Fact Checking your Work of Fiction

I cannot say how strongly I object to people using other people’s writing as research. Research is non-fiction, especially for horror, fantasy, science fiction. Do not take your research from other people’s fiction. Just don’t.  – Laurell K. Hamilton

Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and non-fiction. And even there, who can be sure? – Tanith Lee

When you read different fiction you do observe their theories of how things work, especially assumptions and original theories about fictional ideas (like vampires – whether they need blood and why or why not). It is tempting to apply some other fiction writer’s theory to your own fiction. Especially when the idea was really good, unique and explained a lot of loose ends. But, it is best to deal with facts as your research and work on keeping the fiction all your own work.

Roald Dahl: In a Different Place with Different People

I came across several Roald Dahl books among those we were taking to the second hand bookstore. They had been part of a pile of books at the bottom of a box of toys no one was bothering with for month. I saved them. I might even read them at some point. I don’t like being too casual to give away well written books. A clever line should be worth saving, no matter what the book editors may say.

A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not.  – Roald Dahl.

The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him.  – Roald Dahl.

Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people.  – Roald Dahl.

A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.  – Roald Dahl.

I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do.  – Roald Dahl.

Nowadays you can go anywhere in the world in a few hours, and nothing is fabulous any more.  – Roald Dahl.

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.  – Roald Dahl.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.  – Roald Dahl.

The Roald Dahl site.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

Roald Dahl Fans.

If There is No Magic?

A question I read on Scribatious, a blog by Faith Van Horne:

Is it fantasy if there is no magic?

I hadn’t thought of this before. But, is magic what makes one story fantasy and another story science fiction? If so, where does the whole paranormal genre fall?

Maybe the first thing to do is decide what magic is? Is magic a unicorn horn or is it tarot cards? Magic, to me, isn’t something you can easily pin down. I think of Pagan magic and Earth Witchery and then there is the fantastical magic which includes things I’ve never seen before and would be surprised to ever see. I think fantasy is the type of magic I don’t expect to find in the real world.

So, I think it isn’t fantasy if there isn’t magic. What do you think, and why?

Fiction Plot Structure

I found several ideas for writing fiction plots, plot structures,  in an article by Kimberly Appelcline. The article goes into a lot more detail with forms of plot structure. I have taken more from this article than I usually would because the link was tricky, would not load the first few times I tried, though it did eventually. I’ve taken some of this from the article itself (mainly the lists themselves) but have written some of it into my own words and ideas. I did not want to lose the general information as I thought it was something worth hanging on to.

Aristotle wrote the first known analysis of plot, in his Poetics. He stated a plot should have a beginning, middle and an end. To go into further detail, his plot structure included:

  • reversals
  • discoveries
  • complications
  • catastrophe
  • resolution

Four Common Plot Structures:

Episodic: Where you follow the character through a series of adventures. This one makes me think of children’s stories where there are steady ups and downs all the way through. Each crisis is resolved only to wind up in another crisis. At the end there is the final resolution/ reward.

The Hero’s Journey:

  • call to adventure
  • journey through unfamiliar world; hero is tested
  • supreme ordeal
  • reward
  • return and reintegration into society

The Suspense (Mountain) Plot: The suspense builds up and up over the whole story. There are some plateaus where the character figures things out, backtracks a bit but overall it builds until the final climax where everything is resolved.

The W Plot (in the original form which may work better for some):

  • First Barrier: The protagonist begins work toward his objective and encounters the first barrier.
  • First Barrier Reversal: Things don’t look good, but the protagonist manages to overcome the first barrier.
  • Second Barrier: At the high point of the action, just when it looks like the protagonist has it made and his objective is within reach, the rug is suddenly pulled out from under him in the unexpected second reversal.
  • Second Barrier Reversal: At the low point of the action, when things look very grim, the protagonist still has an opportunity to overcome this catastrophe and achieve his objective.
  • Resolution: The protagonist either does or does not pull out of the catastrophe, resolving the plot either tragically or triumphantly.

The following W plot structure comes from Kathleen at Write My Fire. The idea is attributed to Donna MacMeans. Read the details on Write My Fire or just go ahead and give it a try. Presented this way it may work best for science fiction and fantasy but the general plan can be adapted for anything, any genre. Could you even see it work for non-fiction? That would take some creativity and ingenuity.

A. Ordinary World.
B. Inciting Incident.
C. Things Get Worse.
D. Crossing the Threshold.
E. Allies and Enemies.
F. Point of No Return.
G. Things Begin to Fall Apart.
H. The Crisis/Big Black Moment/Turning Point.
I. Return with the Elixir.
J. Happily Ever After/Slow Curtain/Full Circle.

I think this was inspired by 12 plot stages, from The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler:

  1. Ordinary world
  2. Call to adventure
  3. Refusal of the call
  4. Meeting with the mentor
  5. Crossing the first threshold
  6. Test, allies, enemies
  7. Approach to the inmost cave
  8. Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. The road back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the elixir

Your Own Flash Fiction Challenge

From the 3rd Annual Flash Fiction Challenge 2010:

In each challenge, writers have 2 days to complete a 1,000 word story based on an assigned genre, location, and object.

There are three rounds to compete in, narrowing down the writers, until the fourth round when there are just 25 left in the competition. The official early entry deadline is July 8th, 2010. There are prizes for winners but, there is an entry fee to start. So, why not take the challenge unofficially?

Every 2 days pick a writing genre (western, fantasy, etc.) then a location and an object (how about your living room and an empty can of diet Coke), for instance). See if you can keep to the schedule and come up with a 1,000 word short story.

Off to a Bad Ending

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest:

Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.

Write your own entry for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. You can choose to submit it or not, but write one anyway. (One sentence, not more than 50 – 60 words and it must be the first sentence to start a fictional novel).
Here’s my first crack at it:

It rained that day, it had been raining the day before too but the rain that day was different, wetter and much soggier than the rain from the day before.

Great Science Fiction Quotations

Peter Grant has a page of Great Science Fiction Quotes in his blog. I can’t pick just one as a favourite. Here are some:

“There’s no real objection to escapism, in the right places… We all want to escape occasionally. But science fiction is often very far from escapism, in fact you might say that science fiction is escape into reality… It’s a fiction which does concern itself with real issues: the origin of man; our future. In fact I can’t think of any form of literature which is more concerned with real issues, reality.” – Arthur C Clarke

“Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?”

“Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.” – Isaac Asimov

“Experience comes from doing, not from being told. Experiment and discover. Seek and find. It is not machinations of others that compel us to do so; it is our need to know. It is, in the end, the way we learn.” – Terry Brooks, The Talismans of Shannara

“A neat and orderly living space is the sign of a dangerously sick mind.” – Mercedes Lackey, The Black Gryphon

“Reality is the part that refuses to go away when I stop believing in it.” – Phillip K. Dick

I found a few others in my own searching:

“For me science fiction is a way of thinking, a way of logic that bypasses a lot of nonsense. It allows people to look directly at important subjects”. – Gene Roddenberry

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” – Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone

“The mind is a strange and wonderful thing. I’m not sure it’ll ever be able to figure itself out. Everything else maybe, from the atom to the universe, everything except itself.” – “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956)

The New Paranormal Fiction is a Mystery

I’ve been noticing an interesting fiction genre, paranormal mysteries. Yes, a mystery with a ghost or haunted house is not new. Most of the Pagan/ paranormal mysteries begin with a stereotypical young woman who is a Witch and owns a bookstore/ sells antiques. It would be nice if they could stray away a little from that standard. But, it is somewhere for the paranormal writers to go as the current genre begins to age a bit and dig itself into a well worn rut.

I can see a paranormal mystery where the main character is a middle aged woman, an Earth Witch, administrative assistant by day and jewel thief by night, who just happens to be lurking in a closet when someone is murdered in the next room. She heard a few sounds, a voice and puts together a theory of what happened. But, she can’t go to the police to explain what she heard to the people investigating the murder. It would be possible to just forget the whole thing… but, how can she when karma is such a bitch?!!

I like it the blending of the paranormal women’s fiction with the mystery genre. I have always enjoyed mystery stories and science fiction/ urban fantasy. I’d like to see some of the well known paranormal fiction writers like Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, Genna Showalter, Kresley Cole, Mary Janice Davidson, Michelle Rowen and Katie MacAlister get into this.

Here are authors which I have found, so far. I am going to look for more next time I am browsing at the secondhand bookstore (still the best place to find old titles in any series you are reading).

Shirely Damsgaard

Madelyn Alt

Yasmin Galenorn

If you know of others, leave a name and link (if you have a Twitter or blog link for the author) in comments here.

It’s Raining Alien Men

You may not have noticed but I like science fiction. I think about alien life. What they might be like, physically, mentally and culturally. There are endless options, more than we can know with our small database from our own experiences on this one planet. One fun thing is to imagine alien men. It’s fun.

Put some time into designing your own alien male. He can be anything, any look, any behaviour, anything at all that you can imagine or have ever desired. It’s kind of like reinventing men, but better. They don’t even have to be green, though you could find them easier that way.