The Writers Co-op was established April, 2016, by a handful of refugees from Penguin’s writers’ website, Book Country. Our first post is Here we are!
Enjoy the writing life with us.
We swap and share news, opinions and experiences about writing, from first paragraph to finished product and beyond. Especially beyond, as Curtis Bausse wrote in our first blog: Because who wants to write a book and then not promote it?
Your blogs are welcome. New bloggers can contact GD[at]Deckard[dot]one for inclusion. Promote your work. Share your anecdotes and analysis, thoughtfulness and humor, awards and recommendations, opinions, rants and wackiness.
Everyone in the writing life is welcome. Writers, editors, agents, publishers, artists, marketers, Et al.
The METAverse is coming. You know, totally immersive virtual worlds; computer-simulated environments populated by people who simultaneously communicate with others and participate in shared activities. They are working and shopping and vacationing, all without leaving home.
The METAverse is the world as you wish it to be. Pour yourself a real drink and you can drink it while sitting on a beach, or in a bar with friends or, hell, on Mars if you wish. Instantly. That’s how long it takes to go anywhere in VR.
I can imagine sitting at a table outside the Café de Flore, at the corner of boulevard Saint Germain and rue Saint Benoit, Paris, with people from the Writers Co-op. We talk about writing virtual reality stories for this new ‘verse. The problem is we have to write stories where we do not control all of the characters because every “reader” enters our story as a character. (Wrap your head around that!)
It’s simple, really. The story just has to move forward only when a user (aka reader) does or says the right thing. We are creating the story, but not all of the characters. (And we’re not doing the programming. Programmers do that, based on the story created by the writer.)
Here’s some tips from those currently writing for VR.
“In VR, the space is the story. Spaces are pregnant with sensory detail, ideas, behaviors, and narrative possibility—your job is to put that all to use. We encourage you to think less about generalized “realism” and more about specificity of vision, manifested in space. We can’t express this enough: the space is as (if not more) important than your plot and characters. While composing your story, think about the ways you can build environments capable of making the viewer imagine stories of their own—even without any other human beings in the picture.” Writing for VR: The Definitive Guide to VR Storytelling https://vrscout.com/news/writing-vr-definitive-guide-vr-storytelling/
“In VR, you can’t just talk at your user. Well, you could, but that’s not especially exciting and they can probably get that level of experience from a bog-standard YouTube video. So, you need to think more carefully about the different ways you can tell your story – and how to guide them around it. In a 360-degree experience, you can’t guarantee that your user is going to be looking in the right direction. In fact, you can almost guarantee they won’t be, unless you point them to it.” How are you communicating with the user? https://radix-communications.com/virtual-reality-script-writing/
The METAverse will not replace books any more than did the movies. But now may be the time to make a name for yourself by being one of the early writers in a new medium. Me? I’ll just settle into a seat at the Café de Flore and read a good book.
The front cover of book three of Maisie in Hollywood. I have broken a twenty-thousand-word maybe novelette/maybe novella into three parts, each part a short story with plenty of room for illustration in a forty-page picture book.
I never wrote short stories until I landed here. And I never thought about them. I have my seat-of-the-pants theories about what works. What with the feature Showcase, I figured I’d better read up.
I just finished The Art and Craft of Fiction by Michael Kardos. His comments apply to fiction in general, but are especially meant, says he, for short stories.
His (and my) CYA strategy: “The rules are, there are no rules.”
He quotes Flannery O’Connor: “It’s always wrong to say that you can’t do that in fiction. You can do anything you can get away with, but nobody has ever gotten away with much.”
Short stories are the name of the game around here: Showcase, Rabbit Hole, and these weekly commentaries. Yes, I think of these weekly posts as short stories also. I try to entertain.
Showcase asks that you keep to under a thousand words. That’s not room for any real story. You can write a scene, give a glimpse.
The key to any fiction, but especially to short fiction, is: relevant detail. Also: an entry point that bypasses unnecessary preparation but still affords the reader a solid footing in a shape-shifted world. “Don’t be coy,” says Kardos. Establish your framework, and the story’s stakes, in the first paragraph. Provide a reason to care about your character from the first sentence.
Fantasy is a thing unto itself. The key to fantasy is fake believability. I bolster my screwball storytelling with a wealth of plausible, and not terribly plausible (sounds good, but don’t think too hard about it) detail. There are other ways to handle it, but this is what draws me into a piece. Any other approach, for me, is hit-or-miss.
Here’s something that I have written about recently. On themes: “Stories are narratives . . . themes derive from these narratives, not the other way around.” Write with a theme in mind and you may find yourself preaching.
This book is full of good advice, most of which we already know. I’ll cut to the chase.
You can’t do a lot in a thousand words. Something has to give, but do it artfully. Trick endings are almost always a mistake. The story ought not to be an elaborate setup for a punch line.
I have established characters, that you may or may not have met. Sly (a talking cat), Maisie (a talking mouse), several others. I know my people from long association. I already care about them deeply. And I think that comes through.
On a live recording, Nina Simone led into a rendition of ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ with: “This is a show tune, but the show ain’t been written for it yet.”
I treat short stories the same way. Any shortie I’ve written is either an extension of another piece, or a try-out for a future more ambitious project. I either already have a character well developed, or I’m kicking one around, and have an idea where I want to go with it.
Kardos includes fifteen stories in his book. These are true short stories–four to seven thousand words–more room to develop plot and character than in our flash fiction (under a thousand words) on Showcase.
They were all chosen with an eye to illustrating his various points. I read the first one, ‘This Is what It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,’ and I was blown away, by his handling of characterization, particularly. Sherman Alexie (who knows the name? Not me) grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He knows his people well. He’s won all kinds of prizes, fellowships, you name it. (All these writers have.)
The two names I know in this collection are John Updike (I like ‘A&P’ very much), and Tobias Wolff. His ‘Bullet in the Brain’ – I didn’t care for it. Tobias Wolff! Am I out of my mind?
Sorry, Professor Wolff, I am not beguiled by prop people whose function is to take a bullet to the brain so that brain fragments can dance around a cranium while a long-forgotten childhood memory comes flooding back, no matter how enchanting the prose.
I did like most of these stories, just not with the intensity I felt for Phoenix, Arizona. A few of them irked me, in ways large and small.
Those of you who write a story on short notice, to a prompt, out of nothing–my hat is off to all of you. I have years of contemplating my characters, and such a range of material that I can (so far, anyway) finagle a piece to answer any challenge.
The bestselling single book of all time is estimated to be Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote with 500 million copies sold. (Major religious and political texts not counted.) But Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time with over 2 billion books sold. And JK Rowling is the world’s highest-paid author at $1 billion. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget Enheduanna, who started this madness. She is the first known author, born in 2285 BCE. People were reading her poetry before there was a Bible.
But when I try to choose a “best,” I think the best book is a very personal choice having nothing to do with copies sold, monies paid, or literary acclaim. It’s the book that did what great books are supposed to do. It changed me. I saw the world a bit clearer after reading Catch 22, understood people better after reading The Will To Power, and saw science fiction differently after reading Dhalgren. Not that I’m stuck with those viewpoints. I’m still reading.
What about your favorite book(s)? What ones had a significant impact on you?