Posts Tagged ‘changeling’

Writing down the headwork

I don’t talk about my writing process all that much on this site because every writer has their own way of figuring things out. That and I generally find it dull, but the motorcycle ride yesterday reminded me of a trick that I find handy and you might, too.

I spent a lot of time on the back of the bike doing “headwork” and trying to sort out character motivations and worldbuilding. The moment we stopped, I pulled out my keyboard and started writing. Not story, but jotting down what I’d been thinking about during the headwork.

In fact, the term is misleading because, while I spend some time just thinking, like yesterday, I usually write a lot of this stuff down in the form of a dialog with myself. Sometimes this happens at the beginning and sometimes in the middle when I discover a plot problem.

The key is writing it down, because that makes the ideas less slippery. I can see when I’m covering the same territory because I have a log of my thought process.

I was going to use yesterday’s session as an example, but it’s sort of too in the middle of the project, to be useful to anyone except me. But, while working on “American Changeling,” I found my characters stalling a lot, which is a sign to me that I don’t know what they want. Now, I knew that my main character needed a Key to open a magically shut gate. But what was that key? I had no clue. Here’s my log of the headwork I did to sort that out.

What does Kim want?
To fit in.

What do her parents want? Love her, but loyal to the Faerie Queen

How does she unlock the gate?.
First of all… Who locked it? Queen Elizabeth? To protect her borders because the Fae were going to make a deal with the Scots or the Irish. Research that.

OR did the Faerie Queen lock it herself to keep out the mortals who were corrupting her people OR to stop a threat from the Unseelie Court.

Let’s go with Queen E or no… the catholics but for similar reasons. ((Eventually wound up with Queen Mary)) Now. Where did the key wind up?

Ah… The Portland Art Museum as part of the Britannia exhibit. Make something up there that makes sense. Clearly the key is iron. ((Because then fairies can’t touch it, which was important to the story)) Is it necessarily key shaped? No. What else could it be…

A chalice. A mirror. An ink pot. A vase. A… What’s a reliquary. Now that’s an interesting idea. Yes. If the — oh, not the Art museum. A catholic church — reliquaries hold the bones of a saint, preferably a woman or child, but is actually the bones of a Fae. Yes. That makes sense.

All of which led me to a clearer understanding of my backstory and once I knew who my bad guys, I could make smarter choices about their actions. The thing about writing it down is that it makes it less ethereal. It gets it out of my head and lets me look at it without the sort of idealized Ah-ha! moment that vanishes when actually examined.

I won’t pretend that I made this idea up. I know a lot of writers who do it. I picked it up in Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp and, boy, has it made my life easier since.

How about you? What’s your favorite trick?

Ready for readers: An American Changeling

I managed to finish this story at WisCon. Yay! It’s 5800 words of urban fantasy.

It’s in a password protected post, but it’s the usual password. Don’t know what that is? Drop me a line and I’ll tell ya.

And here’s the teaser.

Half-consciously, Kim put a hand up to cover her new nose ring. She knew it pissed her parents off no end that she could tolerate cold iron and they couldn’t, not like there was that much iron in a nose ring.

It still made her break out sometimes, but didn’t burn her like it did them. “Kimberly Anne Smith,” Mom’s voice caught her in the foyer as surely as if she’d been called by her true name. “I’ve been worried sick. Do you know what time it is?”

“11:49.” Kim dropped her hand and turned to face Mom, her Doc Martens making a satisfactory clomping sound on the hardwood floor. “I’m here. Home before midnight. No one with me.” Sometimes she thought about bringing friends home to show them what her parents really looked like after their glamour dropped.

Protected: An American Changeling

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Writing and storytelling

I had an interesting experience the other night as a writer or, more accurately, as a storyteller.

I had to pick up a prop two blocks from the Puppet Kitchen and thought I’d poke my head in to see what they were working on. A big group of my favorite people were there, making what has got to be one of the most gorgeous puppets I’ve seen.

Sometimes, when I’ve needed a break from sewing or basket-weaving or whatever tedious bit of puppet building I’m doing, I’ve read these guys a story. So Emily saw me and said, “Read us a story!”

“Err… I only have an unfinished one with me.”

The group gives a very gratifying chorus of “read it anyway.”

Now, I’ve read unfinished stories to Emily when I’ve been stuck so I could bounce ideas off of her but never one that stopped quite this close to the beginning. “I mean, really unfinished.”

“That’s okay.”

And I wanted to see if the opening works, so I pulled out my palm pilot and started reading:

Half-consciously, Kim put a hand up to cover her new nose ring. She knew it pissed her parents off no end that she could tolerate cold iron and they couldn’t, not like there was that much iron in a nose ring.

It still made her break out sometimes, but didn’t burn her like it did them. “Kimberly Anne Smith,” Mom’s voice caught her in the foyer as surely as if she’d been called by her true name. “I’ve been worried sick. Do you know what time it is?”

“11:49.” Kim dropped her hand and turned to face Mom, her Doc Martins making a satisfactory clomping sound on the hardwood floor. “I’m here. Home before midnight. No one with me.” As if she’d take the chance of her glamour dropping and showing her friends what she really was. A freak, like her parents.

I kept reading for another two thousand words and right as Kim was about to go into The Scary Place the story had been leading up to, I said, “And then… this is an unfinished story.”

I thought they were going to throw the puppet at me.

“I told you!”

“Yes! But what happens next?!?!”

I glanced at all the sharp instruments they had in their hands, decided that my life was in danger, and told them the rest of the story. My word-smithery went out the window pretty fast leaving me with voice to convey mood and then… the rest was all about the plot. What happened next.

I knew basically what I wanted to have happen, but I hadn’t worked out any of the details yet. Having a live audience listening to me as I found my way through the rest of the plot points showed me exactly which things were interesting and which weren’t. (The car chase is right out.) If they had a question, I could stop for exposition, (See, the Faerie Queen knew there was a traitor, she just didn’t know who) while making a mental note that I needed to plant that piece of information earlier when actually writing it.

When I got out of there, I sat down with the keyboard and the words fairly flew out of me. I still have a couple of thousand words to go, but I know exactly what happens next.

Hans Christian Andersen used to do this. As he was working on a new story, he would tell it to a live audience and then go write it down. I don’t think I’ll do this with every story, but telling this one to a group was a good reminder that writing was created to capture the spoken word. I might be a writer, but I do that because, really, I’m a story-teller.

Works in Progess – updated

Short Fiction


Beauty Will Come
:Prequel to “Beauty and the Beast” from the Beast’s mother’s POV.

The Case at Landon Manor: In 1924, Ginger Carrington, the glamorous young heiress, must use her skills as a medium to solve a haunting.

Shades of Milk and Honey: Regency Romance, with fantasy. Magic is a woman’s art, like painting or music. Jane uses it to prove that Mr. Dunkirk is wooing her and her sister at the same time.

Novels

Virus Attached SF murder/mystery – Scott Huang and his AI partner Metta are trying to solve a murder, when Metta’s chasis (containing her memory) is stolen. She is rebooted from her last back-up, which occurred six hours previously. She and Huang must find her original version before the perpetrator can use it to hack into the police department and erase all evidence of his crime.


Good Housekeeping:
Contemporary Fantasy. The Faerie Queen sent a human changeling, Grace, back to try to keep the old ways alive in the world. Grace uses the internet to manage a network of Goodwives who let brownies, elves and other housefolk live in their homes. But the Unseelie Court has decided to drive out all of the housefolk to diminish the Faerie Queen’s power. Grace has to try to save the Housefolk while adjusting to life as a human.

Works in Progess

Short Fiction


Beauty Will Come
:Prequel to “Beauty and the Beast” from the Beast’s mother’s POV.

Waiting for Rain: In India, a farmer has beggared himself to pay for his daughter’s wedding and can no longer pay his weather bills.

Shades of Milk and Honey: Regency Romance, with fantasy. Magic is a woman’s art, like painting or music. Jane uses it to prove that Mr. Dunkirk is wooing her and her sister at the same time.

Novels

Virus Attached SF murder/mystery – Scott Huang and his AI partner Metta are trying to solve a murder, when Metta’s chasis (containing her memory) is stolen. She is rebooted from her last back-up, which occurred six hours previously. She and Huang must find her original version before the perpetrator can use it to hack into the police department and erase all evidence of his crime.


Good Housekeeping:
Contemporary Fantasy. The Faerie Queen sent a human changeling, Grace, back to try to keep the old ways alive in the world. Grace uses the internet to manage a network of Goodwives who let brownies, elves and other housefolk live in their homes. But the Unseelie Court has decided to drive out all of the housefolk to diminish the Faerie Queen’s power. Grace has to try to save the Housefolk while adjusting to life as a human.

NaNoWriMo

Like a crazy woman I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. The goal: write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I’m working on a novel called Good Housekeeping, which is a contemporary fantasy. This began a short story which I realized was really a novel in disguise. In prep for NaNo, I have character sheets, a chapter outline and the original short story.

Technically, that’s cheating, but I plan on writing 50,000 new words and I’d rather do it for a story I’m excited about than just 50,000 words of monkeys typing.

The back story
The Faerie Queen sent a human changeling, Grace, back to try to keep the old ways alive in the world. Grace uses the internet to manage a network of Goodwives who let brownies, elves and other housefolk live in their homes. Because her foster mother was perfect unchanging beauty, Grace has grown up to be severely body concious.


The Plot

The Unseelie Court has decided to drive out all of the housefolk to diminish the Faerie Queen’s power. Grace has to try to save the Housefolk while balancing her life with her mortal family.

Stop back by to track my progress

Current Fiction Efforts

I just wrote this up for a writer’s website, and thought you all might be interested in seeing what stories I have in the works.

Shorts In Submission

Some Other DayInterzone: Josie’s father managed to rid the world of mosquitoes when she was little. The unintended consequences still affect both the adult Josie and the world.

Trip, Trap, TrippingQuantum Muse: The three Billy Goats Gruff retold in a NY walk-up, with a single mother and her tap-dancing daughters as the goats, and the guy downstairs as the troll. (I want to do a series of these, but darn, where do I market them?)

This Little PigAsimov’s: Near-future. After the Oil Wars, private vehicles are largely considered taboo, but a young boy in the Netherlands covets a 1952 MG-TD. He starts work at a pig farm/methane factory where things go horribly, horribly wrong.

Coffee SensibilityStory House: A five part serial. Jane Austen in a Pacific NW coffee shop.

My Friend AnnaVestal Review: 63 word flash involving a tapeworm, bathtub and pregnancy.

Portrait of AriStrange Horizons: While pulling an all-nighter, an art major realizes that his girlfriend has been altering his memory to hide the fact that she is not human.

Horizontal RainLady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet: A New York contractor discovers that his job in Iceland is being held up because the crew believes in trolls.

BirthrightTalebones: Near-future flash. In a world with severe birth control regulations, a couple has to decide whether to give up their birthright in exchange for enough money to finish college.

Death Comes But TwiceGlimmertrain: Epistolary short. A Georgian-era Doctor has discovered a cure for death, but it only works for twenty-four hours.

A Hand in My ColonFull Unit Hookup: Bitter monologue by dying puppet.

The Promise of ChocolateAtoise: An unhappy single mother makes cupcakes for her son’s birthday. One of them contains cyanide.

Changed ItineraryApex Digest: UFOlogist is abducted by aliens.

Salt of the EarthWOTF: On a sodium-poor world, where every scrap of salt is saved, a salt merchant’s daughter is killed by a salt-overdose.

Awaiting Revision

Journey to the East: The Legend of the Monkey King YA Novel – Two American kids find themselves caught up in the oldest legend in China as they struggle to rescue their baby sister from the Bone Demon. (Book One in Series)

Virus Attached SF murder/mystery – Scott Huang and his AI partner Metta are trying to solve a murder, when Metta’s chasis (containing her memory) is stolen. She is rebooted from her last back-up, which occurred six hours previously. She and Huang must find her original version before the perpetrator can use it to hack into the police department and erase all evidence of his crime.

Works in Progress

Body Language : Near-future. Lena, a puppeteer, is called in to help solve a kidnapping because the only witness is eDawg, a toy for which she did the motion-capture work. The kidnappers demand that the ransom be sent in on eDawg, and Lena has to manipulate the puppet while pretending to be nothing more than a toy.

Waiting for Rain: In India, a farmer has beggared himself to pay for his daughter’s wedding and can no longer pay his weather bills.

Shades of Milk and Honey: Regency Romance, with fantasy. Magic is a woman’s art, like painting or music. Jane uses it to prove that Mr. Dunkirk is wooing her and her sister at the same time.

Good Housekeeping: Novel. Contemporary Fantasy. The Faerie Queen sent a human changeling, Grace, back to try to keep the old ways alive in the world. Grace uses the internet to manage a network of Goodwives who let brownies, elves and other housefolk live in their homes. But the Unseelie Court has decided to drive out all of the housefolk to diminish the Faerie Queen’s power. Grace has to try to save the Housefolk while adjusting to life as a human.