Blooming Idea

August 14, 2010 at 5:50 am (Feature) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I want to thank Elisa from Where’s My Pencil for passing on The Blooming of an Idea Award to me.

I’m not really sure what the rules are with this one so I thought I would just mention in passing the idea behind this blog and then pass the award on to some very interesting bloggers.

The idea of Cassandra Jade in the Realm is to share ideas about writing. Not just me sharing my ideas but to have the chance to hear from other writers and readers what they think about writing and to learn from that and to help pass those ideas on to others. I love being part of such a helpful online community and the blogs I visit regularly and the people who visit here regularly are always full of helpful and sometimes surprising information.

Thanks to everyone who contributes the excellent comments to this blog.

Okay, to pass the award along:

Alex Willging over on The Rhapsodist for his continuing look into sci-fi television and books. I always love hearing his thoughts on a range of interesting texts.

Lynn Rush for her positive and upbeat view on the world – and her great taste in movies and movie quotes.

And to Lua Fowles who always has something very interesting to say about words and writing.

And that’s all for today. Thanks again for the award.

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The Day the Tweets Died

August 2, 2010 at 5:40 am (Author Info, Weekly Review) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Not really. As I mentioned in a comment last week, I managed to finally hit my download limit – all legal of course. That means ridiculously slow internet until the next period which is still about a week away. Which means that twitter is just not working for me at the moment. I can see the top couple of frames, and then it times out an dies. This is also a problem for some of you with really big blogs that have a lot of stars and bells and whistles. Love them usually, at the moment, I can’t actually view them.

What it all really boils down to is I can’t do my coming to a usual round up of tweets concerning excellent blogs I’ve read, not because I haven’t read some excellent blogs, but because without the twitter list telling me where I’ve been, I don’t actually have all the links.

In lieu of having some great links, I thought I would share a few random facts about my blog.

  • Since I started this blog in November last year I’ve had just over 15000 views – though while it doesn’t count me viewing my own blog it will count you every time you visit the site so I’m certain that a lot of those views are from people I know are reading the blog regularly.
  • My worst month was April of this year (not surprisingly) with only 384 views. This could be because I didn’t post during this month due to the flood, power cuts, clean up effort and just being overwhelmed by everything else that was going on. I’m not certain, but I think that would be a good guess.
  • Twitter is my most regular referer and posts that I tweet tend to get more immediate hits than those I don’t – which is tough luck for me at the moment given I can’t tweet.
  • Most people who comment on my blog (in fact nearly all) are people I have visited first.
  • The number one search term to find my blog at the moment is still “reasons why books are better than movies” which makes the post 10 Reasons why books are better than movies and its companion post, 10 Reasons why movies are better than books, two of my most often hit posts from the past.

What did I learn from this?

If you don’t post, people don’t visit. If you don’t tell people you have posted, they won’t visit. If you don’t visit others, they won’t visit. And it really is worth using the tags and categories because sometimes really random google searches find your site.

Sorry for the lack of links, a couple of weeks and they will be back.

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What a character

August 1, 2010 at 5:45 am (Character, fantasy, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I was recently visiting Nancy Kelly Allen’s blog and found some excellent advice on critiquing a manuscript. I must admit however, I was drawn to Nancy’s advice on the main character.

Is the main character active in carrying the plot forward? The main character should be responsible for solving the problem or reaching the goal. Uncle Hamm or an older brother should not step in and save the character that is experiencing the trouble.

This advice I have heard before. I don’t recall which blog I read it on but the author explained that the problem with book 6 or the Harry Potter series was that Harry was spending all of his time trying to win a sporting trophy rather than trying to solve any of his problems. In point of fact, Dumbledore deliberately kept Harry in the dark about what most of those problems were which meant that the reader was cheated out of a possibly more interesting story than the one we were delivered.

The fact that I’ve heard this advice before didn’t stop me from sitting and going ‘oh’. Mostly because it is one of thousands of things that when you think about it should be obvious but sometimes when you are looking at a draft completely eludes you until someone else points it out. It helps to be reminded, often, and it is a really important point.

Linking back to Harry Potter, one of my biggest problems with the series was that Harry was given the starring role in the first book but was almost the least interesting character in it. Hermione solved most of the problems while Ron randomly ran into things that may have helped and occasionally Harry would do something pretty stupid that turned out to be good. Harsh, but at the time that was how I saw it. The second book in the series was even worse as far as establishing Harry as the hero. Even in a coma Hermione was more useful than Harry turned out to be. She gave him the vital clue that made everything in the conclusion possible.

I actually do like the Harry Potter books and I’m not pulling them to pieces, just the main character who was always a little underwhelming to me.

Thanks Nancy for reminding us of this excellent advice.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about character recently?

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One for the good guys

July 31, 2010 at 5:27 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I love watching old movies. The good guys all wear white or at least tan and other pale colours and manage to keep their hair in perfect formation (maybe one strand will blow across their face) and they save the day with minimal loss and pain. Perfect feel good moment. I hate reading stories like this though.

Maybe it is because I look for different things from the movies I watch to the books I read. Movies can have a terrible story, bad acting, awful effects, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m being entertained. Yes, I prefer movies that actually have a story and good actors, the effects can go either way, but entertainment is all that is required. From books, I expect far more. I expect an intelligent and intriguing story and characters with depth that draw me in. I expect that the good guy won’t just be good because he’s (she’s) written that way but that they are actually given some sort of purpose and motivation.

My favourite protagonists when I read, have flaws. Massive and horrible character flaws usually. While I love reading David Eddings stories (the Elenium Trilogy is amazing) there is only one David Eddings character that ever made my list of favourite characters and that was Althalus. All of his other heroes are good because they are good and work together because it is the right thing to do. Althalus on the other hand was a thief and was coerced by a goddess disguised as a cat into saving the world. That appealed to me on a number of levels.

People in real life are never all good or all bad. And they aren’t the same in every situation and around different groups of people. I think characters in stories should reflect that to an extent.

That said, just going entirely the opposite direction and having an anti-hero can feel a bit old as well.

Who is your favourite good guy and why?

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Twitter me this

July 26, 2010 at 5:35 am (Death's Daughter, Weekly Review) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Okay – so the links are coming thick and fast, but probably because there are so many brilliant bloggers out there sharing their stuff.  Here are the links I’ve found and posted on twitter over the last week.

My picks for the week – and there is a few of them because everyone has been writing awesome posts this week:

Talli Roland on blogging: http://talliroland.blogspot.com/2010/07/ten-for-tuesday-of-blogs-and-bloggery.html

Elspeth Antonelli – 10 lessons for writers: http://elspeth-itsamystery.blogspot.com/2010/07/10-lessons-for-writers.html

Words of advice from fantasy authors: http://io9.com/5579212/words-to-live-by-advice-from-34-science-fictionfantasy-authors

Just Jemi – printing out the MS: http://jemifraser.blogspot.com/2010/07/printing-epiphany.html

Lua shares her writing story: http://likeabowloforanges.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/getting-aligned-or-the-dilemma-of-being/

Check out Sybil’s collection of book trailers – yes, mine’s been added:

Trailer for Death’s Daughter been added to Sybil’s collection of book trailers: http://www.sybilnelson.com/

Other great links this week:

My top 5 songs to get me ready to write – what are yours? https://cassandrajade.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/top-5-writing-songs/

Miss Rosemary’s scattered thoughts on writing: http://disgruntledwriterscircle.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/scattered-thoughts/

Yona Wiseman – Rave rejections: http://daylightprocrastinator.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/rave-rejections/

Hema P – The writing bug: http://hemapen.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/the-writing-bug/

Cheryl Angst – Twitter chats for writers: http://cherylangst.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/twitter-chats/

To Conquer a Mountain – Creating a universe: http://shoutitfromamountain.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/creating-a-universe-and-a-reality/

Casey Lybrand – time management for writers: http://blog.caseylybrand.com/2010/07/19/writing-time-management-and-blogging/

Holly Ruggiero – Playing with Words: http://scribblessplashes.blogspot.com/2010/07/playing-with-words.html

New blog post – Bringing fantasy to life: https://cassandrajade.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/bringing-fantasy-to-life/

Talli Roland – chick lit is dead: http://talliroland.blogspot.com/2010/07/chick-lit-is-dead-long-live-er-womens.html

Elizabeth Spann Craig – About being a writer: http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2010/07/8-things-no-one-told-me-about-being.html

Jemi Fraser looks at getting an e-reader: http://jemifraser.blogspot.com/2010/07/e-reader-help.html

Carol Kilgore – using your sixth sense as a writer: http://underthetikihut.blogspot.com/2010/07/that-tickle-on-back-of-your-neck.html

New blog post – My writing goals: https://cassandrajade.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/writing-goal/

Mason Canyon reviews Nowhere to Hide: http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/2010/07/nowhere-to-hide-by-terry-odell.html

RT @bubblecow A Four Parargraph Approach To Cover Letters http://bit.ly/b17YA0

Cat Woods – Seven deadly sins for writers: Pride – http://catwoods.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/seven-writing-sins-pride/

Terry Odell guest posts on Mystery Writing Is Murder: http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/2010/07/homework-time-by-terry-odell.html

Criminal Brief – why writers need an editor: http://criminalbrief.com/

Margot Kinberg – Straight Shooters http://margotkinberg.blogspot.com/2010/07/straight-shooters.html

Terry Spear – The closet muse: http://casablancaauthors.blogspot.com/2010/07/my-closet-muse.html

Stephen Tremp – the 30 second blurb: http://stephentremp.blogspot.com/2010/07/30-second-elevator-blurb.html

New blog post – Query Letter: https://cassandrajade.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/query/

Novel Journey – on dialogue: http://www.noveljourney.blogspot.com/

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The ‘And Then This Happened’ Approach to Writing

July 2, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

Those following me on twitter will probably remember that I saw ‘Land of the Lost’ on the weekend and was somewhat less than impressed with it. To be perfectly honest I hated it, and I probably would have walked out if not for the fact that I had bought a frozen coke and it would have been a waste.

My problem with ‘Land of the Lost’ is the same as the problem I have when I read a lot of drafts for stories. Instead of some sort of plan or cohesive idea that is explored within the text, one random event after another is squished together, pasted and held by improbability, and linked only by chance.

Caution – spoilers ahead.

For instance, early in the movie, Will Ferrell’s character meets a young scientist who respects his theories and inspires him to get on with inventing the time travelling device. Fair enough. She found out about him at college and tracked him down. No problem believing that.

Then she returns the next day to find him in a sugar coma. After his response to her the day before, why she returns is never adequately explained, but fair enough. She decides to have a second go and there she is.

They travel into an alternate dimension, by means of a waterfall, which makes no apparent sense (but there have been worse ways to travel between worlds so I will let it go), somehow they survive and are now stumbling through a desert (what happened to the waterfall) where they encounter a group of ape people sacrificing another ape person.

After saving the sacrifice they then chase him, to fall through a pit of sand to land upon a pile of bones. Lots of falling and landing in random places without any real point or link, other then the writers decided they were bored with the old set and couldn’t be bothered writing some kind of transition.

And on it goes.

The part that made me want to walk out was when the writers clearly decided the bit with the dinosaur was getting old, and suddenly our ‘hero’ receives a psychic message from an injured lizard man in a tunic seeking help.

This is very much akin to dropping a clown from the sky and saying ‘ah-ha, the story goes this way’ and waving your arms vigorously in front of the audience and hoping they are too caught up with that ‘wacky’ gags to care, only we aren’t because the script is flat, the acting mediocre and the best performance is delivered by a computer generated t-rex.

Now, I don’t expect a lot of story from a comedy. A loose sketch of characters in a basic setting with a barely plausible context will usually do, as long as it keeps heading in some sort of coherent direction.

Incidentally, foreshadowing is an important writing technique. ‘Land of the Lost’ demonstrates how not to use it, with their “If you don’t make it – it’s your own damn vault” poster at the beginning of the movie, and the line used during the confrontation with the T-rex. This is not foreshadowing, this is a desperate attempt for the writers to remind us that at some stage in the story, there was a point to all the ridiculousness.

As far as cheap laughs, the movie does have them, but that is about the only thing I found to recommend it.

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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Quotes From Books

June 20, 2010 at 5:48 am (From the Book Shelf) (, , , , , , )

I love quotes. I’ve been collecting them for a long time and recently I came across a notebook from about 7 years ago with a collection of quotes from books I was reading at the time.

  • “Hearts do not break, they are only bent and mutilated.” -From Cassandra by Kerry Green.
  • “If the world comes to an end while I’m asleep, just leave a note.” – From Eye of the Daemon by Camille Bacon-Smith.
  • “I heard the chief of police three times today, claiming they expected a big break in the case any time now. You know what dat means. They ain’t got a clue what’s happening.” – From A Modern Magician by Robert Weinberg.
  • “Would you get out of here you twittering numbskull and let me get on with saving your life?” – From Socerer’s Ward by Barbara Hambly.

It is interesting to see that the books I was reading then still have a very special place on my shelf and these four books are ones I have re-read incessantly.

What are some of your favourite lines from books?  Which authors do you find yourself quoting most often?

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Twitter Links

June 14, 2010 at 5:53 am (Death's Daughter, Weekly Review) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I haven’t done a review of writer links in awhile – I used to do them weekly but now find myself just not having the time to put them all together. Here is a recap of some of the links I’ve been sharing on Twitter recently. Sorry if some of the links don’t work – I tried to test most of them and they seem to be up and functioning.

My Links:

Excellent and interesting writing links:

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More on Plot

June 13, 2010 at 5:58 am (Plot, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Continuing on from yesterday where I looked at losing the plot in the mess and lack of clarity about what the plot actually is.

For me, plot is about characters. The events are less significant than how the characters react to them. In that way, the small and insignificant can take on much greater meaning when seen through the eyes of the character and the character reactions keep driving the story forward. But that isn’t always how people see stories.

So what makes a plot interesting?

The argument about there being no new stories certainly has quite a lot of weight behind it and if there are only seven plots (though you could contest that number if you like) then how do you make your particular plot line sound new and fresh and interesting. We’ve seen from the Avatar phenomenon that just putting a coat of paint on an old idea (moving a previously explored plot to an alien world) doesn’t really work as far as stopping criticism of rip-offs, meanwhile clearly the old story worked and so people found definite enjoyment in the plot even while criticising the movie.

One of my favourite segments from Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the television series) was when they described the basic theme of this one band’s songs. Boy meets girl who kiss near a setting sun which then promptly explodes. The way that line was delivered in the hum-drum, we’ve seen this all before, etc, etc was hilarious. How can the band continue to sell the same song over and over (though I guess many bands do this already when I think about it)? What makes a plot original and feel new?

I don’t know that anyone can actually answer that question because it is like trying to figure out what is going to be cool tomorrow. Plenty of stories that have been straight out rip-offs have become legendary while the original subject matter has faded into obscurity, meanwhile other writers get stones thrown at them because they dared to have a jealous best friend or a disgruntled worker.

What I do know is that there has to be some underlying point to the story for me to enjoy it, even if that point is only that there is no point. I know that heavily moralistic tales that feel the need to beat me over the head with the author’s values bore me. I know that every time I read a fantasy that starts with a farm boy I seriously question whether to read the next page or not. And I know that any book with a dragon in it will at least get my attention for a little while regardless of how bad the rest of the story may be.

Share your thoughts – what makes a good plot?

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