Thursday, September 24, 2015

MasterClass Week 4: I'm Getting My Butt Kicked

Woah. I'm a day late, and had a "Temporary Post" update! I haven't done one of those in over a year! Sorry about that, folks. I got caught up in things Tuesday night, and so I forgot to work on my blog post. And I think I have the season's first head cold coming on, because I just could not will myself out of bed at 5am yesterday morning. So, I had to bite the bullet, and accept that I wasn't going to have a blog post written in time for the noon update. Then, we had a surprise party for Ronoxym's birthday. Happy belated to Ron and ChibiSunnie, by the way. Anyway, so right after work yesterday we were off to said party. Had to crash as soon as we got home, because I was up and back at work first thing this morning. Such a crazy week so far; I have had no time to sit and breathe - or write, or clean....

The fact that I'm pretty much guaranteed to work Wednesday mornings now really screwed with my updating all month. I really, really need to figure out when I'm more likely to have free time. It's beginning to look like Thursdays might be the better day for me. It seems like I'm getting them off regularly; today being an exception since I actually offered to pick up a shift. I do seem to also get Mondays off relatively regularly. My weekly updates might switch to either of those days. So, stay tuned for that change, and I'm sorry for people who have been with me for years. I know it's been crazy with my switch from "post whenever" to "post whenever weekly" to "post every Sunday" to "Sunday is crazy so I'll post on Wednesdays periodically" to "Wednesday update day" and now I'm switching it up again.

Well, either way, before I do anything else, I want to do this so I don't forget again. Earlier this month I was surprised when Phfylburt randomly posted the following status:

Phfyl: To my lovingly amazing wife, Do you remember when you were pregnant and we didn't say/announce anything online until after the baby was born? Because I remember! And I am also super glad you aren't prego no mo! Love, Your Husband, Me!

So, a huge congratulations to Phfyl for both the new member to his family, and the unique and awesome way of announcing it. Sorry I completely forgot to announce that last week. Enjoy being a papa!

Alright, and now to my writing.

Again, before I forget, I want to start off by stating that I FINALLY remembered to post "You're in Trouble, Son!" on DeviantArt. So, if you've been patiently waiting all month for this chapter to go to DA, you're in luck. You can find it here: You're In Trouble, Son!

Sad to say, I don't really have much more than that to share. I've been really slacking on my daily writing hours. I always seem to have something come up at 5pm this past week, and I never remember to go back when I'm done and spend an hour writing. I usually have the rest of the night, too; I've just been lazy.

One of last week's assignments for "MasterClass: James Patterson Teaches Writing" was to come up with 20 characteristics, and then cross out 17 of them to see if the surviving 3 characteristics are still interesting enough to build a character off of.

I still have no real concept for either of my main characters for the Percy Jackson Universe fanfic I thought of for this class. So creating a list of characteristics for them wasn't happening. It was just a blank screen. So, I figured I'd ease my way into it by coming up with the 20-piece list for each of My Girls: Amara, Lia, Willow, and Trish.

I. Suck. At. This.

I just can't think in simple characteristics. I think in "life events" or "complex human paradoxes". For instance, Amara is a half-elf who hates the human half of her, is trying to find a magical way of converting herself into a full-elf, and yet she disguises herself as a human to avoid unwanted advances from people who like the exotic nature of elves. It's hard to break that down into simple characteristics. I managed, but it kept me over a half-hour, and I know Amara inside and out after building her character over the past decade.

You'd think that Lia, Willow, and Trish would be equally simple to come up with characteristics for since all three of them are just different aspects of my own personality. Nope. I maybe came up with five characteristics for each of them. Aside from "Demigod", "Huntress of Artemis", "Over 3 centuries old", "Virgin", and "Good fighter", I have nothing for Pernilla, and even less for her still unnamed love interest.

I eventually gave up on that exercise. I have to face the fact that I won't be able to write the way that Patterson does. There are some techniques that just won't work for me - and the alternative way that I figure out for myself will most likely never work for him. Especially since there is no grading in this webinar, I need to put the studious part behind me and remind myself that some assignments I just won't do; or at least do well. I'm so used to getting As in school and making sure my work is done, it's hard for me to turn that off; even after being out of school for almost 10yrs.

For those who are still curious as to what my list for Amara ended up as, here ya go:
  1. Half-Elf
  2. Horribly Scarred
  3. Former Sex-Slave
  4. Literally hunted by relatives
  5. Hated
  6. Shunned
  7. Distrusts Humans
  8. Distrusts Affection
  9. Taciturn
  10. Intimidating
  11. Loves Singing (only in private)
  12. Disguises as Human
  13. Desires to become a full elf
  14. Semi-Feral
  15. Heartbroken
  16. Lonely/Isolated
  17. Dispassionate
  18. Soft-Spot for Abuse Victims
  19. Determined
  20. Only helps those in need if she witnesses the injustice
Last week I already talked about the first assignment for the week: finding out what my writing distractions are. Socializing - which has become a bigger part of my life now that we watch football 3 nights a week - is a HUGE distraction; which is one of the main reasons I neglected my writing hours. The pain is still a distraction. Bug bites; not so much now. Instead, the cold of fall is finally kicking in. Thankfully, Hubby did some cleaning, and so I have blankets and my fingerless gloves for typing. Also, for my birthday - or a super early Christmas gift? - Spink got me a big, fluffy, super comfy Legend of Zelda housecoat.

Yes. It's a housecoat; not a bathrobe. Different design and different fabric used. Granted, it's not like the housecoats that you see 90yr old women wear - basically, a zip-down muumuu-like gown. It's closer to the Ebeneezer Scrooge long robe styling. Either way, it's cozy and keeps me warm as the fall chill sets in.

But, let's get back on topic, shall we?

The final assignment last week was to write five first lines. I mentioned last week that two out of the four printed examples were just five individual lines, and the other two examples were five-sentence opening paragraphs. After watching Patterson's critique of them, I determined that the assignment WAS supposed to be five individual lines. HOWEVER, it's not as possibly random as I had imagined last week. These are supposed to be five different possible opening lines for the story outlined the week before.

That being said, here are the five lines I came up with. Two of them I enjoy the imagery, but I'm not a fan of them giving away a huge end-of-book plot point. When I actually go to write this story, I may switch up the opening line even more; we'll see once I figure out my characters.

  1. She had recently turned fifteen for the three-hundred-and-fortieth time.
  2. She should have known he would be her doom when she saved him from the Lamia.
  3. Of course the love of my life would be a man-hating, eternal maiden who swore herself to a Feminazi goddess.
  4. Even if I knew I was going to die, I would not have changed a thing, except - of course - the ending.
  5. Who would have thought that as an immortal I would die of old age?
If you didn't pick up on it, I also tried opening the story in three different POVs: Third Limited, Pernilla First Person, and Pernilla's Love Interest First Person.

I have to say, I'm not a fan of line #4 now that I look back at it. Blach...

The lines were actually kind of fun to write. Kept me a while to try to figure out how to open the story, but once I had a basic idea I was able to crank those five out over my 15-min work break.

Now, here I am, day 3 for this week, and I'm a bit stuck on this week's assignments.

The first one was simple enough. I knocked that baby out on Tuesday. The exercise is supposed to help us better work dialogue. Not to toot my own horn, but from my own personal feel for my writing, plus the critiques that I've received over the years, I'm actually pretty good with dialogue. It seems realistic, interesting, moves the story along - even if it's through character development - and really conveys the characters' feelings and personality.

In other words, this exercise was a cake walk.

Here's the actual assignment writing prompt:
Write dialogue (using no narration) between two characters using this prompt:
A man comes home from work early and his wife intercepts him in the living room. He doesn’t want to tell her that he’s just been fired; she doesn’t want him to know her lover is in the bedroom.
Just like with the first lines - and other previous lessons - there were examples from previous students printed in the workbook. Patterson then had a video of him critiquing the examples. He started off by stating how well done some of them were, and how a lot of the students commented on the ease of this assignment. He noted that if our outlines were like that prompt - a basic concept, but with the drama clearly built in - then it would be just as easy to tap back into that drama when we're writing that chapter. If our outlines were written like that prompt was, we'd have just as much fun writing that part of the story.

He then focused on the examples that were provided. Out of the four, most were only about 14 lines long or so. Then there was one that was about 30 lines. This made me nervous, since mine ended up being over 60 lines long; more than twice that of the longest example. Granted, the main reason mine was so long was because I actually stayed with the scene until the conflict was fairly resolved; both secrets were out. All the examples cut off after a few lines. One had the husband slide his hands inside his wife's robe; neither of them knew the other even had a secret. One ended with the wife trying to hide sounds her lover was making by pretending she's scared it's a burglar. The longest one ended with the husband trying to stop his wife from finding out his secret by pretending to be deathly ill; convincing her that they should go to the hospital. The final example just had the wife tell her husband that he looks sexy in his work suit, and that he should stay in it while they go out to dinner.

No resolution, and barely any conflict in any of the examples. Mine has a semi-resolution - the husband heads into the bedroom to kick some butt - and definite conflict as the couple gets into a screaming match at each other over workaholism, porn, neglect, infidelity, and loss of romance. So, even though my scene went close two quadruple the length of the other ones, I feel like it's justified and not boring.

I am still concerned, though, because Patterson didn't even bother reading the 30-line example in his critique video:

“This is the one that goes on and on. This one is just too fricken long. It stays at the races too long. There's so much dialogue that you lose the drama of the whole thing. I'm gonna skip this one.... And that's a gut thing. You just have to be aware of what's the scene and what makes it work the best. And they just talk too much.”

Ooof. I mean, it is a bit boring, and the whole "we should go to the hospital" thing so they can avoid their secrets being found out seems so over the top. I'm hoping that even though mine is "too fricken long", "stays at the races", and "they just talk too much", that it still keeps the drama, and that I'm still "aware of what's the scene and what makes it work the best".

I am really nervous about that.

The other two assignments are a bit trickier to begin with, so if I managed to screw up the dialogue one, I'm worried about how I'm going to do with the other two.

The assignment from the Chapter Building lesson is:
James recommends taking a story from your own life experience and writing it down. To get you started, use his technique for building a compelling scene by using your five senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? Now change perspective to see whose version of the story is the most interesting. Is it still yours?
▶▶ Using your outline, choose a chapter to write from multiple perspectives, experimenting with both first person and third person limited.
I wouldn't even know what story to tell for the first part of that assignment, so I'll have to maybe ask my husband to help me with that one: "Honey, what story about my past do you enjoy hearing?" Go from there.

As for the second part, I sort of tried that tactic with the first lines thing. My issue is I'm not sure which chapter from my outline I want to work on, especially since I still don't know these characters. I don't know their point of view. Then again, perhaps this will help me with that. Playing around with the characters - maybe writing something that ISN'T on the outline; just them interacting - might allow me to get to know them. That's how it was with Willow. I had no clue at first, and now look at her. We'll see how well I do.

The final assignment for the week is from the Suspense Building lesson:
Think of your first three chapters as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Write down two different possibilities for your third chapter. Call a friend and have them choose which version they’re more interested in reading. How would this different turn for your character change the outcome of the plot itself? Would it be a correctable mistake, or would it change the story dramatically?
I mean, I'm not writing a mystery novel like Patterson typically does, but I could see what I can do with this. There is still that same issue that I can't even really start my story because I don't know the characters. I might have to skip this one until a little later in the webinar; next week, perhaps. We'll see how adventurous I get with my writing.

Technically, according to the suggested syllabus for the class, I had one more lesson this week, but I'm so used to there only being three a week that I didn't notice that I missed one until just now; when I went back to copy and paste the assignments for this week. Whoops. It's supposed to be about ending the book, and then next week is supposed to focus on editing, working with co-authors, and getting published. It makes sense that the "ending your book" lesson was supposed to be with all the other "this is how you write a book" lessons this week.

Guess I'm just gonna tag this on to the start of next week, and end up with five videos to watch.

Here's hoping I find time for everything!

No comments:

Post a Comment