Friday, May 25, 2012

Someday never comes

Sometimes I read a lot. Sometimes it takes me a long time to get through a book.

Sometimes I don't write for months. Others, I have a project going that I really focus on and really make headway with. Sometimes it's multiple projects.

Right now in the rubrick, I'm in the "not really reading, writing a lot" portion. I started a werewolf novel in April that's coming to its climax. I started a new writing project involving horror short stories. With June coming up, I'm trying to get myself to actually outline my CampNaNoWriMo novel.

I know I'm doing a space scifi thing. I know that the main characters are two sisters, and that there's at least one dude (no, this is not going to be a love triangle). I know some aesthetics of the space world that I'm operating with, and even though it's in space, it'll be on a smaller, character driven scale. But story? Eh, I've got an idea of the conflict. I think.

So, I need an outline, or else I'll be dead in the water at 10k words.

In NaNo lingo, I'm typically what's known as a "pantser", i.e. I write by the seat of my pants. I also typically have a story arc in mind, though, a culminating event, how I want things to shake out, that kind of thing. I wish I knew that already, this time. I'd really like for this to work out, and I'm always up for a NaNo!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Goodbye, Maurice Sendak. We'll miss you.

Maurice Sendak died this morning. He was 83. On one hand, I think "Well, 83 is a good run." But, seeing as how I'm apprehensive about 30 and beyond, I could see how 83 would not be enough. He had complications from a stroke, according to the New York Times.

Without reserve, I can say that Sendak's books are splendid. His illustrations are amazing, and the stories more than just fluff to keep your five year old occupied. There's a depth to them that makes some adults uncomfortable, and that kids seem to love, because for once, somebody's taking them seriously.

Maurice Sendak apparently lived alone after his partner of fifty years died, but for a German Shepherd. His most recent one that I've seen mentioned is named Herman, after Herman Melville, and I'm pretty sure most, if not all, of his German Shepherds came from the Monks of New Skete.

I do hope that wherever is is Sendak has gone, he's still able to do the things he loves, with whoever he misses that has gone before. Because that's what Heaven ought to be, right?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Character Questionnaire

How well do you know your characters?

It's a simple question, and a complicated one.

When you're writing a story, it's sometimes the case that secondary and tertiary characters are really on there for the interactions that they have with your main character(s). Your main character is there for that particular arc of story that you're telling.

So, do you think about them otherwise?

Do you know what their comfort food is? Their fear when they woke up in the middle of the night at age 3? What's in their fridge? Do they have a fridge?

Most recently, while playing Mage this past winter, my fiance had each of the player's fill out a questionnaire as our characters. It was a stroke of brilliance, really. It was fun to do, and really put you in that person's head. The things that happen "off stage" are still important, be it in a book or in a game.

All these little things that we do, they make us who we are. Our characters would do them too. If we let them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Book Will Change Your Life

Occasionally, somebody will refer to a book and sigh, "that book changed my life." I nod, like I know what they're talking about, but I really tend to be thinking "...really?"

Frequently, I've read the book as well. Life of Pi? Didn't change my life. Neither did The Kite Runner, though it made me profoundly frustrated and angry. The Help? Nope.

Maybe The Fountainhead did, to a small degree, but maybe I don't want to make declarations like that here.

Maybe life-changing ability isn't what I read books for. Maybe, because I also write books, I don't look at them as mystical tomes that hold profound answers. I love to read, anybody who knows me will be able to attest to that (and if they aren't able, I guess they don't know me), but maybe what I want to get out of a book isn't what others seek.

I look for entertainment in books. When I open a book, I certainly do want it to take me away for a little while. Books are education, books are thought exercises, books are fantasy, books are time travel. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, contained things I'd never thought of before. I'm looking forward to reading the anniversary edition, which I've brought home from the library yet again. Did American Gods change my life? Not more than The Fountainhead, anyway.

So really, I do feel that a book's job is to create an immersive world that I go and visit for a little while. No more, no less, though really, that's a pretty tall order. A book that I continue to think about after I've closed it, that's a good book. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings both take place in a complete world of Tolkein's creation. They have been, and will continue to be, popular for just that reason. The movies have only added to that, and with The Hobbit releasing trailers, will continue to.

Tabletop fantasy role playing games indeed owe a profound debt to Tolkein (well, and war gamers), because the world he created still has such a profound effect on the fantasy worlds that are created today. Indeed, "traditional fantasy" makes one think of elves, and orcs, and goblins, swords and sorcery. Urban fantasy frequently has these elements as well.

So yeah. The book that changed my life? Well, it's a few I guess, but one of them was referred to as The Player's Handbook, and was 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons, published by Wizards of the Coast. Before I had friends who had that book, and others, I didn't know. I didn't know that, other than in theatre, people came together to tell a story together, acting out characters who have no scripts but very certainly have specific roles. I didn't know about White Wolf either, publishers of The World of Darkness, old and new.

Gaming can be better than workshopping. Gaming can fuel the fire to write, within those consensual worlds, and in others of your creation. It can make you push your boundaries and test the edges of trust, and make you think hard about the decisions that you're willing to make.  As a writer, it's been a blessing to me, and a good game is equivalent to a good book.

D&D, unfortunately, moved to other editions, and 4th edition is where Wizards of the Coast and my gaming group parted ways. We're partial to Pathfinder, now, by Paizo publishing. It maintains that spirit of the game, the traditions of orcs and elves and goblins, and wizards with staves casting spells.