Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Meanderings

Oh, the dynamic duo.

The archetypal fantasy novel is a cast of thousands; others succeed by focusing on a single character or thread.  As satisfying as the lone hero(ine)'s adventures can be, however, there's added dimension when they have a counterpart, ally, friend or even adversary to provide another perspective.  Get into three main characters and you start to have exponentially more combinations of plot and interaction, but two allows greater variety without diffusing focus.  It's also a great opportunity for compare and contrast.

Even if the characters have a common goal, they come at it from different angles and seek different rewards from its resolution.  Or two characters may mean two separate plotlines, dovetailing in location, antagonists, events, and/or origins, but not always intertwined.

From a practical standpoint, it gives the writer an excuse to have the characters talk to each other - or talk around each other - rather than weighting down the narrative with lengthy internal monologue.  Even when one (or both) aren't the sharing type, characters convey a lot of information in what and how they choose to evade.

As a writer, I'm a fan of the duo.  Flow shares roughly equal scene-time between Kit and Chailyn, though it is primarily Kit's story.  Scylla and Charybdis is definitely Anaea's sole story, but throughout, she always has a traveling companion to lean on. 

And the character I discussed in my Song Styles post yesterday?  Well, confessedly, the only other details I have right now for that potential novel is a rough idea of her traveling companion, an introverted dreamshaper ... but the collision of those two people is enough to suggest a rich stew of possibilities.  For me, it's a tantalizing spark that could some day become a novel.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Song Styles

Most of the time, when I attach music to characters, it happens after their creation.  Sometimes it's the last entry on my character profiles; sometimes it happens months or years later, often spontaneously as I stumble across just the right song.

However, sometimes a particular tune is so evocative that it suggests a character in my mind.  I come up with a lot of my concepts through a collision of two unrelated ideas, so I have a character in my files who resulted from the dual inspiration of these two high octane songs:

13 Little Dolls - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
America's Sweetheart - Elle King
(This is one of those where this is the first I'm seeing the music video.  Roller-skating, huh?)

The character who resulted is a blunt, impulsive frontier girl who inherited her family's set of old-world sorcerous dolls ... totally unaware of their powers and with no idea how to use them.  Each was crafted by a different ancestor, reflecting a different time period and often area of the world ... so that gives me a lot of room to explore the worldbuilding without bonking people over the head of it.

Does she has a story (or even a name)?  Not yet ...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Song Styles

When I was writing Flow, I didn't have a soundtrack, character themesongs, or any such musical underpinnings.  There was, however, one song, which I felt mapped to Kit and her life without any literal connection - but it conveyed the confusion, uncertainty, and strangeness of her new life:

Ghost In The Machinery - Sarah Brightman 

(For those of you familiar with Brightman from her floaty, theatric opera music, this song - and the rest of Fly, the album from which it comes - is somewhat different, more off-beat, more electronic, and more than a little weird.  In fact, I highly recommend Fly if you can get ahold of it, which is difficult to do.  It mixes up Sarah's opera tendencies with rock/pop and electronica.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Meanderings

If you're a fiction writer, chances are, you love language - or at least have a fleeting crush on it.  That doesn't necessarily mean playing with artistic flourishes of imagery, alliteration and metaphor, but it does mean understanding how to use the tools of language to paint a picture broader and wider than the words themselves.  Small choices of synonyms and word order can create a completely different mood/scene, even when the substance of what's being described is the same.

I admit, I enjoy the formal structure of language.  I'm a stickler for appropriate punctuation, for clarity, for rhythm and flow, and even simply for consistency.  I'm a self-titled Comma Queen, and the recent trend of minimalism in commas pleases me not at all.  They serve a purpose beyond clearing up confusion.  As far as I'm concerned, "alright" will never be all right, okay?  (Stop using the abbreviation in fiction, too.  Just.  Stop.)  "Bae" also drives me bonkers and I don't understand why it caught or where it came from.  The only explanation I can come up with is someone typoed the word "babe" and was too lazy to correct it.

I also text in complete, grammatically-correct sentences.  Yes, I am that person.

At the same time, I recognize that part of what distinguishes a living language is an ongoing negotiation of words and meaning.  I don't think anyone would argue that "Google" is now a verb.  (Some people might argue that "typoed," as above, is not an appropriate use.)  We regularly use words that had a very different meaning a few centuries ago ... and a whole grab-bag that were actually invented by Shakespeare and didn't exist before his time.

(There's a lot of debate in the fantasy field about the use of words that recognizably reference *our* world, such as "spartan," which refers to the Greek city-state and doesn't necessarily parse in a world that never had a Greece, much less a Sparta.  Even words that don't obviously signal our world to readers may feel anachronistic because they were invented later.  Or ... they may be much, much older than you'd think!  But that's a whole blogpost - there's another new word - in of itself.)

So for me, there's a tension and a negotiation between formalism and fluidity in language.  There are some things I've chosen to adopt; there are others that just feel like language-butchery to me, but I have to admit that some are purely subjective.  And maybe that's how the evolution occurs.  We're creating the changes ourselves every day by an unrecognized consensus.  Some of us "win" when our preferences are adapted or "lose" when something we detest becomes part of the formal lexicon.

And, of course, there are those quirks that are poor grammar, but are just fun.  I'm a big, irrational fan of the whole "because reasons" thing, where the string of connecting words is truncated to "because noun."  My favorite one these days is usually weather related:  it's sixty degrees today, because (this is) Ohio.  (True story.  Saturday.  I don't understand.)  Something about it feels both more arbitrary and more exasperated, which is perfect for an informal expression of "why is this happening?"

But please save the endangered Oxford comma.  Because otherwise, you get this:

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Song Styles

Something a trifle different this week ...

This is a recording, with fractal accompaniment, of me performing two Welsh tunes:

Ambell i Gan / Y Dydd

("A Song Now and Then" or more, literally "An Occasional Song," and "The Day.")

For those in the Cincinnati area, I am available for weddings, parties and other special events.  I can also do concert sets, with educational (Celtic music / harp history) as an option ... or even, "You never thought you'd hear that on a harp," with selections such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, "Under The Sea" (The Little Mermaid) and the theme from Jurassic Park.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Monday Meanderings

Yesterday, I mentioned brain styles and evolution in my post, in the context of romance - do opposites attract, or does like call to like?

The answer is ... yes.

First of all, the brain styles aspect.  Most of you are probably familiar with the concept of Left Brain (Logical Brain) and Right Brain (Creative Brain).  It's a bit more nuanced than that, but it will do for the purposes of this post.  The brain is further divided into Frontal and Basal regions.  The Frontal portion of the brain deals with intellectual and abstract thinking.  The Basal portion deals with emotional and concrete thinking.

So we end up with four quadrants:  Left Frontal (Scientist), Right Frontal (Artist), Left Basal (Administrator) and Right Basal (Counselor).  Most people have a preference for one quadrant or two adjacent quadrants.  Rarely, people will have a preference for three (leaving a deficiency in the fourth quadrant) or will be whole-brained.  That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't work in the other areas, just that you naturally gravitate towards certain kinds of thinking.

(For those of you into Tarot:  Swords = Left Frontal.  Wands = Right Frontal.  Pentacles = Left Basal.  Cups = Right Basal.)

If you picture this, it's pretty obvious to see that each quadrant has an opposite.  For instance, Left Frontal is the opposite of Right Basal.  And the opposites usually drive each bonkers because they have little common ground.

On to the evolutionary aspect.  Obviously, each quadrant has its strengths and weaknesses.  From an evolutionary standpoint, then, when people are younger and in survival mode, they instinctively seeking out an opposite brain - someone strong where they are weak and vice versa.  Together, these people make a whole brain.  As a strategy for taking on the world, it's a good one ... but what happens when the problems start fading away and these opposed couples no longer have a common "foe" in life?

Later in life, when finances, career, family, etc are more stable, the brain shifts from seeking survival to seeking companionship.  Instead of an opposite brain, it wants a similar brain - someone in the same quadrant or with whom there is overlap.

So opposites attract ... *and* like calls to like.  It all depends on where you are in your life (if you buy into the theory, of course).

Do I consider this in my writing?  Perhaps not consciously, but as I get older (hush!), I've noticed a shift in pattern in the romances I choose to write.  My earlier works featured a lot more pairs that were opposites.  Now, I tend to set up characters who - though they may clash over specifics - think more alike.  Proof, self-fulfilling prophecy, or coincidence?  Who knows ...

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Song Styles

One of the key elements in the past-story section of Surgeburnt - and one that echoes strongly in the current-story - is Maren's failed romance with Archer, the proverbial one who got away.  At the beginning of the novel, it's not clear what exactly happened between the two, because she's clearly still hung up on him ... so I will be a mysterious author and not provide any more information.

For these two, however, this song seemed particularly fitting:

Until The Stars Collide

As the story progresses, Maren develops a fractured, contentious relationship - can you really call it a romance? - with an adversary/co-worker.  And while I have a more "serious" song selection in my list, I couldn't quite resist throwing this in:

Genghis Khan 

If you have not seen this music video, please take a few minutes and watch it.  It's a really fun story in the James Bond / supervillain vein.  I'm taking my character inspiration from the music, not the video, but maybe it matches just a little ...

One of the fun parts about being a writer who is a quasi-pantser (I do most of my planning in the world-and-character elements, leaving the plot free to develop out of those) is the fact that I don't necessarily know what's going to happen in every aspect.  Is a perfect love doomed?  Can a love-hate relationship go anywhere but hate-hate?  Do opposites attract, or does something more lasting build between people who think alike?  (There's actually a brain-styles / evolutionary answer to this, but that's for another post.)

Only time will tell.

... and I'll have to find a song for it.