Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Multiverse and Visualizing Dimensions

One of my favorite tropes involves traveling across dimensions and through the multiverse. I'll always remember the first time I read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle, with it's wonderful description of folding the dimensions to speed travel through the universe.

Based on Rob Bryanton's Imagining The Tenth Dimension, this video will lead you step by step through visualizing the ten dimensions (and to the existence of the multiverse) in a deceptively simple way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Writer Wellness

Please note: the following blog post is NOT intended to replace the advice of healthcare professionals.

Writing & wellness, two words that don’t seem to fit together. In the various writer cons I’ve attended, I only remember seeing this topic only once however; it was under the name, “Writing & Exercise.”
So, here my ideas for maintaining wellness as you write. (I realize that most of these are common sense however, we all need reminders….) ☺

Get Sleep
In the macho sleep deprived culture we live in, sleep is under valued. A good solid night’s sleep does a mind and body good! So turn of the computer, put the mobile phones, PDAs to silent and sleep.
This doesn’t have to complicated nor do you have to devote endless hours, a simple walk is fine, yoga class, bike ride etc. Whatever physical activity interests you. I’ve noticed in my process physical activity clears the head and centers me for hours in front of my laptop.
Eat Well
Food is fuel. A balance eating helps you: think clearly and sleep better.
Feed Your Soul
What is it that inspires you? Don’t know. Make a list of what you like to do, pick one thing. Try it.
Maintain your sense of humor. Laugh. It is good for the soul.
This does not mean hours in sitting in a crazy pose. Keep it simple – sitting in your favor chair, by the lake, in the middle of your living room floor. Take five minutes of deep breathing will help clear your head.
Writing is rather solitary. Take a time to connect with other writers, friends, family and strangers mono e mono. (Yes, step away from your computer and into the tactical world.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Disney Ahoy!

Oh my God, freaking out to hear that Tim Powers' book "On Stranger Tides" has been optioned by Disney so that elements can be used as the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie! How wonderful! Can't wait to see it-- anything involving both Johnny Depp and Tim Powers can't go wrong in my book :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Publishing: Article from NYT

Great article....

When Publishing Had Scents and Sounds
Published: September 6, 2009
In scarcely 30 years, technology has transformed the office archaeology of the book business.

Spec Fiction Phrases in French

Important spec fiction phrases in French:

Je crois en licornes - I believe in unicorns

Je crois aux fées - I believe in fairies

J'adore les vampires - I adore vampires

Je suis sur l'équipe de Jacob - I'm on team Jacob

Je suis sur l'équipe-Édouard - I'm on team Edward

Où est mon vaisseau spatial - Where is my spaceship?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Your Story Rules

The first short story I wrote in my adult life was about a werewolf. I asked a good writer-friend of mine to read it and he gave me a lot of useful feedback, but the comment I remember most is this: “Monster stories are all about the rules.”

Well, I suppose I should have realized that. After all, I was a teenager in the 80’s with five younger brothers, which translates into roughly six billion viewings of “Gremlins” --probably the ultimate monster rules movie. So once he said it, of course, I knew it was true. When I read a story about werewolves or vampires or zombies, I’m looking to see how the author is going to put his or her own spin on the rules. How will the monsters be made? Killed? What are their powers and limitations? At this year’s WisCon, the feminist fantasy and science fiction conference, I went to a panel on the “care of your vampire,” which was basically a group of vampire book authors comparing notes on the rules they used to govern the worlds of their stories. It was fascinating to hear how different their takes were, given the fact that they were working with the same folklore as a starting point. It occurred to me that, as a reader, I do not care so much what the rules are, as long as they are strongly stated and consistent. Your vampires may sparkle in the sunlight or they may turn to ash and—although both those choices have very different symbolic connotations and change the story dramatically—I am willing to buy either one if the author truly buys it. I am a theatre geek and one thing you learn in acting classes is that, when you play a character, you must make strong choices, regardless of what those choices may be, and commit to them completely in order for an audience to believe in that character. I think the same thing can be said of writing.

Now, I haven’t always felt this way. When I first started writing, I was afraid to give my stories strong rules. I was insecure in my ability to create a plot and I thought that rules would only trip me up, cause me to paint myself into a plot corner or to violate my own guidelines accidentally, invalidating my story. Besides, wasn’t this fantasy? Shouldn’t anything be possible? Since then, however, I have learned more about world building and I’ve come to understand that stories in which literally anything is possible—stories with no rules for their monsters or magic systems or what have you—are actually not that engaging. Reading one is like watching a tennis match without knowing the rules of the game. It’s not very exciting to watch, and you certainly aren’t tempted to jump in and
play. On the other hand, if you do know the rules of a game--or a story--you can easily move from observer to player. I remember reading Scott Westerfeld’s “Midnighters” series, YA novels that take place in a world with complex rules. One of the rules is that the monsters of the story are afraid of multiples of thirteen. In one scene, the characters have stuck thirteen knives in a door to ward the monsters off. When I read that one of the knives had been knocked loose from the door, I felt a real rush of panic. I had internalized the rules of the story so completely that I felt like I was a part of that story.
It’s an experience I never would have had if Westerfeld’s rules had been wishy-washy or the consequences unclear.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t have exceptions to the rules. In fact, the premise of many stories depends on there being someone or something for whom the rules don't apply. But you have to set up strong, consistent rules first and then violate them intentionally, for a reason. And if you do, you may find that your story functions on another level. Because monster stories are “all about the rules” in another sense, too: they are all about our society’s taboos and the consequences for violating them. But if we want to use our monster stories as a consistent metaphor for something in the world around us, we have to make the world within them air-tight first.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Writing advice

Below is a link to writer, Po Bronson's website, specifically his advice to budding writers....

Love to know what you think of his insights....

Politics and Social Commentary in the Theme? Yup, especially science fiction and fantasy.

There was an interesting little bit of scuffle over on the Wyrdsmiths Blog. Science Fiction and Fantasy writer Kelly McCullough read about someone making a bigoted remark involving the GLBT community. This guy followed a train of logic he sincerely didn't seem to understand the offensive nature of. Kelly called him out on it. Shockingly a few folks seemed to get a little irritated that a blog about fantasy and science fiction writing would veer, ever so slightly into the political.
Ummm... What? I'm not sure I caught that.
Have people been paying ANY attention to the science fiction and fantasy they have been reading? (The answer is, of course YES, but apparently some people are missing it.) Just to clarify: "it's almost all a metaphor for societal issues." Just about everything has ties into topics of significance. It's not just cheep, diversionary, shallow, dribble. I'll admit it's good for a thrill, but all the good stuff ties in. Hell, even vampires are commentary on sex, fear of sex, and fear of spreading infection through sexual or taboo acts.
Theme is an incredibly important element to writing. Maybe the MOST important. Why do we love Harry Potter? Because everyone had to go to school, grow up, and deal with bullies, and get picked on by people and caught up in situations we felt powerless to alter . I argue that did more for it's success than prose, humor, character, or even magic stuff.
Next time you write a story try picking out the social themes it will parallel first, or close to the start, I've found it actually opens up a huge amount of good stuff with a little creativity.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Writerly Haiku

Fall TV shows start.
So hard to write in prime time.
Characters, talk loud!

Sorry, Officer
Fixing chapter twelve.
Oh! Who put that red light there?
Writing while driving.

Plotted Out
Wish that I could cheat
Send in the damn cavalry
God in the machine!

Key marks on my cheeks,
Random letters on my screen
Fell asleep again!

Got one? Post it to the comments!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If You Like Vampire Stories

Over on my blog Children of the Night I just posted a book recommendation for a new YA vampire romance anthology, "The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire" edited by Trisha Telep. It features stories by Holly Black, Cecil Castellucci, Libba Bray, Lili St.Crow and a number of other excellent authors. For more

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Pixar Formula

I'm in the middle of plotting out my WIP, so natually I took a break and went looking for a short cut. A friend had mentioned a formula used by Pixar to balance moments of pathos and fun. I couldn't find that, but I did find a bunch of good posts and articles about Pixar's creative processes and theories of storytelling.

The top three lessons I learned from reading about Pixar:
1. The first draft is just the first draft. Writing is rewriting.
2. Create a safe environment for yourself where you aren't afraid to fail, afraid of criticism or afraid of criticizing.
3. Work like crazy to make your story good, strive for greatness, but know perfection isn't attainable. Sometimes you just have to release it into the world.

And here are a few of the posts/reports I found:
Animation World Magazine recapped the lessons learned at Screenwriting Expo 5 which hosted a panel filled with Pixar writers and artists.

Jim Hill Media's Recap of the talk includes the rules Pixar set up for itself as they developed Toy Story.

The Animation Guild's Recap (amazingly, each blogger tells a slightly different and informative story).

The authors of Mavericks at Work talk about the business model of Pixar which also their creative practice.

Pixar's website posted a series of articles by a critic dissecting each film. Each is a thoughtful exploration of good storytelling.
Toy Story
Bugs Life
Toy Story 2
Monsters, Inc
Finding Nemo
The Incredibles

Finally, because I'm a mother of two girls, I'm linking to Linda Holmes great open letter to the good people at Pixar
Dear Pixar, From All The Girls With Bandaids On Their Knees

And Jon Lassiter's response -- more or less.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Craft of Writing - Revisions

A great story is not written once, it is re-written. Writing a story is a process of revision - characters, plot lines, worlds changing
with mere keystrokes. When writing, one must allow the story to develop and cultivate, if the story prematurely stops, it loses energy.

Next time, you are at the keyboard, take a deep breath: cut, trim and refine sentences. Place the edits in a special folder (you may use the sentence(s) again somewhere else.) Allow the story to blossom to its fullest potential. You’ll be amazed at the results!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quote for the Day

(Graffiti on the side of a train, near my home in South Minneapolis. I snapped this while stopped at a red light just because it made me smile.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What does your Writing say about you?

I got mentally snagged by a little piece of a larger conversation the other day. Essentially we were discussing how much do you plan out ahead of time? How much do you have down, A.B.C. and how much is a more organic flow that just kind of happens? I'm sure there are as many ways to go about this as there are different stories to write, but what I was thinking about was how much does the way you go about a project say about you? In my experience the method almost always matches the personality. People and value oriented? Character comes first and they follow them through the story. Procrastinator? Action all at the end. Of course there are exceptions to this and as i got thinking about it I started pondering more about what your writing says about you as a person.
I know they say you put yourself in a story whether you try to or not, and obviously what you choose to write about definitely says a lot about what you are interested in, but i've seen wonderful examples that go deeper. I know a writer who is a loving, caring, thoughtful mother. She also seems to have a tough time with that whole: make bad things happen to your characters to ratchet up the tension part. She wants to nuture her characters. I know another writer who has moved all over the country for school and work, and her latest story is as choppy and fragemented as her life.
Going even a step further out, what does your genre say about you? We fantasy and science fiction folk are definitely the dreamers, and i'd like to propose this as quote of the day, since it's the quote of my life:

"... perhaps maddest of all is to see the world as it is, and not as it ought to be."

That's from man of la mancha. Apparently what THIS particular piece of writing says about me is that I am a little scatterbrained, and a huge theatre nerd.
Not sure if I have anything terribly enlightening to say on the topic, just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on it. I know my own writing is a fairly effective ink blot for my own personality.