blogging, Research, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

Being There

Seeing something helps a writer to describe it. Actually being in a setting lets the words choose themselves. Take the inside of the International Space Station, for example, one of the most advanced miracles of modern technology to have ever been built by mankind. It’s a mess. The room I’m in now is maybe 20 feet wide by 20 feet high by, maybe, a little longer. The white and grey walls are totally covered with color-coded cables, cases, boxes and storage packs. And there are wall panels that slide out like file cabinet drawers to allow access to the experiments being conducted inside. Not a spec of space is wasted on the four walls. You can’t walk on any of them. No floors needed here. Just float between the walls. I guess that explains the four laptop computers fixed at impossible angles. No up or down. Just float over and use one. The panel sections lining the walls are marked by metal strips to which, as astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, of the European Space Agency, showed me, she can attach shower safety hand bars (OKAY, she called them something else.) She uses the bars to hold onto when she’s working. She can also slip her stocking feet (no shoes needed here) under the bar to hold herself in place while she completes an appointed task. Or, attach a camera like the one giving me this inside view.

Yes. It’s virtual reality. But how else am I getting aboard the ISS to see what kind of socks astronauts wear? Or watch the sun rise over the rooftops of London, from a rooftop in London, and turn to see the The Shard sticking up a thousand feet into the sky? Or stand among Parisians in a little park and be the only one rubbernecking the Eiffel Tower towering above me? All without leaving my writing desk.

The little tripper lets you describe settings by putting you inside them. It’s cheap. A $20 viewer will let you use your cell phone to watch YouTube 360 videos of just about any place people can get to today. I recommend virtual reality to any writer without a twenty million dollar travel budget for a ticket to the space station.

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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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