Posts Tagged ‘proper decisions’

Today I wanted to talk about something that is becoming much more common in fiction these days, and that’s the twist villain. If you’re unfamiliar, a twist villain is when one character in a story seems to be the villain, but later on it’s revealed that another character, usually a character we thought was a good guy, is actually the villain. This twist villain is supposed to be a surprise, something you didn’t see coming while reading the story. Hence the name “twist villain.” The problem is, the twist villain is becoming such a common trope these days. In the past couple years, we’ve seen it in Disney films like Zootopia and Frozen; popular novels like Gone Girl and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; a couple of recent superhero films; and more than I can possibly name in this blog post. And when so many works of fiction are using the twist villain, we become used to not only seeing the trope but also the signs that a twist villain is going to be used (and trust me, there are signs), and then when we see the twist villain, we’re not very surprised. Heck, sometimes we even predict who the villain is well before it’s revealed.

Why is this trope becoming so popular? Simple: people want a good story. Good stories produce good memories and good profits. As standard stories of good vs. evil have been done to death, creators need to think of new stories and story elements to keep consumers interested in their work. One way to do that is a third-act twist, which when done right can really enhance a story. And a twist villain can be a very good third-act twist, if you’re careful with it.

Sadly, I find that a lot of creators aren’t careful with their twist villains, making the twist ineffective when it happens. Which is sad, because I love the idea of a twist villain. Heck, it’s one I might use in the future, if I haven’t used it already. A good twist villain can make your mind reel, make you look back trough a story to see if there were any clues and make you marvel at the genius of the creators for setting up that twist so well.

A bad twist villain, on the other hand, just leaves you feeling neutral at best (my reaction during Zootopia) and disappointed at worst (my reaction looking back on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed). Which is why I’ve come up with a few tips for writing an effective twist villain. With any luck, these tips will help other authors (and myself) avoid making a bad twist villain.

1. Does your story really need a twist villain? Any time you want to include something in a story, ask yourself if it’s really needed. I swear, so many stories just add in elements that aren’t needed (*cough* lots of stuff from BvS *cough*). Ask yourself if your story can stand on its own without any of the extra elements. If it doesn’t, DON’T FORCE IT IN! Especially with twist villains.

2. If you’re going to leave clues behind, don’t make them obvious. You can have a twist villain without leaving a trail (Hans from Frozen, for example), but with twist villains, creators often like to leave little hints of who the real villain is. I think this is narcissism on our part; we like to show how clever we are. But that leads to us leaving some rather obvious clues, which our readers/viewers will pick up on and deduce the twist long before the twist occurs. Take Scooby-Doo 2: it was so obvious that the reporter was the villain! Why else would they include a reporter with poor ethical practices unless she was at least in league with the villains?

3. Have a good herring villain. A herring villain is just that: a herring to keep us off the real villain. In Frozen, the herring villain was the Duke of Weselton. He had obvious malicious goals, is willing to kill Elsa, and he was over-the-top, which felt right for a villain in this movie. Imagine our surprise when we find out he’s not the true villain, but Hans, who had no trail leading to him and was such a nice guy up till that reveal! A good herring villain will often lead to a great twist villain reveal.

Compare that to Zootopia or Wonder Woman: the former doesn’t give us a herring villain, which causes us to consider each character and eventually land on Ms. Bellwether, who has said some interesting things and has actually benefited from these events. The latter gives us a herring villain, but it’s a comic book movie, and the General doesn’t do a thing to make us think he’s a famous DC villain we’re very sure will make an appearance.

In short, have a herring villain, and make sure they’re set up in a way where people will actually consider them as the main villain, so the twist will actually be effective. To do that, be aware of what sort of story you’re writing. Often the story will have certain requirements for villains (motive, opportunity, etc), so make it seem like the herring villain has those. You’ll find your herring villain much more effective.

4. Do the reveal earlier than the third act. A lot of twist villains reveal themselves in the third act. Nothing wrong with this, but it’d also work if the reveal was done earlier. For example, Hydra was revealed as the villain in Captain America: Winter Soldier in the second act, and that was a really interesting twist, as we hadn’t expected it. If they’d done it later in the story, we might have actually figured it out by then, or there wouldn’t be enough time for exposition mixed with a great climax. So consider doing the reveal elsewhere.

5. Try a variation on the trope. The twist villain, like most tropes, has a standard formula: something happens, one character seems like the villain, but another character is revealed at the third act to be the villain and why. Oh, and it’s usually not the protagonist.

Variations on common tropes have proven to be very effective in storytelling, so try something a little different with the twist villain, like these examples below:

  • It’s a villain, but which one? In Doctor Who series 8, we’re introduced to a character named Missy, who seems likely to be a villain, but we’re not sure what her deal is if she is. In the second-to-last episode, she explains that Missy is short for Mistress, making her a female regeneration of the Master, a well-known DW villain. A lot of minds were blown that day, believe me. The idea is you can introduce a seemingly new character into a long-running story, and then link them back to a previously-established character. Trust me, it works.
  • Everyone’s the villain! Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express ends with every suspect actually having some sort of hand in the murder. It made the novel a sensation back in the day, because it was a seemingly impossible idea, but it worked. So try something impossible and make it possible: everyone’s a villain, no ones’ the villain, or even two very good suspects with alibis both committed the murder. It could work.
  • The hero? American Horror Story: Hotel is my favorite season of the series, and this twist is one reason why. The protagonist, a police detective, is on the hunt for a serial killer, only to find out in the second half of the season that he’s the killer! Trust me, I did not see that coming until the reveal episode, and only by a few minutes! So making a hero or a character who nobody thinks of as a possible villain the villain can work very well.

And these are just some examples of variations that have worked in the past.

Twist villains are a trope that won’t go away anytime soon, but as long as we have them, we should write them as well as we write any other type of character or trope. Because if we’re not going to give people our best, then what are we actually giving them?

What are your thoughts on twist villains? What are some good tips for writing them well?

Boston from the air.

Did you miss me? You didn’t?! Well, that’s mean! I thought you guys liked me!

Anyway, if you haven’t heard, I recently took a trip to Boston, Massachusetts with my dad. We went from July 4th through yesterday, July 7th (I kept the dates of the trip vague because I am slightly paranoid of burglars and/or stalkers). I went with my dad, as we don’t get to see/hang out with each other that much these days, and the last couple family trips to cool locales, everyone but I was able to go. And how was it?

One word: Amazing! This is probably the best vacation I’ve ever taken in my 24 years of living (in this dimension, and in this incarnation). I got to see and do everything I was hoping I’d get to see and do, and then some, and everything was just so much fun. What made it even better was that I got to take quite a few photos and souvenirs home with me (possibly more than I should have bought, but whatever), and I even got to meet some really amazing people while on the trip (more on that later).

And I even got some evidence of paranormal activity from one of the places we stayed at, which I’d been desperately hoping would happen. I’ll be showcasing that in another post. Just as soon as I edit the video.

So, now I just have to decide how best to relate all that happened to me. I was originally planning on doing several posts, breaking down each day (or in some cases, parts of each day) so you get the full-scope of my vacation. However, I do have a friend who’s been breaking down her experiences in Canada with week-by-week snapshots, where each day is broken down into simple paragraphs. Some version of that may work for me, as I have a lot of travel to talk about, and there’s only so many hours in the day (especially when you’re working a full-time job and trying to get writing and editing done too). And should I do things in order? I’d like to get the paranormal stuff out sooner rather than later.

Well, while I’m deciding that, I’ll just let you know some of my thoughts of Massachusetts:

  • Boston is nothing like I expected it! I’m so used to Columbus, which is very flat and the buildings either look very old or somewhat new. In Boston, it’s extremely hilly, and even the newest buildings incorporate something in their architecture that looks like it belonged on houses two or three centuries ago, as if to remind us always of the history in that city. That really surprised me, and I found it so beautiful. On top of a beautiful city, to boot!
  • Dunkin Donuts are everywhere! My dad and I were surprised by how many Dunkin Donuts were around Boston, even just a hundred feet from one another! We were like, “They have Dunkin Donuts like we have Starbucks!” And I think I only saw three or four Starbucks outside of airports and malls while we were there. We’d later find out that Dunkin Donuts originated in Massachusetts, so of course it would be everywhere in its home state. Which, as it turns out, was very lucky, because we very nearly didn’t have a Boston cream pie before we left (and that would’ve been a sin if it had come to pass). Thanks for fixing that, Dunkin Donuts!
  • Everyone was so nice! I think we Midwesterners have this impression that everyone in East Coast cities are snooty and rude (especially in New York), so I expected as such in Boston Not so: everyone was so nice! From cabbies to salesmen to random passersby who gave us directions, everyone was kind and courteous. That’s sometimes hard to get, even in the Midwest, where everyone is supposed to be nice (trust me, they aren’t always). I wonder if I just missed all the rude people or if they went on vacation this past week.
  • Never drive in Boston! It’ll drive your stress levels up. Use public transportation if you can. Also, be prepared, because that city is super-expensive! Worse than I expected, actually.

My dad and I off on an adventure.

That’s all I got so far. I’ll tell you guys about Salem and Fall River another time.

Anyway, that’s what I got so far. I’m going to see what I can do about that video footage. Hopefully I can upload a decent YouTube video and amaze you with my paranormal proof. And I appreciate you being patient with me while I try to figure out how to present this extraordinary vacation of mine (any suggestions you have would be most welcome).

Until next time, Followers of Fear!

Well, we’re back to count down my top five villains of the past year. And what really surprised me about the top five was that while #10-6 came from ll sorts of different franchises and series, the top five came from only two franchises/series. That’s right, this year only two properties hold sway over the top five. And you can contribute that to a number of things, but I think with these franchises, they’ve been running a very long time and the writers and directors and other behind-the-scenes folks who run these franchises want to keep them running a very long time So what do they do? They come up with compelling storylines with great villains to set up against great heroes.

So what are they? Let’s find out. Remember, no villain of my creation is on this list, and no actual person is on this list either. It’s all fictional. And as always, SPOILERS!

#5: Kaecillius (Doctor Strange)

You know, this is the third time a Mads Mikkelsen character has appeared on this list (his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter were in the top five back in 2013 and 2014). Not surprising, considering that he’s not only a great actor, but he’s given great characters. Kaecillius is a former student of the Ancient One who finds out things about his master he doesn’t like and who falls under the sway of the demon-god Dormammu. His goal is to allow Dormammu’s Dark Dimension into this world, thus absorbing our universe into his. Why does he want to do this?

Well, the answer is much more sympathetic than you might expect: Kaecillius sees the world as an endless cycle of suffering and death, and wants to free the world of it, which he feels integrating our world into the Dark Dimension can do. And this is actually an admirable goal, to free the world of suffering and death. It’s the very notion that Buddhism, one of the world’s major religions, is founded upon! It’s just that Kaecillius believes wholeheartedly that by making us one with the Dark Dimension is the way to do that (believe me, it’s not), and that’s what makes him a villain. Add in his gravitas, stoic manner, and occasional one-liners, and you’ve got yourself an A-class villain with some aspects you can actually sympathize with.

#4: Lucifer (Supernatural)

Over the past two years, I’ve really become a huge fan of Supernatural, and over the past year, I’ve taken in the ten most recent seasons. And even when he’s not the main villain of a season, guess who’s a powerful influence over the series as a whole? Yep, Lucifer, the Devil himself. He’s powerful enough that even when he’s locked in a cage in Hell, he’s still capable of manipulating and directing events on Earth, which is how brothers Sam and Dean Winchester became wrapped up in monster hunting. And when he’s out of the cage, God help you. He could be following the script of the Apocalypse, or he could be making it up as he goes along, he doesn’t care. As long as he’s able to make a few quips, make someone’s life literal torture, and even kill a few people, he’s happy. The destruction he caused in Season 12 alone, and the events he set in motion with some of his actions, earn him a spot in the top five (though because most of his horrors are caused by his daddy issues, he’s a bit lower than he could be).

#3: Amara/The Darkness (Supernatural)

What’s scarier than one of God’s angelic sons? Why, God’s older sister, and the embodiment of destruction! Introduced in late Season 10 and the main villain of Season 11, The Darkness is a primordial force that God and the Archangels locked away so that the universe could exist. Freed at the end of Season 10, she possesses a baby named Amara and soon becomes a full-grown woman with a simple goal: to find her brother and settle some long overdue family business with him. That, and maybe entice Dean Winchester, with whom she shares a special connection, to join her at her side.

What puts her higher than Lucifer on this list? Well, she’s much more powerful, for one thing. And in a way, she actually caused Lucifer’s fall from grace. In her way, she’s the true cause of many of the horrors in Supernatural. Not to mention that she somehow makes fish out of water moments scary: having never lived in the human world, she’s uneducated about a lot of what goes on there, and it shows. And even when we’re laughing at how inept she is as a human, we know that she’s going to do something horrible soon. And then she does it.

If that’s not deserving of the Number 3 spot, then I’m Harry Potter (and I’m not).

#2: A.I.D.A. (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD)

This time from the MCU’s TV universe, we have A.I.D.A, a cyborg originally designed by her creator Holden Radcliffe as a literal shield for SHIELD agents, and later a major part of Radcliffe’s plan to create a world free of suffering and death for humans…which she later subverts in order to gain freedom from her rigid programming and become a full human with emotions. And superpowers.

Honestly, watching A.I.D.A.’s arc from naive robot woman to calculating assistant, to calculating supervillainness, to a powerful human woman with strong powers and emotions like storms, was one of the most fascinating things in this season. It kept you on the edge of your seat, wondering what she was going to do next as she pursued her goals of humanity, freedom, and even the love of one of the main cast! That, and her ruthlessness in accomplishing those goals, whether she was doing so under programming driven by twisted logic or spurred on by her newfound feelings, made the story all the more gripping. She’s definitely one of the show’s best villains, and deserving of the second-highest spot on this list.

#1: The Leviathans (Supernatural)

The Leviathans were a thing introduced in Season 7 five years ago, but I just met them this past fall. And my God, were they the best villains on the show! Primordial beings that are older than most of the angels, they were God’s first creations in His new universe. Ultimately, they proved too hungry to be controlled and God put them away in Purgatory lest they eat the universe to bits. Released back into our world at the beginning of Season 7, they quickly possess humans in order to inhabit physical form again, with one goal in mind: feed. At first they’re just looking for a quick fix in the short term to get their sustenance, but as time goes on and their king possesses the body and memories of billionaire businessman Dick Roman, they start organizing. What’s their grand plan? Simply to feed.

There’s something kind of scary of an old and powerful race of beings whose sole goal is to satisfy their hunger, and the best way to do that is to feed on humanity. And they do it with businesslike precision, coming up with this whole five-year plan for turning America into their personal McDonald’s (I’m assuming the rest of the world would follow in time). It’s this precision, along with their difficulty in being killed, that made them stand out to me as villains not only on Supernatural, but through the whole year. Lucifer and Amara may be looking for revenge on their mutual family member, but when it comes to beasts that just want to feed, they just can’t be beat.

 

So that’s this year’s list, my Followers of Fear. But tell me, who were your favorite villains this past year? Do you have any critiques of my choices? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And expect another blog post from me either later today or at some point tomorrow, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a new review, and I hope you’ll want to read it.

Life is rarely straightforward. That is a fact. People change, or their thoughts and feelings change, new paths open up in front of you, and your understanding of the world never fits in the box you want it to (that last one isn’t really relevant to what I’m going to talk about here, but I felt like stating it anyway). And my life and feelings have changed. I need a break from what I’m doing right now. I need to do something different if I’m to pursue my goals in life.

With that said, I need to shut down Rami Ungar the Writer. At least for a little while.

I’m kidding. But for a split second, you bought that. You did, and it worried you for a little bit.

No, what I really mean is that I need to take a break from Full Circle. A very long break.

You see, I’ve been working on that novel since November, eight months in total. And I’ve only taken some occasional breaks, each working on a couple of short stories, and then getting back into it. And you know what? I’m a little burnt out. Normally by this time, I’m already finished with the first draft, but I’m only a little over the halfway point. And when I think of getting into the next chapter, I’m filled with dread, because it’s likely going to be a long chapter, and I’ve been dealing with this story for eight months straight, and it has not been easy at times.

All writers get like this. Yeah, we do. There are times when we’ve devoted so much energy to a story, that we need a break if we’re to give it more and give it the energy it needs. And honestly, I’m at that point. It’s nothing I did wrong or anyone else did wrong. There’s nothing big in my life that’s making me super happy or super miserable, thus causing me to think, “I can’t work on finishing the Reborn City trilogy right now.” Nope, it’s just me needing some distance and the chance to work on something else. And I need a long something else. Because if I take on a project, and it only lasts a month at most, I won’t be ready to work on Full Circle again. I’d be ready to bang my head against a wall in frustration, but I wouldn’t be ready for FC again.

Which is why I have the perfect project:

Some of you may recall that during my last year of college, I wrote a novel called Rose as my thesis. The story was about a young woman with amnesia who starts transforming into a plant creature. And that may sound comical, but it’s actually pretty dark, exploring themes of dependence and abuse in romantic relationships, as well as how memory, truth, and falsehoods can shape not just our perceptions of others, but of ourselves. It was a challenging novel, to say the least, but I managed to get two drafts of it written between August 2014 and April 2015, and they turned out okay. I let it lie for a while when I was in Germany and during my job search, and tried working on it again after I moved into my new apartment and started my job. For a number of reasons, it didn’t go well. Mostly because I didn’t have a plan for editing it beyond, “Let’s sit down in front of the computer and see what happens.”

My new project: the third draft of Rose.

But since then, I figured out a plan to help me get along with editing in general (see my post on that on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. It has a similar opening to this blog post). I’ve also had plenty of time to think about changes I’d like to make to the story, and to the characters, and I’ve really been itching to take a crack at it again. And I’m pretty sure that, once I get another draft of Rose done, I’d be ready to send this story to an editor, and then maybe to an agent or publishing house.

So starting very soon, I’ll be taking another dive into Rose. It probably won’t happen until after I get back from Boston, but after that and I’ve done all the travelogues and checked my new digital recorder for ghost voices, you can bet that I’ll be working on my new project with gusto. Until then, Followers of Fear, wish me luck as I work on a couple new blog posts, and as I prepare myself mentally and emotionally for what will hopefully be a very successful third draft and a very refreshing break.

Pleasant nightmares!

Well, here’s something I didn’t think I’d get to until it became apparent in the past couple of months that it was going to happen. Rami Ungar the Writer has reached the 50,000 views milestone! After five months, four months, and seven days, we’ve reached 50K! Followers of Fear, find a partner and do the dance of joy!

I’ve always wanted to do that.

I say this every time I reach a milestone, but I’m incredibly grateful that you guys continue to come back every time I publish a post. For the first two years or so of this blog, there were times where I wouldn’t get views on my blog for several days, and then get a bump of maybe one or two, and then that would be it for a while. Likes and comments were even rarer, and followers came in at a trickle. It made me wonder if I wasting time with a blog, trying to build an audience that way.

But somehow, I persevered. And you guys kept appearing, and a good chunk of you kept coming back. Slowly, views and likes and comments started increasing. There were even times when I’d get spikes into the hundreds or even the thousands! And then the followers started to rise, and I started calling you my Followers of Fear, and none of you seemed to care one way or another on that one, so I kept going with it. And then a couple of months ago I got to the five-thousand likes milestone, and I was like, “Holy crap, I might get another one soon!” And now it’s come to pass.

Thank you, Followers of Fear. I really appreciate the continued patronage and support. I hope you continue to support me for the next fifty-thousand years (hopefully it won’t take another five years to get there) as I work on becoming a great horror novelist.

And on that subject, there are a couple more announcements I’d like to make while I still have your attention.

Firstly, look at your search bar. You’ve probably noticed, but this site is no longer ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com, but just ramiungarthewriter.com. Yep, I updated my blog into a full website. Why did I do this? Well, beyond the fact that web address is a bit of mouthful and shortening it makes it a bit less of a mouthful, I’m trying a bunch of new strategies and tactics to increase readership both on my blog and with my books. One of those tactics is to upgrade to a full website, which gives me a couple of distinct benefits. One is now I have an official author email address. That’s right, you can now email me! With a lot of successful authors, I’ve noticed that they have more than a few ways to be interactive with their fanbases, so now I have one more.

So if you want to email me about my books, or a blog post or something, you can write me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I don’t know how often I’ll check my mailbox or how quickly I’ll get back to you, but it’s something I’m devoting effort too.

On a related note, I’m also setting up an email newsletter. This, I hope, is where people who are interested will hear first about publications and contests and other things related to my writing career. I have a feeling that people are getting tired of seeing the latest short story being finished or the latest novel review, so I think I’ll put out something separate that focuses on that, and put stuff on the blog related to the intricacies of writing and of horror, as well as the occasional post about my life or my thoughts on certain subjects.

This is all part of my New Year’s Resolution, which is to be better at getting people interested in my stories and in my writing in general. Will it succeed? No idea, but at least I’m sticking with my New Year’s Resolution and keeping things simple by going for an achievable goal with achievable steps. And I’m open to other tactics that could help me accomplish this. Heck, I may even try Goodreads again, if I can get a better handle on how to work that site.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve kind of rambled a bit in this post, but at least I’ve gotten a chance to talk about the good news and show some of the progress I’ve made since New Year’s. Until next time!

Last night, I went to a dinner for young Jewish professionals in Columbus, the kind where one can socialize with other members of the tribe in the same age group while enjoying a kosher meal and an open bar. I love these dinners when they’re held: you can see people you know or have never met before, have conversations with similar threads about a thousand times over, forget most of what’s said, and still have a good time, all while enjoying a kosher meal. And, on occasion, I meet people who are interested in reading my books, so I make sure to have the latest business card with me when I do go to these things.

At last night’s dinner though, I had an interesting encounter that I feel like blogging about, if only to get it out of my system. While walking around between conversations, I ran into a guy I was acquainted with, who we’ll call “Eric,” a friend of a friend I knew in high school. The first time I’d met Eric had been at one of these dinners, and he’d seemed pretty impressed when I’d mentioned I was a published author I ‘d given him my card then, and had hoped that he would maybe check out one of my books and let me know what he thought.

To my surprise, pretty quickly Eric told me he read my books, and enjoyed them, had said I was talented and had an amazing style. I was flattered…for a second. But there was just something that felt…a little off. The amount of enthusiasm, the look in his eyes, the body language. I asked if he would consider writing a review for one of my books online, and he said he would, he totally would. Again, the way Eric said “totally” and the way he moved his body while he said it, like he was trying to distract me with the movement of his arms, just seemed off. Finally I asked him to name one of the books he’d read and enjoyed. As I half-expected, he couldn’t name a single one. At that point, I just gave him a card and moved on.

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t read my books. I’m not still very well-known, my books cost money and aren’t available at a lot of libraries, some people don”t like to read, some people don’t care for the genres I tend to write in, busy lives, they lose my card, or a number of other reasons. If Eric had said any of those from the beginning, I would’ve been cool with it. I’ve dealt with close family and friends who haven’t read Video Rage yet. I’m not happy about it, but I accept it because I know that I can’t control other people’s lives or what they do in their lives. But outright lying? I’m just not cool with that.

I put a lot of work into the stories I write. Yes, they’re mostly a labor of love (or a reason to get them out of my head and onto the page so it’s a bit less cluttered up there), but I want others to enjoy them as well. And Eric may have felt guilty that he said he’d check them out the last time we’d spoke and that he hadn’t, but lying about it, especially when it’s so obvious, doesn’t help. For one thing, it gets my hopes up needlessly that I’ve touched another person with my work before causing those hopes to plummet into my shoes. For another, lying about reading a book (let alone four) is one of the easiest to debunk. I debunked it in a single sentence! And that just make things awkward.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, if you haven’t read a book, just say so. Don’t try to lie about it. We authors are used to it, and most of us aren’t sensitive enough that we throw hissy fits when we find out you didn’t read our books. And if you do read our books, thank you. We hope you enjoy them, and let us know if you did.

NaNoWriMo update: Five days in, and I’m a bit over twenty-four hundred words into Full Circle. I haven’t had that much time to write since Thursday, so this is the most I’ve been able to get. Still, the fact that I made it this far in the first week is still pretty nice. Hopefully I’ll get a bit farther along tonight. Wish me luck!

As many of you know, I’m cutting the number of blog posts I do every month down to two (unless I have something special to talk about, in which case we may get one or two more here), so I can use what little time I have to actually get some fiction writing done. And I thought, what better way to start this than to list all the things I’m doing?

Well, actually there are probably a lot better things I could talk about, but all writers are at least slightly narcissistic. Why else do we insist that people should read the fiction we write?

In any case, let’s start talking about me and the things going on in my life right now. This is Updates on What I’m Doing.

I’m now fully employed.

Let me guess, you thought I’d be talking books first, didn’t you? Nope, I’m doing this, because it’s so important, and the main reason I’m doing this cutback.

So, as many of you know, I started an internship here in Columbus, working in an Equal Employment Opportunity office, like I did last summer in Germany (ah, Deutschland! How I miss you so every day!). In an EEO office, we handle everything from promoting diversity and tolerance to getting employees accommodations for disabilities and handling mediation when someone is discriminated against. Within our office, everyone is expected to be able to work the full variety of these tasks, with perhaps some specialization in certain areas for some employees.

Personally, I love the job. The work is good work, the people are nice and laugh at most of my jokes, and the pay allows me to live on my own, which is a godsend (seriously, I love my family, but at this point in my life it’s better for me to be on my own and independent). And as of last Monday, I’m no longer an intern, but a full employee. Yeah, they decided to keep me! I’m so very grateful, and I’m looking forward to working in such a great office for ages to come, getting experience and getting settled into this weird thing called adulthood.

I’m also grateful for a morning cup of tea that’s s good as Starbucks but five times cheaper. Gotta love that.

The one thing I would complain about is that I don’t have as much time to write as I used to. Not surprising, I was unemployed prior to this, and that meant a slightly freer schedule. But the silver lining is, I actually can write knowing I have an income. So maybe I’ll write more slowly, but at least I won’t be doing the whole starving artist routine (seriously overrated).

Which brings me to my next point:

Reestablishing a writing routine

I used to say that I had no writing process, that I just wrote where I could and when I could. Turns out, that’s not really the case. I actually had a pretty established routine during the job search: after a full day of job-searching, I’d stop around five o’clock, have dinner, and write the evening away, watching TV and getting words in during the commercial break. I actually got through two drafts of Video Rage this way.

Well, I moved. And I don’t have a TV, so I stream mostly. And I have an earlier bedtime, which means less time to write. So there goes that routine out the window.

And since then, I’ve been trying to reestablish a routine, though I haven’t had as much success as I would like. I think I just sat down in front of the computer and hoped that something magical would happen. Obviously, magic didn’t occur, despite my prayers to all gods and demons within the vicinity. However, my friend Pat Bertram gave me an idea that’s been helpful: she recently joined a writer’s group where people try to write 250 words a day. Now, I can’t do it every day, but I try to do it as often as possible, and so far it seems to be working. Is it the writing routine I would like? No, but it’s baby steps, and that’s a good enough start if you ask me. Perhaps later on I’ll get to the point where I can write like I used to, even without a TV.

We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?

The Reborn City series

As many of you know, I have a final book planned for this series, which I intend to call Full Circle.  Well, as November is National Novel Writing Month and I wanted to do FC for that month (even though I doubt I’ll even get near ten thousand words), I’m doing some preliminary work on the novel this month. I’ve written a bit of the outline, I’ve come up with a list of names and traits for the group of villains, as well as a travel route for the main characters to take, and I’m working on a family tree for a certain character.

The one thing I’m worried about is the number of plot lines I’ve got going in this final novel. Some of these plot lines were set up in the first book, like some things Rip saw in his soul sage hallucinations, so I need to resolve them in the final novel or attentive readers will get angry and point out stuff about them on the Internet. When I put them in the first and second books, I thought they were great and it would be no problem to wrap them up in the final book. Now that I’m actually there, though…well, I have to wrap them all up. And I’m worried that people will find them letdowns or extraneous.

Oh well. I dug myself into this whole. I can dig myself out again. I must’ve thought those plot lines belonged the whole time I was writing/editing/publishing the first two books, so I’ll work them into the third book and see what happens. Who knows? Some people may not like them, but others might, and it’ll be true to my vision, which is what writing is all about, right?

Rose

So if I’m working on FC right now, does that mean I finished the latest draft of Rose? Well, no I haven’t. The thing is, this draft is proving much more difficult than the first two. I changed an important aspect of the story early in the draft, which ended up changing the entire story at a fundamental level, and I’m kept busy just trying to get the story to match that change. Not to mention that I’m adding a lot of material every time I sit in front of the computer to work on it, and that slows me down a bit too. Add in all the other stuff you do while editing–rephrasing sentences, taking out unneeded material, etc–and I took three months to get to Chapter Six.

Yeah, I’m not happy about that. So I’m taking a break to work on other stuff and maybe get my mind into a better place so that when I return to Rose, I can give it the right sort of treatment. I don’t know when this will be, as FC will be given priority so I can get it out and finish the RC series once and for all, and perhaps after FC I’d like to work on stories other than Rose.

But hey, sometimes that’s how writers work. At times we’re able to work on a story, at other times we aren’t. And sometimes those gaps between periods of work on a manuscript can be very long. Stephen King tried to write Under the Dome twice in the 70’s and 80’s before getting it out in 2009. I’m not saying something similar will happen with Rose, but it might be quite the gap before I get to work on the third draft again.

Other Projects

This post is getting rather long, so I’ll just give a quick update on everything else that I’m working on:

  • Teenage Wasteland: I think after FC, this might also get a higher priority than other books. As a collection of short stories, it should take less time and effort than one big novel, so I’ll be working on this in-between drafts of FC most likely, or whenever I need a break and want to clear my mind. I’ve got about seven or eight stories already prepped for that book, and I’d like somewhere between thirteen and twenty-two in that collection, so I think I can get it done sooner rather than later. If so, I’ll make sure to let you guys know.
  • Laura Horn: Like Rose, LH had a major aspect of it changed in a previous draft. Unlike Rose, it didn’t give me this much grief. So I think I could get Laura Horn done very quickly as well, perhaps as soon as FC and TW are done.
  • A replacement for #FirstLineFriday: got something in the works, and it could be ready by October. That’s all I’m saying right now.
  • 5K Likes: We are so close, I can almost smell it! Make it happen, folks! Make it happen!

 

And that’s basically it at the moment. And I think after I finish with the Reborn City series and all this other stuff, I’ll try to limit the number of projects I have going on to two at a time. Because this is ridiculous.

Expect a blog post from me later this month, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got something planned I’ve been looking forward to talking about for a while. Until next time!