What Draws you to a Story?

What Draws you to a Story?

I was thinking about characters and what makes a character a good or a bad person whenever I had a moment of reflection on why I like the types of characters I do in movies.

Most people are drawn to a movie because of the hero character. They want to see what happens, how the hero saves the day, gets the girl, i.e. wins the movie. That point of view is all fine and dandy for those that feel that way but I find myself drawn to another type of character.

To me the movie is based completely on how well the villain, or in the words of Kristen Lamb, the Big Boss Troublemaker, is portrayed. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the type of person who just sits around and watches movies about violent bad guys all the time but I do like to have a villain that grows with the story. That is what makes the movie complete.

For example, I’m going to be using two different sets of Star Wars movies to show how this works.

In the prequel trilogy of the Star Wars Universe, we meet the boy who would later become Darth Vader. What a concept, people had been waiting 30 years for this sort of reveal. But did the movie draw me in? No, no it didn’t. The reason was the entire build of Darth Vader, from a little force sensitive kid all the way to the man who changes the course of the galaxy, was very flat. Poor writing and bad dialogue made the stories tolerable at best, and some say not even that.

So instead of getting this awe inspiring story of watching a good boy turn into something much darker and sinister, you actually saw a boy that sounded more whiny and the audience didn’t feel anything during his entire fall to the dark side. The audience should have felt anger at what he had done, or at least despair about how he had no choice but to go down that path. Instead the viewer barely felt anything.

Now shift backwards to the original trilogy, more specifically, The Empire Strikes Back. The saga has just come off A New Hope where the Death Star was destroyed and five years have moved on and the Galactic War finds it’s way to Hoth.

Darth Vader becomes the character that everyone remembers during this movie. In the first movie he played the bodyguard to Grand Moff Tarkin, but never had any real substance to who he was and what he was wanting. Through the conversations of Yoda and Luke on Dagobah, we find out a lot more about Darth’s history and Luke’s potential tie to the Dark Lord (through the force tree scene). After catching Han and Leia in Cloud City, you can see the depth of his hatred as he sacrifices Han, after his interrogation, in just testing the trap for Luke. This building of Darth Vader’s story in Empire is what has drawn me to that movie and made it the best in the series so far, in my opinion. And of course, the reveal!

So in parting, I believe that the villain’s story can play as crucial a role in the success of a movie or story as the heroes. The villain makes the hero’s story make sense, it brings everything together. Without a good villain story, there is no reason for the hero to be doing what he is doing. They work together. It’s easy to just focus on what makes the hero a good character but don’t forget to tell the story of the villain as well.

Oh, another example that popped into my head, the Joker from the Dark Knight. Enough said…

Spending Time in the Chair

Chair

Writing is not the typical career for a lot of people. Most everyone thinks that they can write a novel or a short story, however when you dig down into what makes those books on the shelves that we all love great, it’s a very complicated process. At least that is something that I have found out over my few years of trying to put something on the page.

I didn’t spend much time in an English class that focused on the grammatical aspects of writing. Most of the English I had in high school and college was of the literature variety. Reading is a great past time, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t the only source for figuring out what you need to make a story work. I’ve spent the last few years following blogs of authors that seem to know what’s going on. I’ve gotten a few craft books to try and help me figure out this whole writing thing because being published is probably the biggest dream that I have.

However there is a little thing that I have seen every author talk about that is probably the hardest part of them all and the sad thing is that it is really the easiest part. Putting your butt in the chair and actually writing. Pretty easy concept or so it would seem. However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

This is probably my biggest falter on the path of getting published. I haven’t spent the time in the chair. After working a full time job and then doing all the things that we do at home, I find myself not spending anytime writing. And I know that there is definitely time during the day that I have to spare, yet I don’t get my butt in that chair and write. My discipline has been lacking and I plan to put a stop to that today.

My wife has always been behind me. I know my daughter would probably love and enjoy the stories that I have floating around in my head. The problem has been me. And I’m here to nip that problem in the bud. I am going to start to put a bigger emphasis on my writing. I am going to start to spend some of that free time working on the stories that I want to publish.

What things do you find yourself doing instead of your passion? How do you get around these issues?

I love to hear from you!

Camp NanoWriMo 2015

Camp Logo

NanoWriMo – The time of year where authors break down in tears and families go starving as you try to get in one more page. Wait a second, this is July not November. What in the heck are we talking about National November Write Month?

Well we are talking about it here today because today is July 1st, the beginning of Camp NanoWriMo, the summer edition. I have been a part of the November full on 50K version for two years now (so far not a winner) and this year I am going to partake in the July version that is taking place now. I have a short story, well more of a novella in a new full on setting that I want to get up and running and I’m using Camp NanoWriMo to get my butt in the seat and get those words a flowing.

CampNanoWriMo follows the same rules as NanoWriMo except for one simple thing. There is no 50,000 word count for the month. They welcome any word count that you can put in between 10,000 and 1.000.000. My novella I have clocked in at 35,000 words for the month. I started this evening and am a little behind but that was from the busy night. I plan on catching up tomorrow.

35,000 words, seems like such a huge feat. but when you get going, the words come fly right off your fingers and can make the 35,000 seem like a small amount. Well, I’m guessing at that as I’ve never made it that far yet, but talk to me on July 31st, and hopefully I can tell you. The biggest part for me is to ensure that I can keep going, keep pushing that word count everyday.

There will be days after this camp that I can look back and edit my work, thinking “What in the world was I thinking here?” “What type of person would type such drivel?” But those days are in the future. I have created a spreadsheet so that I can keep track of my word counts on a daily basis and if I can find my old counter, I will update the site with a counter along the side so that you guys can follow along to and hopefully cheer me on (or throw tomatoes, whichever works best for you :-P)

What things do you guys do to push your limits? Do you do very much to get yourself out of your comfort zone? What new things can you learn about yourself from such activities?

I love hearing from you!

First Book Completed for 2015!

Insecure Writer's Support Group - Guide to Publishing and Beyond
Insecure Writer’s Support Group – Guide to Publishing and Beyond

I would like to say that my first book has now been completed for my 50 book Challenge. As a writer, reading is a major function of that career. Writers need to know what other things are happening in the market that you are focused on. Also it is a good indication to see what is working and what isn’t working for other writers. It may seem a little weird, but who goes into a job not knowing what is going on in the market?

So for this year I jump started my reading year with a book on the subject of writing. You can never know too much about your job, so I jumped right in. After reading The Insecure Writers Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond, I can say that I got a lot of perspectives that I hadn’t heard of before. I especially liked the marketing aspects that they talk about in the book. Marketing – a writer’s downfall.

So if you are interested in doing anything with writing in your life or if you want a different perspective on the publishing industry as a whole, this is a pretty good resource to check out. Now on to book number two!

Check back on my 2015 Book Challenge page to see what other books I have read as the year goes on. I probably won’t do a review on all of them, but we’ll see what happens.

Also if you want to contact or see what the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is about, just click the linky.

2015 Yearly Goals

This year I am going to be doing something different with the goals that I set for myself. I will be posting them on this blog and not in a word document for my personal use. I am hoping that this will help keep me accountable to everything that I want to get done this coming year.

It seems that every year I tell myself that I am going to get more writing done, going to get that novel finished, this year will be the year that I get something ready to be published. And every year so far I have fallen short. I believe that the main reason for this is that I am not holding myself accountable. It is so easy to look at everything that happens in the day and forget the time that I wanted to use for writing. “Oh, I’ll just do it tomorrow,” is such an easy excuse. But then tomorrow the time slips away and next thing you know, I’ve gone a month without writing. This year is going to be different. This year, I will get something done. And this will keep me accountable.

I keep reading that you can’t do this author thing alone. Well I’m putting my goals out there so that more then just myself can keep me accountable. We can do this together. Now to the list!

1. Read 50 books in the year 2015 – I have set up a page on this site to show my accomplishments on this goal this year. At anytime this year you will be able to see what books I have completed.

2. Finish at least two 40,000 word novellas – I would like to get two written this year, all the way through the editing process.

3. Get set up to publish the two novellas as e-books.

4. Write everyday – Even if it is just for 30 min. on my lunch break.

5. Write two blogs on this site per week and keep things interesting.

6. I’d like to be able to spend some time learning to read and write Kanji.

7. I would also like to spend some time learning how to use Blender.

Goals can change as the year goes along so I will stop here for now. I also plan to keep up with these goals every month. There will be one post talking about my accomplishments and where I have gotten up to that point.

What are some of your goals for the upcoming year?

Notes and What They Mean to You

It’s time to get organized! Yeah that’s right, a post about organization. Sounds like a blast right? I know I’m having fun.

Organization is one of those topics that is common sense to most people, yet it is something that most people do not accomplish. I know that I am not organized in the slightest. So how can I write a post about it, you ask?

Well, I’ve been reading a lot about business recently, struggling to bring my daily job back to profitability, and I’ve found out that most of the successful business people of the world have some sort of way to organize what they are thinking and what tasks they need to accomplish. I’ve spent some time going over different methods and have found a simple way that will work for me.

I spend the end of each day writing down what I want to do the next day. This will give me a list of jobs to accomplish first thing in the morning instead of waiting until the morning figure out what comes first. It saves time, trust me.

Second, I try not to let myself get bogged down in the day to day activities. I don’t plan out my exact schedule, but I do try to have a general idea of the people I want to see and how long it should take with each person. I don’t check my e-mail when my phone goes off like usual. I plan out a time during each hour to double check my e-mail making sure nothing of importance gets missed. The non-time sensitive e-mails I can make a note in my task list and return those e-mails when I get back into the office.

Doing these two simple steps has allowed me to streamline a lot of my time and has made me more efficient. I no longer have to guess what I am going to do or try to figure it out on an empty brain. I have a road laid out before me when I get up in the morning.

These tasks have also bled over into my writing life. I can easily lay out what ideas I want to work on throughout the day and make sure that I am getting them done before the day is out. Whatever tasks don’t get done get moved to the next day. Keeping me on the path, but not letting me stray to whatever blinking message I see. Who would have thought it would be so easy?

I’m working on making this part of my daily schedule but it takes twenty-one days to form a habit so I’ll have to make sure I stick with it for the weeks to come.

What things do you do to keep yourself on task? Do you have notes all over your office or do you try to centralize your tasks for the day? Is winging it the best method that works for you?

I love to hear from you!

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

20130115-221039.jpg Image retrieved from WANA Commons and copyrighted by Slideshow Bruce

Every wonder what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like? I know I’m still waiting to find it in my writing career. The goal is to always be at the end. To see what I can do and where I can go in this industry. But when you look for the light at the end of the tunnel, you completely miss out on an experience. The Journey.

The journey through whatever goal you are trying to reach makes it all worth it. Without that journey, why would we set any goals in the first place. We would just always get everything we wanted.

Well I guess that doesn’t sound too bad now does it?

The journey is everything. If you think back to the tunnel in the picture above, the light calls you to the end of the tunnel. You know you want to get there because if you are like most people, you don’t like cold dark places. In the dark your mind can start to go crazy. Everything you fear pulls forward and every sound blasts in your ear like a siren. You look around, just sure that you are going to see that dark fear come at you. The one thing you don’t realize is that you’ve made your way through the tunnel and now you can see. The goal was all made worthwhile because of the journey you made in the tunnel.

As a fiction writer, sometimes it is easy to see where you want the story to go. To know what that overall goal for the characters is and how you want them to grow throughout the story. But how many times are you writing them on their journey and you find yourself having to change your outline or change your storyline. Characters live and grow on the page, they extend beyond our minds and make their own choices. These choices don’t always live in the outline made for the story. Originally you looked at the overall goal and didn’t take into account how things would change on the journey. The journey is what makes the story. Pushing your characters to the limits make for good writing.

So remember, don’t always look for the light at the end of the tunnel at the expense of the journey.

How do you write? Do you start with the end and write the journey? Do you pants it and write the story as it comes from your fingers? I’d love to hear what you do!