Friday, August 31, 2012

Fanfiction: What is it? What makes it 'Good' or 'Bad'?


Everyone has probably heard of Fan Fiction in one way or another. You’ve probably heard a friend talking about a Fan Fic they have read or even read some yourself. But what is it exactly and what makes it so appealing? What makes for a ‘good’ fan fiction versus a ‘bad’ one? Of course all of these questions are subject to opinion and personal preference but I will get into more of the reason for that in a little bit.

Let’s look at the definition of Fan Fiction first and foremost: ‘Fan Fiction, a fictional account written by a fan of a show, movie, book, or video game to explore themes and ideas that will not or cannot be explored via the originating medium; also written fan fic, also called fanfic’- from Dictonary.com. In essence, Fan Fiction is just a written story someone has created because they want to play with an idea, theme, or concept they have for a particular show, game, book, and or movie. It can be used as a way to ‘practice’ writing, character building, and a platform to work off of. 

However, it is not a way to generate income or even to make a little extra cash. There are still copyright laws to contend with and some authors or creators absolutely do not wish to have their ‘crafts’ written about and for those no ‘disclaimer’ will protect you. Katie MacAlister, a favorite author of mine, is one of those. Here is a list those who do not allow for fanfiction. 

This is an old list and I am sure there are updated lists out there, but I have not found them as of yet. Remember that this is their income and oft times central livelihood so you can see why they might not wish someone else to play with it. And not to kill the proverbial puppy, there is a light at the end of this tunnel because there are many creators and authors who don’t care one way or another and some even encourage fan fiction. So it's a really good idea to check prior to writing something you want to eventually post on the Internet falls under the "forbidden" list prior to actually posting it. This is more to protect yourself than anything else. 


 All of that being said and out of the way we can move on to what makes a fan fiction ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Personally, I have written fan fiction for anime series such as Cowboy Bebop, Saiyuki, Gravitation, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Inuyasha. For manga, I’ve written fan fiction for The Cain Saga and Godchild. As far as Television shows and movies I’ve done some for Stargate SG-1 and Lord of the Rings. And for books I’ve played with The Dragonlance Series as well as Forgotten Realms- the Drizzit books. Not all have been posted on the Internet and most of them are just ideas that I toyed with for a time and abandoned. Also, not all have been particularly good, in fact most I had to smack myself and ask ‘What the heck was I thinking’?  Yes, I literally smacked myself a time or two… or fifteen.

Still, there were some I turned out that were decent enough and I felt I not only accomplished something with the actual story, but I also learned some things about my own writing through. There are a couple I posted on Fanfiction.net a few years ago that I am still getting good reviews for. 

But what sort of criteria made them good enough or terrible? I’ve often asked myself these things and sometimes it comes down to what audience are you writing for? Are you writing for those who simply want smut/erotica or are you writing for the audience that wants a plot mixed with some romantic scenes or plot with smut? I feel like that is the first avenue you have to decide. Next, and I have a small list coming up shortly, is how to make it good, something people will want to read and see through to the end.

1.      It is essential to have a grasp on the characters in the particular fandom you are writing about. You want the characters from the show, movie, game, manga, or book to resemble their original selves as much as possible.

2.        If you are adding your own original character (as I routinely do) or any small original characters here and there, you want to have a strong grasp on said character(s) as well. In one fandom, on one particular site I posted on, some people got bent out of shape and thrashed me as well as others for adding original characters to stories. They called them Mary Sue’s every time whether or not said original characters actually were. Some people think Mary Sue's are just back original characters whereas some else might define a Mary Sue as you inserting yourself into a story. I, personally, don’t feel like having a Mary Sue (going with the latter idea) is such a bad thing from time to time. There are both good and bad Mary Sue’s of course, an example of one, and of just plain bad fan fiction and writing is: My Immortal   I haven’t read the whole thing, frankly it hurt.

3.      A good story will stick with the original story. If you’re writing fan fiction you don’t want to deviate too much from the book/show/game/movie ect because then it becomes your story with pre-made characters under the guise of being a(n) “insert whatever book/show/movie/game”. It’s kind of like stealing someone else’s world and trying to call it your own. I did a story in which Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist had a daughter no one really knew much about in the beginning, called Fetch
      It was (AU) Alternate Universe in that Roy Mustang had previously been married and his wife had died not long after the birth of their daughter in the Ishbal War. In the original manga/TV Series, Roy Mustang never had a daughter and he was never married. However, when writing this story, I made sure to keep Roy Mustang, Edward and Alphonse Elric and the other characters from the show as close to their original selves and worked my original character in to fit. I did not deviate from the original world and concepts too much so as to make it not only a believable story but also a fun one. 
  
4.      It’s a good idea to get a beta reader which essentially is an editor, someone to proof read, catch spelling and grammatical mistakes, and bounce ideas off of. I haven’t always done this. I’m not proud of it and wish I had. Most readers will forgive the occasional error, after all this isn’t a big time bestselling novel, it’s just for fun, but if your story is riddled with errors, people get caught up on them and cease to enjoy the story.

5.      Make certain the story makes sense. If someone can’t follow the story, or gets lost and doesn’t know what’s going on, you’re going to lose them. I don’t know how many times I’ve really liked a story but something happens where the writer did something and I had no idea what was going on. I was really sad to have to give up on the story.

6.      Do your research not just on the characters but the world, the rules of said world and settings. I don’t know how many maps of Amestris I have stored away and character profiles I’ve copied for reference from the web, or notes I have taken on a particular place or character. I don’t know how many hours I have spent taking notes while watching or reading a particular show or book. As you can probably tell I am in love with the Fullmetal Alchemist world in that respect I have studied their ‘Alchemy’ as best I can from the first TV series and even looked up real life Alchemy. Interesting stuff by the way.

7.      As I mentioned before, it’s a good idea to try and see if what you’re writing falls under the ‘Forbidden’ list. If not, then a simple disclaimer at the beginning and a couple of times throughout your story will help save your butt.  Examples:   Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist or the characters therein or even Disclaimer: I do not own (insert your fandom), the characters, and I am not profiting from this story.

8.      When looking to post your story, look around the site for flamers, people who trash and thrash others because they can and they think it is fun. Some sites have trolls who lurk and hang around in clicks, just like in high school. Several people will complement their friend’s stories (whether or not they are actually good or not) and tear someone else who might have a really good story to shreds because they aren’t in their particular group and because they are jerks. So you want to be sure to check the comments on several stories. If you find constructive or helpful criticism, then it’s a good place to post. If you don’t and most of the comments give you the feeling of someone being down right vicious or overly mean or there are a lot of “This story sucks” then it probably isn’t the best place to post your work.

9.       Most importantly have fun and be creative.

       Remember, Fan fiction is written for fun, an escape, and can even be a good place to practice
writing. It is also a challenge. Furthermore, keeping the aforementioned ideas in mind coupled with
your own writing talent and you should be able to turn something out that others, not just yourself, 
can enjoy. 

     Here are a few Fan fiction sites I've gone too to read stories posted and or post my own stories.

Adult Fan Fiction.net (for those over 18)



Love Scenes VS. Erotica: Pillow Talk


"It is not enough to conquer; one must know how to seduce." ~ Voltaire


In the end the real difference between love scenes (romance stories) and erotica comes down to what the author wants the reader to feel.  In a love scene the goal is emotional satisfaction and too little can be detrimental while too much might seem out of place in the context of the novel.  In erotica the goal is visceral reaction and too little may leave the reader unsatisfied while too much may very well equate porn.  It is important to handle love and sex scenes with great care because as I stated before, everything the characters do and say, and everything they don't do and don't say, is important and has meaning and can either enhance or detract from not only the scene but the entire novel or short story.  When we put the typical elements of love scenes and erotica side by side, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Love scenes are about love; erotica is about sex.
  • Love scenes keep it magical and obscure; erotica tends to be more blunt.
  • Love scenes end with both parties satisfied; erotica may or may not.
  • Both are most successful when creativity and imagination are employed.

Sex scenes and erotic elements are not limited to romance and erotica but that is where they are most commonly seen.  There is nothing wrong with adding a bit of visceral detail to a love scene, nor is there anything wrong with confessions of love during an erotic tryst.  The lines between these literary art forms exist but they are thin and easily crossed.  The most important thing to keep in mind is the feel of your novel and the development of your characters.  


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I have included links to the first two installments of this series as well as links to other pages and sites that may be of interest to anyone wishing to explore or hone their skills in the area of romance and eroticism. 

Love Scenes VS. Erotica: Erotica

"Sex is only dirty when it's done right." ~ Woody Allen

We have a basic understanding of what is it that makes a love scene and in this post, we are going to explore literary intimacy as portrayed through erotica.  We'll explore the purpose of such writing as well as what it is about it that takes it to the next level and sets erotica apart from it's PG13 predecessor: the romance novel.  

First up, I would like to illustrate that there is a difference between erotica and something being erotic.  Many novels, short stories, poems and the like have erotic scenes and themes and are not what one would call erotica.  In Bret Easton Ellis' novel, American Psycho, there are gratuitous and explicit sex scenes as well as grisly depictions of violence, but even amid the gore and pornographic images, there are various erotic elements meant to bring about some sort of visceral response from the reader.  Also, Oscar Wilde's, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is indisputable a highly erotic novel but it is in no way considered erotica.

To be considered erotica, a novel must feature Eros (the Greek word and ideal which indicates physical intimacy).  Whereas a romance novel focuses on the love between characters and is at liberty to downplay or completely omit sexual intercourse, an erotica piece, ideally, focuses heavily on the sex and all things surrounding the sex.  This isn't to say that the sex scenes in such a piece lack meaning.  In fact, in most erotica pieces the sex is not only a key ingredient to character interaction but also an essential part of the plot.  Common themes in erotica include seduction, entrapment, submission, dominance, self-discovery, sexual liberation, sexual deprivation, and the breaking of taboos.  When a reader sits down to read an erotic piece, they should expect to be turned on.  Subtle euphemisms are replaced with harsher, bolder language meant to arouse and viscerally stimulate the reader.  One could argue that pornography does the same thing, however there is a distinction between pornographic material and erotic material.   Former pornographic actress, Gloria Leonard, asserts that, "The difference between pornography and erotica is the lighting."  Nothing could be truer in my opinion.  There is a very fine line between these two art forms and it all comes down to presentation and delivery.  Literary pornography is sex sans plot that stymies the imagination through a decided lack of the essentials of refined writing; erotica is sex as part of plot or as the goal of the plot and, whether the scene be raunchy or tasteful, it encourages the reader's imagination through use of vivid and exciting vocabulary and literary elements.

Something to keep in mind is that sex has a very broad definition and in erotica we often find this definition taken to new places.  It is possible to have an erotica story that lacks traditional penetration (though this is not typically the case).  The story might involve BDSM elements such as impact play, fire play, or other various sexual and erotic practices that never actually graduate to intercourse.  Other erotic tales, particularly of the vampire sort, might embrace sexuality in the from of gore or through exploration of the idea of feeding and being fed.  Love in Vein, a collection of vampire erotica brought together and edited by Poppy Z. Brite, delves into the multiple facets of eroticism through sex, parasitic existence, horror, violence, music and other elements, and through all of this the main goal is to entertain and arouse.  That is what fundamentally sets erotica apart from love scenes: love scenes make your tummy warm, erotica makes your blood hot.  There are love scenes that accomplish arousal and there is erotica that deals with love, but at their core, one appeals to the reader's emotional side, while the other appeals to the reader's physical side.

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Part one and part three of this article are listed below:

Love Scenes VS. Erotica: The Love Scene
Love Scenes VS. Erotica: Pillow Talk

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American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, published in 1991, can be purchased at Amazon.com.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, published in 1890, can be purchased at Amazon.com and can be downloaded as a free audio book here.

Love in Vein, edited by Poppy Z. Brite, published in 1995, can be purchased at Amazon.com.


Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Prompt: From Dani's own list (3)

Write a free write for 15 minutes on one or both phrases:
History in two words
History of two words

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Prompt: From Dani's own list (2)

do a free write for 5 minutes on the phrase:
I can't understand the way of the cat.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Individual Homework

Individual Homework--
We have gotten to the point where we'll look at our individual goals and taking the first step with one or more of them. Let me know if you feel that this is too much homework, or to 'childish' to be doing it this way, and we can think of something else.

Crimson-
One of your goals is to set a time everyday to write and setting a word goal for the week or the day. Decide on a weekly word count that you can easily accomplish. And start creative writing and/or journalling to accomplish that.
Vocab word for the weekly entry :)

Skoora-
One of your goals is grad school and everything to do with it. Narrow down your school list to at most 5. You can do this any way you like (create a set of questions/requirements you want and narrow it down that way, spread sheet to see the differences, or random dice throwing.)
Make a list of questions to ask each school (include general questions for all the programs and special questions for that individual school). By end of the week, have it narrowed down to your top 2 choices (or a number you are willing to apply/pay for).

Aimee-
Goal of backing up everything-- Take a few hours this week and backup by either email or flash drive everything that you don't have saved outside of your computer.

Alex- daily free writing (use any topic, prompt, or excise you wish) at least five minutes each.

Dani-
rewrite problem scene in rough draft.
post/respond to a prompt for this week
daily free write
1 hour on typing up old notes/stories/poems etc.
Get laptop up and running as main computer
  • security software
  • office setup
  • Scrivener
  • locate port's plug
  • connect to Internet
Dani for Blog-
set up the page for review and beta readers
set up template for bio page of contributors
prompts & discussion question

Vocab word of the week


This week's word of the week is 'Pretext'.


pre·text

  [pree-tekst]  Show IPA
noun
1.
something that is put forward to conceal a true purpose orobjectan ostensible reasonexcuse: The leaders used theinsults as a pretext to declare war.
2.
the misleading appearance or behavior assumed with thisintention: His many lavish compliments were a pretext forsubtle mockery.

Love Scenes VS. Erotica: The Love Scene

"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous." 
~ Ingrid Bergman


In the next few posts I will attempt to deconstruct the elemental differences between love scenes and erotica.  How much is too much, and how little is too little?  How can love scenes/erotic moments enhance or destroy plot?  As a reader, I've come across my fair share of spicy, intimate, interesting love scenes.  I've read raunchy pulpy things that were less artistic and more pornographic; I've read cute little 'fade to black' implied love scenes; and I've read tastefully done hard core sex.  I've also tried my hand at writing pretty much everything I just mentioned and so this topic bears personal importance to me not only as a reader but as an author as well.  First up, we'll explore the love scene and try to identify some of the elements that make it what it is.

In a love scene (for a romance novel), this is the most important moment of character interaction.  It reveals a great deal about one or both of the characters involved and this is done primarily through the events before and after the actual 'deed.'  The foreplay and the banter (be it comical, dramatic, endearing, or even a bit on the naughty side) tell us what these characters mean to each other, or don't mean to each other.  The following pillow talk moments (if present) tell us how this loving moment is going to change or not change the course of events for the characters and possibly the whole novel.  Every choice in a love scene has meaning.  Everything the characters say to each other in a love scene has meaning.  This moment sets up the reader for the inevitable doom or triumph of these characters because in this one moment, they are vulnerable.  They are happy and in love, at least physically if not emotionally, and everything is right with the world and now we sit back and wait to see how it either all comes together or all falls apart.  It is here where 'too little' can actually detract from a story.  If one is not willing to give the love scene the care and craft that it is due, then it is often better to leave it out entirely, but, in some cases that would ruin the point of the novel.

The main emphasis is not the actual sex in a love scene, hence the title: love scene.  It is about the love, or lack thereof, and it propels a romance plot forward by giving the character(s) something to fight for or fight against or cherish or regret.  I have read several love scenes that go into a bit of detail in an attempt to spice it up, but even still, there is always a decided lack of frank anatomical references, the author favoring obscurity behind terms like 'manhood' and 'rod' and 'her mounds.'  Also the actual 'doing of it' generally lasts (on the page) a few paragraphs at best, and ends with both parties mutually satisfied (the ear mark of fiction, as this is very rarely the case in real life).  For the most part, these scenes are all about the lead up and sometimes - depending on the author's style, the needs of the story, the wills of the characters - it's all about what happens after.

In novels that do not fall into the romance genre, love scenes may or may not bear the same importance. They can become objects of comical relief, they can be statements on a character's lack or adherence to moral codes, they can be pure and blatant fanservice (giving the reader what the reader wants for the sake of doing so), and they can also be that optimal moment where everything changes and the characters have to figure out where they go from here.  Successful love scenes engage the reader's emotional side at least as much as, if not more than, their visceral side.

Something rather magical about love scenes is that they can exist in a story without even being written and, in some cases, can carry all the significance, relief, confusion, regret, or hope that a featured love scene brings with it.  In Harry Harrison's  Planet of the Damned, the love scene between the main characters takes place in a hospital setting and all that the author gives us to go on is some gentle kissing and a whisper from the female lead telling her paramour "I bruise easily."  That ends the chapter and when we pick up the story again the action plot surges forth and the tiny moment of romantic reprieve is all but forgotten.  We don't need to know what she might have cried out as they finished, or how long they lasted to be satisfied that they expressed their long over due affection and just in time, as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance.  Another absolutely fantastic love scene that is truly a 'love' scene and not an observation of sex in any way shape or form comes from Henry de vere Stacpoole's The Blue Lagoon.  With a target audience of young adults, it might seem strange that this story, published in 1908, would deign to explore sexuality at all.  However, chapter nine of book two (which is only five paragraphs long - just as long as it needs to be), explores the carnal coming of age without ever indicating the act.  The previous chapter ends with Dick and Emmeline's frustrations coming to a head in a sudden sweet kiss and then we skip over the specifics and are left with this beautiful acclamation of love which, I believe does all the things a love scene ought to and does it in a way that is palatable to the audience and appropriate for the overall mood and setting of the story.


The Blue Lagoon, Book II, Chapter Nine (in its entirety)

The moon rose up that evening and shot her silver arrows at the house under the artu tree. The house was empty. Then the moon came across the sea and across the reef.
She lit the lagoon to its dark, dim heart. She lit the coral brains and sand spaces, and the fish, casting their shadows on the sand and the coral. The keeper of the lagoon rose to greet her, and the fin of him broke her reflection on the mirror-like surface into a thousand glittering ripples. She saw the white staring ribs of the form on the reef. Then, peeping over the trees, she looked down into the valley, where the great idol of stone had kept its solitary vigil for five thousand years, perhaps, or more.
At his base, in his shadow, looking as if under his protection, lay two human beings, naked, clasped in each other's arms, and fast asleep. One could scarcely pity his vigil, had it been marked sometimes through the years by such an incident as this. The thing had been conducted just as the birds conduct their love affairs. An affair absolutely natural, absolutely blameless, and without sin.
It was a marriage according to Nature, without feast or guests, consummated with accidental cynicism under the shadow of a religion a thousand years dead.
So happy in their ignorance were they, that they only knew that suddenly life had changed, that the skies and the sea were bluer, and that they had become in some magical way one a part of the other. The birds on the tree above were equally as happy in their ignorance, and in their love.       

In summation, a love scene typically entails some if not all of these elements: love in some form, foreplay (and, occasionally pillow talk), brevity during the actual act, polite euphemisms in place of lewd or scientific terms, and everyone gets their jollies.  To put it bluntly, a love scene should be like a young woman's skirt; long enough to cover the subject but short enough to keep our attention.   In the next installment we will look at what graduates a love scene into all out erotica.

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Continued reading:
Love Scenes VS. Erotica: Erotica
Love Scenes VS. Erotica: Pillow Talk

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Planet of the Damned, by Harry Harrison, published in 1962, can be purchased at Amazon.com.  You can also download the royalty free audio book here .

The Blue Lagoon, by Henry de vere Stacpoole, published in 1908, can be read for free here.


Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

Prompts: From Dani's own list (1)

Do a free write for 10 minutes on the phrase:
Death in the bathroom.

Character Building Sheet and Related Links

The following is a very thorough character building form that was emailed to me some time ago by a good friend and fellow writer/blogger.  It's a tool that you can personalize for your own needs: add to it, subtract from it, expound here and minimize there, and hopefully flesh out a good basis for your character.  You can create a character from scratch (if you want to spice things up a bit you can flip a coin or roll some dice to help you decide on the basics), or you can take a character that you already know very well (or think you know) and fill this out for them to see just how well you really know him/her/it.  At the end there are some character specific creative prompts as well as room for notes.  I recommend/challenge us all to apply this to one of our preexisting characters, or to use it to create someone brand new.  For further character sheet exploration you can check out this Blank PDF Form or take a gander at this awesome website complete with numerous helpful character building links.





General

Name ( Title, Given, Middle, Surname, Suffix ):
Alias ( Title, Given, Middle, Surname, Suffix )/( Alternate )/( Nickname ):
Age:
Birthdate:
Sign/Omen ( Astrological, Chinese, etc ):
Current Residence:
Birth Place:
Hometown:
Allegiance:
Belief/Religion:
Titles/Honorifics:
Profession:
Hobby:

Physical

Sex:

Racial

  • Race:
  • Sub-Race:
    • Strengths:
    • Weaknesses:

Physical Characteristics (subdivided as needed)

  • Height:
  • Weight:
  • Build:
  • Measurements:
  • Hair ( Color/Style ):
  • Eyes ( Right/Left ):
  • Skin/Fur/Scales/Etc ( Color/Pattern ):
  • Handedness: [ Left/Right/Ambidextrous ]
  • Marks
    • Birthmarks:
    • Natural:
    • Scars:
    • Tattoos:
Basic Description:
Disabilities:
Fashion:
  • Primary Outfit:
  • Secondary Outfit:
  • Occasion Specific Outfit:
  • Location Specific Outfit:

Internal Biology

  • Blood Type:

Possessions

  • Most Prized Possessions (Material Value):
    • 1)
    • 2)
    • 3)
  • Most Prized Possessions (Emotional Value):
    • 1)
    • 2)
    • 3)

Background

Summary/Background:
Family Background:
History:
Education:

Psychology

Gender:
Personality:
Likes:
Dislikes:
Goals:
Life's Ambition ( Single greatest goal ):
Fears:
Crippling Fear ( Single Biggest Fear):
Least Outspoken About:
Most Outspoken About:
Vernacular ( Way of speaking ):
Mannerisms ( Behavior quirks or traits ):
Psychological Condition:
Aptitudes:
Superstitions:
Morals:
Positive Characteristics:
Negative Characteristics:

Social Interaction

Relationships ( With who, and what kind )
            (Family/Relatives/Friends/Coworkers/Associates/Acquaintances/Rivals ):
Reaction to meeting new people who are ( Good/Evil/Neutral/Young/Old/Younger than self/Older than self/Other):
Social Pressures/Problems:
Other Pressures/Problems:
General Public Behavior:
Manners:

Sayings

Catchphrase ( General / Personal ):
Favorite Sayings:
Quote:
General Philosophy:
Least Favorite Sayings:

Likes / Dislikes

[Subject] ( Obsessed / Likes / Neutral / Dislikes / Repulsed ):
[ Explanation ]
Examples:
  • Food
  • Television Show
  • Animal
  • Movie
  • Book

Ability

Languages:
  • Normal
  • Physical
  • Extraordinary
  • Technological
  • Supernatural
  • Magic
  • Psionic

History


Getting to Know Your Character (Prompts)
Relationship: (How would a spouse, significant other, friend, family describe the characters)
  • Significant Other (if they have one)
  • Friendship
  • Parent (if they have one)
  • Sibling (if they have one)
  • Arch Nemesis
  • Random Homeless Man on the Street (Omniscient Limited)
Scene Placements: (write a scene for each once sentence promt given)
  • Conflict Situation (this can be verbal or physical)
  • First Date
  • In trouble with the law
  • Learning a Important Secret (would they reveal it, or keep it to the death?)
  • Walking by a burning house, what would they do?
  • The First thing they remember
  • The Last thing they remember
  • Heard someone is spreading rumors about them, how do they physically react?
Internal Thinking:
  • Have them think about the meaning of life?
  • Have them think about religion.
  • Have them think about Justice, is it there for everyone, is it not?
  • They have a love interest, have them think about approaching said person.
  • Just had a fight, what is their internal conflict/resolve after?
  • Heard someone is spreading rumors about them, how do they internally react?
Anything Else You Want!
Notes:




Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

The List is the Thing

A short list of what I believe I need to work on, not only to make my writing better, but to also make other aspects of my life better.

 1. Remember that it does not have to be perfect. I have a real problem with perfection. I know that nothing is perfect, and everything that is written is open to criticism, but there is that little voice in the back of my mind telling me that it could be just a little bit better. I need to learn that when the people who have read my stuff say that it is good, and that they would not change or add anything, that they are telling me to stop tinkering.

 2. I need to be more organized. I have research materials everywhere - be it books, notes, printed off material, or things stored on my computer. While the books are easy to find, everything else ends up as a game of hide and seek, but you will never find. I have gotten better, keeping notes and research for projects in their own folders, but then I lose the folder.

3. Remembering to backup everything. I have lost two computers to hardware failure. I remembered to back things up the second time. When I think about it I email my projects to a special email address I have set up just for my writing. I also have an external hard drive, but backing up means remembering to backup.

 4. I want to branch out into different genres. Right now I write urban fantasy. I deal with elves, vampires, various were critters, and so on. I make my own worlds in this world, and create my races the way I think they should be, not what is canon. I would really like to do some kind of suspense writing, as well as some young adult novels.

 5. I want to be published. I have visions of sitting in a book store, signing my novels and chatting with people who are interested in the little worlds I have created. But should I self publish? Look for an agent to do all of the nitty gritty for me? Sign with a big house and let them own my creations for a specified amount of time? Those are the main issues I have right now.

 6. I would like to be better at self editing. Honestly, I do not do a whole lot of editing after I finish a book. I edit as I go, taking out things that I wrote at three in the morning, or adding something that I think is brilliant. But once I finish, I'm done. I'll read through it a few weeks later and decide that I need to add more, but I never take away. Mind you, my novels tend to be upwards of 150,000 words, because I have a lot of characters and a lot of action. Do I kill my little darlings? Yes and no. But I am stubborn, and if I think it needs to be there, it will be there.

 7. I need to let more people read my stuff, even if I don't think I will take their advice. This is a problem for me. I have people that I trust read my stuff. I know that they will tell if it is good, bad, getting there, or what the hell are you thinking. They offer good advice and will answer questions that I have with thoughtful responses. Then there are those people who want to read my work and offer to edit, but they don't read it for the story first. I had one person look at a few pages of the first novel I wrote, and she looked at the first page, took out a pen and drew x's through stuff, without even knowing what the book was about. I do not want someone who thinks that they are brilliant about everything to decimate my work without giving it a chance in the first place.

Screenplay Writing

This is just a shout out to the art form of the screenplay.  I adore the form and even though I didn't put screenplays directly on my fatty list of goals, the 'finishing what I start' includes several screenplays.  One of my friends sent me this site years ago and, ashamedly, I never followed up on it.  I think this may or may not be something that those of us who wish to work on screenplays as per their goals (*cough* Dani *cough*) could benefit from. 


And then there is also Syd Field.  His books are a great resource for screenwriting.  I own one of his books (please see the purdy, purdy picture) and it was part of our required reading in my college screenplay class.  I recommend some of his articles which can be found if you scroll down a bit here.  For further information on Syd Field and his seminars and what not, check out his official site: Syd Field.Com.  

This is the book we used in my class. I have this in my bedroom right now.  
And yes, the very mention of bedroom is exciting to me.  
And if you are looking for contests there are several for this art form. I entered one years and years ago and made it to the second or so round which was quite tickling at the time.  Also, as Dani has mentioned to me, maybe we could make April (or some other agreed upon month) an honorary 'Script Frenzy' month for the members of this blog and then we can track our progress here and be a support group for each other.  I would love to revive the screenplay in my regular writing endeavors and Script Frenzy is a great motivator.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Simple Plot Advice: Conflict

I got to thinking about plot today and thought about the simplified breakdown of man vs. man, or man vs. time, or this or that and etc.  And I thought about something I learned in screenplay writing.  First of all (and this should be something most of us already know): conflict creates plot, conflict drives plot, conflict is plot.  How do we get conflict?  That's the fun part.  You figure out what your character wants (short term or long term or both, or even what he wants right this moment) and then you prevent him from getting it.  This works for drama, comedy, supernatural, horror... anything.  It's like tequila.  It just works.

This is Bob.
This is what Bob wants.
In this chapter, Bob, a divorced construction worker, wants a pack of cigarettes.  So now you have point A and point B and the most important thing is to add obstacles (external and internal) between those points.  Some examples of external obstacles would be: no mode of transport to the gas station, no money to buy them, forgot ID at home, gets hit/run over by car, walks in wet cement and gets stuck... you get the idea.  Some examples of internal obstacles could be: is agoraphobic, has to quit smoking or his new girlfriend will dump him, he can go to the store but he has to call his ex to give him a ride and he loathes her... stuff like that.  The best obstacles are part internal and part external.  Observe: his ex shows up and drops off their child because she's going away on a romantic vacation with his construction buddy, he gets kidnapped by a group of radicals on the way to the gas station, he comes across a suffering animal and has to choose to leave it there to die or turn around and take it home.   This is all very basic stuff (but if anime has taught me anything, it's that you have to go back to your basics if you want to move forward!) and so now we've totally screwed up Bob's chances of getting his cigarettes.  Does he ever get them?  If he doesn't, what is his larger goal?  If he does, then what happens to him, and, more importantly, what happens to the cigarettes?  What choices does he make to overcome obstacles?  Those choices are what make for character development.  

This stands between Bob and his nicotine.  Poor Bob.
Another visual, simpler even, is the man climbing a mountain.  You are the evil god (the author) who decides to pick on Tom (the character).  He climbs a little; you make it rain.  He finds a dry spot to hide in; you put a bear in there waking up from hibernation.  He waits till the sun comes out; you have made sure he has mud to climb on.  He is close to the top; you break his leg.  He is about to give up; you show him a glorious rainbow.  He stands and continues climbing; you present him with a crevice too far to jump over.  Now you watch and wait and see what he does.  You might let him reach the top because you are an evil god, but not without mercy and, honestly, you have a real soft spot for guys like Tom.  That's why you made him to begin with, right?

The thing is: even if all your character wants is for the cute boy in class to notice them, you have to make each and every obstacle as important as a life and death decision.  And deliver the conflict in interesting ways that propel the character and the audience deeper into the story.  That will create excellent conflict and excellent plot.  I've always found that the squishy pleasant stuff takes care of itself - that the characters will make up, make love, make merry well enough on their own without you having to plan it too much - so rather than focus on giving them leeway, focus on messing up their lives and do it in ways appropriate to the genre, style, and setting of your story.  Then sit back and watch your characters grow.  Now I just need to take my own advice.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Discussion Question- a plotter or a pantser?



Are you a plotter or a pantser? A plotter is someone that outlines their novels before writing them. A pantser rides by the seat of their pants and waits for their characters to tell them what happens. Which one are you? And does it work for you and why?

Prompt-random free word

Easy:
Start with the word 'tree.' Add ellipses until you think of another word, phrase, or picture. Do this as a freewrite for 5 minutes.

example: tree... lights...stop...moving...stand...up....air...balloon...red...lipstick...kisses...doggie...Remi...Big Ears...bunny...Easter...fake green grass.

Harder:
Start with the word 'tree.' Add ellipses until you think of another word. Do this as a freewrite for 5 minutes. Highlight your favorite words, and create a poem that includes those highlighted words.

Generators, Name Lists, and Dolls! Oh, my!


I would like to talk about randomness for a moment.  First, nothing is truly random - even when we seek names, numbers, and coin flips from random generators there is some higher artistic power at work that we humans are too puny to comprehend.  Yes, I really just said that.  Secondly, when a randomly generated name or number or color or whatever is presented to us, it forces us to make a choice and therefore our choice takes away the randomness because suddenly we have ascribed purpose to whatever it is that we have decided.  Do I want Chinese food for dinner or American?  My friend randomly shouts out, "American!"  And because a choice has now been set before me, I can say with full confidence that, no, I actually wanted Chinese food.  Canton here I come!  It is the same way with random generators on the internet.  I put in that I want an Arabic male name and I am presented with one.  I now choose whether to accept it (along with all the instant images and ideas that come along with it) or reject it and press the generate button one more time.  Even if you limit yourself and say 'I will press the generate button once and whatever comes up is what I shall use' you are still making a choice.  You will use that name, research that name, glorify or slander that name, and make a character to be the perfect match or foil to that name.  

In this post I have included random generators (as well as already generated name lists) that I have used in the past.  What I would like to know, is if you find such things to be enormous wastes of time or if they help you in developing characters in some way.  Do they at least help you decide what not to do?  Further down the list I have also included generators and visual aides that might help with the design of the character and even the setting in which they might live.  I find such things to be very useful in some situations (not all).  More often than not, room design and dress up games are just a starting point for me, and then my own imagination and creativity take over.  Could such things end up being distractions from the process?  Try a few out perhaps and then decide.  And of course, it always depends on the situation.

  • Name Generator Index (A list of generators that provide you with everything from Hillbilly names to names for your pony.)
  • Fantasy Name Lists (A branch of the previous site wherein you can find links to various fantasy name lists, a few fantasy specific name generators, and also the 100 most essential words in anime - talk about random O_o.)
  • Names Master List (Another branch of the same site with a plethora of links to name lists for pretty much anything you could think of to name.  If it isn't there, it doesn't deserve a name.)
  • 20,000 Names (A personal favorite of mine and Crimson Lantern.  This is also linked to this very blog.  It is a very informative and well categorized name database for practical and fantastical use.)
  • Fantasy Name Generator (Just push generate and you'll have a whole slew of interesting and unique names and if you don't like what you see, refresh the results page for more names.)
  • Pet Names (as in lovey dovey, not for Fido) (If you have a character who likes to say things like 'sweetie pie' and 'pumpkin tits' this might be a good place to find inspiration.)
  • New Identity (This site generates a new name and a whole new identity for you - should you need one  O_O - or can be a good starting place for a character.  I used it to create a new identity for a character who went into witness protection.)
  • Random Name Generator (This site is similar to the last one but with a less intense tone.  You can generate based on ethnicity or even race of magical creature.)
  • Character Name Generator (D&D) (A place to go if you want some creative names for your Dungeons and Dragons characters, or novel characters who merit such names.  Kind of fun.)
  • Noemata (I have used this over and over again - it basically pumps out random collections of letters and syllables that are without trademark.  It is a good place to look up fake brands for stories or to seek inspiration for cyber-punk or fantasy names.)
  • Random.Org (If you are debating on having your character go left or right - this is a place where you can flip a virtual coin or pick a number between X and Y.  You can also roll the dice.  It's nice if you don't have coins and dice handy and would like to practice randomness in your decision making.)
  • D&D Dice Roller (Because I felt like I couldn't leave it off after the last entry.  If you need to know how badly your poor character took a beating in that alley last night and you want help deciding - just roll a D20 and let the carnage begin.)
And, as promised here are some other random things that may or may not help you along your way to creativity and production.
  • Elizabethan Insults (The name really says it all.  Included in this site is a link to an Elizabethan insult generator above and beyond what is already presented. Good fun.)
  • Fantasy Dress Up Index (A whole slew of dress up doll games that could give you ideas for clothes, looks, locations,or even anthropomorphic additions to your characters.)
  • Doll Divine (The site I use more than others to find dress up doll games for male and female characters.  You can screen shot your final creations and tuck them away for further inspiration.)
  • Room Sketcher (Design your, or your character's, dream house and give yourself a good visual of where things are located about the house so that you can describe it easily in your writing.  I haven't used this site very much at all, but I know others who have found it pretty helpful.)
Randomness is something that writers all come to embrace.  Dani posted picture cubes as a writing prompt, others toss word dice to come up with a plot.  Some people put names, places, and activities in three separate hats and pull out the makings for a writing exercise or story.  There was a musician (a composer) who used to walk around naked then lay on his piano and pound the keys randomly until inspiration struck.  It all seems so random and yet it is all a choice.  Choose randomness.  That is one way to keep the creative juices flowing.   In closing, here is a link to Script Frenzy's plot machine: Script Frenzy.Org.  Script Frenzy (a sister branch of NanoWriMo) is no longer an event, but the site remains intact for people to make use of their script writing tools which include this plot machine.  Randomness in motion.  If anyone has any generators or lists that they have found useful in the past, I would love for you to share them with me.  And if you have any creative prompts that hinge on randomness, please share those as well.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012