Wednesday, September 16, 2015

MasterClass Week 3: Writers Block, Character Build, and First Lines

Wow, so, in the process of having to get up at 5am two Wednesdays in a row in order to get my blog written for the noon update, I completely blew past the fact that two weeks ago marked my 200th post! Go me!

I never realized what this blog would mean to me and how it would evolve when I first started it YEARS ago. It was going to be something where I simply would post "yeah, I was busy, I know you've been waiting for a while for my next chapter update. I'm such-and-such far along, so maybe by next week". Instead, these are insanely long posts all explaining my writing journey. Might be something fun to go back through and edit into a writing memoir once I'm famous.

Right now, though, I'm just so involved in what I'm doing that I just don't have the time to do any sort of "look through the years" recap like I did for the 100th post or for my year-in-review posts. Maybe I'll do that again at the end of December, but right now I'm just excited to keep telling you fine folks about my MasterClass program!

I was kind of disappointed in myself because I kept skipping out on my scheduled writing time last week. I would avoid writing - while still telling myself that I was being productive - by doing the "researching" portion of last week's assignments. Mostly I was going through Rick Riordan's works to see what myths of Artemis he established.

I also searched to see what country was most in power among the Western Civilization back in the 1600s. See, according to Riordan's world, the celestial portion of Mount Olympus - the portion that actually houses the Greek gods - shifts to be at the center of Western Civilization. So, it moved to Rome when the Romans came to power, and then shifted west again as Europe developed, ending up above NYC when the United Stated became a World Super Power. Since my female protagonist - the huntress of Artemis - was born about 1672, I wanted to know who was the center of civilization back then, so I would have a better idea of where Olympus would be stationed, and where Artemis would be most likely found. Granted, she could still hunt throughout the world, and the protagonist could be from Japan if I wanted. Still, I wanted Olympus to be "close to home" for her. I discovered that Spain was pretty big in the 1600s, but was on the decline around when she would be born. Later in the week I finally got some writing time with Spink, and she somehow came up with Switzerland becoming the new Super Power around 1670. So we spent nearly an hour going through Swedish names to find one that was around in that era. We're not entirely sure that it really was around - or popular - back then, but for the purposes of the class, it works. I'm also not sure I want her to be Swedish; I sort of already started picturing her as Spanish after my find. Maybe that's Lia's influence.

Anyway, the protagonist huntress of Artemis is now named Pernilla. YAY! A name! Still need to name her boyfriend, but I haven't even figured out what ethnicity I want him to be, and that might influence his name. Alternatively, he's 17 in my story, and so I can just check to see some of the most popular boy names in the United States in 1998. Name him off of that.

I also still need to figure out the gods that are each of their parents. Being a follower of Artemis, Pernilla would either be a demigod or some sort of mythical creature herself, such as a nymph. I like the idea of Pernilla being at least part human, and so demigod it is. I need to figure out if her parent is a major or minor god, and who it is. From there I could then figure out if her human parent was her mom or dad. I then have to figure out the same for the male protagonist. I don't think their godly parents are going to have much impact in the story, but it might bring something about their character, or impact some of the scenes throughout the tale. At the very least, their parentage influences the supernatural abilities they possess, which would influence their fighting and the journey.

To bring this back to the week's timeline, I was spending most of my daily writing hours researching this sort of stuff. Productive, but not what the hour should be used for, in my opinion. I needed to get back to writing prose. THAT was what the hour was supposed to be for. I kept postponing the second assignment - the one I SHOULD have been doing each daily writing hour - because I hadn't told Spink my idea yet. The last assignment from week one was to tell a brutally honest friend a story idea and see if they think it's worth writing. While I was pretty on board with the Huntress of Artemis tale, I didn't send the 5 - or, rather, 11 - sentence synopsis to see if she found it interesting. She just lives five minutes down the road! So I kept thinking "I'll meet up with her tomorrow and we can go over it."

Yet when "tomorrow" arrived there was always something keeping us from getting together. Finally, it was Friday and becoming "crunch time". So I asked her if I could meet up for some Writing Talk while her fiance was at work and Hubby was off playing in a MTG tournament. Sadly, even THEN I didn't manage to relay my story over. As soon as I mentioned that none of my original characters had names yet, she asked me why and then went off on her own research. I appreciate the help, and she was the one who picked out Pernilla, but she was so fixated on the characters needing names - and then focus shifted to their parentage, but we didn't get as far with that task - that she derailed me whenever I tried to talk more about the actual story plot.

Eventually I gave up. I was determined to get these assignments done before I watched the next set of videos, and it was 1:30am on Sunday morning. I was up anyway with my normal Sunday Insomnia - added to by massive back pain and some nausea - and so I decided it was time to tackle the outline problem.

Before I knew it, it was 7am and I had TEN PAGES of outline; roughly 24 plotted out chapters. The originally perceived climatic battle with Artemis is actually around chapter 14.... so, a little more than half-way. I'm not sure how I feel about that since it now sort of feels like two books merging together as one, but at the same time, the end of the battle with Artemis doesn't seem like a good stopping point.

I dropped the outline in the critique section of Writers’ Huddle last night. We'll see what some of the fellow Huddlers think of the story outline. In the meantime, I'm off to this week's list of assignments.

From the "Writer's Block" class, my assignment is to figure out the best way for me to concentrate and focus on my writing. To do this, I'm supposed to set an alarm for half-hour and just write about my day so far. Of course, being the insanely detail-oriented writer that I am - and because I somehow thought I'd run out of things to talk about before the 30min was up - I wrote down EVERYTHING I could remember. In that 30min writing sprint I only managed to talk about the first four hours of my day! And I did this exercise at 6pm! Whoops. Guess that explains why writing diaries always failed for me. I had four journal attempts over my lifetime; my most recent one being a journal to keep track of my wedding planning. I only ever got a couple months in before it was too cumbersome to keep up with, and I'd drop the project. Shame. So many journals wasted and so much of my life lost to my horrible memory.


In that half-hour writing session I managed a little more than 1400 words and almost two full pages. Honestly, considering that it took so little effort to figure out what to write - same with this blog - I have no clue if those are good stats. I'm thinking "no", but it explains why it takes me HOURS to write this blog.

Also, is it weird that it was hard for me to NOT save all that work? I mean, what would I need it for? It would just take up space on my computer. It's not like I'd really want to bring it up and reread it. Especially since I wasn't even half-way through my day when I stopped. It's just, not saving it feels like a waste of effort. I spent a half-hour typing all of that up, and no one else will ever see it? Yes, it was for practice, and so it was worth something, but it was still almost painful to click "discard" when I closed out the file.

So it will be interesting to have to go through that again later today when I again have to spend a half-hour writing about my day and then not save any of that work. See, the full assignment is to write about our day because it wouldn't really take too much focus to do. That way most of our concentration is on what BREAKS it. At the end of the 30mins, we were supposed to write down what distracted us, so we can attempt to avoid it in the future.

Since I already pretty much know what distracts me - the TV and my friends talking around me because I want to be part of the conversation - it was fairly easy going. Granted, other things that distract me are Facebook when I haven't been on it for hours, and simple research becoming hour-long-involved-read-every-Wiki-page-available research, and going back through my writings to try to find one specific thing, but it results in me rereading the whole thing. None of those distractions were an issue because of the short time span and the lack of researching necessity.

What DID distract me was pain. My job isn't the best environment for my back - although it's improved a little now that I'm in a new department - and I don't have very supportive furniture. Sprinkle in that I was on said furniture pretty much all of Sunday - Yay, Football! - and you can probably see why I now have the spine of an 80-yr-old woman.

So, I'm laid up in bed since the foam mattress topper is pretty much the only form of support we have in the entire apartment. Even so, my lower back would spasm, my hands would lock up, and my legs would stiffen from being extended straight out most of the writing time. Having a mostly quiet apartment also means that the new upstairs neighbors moving in was pretty distracting. I've also been a buffet for bugs this summer no matter what I do. So, random itch attacks threw me every few minutes. The final distraction for me was that I was listening to music off of YouTube and was thrown by a commercial before nearly every video. Kind of jarring, especially when the music itself did such a great job at being background noise. I could attempt to stream radio instead, but it will have the same issue with commercials. I guess I'm either sticking with Noisli or popping on the iPod. My only issue with the iPod is that we're cheap and haven't bought any new music for it in years. So the music isn't what I'm feeling when I write. Oh well, better than commercial interruptions, I guess.

I can't really do to much with the pain and itch thing, but we'll see if I can weed out my other distractions for part two of this assignment tonight.

For me, I think the interesting assignment will be the second one presented for this week. Character building. Fantastic, because I know virtually nothing about my main characters. We're supposed to come up with 20 character traits, and then cross out 17 of them to see if the final three traits are still compelling for the character. Narrowing it down to the Top Three - as it were - will be tricky. We'll see how that goes, and I'll be sure to post the results here next week.

My final assignment for the week is to write five first lines for a book. Now, I guess this could either be interpreted as "Five individual and independent first lines as if writing five different books" or "Five sentences that make up the opening paragraph of a story". I personally read it as the first interpretation - as did the two males whose work is showcased in the workbook as examples - but the two females that were showcased in the workbook interpreted it as the paragraph. I find it interesting that the difference in interpretation is seemingly gender-based. I'm not sure if I'd be the exception, because I've always had more of a masculine mindset. Yay, androgyny!

Anyway, I'll have to check out Patterson's critiques on the opening lines and see if he says one way or the other how the assignment SHOULD be interpreted. I may try the assignment with both interpretations though. Mostly because I feel the men interpreted it correctly - especially because the Patterson examples posted above the assignment are all literally just the opening sentence of his books - however, then the assignment devolves into simply "come up with interesting sentences"; I mean, you don't necessarily need to go anywhere with them, you just need it interesting enough for someone to want more of the story.

For example, Hubby suggested that one of my opening lines should just be: "Boom". That should grab a reader's attention. Was that a large footstep? Was it a minor explosion in chemistry class? Was it a building being demolished? Was it a landmine going off in a war zone? Stupidly simple to come up with interesting sentences, even if they don't need to go anywhere. For instance, who isn't confused and intrigued by this next sentence? "The magical pepperoni mobile that was fueled by mozzarella sticks was surprisingly roomy."

I mean, I do NOT have a story to go with that, but it does tickle some fancies. Is the story in a magical realm? Is this just a random bit of magic in the real world? Is it a dream sequence? Is the narrator on the set of a movie or children's show and the "magical" pepperoni mobile is just a prop?

Anyway, so the assignment seems stupidly easy if you interpret it as simply "five opening sentences independent from each other". So, even though I think it's a misinterpretation of the assignment, I might follow the women's lead and write a five-sentence opening paragraph too; see where that takes me.

Probably to Frustration Town. Starting stories is always so hard. Knowing to how to write that hook. But, if it were easy, Patterson wouldn't have to spend 14minutes on it in one of his video classes.

So, those are my assignments. I'll be sure to share the results next week. Along with the DeviantArt link to X-Future: The Second Generation Begins.

Yup, forgot again. Sort of. I DID manage to remember to post the chapter "Bro-Bonding" on DeviantArt, but it kept so long to format it that I ran out of time to do the same for "You're In Trouble, Son!" I then completely forgot until JUST NOW that I didn't go back and post that second chapter. Derp.

Well, at least I have the one up. So, for anyone who was waiting for the chapter on DeviantArt, here you are: Bro-Bonding

Alright, well, I need to start getting ready for work now. I also might have to rethink my weekly updating day if I'm now on every Wednesday morning. Probably won't switch it back to Sundays since those are still pretty crazy, but I'll keep you posted on that too.

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