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Showing posts from June, 2017

Why read stories? Why write stories?

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I am currently immersed in reading about writing. Several authors have briefly mentioned why they write and why readers read, but the comments were brief in each case. I started to wonder "Why do we read stories, and why do we write stories?" There are a few answers.


Here is a picture of some of the books on writing that I am reading. (I'm sure I will go over some of them in future posts.)

I started looking through some of my favorite books trying to find a pattern of some kind. "What do I like about these stories?" I noticed a general similarity in the effect they have had on me. Each one expanded and/or changed my perspective on life in some way. The subjects are a lot different between Replay, The Dice Man, Siddartha, Zorba the Greek, Candide, Faust, The Ten Thousand, etc., but their similarity lies in the fact that they had an effect on my perspective. There is some research that I found on this, and I will put some of those links at the end, but some of th…

Breaking-down "Zoo" by James Patterson, Part One of the Prologue

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"Zoo" is the first book in a bestselling series by James Patterson, there is also a graphic novel, and a television series. Obviously this has been a very popular story, and I would like to know more about why. So, let's start where it begins, with part one of the prologue.

Here is the prologue, then I am going to go through it with my thoughts.

PROLOGUE

IT'S ALL HAPPENING AT THE ZOO

ONE

LOS ANGELES ZOO
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA

LOCATED IN GRIFFITH Park, a four-thousand-acre stretch of land featuring two eighteen-hole golf courses, the Autry National Center, and the HOLLYWOOD sign, the Lost Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is more of a run-down tourist attraction than a wildlife conservation facility.

Funded by fickle city budgets, the zoo resembles nothing more than a tired state fair. Garbage cans along its bleached concrete promenade spill over. It is not uncommon to catch the stench of heaped dung wafting from cages where ragged animals lie blank-eyed, fly-speckled, …

Breaking-down "Zoo" by James Patterson, The Premise

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"Zoo" by James Patterson is a bestselling book series, a graphic novel, and a successful television series. I would like to know more about why. Let's look at the premise of the story.

The descriptions on Amazon and on James Patterson's website are basically the same, so let's use the ones from Amazon. First, the book.
A CBS-TV SERIES LAUNCHING JUNE 30, 2015!
Once in a lifetime, a writer puts it all together. This is James Patterson's best book ever.

Total
For 36 years, James Patterson has written unputdownable, pulse-racing novels. Now, he has written a book that surpasses all of them. ZOO is the thriller he was born to write.

World
All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities. Jackson Oz, a young biologist, watches the escalating events with an increasing sense of dread. When he witnesses a coordinated lion ambush in Africa, the enormity of the violence to come becomes terrifyingly clear.

Destruction
With the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, Oz …

Building a Story - Testing the Waters of World-Building

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A story can come from anywhere. It can be built from pieces, or it can be taken as a whole. You can invent, innovate it, copy it, transfer it, adapt it, change it, regress it, progress it, digress it, transcribe it, or digest it. Recently I have found the idea of world-building fascinating, so I am going to do a little exploring.


World-building really isn't needed too much in most stories. If the setting is somewhere that actually exists, then most people are probably at least slightly familiar with how things would work there; the physics, chemistry, biology, astrophysics, psychology, social dynamics, politics, languages, etc. will all be something that is somewhat familiar, usually. In science fiction and fantasy this is not the case, some aspect of the world has been invented, created, but only in the mind. The line between science fiction and fantasy can get blurry at times, but it is clear that both require the creation of another world.
There have been many other worlds crea…

Generating Ideas for Writing - Magic

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Magic! It has a magical hold over humans. We watch it, consume it, think about it, theorize about it, and dream about it. When we can't find magic that is good enough, we make more up. Let's see if we can come up with some magical ideas.

In starting to think about magic a few things popped into my head: trial by ordeal, rights of passage, the four horsemen, and blood iron. Now, when I look at these things just a moment longer I realize that only one, maybe two, even deals with magic. Trials by ordeal and rights of passage are very interesting ideas, and would make great stories, but there is nothing inherently magical about them. Yes, they can be associated with magic, but that is because the minds of men and women are full of magic. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are a kind of  religious magical event, so that is a possibility. Off hand I think there are kind of four main areas that we can break magical thinking up into: ghosts, gods, aliens, and magicians/witches/wizar…

Building a Story - Starting with David Mamet's Three Questions

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David Mamet is an excellent writer, and an interesting character himself. I recently took a course from him and he has a lot of advice to offer, but there are three questions that he uses that I want to take a closer look at.


The first question is, "Who wants what?" Those three words are asking for a lot of information. All of character and all of intention is contained within that one question. I have found a lot of different ways to generate story ideas, and I have written a lot of blog posts on them, but if I am working on building up a story piece by piece I have found it easiest for me to begin with either character or intention; Mamet covers those both with his opening question. I know there are a lot of fantasy writers that like to start with setting, and you will see that Mamet's questions don't cater to that interest, so maybe they could add in one of their own at the beginning, "Where the frack are we?"
The second question is, "What happens i…

Building a Story - Starting with "the stakes"

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Just as there are different ways of building a building, there are different ways of building a story. With most modern buildings there is a pretty detailed plan, some writers do that as well, others do not. Much like builders, there are different pieces to a story that you can use. Today I am going to play with some of those.

What are the variables that we have available as a writer?
As general categories we have setting, character, and plot. Usually at this point conflict is mentioned as well. Slightly more detailed we have point of view, tense, narrative voice, reversals, discoveries, intentions, obstacles, stakes, and tactics. These are the pieces that I will use to work at building a story, but first we have to know some of our options concerning these pieces.
I am not going to exhaust all of the options, I will just go over some of the main options.
Setting: physics, geography, time, people, creatures.
Character: hopes and dreams, fears, pains, pleasures, habits, likes, dislike…

Writing Contests - Decisions, Decisions

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There are some script idea contests coming up that I want to enter, but what to choose? I have a few ideas that attract me, but I have to at least decide on one for a television series and one for a feature movie.

First, let's just figure out the ideas that I have. I have generated a lot of ideas in just the last few weeks in blogs posts. The first step will be reducing them down to a manageable number.
1. An ancient civilization performs secret rituals on horses during their birth that gives them greater speed, grace, and intelligence. A single horn grows from the horse's forehead, and their blood has healing properties. The barbarian hoards surrounding the empire have fought them for centuries, at first to stop the expansion of the empire, and now they want to conquer the empire itself, steal the unicorns, tear down the temples, and destroy everything that has been built through centuries of blood, sweat, and sacrifice. Without Grey, Juno will die. Juno needs to drink a smal…

Reading for Writing - "The Dice Man" Preface

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There are many unusual books, most of them aren't very good. The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart is definitely unusual, but in a way I find intriguing. The preface contains Rhinehart's unique perspective on styles of writing.

"The style is the man," once said Richard Nixon and devoted his life to boring his readers.
What to do if there is no single man? Should the style vary as the man writing the autobiography varies, or as the past man he writes about varied? Literary critics would declare that the style of a chapter should correspond to the man whose life is being dramatized: a quite rational injunction, one that ought therefore to be repeatedly disobeyed. The comic life portrayed by Hamlet, everyday kitchen events being described by Churchill, the man in love described by Einstein. Thus it will have to be. Let us have no more quibbles about style. If style and subject matter happen to congeal in any of these chapters it is a lucky accident, not, we may hope, soon to be…