Archive for the ‘How I Write’ Category

Great Battle

Great Battle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I need to post something for today, and the only thing I can think of right now are more writing exercises.

I just bum-rushed the last 3 episodes of ‘Vikings’ on History Channel to catch up, and I’m now listening to Amon Amarth, and I’m more eager for epic battle or at least writing about it, but instead, I will be posting to you… so, to make up for it, ‘How I Write: Epic Battles!’ shall be woven into this glorious thing. This is mildly also fueled by a writer friend of mine, Catrina Taylor (author of the ‘Xarrok’ series that you should be reading), who asked the question of defining “epic” for a blog entry of her own. My answer used epic battle as an example and now my mind is on the glory of epic battle!

A true epic battle by my concept of what make it truly epic, is a battle that is as grand scale that any battle can be. If you can think of something that could be in that battle but isn’t in that battle, then by the gods, put that thing in there and let it scream to the heavens ‘til they rain down blood! In most stories, the climatic battle is the usually an epic battle, but not all epic battles are the climatic battle—also, squares are rectangles, but rectangles are not always squares… just sayin’…

Battle a

Battle a (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I consider battle scenes to be commonly the most challenging things to write, but yet, I also find myself needing to write them often (my stories are very violent). The more going on in the battle, the greater the challenge. All those images of sword clashing, arrows flying, fists smashing, and fire spew blazing in and unending pan of fast paced chaos have to all be crammed into a little box we call “written word.”

The choice for an epic battle will actually come early in the planning of your story (even considering how little planning I usually do). The reason for this, for me, is that if I really need to have it truly, truly huge, then I need the story to have more POVs (point of views). ‘Ravenblood,’ for example, will have a few different POVs entirely for the battle I have planned for the second book (there will be fighting in the first, but I got so much fighting in the second… so much battle—but still, keep in mind the early planning bit… this is planning for a whole book later just to make sure the battle can happen at the scale that I need it to). Think about ‘Lord of the Rings’ (movies for now, I’m trying to get you to see visual scale clearer). They had at least one epic battle in each, trying to out-do the last, and for all of them, they kept jumping between POVs everyone fighting. ‘Avengers’ in the final battle did the same thing… one moment we’re in Thor smashing aliens, next we’re in Hulk smashing aliens, next we’re in Captain America… also pretty much smashing aliens… at some point a really big alien was being smash also.

The Battle of Helm's Deep in Peter Jackson's T...

The Battle of Helm’s Deep in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t get me wrong, it can be done with only one POV also, but may the gods have mercy on you for trying it… ‘cause now you have to figure out how to have a whole lot of stuff happen to one guy, all in one battle, and make his survival make complete sense—completely doable, but never very simple. The end-battle in ‘Natural Selection: Elimination’ is probably the best I’ve done with it, but even now, every time I re-read it, I wonder if I could have put more in somehow (I’m sure if I had more time with it, I could have, but having time wasn’t really the point of the exercise—I had to Iron Chef that shit… make a crazy ass feast with the ingredients that were thrown at me in very little time… because you can make ice-cream out of any-damn-thing!).

The main focus, no matter the number of POVs will always be to make as much happen as you can possibly make happen. Everything.

Now… exercise… for… that… hold on… I got something… um… wait… no… ok… maybe…:

You stand in the middle of a field… you are surrounded. Who/what are they? Why are they coming for you?

Are you standing alone? If yes, why? If no, who’s with you and why?

What is your weapon—sword, ax, guns, magic, and/or fists? Same for everyone else with and/or against you, what do they have?

What comes at you first? What do you do in response? What next? Keep going…

Next time I’m going to try to talk more about my point of view on POVs in general, since this kinda will spur some thought on that (and if anyone knows anything about the writing world, this is an unending debate on how POV should be handled).

And Bonus exercise I think some of you really should try. This will be a team effort, so find a writing friend, I want you to try playing your own Flash Round with them (for you lonely types, you can just play on here with me if you like—it’s ok, I’ll be your friend). This exercise will probably frustrate the crap out of many of you because each round will not go quite in the direction you planned… there’s a double lesson learned in that: one, you will work on your ability to create in any given direction, and two, you will be inspired to write your own story in order to subdue that pain caused by someone going a different direction… and look, you’re writing.

20100829aI think I put this off long enough… or have I…?

Ok, I have… fine. Those that read my Images in Your Head post are probably wondering about how that “study” has progressed. Well, incidentally, I plugged it through Reddit, mostly to test the usefulness of Reddit for a friend, and after 2 years of finding that most people are the 2/3 and only couple some-of-somewhat-vaguely 1/3, I have discovered that all the actually fully 1/3 seem to be on Reddit… I’m not really sure what that means for Reddit, but shit, I got a lot of hits from there.

What does this have to do with the exercises? I originally re-posted that bit to try to figure out the non-visual types better because I wasn’t sure how my exercises would work for them. Now… I am still rather less than completely sure, but far as I can tell, they actually might not. But, as stated at the start of all this, “this isn’t the definitive guide to how everyone does or should write a story, this is only me doing the best I can  to tell you how I write a story,”  so the best I can do, is give you the exercises that I do to write a story as such. But, for you non-visuals out there, if this doesn’t help you in the least, do not feel discouraged from writing if that is really what you want to do with your life—remember that the existence of you people was brought to my attention largely by a pair of writers. I have yet to meet CE Murphy, however I have had the chance to meet Faith Hunter via conventions and FB, and have had at least enough random conversation talk with her to tell you that she would be willing to help you if you only ask (and possibly bribe her with cake).

And for those really curious about the results from my “1/3 search”, I may try to put together a follow-up at some point, possibly containing a mini-interview with Faith if I can get our free-time to be in existence at the same time.

I know, I know… shut-up… gees…

The exercises…

To find inspiration… so many ways… Take in stories from everywhere: books, TV, movies, music, people watching—lots of all of it.

As an exercise, go to a mall with notebook and pen in hand (I upgraded to a smartphone for the sake of making it easier to follow the most important rule of writers: always carry a notebook and pen). About mid-way in the mall, there is usually a bench, no matter which entry a person comes in, they will more than likely pass that point… sit there. Relax, and just sit and watch… take in everything… if you want you can add the music element (give the watching a soundtrack). If you’re in school, even easier… you’re surrounded by so many people of so many sorts… look at all those different people… dear god, you have a full cast of character sitting before you… the awkward, the popular, the jock… introverts and extroverts of all scales, shapes and sizes.

Go to this school/mall/public place where you can sit in the background…

  • pick one person… anyone… they’re your main character now. Give them a name… give them a history… don’t even worry about the story forward yet, just tell me about that one person’s life… who are they.
  • Now… pick another person… anyone… another character… how does that person’s life tie to the first? Are they friends, enemies… the person that passes up the first every day at school and doesn’t know they exist? Why?

Do this… do this often… on paper, in your head, doesn’t matter… just keep doing it until you’re doing it without even thinking about it anymore. Remember… it’s all wax-on/wax-off one moment, and beating a guy to death the next… now get waxing.

Another exercise along similar lines—remember that music mentioned before? Yea, did you try it with the people watching? Did it help? What if you can’t get out of your house for whatever reason, but the music is still there? Well… I’m presently listening to Volbeat’s new album ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’ on Spotify, and I’m finding myself needing to fight back the demons of inspiration screaming to work on ‘Natural Selection,’ but I say, “Fuck you, demons, I have to finish ‘Stiym’! Shut-up-shut-up-shut-up!” (Don’t worry, insanity just means you’re a writer now—and I will be doing more with ‘Natural Selection’ eventually, it’s unavoidable at this point, but I have to finish ‘Stiym’ first). As I was saying, get hold of an album by whatever means you do that these days… I won’t ask questions. Doesn’t really matter what you pick… well, let’s lean more towards lyric heavy music for now, but styles otherwise doesn’t matter for now. Listen to those songs, so many metaphors… but of course, you know that metaphor is actually about drugs… and that one is just sex… and I’m pretty sure that one is just something he looked up in a rhyming dictionary and hoped no one asked. Listen again, instead of translating the metaphors to what was probably intended, make them more literal… the dragon is now a dragon. I wrote a few different songs drawn from Pantera’s ‘Far Beyond Driven’… ‘Syn: Eternal’ was started with no more than the randomly yelled line “head-butts of broken glass!”… and at least one story can be considered completely original since I later found out I had almost all the lyrics wrong… good times. Simple task… listen to the lyrics… take in each word, create a story with them, try to apply this to the people watching later even.

Ok, last exercise for now… close your eyes… well, not now… finish read this first… then, close your eyes:

  • You’re sitting on the ground, you feel the grass below you, and you smell it all around you. Somewhere there is a stream babbling in the distance… to your left someone says something to you… Who are they? What do they say?
  • The person leaves your side, you see them walking in front of you, they’re about to leave your view… How does this make you feel? Should you follow them—should you stay—why?

As I once told someone that greatly inspired my decision to try write this how-to, a lot of story writing is mostly just you coming up with a vague idea, and then after that idea is written out, and you now have to figure out where to go, it will just be you asking questions. The more you do the people watching and the music listening, etc, the less this question asking will be conscious… it will just be you beating a guy to death.

(…to be continued…)

Deutsch: Zentrale Heterochromie: Grüne Iris, u...

Deutsch: Zentrale Heterochromie: Grüne Iris, um die Pupille herum jedoch ein braun-gelber Ring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, this is a copy/paste of a FB Note I wrote a couple years ago, but the direction of my ‘How I Write’ posts brought be back to thinking about this—more so since the writing exercises I’m trying to come up with, as far as I can figure out from my perspective, revolve greatly around visual thinking—I think—I can’t really tell, because of the simple fact that I really don’t understand how non-visual thinkers actually think at all.

Ok, this is a question that I have for all authors and pretty much everyone else as well (I only say authors at all because the question pretty much started there, but I really want thoughts from all the other brand and breed of people I have residing in my FB Land).

Ok, while reading a chapter from the book ‘How to Write Magical Words: a Writer’s Companion’ (which falls under being the only how-to book on writing that I would pass along to others—as opposed to others which normally make great paper-weights… not because they’re useless, so much, but because they tend to be written with so much info overload that by the time you actually finish processing it all, you’re on your deathbed and completely missed your chance to write a book–basically, this is written in a way that’s easier to process and still have time write with its advice). Under the chapter ‘Visualizing the Story,’ written by CE Murphy, she reveals that she does not see pictures in her head when reading, listening to music, etc. and that it baffles her that others do. Now, this baffled me close to my brain exploding.

A similar confusion came to me while watching the HBO movie ‘Temple Grandin’—about the title character who is a high functioning autistic—basically a doctor asks her about the way she remembers things, asking if she actually sees everything in her head, and her response was pretty much quoting what was going through my head at the time, “don’t you?”

I’ve always been able to see absolutely everything in my head. When I do math, I see it in my head, when I type, I can see where my fingers are without looking, etc. I say I have photographic memory because I actually see all my memories photographically… all of them. Now, over the years, I’ve come to believe that the level that I do this at is simply higher than other people, but at no point has it ever fully occurred to me that some people actually can’t visualize like this at all.

In this chapter, author Faith Hunter also confesses to being among the metal-visually impaired, and Murphy even mentions that her father, who was apparently a teacher, knew nothing of this visualizing thing and wished he did (as he would have completely changed the way he taught–and mentioning this also made me suddenly understand some of my teachers that I usually ended up ignoring and going off on my own instead, and why none of them seemed to understand how I did things like math). Further, Murphy throws in a statistic that says 2/3 of people see pictures… so the question I have for you all is, which of you are the 2/3, and which are the remaining 1/3? And for you 1/3, I really, really need to know, how do you function? I mean, how to you read, do math, listen to music, get into a movie, how do you remember what happened two seconds ago, etc?

Oh, and I also need to know because when I get done with Ravenblood, you 1/3 can’t be beta-readers, the whole magic system wont make sense to you at all, apparently.

So, my entry with the exercises may be delayed depending on speed of responses, because I really would like to find one of you 1/3 to try to get an idea of what the world looks like to you (as much as possible, anyway).

Richard Vernon as Slartibartfast in the 1981 T...

Richard Vernon as Slartibartfast in the 1981 TV series. Vernon first played the character on radio in 1978 and on the subsequent LP rerecording of the first radio series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok… pardon if this entry seems a bit forced, but I just never really woke up today, and I’m craving a nap, but before I do that, I gonna try to get my Tuesday post done.

Mentioning NaNo last time, combined with all the other NaNo talk lately (because there is apparently a NaNo in April thing going on right now that I knew nothing about—I’m clearly not participating, but it’s a thing), I thought about a comment made on one of my NaNo posts:

Writer / Mummy says:

October 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Good luck with Nano, I really hope you win this year! I write Romance so there’s no world building – I admit I don’t know how you do world-building and write quickly! Sounds like you’ve got lots of ideas though so may the words flow for you. I wrote something daft like 17k words in 36 hours last year to win, so I am a true believer that anything is possible…

Anthony Richer says:

October 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm 

World building is actually pretty easy, all you do is sit back and let the world pull itself together for you. At least that’s as easy as it usually feels like… basically think about it as a child’s imagination, at no point do they first stop and plot out the details of their worlds before they start playing in them, they just play in them as if they were always there, they just happened to be the ones with the key to get in.

So, this is going to try to elaborate a bit on how I world-build.

My response really is about how world building actually is for me, although, as I mentioned, I do have at least a map that I quickly drew out for Stiym, and for some of my other stories I have multiple details of maps, I find it hard to call that building, because for me, it’s just taking notes so I don’t forget the stuff later… otherwise, I just copied down what was already in existence.

Maps, there is no trick to creating maps. You could just quickly draw a squiggly circle on a piece of paper, then start drawing other squiggles in that circle, and boom… it’s a map, now start telling us a story about people that live there.

Or you have the typical method of taking a map of the real world, and slightly changing it. If you look at the maps at the front pages of most fantasy books, you’ll notice a lot of them tend to look oddly like the UK, or Europe… go on, look at Game of Thrones, or Lord of the Rings real quick. For ‘Ravenblood,’ I zoomed into the Detroit area, and then drew that with a larger scale, ‘Stiym’ takes place in a few areas in Michigan. It’s easier when you’re pretty much just writing slightly altered versions of stuff that’s around you all the time.

In addition, the idea that romance doesn’t have world building is false… I assume the characters were in a world, and even if the world was simply New York, you still have to create a building for them to be in (or many). Although, I don’t think too much about this when I write, I do see the structures well enough, that if I was asked to, I could draw them out it detail (I took drafting in highschool, and did if for three years as my first job—it’s rather natural for me by this point)

Next part about world building is technology, or magic, etc. Technology is simple, come up with an idea that makes sense to exist and poof—don’t over think it, you don’t have to figure out how the thing works no more than you have to figure out how anything you use in real life works unless you for some reason are writing about an engineer who has to fix this stuff… then it was just a bad idea for you to break the rule of ‘write what you know,’ and now understand why that rule is there (despite all the people who say the rule should be ignored—don’t ignore it, just learn and experience more).

‘Ravenblood’ is so far my only place with magic, although my system gets rather complex, because I tried to make it somewhat sciencier, it doesn’t really need to be that complicated. At most, you usually want to give your magic a restriction—this makes it so you don’t give the user the power to just poof his way to Mordor, or have every fight begin and end with him just snapping his fingers.

For more elaborate world building, we look towards ‘the Hole World,’ there, I have about 8 maps, a dictionary for 3 different languages, and a few different creatures. The languages were the harder part… I don’t really know how to explain how to even do that one, other than study languages. In most of it, you need to find a pattern that repeats enough to make it all feel like it’s all part of one thing, but not so much that you aren’t just saying the same words all over. The different maps were not that hard, they were just details I found I needed. I have a map for the science compound, and have a map for two villages, I have a map for the mountains, I have a map for the over all planet, then the solar system… and so forth. I didn’t create any of that though, I just wrote it down.

So, yea. That’s the best I can poop out for now. I’m trying to plan do put together a few exercise that works along the concepts of what I’m trying to explain here, I will try to post those next time, because I really get the impression that people are doubting how simple I’m saying all this story writing stuff really is (perhaps this is why the Flash Round isn’t going anywhere)… but I will convince you.

(…to be continued…)


Writing (Photo credit: courosa)

This isn’t the definitive guide to how everyone does or should write a story, this is only me doing the best I can to tell you how I write a story, and hopefully, for those who are still trying to find their own thing, it will help—if nothing else, it’s just me trying to convince myself that I actually have any personal idea how to write a story to begin with.

The general story teller types are the “seat of your pants” writer, and the “obsessive planning” writer. Stephen King is notorious for being “seat of your pants,” meaning, you just take a very general concept, a basic character, and then push the throttle and don’t let up until you launch off a pier or into a wall… whichever comes first. Then you have the people that have to plan each and every detail of everything in the story, they must know exactly what happens in the beginning, what happens in every single chapter to make that thing qualify as a chapter by the rules of chaptering, and they know how it ends before they ever put a word to the story. As you can probably tell from the manner which I just wrote that, I veer more towards “seat of your pants.” With novel writing, I have a slight hybrid of the two going, but it’s still more “seat of your pants.” Basically, for something like ‘the Hole World,’ I actually have every detail of the entire planet, and a good portion of the solar system mapped out with an actual drawn map (quite a few of them, actually), and full list of characters, places, tech, creatures, etc. I do the same for all novels, but with ‘Stiym,’ I have it more basic, since it was originally a NaNo, when I started it, it was just a crudely drawn map that I quickly threw together in a notebook, and that was just so I could figure out where the different locations were, otherwise, it was entirely without planning, not even a single character was named or even thought up until Stiym was in front of them being told their name.

So… how do you do this? For me, it comes naturally, from the best I can determine, because I have been addicted to stories since I can remember (and I can remember a lot). I am not the type of bookworm that tells people to only read books, and scowls at TV and movies, because TV and movies are just as much of a source of stories as any book is… it is a bit lazier, but it’s still a story. I take in stories of all kinds to a level that most people are confused by me… I’ve had writer friends try to forgive me for not reading their book because they think it’s not in my usual genre—honestly, I haven’t read it because my reading list is infinite (as literal as the universe is infinitely expanding), I don’t really have a set genre for reading, I will take in any story thrown at me. Granted, I read a lot of scifi and fantasy because I like stories that take me the furthest from reality, and expand what is actually possible—but I am just as likely to read, or even write things that reality grounded.

So, what does that have to do with how to write a story like me? Basically, you have to have such an overwhelming addiction to stories, that the stories that already exist in the world is never enough, and your mind has to be constantly creating stories as a means of coping… that’s how it works. People that do this are usually easier to recognize when they’re younger, back when they were kids and they weren’t told to suppress their imagination and playing yet. They were the ones that had trouble focusing in school, because their minds were always somewhere else… and if they made it past all the prescribed drugs intended to destroy their worlds, and kept it all the way into adulthood, those people start realizing they should write down their worlds, so that the evil adults that tried to destroy them can never harm them again (I pretty much just told you what my ’11 NaNo was about).

(…to be continued…)