About Those Resolutions

Hello 2016, Goodbye 2015, Happy New Year everyone!

I’m here to confess another little tidbit. I’m an amateur guitar player. I’m very serious about being an amateur, I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years now. Never had the time, nor the inclination to become professional about this either. It’s too much practice if we want to get down to it, and quite frankly, I am not one to play for a crowd of any kind, so why bother? So yeah, I can pull off some pretty nice tunes (rhythm guitar, forget solos), but that’s just for me, myself and I.

It’s a real kick for me to succeed in playing a riff I like. If I can pull it off, it doesn’t really matter if it’s just part of a song with 10 more riffs. It’s about the chord progression. If I can make it from chord 1 to chord 3, or 8 or whatever without messing it up, I’m satisfied. Those in my immediate proximity might be very irritated until that happens, but what can you do…

Great chord progressions start somewhere, go through some turmoil and can only end with a resolution. You might not understand what I’m saying, but trust me, every riff you like is resolved one way or the other. It’s that chord, or note that let’s you release that breath you were holding. That final note that, only once played, a new progression starts. It’s the progression of different notes that takes you on an emotional ride and the resolution is the satisfying end. It could very well be a surprise, but it is absolutely satisfying.

Stories are like chord progressions. They too, have a beginning, middle and end. They too, take you on an emotional ride, and… yes, they too, should be resolved in a satisfying way.

What does it mean to resolve a story?

Well, stories (good ones) are based – in a nut shell – on the gap between what a character wants, and the hand that life deals her. That creates problems. These problems need to be resolved by the time we put the book down.

Otherwise, we remain frustrated.

Note, that I keep using the terms “resolve” and “satisfy“. These absolutely do not mean that every problem is resolved to our hero’s best interests. It does not mean a “happy end” and it does not even mean our hero stays alive…

It only means that every question raised during this emotional ride gets answered in a logical (logical within the story) and believable way. No loose ends. No little sub plot left hanging. No “leave it to the readers” as in – let them write the end of the story. Yeah, an end might leave things for the reader to ponder, but it’s up to the writer to answer the main questions, to show how each story line ends – even if the end is not absolute (say, a couple gets married – we don’t necessarily have to know if they stay together or have kids [Only if it’s directly tied to an open story question]).

Think about the best books you’ve read. They may differ in many ways, from style to subject matter. One thing I absolutely guarantee they have in common – being great – is that they are all resolved with a satisfying ending.

I sincerely hope that 2015 is ending in a very satisfying way for all of you – and this time I do mean a happy ending. Let’s all ride into the sunset with the loot and the girl, and live happily ever after.

Happy 2016 everyone,

 

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Someone Call Billie Joe Armstrong

Hi everyone.

Not sure why, but this September has been very slow on this here blog. Well, I do have some pretty convincing reasons, not the least of which is being a busy little bee, plotting a novel. I also, you know, work and otherwise committed to householdy things, so there’s that. But even if I did have the time to sit and actually write a post, it seems like my brain (or that  part of it in charge of coming up with things to say) was as foggy as the Georgia skies have been these past weeks.

And so, I find myself humming Green day’s tune “Wake me up when September ends”.

Although the original video for this song can be considered a leading candidate for “cheesiest video in history” award, the lyrics say something else. They talk about transformation, which is what we’re here to talk about.

Quick shout-out before we continue to Christina, whose workshop – the 60/60 method is as good as it gets. A real eye opener!

I rarely “promote” anything, so when I do, you should know it’s something of real value. Not your usual “come see what a great writer I am” scheme. This is the real deal folks. Ask me and I’ll say (a lot) more.

The reason I bring this up is that I was reminded again, that transformation is THE heart of our writing adventure.

It’s pretty clear that the most significant lines in this song are:

Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are

Change is not easy (Well, no shit Sherlock). But transformation, a real change that make one who s/he turns out to be? That – in most cases – involves pain. It could be an agonizing, seemingly unbearable pain, or a sudden jolt. It could last a long time, or not. But while sitting comfortably, we rarely come to any real revelation. Why would we? If we’re nice and cozy – what’s the motivation?

That’s true in fiction to an even greater extent.

If in real life, the pain can vary depending on the individual and their tolerance, in fiction we simply can’t settle for anything less than dramatic. Losing a job in this day and age could be extremely difficult and bring about severe repercussions. That would be a heart wrenching story. In a newspaper article.

In a book, losing one’s job (and I am generalizing here) doesn’t quite cut it. As opposed to real life, where we wish everyone a smooth journey to happiness, as writers of fiction, we cannot expect a reader to accept a transformation based on something less than dramatic. Nor can the reader accept a transformation based on a single event as tragic as it is.

Come to think about it, there’s a lot to be said about real life transformations, in comparison to fiction. But that is for another post.

Just like Billie Joe, some things must come to pass and our hero must be drenched in pain before emerging, renewed.

  • How was your life transformed?
  • How was you your hero’s?

Let me know what you think and otherwise feel free to comment and share the pain.

That’s all for today, wake me up when September ends.

State of the union – January 21, 2015

Welcome all, Republicans, Democrats, others. I don’t really subscribe to this divide, but you’re all welcome on this here blog.

You might have notice a “slight” slowing down here in recent weeks and I just wanted to update you on the current state of affairs. I promise that on this SOTU, you will get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me god.

So what have I been up to?

Well, first and foremost, as advertised – I’m busy with the re-write of my finished first draft. In case you were wondering, This is not the process of crossing all my T’s and dotting all my I’s. What this process involve is another review of my objectives, the character’s development, the plot. I want to make sure there are no gaping plot holes, ensure that the story is actually told as promised, my main character go through the full transformation, that the other characters play a role that justifies their existence in my tale.

As you can see, it’s call re-write because the probability of having to re-write some of what I already did in the first draft is about a 100%.

I’m done with about 60% of the text, so pretty satisfied with my progress here, and at the same time, that means I’m really engaged in this process – which comes to explain the main reason for the relative slowness of updates on my blog.

Before taking on this laborious task, I gave myself a month to let the first draft sit. In the meanwhile I binge-watched the second season of “The Americans” (Fantastic season, better than the first) and the mini-series “The honorable woman” (great series! Wish I saw it before I started this book). I finished reading Tad Williams’ “Sleeping late on judgment day” which is the final installment of the Bobby Dollar trilogy. I can’t say enough about Tad Williams. The greatest living fantasy/Sci-Fi writer I know. I also started Ursula Le-Guin’s “The Dispossessed” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451“, both of which I’m finding immensely satisfying reads. So there. Some R&R before renewing efforts on my project.

Another thing that happened, and happens, is obviously life. Not whining here, as my problems are of the infamous 1st world ones. Work, family etc. Suffice to say that one should always consider too much work as preferable to the alternative, and family? well, that was a conscious choice wasn’t it? 🙂

Other than that, as is dictated by the Murphy set of laws, of course that while I’m excited about working to finalize my book, new ides keep popping up in my head. The danger here is clear and imminent. Distraction. So for now, I am writing these down and focusing on the tasks at hand.

This book WILL see the light of day in 2015. I hope that this will happen well inside Q1.

In the meanwhile, thanks for stopping by again. I will not neglect this outlet and you can surely expect to find some cool stuff in the coming weeks.

Until next time, feel free to leave comments, questions or request down here and I will see you soon!

Want to write a novel? How about writing a novel first?

Welcome everybody!

Today I celebrate. But just for a moment. because, as advertised I was committed to completing the first draft of Novel #2 by the end of the year. Guess what? I did! Hurray! Huzzah! and other strange words!

Now, Instead of boring you with what I already wrote, let me share a little advice. This is mostly for any of you who ever thought about writing a novel. Whoever is wondering whether they can. And keep in mind that my advice is not Isaac Asimov’s or Stephen King’s. Just little Ole’ me.

Disclaimer in place, let’s move on.

So you want to write a novel. I got plenty of advice for you. But perhaps, one advice needs more weight in the grand scheme of things.

If you want to write a novel, perhaps try writing a novel first.

Wait, what?

Yes, I said that. But what I mean is that perhaps you need to write A novel before you write THE novel. Makes more sense? Let’s wrap our brain around that one.

I’m a true believer in the idea that everyone has a story in him/her to tell.
I’m also a firm believer in that everyone is capable of telling a story.
Another adage I subscribe to is that “If you ever wonder ‘Why isn’t anyone writing a story about____?’ it’s your responsibility to write one.”

But how? How to I write a novel?

Oh, the tools are plenty. Just try google for size. Knowing what I do today, I’d advise you to be very prudent before you put your trust in any of the following search results. I know of at the very least 5 different “methods” or “techniques” or “philosophies”. I read my share of “How to” books, not the least important ones are Stephen King’s ‘On Writing‘ and Larry Brooks’s “Story Engineering“. These two are polarizing examples of really great pool of knowledge and experience. If I was to start from scratch today, I’d say start there.

But that’s just the start. At least for moi.

Working with a writing coach has been the greatest choice for me.  Participating in a really honest writer’s group is priceless. If you’re a first timer like I was (and to some extent still am), I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of guidance and brutally honest feedback (Yes, that excludes mom).

So, here’s why I suggest to write A novel first:

It takes time to write. It takes time to write well. The more you write, the gooder you shall be. Well, in most cases.

So why not write A novel? Shave on its figurative beard, Make all the classic mistakes, get lost on the way, find Jesus (or Allah, or Moses…) and get to know the effort and sacrifice that writing a novel takes. Then, when you have A novel written, it’s time to write THE novel.

This time with fewer mistakes. Note – ‘fewer’. not ‘none’. This time getting just a little lost but finding your way quicker.

I can tell you that while writing THE novel was by no means easy, it was far less frustrating than the first time around. If only due to the fact that I was less defensive about it.

Now listen to me. with an impressive track record of 2 drafts unpublished (as of yet). But I’m merely repeating a lesson I learned for myself, which was taught to me by far more experienced and prolific masters of the craft. My current draft will change, and the end product? well, it might not be the peak of my creative magnificence. But it sure as hell is going to be better than the first 🙂 and guess what – the third will be better than this one – provided I don’t slack off.

So write A novel. Then please – write THE novel and let me know. Just finished a really good book.

Questions? Comments? Tips? Write them all down here at the comments section.

But what about the reader?

Welcome back folks, no time for much preamble as we have a score to settle here!

I told you I was writing and I wasn’t lying when I said that either. Now, in our little writers group we had a little debate. See, when you write, there are two things you need to know very well:

One is what you – as a writer want to accomplish. What do you want happening in that chapter you write? What do you want to show the reader? How are you going to move your story forward?

The other thing you need to know is what does your character want. What does she want to accomplish?

Without knowing that, precious time might be awasting… You might write some really nicely crafted paragraphs that would amount to not much more than fluff.

Now, we all read Stephen king, and if you didn’t, I suggest you get going! And we know that the most important person related to a story is – The reader.

And so, the question was raised – should we not think about the reader?

But of course! We most definitely should. Otherwise, we might as well write a nice journal. You know.

“Woke up this morning at 6:34 am, brushed my teeth and ate half a piece of toast with my primrose teas.”

Yup, the kind only we would ever read.

But here’s the thing.

You can control your character – after all, you created the little bugger.
You can control your story – You – and only you – should know what you’re going to tell.
You absolutely cannot. Repeat – cannot, control the reader. Nor should you. You’re (hopefully) not a control freak! The reader will read your story and feel whatever the hell she does.
You can use many devices and stylistic measures to “nudge” the readers in the direction you think they should go. There’s a lot to be said about settings, dialogue, dramatic irony and whatnot. But that is all you can do.

You can’t seriously believe your role as a writer is to tell the reader what to think and how to feel, can you? Cause if you do, here’s a suggestion. write a paragraph before every chapter with directions.

“In this next chapter, I’d like you to be afraid. Be very afraid! Bwahahhaha!”

Seriously now, as the irritatingly popular song goes – Let it go, let it go.

It’s your story until it’s the readers’ story.

Consider this – before you publish – If you’d like to set a mood, it’s up to you to write it that way. Once you have. You did your part. Now the reader didn’t tell you what to do, right? So don’t tell her. She knows. Just write your damn story already! Keep the reader in mind when you decide how to tell it, but for the love of Isaac, let it go.

So there we are. I had my say. Now while I go on writing in the free world, feel free to tell me what you think. There’s a nice little comments box right here.

Book Report – December 11th 2014

Hello everyone and welcome back.

It slowed down here a notch this week, but that doesn’t mean I was idle. In fact, I was everything but idle.

While I enjoy writing these blog posts, I do have my main project in the works and have been for a while now. To recap, after writing a second draft for my first novel, I decided to use that experience and write the story that begged to be written. I’ve placed Novel #1 on figurative ice and started Novel #2 from scratch.

What that means is of course, coming up with a new idea, concept and create a plot, A to Z. It means a heck of a lot more, of course, but with your permission, I’d skip the lecture and summarize this by “writing a lot of words that move the story forward, from the introduction of my hero through to tying all loose ends.”

So words I’ve written this week. Plenty of those things. 14,068 words this week, but who’s counting? In terms of progress, I obviously feel great. I’m at the part of the story where writing becomes as fast as – hopefully – it would be reading. Think last quarter of the book when the heat is on.

You might be wondering what type of book I’m writing, to which the answer is – A politically charged thriller.

So there you have it. That’s what yours truly has been up to these past few days. I tried to keep this place interesting with a fantastic blog post by Jake Threadgood about his experience in Iran. Until I complete my first draft (Judging by current rate, we’re talking end of 2014), you may notice slower updates on this here blog, but stay tuned. I promise some shenanigans.

For now, I write, cause writers write, they just do, that’s how we roll!

madafaka1

A few words about SELF-publishing

You would notice that the title has the word “self” capitalized. I hope you wonder why, cause that would be my “hook” :). This post, as you might have so intelligently concluded is – Self publishing. Now a lot has been said about this topic, and I will happily share some of the more intelligent words that were posted about the subject. Continue reading