Category Archives: writing process

Does the Stork bring me plots?

Aleyne Desert

 

This month’s topic: Topic: In designing your plots what do you rely on most: personal
experience, imagination, or research?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought in the weeks since we decided on this topic, trying to tease out just where my plot ideas came from. In order to keep this investigation to a reasonable size < grin> I decided to concentrate on the four science fiction novels in my Novels of Aleyne series.

As in all science fiction, the world in which the novels take place came from my imagination, but it came from both the Plot Fairy and my own personal experience. The novels take place on a military base. The main characters in two of the novels, Brad from Broken Bonds and Rob from Rob’s Rebellion are army officers. The main characters of the other two, Keth from Relocated and Martin from Geek Games, are adolescent boys. The setting I used is an army base  a desert environment. In Broken Bonds, the legal system takes on a major role, as does computer hacking in Geek Games. Many of the important secondary characters in the series are either army officers, writers, artists, or musicians.  These are all elements with which I am personally familiar or which I was able to research in order to get enough information to fill out the plot.

First, the desert and the army. My father, an attorney, served in World War II and entertained my sister and me with many stories when we were growing up. My father was a Judge Advocate General — basically, the army equivalent of a district attorney.  He told a story about a Black sergeant who was prosecuted for going AWOL to a bar that was 100 yards off the base. None of the White officers who were with him were brought up on charges. This story haunted me, and a secondary character, Johnny Dragon, is a Black sergeant who is imprisoned by the military for the same charge and who befriends Brad, my main character.

My middle son also spent eight years in the army where he served as a captain in military intelligence. He spent two tours of duty in Iraq. I shamelessly picked his brains when I was writing Rob’s Rebellion because military procedure plays an important role.

Among the other subjects I researched in the course of writing the series were Native American mythology (Brad’s ancestry is Native American), yoga and meditation, the procedures used when someone is charged with a crime,  the International Court, glass blowing and ceramics.

I can’t help feeling that in spite of the major roll imagination plays in my plot building, it is shored up by my research and my personal experience.

Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1dm
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

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Character Creation

Creating a Character

This month’s topic: How do you develop secondary characters? Do you
even have a favorite secondary character?

I don’t develop secondary characters any differently than I develop the major ones: I imagine them moving and talking, and I write little scenes about them. I know that many authors fill out lists of characteristics about their characters, but I usually can’t answer those questions until after I’ve written most of the first draft.

I do sometimes give my characters personality tests. Myers-Briggs is a favorite of mine, not because I take it as gospel in any way, but because it is pretty quick and easy to use. Enneagrams, which I believe gives a much fuller picture of a character, is, for me, both more difficult to “administer” and more difficult to understand.

Myers-Briggs:

This test was once a popular method of typing your boss and co-workers. Your Myers-Briggs type is a four-letter code that spells out your place on each of the four axes:

E or I: Introverted or extraverted

N or S:  Intuition (N) or sensing(S) N’s start with the big picture and S’s start with the details.

F or T: Feeling (F) or Thinking (T). Feelers make decisions with their hearts (think Captain Kirk) and T’s with their heads (Mr. Spock).

J or P: Judging(J) or Perceiving(P):  J’s enjoy routine and P’s like surprises.

Here is a writeup of the eight preferences: https://www.knowyourtype.com/8_preferences.html

and here’s one about the sixteen types:  www.khttps://www.knowyourtype.com/16_types.html

Multiple-choice Myers-Briggs test: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

A much simpler one where you just have to pick one in each of the four categories (includes descriptions): http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html

Another simple test:  http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/mmdi/questionnaire/

Enneagram

An Enneagram is pictured as a circle with intersecting lines, and a type consists of one of the nine types, a wing type, and a variant. In spite of having taken an online course and doing some reading on Enneagrams, I still don’t have much of a ‘feel’ for the types.

Enneagram:

Official:  www.enneagraminstitute.com

Chakras and enneagram information, easier (IMO) to understand http://www.eclecticenergies.com/

About the nine types: http://www.9types.com/

Free enneagram test http://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test.php

Another one http://www.9types.com/rheti/index.php

Character Creation Software

Typing Chimp has a free version available for download. It’s loads of fun, but some features are disabled: http://www.typingchimp.com/

Writers cafe http://www.writerscafe.com/

Links

Here is a link to my publisher’s website, where you will find all four of the novels mentioned above: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/our-authors/56-our-authors/authors-f/149-author-4764

Do check out the posts of the other participants

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1tC
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://rhobinsrambles.blogspot.com/

Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com

What got me started

Robin

Sat, Aug 11, 10:16 AM
This month’s topic is what started us writing:

I’ve written poetry as far back as I can remember. I kept it in a series of spiral notebooks that accumulated in my attic, wrote cards for holidays birthdays, co-workers leaving the office, and the occasional small newsletter. Along about 2005 I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, so I scrounged around online and ended up putting them in online in what would now be called a cloud.

That December I was reading an ezine I liked and discovered they had a poetry contest. I believe the theme was ‘sleep’, and  I had a poem to fit it. Since it was handy (read online), I sent it in, and the poem was one of four runners-up., I didn’t win.

But they published all four of the finalists, and I was psyched. I joined a couple of online communities and started working on my poetry. In one of them, I ran across someone who was starting a small print poetry mag (since died, I believe). He liked and published a couple of my poems. That was early 2006. I found out about “The Muse Online Writers Conference,” (free, online virtual conference) and “attended” that October.

There I “met” Linda Barnett Johnson. Linda runs writers forum, and she insisted that her students join both fiction and poetry forums. Poetry alone was not an option.

At  that point, I’d never written a word of fiction (at least, not since elementary school ), and I would have sworn I never would. However, I liked Linda, and I wanted to join the poetry forum, so I signed up. I started writing for children, as that felt less intimidating – and shorter. As a poet, I was a terse writer, and generating sufficient word count worried me. My first story ended up published online. It was a *long* time until I placed another, but thus encouraged, I continued to write both fiction and poetry.

Many years ago, a family friend lost his wife and all four of his children in a house fire. This incident had haunted me ever since, and one weekend I wrote a 5000 word book in which the main character, a nine-year-old boy, lost his mother in a house fire. I couldn’t change my friend’s outcome, but in my fictional world, I could.

I spent the next year and a half or two years whipping it into shape. Although I have (and had) a good ear for language and a solid knowledge of grammar, I knew little about structuring a story. I set out to learn about plotting, characterization, dialogue, setting, points-of-view, and, yes, more grammar. I joined a critique group and took the ICL basic course. I hung out on Writers Village University and took their free fiction course and a couple of others that proved extremely helpful. The story was accepted for publication but has not yet been published.

Fast forward to September, 2010. I am a huge science fiction fan, but I’d never written a sci fi story — I had kind of a phobia about it — so I decided I’d do Nano (National Novel Writing Month) that November, and began to plan my story.

I devoted most of my time and energy to world building, a bit to thinking about the characters, and devoted about  a page to the plot. Then I started writing.

Of course, there was still editing, polishing, submitting …

And that’s how I got started writing.

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ke
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.

Beginning, ending, and what’s in between

 

How do you ensure a story has a good beginning, a satisfying ending, and good continuity in between?

Honey, if I could answer that one, I’d be on the New York Times Best Seller list, or at least my novels would be top sellers in their category onAmazon.

Ah, well.

But of course, I do take care to try to ensure a good beginning, ending, and continuity.

I am not one of those writers who outlines their novel in detail, but I do need to know the beginning, the ending, and the high points of what’s in between when I start out. Or at least, I think I do.  So far I have been fairly on target about the ending, even when I don’t know how I’m going to get there. For example, in my novel Broken Bonds, (WARNING: Spoiler) the main character, Major Brad Reynolds, is accused of treason. I knew which way I wanted the case

One of my drawings of Aleyne, mountains wiith the multi-colored desert sands in the foreground

against him to go, but I had no idea, until I wrote it, how I was going to manage to do it. Fortunately, my subconscious is a better plotter than I {wry grin}.

 

As to the beginning, that’s trickier. I wrote a children’s chapter book (that has yet to appear) about a little boy who loses his mother in a fire.  I initially started with the fire, but finally realized that the story really started in what was at the time Chapter Three where my main character’s mother is dead, his father still in the hospital, and he is going home with his grandmother. I discarded part of the first chapter of the earlier versions of Broken Bonds, too.

As for filling in the middle, since I don’t outline in detail, I have notes for the chapters I ‘know’ about and fill in the ‘blanks’ as I write. I tend to have more detailed notes a couple of chapters ahead of where I’m writing.

And when I reach the end of the first draft, I go back and revise. At that point I have an overview of the whole novel. I revise more, I believe, than someone who has a detailed outline. That’s the trade off. However, I don’t know enough about the novel to do that before I’ve written the first draft.

 

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Anne de Gruchy  https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/

 

For Oct 22: A Book by Any Other Title

RoundRobinBlogTour

One of the first things any reader knows about a book is the title — and the author and the cover image, but for now let’s stick to the title. We all want a catchy title for our books, one that will stop a potential reader in their tracks and make them open it up (or click on it) to discover what it’s really about. And we all want a title that’s going to pop up when readers are searching on Amazon for books in our genre.

So, when I go to my local library or bookstore and search for something to read, I start by browsing through the shelf of new books, checking out the titles and, if it looks interesting, plucking it off the shelf, opening it up, and reading the blurb. Then maybe I’ll check out the first couple of pages.

I’m staring at my latest collection of library books, one of which is “Little Beach Street Bakery,” a book I chose in just such a manner. It sounds satisfying — not disturbing, not likely to give me nightmares, which is what I was in the mood for at the time.

So, hmm — what attracts me to a title depends on my mood, and therefore what I want in a book at the time: romance, mystery, adventure, horror, or whatever.

I wish I could say that I have a wonderful method for choosing titles for my books, but I don’t. Sometimes they just come to me, and sometimes I have to work at it.

The title of  Relocated,   just came to me. It’s about a teenage boy who ends up on an alien planet when his father is sent there to help root out some terrorists.  The title of Geek Games   and Broken Bonds took more work, as did my latest novel, Rob’s Rebellion. Its working title was “Rob’s Book,” after the main character, Colonel Robert Walker, a colonel in the Terran Federation Guard who is posted to the alien planet Aleyne with orders to arrest the current, very popular, commander of the military base there on charges of treason. I eventually ended up soliciting suggestions from my reading group.

What attracts you to a particular title? Leave a comment and let us know, and do check out the thoughts of my fellow posters:

“Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-MI
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Poetic Forms: Sestina

colors8

The sestina is a poetic form consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. It is attributed to twelfth century French troubadour Arnaut Daniel.The six end words of the first stanza cycle in a pattern thusly:

B  E/ D C/ F A
or
F  A/D  C/B  E

There are several online “Sestina Generators” that will spit out the correct pattern given the six end words of the first stanza, for example:

http://www.renajmosteirin.com/sestina.html

Here is a link to another sestina generator

dilute.net/sestinas

How to choose your end words

There are many ways to choose end words. One is to write the first stanza and then lay out the pattern for the rest. The other, the one I often use, is to pick six words, generate the skeleton, and start writing. I try to choose words with more than one meaning and that can be used as more than one part of speech.

Before writing your own, check out some of these:

Here is a link to  sestina by Elizabeth Bishop:

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/sestina/

Here are the first two stanzas:

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September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child

Here is a  link to sestina by Ezra Pound:

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15423

Here is one of mine, one that rhymes:

Gone Shopping

Now, sit and listen to my tale
of a beautiful flyer that came in the mail
with pictures of roses and posies on sale.
It looked so alluring, I ran to catch the rail.
The train was pulling out, and I turned rather pale,
but spotted a taxi I was able to hail.

My heart was pounding. I had to inhale
many deep breaths, then told the driver my tale
I started a list: flowers, rake, shovel, pail
but became distracted by a handsome male
beside the road, leaning on a rail,
holding a small boat with a red sail.

Despite my eagerness to get to the sale,
I stopped the taxi in order to hail
the handsome stranger leaning on the rail.
I wondered if he would turn tail,
but I decided he was such a stunning male,
to take a chance. He glared at me, casting a pall

over my joy in the day. I turned quite pale
when he told me he intended to sail
his small boat on the pond, and only a female
would be so stupid as to hale
a stranger with such a sorry tale.
He went on and on, continued to rail

at me. I was completely unable to derail
his ranting. I told him to stick his head in a pail
then stick the hole thing up his tail
and exactly what he could do with his sail.
Then it started to hail.
I shook loose from the demented male.

jumped back in the taxi to ponder my mail,
told the driver to take to the trail.
I let out my breath with a big exhale.
The whole incident left me shaky and pale,
but I was determined to get to that sale,
even though it meant turning tail.

I left the handsome male. I did buy the flowers, rake, and pail.
But I took the rail when I returned from the sale,
still whole, hearty and hale. I hope you enjoyed my tale.

Go ahead, give it a try for yourself, and, if you like, post yours in the comments.

September Round Robin: Strange writing practices

rndrbnlogo

This month’s theme ism what writing practices do you have that you think are eccentric or at least never mentioned but you find helpful?

Of course, I firmly believe that all my writing practices are entirely normal, natural, and average {grin}.

Hmmm

Well, maybe there are one or two things.

I never listen to music when I write, which I gather is somewhat unusual. I’m a fairly serious amateur musician — I play the flute and the piccolo — and in addition,  I’m very auditory. When I turn on the music, I listen to it to the exclusion of anything else. I do, however, find myself whistling (no particular song) when I’m concentrating. I also talk to myself. This morning my spouse asked me if I found my responses enlightening. I answered yes.

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. My mother was very fond of classical music. She and her friends had subscriptions to the New York Philharmonic, and when one of the group couldn’t make it, she would sometimes take me.  I would try to pick out the voices of the individual instruments from the sound of the orchestra as I listened to the music. I got pretty good at it, too. But it did leave me unable to ignore most music when it’s playing.

Another habit of mine that may be unusual is that I put *** FIXME **  with a comment into the text of whatever I’m working on whenever there’s something that I need to come back to. This makes it easy to search for whatever it was that I wanted to deal with later.

** NERD ALERT ** I earn my living as a computer software engineer, and I picked up this particular habit from some open source software that I was porting to a proprietary operating system. The debugging information involved a then-new scheme, and the code (not all of which would work with our software in any case) was peppered with the original coder’s comments, prefaced with — you guessed it — FIXME.

The other thing I’d like to mention is something *everyone* should be doing: backing up your work. I keep copies  of my work in a cloud — I use Google drive — which not only backs it up, but also makes it accessible on any computer. This has saved my ass more than once, most especially the time where my now happily former computer suffered a head crash. The computer wouldn’t boot up, and I was forced to restore the original copy of the OS, minus all the software I’d installed and, most importantly, any documents I’d saved on my computer.

 

Check out the posts of my fellow bloggers:
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/is-my-writing-right-for-you
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com