There’s A Delay For My Next Book

So The Second Queen was supposed to come out last month, but my editor, bless his heart, had an epiphany, and metaphorically flung the book across the room, and now we’re into thematic rewrites.

Plus, it turns out I forgot to write in some sex that should have been there the first time around.

Ah, experience, you great teacher, will you ever cease to pummel me between the eyes?

In other news, here’s a rough mock-up I’m working on for Ethan and Mary.

 

last cyborg final

You’re reading Victor Poole. Don’t worry, the sex will be worth the wait, and by the way, Philas wants everyone to know that he’s decided to be in love with Ajalia after all. I wonder how his wife will react to this news. Happy Wednesday, internet-kin.

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Why You Leave Out Anchored Details When You Write (And How To Fix It)

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When you write, you often leave out the best parts. You don’t write about the most exquisite feelings, or the tenderest moments. Everything ought to be pat action and tight dialogue; all things should push the story forward. That’s the way you might feel, anyway, but what your reader wants the most is the deepest and strongest experience of the heart of the story, and that often includes happy feelings, exciting or startling sensations, and even scenes of tender friendship or love.

Victor Poole, You’re So Judgmental!

How do I know you are probably skipping the good parts in your writing? Well, I’ll tell you: I’m extrapolating from a combination of my own experience as a writer, my days of studying story-making in amateur theatre, and my personal findings as a reader of fiction.

So I’m pretty sure, like ninety-nine percent sure, that you’re skipping most of the good parts in your story.

Why Are These Soft, Squishy Bits Getting Skipped Over?

The super short answer is embarrassment and shame, but the longer, more complete answer is that everyone has, at some point in their life, been rejected or left out, or excluded in some painful manner, and this has taught each of us that sharing our truest and deepest selves with others is scary, bad, and sometimes dangerous.

Well, I Don’t Feel That Way, Victor!

Good for you! You rock on with your bad self! However, I shall continue, since not all of us are as lucky and/or resilient as you.

When you start to hide the squishy, human part of yourself in your writing (which is what skipping these deep parts is), the story suffers immeasurably. The characters become dry and unemotional, almost like rote-reading robots, and your prose becomes, shall we say, a tiny little itsy bit tedious at times.

You Can’t Call MY Prose Tedious, Victor! You Cad!

On the other hand, when you share your very favorite parts of the story with genuine excitement and generosity, the prose gets all filled up with good, edible chewiness, and your characters become real people, fully dimensional and memorable.

I Want Memorable Characters! Teach Me, Victor Poole!

The way you can tell if you’re skipping good parts in your writing is if you are bored. Honestly, there you go. If you aren’t excited by what you’re writing about, and eager to put it down, you are more than likely hiding the good parts of the story, possibly even from yourself.

Look! I just explained writer’s block!

No, Really

I’m actually serious; when you can’t write, or you don’t really wanna feel-like-it-right-now, you are probably hiding a really great part of the story from the reader, and writing around it, or over it, or through it.

Let’s take a break from the jibber-jabber and look at some examples:

Skipped good parts:

They sat next to the fire with their hands turned towards the warmth, and the touching that had almost happened two hours ago made them reluctant to speak.

He hadn’t meant to brush against her, and for her part, she found him far less attractive now that she knew he hadn’t lived away from his mother yet.

She started to make the food, and he roused himself and unpacked their bags. They were silent, quiet, and utterly without words for each other, and they slept on opposite sides of the fire that night.

With the good parts:

Thadeus and Jewly sat next to the fire with their palms towards the warmth.

“I thought you were going to kiss me earlier today,” she said. He looked at her sharply, and flushed.

“I wasn’t,” he said.

“I know, because you didn’t,” she said pointedly. His cheeks reddened further, and he scooted a little away from her. She moved closer to him, a frown of deep irritation creasing her mouth.

“Well, what are you getting closer to me for, if you hate me so much?” he demanded.

“I never said that,” she snapped, and eased closer. He glared at her suspiciously.

“I heard you say that you thought I was a lame excuse for a knight. I heard you say that,” Thadeus exclaimed.

“Living with your mother after you’ve been knighted is decidedly out of the spirit of adventure. Where are you supposed to take your true love, after you’ve gotten hold of her?” Jewly demanded. His face darkened; he frowned at her, and scooted closer; their legs pressed together.

“Well?” he asked.

“Well, what?” she replied.

“Aren’t you going to squeal, and go sit over there?” he asked harshly.

“Why would I squeal when you keep not trying to kiss me?” she asked, color mounting in her cheeks. Thadeus stared at her, his face undergoing a gradual revolution. He opened his mouth as if to speak again, and then closed it. She sniffed, and her breath shivered, as if she was concealing a heartfelt sigh.

His hand crept towards her knee; she eyed him, and he hesitated.

“Aren’t you going to run away and tell me how much you don’t want to kiss me?” he asked. His voice had turned husky.

“No,” she said.

“Do you want me to kiss you?” he asked.

And So,

In conclusion, when you are writing, watch out for lackadaisical lack of interest from you towards your story, and beware of writing around or away from the really good parts. Remember, if the reader would want to hear about it because it’s really intense, go ahead and write about it, even if it’s scary and/or too embarrassing.

You’re reading Victor Poole; my books are here, and I recommend starting with this one.

The headless horse is a study of this.

Why Your Characters Break Down When You Write, And What To Do About It

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Writing a novel is a lot like directing a play; your characters are like your actors, and the world-building and cultural development are like your set dressing and properties.

Directing Is Great

Something that not a lot of people realize when it comes to theatre is that a lot of acting is, in practice, deeply therapeutic. You are role-playing, and putting your own real emotions through the paces of the story. (I have opinions about what counts as “worthwhile” acting, so if you love externally-driven representational theatre, we are bitter enemies in real life.)

Mental Gymnastics

When you direct a play, and you are working with not the most highly-qualified professionals in the world, you end up landing in the role of therapeutic tour guide, or as house-mother to the emotional gymnastics of your actors. If you are wise, and an ethical director, you shape their process to fit the play and stay the hell away from their private lives.

Bad Directors Are Awful

I’ve had a lot of experience with crappy, soul-sucking directors, but I’ve also been lucky enough to work with a few really decent and principled directors.

Now, what does this have to do with fantasy and science fiction writing?

Yay, Victor’s Going To Talk About Writing!

Well, you may find, when you get into the groove of writing your story, that your characters start to lose control of themselves. Some of them want to kiss each other, and they aren’t supposed to. Some of them draw weapons and start lashing out at people, and some of them develop a sudden and unforeseen petty streak.

You start to find out that your characters, if you are writing good ones, have minds of their own. This can be upsetting, especially if you work from outlines, but you can turn it to your advantage and get great fiction out of the situation.

One

First, remember that people who act out are always working out early traumas, no exceptions. Somewhere inside their beautiful little soul is a hurt or abandoned or misunderstood child, and all you, as the author, need to do is coax out that hurt and do something about it.

Two

Second, let them break stuff. Yeah, sometimes it seems like you’re losing your book, because your fourth-important main character wants to burn down the city, and you need the city for the final battle in book three, but if it’s really important to the guy, give him some matches and see what happens.

Three

Third, know that artistic creation is mysterious, and if you cudgel the muse into obedience she is apt to break your head open with malapropos life circumstances. Because karma and poetic justice are things that seep into your life when you write a lot. Don’t tempt fate; honor the violent and unbidden urges of your characters and give yourself a seat on the train called, “What the crap is going to happen next?!”

Examples:

Bad Writing (characters forced to conform to an outline):

Gevad was not a bad man, when he had the time to think before he acted, but there were so many financially ignorant saps in Slavithe, and he loved having houses and servants so much that he could hardly keep himself from taking advantage of the poor and the recently-rich whenever he could.

Lasa he had picked up on a whim; he’d known her father, and dabbled in magic with her mother, back before witches were banned from the city, and he had a soft spot for the olden days. He hadn’t meant to seduce her when he first obtained the deed to her mother’s house, and ownership of her body. Her blue eyes were soft and appealing, and he found himself saying things to her about freedom, and hard work, and she had wormed her way into his arms before he thought to say, “Certainly not, young lady!”

He knew she expected him to free her out of love, but not once in his life had Gevad given up material advantage for sentimental reasons, and she was too weak-willed to force his hand.

Better Writing (characters allowed to do as they will):

“Later,” he told her, when she asked when they would marry. It was against the law to marry an owned woman, but Lasa cared nothing for rules, and she had spent her life bending them without significant consequence to her person.

“I told mother I wouldn’t bring her to the wedding,” she told him. Her long hair was over her shoulder, and her bright face was tilted to the side, like a colorful bird’s.

“Mmrsh,” Gevad mumbled. What he wanted to say was, “Your mother will be long-dead before I even think of marrying you, big-breasted one,” but he never said what he really thought to Lasa. She snuggled into his lap, and he sighed.

“You like having me, though,” she coaxed. “You’d feel lonely without me in the house.”

“I’d miss you from my bed, sure,” Gevad murmured.

“And from your life, silly,” Lasa chided. She gazed up at the ceiling, her eyes wide and innocent-seeming. “I want to wear green when we get married,” she mused.

“Later,” Gevad said again.

“Next week,” she said.

“I don’t know when. Things are very hard for my business right now,” he lied. Things had never been better; he was flush with cash, and more than twelve bond-servants had fallen into his hands in the last month.

“If I get you that little white house rented, would we be able to afford it?” Lasa asked. “I wish we could bring my mother’s things down from upstairs,” she added.

“Soon,” Gevad said.

“But if I sell that little house, or let it out, will you marry me then?” she demanded.

“I would think about it,” Gevad said. Lasa’s lips turned in a satisfied curve, and she kissed him soundly.

To Sum Up

When your characters stray from the script, they are probably working out early trauma, and you can let them break stuff. Creation is shrouded in mystery, and to preserve the peaceful order of your own everyday existence, the best course is to follow along in the wake of your characters’ authentic desires.

You’re reading Victor Poole; the picture is a study of this. My books are here, and Lasa/Gevad are featured in the first installment of the series.

Fantasy Magic Example, Good and Bad

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Fantasy, to me, is ultimately about character development. Magic within the genre is a medium through which invisible things, and internal strength of being, can become manifested physically, and given a name and shape.

Did you know that when you open your interstitial muscles as you’re writing, much more of your authentic self enters the story? And did you know that some people, like me, can taste your emotional state and body carriage from the words you write?

Magic that is a nondiscriminatory external power, or a nameless force controlled with herbs or special words adds very little to the emotional and intellectual impact of fantasy. What makes magic work, and makes fantasy a valuable facet of literature, is the depth of characterization made possible through otherworldly (see, invisible) powers.

Examples

Magic as an empty power:

Timor pulled the wand out of his bag and twisted it over the crumpled herbs.

“Estumpor friel,” he murmured, and a length of smoke poured out of the plants. “Now we wait for five minutes and put the blood in,” he told his friend.

“I want to do the incantation this time,” Ben said.

“You always mumble at the end. I’ll do it,” Timor replied.

“I won’t mumble this time,” Ben protested.

“You did last week, and the smoke dragon had no wings!” Timor exclaimed.

“That was because you left that grass mixed in. Everyone knows the dragweed has to be pure,” Ben said.

“I’m going to say it,” Timor said. Ben glared at him. “I’m the one who has the wand,” Timor added forcefully.

“Just because you found it before I did,” Ben exclaimed.

“I’m going to say it,” Timor repeated.

Magic as a metaphor for self:

Ben stared at Timon as he arranged the fluffed dragweed in a careful pyramid. Timon chewed on his lips and placed a final yellow leaf at the top of the stack.

“Now the wand,” Ben murmured.

“I remember how!” Timon exclaimed. He did not want to say how nervous he was; the smoke dragon had not yet come out right, and if he failed today, they would be stranded here for another year until the weeds grew back.

Timon opened his bag and unwrapped the stone wand. It was black and red rock, carved in a spiral with a gaping dragon curled over the thick end. Timon steadied his hand and stared at the thick pile of weeds.

“Estumpor,” Ben prompted. Timon shot him a glare, and Ben threw up his hands and walked away. Timon heard him muttering darkly about abandoned islands and amateur magic.

Timon took a deep, steadying breath, and licked his lips. He turned the stone wand in his fingers and then placed the sharp tip against the soft rim of a leaf.

“Estumpor friel,” he said. The magic began to tunnel through his bones; he released himself to it, the white heat seeming to boil his blood and dry out his lungs. He waited until smoke crept up from the heap of leaves and then put the point of the wand against his palm and pressed hard.

A drop of blood swelled up around the tip of the wand, and a roaring sound moved into Timon’s ears. He did not notice Ben standing still on the hillside, his eyes fixed anxiously on the wisps of black smoke that crept into the air.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The sketch is a study of this. My fantasy books, which have a whole lot of character-driven magic, are here.

Adding Intoxication And Arousal To Your Novel

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Look, guys, I’m talking about sex again! (This is a study I made of a whale. There are cute little silver fish, too; you can just see their fins and tails.)

That Time When I Worked In Theatre

So a long time ago, I started directing shows. Super small time, you haven’t heard of me, there’s very little evidence. But I was good. So good that old ladies and mid-level managers occasionally tried to throw free marketing at my face after they saw me work.

You Fool, Victor! Everyone Needs Free Marketing!

Yes, yes, I know, but I was working on something much more important than “big success right this very minute!”, and pushing growth without a foundation is really dumb, and a good way to destroy your long-term career.

I decided to think long-term very early in my life. But we aren’t talking about my childhood right now; we’re talking about sex. Ha ha! What a segue, am I right?

Shakespeare And The Sexy Bits

He had them everywhere, didn’t he? Shameless, but oh so effective. Here is Dick, the serial killer, worming his way into Lady Anne’s knickers:

ANNE. Thou was’t the cause, and most accurst effect.

RICHARD. Your beauty was the cause of that effect:
Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleepe,
To vndertake the death of all the world,
So I might liue one houre in your sweet bosome.

ANNE. If I thought that, I tell thee Homicide,
These Nailes should rent that beauty from my Cheekes.

RICHARD. These eyes could not endure y beauties wrack,
You should not blemish it, if I stood by;
As all the world is cheared by the Sunne,
So I by that: It is my day, my life.

ANNE. Blacke night ore-shade thy day, & death thy life.

RICHARD. Curse not thy selfe faire Creature,
Thou art both.

Here we see Richard retreating while saying intimate things, right up until Anne rushes at him in anger. Then we see Richard step smoothly up into her face and get too close and too calm. This is a recipe for an insta-crush, which Anne immediately develops (and is understandably upset and confused by).

Predators, Honor, And Romance

People usually vilify Dick, seeing as he cuts short the lives of several people in this play, but Richard is an honorable man and uses his pure soul to attract Anne into loving him (she dies in misery because of him, but she is super-duper turned on anyhow).

How, might you ask, is Richard honorable? You know, seeing as he kills a whole bunch of innocents and then does his best to secure a little girl as a second wife.

The Devil In The Character

Shakespeare does something wonderful in his plays; he writes on occasion about honorable men who fall (or are led) into evil ways, and he marks their progress pretty studiously. For example, Claudius (Measure for Measure) is not a bad guy when he is imprisoned; he has gotten Juliet with child, but they entered into a common law marriage, which was an acceptable practice at the time. He turns into ugly places when he tries to pimp out his sister to save his life, but he is not quite a murderer.

Dickie, on the other hand, pushes and lies to get people to murder each other. He doesn’t, as far as I recall, shed blood by his own hand until the end of the play, which is when the darkness overtakes him and he becomes genuinely evil.

Darker And Darker

But, you may exclaim, you promised to talk about sex today, Victor! And now I will explain what growing towards evil and sexuality have to do with each other.

You see, romance–that genuine, fluttery, hot-flashing, touch-me-now feeling–springs from the exchange of internal energy between honorable beings.

What Do You Mean By Honor, Victor Poole?

When a man or a woman extorts intimacy from the body of another, romance dies, and the interaction becomes abusive and ugly. When, on the other hand, the exchange of internal self is autonomous and self-willed, romance abounds.

The more volitional the exchange of selves, the stronger the heat of sex. Now for some examples of what I mean (because intoxicating writing generally does well, commercially).

Examples

Bad Writing:

Valerie hung sheepishly behind the butcher’s; she heard someone coming, and held her breath. Old man Hans came around the corner. He laughed when he saw her, and winked; she ducked her head and studied her books.

“You’re following that young man again,” Hans said.

“Am not,” Valerie said.

“You’d better hurry and slide against him then,” the old man sneered, and he patted Valerie’s arm with his gnarled hand. She waited for the old man to go away, and then went and looked at the bridge.

Frank was standing on the crossing, one leg stretched forward and both arms on the stone balustrade. His dark hair fell in thick curls over his neck. A bouncy woman was just beside him, her hand laid on his arm.

“We’ll see about this,” Valerie growled. She put her shoulders back and stalked towards the pair.

Good Writing:

Valerie waited around the corner; she heard approaching footsteps, and held her breath. Old man Hans came into view; she ducked her head and pretended to arrange her books.

“Morning,” Hans said.

“Mm,” Valerie agreed. Her heart throbbed painfully in her chest. She waited for the old man to hobble away, and then crept to the edge of the wall and peered around the bricks.

Frank lounged on the bridge, one knee knocked forward and both arms stretched along the stone balustrade. His skin was like sun-kissed gold, and his dark hair fell in thick curls over his neck. Bridget O’Malley stood in front of him, her whole body hooked forward, as if she thought she would magnetize the young man into falling on top of her.

“Hussy,” Valerie said under her breath. She put a wide smile on her face and swung around the corner, her bundle of books slung carelessly under her arm as she approached the bridge.

Fledgling arousal and romance is best built up by scrupulous attention to the freedom of interaction between the soon-to-be-smooching characters. Extortion kills romance, (and is great, if carefully used, for thrillers and scary bits), and autonomous sharing of the inner self is what builds the anticipation.

You’re reading Victor Poole. There is a good bit of kissing in the last few books of this series. Here is the picture I used for my whale study.

Splitting Natural Wholes To Create Magnetic Pairs

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Writing romance is easy when you begin with a whole energy, split it in two, and create of each part a character who naturally longs to reunite with their other half. (The drawing is a study of someone’s horse sculpture.)

Begin With A Whole, Balanced

You start with one being, a complete circle, and fracture it. For example, let’s begin with the perfect matching pair shown in Romeo and Juliet.

From The Balcony:

JULIET. I will not faile, ’tis twenty yeares till then,
I haue forgot why I did call thee backe.

ROMEO. Let me stand here till thou remember it.

JULIET. I shall forget, to haue thee still stand there,
Remembring how I Loue thy company.

ROMEO. And Ile still stay, to haue thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.

And Then, With The Pieces

As soon as you’ve beaten your natural whole into parts, you separate them and begin the story. This creates built-in romance, because the base-line impulse of a fractured energy is to reunite with its other parts.

Aside:

Fractured parts reunited creates a comedy; fractured parts sundered makes a tragedy. Romeo and Juliet is both a comedy (first half) and a tragedy (last half), because the two parts are joined and then parted.

Tension And Conflict Abound

If you ever stopped to reflect on the fecund possibilities for dramatic tension in lovers separated by trial and torment, you may have noticed an existential element to the longings experienced by both parts of the pairing. This occurs because a part of a whole, when isolated, begins to reflect on the meaning of life, and to wonder if existence, alone, is tenable.

After The Street-Fight:

JULIET.┬áTake vp those Cordes, poore ropes you are beguil’d,
Both you and I for Romeo is exild:
He made you for a high-way to my bed,
But I a Maid, die Maiden widowed.
Come Cord, come Nurse, Ile to my wedding bed,
And death not Romeo, take my Maiden head.

And Now, For Our Purposes

How, might you ask, can I apply the principle of the split organic whole to my science fiction? Observe:

Two Distinct Personalities; No Romance:

Halbert and his girlfriend Xusa had been separated for many months in the starry byways; when they met at last on the deck of the luxury cruiser Hal-po-cxthe for their ten-year anniversary, neither could shake the feeling that this was as good as life could possibly get.

Xusa had a shining Ximosa in her hand, Halbert wore his thinnest tie, and the two of them watched the waltzing clockwork bears with peace in their hearts and love in their minds.

In the back of Halbert’s pocket was tucked an invisible Ring of Bonding; he had hidden it there in the morning, and he had yet to work up the courage to pull it out and press the Visibility switch. His throat was dry, and he ordered a SunSchotch to brace for the great moment.

Split Halves Of One Whole; Romance:

Halbert waited at the entrance to the concourse of the plaza, his fingers gripped around the invisible ring. He would give it to her, and she would be his; he had rehearsed this moment in his mind every moment since they had parted four years ago.

Xusa, for her part, had spent fifteen hours ransacking the Yeclian market for the jacket she now wore slung around her shoulders, and her knees were shaking so badly she had switched her hover-heels for plain flat shoes.

He won’t recognize me, she thought for the millionth time as she entered the wide stairs to the plaza. She felt so faint and hurried that she nearly walked out, but the thought of his shining bald head, and the glint that she knew would be in his eye, gave her courage, and she stared at the flagstones and walked in a straight line to the empty fountain.

And, In Conclusion

If you take a natural whole, fragment it, and assign the parts to lovers, your work will have a magnetic impulse that fires the blood and imagination of your reader.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The sculpture I drew can be found here. Editing on my novel is going spectacularly well.

Alternating Rhythm In Sentence Length And Introducing Variety In Punctuation

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To make your prose flow easily, build crescendos and rhythmic transitions into your sentences and paragraphs. (This is a picture I drew yesterday.)

Clarence’s Rhythm:

Ah Keeper, Keeper, I haue done these things
(That now giue euidence against my Soule)

Musical Rhythm Is Easy

You can do this with word size, consonant choice, phrasing, and sentence length. ┬áLet us look at the musical composition below: Clarence begins with a soft train of vowels. “Ah, ee, ee, I, ee, ee” is followed by a parenthetical aside of a fat “Ow! Oh!,” and then finished up with a rising “A, ee, ow! K! T! E!”

Vowels Are The Soft Filling Of Words

As soon as Clarence has offered this opening salvo, he embarks into a long, vowel-stretched appeal to God and the keeper’s mercy, accompanied by the lighter consonant sounds, “th, v, g, d, ss, and n.”

See The Speech Below

When we follow Bill’s example, and arrange our internal sounds with the keeping of the scene, our sentence length and phrasing add immeasurably to the build and emotional impact of the scene.

Here Is Clarence, After His Nightmare:

Ah Keeper, Keeper, I haue done these things
(That now giue euidence against my Soule)
For Edwards sake, and see how he requits mee.
O God! if my deepe prayres cannot appease thee,
But thou wilt be aueng’d on my misdeeds,
Yet execute thy wrath in me alone:
O spare my guiltlesse Wife, and my poore children.

And Now, With Fantasy

How, might you ask, can I apply these entrancing vowel and colon tricks to my own prose? Well, let us look first at a disastrous example of non-built chaos that I whipped up with a look of pained disdain on my features:

Bad Rhythm:

The dragon, how he had crutched his eager way wandering into the arching light-bulb brilliance canyonways, was ill-forgotten. His bills extend and his arm-frills opened long they were sails in the crushed air pieces dazzling in rock walls and carrying dust probably.

His nostrils cup open and snorted, while vivid eyes are moving death in his heart from there to his teeth. Yellowed.

And now, order and musicality enacted upon said chaos:

Strong Rhythm:

White wings clenched like spans of marble, he clung to the canyon walls in the light of the sun. The shadow he cast, unearthly black, ran from end to end of the canyon floor and kissed against the tips of his claws. The dragon opened his jaw and roared, frills snapping wide at his neck and sides.

The wind swept through the canyon in an answering howl, filling his leathern skin like sails; dust expanded from his flared nostrils and hissed through his yellow fangs.

In Conclusion

Writing with rhythm and variety in your sentences requires an attention to the length of your phrasing, an eye for vowels, and a willingness to embrace joining forms of punctuation. And remember, when in doubt, go and read some original-folio Hamlet; nothing like Bard-prose whips your creative vehicle into tune like freestyle Elizabethan patter.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The image above is a study of a photo from here. My cyborg sequel is nearing completion.