Thursday, August 22, 2013

The reader's the thing

I've just had my novel Shiloh's Way read and critiqued a few times as I work on the final edits. I've gotten some really useful feedback that's going to help a ton. However, seeing how two different editors viewed the text was hugely enlightening. I was blown away by how obviously readers being themselves into the works they're reading - through their own experiences or knowledge.

Let me provide a couple examples. My main character suffers from self-esteem issues. One editor is obviously a gregarious extrovert and very self assured. She found the character annoying from time to time, and couldn't fathom why the character acted the way she did. Meanwhile, the other editor was like, I totally get her. I've been there with those issues.

Isn't that a lot like real life? People who have never suffered from, say, depression have a very hard time understanding or having empathy for those that do. You often hear things like, just snap out of it, stop feeling sorry for yourself, yadda yadda yadda. Yeah. Not that easy.

Another point that was really funny to me is that I have goblins in the book, and it was suggested I be careful borrowing too much from Tolkien. It's true that the goblins were based on a literary predecessor, but it they came from Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market -- published 75 years before The Hobbit. It's just humorous because, since everyone has seen the movies or read the books, there is an assumption that Tolkien created all these things.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be working on these edits for awhile. Hopefully, with the great help I've received from these editors, I'll be able to turn it into something worthwhile!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A name unlike any other

You know what's hard? Names.

Naming a character has a massive impact on how readers first view a character. It's strange, but you automatically begin to make assumptions simply based on what the writer decides to call someone. Pictures pop to mind if you read Abner Snodgrass or Mildred Grimes as opposed to Ace Hunter or Sydney Miles.

So, you want the name to sound right, be evocative, and have some meaning behind it. After all, you will be using it an awful lot.

I've been struggling over names for my new work for weeks now. I think I have one so far. Ugh.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Twirl that mustache!

Villains are interesting.

When you look at your prototypical Cambellian mythic hero, they're not really very complicated. While their temperament is variable, they always suffer to fight the good fight. Although they may struggle, their ultimate choice to is to stand against evil, turn back the darkness, and protect the innocent. So, their motivations aren't that complex.

A good villain on the other hand needs a really powerful motivation that is able to overcome the mores and ethics of their culture. The important thing to remember is, bad guys don't see themselves as villains. They don't commit crimes or hurt people to be "evil." If you want a strong, fascinating antagonist, there has to be a reason that they move and take action.

To me, those are the most interesting foils for heroes. Sometimes, the proper motivation can actually make you feel empathy for the antagonist, think Inspector Javert - born in prison, dedicating his life to law and justice to the point it blinds him to the inequality around him. So, we understand him, even if we can't accept his dogmatic pursuit of Valjean.

The proper motivation can make you despise a villain more while allowing you to better understand why they choose the actions they do. Look at Voldemort in Harry Potter -- he's just basically a racist. It's a reflection of the horrible things we see in our own culture - to worry more about purity of blood than worth of character. How many racist organizations are currently active in our enlightened age? Too many. But, Rowling embed him with a deeper motivation, his desire to be in control of his destiny, to be special, and his disgust of his origins ... this resonates with a lot of people.

I bring all this up as I begin to crystallize the antagonists for my new project. Last night, all the threads came together creating a pattern for my big bad's actions. It's really exciting when story points coalesce into something resembling a salient plot.

So, yay! I have a bad guy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Starting anew!

Hello, blog! Long time, no type.

I've been working on a lot of projects, one of the most time-consuming is called real life. I'm a little skeptical about how it's going to turn out, but I can't really stop it now. So, first a quick update.

Blackburn Burrow, my horror/adventure screenplay is still under option for a few more months at Amazon Studios. The comic books they commissioned by Ron Marz and Matthew Dow Smith have all been released on Amazon, so go get them! Ron Marz always tells a good story, and I adore Matthew Dow Smith's art style.

Now, I have talked with a lot of people about the adaption, and the consensus has been that they'd rather keep the creatures alive rather than undead, because they're unique and new. And, by a LARGE margin, people don't want Merrin to be a romantic interest of Mister's. I wrote the screenplay with teen girls and women in mind in order to provide a good role model on the screen. Women don't have to have a man to kick butt or be a strong character. It gets shoehorned into so many stories where it doesn't need to be. The adopted father/daughter relationship between Mister and Merrin is a selling point. It's different. It makes her much stronger, as well, as she's more of the focus.

However, while I would love Amazon Studios to stick to the original premise, I understand if they want to go another way. That's the movie business -- just like I enjoyed the comics that were very different, I'd enjoy the move the studio made. If they choose to pass on the option, I won't give up on it. Blackburn Burrow has a lot of promise! It doesn't need a huge budget -- I think that would actually hurt the film. I'd prefer intimate horror to big set pieces. Anyway, I'm happy however it goes.

I do know one thing, though -- after seeing Amazon's pilots for TV shows, they put out a great product. It would be in good hands with them. If it comes back to me, maybe I'll turn it into a novel.

Speaking of novel's -- Shiloh's Way is off being edited right now. This is more of a content edit and critique to help me shape it up. I'm seriously considering putting it in the Kindle store for people to check out once rewrites are out of the way. It's pretty unique for a fantasy novel, but it still needs a LOT of work.

I am currently working on a new project that I'm developing in a different manner. I've got the structure, and I kind of want to write it into that framework. Think of a novel-length haiku, in a way. Sometimes, having a fixed structure can really help focus your writing. It may work, it may not.

I plan on using the blog as a warm-up exercise as I write, so you'll be hearing more about it soon!

Don't forget, the four issues of Blackburn Burrow are still free on Amazon! Go get them, and leave a review -- perferably stating you'd love to see it as a movie! ;)