The Tension of Tense and Naughty Narrators

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Tense. It has several meanings. Right now it is the pressure in my shoulders. Sometimes it’s that feeling that hangs in the air and lets you know that something is about to happen. And for writers, it’s the tone that sets an entire book.

And don’t get me started about those damn narrators.

You read a book and one of the first things you notice is who the hell is telling the story and when is it happening. When I read the first line of a book, I stop and ask, “God?” But no. It’s not my god, or your god or even Khorak-nazir, patron deity of the humanoid ant creatures.

No, it’s the little guy in the corner telling you about the first day of school, and how nobody wants to be his friend, or it is the god of the book, telling you every detail, every action and every tiny little thought that passes through the main character’s head, along with his girlfriend’s, her cousin’s and that damn humanoid ant in the corner wondering why the hell  he’s about to be stepped on by the kid on his first day of school.

We’ve all read a hundred blog posts about the different tenses and narratives that a writer can use, so I’m not going to lecture for the hundred and first time about it. I’m here to ask you a simple question. What do you prefer?

I’ve read fantastic stories where the narrator helps me truly visualize and live in the moment that is happening in a book. I’ve also read great tales where Timmy Two-shoes tells me about the first day of school, and how he took down the entire alien armada that came to probe all of his teachers (suck up).

I’ve also read two amazing books by a great writer, no names here *cough* Rothfuss *cough*, where the tense and narrator switches around so fluidly, that for a minute you have to stop and say, “Wait. How the hell did I get here?” Yeah, he’s that good.

All of this aside, for my own work-in-not-so-progress, I cannot settle on a narrator or tense. Some days all I want to do is jump into the main character and let you live the day in his shoes and see the world through his eyes. But then, BAM!

The antagonist shows up and its fight time, BITCHES!

Now I’ve got to tell you about a fight scene, a part of the story that should be beautiful and descriptive, only to be held back by the limitations of the narrator’s mind and scope. He knows how he feels about the fight, about how he is doing and about how his enemy is doing, but it has to look way more amazing to the bystanders. Joey Bystander is bystanding in the other corner watching Timmy chop an alien in half with a shank he sharpened out of the ruler in his desk, and he can’t tell you a damned thing, because this is Timmy’s story.

Now, giving you a slight peek into my brainchild of a story, I’ll let you know that on my current novel, my main character has something else inside him that, under the right conditions, turns him into something else.

So I’ve started playing with the idea, like Rothfuss, of having multiple tenses and narrators. I’ve thought about having a Narrator 1 for the back flash chapters that give a sneak peek into the events that led up to current events, and Narrator 2 is my main character telling you the story in the present day. Then, when my narrator turns into something else, Narrator 1 is back to tell you what’s going on, since Narrator 2 is currently indisposed.

(Damn coffee ran right through him!)

But I can’t tell if this is just a nonsensical hoping on my part, or if this actually has potential.

So, that’s your homework. Two simple questions that I want answers for.

What’s your favorite tense and narrative and do you think I’m crazy?

So, feel free to leave your comments down below so I and the handful of other readers on this here fancy blog can read em’ and respond or feel free to hit me up on my stalking grounds.

Ahem, I mean on Twitter.

I’ll just be waiting here anxiously in the corner with my laptop hoping Timmy will get over his whole first day angst and stop this damn alien from probing me…

Flash Fiction: Hellbound

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So, I’m an avid follower of Chuck Wendig.  He cracks me up and he helps make writing make sense (which is amazing given how f*cking crazy he is).  Anyways, so each week he does a flash fiction challenge, check this weeks out here, and I’ve decided to stop being lazy and write one.  So, I did.

‘Nuff said.  Read it now!  And tell me you like it, or hate it, I don’t care.  But tell me something! XD

 

The gravel crunched underneath the weight of his armored body.

Gravel?

His eyes snapped open and he found himself looking up into a blood red sky that glared angrily through clouds of smoke. He pushed himself up and looked out upon a hellish landscape that was little more than jagged, obsidian stone with rivers of fire running through it.

Where in Their great creation am I?

Last thing he remembered was fighting his way across the battlefield. His orders had been simple. Get to the enemy captain, and take him down. Without his leadership, their troops would break ranks and flee, leaving the way clear. He remembered having the captain in his sights, remembered barreling down on the man. Then there was nothing. Nothing save for black stone and fire.

Did I die?

He rose from his seat and grabbed his sword that was lying next to him. It was a giant, bastard of a sword that gleamed viciously against the fires. He strapped it on his back, wrapped himself in the black folds of his cloak. He decided that any direction was as good as another, so he picked one and began walking.

After proceeding forward for an indeterminable amount of time found himself sweating profusely from the heat of the nearest fire river, and his breath became short. He leaned against a large shard of rock and rested in its shadow. He quickly gasped in pain though and wretched back out of the shadow. Looking down at his armored hands he found the steel covered in frost.

So it’s either the heat of the light or the ice of the shadows. Wonderful.

He had little time to consider his predicament though, because he heard something creeping up behind him. He spun around and drew his sword in a single fluid movement and brought it to bare before him. But was brought up short by the sight of the creature standing before him.

It was little more than a girl. But this was no normal girl. Sure, she wore a simple dress, and her hair was tied back cute pigtails, but there was something else to her. There was something in the sharp angle of her smirk, and there was even more in the eyes that stared at him hungrily. Then she spoke and the words that came out in her cute little voice chilled him to the bone.

-Welcome to hell, Nellaf.-

“What do you want, demon? Why am I here?”

It was questions he asked, but there was no masking the snarls that threw them out like demands.

-Oh, that is simple. You are here for my amusement. You are here because you were brought low by the very violence that you lived your life by, and now you will serve me for an eternity with that very violence. You see the lord, whom commanded the armies of you and your savage men, made a pact with me. I saved his worthless hide and in turn… he gave me you.-

“Like hell,” he snarled, before launching himself at the demon girl with a violent swing of his sword, but it passed through nothing but empty space, and her voice floated down at him from atop the rock.

-‘Like hell’. How fitting. But worry not, that arrogance and anger will serve you well here in my games. Have fun!-

She jumped down from the rock and ran off amidst the rocky crags. Nellaf followed her, intent on venting his anger on her tiny body. He ran on and on for what seemed forever, always her voice just around the bend in the rocky terrain or she’d appear just on the other side of one of the flaming riverbeds, until he found himself staring at pool of fire like the large ponds he used to fish in during his childhood.

She was nowhere to be seen but still her voice spoke to him.

-Welcome to Flamegulch, the home of one of my most fearsome followers. Please do give my regards to Baelrok, won’t you?-

He screamed at her and cursed her violently, but she either didn’t hear him or she ignored him. He cursed her once more and turned to walk away. He had taken but a few steps when the fires and lava in the pool erupted and a massive hand reached up out of the pool and grabbed onto the molten shore.

Nellaf turned back around and watched as a giant horned demon began to drag itself out of the fiery depths. He watched as it rose foot by horrifying foot, until it stood fully on two clawed feet. The beast was at least twice the size of him. The lava ran off of its body like rain, but still the monster’s black body seemed to glow with its own inner hellfire. Nellaf’s horror turned to dread when the monster’s eyes snapped open glared at him with burning rage.

-You dare wake my slumber, little swordsman? Perhaps you’d care to battle a real warrior?-

Something in the monster’s challenge stirred up Nellaf’s pride, but something else. He felt his own battle lust rise up.

You’re really thinking of fighting him?

“Sure, why not, you big brute. Let’s see what you’ve got,” he replied to himself and the demon.

The demon let out a violent laugh before it lunged.

For minutes the demon stalked the man, always forcing him to keep moving in order to avoid being ripped apart, yet no swing of his sword could render the beast’s encrusted hide, and Nellaf was forced to retreat into the crags. Baelrok gave chase.

-Give it up, pathetic human! This is a fight you won’t win.-

Nellaf watched as the demon came around a bend in the rocks and as it stepped into the shadows of the crags the glow of its fiery carapace began to diminish under a coat of ice.

Of course!

Nellaf charged forward, swinging his great blade at the monster’s freezing legs, and the sound of shattering ice rent the air and the beast fell to the ground and the rest of it began to turn to ice.

“Goodbye, Baelrok,” Nelaf snarled as he sent his sword plunging into the beast’s chest.

-Human, no!-

Fire erupted violently and engulfed his sword and his right arm. Instead of burning pain though, he felt only power surging into him.

The flames died down, but his arm and sword continued to glow with demonic fire.

-Well done, Nellaf. I knew you would make the perfect entertainment.-

“Silence, demon girl. Just lead me to the next challenge.”

The girl let out a sinister little giggle as Nellaf turned and regarded her with eyes burning red with smoldering anger.

Books that inspire me

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Books. A seemingly simplistic word, that so many in our generations have come to overlook as archaic. Even my best friend, a man I consider a brother to me in soul, admits that he will probably never touch a book in recreation.

“Why read a book, when I can watch the movie if it is good enough to be made into one?”

He has said this to me on more than one occasion. And unfortunately this has creepingly become the accepted norm for books. But to me, this tiny little word means so much more. When I was younger books served as portals to other worlds that took me away from the bullying and teasing of other children as well as from the abuse of my own step-father. At the time, I saw them as a means of escape. Now, in retrospect, I can see them as so much more. They were an escape, to be sure, but now I see them as the entrances to something much grander. They inspired my mind and heart. They taught me that even the little guy like I used to be, could have more, could be more. They showed that there wasn’t always desperation and anguish, and they showed that even those tales could have happy endings.

I watched as children with nothing worth fighting for could become men and women that proved to the world that greatness comes in many forms. I watched as the mightiest heroes fell to evil only to become the greatest champions of the very causes they had so adamantly fought against. I’ve read and observed more tales and souls than I can recount.

But I remember my favorites. I remember the ones that inspired me the greatest. These are the tales that have inspired me to embrace my love for books and have given me the courage to forge my own tales, in life and on paper. Now I would like to share with you the list of books that paved the way for my love for writing. Enjoy.

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

This is the first book I ever remember reading. I remember sitting on my bed, as my mom held me and read this book to me, sometimes over and over. Then I grew up, and the book became lost to me along with the memory. Then, five years ago, I was working at Borders (resquiesce en pace) and I was putting a new batch of children’s books away, when I came across a board book edition of it. As soon as it slid out of the box I was unloading, into my hands, and I found myself staring at the cover into the jubilant faces of the young boy and his bear companion, I found a part of myself that I had lost. I found the young boy that I had been, hidden under a layer of years and a thicker layer of tortured memories from my time as a teen. That book now sits on my own son’s bookshelf and the spirit of that boy lives on in his eyes and forever in my heart.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is undeniably the beginning of my love for fantasy of all shapes and sorts. The tale that Le Guin wrote evoked so many emotions in me. It was the first book I remember reading where the protagonist leaves his family behind in order to seek his path in life. I’ve read that book no less than ten times now, but I remember every step and mistake that young Sparrowhawk made along the way, and I remember the fear he felt as he faced his mistakes and sought out his destiny. Given the rather diminuitive size of the book, Le Guin taught me that not all great stories need to be big, and that the value and depth of words is infinitely more important than the amount of them.

The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks

I’ve read this entire series up through the Heritage of Shannara Trilogy. Twice. Brooks taught me how rich and deep fantasy could be, without overloading you with clichés of wizards, heroes and villains. He wrote a series that, at its core was always about the magic of one world, but he showed this magic in powerful ways without having to show you over and over again. Each of his characters had their own depth and dynamic that allowed you to remember and differentiate each of them. Each had their own voice and personality. He also taught me the value of making a series that linked together, book by book. To this day, I remember each of the characters and the way each of them fought through their struggles in order to protect the varied lands and races of his series.

I could continue on about the hundreds of other books I’ve read, and about what each of them taught me, but the ones in this list, those are mine. Those are the keys to the soul of my writing, and why I must continue to write, even when I get frustrated with it and want to just give up. Those books, and the inspiration of their memories, are why I write. They inspire me to write something as half as good, all with the hope that I write something that makes at least one person feel the same way these books made and make me feel.

So. What about you? If you love writing as much as I, if you love books as much me, I implore you to tell me what books make you tick. I have many years left on this planet, and I can think of no better companions than books and lovers of books, so recommend me your favorite tales.

Cheers!

Writing Rebellion

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I’m back!!!  I know I’ve been gone for some time, I know you’ve all met me so drastically and I know, despite the fact that I’m blogging for the first time in a long time, I may disappear for a while again, but such is the way of my life these days.  I want to dedicate myself to one thing at a time but I’m nothing if not the perfect Gemini, bouncing around from project to project, book to book, game to game and wife to wife.  Just kidding about the wife! 😉

My hiatus has not been chocked full of procrastination like usual, but I haven’t had much time for much of anything.  I’ve got a new career, that is going swimmingly, but it is salary pay and therefore I work way more than I ever used to.  Then my time off is spent with my family and trying to find an hour of relaxation.

But always at the back of my mind was my muse, coaxing me, “Justin… Justin… let’s play…”.

But I have so many things that I want to do in my free time.  And all involve creativity and imagination.  Whether it involved playing a game, or working on an interesting character idea for the Skyrim Blog, or just reading the hundreds of books that I am currently in the middle of.  However, through all of that not once has writing been an outlet for my creativity.  I have been thinking of several different story themes and plot, still trying to find one that just clicked in my head and said, you need to write this, but writing has lost its original purpose for me.

For too long, writing has been changing from it’s original purpose of allowing me to create and express myself, and it has slowly evolved into something much more base.  It has become little more than a means for me to save my family from the mundane paycheck to paycheck that our lives have become.  For too long, I have pissed and moaned about not being able to give my family the life I never had, that it has allowed my mind and imagination to grow stagnant from resent.  My ideas lack their own sense of purpose.  For too long, my writing has been living and not-living for me.

It is time for a rebellion.

It is time that I start living for my writing.  I remember the first stories I ever started writing, and how I wrote them simply to tell tales.  I will get back to that.  I will write to write.  I will write to let my stories live, and I will work for them.

If any of you find yourself in the same place, then join me.  Join my rebellion.  Tell me how you rebel against the oppression that is life and the inhibitions it chains you with.  Or if you have broken through this stagnation before, give me your tips, challenge me to write something new.  I’m always up for writing a new short story, so challenge me.  Or just leave a comment or a like in support of my rebellion.  Let me know that my war does not go without notice!

Ink-stained Pages and Button Mashing

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Wow. Two months to the day since I’ve blogged.  I do apologize for my absence.  It’s the same old same old. Work, work, work.  Plus we are trying to decide if it’s time for my son to go to Kindergarten next year or do another round of Pre-K.  He’s really bright, as his teacher called him “out of the box” smart, but he lack certain social skills that would make all day Kindergarten hard for him.  Mix that and playtime and spouse time into the few hours I get each day and it life still remains a struggle.

But that’s not what is important.  What is important is that I’m trying again.

I have two stories out to an acquaintance who is beta reading them for me, in order to give me some constructive feedback (I still don’t plan on doing anything with them right now) and I recently picked up a copy of “Read. Set. Novel!” by the folks at NaNoWriMo! I’m looking forward to finding some free time to try to utilize the book to help me better plan and outline the novel that sings from my soul and cries from the prison of my mind.

Not much admittedly and I could try harder, but my head might literally explode from never slowing down.  But there is one more thing I’m trying to get better at, though I still remain rather unsuccessful. Video games.

If you’ve read in the past, you know that I have a video game problem.  I find it too easy to get swept up in the stories of the many video games I own, and it keeps me from writing my own.  This would be fine if my first idea for writing had panned out.  I had wanted to write for Forgotten Realms or a video game publisher so that I could mix the two interests, but when I actually started a novel back then, Dungeons and Dragons stopped taking unsolicited submissions, and the latter requires a college degree which I foresee no time  to obtain.

So, instead, I’m trying to remain vigilant.  Every time I think of playing a game, I challenge myself to write instead.  Most of the time I fail, but I’m still trying.

It’s what I’ve got for now, so I’ll have to make it do.

What about you guys?  What vices do you have that keep you from writing?  Or what suggestions do you have for me to become stronger and more self-confident in my writing so that I give it more time?  Leave me a comment or just take the time to hit the like button to let me know your support!

Cheers!

No such thing as fate?

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You guys have heard me say it before, I’m sure.  If not then I’ll say it again, I love the concept of fate.  It’s as intangible as anything can come, but I can’t help but feel that is there.  The instances that have spurred this post may seem trivial to some of you, but they have meaning to me.

One of my favorite movies is “500 Days of Summer”.  It is a movie about fate, love and soul mates.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor, and watch it.  I love this movie because at the climax of the story the protagonist, Tom, begins to doubt his faith in fate and soul mates.  At this point he undergoes a transformation of character, a paradigm shift if you will, and his mind stops focusing on his heartache and narrows it’s sights on the one true goal that he has stopped going after: a career as an architect and embracing the art he loves.

Anybody that knows me can tell you that I relate to Tom’s character more than any other character I’ve ever watched.  This is why this is one of my favorite movies.  In Tom, I see myself.  In love with my craft, but to afraid to truly go after it.

Now, this instance by itself is not enough to spur me into action.  Tom’s story, while it emotionally moves me, is still just a story.  It doesn’t connect to anything.  However, after watching it for the second time the other day, it did motivate me to start reading up on writing styles, techniques, etc. and so I picked up a book that has been long overdue for me to read, “On Writing” by Stephen King.  Another thing, that if you haven’t taken the time to partake, you should.  I haven’t finished reading it yet, but there is one message that King has made sure was inescapable to any reader, creativity and ideas don’t always come from within.  Sometimes it takes two seemingly unrelated events or themes to create a fully developed idea.

Now flash forward, or back again depending on how you look at it, and I found myself watching “500 Days of Summer” for a third time, and finished it not but twenty minutes ago.  However, as I was watching it, my computer monitor, sitting on my desk to the right of my entertainment stand, was flashing through my picture albums on it’s screensaver and an image appeared that triggered an idea in my mind.  Here is the image.

abstract ink personThese things, King’s ideal, the image and the movies idea of fate instantly clicked  in my mind, and I tucked them all away until the end of the movie (sorry, it’s a good movie!).  Afterwards I hopped on my PC here and instantly thought of starting up my story with this new breath of inspiration.  But before I started writing, I thought about what I wanted my message about fate to be.  I instantly thought of a quote that I vaguely remember hearing before about there being two types of fate.  So, I instead turned to my browser.

Okay, so here’s the climax and the Grand Poobah of the story.  I typed in Google, the phrase “quotes about two types of fate”, and guess what my top number one search result was for.  It came from IMDB for the page for “500 Days of Summer”!  You can imagine my instant reaction with euphoric exaltation.

I know it still might seem trivial, but it’s the small things that link the big things together.  So, I encourage each of you to look around your life or the lives of those around you and find the themes that link everything together for you!

Cheers!

 

Reality of violence

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I started working on a new story the other day.  I had read a n article over at Mythic Scribes about how first time authors should stop focusing so much on epic trilogies and start with smaller novels or single stand alone novels.  The article got a lot of heat from frequent readers and bloggers at MS, but it kind of made sense to me.  So, I put my current WIP (which I had recently grown a little burnt out over) away and decided to try something a bit more simple.

I decided to re-explore one of the first theme ideas I had had for my first novel, violence.  Really it’s more about vengeance, but the two go hand in hand.  In order to hit the mark with the story, I wanted to make sure I understand it as well as the message that I want to convey in the story.

So, I thought as most writers usually do, about the beginning.  Where does violence begin?  I was instantly drawn to thoughts of my son and watching him grow up.  He doesn’t play with a lot of action figures or toy guns, but he seems to inherently know what they are supposed to do.  This got me thinking how we grow up with violence, but when does it become real?  At what point do the superheroes stop capturing the bad guys and when do they soldiers pull out their automatic rifles and start taking lives.

I can’t remember when it happened for me, but I remember watching the Power Rangers as a kid (*cough* nerdy teenager *cough*) and then there is only only memories of fictional bloodshed from samurai, sword fighting and martial arts movies.  Maybe it just comes with age or maybe our genes are coded with the memories of violence that our ancestors experienced.  Or maybe we’re programmed subliminally during our day to day lives.

*Shrugs*

What do you guys think?  Where did it start for you?  Share your personal experiences or insights.

Cheers!