Sunday 28 October 2012

A Tangled Web we Weave

I had the most brilliant flash of inspiration. Almost certainly I'm not the first to come up with something similar, but I think it's cool.

You know those stories where you have 140 characters and a ton of plot-lines? Unless you have a trick memory, it can be bl**dy difficult to keep everything straight and not contradict yourself. Events happen at specific locations and times, and letting them move around at all is a big no-no. Characters are even harder, since they can move around, but have to not only to be in exactly one place at any one time, but also to take a reasonable amount of time to get between them. Both can be hard to keep track of in a complicated story.

So here's my idea.

You will need: drawing pins (this kind are probably the best for the purpose, and ideally you want as many colours as possible), thread (again, many colours is helpful but not essential, and fairly coarse thread is best), and a large rectangle of something you can stick pins into nice and firmly without them coming loose.

We're going to make a space-time continuum.

It's helpful to draw grid-lines on your pin-board, or stick a sheet of squared paper over it. Now draw a timeline along one side of the paper, and a list of settings on the other. As far as possible, you're going to want to try to make the distance between places roughly correspond to the actual distance between them, but since you're laying out a two-dimensional world on a one-dimensional line, it's not going to work out perfectly. You could in theory do this with a 3d plot, especially if it was done on a computer instead of a kitchen table, but it would probably just turn into a tangled mess, when the point is to be able to see things at a glance. But the spacing of the locations is not hugely important anyway.

Now, for every event or scene, stick a pin in the appropriate point in spacetime. Some labelling system will be necessary. Different colours are useful to see at a glance which one is which, but not important, and you're unlikely to have enough colours to make them all different anyway.

Now, the characters.  For every character except bit-parts who are only in one scene, tie a length of thread to the pin where they first appeared in the story. Then take the string to the next scene they were in, and wrap it around the pin. And so on. If they die (or in some other way get written out), tie off the thread at their death scene.

And there you have it. I call it a plot-web. You shouldn't have any thread visiting two different pins that are level on the time axis, or two pins a long way apart in space within a very short time, unless they have access to teleportation - that's why it's good to have nearby places close on the location axis, so you can tell by the gradient.

If you don't want to bother with pins and thread, you could just draw dots and lines on a sheet of paper, but the pins are more fun, and you can move them around if you change your mind.


Wednesday 24 October 2012

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a blog hop where writers can share their work-in-progress or soon-to-be-released books. I was tagged by fellow writer and blogger, Kristina Miranda, who posted about her book last week, here.

Now it's my turn; regular readers may recognise this book as the one I've been talking about for months. For anyone new to my blog, Hi! And this is the book I've been working on for more than half a year now and almost finished. It's about vampires.

Anyhow, the premise of this blog hop is that someone somewhere came up with some questions about books, and we all answer them in turn. So here we go:

What is the working title of your book?

A Lonely Road, though if I use that at all it will be as the overarching title of the trilogy (of which this is the first book). I'm seriously stuck on an individual book title.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I got the idea of writing about vampires, and my speciality is to take something magical or supernatural, or at least pseudosience, and agonise over making it realistic until it turns out to be possible. I've done it with dragons, and even to an extent with wizards. Vampires were surprisingly easy.

What genre does your book fall under?

Tough one. Dark fiction, probably. Horror is a traditional genre for vampire stories, but it really isn't horror. It could be described as science fiction, but I'm not sure if it would appeal to most sci-fi fans.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Even tougher one. I tend not to pay much attention to actors and only to the characters, so I honestly have no idea. I couldn't even go on looks, since I have face-blindness, and wouldn't even recognise my own characters in the street. I'd have to leave it entirely to the director.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Fed up with living in hiding, Alexis decides to reveal vampires to the world, and then discovers why vampires don't do that.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

By an agency. I had almost decided to self-publish, until I discovered just how much it would cost. Although I could find the money, I couldn't afford to risk losing it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About three months once I properly started; I'd been trying to for the best part of a year before that but I didn't even get beyond the opening scene until I invented my Daily K rule and stuck my nose to the grindstone.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Well, if by my genre you mean other vampire stories, probably the nearest to it is Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. The story has similarities, but my version of vampire lore is quite different. In that respect, it's perhaps closer to Darren Shan than to anything else I've read, although I wouldn't call it a similar book.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

My housemates were watching Queen of the Damned on DVD, and I came in half-way through. I didn't have much idea what was going on, but the scene of Lestat's being made a vampire struck me quite heavily. So I started playing with similar ideas and the whole story grew from there.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The mix of characters, perhaps. Immortal characters are great, because you can get people from cultures that never coexisted. I've got everything from Spartans to Vikings, and Barbary corsairs to modern Americans. And I hope I've managed to make them all true to their backgrounds.

And as well, every author of vampires, from Bram Stoker to Stephenie Meyer, has portrayed vampires differently, and the style has evolved a lot over the years. There are plenty of readers who insist that this is a bad thing - but whatever incarnation they cling to is invariably different from what came before it and from 'actual' vampire lore. The genre has always been changing and it will keep doing so as long as people write about it, so who knows? This is my take, and if it's successful, maybe it'll influence the next chapter of the vampires' story.

So, I hope that was interesting. And last but certainly not least, the people I'm tagging:

Eliza Stilson

J. C. Martin

Unfortunately, that's all. Seems like nearly everyone I know in the blogosphere is having a break from blogging, or plans all their posts weeks in advance like a sensible, organised person. But these two are great, so get over to their blogs next week, where they'll be answering the same questions about their books.