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…

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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!

Blood Lust

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Here is a small story I did for the the HitRecord.org website.  It didn’t really get any attention on there, but hey maybe you guys will like it!  Along with that, feel free to check out my other tiny/short stories and collaborations over at their site.  My name is LastWord there!

Cheers!

“Again!” she cried.

He glanced at her flushed face. The scarlet hue of her cheeks made her green, lust filled eyes pop at him.  She was really enjoying this.  He turned back to the “man” sitting in front of him.  Her husband was already beaten to a bloody pulp, but still she wanted more.

He almost felt bad for the poor sap.  But then all of her black eyes and bruised cheeks came to the forefront of his memories, the most recent was a set of broken ribs she had been given after the bastard had drunkenly attacked her.  He looked down at his bloody and busted knuckles.

The man deserves this he thought, and his rage rose up once more and turned his normally gentle hands into instruments of pain.

He stalked in on the man, his hands and legs tied to the wooden chair he was propped up in.  As each blow connected with the man’s face and torso, they slammed with a meaty thump, but their noise was nothing to compare with the sounds of ecstasy the woman began crying out behind him.  Glancing over his shoulder, he watched as she ran her hands over breasts and the smell of her arousal splashed in some lust with his anger.  His attack would continue for a long time, until neither she nor her husband could take anymore.

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!

 

The machinisms of Catch-22s

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Sometimes life is a bitter pill.  You make plans, you devise ideas of how things in your life should go, and then the world throws several rusty wrenches into your well oiled machine.  Like all things that machine breaks down and your production line comes to a screeching halt.  This, my friends, has been my life for the last month and a half.

My life truly has become a veritable Catch-22.  My financial situation has forced me to take a second job for the betterment of my families life.  Ergo, I need time to make money, but the writer side of me screams that I need money to make time for writing.  Like one paradoxical chain of frustration, I find myself quickly becoming embittered to far more things than I ever thought myself.

I work two jobs for a total of sixty-five hours a week.  I see my wife and kids for aproximately two hours a day, before collapsing from exhaustion.  For my regular readers, you guys know that I have never gone this long without blogging, and for that I am truly sorry.  I want to do so many things, but the sheer thought of the work and energy that they require binds my hands and tapes my mouth shut like a victim about to be raped by the phalanx of life.

I wanted to do NaNoWriMo again this year.  I had been drafting and planning for weeks, and for the first time in months I felt like my story was going to actually have focus and purpose.  Now I watch my ideas sit in a notebook, growing stagnant like a pool of blood that my time and soul had wrought.

In case my myriad of analogies have failed to make their point, I hate my life.  I see no way to escape this paradox.  I need to write to get myself out of this situation, but my financial responsibilities stop me from making the money I need to support the only possible escape I can foresee.  I don’t hate the people around me, nor their actions, in fact I revel in my twitter acquaintances tweets about their NaNo successes, and a real life friend is actually working on the final read through of the novel  he has been slaving over for at least two years now, and I couldn’t be happier for him, but I feel no joy in life without time to creatively express the words my soul longs to sing.

I thought I could still manage NaNo this year by writing on my breaks and lunch at my full-time job, then I could type them up for an hour a day at home, but even my lunches at my job are consumed by my work.  I really have no idea how to get out of this machine.

I truly apologize for this blog, which as I complete I feel has become little more than a rant, but I wanted to let you guys all know that I had not died and I wanted your suggestions.  How do you starving artists and writers do it?  For those of you with families, how do you find the time and resources to take care of them and still support your creativity?  Any help and ideas will not be turned away.

Lastly, before anybody gets too upset with me for my comments, understand that I do know that I have much to be thankful for, it’s just hard to remain thankful when the weight of everything else keeps pressing down on me.

Thanks to those of you that still support me, and I look forward to your comments.

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!