Writing Excuses

The name of this post is a bit of a double entendre.  For one, I’d like to point those interested in writing to the podcast titled “Writing Excuses” put on by Wesley Chu, Piper J. Drake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mary Anne Monhanraj, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Dan Wells.  It contains fantastic information and writing advice from established authors, I have enjoyed it and found that it does help my own writing.

Now, the other reason for the title is my excuses for not posting as often this spring.  I have been deep into edits and my day job has been extremely busy as of late, and both have cut into the time I have for keeping up with the blog as often as I’d like to.

There is some good news though, I have gotten a good deal of notes prepared on my novella and have been working on rewrites.  The short story collection I’m working has been put on pause for the moment.  I do have a few micro fictions I’d like to get posted here in the next few weeks.

And in the section of general geeky updates, I’m finding myself identifying more with Dr. Strange out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes.  This has a great deal to do with my recognition that I need to take care of myself and not just my projects.  I tend toward worrying and anxiety, both of which have been catching up with me.  As a result, I’ve been looking into the benefits of yoga and aromatherapy to help keep myself centered and grounded.  There may be more here on that later.

Hope you are all having an amazing day!

Microfictions: Sentry & Shoes

I’ve been dealing with quite a few computer problems over the last couple of days and with my Camp NaNoWriMo participation this month I haven’t been able to post as often as I would like. So here’s a couple microfictions in the meantime.

Sentry

The hordes below the mountainside were as vast as a hill of ants. A cold sweat broke out on the sentry’s brow. His hand tightly held his sword for the comfort of its steel, as his fingers remained close to the trigger of the gun embedded in its hilt.  The enemy was moving directly toward his village.

Scurrying backwards he moved silently, a figure quickly obscured by trees as he raced through the night to make his report.

Shoes

He had found his lost show, along with the gold inside. The other guy hadn’t been so lucky.

Editing: A Process

Editing is a strange process.

This week I cut a story down from 9000 words to half its size.  It was almost as if I was smashing in a work of pottery still on the wheel in order to build a better vessel with the same clay.

Now the story is a skeleton of what it was and it’s still a difficult story.  I sense I will need a bit of feedback before I set about the difficulties of putting some of the flesh back onto it.

This week has been another key to my personal preparation for going through the novelette I wrote.  One more step in a series that began two years ago.

In late 2015 and early 2016 I wrote a full length novel, tried to edit it, and then realized I needed more experience in this craft before tackling the revisions on this book, the first in a planned epic fantasy trilogy.  So I went about trying out different ideas and tackling shorter length works in an effort to find my own voice and get a feel for what works as  a writer.

I’m in a stage where I feel like my writing is as fluid as ocean waves.  Some of my writing is razor focused and only needs a few edits on details while other pieces require a great deal more thought and change.

The trick has become learning how best to read those waves and channel the story through them.

I’m not writing this as someone who has figured it out yet.  But I am posting this as someone who is beginning to see a way through the maelstrom that is editing.

Decluttering

With spring in the Northern Hemisphere comes inevitable spring cleaning.  A chance to go through what I have and toss out what has served its purpose.  This year I have my work cut out for me.

Now that I’m mostly settled in, it’s time to organize everything left over in storage from my move in December.

Being the nerd I am, I actually read a book to prepare for it: “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.  While I’m not sure I will be following her method in its totality there are a lot of takeaways for me.  One example is that I highly respect the idea that learning to declutter helps us learn who we are by what we find sparks joy in our possessions.

Ultimately, I am hoping the physical act of decluttering helps to hone my decision making skills for editing, a process that will essentially be decluttering and expanding my stories.

Microfiction: Reginold

The corner of the room was getting too packed for Regi’s tastes.  He was watching the door, waiting for Selica.  The room was unusually warm and the coffee more bitter than even those of the shops in Liran’s old town.  He nearly jumped from his seat as a cup fell nearby.  His nerves were tense, as they should be, not everyone survived planning a coup d’etat.

Selica was the key to the royal palace.  His smooth talking would have to be at its finest on this “date”.  If he could convince her to let him in, that would be all his plans needed.

Character Analysis: Qrow Branwen, RWBY

I like the idea of doing a character analysis on here every now and then.  In a way, it makes me work a little harder at studying story crafting while I’m enjoying shows and books I like.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last month since the finale mulling over volume 4 of RWBY.  It’s a web anime series produced by RoosterTeeth and you can catch Volumes 1 – 4 for free on both their website and YouTube.  If you haven’t seen it, please do – it’s fantastic, but be warned there will be spoilers in this post.

RWBY takes place in the world of Remnant where a society with modern technology coexists with typical fantasy tropes, like big bad monsters (grimm) in the wilds that threaten to destroy humanity without the protection of cities guarded by hunters and huntresses.  There are four universities that specialize in training these individuals which is where we first meet our main characters: Ruby, Blake, Yang, and Weiss.  Each is associated with a color: red, black, yellow, and white respectively.

A note on the color schematics, I think it is fascinating that color is so integral to the characters and their names.  The idea in the story is that during the great war art was disregarded, so a tradition of naming children in a way associated with colors was an homage to art.  Also, many of the characters are nods to real life legends and fairy tales such as : Joan of Arc, The Wizard of Oz, Thor, Odin, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast, among others.

The first two volumes can be a bit rough to watch as the episodes were short and the animation was not yet polished, but the story is good.  There is a significant turn in volume 3 as the animation gets better and the story really starts to deepen.

Now, I love the characters but I didn’t have a true favorite until recently.

  • Ruby is great, she’s got a big heart and dreams to be a huntress.  But she’s still so inexperienced and naive.
  • Blake is angsty.  A little over the top for me.  Though I do like her.
  • Jaune is well, Jaune.  Sorry, you’re going to have to watch the show to see what I mean.
  • I was not initially interested in the Ren and Nora story, but I can safely say after Volume 4 I definitely appreciate the characters a lot more.  This is true of most of the cast in general.
  • I get why Weiss is the way she is, but she is so.  Snobby? Uptight? Annoying? Ridiculous?  I’m sure I’m being too hard on her, especially since I like her character more in Volumes 3 and 4, but pretty rich girls for me are very hard to relate to.

Qrow on the other hand intrigues me a lot.  He is only referenced in Volumes 1-2 and immediately the viewer gets the impression he’s an important character.  This is especially true when a short message from him is seen at the end of Volume 1.

The viewer does not actually meet Qrow until Volume 3 when we see him in a bar, right before he picks a fight with Weiss’ sister, Winter.

He’s introduced in a bar.  Glynda later states he’s always drunk, though that’s debatable.  He’s extremely coherent in the majority of scenes he’s in, the only one he’s swaying in is his introduction.  So, I’m not entirely sure how useful this is as a plot device except for comedic relief when necessary.

In the world of RWBY there are unique weapons everywhere and Qrow’s is no exception (really, the only exception in this world to unique weapons is android James Ironwood who favors hand to hand combat and a pistol).  Qrow is a sword-scythe-gun user.  It’s a huge sword that transforms to a scythe that is also a gun.

Regarding his personality, he’s on the blunt and gruff side.  He trained his niece Ruby and was around to keep an eye on both her and her half sister Yang.  He’s very much like a second father to Ruby.

In terms of his other relationships, he’s in Ozpin’s inner circle and seems to know a good deal more about the bad guys than he’s revealing.  Being Raven’s twin brother, he also knows where to find Yang’s mother (who had previously abandoned her husband and daughter).

In volume 3 we see him as Ozpin’s loyal agent and one of his best fighters.  In volume 4, we get to see him as far more vulnerable with a broader range of reactions.  The turning point for me was when he rushed in to Ruby’s aid in team RNJR’s fight with Tyrian, one of Salem’s minions.  The way he flew in (it’s heavily implied, if not outright confirmed he can shapeshift into a crow) and ran to her aid, blocking Tyrian’s stinger and giving Ruby a self confident smug grin.

That was a fantastic piece of characterization, in some ways, the fight with Tyrian summed up the character of Qrow beautifully:confidant, vulnerable, loyal, family oriented, and a skilled fighter.  Ultimately he got hit with Tyrian’s poison and slipped in and out of consciousness for the rest of the volume (leaving the fans with bated breath each week until the finale).  But we did get some interesting tidbits of potential backstory from what one could assume were his hallucinations.

To date, I think he is by far the most complex of the characters represented.  Don’t get me wrong, the main characters are all great if a bit angsty –  but they’re allowed to be, they’re still teenagers.  Qrow on the other hand is old enough to have experienced a great deal.

I suspect he doesn’t drink just because he likes to. I think it’s deeper and that there’s a pain there we haven’t seen yet.

So, here’s my own personal takeaway: Qrow is a representative of the complex characters I love to write.  Those who are driven by many and sometimes competing motivations.  He’s a reminder that I need to craft a believable and thorough backstory for each of my own characters.

I’m looking forward to seeing where RoosterTeeth goes with his story and can’t wait for volume 5.

Christmas Violin

The microfiction below is not my usually fare, however, the prompt generator gave me the challenge so I went with it.

It had to be under 50 words, be romantic, seasonal, contain “We can fix this”, and have an athlete in it.  Total time spent was around 30 minutes from prompt generation to story completion:

“We can fix this.” The school’s star quarterback spoke gently, holding the girl’s violin in his hands as she slowly got up from the floor.

Her large brown eyes were still filled with tears, “But the Christmas concert is tonight.”

He held her close, “Then we’ll figure something out.”

(For prompt ideas check out The Story Shack Writing Prompts)