Stuck

Oh dear. I have got myself into a bit of a tight spot with the plot. My heroes are stuck at the final battle scene and have discovered a plant that can be grown to make the matrix for storing huge amounts of charge for lasers. I know sum1 who is nanotech expert and she tells me that nanotech takes huge energy cos the nanobots are grown in vacuums. So I though cool – that means growing plants could be cheaper and faster. Problem is that on Io (moon of Jupiter) there is a thin atmosphere anyway and plants need Oxygen and light and water so actually my plot falls apart. I need some kind of reason for the plants. Its not really crucial to the plot in a logical sense but it just feels right.

I am stalled on this right now: because it is the final scene I can’t really continue until I have fixed this.

If anybody comes up with a reason, let me know. Solutions on a postcard please.

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two films

As many of you know I am a big movie buff. After a solid afternoon’s writing on Sunday I settled down to watch two movies in the evening. D.O.A. (1950) and Helen of Troy (1956)

D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) is a noirish movie about a guy with a shady business who goes on an enexplained break to a city in US and gets poisoned. Thinking its just a bad hangover he goes to the doctor who tells him its fatal and he has days to live. He then goes on a desperate hunt for his own killer before finally reporting a homicide at the Police Station. The officer asks him who was murdered and he says “Me.” This is actually the film’s opening scene and surprisingly the officer, far from being incredulous, actually hunts for the report of the guys murder which he already has.

Its a very complicated and twisty plot with very tight dialogue. The production is cheap in places with the worst bit being an awful ‘Clangers-like’ whooping whistle sound every time he sees a good looking ‘dame’ near the beginning. It is easily salvaged by Edmond O’Brien’s acting and that guy can really run. There is a scene with him running down a pavement and onto a road between cars and apparently it was done for real without extras. When he hits top speed he is really moving. I kept trying to see if it was speeded-up but I don’t think so. Apparently he studied magic under Houdini who was a neighbour so maybe he was a real althlete when younger. For a tubby guy, its the best bit of running I have ever seen. And he wasn’t young either.

Helen Of Troy was even more of a curates-egg but enjoyable none-the-less; probably because I love historical movies. I actually preferred it to the recent Troy although it did take the Trojan point of view more. Helen was played by a certain Rossana Podesta – Tripoli-born and a very beautiful woman. Brigitte Bardot was in there too in a minor role.

What amused me was just how unfit most of the actors were. Stanley Baker and Harry Andrews must have been the least fit-looking Achilles and Hector ever and neither looked like they could do a single press-up. The acting was better and it reflects how much historical epics in those days drew from Shakespearean traditions. It was not long after this that Marlon Brando took the role of Brutus in Julius Caesar and after this everything changed.

Correction:
My dates in the above comment are wrong. The Marlon Brando film was actually 3 years earlier than the Robert Wise-directed Helen of Troy. So I guess that just reinforces how far ahead of his time Marlon was with his portrayal of Brutus.

I am on twitter now, as Lazlo_F

Useful input

Well I have done another rewrite of the first chapter of Ordo Lupus – even though it is already available.
Basically one of the last crits I received on http://www.critters.org (they come in for about a week after you submit) was by somebody who I feel is a very experienced writer. Rather like what they are advising me to do more of with my writing, they actually showed me what do do with parts of my text rather than just tell me.

The problem was with thoughts or more specificaly POV thoughts (another acronym I learned – Point of View). In many places, because my book is in first-person he expresses thoughts which are left unsaid. Until now I didn’t know what the convention for this was so I just put them in single parentheses, thus ‘thought’.

He told me the convention is to use a new line, as if it is speech and put the word as an italic, without parentheses. I must admit it looks a lot better and is more succinct.

My first chapter, right from the word go (get-go if you are American) has suffered from more ‘tell’ and less ‘show’ than I would like. This is mainly because the main character is roughly ten years old at this point and spends a lot of time in introspection. Also I am trying to build a picture of who he is without having to describe a lot of different incidents. This has led in a few places to (as the crit person referred to it) a ‘wall of text’ – paragraphs that are way too long.

Being able to split thoughts out in the way outlined above has really helped me take a big step towards slimming this down. I also decided that really, descriptions of h is family and much of the build up to events is not really necessary so I have taken these out.

In other places, I was able to pick more choice phrases which he ‘thinks’ or even says to himself, in place of long passages which told what he thought about certain things.

One case which was singled-out was a passage where he (the narrator) is trying to illustrate his experiences with evil and the flow of events that can build up around this. It was very clumsy because I didn’t want to go to extremes and as a result, I was too subtle. My original thought was of a coin falling down a drain on a road but it was presented more as a symbol than as an actual example. Now the text puts it as an example and its much stronger. It goes something like this:
An example: My only coin falls out of my pocket and, trying to catch it as it rolled away, I slip and kick it towards the only drain for one hundred yards. It falls down and as a result I do not have the fare home. This means I have to walk and get knocked over by a car.

I did try ‘hit by a bus’ but that sounded too strong and cliched. Even now it is stronger than I would have tried before, but I think if anything it does midly puncture the readers flow of thoughts and expectations so that it makes them sit up and pay attention.

As a result I think Chapter 1 is a lot stronger now and two pages shorter. I will go through the whole story changing the ‘thoughts’ where I see them to italics but I looked last night for other ‘walls of text’ and could find none as bad as in the first chapter so I think I will leave it alone in this respect.

Interestingly enough, having spent the first evening working on it for some time I then typically experienced horribly bad luck for the end of the evening, which made me recall just what trial it was to write. I don’t know what it is about Ordo Lupus but bad things happen to me whenever I work on it. I won’t go into details but will just say that it involved 3 different types of insect that just wouldn’t leave me alone – a unique event in my cold flat on an evening that could hardly be described as a summer one.

One other thing that came up which was interesting was a discussion with another crit person about narrative ‘age’. In Ordo Lupus, the narrator is, on the whole speaking from the point of view of a 50ish man but his recollections of childhood are those of a child but often using words that the child wouldn’t have had access to. The person critting my Chapter was, at first, of the opinion that this was a problem. However, he then emailed me back to say that he had changed his mind and that he thought it worked. I later read an article on the bbc website about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The article was largely discussing why the book appeals to adults and children alike and the writer put forward their opinion that the reason was because the narrative ‘age’ moved continually between that of the middle-aged woman that the writer was, and scout, who was at the time the story took place, a child.
Here is the article.

I will be on twitter soon, probably as LazloF. I will let you know when I am.

Update on Things

Not sure what I am going to write but a friend mailed me today asking how things are going and it occured to me I haven’t posted for a while.

Ok – Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate
Its being professionally previewed: ie a company reads it and assesses the cover, narrative cohesion, story, pricing, characterisation etc against its market. It’s relatively cheap at about 60 dollars and I think it is better value for market than these s-called ‘promotional’ packages where they just give you a banner on some obscure site and then add you to a db which is used by US book sellers to locate books. I mean why would they even find my book, let alone actually decide to stock it without reading a decent review?

I also submitted Chapter 1 on critters.org where amateur (and professional writers I think) review in exchange for having their work reviewed. I am not sure if I will do all the other chapters because it is quite a lot of work to submit. Anway they didn’t slate Chapter 1 which is about as much as I could have expected because they can be pretty harsh.

Iron (might possibly be called Too Bright, The Sun)
Going well. Actually I have just started the last chapter (I think) and, unlike Ordo Lupus (which was a labour of love) I really don’t want to stop. It has been a real pleasure writing it.

Its much to narrative based at the moment but that is usually how I start. When finished, I will need to go back and revise it heavily to take out as much of the narrative as possible.

It was quite amusing when I reached the climax or ‘twist’ because this story, although simple, has a subtle twist and I had rehearsed it in my head many times. However when I finally came to write it, I found mysself arguing with myself, saying things like, “This won’t work,” and “You said this would work.” Needless to say it took a good deal of fiddling about to get it right.

One of the two main characters starts as a baddie and finally ends up a hero and that was quite interesting to write. It was quite hard keeping him appearing as a baddie when I knew he was actually a goodie.