Friday, May 29, 2015

Insignificant Scenes

My neighbors have recently introduced me to the Marvel Universe. We’ve been working through all of the movies one by one, and I’ve loved it. One of things that has really amazed me is the story telling. Joss really doesn’t have a single insignificant scene.

It may not seem that way, there are random scenes that seem to pull out of the story, or reduce the tension, but every single scene is absolutely important to the scene.

We were watching Thor: The Dark World the other night, and there’s a scene where they spend several minutes dropping bottles, shoes and cans down a vortex that takes them to a completely different world. At the end of the scene, the intern drops their car keys down. It’s a hilarious scene, and the first time I watched it, that’s all I thought it was. A way to diffuse the tension, build comedy. But the second time I watched it, I realized there was a very important purpose to this insignificant scene.

Near the end of the movie, two of the characters are stranded. They have no way out, and then they find a vortex. One of the characters automatically knows that this vortex leads into her world. How? She sees cans and bottles… then shoes… and finally her keys. It’s a way to clue the audience into the significance of this one particular vortex, and where it leads. Otherwise, the audience might cry foul when they magically appear exactly where they want to go.

This is just one of the many, many examples found in the new Marvel movies. Every single scene, no matter how insignificant has a very vital part of the story.

When writing, I like to use Scrivener so that I can separate my scenes and figure out where I am. After watching the Marvel Movies, I’ve decided to go back through each scene and write the purpose. How does it move the story forward, and is it vital to the story?

How do you make sure that your stories don’t have non-vital fluff?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why I Love My Betas

Over the weekend, I read a book that I’d had on my to-read shelf for far too long. The writing was brilliant, the characters well rounded. The world drew me in and I couldn’t stop reading. When I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, and how good it was.

But as I continued to think about it, I realized that the author had forgotten to clear up one giant plot hole. The more I pondered on it, the more I realized that something like that could make or break a career. And that’s why I rely on my betas to catch things that I may miss.

I started writing at a young age. I finished my first novel in high school, and I edited that thing to death. Or, at least, that’s what I thought I did.

Despite all of my efforts, I felt like maybe there was something missing, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I took a huge leap of faith and exchanged crits with a complete stranger, and she changed my life in ways I never expected.

She tore it apart. She pointed out all of the flaws, all of the plot holes, the pointless scenes, the repetitive dialogue. Because of her, I was able to look at my writing from a completely different perspective, from different eyes, and in many ways, she was right.

As writers, we know our story forwards and backwards. We know where the characters are, what they’re doing, but sometimes, it doesn’t always translate to the page the way we want it to. When I finished the last draft of King’s Councilor, I sent it to my sister. Her response was mainly positive, but then she asked a question.

“What happened to (insert glaring plothole here)?”

It’s important to have other people look at your writing. They’re going to bring their own points of view and they’re going to see things that you don’t.

And that’s why I love my betas. They make me a better writer.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What’s In a Name?

I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma recently. At work, there’s a guy who’s been calling me Tiffany since we first met. Now, I would have corrected him, but at first, he would mumble “Hi Tiffany” while passing me in the hall, and usually, by the time I realize what he’s said, he’s already turned the corner. This went on for several weeks, and it’s not like I can correct him before he even greets me.

So basically, it’s been two or three months since he started calling me Tiffany, and by now, I just feel weird saying anything. Plus, I know he’s talking to me, so does it matter?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, whether a name fits a person or not.

And as a writer, it’s even more important than in real life. Because when you have three characters named Andy, Andrea and Andre, it might get a little confusing. In fact, I had a beta tell me that all of my characters have two syllable names. Something I’ve never actually realized.

When I first started writing The Orphans of Jadox, I had three separate characters. I spent time and energy naming them, and I liked all of their names. When I started writing, when I finally got to a scene with all of them in it, I realized that their names are just too similar: Aydra, Emera, Emdra. It was the third one that really tied them together. So once I changed that, Aydra, Emera and Shara, it didn’t feel like I had Huey, Dewey, and Louie on the page.

Then when I was working on The King’s Councilor, I realized that all of my character’s names started with a C or a K: Cassie, Karvid, Kelso.

Now, when I’m planning a story, I write all my characters down next to each other so that I can double check what they look like together.

What kind of name traps do you find when you write?