Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Writers want to tell an interesting and engaging story. This isn’t an easy task, either. We’re each one out of thousands of story-tellers, and it seems every possible idea has been done in some form or another. This can make writing our own stories seem daunting. Even futile. I should know, because I’ve struggled with this insecurity before.
Speculative fiction gives us the advantage of opening up the possibilities. The universe is vast. There are so many things to see and do that humans have yet to discover, and this is an exciting fact. This doesn’t mean, however, that the story ideas always come easily. They frequently don’t. There are, however, plenty of ways to defeat writers block. I’ve used these methods myself.
Next time you’re watching a film, ask yourself questions.How could things have happened differently? What if a character missed their flight and couldn’t make it to the important meeting? What if the protagonist saw through the antagonist’s lies and decided to try to beat them at their own game. Asking these kinds of questions regarding stories you love help get you thinking like a writer. Plus, the urge you may occasionally feel to yell at the screen when a character does something stupid can be harnessed for good use. That’s a great thing, if you ask me.
You can also ask friends to give you tidbits of plot. Ask one friend for a character or two. Ask another for a setting. Ask a third to give you an inciting incident to kick the story into motion. Ask someone else for another incident to send events into a new and interesting direction. Use these things to create a story idea.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.
Character #1: Female, age 35, doctor
Character #2: Male, age 20, mechanic
Setting: spaceship, passenger liner, carrying 20,000 people, currently in orbit around Earth
Inciting Incident: A bizarre space anomaly is spotted, and it’s heading straight for Earth.
From this setup, questions naturally arise. How should they respond to seeing the anomaly? What is it? What will happen if it reaches Earth? Will the world be destroyed, or will it be changed in some strange way? Should the spaceship stay and try to help if things go awry? Should they flee to protect the 20,000 people onboard? The story could go in so many different directions. What role will our main characters play in all this? They won’t be the ones making the final decision about whether the ship stays or goes, but they’ll certainly have plenty to do when trouble strikes.
The idea may ultimately be terrible. It might also be brilliant. In either case, it’ll get your brain thinking creatively, and that’s the most important part of all this.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Hey everyone, Mel here. Today I wanted to focus on blogging, and for me nothing was bigger in the blogging world than A to Z. For those of you who don't know about April's A to Z challenge, it's a blog hop created by Arlee Bird. During this challenge, you post daily (except on Sunday) and your daily post corresponds with a letter of the alphabet. April first is A, second is B, etc. I've participated in the challenge for years. I'd usually start preparing mid-February, because I learned early on that the last thing you want to be doing in April is writing posts. No April is for visiting. And I plan to do that again this year, although I'm not participating myself. For those of you who are, there have been a few changes, the biggest being that there is no list. Instead, you're going to link your daily post to a comment on the A to Z Blog. There are some things I like about this and some things I don't. As a former co-host, I get it. There were a lot of people who signed up and didn't post. The bummer is that I loved that list. I used it all the time, long after the challenge was over. It gave me an easy way to find blogs I normally wouldn't know anything about. It helped me branch out, which is what blogging is all about.
Are you participating in A to Z this year? And if so, do you have a theme?
Do you like the changes?
Until next time-
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Image: Caitlin "Caity" Tobias
In my short story, Scrying the Plane, Lillian Reynolds dives into a virtual reality plane where everything seems like tons of fun: Twitter bluebirds flit about delivering messages, and the band U2 is performing "live".
Then things take a scary turn and she ends up in the virtual hands of a lecherous old man. Before escaping the police, this villain declares: "I never touched her." Technically, he's right.
Image: Newtown grafitti
Scrying the Plane was published in May of 2016 in the Parallels: Felix Was Here anthology. By October, a story came out of a VR game player, Jordan Belamire*, who was virtually assaulted by another player while blasting away zombies with a bow and arrow in QuiVr. (Read the details in this post from Belamire.)
Reactions to this story were mixed. Some commented that since nothing actually happened, it wasn't a big deal. Others felt a comparison of virtual groping in a game to sexual assault was insulting to victims of "real" sexual assault. But the developer of QuiVr, Aaron Stanton, was horrified and designed a gesture their customers can execute to make other players disappear, creating a virtual safe space during play. (Source: nypost.com)
Image: Mikael T
So is virtual assault a crime? Not yet, according to lawyer Mark Methenitis. As of now, sexual assault and rape statues in the US require physical contact. Players might see their avatar attacked, but they can't feel it. But physical sensation with VR isn't impossible. (Source: TheGuardian.com)
Haptic technology is used to provide a sense of touch. Haptic suits or vests are being developed so gamers can feel explosions or bullet impacts. (Wikipedia)
Image: KOR-FX Immersive Gaming Vest (sale price $99)
What do you think? Should Stanton's safety gesture be an industry standard for all VR games? Would you be interested in feeling the violent effects of these war games with a haptic suit or vest? (Personally, I'd rather have a virtual massage than get shot, but that's just me.)
*This may be a pseudonym.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Have you heard of the "Many Worlds" hypothesis? This theory tended to keep the parallel universes separate yet within the same time frame as our own, but now there's a new theory called "the many interacting worlds" hypothesis. This theory states at a quantum level our world interacts with parallel worlds. If this theory proves true, we could one day interact with other parallel universes and maybe even time travel.
Here are a couple articles about this theory: "Parallel worlds exist and interact with our world, say physicists" by Bryan Nelson and "New Radical Theory Shatters What We Know of Parallel Universes, Space and Time."
What do you think of "the many interacting worlds" hypothesis?
I hope everyone is having a good holiday. To celebrate the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, I'm giving away a paperback copy of Parallels: Felix Was Here on Goodreads. There will be two winners. You can enter here.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
A question recently asked by N. R. Williams' in a recent blog post. I thought I would answer it here, and not just because I won a place in the Parallels: Felix Was Here Anthology, but because I co-host a writing challenge called Write…Edit…Publish Blog Post, with Denise Covey.
The WEP is a flash fiction challenge open to all writers, and we work hard to come up with a schedule of contests that offer just that, an opportunity for participants to try something new.
When most of us start out, we choose a genre and concentrate our efforts in that arena. My first choice was mystery. I thought mysteries would be my main calling, but then I found the need to branch out and found writing contests the solution.
Each writing challenge is an opportunity, not only for expression but it's a chance to learn and open yourself to other possibilities. You'll not only stretch your imagination but you'll meet a new network of people. Writers helping other writers is the key to success and, yes, even that necessary evil of marketing becomes easier as you introduce yourself to new readers via a new genre.
Have you tested the waters - tried a new genre?
Did you submit to the IWSG Anthlogoy?
Or do you limit yourself, convinced you can only 'write what you know'?
Jump in and open yourself to creativity.
You will never, ever regret it!
To help you consider a different genre
here's a list of the tips or essentials for writing
Science Fiction, Romance, Horror or Scary,
Mysteries and Fantasy.
1. Science fiction is often based on scientific principles and technology.
2. Science fiction may make predictions about life in the future.
3. Science fiction often deals with aliens or with life on other worlds.
4. Science fiction can comment on important issues in society.
1. A hero and a heroine to fall in love
2. A problem that creates conflict and tension between them and threatens to keep them apart
3. A developing love that is so special it comes about only once in a lifetime
4. A resolution in which the problem is solved and the couple is united.
(last month's Parallels post by Crystal Collier)
1. The setting: your word choices and imagery should depict an ambiance that sets our nerves on end.
2. A protagonist you like: a likable character builds the tension.
3. Foreshadowing: give hints, snippets that tell us something sinister is coming
4. Building tension: up the stakes with things that really matter (like people's lives).
5. Surprise: that twist that changes the entire story.
1. Characters that are engaging entertaining, and possibly, seem as though they could be the villain.
2. An Intriguing Plot: a ‘hook’ that gains the reader’s interest and pulls them along with the story.
3. Clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing.
3. Clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing.
4. Action and adventure to keep the story moving.
5. A healthy dose of suspense that allows the reader to connect more with the characters.
1. Plot: almost always a natural serial sequence i.e. a hero’s journey of separation, quest, and reconciliation/salvation.
3. Setting: often medieval or magical, but can be urban or modern and often emblematic and symbolic rather than literal.
4. Characters: wizards, witches, elves, fairies, gnomes, dwarves, goblins, trolls, sprites, angels, and devils, etc. or humans with their traits.
If one of these is your genre - what characteristic do you feel is most important to make it work?
Tell us your genre, and if you haven't yet attempted a new one - if and when you do, what would it be?
For more information on each subject, just click the title.
In my story for Parallels, Ever-Ton,
global warming was a real thing.
global warming was a real thing.
IT IS a real thing.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
I was recently asked a funny question: do you write scary stuff?
Well, I don't think so, but some people do. A reader recently told me that she had to put my debut novel (MOONLESS) down because of a scene 5 chapters in. I had to take another look. Maybe I do write tense, if not terrifying things.
An extreme scare=an extreme relief.
The same is true with my Maiden of Time series. There are creatures one might call a cross between a dementor, vampire, and werewolf. Just perfect for Halloween. They're coming out to play in the final book, TIMELESS, releasing November 1. (Shameless plug there.)
So what is it that makes a story "scary?" And how do we implement the scare?
1. The setting:
The word choices and imagery depict an ambiance that sets our nerves on end. One scene in Moonless takes place in a 17th century cellar at midnight. A "dead girl" is found hanging from the rafters on chains. (She's not really dead, but that's another discussion for another day.) The setting builds on the shadows, the lack of light, the chill in the air, the flicker of a nearly-dead candle, the dead silence, and the bleeding red skirts of the hanging girl. Did you get all those details there? Full sensory experience based on what we perceive as terrifying--and that's the scene that robbed me of a reader. *sigh*
2. A protagonist you like:
If you sincerely care about a character, you don't want to see them step into the attic and get hacked to pieces by an ax murderer. A likable character builds the tension. That was the case with Jak from The Mirror People. I had to tell his story because I had to know that this sincerely good guy would somehow overcome the monster on the other side of the glass.
4. Building tension:
The stakes are upped. Things that really matter (like people's lives) are jeopardized. We take it to the next level by throwing something new into the fire. In Timeless, Alexia is already battling the Knights Templar to keep her people alive, and then mysterious murders start happening in her camp. Suddenly there is no safe haven.
This is the best part of a scary story in my opinion--that thing jumping out that you didn't expect. That twist that changed the entire story for you. Surprises are a must.
If you can pull off the tension and bring your readers to that place of relief, you've got them for life. Go forth and scare!
What's your favorite scary story or movie?
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Parallel universes explore the what if – what if one or more elements was different that our own world. But if you think about it, all speculative fiction is about the what if. It’s exploring a place unlike our own, transporting the reader to a world of possibilities.
This type of writing appeals to both writer and reader on many levels.
Fun to brainstorm. We can just start listing all sorts of crazy what ifs.
No limits. This is about things that aren’t real. Not yet and maybe never. We can go as far as we envision.
We become Creator. All writers do, but we can take it a step farther with a whole new world.
For the reader:
The chance to escape reality. When the news and troubles of the world overwhelm, nothing is more satisfying than retreating away from reality.
Struggles easier to handle. The troubles of this world can overwhelm us. But present those same struggles in a speculative fiction setting, and they are easier to handle and understand. We can process them better.
Encourages imagination. The same imagination that created the story flows into the reader and he envisions the world beyond the book. He’ll create his own stories.
What if takes us to a place beyond this world. And that’s a good thing. After all, all of the advancements and inventions of this world came from that simple question – what if?
Alex J. Cavanaugh
- Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.