Monday, November 28, 2011

A sense of urgency

So I share 30 pages of Threadcaster at a time with a few close friends and mentors. They are all extremely patient with me - especially since I keep rewriting and rewriting things they've already seen, but it's their feedback that makes it necessary possible. Yesterday I got such a piece of feedback from fellow author Peter H Green. He said "Everything flows fine but there is no sense of urgency. You've got the pull toward the goal, but I don't feel any push."

Sense of Urgency huh? This posed a dilemma. My story has plenty of conflict starting around page 65... but up to that point it's getting to know the characters and getting used to the world they live in. I 100% believe this is a good thing - my world is complicated, it has rules and traditions the reader must understand to follow the rest of the story. Still a lack of urgency is a very real problem and it does not a good writer make if you ignore the input of your betas just because it's a little work.

So I thought about ways to build urgency - how about a villain actively working against the players through the plot? No... I do have villains but they are very powerful people who's leverage on the beginning of the book would probably keep our reluctant hero from agreeing to go without three pages of combatant dialog. No, the Brushcasters need to stay where they are.

What about a ticking clock? A time limit would impose some urgency and up Cat and Peter's emotional dilemma because a rush to save the world is a rush to put poor Pete in an early grave. That could do... it can't just be contrived though. I need to find a way to get it in without it creating an audience perceived False Urgency. Otherwise known as the "Just'cuz"es.

A "Just'cuz" is when an author's fingers start to show. "Why did he do that?" Author - "Just because." "Why did he decide to go there?" Author -"Just 'cause". "It was extremely lucky that he went to that town to run into the next action scene." - "Yeah, I needed him there for the plot"

The Just'cuzzes are as bad a disease as the Yes-mans and the Bamboo Traps. These things pander to the audience and insult their intelligence. I needed to find an integrated way to up the intensity that isn't Lady Creven saying "'By the way, I'd like you to complete this dangerous journey in about a week... Thursday's my only free day, you see. Does that fit in your schedule?" So what solution did I decide to employ? Well... it's all a matter of festivity.

I've had an elaborate backstory for a while now, but I took it out of the book because a large part of it had nothing to do with Cat. It still doesn't, really, but it has a lot to do with the rest of her world. I used the backstory as a stage and invented this great big huge festival in which the people of the Valley try to fulfill the same prophecy Cat and Peter are trying to fulfill in the book. This festival takes place on a specific day and time - the only day and time that "success" can take place. Unfortunately that festival day is a week away. Cat's going to have to hurry to keep the world from dying.

This solution is super. I can use the festival theme throughout as Cat moves from town to town. We see the decorations going up; the signs and festivities and how hopeful the people are that this will finally work. Little do they know that Cat's the one REALLY trying to fulfill the prophecy and the Brushcasters are actively trying to stop her. It gives us a C story that is separate from Cat's main quest but parallel so I don't have to cut away to any sidescenes. I've already implemented it up to a point. I have a little more rewriting to do before it's done... but I think I'm content. It definitely gets the beginning of the quest to go a bit faster.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Ensemble Cast: a Collection of Names

I thought it would be fun to share a little wisdom I've found writing a book with a very large cast and a bit of a tactic I use to implement it.

Threadcaster, as some know, is a quest story - Cat and her horribly afflicted friends travel their small world on a grand adventure. They meet a lot of people on their journey - some important, some not so important, some only important later on. So the questions is - if you meet ten new people every place you go how do you help your readers keep it straight? The answer I've found is as simple as ABC.

That's right; the Alphabet. Reading is a visual activity as much as an aural one and having a lot of characters with similar names can be very confusing. For the eye, starting the name with different letters helps the reader differentiate at first glance - if the character is the only person in the whole book whose name starts with "F" then the reader will instantly say "Oh! It's the "F" name guy!" when he shows up again. Let's apply this to Threadcaster.

As a bit of an exercise I opened a blank document and listed all the letters A-Z in rows, then filled all the names of people we meet with any significance. I do a pretty good job of this already it seems ... but some letters (A, J, and M as it turns out) had an uneven number of characters listed. These might get confusing so I've taken some of the minor characters out and either not named them at all (Is it really important to learn the Mayor's first and last name?) or renamed them (Ashley is a very minor character tucked in with some important ones like Aiden... so I swapped her for Heather since I only had one H.)

I try not to name two characters in the same place with the same letter unless it's plot-appropriate, and I try to make reoccurring side-characters the only ones in their list. This way I think the cast, although large, is a little easier for the brain to sort - and if there's one thing I pride myself on in this book is how easy I want it to read and understand. It's taking a lot of work and brainpower on thsi end of the pen but for you, noble readers, I hope it's pretty easy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A discovery

So today I discovered I'm a writer.

I know that seems silly what with me having already completed a novel, but let me explain. I had a meeting today with a very very nice local business consultant ready and willing to learn about my illustration work and how he could help me. Instead of whipping out my work and expounding on how accomplished, useful and willing I am I prattled on forever about writing - not necessarily Threadcaster, I didn't dwell on the novel itself - but about writing in general and being in writing groups and how writing works and my plans for publication. I met with him hoping to get leads on a job for my illustration and by natural conversational happenstance I wasted the whole time on my other career.

I guess that means that Writing is my primary passion then huh? I can do the rest, but when asked what I want to be doing Threadcaster is it. It is what I want to be working on, it's what I want to put my hours and invest my future in. I'm discouraged because this seems like a really stupid thing to have done, but I guess it's true now. The conversation wouldn't have happened if I wasn't being honest.

So hi everyone, I'm a writer. Lets hold hands and pray this isn't a huge mistake in priorities.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Welcome to!

That's right! Threadcaster now has a domain. It's sleeker and classier than it's ever been before - special thanks to the Rampant Creative group ( for their help in designing and building it.

For those watching the blogspot fear not - for it is the same and all the blogger features remain they're just prettier. I'm excited for Threadcaster to have a real web presence - it's like the book is becoming a real thing.

Now back to editing it!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Never Give Up

Went to a workshop today by the St.Louis Writer's Guild. Claire Applegate spoke on promoting your book... it made me realize I have a lot to work on.

Firstly I need to get my website going. This blog is great and all, but I own and I've got to get going on that. Second I might want to publish a logo for my book so that I can sue people who try and call their whatever Threadcaster before the book comes out. Third I need to start working on my BOOK TRAILER which I am going to ANIMATE because I want to use that degree I earned for SOMETHING!!!

I'm particularly excited about the book trailer. It's goign to take a lot of work, and I don't know when I'm going to squeeze it in around all my other obligations, but it never hurts to start early. I need to get an animated storyboard put together so I know what stuff I need. It'll give me a chance to show off all my designs and maybe something to submit to film festivals and local showings for more publicity.

Everything is publicity. Everything has an angle. Try anything you can, join anything you can, do anything you can.

Never give up! You've got your own strengths and skills other people dont have. You're telling a story no one else can tell - do it for your sake and for the world! Enjoy yourself but don't slack off.

Never give up! Never surrender!