500 And 1 Words At A Time: Crafting A Story

One of the things some of my friends mistake about the WDB stage of writing is that I cut-n-paste a chapter/scene, add a few words, and call the process done. And admittedly, there are scenes where that has happened. Most of the time, however, I spend a day or two with each scene looking for ways to improve the scene, thus the whole story.

There are few pitfalls for me, that slow me down, although I don’t know if slow down are the right words. When I started writing Puddles and Whiskers I took new characters and dropped them into an old environment. I didn’t really expect them to catch the way the did, for me, for our kids, and for readers. Catch on they did.

Which is how two things happened, the story continues to expand and I am taking the time and making the effort to craft their story instead of writing their story. I learned the difference between writing and crafting while working on roleplaying settings. With roleplaying settings, at least the way I create them, I write pages of notes, stories, and doodles. Then I go back through them picking out spots that immediately call for my attention and add notes.

Nothing organized at first, notes and expansion, eventually a coherent setting is formed. Along the way, pieces have to move and when something moves more notes and such happen. How does that relate to Puddles and Whiskers, WDB? Everything up to WDB is notes. Unlike a setting where a note is a simple as “floating glitz-glamorous city block,” a note for Puddles and Whiskers is an entire 500+ word story that is connected to the next story and so on.

The spots that call for attention in a Puddles and Whiskers scene vary and that is where things are interesting for me. My natural inclination is to pick the setting stuff and bring that to the fore, such as the descriptions of buildings, vehicles, uniforms, and giving unnamed things names. Which is why, when I edited the first round of scenes I tried to focus on obvious errors and dialog. This time around I am attempting a combination of errors, dialog, and setting descriptions.

Fixing errors is obvious. With the dialog I am attempting to fix “voice in the head issues,” where the words read right, but do not sound right. I am attempting to get the voices of the characters be them, such as Whiskers is a semi-formal patter with no contractions. While Puddles is more informal with a hint of anger/irritation and Chuck is laid back. The setting/background information is to make their world easier for readers to visualize.

The result for me is a longer, more deliberate process, that slows down the regular flow of posts, but I feel you will find them better overall, making for what I hope is a better experience for readers.

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500 And 1 Words At A Time: So Many Stories

I am a storyteller.

I like to tell stories all of the time.

Telling stories is one of the reasons why I enjoy being a gamemaster more than being a player. I want to tell the stories that other people experience. More than that I want people to play through, live if you will, through the stories and by their actions impact, change, alter, and improve the story. Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of running a game in a while.

I also enjoy writing stories, regular readers are familiar with some of the stories I tell here. Some of the stories go some place, even if I am not sure where, most have a scene or three that I write out and then done. I have no idea why this happens. Perhaps just a tale to tell and nothing more.

Puddles and Whiskers is a story going somewhere, even spawning tangent stories and pulling in stories from other places. Worldship Horizon is going nowhere, try as I might, each piece I write is self-contained with no connection to anything else. Hero was the same way, the origin story of a superhero and once I finished that, nothing. Many of the stories involving Stroud before Puddles and Whiskers were the same way, a story told with little or no connection to the other stories other than the same setting.

In a way, there is a connection between many of the stories the city of Stroud. Stroud is a location I created, built, modify, and use constantly for all sorts of stories; name a genre and there is a story with Stroud in it somewhere in my files. There are so many stories.

I used to be happy with telling the stories or writing them down and moving on. Lately, as Puddles and Whiskers grows, going through drafts and revisions, story moving forward, I am not as happy with stories written down and…nothing. I keep finding stories, this happens when you have harddrives packed with them, that I read and think to myself, I have the skills to fix, correct, and maybe even add to this.

And I pause. Of course I can make old writing better, I went to school for that. After I improve the writing, then what?

Pause.

Lengthy pause.

Time to ponder, not necessarily a larger future for my writing mostly because of my insecurities with my writing, which is funny given that I share my writing daily here and on other blogs for the last five years. My pondering is more along the lines of is there such a thing as too many stories here. I know, my blog, my decision, but it has me wondering.

Knowing me, I’ll post a lot of them. Such as this sample…

“What a piece of junk,” Three-Tusk was never one to keep his opinions to himself, Wheez thought.

Wheeze shook his multicolored mane that flashed through several shades of red before settling on a deep red color. He looked over his right shoulder towards the back of the command deck where Three-Tusk operated the weapons console or at least looked like he was. In reality, he sat there staring. His porcine face, mouth open vividly displaying all three of his namesake tusks, at the vid-screen and the massive bovine merchant ship displayed.

500 And 1 Words At A Time: Things I Paint

I write a lot about how, for me, there are similarities between writing and painting. I show, on here, plenty of my writing, but it occurred to me that I have not shown much, if anything, of my painting.

Squads of space marines, orks, the cockpit to a flying vehicle, a tank that frustrated me for a day or two before it all gelled together, a space marine on a wolf because why not, and a picture of our new terrain on our new gaming table.

Painting them continues to be a learning experience where my skills are put to use each day and much like writing each day I paint better than the day before.

500 And 1 Words At A Time: How Painting & Writing Are NOT Similar

Not so long ago, in historical not blogging terms, I wrote about how, for me, painting miniatures and writing are similar. Then I spent a lot of time demonstrating that using Puddles and Whiskers, recently finishing the Wash and Dry Brush phase of writing.

This weekend, as my paint covered fingers can attest to was spent painting miniatures and playing games. And as this weekend moved along, even though I was avoiding actively writing (not that it stopped me from writing), I kept seeing where writing and painting are similar and dissimilar.

Similar was obvious to me, the unpainted miniature the idea, the base coat the initial draft, the first layers the rough drafts, washes and dry brushes the edits and revisions, and finally the detail work or finishing the story. Sure there are missing details from that list, such as the trimming and assembly which come at various stages of working a miniature, which is at time analogous to editing and assembling the story.

So how are they dissimilar? Injury comes to mind first and foremost.

However, as exciting as injury sounds, teaching was the biggest area. Our boy and girl both like playing miniature games. I however, am tired of assembling and painting their miniatures. To me part of playing a game like Warhammer 40k is investing in the game. There are not too many games where you invest more than money; they invest time, reading, math, creativity, organization, and more. I want them to get invested. Thus, I am trying to teach them how to assemble, paint, and take care of their miniatures.

I have found teaching writing is easier than teaching painting. Why? Mainly because I do not have to teach how to write from scratch. Schools teach basic writing, language, spelling, and the rest. When people come to me to learn, what they want is guidance and assurance. Later comes wanting editing. 🙂 Same thing with our kids, the school is doing the majority of the work, I encourage, read their works, encourage some more, and guide them until they move on to another story.

School is not teaching the basics of painting. I have to teach them how to hold a miniature to minimize skin oil contact or to avoid rubbing paint off or reach a difficult angle with a brush. I have to teach them how to use a brush, dip the tip, not dunk the whole brush. Brush strokes to create thin layers of paint to keep not obscure details. Recognizing details on a miniature. Choosing colors. Applying washes. Dry brushing. And the concept that like writing, a miniature is only finished when you say so, but at anytime you can go back.

As part of teaching, comes injury and mess. Mess is easy to deal with, spilled paint cleans up, even when the accident is half a pot of brown wash on a yellow shirt or painting a miniature on the table and over brushing leaving a clean spot on the table when the miniature is moved. Injury is less easy to deal with.

Thankfully, super glue only bonds skin for a short bit, speaking of which teaching them how to safely use super glue and xacto knives is a must. The first time it happens is disconcerting for them, but they realize that super glued skin does not hurt and fixing the issue does not hurt, just takes time. Cutting one-self with an xacto is a whole other lesson.

I told them both that cutting themselves with an xacto would happen and it would not hurt as long as the blade was sharp and I keep sharp blades. They did not believe me or Barb, they listened to my injury stories and ignore them. Yesterday, our boy sliced a finger open good. Instead of freaking out, he calmly announced he cut his finger, took it to the bathroom where we bandaged the cut up, and he commented that like I said, it happened and did not hurt.

 

 

500 And 1 Words At A Time: Storyteller Takes A Day Off

My apologies if you came here looking for your noon (ish) fix of Puddles and Whiskers, Nail Clippers, or the soon (ish) to be restarted Worldship Horizon. Typically I have a week’s worth of posts ready. I schedule all of them on Sunday or Monday for the week, weekends excluded, and keep on working. This week was different.

I do not know how many days you can stay indoors without much contact with the outside world before you start going a little crazy, bonkers, cabin fever, or whatever term you like. My record is now five days. Due to Barb’s schedule, I have essentially been home with the kids for five days and nights. Yes, I have seen her off and on and I have been out in public, but nothing of long enough duration to break the spell of being stuck at home. Sorry, picking up the kids with a borrowed car or checking the mail again with a borrowed car, is not the same as having a day (read several hours) away from the house interacting with the world.

I will spare you the gory details of my descent into paranoia and anger as cabin fever set in. Instead, I will focus on the cure for cabin fever. Yesterday, after ensuring there was a fun post, I left the house for a long time. Staying in writing and reading is good. At least I think it is good for me, allows me to focus on the task at hand which is producing good content with an eye on the prize of a book or two. The downside is that I am not interacting with anyone or anything other than the kids and the characters in my head. From a writer’s standpoint, interaction and observing interactions is where I get character exchanges.

In public I see all sorts of behavior that I can then turn into bits for a story or a quirk of a character. The exchange between a table of people and a waiter becomes a scene of Puddles and Whiskers at NiHo’s enjoying a bowl of noodles. Watching two gamer uber-enthusiast nerd out until everyone around them is turned off becomes Devin and Chaz. Nothing is easier than writing about life and I needed to see some of that life, because in my head, where the characters live, things were starting to get stale.

What did I do? I went out to as many places as I could and I watched what happened around me. I interacted with as many people as I wanted, not always with the best results, but that’s life. Most of all I got the cabin fever out. I recharged my batteries. I found some new material…lots actually. And once the weekend is over, hey I still have some relaxing to do, writing resumes.

Make sure that you get out and about; interact with the world, observe the world, enjoy the time away from the computer, and write about it. Easy and fun. 🙂

500 And 1 Words At A Time: Ideas Without Words

Today is not a typical day, but is a day I am familiar with and maybe all writers are familiar with to some extent.

Despite the popular image of a writer sitting in front of whatever and banging away ceaselessly on their magnum opus, the truth is writing is an up and down process. The up is when the ideas and words flow like a river. The down is when something is off, not in a life gets in the way sense, but in a you have the ideas but the words won’t show up or you have the words and no ideas.

How is this possible to have an idea but no words or vice versa? Unfortunately pretty easy.

For example: I have an idea for a singular short story around Chuck. I want to tell more about who Chuck is and what Chuck can do and thinks he can do. In my head, this is a fast paced short with a lot of humor. This is my idea. And the words to create this idea have failed me all day. I have a bunch of sentences that on the surface read well, but when read together do not have the flow I have in mind.

Another example: Worldship Horizon needs an adjustment, the original idea is sound. However, my initial approach went off the rails really fast. Since that time I have had a few ideas to start over or readjust, yet each time I sit down to write, today even, the words don’t match the idea. Funny thing, is that well take a look…

As a blunt nose tender finished pushing the last colony section into place, green lights flashed around the edges. In another section of the worldship, the last troopers marched into lockdown position, armor on, weapons ready, locked down for transport.

****

Maxwell slumped in his command chair, sweat running down his face, sensors clear, warning lights flashed indicating systems damaged or destroyed, but they won their first battle. Over the command net, orders given, status updates, injury reports, and requests formed a familiar background noise, until he removed his helmet allowing the helmet to roll down to the floor.

Fans clicked on the cool breeze felt great. Maxwell sat up…

The first is a complete new start when the Horizon is loading before the launch. Interesting take, but not a direction I think needs too much revisiting. The second puts Maxwell, formerly a foot soldier, into the cockpit of something-a tank, a robot, or something else. Again, an interesting idea, but not where I wanted to work, down the road once I have a better start maybe.

I don’t what other writers do, not necessarily the truth I have read a few books by other authors so I know what they do, and while their solutions work for them they do not work for me. Writing comes and goes, today writing is doing both-I was able to bang this out without incident, but other stuff…

500 and 1 Words At A Time: Story Creation, My Way

From time to time I share with you the inner workings of how this writer works. Most recently in the form of Puddles and Whiskers from rough draft, to edits, to revisions, to the current stage of course corrections, expansions, and general story related stuff. You may not have realized that if you joined in recently. Something I have not shared is how I work my way through creating a story, this is on my mind because of my recent creation Worldship Horizon.

Everything begins with an idea. In this case, Chris asked if I wanted to collaborate on a roleplaying game. I do. Unfortunately, we have a rich history of starting and going nowhere fast. Not wanting to go this route we set on the idea of a space ship doing the Battlestar Galactica/Enterprise/whatever space opera thing. In essence creating a self-contained setting for the game.

I wrote down all of the types of ship in space I knew of, along with examples, and set about coming up with something I had not heard about and interested me. The idea: humanity conquered by an alien race long enough ago that nobody remembers a time of freedom is used by the aliens as a initial colonization fleet. Each worldship has an army of 10,000 troopers, 10,000 colonists, and all of the supplies necessary. Sent to coordinates of a planet the worldship is to establish a colony or conquer the planet and establish a colony. With that in mind, the Horizon is sent off, arriving somewhere else and immediately in danger before anyone has time to figure out that they are not in the right spot.

And that is where the idea ended and I made my writing mistake. I should have written out more before going all serial story. I did not because in my head there were a few scenes and events to write out. Great, because I can piece them together and weave together a coherent narrative while giving out details about the world or world building. That did not or more correctly, has not happened.

Oops. Normally, I write out a ton of material before I show people what I am working on. I write out the idea. I flesh out the with details large and small. I know what the characters, at least the initial batch of them, look like and sound like. I spend a lot of time writing out details that may or may not end up in a story, but are in my head and help shape everything written.

Rereading the initial pages, the intro is what I had in mind, although I see several ways to do the intro better. After the intro things go off the rails or at least into territory that is too familiar sounding to me and my original idea did not have any of that, which makes the familiar feeling all the more distressing.

What do I do? As of now, notes. Back to the drawing board. Keep the idea, that is sound. Everything else we shall see.