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The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 4 of ?

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Here we go. We are going to make San Francisco into an artificial war zone using droid clones in the year 2037. I have a deadline coming up so I have to get this done, but I feel like working on other things. It seems I am not in bad company because both Douglas Adams and George Martin have had the same problem. Forward, always forward (except for when you need to move backward, of course).


I would like to just dive right in without much of a structure and begin writing. Some people can do that, but whenever I think about it I just get bogged down. So, let's work with some structure. I worked on a little bit of the plot structure in the last post, but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with it. There are a ton of options I have, and a few that interest me. Let's play with some of them and see what happens.
First, what things could I use to structure this? I could use some pieces and begin developing the story with intention, stakes, obstacle, and tactics from Sorkin. I could d…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 3 of ?

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Do I want this story to be based more around mystery or action? Set in an artificial war zone or the peaceful city of San Francisco (with droid/clones)? Decisions, decisions.


I need to flesh those two ideas out into a little more detail to see which one is more appealing to me. There are a few different ways that I could do this. I think the two main divisions that I could follow would be either starting with a character and a situation and just moving forward with the story, or I could build a plot outline first. Let's try some of both. First I'm going to work on a basic plot idea for each idea, then I'm going to think more about the character and see if that changes anything.
First, there was mystery. I think this will be the harder of the two to write, but it has great potential. I want this to end with some kind of shocking reveal about droid clones, but I'm not exactly clear on how to do that. If I want it to end in a kind of bad way then I want it to start with a…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 2 of ?

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I have some good ideas for this story, but deciding on which one to take further is a bit of a challenge. That is what I am going to explore today.


Let's start with a basic inventory. Here are the general ideas: interrogation, injured, seeking loved one, war zone, artificial war zone, complete droid/clone city. All of these could be great ideas, and have many great stories within each category, but we have some limits we have to work around. I think that the biggest limitation is that it has to be a positive view of the future and a positive view of technology in the future; it's easier to think of ideas about non-positive futures, and technology leading to a dystopia rather than a utopia. I don't really like utopias, they seem fake. Nevertheless this must have a positive slant to it, and I can do that.
Can an interrogation story be optimistic? I don't think this one is going to work. It would probably seem a little forced. There are a lot of interesting options here, …

Violence and Magic

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Almost all stories are about violence and magic. Even romances are usually about a wild/violent/powerful male that is tamed, broken, and yoked by a woman (the tamed, broken, and yoked part is why men don't read them). There is one caveat I can think of, humor; humor is often not about violence or magic, but sometimes it is as well, and after the humor people get back to more violent and magical pursuits.


Both of these basic truths are something that I resisted for a long time. I saw them as flaws of human nature that should and could be remedied, but I was wrong. These are so fundamental to humans that it is almost impossible to even limit or diminish them. I don't even have a desire to anymore anyway because one is the foundation of knowledge and the other is the foundation of society. (Technically there is a mutual foundation to knowledge and magic, but that doesn't sound as good; just as there are several stones needed for the foundation of society. For a better underst…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 1 of ?

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I have been thinking about entering this contest for a couple of weeks. The idea is that a flight in 2017 hits some turbulence and finds itself landing in San Francisco in the year 2037. The contest has a unique feel to it, and I want to be a part of it.


There are three things that the contest will be judged on:
1. Unique vision of the future 2. Aligned with XPRIZE belief that exponential technology can positively impact the future 3. Adherence to story prompt
If you are a fan of science fiction and fantasy you know that the second item could offer a little bit of a challenge because most science fiction and fantasy does not have a positive view of the future. "Enders Game," "Battlestar Galactica," "Westworld," anything from Michale Crighton, it's all based on the idea that things aren't going well, and that's usually based on technology. Even "The Martian," which is relatively positive concerning technology, is all about problems. Y…

The Evaluation of Writing and The Deconstruction of Creation

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Creation and deconstruction are two sides of the same coin. Stephen King recommends that you put as much time into reading as you do into writing. I put way more time into the reading portion, but I don't do it in a particularly critical or systematized way. I want to change that.


When I first started public speaking my ability to give a speech evaluating someone else's speech lagged behind. I went to another member of my Toastmasters group that is a professional speaker and teaches college courses on public speaking. He gave me a format to use that was both flexible and gave structure to my evaluations. That is what I am looking for in evaluating writing.

The first thing that we all evaluate is whether or not we like a work; whether or not we think it is good. We don't always, and probably usually, know why we like or don't like something, but it is important to recognize the emotions we are experiencing because of a work. Trying to make that process conscious will al…

Generating Ideas for Writing - A Play in One Table

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Many of the most intense moments in life have zero action in them. Many of the most intense moments in life are conversations, uncomfortable conversations. I have an idea about a play that concerns itself with only one conversation.


This picture came to me when I was in a half conscious state in between pain and sleep of two men at a table, sitting in a tense silence. I'm not sure what the conversation was about, but I could tell it was important; and uncomfortable.

Action is very popular in movies and television, but I have seen a number of plays where conversations were the real action, the dialogue was the real suspense, and I think this scene could fit in well. It got me thinking, "What if I did a play where the whole thing is just a single conversation at a table?", "Could I make that an intense emotional experience for the audience?" I don't know if I can, but it seems like it could be one of the most intense kinds of plays.

When you're at a resta…

Style: George R. R. Martin versus Stephen King

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I recently read "Fevre Dream" by George R. R. Martin and "The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger" by Stephen King. I alternated back and forth between the two to get a feel for the difference between their styles. It was an interesting experiment and I learned a few things from it, but I think there is one that is the most important: they could not switch. If Martin wrote "The Gunslinger" and King wrote "Fevre Dream" they would be completely different experiences. I have heard it before, but now I believe it to be true: your style is natural. Of course there are some caveats to that, but I don't want to go into those. What I do want to do is compare the styles of Martin and King in these two books.


I am going to, basically, pick a random page from these books. Let's call this page . . . page 57. That seems like a good number. The "Dark Tower" movie is just coming out, so let's look at that one first.

"Yes. That's all. It&…

Generating Ideas for Writing - The Gold Rush Phenomenon

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Good story ideas come to me all of the time now, just while I'm encountering things throughout the day. My uncle John also sent me an idea that is very versatile, almost begging for expansion, and I keep going back and thinking about it. Returning to an idea is the definition of fascinating, and that is a good lead to follow.


The idea concerns a modern gold rush. It is currently possible, in our world, the real world, to turn lead into gold. It just happens to cost more than the gold is worth to do it. What if it became economically viable? What if someone had this secret and didn't release it, they just made gold for themselves? That reminds me a little bit of "Prison Break" with all of the amazing technology that people are willing to do anything to control. "Prison Break" was an amazing show, too bad it continually got more melodramatic with everyone coming back from the dead, and the entire world revolving around one family. Anyway, you can see there ar…

Searching for the Key to Plotting

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Plots are really just a series of problems and solutions. Almost no one seems to talk about them like that, and neither do I, but I am not sure why. A problem is the difference between the current state of affairs and a desired state of affairs. The solution eliminates this differential, but an easy solution would be a boring story.


I think stacking problems and solutions on top of each other would be a good way to build a story. Most of the time the solution creates a bigger problem until the climax, which is the biggest problem so far. Thinking about it in this way reminds me of Dan Brown's stories, and I don't particularly care for something about them, maybe the pacing.
There are situationist writers. I just made-up that term to describe someone that starts with a situation and starts writing from there, seeing what happens as they go. Stephen King does that a lot. It seems like a fun discovery process.
Another good way, I hear, of coming up with stories is to start with a…

Drowning in Theory, Starving for Application

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Learning the art/skill/craft of writing can be a daunting process. It is easy to get lost in the study and forget about the application. Theory does have value, as long as it is tempered with application. With my immersion into the study of writing I have found some great resources for learning that I am going to share with you here and now.


There have been five courses that I really liked. Many of the more academic courses that are supposed to be about writing seem more about trying to guess, or simply invent, the theme of an old, popular book. These courses are not like that.
Four of the courses are from Masterclass.com. I think they have done an excellent job of letting these writers show you their process and thinking patterns.
The first one I took was from James Patterson. I wanted to see how the best selling author in the world does it. I found his process to be very interesting. He writes these extensive outlines, sometimes up to 50 pages, then has a co-author flesh the story o…

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