I Hate Finding Names Like I Hate Eating Ham

I am going to be doing Nanowrimo this year. As such, I’ve started to outline my novel. At the moment it is titled Silver. More about that another week.

The main character (a.k.a the title character) has a name, but not her counterpart. So I have been name searching. And. I . Hate. It.

The name has to be just right. It can’t be entirely normal like Bob, nor fancy like Phillip. It has to set the right mood. It has to have a matching last name. It has endless qualifications that make it almost impossible to accomplish. But, I have compiled a list. Thought I would share the result of my efforts, which is that I still don’t have a name. But I have ideas (!).

First names are:
Martin
Michael
Killian (my sister is rolling her eyes)
Calixtus (too fancy?)

Last names are:
Fox (though I always think of “Lord Charles Fox” in a British accent)
Thorne
Hood (Robin??)

What do you think? I’m not sure. Might do some more digging and scrolling through America’s top 80,999 surnames (the number is somewhat made up, but Smith is actually the number one name.)
I was going to mention something else…not sure what. Oh well.

That’s all folks.

~Alp

Check out my storyboard for Silver on pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alpmichael/silver/

 

 

 

Every Character Counts

A lot of books have a mile long list of characters (Lord of the Rings, Homer, and anything Dickens comes to mind). It can be a pain for both a reader and a writer. I feel it especially taxing as a writer. Sometime I forget entirely about characters I created or I forget important details about them.

Which lately resulted in me resurrecting a character from the dead accidentally. That was embarrassing.

In Green Crows (my fantasy trilogy) I finally created a “cast list” to prevent any future confusing and awkward moments (such as forgetting a character’s death). I’ve always thought a little about what called “character folding” where you take previously different characters (two or more.) and blend them into one character, making the plot tighter.

Again, I want to mention Once Upon a Time.

Yes, we are still watching it. We are currently on season 3.

One thing that I have loved about it, is that every character counts. Every character is connected somehow. There’s almost nothing random. Every one knows somebody, past or present. (*spoilers*)
For example: Emma’s old boyfriend, Neil, is actually Rumpelstiltskin’s son. Neil’s new girlfriend knew Pinocchio and actually works for Peter Pan. The random guy that showed up in town is actually the little boy who’s father Regina killed, and is in league with Neil’s girlfriend.
Tinker Bell not only knows Hook, but knows Regina. The man that Tinker Bell wanted Regina to marry is actually Robin Hood, who etc. etc. etc.
It’s crazy. It’s amazing. And it makes for a lot of interesting (and problematic)  family trees.

I started me thinking about this for Green Crows. At the moment, I don’t think I want to use it to lessen the amount of characters (though it might come to that) but to add depth. It is so easy for side characters and their relationships with main characters to be underdeveloped.
I’ve already tried it actually. In the beginning of book two, Hugh runs into these Pirates/Poachers. In book three, another group of poachers runs them down to steal their horses (they’re a special kind of horse, okay?). Then I thought, why the heck should there be two different bands of poacher (pirates??)?.

So now they are the same ones. I mean, they were in the same country, traveling in the same direction, so it works.

Also, I find me-self wanting to talk like a pirate. Savvy?

~Alp out.

 

 

Characters Mistakes: Don’t Make Them Idiots

My family is now hooked on the Once Upon a Time television series. The past week we have been staying up till 2:00 am. We’re on season 2.
So much bad acting (a lot of good acting too.), a lot of bad costumes, and a lot of bad CGI (and flying trash bags. Oh, you mean the wraith? No, I mean the trash bag with eyes and hands). Yet, the stories and characters are compelling and….well there’s no backing out now.
My new obsession is not exactly what I am going to be writing about. But one of the episodes did inspire me.

It was the one about Hanzel and Gretel (at first I thought it was Jack and Jill. Like, why? That’s a random nursery rhyme!). Everyone knows the story. They go in, eat some candy, the witch tries to cook them, and they throw the witch in the oven.
In other words it’s a weird, horrifying story.

But my point is this: If your character is going to deliberately mess up, make sure they have a darned good reason, or it just comes off as if you are cheating in order to push the story forward. The audience will also think the character is annoying.

In this episode, the Evil Queen tells Hanzel and Gretel to go into the witch’s house and steal the leather pouch (or something like that. Could have been suede). The Queen stresses that they cannot eat anything in the house, no matter how tempted they are. Of course they say they understand. Yet sure enough, just as Gretel is going to grab the pouch off the witch, Hanzel eats a cupcake.

He had literally no reason to eat that cupcake, except that it looked tasty. He grabs it and greedily takes a huge bite into the blue frosting. The witch wakes up….

We all can take it from there.

Hanzel’s actions obviously drive the story forward. If he didn’t eat the cupcake, the witch would have never woken up, and the two of them would have left the house no problem. But it is still not a good way to push the story line on. Why?

It makes the audience dislike the character. It makes the audience annoyed at the unfortunate events that follow. (“If only you hadn’t been so stupid!”)

Characters make mistakes though, right? Well, yes. Yet make sure they are the right kind of mistakes, and that the character has a good reason to do it.

There are two reasons why Hanzel’s mistake was badly done.

The first reason is that he didn’t have a motive, except greed. It goes hand-in-hand with the story that the siblings are peasants. Yet, they are well-dressed, and nothing about them being starved or hungry is mentioned. Nothing about them wanting sweets is implied. The only thing really mentioned is that they lost their father in the woods. From that view, Hanzel just ate the cupcake because he was a greedy kid who couldn’t resist…or for some reason didn’t pay attention when the Queen was talking. Either way, it doesn’t make you like him very much.

The second reason is that he eats the cupcake with almost no thought at all. We know that he heard the Queen’s warning. Yet, when they first come up to the ginger-bread house, he grabs for a candy. Gretel stops him of course. Then, he hesitates around the cupcake for a little bit, but Gretel isn’t looking, so he dives in a for a big bite.
Kid, could you at least be subtle? At least show some concern? That would have been better. If he had timidly dipped his finger in the icing, showing a struggle between him wanting the candy and obeying the Queen’s warning, it would have showed that he was thinking and that he was at least trying to do the right thing.

Summed up: When a character is going to goof up, give him a good reason and make him think it through. This should be done for the sanity of the audience.

Thank you all,

Alp out.

 

 

 

 

 

When I Found My Writing Voice

I have mentioned before on this blog my fantasy trilogy  Green Crows and White Creatures.  I am currently on the first draft of the third book, the Red Dream.

I just put up the titles and brief (very brief) synopsis on the sidebar. (Drew them myself. Very proud). Right now I don’t have a detailed synopsis of the trilogy, nor an excerpt ready to share. So I am going to share its story of how it came to be, and what I discovered.

It was back in the spring of my freshmen year of high school. It was late evening, and I was waiting for my sister to arrive back from the airport. My WIP (work-in-progress) at the time was another fantasy story, but I was stuck. I was bored. I decided to write a short story…something mysterious, like the beginning of the Curse of the Black Pearl.
Remember Into the Woods? I thought. Let’s put some weird white cows in it.

This is why when people ask me where I get my inspiration I draw a blank. It’s random and inconsistent.

That short story was a turning point for me as writer. That night I wrote faster and better than I had ever done before. It’s as if I grew up five years in one night. All my characters came to life. My dialogue was more natural. In one moment I had found my style and voice.

I also found the story I had been looking for. Green Crows and White Creatures.

I think a lot of writers who like the Lord of the Rings have either tried or wanted to write something like it. Frankly, it’s impossible. It’s also cheating. I mean copying someone else’s work. That’s exactly what I had to figure out.
Before high school, in my infant days of writing, I worked on a fantasy epic. Classic high fantasy full of elves, dark lords, heroes, minions, quests, and important swords. Even though I had my own touches in it, nearly everything was of the style of Tolkien. I thought that if you wanted to create a fantasy world is had to be medieval. It had to have a language and a mythology. It had to have dark lords with heroic kings. And I loved the trilogy. I loved that type of story. I thought it was the greatest type of story. (Of course it is the greatest).

But I didn’t know why, and I didn’t till I started to work on Green Crows and White Creatures that spring night

The tipping point came a few days after I had started writing. I noticed that I could easily make it into a novel, instead of just a short story (or a trilogy, an over eager part of my mind whispered). And I discovered it was the fantasy trilogy that I had waited to come along.

It wasn’t the world itself that I wanted to write. It wasn’t the heroics or the quest. It was that the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are adventures. They are journeys that begin nondescriptly, and you have no idea what could be next.
That is how my story began. About one man, with a few questions, and an inkling to find answers. It starts all with Hugh Gallagher, on a dull rainy morning.

And boy does it get out of control after that.

As a side note, I have been writing without chapters. I think it’s going to be a problem, because my scenes range from 2 pages to 20 pages.

 

Now you know all about it. I hope to post an excerpt or something in the next few weeks.

(I’m also leaving for college next weekend.)

(Gah!)

If you want to know anything more about Green Crows and White Creatures and the rest of the books, feel free to visit their pinterest boards. Just click on the titles on the sidebar.

Thank you all,

Alp out.

 

Series: The Ultimatum

I think we can all agree that writing a series is difficult. It has to be cohesive, yet each book must be new and exciting. It must be as good as the first book, and sometimes it needs to surpass it. The characters need to remain just as strong, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change and continue to develop.
I myself have never written a series. I’m writing a trilogy, which is a bit different. But I do have something to say.

Last night I went to see Jason Bourne. It was amazing, as always (I’m a big Bourne fan). I also went to see Star Trek: Beyond last weekend, which was also amazing (and I’m a bit of a Trekkie). Both these series have something in common:

They take a long time to come out.

Even though these are movies, I believe the same thing applies to books. Both of the writers and directors for these franchises take their time on developing a new story. They only want to come out with another movie if the plot is good. If it is as good as the one before it. Paul Greengrass, the director of Jason Bourne, dropped the franchise for nine years. The other movies took three or fours years to come out, as has the Star Trek reboot. The result? The movies are excellent. They are not just cranked out to feed an audience, which can result in poorly written scripts which in the end, do not please audiences.
In other words: Don’t rush.

Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

~Alp out.

 

the key is not to rush.

Victor Hugo: Give a Little More

I’ve been reading Les Miserables lately (I wasn’t happy with the story line in the musical, so I had to find out for myself. But I do love the music). It’s amazing.

I’ve always loved the writing style of the 19th Century. At the same time it can be a pain to get through and just down right confusing (no scanning paragraphs). I still think there’s a lot for writers to take from it…and a little bit not.

Starting with the Waterloo. About a quarter through the book, Hugo sidetracks to the Battle of Waterloo. He does this for two reasons: to give historical context (even though the event happened years before) and explain the name that Thenardier gives his tavern.
So, for the immediate sake of characterization and story line,only the last bit of Waterloo was actually relevant.
Not that I wouldn’t mind reading an account of Waterloo. I know about zip about it. Plus Hugo’s commentary is insightful and interesting. However, while gripping the pages of a well-loved paper back, wondering what is going to happen to Valjean ans how he will finally get to Cossete, I. Don’t. Care. About. Napoleon.

So even though in the 19th Century that was acceptable, and common, to get sidetracked for five chapters, I would not advise it now. But what if a long narrative is needed for the plot line? What if something has to be explained, some history moment illustrated out so that the reader can understand the rest of the story?

Make it part of the story itself.

Perhaps make it a riveting opening sequence. Have a character tell the story to someone else. Give the reader what was promised: a continuing story that grabs their attention and their affection.
Which brings me to my next point. In ballet class this past week, the teacher said always give what you promised, but then give a little more.

The little more is what Hugo gives.

His writing is never just a story. It is never just the formula of a narrative. Not jut conflict and resolutions. He gives insight. He makes you think.

“It is one of those moments of blinding and yet frighteningly calm insight when the thought goes so deep that it passes beyond reality. The tangible world is no longer seen; all that we see, as though from outside, is the world of our own spirit.”  1.

This describes a profound moment where Valjean has what we would call an “out of body experience”. The key moment where Valjean turns from felon to hero. Hugo indeed could have used our simply words, but he didn’t. He took it deeper, as well he should. A writer’s purpose is speak what cannot be spoken. It is to illuminate those thoughts and feelings that too often we cannot explain to ourselves or others. A writer’ true mission is to teach humanity the truths of itself that humanity cannot express.

Well. That just went a long way.

But that’s my point. Good writing isn’t just entertainment, it is knowledge given to the reader. So summed up:

Give what you promised, then give a little more.

Alp out.

Pg. 117 Les Miserables, Penguin Books. Really old beat up edition. (I ripped the cover off by accident. Sorry!)

P.S. Do you ever writer late at night, and your mind just starts to die?

Me: how do you spell “go”? Does it have a w at the end? No, it’s an e! No you dummy, it’s just g o.

A Writer In Washington

.    I’m not going to lie here. While walking all over D.C, touring, and eating Chipolte, I did not get any earth-shattering writing ideas. I didn’t even write that much.

That being said, here are my traveling highlights, and what things as a writer I appreciated.

  •  an albino squirrel.
    Don’t laugh. My sister and I were crossing the Mall to get to the Art Gallery, and there, happily poking his nose in the grass, was a very rare albino squirrel. The rarity of it, and its cute, perfectly white little fuzziness, was not why I am telling you this. In my fantasy trilogy (Green Crows) albino animals play a very large role, such as crows and deer. So maybe now a white squirrel will show up and drop nuts on someones head (Probably Fyland’s.)
  • My sister and I also went to the Air and Space Museum, where the security guard called me Captain America to grab my attention.
    DSC_0657

    This was outside at the Art Gallery, but it also serves as an explanation.

    Loved it there. We got to see the Apollo 11 Lem, Gene Kranz’s vest (If you don’t understand, look it up), and, most importantly, touched the moon. A piece of the moon really, worn smooth from all the hands that have touched it. I looked up at my sister and said, “We just touched the moon.”
    To explain what all this meant is a whole different post.

 

 

  • Last one. We went to the Zoo, because that is what my sister and I like to do.
    blog1

    Me at the owl exhibit, which my sister said I could stay at as long as I like.

    The highlight were the elephants. And this part I am glad for because one day I might need to write about elephants trainers.
    The elephants had been brought inside, and the trainers were demonstrating tricks with the elephants. It was amazing how quickly the elephants responded, and how well. They bowed, turned in circles, and knelt. The trainers gave one word commands, and motioned with their hand, index and middle finer together. The elephants were always promptly given treats.
    And their trunks are so cute and soft looking.

     

    That’s not everything that happened. We also visited St. John Paul II’s Shrine, ate at Union Station, sweated and walked, sweated and walked some more, and my sister almost exploded in a traffic jam.
    All that jazz.
    Alp out.

Always Forward – College

I’ve been running this blog since I was 12. (Wow). Now this fall I will be heading off to college to double major in Film and Dance (Yes, I am not majoring in Creative Writing).

I’ve done this blog differently through the years, the last two years being dedicated to my sci-fi short fiction the Moor and lately my novel Raptor. It has been really great to share them both, and I want to thank everyone who has read them.
But honestly Raptor is too hard to write like this. It’s hard writing when you know someone is going to read it. Usually I just write something and if the line is really sappy or corny I know I can rewrite it later. Or if a scene doesn’t make sense. Or if its weird.

That’s the benefit of a first draft.

And there’s another reason: I am going to college. I will be writing papers, dancing and working out like a maniac, filming, and writing a trilogy (I’m on the third  book! First draft that is). And did I mention running an Etsy shop? So I am not going to be posting anything serially anymore. I do plan to post on Sundays every week (hopefully). I’ll post such things as:

  •  Progress in my WIPs. (Raptor, Green Crows, etc. )
  • Maybe some sample writings (bits of Raptor maybe).
  • Updates (such as I am going to post pictures of my senior dance recital soon.)
  • Anything writing.

And don’t you think it’s time that I change the look of my blog? I do. I like changing things up.

Next post, my sister and I in Washington D.C!

DSC_0654

At the National Art Gallery, standing in front of class windows things sticking out of the ground. They were cool. 

~Alp

 

 

Raptor, 14

(Side Note: I’ve missed a lot of weeks. College loan problems and dance recitals. More on that later.)

Elijah’s heart was racing. He wasn’t afraid of the gun above him, he was mad. Angry that the Correlation had shot him down and that they had found him so quickly. But he wasn’t going to let them take him, again.

“You are to return with us for reevaluation, and for re-planning. The Correlation may have a different project for you.”

Elijah heard the words. He didn’t like them and he didn’t respond. He heard a clink and saw a flash of steel as the Correlation agent with the gun tossed a pair of handcuffs to the one on Elijah. He grabbed Elijah to roll him over.
He felt the numbness leave his arm, and for a moment his hands were free. He flexed his talons.

Elijah grabbed the man’s arm first. He rolled back over and twisted the man away, with his claws deep in his flesh. The man frantically started hitting Elijah, and he let him, till the man tore himself away and screamed in pain. Elijah scrambled to his feet.

He started to run. The other agent went straight after him and jumped on him. They both fell on the ground, precariously close to the edge of the roof.
Get off the roof. Get off the roof. That’s all Elijah could think. Hardly even about the agent trying to get a grip on him, or the blood warm on his claws.

In the tussle, Elijah found himself rolled onto his stomach. Both agents were now on top of him. As they tried to get him still, Elijah reached out. He grabbed the edge of the roof. He knew he just needed to throw himself over. They yanked his other arm behind his back. Elijah gripped tighter. His claws clung to the concrete. Almost there.

As they were about to tear his hand away, Elijah gave a final push and before they could catch him he fell. He went straight down over the edge of the roof. It was all blackness as he fell down towards the ground. But his wings caught him and he glided downwards. He felt his feet touch down, and he ran.

The alley was dark and he couldn’t tell where he was going. But his pulse was speeding at an exhilarating rate. He could feel it in him, in the quickness of his legs. He knew that the agents would just shoot him down again. His only option was to loose them another way, which was the problem.
He had no idea where he was going. He could only run. It was just his footsteps, echoing everywhere. They were all around him, in every alley and side street. His footsteps all alone, racing against the dark.

Until he heard others.

He looked back, but couldn’t see anything. He looked ahead again, desperately into the dark. He crossed an empty street and looked up and down. To his right cars raced by, and a grey van crawled up. He sped quicker and darted for cover in a parking garage.

It was unlit. He could only see silhouettes of cars and cement barriers. Yet the echoes became even louder. Now he knew where his pursuers were; they were all around him, and he could tell there more than two now. There was no way out for him but to keep running. You got yourself in a trap.

“Stop! Stand down!”

Ahead he saw lights suddenly and three men with  guns running towards him. He skidded forward and then whipped around. Three more were running up behind him. All shouting.
He put his hands up as they came at him. His throat felt tight as he gasped and panted to regain his breath. Just as they neared him, he drew his wings in, and his feathers disappeared back beneath his skin.

The agents came up and swarmed around him. He blinked as their flashlights shone up in his face. They made him get on his knees and cuffed his hand behind him. He had drawn his claws in already. He knew there was no way out of it.
They hauled him back on his feet and started to lead him out of the garage. The agents were all around him, but he caught a glimpse of now two vans pulling up, flashing their headlights into the alley. An agent climbed out of one and approached them as they exited the garage. He came in step with the rest of the agents. He whispered something to one in the lead, but it was just loud enough for Elijah to hear.

“We have Webber.”

The Raptor, 13

( I’m two weeks behind. Sorry folks. I also figured you don’t want to hear my laundry use of excuses, so I won’t give them. I will only say that it is a little ironic that this chapter is 13, the unlucky number).

  He ran. He had fixed his backpack into one strap across his chest, otherwise he knew his wings would never fit through. He would have to fly tonight, and that was fine with him. He had been waiting to do it.
The tracking device was tight in his hand. Once he got a little distance, he planned to toss it aside. Then up he would go, and he would be gone from it all.

He crossed a small street and plunged into a dark alley. There was a dumpster, lately emptied. His feet crunched on the bits of paper left behind.

He threw the device in. He heard it clink down at the bottom.

The alley was a dead end, but that was alright. There was a building at the end of it. Even in the dark he could tell it was covered with graffiti. He would use the roof.

His heart rate quickened as he spread out his arms. When he reached the back of the alley, his wings shot our and unfurled their feathers. He jumped up just before he would have ran into the wall. His wings pushed him higher and he caught the sills of one of the high windows. There just a slight change in air current, but it was enough. He walked his feet up to the sill, and his hands grabbed the window frame. Then he let go and jumped off.

He flapped his wings down and spun up above the buildings.

Black sky. White stars. He pushed his way up through the heavy air to them. Up and up. Faster and faster as he gathered the wind under his wings. Almost on the current. He could feel it was near.

He heard a small whistling sound, but he ignored it. Almost there.

Something small punched into his arm, and it went numb immediately. He dropped. He could barely move it and everything started to spin. Buildings, sky, buildings, sky. He couldn’t move his arm at all. He couldn’t push in or against the wind.
He forced both his arms out to attempt a glide. He spun for a moment longer before he leveled out. When he did, he was flying right into a flat rooftop. He swung his legs up and skidded to a landing on his feet. He fell forward and banged his knees as he stopped. He rolled onto his back.

His breath caught in his throat and pain shot up through his arm and knees. He looked up at the sky, but didn’t think about it this time. Who hit me? Where are they?

He reached over to the back of his left arm, where it had been hit. In the feathers, stuck in his skin, he felt a small object, about the size of a pin. He yanked it out. Though it didn’t help the numbness.

He sat up slowly and didn’t see anyone on the roof. But he heard something, the sound of someone climbing up a rope. No, there were more, at least three.

Elijah got up now and turned around towards the sound. He could see it now, the glint of small grapples, gripping onto the edge of the roof. Three of them. With three men climbing up no doubt.

He frantically threw off his backpack,  but it caught on his wings for a moment. His heart started to hammer as he heard the men got closer.
He got the bag off and his fingers fumbled and missed the zipper a few times. When he got it open he took out his handgun. It was loaded. His hands stopped shaking once they felt the weight, and he cocked it. He couldn’t fly, but he wasn’t helpless either, though it had been a few years since he was at the range. Just shoot. Between breaths.

He saw two hands reach up and grab the roof. Then the man hauled himself over. Elijah shot just as he started to stand up. There was a flash of red on his black jacket. He fell forward. At the same moment the second man came up. Quickly. And as Elijah lifted his gun again the man was already running at him. Elijah thought he saw another man come too as he shot again. His aim went awry, and he missed.
The man grabbed Elijah’s arm and knocked him to the ground. The gun fell out of his hand.

He reached over to grab it. The man dropped down and pinned his arm to the ground before Elijah could get it. The other man ran up and stopped with a pistol aimed at Elijah.
The man on him pulled a cloth down from over his face.

“Elijah Burton,” he said. “You’ve broken the Correlation’s confidence.”