October 5, 2012 – 11:07 am
This week, instead of a list of questions for the Friday Five, we’re going to look at a ficlet prompt. The rules for ficlets are pretty straightforward – this is flash fiction that turns out less than 500 words. Like a story appetizer or little afternoon snack. Write up a response and post it to your blog or forums, and leave me a comment so I know where to go look!
Does your character have a signature phrase, one-liner, idiom, or particular turn of speech that is identifying or makes up part of who they are? Do they have an unusual and identifying mannerism or an attachment to a particular item of clothing, armor, or weaponry? It doesn’t have to be obsessive or even quirky, just one little identifying trait that makes up part of your character.
For example, Aely’s use of “Dinna fash!” is a sort of identifying phrase for her, Annie Mae always has a flower in her hat, and one of the characters in my D&D group is known for wiggling his fingers and saying “Magic, m–f–ers!”
Now, take that little idiom, mannerism or catchphrase and use it in a really quick ficlet – less than 500 words. The goal is to flex your writing muscles around a part of your character you already are familiar with, to help cement them in your head.
Links in comments please!
October 5, 2012 – 10:48 am
Part 3 of an ongoing story. You can read part 1 and part 2 at the links.
Duugvilder found the innkeeper at the front desk. “Thank you for taking care of her over these last few days. Obviously, you will be reimbursed for your time and lodging for as long as she and I stay here, plus extra to show my gratitude.”
The Night Elf nodded. “That is very kind, master Duugvilder. Still, there is the matter of…” He nodded in the general direction of the supplies that Duugvilder had brought with him. “I’m sure you can understand…”
“Of course. As I will be using your kitchen to cook for Annie Mae, you will be paid for my…intrusion.”
“That is…not what I mean. You brought bear meat. As I explained to your…friend…that is a bit of a taboo in these lands.”
“Understood. But she requires it to bring her to full health. If you would direct me to whichever Druid I need to speak with to settle this unpleasantness…”
The Night Elf shook his head, and Duugvilder knew that this conversation was about to take an unpleasant turn. And, while he hoped certain skills that were learned while working with the Wildfire Riders would settle this, he had the sinking feeling that neither scrolls nor the art of negotiation would suffice.
“Master Duugvilder, it is not a matter of greasing the correct palm…”
“I do not assume that bribes will settle this. But she needs to eat. She wants to eat bear meat. So if an offering or a prayer of thanks and forgiveness must be made, then I am willing to do so.”
“That is simply impossible, Master Duugvilder. You are a Gnome, and clearly not a follower of our ways.”
Duugvilder’s eyes narrowed at the thinly veiled slight. He pulled out the scroll from a satchel and unfurled it. “As you can see, I am not JUST a Gnome, sir. This officially recognizes me as an Ambassador for Gnomeregan, and hero of Gnomeregan’s liberation, signed and stamped by the High Tinker Mekkatorque, himself. I am subject to all rights and privileges due the position. And while I am still willing to discuss this further with the appropriate Druid or recognized official, I am sure you understand that it is no longer a requirement.” He tilted his head, as if to challenge the Night Elf to refuse again, but Duugvilder prayed that the scroll – and he hated himself for using it in this way – would be enough to change the Innkeeper’s mind.
“Master Duugvilder, obviously we respect your position and the powers associated. However, you must understand…”
Duugvilder cut him off. “This conversation is becoming an embarrassment to the both of us, sir. perhaps we can retire to an office or more private quarters. There is no need for others to hear the remainder of what is becoming a tedious negotiation. Please lead the way.”
The office was hardly large, but it was big enough to suit Duugvilder’s needs. The Night Elf led him in and sat behind an ornate desk. He opened his mouth to continue the discussion, but snapped it closed as Duugvilder started to change.
Duugvilder, at roughly three feet tall, should only have been about a head taller than the desk, but he was leaning forward over it with his feet firmly planted on the floor. He loomed over the Night Elf, with his arms planted on the desk. The Innkeeper could see beige scales rising from Duugvilder’s forearms and neck. “What magic…” was all he could manage as Duugvilder seemed to fill the office. His blue eyes had widened, but had taken on a golden tint, and his pupils were black slits.
“No magic, Innkeeper,” Duugvilder growled, his breath coming in hot bursts. “The end of negotiations. The Gnome you house is the only being in creation that I care for, and not you nor your Druids nor any spirits will deprive her of what she needs to regain health. As I am a just being, you will still be reimbursed for the privilege of her care and keeping, but do not test my patience further!”
The Innkeeper’s mouth opened and closed, but no sounds came.
“You will provide me access to your kitchens, and you will stay out of my way. If you deem it necessary, you will set up a meeting for myself and the Druid. You will stay out of my way for the duration of my stay. Do you agree to my terms, Night Elf??? SPEAK!!!”
Duugvilder knew he had pushed things more than far enough, and was relieved when the Innkeeper gasped, “Yes, sir! Of course, Master Duugvilder! Please accept my most sincere apologies for such confusion…”
Duugvilder allowed himself to revert back to proper form. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate your understanding. I will go start cooking the Lady’s meal. If you could be so kind as to point me in the direction of your kitchen…” Duugvilder paused. “And there is one more thing I will ask from you.”
“Name it, Master Duugvilder.”
“Your discretion. I will have it. No one needs to know what transpired here.”
The Innkeeper led Duugvilder away from the office. As he followed behind the clearly terrified Night Elf, Duugvilder glanced up towards the room where Annie Mae was staying. You will laugh when I tell you this story, he thought. When I tell you how I was able to provide you with bear burgers, you will laugh in disbelief and demand that I show you how I can change. Then you will hop on my back and I will fly you to Feralas and Nagrand and everywhere else you wish to see. We will travel to Uldum so you can see the lands where this…change occurred. Then I will take you back to Redridge and I will care for you and love you, if you will let me. But first, you must see all this and laugh…
October 2, 2012 – 8:18 am
It’s been a week, so I figure I can put together some actual thoughts on the new Pandaria content beyond “Oooh, shiny.” Aely just dinged 87 last night, and my monk, An Xei, is level 16. Obviously, I’ve not had the kind of time that a lot of others have, since many in my guild have hit 90 and are running heroics. But with raiding pretty much off the table, I’m not in a huge hurry, so I’m trying to enjoy digesting the content as it comes. (It’s a little hard not to feel horribly behind, but I can’t do anything about work!)
First thing? It’s pretty. It’s REALLY pretty. Jade Forest is gorgeous, Valley of the Four Winds is lovely, even the Kun-Lai Summit has a charm to it, albeit a lot fewer bright colors. I love running around just looking for views – something I’ve not really done since Northrend.
The story in Jade Forest is excellent too. While it slows at some points (Tian Monastery wasn’t my favorite), overall the zone makes sense and moves along at a good pace – with a cool plot twist or two to keep things interesting. I had a little trouble finding the last few quests to complete the zone achievement, which was a bit annoying (a crumb-trail would have been nice), but I really enjoyed the zone. I like the Jinyu too. I’m also not dreading doing it a second time, which is a pleasant feeling, given that Angoleth will be following Aely shortly!
As usual, however, Blizzard does a really excellent job of setting up an EPIC CONFLICT and then sending you out to collect bugs and feathers for some random fisherman NPC. While the Valley of the Four Winds quests have been amusing, and I understand the value of comic relief, it feels like a bit of a letdown after Jade Forest. It doesn’t seem to be advancing the story at all – we could easily have gotten the flavor of Pandaren culture in one quest hub instead of a whole zone. Maybe there will be a big plot twist at the end, but so far I’m a little bored there.
The Wandering Isle was a lot of fun as a starting zone, and monks seem like a pretty good class. I’m hoping to get more RP for An Xei as I level her up, since she’s got a pretty strong personality, and I have a lot of ideas for her story. Since I do a lot of story development through conversation, that will likely get sorted out via RP sessions more than it will on my own, at least at first. I’d like to try healing with the monk as well, though I’ve heard it can be a little tricky at first, especially if you get an all-monk-group (which is likely these days).
That’s about as far as I’ve gotten so far. I’ve run around a bit in the Kun-Lai summit, but otherwise I’ve only really seen the first two zones. Overall my impression is good, and I’m having fun. I haven’t touched the pet battles, which is a bit of a shame, since that seems to be a lot of fun and I’d like to catch one of the adorable Jade Forest raccoons that I keep seeing.
RP night is tonight, and the Wildfire Riders are setting up shop in the Drunken Hozen, which should make for good fun. Our RP has to be a little careful right now, since we range from “just got here 85″ to “running level 90 heroics” and storyline spoilers are not so cool. It’s really hard NOT to talk about all the things that you’re seeing, but having had a few major plot points spoilered for me in open RP channels, I’m trying hard to avoid ruining things for anyone else. (That includes in comments, thanks!) On the other hand, it’s nice to have a story that’s immersive enough to have to worry about spoilers!
Though I’m sure most of you are farther along in the story than I am, I hope you’re all enjoying the new content. The general feeling I’ve seen is one of optimism – it’s not perfect for everyone, but nothing is. But overall I think, at least so far, there’s a lot going for Pandaria, and I can’t wait to see the rest of it.
September 27, 2012 – 8:01 am
Welcome to day 2 of the lovely Tami Moore‘s editing blog-clinic! If you missed Part 1, you’ll want to go read that before we jump into the bigger picture editing of today’s post. Enjoy!
Now that your head is spinning in a delightfully drunken sort of way, inebriated by the fizzy bubbles of commas and verbs, let’s step back a bit and take a look at the bigger picture.
The last thing you want to do is spend a ton of energy revising text that you’re just going to delete anyway.
Skulls Are Not Like Hopscotch
Within a single scene, you should only have a single point of view. Even if you are using third person (he said, she said) instead of first person (I said), you are still technically following a single character around.
If you imagine the story as a movie camera … you only get one shot per scene, and the camera should stay next to the main character for that scene.
(This is one of those breakable rules … but you should break it for IMPACT and ARTISTRY and not LAZINESS, okay? Okay.)
In our example, we start very briefly with our gunners, then swap over to the captain, and finally end up following Anrietta. The brief bit with the gunners is forgivable. Sloppy for a story opener, but we slide quickly into the captain’s point of view.
It’s the swap from the captain to Anrietta that’s a big nononever.
Anrietta has a name. I’m assuming she has a name because she’s important, and I’m assuming she’s important because she’s the main character.
When editing, we will move that camera away from it’s seasick swaying across the ship’s deck and keep it firmly and obviously at Anrietta’s side.
Speaking of the ship … is our example on an airship or a water ship?
Not sure? That’s because the writer wasn’t clear.
It does not matter if the writer has this incredibly detailed mental image of the airship, complete with brass fittings and cannon’s leering from openings in the hull like boys passing an exotic dancer’s club, the only thing that matters is the mental image of the reader.
If the reader didn’t get the details they need, the writer is at fault.
Please don’t fix this problem by over-detailing everything. The reader may not NEED a super-detailed image of the ship. They DO, however, need at least a basic understanding of whether they’re in the sky or on the sea.
When I edit this, I’m going to make sure it’s obviously an airship.
You should start new stories/chapters with a BIG HOOK. Start strong, get your readers excited or interested immediately.
We … um … start off with a random excited npc shouting out something forgettable.
Heh. What say we fix that in editing?
The Biggest Picture
Sometimes, a scene needs serious help. In that case, pull your despair from the brink and make a list.
What is the purpose of this scene?
Note that if you don’t have a good answer, you might consider cutting the whole kaboodle rather than futzing about with verb tenses and commas. Everything you write should propel either the story or character forward (ideally, both).
In this case, we want to do the following:
- Meet Anrietta
- Establish ship under enemy fire (minor)
- Establish purpose – new island found, need to land on it
We didn’t do a great job of that, did we? I mean, we TOLD you the ship was under fire, but the overall tone was one of bright excitement. There’s very little tension about the whole “people are shooting at us” thing, and the reader probably couldn’t tell me much about Anrietta at this point.
Even ignoring all the little fiddly bits, we didn’t do the BIG stuff right.
The Importance of Distance
Self-editing is more difficult than editing someone else’s writing, because it’s yours.
These are word-pictures that you’ve painted from glorious scenes in your mind. In your head, the characters are witty and beloved, the world is rich and lush, and the action is heart-stopping.
Unfortunately, it’s possible your writing has a character who is sarcastic and grating, a world that is cardboard thin, and action that reads more like an awkward puppet show.
Until you can set aside your own mind-picture and see only what actually made it to your canvas, you’re going to have a difficult time editing your own writing.
Distance is the key.
You can achieve distance through time — set a piece aside and edit it after you’ve got weeks or months between you and your original mind-picture.
You can also achieve distance by reading the story aloud.
It is amazing to me how often reading a story aloud will show flaws in sentence structure, stilted verbiage, repeated phrasings, and just-plain-not-what-I-meant-to-say wording.
It’s time consuming. Even your dog is going to stare at you like you’ve gone nutters when you start reading aloud.
Do it. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
Okay, that was one helluva crash course on editing.
Please, do not panic. You’re not going to be manually running through this list for everything that you write.
Why? Because you’re going to get BETTER. You’re going to internalize some of this stuff. You’re going to go through a period where you eyeball every comma like you caught it with its hand in your wallet. Then, one day before you even realize it, you’re just going to look at a sentence and know when there’s something wrong with it.
It won’t be immediate, but you’ll stop consciously thinking about subject/verb matching, and you’ll just know the right one to use. You’ll see the errors and you’ll have the tools to fix them.
There’s always more that can be learned on this subject. We barely touched on sentence structure and flow, and we didn’t even get into voice or style or characterization. We won’t even TOUCH on plotting.
Don’t sweat it. Write. Practice. Get better. You will develop your own style as you practice. Learn one thing at a time and remember … you write for yourself, and you edit for your readers.
If you want readers to enjoy your writing, you’ll learn how to edit.
So, what might our sample text look like if it were edited? Specifically, if it were edited by Tami?
Half-frozen fingers tangled in the steamship’s rigging, Anrietta braced herself against the salty sea wind. This might be her last chance to find out what clouds tasted like, and she wasn’t going to miss it.
Looking down past the deck to the frothing waters far below, the tangled and broken wreckage of yet another ship passed beneath them, bright Alliance banners flying in an ignored warning to turn back while they still could.
“Get down from there!” shouted a voice that Anrietta belatedly realized was aimed at her. She recognized her infantry captain on the deck and stuck her tongue out at his distant, blurry face.
As if he could see her tiny act of insubordination, he lifted his arm in a gesture of command that she couldn’t ignore.
She sighed and began to clamber down the icy rigging just as the entire ship shook from a direct hit by a Horde mortar. Shouting rose from the deck and she lost her grip, fingers burning as she scrabbled for a hold.
She caught her grip just as their ship turned away from the attackers, slicing neatly through a puffy cloud bank. At the last moment, she remembered to open her mouth. Anrietta tasted cloudstuff, freezing droplets coating her face and tangling her long black hair into stinging ropes.
They broke through the darkness of the cloud and back into the light of day, and she saw it.
The new continent.
A broad grin spread across her face and she shouted out, “Land, ho!”
Clouds, Anrietta thought as she stared at that tiny spot of green on the horizon, taste like adventure.
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