Monday, July 29, 2013

Tips on Writing Multiple Perspectives

You want to tell your story from 4, 5 or 6 different characters. Maybe even more. This will be a headache, especially if you're going with "even more." Prepare for it. My current work-in-progress wants to be told from 11 different perspectives. It's been a nightmare.  

The main issue with multiple perspectives is if you have too many, you'll risk the readers not caring about your characters. This is fine if your story is plot-driven. Not so much for character-driven stories. Another issue is flow. Despite the novel being told from several characters, it still has to read like one story. 

You'll need to have different voices in your head. I know how this sounds ;) If your novel has 10 different perspectives, you'll need to have 10 distinct voices or your readers will get confused. 



You have your cast of characters. How do you handle changing perspectives without confusing or annoying your readers.


Listen To Your Story
I'm currently working on the second book in The Merging Worlds series. I had intended the female character to be the main voice. But, as I was writing, I realized I was more in the males' minds. Things like that are going to happen. It's fine. Write- feel it out and see what happens. You don't have to decide your cast of POV characters right away. 

Read
If there were rules to writing, Read and Write would be the only two. Find books you like that are told from multiple perspectives and study them. My initial problem with A Game of Thrones was that it was told from too many characters. That being said, this would be a great book to read on how to handle multiple perspectives.

Outline
I don't outline, but some people find it helpful. You could map out how long you'll be in this character's head and at what plot point. You could even layout why telling this part of the story from this character's perspective is best. 

Format
Most authors handle perspective shift by having one chapter dedicated to one character. They usually start the new chapter with the character's name so you know we're now in their head. However, I've read books where the author changed perspectives mid-chapter and it worked. This can be tricky, though. Most readers will assume the entire chapter will be in only one character's head. The best way to learn how to do this is to read, a lot. The Guardian by Sherrilyn Kenyon is a good example of changing POV characters within chapters. 


Watch Out For Time
Let's say we start with John's POV and then switch to Mary's, spending 2 days with her. Then, we shift to Cat's and spend 3 days with her. You need to keep in mind that when we return to John, 5 days have passed for him. It gets worse when you spend months with one character. How to keep track of this? First of all, don't worry too much about it in the first draft. You'll only make your head hurt. Since my characters spend a great deal of time traveling, I plan to make a schedule for them during my editing phase. It'll have where they're going, why, travel time and how long they'll be at their destination.

While editing, make a "comment" or note about how long you spent with this character. 

Chronological?
Let's take the example from above. When we return to John's POV, does it have to be at or after day 5? We're writers we can make anything work. Note, though, most readers will assume the story timeline is moving linear. One book I'm currently reading, Black Feathers, has characters from two different time periods. I didn't realize this at first. As I continued reading, the fact that the two characters were from different time periods became clearer. That being said, the story wasn't confusing. So, no, the story doesn't have to be chronological, but it can be tricky to pull off. 

Length
Technically, you only need to stay in one character's head for one scene. That being said, switching too often can be annoying. I didn't care for Bentley Little's The House because the author switched too often between characters. You'll need to feel out this one. Also, read. Learn what you like and what you don't like. 

When To Switch
This is a tough one. Let's say, we've been traveling with this character for a number of months. They've been looking for something important, something that would help them figure out who they are. They've found that this something is behind a door. They arrive at said place and insert the magical artifact they almost died obtaining. The door opens.

This is a good place to end the scene. However, change perspectives at your own peril. Knowing me, I'd skip every scene until I found out what was behind that door.

Similarly, your character is fighting. They've been disarmed. The enemy is standing over them about to blow them apart with an energy ball the size of Texas. This is a good time to end a scene, not a good place to switch perspectives.

Let's say, the energy beam explodes in the enemy's hand. We don't know why. Now, this is potentially a good point to change perspectives. Depending on who you're switching to. If you're going to a character who has nothing to do with the battle then, I'd probably skip the scene. If you're switching to another fight then, I'd read that scene.

While reading The Warded Man by Peter Brett, one character was thrown down some hole, unarmed, with a monster waiting at the bottom. The chapter ended. As I turned the page, all I could think of was, "if the author switches perspectives, I'm going to be really angry." Fortunately, he didn't.

Again, the best way to learn how to handle multiple perspectives is to read. Here's a good place to start:

Goodreads: Books With Multiple Perspectives 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mythical Creature: Baba Yaga

Thanks to Diane Carlisle's suggestion on my last mythical creature post, here's another awesome character to inspire your world building efforts.



Image Credit: MarkTarrisse




















Stories of her are popular in Russia, Poland, Czec Republic and Slovakia. 
"The name of Baba Yaga is composed of two elements. Baba means "grandmother" or "old woman" in most Slavic languages... Yaga is probably a diminutive of the feminine name Jadwiga, in turn, is a Slavicized form of the Germanic Hedwig. Another version is saying the name of Baba Yaga comes from the old Russian verb yagat which means to abuse, to find fault." (Russiapedia: Baba Yaga)
Also known as Baba Yaga Boney Legs, because, in spite of a ferocious appetite, she is as thin as a skeleton, she is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking woman with teeth of stone or knives. She flies around in a mortar and wields a pestle. She uses a broom to sweep away her tracks. 

Her house moves around on chicken legs. It's surrounded by a bone like fence with skulls on top which shine light through their sockets. The house is situated between this world and the Otherworld. It emits blood-curdling screeches and will only come to a halt, amid much creaking and groaning, when a secret incantation is said. When it stops, it turns to face the visitor and lowers itself down on its chicken legs, throwing open the door with a loud crash.
Image Credit: Yoitisl
(Side note- Howl's Moving Castle is one of my favorite anime movies. Just realized the castle was modeled after Baba Yaga's hut.  Now I have to rewatch that movie!!)

Baba Yaga may help or hinder those that encounter or seek her out and may play a maternal role. She is not good, but is not entirely evil. She can't be portrayed as a good mixer or a very easy-going person. Sometimes, she manifests her mouth as a cave and devours travellers who wander in. She maintains good order and punishes those who misbehave. She is wise and is all knowing, all seeing and tells the whole truth to those who are brave enough to ask

Baba Yaga may give seekers useful items for their quests. She creates such items with her pestle and mortar and cauldron of body parts. To those who fear her, her house and objects appear gruesome. To others who understand her true function, such things are pleasant. The fire-breathing Dragon, Chudo-Yudo lives with her as her pet that guards the Water of Life and Death. 
In earlier stories, she is the divinity of life and death and is surrounded by herds and horses where she holds the reins of the four seasons and controls harvests and rain flow. 

Sources
Mythical Creatures List: Baba Yaga
Wikipedia: Babd Yaga
Russiapedia: Baba Yaga

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: The Conjuring


Horror is making a comeback! My favorite, favorite, favorite type of story is the haunted house tale. This is the epitome of subtle horror. I love it. So, when I found out they were actually releasing an old school haunted house movie, I was beyond excited. The Conjuring didn't disappoint. 

Most movies like these have slow moments. The Conjuring had decent scares at every scene. It wasn't overdone. It was the perfect amount of creep to give you the willies. Yes, I jumped several times. 

One of the highlights was this doll. It had to have been the creepiest thing I had ever seen. Why would anyone even have something like this?



The Conjuring is supposed to be based on a true story. Whether this really happened or not made no difference to me. In the past, I've read some reviews where people said the movie wasn't scary because the "true events" couldn't possibly have happened. I judge how scary the movie is based on what I see. It's an interesting device to say it's based on true events or that it's "found footage," but that doesn't change anything for me. 

The movie didn't do anything spectacular. It didn't reinvent the horror genre. Most of the scenes were straight out of horror 101. Despite that, The Conjuring managed to keep me in suspense. You knew something was going to happen, you just couldn't predict when.

It played with your emotions. You weren't scared simply because creepy things were happening. You were scared because you didn't know whether your favorite characters would live. No one was safe, not even the children. That had me on the edge more than anything else. 

What I was really surprised about was how many people went to see this movie. The theatre was packed. I've been reading articles about how this is #1 in the box office. A horror movie with no over-the-top effects and no gore is actually popular. That makes me so happy. There's hope for this genre yet. We need more horror movies like this! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Clipped Wings

What's worse- prison of the mind or soul?

Camin Barice and Jammary Surrette are held captive by those that now rule the worlds. One is forced into a life trapped in a windowless mansion where he can never use his wings. The other can travel, but her powers and memories belong to The Custodians. Even if the walls fell, would they be free?


Now Available!


***Excerpt***

The pests, Moraine and Jonathon Thames, hadn’t stopped whining. If one wasn’t talking, the other one was. Camin’s hand kept twitching to her dagger strapped to her hip. She wanted to cut the throat out of one and make the other choke on it.

She glanced over her shoulder and showed her teeth. “You two said you were bored.”

“I also said someone like you couldn’t have seen anything we haven’t,” Moraine snapped.

Too much money turned people’s voices into dying animal cries. Its power seemed particularly effective on their spoiled offspring.

“Which is why we’re here. Let’s go. It’s not that far,” Camin said.
The barrier within the tunnel’s walls made her organs scream. It reached inside her, grabbed her power in its slimy hands and pulled. Camin’s stomach rolled. Yet, the siblings still groaned about being bored. They chatted as if the air wasn’t trying to kill them. Why didn’t it affect them? How irritating.
“You know we’re not supposed to be here.” Moraine said.

“But, we won’t tell Daddy if you make it fun,” Jonathan added. 

They won’t tell Daddy because they’re never leaving this place.


ebook available at Amazon

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Pacific Rim 3D


I had a total nerd moment when I first saw the trailer for Pacific Rim. It's like a live-action anime- only it doesn't look stupid! Every time I saw a movie poster or a new trailer, I got really happy. This is like the ultimate nerd movie. I mean come on, a major trope in anime is giant piloted robots being used to fight the world's problems. I seriously can't believe they actually made a movie like this. It's like a video game and anime in one!

Calm down. Take a breath. Let's take a step back for a moment.

The buzz around Pacific Rim was ridiculous. Almost every blog or website I'm subscribed to mentioned it at some point. When I first learned about this, I thought this would be one of those fun movies most people wouldn't care about. I was wrong. 

The trailers focused on the epicness that is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters. We really didn't get much more about the plot. I went into this thinking it would simply be really nice to look at and it was. You know the details we got when the Autobots and Decepticon transformed in the Transformer movies? That's the kind of detail we got here. It was amazing just watching the robots move and fight and watching characters pilot them. I mean, the people behind this movie put a lot of thought into the visuals.  The robots were just awesome.
But, it wasn't just something nice to look at. I thought Pacific Rim would be all fight scenes and explosions. It was a more character-driven plot. Yet, the robot v. monster battles were important and epic. We got to see the people behind the battles. Come to think of it, despite it being a movie about robots fighting monsters trying to destroy the world, I can't remember many explosions. 

The only kind of monster movies we usually get are the Sy Fy Channel B-movies- you know the ones you're not supposed to take seriously. They usually rely on too much gore and not enough plot. They're just supposed to be fun. Movies like those are breeding grounds for cliches. It was a nice change to watch a sci-fi monster movie that wasn't comical. Pacific Rim did have its cliche. They were forgivable. The movie was pure awesomeness. It tugged at your emotions. I actually took these monsters seriously. They were as much characters as the people and robots. Those things could move. 

This was an apocalyptic movie that was big but not too big. We got the monsters destroying cities. Pacific Rim didn't focus too much on it the way most apocalyptic movies do. We saw enough of the world to get the sense that the monsters appeared everywhere. We got the impact they had on cities without it being over-the-top. The movie didn't spend a great deal of time on the monsters tearing up cities without reason. Pacific Rim focused on the Jaeger project, the giant robots, and how the people involved in this project were working to save the world. 

For the world-building- this movie could've gone really wrong in this department. It handled it pretty well. Though it was sci-fi, it wasn't bogged down with too many technical terms. I could understand everything people were saying. The technology and the story behind the monsters were solid without being too complicated or too comical. It was believable. Most apocalyptic movies surround one race, one nationality. This one had several as important characters. It truly represented the world trying to fight these monsters.

When I saw this movie was being released in 3D, I had to save up my money. I just knew Pacific Rim would be awesome in 3D and it was. Paying that extra money wasn't a waste. They used 3D as a way to bring us into the movie. It wasn't used to throw stuff at us. 

At a little over 2 hours, Pacific Rim ran pretty long, but you didn't feel it. The plot wasn't deep. At the same time, I wasn't too shallow. By the way, the title sounds cool, but it's so wrong for this movie. Pacific Rim is purely for entertainment. I doesn't broaden your mind. It doesn't make you think. It breaks your heart without making you cry. It's a good way to get lost for two hours. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Sensitivity

We open a vein and pour our blood into our stories. Not something we can help. If we don't put everything in it, the story won't possess readers. This is all, slightly, romantic and all, but there's a down-side. We can become defensive to criticism. My book has gone through beta readers, my publisher, an editor and now it's back to my publisher, Aubey LLC, who pointed out something I should change. 

First of all, I said awhile ago I was going the self-publishing route. This is still true, sort of. My book will say "published by Aubey LLC," but I'm going about the process as if I'm self-publishing.

Anyway, I thought I had reached a point where criticism no longer affected me. I mean, I'd been doing well so far. I'd been looking forward to the editor's comments because I wanted someone to rip into my story. But, as soon as my publisher suggested changes, my stomach and chest knotted. My skin felt like it was on fire. It took nothing to get my hackles up.

This bothered me. I mean it really bothered me.

I'll ask you, do we ever get past being defensive about our books or is it we just get better at reacting to criticism? Do we reach the top of that mountain or do we simply get better at climbing it? I spoke with another published author who said it's not something we get over.

What say you?


Monday, July 8, 2013

More on Writing Apocalyptic Stories (Infographic)

Would you survive the apocalypse? Well, your characters, anyway? Mine had. Now, they needed to rebuild only I'mstruggling with what they needed. This infographic gave me some ideas.



via Infographic Archives

Monday, July 1, 2013

Atmospheric Descriptions

I've said this before, I love atmospheric horror. I prefer stories that use setting to enhance the chills.

I looked upon the scene before me- upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain...with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium (Poe The Fall of the House of Usher)

How do you create amazing scenes like this outside of horror?

Be Yourself
Do not try to write like Poe. It won't turn out well. Remember, you have your own style, voice and experience. Use passages you love as an example, only.

Read
This one is important. Read, a lot, and study the story. The text will become ingrained in you. Soon, you'll find yourself creating delicious imagery using your own style.

Vocabulary 
This goes hand-in-hand with studying the text. If you come across a word you don't know, look it up and write down the definition. You don't have to memorize the word or even the definition. It will get ingrained in your head. You'll start spitting out amazing words you didn't even know you knew. I've had many a moment when I used a word in my story that I felt was right, but I didn't know exactly what it meant. I looked it up. Turned out, I used it properly.

Be Creative
In a story, I called the sun a "pernicious yellow beast." Think about what you're describing and try coming up with different ways of saying the same thing. How many ways can you say darkness or night, for instance. I don't mean synonyms either. I once called night the "blinding devil."

Moderation
That being said, don't go overboard. You'll end up making your readers gag. The story will become bit hard to understand. There are times when the sun is just the sun. Use that writer's instinct. Know when to dress up a description and when not to. Reading and studying helps you get better at this. 

Have Patience
These lovely little descriptions aren't going to just flow off your fingertips. Don't try to do it in your first draft. You may be able to, but don't put too much pressure on yourself. Crafting gorgeous descriptions takes time and several revisions. 

Images Help
I've mentioned this before, I'm a visual person. I can describe things better if I see them. For one of my stories, my characters were traveling at twilight. I was having trouble describing the scene, so I did a Google Image search for twilight landscape. And, this is what happened:
"The sun sank behind the cloud, creating a striking array of colors. The sky was on fire. Deep orange sat atop black and flowed as the clouds moved. The black and dark gray flitted into the flames and dragged the scenery further into shadows."
Here are some stories that helped me with my descriptions.
Tales of Mystery and Imagination- Edgar Allen Poe
Great Ghost Stories
Dracula- Bram Stoker
Adrift on the Haunted Seas- William Hope Hodgson
Waking Up Screaming: Tales of Terror- H.P. Lovecraft