Weekend Grab Bag – Writing, Austen as a Comic, and more

Sorry for the delay (did you even notice?). Yesterday morning some of wordpress.com’s servers were experiencing issues and I couldn’t even access this site. I’m glad I’d been calling it Weekend Grab Bag, so without further ado:

Writing:

Ada Lovelace:

  • Someone on tumblr is making RPG cards of historical figures, Love It! So they did one for Ada Lovelace! Something tells me she would’ve loved RPG…
  • Sydney Padua, creator of the Lovelace & Babbage webcomic, now has a Lovelace & Babbage app for the iPad! Will she do one for the android?

Austenites:

  • Teh awesome! For geeks who like Austen, Marvel comics has Northanger Abbey as a comic!
  • Wouldn’t it be cool to have your favorite novel printed out as a poster? Spineless classics has Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion (my fave).

In Geekdom:

That’s it for this weekend, have a great one and enjoy the extra hour!

Firefly Friday – Shiny! Using Setting to Illustrate Character

Welcome to the next installment of Firefly Friday, where we examine a writing tip chestnut and marry it to my favorite TV show Firefly to illustrate the tip.

Setting ain’t just a pretty backdrop. If done right, it can add multiple layers of meaning to your novel or even become a “character” in its own right. Setting can illustrate many things, but today we’ll focus on character.

We’ve heard it a million times: make your prose do double-duty. Setting can be one way to accomplish this. This is one of the things I loved about Firefly and why it can be watched over and over because each time you can discover something new.

Instead of showing clips today, it’ll be a series of pictures. This set illustrates Kaylee, the ship’s engineer. What can you tell about her personality from just seeing her quarters?

Inara leaving Kaylee’s room. No one else has their door decorated Kaylee in a hammock she’s strung up in the engine room, which she’s made into a second haven for herself. Anyone recognize the shout-out to Star Wars on the shelf behind her?
 
In her bunk. This setting also illustrated something new as the dress hanging there is a new addition to the room and shows how much that experience affected her (Shindig).  Contrast Kaylee’s bunk to the ship’s captain, Mal.

Now take a look at the Dining Room. It’s never said or pointed out but can you guess who painted the little flower vines up the walls and tried to make the room a little more homey?

The other character’s bunks/personal space also reflects their individual personalities, but I thought I’d focus today on just Kaylee.

Fan of the show? What other parts of the setting helped to illustrate character? What ways have you used setting to illustrate character in your WIP?

Can You Hear Me Now? Has the hashtag outlived its usefulness?

funny pictures of cats with captions

Lately there have been posts cropping up from veteran bloggers about blogger fatigue. This week, it continued in a way that brought to light some specific problems and solutions. On Tuesday of this week, Kait Nolan sent out a cry for mercy in her post Social Media Ennui in which she talks about how much the world of blogging and Twitter has changed for her since she started. It’s now harder for her and other veterans to find interesting posts and generally have a good chat on Twitter. Wednesday, Roni Loren followed up with The Life Cycle of a Blogger – Ten Stages in which she plots out in a humorous way the various stages bloggers pass through (I think I’m still at Stage 1) and helps to put things in perspective for old hats like her and complete n00bs, like me.

Today, Jami Gold brought her take to the discussion with The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane? and detailed how she was going to try to keep us n00bs in mind when tweeting, which I was thankful for. I had a long comment typed out on my phone to her post and the dang thing rebooted. Argh! I didn’t have a chance to recreate it before I got home, though. But, I got to thinking in the car about this week’s discussion and decided to write this post instead.

Kait commented on Roni and Jami’s posts about what was really at the heart of her post, and that is the misuse and overcrowding of hashtags she follows.

Since this whole world of blogging and Twitter is new to me, I didn’t know any different. Reading Kait’s post made me a tad envious of the good old days, when the writing community sounded pretty tight and supportive. I felt like the late comer to the cool party that’s now not so cool.

It got me to thinking, though, that hashtags are like real life parties. Some parties are intimate cocktail or dinner parties where great discussions take place and new friends are made. Where people can be heard. Others are the kind where the band is blaring in your ear and it’s so crowded you can’t move.

Both kinds of parties can be fun if you know in advance which it is. The intimate parties are perfect when you want to discuss the latest geo-political ramifications or deconstruct Star Wars from a feminist standpoint. But if you go there thinking it’s going to be a balls-to-the-wall-wooo!-another-shot-guys! kind of party, you’d be mighty disappointed.

funny pictures - Henry couldn't remember much about his birthday party, but from the taste in his mouth, he was sure he'd had a good time.

Likewise the big ones can be annoying as all get out if you’re not in the right mood, or you can join the fray and end up taping colored napkins to everyone’s butts and/or boobies.

Perhaps what Kait is bemoaning is that she and others like her have been enjoying a nice intimate cocktail party that has now devolved into THE hottest night club where everyone’s shouting to be heard above the pulsing beat. I know I’ve seen some great Twitter etiquette posted before that you should behave like you’re at a cocktail party (i.e. would you go up to someone at a party and just start self-promoting?) But maybe the problem is, it’s now no longer a cocktail party. We can post etiquette advice, but I think the nature of the party has changed. What might be the answer is not to look at social networking or blogging as being overcrowded but that the places you’ve enjoyed in the past have now become too crowded: certain hashtags.

Maybe instead of trying to weed through the crowd and trying to find the others who aren’t bumping and grinding, a new way to use Twitter needs to be found?

Or maybe creating more finite hashtags, and ditching the overcrowded ones, so that those who do want to hang in a more quiet setting can do so? I also have started using lists more, so that I curate who shows up in that stream. So instead of just anyone showing up with a lamp shade on their head and their latest book in hand, only the ones I want to see show up.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on how we can let the crazy partiers get their groove on but have a quiet room off to the side? What new hashtags can we use? Maybe #querylettertips #vetwritingtips #newbiewritingtips #writerwatercooler?

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto – The Challenge of Multiple POVs

My current novel has two Points of View (POV), and boy are they completely different. One is the quirky, slightly dorky heroine from modern-day America, and the other is a sweet, hunky hero from 1834. (It’s a time-travel romance). As you can imagine, their voices are completely different in tone and syntax. I thought I’d share my method of making damn sure they didn’t sound alike, not because I think this is THE WAY to do it, or that it is in any way groundbreaking, but just in case it might work for another.

  1. First and foremost, this WIP is an outcome of last November’s NaNoWriMo, and so as such, I didn’t have a lot of time for research and dilly-dallying. I wrote quick and dirty (not that kind of dirty; the sloppy-kind of dirty) and let the characters talk to me and tell me about themselves as I wrote. I didn’t worry too much about the hero’s voice other than writing his without contractions (which had the added benefit of adding to my word count. Weee!). I just let his voice come out without forcing it at this stage or worrying if it was anachronistic. I think this part is important, because if you worry too much about anachronisms at the creation stage, you can stifle your creativity. That’s what revision is for (and critique partners!)
  2. Starting in February I reread all of Jane Austen’s novels (I know, what a chore! <– sarcastic tone) and watched the adaptations I have and loaded up my Netflix queue with the rest. Basically I breathed, ate, slept and slurped Austen. Total immersion.
  3. When I was dreaming, thinking and accidentally talking like Austen’s characters, I knew I was ready.
  4. While doing this, I started a notebook where I wrote down patterns of speech she employed and also made a sort of glossary of words (modern word – Austen word pairing)*
  5. Next, I got some pink and blue post-it flags from Office Depot and went through my draft and marked the respective boy/girl POV switches.
  6. Then, I flipped to each blue section and revised the sentence structures, rhythm and word choices. I probably made about 2-3 passes total through it, just focusing on this and nothing else (not continuity, not plot, nothing but his voice).
  7. I then integrated these changes into a new draft and went from there. Of course, this method skipped any dialogue of his while in her POV, but by the time I got to those, I had his voice (I hope!)

The biggest problem that evolved out of this was my heroine picking up word choices that she wouldn’t normally use. I tend to write more formally also (this blog is helping me shed this habit) and so on revision, I had to concentrate on analyzing her word choices and syntax and making sure it was modern-sounding. Reading her parts out loud helped to catch more. However, I allowed her tone to get more formal as she stayed longer in the past, as I think that would be a natural evolution.

I didn’t always catch her old-fashioned word choices, so luckily my fellow critiquers on critiquecircle.com pointed out when she sounded too much like the hero. They also helped me dial back the hero a bit. I wanted his tone to sound 19th Century, but not so much so that it left people scratching their heads (like my mom does when she reads tries to read Austen). One sentence of his that I liked because of the emphasis it gave to the starting phrase, one critiquer said sounded too much like Yoda. Yikes! Can’t have that, so had to revise that one.

I still worry I overdid him, so am biting my nails waiting to hear back from my Beta readers.

*Would anyone be interested in this list?

Have you written more than one POV for a novel? How did you keep their voices distinct?

Kitteh Too Smart.

Darcy and Bingley

One of the kittehs (I suspect Darcy) learned a new skill at 6:15 in the friggin morning. Turn on the standing lamp!

*bang*bang*

Something metallic is hitting metal. I get up to investigate. The light is on. I move a nearby perch, thinking that was how the little sh- (nice kitty) was getting to the pull chain. Crawl back under warm covers. Ah. Two seconds later:

*bang*bang*snick* light pops back on. I flop over to that side of the bed, open a bleary eye and one of them is hanging by a claw to the pull cord like an NBA star after a slam dunk.

Really kittehs?

Last week it had been bang-the-really-heavy-rope-mouse-hard-enough-against-the-bathroom-door-over-and-over-until-the-door-opened. For the last five months, it had been just a neglected scratching device hanging from the door knob. After the third night of this I removed it. They’re really good about using their regular scratching post, so if this is only used for opening the door and waking me up, forget it kitteh.

For some reason, I feel really guilty taking these new discoveries away from them. For the pull cord, I just plopped the ball up into the brim of the hat (the shade is like an old-fashioned ladies’ hat). But as I crawled back into bed, I wondered if during the evening, when I’m not at home, maybe they’d just like the light on and I’m taking that away? Maybe I’ll just put it away at night… Maybe I’m thinking about this too much. *Going to make some more hot tea to wake up*

Got any smart kittehs in your house? What have they figured out?