Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.
Yes, I admit this is a bit of a provocative statement, and sweeping, but I wanted to address an argument I was having with my Husband.
And why not use the internet? Nothing like airing your domestic disharmony in public!
This isn’t a new argument, we have been over it a few times and he’s just not seeing my point of view, even though it’s about writing and I’m a writer and he’s not! So I thought I would get the writing community to wade in on my end. Just in case there is any confusion here, I am a woman and it’s a given that I am always right 😉 Right?
To give some context for this, my husband is an extremely logical person…and I’m, ah, not. I mean I can be logical sometimes, but mostly I take leaps and jump from events to conclusions. I don’t want to get into the nuances of logic v emotion. But in short, I’m comfortable that there isn’t a ‘plan’ or even a ‘logical’ progression to the way a story plays out.
So what was this burning issue provoking domestic disharmony?
Well, it’s George R.R. Martin’s fault.
I’m really hoping most of you are at least familiar with GoT, but in case you are not…there is a character called ‘Hodor’ and all Hodor says for many seasons is ‘Hodor’, doesn’t matter what folks say to him, situation, stress levels or emotional state, all he says is ‘Hodor’. I think it is season five or six where we discover why this is.
My Husband: That is so amazing, George R.R Martin must have planned this from the start.
Me: I seriously doubt it.
Now, it’s quite possible he did plan it…I’m open to this option. Writers do plan stuff. I plan stuff, but it’s more of a fuzzy framework in which to play, and I change my mind as I go, and add bits, and I blatantly ignore said framework when a new, more interesting, idea pops up.
And I make connections to old seemingly insignificant details all the time.
It’s one of the reasons I think colorful, if somewhat inane details, are so important to a book, because they facilitate connections later down the track. I am always doing this, some minor detail I wrote right at the start will suddenly present itself as a plot twist. It’s part of the process and it’s the way writer’s brains work.
I’m sure someone has asked George R.R. Martin if Hodor was planned right from the start, and perhaps he was. My argument isn’t about whether or not Hodor would always ‘hold a door’ from the moment he arrived on the pages of that draft all those moons ago. But it is possible that he wasn’t, and it is my firm opinion that writers do take strange quirks and details and repurpose them later.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Have you ever planned a major twist right from the very start?
Have you ever stumbled across a plot twist as you were writing, pulling in an early event or detail and repurposing it towards the end?
Happy reading and writing 🙂
…and for those who want the answer to the burning did he / didn’t he question.
Today I have the pleasure of introducing author J.S Frankel who will be sharing his thoughts on reading and writing, and details of his Book, The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce
Jess on Writing
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from everywhere! From the Internet and recent news, from throwaway lines other people say that stick in my head, and I am a HUGE YouTube watcher. I love music and music videos, and I can honestly say that no less than seven songs have inspired novels I’ve written.
What motivates you to write?
I want to tell a story, plain and simple. I love watching my characters grow.
How many hours a week do you spend writing?
I’ve never counted, but I’d say at least four hours a night, almost every night, so…about twenty-five hours, give or take.
Best thing about writing?
The best thing is coming up with an idea and running with it. I love to see a book come to life.
Your biggest writing distractions?
Music videos, noise…I like a quiet atmosphere, but with my wife and two children always talking, it’s hard. Still, they are my family, and family comes first.
How long does it take you to write a book?
For one of my novels—they average out at 67500 words—the initial draft takes only about three weeks. I know that sounds short, but I write fast and hard and long. And I am consistent. At that three-week point, the novel is readable, but by no means publishable. There are lots of mistakes in grammar and punctuation, plot bunnies, dialogue I’d like to make more interesting, etc. So I spend another two weeks or so tweaking it and then send it off and hope for the best.
Have you ever cut anything from your book and why?
Only passages that didn’t advance the plot. The late Elmore Leonard once said to trim the fat and leave the meat—or words to that effect—and that’s what I do. I’m very much a minimalist writer, and my editors have always said, “Say what you want simply, and if it doesn’t advance the plot, cut it out!” Sound advice, methinks.
Least favorite thing about writing?
Editing. It is the devil, but a necessary evil.
What do your friends and family think about you being a writer?
They don’t ask; they know it’s something important to me. My wife only asks if my books are selling—she’s from Osaka, and the people from that region of Japan are very practical.
How do you measure your success as a writer?
Success is relative. Some would say by how much $$$ you earn. Others would say, “You wrote the book. You made it!” Me, if I can improve from novel to novel and the readers tell me I’ve improved, then that’s enough. Sales depend on so many factors and don’t indicate how good a writer is. Just my take on that.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting the writing journey again?
Start earlier! I didn’t begin writing until I was forty-eight, and I got published a year later. (I’m almost fifty-seven). If I were smarter and had possessed greater foresight, I would have started fifteen years earlier, but my family took precedence then, so…that’s how life goes.
Jess on Reading
What is your favorite genre(s)? Tell us more about why you love them?
YA, Science Fiction, and Adventure. Loved them as a kid, love them now. I read them because they let my mind go free, and I can let go from the mundane life I have for a short time.
Your most influential books?
Gone South, by Robert McCammon. It’s a novel about a journey of self-discovery for Dan Lambert, the MC, but also for a few of the supporting characters, and McCammon weaves his story well.
If you could have a signed copy of a book by an author (dead or living) what book would it be and why?
The Voyage of the Luna 1. It was a story written in 1949, I believe, and it was the first S/F novel I ever read, probably when I was around seven or eight. Sure, the science was wrong, but it didn’t matter. That novel got me started in reading and put me on the path I’m walking today.
About your Books…
You are living in your latest novel. Where are you living, and what is it like?
Oh, this would be me as Sam Aushumness, the protagonist of The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce, a YA Fantasy novel. The setting is contemporary Portland, and I’m sixteen, short and skinny and sort of shy, and all I want to do is to spend time with my girlfriend, Kym Kim—yes, that’s her name!—and get through school without being beaten up.
About J.S Frankel
Future projects for Devine Destinies include Cyber Sprite, The Auctioneer, What The Gods Allow, and Outcasts 2, all for Devine Destinies. Fight Like A Woman–for Regal Crest–will be out next year, although a release date has not been specified.
You can also follow Jess on Twitter: @JessSFrankel
Whoever created this is a genius, had to share!
I’m with Bugs Bunny every time. Well, maybe not necessarily the swift part, I’m okay with revenge of all kinds in a book.
And so should every writer be
Building conflict is a natural part of writing. Take every opportunity to drive a little more drama for our heroes and heroines. Explore every option to pile on the pressure, take away safety nets, and keep your readers guessing at motives and intent.
It isn’t always easy to provide surprises, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it easy for the reader. As the saying goes the first draft is you telling yourself the book. Once you know the way the story will play out, walk through again and generously sprinkle red-herrings, weave subterfuge, and turn up the heat.
Yes, we need the balance of the good, the empathetic, and the kind, but they will shine so much brighter if you dump a little darkness on the other end of the scale.
Surprise yourself with just how dastardly you can be.
Cultivate a ‘What if’ mentality.
- What if I pull this leaver?
- What if I break that?
- What if he is lying?
- What if she is telling the truth?
- What if I take away this?
- What if this happens?
- What if this doesn’t happen?
You’re a writer, you need to give your inner bastard some air time.
Be mean. Be cruel. Be utterly wicked.
Think of the worst possible thing that could happen. The thing you would dread. The thing that would make you yell ‘NO’ if it happened to you.
And then do it.
And then do it again.
Happy writing conflict 😈
Today I have the pleasure of introducing author M.L. Williams who will be sharing his thoughts on reading and writing, and details of his book, SEERS OF VERDE.
When I start working on a project, many times the characters come to me in my dreams and either demand their story be told or provide me with ideas for future chapters.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be true to your ideas and put in the time. Writing can be lonely. Find mentors or other writers who can be a support group or sounding board. Don’t let anyone else’s opinions influence you during the writing process.
Best thing about writing?
Seeing these characters unfold and tell their stories is fascinating.
Least favourite thing about writing?
Rewriting and editing.
What is your favourite genre(s)?
Science fiction and that curious oxymoron, historical fiction.
Both genres appeal to my imagination. With science fiction, the themes and characters can be endless, only limited by the imagination. I guess historical fiction appeals to my sense of romance for another period of time.
Have you ever skipped something important to stay at home and read a book?
Interesting question. I have not gone to parties or social events sometimes, preferring to stay home and read. I also put off chores when in the middle of a good book and read well into the night when I should have gone to bed.
If you could have a signed copy of a book by an author (dead or living) What book would it be?
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I read this in a college literature class and was immediately enraptured by his imagination and sarcastic tone. It sparked my love of other fiction, especially science fiction.
Tell us what you are currently reading and your verdict so far?
I am reading Raptor by Gary Jennings. I have had this book on my shelf for years and just needed time to get to it. His writing and knowledge of history and ancient languages is impressive, but he keeps using different languages throughout the story. I was curious about this author since reviewers have raved about his novel, Aztec. I do not like it when authors flaunt their expertise and vocabulary in ways that detract from the story. It’s difficult to stay with the story when the reader keeps stumbling over arcane references and unfamiliar words.
About your book…
You are living in the your latest novel. Where are you living, and what is it like?
In Return of the Earthers, I would be living on the planet Verde Grande, an abandoned and almost forgotten Earth colony. The planet has one huge land mass. A treacherous mountain range divides the lone continent into two tracts.
The largest one is a huge verdant valley that stretches for hundreds of miles. One group of colonists live there and developed a relatively peaceful society ruled by a ever watchful clan of psychic women — the Seers.
The smaller area is a narrow valley strewn with huge boulders but plentiful with wildlife. A second group of colonists escaped to here during an attack and have developed into a hunter society.
The planet was covered by a thick blanket of moss. Most of the moss has been replaced by Earth plants brought by the bioformers and cultivated by the colonists, who have been living there for almost three centuries. However, the mountain range has retained its much of its native moss so the planet looks like a giant emerald as seen by an orbiting space ship.
You are your most recent protagonist, What do you like doing for fun?
I am Aron Nels, an orchard keeper. Even though maintaining, pruning and harvesting fruit from the trees is my livelihood, I would not trade this lifestyle for another. Being outside in nature and seeing the benefits of my hard work is extremely gratifying. My family has been doing this for generations. It’s in my blood.
After being imprisoned during a misunderstanding, I am told I am one of the last members of a secret warrior sect that has been fighting to protect its people from attackers sent by the Seers. Due to a forced hypnosis, in which my memories have been suppressed, I refuse to believe I am one of the last surviving warriors.
Seers of Verde by M.L. Williams
Marauders from a renegade planet attack an Earth colony ship forcing landing parties to split into two groups in a desperate attempt to escape. Their vessels are destroyed stranding them without their technology on either side of an imposing mountain range on the planet Verde Grande.
Descendants of a mysterious Seer now protect their people but become the bane of the hunter society on the other side of the mountain.
You can also follow M.L. Williams on his blog! https://mlwilliamsbooks.com
If you have recently published a book and would like to feature in an author interview, please email me at TheWritingChimp@gmail.com
Characters are not robots, and they need to have emotions if we are to identify and invest in getting to know them. A character arc is where the character grows or transitions. Fundamentally, they are about how our characters change. While writing a book doesn’t necessarily mean you need a character arc, many great stories do include one.
Personally, I love watching characters evolve, and some of my favourite books and movies have a strong character arc.
I have read the book and watched the movie, and this is one of those that managed, in my opinion, to do a great film version too. Although the story was far richer in the book, I enjoyed the whole steampunk aspect the cinematography and so forgave the movie some of its flaws.
It’s a great story for many reasons, one being that the baddies are so unashamedly depraved that you want to reach into the book and kill them slowly and painfully.
The main reason I like this story though, is because of the hero’s character growth.
So what happens to the main character? Well the hero begins his journey by being thrown (as usual) into a great big vat of conflict. He comes from a wealthy family, has a position of standing – good prospects is probably an understatement. Then his family is killed, brutally, he escapes.
So that alone is pretty game changing. He has been ripped from his idilic, coveted life, and cast out into the unknown. He is taken into an underground world, where he needs to fight to survive, and has to prove himself to be accepted.
He becomes their leader.
He becomes the catalyst to bring about their freedom.
He becomes something more than an ordinary man.
This is not a new or original journey but it is a powerful passage, and one that I enjoyed. There is something very spine tingling about the end of this – where he becomes the ‘one’ who is something more than others. It was a very similar transition for Neo at the end of the first matrix – you feel a sense of pure condensed ‘awesome’ when Neo finally kicks the agent’s butts.
The same in Dune, only possible more so. He was the rich kid – turned rebel – turned rebel leader – who ended up more than human. It felt to me at the end as if he had almost become a God (anyone who can kill his enemies with a thought is pretty damn impressive as far as I am concerned!).
In short I loved the emotional journey that he went through, and the culmination of this journey when he finally becomes all powerful.
Down side? or just something different?
For me I do like to see a shift in values of my characters. In Dune the hero was fundamentally good – bad stuff happens – he overcomes it – he is still fundamentally good.
What about someone who is not so good at the start? Maybe a little reluctant? Partakes in dubious activities? Who by the end of the story is a bonafide hero? I am, of course, referring to Han Solo, and another great example of a character arc. Ok, so he didn’t turn into a God who could nuke people with a word – but his was still a powerful transition.
Great article on the subject of You Need More Scoundrels in Your Life
Like this topic? More on The Hero’s Journey
Professionally known as a Style Sheet. I’m not referring to a list of what matches what hanging in your closet. Or the hottest trends from InStyle Magazine. No, this is a document where you define the writing style and rules that apply to your WIP. Is the style of your WIP American or British English? Do you use contractions? […]