xenith: (Hobart)
The Nanonovel just completed is a murder mystery set in Hobart in 1827, and the main character is a police constable, and pickpocket on the side. Which is all well and good, but now I need to know something about policing in Hobart in 1827. That's all.

In the 1820s, things were rather different to what we're used to. Rather than a centralised, professional police force, the job often fell to unpaid/poor paid locals, with no uniforms and not a lot of authority. In NSW & VDL, at least, the job was about maintaining order (and retrieving absconders) rather than investigating crimes.

It was also a time of change, and that meant change in what police meant. The London Metropolitan Police were established in 1829. Even in Hobart Town, there was a major restructuring in 1827 (one reason for my date).

It is also a time people don't feel a need to write about, for anywhere. The little I've found in secondary sources (books & online) has been about the organisation. And by "little" I mean I have about enough notes to fill about 1.5 word processor pages, from all the resources I've been able to find. Primary sources might be useful, if I can discover what they are and then get access to them :)

I did get lucky last week. I found Police Superintendent Humphrey's evidence to the Bigge Commission in Series 3, Volume 3 of the Historical Records of Australia (a rather dry looking series of volumes that cover three shelves in the library) and the very useful "Standing Instructions for the Constabulary of Van Diemen's Land in appendix 17 of the second volume of the three volume "Report from the Select Committee on Transportation". They being from 1820 & 1836 respectively, although the latter was issued under the same lt governor who did the restructure so it's particularly useful. (Those two reports are also full of other useful and/or interesting stuff, I should consult them more often.)

Still that's a good start, and I feel more confident about writing it now. There are big holes still. (Like where does the MC sleep at night? I'm fairly sure he's not in the prisoner barracks but the police barracks don't seem to have been built yet (I wish I hadn't come across that bit of information or I could have happily been sending him there each night.)) There's also more to be pulled from the newspapers on Trove, but that is time consuming and not frustrating because of things that are implied or hinted at but never explained. It's like doing a jigsaw with no picture and all the pieces have been mixed up with the pieces in other boxes.


Jul. 21st, 2014 09:10 pm
xenith: (Blue towers)
I seem to be juggling three new stories in my head: plots ideas and developments, character backgrounds, world building details and background research. Three. One is usually enough to keep me occupied.

#3 decided today that the characters needed names, and with that came their back stories. And I don't know anything about trains (well not enough to write about them) and even less about railway construction.

#2 at least just needs me to do some back-to-origins reading, and then I can make up the rest as I go (yay for SF).

#1, I am sure, is laughing at me, and I've forgotten their names. Also, police procedures 1820s-style?

Three. Gah.
xenith: (Fairy Tree)
From a friend's blog

And now the impasse. How does a writer extend their capacity for originality? Working in the speculative fiction genre, writers are up against a barrage of clich├ęs at every word.

I didn't want to give the obvious answer, but maybe it's not obvious. Even if it is, it doesn't help to remind ourselves.

So, read outside of the genre.

Read romances and thrillers. Read non-fiction. Read fiction written in different times (it's like historical fiction but with less worrying about whether the author has done their research.)

Read about people in different places. Read about people in different times. I think everyone should read history -- yes, even science fiction readers -- and primary sources*.

And not just read, of course. Visit places. Visit museums, and keep an eye on upcoming travelling/temporary exhibitions. Visit events where people demonstrate skills. Try them yourself if you get a chance.

You can't create original stories by rehashing what you've read. You have to bring in new material. But even old story ideas can be given new life if the materials used to build them are fresh.

* We do know about Trove, yes? Particularly their digitised newspapers which I've made use of once or twice? I live the newspapers, they're a window into different societies, and what mattered to them and who they worried about, and how they dealt with the day to day happenings.

If you want to know the concerns of a new colony in a strange new world, read the Sydney Gazette from March 1803

More than the newspapers though, if you want to do your eyes in/pull out your hair, there's the diaries, letters, archives section. That accesses overseas archives too. Just as a matter of interesting, there is Bligh's notebook and list of mutineers, but I wasn't joking out the eyes bit.
xenith: (Default)
Something else that I have no idea where it original came from, except at some point it's been up on my wall :)

  • Something should happen in a scene. Nothing happening will lose a reader a lot faster than lots of exciting stuff poorly written.

  • When you're ending a scene, it is helpful to give the reader a reason to go to the next scene.

  • Tell the reader what is important, and what our POV thinks about stuff.

  • When a character needs to open the door, you don't have to him getting up, walking seven steps to cross the room, placing his hand on the doorknob, turning it to the right, stepping back to allow the door to swing open and opening the door.

  • There are fives senses -- sound touch, smell and taste as well as sight
xenith: (Fairy Tree)
A year or two ago, I'd told [livejournal.com profile] cassiphone I'd write a post on why I tend to write male protagonists. At least I think it was her. It was so long ago I'm not sure. I put off writing it because, well, when I thought about it, it became complicated.

The simple reason, as I was growing up, I usually found female protags annoying, so why would to write one?

Second reason, when I write it's usually to explore a character in a situation and, well, I'm familiar with female attitudes/approaches/attitudes having put up with them all my life and I want something different when I write :)

The third reason is interesting, and I only noticed it recently. See, most of my stuff is fantasy set in a world based to some degree on some time in the past. That'll be the starting point for my world-building. Now every novel length story I've written like this has a male protag. As of this month, I've written two set in the present and both had a female protag. I also have two set in the future, on other planets. One has a female protag, the other because the nature of the story has male protags. But with both these worlds, there seems to be a genetic problem associated with the Y-chromosome because they both have more more female characters than males among the supporting and minor characters.

So I'm thinking this is a reflection of how I view these cultures. Past settings are usually male-dominated so less opportunities for females characters so I have less. I don't care for the FC who goes out and pretends to be a male. I like my FCs to, at least start off in, roles that appropriate to their society. Then they tend to be more real to me, and therefore more interesting. Whereas in the future, the appropriate roles are broader.

(Having said that, I do have a potential story set in 1830s VDL with a female MC that I'd hoped to do for Nano this year but although I had interesting characters and situation, they wouldn't give me a plot. Until the werewolf turned up last week and brought a plot with him. I can't see me maintaining interest in it for another 11 months though.)
xenith: (Default)
This weekend I get to make up some song lyrics. Fun. Not. Have no idea where to start either :|

"Riverman" seems to involve someone drowning or falling into a river.

"That's not 'Riverman', is it?" Matt asked.
Ash laughed. "A bit too prophetic?"
"I thought it might have been a suggestion on your part."
"That'd be more obvious."

"My Lady is a Laddy" is apparently for singing when you are drunk.

Ash did a repeat of the his chorus.
"Maybe we can offer you up as bait," Matt told him. "It's a ridiculous song anyway."


Mar. 31st, 2009 06:22 pm
xenith: (Black Scales)
My main character, to quote another character in the book, can't open his mouth without a string of obscenities coming out. His friends aren't much better. They're crude, bitter, uneducated and, yes, they do have a limited vocabulary.

Obviously this in one area where written speech differs from the spoken word. Putting f*ck in front of every word doesn't work, even if that's how someone actually speaks, because swear words have more impact in print. Limiting it too once per sentence looks silly. It's too artificial. Not using any at all, in the case of these characters, just reads wrong.

I googled a bit to find out other people's thoughts. Not very useful. When it comes to swear words, it seems there are three approaches.

The first uses the idea that if swear words are used very lightly they have better shock value. I understand this. If a character who doesn't usually swear, or who uses mild curse words, suddenly comes out fuck or their culture's equivalent, then it has an impact. They're angry! They're upset! Whatever. Running alongside this idea is the common thought that overuse of curse words reduces their impact, dilutes them. Of course it does, and if you want the shock! effect, it's something to bear in mind. I'm not sure it's so appropriate to this situation.

The second type of discussion goes along the lines of "I don't use swear words in my writing and you don't have to either. Here's how!". Um, yes, there are many characters types who don't feel a need to swear. We know this. Now fuck off.

The third is don't actually use it. "Jill ran together a string of words that made all those around her blush." We can see how this would be a little difficult for a main character, yes?

I guess I shall have to pick up some books with crude, bitter, uneducated characters of limited vocabulary and see how they're handled. Suggestions?
xenith: (Fairy Tree)
I was following a blog thread on characters that started here with discussion on how to develop characters' voice then moved over here with a side discussion on interviewing/pretending to be your characters, or not and then to here with dicussion on what degree of real characters have to their authors.

The thought of pretending to be my characters is squicky. I can't interview them either -- it's just wrong. I did manage to come up with 20 questions that they will answer, but as you can see they're not very talkative and it's certainly not a character building tool. I think this is because they don't exist out of the context of their story/world, so they how can I interview them? Maybe if the interviewee was someone from their reality, it might work, but I don't see it as much use, for me, as a character developing tool.

What does work for me, is having them tell me their story beyond the borders of whatever I'm actually writing. That is, making up stories about the characters' past and futures. Past events get added to a timeline in case I decide to refer to them, future events are just for me (ha). It seems a more natural way of working out what makes them tick, what matters to them etc, that the artificial nature of an interview.

One thing I do that pulls the characters out of their reality though, is "take them shopping" or to a museum or some other place that might interest them. The point of this is to explore how that character see things, to be able to filter the world through their view of it. Which is, in my opinion, what character building is all about -- developing a character so they do have their unique perspective and then being able to get this across to the reader. (Visiting such places/exhibitions also helps to expand my knowledge of subjects that are relevant to the story/characters.)

Does it require breaking down, or at least thinning, the fourth wall to actually interview a character? Or is it just a different way of approaching the problem?

At the other end, I can't treat characters just as pieces to push around the board. I don't see how you can do that and still get believable characters. Maybe it works in idea/driven stories? If I try it, I end up with dry as dust scenes, when I can get them written in the first place. I'm happy enough to kill them/torture them/otherwise make life tough for them, but again, I can't do that if I just see them as playing pieces, because then I don't care, so what's the point?
xenith: (M&C Fiddle)
I have been reading Ripping Ozzie Reads (ROR) which is a new blog by a bunch of Australian Speculative Fiction Authors. (So new it only has one follower - me! Which reminds me, does everyone realise how Bloggers follow thing works? Not the putting icons on the blog's page and showing popular it is crap. If you follow a blog (and you can do it anonymously), then the latest posts appear at the bottom of your dashboard, like a poor relative of LJ's Friends page. It makes keeping up with blogs much, much easier though. (I haven't had much luck with RSS Feeds - the Opera one annoys me, TBird doesn't seem to believe that I actually want to see the new posts & I really don't need any program running on the computer) and the bestest thing -- it's not limited to blogger blogs, I've added them from all sort of sites, including Wordpress. A handy thing, is this Following.)

Anyway, I was reading the latest entry, by [livejournal.com profile] flinthart, and he brings up the topic of writing about his writing. Which I don't generally do, write about my writing that is, not his. All right, I do a bit in November in an attempt to make the Nanoupdates slightly interesting and I used to do a bit in there from time to time (and I do occasionally on my Blogger blog, which you will note I'm not linking too and which I believe isn't read by anyone else, even though there are visitors noted on the web counter -- it shares this with one of my other Blogger blogs that gets hits from people looking for wooden boat festivals photo on Google image search (really, all right so I get the occasional visitor looking for cliffs or something, but most visitors end up on the same page). This is because I don't like writing in a lot of details about my WIPs in front of people who might possibly one day get to read them and so I tend to be vague which makes for boring posts. Also, I find other people's writing updates generally make for dull reading.

General writing posts (about craft, problems, inspiration and all that) are often interesting. I'd point out [livejournal.com profile] sartorias and [livejournal.com profile] cassiphone as two LJers who often have interesting writing posts, but then I get the feeling that I'm missing someone else from my Friends list who also does and I don't like that feeling,
so instead I'll point out the [livejournal.com profile] cassiphone (Tansy) is one of the contributors to the ROR blog that I mentioned earlier. Personally, I don't tend to write these sort of posts because they involved Thinking and Inspiration, both of which seems to disappear as soon as I hit the "Post An Entry" link.

The writing posts I most like though, are the ones on worldbuilding. Things like how would PTSD have been dealt with in the 1850s (yes, I know the term wasn't in use then)? What sort of body modifications will popular in 100 years? But these involve discussions, and my Friends (wonderful lot that you are and very much appreciated) don't seem to be the discussing in comments sort, at least on this LJ, which is probably a reflection of the Owner rather than the Friends :)

But anyway, that's why there don't appear to be many writing related posts here (although there are probably more than you realise).
xenith: (Default)
I asked these of Jenn, who is the "hero" of current WIP (currently titled A Thief's Honour)

1.When was the last time you saw any member of your family?

That would have to be Elyn. I see her every few days, if she's home.

2.What is/was your favourite toy/game?

I haven't thought about that in a long time. Nothing stands out.

3.Who is your best friend?

Now? I doubt there is any man I would truly call a friend.

4.Do you dislike your name? What name would you prefer?

It does its job. I prefer not be called Jevan though. He was someone else.

5.If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be?

The brands.

6.What did you do on your last birthday?

You have to ask?

7.Do you wear any jewellery?


8.Who was the last person you wrote a letter to?

My grandmother, most like.

9.What is your worst habit?

Only one?

10.Have you heard any good jokes lately?


11.When was the last time you cried?

Does it matter?

12.Do you have any pets? Do you want any pets?


13.Do you currently have a lover? Details!


14.What do people most misunderstand/get wrong about you?

You mean other than everything?

15.What one act in your past are you most ashamed of?

Nothing of any interest.

16.What one act in your past are you most proud of?

Oh, just one? That would be the Star of Emrian, but most like you're never heard that tale. It was kept very quiet.

17.Has anyone or anything you've ever cared about died?


18.Have you ever been in a fight? Did you win?

What do you consider a fight? And is winning really what matters?

19.What is the most frightening handicap or disfigurement you can think of?

Being blind, definitely. Not being able to enjoy art, that would be the worst.

20.What would you wish for, if you could have anything?

Other than revenge? Family.
xenith: (Fairy Tree)
Nano over. Sememester over. Now, I have to decide what to work on next. Of course, everyone wants attention...

"You said it'd be us next. You even went through and reread us recently."
"I did, but--"
"A nice little urban fantasy novel, remember. We'll be easy to write."
"But your beginning is so dull. If you could liven it up. Maybe?"
"Hmm. Not really. Anyway, it's Bay that's the dull one."
"I think he's the more interesting character. Look, find a more exciting beginning and we'll talk about it. Now who else is there?"
"Of course. I thought you were staying with [livejournal.com profile] buffysquirrel?"
"I am. I came back to remind you about me."
"As if I'd forget, but I can't rewrite you unless there is some interest in your 'companion' book, remember?"
"That is hardly fair."
"I know. I'm sorry. Here, go down to the pub, my shout."
"Maybe me then? You have been saying you'll rewrite us."
"I know, Jake. I would love to and I do like the new beginning, but the other half of your plot has disappeared."
"I'm sure we could find one."
"Well, Nate thinks he should get some more--"
"Ganging up on me is not fair. Look, you're too much work right now and I don't feel like writing about ships & things right now. And you can tell your brother that too. Go and get a drink off him."
"How about us?"
"Oh. I'd forgotten about you."
"I noticed."
"No, don't sulk. That's what made me lose interest in you."
"You don't even remember my name."
"That's because you keep changing it."
"I'm supposed to. That's the interesting thing, remember?"
"It's the only interesting thing. Another time, OK?"
"No. You've had chances to be rewritten. You blew them, and anyway, your characters are too similar to the one I've just finished."
"Just a little bit?"
"As you mentionedjust finished, I think we're the obvious answer."
"No way. I just finished your first draft."
"Come on, you're still thinking about us all the time. You want to write fantasy now."
"Not listening."
"We do have the best plot of all, you said."
"Go away."
"Yes, go away. It's our turn."
"Hmm. You're too SFish."
"We only need another rewrite, you said."
"I know but--"
"Is that really so hard?"
"It's not even your story. Just because you're the character in the working title, does nt make it your story. She is off sulking somewhere."
"She's supposed to be."
"Your beginning is dull."
"You think so? How about you finish the rewrite of it and post it for comments?"
"It will only take a few minutes."
"All right, but it is still not your story."
xenith: (Fairy Tree)
I used to have a trick for picking character names. With recent projects, I've been using "real" names, so I'd stopped doing this, and forgotten about it.

I find a list.

There two big advantages of having a list: it reduces the possibly combinations of syllables down to something managements & it provides suggestions/inspiration when your brain gets stuck in a rut.

Having the words there, on the screen, in a nice, neat list makes it easier for characters to pick out their names.

Preferably the list comes from primary sources, from a particular time and place. This helps ensure the names sound like they belong together, with the occasional outrider to allow for visitors and contrary parents. The list should have at least 50 (of each) male & female names, although with a short story, a short list is workable; too many more and it takes to long to go through them, with a range of starting letters.

I have a list I compiled myself of 19th century names & another I started of babies born in 2000, for near future stories. Handy things they are.
xenith: (Fairy Tree)
I guess when a story idea's characters start providing me names, arguing amongst themselves who will have the point of view and trying to work out what order the scenes are to go in, then it's probably grown beyond an idea into the realm of ready-to-be-written.

Carus, Orwin & Aldrus/Aldred. Except not Orwin, but like Orwin. And Carus is a Roman Emperor. So I could use names of Roman Emperors for characters, but I've done that in a different novel. Gah.
xenith: (Default)
Having finished with Fox for now (yah), I now have to find something else to work on (other than editing ASIM issue, doing website for mother's church, starting this semester's reading & some other projects).

Back in February, I started a rewrite of Stupid Novel Shadows, with the intent to gut it rework it to emphasis the romance storyline, which would make it complete in one volume, as well as giving a better focus.

Today, I've gone back to work on that. Scenes have already been cut. Characters exaggerated. Conflicts straightened out.

It's certainly better writing than what I've just finished with.

However, I need a new name for my (outside mainstream society) clans.
xenith: (Moon behind trees)
The end is on sight!

It's right there... on the other side of the canyon.

You see, what's supposed to happen next is everyone runs off to rescue the guy who was kidnapped (who we'll call Tom, because that's his name). The rescue involved going to a cabin in the woods, finding Tom there and untying him. Which is a little dull, straight forward, bit of let down. All right, there is this confrontation with poor Jack afterwards, but he's not really much of a threat and it is a little after fact.

Not a problem though. We can have a confrontation between the kidnapper and the Agent who is one of the rescuers. This involves guns & posturing & lots of tension-type stuff. Good!

Except, why are we doing this?
Because it'll add some excitement.
But what is the story reason?
There'll guns and showing off and goods stuff.
There's no story reason. It's inconsistent characterisation. It takes the tension out of the next scene.
But it's good stuff.

I think I have a workable solution though (bring forward the confrontation with J) that might even involve some of the 'good stuff'. I just have to get the POV on it worked out. (THE kiss needs to be from Tom's POV, unfortunately most of the other action around it, can't be.)
xenith: (Moon behind trees)
It looks like I have just 5 or 6 scenes to go, and then the short wrap-up bits.

  • Working out where antagonist's hideout is
  • Rescue x2
  • Discussion after rescue
  • Confrontation with antagonist
  • Taking antagonist home

I might combine those last two.

Most of that has to be written from scratch, of course, but I think I know what happens.
xenith: (Default)
It is nice to have a printer that can print out 90 pages of text without a glitch.
xenith: (Fairy Tree)
From [livejournal.com profile] halspacejock:

Every time I considered quitting I'd picture Hal and Clunk fading to black, unseen by anyone but me, and the thought of losing them forever was enough to get me going again.

I found the same thing, well, insert (one of my characters) in place of Hal & Clunk obviously. But if I went to say it, it would sound silly. Not so silly when someone like Simon says it though.

It's like they can't exist if they're not being read, and they do want to exist.

The funny thing though, I'd feel this way about whatever I was working on at the time, but not things I've moved on from, even though I felt like that about them at the time.

The other funny thing, I don't feel that way about current WIP. It's just sudden that drives me to finish that.


Jun. 6th, 2007 11:30 pm
xenith: (Moon behind trees)
That next "scene" is acutally three. Fun ones though, and mostly just tweaking what is already there. Some interplay between the female main character and a friend who'd she'd probably say Yes! to if he asked her to marry him, but he can't, and he's been missing for days and she's worried he might go away again.


Jun. 2nd, 2007 11:23 pm
xenith: (Default)
Whiteboard: the night version.

5 scenes to go.

Problem: scene as written doesn't feel right.

Solution: go back and see how the characters want to play it.


xenith: (Default)

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