Coffee Share 190112

This is a Weekly Coffee Share hosted by: Eclectic Alli.

Alli manages a weekly list of posts from any who want to just stay in touch, chat about blogging, writing, travel, photography, children, pets, work, life hacks or just about anything else that might be of interest.

Here’s the link for last week.

Here’s the link for this week.

Warm greetings. I’m always happy to have visitors to this virtual coffee room we all share each weekend and 2019 is now squarely upon us.

I’ve given myself the month off from formal writing. Coffee shares are too much fun to be considered “Formal Writing” so they don’t count. They are much more like sitting down with friends to enjoy a drink and maybe a snack while we catch up on stuff.

fountain penBetween my day job during the last calendar quarter of 2018 and my drive to make my goal of having 50 stories posted to my Dime of Time collection, I was feeling surprisingly beat up when the holidays ended.  So I made the 50 mark, but now just want to take time off to enjoy your writing more and get to know more of the folks who wander around this blogging world.  On the other hand, I can feel the pressure of a new story, so I may make one exception.

I mentioned before that there may be spots for 10-20 more stories for this project, but I’m also getting the itch to try other projects, especially a big one, with a trial name of, “The Colony just West of Jupiter”.

For many years, I’ve wanted to write a hard Sci-Fi story without gratuitous conflict. I’m sure you know the technique.  It’s when the writer has an interesting theme building, but pauses in progressing that part of the story to throw some unwelcome conflict just because, we all know you cant have a real story without it – so qualified or not, the protagonist will be hurled into danger, temptation or a call to save the town, world or universe (the bigger the better).  Sigh.   Frankly, as the reader, I often find this requirement tedious.

Surely there is a balance somewhere between dazzling and omnipresent evil antagonist and their malaise, which we know will somehow be defeated, because that’s the formula editors have taught us to use, and the boring but realistic challenges that real people face in the types of scenes we want t drop our characters into.   Yes, evil and misfortune exists and deserves some degree of acknowledgment, but entertaining reading should be able to give the reader something of a break from it without being wholly discounted and ignored.

andromedastrainDid you ever read the book, Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton?  It was his first big blockbuster, published in 1969.  I was 14 and he hooked me on hard Sci Fi.  He used a dramatic pacing that got started and almost never let up.  His technique included amping up the tension near the end of each chapter and not resolving it until either the next or a later chapter.  He became the master of not letting his reader put the book down.   Fine – I see the market value to that skill, but after reading almost everything he wrote, I found the technique to be as predicable as the lunar cycle, and thus itself was getting boring.  I knew when to expect the bad guy to do something even nastier than he already had.

My point is, Mr. Crichton was an amazing story teller and I don’t think he needed the over-blown cadence of tension – slight breather to progress the story – more tension and repeat the cycle through the whole book.  I loved his stores, but was reminded by each that this story didn’t need the gratuitous conflict.  He was that good.

Also, for me as an unpublished writer, it’s one thing to ask readers for 10 minutes of their time and quite another to ask for 300-400 pages of that same finite resource. Could I both produce a story good enough to deserve publication and somehow either get a publisher to look at my work or take the plunge and indi my way onto readers book shelves or kindle?  It’s a big unknown that I don’t think I can resolve in 2019.

solar flare cmpositFor a few years, I was fortunate to be part of a group of published writers back in the early 1990s when dead trees were the only story medium anyone really noticed. We didn’t have “Blogs” but we did have USENET groups, but the later never would be able to stand up to the success of the former.  Older more experiences writers  firmly counseled that if I left out all conflict, my story would bore most readers – it would read like a fictional documentary – ugh – that was harsh man!  But I felt (and still do) that I could craft a story where the antagonist was not some jerk, my nice people characters simply couldn’t get rid of, but a phenomena that was so big and unexpected and hard to understand with effects that kept all the bright characters mystified – that the result would be compelling and even fun reading. My bright idea was to create a fictional solar burp, that was wrapped in details of how our sun actually works, and the conflict would an unexpected threat that was completely beyond our control and force characters to find ways to survive it.

So I wrote a lot of words and found some beta readers. They did what I hoped for.  They read my work, and gave me honest and useful feedback.  They all told me that this non formula was refreshing, but they didn’t like the way I handled the characters. One comment was painfully true. I left my character construction so low on the story line priority that they almost all came out flat and fully unworthy of anyone’s concern. Even my nicest of characters did not draw much interest.  Clearly I had gone too far into telling the story of this phenomenon and needed to breath some life into the characters.  Great feedback, just not what I was hoping for.

So. What to do?  No publisher would ever consider it so I collected my marked up beta reader manuscripts and stashed them for future use with some better story telling skills and let my mind wander off to other projects, including the Dime of Time collection (which has been much better received) or perhaps, I now know enough to fix the thing or perhaps another novel length idea with much better physics and engineering and characters worth caring about. Barely 50 words have actually found ASCII representations, but I have quite a neat story in my mind but so far, I don’t even want to think much about the antagonist. This will have to be fixed if the thing will ever be written. I’m having much more fun with the engineering challenges and the characters I actually like. Maybe I need to self-plagiarize the antagonistic phenomenon from that older work – hmmm.

So – what are your writing plans for 2019.  You know there is nearly an endless supply of virtual paper in that laptop of yours – just waiting for your inspiration and your readers can’t be far behind.

Blessings all.

To select another story, please visit the full index by clicking here.

Gary photo n bio

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15 thoughts on “Coffee Share 190112”

    1. Thanks Pamela, they’re all pretty short (2000 words or less is the rule) so 50 is not that big of a deal, but it was enough of a stretch goal to keep me out of mischief most of 2018. thanks for you kind encoruagement.

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  1. Fifty stories is pretty good. Good luck with the bigger project.

    A few things – have you read The Martian? If not, read it. No bad guy (except Mars). One thing you might not like is that it does have that formula that every time things seem to be going along nicely, a new crisis raises its head. As you said, it gets predictable. But the science is great and it is a lot of fun. And there are no bad guys 😉

    I just finished an online long-form story (not sure if it can be turned into a novel) following writing prompts. It is Fantasy of sorts, but little conflict. A little interpersonal conflict between characters. One bad thing happens. The reason I am not sure if I’ll turn it into a novel is that there does need to be tension and release, just like in music, to create interest. If it is all flat line, who will want to read it?

    Anyway, hope your 2019 is going well so far, and, as I said, good luck with your writing projects.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Trent
      I did read the The Martian and you’re correct on both points. No frivolous bad guys but his cycle of getting things running smoothly only to have another problem explode in his face & the science wad great. I may yet man-up and go for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Gary, congrats on your 50 story milestone! That’s great! I love sci-fi, but I fear I’m just not smart enough to write the “hard stuff.” Your idea sounds interesting to me, kind of like what “Seinfeld” was made out to be. A show about nothing. But it was about something. It was about a group of people living their lives and the problems they faced. There wasn’t a great big bad in the show, but it worked just fine and for a bunch of years too. Good luck with your writing!

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  3. Gary you could do a Phd with that question. It is people like you that push the boundaries that give us new exciting stuff to read. I hope you work it out and come up with a tale that gives both you and your readers what they want that isn’t the same old formula.
    I have a couple of creative non fiction pieces that I will be working on this year – one about remote nursing in the thirties and another which I’m not yet sure I want to tackle.
    Look forward to watching your progress.

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  4. HI Gary! Your accomplishments and goals are impressive. Wishing you every bit of luck in succeeding!

    My writing goals are far more simplistic in that I simply aim to document our journey a bit better in the coming year. No books in mind yet, though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there’s one deep in me brewing 🙂

    Hope you have a great week ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a feeling that 2019 is going to be your year! You are so passionate about writing and have done so much introspection about what you want to do, how you want to achieve it, and what your own flaws/deficits are that I know you can overcome any doubts you have and seriously knock it out of the park!

    My goals are somewhat smaller: I just want to finish something. I have time management skills, and then lose steam on my projects. “Real life” always gets in the way, so I just want to finish something that I feel is worthwhile!

    Good luck to both of us! May this coming week bring you some much needed positive energy, I can feel your doubt oozing out of this post, and I don’t think the doubts are deserved. See you around th3e coffee share!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi and thank you Elizabeth. I plead guilty as charged. I think the talent is in there somewhere but really doubt my ability to bring a whole publishing effort to market or succeeding if I did. I’m going to keep cranking so see if I can close some of the gaps in my way, but am so thankful for your kind words of encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. With 50 Dime stories, you just may have a viable collection of shorts. Perhaps putting your writing voice into a book of shorts is a good step towards getting published. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Antoinette.

      What a kind comment and idea. I confess that in this case, I may more competence than confidence. As the hyper critical self-critic I worry that my collection is fun but not the kind of writing that is much in demand.
      And both the tradition way of publishing and the indie method remains a big hurtle.

      I dont know what my readership in the past year says. I know the numbers, but they are not compelling enough to scream “publish quick lad or you’ll miss the wave of possible success”. As they sit, they’re free, and as such are not attracting that much attention – but of course I know little about promotion or even SEO.

      Your feedback means a lot to me. I see what you’ve accomplished and am proud that you even know my name and have read some of my stories.

      I’ll be thinking about what you’ve offered and try to find a way to stick a toe into this field.

      Thanks your your time, readership & advice.

      Like

  7. Yeah publishers want tension/conflict/drama. What about conflict coming from within the character – a moral dilemma. I’m sure you have already done this. Also have you heard of National Novel Writing Month or Camp NaNo? Might be worth popping in for a visit.

    Liked by 1 person

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