I’ve Finally Broken Out of the Action Treadmill, or: Thank Thalia for Dick Jokes

8 Nov

I’m actually pretty happy with the fun little scene I finished tonight. John’s escape has finally settled, he’s hanging with the mole folk (they’re not really moles, they just have melanoma issues, it’s an unfortunate coincidence) – but they haven’t really accepted him until they can be sure he isn’t wired. And the highest level of tech they have for getting rid of imbedded electronics is – you guessed it – locally focused, high-voltage electric current.

I didn’t realize it until near the end, but it becomes a sort of “hazing” ritual, something he learns they’ve all had to go through, and now that he has, he’s – one of them? (Maybe they should look into any connection between topical electrocution and their dermatologic problems. (I’m just kidding about the moles. It’s actually Spanish, pronounced “molay” – their guerilla group was founded by rebel chefs from Oaxaca, Mexico.))

Does he want to be one of them? I don’t think he has a choice. He agrees with me on that.

But I had the most fun writing this mad-scientist character, a guy whose empathy gets trampled by the giddy thrill he gets out of playing with his science-y toys. A nice enough fella, but probably not who you’d enlist for an emergency appendectomy.

And, it all comes down to a dick joke. John, literally toasted, is being rolled out of the exam room by the Big Tough in a wheelbarrow. He finally gets a sympathetic smile from him with his complaint about how thorough the exam was, gesturing mid-section-wise, and Big Tough says John should be grateful he doesn’t have much area to cover.

Ba-doom-ching.

But it’s a Buddy Moment. I think these two are going to find themselves working together. Who knows? I sure as hell don’t.

Behold! I am half minotaur, half man!

7 Nov

I don’t really have anything to write about tonight, but I came up with this joke earlier today and thought I’d open with it. I realize now that hardly describes what I have done here. My son was playing with some toy figures today and pulled out a bald eagle, proclaiming it a hipogriff. I immediately quipped, “It’s half-hipogriff, half eagle!” My dry, high-brow humor often goes unappreciated during playtime. Just like Bob Newhart.

My word count still suffers. I won’t go into details.

But did I tell you we’re selling our house? Yeah, we’re going to move across town, in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We thought it wise to use that half-hour lull between the holidays, rather than some other time when we were too busy.

Oh and I’m sick. Coughing a lot, feeling tired, getting sore. Probably the hantavirus.

But the abuse to my M.C. continues! Since joining the mole clan (not really, that’s just plain silly. They’re a cabal.) he’s been introduced to a couple of tough characters, both of whom hate him, and one agitated geek who likes him – but is about to electrocute him, mildly. For security reasons, of course. John (my M.C.) isn’t crazy about this, but figures it’s preferable to being abandoned in the maze of tunnels with no light, food, or Walkman.

The hoops you have to jump through to make friends in the future! It is a sad state of affairs. I’m thinking these grumps haven’t updated their Facebook status in weeks.

Will John pass the “friendship exam”? Or die trying? Or just be put into a vegetative state? All these questions and less will be answered – tomorrow!

Politics in Sleepytown

6 Nov

I wrote a little bit earlier today. Sat down and typed on the iPad during my daughter’s gymnastics class. Got derailed by a friendly mom who found we shared some legitimate parenting trials.

Sat down at my computer tonight, completely ready to ignore the whole election theater and just write. In Nate Silver I trust. My significant other had other plans (to watch the coverage on NBC! Get your mind out of the gutter.).

Now it’s a quarter to midnight, America makes marginal sense for another four years, and my 7-year-old boy has just come upstairs to say “hello”. I told him he could rest easy, Obama won. His look conveyed more bleary-eyed confusion than hope for humanity. He has his own wisdom.

Like asking me why I stay up so late after he goes to bed at 8:00. That one usually stumps me. Trying to finish this little post in the dark while he tries to fall back asleep in bed next to me, and I hope some of the things I do make sense some of the time.

Goodnight America. Sleep tight.

Voice recognition software saves the day (!) (?) ಠ_ಠ

5 Nov

So, I admit, I’m a little behind in my word count. Not far, but I do wish I were on top of things. Most of the other writers in the Epic Month of Blog Posts are sailing along, many far in excess of their quota.

Kudos to you, other writers! In all sincerity. (Take it when you can get it; it doesn’t show up often.)

I’m plodding through my world-building, right-turn story line at the moment, and it’s – uh, what’s the word?

Yeah, a lot like that. A lot of staring at the screen this past hour or so.

In an effort to increase speed, I decided to turn on my Dragon Naturally Speaking software. Anyone ever use this to write? This is my first time. I think I recommend it – if one has something to write, that is. I’ve used it plenty for recording handwritten stories, and the kinks are mostly worked out. It does type much faster than I can.

But it can’t help me figure out what to write next. And here’s that plotting issue again. Okay, I’m just going to call it “thinking about the story at times other than when you’re writing it”. Well, I’ll call it that this once. Now I’ll go back to calling it “plotting”.

But – but – I’m a stay-at-home dad! I just got the lyrics for “Never Smile At a Crocodile” out of my head half an hour ago! I’m lucky to have fifteen consecutive seconds for my own thoughts at any time before eight P.M.! Do you know how much world building you can do in fifteen second increments throughout the day? Exactly! Yo Gabba Gabba!

Seriously, for those of you who haven’t tried it, having kids will bestow you with daily discoveries of the bounds of sanity. Have you ever had a conversation that goes something like the following?

[Thinking to self, censoring for sake of innocent ears that cannot hear thoughts] “Where the heck is that credit card? I swanee to Jebus I just had it in my hand. Thirty seconds ago. Not even. Took it out of my wallet, set it down on my desk. Right there. Went to get the phone… I think I put it on my desk. Oh, Jiminy Christmas, I could have left it anywhere on the way to the phone.” [checks wallet for 7th time] “Maybe…” [checks all pockets for 7^2th time] “Gee willickers, I just…” [checks all horizontal surfaces within house googolplex times] “Fine. I’ve lost my mothersmurfin’ mind. There’s nothing left. I live in a haze of doubt and uncertainty. Wow, the next forty years are going to be a real crapshoot. I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to dress myself.”

[Small child, eyes full of wondrous possibility] “Daddy, look at my new bookmark! I found it on your desk!”

Some days it’s like that.

Not that I mind much.

(BTW, since I haven’t mentioned it yet, the whole “pantsing vs. plotting” issue was brought to light for me by Storywonk, a brilliant podcast to which I owe a great deal of my writing know-how. I’m not sure Lani and Alistair want that praise, but there it is. (BTBTW, I haven’t mentioned it because the only people that come to this site are probably all directly from Storywonk, since EpMoBloPo started in their forums. Now you know. (As if you didn’t before.)))

The perils of pantsing

4 Nov

Oy vey, I get such a headache from always coming up with these scenarios!

Seriously, writers, do yourself a favor: Plot. Be plotters. Don’t be a pantser. I thought I was a genius and could come up with brilliant solutions at every turn, but it turns out I’m a shmuck.

Wait, you say, that’s not true! You like pantsing specifically because you don’t want John to be able to come up with brilliant, well-considered solutions at the drop of a hat! When he’s got rabid pursuit behind and a flimsy barricade ahead, you want him to just blast the barricade, not pull some MacGyver magic and fashion his picnic blanket into a cloaking device! Yeah, you’d say that, dear fictitious reader. Oh, fictitious reader, you know me so well.

You’re right though: that is the approach I appreciate when it comes to throwing John to the wolves for the 42nd time. Turns out John’s life of late has been pretty pantsy.

But, maaann, when it comes to world-building, pantsing gets to be an iffy proposition! I’m making some pretty crazy shit up on the spot here, stuff I gotta perpetuate throughout the rest of the book! Since I threw John down a hole, I had to give him something to do down there. Apparently this world has mole-people. Hear that, people of Earth? In the future, not only will most of your planet be inhospitable, causing the vast majority of you to live in satellite or planetary colonies, but some of the ones of you that do tough it out here will really know your way around the ol’ subterranean strata.

Yeesh. I just want to avoid any “Matrix” Zion overtones. Or “Planet of the Apes”. Or “THX 1138.” Or – who am I kidding; I’m not going to get bent out of shape trying to reinvent the wheel. This is going to be what it is.

But what is it? Seriously, can someone tell me? It would be really great if I didn’t have to make it all up myself. I know whatever I come up with is going to bite me in the ass twenty-five pages later. Oh, Philip K. Dick, I shall burn some mescaline on your altar if you’ll show me How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.

Help me out: Where do I go next? Just who is this person that just pulled John out of the line of fire, and into the coven?

Wait, what? Ooh, yeah. Goin’ with that. Underground witches. In my pulp sci-fi novel.

What could go wrong?

Ubik, take me away!

Wading through the bullet spew!

3 Nov

You heard right! John turned into an action hero today!

Okay, not strictly speaking. (How does one speak strictly about action heroes?) But he was swinging on a chain, lowering rapidly into a cavern below a warehouse floor, while guards shot insults and small pieces of lead at him.

And he escaped with nary a dent! Well, except for the broken ribs, sprained ankle, busted wrist, various contusions about the face and hands, and swollen eye. Other than that – hunky dory. Arnie would be proud.

Seriously, it did occur to me that I was doing a 180 (okay, 175) on my stalwart position of yesterday.

But it’s all in the name of art! I still feel this guy could be a real guy. I think it’s pretty unlikely one of the guards could have scored a solid hit on him, what with the distance and the swinging and all.

What’s less likely is that these tools are all still using powder-actuated firearms! What the heck, future dudes? I can’t keep my sci-fi hat on long enough, my pulp fiction hat keeps knocking it off. Or maybe it’s bigger, and covers it up. I dunno. Strained analogy, anyone?

So far John has escaped prison in a truck-tank, been shot at by rifles and pistols, busted the barricade at the city, crashed his tank, and disappeared into an abandoned warehouse district (complete with rust, crumbling brick, sagging/perforated corrugated roofs – everything except a foreman wearing bifocals and a pocket protector, reading a newspaper that says “TYPICAL HEADLINE FOR 1940’S NEWSPAPER”).

Where are the gravipedes? The ratchetrons? The Rocketeers? (dammit, pulp hat, I said No!) I’m worried that I can’t keep my story straight, and if I did have any future tech, John wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in a fission reactor of escaping the mess he’s in.

“Worried”. Eh, that’s a heavy word. More like – “aware”. Yeah.

Hell, I’ll just add all the lasers in on my 2nd draft. That I type on my Remington Portab-Gaahh!

Oh, in case you’re wondering where I got my inspiration (and because pictures!), here’s a pic I took this summer, risking my life in an abandoned distillery.

This M.C. is one tough S.O.B.

2 Nov

Well, despite my best efforts, John Palmer is still alive.

He’s seen better days, believe me. If this were a Heinlein novel here would be the point where he’d start cussing me out for being a sadistic bastard.

But, John, you kinda deserve it, right? Remember? Remember Sharon?

That’s the hardest thing about this setup. In a drug-fueled rage (Back in NaNo 2010. Keep up!), John scared his ex-girlfriend so badly she fell to her death. It took John a long time to realize what he’d done, but now – well, it’s a lot to deal with.

Have you ever read a book where the M.C. has killed (or been the direct cause of death for) an innocent? Sharon was a good person. Yes, John was wigging, but that doesn’t excuse anything, right?

Is this a salvageable premise? At heart, John himself is a good person. And trying to become better. Trying to help the unfortunate souls still left in the prison.

But I haven’t forgiven him. He hasn’t done nearly enough penance. And he hasn’t accomplished shit, yet, in the way of being a contributing member of society. Mostly he’s managed to barely stay alive Despite The Odds, fumbling from one half-assed escape tactic to another.

This is what I (am finding that I) like about being a “pantser”. (You know, as opposed to a “plotter”. It has something to do with the seat of the pants. Probably that I need at least one steel-toed kick to them each day to start writing.) My guy is no hero, and I don’t expect anybody that ends up reading the book will be one, either. He gets lucky sometimes, and gets out of some serious scrapes by the skin of his teeth, but mostly he’s just a guy trying to make it. I hope there’s some appeal in there. I am so friggin bored of invincible heroes wading through the bullet-spew with nary a dent. I want to be thinking, “This fellow is gonna die. First he’s gonna get his ass kicked into flame-roasted tomato paste, and then he’s gonna die.”

Maybe I come out at the end thinking, “Hell, I coulda done that. Yeah, I got what it takes!” Maybe I come out thinking, “That guy totally died! And the M.C. that picked up after him totally died too! Whisky Tango Foxtrot!”

Not to say that I don’t want to enjoy the badass edge when it presents itself. Today’s writing was brought to you (me) by stuff like:

Massive Attack’s “Inertia Creeps”

NIN’s “Terrible Lie”

Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl”

and This Guy:

Roy Batty, an inspiring figure in the anti-slavery movement of the future.

Until tomorrow, the kickass ninja pirate in me bows to the kickass ninja pirate in you!