Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Plots, Twists and Unruly Characters

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

We have a lot of ground to cover today. I even manage to talk about writing! Really! But first a X-post.

Film From Sybpress Author's Story

And now a message from our own Brenda Petrakos, author of Stories from the Inside Edge:

Just wanted to let you know that our short film COP will be screening at the Cinema Slam event in Park City!We will have two screenings, one on January 22nd at 11am and one on the 24th at 10am. While we're not in Sundance, Slamdance, or any of the dances, it should be fun to screen on Main Street in the heart of the festival!!!!Details are below. If you are planning to go to Park City, let us know. If not, let your friends know!

For info:http://www.mandy.com/1/board2.cfm?v=25695150

Craig’s Yard
We have prevailed upon him to put a webcam on the yard. Despite being disturbed about the number of people from this blog being interested in his weirdness. He’s become fixated on what’s happening there when he isn’t home. Of course, when that will actually happen is another matter entirely. I’ll keep you posted. I should note that Craig pointed out that this yard isn’t nearly as gruesome as the yard he had while living next to the beach in San Diego. His beach was at the end of a current that brought anyone who drowned nearby to his front walk. Craig said he had to really careful running in the fog. He never knew who he might step in.


No, I haven’t developed a taste for anomalies. I still hate ‘em. I’m actually going to talk about writing. Even without the distractions from the holidays and my other jobs, I was having a struggle with the plot for A Soldier’s Fate. When Jon has a block writing a story, it’s because he believes he’s taken a wrong turn somewhere and needs to start over. With me, my blocks or slow-downs is because I’m fighting the direction the material wants to go in. It’s not that I have no control over where my characters go. And I do know the destination for their journeys before I start writing.

Usually, when I’m fighting with my own prose is because I don’t see what the themes are doing with one another. I never plan for my stories to have themes. Rather, I don’t consciously think in those terms. When I was writing The Gift of Surrender, I was writing and erotic fantasy romance. I didn’t notice until the end of the first draft that there were themes like the consequences of impulsive behavior and that failure to communicate can destroy a nation as easily as it can destroy a family. These themes come from character development for me. Often, I am so focused on that development that I don’t notice the overall themes until I do something that’s contrary to them.

I thought A Soldier’s Fate would be about Rik and Vincent’s developing relationship and Bobby’s journey into the military. And it is about those themes, but it is also about the choices that Rik and Vincent were not given growing up and how they impact the decisions Bobby makes. There was also a great deal going on with Vincent while he was in the squad that Rik knew nothing about. There is far more discovery between the characters that I hadn’t planned, but that’s making it a lot of fun for me to write. All of this seems disorganized, I know. I seldom do formal outlines of novels (that usually happens only if an outside entity like a publisher requests it or I’m writing with a partner). I do skeletal outlines of the plot. However, I do a lot of character work before I start a new book. I know their histories inside and out, and I really know their personalities. In the case of A Soldier’s Choice, I had to develop a world set a century from now. Most of it didn’t end up in the book, because the book was about the two lovers. I revealed enough of their world to make their actions and attitudes make sense. More of this world’s politics will be revealed in A Soldier’s Fate, because they directly impact the major characters.

I leave some of the thematic elements to unfold through the interactions of the characters. That’s the fun part of writing for me. Wouldn’t writing something that was more finely outline be more fun? I have found that is not the case for me. Demon Under Glass was very hard to write as a novel because I was hemmed in by the script and the film. However, I did find some character nuances with Joe McKay that surprised and impressed Jon. I kept the point of view of the book largely with Joe giving it a film noir quality that Jon really liked. If we are given the opportunity to re-do the film as a pilot, he would utilize them.

I’ll post an excerpt from A Soldier’s Fate next week.

Plot Twists

It is very hard for most films or TV shows to surprise me. That’s a downside to being a writer. It’s a real downer to anyone in the room watching something with me. Our former room mate forbade me from making any sort of noise during mysteries or suspense programs, because I invariably knew what was going to happen. Fortunately, I enjoy the ride just as much as the destination. Anyway, I found myself profoundly surprised by last week’s episode of Criminal Minds. I won’t give anything away here, but the ending was absolutely jaw dropping. And the best part was that the twist was in keeping with what had gone on in the rest of the episode and completely within the canon for the show.

Warning! There be spoilers ahead!!!

Coincidentally, I found this list of best all time plot twists on line. Now, Jon and I have problems with most best whatever number lists from entertainment magazines. They seem designed merely to generate angry fan mail. We saw an EW list of 25 all time great science fiction on film or TV for the last 25 years. It had V but not any of the Star Wars films (though it had the badly animated Clone Wars). That sort of list makes no sense and is infuriating. I actually admonished Jon for reading so many of them. They all tend to make him angry. This list from Premiere.com was a good one. I wasn’t surprised by two of the movie twists. Actually, I don’t know of any woman who didn’t know that was a dude in The Crying Game. As for Angel Heart, he kept looking in the mirror for goodness sake, who else could it be? The rest of films on the list had great twists. I forget because we’ve seen Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back so often that it had a huge twist. I was in a first screening when it came out. The audience gasped. I was shocked. I love being shocked in a film out of surprise – not because it was bad. I wish it happened more.

No caption this week. Really nutty with the film shorts right now. We’ll be taking our casts to look for costumes this week. I’ll likely have many tales to tell in the next blog.

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