Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Part of Their World

Today, a friend of mine handed me back my notebook, which holds the first beginning musings of a story and, now, her notes on said story. She also gave me her notebook, which contains the story she's been writing for almost a year, not to mention all of the notes she's received on it and some notes-to-self about later parts of the story and the series. Now, let's not confuse these notebooks. They are entirely different animals. Mine is a tame little tabby cat. Hers is some sort of lion.

I'm not ashamed to admit it; I am more than a little afraid of her notebook. It's scary. It's crazy. Think The Monster Book of Monsters only this one has not bitten anyone -- that I know of. She's got stapled in random idea sketches, post-it noted passages, and binder clipped edited copies of sections.

The reason this freaks me out is probably that it is so different than anything I am used to. I don't think I could ever put something like that together. My inner clean freak (she's still alive in there somewhere) would claw her way out and demand to "fix" it. When my friend
handed me the book, I didn't even have a clue where to begin reading. I tried to start where she pointed me, but I didn't get to far before I knew I was in way over my head.

The interesting thing was that a mutual friend, upon seeing that I had the text, cried, "New pages! Gimme!" She proceeded to grab the text, flip it open, and begin reading without difficulty. It should be noted that the mutual friend has been there since the birth of the crazy notebook. A lot of the notes and randomness in it are hers. She totally got it.

And that's when I saw how I fit into that equation. I am glad to read any of the typed (somewhat decided) pages she hands me. The second and subsequent drafts are totally my bag. But this initial version... Honey, I can't help her. In this case, I just can't be her alpha. I'm too far from the origins of the thing. My friend's writing a good story, and I am sure that our mutual friend is a wonderful alpha reader for it . (she's always been a good alpha to me.) That's their role in this particular world. And, in this world, I'm the beta reader.

That's cool. I can dig it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day of Silence

On Friday, I did something that, for me, is quite unusual. I said nothing. Nothing.
For about 6 hours, I, along with several friends others across the country, did not speak. This was in an effort to raise awareness of the silence enforced on those who cannot speak up about being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT). Friday was the Day of Silence.

My friends and I didn't meet with any homophobia where we live, which is a positive upswing. In previous years, we've gotten remarks like "Don't be gay, talk today," and a few people saying that homosexuals should go kill themselves. Last year, a bisexual girl told me she thought she was being specifically targeted for harassment, because she chose to be part of DOS. This year was better.
I certainly hope that through youth education we can do something about the acceptance problems in America.

It's an interesting experience not talking, and it's never really like any other time you've done it. I learned something new. Words can literally stick in your throat. There were times when I felt like I was chocking on the words I couldn't say. It was an interesting experience.

No matter what anyone says about technology replacing human communication, Homo sapiens are very verbal creatures. Personally, I love talking. It's so much easier than anything else I was able to do on Friday to make a point. (Imagine trying to mime concepts like integrals, ethics, or white blood cells.) I have a feeling the human race is going to be talking for a long, long time to come.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Question of Character

Today, whilst shamelessly ignoring my responsibilities to hang out in the virtual world, I read a blog that posed an interesting question.

"If you could bring to life a character from one of your stories and hang out with him or her for the day, which one would it be? Why? What advice would you give them? (Include name, personality traits, etc.)"

, if I'm going to be completely honest -- and it seems pointless not to be -- I'd have to say that I'd probably spend the day with Helena Curtis, one of the MCs of my current project. I guess I have several reasons to choose her, not the least of which is that she bears an unusual resemblance to my best friend. I think we'd get along quite nicely.

Sure, there are a number of things I'd like to tell her: honey, the gloves are absolutely darling; that guy you're looking for? yeah, you sat across from him at lunch; don't try the hero stuff - it'll just end badly. Or, maybe I wouldn't tell her. It might ruin the surprise(s). But, that's not the only reason to hang out with her.

One very good reason to try to make it 24 hours with Helen is her telepathy. I've always rather wondered how I'd do with someone monitoring my thoughts all day. Could I make it or would it bug the living freak out of me? (I really hope it's not the latter, because I'm not sure what I'd do if I killed off one of my own characters -- outside of the book, I mean.)

Could I get through 24 hours without any lying or deception at all? I doubt most people could, anyone maybe. I'm not saying I live a life of rampant untruth and should never be trusted to say two honest words in the same sentence, but a few white lies get us all through the day, in a way.

24 hours of monitored thoughts. Could a brain pass muster? An interesting possibility.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Reveal

Sometimes I only see one way for a story to play out. Maybe I'm myopic or something, but often I've only got the one way to go. Occasionally, I see more than one. Then, annoyingly enough, I have to choose. Blast it all. Personally, I like it when the characters grab my hand and drag me down a hallway, insisting that this is the only way to the end. Maybe I'm just lazy. Whatever.

So, today I faced the two options predicament. In my current WIP, one of the characters has a secret and the others are focused on finding out that secret -- they just don't know that it's their friend's secret they're trying to unravel. Now, the trouble comes in. How soon do I let the reader in on whose secret the other three are trying to figure out? I'd originally thought that the only way was a big reveal -- the reader finds out when the characters do. But, today, I noticed the potential for another option: the audience finds out before the other characters. That option does have the joy of dramatic ironies. But, I'm uncertain.
Both options seem to have their benefits. I am conflicted.

Every reveal is a chance for suspense and climax. But, is one method superior to another?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I have a genre-related question. Can I call my new project LGBT if the main character is straight? I know it's YA, because of the MCs age and perspective, but I'm not sure if I can call it in terms of the other genres. Any advice?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Show and Tell

Does anyone remember having to do show and tell in school? You'd bring in the object and have to do a little presentation for the class. Even the most obvious thing had to be told. We could just show. Now, I know it was all done with the laudable goal of improving public speaking skills, but I think it's really done something to crash and burn some growing writers.

I find I have a lot of problems with telling in my writing, really obvious, not at all subtle, this-is-what-I-want-you-to-know telling. And I not the only beginning writer I've seen struggle with this. We all seem to really like back story and adverbs and extraneous details. And, in a lot of cases, it gets old.

So, what do you think happened? Did we shoot ourselves in the foot? By trying to make good speakers did we accidentally make bad writers?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

First sentences

Okay, I just finished reading the first sentences of fifty manuscripts in a writing critique on a blog. It was surprisingly helpful with my own writing -- even if all I now want to do is beat my head against a wall until a more interesting first sentence comes out -- because I got to see what happens when things just really aren't working. And the advice the other writers were getting and giving were things I could apply to my own writing. It's definitely worth checking out.