About Writers, blogging, inspiration, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

If It Helps a Writer to Focus, It’s a Muse!

I bought a watch. It’s an automatic watch, the kind with no electronics. It’s all wheels, springs, levers, gears, screws, jewels, a dial and three hands working together in a case with a bezel, crown, crystal, two lugs and a wristband. The sum-total-effect of hundreds of parts is to cause the hands to advance 86,400 seconds a day.
That’s a lot for a little machine, isn’t it?

The purely mechanical nature of the watch calms me because it is predictable. Move along, my watch tells time, there is nothing new to be seen here. The watch is from the old world of Isaac Newton – everything is put together by hand. It grounds me for world-building.

When I have an idea for a story, I have to build the world in which it occurs. The idea has a life of its own, but I have to create the background for it. A good background is one that seems natural, meaning, what is not described can be assumed by the reader. The watch itself reminds me of a time before Clerk Maxwell inspired Einstein’s special theory of relativity. The world was logical, not quantum. Just like the intricate mechanical train of the watch’s parts, everything in Newton’s world connected. And this, really, remains the world we actually live in today. Readers are comfortable with logical plots. So, I build a world out of natural assumptions people assume to be true, and I introduce the story idea in a train of connected plot bits.

I call the watch a muse because it reminds me that for a story to work, the plot has to be put together by hand, adjusted to fit perfectly and made to work with everything else in the story-world.
It’s a great muse.

P.S. This thoughtful blog was inspired by my Lady who asked,
“You bought what!?”

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Uncategorized, Welcome, world-building, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Epistemology for Writers

 

I know, epistemology is the arcane study of knowledge. Epistemologists theorize how we know the difference between what is a justified belief and what is just opinion. And, I realize it originated way back before we mutually decided (against all reason) that everyone’s belief and opinion is equally valid. It is an old way of looking at what we know.

But, fiction writers have to know that, don’t we? Don’t we have to make our readers’ believe our story? People have been studying knowledge for so long that there are now many types of epistemology, but, luckily for us, three types suffice. To be believable, no element of our story can be obviously wrong, the story can’t contradict itself, and all the elements have to fit into the story -they have to “work.” Understanding these three basics makes our job easier.

Foundationalism: or, recognizing that all knowledge is based on accepted facts. Don’t write, “He leveled his semi-automatic rifle and held the trigger back until the clip was empty.” You’ll lose ex-soldiers, gun owners and anyone else who knows that you have to pull the trigger every time you fire a semi-auto.
Pro: Foundationalism is extremely precise. It draws a clear line between what is knowledge and what isn’t. As long as the facts are true and the logic is sound, we can be 100% sure of our reader’s acceptance.
Con: You have to be sure of your facts! If just one is false, then your reader may doubt more of the story.

Coherentism: Avoid contradictions. Don’t have your character “enter a triangular storage area” and then proceed to describe the contents of four corners. Actions are true so long as they are not self-contradictory.
Pro: Coherentism is flexible. It isn’t based on facts. It is the consistent logic of your creativity.
Con: Mere coherentism can fool you into too quickly believing your own “facts.” For example, you can write that unicorns are real and they live on Mars. This is not a self-contradiction. But it is a ridiculous claim unless other story elements strongly support it.

Pragmatism: If it works, it’s true. If your story elements work well for the purpose of your story, the reader will likely accept them. Otherwise, “Nope, that doesn’t make sense.”
Pro: Pragmatism avoids the problems of both foundationalism and coherentism. Pragmatists realize that human beings have limits and that our knowledge is always changing.
Con: It is hard to define “what works.” For example, the Greeks had many incorrect ideas about how the universe works, which we have since disproven. But the ideas were believed at the time, so they worked for then, but now, they are wrong. That’s pragmatism.

All of which is to justify saying that for your story to be believable, you have to know your facts, avoid contradictions and understand your readers’ beliefs.

Source: http://philosophyterms.com/epistemology/

Personally, I find Calvin’s approach appealing:

epist1

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blogging, Stories, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op, writing technique

NEXT: Writing for VR

The Adventure
Among the many ways to make money writing is to write for the media. If you want to know how to write for magazines, newspapers, television or the movies, Google it. Or get a degree in it. It’s old hat. But to write for virtual reality productions, you must have the Star Trek spirit and boldly go. The attractive thing is, you’ll be one of the early pioneers in a future tech.

The Ship
First thing is, you’ll need a vehicle. I recommend an Oculus Go. At $199, it’s the starter headset in which to explore the worlds of VR. The Go comes with tons of free software. It seems evreyone with a message to share wants a presence in our heads.

The Markets
Put the headset on and your markets will appear before -er, all around your very eyes. Tourists bureaus world wide, governments and NGOs, news outlets like CNN and The New York Times, video game makers and all manner of commercial interests. I, who hate commercials, now have a favorite one: The Jeep VR video that takes me on a ride along the California coast. I am riding inside the Jeep with  two women talking about finding a good place to surf. The camera view pans out to give me a drone’s eye view of the terrain, an experience in itself because I seem to be flying and can look up & down & all around. I go with the surfers into the water, under crashing waves and then on top, surfing back to shore. I can’t come closer to surfing and stay dry.

The Stories
Door No. 1 is Hulu’s live-action multiple choice comedy adventure about a ten-year high school reunion. The show puts the viewer into the middle of the action by making her or him a protagonist of the show.
Think about writing that short story for a sit-com. Your main character is one of the former students attending the reunion. He or she can see and hear everything around them, but can’t talk. You have to present multiple paths for your character to take. Your viewer will make the decisions for you by clicking on other characters with whom they want to interact during the story. And, of course, make many bad decisions along the way – it’s a high school reunion, after all.
For more details, see: https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/door-no-1-hulu-vr-trailer-1202798528/
And VR novels movies? Mind boggling. But that’s only because VR is an unexplored medium.

Introductory Offer
Available for a brief time only! Writing virtual reality stories is a chance for today’s writer to become a known writer in tomorrow’s history of writing. Be one of the first.

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About Writers, book reviews, Research, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

A Question For Mimi

Mimi Speake is an historian of sixteenth century Europe & therabouts. She delves into the private lives of such as Bernard Délicieux, the Friar of Carcassonne and Henry of Navarre. Nothing seems to delight Mimi more than to accurately include in her stories obscure details about the financial information of a walled town from that period, or a seminal work on algebra, or even lore about La Fée Verte, the green fairy.
And uh, Mimi is the only historian I know. So, I have a question for her.

Is Google messing with history? Not on purpose. But is that repository of human knowledge fatally flawed because of what it does not include?

I ask because I recently searched for early reviews of Arthur C. Clarke’s first book, Against the Fall of Night, published by Startling Stories magazine in 1948. Despite the story itself being vintage Clarke, the novella was initially panned for its word dumps of the author’s social theories. They added nothing to the story. I know this because I read it as a kid and I still remember my eyes glassing over the pages of preaching.
A few years ago, I re-read it. The book that I re-read said it had been published only because fans had expressed interest in reading Clarke’s first novel. It’s forward discussed Against the Fall of Night’s initial reception (dismal) and included some of those early reviews (bad.)

But Google has unwittingly rewritten history. I cannot find any of those original reviews. The Fall of Night is today presented as if it hadn’t bombed; as if it is just another good book by Clarke, even though he had to rewrite it in 1956 as The City and the Stars.

I know. I know. Google is not a complete history of anything. It is only a collection of whatever bits people put on the ‘Net. (But I wonder how many people think about things that are not on the Internet.)

So, Mimi, if I may follow-up, how do you find information that is not on Google?

And for everyone, a broader question:
To what extent are search engine results and social media the background against which we frame our questions? Do they guide the answers that we accept?
In short, does the Internet shape our collective consciousness?

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About Writers, Stories, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

Useful Definitions of Genre

Hard Sc-Fi
The essence of hard science fiction is hope that given all we know, humanity will triumph in the end. Because the science we know is hopeful in that it presents no requirement for failure, we, certainly I, expect humans to outlast Earth. Reality is what actually happens, of course, but isn’t that what humans do, make things happen? In my fiction, the definition of intelligence is the ability to decide what ought to be and then make it so. To quote my own novel:
“The consequences of the Big Bang should have flowed like rows of falling dominoes; the physical universe should be predictable. But it ain’t, because intelligent life forms are messing with it.”
– Ambrose Phoenix, The Phoenix Diary

We all write our stories from some operational definition of our genre. The above is mine.
Let’s use the Comments section to add more definitions: How do you define your own genre in a way that helps you to write your stories?

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About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, world-building, writing technique

Tomorrow’s Challenge

Why do we continue to use digital media to mimic novels set in type? Linear stories presented word by word and scene by scene are analogs in a world that we are beginning to experience as quantum.

Changes are coming even if we ignore them. Digital e-readers are as capable of sounds as they are of words, so why bother describing the sound of a bell when you can make it? Two paragraphs appearing side by side can present two PoVs to the reader at the same time. Comic books do that now. Imagine what a creative writer of the future will be able to do.

But why wait? Are we all just old analogs stuck in a linear perspective incapable of conveying life’s simultaneity?

Just asking 🙂 What do you think?

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reading, world-building, writing technique

Problems, Problems.

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Hmmm. None of the available images look too hot. I guess they do that on purpose.

This still is from the movie Camelot, in case you haven’t guessed.

 

On top of the push and shove of every day, we here have taken it on ourselves to try to write. To try to write something that matters. Something that goes somewhere. Something that will be read. Well, you can see what kind of mood I’m in. Sounds like a few of you are in the dumps also.

I’m struggling on many fronts. I’m pushing my way through chapters six and seven of Sly. (Used to be chapters five and six. Another chapter has magically appeared.) This story is a game of whack-a-mole. That’s problem number one.

My house is a mess, per usual. Work is slow, I’m short bunches of hours and it’s eating into my vacation time. It’s not yet May and my garden is already out of control. What else can go wrong? Oh yeah, my husband had a stroke. (A little stroke humor there, he’s doing very well.)

I should be counting my blessings. I need an attitude adjustment big-time.

This is the first year, after five years of trying, that my damn orange phlox has taken hold and looks like it might survive. My fifty dollars worth of an unusual yellow allium, planted last fall, seems to be coming up. I’ve been holding my breath all winter. You never know. Why did I sink fifty dollars into a plant I’ve never tried? That’s a big no-no in my book. I lusted after them, and the mail-order nursery wouldn’t let me place an order for less than fifty bucks. OK, this isn’t really what I wanted to talk about. I’m working up to it. I want to talk about Ursula Le Guin. She’s a problem for me also. Because I really expected she would be right up my alley.

I’m reading Worlds of Exile and Illusion, three short(ish) stories in one book. The blurb in the front says, “Le Guin is the ideal science fiction writer for readers who ordinarily dislike science fiction.” That’s me, all right. I like character-based stories, and that’s not sci-fi, in my experience.

So I’m reading Ursula and, guess what? I don’t like this much either.

Oh, I like her style. Literary. Poetic. Too poetic. Flowery as hell. A little of this for flavor, fine. But it’s on every page, and it’s wearing me down:

“. . . Yahan stood up with a lyre of bronze with silver strings, and sang. He sang of Durholde of Hallan who set free the prisioners of Korhalat, in the days of the Red Lord, by the marshes of Born; and when he had sung the lineage of every warrior in that battle and every stroke he struck, he sang straight on the freeing of the Tolenfolk and the burning of the Plenot Tower, of the Wanderer’s torch blazing through a rain of arrows, of the great stroke struck by Mogien Hall’s heir, the lance cast across the wind finding its mark like the unerring lance of Hendin in the days of old.”

“. . . in the pallid fog that surrounded them in a dome of blindness.”

“. . . the cold, ruinous, resplendent fortress of their race.”

The dialogue is too . . . I don’t know, too epic. Nobody talks like that. The charm wears off real fast. Try this on for size:

“I am Olhor, the Wanderer. I come from the north and from the sea, from the land behind the sun . . . I go south. Let no man stop me.” Okay, he’s speaking to hostile strangers in an unfamiliar language. But a little of this goes a long, long way.

I’m having trouble keeping my species straight. Some peoples are at the bronze-age level, some zip across the galaxy in induced comas, and return home barely older than when they left, though their loved ones are on the brink of death from decrepitude. Some read minds, communicate that way, some hunker around campfires in filthy rags and grunt at each other. These are not branches on a family tree. Where did these tribes come from?

And, this overload of information is not the information I would love to hear. Where are the stray thoughts that we all have, that I scatter through my own thing like the weeds poking up in my garden? (Those weeds are out there, doing their cake-walk through my beds, singing their heads off: It’s May! It’s May! The lusty month of May!)

Le Guin’s often medieval-sounding description is kind of like my tons of fake history, that has enough real embedded in it for one back on Book Country to tell me, “I can’t take any more of this. I didn’t know I was going to be plunged into a history class.”

Is this typical of her? I thought at first that I could learn from her, how to overdo on the detail (’cause it’s so much damn fun) but keep it from getting mind-numbing. Nope! I’m thrown back on my own devices. Which means, generally, lots of playful intrusion, to jolt you awake, in case you’ve zoned out. That’s my answer.

I’m stealing some neat words here. So that’s good. Byre, what’s a byre? Has something to do with cattle. Ah! A cow barn/cow shed. I can use that for Sly, for flavor. I’m all for flavor, but I don’t want to drown in it.

Now you all can explain to me how/why I’ve just made an idiot of myself. Le Guin is, after all, in the writer pantheon. She’s the one with the awards, and the legions of fans, not me. But this sort of heroic/epic quest/event-driven storytelling is simply not my style.

The tone feels Arthurian to me. Mystical. There are run-down castles and, instead of elves, various tribes of little people. We have a touch of magic in the mind-reading, and in legend-based premonitions. The framework is that this fairly primitive planet is brutally invaded. A hidden base has been established from which to launch a counter attack against distant forces. But that’s the least part of the story, coming in very near the end. The hero doesn’t reach the base until page one-hundred of a one-hundred-twelve page story. Most of the tale chronicles the lengthy trek across challenging terrain and, for me, it gets tedious, beautiful imagery notwithstanding. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate Le Guin more as I read on.

Her powers of imagination are incredible. I am mesmerized, if not necessarily delighted, by her dense description. I write little physical detail myself and am very conscious of that lack. I’ve been trying to rejigger my way of thinking in that direction for a while now, so far with very modest success. I have to see if I can incorporate some of this approach into my own style.

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My husband has just read Rocannon’s World and says it’s one of the best pieces of science fiction he’s ever read. I had to explain to him who Ursula Le Guin is, he’s never heard of her. (He has not read sci-fi for decades. He’s into history, politics, science, nonfiction generally.) He is very impressed with her world building, and thinks the plot being almost incidental is no big deal.

I will read her next story with that outlook. Maybe when you read her you have to park your expectations.

God knows I can relate to that.

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