28 June 2012

Practice poetry for perfect prose

Poetry for perfect prose @ Icy Byrne
As I said last week, a good way to get new metaphors and to think about your writing in a more creative way is to attempt poetry.  It doesn't matter how good (or bad) you are, the flowing way of writing can free you up better than the more structured form of prose.

My main character (Bethany Jodes) has been exiled from space because of her injuries.  Here are some images with idea as an inspiration.
Black sky opens heart.
  Wide open sky
    fills soul.

            Something always wished for,
              something always yearned for.
                Longing for stars.
The story is set on the world called Crackdown, where cities are set into cracks in the earth as the winds that howl above would tear people apart after not too long (a haiku triplet).
Crackdown deep under,
Meshed city wedged within walls,
Cubed and caught in rock.

Clouded city now,
Darkened city down, no light
Now, for those down cloud.

And under city,
Resources ripped from tunnels,
Ripped from the people.
Have you ever tried this for your own work?  If so, I'd love to read it ^_^.

Have a great day/evening (depending on your time zone ^_^).


21 June 2012

Moving metaphors

Metaphors are essential for creating your story.  They help readers imagine your world and your characters.  This is also where you can fall accidentally into cliche.  Your metaphors must be fresh and they must be relevant.

In my current world there are no open bodies of water, so I can't really use any metaphors to do with waves, or the sea, or the sound of the sea.  So in a crowd situation I couldn't say "the sound roared over her like a wave".  I might try instead "the sound roared over her like rocks spilling down a slope".

Use the setting of your story to influence the metaphors you use.  If your story is by the beach, don't use "as cold as snow", try "as cold as the deepest sea".  Also think about the images you might want to bring into your story.  If your story is in a city, you might want to compare it to the tall trees of a forest, or to the loneliness of a desert, or the swarming life of a swamp.

Another good tip for practicing your metaphors is to read (or write) poetry.  Poetry is filled with strong and unusual metaphors, something that can be vital in your prose as well.


What do you do when you need to think of new metaphors for your work?



14 June 2012

Crackdown - the world

World building @ Icy Byrne
A few years ago I had a dream of a city built inside a cliff, a vertical city where people lived on top of each other.  This always struck me as a great place to set a story.

In the end this isn't where my story is set, but it did inspire me.

Crackdown, or more propperly New Fissure, is one of the first planets settled after humans escaped their ravaged world.  It is one of the few places humanity knows of where they can find the vital newly discovered mineral telcanite which is essential in modifying the effects of gravity and allowing space ships to travel faster than light.

The environment is harsh and the surface of the planet is scoured by fierce and unrelenting winds.  The only place people can live are within large crevices into the ground, large enough to hold whole cities.

The main character, Bethany Jodes, lives in Mesh City, the major city on the planet.  The walls of the crevice are too friable to be built in, so the entire city is built in cubes suspended within a supporting mesh of cables.

One of the things I've found most interesting is working out how such a city might work.  How does it get power?  What about water?  Where is the food grown?  How do people get around?  (In order, wind of course, pumped up from underground, hydroponic farms, and flying vehicles.)

I am always a sucker for following an idea and working out what the implications are.

Anyway, I've got to get back to it.  Have a great day/night (depending on time zone ^_^).


7 June 2012

How to choose cracking character names

Character names @ Isa Byrne
I'm writing a sci-fi book at the moment, so I can't just go on-line at look at baby name sites to get inspiration for my character's names (though if that suits your story, that is one of the better ways to go). I can be a little more experimental with my naming schemes.

I've a couple of methods of working out names.  Feel free to steal all or none of these ideas ^_^.

Changing a letter

This one is a fairly straight forward trick.  Take a common name, and change one or two letters for something that's still familiar but a little different.

My original last name for my main character was Jones, but it was a little too ordinary.  I cycled through the alphabet and decided Jodes was a better fit.  A few others that work out nicely are:
  • Smith becomes Mith
  • Vivian becomes Jivian or Vijian
  • Jimmy becomes Yimmy or Simmy or Dimmy (though that's a bit mean)
Feel free to steal any (or all) of these.

Modifying words

This technique works well, especially if you want more unusual names.  Pick a random word from your environment and 'tweak' it, just a little, to give yourself some great new options.
  • Samsung (the brand-name of my monitor) becomes Amsun or Amsu, both of which I might use
  • Nortek (the brand-name of the little USB clock on my desk) becomes Orte or Norte
  • Sticky note becomes Kynot
See how easy it is? ^_^


How do you make up new names for your characters?


31 May 2012

Character development through personality tests

One great way to add depth to your characters is to use a personality test to find out what personality type they are. This can help you flesh out what reactions they might have in a certain situations or how one character might interact with another.

There are many different types of tests of varying complexity.  The great thing is, you don't need to care if it's a psychologically accepted test. After all, your characters aren't going to complain ^_^.

There are a couple of well know tests that you might find useful, or have even done for yourself.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers-Briggs test is based on four sets of opposing preferences.

Extraversion (E) - (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) - (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) - (F) Feeling
Judging (J) - (P) Perception

Every person has a preference from each line which then combine to become one of sixteen types.  These sixteen types can then be correlated to the temperaments developed by David Keirsey, though these are actually determined by two different tests.

24 May 2012

Research reading

The Moon is A Harsh Mistress @ Isa Byrne
In my little break I'm catching up with my reading, mostly for research purposes.  There's a rebellion in my book, and I need to get the details right.

I'm reading "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein first.  This is one of my favourite books, but its old, real old, and my second hand copy is in two pieces.  I think I have no chance of getting another one.  If you read sci-fi but haven't read this one, you're really missing out.

After I've finished that one (and it is short and sweet) I'll re-read the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, which is wonderful, all encompassing and very, very long.

I have read Machiavelli's "The Prince", but it was a long, long time ago.  I think it might be helpful.

So, any other rebellion related books I should read?

Thanks for dropping by.


17 May 2012

A character interview

Character Interviews by Isa Byrne @ www.isabyrne.com
In my workshop last weekend with Emily Maguire we spent at least half our time on CHARACTER, and with good reason.  "If", she said, and I'm paraphrasing, "your character is not compelling enough what is going to pull your reader through the book?"

A compelling character is a complex one.

This made me stop and think.  Are my characters really complex?  I think my main one is, but are the others, or are they just there for her to bounce words off?  Do they have their own story arcs, even if I'm not actually writing their tales?

It's the "iceberg rule".  You only write about 10%, but the rest of the 90% has to be there to support the words you put down on paper (or electrons as the case may be).

One way to think in a detailed way about your characters is to interview them, either formally through a series of set questions, or to write it out, as if they were being interviewed by a therapist/priest/detective/reporter.  If you're looking for a set of questions, try these ones by K. M. Weiland (plus her other posts, which all seem outstanding).

A few extra questions suggested by Emily that I found useful were "what is the character most ashamed of" and "why does their best friend/partner love them".  What great questions!  These are the sorts of things that can drive your character's actions, even if they're never mentioned in the story.  The first question might be especially good for a hero, and the second for your bad guy; you need to be able to relate to them both, and this is a way to do it.

The other thing Emily said was you need to know your character, really know them.  You might be standing in a queue and someone cuts in ahead of you; how would your character react in this situation.  What if you're on a bus and there's a crying baby; what would they do?  Now, these questions might not be appropriate if your character is on another planet (as mine is) but you get the idea.

So, have you done an interview for your characters?  And do you know how they would react in a given situation?