Saturday, November 6, 2010

Died in Your Arms Tonight

i.e. Romance

Writing romance is fun, because it's neat to see how two characters interact in a situation in which nobody's ever really comfortable. What would have to happen for these two characters to even have a relationship, and would that relationship last? And what if there were more than just the two characters involved?

Normally I try to avoid the Designated Romance. I fill a pot with characters and if some of them click, we've got a stew. As I'm working out how to write a historical romance (well, half-historical), though, I'm trying to answer a few questions about the characters who are the designated romancers so that it develops naturally instead of being thrown together by Plot.

How a character approaches romance is a great way to define a character. Does the character enjoy the chase or the success more? Is he a quick thinker? Does she let momentum build the relationship or does she actively take it to the next level? What annoys them? What makes them happy?

Also, you get to write Sexy Sex Scenes, so that's always fun.

Just in case you didn't see this coming:
"(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight"

Ah. That's...stuff. Good ole' Vice City.


Stewardess, book me on the next flight to Love! Yeah! (rockin' guitar riff)

Sorry sir, you've been bumped. But we can offer you a complimentary flight tonight. What airport are you going to?

(sigh) ...DIY.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - writing the middle
Book "Fire in Khartoum" - outlining
- - - -
Reading - ?


Friday, November 5, 2010

Speculative Religion

A post in which David fails to offend everybody reading. If somehow you become offended in the course of your reading, the gods have given us the comment feature. In any case, I'm not offended, so let's get on with it.

As a Writer, I'm not concerned with whether a character's beliefs are True, but with how those beliefs shape the character. On a larger scale, when I'm speculating a religion, the intricacies of its theology are not important so much as the effect that religion has on the characters in the story, to wit:

The character does (or refrains from doing) X because her religion says so. May involve much wrassling with conscience and character development. I prefer when the "because her religion says so" complements a more substantial reason for doing or not doing something than when it's given as the only reason. For instance, the character helps the oppressed because she's nice and because her religion says so.

Although a character whose entire motivation is built on religion can be interesting if they lose their faith and have to cobble together a working motivation for themselves out of whatever is closest to hand.

The Villain
The Religious Zealot as the Villain is, of course, a stock character. I think it can be lazy, and it makes me lose a lot of respect for the Villain. There are so many other good reasons to be villainous. Nonetheless, it's fraught with pathos and can work really well in a redemption plot...or to explain why a good guy turns evil.

Fuzzy Thinking
This is the character who thinks with his gut or, more artistically, his heart. As opposed to running everything through the "Does it Work?" filter, he runs it through the "How do I feel about this?" filter. When the gut is tied to a religion, the filter question becomes "How might [religion] feel about this?" This is the explanation for when that religious motivation is not internally consistent.

Most characters merely apply the Work filter more often than the Feel filter, or vice versa.

No Heinlein heroes need apply, and it's not to be confused with fuzzy logic or the more realistic kinds of idealism.

Religion as Culture
When the religion is practiced now because it's been practiced before. The character might be a member of the faith and have some mannerisms associated with it, or the character may be an outsider interacting with the distinctive scenery and other characters of faith. If I'm writing a story in small town Wherever, a local member of the clergy might be a fixture of the town. If I want my characters to have a shoot-out in a house of worship, it'd pack more punch if some character might be offended if they completely destroy it.

A book that does religion as culture really well is "The Mote In God's Eye" (Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle), especially with the character of Horace Bury.

Philosophy as Religion
When religion gets scientific (but most people still call it religion). This is often where those more realistic kinds of idealism fit in. A popular feature of futuristic utopias.

There, now stop worrying and let your characters get on with their lives.


"This night shall go down in history as the greatest man-orgy of all time! And it all starts with this glass of wine!"

Even wise Socrates could not have predicted that the Ancient Greeks would get tired of man-orgies.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - writing the middle (~1/3 finished)
Book "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" - pondering
- - - -
Reading - ?


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Post 90

Whoo! Made it. Three months of daily blogging, and most of the posts weren't even that terrible.

This'll continue, certainly, but it's time to at least consider The Future. At some point I'll have proven to myself that I can consistently write articles and want to focus on something else. I've got a lot of great stats from the last 90 days, and can at least confirm that it's not just the people I know in person who are reading this blog. I've also got a lot of fun new tech skills out of it, and practiced that basic article-craft that is presumably second nature to a proper newspaper writer.

When that confidence point arrives, my plan would be to post on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule and devote Tuesday and Thursday to guest posts or a blog partner or, the holy grail, a webcomic! The weekends would be random art or something. (If you're interested in any of that, shoot me a line.)

Anyways, here's what's happened in the last 90 days:
-I've wrote and submitted 20 short stories, 15 good. Those five were instructively bad.
-I've published 6 short stories as eShorts (numbers available later).
-I've outlined four short stories for when I get around to them.
-I've been rejected a lot! (That's a good thing, by the way.)
-I've made a start on 2 books, and have continued them steadily.
-I've progressed 1 book ahead in spurts.
-I've outlined 2 books for when I get around to them.
-I've written 90,000 words, give or take a few thousand, and almost all of those words are acceptable enough for strangers to look at.

I'm still single, though. Somebody get on that, I'm too busy.


This is how I assume most of my blog readers look after they finish my post.

"Damn, I just wasted a few minutes. I'm going to stare into the distance while I rethink my entire life. Wait, maybe this David fellow is a philosophical, wait again, that's overthinking it. I guess I'll become a social worker."

And buy my awesome writing? I'm going to assume yes.

250 words? Yes
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flight Simulators

This isn't a video game article, but it's going to mention a lot of video games, so let's get that out of the way at the start with a rough progression of David's youth upward through (combat) flight simulators:

A silly DOS game that is awesome. A popular method of dying was running into birds.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter
A silly genre game that is awesome. Obviously not technically a "flight" simulator because you're in space, but it reinforces the point that you're expendable and that you're going to die by giving you a crappy space-plane and pitting you against well-defended hordes. It'd be rude to call it unrealistic, but it's a lot of fun. Also, the pilot's information screen is really well designed. I'm annoyed that we don't have that technology yet.

MiG-29 Fulcrum
A less silly game with well-designed missions and pretty good graphics that is awesome. The day I figured out how to land my plane without crashing was a turning point in my youth.

IL-2 Sturmovik
A not-silly, brutally realistic WWII historical combat flight simulator that is awesome. Damn, though. You can run out of ammunition, fuel, and Hope rather fast. And that's if your engine doesn't malfunction on the way to combat. Your planes are also really slow.

There, that's done, but you can see the progression, and the similarities. Flight Simulators are fun, but they're also a good antidote to action movies and first-person shooters. You die more in flight sims, and you deserve it more, and you feel it more. A lot of the time you spent at least ten minutes flying out, maneuvering for position, until you get slaughtered if you're not Good. Then, even if you're Good, you could get slaughtered by   two or three enemies, or just by plain dumb luck from people shooting at you from the ground.

Frankly, it makes you glad you're not a combat pilot In Real Life.

That's how it applies to my writing. It reminds me that guns are dangerous, and if they're going to go off in my story, there should be a chance that the person aimed at will die. A good chance. There won't be any of this: "James Bond dodged the machine gun burst that spattered around his legs as he ran". There can be this: "James Bond dropped behind some cover and crawled away from the machine gun to a better position" or, better, "James Bond avoided being shot at."

If the survival of a character in combat is based on dumb luck as opposed to smart luck, it'll be clearly labelled as such and used sparingly. There's a reason people were so impressed by any ace that survived shooting down five enemies.

If combat appears in my fiction: everybody can die, but they don't have to.

The brutal boredom of combat:

That'll teach you to expect a soundtrack to your air war.


Still, planes are cool. There's a lot to be said for being a knight of the air, and given the option of hanging out getting trench foot and flying around in the air after having a nice meal at the aerodrome, I don't have to tell you which one I'd choose. I'm going to die anyways, it's WWI.

Planes are also really good introductions to Science Fiction. It's a man relying on science to achieve his objective, or at least Not Die. The fiction part comes from the fact that there's a lot more possibilities for character development when you have lots of downtime with ladies followed by moments of sheer terror in a rickety science-mobile.

250 words? Yes
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Books Writing

I gotta buckle down, get my arse in gear and put it in first. Wait, strike that last one, or pretend it was a hokey pokey reference.

Still. I have way too much fun writing short stories, and writing short stories is the delicious candy that is distracting me from writing the long fiction I want to write. I've got five solid ideas for books, I just need to sit down and focus on writing them. One of them is even Outlined! I mean, c'mon, me.

I'm a bad person. I'm hanging my head in shame. (I'm not thinking about my prodigious short story output, because that would ruin the upcoming point.)

So, here's the plan! I've got five books:

"Lived Too Long To Die" 
A diverse crew of space scouts visit a long-isolated Earth that is recovering from a Singularity apocalypse as the taciturn Captain Frank Evers is drawn out of his shell by a love triangle! A far future science fiction adventure (with clipper ships).

"Timpani the Ostrich Rancher"
A mysterious rose-quartz man searches for his place in society as the dashing nobles of the Kingdom of Kenya are drawn into the Anglo-Deutsch War. A steam-punk fantasy set in alternate history Africa.

 "At the Mountains of Malapert"
The Moon is explored, colonized, fought over, monetized, and gentrified in a sweeping tale of the lives and deaths of four lunar explorers. A hard science fiction with political elements.

A floating city hovering in the twilight of an abandoned Earth. A young techno-explorer using drone and satellite mapping to fill in the gaps of pre-history accidentally discovers a plot that could destroy the last city of Earth. Now he, his sister, and the policewoman who decides to help out are on the run from...everybody. A soft science fiction tech-feast.

"Fire in Khartoum"
The year is 1884: A young British lieutenant trapped in the siege of Khartoum wrestles between his feelings for a native girl and his wife at home. The year is 2008: a young aid worker newly arrived in Khartoum is caught between warring factions and wrestles with his own idealism. Can either of them save the one they love? A romantic parallel thriller.

Yes, this is also thinly veiled practice for blurb writing. They're all gonna get written, but you can mull over which description catches you. I'm going to shoot for one book every two months, because why not? Let's roll.


After they're finished, this dame is going to read all of them, and be so impressed by my purple prose and good grammar and spelling that she'll totally make sweet, sweet love to me. While I'm writing the sixth book, AKA "Sweet, Sweet Love...TO ME!", the tale of a wizard who makes a living statue of the perfect woman until realizing that once his pretty lab assistant takes off her glasses and lets down her hair, she's super-hot.

And in the ensuing love triangle he learns that women are people and not machines. The moral of the story is...magic.

250 words? Yes
Short Story "Cosmast Rhyt"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Monday, November 1, 2010

Assume Your Readers Are Idiots

Just don't let them find out, and don't tell 'em, jeez. Still, it's a safe bet.

Assume your readers are idiots just like you, and don't confuse them by making getting some complicated deep symbolism a prerequisite for understanding your plot. If you want to write High Concept, write literary fiction. Since you're reading the blog of a person who's trying to make a living writing based on a steadily increasing number of people buying what he's written rather than hoping that the New York Times posthumously reviews the one book he wrote in ten years, you're probably not into that.

Still don't believe that Readers are Idiots? Do you realize that Huck Finn is amongst the most challenged books, because it's "racist"? Even the people who actually read books before they challenge them are lucky if they figure out that Huck deciding to lie was a good thing. Still, Mr. Twain put in a lot of other stuff in there so they could just read it for picaresque fun without delving into the three-level morality tale going on. Yes, that's my theory for the part at the end with Tom Sawyer, even if it's part of the second level of that morality tale.

Think about any book you've casually read and write down the plot points and themes you can remember, then critically read it and see what happens.Yes, you too will probably find that you are an Idiot. And that's OK.

Taking off from that, you want to layer the plot to catch as many readers as possible, with extra Art points if you layer the simple plots on top of each other such that the reader who gets all of them bakes a complex plot cake. Just make sure the ingredients all taste better separately, on the assumption that most of your readers don't know how to cook.

No readers were harmed in the writing of this post.


In Petre the Jawa's defense, he couldn't have known that some of the Emperor's finest hang out at the library when they're skipping marksmanship training. He nearly got out of the stacks alive. These Imperial stormtroopers weren't that precise.

Almost makes you feel bad that he was played by a child actor. Almost.

250 words? Yes
Short Story "Cosmast Rhyt"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Muse

It being Halloween, it's time to think about costumes. The Writer's Costume, that is: the facade that the writer presents to the world, intentionally or unintentionally.

There are two layers to the costume, backwards alliterated: the Muse and the Excuse.

The Muse is where the writer says he gets his ideas. Broad experience, mental illness, embodiments of creative virtues that aren't succubi at all, no way. These Muses are approximately as creative as the writer himself, but of course they're not true. They're there to make up for the fact that Inspiration is just a sudden shift in neurons as other neurons smash new data through the mental filter of creativity to filter into the subconsciousness and assault the heavily defended walls of the conscious mind.

The Excuse, then, is what the writer says he uses to break through his own walls and let the ideas through. Active drinking, general debauch, random wandering, lack of willpower, boredom. As usual, none of it is true. All the writer does is leave the gate open and let the barbarian ideas boil through. It is precisely as easy as flipping a light switch. Except you can never close the gate again, and that's what all those Excuses are really meant to do.

So, this Halloween, dress up as your Muse and partake of your Excuse. Then get back to writing.


Lalala, fun is fun! We're having a dancing good time, we're muse ladies and we're hardly scantily clad at all!

Yet? (This is what happens when my Excuse dresses up as my Muse)

250 words? Yes
Short Story "Cosmast Rhyt"
- - - -
Reading - ?

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