Discussion in 'The Workshop' started by garamet, Apr 16, 2004.
All the best dystopias do.
Why didn't you just say so?
Interesting artifact. Apropos what we were discussing in this thread: http://wordforge.net/index.php?thre...ctable-the-way-forward-for-literature.105572/ it's interesting to see how the book business has and has not changed in the interim. Ditto how many WFers have changed and how many remain the same.
I'm glad you bumped this. I just finished reading through the entire thing and got some good ideas, including a character focus shift so I don't wind up bogging the narrative down with boring worlds establishing material from the onset.
What your typical outline format look like? Do you break it down by chapters or just have it as one long outline that gets broken down as you flesh out the narrative?
How do you deal with characterization and avoid Mary Sues? I don't mean the variety that everyone including the antagonists love, but the ones who are omnidisciplined (like da Vinci or Saint-Saëns) and could catch reader backlash for being able to do too much?
You mentioned not reading much s/f; how about watching it?
Great questions, @Bickendan!
How to avoid Mary Sues...had to think about that one. What I think I do is observe what makes my favorite characters in books or onscreen most interesting. It's usually that they're really good at some things but they suck at other things, but they're the only ones who can't see it.
Example: Prime Suspect, the BBC series that brought Helen Mirren to the attention of America. Her character, Jane Tennison, is a brilliant detective. She's clawed her way up through the ranks and past the Old Boy Network to make DCI without sleeping with any of her superiors, and she always cracks the case. But it's made her cutthroat and cold (she softens a bit in later series), and her personal relationships absolutely suck. First she hooks up with a guy who doesn't get that it's not a 9 to 5 job and she's not home from work when he is. Then she sleeps with one of the guys on her team. Then there's the married Yank who gets her pregnant. Then (though this one's not her fault) there's the shrink who's secretly profiling her for a book he's writing. At the end of the series she's alone, about to retire, and a recovering alcoholic, and she's wondering if it was all worth it.
I'd like to think my characters aren't quite so desolate (I like to put them through the wringer but have them emerge the better for it at the end - except for the ones I kill off ), but we all know people IRL that we want to grab by the throat and say "Don't you realize what you're doing???" Trying to capture that on the page is the challenge...and the fun.
Yes, I do watch a lot more s/f than I read. Grew up on The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits. Big Trek fan (ya think?), nuBSG and, now nuWho. I like character-driven s/f films, mostly stuff based on Philip K. Dick works - Blade Runner, Minority Report - and The Fifth Element's good for a giggle. But that's the key - the tech should be background, set dressing. It shouldn't outshout the characters. If you couldn't pop these characters out of the razzle-dazzle and set them down in another time and place and keep them interesting (I mean, what are Blade Runner and Minority Report if not film noir detective dramas?), then you've lost me.
Liked for this bit:
Ab-so-fuckin'-lutely. It is a joy and a privilege, in the case of one project I'm working on, to have created a character who turns out to be an utter abomination, but to portray him -- up to the reveal on that -- as a very relatable fellow. To spring punishment after punishment on this poor man, only at the end to show why he deserved them all, that is a genuine treat. But it's also a challenge from the Olympians to pull off. So I entirely get you, there.
Do you ever experiment with old stories told in new forms? For example, have you ever looked at an early novel and thought to yourself, "I wonder if I could retell that, but even better, as a teleplay"?
I've thought about reworking older stuff, but then there's so much new stuff I want to try that I don't follow through. Once in my masochistic youth I tried tinkering with some "classic" literature, rewriting it from a modern perspective. Spent a whole summer trying to turn Sister Carrie into a kind of Working Girl, but gave up halfway. Not sure why I bothered, given that there isn't a single likable character in Dreiser's novel. Mental exercise more than anything, I guess.
But always in novel form. For one thing, that's my metier. For another, I have friends who've written (past tense) for screen, and if all writers are masochists, screenwriters are more so. Particularly those who don't fit the "this is what a screenwriter looks like" demographic of white, male, under 38. Back when two out of three of those applied, I was living in NY, so the logistics of doing the Dog & Pony show of story-pitching in L.A. were a no-go. Nowadays I'm here, but that's about all I can say. No credits, no experience (thought I guess I could learn to plug a script into Final Draft) and, frankly, no desire.
I yam what I yam.
Though if someone wanted to option another of my novels for screen rights, my only question would be "Where do I sign?"
@garamet You missed my questions about outline format.
Aww, jeez, sorry. Got caught up in the Mary Sue question and forgot to get back to outlines.
When I'm working on a spec project, I don't write outlines for myself. It's basically "I want to start here and end up there, and I have no idea how I'll get there until I start working on it."
Outlines, for me, are the necessary sales pitch for an editor. Some editors are intuitive (I once sold a 300-page novel on a two-sentence synopsis), others (or their bosses) need a road map. For that I generally follow Freytag's pyramid:
Only not really. My climactic scenes tend to be very much near the end (more Shakespearean, really; if Macduff had come onstage with Macbeth's severed head in his hand in Act 3, no one in the audience would hang around for Acts 4 and 5), with maybe a chapter or two for the denouement (a fancy word for "mopping up").
Keeping to a general word count of around 100,000 words, my outline would be around 2,000-2,500 words. I don't actually count as I'm working it out, but if it's over 2,500 words when I'm done I'll usually trim (if you can't novelsplain in fewer words than that, you're babbling, IMO). One sentence = one chapter sometimes works. "And then this happens...and because of that this happens...and Our Hero/ine reacts this way...and at the end they all end up Here."
Vague, but it's not a science, and if you're too rigid about it you'll end up writing yourself into a corner.
Hope that helps.
Sounds like you're what they call a "pantser" -- as in, "flying by the seat of." From what I've read, that works for a lot of writers. On the other hand, for a lot of other writers, it doesn't. Everybody's got their own workflow.
Exactly. That's why I don't do writers' workshops. Wouldn't know where to begin.
Printing, penmanship, and caligraphy. Always start with making the basic letters.
Meh. Doofus is as doofus does.
I have a question for Garamet.
Fred Saberhagen created the concept of the Berserkers and wrote many of the earlier stories.
He is dead now and IIRC other writers have had stories published in his Berserker universe.
Likewise for Keith Laumer and his creation and use of the Bolo Combat Units
What I'm asking is I've been very impressed with Steven Utley and his Silurian Tales. Utley died in Jan. 2013. How would you find out if any publisher is interested (or allowed to) publish new stories in his created universe?
Utley would have owned the copyright and, if he was smart, left its disposition to his heirs. If someone - one of the mags or anthologies - who'd published his work before wanted to continue the Silurian line, they'd first get permission from the estate, then make an offer to established writers who write in a similar vein.
Separate names with a comma.