Larger Than Life

Image Source: IZQuotes.com

Reserved by Nature

I am a reserved person by nature. You’ll never find me gadding around being the life of the party. I am quiet and most definitely an introvert. However, as I’m writing Project Poet, I’m finding that maybe my characters really aren’t ciphers, but rather maybe they are too much like me– very quiet and reserved.

Larger Than Life Characters

People want distinctive and memorable characters. I personally am not distinctive or memorable unless I truly want to be–my choice (heck, yes would be hard pressed to find an image of me online) . However, in writing characters who are just extensions of various parts of my psyche, I’ve unwittingly been writing boring characters rather than dynamic and unique ones.

Living La Vita Loca

So, a way to fix this is to give my characters a one-word trait to describe the character’s behavior. For instance, the character for Project Poet just wants to have fun–so “frat-boy”/”party-guy” would get that fun loving personality with a little bit of immaturity & insecurity. Now I just need to characterize (show how these traits manifest themselves in the story) him better and make sure he is larger than life. I also need to make sure his backstory reflects his fun loving outlook on life.

To steal from a popular saying: “go big or go home!”

Sidney



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Project “Space Trucker”

Project Space Trucker

So this will be a short blog entry today.  I just wanted to let you know that I’ve started the “Rough Draft” of a new project: Project Space Trucker.  Yes, I know the title is inelegant, but it is what the story is about.  Well, not literally about Semi-Trucks in space, but about the future and how a “Trucker” in the future might be realized in terms of world/setting, characterization, plot, etc.

This project has no relation to the 1996 movie Space Truckers.  I’ve never seen that movie & didn’t even know it existed until I googled the words Space & Truck for the above image.  After seeing the trailer (see below), I’ve no real desire to see the movie as it is apparently B movie in every sense of the word (bikini-clad female co-pilot and ship that apparently has a semi-truck “trailer” attached to the back of the ship).  If I ever run across it on streaming (& I have a couple of hours to kill), I might watch it now that I know it exists, but its not something I’m going to go searching for as you can see for yourself from the Trailer posted on YouTube.

Inspiration

No, this project was inspired quite a bit by my commute to school.  I often pass by Semi-Trucks on the road and I started noticing the names of the shipping companies on the trailers or the names of the transport and logistic companies on the sides of the trucks and that started me to thinking about how these companies might exist in a space/science fiction environment.

Also, along the route to school, there is a truck “pull-off stop area.”  It isn’t a rest area per se, but a small set of lanes where trucks can pull off the highway safely and sleep/rest before making their way to a mandatory truck checking area that is a few miles up the road.  This way truckers can sleep/rest and not get fined or penalized for not having taken mandatory rest breaks as required by American law.  On one trip, I saw a couple of truckers conversing with each other outside their trucks and also began to wonder how that interaction might play out in a sci-fi universe.

What’s Next?

So, I really like the way this project is headed so far.  I have a fairly clear idea of the character.  I’m working on the Rough Draft this week and over the weekend, I hope to work on character sketches for the two main characters.  Right now, I’m plugging away on the “Working Draft” of Project Poet (Poet).  I’m not sure what’s on deck after Poet as I still need to go back and do another draft for Project Skye as well, but I’ll update you next week.

Well, looks like I’m out of time for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney



 

Potpourri: The Writing Life

potpourri_wikihow

Today’s blog will be a short one on a few things that happened over the weekend pertaining to my writing life.  These are mostly updates that I feel are important milestones, but each one isn’t really so important that it requires its own blog post.  So, in no particular order, here we go:

Submitted All Tomorrow’s Children

So I submitted All Tomorrow’s Children (ATC) to its first market over the weekend. The market is a “major” market in the Science Fiction and Fantasy short fiction landscape, but I doubt they’ll accept it.  While they say there never receive enough Sci-Fi (and ATC is Sci-Fi), their Acceptance rate is .09%.  That means they reject 99.91% percent of the stories that are sent to them.  Still, I had to try as they are one of the “new” big publishers of Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories.  If the market doesn’t take ATC, I have two more publishers that I consider “big” to send it to and then I’ll step down a tier to the mid-level markets.  You never know until you try.

“Blogging” My Way to 250 Words-a-Day

So, I have a confession to make.  I have several Word Processors–Pages, SimpleNote (Mac App & Website), Scrivener, IAWriter App, and a couple of lesser Word Processors (and have access to Word through my school account and on their computers).  However, I found over the past few weeks, that for fiction, I really just like the ease and simplicity of SimpleNote (which I’ve mentioned in the past), but also, just the WordPress Text Editor that I use to create my blog entries.  While I used to draft in SimpleNote, I’ve now switched to the WordPress blog editor because I can quickly see the word count and when I reach my 250 limit for the day, I then copy and paste the work over to SN.  One I have a completed draft, I then copy and paste that over to Scrivener and make my major edits there.  Scrivener makes compiling a submission draft a breeze and that’s the draft I use to submit.  It was this workflow that helped me to get All Tomorrow’s Children off my computer and out the door to a publisher.

Finished (FINALLY) the Rough Draft of “Project Skye”

I finished this over the weekend as well.  It clocks in at about 4,000 words, but really needs some substantial TLC.  This was an exploratory draft and written “by the seat of my pants” because 1) I wanted to get an idea of the character and 2) I thought I knew enough about the world in order to just write.  The draft is a “poster child” for why I don’t write without outlining.  There are plot threads that just drop out, there are character motivations that don’t work, there’s setting issues, there’s a storm that never develops, etc.  This draft is an absolute “mess” and I will most likely have to rewrite the entire story from beginning to end rather than what I did with All Tomorrow’s Children which was “build” the story from the ground up.  This illustrates the difference in my writing styles: ATC was fun to write for me, while Project Skye was an absolute slog.  I can’t even show it to the Writing Center consultant to illustrate Skye’s character (which is the reason I wrote the story) because it really isn’t a “story” yet (at least, not in the way I think of “story”).  But its done–that’s the best part.  And what do they say?  If you’re at the bottom, you can only go up from there–hopefully, by the summer, I can put together a draft that I feel proud to show off–because it isn’t there yet!

Sidney



Author’s Note: All Tomorrow’s Children

 

I’ve actually already written an Author’s Note on All Tomorrow’s Children, but I probably should have called it more of a “Rough Draft” Author’s Note because it really only discussed the inspiration of the story and some of the genre aspects of the story.  Now that I’ve finished the Working Draft of the story and just need to edit and polish it before I start submitting it to various markets, I wanted to do a full and complete breakdown on just what the story is just as I did for Here Be Monsters and WarLight.

AUTHOR’S NOTE – ALL TOMORROW’S CHILDREN

The Title

So this title has been kicking around in my mind almost sense I joined the Chattanooga Public library way back in 1996.  It was always around connected to a set of people using Psionics (mental powers–telepathy, telekinesis, etc.).  The original conception was around a group of kids who, in the future, were dominated and controlled by a fascist state.  They escaped and rebelled and fought agains the regime.  It was supposed to be a graphic novel, but I could never get it to come together.  A couple of years ago (my third year as a 6th grade teacher) a new idea came to me about a family of Psionics rather than a group of kids.

Theme

So, in the summer of last year, Sky News (British TV station) did a special report on JIHADI BRIDES and how many of them were lured into the camps of Jihadis based on elaborate promises made to them by these organizations.  Yes, super controversial, I know, but this is when the idea for the story finally crystalized.  What if one sister was lured into and recruited by jihadis for the cause of freeing Psionics from being discriminated vs the other sister who only came to lend her psychic talents to heal and make things better?  This is where/when I began the story in earnest.  It has undergone multiple revisions just to get to this point.  I see it as violence vs non-violence (Malcolm X vs Dr. Martin Luther King Jr).

Length

So this story isn’t very long and isn’t filled with a whole lot of details.  Outside of the mental powers, there’s not even a lot of “sci-fi” going on. I wanted to keep it short and simple, but I may have made it too short and not enough sci-fi.  On this final polishing pass, I may look for places where I can add in future technology to help distinguish as a sci-fi story, rather than a modern day story.

Time to Create

This took a long time to write–I’ve been working on it pretty in some form or another after I saw the video.  I’ve working on it in-between working on my school work, working on grading papers and teaching, working on it while doing many other things.  Also, I’ve had a really hard time writing it and a really hard time finding the TIME to write it.  That is why Jesmyn’s Ward’s advice in Elizabeth Flock’s interview Read, Write, Improve was so timely for me because she said: “Persist. Read, write, and improve: tell your stories. Accept rejection until you find acceptance, but don’t become disheartened, stop writing, and remove yourself from the conversation.”  I realized that I’ve simply become to wrapped up in the day-to-day world of living without giving myself space to write, so every day I try to carve out a small slice of time (even if it is only half an hour) to 1) read, 2) write, 3) edit (aka Read, Write, Improve).  Sometimes I can’t do all three, but I try to at least do at least one of the 3 and all three, if at all possible.  I generally wake up earlier now–and that’s what has allowed me to finally finish the Working Draft of this story.

Research–Jihadi Brides

So I’ve mentioned it before, I had an idea, but scrapped it and based the majority of the story, idea, and characters on the YouTube video by Sky New–Jihadi Brides.  There are a couple other videos that Sky News did related to this subject that also informed this story, but by and large, much of impetus for the story comes from that YouTube video.  I hope the story isn’t too derivative, but I tried to capture both the essence of the culture and the “lure” of fanaticism that I saw in the video, just in a world where mental powers exist.  If you want to see the report, I’ve included a link below for context:

 

Characters

 I originally had 4 main characters–Yeva, her sister, Javan (the husband), and a “Spiritual Leader,” of sorts, but I rolled the leader and husband into one for this draft to simplify things for me.  I also originally had planned for Yeva and her sister to be twins with similar names (Yeva and Veya) as twins do, but it became too confusing for me to keep their names straight and if I, the author, couldn’t do it, I realized it would be difficult for readers to do so, so I changed the sister’s name to something more relatable.

Up Next

I am almost finished with the Rough Draft of a short story for the “Project Skye” short story.  I can see the home stretch/finish line with it.  It is very “rough” as I jumped in without planning and boy, does it REALLY show!  The story is all over the place.  I estimate I’ll need AT LEAST two more drafts before it even resembles something which I would be proud to attach my name to on a submission copy.
Well, that’s all I have for now and thanks for reading this long Author’s Note!  Have a great day!

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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Drafting up a Skye (Project Skye)

So in the last blog post, I talked about planning a story for January.  In this blog post, I’m going to talk about drafting (aka writing) a story.  The story that I’m writing for January 2018 is Project Skye (the short story).

Short Story as Character Sketch
I’m writing this story as a way to examine Skye’s character.  I was tasked to come up with a character sketch for Skye by the MTSU Writing Center as I struggled to try to create a novel this past semester.  I struggled to do the character sketch because all my choices seemed arbitrary.  So, I decided to write a story which puts Skye into jeopardy to see how she would react–to reveal her character through action.

Not as Easy as it Sounds
This sounds easy–I wrote a brief one sentence outline of everything that I wanted in the story.  I wrote a beginning, middle, and end for the story.  I wrote a 1 sentence brief outline of the scenes (3 scenes) in the beginning, middle, and end.  I’m about halfway done, but I’m having problems working on it because 1) I now realize the setting actually needs to be changed (this is happening in their aircraft when it should be in “hovercars,” 2) this was to be a “prologue” event to show how they know each other (there needs to be a different prologue event and this needs to happen later in the novel’s timeline), and 3) The first section is waaaayyyy longer than I’d intended it to be (by about double–I feel like I need that length, but it is making the rest of the story unbalanced by comparison).  Basically, I can see all the flaws that I want to go back and fix (i.e., start over).  I’m going to try to trudge to the end, but when I’m not happy with the results of my writing, it is very difficult to finish.

Knowing When its “Right”
When HawkeMoon was “finished,” I knew that it was “right.”  The same is true with Silence Will Fall (although I knew at the time that I’d written away from the ending I had in mind–so that’s why I had to rewrite the ending last year–to bring it more in line with the original ending that I’d dreamed about with that story).  However, I’m not even finished with Project Skye and I know it isn’t right.  I’m going to need at least one more draft to get it where I think it needs to be.  That is the hardest part of drafting for me–having to keep going even when I know that the draft is lacking because I want to fix it immediately.  I think, because I just dove into the project, without doing what I normally do (i.e., writing a draft that is just for me–my own personal “telling” myself the story, I don’t think that I have the action as firmly in place as I should).

Lesson Learned
As I go throughout this year, planning stories, the end goal needs to be: sometime during the last week of the month I need to write out a Rough Draft in which I “Tell, Don’t Show.”  This draft is For My Eyes Only and will aid me when the time comes to turn my story into a draft for the audience where I then “Show, Don’t Tell.”  If I don’t do a “Rough Draft,” then I’m going to have to spend even more time “fixing it” with another draft later on down the line.

Sidney
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Unplanned Project=Project Skies

So, I tried really hard really hard to write a Character Sketch for Skye that I could be really proud of, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t figure out a way to encompass all facets of her character–feelings, physical description, likes and dislikes.  I finally resorted to something that I know and am familiar with (even though it earns me little to no money): a short story.  Yep, I’m writing a short story in the world of Project Skye with Skye as the protagonist in order to nail down her character–how she looks, how she acts, how she responds under pressure.  I do intend to market the story, but even if nothing comes of it, I’m hopeful that it won’t be for naught.  The goal is to take what I’ve learned int the story and transfer it a novel length work–hopefully, the character work that I do with the story will translate into a deeper understanding of her character so that I can work with her on a longer, more intensive work.

Jonny Quest “movie idea” as Inspiration
A white back–late 90s, early 2000s–the character of Jonny Quest became hot again.  He was a character created in the 1960s, who along with other Hanna Barbera, had a resurgence of popularity in the early/mid 80s and again in the mid/late 90s.  A live action movie was mentioned in the trades (my library used to have a subscription to Variety, a movie trade magazine & remember seeing mention of in there, if memory serves), but it never came to pass.  I remember thinking how cool it would be to write the movie adaptation of it, and as I’ve seen all the episodes, for both the original and the subsequent sequel series, I set about developing a “plot line” for the “movie.”  I really liked the original title sequence and wanted to update that for my JQ “movie,” so I developed this elaborate flight intro sequence around Air Racing (yes, alert readers can see where I’m going with this).  Well, the movie never happened, Hollywood (for now) has lost interest in most Hana Barbera projects (the two live action Scooby Doo movies are probably the best known movies that came from that collaboration) and even if it had, as an unknown writer with no written or produced feature length scripts, Hollywood wouldn’t have been beating down MY door for the idea anyway.  I never used that flight sequence or even wrote it down–it has existed in brain all these years.

Fly Free
Lester day I realized that I would never be able to write a traditional character sketch for Skye–that I was just beating my head against the wall.  Instead, I turned my attention to what would happen if I put her in a stressful situation–maybe not the one I’d been working on for the novel, but another one.  In fact, what would happen if I put Skye, instead of Jonny Quest, into the scenario I’d devised all those years ago for the “movie.”  Well, I tried it and . . . it worked!  I’ll have to check with my Writing Consultant, but Skye seems now like a living breathing person, a fully round three dimensional character who has wants, drives, needs, and feelings.  She emotes, she feels, she does everything a good protagonist should do.  Again, maybe I’m too close, but not only did I finish the first major “plot element” before I stopped writing, I was also able to outline all of the rest of the plot elements out to the “climax” of the story, which I left intentionally vague for myself (I have a feeling based on her character what’s going to happen, but I want the ending to feel “organic” and not overly plotted).

Still Committed to Project Star
Yes, I will be working on Project Star as well (where, o where will I find the time?), but I simply HAD to stop and draft Project Skies.  It was necessary (IMO) to understand Skye’s character and without it, I don’t think that the novel would ever get off the ground.