I've posted this on a couple art forums looking for answers: What's the best way to graphically handle voices inside someone's head?
There's an old king and queen inside my main character Kassandra's head. They talk to her, advise her, and constantly bicker with each other. These two ruled the Seaborn but there's a gap of a thousand years between their reigns, which also causes quite a bit of contention.
The problem is that there can be a whole conversation going on inside her head with different characters, and she's alone in a room. She talks to them--speaking aloud, they talk to her inside and only she can hear them. (Isn't that the way it always is with voices in your head?)
I've thought of using different kinds of thought balloons for each voice, using different fonts, colors, and I've just started to re-work some of the panels with a small cameo to designate which character is doing the "thinking."
Here's an example:
Any thoughts? Ha ha...no really. Anyone have ideas on this, or preferences?
Some interesting ideas on thought balloons: http://webcomictriage.blogspot.com
Alice and I walked up to the Stratham town center to vote a few hours ago, setting out just before the polls opened. We're in New Hampshire, and everything opened here at 8 AM. Parked voters' cars line our street.
Lines were long, but wouldn't have been too bad if I wasn't already sick--I'm down, as they say, with a wicked awful cold. Anyway, long lines, got through them, went behind the curtain, filled in ballot, and slid it into the machine.
While standing in line talking, it occurred to Alice and I that Chloe--our oldest child--will be able to vote in the next presidential election. Isn't that crazy?
If you don't already know, the image on the left is from the cool Yeti-bama t-shirt from the coolest of cool design companies, Gama-Go in SF. They're all sold out, the proceeds went to the Barak's campaign.
Here's the latest. Mark your calendars for October 30, 7:30 PM
A panel discussion.
WHEN: Thursday, October 30 at 7:30pm
WHERE: Alumni Lounge, UMass Lowell
I love coffee. If I'm offered a choice of drinks, on most days I'll take coffee. I like it hot, iced, with cream, without, with sugar, Splenda, unsweetened. Coffee's my beverage of choice, and over the years, I've refined my process for making a good cup.
I'm going to walk through the steps I take in making coffee at home.
Before I get into it, I'll say I'm not snobby about coffee, and I am lazy, which means I don't like to clean coffee pots or drive nine miles because I will only allow a certain brand of coffee past my lips. I know this is all a matter of taste. I have preferences, we all do--or will, if you don't currently drink coffee. I like medium roasts over dark. I've read that roasting reduces caffeine, and so a medium or light roast will get you going more than dark. For me it's still a matter of taste, and as far as the caffeine level, a double shot of espresso--an especially dark Italian roast--can nearly raise the dead. Caffeine-seekers, I don't think you have to worry. Drink what tastes good.
I drink Starbucks, Peets, Dunkin' Donuts (which to me, tastes like I'm drinking coffee ice cream--not necessarily a bad thing, I just can't have too much). My preference is for smaller roasters and shops. You want a recommendation? Philz Coffee (Try a cup of "Ambrosia Coffee Of God" or "Anesthesia To The Upside" next time you're in San Fran).
I've tried many many coffee makers over the years, and I've ended up with a glass French Press. A simple press is the way to go. Trust me on this one. I won't make coffee in anything else. Filters take the oils and other good stuff out of the coffee, and some leave a bad taste. Plastics absorb stuff, and although you'll get a good cup for a while, they'll disappoint in time--a short time. Glass is best. It's easy to clean, and with some care, a press will last decades. They don't clutter up your kitchen counter, and you can take them apart and stick them in the dishwasher. They're a bit delicate, so all the standard warnings about handling glass.
What do you drink?
I've tried hundreds of kinds of coffee, and I really don't have a favorite. I buy Peets and Starbucks whole beans at the chain grocery stores--Sumatra blend is one my favorites from Starbucks, and from Peets, Major Dickinson's Blend. Above all, I like medium roasts from indie roasters like Black Bear and Philz. But there are so many great coffee shops and roasters. Google "good coffee" and your local city or town. There has to be one. And I say Go Local if you can.
I also prefer to grind my own coffee beans, but if you don't want to, most places have grinders for coffee buyers. And all the indie shops will grind for you. I like to grind the beans right before using them. Fresh ground, fresh coffee.
That said, I also buy ground coffee. I like to try new blends, new roasters, and sometimes it only comes ground.
How do you take your coffee?
I take it anywhere I find it. When I'm staying at a hotel--particularly a nice one, I'll nab all the room coffee packets before leaving. It comes with the room--you are paying for it, and hotels have cafes, after all. Why would I use the crappy in-room maker? Bring it on home for your press.
Let's make some coffee.
Caveat: I keep saying this, but it's true. So much of this is a matter of taste. It's difficult to say add n tablespoons of coffee, exactly n fluid ounces of n degree C hot water. It just doesn't work that way. This isn't baking bread. There isn't a narrow recipe for making coffee that either works or doesn't. It's all about the ingredients and the maker, with a pretty wide range for making good coffee.
Some tips and info:
1. If you let the water come to a full boil (e.g., the kettle's whistling), set it on the stove for a minute or so before pouring it in your coffee. The water's supposed to be hot, not boiling.
2. With a coffee press, you can add more ground coffee if you think it's a little light. Pour in the water, stir with a spoon, and before the grounds surface lift out a spoonful. It should be a nice brown--darker if you're into the strong stuff. It shouldn't be too light, though. If you suspect it is, add more grounds and stir before you press the batch.
3. With a press, you're going to get some...precipitation. Some of the finer grounds are going to sink to the bottom of your cup. It will happen, screens in the spout or not (Some presses come with a screen at the top to filter out the grounds). If you're like me, you'll just swirl them into the coffee as you're drinking. Otherwise, leave them at the bottom. That whole good to the last drop thing is overrated. If you're that desperate for one more drop, just go make another cup.
4. If you're not a coffee drinker at all, go easy on the strength. Bitter is bad. And use something to sweeten the pot. If you've tried coffee in the past, and it didn't go well, I'd start with a really good light or medium roast and add cream and sugar--make it as close to a dessert as possible. (That's my theory on Dunkin' Donuts success. It's not so much coffee as a hot coffee flavored dessert drink, which again, isn't necessarily a bad thing).
5. On what grounds? I like somewhere between a fine and medium grind. I'm not picky about it. Some people are though. Again, a taste thing.
Right tools for the job:
1. Tea kettle, something to heat water in
2. French press (You can buy these just about anywhere. Try Amazon.com)
3. Coffee grinder, if you buy whole beans
5. Cream, sugar, Splenda, honey, whatever lights your fire. For cream, I prefer something called, Light Cream, which I guess is like Half-and-Half, which I guess is Milk and Heavy Cream mixed? I'm no dairy expert. Just telling you what I like.
6. You're favorite coffee mug (Very important!)
Here's my set up:
From left to right: Some coffee beans (including a packet I picked up on my last trip), Light Cream, my favorite coffee mug, tea kettle, french press, coffee grinder.
Nine Easy Steps:
I'm using an eight cup, 32 oz. capacity press here, so my recommend is at least one heaping tablespoon of ground coffee for each cup--8 ounces (keep in mind that I like my coffee ground on the finer side, so add more coffee with a coarse grind).
1. Heat water (doesn't need to boil)
2. Start with around 6 - 8 tablespoons of ground coffee (add more to taste)
3. Fill the press, leave an inch or so at the top
4. Stir the coffee
5. Let it steep (I typically don't, but some like to let things sit for 10-20 minutes)
6. Put the press in (the part with the plunger) , and use a firm steady pressure to push it to the bottom.
7. Put cream, sugar, etc. in your mug (before the coffee!)
8. Pour the coffee
9. Drink it.
Do you write each story in sequential order? For me it's always been pretty clear which book to tackle next, but I've been writing the whole Seaborn thing for a while--the last five years, and I have put cool and interesting ideas on hold. Now, they're simmering, urging me to write them.
This is a weird place for me, three competing story ideas for the next novel length thing I'm going to write. I'm at chapter 3 or 4 on each of them, I have very loose outlines, and a pretty good idea of the endings for two of them. One is another Seaborn book, except the story takes place a couple hundred years before the events in Seaborn--and has very little connection to Seaborn or Sea Throne.
The other two are completely different. One's a contemporary YA fantasy. The other's stranger still--in two words: near-future fantasy. I'm less inclined to continue the Seaborn stuff, partly because it's become easy for me. I want to branch out, try new things, so I'm probably not going to jump on that one. The other two are a toss up. I'm excited about both, they're completely different kinds of story and storytelling.
I'm thinking of putting the question to my crit partners, let them read chapter one of each story and vote on which one they'd rather continue reading.
What do you think? Crazy idea?
I don't know if you've ever taken a Myers-Briggs personality test, or know anything about the typology--how everyone fits--within a pretty broad range--into a group of personality types. I've taken it twice over the last six or seven years, with the same results--guess I haven't changed. I think it's common for medium to large companies to run employees through the test, mainly to get them to understand what other people are like.
Anyway, one type is Introvert / Extrovert and where you place yourself on that range. I'm a capital I introvert, but somehow that doesn't keep me from standing up in front of a group of engineers or any tech-savvy people to talk about some project or another. I have pitched start-ups to VCs in which the poorest guy at the table was worth $50 million. I have designed and deployed systems with wireless scanning technology used by forklift operators unloading cargo ships--but it's technology, and I can get up and explain technology to anyone who'll listen.
That's a world I fit into, long ago become a part of. I've been professionally designing and developing software for well over 20 years, on a variety of platforms, operating systems, frameworks, and in a variety of industries including automotive manufacturing, agriculture, financial, medical, shipping, and publishing.
It is a world in which the thought of belonging never even occurs to me.
Writing, on the other hand...is still a strange land. My first novel SEABORN is out on shelves, but any confidence that gives me goes to hell when I want to talk to an author whose work I love to read, who has influenced my own writing. I met and talked--tried to anyway--to a few this weekend at Readercon. And now I'm doing some in-my-head analysis, trying to remember if I said anything really stupid, incomprehensible, or just mildly inane. I have some hope.
Anyway, this was my first Readercon, and it blew me away, so many great writers, thinkers, and industry people all in the same hotel in Burlington, Mass. Very exciting.
Mary Robinette Kowal is as cool as can be. I went to her kaffeklatsche with fellow writer, Skott Klebe--who is a capital E extrovert on the scale, I happen to know. I also saw her on the Sunday podcast panel.
I wanted to talk to Elizabeth Bear, but she's busy, always has a conversation going, and I didn't feel comfortable enough to butt in, tell her I enjoyed New Amsterdam, and just started Dust, and loving it. There's always Readercon 20.
I did have a No way! You're John Crowley moment.
I was in the kaffeklatsche for Jeff Carver, who led the first Boston SF writer workshop with Craig Gardner--I was in that, and workshopped several chapters of Seaborn there. A good discussion publicity, blogging, and other cool things writers should all be doing with Jeff and a bunch of new and old SF workshoppers.
I caught a few panels with Eric Van. In the Emotional Roots of Fantasy panel he touched on the interesting idea that many SF readers accept and even enjoy a certain level of confusion in a story--and they trust the author to explain everything in due time. SF readers often enter a world with very little context, with strange terms and names thrown at them, and this is a good thing. Very interesting.
I also met one of my writing influences, Caitlín R. Kiernan. She was great on the Transcending your Influences panel. Of course, when I finally got to speak to her at the autograph table, I became a word-dribbling fool, and I hope I got my admiration across. I did give her a copy of Seaborn.
So, long story short, still feel very new to this writing world, and I guess I am. On the good side, twenty more books and as many years, and I'll be talking like a pro.
Time to write.
This is a slightly updated version of an older post, but I wanted to let it surface again because I was talking about this very thing with some friends at Readercon:
There are several good posts on this already, but I'm going to add the things I do. (I completed my fourth novel in March, working on my fifth, so I'm not writing from a huge well of experience, but these things work for me).
By writing, I'm talking construction, how you go about the writing stage of a novel, the activity that takes place after you've outlined, planned the arc, and your characters are doing stuff, getting hurt, committing crimes, making eye contact, re-forging ancient swords, drinking blood, whatever.
I'm pretty sure all authors have a particular way of getting things done with common ground that we all have to cover to complete books. I'd love to read what others do--So, if you know of other "How to write a novel" posts out there, let me know.
Here's what I do, keeping in mind that this is the general flow:
After the overall story ideas are in place in my head and in my journal, I may write a chunk of the ending first. I like to have something to aim for. If things go as they have the last four books, I will then start at chapter 1 and write the chapters in order until I'm about 2/3 through. That's when things start to go all gappy, inconsistencies will catch up to the characters and demand evening out, holes in the plot yawn open and demand to be filled.
By gappy I mean...picture a landscape full of rocky towers and bluffs, only it's not erosion that accounts for the space, but that the writer hasn't gotten around to filling everything in. Think Monument Valley at the southern edge of Utah and northern Arizona. From the side, the last ten chapters of the story look like this:
Okay, now fill it in.
At this point in the process I will also find it difficult to stay with the chapter order and move into story line order, following a particular character far--sometimes to the end before I can go back and pick up a second story line.
To take this one level lower:
I do outline, but it's rather loose. I need to know where to go, but not necessarily be clear about how to get there, and keep in mind that I usually do a decent amount of thinking, journaling, sketching, painting, and writing scenes, bits of action, before I really dig in to the real writing.
I've posted several times on the need for authors to sketch and paint scenes, characters, etc., but in case you haven't seen those, these are the kinds of things I do for every book. The first is actually all the action from chapter 15 from my current book rolled into one work. The second is a character study, which I use to get a character's look in my head--mainly so I don't go overboard on description. It works, I'm telling you.
At some point--after the first eight or nine chapters--I will build a complete chapter list, typically with bad descriptive titles like "Monster kills Anthony." This will be shaky for a while, and whole new chapters will spring up in the middle, others will die and fade from the list.
I write mostly in MS Word because of the Document Map feature, but I do occasionally use OpenOffice. One of these days I'll get a Mac--but only when I can carry it around in a manila envelope--oh wait, didn't that just happen? Anyway, it's been Windows or Linux for me for a while. I've heard good things about Scrivener. One of these days.
Here's what the Doc Map feature in Word looks like (on the left)--I use it mainly to jump between chapters:
And here's a bit on how the Document Map works.
With the badly headed chapters in a list I can jump to any of them and jot down an idea I think belongs there. I update the outline as the writing progresses because things change, things fit together better in a way I didn't see in the beginning. Eventually I'll fold the outline into the chapters, and it all becomes the same document.
Another thing I do to keep the action in a particular unwritten chapter clear is to put the line, "Ends with..." at the end. So in a chapter called, "Monster kills Anthony" I will have something like this:
Ends with Irene standing on the porch holding Anthony's severed head.
(We obviously want to end chapters with something sharp--or at least much heavier than you thought it would be, with eyes bulging from their sockets and drippy. I know, I'm trying to keep the severed head thing going).
To cap it all off, I think taking the time to just close your eyes and think about the story is as important as the actual writing.
I sit down all the time and just make myself write, but I also need to take some time to think. Best time is early in the morning, somewhere around 5 AM. I don't get up at that ungodly and undemonly hour, but I sort of drift around in the story soup, blow up the raft, get on and paddle here and there, trying to see how things are going, circling the areas that are giving me trouble. I figure all writers have a pretty good head for their own words, their own story, and you can play it, rewind it, play it back at half speed, rewind... That's what I do until I get it right.
Okay, now I have to get back to writing.
And yes, I am still wondering if the whole universe isn't an ocean, and if in fact we're not all living on a galactic lemon shark.
Skott has informed me--using his stuffiest high Victorian--that, indeed, the turtles all the way down theory has been thoroughly debunked.
I am delighted!
This, of course, leaves wide open my theory that we are all living on the back of a lemon shark of galactic proportions--in a universe of lemon sharks--most definitely one of the cartilaginous fishes. It could quite possibly be a Sawfish or one of the Rajiformes, a Deepwater Stingray. We'll just have to go find out. I propose two expeditions, one to explore the snout of the beast, which, should it turn out to be saw-like, then, well, Sawfish it is. Another explores the tail regions for the long slender stinger of a ray. If both parties should return in failure then...our good citrus friend, the lemon shark, will be declared the victor!
Let's set aside poetry the art form, rhythmical composition and elevating anyone's thoughts, and think of it in a purely structural way: poetry as action, description, mood, story, in a succinct form.
Think of it as stylized sketching for writers. Have you ever written poetry as a way to bring ideas together for a work of prose?
There's a bunch of brainstorming (storystorming?) methods that I've tried successfully. I have thumbed through the dictionary, pulling out appealing words, writing them down on a big piece of paper, stringing them together--just to see what is born out of them. Sometimes nothing much, although--in my somewhat limited experience--exercises like this usually yield something, maybe not something special, but something worth paying attention to, something useful.
I've used mindmapping software (mindjet.com, freemind) for word doodling, throwing down ideas, which amazingly--As Seen on TV!--grow into other ideas, and soon you have this spreading network of thought and action and characters and motives and "what if?" questions. Really cool stuff. I recommend at least goofing with these kinds of tools just see what you build.
But I've also found that writing poetry works for brainstorming story ideas, helps tie together a set of interesting words, a flow of ideas, and even more as a way to tell a story or backstory without burying me with too much to take in. I also think writing poetry sends me in unexpected directions, helps open doors I wouldn't have even noticed with other methods.
The idea here is to get your story ideas down in a concise way, tell a story, fill in background, create a mood, write action, with a handful of descriptive lines. It's also about taking some time to work with words, be creative, build impossibilities.
There's...um...only one problem with this post.
I wrote a poem a couple nights ago called The Wild Children that I kind of liked, and refined, played with it until I thought I should submit it somewhere rather than post it here. So I did--we'll see if it goes anywhere. Anyway, I wrote The Wild Children for one of my current book projects, a fantasy set in a post-virtual universe, where the world's human population has gone completely sim.
What if there was an apocalypse and nobody came?
You can think of it as post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, only there wasn't an apocalypse, no judgment day, just the singularity, the hissing speed of progress pulling everyone into their nanobuilt V-pods housed in city-sized storage spheres of diamond with walls a meter thick. Humanity vanishes off the face of the earth--or any planet we've colonized.
Humanity has gone total virtual, billions of us, living out our lives in pure simulative worlds--worlds without limit--without hunger, pain, limitless capacity for growth. New generations of humans are born, grow and live forever without ever having a physical form--that they know of. The virtual world is just that good. But it doesn't really matter. The story's not about them.
It's about the ones who were left behind.
What about those who didn't make the go-virtual deadline, and now have to live out their physical lives in a depopulated world? And is it really depopulated? There's tech around, empty cities, nanoware that can provide benefits, but what about old world powers, things ignored by human progress, that lived at the borders of humanity, that lived in the forest, under the leaves, in the earth? They were here before there were humans. They just let us run our course--maybe even helped us along, and now they're free to roam the far ice reaches, the hundred-mile forests, the cracked pavement, empty office towers, the deep sea.
What about the humans who were left behind, generations of us, sharing our empty world with them?
There, that's my setting, and it all came out of some poetry brainstorming.
What do you do to help jump start your story ideas? I've covered a few methods. What have I missed? Anyone else use poetry?