a mystery component (many times with a dead body or two).   By being around folks who write in other genres I’m able to steal…er borrow…their mojo.  Pick up tips that will make my writing stronger and the stories more interesting. 
Same with a huge general convention like Comic Con.  I don’t want to write screenplays, but hearing about them (or some wicked cool game designs) can influence my writing.
As writers we have to pull in as much variety as we can, to keep our work lively, interesting, and constantly moving forward.  If we just focus on our specific little niche of creativity, we’re shutting ourselves off from a ton of influences that could only make us better.

So look around—find a convention or conference to go to- then find a few more.  But make sure you have variety in your choices.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

IWSG-Fear of dropping the balls

Welcome all to another episode of the Insecure Writers Support Group where writers from across the land join forces once a month to shout our fears into the abyss.

Today my fear is dropping the balls. Or losing them. Or forgetting which one went where. Now these aren’t just any type of balls, these are really plot points and red herrings from my current WIP. I call them balls because recently I’ve begun to hear circus music and feel like one of those clowns juggling a million balls and all are about to crash down.

I look at each book as a chance to learn something new—hopefully some day they will entertain the masses, but right now they entertain, and educate, me.

THE GIRL WITH THE IRON WING is something new for me. It’s an Urban Fantasy, except the world as we know it changed about the time of the Black Death. Unlike our timeline, humanity was on track to vanish from the planet completely. Until the elves saved us. And they haven’t really let the humans forget that. And some of them think saving us was a massive mistake.

This book has a bit police mystery as well as romance going on. And it’s lead to A LOT of balls up in the air for me. Now, you plotters are reading this with probably a bit of confusion—“What do you mean you can’t keep all of your twists and turns together? That’s what plots are for.”

Yeah, welcome to the joy and pain of pantsing (writing by the seat of one’s pants for folks not familiar with the term). The joy of panting is that you don’t know what’s coming around the corner. As Ray Bradbury would say let the characters go, and follow their footsteps. Sadly, that’s also the pain of pantsing…I don’t know a lot of what’s coming around the corner. Which makes it hard to make sure all my points, traps, twists, and dead-ends end up staying in the story. Aka, keeping all the balls in the air.

I’m fighting the good fight- at 100 pages I’ve started a spread sheet for them. But I’m still totally dreading the moment that a reader may say, “But what happened too…?”

Hmmm- that circus music in my head seems to be getting louder.

What about you? Ever afraid the balls will drop?

Happy IWSG Day!!