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)
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A “Big Dog” Barks

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @3700 words (+0 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 168 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Dead tired after that insane 15 hour day.  0 words written last night.  Hopefully, I can do better tonight.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through .)
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.

    Still working my way through–I’m trying to clear out a province a week, but because I’m catching up from E3 so I only got to clear about ½ of the province I’m currently working on.  I was planning on finishing that province today, but I have far too much to do today, so I’m not going to get to play it next week.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.” I got further along, but now I have a decision to make: do I let the “creepy” best friend die, or do I let the character’s potential girlfriend die.  I decided to stop right there.

Creating a Character

Last week (at least, I think it was last week) I talked a little about the development of a new short story that I’m working on: Project Dog.  Well, I’ve had the plot (events) of the story in my head now for a while (over 2 years).  I’ve written a plot outline for the story (I’ve mapped out what happens from beginning to end), but when I started to write the story, I found that it fell apart after the first few paragraphs.  I created two characters: Etienne and Genevieve, who are Canadian (as the story ostensible takes place in Canada).  However, I’m not Canadian.  I’ve only known one Canadian in my life (from a Creative Writing class, no less), and I only knew him for the one semester, so already I was ignoring a cardinal rule of fiction: write what you know.  So I’m going back to basics and I’m working on a conception of a new set of characters based on characters/people who I do know.

James “Big Dog” Robinson

Just so you know, “James Robinson” is likely a placeholder name.  The nickname “Big Dog” is actually the only thing that is definite.  This character is definitely an African American male (or this universe’s version of it as America, Canada, Mexico, and Central America are no longer individual countries).  As the setting is the future, borders have shifted and James is a product of his world.  I’m working now on creating 1) his backstory–how did he get to the “Canada” environment from the “deep south” environment where he grew up (I think I have an answer for this) and 2) his inner and outer conflicts (I believe I have his outer conflict, but I’m looking for a realistic inner conflict for him).  He is a squad leader, the leader of the “Dog Pack,” a futuristic group (sorry for being so vague here, but I don’t want to give away the mystery of the story.”

Inner vs Outer Conflict

So, I’m sort of obsessing over this element of the character (even more than a simple description of character or completely knowing his history).  Dragonhawk is the ONLY story that I’ve ever had accepted on the first try.  It is ALSO the ONLY story I’ve ever done a true “character sketch” for (Description, History/Bio, Inner vs Outer Conflict).  Being reflective about my writing, I think I’m non being successful in completing stories because of 1) lack of character development (esp. early in the project at the planning stage) and 2) lack of going through the “drafting” process (essentially only doing one or two “drafts” before moving on to the editing/submission process–not dramatizing the story enough/using enough techniques.

Hopefully, this will allow me to be a better “writer” and a better “storyteller.”  Fingers crossed.  Have a great weekend.  🙂

Sidney




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Submissions Every Day This Week (So Far)

So, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve submitted a story every day this week.  This is sort of just an update post of sorts.  I won’t belabor this post, nor name the markets, but I did want to let readers now that I’m giving it my all after the depressing defeat last week of both my stories that were shortlisted being rejected.

Citizen X

I just sent my story Citizen X  out to a market today.  I’m sure it has 0% chance of getting in the magazine, but I wanted to send it today as today is their last day for allowing submissions for this reading period.  As they have 4 periods a year, I want to try to make sure that I submit each period even when I’m pretty sure that they won’t use the story.  Still, what is the old “saw” for people who play the lottery: “you can’t win if you don’t play.”

HawkeMoon

I submitted HawkeMoon to an anthology that had a theme.  The story matched very well with the actual anthology, but I’m not sure how much it matched the theme of the anthology.  I think that it might work for the theme of “Shards” and I revised it a bit to make that idea more explicit, but I’m really not sure its going to work for them.  They did, however, push their date back from Feb. 1st to March 1st, so I wanted to be sure to get the story to them and let them make the ultimate decision.  We’ll see.  Depending on how well they think that I interpreted their theme, this probably has the best chance of all of the ones I’ve submitted so far (of course, if they don’t think I hit the theme, it will probably be the exact opposite–oh well, we’ll see)

Dragonhawk

Dragonhawk has already been published by Tales of the Talisman and you can find it on Amazon if you’re curious.  However, there are several podcasts that are looking for stories (preferably reprints) that they can have narrators read as part of their podcasts.  There is a Fantasy version, Sci-Fi version and YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi version.  I sent this to the YA one, but it didn’t work, but I was determined to submit it to the Fantasy version when it reopened.  I’m determined that every story that I do that gets published will go to these podcasts for consideration.  I’ve not had much luck with the reprint market unlike other writers, but I like and listen to podcasts, so I’d love to have my work featured.

Silence Will Fall

So, Silence Will Fall just went to the same market that shortlisted Citizen X.  I’ve had some success with this market, but it isn’t a given (as one can see by their rejection of CX).  I really like SWF (I like all my stories, but of the recent ones, this is probably one of my favs) and I hope they take it, but the movie that I blogged about recently may hinder it from getting sold, but I’m going to do my best.  We’ll see and I’ll keep you all updated on this (and all the projects) that are being submitted and in the works.

See you next time!

Sidney




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Potpourri ( . . . a little bit of everything)

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So this blog post contains a little bit everything (hence the title).  I will try to keep this post shorter than normal; it (hopefully) will be just an update post.

WRITING

I was really happy with the way “Here Be Monsters” (HBM) turned out.  I haven’t heard a response from the 1st market that I sent it to yet, but having the setting allowed me to focus on the characters in a way that I haven’t been able to since “Dragonhawk” (DH).  I actually like HBM a quite a bit more than DH although they have a lot in common.

READING

Finished “Conquistadors” (finally) after struggling to read it all summer and fall.  I shouldn’t complain because it gave be the initial idea and setting for HBM.  I loved learning about the Conquistadors and the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca.  It’s just that I’m so stressed from teaching that it is hard to pay attention to an in-depth non-fiction work. For the past couple of years, I usually read Fantasy (David Eddings, Brandon Sanderson, and Diane Duane) or Science Fiction (David Weber, Elizabeth Moon) in order to “de-stress.”

Picked a new “history” book from the back of the Conquistadors.  It is the Condottieri. Hopefully, lightning will strike twice and I’ll be able to find an awesome story from this time period.  I just ordered a used copy from Amazon.com today.

REVISION

I plan on revising Rocketman for my next project.  It will follow the same 3 act structure (beginning, middle, end) as HBM, but I think I need a short half a page prologue/epilogue to completely get it where I want it.  I think I’ve settled on an epigraph to highlight the theme.  More on this later.

SCHOOL

I really want to see if I can raise my game and go back to school.  I’d like to perhaps teach in Higher Education and for that I’ll need a PhD.  I’m going to apply to PhD programs this year in hopes that I will be accepted.  Much of my “free” time will be spent studying for the GRE and preparing applications for various schools, so my writing output will be reduced temporarily as I try to accomplish this goal.

NEW STORY

The creative process will not wait, however.  I’ve begun to write down ideas for my next story.  I don’t have a title yet (although I have a tentative grasp of some of the characters and some of the plot.)  All I can say at this point is the inspiration that inspired me to start planning out the story.  One was a dream that I had last night with a gunslinger.  The other was a phrase that I wrote down about a month ago while still working on HBM: “Jedi Gunslingers.”  More on this later!

That’s all I have at the moment!