Posts Tagged ‘story’

No Happily Ever After?

My husband and I finished up watching Wayward Pines last night (Yes, I realize we’re about four months behind, which is actually pretty good for us, television wise). And the series was working toward a conclusion, and working, and working–and then it kind of jumped the shark at the last minute.

And I understand, logically, why they did–to leave themselves open for a possible second season, even though they used up all the source material in the first season–but it still annoyed me.

(And this morning I did some research, before I got too annoyed, to see how the books ended so I wasn’t wildly out of line.)

It just…it almost seems like it’s a trend now. It’s bad enough that we seem to have gotten to this point where everything has to be dark and gritty much of the time, but now nothing can end on a good, or even a hopeful, point.

Sometimes this can be good, but more and more I’m just finding it a little exhausting. I look at the news, and all the terrible things happening around the world, and now I can’t even escape into media because it’s just more of the same.

And I know the argument is that it’s more realistic, that bad things happen and nothing is ever truly good, but can’t we have some hope? Some peace? It’s fiction, so can’t we occasionally bend the rules?

(Ending this here because I am typing outside without gloves and it is freezing and also now snowing, and I regret my decisions in life.)

What do you think, Squiders? Any recs for good, engaging media that is not all dark and “oh noes” all the time?

(And Merry Christmas, for those who celebrate, if I don’t get here on Thursday!)

The Wisdom of the Future Dinosaur

Landsquid was tentacle-deep in flour–it was Thursday, his weekly baking day–when his doorbell rang.

Most of his friends knew not to disturb him while baking was in progress, so it was either a stranger, or it was important. He didn’t bother de-flouring before tromping across his house to the front door.

It was Turtleduck. Landsquid looked down at her. A pile of flour gathered on the doorstep.

“Have you heard?” she said.

“Heard what?”

Turtleduck twisted her head one way, then the other. She leaned in. Landsquid was forced to lean in as well. “They say,” she whispered, “that the Alpaca is getting out soon.”

Landsquid had not seen his neighbor and arch-nemesis since the scone/knitting incident, as he called it in his head. How long had he been in his house now, alone except for his knitting and the ceiling turtles? What had happened in that time? What had happened to the poor ceiling turtles? Landsquid had a momentary terrible image of the Alpaca roasting them over open flame. Or knitting them into a sweater from which they never escaped.

“Is that a good idea?” he said.

Turtleduck shook her head so violently she almost overbalanced from the action. “What should we do?”

Landsquid rubbed one head fin before he remembered the flour. What should they do? They could go visit the Alpaca, he guessed, though the last time had been bad enough. Who knew what horrors lurked next door now? “Maybe we should go see the Future Dinosaur,” he said finally.

They went inside. While Landsquid de-floured, Turtleduck managed to roll several muffins into a basket as an offering for the Future Dinosaur. Landsquid had never personally seen the Future Dinosaur before, but it was said that she was infinitely wise, being a product of both the past, and the future.

Landsquid locked his house on the way out, just in case the Alpaca got out before he returned. The last thing he needed was to be ambushed by a probably insane arch-nemesis, possibly wielding scarves and gloves. Then he and Turtleduck walked down to the bus stop, caught the number 5, and took it all the way downtown.

Mmm, baked goods.

The Future Dinosaur was usually found in a small out-building on the grounds of the city/county municipal building. Landsquid and Turtleduck left their names with a nervous platypus out front and sat down under a tree to wait to be called. Apart from the basket of muffins, Landsquid had also brought some Cheez-Its and cocoa in a thermos.

Though no one else came or went, it was half an hour before the platypus called them. Landsquid steeled himself outside the door. Hopefully the Future Dinosaur would have some advice for them, or would be able to help in some manner. Otherwise, this was going to be a waste of perfectly good muffins.

The platypus pushed the door open deliberately slowly. It was dark inside. Landsquid went in first, Turtleduck following less enthusiastically. Once inside, the door was shut behind them, and a low glow appeared, backlighting a table and whomever sat at it. The Future Dinosaur, if that’s who it was, was smaller than Landsquid had expected.

“Oh, great Future Dinosaur,” he said. “We have a problem that we desire your help with. Please accept these muffins as an offering of our sincerity.” Hopefully that sounded okay. Landsquid wished he’d looked up Future Dinosaur etiquette before, but there had never really been a reason to. He shuffled over to the table–the glow was increasing–and deposited the basket.

Up close, the Future Dinosaur was small. And very feathery.

“Cluck CLUCK,” said the Future Dinosaur.

Landsquid glanced at Turtleduck. Was that an invitation to continue? Landsquid explained the situation with the Alpaca. The Future Dinosaur was mostly quiet throughout, though she offered an encouraging “Cluck!” whenever Landsquid paused.

“What do you think?” Landsquid concluded finally.

The Future Dinosaur was silent for a moment, staring at the basket of muffins. Then she jumped on the table with a flap of her wings, knocked the basket over, and declared, “CluckcluckcluckCLUCK bawk cluckcluck,” and pecked the table four times.

Then she snagged a muffin and, with a ruffle of her feathers, disappeared.

Later, on the bus ride home, Landsquid mulled over the Future Dinosaur’s cryptic message while Turtleduck chattered on about how awesome the Future Dinosaur had been, and what an honor it had been to be in her presence, and how wise she had been about everything. Despite the wisdom of the message the Future Dinosaur had given him, he did not seem to be smart enough to be able to decipher it.

What would he do when he got home?

Well, maybe it would be obvious. Landsquid could only hope.

The Individuality of Story

So, not too long ago, I was going through my Twitter followers and putting them into lists because I’d become overwhelmed by my feed (stream? why do I suck at knowing social media terms?) and hadn’t really touched it in about two years. (And now, with the lists, it is lovely and manageable. I highly recommend.)

Anyway, I was looking at the people I was following and deciding where to put them, and I came across Amalia Dillin, who happens to write books with a mixture of Biblical and other mythologies, which is what Shards happens to be. And I got really excited and probably scared her a bit, but, long story short, I bought the first book in her series and have been reading it recently.

And every time my husband sees me reading it, he asks, “Is yours better?”

To which I reply, “Mine is different.”

And they are–very different.

I firmly believe that each of us are the sum of our own experiences, and we have our own thoughts, dreams, and beliefs that are completely unique to ourselves. And I believe that, given the exact same premise, no two authors will write the same story. How could they? They’re different people.

So, while both Amalia and I have worlds where the various pantheons are real and interact with Biblical characters, the stories themselves are wildly different. In fact, this is probably the closest I’ve ever been to reading a story with the same premise as one of my own, and it’s been very interesting and enlightening to take note of the differences and the similarities, to compare how she twisted the mythology to how I did.

I’ve wanted, for years, to do some sort of experiment, where several authors are given the exact same premise, or maybe even a loose plot, and then we sit back and see what everyone came up with, how each individual person twisted things to suit their needs and styles and experiences. I think it’d be really interesting.

And then, maybe, depending on length and so forth, we could put the stories out as an anthology or something.

What do you think, Squiders? Other writers–have you ever come across another story with the same or a similar premise to your own?

Working Past the Beginning

So I’m finally getting to work on my chainsaw edit, but, like all my stories, I started in the wrong place and have to write a new beginning. (I know, I know, I’m so backwards. Most people start too early, I always start too late. Go figure.)

I was really excited about getting to work, so I sat down, got out my new outline, started to type, and…was unimpressed.

Beginnings suck. For some reason, they always feel bad. Either they don’t work the way you plan, or you feel like you’re writing crap, or, especially in a first draft, your characters just aren’t jelling.

And then you get frustrated. And you either give up, or you keep trying to rewrite it until it doesn’t suck, and either way, it is a huge time suck.

Here’s a secret…your beginning doesn’t have to be perfect.

So, how do you get the motivation to move on?

You tell yourself whatever you need to. Tell yourself that you’ll come back to it, that it’ll read better when you’ve got a little distance. Tell yourself that you can have a cookie. Tell yourself that your family will still love you.

Tell yourself that you can come back and fix it after you’ve written the rest of the story and know what the beginning should be.

Me, I’m not worrying too much right now. Yes, this is a second draft and I know what my beginning needs to be, but I’m still keeping my options open. Aside from the straight opening, I also have flashback and in media res openings if the straight one doesn’t work.

Don’t let your beginning get you down. There’s so much story awaiting you, if you let yourself get there.

Of Sulking Alpacas and Scones

Landsquid left his house through the front door, carrying a basket of freshly made chocolate chip scones (which are the best kind) over one tentacle. He steeled himself, then quickly hurried down his front walkway, around the fence, and up to his neighbor and arch-nemesis Alpaca’s front door. He paused for a moment, listening, but there was no movement.

Landsquid hadn’t seen or heard from the Alpaca since he had attempted to take over the blog at the beginning of June. He’d been on house arrest ever since. Oh, Landsquid had been mad at first. There’d been the whole incident with being locked in the Alpaca’s basement with the ceiling turtles. FOR A WEEK. But at least he’d had some cocoa and Cheez-Its, and the ceiling turtles weren’t too bad, as long as you ignored them trying to gnaw on your head fins.

Landsquid paused for a moment to wonder what had happened to the ceiling turtles. Were they still in the basement? Had they escaped and made their way out into the wide world to find someone else’s head to drop on, or had they infiltrated the main part of the house, where the Alpaca was forced to stay?

That could be why Landsquid hadn’t seen him in a while. Hm.

Although, if the Alpaca was dealing with a ceiling turtle infestation, he’d been much too quiet about it. Landsquid had gotten used to the loud yelling that often drifted over the fence at even the most benign of times. But now, he’d been quiet for months. Landsquid was worried. It’d taken years to build up their relationship to the proper level of arch-nemesis-ness.

Before he could chicken out, Landsquid straightened his basket of scones and knocked soundly on the front door. At first, there was nothing, but then a long, strange dragging noise, just barely audible, started towards the door. It did not sound like the Alpaca at all. Landsquid clutched his basket tighter and debated fleeing. What was that noise, all slithery and light? He had horrible visions of some sort of forgotten creature, long resting in some deep, dark place, burrowing its way to the surface.

That could also explain why he hadn’t seen any ceiling turtles either. They’d be the first–and possibly the last–line of defense.

The door opened. Landsquid drew back, ready to flee if necessary, but it was an alpaca, wearing a ridiculously long afghan. Upon closer inspection, it was the Alpaca, though his usual mustache and monocle were nowhere to be seen. Instead, along with the afghan, he was wearing some sort of bonnet, and he had a pleasant smile on his face.

“Uh,” said Landsquid, thoroughly baffled. “How are you holding…up?”

“Oh, fine, fine,” said the Alpaca. “I’ve taken up knitting, you see. Very calming. Cheap–well, for me, anyway–too. Don’t have to leave the house, even if I could!”

Around the Alpaca’s fluffiness, Landsquid could see what looked like several ceiling turtles, crawling around on the floor, of all places, wearing turtle-shaped sweaters and booties.

“You should come in,” the Alpaca continued. “I’ve just got some new yarn spun. It’s a lovely shade of light yellow. It’d really bring out your eyes.” He kind of leered as he spoke. And not the typical ‘I am contemplating great evil’ leer that Landsquid was accustomed to, but more of a ‘I have been around yarn and ceiling turtles for too long and would like to knit you into a full-body stocking from which you will never escape, and then I shall feed you bon-bons and talk to you as if you weren’t really there’ sort of leer.

“Oh, no,” said Landsquid. “I’m afraid I can’t now. I’ve got to…wash my hair. But I brought you these scones, as, you know, sort of a ‘Don’t worry about trying to conquer my livelihood and feed me to ceiling turtles’ thing, you know.” He thrust the basket at the Alpaca. “Hope you like them. But I must be going I’m afraid. Yes, yes, well, I’ll see you later.”

He backpeddled up the walk and back towards his own house. As he went, he thought he might have heard the Alpaca whisper, “Yes, yes, you will.”

Take Charge of Your Writing

You know why most of us write, right? (ahahaha) Because we have a story we want to tell. We may or may not care if anyone else reads it, but we want to see what happens, how the characters change, and we want to experience new things.

So we write the story, and then we may or may not enter the editing phase. And here’s where things get a bit weird. Some people, when they get to this stage just…give up. They figure they did their best the first time around, and now they need someone more experienced to help them.

This isn’t necessarily bad. Getting feedback is a good thing. It helps you tighten the story, fix plot holes, expand character arcs, up the stakes, and, on a more nitpicky note, points out everywhere you need commas where they have mysteriously wandered off. Feedback is good.

What is bad is what I occasionally see in my editing career. I will occasionally get authors that give me their novel and say, “Kit, you are better at this than I am, so I want you to rewrite my story for me.”

No. This is bad. If you want to be an author, if you want a career writing books, then you need to learn. And the best way to learn is by figuring out where you went wrong. If I am better than you at it, it’s because I have a ridiculous amount of practice.

But I also have my own way that I like to write stories, my own voice, and the last thing I want to do is write your story for you. I have my own stories. I will help you whatever way you want to help you get your story done, but it is your story. (And, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, the random editor you hire? Probably doesn’t particularly care about your story. I work in my non-favorite genres all the time for clients. They’re not going to do your story justice because it doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to you.)

There is no easy way to do this. You’re only cheating yourself if you give your story away. You may get an end product you’re happy with, something that may or may not be better than what you could have done on your own, but you’re cheating yourself, denying yourself the opportunity to grow. And there is the very real possibility that you will get your story back and find that you hate it, that the editor has managed to kill everything that made your story special to you, or you hate their writing style, or whatever.

It’s your story. See it through to the end.

An Infestation of Ceiling Turtles

I can’t help it. I haven’t been this amused with a made-up animal since the Sky Shark.

###

Landsquid took his mug of cocoa and his box of Cheez-Its and padded over to the kitchen table, ready to have a nutritious breakfast. He had a full day planned. His arch-nemesis, the Alpaca, was having a tea party, and there were scones to be made before hand. Not the kind with fruit in them, though. That was a bit too evil for Landsquid.

He set his meal down and settled down into his chair. As he reached for the cocoa, he thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, but decided it was a trick of his imagination.

After a few sips of delicious liquid chocolate, he reached a tentacle for the Cheez-Its. That’s when the first one attacked. Landsquid paused at the sudden pressure on his head, then yelped as it bit down on one fin, Cheez-Its scattering everywhere. The second dropped directly into his cocoa, spilling it over the cracker-y mess. The third landed in the kitchen sink inexplicably.

“Ceiling turtles!” he cried, waving his tentacles furiously.

“Kkkkkkkkk,” said the ceiling turtles. The one covered in cocoa started eating his Cheez-Its.

Oh, that would not do.

Landsquid grabbed the box of Cheez-Its and went in search of his phone. It wasn’t on the kitchen counter. It’s wasn’t on his desk. It wasn’t even in the refrigerator. (The oddest things ended up in the refrigerator.)

The ceiling turtles came for him, crawling across the floor.

It also wasn’t in the dining room, on his dresser, or under his bed. Landsquid rubbed one fin in frustration. The ceiling turtles continued their way across the kitchen floor.

Finally, the phone was discovered in the third drawer under the sink in the second bathroom. Landsquid dialed information and was connected to a local exterminator.

“Ceiling turtles,” he said.

“Sorry, man,” said the exterminator. “There’s been a shortage of essence of myrtle lately. You’re screwed.”

The turtles had almost made it the kitchen door.

Landsquid hung up the phone and shut the kitchen door. There was a very slow scratching against the bottom. What was he to do? He’d always heard it was hard to get rid of ceiling turtles once they moved in. Maybe he’d just sell the house.

There was a near-silent sound of tiny, scaly feet beginning an ascent up the wall.

They were in there with his cocoa and Cheez-Its. Drastic measures were needed.

After a thorough search of the house, he returned, bearing a bucket, an old cat calendar, and a broomstick. It was silent in the kitchen. The turtles could be anywhere. Gathering his supplies in one hand, Landsquid slid the door open. His head remained turtle-free.

A quick survey of the room revealed one turtle in his Cheez-Its box. The other two were in the sink. What was with the sink? Maybe he should clean it more often.

Wielding his broomstick, he poked the turtle out of his delicious snacks. It hissed at him, but Landsquid dropped the bucket over it and slid the calendar underneath. He flipped the bucket over and received a satisfying turtle shell thunk for his effort.

He repeated the process for the two in the sink. The ceiling turtles hissed and scratched at the inside of the bucket, but the worn plastic held.

It was harder to get the bucket out of the sink, but then Landsquid took his captives out the back and dropped them over the fence into his neighbor’s, the Alpaca’s, yard.

That ought to make the tea party more interesting.

Landsquid took his bucket back inside, humming, and sat back down to his now slightly-soggy breakfast. He reached a tentacle for his cocoa.

That’s when the ceiling turtle attacked.