Archive for May, 2016
The Smashing Pumpkins were big during the 90s. Their radio singles were part of my college soundtrack. This week’s selection is from their third album.
An active site in St. Lucia, November 2009.
Let’s spin out a scenario, first, instead of going to the characters.
What is the big thing on the right: a ship? Space Station? Giant mecha floating in space? Consider the scattered debris in the picture: is it related to the thing on the right, or is it just space junk that happens to be in the same (rough) orbit?
Now, the craft on the right – by comparison the the thing on the right, it looks more like a shuttle. Is it? Is there a larger craft it might have come from – a rescue or scouting mission, perhaps – or is it a fully functional cruiser in its own right (think the Mil Falcon)? Why are they there? If not a rescue or scouting mission, what else?
If you haven’t already been thinking about it, this is where we start exploring the characters – depending on the relationship made between the objects will influence the kind of story you’re leaning toward and type of characters you might need. Mil SF? Space Opera? Horror/Ghost Story?
Now…continue to ask the questions, and write.
I’m more of an “old school” BNL (Barenaked Ladies) person. Granted, I’ve not listened to anything since Steven left the group, so perhaps that’s not entirely a fair statement. To me, it seemed like he was the voice of the group, singing most of the catchier or higher-profile songs, like this week’s pick, “Brian Wilson.”
Second: The “old gamers” among you might recognize the piece as the cover art for the 2nd Ed Forgotten Realms supplement of the same name (hence the extra space above and below the central image – for the branding placements).
Now: Let’s look JUST at the image… there are four characters in play. Who are they? What is their relationship?
Consider the two in shadows for a moment. Are they working as a team? Willingly or by force? Does the human know the others? Does the beast know them and have a score to settle (or is it working under other nefarious orders)?
About the “victims”: What is their connection? What is their background that they are actually listening – what are they being told/offered/asked for?
Let’s consider this in the context of a larger story: would this serve as an inciting incident to bigger things? A mid-to-late story event? Perhaps a final, brazen attempt by the beast to claim victory (why else attempt something in broad daylight)?) What events might lead to this encounter, then unfold from it?
Now, develop and write.
If you’re only reference for this song is Shrek (like my kids), know that the song existed several years before the movie. (And I remember hearing it on the radio when it was new, which really makes me feel old.) Smash Mouth played a show in my local area recently, and this was what they closed their set with – inviting folks from the crowd up on the stage to dance while they played.
One of the roads through the Biltmore Estate, behind the main house, in Asheville, NC. Taken December 2010.
What is this place – an ancient school? Library? Holy site? Is it part of a larger city complex or off by itself? What about the culture that would build such a structure…why is the central hall that large? What is the blue glow from the windows – sunlight, or something else?
The lone figure in the middle – is the person arriving, or defending? Assuming the person is a defender, why is the POV person going there? Assuming an arrival, what are they looking for? Why are they there? Are they truly alone, or are there other figures, unseen, deeper inside the building?
Disclaimer: The central piece of this post is being cribbed from a guest post from Matthew Quirk at Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid site (as filtered through Steven Pressfield’s)… I follow both, and saw the link at Pressfield’s first, but there is additional advice in the Story Grid post that is worth reading.
So, on with the cribbing:
Use TK. This is the essential lubricant of the rough first draft. It’s a habit I learned from working as a reporter, but didn’t realize the novel-writing magic of it until I read this advice from Cory Doctorow. TK is an editing mark that means “to come” and is equivalent to leaving a blank or brackets in the text (It’s TK, not TC, because editorial marks are often misspelled intentionally so as not to confuse them with final copy: editors write graf and hed for paragraph and headline).
Can’t figure out a character’s name? “EvilPoliticianTK.” Need to describe the forest? “He looked out over the SpookyForestDescriptionTK.” Need that perfect emotional-physical beat to break up dialogue? “BeatTK.” Just keep writing. TK a whole chapter if you want. Those blanks are not going to make or break anything big picture. Come back for them once you’ve won a few rounds against the existential terror of “Is this whole book going to work or not?” There’s no sense filling in the details on scenes that you’re going to cut.
Disclaimer the Second: I read the same advice from Doctorow, just from his essay collection Context instead.
That second point, actually, is what prompted this post… As my MFA mentors and crit partners can attest, I fully endorse this idea. If the idea is to get the story down, get through a first draft, this can be very useful.
I use it as reminders for flavor ([TK – add more about wound/colors]), or as a scenic placeholder for moments that need to happen, but I haven’t quite figured out how the sequence will play out ([TK – adventures happen in cave until emerging on the other side of the mountain]). Or, if there’s a detail that I’ve already established but don’t remember in the moment? [TK – Guy’s name from chapter One].
That, by the way, is how I use it [TK – (note)]. Yes, it might throw of some word count estimates, but most of the time those notes get replaced with longer passages that any disparity washes out. The brackets help the note stand out more prominently in hardcopy, and the “TK” instances are easy to move through using the “Find” feature.