Monday, March 18, 2019

Buckaroo Bonzai and awkward dialog

When I write dialog, I include a lot of "uh", "um" and such. It seems natural, especially when explaining something at length without preparation. It is definitely realistic.

This morning, I watched Buckaroo Banzai. I don't know if there was a budget problem but there is a lot of awkward movement, people taking a few steps then returning to where they started, then traveling in a new direction. I think the technical term is 'hitting their marks' or failing to. I found it pretty distracting.

I have read snide reports of how often characters overuse a line or phrase. I would hate for someone to count the "um"s in my current draft.

The words have to be real, reasonable for the person.  The characters don't have to sound like idiots, unable to complete a coherent thought. If someone is unsure, lacking confidence, "uh", is a good shorthand for that. There are reasons to use the word. Just not very many.

Friday, February 22, 2019

An interview with Lev Grossman

I struggled through the first Magicians book but began to really love the series. the lead character, Quentin, is not likeable in the first book but becomes a hero by the end.

Here is a recent interview with Grossman.
It’s still hard sometimes keeping a connection to the fictional worlds I’m trying to nurse into being — life intrudes a lot. But there’s a true thing people say about writing, which is that some people can’t not do it. They can’t help it. So even when I’m walking around, doing errands, getting the car fixed, taking the cat to the vet and so on I’m thinking through stories and characters and sometimes just individual sentences, turning them over in my head. It never stops. I can’t turn it off.
This is similar to other writers' descriptions. They write because they very nearly have to. I wish I had that.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

How to build a fantasy world?

This was a Quora questions I answered and I did some new Google searches so I felt I could/should post it here, too.
Brian Dean
Brian Dean, I want to be a writer - but I spend too much time writing about writing here!
What sort of building are you doing? As at least one other answerer did, I immediately thought of, a joke about megatons of rock and water and so on. Let’s put that aside. Do you already have one ‘complete’ in mind and now are wondering how to write about it, what stories fit in it, how to film a movie set there, what the local music would sound like? Or do you have a few ideas and want to get a better picture of this world before doing those things?
Let’s start at end of my last paragraph: You have some ideas but need to flesh them out. I cheat. The following are links to my blog where I offer links to various generators. I will share a few such direct links as well so you don’t have to visit my blog.
‘Generators’ in this case are tools that generate character names, maps, story titles, you name it. I like to use the name generators for secondary characters so I don’t have to waste time outside of the story inventing names for characters that might have three lines if they are lucky.
My blog with ‘generator’: creativiti project
One link there is to a ‘medieval city map generator: Medieval Fantasy City Generator
Another fantasy map generator: Generating fantasy maps
This link on my blog is to some pictures of drifting snow that looks to me like low relief maps: Today's creativiti on the ice
Okay. So now we have a solid set of ideas for this fantasy world. Writing about it in a story is not easy, but is traditional. It might be cool to have ten characters plus a few gossips or news sites report on it in Facebook, Twitter, even Quora and blogs. Kudos to you if you have establish a timeline and post on those sites for a few months and then collect the timestamped results, forming a coherent story only when they are put together. This would be like a conspiracy story but (semi) real or at least intended. If you were lucky, the comments others gave would add colour to your story. If you were interested in this angle but didn’t want to really post on Facebook, more generators are available. I searched for these in the process of answering your question so I cannot vouch for them. Also, they will probably end up on my blog as a new post - Win/win!
This one is for actual Facebook posts, I think: Create a Facebook Post — Free Online Facebook Post Maker — Crello
I wouldn’t be surprised if All effects - PhotoFunia had some useful templates.
Another creative solution would be to make a party with the goal of inventing a full history for your world. This is world building, not publishing: We Imagine a People – Alexander Jaffe – Medium It’s pretty cool so I will provide a lot of quotes. I fear I, and my friends, would not have the interest or endurance to do this whole project:
I’ve thrown a bunch of outlandish birthday parties, but I can’t even imagine having another after this one. Call it a Culture Jam. Dozens of people creating a fictional culture, from the dawn of man to the modern day, told through art crafted with increasingly complex art supplies. It’s kind of a party, and kind of a large-scale collaborative art project. Like life!
From his party invitation:
I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m dragging you all along with me. We’ll be converting our house into a lo-fi laboratory of art, culture, and alternate history. The party will last all day, and guests will come and go as they please, though my favorite guests will hang around a lot.
The activities will be twofold: 1) party. 2) invent an alternate culture over the course of the day, by creating art from within that culture, building upon the days’ creations so far, using a parade of increasingly more advanced artistic tools….
arriving in the morning, you’ll help form a neolithic culture just beginning to express itself. You’ll craft creation myths to explain the world around you, using basic tools — charcoal cave paintings, crude carvings, storytelling, etc. As the day progresses, the house will accrue artifacts and change shape, as civilization develops in distinct eras. You’ll receive new tools to reinvigorate your work and help you tell the story of the society through the art of its people.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Today's creativiti on the ice

I thought the family and I were just going to walk on the ice and look around, get some exercise. We did that and found some rough and smooth patches so we could get some speed and then slide. My son also suggested an artwork challenge. We had three duels; son and I, wife and I, son and wife. None of us managed anything fantastic and I will not tell you whose art you are looking at, but we had fun.  The challenges were boat, helicopter and tree.

 To me, the way the snow drifted and hardened resembled topographic maps. There were low, dark spots with only a dusting of snow over the ice. There were also thicker, brighter areas of thicker snow. The thick areas were larger so they appeared to me to be mainland around lakes with islands. You are welcome to invert the concept so there is dark land surrounded by bright seas.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Walking stick gift

My wife is not Canadian and in her country did not much celebrate Christmas. She is all for getting our son gifts of entertainment and educational and clothing types but doesn't want gifts herself. I do. And I didn't want to have zero gifts for her under the tree.

One thing I knew she would like is a gift I made. She and I have made things for each other in the past with hers being the more beautiful. She no longer makes Hanji boxes or lights but the ones she did make were remarkable. I apparently don't have photos of them quickly available. Here is a Google Search for Hanji papercraft.

Anyway, I made a walking stick for her. It started as a one foot long dowel and I carved a little, added a rope with a cool knot, measured to her size and then added a copper ferrule to keep the bottom from splitting. Click on any image to embiggen them. 

I think I found the idea of using a bit of copper piping for the ferrule on a scouting website. I am sorry that I cannot find it now to offer a link.

It is a little short for me but the hand grip is quite long so I could use it or my wife could descend a steep slope and still use it when it is planted below her feet.

The staff has a long hand grip area, a Korean flag and a rope affixed with a monkey fist knot. I carved the staff down quite a bit, leaving a knob to put the monkey fist around.

I will soon make a similar walking stick for my son, probably with a half-Korean, half-Canadian flag and whatever other personalizations he wants. Then one for me. Then I will, using the expertise acquired by making three sticks, make a better one for my wife.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I've taken a big step! And 'interesting' stuff

Today, while walking with my wife, I told her I wanted to publish a book in 2019. I wanted the same thing in 2018 and also 2017, 2016 and maybe even 2015 but this is the first time I have told anyone.

The admission or goal came out as we studied some interesting driving near our home in Penetanguishene. I suppose there is a metaphor or parable about taking a different path I could offer here but it seems to obvious and less fitting than it appears.

There is a private road paralleling the main one. It is a private road servicing some condos. At the far end and in the middle, out of sight, are two entrances to the street. The private road at this end just carries on beyond the condos for no obvious reason. It sure looks like there should be a connection to the street, but there isn't. I guess the angled curb meant it was easy to make that connection to someone apparently in a hurry.

On with my story. Searching for an ironic euphemism, I called the driving 'interesting' while I was wondering it 'impaired' or 'stupid' were better. I took some pictures and my wife told me I always took pictures of interesting things.

At this point I told her I wanted to publish a book next year. She was appropriately appreciative and admiring.

Then I tried to explain my train of thought. In the writing I had done already, I wrote most slowly, most painfully, the parts of getting from A to B. But when writing the interesting parts, my fingers flew over the keyboard and I think I even made fewer mistakes even while writing faster. So I needed to find and make more interesting parts of my currently unfinished stories so I could write them faster.

Oh, she was and is still supportive. I realize the previous two paragraphs sound like the setup for a joke. "She was admiring, I explained myself, now she is divorcing". No, I just wanted to write about writing interesting stuff. And describe my excitement for next year.


Alright, exciting stuff. Last year, I read one and a half books of Butcher's Furies of Calderon series. Everything in this story is exciting. The action jumps from scene to scene without let up. So much stuff happens. And I didn't exactly become bored by the action but did want more detailed world building laid out in a more relaxed manner so I could admire it rather than grasp at hints in the furious action. I liked it but couldn't finish - I felt too tired by it.  I do want to return to it as it had a lot of what I like in my fiction. Maybe I just need to rest up before diving in.

In 2018 and also maybe in 2017, I started to read City Stained Red by Sam Sykes. The story is different in feel than Butcher's but shares the same reckless, headlong action. I thought I liked such things. I definitely admire Sykes' ability to smoothly insert back story into the action.  There were no flashbacks or "as you remember, ...." which are too obviously meant for the reader to catch up with. Instead, with believable banter and dialog, the back story is fit into the action. Again, I do admire this and Sykes' book is probably the best book I couldn't finish. Much better than many books I could and did finish.

I don't know. Those two books - or a series and a book - were somehow 'too' interesting for me. How can I describe the story I want to write: Interesting and exciting but also with 'educational' parts? Parts where I show off my world building? I guess I want something like Niven's Ringworld where the location itself is a character. Or Hillerman's police procedurals set in Navajo territories where again the landscape and culture figure so strongly in the stories.

Friday, December 28, 2018

From Twitter

His follow up tweet, probably reachable by clicking on the one above, offers more good advice.

More posts coming. Some time.