Monday, March 29, 2010

Post: Flash-Edit

I apologize yet again for not posting an Aspiring Advice column, but I have a reasonable excuse.

Through some networking endeavors, I'm learned that a couple is very interested in reading The Dragon's Heart who happen to have amazing creative credentials behind them and have connections with a few agents. In light of this news, I've decided to drop everything and perform a flash-edit of The Dragon's Heart and send it off to them ASAP, hopefully, by the end of the day. How can I do this to an entire manuscript? I can't, but if anything, the way I presented my dialogue in that novel is what needs the most work. If I brush that up alone, it should make a huge improvement, since the narration is still great. So far I have rushed through 6 chapters in two hours. 19 more to go. Let's see if this is even remotely possible.

There will be no further posts until this is underway.

This is David, and I'm wired!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Post: Goodbye Winter . . . Hellooo Hawaiian shirts!

It sure felt good having a 59 degree day yesterday, good enough to merit the return of my favorite and oh so colorful red and blue Hawaiian shirt. I never did get it out of the closet, but I thought about it! Welcome back, Spring!

Anyway, this has been a good weekend. I received great feedback on Friday for the beginning pages of Chapter 5 and equally good suggestions for improvement. You guys are the bombawesomest! It was also a payday weekend, so I bought lots of food to restore what was missing in our dwindling pantry. Mostly cereal. I think someone is a "cereal" killer in my house, but I will not point fingers at anyone. And, of course, we had a lovely drive in the sunshine, mixed with a pleasant in-law visit. A rather eventful weekend with plenty of drive gained.

Chapter 8 is well underway and near completion. I'm still working with the changing-up of the antagonist POV section. While I think I know where I'm going with it, I have yet to finish the changes. Once this is over, the rest of the chapter should flow like a drop-off water slide! By next week I should be telling you that I'm working on chapter 9. Let's see if this happens.

It's been almost three months since I submitted my short story Forerunner to the Writers of the Future Contest. From what I understand, that's about how long it takes for them to get back to you. Hopefully some word comes back in the next couple of weeks. Just tell me that I wasn't even considered for anything and I'll be fine. It's the waiting around that kills me!

That's all the updates for now.
I must return to my work.
Go catch some rays while you still can!

My name is David and I ate Sheppard's Pie for breakfast.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Aspiring Advice: Villains that Work!

Whoever said that celery helps with stomach acid and heartburn was spot on! Thanks ever so much to whoever pointed that out to me. It saved my life last night. Okay, I wasn't dying or anything, but you know how us writer types tend to draw out the minor and petty worries.


This has been a good week. Hard, but good. Chapter 8 is well underway--practically done--except we've run aground on a small passage in the middle, comprising no more than two pages. As a result, I thought it would be fun to give my column today about that very issue.

How do villains work? Do they do bad things for the sake of being evil? Are they simply out there to get us, because that's what villains do? Maybe, but that's silly if you think about it. Does anyone in this world wake up in the morning, stretch their arms as they sit up in bed, and yawn, "what a nice day. I think I'm going to take over the world! MUahhahahaha!"

No. not really.

Even the most recognized "villain" of our world, Adolf Hitler, as terrible as the things that he did, had reasons for his actions. Some people don't know that he was raised by an abusive, drunkard father who beat him in front of his mother. You'd think, somewhere along the way in young Adolf's life, that something snapped? He defiantly needed therapy, not political power. What he did was terrible and not justified. Ironically, it's perfectly fine in Fantasy, since no one really gets hurt, in real life. But now I'm off topic. Let's get back to the advice!

Now, if you've ever tried to create an antagonist, you probably know that this is the most interesting and most difficult character to develop. In a way, that's how it must be. In another way, you want to make your villain more complicated than your protagonist. Think of all the Sci-Fi and Fantasy stories that you seen and read. Don't you think the villains are the coolest?

For me, I've devised a three villain type list that I like to call; The Three Villain Types. I know. It's not the strongest title I could come up with. Anyway, here are my Three Villain Types . . .

Just Cause.
Villain of Circumstance.

The "Just Cause" villain is evil, plan and simple, for no given reason whatsoever. Safest to say, this is your weakest villain type. Without any reason to be evil, you wonder why this person exists. For the sake of being evil? For me, this is my least favorite villain. Kinda weak. Not fun. This is not to say that you can't make a "Just Cause" villain work. If you remember Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty, would you not agree that Maleficent is one of the coolest baddies of all Disney films? If done right, this could work. You can get away with a "Just Cause" villain in a children's book or a middle grade novel, but readers of YA and Adult want something a bit more tangible.

The "Purpose-Driven" villain is what it sounds like. They are doing what they do because . . . they have to do something. They have a goal in mind and they must fulfill it, no matter the cost. No matter what that goal is, this villain feels that they are doing what is right. Some of my examples for a "Purpose-Driven" baddie are fairly popular, like the Emperor in Star Wars. He wants a "safe and secure society" for the entire galaxy. So . . . he's willing to provide this service through military force, making the galaxy conform to the Empire or get blown up via Death Star. I would call Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn villain, The Lord Ruler, a "Purpose-Driven" baddie as well, because (spoiler) the reason for his prolonged millennial existence is preventing an even greater evil from emerging. The Lord of the Rings' Sauron, Harry Potter's Voldemort, and Narnia's White Witch are excellent villains with purpose. You will note, too, that something happened to these people, before the story began, that motivated them to act.

Now for my personal favorite, "Villain of Circumstance." These are the most complex and most beloved villains EVER! Why? Because (if done right) you feel sorry for them, even if they're doing the most terrible things. These are the baddies with deep psychological baggage associated with them, the type of baggage that's better left at the airport. Ultimately, these baddies are goal driven as well, but what sets them apart from the above mentioned is that they are not willing agents of evil. They are doing bad things because they have to, and they usually suffer a tragic end or redeem themselves. A great example is Darth Vader, who was tricked into thinking that the powers of the dark side could save his wife's life (which was never in danger, really, but that's the nature of temptation, right?). Obviously, we know what happened there. Anakin pledged himself and started to do the Emperor's bidding, to become "stronger" in the dark side (by depending on hate). My absolute favorite "Villain of Circumstance" of all time is Prince Zuko from the recently "aired" series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. He's a villain, right? You're made to think so, but behind that gnarly scar on his face, he's got a good heart. This good heart got him in trouble with his father, The Fire Lord, who eventually banished Zuko unless he could capture the Avatar. Only then could Zuko return to his kingdom, reclaim his honor and his right to the throne. Sounds heavy, doesn't it? If you haven't seen this character, you ought to check him out. The transformation that he undergoes is one of the most gut-wrenching and enjoyable to watch. Zuko is a new type of villain, one which has helped me mold a couple of my own. I can't wait to write their stories!

There you have it. In short, a good villain should have a believable reason for being there. Otherwise your readers will shrug and move on to the next book in their reading list. That's all the advice I have for you, for the being time. Hopefully I can get my villain working again (the "Purpose-Driven" type) and finally get started on some new material. Have an excellent weekend. As always, I hope this advice was helpful to someone, somewhere.

My name is David, and my head got shaved like a French Poodle.

Edit: How embarrassing . . . spelling "advice" wrong in my post title . . .

Monday, March 15, 2010

Post: Out of the Cellar, Into the Woods!

That's right, folks. The seemingly endless exposition in the cellar is finally over! Now I get to start the journey all over again, beginning at the edge of the woods. Once I finish my final reading of the entire exposition-ary chapters (end of 5 through first of 7), I shall tarry forth!

And it was a nice drive to work today. Very nice.

Update: Having stated my enthusiasm, you are safe in assuming that I've finished my edits of chapter 7 and will soon be on to chapter 8. I'm really looking forward to this one. I had a lot of fun drafting these last few chapter, initially, so let's see how they fair with this new flow and voice. If all goes well, I will have chapter 10 redrafted by the first week of April, which means I can finally start BRAND NEW chapters! I just want to get this story done. It needs to be done. The demand is already high enough with my reading groups. I'm glad you guys are hooked!

There's not much else going on in my writing world, so I best be off to get as much done as I can. Thanks to all who've clicked in so far and continue to do so. Keep it up, Aspirers!

My name is David, and I couldn't find my shoes this morning.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Aspiring Advice: Weary? Then Rest.

Guess what?
I'm now a fan of Pineapple and Ham pizza.

Well, it helps when the pineapple is fresh.

Contrary to popular belief, pulling an all-nighter (or a series of all-nighters) isn't an effective writing strategy. You can always do this if you must. You might even get a lot accomplished, but how coherent will you or your writings be? If you're editing previous work, will you make an improvement or make it worse? This is a personal decision that you will have to make for yourself, but it's definitely worth considering. I've chosen sleep as my priority over writing, which has lead to clearer proses and an overall better self-esteem. The exceptions might be if you're writing a character who is sleep deprived, or if you have a deadline that you must meet very soon. Basically, it would be unwise to continually go without sleep in order to write instead. The natural consequences can result in chronic fatigue, depression, and/or the uncontrollable urge to acquire lots of fast food. It doesn't help that In and Out opened up a few blocks away . . .

Sleep is important, for everyone. It doesn't matter if you write or not, but a good night's sleep is a treasure, far greater than what you will find in a dragon's horde. You may even find inspiration in your dreams. A best seller could be floating around in your subconscious somewhere. Hit that pillow and tap into those resources, and don't forget to keep a dream journal by your bedside.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and rest up for the adventures that await you.

May name is David, and there are trees on my porch.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Post: Magic and Mythology

Good morning, readers!
For having another insomniac evening, I'm quite peeped for today! There is much to get done and I'm going to do it. Why am I so peeped? Instead of hopping on the computer to play video games, I pulled out my notebook and edited until the battery died. I wish I could say it was new chapters that I was working on, but the hours that I invested may very well have added to the richness of the story, a richness that was missing. That and I think being excited for two of my all-time favorite actors receiving Oscars last night had something to do with my sudden burst of energy. Congratulations to both Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock. It was an okay awards show. I like to watch the Oscars because I can't see everything that comes out, so it gives me a glimpse of what I've missed. Also, whenever I go to conventions or watch award ceremonies, I'm instilled with a small amount of envy, which I then convert into fuel, which then carries me with my own writings and creative endeavors. Nothing wrong with envy unless you are content to mire in the hole of bitterness.

Post: I can safely tell you that Chapter 7 has been read through and is in the process of finalizing, but that's not the most exciting part. Mike and I realized that, as cool as our magic system is, there were holes in it. Not just the magic, but the mythology behind the magic. When you're in the process of creating a unique magic system, there needs to be a killer back story to support it. In consultation, we have devised a mythology that is just so cool that our novel will not be content with just a stand alone. Three whole books have been planned, if not more, depending on how far we travel into this rabbit's hole, so to speak. It's a sock-knocker-off-er! That's all I can say.

Still awaiting word from Writers of the Future, two months and a week from my short story submission. That means another three weeks to go, right? I'm trying not to build my hopes up. Trying. I'm using that word a lot in this post! Stop trying, Mr. King. DO!

That's all the updates I have for now.
Expect chapter 7 to be done this week and onto 8!

My name is David, and I like breakfast burritos.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Aspiring Advice: Read

Where's the wise guy whose been fiddling with the weather controls? If you live in the Salt Lake area of Utah, you'll know what I mean. Yesterday I drove to work wearing a tee-shirt. It was a sunny, warm, high-energy day. By noon, a cold wind blew. By two, it hailed. By four, snow, and more snow, all night long. All morning, more snow. Clouds parted by noon and all the snow's gone.

Weather. Can't live without it, so love it!

My advice this week may seem obvious, but it's one that I have to remind myself on from time to time. Don't just write. Read. Not just one author either. If you start reading too much from one author, your writing may reflect their style. It was a bad move on my part to read all of the Lord of the Rings books while writing my second novel. If you find yourself using lineage as a means to introduce your characters to one another in a Sci-Fi setting, you've been reading too much Tolkien.

Why is it so important to read as a writer? It's essential! What's being published today is the market that readers are into. Figure out what market you're writing for and read that genre. Since I'm currently in a Medieval era fantasy mode, I've been plucking away at Shannon Hale's novels. Very good. As a means to learn more about medieval settings, her books have proven themselves to be a valuable resource. My wife keeps telling me to read The Enchanted Forest Books too. So, as you pursue your writing, remember to take time to read the works of others.

Thanks for clicking in.
Feel free to ask questions anytime.

My name is David, and I'm watching Cats Don't Dance.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Aspiring Advice: Purpose

My apologies again for my lack of an article last week, and for this morning! I said I would have something for you, but things being as they are sometimes, I could not do it. But now I can!

My wife had an injury to her hand when trying to lift a bookshelf, dislocating a tendon in her finger. Who would have thought that such a small thing could be so debilitating? The good news is that she's on the mend, after seeing a specialist and having her finger snapped back into place. Anyway, enough with the grossness. I usually save that stuff for my novels.

Update, and then the advice:
Chapter 7 is well underway and a solid brainstorming session is going to help it and possible sequels along. I had no idea that this simple tale would soar to such great heights, no pun intended. I have also submitted a few chapter 1's to a contest, but it will be a couple months before I see the results. Wish luck to be with me this time around.

Now for the advice. When I speak of purpose, I'm asking a question. What is your purpose in writing? What's driving you to do it? I can tell you that a story with purpose will hold a lot more weight to it than one that doesn't. From ages past, stories have been told as moral lessons, lessons to give an audience something to think about in themselves, to better themselves. Do you have anything like this is your story? Better get back to the drawing board of the answer is no. I can't tell you what your purpose is. That's for you to figure out. I say this with experience from my first novel. I thought I knew what my purpose was, but it changed throughout the story to the point that it was no longer clear. It had great visuals and neat characters, but no heart.

Look into your purpose and develop it before you start your project, or even now while you are well under way. With a firm plan in place, your story will care the message that you intend. Try and take a unique spin on an old moral lesson. Simple truths are always looking for a new voice.

I will leave this short and hopefully have a better column for you this weekend. Thanks as always or reading and may your fingers stay intact.

My name is David, and I have a JellyBelly stuck on my sock.