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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

It's always so wonderful to log in to Blogger and see right at the top how long it's been since my most recent blog post. Hahaha NOT. According to that lovely little header, it's been over ten days since my last post, so I figured I might as well write about something.

It wasn't a very productive writing week. No, wait, let me rephrase that. I didn't write shit.

To be fair, I did do some proofing and editing, but not nearly enough to feel good about myself. I'll admit that I've been caught up in watching the Olympic coverage and I don't write too well when the TV is on. The other major deterrent over this past week has been the amount of work my day job dumped on me. I finally feel like I'm starting to climb out from beneath it and I hope to get some good writing done over the next couple days. (And let's face it, the money doesn't hurt either.)

I think I've mentioned a couple times that I work in the legal field (which is about as specific as I want to be here). While some days can be fairly average and/or boring, I'll also say that I've heard some crazy things. This past Tuesday was one of those days where I just came home absolutely wiped, but with a pretty outrageous story to tell.

People frequently joke that workers in my profession could write a book about everything that happens. I suppose it would be possible for me to incorporate work stories into my fiction, but I'd really rather not. Firstly, the vast majority of the time, I don't deal in happy matters. Now, obviously not everything I write is all sunshine and roses, but I'd rather choose my own original flavors of drama and angst. Secondly, it's true what they say - truth is stranger than fiction. In case the bolded text up there didn't emphasize it enough: crazy. You can't make this stuff up. Thirdly, though I dabble in it sometimes, I don't write a whole lot of contemporary fiction (she says as she has a contemporary release coming out next week) and I think it would be a stretch to insert a lot of those scenarios into my own worlds.

I'll concede there could be a lighter, fluffier side of the law. I mean, by now there must be stories out there about what really happens in the judge's chambers, or opposing attorneys' eyes meeting across the table after a contentious argument and then the sparks start flying. I could write one of those stories, but for now, I think I'll stick to my cyborgs and spaceships. I like them, and they help me escape the drearier parts of my career.

(All that's left is sitting down and actually writing....)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There Are No Small Characters, Only Small People?

(Or something? Yeah, I screwed that title up.)

Not every character in a story is going to have a starring role. One aspect of writing that's frequently on my mind is how to flesh out the minor characters and bring them to life, ranging from the secondary characters who tag along with the main group for a lot of the action to the people who just pop up for a scene or two. The latter is where I really make myself crazy: Is this person really crucial to the story? Are they significant enough to be named? How do I give them dimension so they're just not a cardboard cut-out?

I second guess myself all the time when it comes to this. (Okay, maybe not as much as I used to, but still.) Hell, Geneva's father in the Skies series doesn't even have a name, and I don't think he's actually spoken a line despite being mentioned a fair number of times. While the main plot and its characters are at the top of my list of priorities, I still want to fill out my fictional worlds with "real" people, but I don't want to dwell on unnecessary details.

What got me thinking about this is a chapter in The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions* I finished up the other night. In this chapter, Ro meets a woman named Lesley. Lesley only appears in this one scene. If I counted up the number of words she speaks, I'm not sure I'd break into double digits. However, without giving away too many plot points, she is important to the story.

You can tell a lot about Lesley just in the handful of pages she appears in. For one thing, it is obvious from the get-go that she and Ro are not, nor will ever be friends. A protagonist's strong opinion on a character goes a long way in shaping the reader's perception. Now, since I'm biased towards my beloved heroine, within a few short paragraphs I already dislike Lesley, even though she didn't really do anything to warrant such feelings. (And I CREATED her. How unfair is that?) If it were a real-life situation, I'd probably side with her point of view, to tell you the truth. As the deliciously awkward scene rolls on, dislike morphs into sympathy, pity, and envy at various points. So in the space of what's probably less than 2000 words, poor Lesley is evoking all sorts of conflict in me-the-reader, and she's never even going to be mentioned by name again!

I'm sorry, Lesley. I wish good things for you since the little snippet we got probably isn't the most fair and accurate representation. At least it's implied you survive until the end of the book and live somewhat happily ever after?

(*HaHA! I remembered to use the working title instead of just calling it the Disintegration sequel!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

When It's Made Into a Movie, This Will Be the Soundtrack

I know a lot of people write to music. It makes sense - what better way to get yourself into a certain mood, or be inspired by someone else's inspirational lyrics, and so on and so forth. "What do you write to?" seems to be a popular question every time writing comes up in a group of people.

99% of the time, I don't have music going in the background as I write. Firstly, as I learned in college, I cannot write one set of words while listening to another set of words. (In a song, that is; I have the TV on in the background right now and that doesn't seem to be a problem as I write this blog post. I think it has something to do with the rhythm or the knowing what's coming up next.) On the very rare occasions I put music on as I write, it's always instrumental.

Secondly, as I'm sure I've mentioned somewhere in this blog before, I'm a musician. Like, degrees-in-music-have-gotten-paid-money-for-performing musician. If I put a piece of music on to listen to, guess where my focus goes? Music has never really functioned as background noise to me; listening usually more of a conscious activity. It's probably a miracle I don't get into more car accidents with the radio on.

Now with all that out of the way, that doesn't mean there's zero connection between music and my writing. Like the rest of the writing world, I'm sure, I'm reminded of songs and pieces as I create my characters and scenes. Music is such an emotional experience, there's bound to be someone before me who's already captured what I'm trying to put into words in a different form. Just for fun, I created a playlist with music that's tied to my current project in my head. (I say "tied to" because I'm not sure if the music makes me think of the story or the story makes me think of the music; it's a two-way street.) I doubt I'll ever play it while I'm actually writing, but I like making lists, I can keep adding to it, and I can always put it on while I'm knitting or cleaning or something. And if other people like it (both the playlist and the eventual book), even better!

The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions writing playlist!