Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Sympathy for the Devil

One of the major criticisms I get about my writing is that I need to make sympathetic characters. The hero that everyone admires from the beginning, the shining knight on the white horse so to speak. So I looked at some writers known for their strong characters.

Brett Ellis:

Most famous novels: LESS THAN ZERO and AMERICAN PSYCHO

Who can't help but admire a rich self absorbed drug addict on the path to self-destruction, or a yuppie stock broker who thinks he is a serial killer.

Early in his career Brett Ellis was told the same thing that no one would read novels where the main character isn't sympathetic from the start. Simon & Schuster refused to publish AMERICAN PSYCHO because of protests. Something I'm sure must bring a tear to his eye every time he cashes the checks he is still receiving from the novel and screenplay.

Chuck Palahniuk:

Most famous novel: FIGHT CLUB

It's hard to imagine some one more sympathetic than an anarchist terrorist who takes out his frustrations with the modern word by spreading mayhem. I'm sure he also feels the sting of all the agents that rejected him and wouldn't take him on until after FIGHT CLUB was published and turned into an Oscar Nominated Film.

Anthony Burgess:

Most famous novel: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

A truly sympathetic character; Alex, our humble narrator merely wants to engage in a little of the old in and out, and some ultra-violence while listening to a little Ludwig Van. The complaints about Alex not being sympathetic must have hurt Burgess when the TIMES ranked him #17 on their list of greatest British authors since 1945.

I'm not saying that my writing is as good as those three, but the critics who say that people won't read a story that doesn't have a sympathetic main character are clearly wrong.

To all the writers out there that are having your work criticized because editors don't believe the public will read it based on some aspect other than the writing I'd like to give you this little word of wisdom: Find authors that successfully use that aspect and write something that goes all out with that. It will help define it for you.

As John Jakes says about writing, ““Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Great Day for Writing Tips

I opened up Google Reader this morning and was hit by a lot of great articles on writing. I guess yesterday was the day everyone needed to share good tips.

It happens to be Writing Wednesday so I will comment on some of the better ones I ran across:


Over at DON'T PET ME I'M WRITING Tawna talks about the benefits of critiquing other peoples work. This is something I'm a firm believer in.

I agree with her on all her points and would like to add one:

Sometimes it is fun to watch.

The best cure for the writing bug, and the most expensive, is to become an English Major. I'm not making that up, by the time your Junior Year rolls around and you've been studying all the great literature that has been produced over the last 2000 years you're convinced that your writing is horrible. To make it worse you try to put everything you've learned in the last 3 years into a 1,000 word story. During Jr. Year most of the people I went to school with did what I did and searched their rooms both at college and at home and destroyed every scrap of writing they had ever written because they were ashamed to let anyone see it.

When you critique someone's rough draft you get to see another diamond (hopefully) in the rough. You can see all the awkward phrases, the telling when they should be showing, Weird POV shifts and everything else. After you help them with that, you get to see the story with a little polish and watch someone else make their story into something you would pay for.

Seeing that happen to someone else gives you the confidence to rework your own story.


Over at QUERY TRACKER Jane Lebak offers a very simple piece of advice, name your protagonist.

I have to admit to doing a facepalm after reading this. I've made this mistake a few times, one time it added to the story, I'M THAT GUY, but that's the exception that proves the rule. Looking back the other times I did a first person POV story, having an unnamed protagonist really took away from the story.


Elspeth Antonelli at BLOOD-RED PENCIL gives her 10 signs of a typical writing day. I hate to say it but #5 really hit home for me.

5.You love your plot. You love your characters. It's your actual writing of which you're not so enamoured.

You would think by now I would know that my rough drafts are rough, but a lot of times I look at what I'm writing and think it is unfixable.


Roni Loren at FICTION GROUPIE talks about her writing method. Something I'll write about sometime.


It's nice to know that someone else builds worlds in a similar way that I do. SM “Frankie” Blooding talks about building worlds in the same geeky style I do. My favorite worlds to build are the one that already exist.

In THE SETTING EARTH I looked at the Dwarf Planet “Ceres” and how it is warmer than its surroundings and has traces of water vapor. From that I imagined what might make that happen and imagined a giant underground ocean and how with materials that are common in the asteroid belt giant undersea domes could be built. In the domes under Earth's atmosphere and Ceres 1/32 gravity a person could strap on a pair of wings and fly.

At other times I've used the Multiverse hypothesis to make towns where literally anything could happen, I've used Relativity to get revenge, I've made planets around red dwarfs habitable and all sorts of other things.

The world building using real physics, or at least hypothetical physics, is my very favorite part of writing.

That's a round up of the great tips that I stumbled across this morning.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fictional Future Friday: Space Wars

My finger seems to have healed enough for me to type at about 75% of my old speed, so I will tackle a subject I have been thinking about for over 30 years or so. The weapons that used in Science Fiction shows like Star Trek and Star Wars.

Star Trek's Photon Torpedo: In The Original Series (TOS) the photon torpedo was just a glowing ball that could have any energy range, later in Star Trek 6 they were a canister of anti-matter. The smallest Photon Torpedo held 1.5 kilos of anti-matter, but they could be scaled up easily. For easy calculations that canister looked like it could hold at least 100 kilos. 100 kilos of anti-matter is 1.8 X 10^19 joule of energy, or very close to a 5 Gigaton bomb.

The largest nuclear bomb ever designed was 100 Megaton and it was never built as the Russians couldn't figure out a way to safely test it. The blast would level everything within a 60 kilometer radius, and throw the entire atmosphere of that blast zone out into space. It would cause 3rd degree burns out to a radius of 170 kilometers, roughly the size of West Germany.

So a Photon Torpedo would have a blast zone of roughly 300 kilometers and if detonated on the surface, or used the momentum of traveling near the speed of light to penetrate the surface, it would make a crater roughly 30 kilometers deep. In most places that is deep enough to blow off the Earth's crust and expose the mantle.

The Earth's mantle is what the tectonic plates ride on and is made rock that is near melting point so it yields to shockwaves very easily. A 5 Gigaton explosion would send a low velocity compression wave throughout the mantle which would be felt on the surface as earthquakes. This would trigger any unstable regions and start more earthquakes on the edges of the tectonic plate that was hit.

On the bright side this explosion would hit the area where diamonds are made bringing them to the surface.

That is the damage done by one photon torpedo. Using 10 photon torpedoes on strategic areas across the globe would make for a bad day for the inhabitants of the planet. So as far as having enemy ships coming in and attacking planets destroying bases and cities the scale is just wrong. A single warship could easily take out an entire planet, or at the very least leave it uninhabitable for generations.