Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unique Voices - The Basics

For my next novel, I'm doing something that I see in almost every Fantasy I've read: including multiple perspectives. This isn't new territory for me; Tsirash is written entirely from Octras's POV, but I've had lots of practice from my faery book and other unfinished manuscripts, numerous short stories, and even poetry. Anyone who could use a written reminder of developing unique voices for different characters (and yes, that means me, too), this post is for you.

Making every character sound unique is as complicated as it sounds--and at the same time, is not. 

We'll start with basic sentence structure, which is influenced by location and age. Someone who was raised in Germany would not speak English the way someone from Canada would. Nor would an American traveling to Japan necessarily know all their honorifics. Depending on where they were raised, a character's sentences would be put together differently. It follows that a child would have a lesser grasp of language than an adult (for the most part, anyway), and might make simple errors in grammar the way a student would when first learning a new language. Children are still studying how to speak.

A foreigner or child will likely have poor grammar or make basic mistakes that most adults native to the language wouldn't make.

Next we'll go into formality. If a character is brought up by the wealthy class, educated, or if they're just a nice person, they are more likely to use an elevated form of speech. For instance, my character Shenra is polite and formal with everyone, so she chooses words that sound respectful, and she never shortens her phrases with contractions or slang. However, someone on the opposite end of the scale, living a gritty, not-so-honorable, uneducated life is probably going to use gritty, uneducated speech.

Characters will almost always use the terminology they're used to hearing. Upper class generally means formal language; lower class usually means slang.

And everything is changed by the character's attitude toward themselves and others. Shenra obviously likes other people and treats them with respect because she feels they deserve it. My character Tsira, however, pretty much hates people, so she's either saying rude things under her breath or patronizing people who she believes "think they know more than her." Someone who is curious about everything will probably ask a lot of questions. And those who do think they know everything will probably look down others, and their voice will reflect that.

Attitude affects everything. 

Well, this is a simplified version, but really the only thing you need to know is your character. If you know them, their background and their attitudes, chances are, their voices will come through.

  • Here's a sample from Octras's POV:
Octras stared at his bag. “I hunt goods, not people.”
“That excuse is worth little. Haven’t you been in a league before?” Tsira's voice was frozen.

“No,” he said. “I never have.”

“Fine, go ahead and lie to me. That doesn’t change anything. I just wanted to tell you, I’m not worth the hundred ketts.”

“Life is worth much more than a hundred ketts.”

“Anyone else’s, perhaps. Not mine.”

Octras wanted to see Tsira’s expression, but he didn’t want her to see his. He was still angry. “You shouldn’t say things like that.”

“Don’t you do it to yourself all the time? I don’t understand why you even care.”

“Get out,” he whispered, putting his hand over his eyes. 

  • And one more, from Rael's:
Pain. It was a welcome reminder that what she had seen was real. Not some conjured fantasy playing out in her mind. The pain was real. She was real. Lost in murderous thought, Rael barely noticed that she was not alone. A Dragonkin she did not know leaned against her post, only a few steps from where she stood. One of Shosu's apprentices, no doubt, here to punish her disrespect for a Master of Aarii.

“If you're here to cut off my tongue, then do it and be gone, already,” she sneered.

The Dragonkin shrugged, holding his empty palms out. “I was asked to deal with you. How or when was not specified.”

Her interest piqued, Rael afforded him a second glance. “What are you going to do?”

“For now... nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Know your characters, so that we can know them, too. Oh, and happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hey, Listen!

Pst. Guys. Skyward Sword.

If you don't see me for a while, you'll know why.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Warm Fuzzy Moments

Well... it's almost over. The Warm Fuzzies Blogfest, I mean... and in honor of the conclusion, instead of asking questions, it's more of a "post one of your Warm Fuzzy moments" type thing. For those who are not participating, let me explain. 

When I write, I love every moment. Even when I struggle, it only makes getting through more worth the effort. I love plotting, outlining, exploring characters and worlds, critiquing, dropping ink bombs of revision onto my words, and plain-old churning out words. I can almost always find things to fix and twist and change as I'm writing (as I'm doing now) but once in a while, I write something brilliant. And I'm not talking about the "Oh, this is AWESOME" moment that precedes later embarrassment. 

I'm talking about the sort of gem that I still love when I discover it six months later, and I think, "Wow, I wrote that?" That is a Warm Fuzzy Moment.

I've always had an idea (you know, my little sister and I were like five and seven) for a faery novel that still lingers in the back of my brain. Two years ago, I attempted NaNo with a revised outline for this, and made it to about 8,500 words before quitting. But whenever I open the file, there's a certain part that I absolutely love. The main character, an orphan named Katie, has been taken from our world as a prisoner. The Pyrates lock her up below the deck of their ship, and there she meets a fuzzy creature who she lovingly calls Lucky. Well, that's where this scene comes in.

When I woke I remembered the darkness, though now everything was a dull grey. I could sense the bar near the opposite wall, and the stickiness that clung to it. A furry thing was curled up next to me, purring, and I impulsively stroked its head and ears.

The purring stopped, and Lucky stirred. “You said you didn’t mind,” he mumbled.

“I’m fine, thank you. You’re very warm. It was like having a pet—”

There was a long silence before the creature spoke.


“Sorry, I… I’m fine.” I hadn’t woken from a nightmare. It was the first real rest I’d had since I was five and the dreams started.

“Katie, what’s a pet?”

I laughed and it echoed in the room. “You know, an animal you love and take care of, and sometimes they sleep next to you.”

Lucky pulled on his ears. “I’m not an animal,” he said.

“Oh… I’m… I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“If it makes you feel any better, pets are supposed to be really sweet, loyal friends. They’re soft and fluffy and they’re way cute.”

He didn’t respond.

“Lucky… I’m sorry. I’m not used to talking to anyone… I feel like I’m going crazy, and everything is so weird, and I really didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

Lucky remained silent, but he wrapped his paw around my fingers. Tiny points of claws touched my skin, though not unpleasantly. His round, shining eyes made me feel guilty. I never wanted to hurt anything so sweet.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated a third time. “I don’t know what else to say.”

“Me neither,” Lucky mumbled. “I been alone too long.”

I'm going to miss doing this, but with how busy everything has gotten lately, it's probably good for me that the fest is over. Well, my husband is shooing me out the door... concert time. Good night, everyone; I look forward to reading your Warm Fuzzy Moments.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Busy Week

Well, it's been a pretty good week. It started out a little rough because of work, but Thursday was a short day and there was no school on Friday, so that made this weekend much more smooth.

On Thursday I went to a Speculative Fiction workshop at the CWC, and it happens again next week. It was interesting to hear what others in the workshop thought the differences between Fantasy and SciFi were. We came up with lists, which basically defined SciFi as 'cold, hard steel' and 'science' and Fantasy as 'organic' and 'magic'. This is not always the case, though, and there's a lot of overlap between the two genres. I'd definitely put myself on the far Fantasy side of the spectrum, though.

We also did a couple of writing exercises, which got me to actually write something for the sequel to Tsirash. It's been too long. Rael was getting upset with me.

(Sigh. My neighbors are watching Harry Potter on full-blast... at least it's that and not Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm starting to hate that show.)

Where was I? On Friday I had a little get-together with my roommates from college. They're all married and most of them have a kid, and in one case a house, but I'm not as jealous as I thought I'd be. My cousin and I had a good long talk about it in the car, and... sure, they are farther on the career/money track, but they're working 12-hour shifts and never get to spend time with their husbands, and any free time is non-existent with a baby around. I love babies, and I want one of my own, but...

...ahem. Friday is also my writing group meeting. We've been more distracted lately by video games and stuff, though. Actually, we've been playing Phoenix Wright as a group, and we finished a case last night. Despite the grammatical errors, I love those games.

I also found out this morning that I won one of Juliana's handmade journals for the Blogfest this week! I never expected to get anything from it, actually. I just thought it would be fun to participate and meet some more writers/bloggers. And I definitely have. I'm sad that next week is the end of the Fest... :(

Well, this week has been much busier than usual... I'm headed to Desert Star Playhouse today, too. My brother gave Jaron and me his tickets. :O

How has your week been?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shenra's Sucky Life

This week the Warm Fuzzies question is about main characters. How do you kick them while they’re down?

Let's face it, being an MC would suck. All of my characters actually kind of have sucky lives. Octras, Tsira, Shenra, and Jake are all orphans... hmm.

But let's just focus on poor Shenra for a minute. Granted, she's not the master character of Tsirash, but she is a major one.

-Her father died when she was too little to remember him much.
-She was raised in a slum and ate rats.
-Her mother was lonely and depressed, and often told her so.
-She was introduced to a new 'father' a short time before a new brother was born.
-Shenra constantly had to protect her younger brother from bullies.
-The new 'father' only stayed for a few weeks at a time.
-...and he died, too.
-Her mother died shortly after from heartache.
-She and her brother moved away on their own so she could study Healing arts.
-As it turns out, her religious views were not accepted by the other Healers.
-So, she couldn't learn the magical part of Healing, only the medical parts.
-She learned a hard truth then, that she could not bring back the dead.
-Oh yeah, and she's also going blind.

Yet Shenra is... kind of amazing. She chooses to focus on the few good things in life. (By the way, she is the one who explains 'tsirash' to Octras!) So, based on this, could you come up with a title for a book?


PS. Speaking of slightly encouraging things, I got a partial request from one of my queries. It was turned down after that, but I'm still going ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshyay. :) It's a step up from a rejected query to a rejected manuscript. Ha.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spoken Words

I don't know if I've told you this before, but I have a verbal communication issue. It's partly due to my family--we kind of have our own language that filters through movie quotes and inside jokes. It works when I'm with them, but when I'm with anyone else, no one has a clue what I'm talking about. Another part of it is my overactive imagination. I make jumps in subject that make sense to me, because my brain goes A-B-C-D-E-F in 0.6 seconds, but it comes out as A-F and again, no one knows what I'm talking about.

Beyond that, my brain wanders fairly quickly, and even when I'm focusing, I sometimes miss entire paragraphs of conversation. My husband could tell you all about that.

Then there's plain old blankness. My mind wipes my vocabulary when I try to explain things out loud. Let me elaborate.

I try to tell you something
your eyes show that you're wondering
I fumble--try anew
but my mouth will just not do
anything I ask it to

you cannot find a meaning
in the words that I am speaking
my spoken thoughts do not ring true
but when I write, I show to you
the message
finally gets through

Well, that's it for today. Happy writing, everyone.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stupid Synopsis

I sent out my second batch of queries today after taking a long, hard look at my basic query letter. My pitch needed some work.

The standings are now thus:
Sent: 15
Rejected: 4

As soon as I revise my synopsis I'll send out some more. The synopsis... is just okay. It's work to me to do this. Writing the book was the easy part. This is nerve-wracking, wear-me-down, make-me-bleed work. Writing a query wasn't so tough, but for some reason that synopsis is killing me. I don't know what balance to strike between speed and detail, what rhythm I should follow, how much I should hold back, and how much I should let go.

And the thing is... there's no perfect solution.

Because people are different, there's not an answer that will appeal to every agent. I just have to trust myself. And that scares me.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Everything is Inspiration

*Sniff* I despise being ill.

Okay! The questions over at the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest this week are: What do you look to when you write? What inspires you? How else do you use your creativity? Music? Pictures? Art?

I'll start with this.

This is the drawing that summarizes my entire first novel, Tsirash.

As for what inspires me, the answer is everything. I've talked about this before, but my inspiration comes from everywhere. The color of a leaf. The scent of warm soup. The sound of a purr. The taste of smoke on the wind. The texture of skin. The ache of love. Anything and everything I experience makes me want to write.

But it's more than that. I don't just write words, but also music. I often lament the fact that I have no piano of my own, and cannot sit down to play whenever I want, but thanks to the numerous music-creating programs out there, I can come up with pieces I will never get to hear with real instruments. Most notably, I've written a dozen pieces so far for my husband's project, Gaialite. Right now it's taking backstage to some other creative works, but if you want to hear it, here is one sample, and here another.

I also have a piano piece titled Tsirash, for, you guessed it, Tsirash. It captures the mood of my novel really well, I think. But I won't post it here for personal reasons.

And one more thing: I draw, too. I know, I know. I have a finger in every pie. Below my profile pic (over here -->) is a link to my deviantART page, where writing, drawing, and photography can all be found. I even have a folder for my book there... it's the LOM project. Yes, LOM, standing for Legend of Mura. That was the name I created for the project back in... oh, 1998. It doesn't fit anymore, but that doesn't really matter, does it?

My head is all fuzzy from medicine, so... I haven't thought of a way to wrap this post up all tidy-like. Until next time... peace.