Monday, April 11, 2011

Fail. Not Epic

When I read for recreation, I expect to be amused. And once in a while, I pick up a boner. I expect it. Book blurbs are akin to movie trailers. They highlight the best parts, and while I hope that the rest of the film or book fulfills my expectations, sometimes they let me down.

Last week, the best thing I could say about two different books was “We are not amused.”

Both books shared a commonality; the heroine was suffering from acute amnesia due to an accident.

The first book, a chick lit by a best-selling author, annoyed me with its ‘understandably’ clueless heroine. She wandered around in a beige fog for most of the book, ‘knowing’ that she was not the person everyone insisted that she was, but not acting any different. I wanted to shake her, yell at her, or at least haul her to the local pub and get her blitzed. I hoped she would DO SOMETHING!

The poor dear eventually did figure out which end was up, but it was too late for me to care. Even a hilarious mishap with some exotic fish and a malfunctioning security system failed to save the book.

Fail.

The other book, a line romance, was a prime example of info dump. Who wants a dissertation on the causality and functionality of amnesia and other cranial conundrums? Especially when one expects titillation? This book didn’t have just a paragraph of the doctor explaining to his medical resident patient the ins and outs of her brain malfunction, it had pages of it. Or pages of the heroine thinking about it. Really now?

I suppose the doctor was hot, and the heroine equally hot to get her hands on him, but I did not see it. All the spice was buried under layers of eye-rolling verbiage. I think they got together, but maybe they just continued to spout like leaky medical texts.

Fail.

I KNOW the next book I read will not fail me. It’s the fourth in a series. And I’ll be back with a review.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Suddenly Silent

I removed the extra dining room table leaf this morning and tossed the table cloth into the laundry basket. Later, I’ll vacuum the living room, especially behind the sofa where one of The Vultures had his computer desk set up. Already, the tray on the buffet contains a few odd objects left as family members came and went over the past week. I expect more stuff will appear in the next few days.

One of The Vultures, now a Marine and home for a week before returning to California for more training, decided to marry his girl-friend last night. They wanted to have as many of the rest of the family present for the ceremony, and two of their siblings were leaving today for a school trip. We pulled together a wedding supper and witnessed as two were joined as one.

Another Vulture has finally gotten an apartment, and is almost finished relocating his stuff. He’s only coming home now to retrieve his mail, and do laundry. I guess I just thought I was getting a clean laundry room floor.

The two oldest kids zipped in last night for the wedding, and then went back to their respective home and school. The youngest Vultures have left for school, the band trip, and work. Even the animals are quiet this morning.

It feels odd. It won’t last, but right now, it feels odd. Suddenly, the house is silent.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Box of "Possibles"

This morning’s local news show featured a short discussion about the hosts’ favorite childhood toys. One of them mentioned Legos, another played with a boxing robot toy, and a third said she was a karaoke star in her bedroom.

I first thought how these toys ‘dated’ or declared their owner’s age, but then reconsidered. I haven’t prowled the toy aisles recently, and especially the male-oriented ones. I think all of those toys are still available.

Next, I thought about my favorite childhood toys, followed by how they influenced my later life and even my writing. It’s an easy equation.

Dressing up, playing make-believe, was my favorite game. I was the queen when it came to this game. My ideas spanned eras and genres. With one girlfriend, we were career gals or mommies. With another, we took turns teaching. With a third, we’d be horses, galloping across the wide prairie. Even the boys got in the act, playing pirates, space explorers, or our favorite TV shows.

I had the ‘stuff’ for everything. My ‘possibles’ box was full of costumes, tools, and weapons. Shelves in the basement held more tools to tantalize the imagination. I had a large space at the back of the garage with both a regular door and a ‘secret’ tunnel entrance through the doghouse the dog refused to use. (We took the top off, inside the garage hide-out. We could keep ‘enemies’ out by putting it back on.)

When I got a bit older, I was a hanger-on at the local theater, pulling stints at everything backstage as well as filling in with the chorus. I prowled the costume shop, and vultured the make-up personnel. I was prompter, lighting, and ticket-taker in this real life world of make-believe. No one teases the teen with the paintbrush or the key to the prop room.

At the same time, I read voraciously, and I wrote. Plays, poetry, short stories, even a couple of novels. The ‘possibles’ box in my mind overflowed. Story ideas popped up faster than I could write them. Never mind that most of them were too fantastic or unrealistic to live. I created them. And filed them away when they were either written or they expired.

Now, when my Muse is plays the belligerent card on me and says that we’re fresh out of workable ideas. That’s when I invite her to open the box of ‘possibles’ and play with whatever she finds. Heck, Muse is still a kid at heart. She usually comes around in short order, and we’re off, playing Make Believe on paper.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Keeping in CAR-achter

I spent the weekend on the roads of north Texas. For anyone who does not live in Texas, let me tell you that ‘just around the corner’ in Texas involves a drive, even for those who live in the largest cities. Distances are a fact of life here, and Texans do love their vehicles.

All of these cars, trucks, and SUVs led me to consider what sort of cars my characters drive.

In a way, cars are our outer-most garments. Some people give them a lot of consideration, choose them with care, maintain them meticulously, and even accessorize them. Others just grab and go. Their vehicle might be a comfy old shoe, or perhaps it’s the best them can manage.

Similarly, my characters require cars that ‘fit’ them. I have to consider several factors when escorting my people to the virtual car market. What is his economic situation? What can he afford? Will he consider a big monthly payment, or would he have the ability to pay cash up front? To what sort of use will she put her vehicle through? Does he appreciate performance or durability? Is she playful or conservative? Does he think about mileage or his carbon footprint? Does she drive the carpool?

Automobiles, or any other choice of transportation, are part of characterization, just as are clothes and home furnishings. What does your character’s vehicle say about him?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Production and Confession

I had a very productive plotting/planning session yesterday. I filled in most of the smaller plot holes and learned even more about my characters. And while this might sound odd coming from a long-time writer, I experienced an “Ah ha!” moment: characters really do generate plot.

You have my permission to laugh.

I KNEW that characters generate plot, but I struggled to UNDERSTAND the concept. Writing by the seat of my pants has been my general drafting method. Cause and effect only concerned me as it occurred. I have over-written, chased a few shiny rabbit plot ideas, and dented my head on brick walls. And I’ve found this to be a less-than-satisfactory method, especially when I struggle with diminished attention span – or is it increasing ‘bright, shiny object syndrome’?

Yesterday, as I reviewed my characters’ mind maps, all sorts of big and little conflict situations leapt up and waved furiously. Wow! Cool stuff! And then it occurred to my foggy brain that THIS is what’s meant by characters generating plot. The fog vanished in the light of revelation. Now I get it.

I grabbed a stack of file cards and recorded idea after idea as they jumped around. Today, I play ‘cards’ and insert more details into my plot.

I’m excited about my novel and my characters. I am ready to burn ink.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A Disappointment

During my ‘sabbatical’, I read a number of books. Most of them were engaging, a few were amazing, and one has been impenetrable.

I’m disappointed because this particular book is set in one of my favorite venues and periods. I bought it at the local library benefit sale last fall and put off reading it until I had completed some other books and tasks. It was my reward to myself, my carrot on a stick. Some carrot.

I cannot get into this book. It’s dense and it creeps. I’m over-tolerant of this sort of writing, but this book is taxing my patience and losing my attention. Each scene is buried in window-dressing. I even suspect a quantity of repletion, although I can’t say for certain because it does not maintain my interest long enough for me to recognize it. I might just be re-reading the information as a preparatory refresher.

I am shelving it for another day, because my perception might be skewed by the season and other life distractions. Sunny summer days do make a difference in my mental functions.

I accomplished a lot yesterday on my WIP, in spite of all the financial stuff I also had to deal with. Taxes, household budgets, and finding money for a necessary remodeling project have all the elements of a plot. A plot for what escapes me, but there are problems and conflicts a-plenty. High emotional scene potential. All that’s missing is compelling characters. And a concept.

I am not going there. I must handle these things in real life. I cannot see myself spending more of my time writing about it. I'll stick to my stories at hand.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Days, They Have Ganged Up On Me

I try to take life one day at a time, but recently, several days have ganged up on me at once.

I'm back. Yes, I've been away again, and for a while. Health issues on my part as well as those of my One-and-Only. His problems turned out to be less serious than they appeared and he is on the mend. Mine are chronic. I'm not getting any worse, but intermittent flairs tend to throw me for a loop.

For a time, I considered putting my WIPs on the file cabinet. For a time, I thought about giving up writing. For a time, I despaired of putting words together in a coherent sentence. I was unable to concentrate on the story long enough to capture it in words. Most of my thoughts short-circuited between my brain and my fingers. I nodded off, mid-sentence, then found myself with lines of letters on a document and no recollection of their originating thought.

I took a sabbatical. I read for enjoyment. I watched movies. I slept - a lot. I tried not to think about writing.

I did not have a plan for my writing life at that point, but by the end of February, I regrouped, refitted my writing bag, and rekindled my enthusiasm. I cannot NOT write.

That said, I'm pleased to announce that "Reckless" has a plot, as well as a basic structure. I'm still putting all of the details in line, but the big picture, as well as the goals, motivations, and essential conflicts, are present. On paper. This week, I work out the smaller details and create my working outline.

I just need to remind myself that 'tis better to outline now, than to rework everything from the other end.