Year of the Shadow

Arched Shadows on Italian Wall
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/shadows-arch-urban-city-sunshade-1456887/

This has been an idea kicking around for a while now, but I haven’t really been able to decide how to make it work until this year. I wanted to start it earlier this year, but was so focused on my preliminary tests that I didn’t really give it the time it deserved, but I finally figured out a way of making this “Year of the Shadow” work, so I’m going to work at it on the weekends and we’ll see what comes of it.

What the heck am I prattling about?

I’m talking about “The Year of the Shadow.”

Year of the Shadow

So what is the “Year of the Shadow.” Well, the short version is that is where I develop a character that I’ve already published in a story somewhere into multiple projects throughout the year. The long version is that when I was talking with Toni, a fellow Graduate Student and a Writing Consultant at the MTSU Writing Center, I felt that the stories that I’d already published meant that there was something there that intrigued editors enough to buy them and publish them and I should probably use those stories as starting points to help me create longer works with those same characters. She agreed and thought that would be a great idea. I started with Tana from my short story “Ship of Shadows.” This is where the idea for the Graphic Novel came from. However, I got stuck shortly afterwards because I didn’t really know where to go with. I thought I was “unstuck” a couple of weeks ago, but when I tried to write it, I found I still didn’t know what the purpose of the story truly was and discovered that I still felt lost in the story.

Year of Tana

I could have almost entitled this the Year of Tana because my goal is now to focus on the character Tana from Ship of Shadows. In the short story, Tana is a “pilot” of a DSRV. My graphic novel will (hopefully) show how Tana goes from a pilot to a captain. The novel that I’m planning for her will show how navigates being captain and being her own independent contractor/small business owner as she struggles with both crew issues, finding ways to make money, and external issues. I intend to branch off and do a “variant” version of Tana for a screenplay where we see an alternate version of Tana and see her parents for the first time. Finally, I hope to finish off the year with a Pilot for a TV show going back to the novel and using Tana’s adventures there as my guide.

52 Weeks

I’m already 16-17 weeks behind schedule, but I didn’t really have plan earlier (or rather, I had a very nebulous plan), so I can’t really worry about the time lost. All I can do is work hard to make sure that now that I have a plan in mind, to devote time each weekend to making the plan work to the best of my ability. So, while I’m about 17 weeks behind, “The Year of the Shadow” has now commenced.

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Characters Lead the Way, Redux

Image Source: https://lonewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_on_the_Sand

While cleaning up this weekend, I happened to stumble across the original “Rough Draft” that I’d printed out for my story Dragonhawk. This story (to the time of writing this blog entry) remains my one-and-only story that was accepted on the first try. It is truly a “rough draft” in that it is only three (3) paragraphs long (and is probably shorter in total length than this blog entry will be by the time I’m finished writing it). What struck me, however, was the first word on the “rough draft” was Kelfryn, the name of the protagonist.

Inspiration from a Book Cover

So, the book cover above, is from a series of Choose Your Own Adventure books called The Lone Wolf series by Joe Deaver and Gary Chalk. While the D&D books were pretty popular at the time, the ones by Deaver and Chalk really spoke to me. While not part of the Warhammer universe, the illustrations still have that “Old World” feel that marks the Warhammer brand (and what is probably what drew me to that universe). While definatley dark (the character could and often would die and the “adventure” would be over–much like a “game over” screen in video games), I always found the artwork both on the covers of the book and in the interiors to be arresting and fascinating. The above cover of a warrior riding a giant “warbird” was particularly interesting and stuck with me into adulthood.

Kelfryn and Scryfe

As I began writing, I had several incarnations of this image pop up, most notably an idea for a novel entitled Sparrowhawk as I imagined the protagonist would be a young Norse warrior who was mentally bonded to the bird (much like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders were bonded with their dragons in her series of books (which I, of course, loved and devoured as a child). I was also much taken with the idea of a bird hunting other birds–which is what the Sparrowhawk is named for doing. However, the novel did not progress and that idea fell by the wayside. After I had a few publications under my belt, I decided to revisit the idea, but this time I went back to the original image that had captivated me: the warrior riding a giant warbird. Then it came to me: why not have both the warrior and the bird still be mentally bonded, but why not have them hunt dragons?

The Art of the Character Sketch

From there, I tried to come up with a reason for them to hunt dragons and I likened them to fishermen. They had to hunt dragons to survive. Finally, I reasoned that even with the warbirds, dragons would be too ferocious, so they would only hunt things that the dragons left behind (scales, teeth, talons, etc.) when they went out hunting for food. Then came my stroke of brillance: I used Scrivener’sCharacter Sketch” template to completely write out each of the two main characters: Kelfryn (who became a young “wannbe” warrior) and Scryfe (his devoted warbird companion). I filled out all of the sections of the Character Sketch with a solid paragraph for each of the major categories (I found those sketches earlier this year–that’s how I know). After doing the character sketches, I simply started the story and everything seemed to fall into place–I didn’t have Writer’s Block at any point, nor did I have any major diversions to the story that I dreamed up–both character and plot seemed to just seemed to merge together, so that’s what I’m working towards now–getting back into the Character Sketch mentality.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Write It Down, Sidney!

Write it down. Written goals have a way of transforming wishes into wants; cant's into cans; dreams into plans; and plans into reality.  Don't just think it - ink it! Michael Korda via AZ Quotes.
Image Source: https://www.azquotes.com/quote/856710

One of my favorite movies is National Treasure (Shh, don’t tell anyone) and one of the scenes in the movie goes like this:

Ian Howe (villain) (whispers): Stupid!
Shaw (Henchman): Who?
Ian Howe: Me. It’s not here, it’s there.

Sorry if the wording isn’t verbatim (I’m doing this from memory). However, the gist of the conversation is that Ian Howe is berating himself because he followed the obvious answer rather than thinking the problem through and in doing so allowed Ben, our protagonist, to get to the “prize” first.

That’s how I feel right now–stupid. Not because I’m on a “treasure hunt” for a hidden Templar treasure in modern day Washington DC and New York City, but because I didn’t right down a great story idea (along with characters) and now I’ve mostly forgotten it! ARRRGGGHHH!

Monster Hunting for the Win

The story had to do (as best as I can remember) a group of three people hunting a monster. I remember the basic plot-line well enough so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but as an upcoming blog entry will show, I’m a much better story writer when I have the characters fleshed out along with the plot–and I did (I promise)–I had really unique and interesting characters with fairly unique backstories, but now I don’t because I didn’t write them down! ARRRGGGHHHH! I had the villain and his motivation as well, but I didn’t write it down–I’ll save the Argh this time, but you get the drift. It is so annoying to be working against myself. I need all the help that I can get, so when I get a chance, I need to write it down. And that’s the rub.

Writing on Breaks

The rub is that I came up with this story and characters while working at my second job which doesn’t have a lot of downtime. There’s a normal break, but 15 minutes isn’t a whole lot of time. The problem is that I intended to write this down during my break, but I forgot.

I try to read on the break, but there’s just not enough time–as soon as I get interested/involved with something, it’s time to stop and go back to work. I have my notebook with me and this needs to be when I pull it out and just jot down story notes/character ideas/character sketches or any other writing related thing that I need to remember or otherwise this might happen again. On my break tomorrow (or, Heaven forbid, if I happen to arrive early), I plan to jot down what I remember from this “monster hunting” story in my notebook for future reference (which I should have done in the first place).

ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Weekly Round-Up (February 3rd-9th)

potpourri

Writing

  • 2nd Draft–Starlight, Starbright: “Exposition” — I worked on the beginning of the story and reworked it to add in more characterization, more character backstory, and to revise the introduction of the story so that it matches the changes that I made in the middle of the story in the 1st draft (I didn’t go back and revise it as I figured I would get bogged down and not finish the 1st draft which is what I wanted to do.
  • The market that I’m aiming this for is a yearly one and it stops taking submissions on February 28th. I already missed a different market that stopped taking submissions on Jan. 31st (& will have to wait until June for their next period), so I don’t want to miss this one and have to wait an entire year (along with it having a different theme, to boot).

Gaming

  • So, I finished the campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II published by EA. I bought it on sale (9.99) and I bought a digital copy. I played the first one (only because it was Star Wars) “day one,” and while it was fun, I really did miss having a campaign (I rarely played the first game, so it was money wasted). I decided that this time I would wait until the game went on sale before purchasing it. I thought the campaign was good–although Iden goes through a character change quite quickly about a third of the way through–and while I liked it, I did find it abrupt. I didn’t even bother with the multiplayer which is this game’s bread and butter because I didn’t like the “loot box” controversy–just let us play games EA, stop looking at you gaming customers as stupid sheep to be fleeced for your shareholders. Not cool.
  • Speaking of multiplayer, this week saw the release of Apex Legends, a first person shooter which mixes the best of Battle Royale games (like Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBg), “character shooters” (Overwatch) and cartoony action/combat (Fortnite). This game was released on Tuesday or Wednesday and it has taken the gaming world by storm. 10 million players have played it in approx. 72 hours. Whether it has staying power remains to be seen. Oh, I also one my first match today. It is a three-person team, and my contribution was healing, revives, and calling enemies, but even though I wasn’t the “star” on the team, my help was both necessary and critical to the win! 🙂

Miscellaneous

  • So, not much going on outside of work–for school and for my second job.
  • Oh, I got new contact lenses, but I don’t think there going to work out. I’m extremely near-sighted so we added a “multifocus” lens so that I could do better at reading, but in doing so, the distance is now very blurry and limited and I’m not really “feeling” them. While I can’t go back to my old pair (too old), I may have to try to see if we can’t give up some “reading” clarity to get some clarity for my distant vision because of all the driving that I do.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Characters Lead The Way

So I’m probably doing what I always do, which is obsess over the details way too much, but after not really caring about characters over the last few years–well, that’s not really true as I cared about them, but cared about the plot and the action far more. However, now that I’m looking for ideas on creating better and more fully fleshed out characters, I’m finding inspiration everywhere.

I’m very close to finishing Babylon 5’s entire run (I think I have about 2 or 3 more episodes), so imagine my surprise when I saw a slew of writing based suggestion videos on YouTube dealing featuring J. Michael Straczynski describing his process on writing, especially characters and characterization.

Writing Excuses Podcast

So there’s a podcast that I listen to called Writing Excuses and they just finished a whole “season” (most of the year) dealing with characters and characterization. I’ve not listened to the whole season yet–you’d think a hour and forty-five minute drive would allow me to stay current, especially when the episodes are only 20 minutes once a week, but when the other podcasts I follow are 45 minutes – 1 1/2 hours, then it is easy to get behind. However, one of the contributors is Brandon Sanderson, one of my current favorite authors, so I really try to listen whenever I can for advice, tips, and “tricks” to help me become a better writer.

The Character “Sketch”

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m using a “Character Sketch” worksheet from Scrivener to help me create better, more fully fleshed out characters. It has several questions that one answers including occupation, mannerisms, etc., that should help be create better characters. Here, I think actual artists would have an advantage as they can draw their characters in order to express the characteristics they want to show, but I have to use words to create an image or “picture” of who my character is in the story.

Still, even a basic character sketch seems to be helping me create better and more fully fleshed out characters.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Character Sketch: The Independent (Ryn)

Authors Note: My character is NOT based on Ginger Howard–my character is African American, female, and wears a “baseball cap.”  That is the ONLY similarity to the above image (still, I thought it would be cool to highlight Ginger Howard’s accomplishments!)

So, today I finished the character sketch for my 2nd Draft of my short story, The Independent.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but I do want to tell a little bit about the process.  I’m trying to create a character that resembles a real life person (who is larger than life).

Family Heirlooms

One of the things that I decided was that I wanted to make sure that I did was to give Ryn a “history.”  I’ve tried to do that by creating a link between her and the past generations of her family by giving her a family heirloom that she uses in the story that gives her  an emotional hook to both her past and her present.  I’ve done that by giving her a “baseball cap” that is her father’s and is really important to her and her father.

Space Story grounded in “Reality”

In Star Wars, Mark Hamill is said to have been concerned about the unreality of the story, but Alec Guinness was supposed to have helped him by reminding him that even in fantasy, their has to be a link to reality.  That’s one of things that I tried to do with this character sketch by making sure that I gave Ryn a true “reality.”  I hope that it is a not a trite reality, but I wanted to try to create something that is more “realistic” than what I normally write.

One Surprising Thing

One thing that surprised me as I was doing this character sketch was the background section.  The background for Ryn came together in a surprising way and I was surprised that I came up with this particular background for her.  I don’t know that it will stick (ie that I will keep it or use it for the story), but I really think that it us both unique and quite strange (for me).

Anyway, I found that Ryn was a great character to come up with a Character Sketch for my 1st (well, 2nd time) out in a while.  I intend to make this step something that I do for my 2nd drafts and hopefully this will making my stories better.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

1st Try

So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener.  One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal

External

So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character.  What do they look like, what is their background, etc.  All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character.  Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs).  It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one.  However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way.  It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why  he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.

Internal

Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally.  For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider.  His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence.  Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.

Concluding Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story).  While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts.  To help me, I printed out several character sheets.  My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent.  I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.

Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try.  It’s something to shoot for anyway.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1)