Monday, April 30, 2012

Post: My Writer's Conference Warmup!


Just a few days away before the next most excellent writer's conference begins. I'm aware of several bloggers attending and I look forward to meet you all. Until then, we have a few days left to warm up (the following can apply to other writer's conferences)!

- If you're pitching to an agent or editor this year, may I suggest reading this post by Peggy Eddleman? She eventually landed an agent because of this conference. Seriously. Her tips are incredibly helpful.

- For those interested in the Italian dinner Thursday night, we have some seats. Details right here!

- Bring cash - you're bound to find a book that catches you're attention. Chances are the author will be there - a great opportunity to meet and speak with them!

- Relax and have fun! This is a learning experience and a time for writers to talk shop and help each other improve their craft. Show us what you're made of!

I'll post recaps of the weekend next week.

*     *     *

It's been an awesome week! Eleven new faces have arrived on the blog. They deserve an epic Shout-Out!

Jaleh D

Welcome to The Cosmic Laire everyone! Feel free to visit these fine blogs, my Brigade of Awesomeness!

*     *     *

Update: Two chapters into the MG with a pause for research - and baking! I've been in the kitchen making new things, while at the same time looking up locations so I can describe actual places and pass them off as if I actually visited these places. It's coming better than I anticipated. The conference might slow me down this week, but that won't stop me from tackling chapter 3.

Have a good one, guys! New trope post tomorrow.

Are you going to StoryMakers this weekend? How are you warming up for it? We'll take pictures, right?

I'm David, and Stormtroopers know how to shuffle!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Problem, Solution, Repeat

Last Saturday, our whole family crowded around the TV to watch The Legend of Korra. If you don't already know, we're big on animation. Anyway, we were introduced to the antagonist, Amon. Being fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which this show is a continuation (of sorts), we kept wondering, "how is this non-bender going to be a threat to benders?" The third episode answered that, and reminded me of an important storytelling element:

The solution is the problem.

Or rather, the solution that ended the first series is now the problem for the next generation.

(And I'm not saying what that is - neener-neener).

This is good to remember when writing a series.

The best stories have problems. Problems generally have solutions. Solutions can make problems worse. And, on rare occasions, the problem is the solution.

"You've lost me, bro ..."

This is where the planner part of me comes in. Some of the best solutions to the most improbable problems I've seen end up being super simple - kind of a "why didn't I think of that" moment. It stirs the problem-solving pot in my brain and doesn't insult the intelligence when the solution appears (convenient solution - not so much).

- Solutions have consequences. That's where it gets fun.

We recently finished a series called FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. When it comes to Anime, I'm exceptionally picky, but I'll tell you this: it's the absolute finest Anime series I've ever seen. This show is literally a non-stop problem/solution tug-of-war! When it finally ended, I was satisfied. Mainly because the solutions were preplanned. Plans within plans. Simple, yet effective. If I hope to write a story as complexly woven as this one, I have to think ten steps ahead.

In short, create the solution that solves the problem first. If we know what the solution is (or the end result will be), we can generate a gripping problem. Then mask the solution (by adding additional complications - with their own solutions) in a way that makes the problem real and doesn't make the solution predictable.

- How can a problem be a solution? Since we all know this by now, we'll turn to our friend, Harry Potter.

The problem? A piece of Mr. V's soul is a part of him. The Solution? Death. Wait, what? We can't kill him off! He's the protag! The solution sounds like a problem, right?

But, in all the books prior, did we anticipate that he would have the ingredients to become a master of death? The elements were put in place  beforehand. By dying, Harry was liberated from that piece of Mr. V's soul. I think we all know what happened after that!

Err, sorry - wrong story ...

*     *     *

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Like a teacher once told me - "There are always more than three ways to solve a problem." So it's possible for the characters to have a solution in mind when really it's something else entirely that wins the day. This keeps the audience guessing and keeps them on their toes.

Especially when the odds are against them.

Do you think of the solution before writing the problem, or do you wait and write it when the time comes?

I'm David, and your little dog, too!

Alright - she's not so little ...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Random Sauce: Blog Agent Boat Meat

Apparently, Blogger has made a few changes. And for some random reason, my posts disappeared and some comments won't show up. Weird. I'm going ape over here.

 While I try to figure this stuff out, here's a bit of news:

My good friend Chad Morris just landed himself an agent! How awesome is that? It was only a matter of time, really. His MG is brilliant and he does sketch comedy with Brandon Mull. Congratulations, Chad the man!

There's a new online magazine that's looking for essays, short fiction, and other neat stuff. It might be worth your while to check out what this boat is tugging.

Any random stuff happen to you recently? Anyone else experiencing blog difficulties? Got any bananas?

I'm David, and this is the truth about meat ...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: The Plot Coupon

Many games do it. Most globe-trotting adventures do it. Even cat-sitting MIB stories do it. Objects become a matter of objective in storytelling. Be it a handful of pearls to break out of hell or a galaxy on a cat's collar, you won't have an ending without these little savers.

The Plot Coupon - An item (or a series of items) that are required to resolve a plot. These are often picked up and used later, when their importance is realized. This is not to be mistaken as a MacGuffin, an item that is used to drive a plot, but isn't used to resolve anything.

The Plot Coupon can take on a range of objects, people, or electronics. We never really got to see the Death Star plans, but the rebels never would have been able to launch their massive attack without them.

What if The Plot Coupon is more than just random objects, and more than people, but trapped souls? The only way one little girl escaped another dimension was by collecting and releasing the souls of three children. It's nice having a talking cat help you out (if you find one, let me know).

And, on rare occasions, a Plot Coupon is a for-real coupon! Better cash it for a lifetime of chocolate!

 Don't let the dog eat it!

If you're not familiar with the novel or BBC mini- series Little Dorrit, it's worth your while. There's a box in it that contains special documents, which obviously holds the answer to everyone's problem. Can I say it? You gotta love Dickens!

The possibilities are endless, but The Plot Coupons that are most valuable are the ones that characters aren't aware they need in order to solve their problem. As was the "case" in the first MIB film (first picture). Just like those pesky ads that fill your mailbox each week, we'll keep finding (and writing) these coupons in our stories.

Have you used The Plot Coupon in your writing? Did they know what it was, or was it a complete surprise?

I'm David, and where's that flute music coming from?