I’m almost done plotting my next novel attempt. I’d consider it mostly fantasy, though there are some sci-fi elements to it. It might be considered YA fantasy, since the three of the four main characters are under 18, but I hope it will be an interesting story for any age. (I’m not aiming specifically for the YA fantasy market.) I was calling it The Designers, but I am retitling it Atarius Destroy This World. I’m not sure if that will be the final title or not, but I think it has a nice ring to it… should make people wonder what it’s about.
I’m not completely done the plotting; I still want to go back over all my notes and make sure everything is consistent from the POV of each character. My current outlines call for 42 chapters, though some are very short, so I might end up combining them, and some are a bit long, so I might end up splitting them. The book will probably have an appendix that serves as a book within a book; a guide to the story’s magic system that the characters refer to near the beginning of the story.
If I succeed in actually writing this, I hope it will be the first of a long series, as I think the world holds countless story possibilities, though I probably won’t stay with the same characters. But who knows…
You might be wondering: “gee whiz, I wonder what exactly Sean is up to these days?” If so, I will tell you in this post that I am writing right now.
I’m in week 10 of class 3 of Animation Mentor. It continues to go very well; I’ve learned a ton of stuff this semester. I’ve gotten better at managing my time, but I still find myself pulling very late-nighters or all-nighters the night before assignments are due. But at least I’m not feeling the pressure like I was during the previous classes. I still wish my (almost full-time) part-time job didn’t take up so much time, but I need the $$$ for Animation Mentor tuition (and paying off college loans).
I requested a Leave of Absence for the Animation Mentor Spring 2011 term because I want to watch the trees blossom. But mostly because I want to dedicate as much time as I can to researching and developing my melody generator. My main goal would be to be create and sell an Android app; that has the potential to make some $$$, and Android is Java-based and I’m developing my algorithms in Java anyway, so it would be mostly a matter of getting an Android GUI to work, and figuring out how Android can handle MIDI files (I know it can play them, but can it create them?). I’m not sure if this is something I could accomplish in just 12 weeks, but it’s worth a shot.
Other than that, I’m reading The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (the first non-Ender novel from him I’ve read), which is quite fun, along with a number of non-fiction books (I tend to just read whatever chapters interest me, because of my limited time).
I’m also continuing to plan out my fantasy novel and working on a couple of new short stories, one likely to be titled The Boy in the Sword (which I’m almost done writing) and the other currently untitled.
First piece of news: Animation Mentor Semester 3 has started! My mentor this semester is Mike Gasaway, who directed quite a few episodes of Jimmy Neutron. We had our first class Q&A on Tuesday, and it was awesome; I’m really looking forward to the semester.
Second piece of news: I’m still studying Blender. I’m now about half-way through the book Blender Foundations. Chapter I’m currently on: surfacing. That is, applying textures to surfaces and tweaking the way the renderer calculates how the light bounces off surfaces. It’s really boring… uh… I mean interesting stuff.
Finally, novel update: I’m still planning my untitled fantasy novel. This morning I completed my outlines for Chapter 13. I currently have 45 chapters planned, so I’m only about 29% complete. This will take a long time, apparently, and I’m only in the planning phase.
That’s pretty much it. It’s been a pretty uneventful week here. *yawn*
My break between Animation Mentor semesters is almost over, just got the weekend left. I look forward to studying animation again, but it’s sad to say goodbye to the free time, and it will be tough to get back into the daily grind. And some of the upcoming animation assignments look hard, so I’m kinda scared. *Gulp*
Anyway, I didn’t spend much time playing computer games as I sort of wanted to (still got the weekend though, I guess), but I did finish writing my rough novel outline for The Designers, which I am now going to start calling The King of Diaden. Not sure that’ll really be the title, but it’ll work for the purposes of blogging about it.
So, the outline is done, and there are 45 chapters. Normally I’d begin writing at this point. But not this time, oh no no. I really want to finally finish a novel, so I’m going to spend some time laboring over this outline and adding more details to make sure everything works and there aren’t any plot holes or missing elements. What I plan to do next is to go over this outline and really think about each scene individually. What exactly happens? How does the scene begin and end? What are the characters feeling? What is the tone of the scene? What is the point of the scene in relation to the rest of the book and to its theme? I might write some rough draft descriptions and pieces of dialog here and there if something I like pops into my head, but the focus won’t be on writing, it’ll be on making sure the scenes connect to each other well enough and the story works as a whole.
And… that’s pretty much it. This book will be some wonderful high art!
It’s been kind of a meh week so far. My sleep cycle, which was already all out of whack, has become even more out of whack because I have to wake up at 7 AM to take care of some neighbor’s dogs. Which I don’t mind doing, it just messes up your sleep cycle if you’re going to bed at 3 or 4 AM. So then I have to take a nap later on, and/or get a headache, and/or then stay up even later, or lie in bed not able to sleep, etc… everything just gets messed up. So I haven’t really gotten that much animation work done yet. (I did do some, but it looks awful… I blame fatigue.) So I’m going to try going to bed really early tonight, but I fear I’ll just lie there not able to sleep… worth a try though… doing nothing is always worth a try, and fortunately I have Saturday off this week, so I’ll have that extra 9 hours or so to work on animation.
Book plotting progress
Fortunately book plotting (like blog post writing) I can do at work (when there’s time), so I did get a bit more book plotting done, and I figured out a theme.
I am a strong believer that good stories (at least long-form ones like novels and movies) should have themes, that is, they should say something beyond just the actions of the plot; the plot should mean something. It might be cliche, it might remain unresolved by the story’s end, it might be a bit ambiguous (like “the nature of dreams”), but it should be there. I think I’ve stated this somewhere before on this blog, but the only kind of long-form story that can get away with having no theme at all is the comedy, but even those tend to have little themes (though often cliche; really the comedy itself is the theme).
Ayn Rand, one of my favorite writers, defines what I mean by “theme” here the best: Theme (Literary) in the Ayn Rand Lexicon. Of course, this is by no means a way to objectively judge the art of literature, or a formula… I just agree with it and find it useful.
Anyway, back to the point: I have a theme in mind for The Designers. I’m not yet going to tell you what it is though, ha ha! It’s not a religious theme in and of itself, but it’s sort of philosophically related to religion, so I’m trying to explore different religious and non-religious resources on the matter. I don’t have the entire theme yet; I know I want it to be about X, but I’m not exactly sure what I want to say about X, or what each character will think about X.
So, I consider defining the theme part of plotting, and it’s helping me come up with a really fun ending. Bwa ha ha ha!
The last poll about whether or not I should put an appendix with all the “magic rules” at the end of my fantasy novel as a resource to readers only got two votes, 1 yes, 1 no, so that’s no help! (I guess I might have gotten more votes if one of the choices was “Who cares?”) So the issue remains open for now… not that it’s really an issue, or something I should even be worrying about at all… it’s just blather really…
Plotting The Designers has begun!
Now that the rules of magic are just about all in place (there are a few little issues I haven’t quite worked out, but I don’t think it’ll matter for the purposes of this story), I have begun plotting. Act 1 is pretty much done, easy intro stuff, the conflict starts, seems like fun to write. Haven’t outlined specific scenes yet, but the overarching story is all there, I don’t foresee any problems with it. Act 2 and 3 however are quite tricky. I have a bunch of Act 3 done, and I pretty much have half of the climax figured out, but I still need to decide what exactly will happen to certain characters. And I still need figure out Act 2, how they get from the end of Act 1 to the beginning of Act 3. I’ve got some of it, but the details are tricky to work out.
Anyway, that’s how I’m plotting, just kind of going all over the place (though I like to get the ending set in stone as soon as possible, as it helps figure out what should precede it).
And, as I said before, I’m resisting the urge to turn this into a huge long epic (since I don’t trust myself to actually finish writing an epic). The rules of magic allow for tons of possibilities, but I must resist the urge to allow all those possibilities to be explored, which, I must admit, is hard! But I can always write sequels, I keep telling myself. KISS!
Hannifin World – Season 2
I’ve been continuing to draw comics for Hannifin World, it’s just a pain to scan them all in and resize them, upload them, etc. so I think Hannifin World will be a season thing; I’ll save up comics, then scan them in and upload them all at once.
So Hannifin World Season 2 will start on September 1st! I have about 70-something saved up, so it will run daily until sometime in November.
I have just about finished the planning for my novel. Not the plot planning, just the “rules of magic and stuff” planning. Which, uh… I might’ve gone a bit overboard. I mean, it’s not extremely complex, but there’s still quite a bit of info the reader will have to understand for the story to make much sense. On the one hand, all the rules give me quite a lot of possible scenarios to play around with, and it will be fun to create dangers and complex situations for the characters. On the other hand, it will be quite a lot to explain to the readers. One must be careful of infodumps or long expositional conversations.
I think the characters could have a book they refer to with all the rules in it, and then I can make that book an appendix or something. That way readers can read through all the rules if and when they want, and when characters refer to the rules, readers will know exactly where to look if they want clarification. Yeah, I think that’s the idea I like best. And, again, it’s not like there are really that many rules, but I like the book within a book idea. Do you think publishers would necessarily like it though? Might be a tough sell. Then again, I’ve seen it, or at least things like it, before, so maybe it’ll be fine. It’s not like I’m inventing a new language.
What do you think?
Is an appendix book a good idea?
Yes (50%, 1 Votes)
No (50%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 2
(poll ends on August 21, 2010 @ 23:59 PM EST)
Three Uses of the Knife
In other matters, I recently finished reading David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama. Um… I definitely agreed with some of it, some I didn’t quite agree with, but through most of it I had no idea what he was talking about. His writing is kind of weird and clunky. My parody of his writing:
We take for granted the anomalies of consistent redundancy. Ever estranged from the drama of everyday life, we look for blessings mixed with enemies among the anachronistic alternatives. But it’s useless, and we cheat ourselves into fulfilling the gluttony of the temptations we seek.
A couple annoying things about his writing:
1) One of the most annoying things is that he doesn’t speak as an author to an audience. Instead, he always uses this all-encompassing first-person plural “we,” as if what he says is true for everybody whether we like it or not. But then when he says something (such as “we abhor introductions to the truths we don’t believe”*) you can’t really tell if that’s what he truly believes or if he’s being sarcastic, if he’s really including himself in the statement or if he thinks that readers and himself are above whatever he’s talking about. We don’t understand why he writes like that… we find it annoying and we want it to change!
*Not an actual quote.
2) Big words. I know, I should pretend to like big words to make myself look smart. I know, they weren’t big words to you because you is smarter than me! But I think it makes the writing clunky. If you’re going to use the confusing first-person plural, at least stop using three or four syllable words when a two syllable word will suffice. Sometimes using a bigger less well-known word is good because it’s more precise. Sometimes you’re just being annoying.
3) No organization. There are a few headers here and there, but overall it’s more of a long essay than a book. Which I guess I just find annoying because I’m not used to reading nonfiction books like that.
4) Politics. If he actually makes any political points, his clunky rhetoric hides it, but now and then it seems like he might be trying to say something political, but then he just sort of tiptoes around it instead of just saying something clearly.
Overall… I guess I’d have to reread the book to take anything away from it. There are some other Mamet books that look interesting, but this one didn’t really do much for me. It was quite short at least. It might be a great book, I just don’t know why Mamet writes as if he doesn’t care if people will understand him or not. He might blame me for this circumstance, but I blame him.
I’m sure I could understand the book better if I went through and made a bit more of an effort, though I’m not sure I’ll do that anytime soon… also, reading some of the 5-star reviews on Amazon, the reviewers tend to write more like he does (as opposed to how I write), so this is quite a subjective matter. I’m not sure the target audience for Mamet’s book is just any wannabe writer though. Not that it’s for more serious (i.e. snob) writers, just for writers with different rhetorical tastes.
Midway through week 8 of Animation Mentor! This week we’re studying the basic walk cycle, so by Sunday I’ll have a basic walk blocked out; next week I’ll do the inbetweens. There’s a lot of stuff going on in a walk, so it does get a bit complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before, but it’s fun!
In other news, I’ve started plotting out my novel, The Designers, which won the poll a few posts ago. Of course, I don’t think I’ll call it that, but that will be its codename. I think it’s quite a strange book. I wouldn’t say it’s innovative, because nothing is innovative, especially if you think it is. But I guess I could say it’s innovative to me… there are a lot of thorny storytelling issues to deal with… how do I create danger for this character? How do I get this character to seem important to an audience? I’m kind of trying to challenge the traditional answers to these questions, though I don’t think I can really escape them. It will be interesting. (But not that interesting.)
(The other novel I was plotting a few months ago was The Protectors, which got no votes. That one still needs a lot more plotting anyway. For now, it will be put aside, along with all those plans I had made. Though I did say at the time I made them that I didn’t think I’d follow them. See, I was right!)
I’m also trying to keep the overall plot nice and short. My last few novels that I’ve planned or started writing (I’ve never finished one) were huge epics. OK, maybe not huge, but probably too complex for a first novel. So I’m trying to keep this one really short and tight. Just two or three character storylines with short overarching plots. Hey, I can write sequels if I want, let’s actually finish something first. For now, nice and short and to-the-point. I’m going to try to make the “epicness” come from the ideas, the plot, not the length.
To help me plan out the novel, I created a private wiki for myself, kinda like Hanniwiki, except it’s a top secret private one that I can’t tell you anything about. The secrets within would just blow your mind, you can’t handle the truth! Anyway, it’s been quite useful so far; if you know how to install it and set it up, I think it’s a very useful tool for writers, great for keeping notes and stuff all organized and in one place.