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Omniorb: Consortium, Episode 1

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“When being tortured, minutes seem like an eternity.”

The Consortium. A supposed “utopia” where thousands of planets benefit from financial and cultural unity. Where neurological experiences and emotions are converted to energy via mysterious orbs. Where travel from one end of the galaxy to the other in mere hours is possible thanks to the dimension called The WhereHow. Where a mysterious being named The Siron, a god to some, an alien tyrant to others, makes all the diplomatic decisions for planetary relationships.

Spotov, a planet ravaged by civil war, is about to become part of The Consortium. But first, Spotov’s Advocate must be announced. When an imposter claims to be Spotov’s Advocate, three friends–Bandonn, Edom and Durso–find themselves caught in the middle of Spotov’s political crisis. Someone wants them dead.

Each episode shares the fast-paced adventures of a group of young people with mysterious powers who must save Spotov from the False Advocate or die trying.

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Comparing Story Grids

When I think of some of the ‘a-ha’ moments I’ve had when developing my craft as a writing, I think of times I discovered these concepts: show verses tell; avoid on-the-nose writing; subtext in actions and dialogue. I could name many more.

I like to think one of my best ‘a-ha’ moments as a writing who is constantly learning is when I learned about the three-act-structure for storytelling. This can easily be used for novels, screenwriting and plays.

Some writers don’t follow a structure when they write their manuscript, and that’s okay.

But I prefer to follow some kind of guide, so I used the three-act structure to develop the first draft of three of my novels.

However, I kept coming across other methods of novel development in my reading on the writing craft. Many exist. Some of the ‘story grids’ I’ve come across include:

Each of these methods have their strengths. Scott Bell’s signpost come from his book Writing Your Novel from the Middle in which the writer begins developing the story from the turning point of the protagonist and works forwards and backwards from there.

Dan Harmon, creator of the sitcom Community, uses the plot embryo which is helpful due to its simplicity.

Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder, was written with screenwriters in mind, but the principles are helpful for novelists.

I kept seeing patterns in these methods of developing the novel, so I couldn’t resist comparing them. I created a spreadsheet and tried to fit together the steps of each of these story plans. Feel free to download it and let me know if it needs fine tuning.

novel development methods (Excel Spreadsheet)

novel development methods  (PDF)

Related article of interest:Dan Harmon, “Community” and The Hero’s Journey


My science fiction book OMNIORB is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.

 

My Favorite Fiction Books from 2017

I read other books than the ones listed below, but they were non-fiction or fiction I didn’t want to include as a favorite.

Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror)

21

  • A Dragon of a Different Color
    by Rachel Aaron
    This is the fourth installment of Aaron’s Heartstrikers series, the story of which proceeded nicely until this one. The middle of this book is a world-building info dump disguised as dialogue. Still worth it if you’re invested in the series. Lots of great things happen, but I hope the next one moves faster.

    22

  • We Are Legion
    by Dennis E.  Taylor
    I bought this from Audible.com because it’s not available through my local library system. I was pleasantly surprised. Taylor’s protagonist is a snarky nerd who finds himself part of desperate space exploration program. Funny and sarcastic.

    18

  • The Very First Damned Thing
    by Jodi Taylor
    I admit I downloaded this for free from Audible.com. It’s an introduction to Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Mary’s universe, which looks good. Interesting, but didn’t blow me over. I’ll probably give the series a try.

    09

  • Name of the Wind
    by Patrick Rothfuss
    I have been wanting to read this for quite a while. Rothfuss unleashes a beautiful writing style with this first book and the story kept me going. The story is complete, but there are some unanswered questions for the rest of this series to address.

    16

  • Crosstalk
    by Connie Willis
    The protagonist got on my nerves, but I so badly wanted to find out what was going on, I plowed through it. Not on the same level as Willis’s The Doomsday Book, but a fun read.

    17     24

  • Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods
    by Sylvain Neuvel
    This series has been a nominee for Goodread’s Best Books two years in a row, and I can see why. The story is told by a group of people involved in a project of finding robotic parts buried around the world and building mechanical giants. Neuvel includes a lot of twists and surprises.

    07

  • The Book of Lost Things
    by John Connolly
    Looks like a kid’s book, but with all the violence, sex and depressing imagery, it’s definitely for grown-ups. Connolly adds some adult themes to some beloved fairy tale icons and draws up this creepy tale.

    15

  • All the Birds in the Sky
    by Charlie Jane Anders
    This turned out to be one of my surprise favorites of the year. Patricia and Lawrence keep crossing paths. At the end of the world, they become involved in a war, end up on opposite sides.

    19

  • Dark Matter
    by Blake Crouch
    Another surprise favorite for this year. Crouch takes the alternate reality trope and raises some interesting questions.

    17675462

  • Raven Boys
    by Maggie Stiefvater
    A group of teens in backwater Virginia, get mixed up in dark matters in their search for a lost king.

Mainstream Fiction

14

  • Landline
    by Rainbow Rowell
    This popped up a couple of times as a book I should read, so I did. A woman tries to repair her marriage by magically talking with a younger version of her husband from the early days of their relationship. Didn’t really reveal how using an old landline phone could do that.

    12

  • A Visit from the Good Squad
    by Jennifer Egan
    While this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, I’m not sure it is any more thematic than any other similar piece of fiction. I did enjoy the complex characters Egan developed through a series of interrelated short stories.

    11

  • Invisible Monsters
    by Chuck Palahniuk
    Every page of this novel is insane. It creeped me out, but it was Palahniuk at his most bizarre and entertaining.

    05

  • No Country for Old Men
    by Cormac McCarthy
    Man stumbles across a lot of drug money. Lots of anti-heroes in this book. Good read and a good movie, too.

    98687

  • Call Me by Your Name
    by Andre Aciman
    A coming-of-age story about an Italian teen in the seventies who falls for an older guy staying with his parents for the summer.

Classics

01

  • Fahrenheit 451
    by Ray Bradbury
    What would happen if books were illegal and burned when found? I need to read this one again and soon.

    02

  • Slaughterhouse-Five
    by Kurt Vonnegut
    Billy Pilgrim descends into madness, or does he? He tells his tale as an unreliable narrator in this classic.

    03

  • A Separate Peace
    by John Knowles
    Sort of in the same category as Dead Poet’s Society.

    06

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
    by Ernest Hemingway
    Finally, after three tries, I got through it. A slow-paced novel isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Hemingway’s case. It built up the tension.

    04

  • A Farewell to Arms
    by Ernest Hemingway
    Upon finishing this book, I have completed the Ernest Hemingway collection.

    08

  • Winesburg, Ohio
    by Sherwood Anderson
    A little depressing, with characters who are depressed. Still glad to add it to my classics repertoire.

Young Adult Fiction

20

  • Thirteen Reasons Why
    by Jay Asher
    Lots of controversy about this book and the Netflix series based upon it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think a girl would really kill herself over the reasons presented in this story. But news events in the last month have changed my mind. It does happen.

    10

  • The Outsiders
    by S.E. HintonI decided to re-read this on its fiftieth anniversary. This is the novel that created the whole Young Adult genre–although I doubt Hinton saw herself as the one who would pave the way for all the vampire novels in the Young Adult section. It’s always fun to re-read a book to see how I’ve grown since the last time.

 

Five tips for new writers

I still consider myself a new writer, but I was first published at twelve years old. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but it was before Ronald Reagan sat in the White House.

Here’s the thing: you’re constantly learning as a writer. You’re learning your craft. You’re learning how to use grammar to make your writing interesting. You’re learning about the publishing industry. Being a writer is an identity constantly in change.

But if I had to pick just five things to tell a new writer, here is what I would list for them:

  • Read all kinds of books-This advice did not originate with me. Everyone who writes says it. Always be reading. Read various authors. Read all the books of just one author. Read everything you can in the genre for which you want to write. Read in all kinds of genres. Read both fiction and nonfiction. If you are like me, you are busy. I actually have to schedule time to read. But just always be reading something.
  • Write every day you possibly can-Even if it’s only for a few minutes, write every day. And that can include planning, outlining, researching, editing, proofreading, or journaling. It could be deciding what you wrote yesterday isn’t that great after all and you need to start over. Have the writer’s mindset and realize every experience you have can be used in your writing. Just place your fingers on the keyboard (or grab the pencil) and write.
  • Try National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)-Every November, thousands of people around the world write fifty thousand words in one month. That’s about 1600 words a day. If it sounds daunting, try it and see what happens. It gave me the confidence to realize, “Hey, I can create a long piece of fiction.” Now, of course, what is written for NaNoWriMo is rough. But I have four rough novels I’m finishing thanks to the contest. That’s more than what I had before I tried it.
  • Subscribe to writing blogs and websites-Wow, there are so many out there, but here’s a few of my favorites to get you started:
  • Use software for writers-This is not for everyone, but I would say try the software and return it if not satisfied. First, for outlining and planning, try Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method software. Next, try Scrivener for writing your manuscript. Writers kept saying, “Try Scrivener.” I was like, “Sure, sure.” When I finally got around to using it, I was like, “Holy macaroni! Why didn’t I start using this a long time ago!

To use a cliché, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could say, “Go to YouTube and search for writers with video blogs,” or “A neat idea generator for SF and fantasy writers is Seventh Sanctum.”

I’d like to include more, but one thing I’ve realized is this: I can spend all kinds of time learning Scrivener or reading articles on writing, but the best thing to do to get experience as a writer is to just start writing.

Twitter:@AndrewMFriday

Temptations to avoid when writing characters

trapped-1315903I’ve had a great time getting to know the characters in my SF novel. A plethora of minor characters run around in my story, but I have three main ones:

  • Bandonn FarPacer-Technology genius; while growing up, forced to fight a war on his home planet; escaped the war, and wants to be an agent for the Consortium to help disadvantaged cultures. Oh, and  he’s allergic to sex.
  • Durso RascaLion-Lothario; lives day-by-day; doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Has a quick temper, but his best friend, Bandonn, usually keeps him in check.
  • Edom CarpenTrail-Priestess for the Siron;  grew up lonely; rich parents ignored her; after a life of wicked living, she finds fulfillment in the spiritual and helping others.

Okay, that’s just the starting point for these three. They are all from the same home planet, but happen to work on the same luxurious galactic liner, a space ship on which passengers vacation.

I’m going to ignore plot points to avoid spoilers, and instead mention a few things I learned in character development. First, in early drafts, there wasn’t enough conflict between my three main characters.

The temptation was to have their friendships be too perfect.

Yeah, they’re friends, but even the best of friends have ups and downs. So, I threw a few wrenches into their friendships with each other. Bandonn, who’s allergic to sex, resents Durso’s constant womanizing; Durso gets sick of Edom’s proselytizing about the Siron and accuses her of being a rich ‘princess’; Edom finds herself jealous of Bandonn when he gets something she thinks she deserves. There’s more, but you get the idea.

Secondly, using subtext made my characters more interesting. Instead of coming out and naming and emotion, I would hint at it with actions and dialogue.

The temptation was to explain too much because I was afraid the reader wouldn’t ‘get it.’

Readers are smarter than you think. They don’t want to be insulted; they want to be kept on their toes. Instead of saying, “Edom was jealous of Bandonn.” I would show the unspoken emotions beneath the surface:

Bandonn woke up. The infirmary?

He saw Edom standing beside the bed. “Are we back on the ship?”

“Yes. You’re fine.”

He blinked a few times. The memories of what happened on Figuola sharpened. “Are you okay? Durso?”

“We’re fine.”

He saw his weaveglove sitting on the dresser next to the bed. He reached out. “Can you get my …”

She picked up his weaveglove and tossed it onto the top of the bed next to his leg.

He looked at her and tilted his head. “Are  you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

Writing characters this way so much more fun.

Thirdly, in my early drafts, I concentrated so much on Bandonn, the main protagonist. He had goals, wants and needs.

The temptation was to not give the other major characters goals, wants and needs.

Durso really lacked any purpose in the story except to be a foil for Bandonn’s problems. After rewriting, Durso gained more specific goals, wants and needs.

So, don’t give in to the temptations. Not only will your characters be more interesting, they will be more interesting to write.

Here are some recent articles on developing characters in your fiction:

In honor of fifty years of YA novels

reading-1309980In honor of its fiftieth anniversary, I read The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton again after about twenty-five years. Hinton has been said to single-handedly jump started the YA publishing market.

I went through a period of reading YA novels. Most of Hinton’s–That Was Then, This Is Now; Rumble Fish–and tackled Paul Zindel’s books beginning with The Pigman. To my repertoire of YA novels, I read Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and many more.

Even as an adult, I’ve enjoyed YA fiction more than ever. As an adult, I’ve read classics like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler just to name a few. I have never thought YA novels were only for young adults.

YA fiction has ruled pop culture the last fifteen to twenty years: The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, and The Harry Potter series are the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s an article by a young adult author about her writing experience. It’s hilarious:

A Crash Course in YA Taught Me How to Write.

 

Harmon’s Plot Embryo: A Writer’s Tool for both Outlining and Evaluating

 

I admit it: I just started watching Community. Yes, I know. Better late than never. I kept hearing how great the show was, but never got around to following it. Well, now, thanks to Hulu, I can binge watch while I’m cleaning house or laundry or whatever.

Community_title

Lately, though, I’ve been hearing about this “Plot Embryo” for writers developed by Dan Harmon, creator of Community. There are many ways to plot a novel. This Plot Embryo simplifies the process more than any other method I’ve seen.

Not only is it a way to outline a novel, but–if the writer has already written a draft or two of it–it’s an excellent tool for evaluating what has already been written.

Screen shot 2011-09-26 at 8.37.30 AM

Writer Rachael Stephen talks about Harmon’s Plot Embryo in her writing YouTube series. She breaks it down several different ways and also talks about the source material for the Plot Embryo.

Here are some more resources to learn about the Plot Embryo:

I plan to use the Plot Embryo up against my novel in progress to see how it fares.

See also Comparing Story Grids.


My science fiction book OMNIORB is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.