Monday, January 27, 2014

Uninvited guests

I like having reference photos for my characters to look at while I write. They don't necessarily have to match what they look like in my mind, though it helps, but they do have to contain something that reminds me of them. Sometimes it's the model's attitude and sometimes it's what they're wearing but there's always a correlation between the two. But I always know what I'm looking for before I go hunting. So when I searched for photos last week the last thing I expected was a new character.

While I hunted for the right menacing photo for my villain, Google threw in a picture of a handsome, young man that had nothing to do with my initial search. Normally this either annoys or amuses me. This time it was a magical moment because as soon as I saw the picture I knew his name and what his role in my WIP was.

What made this so magical was that his character didn't exist until I saw the picture. That's never happened to me before. I've had characters surprise me mid scene, characters pop in my head and say "this is who I am and this is my story, now go write it", and characters pop in a scene they weren't supposed to be in. Each time I went with the flow after the initial grousing. When creativity provides an unexpected twist it would be silly not to use it. This time I didn't grouse. I'm not sure if it's because I liked his character or simply too entranced by the image to care. Possibly a bit of both. It was a really sexy photo. (Not that sexy. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Has this happened to any of you? Am I the only one with sexy males penetrating my plots?

Monday, January 20, 2014

I'm not cheating

Once again, my math teacher proved to be right. I really did need to know how to solve a story problem. While this realization made me wiser, it didn't make me any better at solving them. I don't suck at math. Heck, I use it every day at work. Give me four bags of books and I can tell you in thirty seconds what the trade in value is. In college I could solve Logs in my head. But give me a story problem and I'll over complicate the equation every time. It's frustrating.

On the bright side, now that I'm in the "real world" I can turn to friends who are good at story problems and get them to solve the equation for me. It's no longer considered cheating. Yay!

In other news I've discovered how many of my guy friends don't know how important it is to a woman to have a good bra. (Seriously, guys. Our holy grail is a cup of a different kind.) I'm not bringing this up to demean them. They're guys. It's normal. However it does make me wonder what I don't know about the physical discomforts of being a man. As a writer I definitely need to know how to write the other. This doesn't necessarily mean that I want to incorporate a blue ball scene into a story just so I have an excuse to assuage my curiosity. There are some things that shouldn't be put on paper....but I'm still curious. Don't worry gents. If I ask you a weird question, it doesn't mean I'm going to put your words in a story. I'm simply curious and I want to understand so my male characters are more realistic.

Monday, January 13, 2014

To theme or not to theme

I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately and I've noticed a couple of similarities about my favorite stories. One would assume that my favorite stories would also be those written by my favorite authors. A lot of them are but not enough for me to count it as a defining characteristic. Being well written is, but that's a topic that I could spend a year talking about at length. While I do have a year in which to talk about it, I'm not going to limit myself to a single theme. Especially when adhering to a theme seems to be exceptionally difficult to do. That's why the similarity that surprised me most is that I liked the stories that most closely adhered to the theme.

I admit that some themes are easy: Year's best sci-fi and fantasy, Best of _________'s short stories, etc. Okay, they're not much as far as themes go but they do give a lot of latitude in term of genre. Other anthologies don't have that luxury. I'm reading Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardiner Dozois. While it doesn't give a specific genre, you do expect there to be a dangerous women featured in each story. Nope. They're all well written, but some don't have a woman, and others don't have a woman that you could call dangerous by any definition.

Maybe I'm being picky -- it wouldn't be the first time -- but those stories just didn't have the punch that the others did. I'm not certain if it was my disappointment that there wasn't a homicidal woman that degraded the stories or if it was something else that I've yet to put my finger on. Either way, it's something to take into consideration if I ever find myself writing for a themed anthology.

On a side note I've got another guest post on the Fictorian Era coming up on Wednesday. Be sure to check it out.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting whipped

About this time last year I was incredibly stuck. Stuck writing 250 wpm, stuck hating my WIP, and stuck thinking that I bit off more than I could chew. That's when a good friend told me to write the f&#*ing sentence. When I first talked about it I had just started to implement that advice. I managed to get to 300 wpm and was working on the rest. After a year of writing the f&#*ing sentence, the difference is astounding.

The most obvious change is that I'm now writing 500 wpm with bursts up to 600. I've more than doubled my output. That's pretty freaking awesome. Better yet, I no longer see ______ word count as being impossible. I know a few people who can write 1K an hour and while I'm not at that speed yet, I believe that I can -- that's a huge step right there.

Another huge step is that I can look at daunting scenes and say "I'm not sure I can pull it off but I'm going to try." and mean it. It took a good part of the year to get that through my thick skull. I still have the occasional "what was I thinking" moment but every time that happens I hear Lee's voice in my head and get back to work. In some ways he's kind of become my shoulder angel. Except instead of wielding a harp and kind word it's a whip and some tough love. That statement might be a little too revealing but that doesn't make it any less true.

This philosophy has bolstered my confidence so that I no longer feel like a newbie that can't do anything right. Instead I see myself as an up and coming writer with a lot of potential. If that's the result of getting whipped once perhaps it needs to happen more often?