Posts Tagged ‘Theory’

h1

Tomorrow I start

June 1, 2011

Tomorrow, June 1st, I’m sitting down and starting the new WIP. Do I have every detail of plot as ironed out as I would like? No, not really, but looking over my old notes from Project W has made me realize how much of that story was conceived on the fly. It’s like the old saying that writing a book is like driving at night; you can only see as far as your headlights allow, but you can make the whole trip that way.

My trusty guide

As for world-building and characterization… well, a lot of the world-building still holds from Project W, as it’s set in the same universe. The characters are new, but they seem talkative and cooperative thus far. As always, I’m quietly excited to see who gets picked up along the way. It’s like the night before the first day of school- when you know, at that very moment, there is someone out there who will become one of your new friends. But at that very moment, neither of you knows the other exists yet.

I have some idea of what I’m in for. My map and bag are packed, my travelling companions are raring to go, but there’s still one or two last-minute checks to make.

The night before anything is always one of the longest and shortest nights, isn’t it?

-Arvik

Advertisements
h1

Folk Cures

May 28, 2011

It has been raining for days. I’ve actually lost count of how many days it’s been since I’ve seen the sun. Obviously, rain can be depressing. Humans crave sunlight. The cold and wet make the outside unappealing. But for me, the worst part is the sinus headaches.

My nasal cavities are a functional barometer. I can tell when rain is coming. I can certainly tell when it is raining. Unfortunately, the price for this superpower is a dull, persistent ache at my temples and under my eyes that makes me want to claw my face off.

Low Pressure: Why I’ll never climb Mt. Everest
 

Fortunately, a lifetime dealing with headaches has left me with an arsenal of fixes. Some are probably slightly less effective than rubbing myself with a chicken gizzard in the light of the full moon, but I’ll quite happily take the placebo effect as well.

Arvik’s Home Headache Remedies

Drugs. Not exactly a home remedy, but I tend to want pain relief more than anything else. I basically have my own pharmacy that I carry with me, and let me say… it does come in handy.

Sleep. Sometimes the best (and only) way to escape for a few hours and have a chance of feeling better after. Of course, there are mornings when I wake up thinking drugsdrugsdrugsdrugs. Those mornings usually don’t bode well.

Protein and/or Sugar. Low blood sugar can trigger and exacerbate headaches. Protein is awesome because it takes longer to digest- the body can go to work on it like a dog gnawing on a bone.

Cool cloths. Actually, I don’t have a cloth. I have a beanbag thing you stick in the fridge and then place over your eyes. I like it, though I always forget to put it back

Things I Wish Were Headache Cures

Unicorn Horn. Just press the horn (either still attached to the unicorn or not) to your head, and voila! Instant pain relief.

Time Machine. I would assume that people will find a lasting cure for headaches in the future. You could go forward in time, steal a few samples, and return. Alternatively, you could just go to a time when you don’t have a headache.

Witch’s Spell. Witches are notoriously pricey, but if it’s a skilled spell-caster, it may be worth it. Long gone are the days of bubbling broths of eye of newt and breath of fish. Modern witches are all about compacting their potions into efficient little capsules. No fuss, no muss, and no smell.

Magic Spring. Bathing in or drinking magic waters is likely to be less expensive than paying for a spell. They’re just harder to find. However, it should be noted that drinking from a magic spring ought to be doubly effective, since many headaches are caused/worsened by dehydration.

Madame Pomfrey. She can heal anything!

The Doctor. Ditto (actually, one of the main reasons I really like my doctor is because he reminds me of Voyager’s doctor).

 

The Doctor. Dealing with human brains and their pains has got to be easier than dealing with time streams, right?

Pillow stuffed with feathers from the wings of a sphinx. Sphinxes are clever. Not only would I imagine that this pillow would be good for your headache, it may enable some subliminal learning.

Alas, until these latter cures are most feasible… I’m off to grab my cool-pack and take a pill.

-Arvik

 

h1

The Planning of Novels and Expeditions

May 24, 2011

I think I’m nearly ready. June 1st is my current “deadline” to finish prewriting and start the actual writing of my current work-in-progress (which I’m sure will eventually acquire a code name of some sort). It feels strangely like I’m finalizing the details of an Everest attempt.

As long-time readers know, the novel-writing process as a journey is a metaphor of which I’m quite fond. I think it does help to make things seem a bit more concrete- it’s easier to accomplish tangible tasks (or so I find). And honestly, it’s fun to think of the writing as an epic quest in itself.

Whether you’re setting out for far-off lands literally or figuratively, a plan is a good thing. Scuba divers have a saying, “Plan the dive and dive the plan.” Here’s mine:

Know your route

Usually, you know your start and end points. It’s the stuff in the middle that gets hazy. Have a map. I tend to have a list of plot points to serve as “landmarks.” Do I always know how to get from landmark to landmark? No. And sometimes that lets me discover really cool detours and diversions along the way.

Is it enough to tell me when I’m lost? Mostly. And it’s certainly useful for keeping track of how far you’ve come and how far you have to go.

Pack Accordingly

I always envy light packers. Lugging an overstuffed suitcase up and down staircases is not fun. However, it’s hard to go too light- freezing because you forgot your sweater is no picnic either.

Same goes for prewriting and worldbuilding. You can’t go too light, or you won’t have the details on hand when you need them. But if you “overpack,” you may never actually start. Perpetually adding “just one more thing” to your story bible may be as useful as tossing in a parka for your trip to Hawaii.

Know your travel buddies

It’s a good thing to know whether you can get along with your travel companions before you start out. While the open road always holds surprises, you can mostly tell ahead of time whether a particular person is one you wouldn’t mind sharing a tent with. Likewise, you should have a pretty good grasp of your characters. Of course they can turn around and surprise you partway through- that’s part of the fun. And, just like running into fellow travellers at hostels, you’ll pick up new people along the way. 

I like to know the main characters fairly well before I start out… and know that they’re people I’ll be able to live with every day for months on end. 

Onwards!

-Arvik

h1

A Day in the Ideal Life…

May 14, 2011

Lately, I’ve been musing about life. More specifically, the day-to-day shape of my life, and how the future might play itself out. In job interviews, and guidance/career counsellors’ offices, people sometimes ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I’ve always found that question hard to answer. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in five years. Obviously, writing is Plan A.

But it’s notoriously difficult to get published. Harder still to make a living from writing. And my Plan B? At this point, it’s looking like academia.

Which means I could be spending my life in a pizza-box shack.

Naturally, this caused me some anxiety. However, always one to look on the bright side of life (insert obligatory whistles here, here, and here), I decided to plan out a day in my ideal life.

6:30: Wake up. Admire the sun rising over the ocean, because I’ll be living in a house beside the sea (fingers crossed).

7:00-8:00: Swim/run/bike/whatever.

8:00-9:00: Leisurely breakfast while reading the newspaper and doing the crossword.

9:00-10:00: Surfing the net and taking care of emails, etc.

10:00-11:00: Read

11:00-12:00: Read more, if I’m engrossed. Otherwise, video games.

12:00-12:30: Lunch

12:30-1:30: Casual stroll

1:30-4:30: WRITE (presumably with breaks)

4:30: Rest/run errands

5:00: Make dinner

5:30-6:30: Dinner and cleaning up dinner

6:30-7:30: Read. Or watch Dr. Who. Or Andromeda. Or Star Trek.

7:30-10:30: WRITE

11:00: Go to bed.

Of course, as I reread this, I realize this chart leaves out the spontaneous-social-fun things. Like time with friends and loved ones. Those are important too, and certainly part of an ideal life.

But I think the major stuff is all there. Lots of reading, lots of writing, a good dose of outside time (I’ve decided I’m secretly part dog- I need to be let out every day, or I start chewing the furniture), and a good dose of gaming.

What’s in your ideal life?

-Arvik

h1

People-Watching

May 10, 2011

I continue to muddle along at the restaurant. On my last “training day,” I was paired with a server who actually took the time to walk me through things step-by-step, gave me opportunities for “dry runs” (i.e. practicing clearing and resetting an empty table in the back), and gave me her number to call if I got overwhelmed on my first solo shift.

Cue a huge sigh of relief.

With parts of my brain able to focus on things other than stressfearstresspanicstressohGodno, I found myself actually enjoying the work. Admittedly, last night was frighteningly slow, but I wasn’t complaining. In fact, I realized that working in a restaurant may “feed” into my writing.

People have always fascinated me. Who they are, why they act the way they do, what they’re thinking, what their lives are like. I’m the person that “reads” on the subway while secretly composing stories about the other passengers. Not in a creepy way, mind you. Just in a curious, playful way.

Restaurants are even better for that than subways.

Obviously, it’s not terribly polite to eavesdrop on your diners. Still, inevitably, you pick up scraps here and there. That’s actually better from a writing perspective, because you have to fill in the gaps yourself, thereby flexing your creative muscle and avoiding possible libel charges. Even if you don’t actually interact with a diner directly,  the mere sight of someone can spark something.

That’s particularly true of this restaurant, which sits at the junction between a few very different neighbourhoods. It’s within walking distance of the office tower crowd, the urban hippies, the university, a slightly “gritty” part of town, and Chinatown.

We attract a mix.

I have seen beautifully coiffed, older people who come in alone and savour every bite. I’ve seen couples gazing at each other across the tables. I’ve met the “regulars,” two middle-aged women who have a glass of wine and a long “girl-chat” every night after work.  

So much human experience. So many slices of life.

I may actually have another job offer at hand. But if it doesn’t work out… well, I have a feeling I’ll be all right here.

-Arvik

h1

Ambiguity as a Tool

May 5, 2011

Do you know what’s really, really scary?

Uncertainty.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of fantasy. However, I also love the “fantastic.” Although the most famous examples (think Edgar Allan Poe and Algernon Blackwood) are from the Romantic era, it really straddles genre boundaries. It’s not quite speculative fiction in the sense that fantasy, sci-fi, and horror are speculative, because the reader is never 100% sure whether or not anything supernatural is going on. In fact, as soon as you know one way or the other that the strange events either are or are not supernatural, it no longer counts as truly “fantastic.” That ambiguity forms its very definition.

And that ambiguity is terrifying.

We’re afraid of the dark because we don’t know what lurks within it. These stories are the literary equivalent of crouching by a fire in the depths of the night. You can see just enough to suspect something’s out there. But you’re not sure. And even if there is something, you don’t know what it is. With such limited information, you can’t act; you can only watch, and wait, paralyzed by anxiety and self-doubt.

Left to our own devices, we come up with uniquely frightening things. Think about the Boggart in Harry Potter. It never had a shape of its own; it became whatever you feared most, and that was the source of its power. No monster is as frightening as that which we craft for ourselves.

Obviously, too much ambiguity isn’t ideal; readers will get frustrated, and frustrated readers don’t tend to hang around long. But… if you can provide enough detail to offer a hint of the shape in the shadows, while leaving the reader to fill in the specifics with their own imaginings and fears, well…

 You’ll have something pretty scary and pretty suspenseful on your hands.

-Arvik

h1

What are you learning?

April 30, 2011

Sometimes writing is hard.

“How hard can it be?” people ask. “You’re sitting there typing! How is that hard?”

I try to ignore those people. Singing in my head usually helps. Singing out loud helps more, but then I get weird looks.

We all know why writing is hard, but an excerpt from the list  includes:

  • Rejection
  • Self-doubt
  • Writer’s block
  • Making the committment to finish what you’ve started
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Missing out on other things
  • Guilt
  • Frightening, disturbing, and icky characters/plot threads
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Hermitage

And so forth. Luckily, the list of why writing is awesome is so long, I don’t think I can fit it here (not today anyway, but that’s an idea for the future).

Getting sidetracked. When I’m struggling, which happens fairly regularly, I find it helpful to ask, “What am I learning from this?”

Someone’s interrupting my writing time? I’m learning patience and tact.

Harsh criticism? I’m learning to take it and thicken my skin.

Feeling like I’m secretly a talentless fraud and I’m doomed to live in a pizza box shack? I’m learning persistance. Also, probably that I should think about dinner.

It works for other things too. When I look back at other writing I’ve done over the years, I can see that a lot of it is… well, let’s say, “not very good.” However, what my fledgling efforts do have going for them is that I can track what I’ve learned. It’s like tracing evolutionary trees:

With enough perspective, you can see the changes over time. Knowing how far you’ve come and realizing how much you’ve learned is hugely motivating, because it hits you: whatever rough patch you’re facing is one more step along the way. And if you can learn something from it, you’ll be back on the road that much sooner.

What are you learning?

-Arvik