30 January 2013

Plotting a la Tart

*gasp*  Has Writing Wednesday Returned?  Maybe... Let's hope so...

So... I'm plotting a book. It might be my fifteenth. Might be my sixteenth... sort of depends on whether I can't help myself starting... I had intended to only write books in June and November this year and to concentrate on EDITING the rest of the year because see... my HABIT is to write three books a year and editing two, and this has left me with an overly large editing stack. It's compounded by the fact that an edited book STILL isn't always READY, and must be RE-edited. GAH! Editing will be the death of me. So I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about one of my VERY FAVORITE THINGS.

Plotting. Now I'm not an outliner. At least not exactly. The truth of the matter is I've used a LOT of different plotting methods, few of which will be found in text books. I've done character sketches. I've used story boards. I've nearly pantsed, knowing only a handful of plot details... And I've learned some stuff. FOR ME, how I plot depends largely on where the story needs to go. Some types of stories need tighter plotting than others. Like WHAT, you say?

Well, say MYSTERY

To write a 'fair to the audience' genre mystery, your audience needs enough information to solve the crime. (and also enough 'misleading', which is to say REAL, but not actually related to the murder, information that it isn't too easy.) This means you have a lot to keep track of. I think it is EASIEST to draw pictures... I generally have my VICTIM, then my list of SUSPECTS, then I come up with two clues for every single suspect. I try to ALSO have a little overlap... a clue that might hook to this or that suspect. See why pictures make this easier?


Another one I've plotted fairly extensively is one that is first in a series, not because THIS book is so complicated, but because I wanted to set up characters and scenarios that will be picked up LATER. This is more a 'folder' with notes for each book... not tons of them, but I looked at all future books as I wrote.

Sometimes you have to get it JUST right.
Or if it's IMPORTANT...

The book I am currently plotting has a lot of things I need to get RIGHT if I really want to do this. It's about a school shooting... the weeks leading up to it... who might or might not have been able to tell anything... the mistakes that are made, the care not received. It is just too important to get wrong. So what does careful plotting look like in these two latter cases? Expanding lists, mostly... I put the big details in order, then as small ones fall into place, I add them.

I think when I start to write I will have some chapters with only a single line and others with a couple paragraphs (particularly the stuff I need to research)

It has surprised me that I seem to plan MORE as I get farther into writing. I think some of it is that I tend to already be doing a project when ideas hit and I don't want to LOSE them, but I am determined to finish the project I'm already doing first. So the pending book nagging at me leads me to planning. I still can't do a fancy outline. I am too analytical and the result would sound like a thesis (and who wants to read THAT?) But I suspect I will continue to PLOT before I write...

25 January 2013

Free For All Fridays: Attraction and Compliments

The Old, Old Story
by John William Godward
Image attribution

"Hello, awe-inspiring, rising sun," croons the well-groomed young gentleman.

"Is that your absolute best use of flattery?  I have heard better," replies the alluring young woman. 

"You have not given me a chance fair princess." assures the gentleman.

"I am no princess.  I'm an educated young maiden who would be most pleased if you would remove yourself from her presence.  And yes, I am speaking a bit discourteously but it is simply because you have vexed me on this early morning," she exclaims with mild annoyance.

"My apologies.  I didn't mean to offend," he states, leaving her with a flower.

Word-count Tool
Drabble- n. a story written in exactly 100 words.

21 January 2013

Scandinavian Mysteries

Winter has definitely arrived here in the northern hemisphere, and I'm on another "reading about cold places" kick and figured I'd share.  Whether you read Stieg Larsson and want more like that, or are just looking for a new author to explore, all of these are fantastic choices (though the English translations are lagging several books behind the original language releases).  Obviously, "Scandinavian mystery" is no more a complete genre than "American mystery" or "British mystery" - these also run the gamut from police procedurals to more amateur detectives, but it's a handy catch-all at the moment.  My ASCII coding knowledge is also getting quite a workout - I'm giving up on eth and thorn though, so apologies to Icelanders.  Anyway, how about I start with:

Camilla Läckberg

Since our detective here is an actual detective, there's some of the feel of a police procedural to these, but the small-town Swedish setting also gives it more of a cozy vibe.  So far, the first three of her books have been published in the US - The Ice Princess, The Preacher, and The Stonecutter - and there are at least six more.  Of all the mysteries I've read (and I've been a devoted whodunit fan since my great-aunt first handed me a Nancy Drew when I was about 6), these take the prize for being most like a jigsaw puzzle - all the pieces are right there in front of you, but arranging them takes time and then, all of sudden, once you've got the edges done the picture goes snap! snap! snap! into place and you're left to marvel at its construction.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Over to Iceland for the next series, where lawyer Thora (I'm pretty sure that should start with a thorn, but all of them have been anglicized in the text so I'm not going to try to figure it out) Gudmundsdottir manages to get herself mixed up in some pretty odd situations that make for great reading.  This was my go-to series last July during a ghastly heatwave - somehow, reading about all that snow and cold actually made it seem cooler.  The first in the series (pictured) introduces Thora, her two children, her surly secretary Bella, and a German fellow who becomes much more interesting than his initial appearance might suggest, in addition to a very colourful bunch of suspects in a particularly bizarre killing.  Currently there are three available; the fourth in the series is due out in English soon (on my birthday, actually, which makes me happy).

Jussi Adler-Olsen

Let's head back east to Denmark for the next two entries; Carl Mørck is a detective saddled with guilt over an operation gone bad which left one fellow policeman dead and another badly wounded.  In the aftermath, he is made head of the newly created Department Q, which is tasked with checking out cold cases.  Actually, he's not just the head, he's pretty much the entire staff, except for his surprisingly useful cleaning man, Assad.  Their investigation of a missing-presumed-dead politician yields surprising results in the first of the series (pictured), while the second focuses on a seemingly closed case which turns out to be much more convoluted than anyone could have thought.  I believe there are at least two more waiting to be translated, and I for one wish they'd hurry up!

Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis

Nina Borg is one of those people who just can't seem to say no to a friend - a nurse by training, she is involved with underground aid groups while seemingly neglecting her responsibilities to her own family.  Everything goes completely pear-shaped when she picks up a suitcase as a favour to an old friend and finds a small boy inside it - alive.  Twists and turns abound, as well as varying viewpoints (including that of the boy's mother, who is desperately trying to locate him), which some may find confusing but I quite like.  (The Lithuanian is what messed with my head, that and the Hungarian in the second book.)  Invisible Murder finds Nina getting into a radioactive mess that causes some non-nuclear fallout in her personal life...
Jo Nesbø

Okay Mari, Norway's turn! ;-)  I think what I like best about this guy is that he writes not only hardcore thrillers featuring a likeable, if flawed, policeman by the name of Harry Hole, but also a series for kids called (I kid you not) Dr. Proctor's Fart Powder.  This Harry reminds me of another one (no, not Potter - Bosch {vide Michael Connolly}), and I admit I was cracking up in the first chapter seeing parallels to things our own dear Norwegian goes on about.  Like Dragon Tattoo, the first one in this series (well, the first one translated, anyway - I think there might have been one or two others in the series before The Redbreast) delves into the darker side of the northern countries' fairly recent history, notably Nazism during WWII which has carried over into the present day.

So I was planning on putting more on here, but these should whet your appetite adequately enough - if not, Mankell, Wahloo, Persson, Nesser, Holt, Tursten and Indridason might be worthwhile to Google, eh? ;-)

18 January 2013

It's a Bird. It's a Plane. No, it's a Post from Me!!!!

“What do you do?”
“Where do you live?”
“Which college did you go to?”
“How old are your kids?”

When I meet someone for the first time, it is always one of these questions that pops out of their mouth after “Hello”. It is almost as if the answer to these questions will give them a measure of who I am and whether they should bother investing time in getting to know me.
And I rarely answer honestly. Most of the time, I am delightfully vague, giving just enough to border on the truth, definitely not enough to slot me. Occasionally, I tell a deliberate untruth, because it is easier to brush people off that way. Regardless of my response, I hate it.
Who you are has nothing to do with what you do for a living, or which car you drive, or the names you can drop. Who you are is not a sum of your educational qualifications, your professional experience and your relationship status.
Who you are is the person you are. Your interests, your passions, your philosophy, your values. It is something that can be gauged in a moment, and something that can simultaneously take a lifetime to learn.
If someone cares to look beyond, it is not too hard to get a measure of who I am. If they cannot, I don’t particularly want to waste time letting then get to know me “better” (as if they ever knew me at all).
Anyone who wants to know me, can find out Who I Am without much difficulty. And I really couldn’t be bothered about the rest.

And since I cannot really publish a post without any pictures, here is a self-portrait 
that is very imaginatively called, "Portrait of me with a green bottle".

16 January 2013

Random Wednesday: Fascinating Places I Would Love To See

*dusts off the blog since it has been several months*

Mount Fuji, Japan
Image courtesy of Fascinating Places

The Louvre, Paris, France
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

London, England, United Kingdom
Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

Bora Bora, Tahiti, French Polynesian Islands
Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

Tasman Valley, Mount Cook, New Zealand
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

What are the top five places would you like to travel?  We at The Burrow would love to know!