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.
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.
Between 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.
Did 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.
For 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.