Monday, December 11, 2017
The Value of Research
4:36 pm cst
One of the true wonders of the modern age, for a writer, is a computer with a working internet connection and the ability
to access Google.com.
Researching any topic is so easy these days that I have to wonder how writers managed it before
the internet and, especially, Google.
As an example, over the weekend I wrote a scene in The Pursuit of Kelly Clark,
where my barefoot heroine, Kelly, needs to find a pair of shoes in Minneapolis at 3:00 in the morning. No shoe stores are
open, there aren't that many people about, and it would seem that no one would leave a pair of shoes where Kelly can find
Howver, research showed me how to make this scene work. A quick Google search led me to the wikipedia article
on abandoned shoes, and this article mentioned shoe trees, which are trees that people throw their shoes into for whatever
A refinement of my search revealed that one of these shoe trees exists on the grounds of the University of Minnesota's
West Bank Campus, near the Washington Avenue Bridge. People have been throwing their shoes on the tree for years. Sometimes
they miss and their shoes land on the ground. Google maps even gave me a street-level view of the shoe tree in question.
solved. Kelly, a former U. of M. student, although briefly, would know of this shoe tree and would know that she can find
shoes there in the middle of the night.
That's just a quick description of the value of online research, which any writer
can do on the fly as he writers.
4:26 pm cst
These past several years, I have struggled with the writing of Old Wounds. I have written and rewritten it, I
have changed my mind about whether it wanted to be a novel or a novella, and I have spent many hours agonizing over what I
am to do with this project. Despite all this work, I have never really been satisfied with it.
Then, a couple of weekends
ago, I realized how to make the project work. I just needed to make a simple change: instead of trying to tie several plot
threads together as part of the same story, I need to let them be seperate.
Of course, I am not out of the woods yet.
I will end up with three different villians, and I will have to hope I am a good enough writer to pull it off. I also have
to tear my existing story apart, saving what I can, and replot it. I will need a new outline,a nd I will essentially start
And all this is on the back burner for now. I have been working on Old Wounds for a long time, and I
need a break from it. Plus, I have another project, The Pursuit of Kelly Clark, underway at the moment, and I am
making some good progress on that, so I obviously want to continue working on that story. I also have a science fiction short
story I'd like to write before I tackle Old Wounds again.
But, at least I know what to do about Old Wounds
when the time comes to start working on it again.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Still Working on This & That
5:45 pm cst
I am still working on Old Wounds. I have also started work on a novel I had the basic idea for some years ago,
called The Pursuit of Kelly Clark. I also have an idea for a science fiction short story percolating through my brain,
waiting to take final form so I can write it.
Old Wounds will be a novella, as thngs stand right now, unless
I apply the lessons I have been learning from a writing book I just read about showing and not telling. When I have finished
the current draft, I will go back through it and look for opportunities to expand character descriptions, character reactions,
settings, and so on in accordance with the excellent advice I read. This will have the advantage of also allowing me to expand
my manuscript in a way that will be vital to the plot, and not just a bunch of padding.
The Pursuit of Kelly Clark,
in the meantime, as I said before, is a project I had the basic idea for years ago. I wrote two scenes and I had some idea
of the overall reason why the plot would happen. I have an outline and about 11,000 words written, counting the two scenes
I wrote several years ago. I do need to do some work on the outline, as well as character sheets, but at least I have started
something I think might lead somewhere good.
Finally, I have an idea for a science fiction story involving time travel.
I don't usually read or write science fiction, but this is a good story, and I will be interested to see what final form it
I am also have some part-time work hours over the next month or so, which will take us into the Christmas
season, and then into the new year.
I hope I will have even more news to report in the new year.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
3:03 pm cdt
The most recent draft of Old Wounds is done. I have been working on this novel for several years, because I can't
decide what to do with it, which is probably a sign right there.
My main issue is that I think there is good stuff in
it, but I'm not certain how much of it is good and how much not.
This is why I have had such a problem over the last
several years of writing this thing. I can't decide if I want to write a full-length novel, or cut it back and make a novella
of it. I change my mind frequently, sometimes weekly, sometimes more often than that.
I think I may be too close to
it to decide. So, I am going to let the book sit for at least a month, possibly more, then give it a light going over, just
to get to the 50000 word mark, as I am currently just shy of 49400, and then I am going to find some beta-readers, who will
have their work cut out for them.
In the meantime, I am thinking about a thriller idea I had some time ago called, tentatively,
The Pursuit of Kelly Clark. I may dust this idea off and finish the outline, then write it.
Of course, this
will probably all change next week.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
She caught sight of herself in a (suspiciously convenient) mirror . . .
11:36 am cdt
Today, I want to write about what I consider one of the biggest cliches in fiction: the heroine (or possibly hero,but I'm
going to use one pronoun for the sake of consistency) catches sight of herself in a mirror, revealing her white-blonde hair,
delft-blue eyes, and large chest.
The average home does not have so many mirrors that the heroine should
be accidentally seeing herself in one. She might have one in her bedroom, and almost certainly has one in her bathroom, but
that should be it. Where are these mirrors she's catching sight of herself in?
And a place of business should have even
fewer mirrors. Some bars have them, some stores, maybe locker rooms and public bathrooms. But, frankly, there just aren't
that many opportunities to catch sight of yourself in a mirror as you go about your daily life, especially by accident, as
the commonly used phrasing of this cliche suggests.
Yes, I get it: the writer wants us to know what his heroine
looks like, and knows that it is rather awkward to interrupt the action and just shoehorn a description in, especially in
a first-person manuscript, where the heroine simply wouldn't talk about herself that way.
So, the writer falls back
on the cliche of the heroine just catching sight of herself in a conveniently placed mirror.
Your heroine can stay away
from mirrors. There are ways to deal with this issue of describing a character's looks without relying on the mirror cliche.
she can deliberately seek out the mirror, and spend some time primping and preening, admiring her eyes, hair, and figure.
This works if you want to portray her as vain, even narcisisstic, about her looks, but might not otherwise.
way to describe her is by writing a plot-relevant scene in which the heroine describes herself to someone else. For example,
suppose our heroine is a private investigator, who is trying to meet a witness so she can interview him and find out what
he knows about her case. She might be trying to arrange to meet him at a bar or a restaurant. He wants to know who to look
for. She could reply, "I'm five-seven. I have white-blonde hair, blue eyes, and, um, rather a curvy figure."
way to describe your heroine is to break her description up throughout the manuscript and make it related to the character's
For example: She put on her favorite blouse and best suit, thinking as she did about how hard it was to find
clothes that fit her big breasts and hour-glass hips without modification. She'd learned at an early age how to sew and tailor
her clothes to make them fit her figure. She just wished she didn't have to do the same thing every time she bought a blouse.
Then, later in the book, you might write: She put a hat on. She had to wear a hat more or less everywhere she went.
Her white-blonde hair could be a problem, as it was rather easily noticeable. Her blue eyes weren't such a problem, but her
hair was so distinctive that she'd given thought to dying it dark brown no more than one occasion.
Another way to get
the description into the story, one that would work especially well in first-person, but is still good in third-person,
would be to have another character describe your heroine.
For example, she meets a witness, who is a young man. He mgiht
smile or leer and say, "Do all private detectives have such wonderful hair and eyes, and such beautiful boobs?"
the heroine can tell the reader that she has blue eyes and white-blond hair and an ample chest without the information seeming
to come from out of nowhere. This also has the advantage of helping to establish some of the character traits of the witness.
Or, you could simply not worry about describing your heroine. The reader will provide his own mental image of her as
he goes, and might even be put out if your description does not agree with his.
One caveat is to not wait too long to
describe your characters, especially the main characters. I once read more than 100 pages of a horror novel before learning
that one of the main characters was a blonde. I had been imagining a brunette, and now, suddenly, I had to change my mental
image of the character. If your heroine is blonde, whether my white-blonde example or a more common strawberry blonde,
or if she is a redhead, tell us sooner rather than later. Just don't do it in an unnatural way.
There you have it: ways
to describe your character without having to rely on one of the biggest cliches there is.