31 January 2010

Notes on Openings

A few notes on yesterday’s serial… I’m leaving it to stand as it is (call it posterity), but if I were to do it again, I think I’d cut out the opening 1st person segment. It seemed funny when I was writing it, but all those acronyms were hard to keep up with and looked a lot more off-putting in blog form than they did in Microsoft Word. There were also a few wording issues I would change in the later portion, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with it. I was thinking about where I chose to start the story, both narrative-wise and sequentially; because actually, that opening was the third one I wrote. Also I’ve been looking at how I’ve chosen to open some of my other WIPs, and I’ve been studying the various blogs that post reviews of people’s opening page. It’s interesting how many people want to start off with a calm, almost ruminative sequence, sometimes one where the MC is waiting for something to happen (as in the first opening I wrote featured Mockin’bird sitting on the front porch waiting for the arrival of Gully, whom she had never met) and then pick up the action from there. One of the other opening habits I have is to start off with an unknown person saying something, usually to the MC. Now, I’ve read a lot of the articles out there saying, “Show, not tell,” and admonishing the beginning writer to start off with strong action – one article complained about books that start off with a summary of the MC’s life, and to a certain extent I agree; but I have to say, I’ve read several stories that follow the basic template I’m interested in that have a charming “Part One,” so to speak; they paint beautiful pictures and really ground the readers and gives them a vested interest. These stories include “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale, “Spindle’s End” by Robin McKinley, and to a lesser extent “Dealing with Dragons” by Patricia C. Wrede. If you can pull it off, I don’t see any reason not to do it. So. There’s my two-cents worth.

30 January 2010

The Saturday Issue, vol. 1

My name is Isabella Avery. Most people call me Mockin’bird. Don’t ask, trust me. I am an agent of AAPIF, the American Association for the Preservation of Immigrant Faeries. I’ve got a new partner these days: my cousin Gully. His real name’s Gilbert, but don’t hold that against him. He came to live with my family a while back; his parents are with the AAPIf (the Association for the Preservation of Immigrant fairies; believe me there’s a difference) just like my parents and I are with Immigrant Faeries, and Gully preferred faeries to fairies – who could blame him? There are a whole slew of organizations beginning with AAPI; the only thing that really means anything is the last letter – G for giants, O for ogres, D for dragons, FG and fG for faerie and fairy godmothers, respectively… you get the idea. Our family has belonged to one or other of them for generations. That’s ’cause we have the gift. The gift of duality of sight. We can see the immigrants from Faerie as well as Faerie itself. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re actually allowed into Faerie, not without a passport; it is an international border, of sorts. But then, accidents do happen, especially when the equation goes something like this: Faeries + fairies + humans + Faerie + continent of North America. The particular accident I had in mind was… … “Good Morning Young Lady of the House!” Mockin’bird cringed. She hated the Cheerful Demon doorstep-fairy. That was at the best of times. At 7:30 in the morning, she loathed the little creature. Hugging her coat tighter, she tried to lock the front door faster, but her fingers were cold. Then she dropped her key, and went after it muttering bitterly. “How Pleasant It Is To Have Someone Step Over The Threshold On This Glorious Morning!” the fairy trilled, hovering over Mockin’bird’s head as she scrabbled around in the snow. Once her fingers grasped the key, she straightened abruptly, half hoping to bat the demon out of the park with a head on collision. It didn’t happen. So Mockin’bird just hurried away down the street, hugging the hood of her coat around her ears to block out the noise of the professional doorstep keeper, who yelled messages of good cheer after her all the way until she rounded the corner at the end of the block. When she reached the financial district, she looked around to find a registered pigeon (actually a variety of hobgoblin in disguise). She soon found the one she was looking for and paid the toll required for passage, sprinkling a few bread crumbs onto the sidewalk. The bird eyed her morosely. It shook its feathers out and began eating. A moment later her cousin stood next to her, looking a little green. He didn’t handle pigeon passage very well. “Those birds get dirtier every time I fly,” he complained. “Never mind that; did you get the evidence or not?” she asked, tucking her hands under her arms for warmth. She never could keep track of mittens or gloves. “Yeah, yeah, I got it. But let’s get back to the house where it’s warm, OK?” They were about to walk back the way Mockin’bird had come when the pigeon squawked indignantly. When they turned back, they saw that the bird had once again shaken its feathers, and a small, cloth wrapped bundle had fallen out. “You forget something?” Mockin’bird asked. Gully shook his head. “Huh-uh, it isn’t mine,” they stared at the bird who stared back. Finally it seemed to sigh. Disgustedly, it looked over each shoulder to see if anyone was around. It was a Saturday morning after a fresh snow fall, so no one was. The pigeon’s beak slowly and painfully morphed out of shape and into something more like a human mouth. “‘All passengers must dismount carrying every item they came aboard with,’ that’s regulations, that is.” “Look,” Mockin’bird tried, “it’s not hi-” “No exceptions!” screeched the bird-shaped hobgoblin. It glared at them one last time, shook its wings and flew off. Gully looked after the bird with distaste while Mockin’bird watched the parcel as if it might bite. She pulled at the corners of her eyes in a special way to try and see through the wrapping. She was pretty good at that spell, but hadn’t practiced it in a while. Her concentration taken up she didn’t notice Gully reaching for the package until it was too late. “Gully! No!” She grabbed his arm, just as the rift began to open. One moment in a normal, if deserted, city street in the US, the next sucked into Faerie. If Mockin’bird had thought it was cold in America, it was nothing compared to where they were now, and the snow was a lot deeper; it was up to her knees at least. The wind was busy scouring the faces of some large rocks off to the left, but it gladly took time to bestow its attentions on Mockin’bird. Gully was not beside her. As she swung round to see where he’d gotten too, she saw something else that was, oh, so much less welcome: a pack of hungry, yellow-eyed wolves. Well, this was Faerie after all, what had she been expecting? “Oh, fudge,” she murmured. TO BE CONTINUED…

29 January 2010

Figure Study Friday, episode one

OK, so I sat down and did a few quick, rough sketches. I'll do better and more polished studies when I have more time; next week's should be considerably better. Eehheermmm, as ya might could be able ta tell, I'm a wee bit out of practice with figure drawing... like I said, next week's will be better. PS: the lighting in my room stinks, so these really were the best photos I could take under the circumstances...

Coming Soon...

I'm not going to have a theme for every day of the week, but I think I will have a theme for two or three. Obviously, Thursday 'View is one. I'll try to write a serialized short story with on-going elements and recurring characters. I've got an old idea sheet with characters and basic - very basic - plot worked out already, and I'll try to do something with that... but not now; 'cos I've kinda let my school reading get ahead of me. Edited to say that, tentatively, the three themed days will be: Thursday 'View, Figure Study Friday, and The Saturday Issue. Maybe I'll post in between those days, maybe I won't. It'll depend on what I've got to say.

28 January 2010

Thursday 'View: Spindle's End

It's official. I've just decided to make Thursday book review day. Does it matter that I haven't finished the book I've decided to review? Well, not to me. Robin McKinley has a BREATHTAKING style. It's beautiful. Lush. Fantabulous. There just aren't words for it. Well. Now that I've relieved my admiration to a world-wide web that isn't listening, I'll go finish my book and find out what happens.

27 January 2010

An Interest and a Preference

I like writing about girl characters. This is partly because I'm better at it than writing boy characters and partly because I'm dissatisfied with the fantasy literature available with female leads. I'm working on a story with three royal sisters, but since I began I've become fascinated with another element that I'm not sure I could fit into "Grave's End." Recently I read a story that featured the old Russian folk-tale witch Baba Yaga and her three servant protectors Bright Sun, Red Star, and Black Midnight (elsewhere the first two were called Bright Dawn and Red Sun). I am completely captivated by the spookiness of it; the empty winter woods, the bone-fenced yard, and the house on chicken legs whose windows are eyes that watch you... I am definitely going to have to write a story about Baba Yaga - but I don't want to rewrite the traditional story of the person on a quest who has to go see the old witch and after spending a few days with her barely escape with life and limb. Maybe I could give her an apprentice.