GoodReads and Locus

So, I now have an account on Goodreads. It actually feels like a pretty slick setup to me. It’s user friendly and intuitive, so if you’re interested you should head on down and sign up.

If you do, add me as a friend, so I can pick your brain for good books.

I’m starting to post my reviews up there as well, but I looked back at two of my older ones, and they’re both pretty rough. I might be re-reading some things, and then re-reviewing them. But I need to hack through my current list, before any of that happens.

Also, I completely forgot to link to Locus, which is a partially online SF magazine. It’s a good resource. Go check it out.

In other news, I’m thinking of perhaps shelling out a bit of money to go independant. WordPress is good fun and all, but I’m starting to feel the cramps of not being able to design my own webspace. So, yeah. That’s that.

And now, I must now go and be a code monkey.

Good luck, all.

Advertisements

Cryptonomicon

So, today, I’m going to talk a bit about Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson.

Some information you might want to know before hand: this book was published in 1999, almost ten years ago. This was a fair bit before the time of blogs and, really, even before the time of popular internet usage the way we think of it today. This was back in the days when the gray blocks of Windows ’95 had only just been updated to the gray blocks of Windows ’98. A time when e-mail was still considered fairly impressive communication. Keep that thought in mind: focus on it.

Cryptonomicon, really, is two stories combined into one. Given that the book is 1000+ pages long, and very dense reading for most of those pages, this is a good thing—it splits the readers attention nicely.

One of these plots is set in WWII, where we follow the trail of Bobby Shaftoe, a United States Marine, and Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, a mathematician who finds himself in the Navy (as a Glockenspiel player), and then through an odd twist of genius, as one of the single most important mathematicians in the allied forces, working on decrypting enemy messages.

The other story is set in modern times (remember: 1999) and mainly follows the hacker Randall Lawrence Waterhouse—the grandson of our WWII mathematician friend—and the company he works for, Epiphyte(2), as they seek to 1) increase shareholder value, 2) prevent all future holocausts, 3) find an entire mountain full of hidden Japanese gold and 4) use it to fund an entirely online form of currency, completely independent from taxation or regulation by any of the world’s governments.

So, if you didn’t catch it yet, the plot of this entire thing is very complex. The 1100 pages is well spent on Stephenson’s part. There’s not a lot of unnecessary narrative, and I actually felt that if it were any shorter, the book would have been hurried and confusing. Don’t be misled though: this isn’t a page-turner, Barnes&Noble best seller we’re dealing with here. This book takes time and energy to read, and isn’t one to be rushed through in one night.

Those familiar with Stephenson’s writing will know that he is very, very technical in the way he works. His roots are in science fiction, and unlike some authors of the genre, Stephenson always goes out of his way to explain the science portion, instead of just making up whatever technology he wants to suit his plot. Most of his books are equal parts educational and entertaining. Just by reading this one, you will automatically get a crashcourse in: WWII cryptology, modern information technology, computer architecture, basic economics, and a certain amount of sociology. It’s like going to a liberal arts college, only you might learn something from the gen. eds.

But don’t be completely discouraged, the reading isn’t like slogging through a textbook. We’ve got a nice little setup here, to keep the reading from getting bogged down too much. On the WWII front, we have the dual adventures of Bobby Shaftoe—always narrated in a rough and tumble sort of way that is well suited to a Marine, but not so crass and foolish as to be annoying to read—and the work of Waterhouse—who’s narrated in such a mathematical way that it almost implies a mental disorder. Bobby Shaftoe’s scenes are always beautifully narrated. Stephenson has a real talent with the language, no matter what he’s doing, but one of the places he really shines is when describing action. Action scenes are hard to write, because language is a naturally an intellectual medium of communication, rather than an emotional one, but Stephenson handles things with such clarity that you are never once bothered by the fact that you’re limited to only reading what’s happening. And on the other side, the mathematics are handled with an ease of explanation that even a layman could get it—most of the scenes of really heavy mathematics are utterly hilarious, although the humor might be a miss for some.

Same applies for the present day story, where we have action in the form of business intrigue and treasure hunting (and a little romance between Randy Waterhouse and Filipino diver and salvage worker, America Shaftoe), and intellectual stimulation from Randy’s computer-and-math oriented friends and coworkers, along with a bit of reflection from Randy himself, who has a mind not dissimilar to his grandfather’s.

(There is, for instance, a segment of about ten pages devoted entirely to Randy reflecting on the proper physics and engineering of the preparation and consumption of a quality bowl of Cap’n Crunch. I don’t often laugh out loud while reading, but this is one of many points in this book that I was rendered completely unable to read further until I regained the ability to breathe properly.)

So it’s good. Really good. On a purely linguistic level, not many can touch Stephenson: his sense of word placement, sentence structure, and style are completely top notch. The composition of this story is really ingenious too: in addition to all the above praise, it’s also completely enjoyable to watch how the WWII plot affects the modern day plot. Many of the present-setting characters are descendants of the WWII-setting, and the events between the two stories are absolutely interrelated; the present-day folks keep looking for the treasure the past-day folks hid. And, even more happily, the pacing of the two plots together is such that any plot twists you do figure out ahead of time are pleasant, rather than predictable.

With all that out of the way, there are some gripes: firstly, this book is dense. I, being a bit of a techie, really enjoyed some of the more mathematics/engineering oriented bits. They are excellently done, but might not necessarily be for everyone. Stephenson might teach well enough that even non-math-oriented people can understand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will want too. For some, this book might be a bit more work than they’re wanting to put into a read. And another thing Stephenson is pretty famous for are letdown endings, and this isn’t quite the exception. No spoilers here; the ending isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels like it could have been a bit stronger, with a few more loose ends tied up.

Nevertheless, a subpar ending is an unpleasant blemish on an otherwise good book: noticeable, but forgivable.

You should pick up a copy of this: it’s a good book. Healthy doses of treasure hunting, WWII submarine warfare, mathematics and apocalyptic economic theory makes for a read that is entertaining, rewarding, and thoughtful—and getting all three of those in one go is pretty good in anyone’s book.

Sitting in my Panera – 4/18/2008

Last summer, when I first came to Grand Rapids, I found a Panera Bread near my apartment, and adopted it. I would go twice a week, or so, get a bagel for breakfast, or perhaps a bowl of soup for lunch, and then sit and work, writing in this very blog, or on this or that short story.

At least one person behind the counter recognized me when I cam in by the end of the summer, and I was lonesome over the summer, so I appreciated that. The fact that she was a cutie had absolutely nothing to do with it, I swear.

In coming back here, I was hoping for more nostalgia than I found. Perhaps some warm welcome or something. They did ask me if I wanted my bagel toasted, but they do that to everyone. It feels like a Panera: familiar, but not special. But then, I’ve never been one for longlasting-profound feelings of anything. I get glimpses of them here and there, but any more than that and I feel melodramatic.

I do enjoy Panera, though. It has a nice, coffeeshop-like feel, that quiets me down. For those that don’t know me personally, I’m a loud person who talks too much, and so quieting me is a big thing.

Plus, just as I started that sentence, a lady walked by and asked me if I’d like a free sample of Panera’s new egg sandwich. It had bacon, and was very good. The girl might well have been the one who recognized me last summer—I can’t remember what she looked like, so it’s possible. I’d like to think it’s true: it’s the sort of thing that happens in novels all the time, but not real life.

I turned my ankle last night. I’ve got ice against it right now, and it’s starting to feel better. The irony, of course, was that I turned it while walking down steps, thinking how cool it was that humans were able to attain the engineering knowledge to be able to make things like elevators, wheel-chairs, etc. I’m not even close to needing any of those, mind: just hobbling a little, and that should go away by tomorrow. But it’s a funny story, non-the-less.

It’s 8:28, and the first session at Calvin starts in two minutes. I was planning on going to a poetry reading by Thom Satterlee and Paul WIllis. We’re featuring them in the next issue of Stonework, and I’d like to meat them in person. But I’m still in Panera, and I think I might sit for a while longer yet. The ice on my ankle feels good, and the drain of being at a conference, constantly getting academic input, is draining.

I have an idea for an essay. Perhaps I’ll start on that, now.

Hullo From the Grand Rapids (Redux)

Hullo everyone.

Sorry it’s been so long. I haven’t posted anything for about two weeks now. Been real busy.

So, when we last left off, I was planning the Houghton College Writer’s retreat. It went really well, and I got some good connections, but perhaps not as much discussion on the topics I would like. Mostly about the duality of the writer’s call to social action and the call to contemplation. I’ve already got my eggs all in a basket on that point, and thus it wasn’t as interesting to me as other topics might have been. A good time was had by all.

The reason I couldn’t post after was because my academic life was just one big sprint from then to the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, which is where I am right now. So, I’m back in Grand Rapids (for those that haven’t read from the beginning and don’t know me, I did an internship here last summer). It feels good to be back: not quite like coming home, but more like visiting a well-liked relative who has fun toys.

The discussion happening here is much more to my liking. There’s great variety, here, lots of topics to choose from. Plus, it seems I’ll be able to find time to write in the middle of it all. That’s a good thing. I find that if I don’t do any wordcraft for much more than a week, it’s hard to start up again.

Hoping to be able to write some reflections on some of the discussions that happen this week. On the table: genre fiction, and why it’s looked down upon; the publishing industry, and why writers should treat their art economically; joining into community the right way, or, shake a friend’s hand shake a hand next to ya.

So, yeah, those are things to look for. And more updates for Artifice. Eventually.

P.S. The Woven Thread now has it’s own website, which you can check out here.

The Woven Thread, Issue 2

Hullo all: just a quick post today.

The second issue of The Woven Thread was just sent out. It’s a good issue this time, with some very good poets writing for it.  Some shameless advertisement: if you’re interested in receiving The Woven Thread, just email TheWovenThread@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post with an e-mail address, and I’ll make sure you’re added to the distribution list.

If you’re too ambivalent to click the link on your left to get to the actual page, The Woven Thread is a monthly newsletter and poetry anthology, aimed at a workshop setting. You can submit one poem a month, and it will get in to the Anthology automatically. You’re only obligation afterwards is to choose two other poets from the issue and respond to their poems via e-mail, thus establishing not only a good anthology of poetry but a dialog about the poetry as well. How delightful.

I like to point out that, because of the nature of the newsletter, it’s great for writers who aren’t necessarily full time poets, but just like to putter around with the art. You can get and give feedback, and it’s a place to get published without having to worry about impressing anyone. If you yourself are thinking of giving poetry a try, go ahead and sign up. If you don’t like poetry, but you might be interested in seeing what we’re doing, there is going to be material for non-poets as well (editorials, writing resources, and the like). If you don’t want anything to do with us, but have a friend who might, point them in our direction.

And now that the shameless plug is out of the way, I’ll go to sleep.

Thanks everyone,

~DK

The Bluff

Ideal, for a kid,
About a mile back in the forest.
Easy to find, if you know the way,
Impossible, if you don’t.

It’s along the trails, out in the woods across the house.
Past the ropes course, and past the lean-tos.
The forest opens up, along the east side of the trail,
And there used to be a dropoff there, probably 10 feet
Shows off the opposite side of the valley,
Green or flaming or bone-white, depending on season,
And the cracked ribbon of road, Rt. 19,
Where everyone has to drive to get in and out of town,
Unless they know the back roads.

Place’s got a fire-pit already made,
Don’t have to search for stones,
And there’s logs already around it,
Starting to rot a little, but
I don’t mind dirty jeans.

And spots for tents,
So that in the summer we’d come up
With hot dogs and sausages and mallows
And stay up all night, pretending to sleep,
And when the sun would come up,
We’d all sit on the ledge of the dropoff, wait until
The sun rose from the opposite side of the trees,
And then all burst, and the top of our lungs,
The opening of the Lion King,
Spouting our own Swahili mumbo-jumbo
Cause we couldn’t remember the right words
And wouldn’t know what the meant even if we could.

Each year, I’d go back, there was a little less of the Bluff there,
Rain and animals and stupid kids like us kicking at the ledge,
Didn’t realize that the dirt that fell down wouldn’t come back up.

Some years come by, whole trees had slid down the hill
(It’s a hill now, the cliff crumbled away)
Roots and all, taking little islands of dirt with them,
Clutching at anything to help them stay upright,
As their foundation crumbles from underneath them.

And we’ll still go camping—come by with sausages and
Mallows and chocolate,
Pitch our tents about ten feet further back than we used to
Because where we used to isn’t there anymore,
And spend the night pretending to sleep,
(Thinking about the years, sliding away like the trees).

And then, we would go out,
Sit on the ledge, which is more like a steep slope
Now,
And as the smallest sliver of tomorrow slipped over the valley walls,
We would breath and sing at that fiercely rising sun:

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!
Here comes a Lion, Father!

Kindle the Flames of Revolution

I won a writing award at my school. It’s the Nancy Barcus Memorial Award, named after an ex-faculty member of Houghton. It’s not really an award just for writing, but also is a sign of general competency, a good attitude, and involvement with the Houghton College Writing Department. I feel very good about receiving it, perhaps as a sign that I actually do know what I’m doing after all.

That and it comes with three hundred dollars attached.

As honored as I am about the award, the three hundred dollars are what this post is about. I feel like I need to spend them on something writer-ish, like books and such. Or perhaps put it towards some journal subscriptions, making literary connections, etc.

I doubt I’m going to be putting towards any of those things.

Rather, I think very seriously about putting it towards Amazon’s new Kindle. What, you say, what is a Kindle? Kindle is Amazon’s new e-book reader. A convenient little hand-held gadget with wireless access which lets you download books and read them directly from the built in screen.

Now, e-readers aren’t very popular at the moment, especially amongst the writer crowd, for a number of reasons. The biggest practical reason I’ve heard is that people don’t like reading off of screens: it hurts their eyes. Well, that’s taken care of here. The Kindle doesn’t have a monitor. It has what they’re calling an Electronic Ink Display. Basically, when you load up a book, the data gets written to the display in a very literal fashion. It isn’t little glowing lights that shows you the text, the actual display itself changes colors. It’s like reading off of paper, only the paper can change it’s content. All the versatility of a monitor, all the clarity and smoothness of a page. So you have an entire book on a single sheet. More than just one book, really: Amazon.com has released over 10,000 titles for kindle download so far, all for $9.99 or less. More are coming out every day. Seems like a good deal to me, even though the piece of hardware itself is $399.99.

Despite it all, though, most of my writer-friends make small hissing sounds whenever I talk about it. Something about the concept still bothers them. I know exactly what it is to.

Written print is dying, slowly and surely. The internet in general (us bloggers, really) delivered the first blow. Kindle (or, perhaps a similar piece of hardware that will come after) is the box they’re going to bury it in. They don’t like it, they don’t want books to go away, because there’s something incredibly nice about having something in you hands as you read it: the rasp of paper, the creaking of a spine when you bend it a little to far, the little wrinkles that the paper gets when your hands are sweaty and you stay on one page too long. E-readers can’t replace books any more than blogs can replace manuscripts—which doesn’t mean they won’t try. Print as we know it is dying, not much to be done about it.

Personally, I can’t wait.

Now, now, before you all go throwing tomatoes at me, let me explain myself. The fact is that I love books, probably more so than the next guy. But I don’t look at them, like most do, as vehicles for information. I look at them as an art form, the book itself being a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, publishing companies nowadays are very much business oriented, not art-oriented. They care about profit, and distribution, and numbers. I don’t really blame them: they’re running a business, and there’s nothing to be done about it. But the end result is that books—the actual physical books, the paper, the binding, the ink and the like—are made as cheap as possible in order to maximize profit. Your standard commercial paperback is a tiny thing, not even half the size of an 8×11 sheet of paper. The words are crammed so full at every page that they’re an eyesore to read: I’d rather stare at a monitor all day. The pages are almost never acid free anymore, though, so any books you might have will crumble in twenty to thirty year’s time, anyway.

Trade paperbacks, the large ones, are only a little better. The text isn’t so smashed, and the books aren’t quite as fragile, but the acid’s still there, and even if they last long enough to crumble, you won’t be able to hand them to you grandchildren by any means. Hardcovers—did you know?—are trade paperbacks connected to cardboard siding via two pieces of paper. Look at the very front and back of a hardcover near you, where the ‘cover’ meets the actual ‘book.’ Those two sheets of paper that seem to hold everything together? Those really do hold everything together. Hardcovers are no more durable than anything else, and not really any nicer. It’s all done with glue and cheap paper nowadays, not a hint of stitching in a book to be seen.

But only, I say, for nowadays. Until print dies. Until all the Chicken Soup for the Tortured Soul readers, the Oprah fans, the people looking for Hillary Clinton’s latest biography have left the market, have gotten they’re kindles and won’t have anything to do with clunky, outdated books anymore. Then the ones that will be left will be the bibliophiles. The book lovers. Us.

Basic free-market principle: if there’s a market, someone will satisfy it. And the market that will be left over after print dies will be the market that is no longer satisfied with glue and acidic paper. The publishing houses that still make old fashioned books will do it right, they’ll stitch the pages together, give the books proper headbands again. Acid free paper will abound.

When Print dies, it won’t really die. It’ll just become what it should be—beautiful. Admittedly, prices will rise, because good books take money to make. But if you’re just looking for a cheap read, that’s what you’ve got a Kindle for.

So that’s why I’m considering buying a kindle—to add a bit of funding to the cause.

If I do end up getting one, I’ll let you know how it turns out. The product looks good in the demonstrations I’ve seen, but I’ll need to actually use one to get a feel for it. I’ll keep you posted.

~DK

Edit: Behold the Kindle here.

Miss Troublesome

Artifice.EXE – Current word count: Same as before.

As mentioned in the previous post, I want to be able to talk about my characters a bit.

Or, in this instance, one specific character. She is the central character of Artifice. The story is told in third person limited, and significant chunks of the book are going to occur through her perspective, along with a few other select characters. The story starts with her, and ends with her, and is very much about the things that happen to her, so I suppose that that makes her the protagonist.

The problem is that she confuses the hell out of me.

Her name is Sera Bevens, which is, no matter how you look at it, no proper name for a cyberpunk heroine. “Chevette” and “Hiro Protagonist” are good, traditional cyberpunk names. And, no matter how you look at it, she’s not a cyberpunk character.

Well, that’s a lie. She is, but only because she’s trying to be. The typical cyberpunk character is a largely stress-free sort of character, at least in terms of personal identity. They are confident in who they are, don’t worry about looking cool or acting tough, they just naturally do. Especially the female ones. Cyberpunk characters are edgy and cynical and street-wise. They think they know everything and, in the typical cyberpunk setting, they really do.

Sera does all these things, quite effectively. But, at the same time, the entire cyberpunk personna doesn’t come easy to her: she’s got an entire naive and slightly-romantic side to her that she tries to crush down. The typical cyberpunk genre is devoted to a certain amount of cynacism, and it really clashes with certain parts of Sera’s personality. I have to find a way to preserve that part of her without betraying the genre entirely. She’s cynical about her own romanticisim, I know, and it pisses her off.

The most difficult thing is that she isn’t faking the cyberpunk persona. If it was a typical character-trying-to-be-something-she’s-not scenario, then the narrative would flow evenly because I’m used to that one. The issue is that when she’s being punk, she’s genuinely punk, and so not faking at all. It makes trying to capture both sides of her difficult in practice.

Sera is also a very guarded character to get: normally I can get a feel for one of my characters within a couple scenes, but Sera’s been throwing me for a while. It’s not that she’s more complex than some of my other characters, but that she’s more subtle about it. Cyberpunk characters are normally very obvious on the outside, but that’s more of a distraction from subtle character-traits on the underneath. I’m having trouble finding out what those more subtle character traits are.

I wrote about Sera in The Glory of God. You’ll notice that there’s a lot of her behavior in there, but her personality is a much more subdued throughout. Lots of the stuff I write with her in it is this way: the personality is there, but subdued. And if it isn’t, then it’s very aggressive: the loud superficialness of her personality popping out more than the quiet subtlety.

Still trying to work her out. I’m sure I’ll get more done in the coming days.

~DK

Character Design and Discovery (CHAR 101)

Artifice.EXE – Current word count: 2,403

Talking a bit about how I come up with characters today.

I’ve got an agenda here; namely, I want to be able to talk about the characters I’m working with, but in order to do that I’ve got to talk about the process first, so any readership I have isn’t left in the dark.

I’ve heard writers talk before about how they don’t like to think of themselves as creating characters, but rather discovering characters that were already there, and using them. I normally hate this kind of stuff, it reeks of pretentious artsy-types and squishy thinking. But, in this case, there’s definitely something to that way of thinking.

When I create a character, there are definitely elements of discovery to it. Normally, I’ll end up creating a vague outline of what there character is: a very general personality. You can always tell the mediocre fiction writers because normally stop here. Their characters aren’t completely flat, but they don’t have any depth either. They tend to have only one emotional state, and one frame of speaking, and repeat the same things over and over in dialog. They feel like bit characters—they’ve been drawn using only one crayon, with the only degrees of changing being whether the author was pressing down normal-hard of really hard. Another telltale sign is that you’ll see characters pop up that just appear to be there for no reason whatsoever. They’ll typically have their moment in the sun for two pages in one chapter, and then vanish into the background, doomed to float spectrally behind the rest of the cast and pop in for one unimportant line of dialog here and there again. This is because when the author came up with the character, it was just the character—the personality—and not a role for that character to play.

When I come up with the beginnings of a character, I only come up with the vague outline of a personality that I came up with before, and I also come up with a role for that character to play. If I can’t come up with one on the spot, I normally put the character on hold until I have a clear purpose for them. Never include a character that has no purpose in the final product of the book, because the reader will be able to tell. (This is not to say that you shouldn’t create characters spontaneously. A writer’s instinct is a powerful thing, and some of my favorite characters have been throwaway cast that I added into a story on whimsy. Some of them were weeded out as unnecessary. Others turned out to be some of the finest characters I’ve ever made. But be flippant about it in the drafting process; if a flippantly made character is still flippant by the time you’re submitting to publishing houses, nix the poor sucker.)

At this point, I’ve got the two of the three most important parts of the character down—purpose and overarching personality. After this comes the discovery. There are any numbers of ways to do this: you could play the what-if game, or write little short stories involving the character, or write an imaginary interview with the character. I’ve heard it all, tried them all, and find all of them useful to varying degrees. But honestly, I don’t necessarily find any of them to be the final answer.  To put what I do in the most succinct way possible, I do on instinct.

An aside: The writer’s instinct is an important part of the process which can’t be ignored but also, sadly, can’t be taught. Having a good sense of aesthetic and character are indispensable to a writer, both in character development and other things. If you don’t have them, don’t despair, they can’t be developed. You’ll find some say ‘read, read, read’ and others say ‘write, write, write.’ I say ‘read, listen, observe, write, sing, speak, do things as well as you possibly can do them.’ Explore other art forms, look at Rembrandt, listen to Mozart, read a Calvin & Hobbes comic. Form and beauty are all around you—if you stop and pay attention to it, you can learn how to emulate it. And don’t be a genre snob, or a form snob. Go outside your comfort zone to see things you don’t necessarily appreciate as much. If you like Bach, listen to some Barenaked Ladies. If you are all into Ghost in the Shell, go read some classic lit. If you like to watch American Idol, go rent an old, black-and-white silent movie. But remember that nothing gets done if you don’t practice either, pay attention, then write while you do it.

Aside over: when I go with instinct, it mostly takes the form of finding out what kind of character is most appropriate to the story I’m trying to tell. The plot will shape the character—if you know what you need the character to do, make sure you’ve created a character that would do it. If your character doesn’t fit your story, you’ll have to fight the entire way through to get the character to behave. But keep in mind that the character will also shape the plot—if you’re having to force your creation to do something directly out of character, perhaps your plot needs to change. There’s a balance here. Eventually, if you’re doing it right, your characters will develop personalities of their own and start guiding you in this process. If they have too much freedom, you’ll never have a story because they don’t cooperate, but if you don’t let them muck about and play, you’ll kill them, and lifeless characters destroy a book faster than a disgruntled review columnist.

It’s much like pruning a tree: you have an image of what you want the tree to look like, but you can’t just force the tree to look like that image. You’ll cut off too many branches and leaves, and kill the poor thing. But if you just let it grow unchecked, you’ll have some monstrosity that doesn’t look good, feel good, or fit anywhere in your story.

Again with the instinct: if you do it right, you’ll know. You’ll be able to work with the character to tell the story, instead of just forcing pieces about on a chess board. Things will start to work, narrative connections will start to flow, and you’ll write better without even having to try. The character will, in as much as a technically non-existent person is able, get to know you, and the vice versa will happen as well. And sometime down the road, probably years after the novel is published and you’ve moved on to other projects, you’ll feel like you finally know the character well.

And, as a final note, sometime in this whole process the character gets a name. Names are important—I’m going to swear by that till the day I die. They help define a character. Not in the artsy way, like, someone named Brian (which means ‘defender’) will be stalwart and strong, but in a much more subtle way. Sometimes the names will just happen, and be built into the character from ground zero. Other times they’ll take forever to nail down, and you’ll have the entire groundwork for a character worked out prior to naming. I always find that I have a name before I the character starts revealing details to me. I’m not sure why, but it always seems to me that it’s when a character first gets a name that they start feeling more alive to me. The name is what lets them talk back.

The name of a character is a character’s life.

No Real Substance

Artifice.EXE – Current word count: 1747

It’s slowly going up. This break, I’ve managed to make a post on this blog every day, and write a little bit on Artifice every day. Things are going well, but then again, I don’t have school work or anything of the like to worry about right now.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain this work during the last several weeks of school.

I need to be writing even more though: several hundred words a day doesn’t quite cut it. I’ve been reading on what other writers prescribe as good wordcounts  for a day’s worth of writing, and get different numbers from everyone. I’ve known people to say they go for three, solid pages a day: that’s 1500 words, thereabouts. A little more. My writing professor says that’s entirely too high, and that I should focus more on quality then quantity. But he’s a poet, so I’m not sure his vote counts.

Terry Pratchett says that writing a novel takes being alive for fifty years, plus four to six months of frantically scribbling words on a page. I like that idea, even if I’m short the prescribed time by about thirty years or so.

I think the simple answer is, at this point, to simply get words on the page, and try to do more today than I did yesterday. That should be a good enough goal.

I’m going to stop talking now, though, and go write something of substance instead of blogging.

~DK

« Older entries