Monday, February 28, 2011

The Lodestar Series

At the end of my stay in my personal Sargasso, I discovered one reason why I'd got becalmed was that I'd lost sight of the whole project. Lodestar was always going to be a series but I'd been working on part one for so long, I'd lost sight of the end.

The larger story unfolds with a series of characters living successive parts from their own point of view. For instance, with the help of a natural disaster or two, Ahni of the SkinGifters finally dislodges her people from the extremely straitened circumstances they live in and we have Kes, her would-be lover, trying to organise his life to include her.

Kes's part in the larger project does not follow on neatly from Ahni's and leads to the timeline problems I have been going on about.

I came to the conclusion one sleepless night, I'd never be able to solve these problems if I persisted in thinking of them as a story that would be published in (linear) books.

What about, I thought on a tide of excitement ... (that might read a bit excessive but I want to relate my excitement without resorting to the dreaded exclamation mark) ... what about if I publish online? Organise a hyperlinked path, allow readers to find their own timeline?

Well, I've drawn up the whole map finally and I know where I'm on it.

I haven't decided yet whether to get the whole thing up at once -- longer to wait at your end -- or start with what's ready to go. What do you think?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Imagine no online community

Imagine life as a thin layer over the rocks and mountains of the earth. We humans melded in the life layer. Between this one and the next the network of our physical communications. Our electronic communication an even thinner, more fragile layer of radio/sound/digital wires and waves overlaying that one. So much can go wrong.

I was offline for a couple of days. Hardware problems in the first place followed in short order by infra structure breakdown. I had no landline for ten days. My internet connection for a couple. Good for getting solitary work done you might say.

Still had my mobile, Though there's no of course about that either. There are many places in our region where mobile communication just doesn't reach. Folds in the land and such.

But my problems were caused by a little wire going scritch and breaking off somewhere, the technician came to tell me. He fixed it this afternoon.

It made me aware all over again of the fragility of the online community. How relatively new it still is and how easily it can still break. A friend and I were comparing notes. How recently we were still writing everything by hand. How recently social media still consisted of clunky discussion boards and email lists.

How important it is to keep real life communities going alongside virtual communities. Look at the communities affected by the floods, and the cyclone. The earthquake in Christchurch. Apart from the terrible damage and sad loss of life, there's no power, no computers, nowhere to charge your laptops and mobile phones. Only people to talk to face to face.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writer Becalmed

While I was tidying my hard drive, I came across an article reviewing a mysterious well-wisher's experiences being mentored by Michael Hauge, screenwriter. I've just spent 20 minutes searching for address details without success. I'm sorry I cannot link you with this great article. A lesson for my future, save everything with referential detail.

Writing Lodestar, seemingly forever, I've written myself into another of those sargasso's, which is what I call the places where I get becalmed. When I sit there, in my little writing ship with seaweed all around me, I know I need to get the rowboat out and pull the ship back into the wind.

I go and looking for things to read about writing and tidy my hard drive at the same time. And then go and do some housework to allow the stuff I've just read to percolate through to where it's needed.

A lot of the things Michael Hauge said to me by way of the mysterious reviewer's excellent report, I have probably read and heard a couple of hundred times before. Stories need objectives. Stories have stages. The pattern of Western story-telling is in our bones. But I guess I was ready to hear this stuff at a new level, said in a new way. (There's much useful stuff in the article, also the mysterious well-wisher's own words. I need to find a link before I write more on this.)

I'm back in the ship. But tacking while I chart my way forward. Some things I already know. Lodestar is too much of sprawl. I may separate it into novellas. Make it a series. Novellas are becoming more popular again now that epublishing is on the rise.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Characters as Placeholders

I realised a couple of months ago that most of my plots consist of the primary character in conflict with a large impersonal force. Environmental change seems to be one of my favourites. Boring!!!

But it meant that I had to start writing nasty characters and that is what I have been battling with for the last few days. One of the male leads in Lodestar has had to step up to the plate and become an antagonist. The male avatar. His name is Sard, short for Sardonix, a semi precious stone. (Yes, I do spend quite a bit of time choosing good names. Once I have a name I have a character.)

I've been battling, myself mainly, trying to convert him into a 'nasty piece of work'. Even writing those few words feel wrong. Like I'm doing him an injustice. He was so much himself, cast in the concrete of a novel that's been on the hard drive for upwards of ten years. He almost had become too 'real' to be changed. But it would be a mistake on my part not to slaughter his good reputation.

Today I came to the conclusion -- wrong word there, it's got to be an ongoing thing -- that the supporting cast must be just that. They must exist to help the main character through the plot and achieve a good resolution.

And as such are nothing more than a set of placeholders. Anyone of them can be written to behave in any necessary way. At least, that's my present understanding. All I've got to do now is make it work.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

District 9, Awesome!

Watched District 9 last night and am still reeling. Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp.

How awesome is the social reality? Telling exactly how we would probably behave towards a bunch of aliens. Exactly what we do to all other. Is it satire? Irony? Sad in the extreme? All the above?

And the pastel pale anti hero (Sharlto Copley) is amazing! He hurt when he was supposed to, mi god when he lost his fingernails, his teeth, when he chopped his finger off! What a story teller!

He was brave and a coward at the same time. Like you and me. Self important when he was comfortable and in charge and falling into despondency instantly when he had the rug pulled from under him. He came across as a self important nitwit while things were going his way. But when he realised ... Wow!

On one level the media don't do too well. The succession of pastel people doing their talking heads impersonations didn't work for me. Not sure if they really boosted the story along. Probably I'll have to watch it again.

But reading the media circus as satire, that works very well. The talking heads became ridiculous in their attempts to convince their audience it was business as usual, especially with that great mothership hovering above the city.

Type District 9 into google and you get 44 million references. I read the wiki and a couple more but I think I'm going to prefer watching the dvd again, it's a brilliant film.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pre-empting Myself

I've been writing Lodestar for so many years and it is getting so long, I'm finding it difficult not to pre-empt myself using various of my inventions. For instance, today I realised Kes is the third character I've got experiencing a Life Suit.

The Life Suit concept is too good a strategy not to have Kes use it so I must just give him a bunch of different experiences compared to the others. Fingers crossed for now on that score, I have nevertheless made myself a note about the possibility of a problem arising in my editing notebook. I see another edit coming on after this one while I had intended ...

I'm not too upset about the multiplicity of the Life Suits. It is an important concept in the story at hand that can be only be enriched by having it experienced by different people, especially since Kes is of a vastly different culture than CAVE's avatars.