Daydreaming and Wishing — January 18, 2013

Daydreaming and Wishing

Sometimes when I daydream about a writing career, I imagine getting Heirs of the Seven Realms with a publisher who will take all the other stories I have planned out. And then my imagination goes really wild and concocts a project so out there only an air-headed dreamer would dare hope it could happen.

Sometimes I imagine that after all the stories from this realm have been told, the publisher agrees to an atlas. The lands, the cities, the buildings. All of it done up in gorgeous artwork and accompanied by commentary from me.

And then my fingers just go wild and start writing out everything my brain can remember about my design process when creating the maps, the cities, the buildings. Because if it doesn’t get written down now, my brain might not remember it when it comes time to get it pulled together.

Then I have to rein in my imagination and my fingers and remind myself that something like that is a long way off. (As in never going to happen.)

But it’s always interesting to look back at the maps and such I’ve created and try to recall what was going through my mind when I made it.

Does your imagination ever go hog wild at the possibilities of a future career in writing? Or the possibilities of your career if it’s already started?

If you have a question you’re dying to ask me, something you want me to address either here on my site or over at the Dojo, send it to info(at)stephanie-mcgee(dot)com

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I’ll take a distillate of passion and lace, please — October 1, 2009

I’ll take a distillate of passion and lace, please

n. passion

3- the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces
4aA emotion
4aB (plural) the emotions as distinguished from reason
4b intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction
4c an outbreak of anger
5a ardent affaection
5b a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept
5c sexual desire
5d an object of desire or deep interest

I think that as authors we should be striving to balance each of these definitions in our writing.  We want all of them (okay, maybe not 4c or 5c) to be evoked in our readers.  4c and 5c are probably going to pop up in the lives of our characters though.

There’s a whole article on this in the October issue of Writer’s Digest.  I don’t know if it’s online yet or not, but if it is you should go check it out.

Complicating Characters — September 10, 2009

Complicating Characters

Just over a week ago (September 1) my mom and I were watching “Warehouse 13.” (Yes, I’m a nerd and proud to admit it.) For the entire debut season there’s been this lurking storyline. One of the characters lost their lover in Warehouse 13’s Act 0. (I will borrow here from my first professor of Shakespeare.) It’s pretty much the only significant thing they’ve ever indicated has happened to this character. Now, I realize that it would be no fun if they gave us her entire life story in one go. But, characters are more than just one shaping event from Act 0. Especially adult characters who have lived in the worlds we as authors create.

So, how do we complicate our characters, make them more than just one shaping event? For me, while each character does have one or two life-shattering events in their history, I try to map out changes around them. These changes can be corollary to event prime or unrelated. Then I fill in gaps. Small events, like whether they broke a bone, usually spring from the moment unless a past injury becomes an event prime and then I definitely plan it out ahead of time. I figure that I can let those little things spring from the well as I let the words flow because they aren’t crucial to story but they make a character real.

I also look beyond event prime to circumstances of birth. Did they have a birth defect? A neurological disorder? Poor? Rich? Nobility? Disgraced nobility? Fully human? (Fantasy worlds, after all, don’t necessarily preclude a no answer to that question.) The little details like that are what helps me to complicated my characters so they’re more than just Act 0 Event Prime.

Had enough nerd language? Ok, I’ll stop.

Book to film: I drive my(self) mother crazy — July 16, 2009

Book to film: I drive my(self) mother crazy

Two years ago when I met author Jasper Fforde I asked him during the Q&A session his opinion on the fans’ speculations as to who should play his characters should the books make it to the big screen. He didn’t really have an opinion on actors except to say that if his books were turned into movies it would either be over his dead body or if he made them himself so it wouldn’t matter how horrible they ended up. So, this begs the age-old question- Should books be made into movies?

Clearly, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince just having been released to theaters yesterday, someone believes the answer is yes. (Don’t worry, I won’t put any movie spoilers in here from yesterday, but just know I saw it and I composed this post before seeing the movie. In fact, I’m writing this a week before you’re seeing it!) Check out Agent Kristin’s discussion of the same sort of topic for more. Every time I see a movie based on a book I’ve read I drive myself and especially my mother crazy dissecting what was left out, altered, set design, etc.

In my often-annoying opinion there’s a wide range of how well-done these films actually are. It largely depends on how much I adored the book or if I’ve just recently read/re-read the book in question. In one instance I’ve point-blank refused to see a film based on a book because of word-of-mouth, that all-powerful weapon of mass destruction that we bow down to in this industry.* I have since had it confirmed to me that this was the correct decision. I’ve also heard rumors that despite many fans panning the film, the filmmakers are going ahead with films of the rest of the series. In other cases, I’ve only been able to find minor nits to pick and harp on which sometimes drives my mother even crazier than harping on what’s left out.

Should we just abandon hope that we’ll ever be satisfied with a film based on a book and avoid all confrontation on the issue? (I had a roommate once who was adamant that Peter Jackson’s film version of Tolkien’s classic, The Lord of the Rings, was far superior to the books. Blasphemy!

*Not meant in any way to offend or cause controversy.

Wallowing in Backstory — June 11, 2009

Wallowing in Backstory

Alas, here I sit, pondering what to write next in all the backstory and worldbuilding I’m trying to complete. Really, all I want to be doing at the moment is writing, finishing the novel, re-writing, editing, re-writing, and the cycle goes on and on.

Nathan Bransford‘s blog today began a serious discussion of how to know when your manuscript is done. It made me wish that I was at this stage in the process, to be revising a manuscript that went from start to finish. Instead, I wallow in backstory as I try to discover exactly where my passion for writing disappeared to.

Then I realize, that passion was dispelled by lack of time. I’ve been in graduate school for the last two years and regrettably was preoccupied with other things. This summer is to be a renaissance of my passion and love of writing.

Just as soon as I can nail down every last bit of backstory. *sigh*

Living in my head — June 6, 2009

Living in my head

My head is a nice place to live sometimes. I fall in love and get married over and over again, each time just as beautiful as the last. But there are also scary things in there, like basilisks that want to turn you to stone and scary shape-shifting half-humans that want to destroy the world. Balancing all of these disparate elements helps to inspire my work. It also keeps me motivated to continue world-building and writing because there are so many new stories that crop up.

I suppose this could be a humorous post, but I intend it more to be a post of advice to any other novice writers. I’m learning all the ins and outs of writing fantasy largely on my own. I do not belong to writers’ groups, mainly because I have no idea how to go about finding such anomalies. I used to be in a writers’ group, but that was years and years ago when I slaved* away as an intern for a manager at bookstore chain that shall remain nameless. It helped some, but I was even more naive then than I am now, if that were possible.

What I have learned as I’ve gone through these past few years world-building and writing, is that you really do need to have pages and pages of backstory for every location, every person, and every major event so that you know where the story you are telling right at this moment falls and how it is influenced by the past, how it will influence and change the future, and how it should be told.

You also need all this backstory so that when the time comes to write some sort of exposition passage or chapter, or a prologue should the need arise, you don’t have to make something up and hope to heck and gone that you can make it mesh with what you have already told your readers.

Okay, that’s enough of me rambling for today. I hope it helps someone out there. (And yes, I am vain enough to presume that someone has read my blog at some point. I do occasionally check the number of profile views on my profile. But only when I need to edit something in there and I happen to be on the page.)

*So I really didn’t slave away as an intern. In fact, I loved my internship. And it got me my first part-time job, enabling me to beat the system.

Death of Imagination, Redux — June 2, 2009

Death of Imagination, Redux

I realize my latest blog entry didn’t entirely make sense or come together as a cohesive whole. Comparing Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” to this potential demise of the unique and individual in genre writing is perhaps a bit harsh. Two points on this matter to clarify.

1- The author isn’t dead. We should be looking at the author when we look at books. (How else are we going to begin to see trends and dynamic groups emerging and receding in the world?) But we need to be looking at what individual authors contribute to this dynamic whole. It is their ideas, the unique perspective they bring to these ideas, and the twists and turns they give us to take us on a comparable but entirely once-in-a-lifetime journey. If I have traveled the road before I want to take a different route to the destination so my eyes may be opened more fully to the world around me.

2- The author isn’t dead. And Roland Barthes was really coming at this from a different perspective. He was criticizing critics whose antagonists then took Barthes’ ideas and created entirely new ideologies from them. Barthes’ ideas really shouldn’t be applied to this topic, but it seemed a logical connection at the time.

Death of Imagination — June 1, 2009

Death of Imagination

Are we facing the death of imagination? Roland Barthes once argued for the death of the author when studying literature. He argued that we should no longer look to the author’s identity for interpretation of that author’s work(s). Instead he wanted complete separation from the author. Now I fear we are facing the death of imagination. With the success of other authors, genres are becoming formulaic. I cannot yet tell whether this is the result of new authors simply wanting to get in the door on publishing and so they write something that imitates (here imitation not being the sincerest form of flattery) a widely popular novel, follows its formulae, and gets it published because it follows that previously laid out recipe for success. I have in the last month and a half given up on two different series of books simply because those books read too much like other, successful series I’d read in the recent past.

I now issue a challenge to authors:

Stretch the imagination, exercise the grey matter God gave you when you were born, think outside the box of the formula for success, and twist those stock images to something that is uniquely your own!