Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Jedi Squirrels

Since I missed last week, these linkies go back 2 weeks. Enjoy!

Song playing right now on my playlist: “A Postcard to Henry Purcell,” from the Pride & Prejudice (2005) soundtrack.

Writing and the Writing Life:

Jane Austen:

  • Jane Austen Fight Club. Okay, this had me giggling:

Browncoats:

Randomness and Geekdom:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Vader ‘You Can’t Touch This’

Still needing some sleep, but am mostly recovered from Mardi Gras. Since I missed last week, these linkies go back 2 weeks. Enjoy!

Song playing right now on my playlist: “The Promise,” from The Piano soundtrack.

Writing and the Writing Life:


Romance Writers:

Jane Austen:

Browncoats:

  • Best baby portrait ever!

Randomness and Geekdom:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to LOTR as band instruments

Ah, another Saturday morning and I’m sipping a cup of Yerba Maté tea and listening to the sweet sounds of raccoons fighting in the ceiling and walls above and around me. Song playing right now on my playlist: “He Won’t Go,” Adele.

Writing and the Writing Life:


Romance Writers:

Jane Austen:

  • Over at the new blog, The Popular Romance Project, Dr. Sarah Frantz wrote a piece called Austen, romance novelist about the reluctance of some Janeites to call her books Romances because it’s good literature, so of course it can’t be Romance…

Browncoats:

  • An artist has done some awesome posters of different sci-fi favorites reworked various ways. Here’s his Firefly Muppets mashup

Randomness and Geekdom:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to P&P Ceramic Tiles

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:


Browncoats:

  • Who will you vote for?

Ada Lovelace:

  • Okay, this isn’t about her directly, but a relation. It’s just so uncanny I had to post. This is the future Lord Byron who swam the Hellespont like his ancestor Lord Byron. Look at the resemblance!

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to a Mr. Darcy lollipop

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

Browncoats:

  • Check out this craft Browncoat who made a gingerbread house in the shape of our favorite ship.
  • Oh, love it! A new meme, this time for Browncoats. It’s Jubal Early logic. There’s not that many yet, and some of them aren’t that funny, but it just started a couple of days ago, so Browncoats, get busy ;)

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

  • For those geeky about books like me, you might enjoy following this tumblr account: bookshelfporn
  • And I’ll leave you with this:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Geek V-Day cards

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

Browncoats:

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

Firefly Friday – Keeping Foreshadowing in the Shadows, guest post by Jim Ross

Today we have a guest blogger for Firefly Friday, where we examine a writing tip using the TV Show Firefly to help illustrate. This is my first guest blogger, so am excited! He’s a regular commenter on the Firefly Friday posts and graciously agreed to write a post for me. Thank you Jim Ross!

Jim Ross is a prolific reader who recently decided it was about time he tried his hand at writing. On his blog (www.jimrosswriting.wordpress.com) he is slowly working through the world-building for his first novel. He lives in Cambridge, UK and is a big fan of sci fi/fantasy, martial arts and cheesy films – the cringeworthier, the better. He enjoys kayaking, nature programmes, and is currently being distracted by Mass Effect. Again.

You’ve all seen it before. The hero appears to be disarmed but then pulls out a gun from the ankle holster that hasn’t been mentioned until now. The villain grabs the heroine in an attempt to use her as a human shield, only for her to throw him to the floor and put him in a complex arm-lock, despite having shown no previous knowledge of martial arts. Events like this will shake a reader’s immersion in the story, and it’s so easy to avoid. Perhaps earlier on the heroine mentioned that her father was in the military and wanted his girls to be able to take care of themselves? Even James Bond gets a quick run-through of what curiously specific gadgets he has available before they invariably come in useful later in the film. Openly setting things up in advance runs the risk of revealing the plot too early though. Foreshadowing works best when you hide it.

While it has an underlying plot, Firefly’s mainly a show of stand-alone episodes. Consequently, most of the foreshadowing of events happens in the same programme. River muttering “Two by two, hands of blue” in The Train Job sounds like crazy Riverspeak, and only takes on its full significance when we see the two sinister, blue-gloved agents searching for her at the end of the episode. In Shindig, Kaylee admiring the dress in the shop window looks like a bit of world-building and character-building for her and Zoe until she gets to wear the dress to the ball and when, in Safe, Captain Reynolds jokes to Simon “Don’t worry, we won’t leave you behind”, it feels like just the sort of thing he’d normally say – and then events force him to do just that.

Disguising the foreshadowing stops you from giving away the rest of the show.

Unusually though, Firefly also hides some foreshadowing that crosses the episode boundary.  For example, when the port compression coil fails in Out of Gas, on first watching I thought it came from out of the blue.  Certainly they hadn’t mentioned it recently.  When I rewatched the series though, it’s there right in the pilot.  When they land on Persephone, Kaylee asks for a new one, saying “if the compression coil busts, we’re drifting.”  In the next episode, The Train Job, we see her makeshift repair: “Were there monkeys? Some terrifying space monkeys that maybe got loose?” “…someone won’t replace the crappy compression coil!” It gets put away and enough episodes go by for the viewer to forget, and then… BANG!  They’re drifting, just as Kaylee said they would be all that time ago.

Then you have Shepherd Book.  In the first episode he disarms and knocks out a Fed in seconds, yet this clear indication of his fighting ability isn’t mentioned again until War Stories, where he displays impressive knee-capping skills with a rifle. Perhaps he has a reputation in some circles for being skilful – in Objects in Space, Jubal Early makes sure to drop him with the first strike before remarking “That ain’t a Shepherd.” All the other crew Early intimidates or beats up quite easily.  Perhaps he knew that Book would be a more formidable opponent? And just why did Book’s ident card get him preferential treatment on the Alliance cruiser in Safe?

We don’t get answers in the series, but perhaps that’s part of the reason Firefly became such a cult success. There are so many unanswered questions that make you want to know more, and the hidden hints to the future prompt you to speculate about how things might turn out. Why not try hiding your foreshadowing behind world-building or character development and seeing what a difference it makes? A bit of leftover mystery might even sell the sequel for you…

Have you noticed any other foreshadowing in Firefly done well?

Firefly Friday – Are you giving readers an excuse to put your book down?

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. Today’s topic: Scene and chapter breaks.

One of my favorite writing craft books is James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish). It is so useful in understanding the framework necessary to construct a plot. One of his tips is to make your scenes HIP. That is, start with a Hook, amp the Intensity during, and end with a Prompt. Note that he’s not talking about chapters, but scenes. Sometimes you could have several scenes in one chapter, and it’s important to make these HIP too. I added this to my checklist I inserted before each scene during revision, and checked off if I had each. If I didn’t, I dug back into the scene to figure out how I could.

For prompt, Bell advises that you have a “read-on prompt” which could be one of the following:

  • impending disaster
  • portent
  • mysterious line of dialogue
  • a secret revealed
  • and several more, but I’m not sure of copyright laws on this, so I won’t copy any more from his book.

The point is, you want to give them something that will make them want to keep reading. This is especially important when the scene ends a chapter.

So, to illustrate this lesson, here’s a scene from the episode Out of Gas. In this scene we start with Mal left alone on the ship. Their ship had a part blow, which knocked out their life support. The others have left in a last ditch effort for help and he waits onboard (the captain going down with the ship) in case their distress beacon is heard out in the middle of nowhere. He’s freezing, he’s fallen asleep, and then a call comes through.

In the commentary, show writer Tim Minear talks about how he wanted to break for commercial right when the rescue ship looms into view (3:35). Joss Whedon disagreed. Tim says that he fought hard with Joss on this, but that Joss insisted he keep going. There was no “jeapordy” at that point. Joss won out, and Tim agrees it was the right choice to end it where they did, which is when they hold him at gun point (5:09).

Now Mal’s in jeopardy and the viewer wants to come back after the commercial to see what happens. The earlier spot, while dramatic and a great tight shot, held too much hope for the scene. Too risky for the viewer to think “oh yep, he’s getting rescued, what’s going on in baseball world? {click}”

The other part of this scene that is useful to watch is how it illustrates Mal’s character and their world. Tim Minear talks about this in the commentary: Mal’s almost out of oxygen but he’s still suspicious and has the strength to stand up to them while discussing arrangements: “and I do expect to see that engine part before I open the door” (4:40)

Fan of the show? Have you learned any good lessons from the show I haven’t covered?

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Darth Vader’s Love Life

It’s getting colder down here in Mobile, brrr! Here’s my roundup of of blog posts I found helpful this week, plus my geeky obsessions that I came across. Enjoy!

Writing:

Ada Lovelace:

Austenites:

  • Where was this six months ago? As noted in my recent post Tomato, Tomahto, I’d created a Austen thesaurus when editing my hero. Now there’s a handy one online! Just type in a word and presto! Write Like Austen

Browncoats:

In Geekdom:

  • George Takei posted this on his facebook page last night, giving me a good snort/groan:

Have a great weekend folks! Stay warm and safe!

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?