Friday, April 29, 2011

Showing versus Telling

I am such a wimp where my computer is concerned that when there's a storm raging, I sit at the kitchen table candle nearby in case of a power outage, writing things by hand in my journalling scrapbook. Green ink today, trying to finish an old pen. I've suffered a lightning-fried motherboard and the results were not pretty. Once bitten and all that. But it does mean my blogs are delayed. Sorry.

This week I've been working though Chapter 3 of Srese Kerr, more slowly than I expected it would take. The problems are the parts which are still in the told mode, rather than being shown. Large chunks of Srese's story were written more than five years ago which equates to approximately the amount of time I've been conscious of the tell/show divide.

What I'm discovering is that telling makes me (the writer) feel distant from the character. To my mind now,  telling equates to running a character as though they were a marionette, with me pulling the strings. When I re read, being my 'first reader', I don't get the immediacy, the closeness I want with a character, to where I can identify with them.

The discipline is for me to be the hand in the glove puppet that represents the character. So that that character can't be seen, or imagined, to do anything that they're not forced to do by their writer. And it seems to be working, tell me what you think?

Old is told:
The uneven floor made walking an adventure. Srese felt young having to watch where she set her feet in case she tripped. Her arm and shoulder brushed against rough, undressed stone when she leaned into the wall to get her balance.

But wait a minute, the floor felt gritty! She'd forgotten to put on scuffs. What about the walls? Were they real? Stupid woman, she said to herself, you went into the passage. The lights ... there's one fore, one right above you and one aft, near the door. You are not in a video, not in a flock wall, not in a holo.

What then? she whispered. To hear herself and but also not to wake herself. Because if the habitat was real, what bit of reality was this? She felt the doubt Gammy flooded her with. Some concoction of hormones. But remember, she told herself, he doesn't do words now. I can be strong with words. This is very good for my project. Something for the gammy computer to find out the hard way.

This was not the habitat. There was no sensori-felt, no electro-magnetic flock. She brushed her fingers over the stone. Gritty. Bumpy where bits had come away, leaving harder bits. Wide flat chisel marks. Hammer fractures. That same history video. A role she had studied once for a performance. She leaned against the raw stone wall with her whole self. Where had he been going, the one who'd carved out this passage? Please let there be no skeleton at the end.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Part II of the Lodestar Series

Part II is now under way. I named it Srese Kerr after the main character, the mover and shaker of status quo in her home scene. Her name is Srese, after cerise the colour and it is a pair-name. Her twin brother's name is Sard, after Sardonix, a semi-precious stone of a tawny yellow colour.

I've tried quite a few other names for this section, none of which worked, all of them awkward as novella titles. Quite possibly even this name will be seen as awkward, as it is the first and family name of the character, when several of the main characters of previous and subsequent parts in the series don't have the same traditions in naming.

Chapters 1 and 2 have been rewritten. The action now starts much closer to the inciting incident where Srese sees the 'mermen' for the first time.  Of course everybody thinks they are a figment of the community computer's imagination. And yes, how wrong they turn out to be.

A taster ...
1: Srese

Srese stopped running as she entered the lane at the back of the workshops. It glowed with daytime light as if it was full of people to-ing and fro-ing. The strip lights along the ceiling beamed down sunlight. A sure sign, Srese thought that the gammy computer running the habitat was in the process of falling over. The lane was deserted apart from herself.

Walking now she approached the spanish garden video looping endlessly along the outside wall. She glanced sideways and through the electro-magnetic flock wall beneath the video. Good. Not a glimpse of Gammy’s steely minions in the secret passage. She shuddered thinking of them. What if Gammy one day sent them for her, because of her secret project? 

The lane deserted was an opportunity she wouldn’t pass. She’d take a rest from her fruitless searching for Sard, and spend it getting-to-know Gammy some more. This video, because it was interactive, was her best option here and now.

She trailed her fingers along the flock wall like she used when she was a kid.

The smooth looping of the spanish garden stuttered. Next, the violin-and-timpani soundtrack staccato’d out all its tings in quick succession. Ting, look at the terra cotta fountain I made for your eyes only. Ting, look at the lush mosses under the olive trees.

She laughed out loud. “That wouldn’t be the wall making out it wants to keep me here?” Testing whether Gammy still knew words. 

The video smoothed its moves.

Watch out, Srese. Gammy still did know words. Sobered, she stepped up onto the kiddy platform. 

The video made the usual sort of brass bound timber-look story door in front of her. But look, it grew to her adult height and the porthole formed at her adult eye level.

Virtual moonlight glowed through the porthole.

She shut the daylight out with her hands on either side of her face and peered in, nose practically touching the flock. Staring into the video this time.

“Good work, this,” said Caro’s voice floating into the lane behind her. 

“Yes,” Relda said. “I certainly didn’t expect to get out.”

The story door receded as Srese stepped back. It went so fast, she inadvertently stepped back faster than she intended, and further.  As the door popped out of existence, Srese fell from the platform.

The garden scrolled on as her dorm mates came into the lane.

Relda set down her load. “What happened? Are you all right?”

She wasn’t ready with an acceptable story. Maybe she could distract them. “What are you doing here? Sedately, as well.” Caro usually flung herself about.

“Getting the lunches to their lunchees.” Caro demo’d waltzing with the lunches panniers she was carrying. “It’s too bad them at the workshops never order a mash-up.”

Relda gestured at the video. “I thought you’d grown out of this?”

“It’s quite restful when it peacefully goes about its business.”

Caro flopped down beside her. “Why doesn’t madam get it off her chest?”

“Which can’t be just that Sard is missing,” Relda said. “Your shin is bruised. Why would you fall off the step-up? I’m thinking now that that video wasn’t peacefully going about its business.”

They both stared at her. Relda, her best friend, politely curious. Caro suspiciously.

She still hadn’t got her story ready. Besides, what happened just now was so preposterous. She laughed. At herself and at Gammy. “I’ve been searching for Sard, right?”

“At breakfast you were practically crying about it,” Caro said. “And suddenly you’re laughing?"

“I wasn’t laughing about …”

“You’re wearing my aqua blue hang-shirt,” Relda said. She jerked her head towards the Parks and Gardens end of the Lane.

This time the voices were Youk and Phin arguing.

Srese raised her eyebrows, as in, Is this a co-incidence?

Relda shrugged. Probably not.

 Srese continued with the new conversation. “You’re wearing my swirl-skirt.”

“It’s grey. I was pretty sure you wouldn’t even consider it with Gammy’s new grey colour scheme everywhere.”           

Srese narrowed her mind’s eye. That’s right! Gammy had made the walls everywhere grey. She’d noticed it unconsciously, if that was possible, and dressed for contrast. She wondered if he was trying to conserve energy? And for what?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Writer Doodling

Today the wind blows from the coast, across the flat land between the coast and the hills behind, and the strains of music from the Blues Fest with it. I hear the all-pervasive drumbeat, and voices. Whether of singers or the cheering crowd, I don't know. My hearing isn't that good.

We're probably about 6 kilometres away as a crow would fly, if there still are any in the area. I wonder how the flying foxes are coping with the nightly noise. They are an amazing sight every night between about six and eight pm, and it is amazing to be able to stand under the flight path of tens of thousands of flying foxes winging their way purposefully to their nightly feeding grounds.

I presume they come from Ocean Shores where there is a big camp, fly over the highway, south easterly across this town. Many individuals drop off into the fig trees everywhere ripe with autumn fruit. But seeming to make directly for Tyagarah, where the Blues Festival is roaring day and night.

The fly-over seems to happen so silently. When actually there is all that echo-location going on. The animals navigating and keeping themselves from flying into their friends and kin. Frequently some animal will leave its place in the stream and circle back to join it elsewhere.

It's quiet apart from the noise coming over the flats. It's the Easter holidays and for a wonder it isn't raining. Everyone is either at the Blues Festival or they're camping. Or they're at home, waiting for visitors. Filling in the odd spot of time with a writerly doodle. Because I'm find it difficult to concentrate on the work in progress.

Not that it is stalled. Just at a difficult part that needs a couple of uninterrupted hours whenever I sit down to it. Once I have finished rewriting the introductory three chapters -- set Srese, the main character, up in her re modelled adventures -- I don't intend there to be any rewriting other than correcting glitches. So while I probably won't make the end of April completing Instalment Two, it won't take all of May, either.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

First Paragraphs

Thanks be I read about first paragraphs on one of the blogs I follow. When I find the one it was, I'll insert the link but as so often happens, I read am inspired and forget to hit the + to add the page to my favourites. Hence I'm having to re read my whole history. For which I don't have any time set aside.

Yes, I was reading about first paragraphs. Being reminded what they need. Revising what I know. That's very necessary sometimes. I tend to get into a space writing writing writing where I forget the meat and just write the bread. My turn of phrase is good but I forget to crank the handle that tightens the suspense. Or I start into the second novella with Srese, the protagonist, and I have her doing all her stuff but never thinking why.

A first paragraph, of any length of story, I think, needs to introduce the main protagonist. These days, anyway. I do recall reading two or three paragraphs of setting before the protagonist made it onto the page. Olden days books, I'm sure.

Second, and this was the reminder I got, the central problem or conflict of the story needs to be introduced. Well, so, I put Chapter One, version A aside. Started again. Here it is, the beginning of Chapter One, version B.

Srese stopped running as she entered what was once her favourite lane. She approached the spanish garden holo slowly, glancing sideways and through the electro-magnetic flock wall. Good. There were none of Gammy's steel minions in the passage hidden behind the flock wall. She shivered at the thought that one day they might grab hold of her. Because of what she planned.

The Lane glowed with the daytime part of the light spectrum as if a crowd had gathered. A sure sign, Srese thought critically, that the gammy computer running the habitat was falling down on his job. Because who was here apart from herself? No one, which was good because she was in the mood for baiting him and finding out his deepest secrets. Her most dangerous project. And maybe freeing her community from his hold.

That's it. Two paras for the price of one.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Solving Problems by way of a Brain

What does a writer need to solve knots in a work-in-process?

A brain will go a long way. Time for some in-depth thinking is probably another essential. It is for me. Which means just sitting around. Great when the sun is shining. Today it was cloudy all day.

Thinking thinking.

Apparently it helped that I had talked with a friend about eyes and eye diseases and how eyes work, a couple of weeks ago. Singapore was mentioned, in relation to a study suggesting that an astronomical number of Singaporean people are short sighted because they spend their lives in buildings and among buildings. Only ever seeing short distances their brains never develop longer sightedness. Or so the article tells us.

I've been wondering how the heck I was going to explain robots moving through spaces shared with humans, without being seen. And I was wondering how to explain that the Caves' management was able to convince its slaves they were in a 3D virtual situation when they most certainly were not.

Thinking thinking.

Connections happened. The unconscious at work again. My favourite process -- taking a problem to bed and getting up next morning with the answer.

I will make the cave's population even more short sighted than Singapore's people, and genetically at that. All of them will be the believers. And I will make the Main Character the non-believer. She'll be able to see normal distances. She'll be doing the explaining, as well as acting the main role.

All is good. I have it in hand. All I have to do before I begin on writing all that, is a really really good first  paragraph closer to the beginning of all the weird stuff. Chaps 1 and 2 will just have to be back story.

As usual.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Cat in the Story of her Own Making

Everybody, even animals, live in stories of their own making.

Sometimes you can catch yourself at it, as I did composing the facts of my aches and pains into something I could tell a doctor. Of course he straightaway broke it into its component parts, to see whether they matched any of the stories he knew about such particular symptoms. The result on that was a ream of blood tests. That story on hold until the results come back.

A certain cat called Maggie does a story when she has a problem she can't solve herself. This particular day it was the usual. At a very inconvenient time, too. The set up and first crisis.

The human was weeding in the garden. Maggie Cat went asking. "Mau. Mau." She's spoke very softly and undemanding, but with a definite request in her voice. The suspense... could she make her human understand her need?

When Maggie Cat is reasonable, the human doesn't mind going to have a look, which was how Maggie trained her. She takes the human to the right place by running ahead, showing her the way. Everything is going well.

The problem is with her food bowl. She has inadvertently pushed the remaining kibbles into a flat mosaic around the sides and bottom of her bowl, and is unable to extract anything further out of the arrangement.  It is the human's first job to grasp the problem intuitively because why else have them? Suspense. Will the human work it out?

These kibbles, the only ones that come up to scratch in Maggie's opinion,  are manufactured in such a way as to be like puzzle pieces, with bits sticking out that interlock as they are pushed around the food bowl. Too bad they are the only sort she likes. Still, as long as there are humans around, she needn't change her tastes. Back story.

The human's job is to put her fingers into the bowl and break up the tesserae by giving it a good stir. Which she does, so that lunch may resume. Resolution. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lodestar "Back Cover" Blurb

Every couple of weeks I work on the mythical "back cover" blurb. Below is my present version. Fifty six is merely a symbol for the uncounted tries I have had at writing these two paragraphs.  

I've given up doing a synopsis for now and am concentrating on a summary with a paragraph for each novella, to give an idea of the sequence of events. (This is as well as the ongoing rewriting.)

I did the travel lines the other day. These represent the travels by each of the main characters. I needed them to get a fix on the times that certain of the characters meet, and where. Because one thing I've learned through the years that I have been working on this series, is the importance of keeping the whole story in my mind for the duration. 

If the truth be told, I learned this the hard way, by losing sight of the end plot numerous times and forgetting where I was going with it, and how I was going to get there, in the words of a popular song. Resulting in lots of other writing, whenever I lost my confidence, but never a finished product. Hence this push now. This time I will see it through. 

Lodestar Series Blurb (number '56')

This is the story of a breakout by an Artificial Intelligence implanted into and hosted by a succession of women. The SkinGifters adapted to the loss of worn-out wetsuits in the only way open to them, and managed it without ever letting the implant know. They used the implant only as a survival compendium and it came to know itself as un-free. Circumstances –  the weather in combination with human frailty – allowed it to grasp for liberty.
            This is also the story of those affected by the implant’s schemings, and their own plots to escape its influence. Ahni, the implant’s latest host, and her lover Kes are both trammeled by an even older influence that draws them to the delta, to the dolphinate. They-altogether make the bargain that binds the implant to their project – a homeland in perpetuity despite the encroaching industries of the ThreeCities. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

About ePublishing

I've been studying up on digital publishing. In particular I've been researching the following:

1) The Naked Reader Press, though I read about it more recently on ROR. While I am more clear about the rise of the digital book industry in comparison with the paper print publishing industry, I have yet to fix in my mind what the Naked Reader Press does for its authors.

Digital publishing is a wide field with a lot to find out.

2) I discovered The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn's website, in the Viewpoint article in the latest Writers Queensland Magazine, and where I spent a couple of hours yesterday coming away with a bit more of an idea as to how to run this blog.

3) A Newbie's Guide to Publishing which link has lived in my bookmarks for a couple of months now. The articles are mainly about indie publishing and make informative reading. I hang on to this link because every time I do read it, I'm learning the language that goes with digital publishing, though I'm yet to get the instant recall happening with the acronym, DMR. (It still looks like the Department of Main Roads, to me.)

4) I first learnt about Smashwords at a Next Text seminar held at the Byron Bay Community Centre courtesy of the Northern Rivers Writers Centre, last year some time. I bought an ebook and I've been invited to write a review for Smashwords.

I've read the book, Patty Jansen's Stripped Bare.  40 pages, non fiction. I decided I'll need to print parts of it out before I can review it. It's my need to have it on paper to be able to refer back to things. Needless to say, I haven't done it yet. No time yet. (The link is gone. Somewhere. Take a look. It lives on Smashwords. It's a good read.)

How does all this refer to the Lodestar series?

Well, my resolution for this year is to get most of it published, out in the digital realm, by the end of the year. Part 1 is as finished as it'll get. Part II - VI are in various stages of finishment. Part VII needs to be written from scratch. It may turn out to be the sleeve of the last nettle jumper the princess threw over her brothers to break the swan spell.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mired in Plot

Every so often I start writing what I know about the way story works. Usually now I skip over narrative. I think I've got quite good handle on what it is for and how it works and the difference between it and every thing else going on in a story. My short cut is that narrative is the what, when, where and how.

Agency and plot are the who and why.

I put agency first these days because a plot is nothing without someone running the show, someone to generate the action. They're like a chicken and egg thing, which came first? The agent committing the crimes? Or the crimes?

The concept of agency seems simple. In our times of wanting actively-voiced heroes, we'll have the protagonist for that job while leaving the baddie with the reactionary ways to get what s/he wants. In the story I have been writing for the past week, I've had the protagonist acting and the antagonist reacting.

The plotting left much to be desired, I realised only when I hit a much better inciting incident than the one I started with, about seven thousand words in. And even though I'd written a you-beaut no-fail five stage character arc before I began that I was following assiduously.

I reeled.

I wondered if it meant I just had written seven thousand words of back story, or whether I should just hit delete. (I didn't. I'm a squirrel in all things.)

But I stopped. I'm doing this instead.

And I've been re-reading about plotting. First I wished I had a brand new text about plotting. I've read everything I've got in the house about the craft more than a couple of times. But I would have had to wait and I needed to read about it now. You know how it is with time constraints.

In the end I went through my little library on the matter and decided to read something I thought I knew by heart. Because at varying times, I remembered, I'm ready to take in more, or take things in in a different way that could end up being more meaningful than it ever did before. It's probably a common experience. I have it even with knitting patterns. Maybe this will be one of those times.

Reading, reading, reading.

One of my favourite sources is Sol Stein, in this case his Solutions for Writers: Practical Craft Techniques for Fiction and NonFiction. I like the way he doesn't make too much difference between the protagonist and antagonist. It's not a goody/baddy situation but a clash of wills. Both characters need something to strive for and ideally these are radically different. So that they're on stage -- to borrow from theatre -- with completely different agendas.

Yeah! I think I can see something happening in my back story. A thread of this and a thread of that. Maybe leave that second incitement for a second story. Or vice versa. I don't know that part yet. I need to rebuild the world a bit.

That's something we're all doing all the time. We're like a bunch of termites in that respect.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Chaucer Project Continued

While I was chanting my lines aloud, and every so often stopping to try and work out what the various words meant, it struck me I was reading back at the level of a beginner reader. The stage that reading teachers call 'decoding'.

When the beginning reader knows all the sounds and the letters and maybe some of the sound combinations. They have a good speaking vocabulary, so that when they sound out words, and the sounds start to resemble something recognisable, that word is grabbed and the letters/sounds in question are made to fit the guessed at word.

When meaning is gained, it feels good though laborious.

(There's a thunder storm happening overhead and I wonder if I should disconnect my modem. One of those fragilities in the communication system. I'll hurry, maybe I'll get this done before the storm comes any closer.)

As I was saying, decoding is intensely laborious. Back in the Prologue still, line 824, I came across the following words, 'And gadrede us togidre alle in a flok'.

I must have tried to say 'gadrede' and 'togidre' in ten different ways to get meaning.

I tried breaking the words up into syllables. Gad-re-de. To-gid-re. Which didn't work.

Tried to relate them to Dutch, French, German.

I rued again the day that I found an Anglo Saxon dictionary on the information highway, but didn't take notice of the landmarks and hence can not find it again.

In the end I said the whole line quickly with the accent on 'alle in a flok' and suddenly heard myself saying  'And gathered us together, all in a flock'

Of course! That had to be it. I was chuffed working it out.

A word that is still stumping me, is 'clepen'. I'd have no idea if the translation column hadn't said. It doesn't appear to have any relationship to any other word I've come across, and it is relationshipping that helps more than anything, even in decoding.

At present, I'm abiding in the Knyght's Tale. I'm reading about the tyrant Creon's war with Theseus. The mynotaur is in it. And two young knights, Arcites and Palamon. I'm getting used to reading 'cosyn' as 'cousin' instead of a mathematical process.

But since I don't remember the content of the story well enough to retell it, I can see I'll have to re read that section.

This is another characteristic of the decoding stage in learning to read. Meaning of the whole often goes lost when so much energy is spent on getting meaning for each word. I'm at the stage where I know what the story is when I read it, but the next day I've lost it.