Hunting – Scrivener’s Forge 8

This is my submission for the Scrivener’s Forge exercise on Plot and Endings.

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Robogeek

I wove my way through the bright allure of market stalls, and the seductive scents of cafes. She was near now. My com told me she liked chocolate violets, so I stopped at a chocolatier’s to pick up a bag. Any speciality you wanted, the market had it. I wondered about flowers. Lilies, were her favourites, again according to my com. No – flowers would be overdoing it.

The GPS told me she’d left the market, and was walking along the canal bank. I just had to find her. You don’t pass up 86.7% compatibility.  And that was just overall: our reading purchases overlapped by a whopping 92%, and leisure activity spending by category was 88%.

I need the chase, and Camden Lock was always good hunting territory for me. I’d already by-passed possibilities in the high 70s and one at 81.2%. But he was male, and I lean more to women. Still, he had been pretty. I hadn’t been immune to the smooth brown skin and smouldering eyes, when I checked him out.

When I turned onto the towpath, I knew I’d been right to pass over smouldering eyes. She was just ahead of me, disappearing into the darkness below a bridge. I saw a mane of blonde hair tumbling in ringlets down her back. I love blondes. There was a seductive sway to her hips, and long legs all the way up to the denim tight arse.  To be fair, her legs could be judged a little too thin. I appreciated meat on a woman. But I definitely liked what I’d seen so far, as the towpath took a bend and she disappeared.

I wondered why she was walking the towpath. There were no commercial outlets here. There was something vaguely ungrateful about not consuming. Consuming was how you contributed to society. After most of the jobs were automated, grants from the Administrators replaced salaries. Most of us had become consumers rather than workers. I was quite proud that I qualified for a category B grant, because my tastes included the arts, and most artists and theatres hovered always on the edge of redundancy.

I put on a turn of speed, and caught up with her.

‘Hi there,’ I said, ‘chocolate violets for the lady.’

When she turned, I felt a surge of disappointment. Of course, she hadn’t included her appearance on her profile. Lots of people don’t. But still, from behind she’d looked hot. Her face was foxy, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean really, like a fox, thin and drawn into a snout, with a kind of feral alertness about her eyes. Her breasts were pretty good though.

‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘I don’t like chocolate. I’m allergic to it.’

‘But your consumer profile says chocolate violets are your favourites.’

She chuckled and took a step towards me. ‘The profile is a lie. It’s fake.’

‘How? I mean, I didn’t know you could do that.  And why, why would you want to fake it?’

‘It’s easy enough. It’s all digital. You can rig a relay to transmit anything you like. I don’t have an implant. As for why, that’s easy too: privacy. I’m a person, not a consumer. You are too, did you but know it.’

None of this was going as I’d intended. I should have just pulled up a chair at smouldering eyes’ table. I wasn’t sure whether it was legal not to have an implanted com. In any case, she felt wrong, disquieting.

‘If I want privacy, I go to a shield,’ I said

‘And pay the admission charge to the shield, registering that as a consumption preference? I want my preferences to remain my business, not marketing data.’

It felt wrong, and dangerous, but it was exciting too. Her canine features were beginning to seem attractive to me; what the French call ‘jolie laid.’ I was beginning to wonder just how unusual and illicit her tastes might be.

‘And what are your preferences?’ I tried to keep the leer off my face, and out of my tone.

‘Subverting the system,’ she replied with the most captivating laugh. ‘Zapping the citizenry. My relay picked up your profile from your com, and when you locked onto me, adjusted what it sent out according to your profile.’

I had to laugh. ‘No wonder it was 86.7% compatibility then.’

‘I could as easily have made it 96.7%, but somehow that wouldn’t be so believable.’

’So who the hell are you really?’

She laughed again. ‘To know that, you’d have to get to know me; in the old fashioned way. Not my data, but me.’

I was confused. ‘But we might not be compatible.’

‘Well that’s the fun,’ she replied. ‘It’s all in the finding out.’

This time, her laugh scared me.

The Scrivener’s Forge 8 – Plot and Endings

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A simple way to think about plot is as the events seen in the light of their endings. Endings are important, and one of the most difficult parts of story-telling. A good ending should be both surprising and inevitable.

Exercise:

Write a cracking-good ending (a paragraph or two). Then work backwards and develop the sequence of events (the plot) that leads up to this ending. Note that this may feel very artificial for writers who like to “discover” their ending in the course of writing. But it’s an exercise to help us be aware of the sequence of causes that create good endings. It’s also a great technique when you’re editing a story to do a “backwards pass” and check that you have properly motivated the ending. A “backwards pass” is exactly this process of working backwards from the ending.

Bomaru’s Quest Part IV – Scrivener’s Forge 7

This is my submission for the Scrivener’s Forge exercise on plot.  I confess I cheated on this one by using a story I’ve already published, but it exemplifies so well the “go in late, come out early” advice.

Bomaru’s Quest Part IV

The creature’s head punched round, leathery scales abrading his skin. Bomaru held tight, the sinews of his arms corded like autumn branches, slowly forcing the winged reptile’s head to the ground.  Teeth sharp as spear-points snapped, close enough for the clash to shiver through his straining grip, and the stench of the creature’s foul breath to taint his nostrils.  It was no ordinary strength that maintained his grip. He knew sweet Farlaine would die if he failed, and the knowledge lent him the force of ten. Bomaru twisted with a desperate might. With a sickening crack, the dragon’s body gave one last twitch and was still.

‘Wow! You just killed a dragon with your bare hands,’ Michael observed. ‘Hard to believe isn’t it?’

Michael was heartily sick of Bomaru and Farlaine.

Yet bold Bomaru strode on over the evil creature’s carcass, undaunted by his ordeal, and rifled through the dragon’s hoard, until he found the blade, Srithanthril. Farlaine’s father had borne that sword in battle before he fell to the Worms on the plain of carnage. None but Srithanthril’s wizard-honed edge could sever the bewitched bonds holding Farlaine shackled to the promontory.

‘Cool, you got the magic sword.’ Michael’s tone held acid mockery. ‘Bewitched bonds, tum-ti-tum.’

Bomaru raced sure-footed down the hillside, pebbles slithering and rolling. It was almost as if the earth itself bore him forward to Farlaine, hastening her release. Farlaine’s roots were deep in the land, and the land ached at her peril.

When Bomaru reached the foreshore, the tide was lapping around his beloved’s ankles. She screamed and strained against her bonds.

Michael’s attention was captured by the wild, age-carved, crags, while Bomaru’s was on the huge kraken that reared up, reaching clawed arms towards the sacrificial virgin.

‘How do you like them apples?’ Michael sneered at Bomaru, and turned away from the combat to watch the sea birds, wheeling lithe in the thermals that rose from the cliff.

When he gazed far, Michael saw the birds soar at the cloud-front that roiled against the updraft, unable to press forward over the ocean. It entranced him. He was seeing the wind itself in the invisible barrier that held the creatures firm as Farlaine’s bonds. When he studied close, Michael discerned the rough porosity of the cliff-face, the tiny cavities and crags made by an aeon of the insistent sea’s soft probing fingers. He peered into one crevice, with a scrutiny deep and searching, and detected, in a jumble of twigs and seaweed, the ghosts of a guillemot’s past home. He heard the minute skulking of the lives folk never have the patience to notice.

While battle raged below, Michael probed the mysteries of the promontory. The woes of men meant no more to that ancient headland than the ephemeral scrabblings in the nooks and crannies of reality. Farlaine’s cries, as Bomaru hacked and hewed, troubled him no more than the calls of the kittiwakes. Michael marked the transit of the sun against the rock, striving to capture the slow shifting of colour. He saw subtle reddening where there had been only grey. He witnessed crags and boulders that leapt up from the escarpment, like footpads from an alley, as the light picked them out in relief.

The strife behind him quieted. ‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?’ he quoted to Bomaru. ‘Oh frabjous day.  Calloo! Callay!’

The headless body of the kraken was sinking into the waves, while Bomaru clove Farlaine’s bonds with the enchanted blade, Srithanthril.

Michael frowned and tore his thoughts from the precious secrets of the eternal cliff, and the slow march of time. Farlaine was freed. The realm was saved. The people rejoiced.

‘One day, one goddamn day,’ said Michael, ‘I will kill you, Bomaru. One day, I’ll be able to live free of you. I’m better than this. I can perceive the world in a guillemot’s nest.’

‘Perhaps,’ Bomaru scoffed. ‘But not this day.’

Michael sighed, and began the writing of Bomaru’s Quest, Part V.

The Scrivener’s Forge 7 – Plot: Go in late, come out early

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This is a classic principle of gripping screenwriting.  You create more drama in a scene if you enter it with some action already underway. You avoid the boredom of a drawn-out conclusion if you leave it once the action is done (preferably even adding another hook to the next scene).

Exercise:

Write a scene that starts slam bang wallop in the middle of the action. No introduction, no back story. Use what you’ve learned in previous exercises about character, description, and action to fill in any details we need.

Click the little blue frog to post your exercise.

Loving Kiran – Scrivener’s Forge 6 exercise

This is my exercise for the Scrivener’s Forge prompt on character and action to create character through action, rather than description

 

Let me tell you about Kiran. I loved her with a love that corroded the soul. Like, there was this time I took her to a friend’s party. She talked philosophy with Daniel, a practitioner of that art. He asked her if she thought it was now, now. Without missing a beat, she said ‘No, Dan, it was now then.’

She had Roddie stand on her stomach. Now Roddie was a big guy. He played rugger. She just lay down and sucked in air and told him to stand on her stomach. And that stomach remained flat.

For each and every one of them, she had something special. That’s how she was. I felt ten feet tall that she had come with me, and that she left with me. I was so proud she was mine. When we were walking home, she said ‘Wow, I did it. I dominated a whole room full of guys. I held their attention, and none of the other women got a look in.’

You’re probably thinking round about now that Kiran was a bit superficial. You’d be right. I didn’t care. She was gorgeous, and everyone wanted her, and she was mine. I guess I’m a bit superficial too. When we made love, it was like nothing, I’d ever experienced before. When we fought, it was also like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Nobody before, or since, has ever come at me with a knife.

I didn’t know how badly I loved Kiran until I lost her. I became a crazy man. She was going out with this wimp. I think she did it just to annoy me. I took to following them around. One night, I jumped out of an alley, and told the wimp if he didn’t fuck off and leave her alone I was going to kill him. Kiran really got off on that. I think she loved me more then, than all the time we were together. She had that look, lips slightly parted, grey eyes glistening. The wimp ran. She practically dragged me to her flat. We started to fuck just inside the front door. It was like coming home.

The Scrivener’s Forge 6 – Character is action

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A new writing exercise every month. When you focus on one aspect of writing at a time, you can concentrate on making it the best you can possibly create. That way you can reach a professional level that may be harder with longer works. We’ll explore one aspect of the craft each month.

If you comment on other writers’ efforts, they’ll usually comment on yours. So you get lots of critiques, advice, and encouragement.

Please don’t post your entry in comments here. Create your entry on your own blog, and then click the little blue frog to join the link-up and read other people’s work.

6. Character is action

Characters act. The ways they act, and hence the stories they create, depend on their natures. In this month’s exercise, we’ll explore using action to reveal that nature.

Exercise

Create a character in your mind. Visualise her or him. Learn what their goals, mannerisms and peculiarities are.  Then write a short scene that shows us who your character is, entirely through their actions. Show us who your character is – do not tell us. Do not use any describing words (adjectives or adverbs). Make your verbs count – if a character walks, we don’t learn much about them, but if they stride we see their confidence and purpose, whereas if they slouch or creep we see their discomfort.

The Barn – Scrivener’s Forge 5 exercise

This is my response to the fifth Scrivener’s Forge exercise on Character and World Building. Click on the link to see the exercise details

 

Twenty-two years the barn has survived. Twenty generations of ewes lambed in it.  We stored twenty-one harvests there, smelling of summer sun and the good rich earth. I see the paint is flaking now, and one door leans askew on its hinges. When did that happen? I should repair it and repaint the damn thing. I should. And I will soon. There’s time. So much time.

The old yew stump pains my right buttock, so I shift to my left and carry on studying the barn. Hope – that’s what it stored. When you’re young, you have nothing but hope.  The future stretches out ahead of you, bright and unblemished.

Twenty-two harvests is so little time. Just adequate to build up a farm, get a wife, raise a brood. That’s only years enough to write the first couple of lines into the flyleaf of the family bible. But what a man writes slowly with his bare hands age on age, men together can erase in a second.

The barn and I have weathered as one. The door is falling off, and the wound in my leg aches me in the winter. I don’t suppose either of us are long for this world.  I don’t suppose it matters now. No need for repairs. I’ll sit a while longer.

The Scrivener’s Forge 5 – Character and World-building

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A new writing exercise every month. When you focus on one aspect of writing at a time, you can concentrate on making it the best you can possibly create. That way you can reach a professional level that may be harder with longer works. We’ll explore one aspect of the craft each month.

If you comment on other writers’ efforts, they’ll usually comment on yours. So you get lots of critiques, advice, and encouragement.

Please don’t post your entry in comments here. Create your entry on your own blog, and then click the little blue frog to join the link-up and read other people’s work.

Character and world-building

Building a character is building a world. This may be a world of fantasy, of wizards and dragons. But it doesn’t have to be. When the physical world and the emotional world are overlaid, everyday things become new and vibrant if seen through the eyes of a character in a particular situation. How every character sees and understands the world creates their world. This is what gives a character a distinctive voice. Vivid description is a portrait of a mind thinking and feeling its way through the world. A character’s mentality is created both from the big things (someone who is fearful is surrounded by a world of threat, for example) but also from the small things (someone who is fastidious may be troubled by a neighbour’s messy garden).

Exercise

An exercise from John Gardener. Write a scene which places a character in a specific location. Use the interaction between character and description to show us a unique world we’ve never seen before and that will never exist again.  A man whose son has died in the war is looking at a building. Describe the building without mentioning the war, the son, or his death.

Hint: if you’re finding this hard to approach, consider why a character in this situation might even notice a building.

Noble Lies – Scrivener’s Forge 4 exercise

This is my response to the third Scrivener’s Forge exercise on Character and Likeability. Click on the link to see the exercise details

 

It would be a delightfully simple world if telling the truth was always right and lying was always wrong. But it is not so. I work undercover, and I’ve had to become a practitioner of the Noble Lie. Such lies are told for reasons of the greater good, often to maintain law, order and safety. Though they may told with love, they corrupt other loves.

I spent a year and a half getting close to Ayesha’s brothers, but never did discover what they were up to. I went out with them on marches and protests, handed out leaflets, buttonholed worshippers after Friday prayers about sharia and the true meaning of Islam. But they never took me with them on their frequent weekends away. I was denied entry to the inner circle. The locations of their trips were revealing though – Hampshire, Surrey and Kent. I knew for certain they visited Aldershot, Deepcut. Chatham, Sandhurst and Worthy Down. All of those places have military bases. It looked, as they say, suspicious.

Then Ayesha said she had something to tell me. Her sloe eyes were bright, her breathing was fast and shallow. ‘I’m pregnant,’ she said.

I said the usual silly things men say – What? How? Why? Are you sure?

‘It will be all right, won’t it?’ she asked. ‘You must marry me.’

‘Your brothers will never allow it,’ I temporised.

‘My brothers and father will kill me if I have a baby and I am unmarried.’

The moment of betrayal is always agonising. You recite for yourself all the reasons that make it right. There’s duty. There’s the uncomfortable truth that you already have a wife and two vaguely C of E kids. And those are good justifications. But you can only betray what you first love.

I walked away, looked back once, and shed a tear.

The Scrivener’s Forge 4 – Character and Likeability

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A new writing exercise every month. When you focus on one aspect of writing at a time, you can concentrate on making it the best you can possibly create. That way you can reach a professional level that may be harder with longer works. We’ll explore one aspect of the craft each month.

If you comment on other writers’ efforts, they’ll usually comment on yours. So you get lots of critiques, advice, and encouragement.

Please don’t post your entry in comments here. Create your entry on your own blog, and then click the little blue frog to join the link-up and read other people’s work.

Character and Likeability

A main character doesn’t have to be likeable, but they do have to be interesting. Any believable hero or heroine must have flaws (just as every satisfying villain must have good qualities). They may even be overwhelmed by their flaws. Flawed heroines are given a much harder time by readers than flawed heroes.

Exercise:

Write a scene with an unlikeable main character that you think will engage the reader’s interest. You might want to try changing their gender and writing it again. If you do this, consider what you learned from the comparison.