Thursday, September 30, 2010

How I Write

This question came up on another forum, and I thought it was a good one to answer here.

I'm an intuitive writer. I admire writers who can outline and plan a novel-length work, but I can't do it. I generally have a rough idea of how a story will begin and end, but the middle happens as I write. For example, with The Case of the Haunted Vampire, I knew I wanted Paul and Dafydd to meet, deal with a ghost and start to become friends. Other than that, I didn't really have a clue what the middle would look like.

I do most of my creation in the car or while walking. I like to put on my headphones, start some music on my iPhone and walk. That frees my mind for scene creation. Most of what I "write" on the go is dialogue and rough plot points. I add in character action later.

I do a lot of actual writing on my iPhone, using Docs to Go, which easily syncs back to my computer. Again, I plug in the headphones and go.

Most scenes have been plotted in my head before I write them down, so the actual writing is kind of a second draft. I can work through things better in my head than on paper. If it sounds free-form, it is. But that works for me. My characters talk to me, do unexpected things and generally have fun. My approach to writing gives them the freedom to do all that. My job is to capture the fun and turn it into something that tracks and is readable.

In fact, I have a 40-minute drive to an appointment this morning, Plenty of time to work on the next scene in the current book. How would you feel if you discovered a were-wolf puppy on your front step? Dafydd is finding out now in The Case of the Lost Were-Puppy.

Anyone else want to share how you write?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's the First Story About?

Enough talking theory and characterization. What's the first Paul and Dafydd story about?

It's pretty simple. Dafydd is heading to his favorite place to eat and takes a shortcut down an alley when he stumbles across a vampire draining someone. Dafydd's dealt with ghosts, but a vampire is a bit out of his league. He's surprised when the vampire doesn't immediately kill him. He's even more surprised when he realizes that he's been dreaming about this vampire most of his life. One of Dafydd's magical talents is prophetic dreaming, and he's known for years he'd eventually meet this man, and need to help him.

Who was the victim? Paul says it's a serial killer, and he only kills people he's determined are a menace to humanity. As Dafydd says, Paul is kind of a cross between Angel and Dexter. I plan to have a future story deal with a serial rapist, and we'll see more of Paul's motivations in that story.

Why does a warlock need to help a vampire? Because Paul has been haunted by a ghost for years. While most ghosts are harmless, this one is about to become dangerous. Dafydd doesn't know exactly what she would do, but he knows it could be very bad for the DC area.

They decide to work together to help the ghost move on, and as they work on the ghost, they start to like each other and consider maybe teaming up on a more permanent basis.

A note on the ghost issue. The original version had Paul asking Dafydd for help with the ghost, but one of my early readers commented that the story lacked dramatic tension. He also said that he had a hard time believing that Dafydd would trust Paul.

I sat down to rework the story to address both of those issues. I'd decided that Dafydd was talented with divination, and I decided prophetic dreaming fit well with that. The dream made is easy for me to deal with Dafydd's motivation. Since I was aiming for about 15,000 words for the story, I didn't have a lot of time to develop the working relationship. I needed them to jump right into ghost busting.

The dream also led to changing the ghost. Originally, she'd been benign. Paul wanted to get rid of her because she was annoying, not because she was a danger. When I thought about it, I realized that was weak. Making her get progressively more powerful added tension and allowed me to add some nice touches. The weather changes as the story goes on. It starts out sunny, but a storm gradually moves in as the ghost becomes more agitated. Using weather as a way to drive tension was fun. I think I need to tweak those descriptions some more, but it was a nice way to show magic influencing the world without going into a long info dump.

I'm working on a new story, so you can assume they succeeded with the ghost, but if you want to find out exactly how, you'll have to read The Case of the Haunted Vampire.

By the way, I'm planning to offer this story for free, so it anyone wants a copy, let me know. It's not quite the final version, but it's close enough that I'm ready to give it away. I plan to excerpt it here in a couple of months anyway.

Until next time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Character and Plot Overview

I thought it might be useful to post some basic information about the series I'm writing.

The stories are set in the DC Metro area. It's where I live, so it's easy for me to research locations. In fact, earlier this week, I was out scouting locations for my series villain, a crooked land developer. I found a nice neighborhood that looked ripe for someone to redevelop using extortion and other less-than-savory tactics. What do you think?

There are two characters in the story. One is a warlock named Dafydd Smith. He'll be the first to tell you his name is pronounced "David" and that his mother was responsible for him being known in school as "Daffy Duck" until he graduated. Dafydd's day job is as a stage magician. Stage magic will play a minor role in the series. He's also known by most of the psychics in DC, and he helps them find lost articles and deal with ghosts who are getting a bit out of hand.

The other character is a vampire named Paul. He does have a last name, but it won't be revealed until the third or fourth story in the series. He likes his mystery, and he's not always completely honest with Dafydd about his background. However, he is honest about his motivations. Something happened to him about 40 years ago which made him decide to give up being evil. Exactly what that was will be revealed in the first few stories. He does occasionally kill humans, but only those who are truly evil. As Dafydd says in The Case of the Haunted Vampire, he's kind of a cross between Angel and Dexter.

Next week, I'll post a teaser summary of the first story, The Case of the Haunted Vampire. It's completely written and mostly edited. I'll be releasing it for free, so if anyone wants a copy, just give me your email in the comments, and I'll send it to you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Research for Fiction Writing

I realize that I digress today. I was supposed to write about my books and their main characters. But a couple of things happened yesterday to inspire me to write about research.

First, I read a blog post about research for fiction writing. The conclusion was that even fiction requires a lot of research. I agree, especially for a story that takes place in a real location.

The other thing that happened yesterday was that I watched State of Play, a political thriller set in DC. Some of the scenes (like the one set in a Metro station) were obviously filmed in DC. Others (like a scene set in Crystal City) were not.

Why does it matter? For many people, it won't. If you've never visited or lived in DC, you won't know where scenes are filmed or how scenes are described in a book.

But if you have lived there, good, accurate descriptions might be the reason to keep reading and buying more books.

As an author, doing research will affect the richness of your writing. When I wrote the first draft of "The Case of the Haunted Vampire," I left my settings vague. Then I went on a walking tour of DC to find good locations. When I went back to rewrite, the descriptions were better. Minor characters came to life. I added fun details. The writing overall was much better.

Research is very important for one of my main characters, who is a vampire. He uses Metro to get around, and I need to keep track of which parts of the route are above ground. I don't want him suddenly turning to dust on his way to saving someone!

It's also important because he's pretty old. (Nope, not telling here how old.) I've done research on his back story, which allows me to plant seeds for future stories. This makes the story richer to (hopefully) attract and retain readers.

Bottom line? Do your research. Make your settings realistic. Use history when you can to enrich your story lines. And then sit down and write something! It's easy to spend all your time researching, but ultimately you've got to write to be a writer.