Thursday, February 14, 2008

License to Yammer

Soon I get to sit in front of some folks and talk about things and stuff.  I noticed on my schedule that some of us have a y in front of our names, and others have a yy.  Dr. Harry Turtledove doesn't have a y in front of his name.  Maybe they do that to newbies to make them nervous.  Or maybe we're slated to wear dunce caps.  Anyway:

The Sketch Book:  Your key to sanity:  This panel is totally misnamed.  It should be, The Sketch Book, evidence that you're not all there.  I have no idea what the other artists are going to say, which makes me almost want to sit in the audience, except given my druthers (big confession here) I'd probably go to a panel on writing instead.  Be that as it may, IMHO, sketch books are for Freedom and Practice.  They also make great sources of transfer art.  Not so big secret of many an artist--doodle around in your sketch pad until you see something that you like.  Cover the back of the art you like with soft graphite (#6 soft works well.)  Place page on archival paper.  Trace what you like in pen.  The graphite will transfer onto the archival paper.  Added hint--you can do this with watercolor pencil for watercolors and when you go to paint, the line can be made to disappear with water and a little bit of mushing about.

Boxers or Briefs?  When is enough information on your character too much information on your character?:  In the beginning, (and I'm as guilty of this as anyone) you gotta have only enough to make the reader care.  My gawd, people, get on with the story!  If you want to slip in info on the fact that Starbuck wears boxers (of course!) then it better be important to reveal something about the character while we're in motion.  On book twenty, halfway through, you may have the luxury of providing unimportant details about your characters because by then you can be pretty sure that the readers are probably interested in your series and would like a little trivia now and then.

Knowing Your Plants:  What are the basics of plant lore that you should know for your story.:  Where to begin?  I wonder if the other person on this panel is a garden geek like me.  I'd say, it depends on the story.  If your character is a plant expert, you gotta know (though not necessarily include it in the story unless it honestly adds something) that plant experts know the latin names of plants and that this allows them to actually bust across language barriers.  A plant expert in China can have a decent discussion with a plant expert in Iraq using latin names and appropriate gestures.  Then there's the deciduous vs. evergreen, fruiting bodies, sexual vs. asexual reproduction, seasonal patterns of growth, yada yada yada ... If you don't know the basics when your characters are out in the wild or they're in a garden, you'll make the silly mistake of having roses in December or edible berries in spring.  Most readers won't notice but those that do will definitely roll their eyes.

Me Me Me:  What to do with those minor characters who just won't shut up.  They whine they bitch, and the want to be in charge.  So what's a poor writer to do?:  Well, I'd make them a primary character.  Either that, or if it happens over and over I'd figure out why the heck your pov character keeps getting steamrolled.  Is your primary character a wuss?  Have you run out of things to say with that person?  Believe me, if your main characters are under stress and have a time crunch, when minor characters start acting up they'll be bitch slapped right off the page.  If that doesn't happen, your pov character isn't compelling enough.  Sorry, brutal but true.

Challenging Your Characters:  Do your characters need challenges?  Of course, but when is enough enough?:  When there are so many challenges that it becomes boring.  When it's the same challenge (think James Bond and the elaborate traps the bad guys set for him) over and over again with only slightly different permutations.  When your character is so messed up s/he just can't go on, or when the problem is so big and insoluble that someone else has to come in and save the day (or deus ex machina, or it turns out the big deal wasn't big after all.)  When in order to solve the problem your character has to heal extra fast or shrug off something fatal, or has to be a Mary Sue to pull it off.  It's a pure judgment call, but one that's particularly difficult for genre writers because they have so much latitude with character capabilities.  With the right set up, they can have their characters come back from the dead, so ...  

Drawing Workshop for Munchkins:  If actual munchkins show up for this, I will be quite surprised.  I can deal with children and even non-standard-sized humans but actual munchkins in full regalia might freak me out.  It's supposed to be a magic(al, sic) experience in drawing and art.  I'm not sure I can pull off magical, but we'll definitely have some projects to play with.  The really interesting part of this panel is whether the artists will be able to coordinate our plans.  

There's also an unscheduled panel on Critique Groups:  A 'How To.'  My real goal will be to find out what David Levine's middle initial R stands for.  I'm sad that they didn't use my middle initial, Z.  It makes a potential icebreaker.  Anyway, As Everyone Knows, Clarion or modified Clarion is the rule rather than the exception because it's handier than a handyman, but there are other options and mixes and matches.  Brain storming.  Individual readers used for different kinds of feedback without getting 'polluted' by a group opinion.  Self-editing--fraught with peril but it has advantages, provided that you're honest and experienced enough.  Timing is everything, too.  Although you can get snap reads on rough drafts (how about this for an opening/premise/character intro) by and large if you get critiques too soon your writing will be fearful and restricted.  Get a critique too late (final polish anyone?) and your work will be so refined and interdependent (if you did it right) that if you yank an element that doesn't work the rest might fall apart like a 3D puzzle with the key removed.  Critique groups--form them, use them, love them, but be careful out there, kids, because they do have their problems.

More on this stuff and more, later, on Jestablog.


Rory said...

"Is your primary character a wuss? Have you run out of things to say with that person? Believe me, if your main characters are under stress and have a time crunch, when minor characters start acting up they'll be bitch slapped right off the page. If that doesn't happen, your pov character isn't compelling enough. "

There is no way that you could have written that before you knew me! happy Valentine's day and I love you.


David D. Levine said...

My real goal will be to find out what David Levine's middle initial R stands for.

As it happens, my middle initial is really D and it stands for Daniel.

Kami said...

Mystery solved! Thanks! Heh.