A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

How Can You Tell You're A Fan?

First off I'd like to say a big thanks to Elana Johnson.  Being a part of The Great Blogging Experiment was fun and I got a ton of people stopping by to comment, so that was also awesome.  Count me in anytime, Elana.

If you haven't been a longtime follower (and welcome to all of you who recently joined), I'm a huge fan of Jamie Ford.  Ever since I picked up his debut novel Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet, I've been following his blog, keeping track of what he's up to, waiting anxiously for his next book to come out.  I had the honor of actually interviewing him a while back and found out what a cool guy he is, good writing aside.

I missed the opportunity to get my copy signed when Jamie came through Denver, and I've been kicking myself ever since.  You can imagine my excitement then, when I read he's coming through once more on Nov 6th.  I double and triple checked his schedule to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong, but he is set to be at One Book Broomfield in Broomfield, Co (a burb on the outskirts of Denver).  He's hosting a Writer's Workshop (which hopefully I can manage to attend) and a author talk/book signing that evening.  I WILL be at one or the other.

Oh damn.  Then I remembered something very important.  Nov 6th is my wedding anniversary.  Yep, 18 years ago I asked (surprisingly I didn't have to beg) and she said yes and we're still happily together.  So my wife and I were laying in bed watching TV and I casually slipped it into conversation.

"Hey hon, I need to ask you a huge favor.  And feel free to tell me if you'd rather I didn't go.  Jamie Ford is having a book signing in Broomfield.   You remember, that awesome author I interviewed a while back?  It's on our anniversary hon, but it's the only time he's going to be here."

(Smile lovingly and hold my breath)

I got it all out in one quick breath rather than give her tons of time to think it through.  I mean, it's our anniversary.  I could see her calculating just how important it was to her.  Her eyebrow raised, and I'm sure she was deciding how hard it'd be to get me committed.  Or killed.  Finally she said,

"Well, since it's not our 20th, I suppose you can go.  As long as it's not all day long.  And you better have a really large diamond prepared for my finger when the 20th does come around."

I nodded like an eager puppy.  Anything you say, baby!  Yeah, my wife loves diamonds and I do my best to keep her happy with 'em.  It's easier than trying to afford the cherry red Corvette she'd rather have.

How can you tell if you're a true fan of an author?  When you're willing to risk life and limb from a spouse to attend a signing.  Yep, I guess I am that big a fan.  Anyone else done something similar to see their favorite author?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Great Blogging Experiment - Writing Compelling Characters

I know it's Friday and that usually involves nonsensical fun, but Elana Johnson has inadvertently interrupted the schedule with...


It's not too bad though, because while we won't be laughing at insane cats (okay, I couldn't resist the picture) or watching cool book trailers, we will be discussing cool writerly things.

So what is the Great Blogging Experiment?  Basically there are a ton of bloggers who are putting up posts about a particular topic, and the interesting aspect of this is seeing how everyone addresses the same idea.  To paraphrase what Elana's already said, it's probable that all these posts will be different because all the bloggers are different.

The question posed is this:

How do we write compelling characters?

While there are general similarities I think everyone could agree on, there is an aspect of this that depends on the writer.  What is compelling for one person may not be for another.  For example, I enjoy everyman characters that find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.  I like initially unremarkable individuals that become (or reveal themselves to be) quite remarkable as the story progresses.  When I choose a main character (or they choose me, to be honest), more often than not these are the types of characters that appeal.

What I have at that point however, is a vision of the character in my head.  The character is compelling to me, and it's my job as a writer to bring this character to life such that everyone else finds them compelling as well.  How can I do this?

The first (and most important) thing to do is write the character as honestly as possible.  When we're describing a good friend to an outsider, it's human nature to leave off the traits that others might find less than appealing.  We sometimes paint a picture colored with a rosy shade rather than a vision of stark reality.  In our writing however, we must earn the trust of the reader by keeping the writing honest and real.  Our characters therefore, must be three dimensional and we have to expose their bad traits as well as the good.  It is this practice that allows the reader to trust that everything we tell them will be honest, real, and worth reading.  As they get to see the character through our eyes, the same facets that make them compelling to us as the writer will make them just as compelling to the reader.

The second thing is to give this character something to be involved in.  A story about someone who sits in their living room watching soap operas all day (even if written honestly) will not be all that compelling.  Our readers want to see something happen.  Take that character out and let them walk through the world, experiencing things, solving problems, discovering life.  Whatever the story is, the character needs to be actively involved.  They need to be an integral part of what is going on, even if it's a scene where they are not present.

The third thing to do is to change this character.

Say what?  Did he just say what I thought he said?  I just created this honest, real character, dragged him out of the house, made him walk down the path, and now he wants me to change things around?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.  Your perfect three dimensional character needs to change over the life of the story.  Speaking as someone who has almost hit his 40th year, I can tell you that everyone changes.  Whether we realize it or not, whether we admit it or not, every person changes over time.  This ties into the first part regarding keeping things honest, but if you want your reader to buy into the fact that this is a real person (or alien, or kid, or vampire), you have to keep them real throughout.  This means they need to be changed by their experiences, impacted by decisions they make, affected by the world around them.

There are many more ways to make characters compelling (and I'm sure my fellow bloggers will highlight other things, go check each of them out), but these are the top three as far as I'm concerned.  What are your ideas on making characters compelling?  What else should I have mentioned?  The comment box is open.  And everyone go have some ice cream.  Consider it a celebration of Friday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blog Chain - I'm Dead? Damn...

This blog chain round is brought to you by the devious Shannon, who evidently is wishing dire consequences on all her fellow writers.  Consider this evidence:

Imagine this: when you're gone, readers will remember your writing most for just one of these things: your characters, your plots, your settings, or your style. Which one (only one!) would you prefer over the rest? Why?

What did we blog chainers do to you, oh Shannon the wise, to deserve a premature death?  It must have been that fruitcake I sent last Christmas.  I swear they promised it would arrive fresh and tasty, so I don't know why you had such a debilitating reaction.

In any event, I will answer this interesting question regardless.  I suppose I should feel a bit morbid thinking about my own demise, but I'm fairly matter-of-fact about it.  I'm a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, including the end of all that is me.  But should such a travesty occur, what impressions would I want to leave behind?

Though I am as of yet unpublished, I expect (barring a random bus accident or falling off a bridge) that I will attain that goal sometime in the near future.  And with that, I'm hoping my words will reach more than ten people (not counting family, of course).  So if I have to pick just one thing I'd want those ten people to remember about me as a writer, I'd have to go with memorable characters.  Part of that is because I struggle to make my characters realistic, 3 dimensional beings, and being remembered for that would mean that I have succeeded in not only creating fully-fleshed out characters but also memorable ones.

I also am thinking about books that I have enjoyed thoroughly, and it really hasn't been the settings or plots or even style (though this is something I do like alot also) that I remember most.  It is the characters that an author creates - both good and bad - that stay in my mind long after I turn the final page.  Emulating these lingering tendrils of memorable personages is a worthy task and one I work at constantly.

Well, I've ranted long enough.  You needn't worry;  I'm sure the epitaph on my tombstone will be much shorter.  Something along the lines of, "He lived.  He died.  Play some AC/DC in his honor."

If you didn't get a chance to see the awesome Sandra's take on things, head on over here.  And Michelle Hickman's inspiring post on the subject will be up tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Watching A Revised Bit Of History...Completely Unaware

I was browsing through the DVDs at Walmart and saw a movie I had not seen for a long time.  The film is Where The Red Fern Grows and it is based upon an awesome book (of the same name) written by Wilson Rawls.  More often than not, movies made from books are terrible, but this particular one was exceedingly well done back in 1974.  Though I didn't recognize the images on the cover, I remembered enjoying it very much when I was young, so I picked it up right away.

As we gathered around the television - my wife and I relishing sharing this experience with our boys - my wife and I were confused because we didn't remember the people in the movie nor the images being displayed.  It was still an enjoyable movie however, so we chalked it up to fading memories from times long past.

After the movie was over (my wife wiping away a tear or two, no not me, I didn't cry.  I swear), I looked up the movie on IMDB and was surprised to find out the version we had just watched was a remake done in 2003 (as you can see in the two images here):

Now if it can be truly said that movies made from books are usually terrible, remakes of these types of movies are even worse.  I was pleasantly surprised however, to find that this remake was decently done, and neither of us had even noticed the difference until it was all over.

If you have never had the pleasure of reading this book (I will be heading to Amazon to find another copy right after this), you really need to pick it up.  And if you've not seen the film, I can honestly say either version does a decent job of portraying an excellent story.  The earlier one is probably the better of course, but the one created in 2003 wasn't bad at all.

What I enjoy most about movies like this is how well the author's voice resonates in this alternate medium.  Sure, there's an actor (Kris Kristofferson in the new version) speaking the lines, but the honesty and heart of the words speak louder than the person mouthing them.  I'll take a good book over a movie any day, but I can't ignore how movies like this seep into my bones and grab the writer within me.  It's similar to how the movie Stranger Than Fiction inspired me to pick up the virtual pen and become a writer again after years of absence.  Much like a good book will cause my soul to soar, movies like these have a similar effect.

Do you ever feel this way about certain movies or songs?  Do you seek them out from time to time as I seem to do?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Funnies - Mommas and Poppas

Being the family man that I am, the badge I proudly wear is that of Daddy (though of course my 16 year old hasn't called me that for some time now;  "Can I just call you Dad now?").  So this video cracked me up big time.

For all you other Dads out there, feel free to replay it and sing along (or rap along, as the case may be).

Now, I know the majority of my followers are women and a great deal of you are Moms.  Don't worry, there's a new anthem for you as well:

I have to hand it to these people.  They did a pretty good job of turning these popular songs into hilarious alternate versions.  Made me laugh a bunch, anyway.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Feeling a little better

Thanks everyone for hoping I would begin feeling better.  It must be helping because I actually am.  Or possibly it's because I'm nuking this damn thing with killer medicine.  I usually avoid taking any medicine at all, so when I do take any, it's pretty potent.

I'm a big fan of not taking medicine.  I'm a believer in the idea that our bodies have a great capacity for healing themselves.  Yeah, sometimes I have to suffer through a few aches and pains, but I do believe I'm healthier for it.  I don't take flu shots and the fact that they have to keep updating them for virus mutations tends to support my beliefs.  In fact, the worst case of sickness I ever had was after I got a flu shot once.  It might be coincidence, but I don't think so.

What does all this have to do with writing?  You know I always have to tie everything here into a writing post (since I haven't had any good writings of my own to share for a while).  As I ramble on here, I am thinking about beliefs.  I have pretty strong beliefs in general, and I tend to stick to them like glue.  What about the characters that I write?

I was going to say that all main characters need to have a belief system, but I deleted it.  That's not an accurate statement.  There are some characters that do have strong beliefs.  Their journey in the story might therefore involve figuring out how to fit in the larger world beyond themselves, given their belief systems.

Then there are characters who really aren't sure what they believe in.  These are actually my preference.  Their journey will most likely involve figuring out what to believe in and why.  This might not even be a conscious journey, but one they make without knowing it, until they find themselves changed at the end.

Do you think about the belief systems of your characters?  And how do you show that in your writing?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blog Chain - Exploring The Genres

Not even illness can keep me from posting a blogchain entry. I'm committed, dangit (or at least I should be).

This round's question comes from the ever-talented Margie who asks:

How did you come to write your YA genre (e.g. contemp, fantasy, etc.)? AND (yep, it’s a 2 parter), if you weren’t writing that, what genre would you be interested in exploring?

Like my predecessor Sandra, I don't think I write YA (nor do I think I could).  The biggest problem for me is that I don't really know what genre a particular tale might be in.  If it's obviously sci-fi or fantasy or horror, I'd probably be able to tell.  But despite reading many posts by other bloggers on the subject of genres, I still don't have a clue.

To answer the question however, it's probably safest to say I like to write thrillers with a paranormal twist set inside a horror background.  Oh, and throw in a few mythological creatures for good measure.  Okay, I have no idea what genre I am writing in, but I know what it isn't.  I don't write romance or historical fiction.  I don't think I have what it takes to write the former effectively (without it becoming sappy or turning into softcore porn), and the latter would scare the crap out of me because of all the required research.   One of the best benefits of being a storyteller in a made up world is I get to make all the rules, make up all the background, and ignore reality (to some extent anyway).

As for the second part, I've gotten some really good ideas from some of the other chainers.  I could see myself writing something in a Western setting, though like the Dark Tower style.  I don't know if I could write it as a straight Western though - gotta have something out of the ordinary.  I could also see myself composing a tale in a Steampunk reality, though the research devil rears its ugly head there.  I haven't written any fantasy stories since I was much younger, so that would be fun too.

If you haven't checked out what the incredible Sandra has to say on the subject, get on over there.  And the awesome Michelle Hickman will be presenting her thoughts tomorrow.

Ten Word Tuesday - Illness

Illness is God's way of saying, "Hey, slow down dude."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Missing On Monday - Feeling Sick

I know I said I would be posting more often, but unfortunately my loving wife has seen fit to share her nasty cold with me. Yeah, nothin' better than second-hand cold between loved ones.

Anyway, I will be posting tomorrow (since it'll be my turn on the blog chain), and I need to do a Ten Word Tuesday as well. I haven't done one of those in a while either. Since I don't have a bottle of Jack Daniels, I'm going to go find some cold medicine somewhere 'round here and go to bed early. Thanks all for stopping by.

While you all have your pens poised, can anybody write me a new ending to this tale of illness? I'd be most grateful :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday Thoughts - Sunrise, Sunset

If you've never seen or heard this song from the musical The Fiddler On The Roof, you've been missing out.

This video is from the film version, and the entire movie is easily comparable to any stage performance of this same story that I've ever seen.  In fact, The Fiddler On The Roof is one of best performed musicals on film ever IMHO.  Okay, stage performances have their own type of intensity, but this film is one that I regard just as highly.

If you listen to the words of this particular song however, you'll understand how I'm feeling lately.  No, I don't have any adult children getting married, but I do feel like the days, weeks, months, and years are flying by.  This is further emphasized by the fact that it's been a week since my last post and I hadn't even realized I'd let the time slip past.

I was thinking about this concept of time flowing past quickly, and I realized it would be great if I could continually capture that idea in my writing.  I don't mean that stories need to rush the reader along, but I think we can all agree that stalling the movement of a story is bad.  And since our lives generally keep moving along (whether we notice the passage of time or not), our stories should probably do the same thing.  This is not to say that there aren't moments in our writing where the pace should slow for a bit to savor a scene, but on the whole we need to keep things moving.

It's funny that we often try to create these worlds that are completely different from our own (especially those of us writing fantasy or sci-fi) and yet it's absolutely necessary that we include the same basic framework from our own realities.  I guess there actually are some universal truths, one of them being the unstoppable passage of time.

On that note, I'm going to get back to working on things.  But when was the last time you noticed the passage of time (either in your own life or your writing)?  And how do you deal with it?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back In Town

The title is a bit misleading, since I really haven't traveled anywhere.   But I was on a leave of absence of sorts from blogging.  I don't know exactly how much I got accomplished, but do we ever get everything done we'd like to?   Probably not.

In any event, you can expect regular posts from me once more.  Thanks to Cassandra Jade, I had the opportunity yesterday to be a guest on her blog and she on mine.  That's a first for me, and to be honest it was both fun and daunting.  Let's face it - blogging on the page of a published author is awesome, but it also left me hoping that my words would be good enough.  Cassandra has a pretty big following (for good reason), and I was hoping to do her page justice.  Judging from the comments though, I guess I didn't do too bad.

I have a four day weekend coming up, and I'm hoping to take at least one of those days and spend it working on revising my short story.   It actually felt good to do some revisions a little while back, because I could see the story becoming clearer.  It's pretty cool when I feel like I'm making good progress on my skills as writer as opposed to feeling completely lost (like how the classes in my Masters degree program have me feeling lately LOL).

This is a short post, but I'll try to put up something more fun tomorrow in celebration of Friday.  As Michelle McLean shows each week, each Friday should be filled with fun.

What writerly things are you going to do this weekend?  Think you can squeeze in a paragraph or two, revise a passage here or there?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest Blogger - The Characters Inside by Cassandra Jade

Note from Eric:   I've had the lucky opportunity to be a part of Cassandra Jade's blog tour (the first person, no less).  I can't tell you how cool this is for me, not to mention the honor of having a writer like Cassandra gracing my blog.  She even allowed me to put up a post on her blog, so you can check out my post here.  Without further ado, heeereeeeee's the talented and awesome Cassandra!

I want to firstly thank Eric for hosting me today and officially launching my blog tour. I’ve been reading Eric’s blog for some time and really love his candid nature as he discusses his writing journey.

As the title suggests, today I am writing about the characters that dwell inside all of us, whether we write them in to life or let them languish in forgotten corners of our minds. I know there are many writers that dispute the idea of characters creating themselves but it often feels like characters find us.

Where do they come from? Probably from hours upon hours of subconscious thought, putting together attributes and ideas before our conscious mind pays any attention and so the character creation process is probably still taking place but without really thinking about it. But these characters spring to life and then they want us to tell their story.

And they all have a story.

I think that’s what I like about characters that seem to simply appear rather than the ones I laboriously construct. These characters have depth and layers that if I was creating a character from scratch on paper, my creation just wouldn’t have. They have backgrounds and likes and dislikes and motivations that I wouldn’t consciously have thought of but these characters come along and just want their story told.

Maybe these are left over imaginary friends from childhood, but somehow I doubt it.

The problems really begin after these characters have been floating around inside your head for awhile. Getting all of the many attributes that you know and love about these characters onto paper becomes difficult and no matter how you write it, they never seem as alive as they did when they were inside your head. The other problem, is after you’ve been writing them for awhile, they seem to exist outside of you and aren’t really bouncing around anymore, clamouring for your undivided attention. And I am all too easily distracted by the next character that comes along.

Other problems arise when you create a character that you don’t personally like. While these characters are sometimes fun, when they are bouncing around your head they can really make you want to delete them.
There were definitely moments when writing Death’s Daughter that I really disliked my protagonist – and mostly I was supposed to dislike her – but sometimes it made writing a scene hard as I would have her say something and then flinch, wondering why I would have her say something that horrible.

So the question for the writers out there is this: Do you have characters inside of you? If yes, what do you do with them?

Cassandra Jade is a fantasy writer from Australia. You can visit her blog at: http://cassandrajade.wordpress.com
Her first novel, Death’s Daughter, is available from Lyrical Press.