Character (Story Engineering and Physics #2 of 12)

Part of a series of posts on story engineering based on the book of that title and its companion volume Story Physics.

Story Engineering & Story Physics

I learned a lot about trust from a book called The Speed of Trust, written by Stephen M. R. Covey, the son of the “7 habits” author.

It cleared up some misconceptions and filled some gaps in my understanding of trust. For instance, why can we trust someone to repay a loan, but we wouldn’t ask them to work for us? Why can we take them at their word, trusting their honesty implicitly, but not ask them to watch the dog when we’re on vacation?

Answering those questions taught me about the people in my life (including myself) but it changed how I present the people in my books as well. First, some details about the psychology of trust, and then, how this informs your writing.

Trust is a Tree

Covey compares trust to a tree with four elements matching the roots, trunk, branches and leaves.

… more … “Character (Story Engineering and Physics #2 of 12)”

Concept (Story Engineering and Physics #1 of 12)

Part of a series of posts on story engineering based on the book of that title and its companion volume Story Physics.

Story Engineering & Story PhysicsIdea. Concept. Theme. Premise. Their meanings overlap.

English being a language of precision, we can speak and write with nuance.

We ought to learn writing with nuanced terminology as well.

These words all mean something different, and for the sake of this discussion, we’re going to adopt the storyfixer‘s dictionary.

… more … “Concept (Story Engineering and Physics #1 of 12)”

Bringing Some Reality to Your Writing

Science tries to deal with what’s real, to identify and label and if possible rule out the imaginary, illogical, impossible.

Sometimes science bothers people with little facts like gravity being the weakest force in the known universe. The only thing that keeps us from flying off into space as the earth turns (moving 1,000mph at the equator but slower near the poles) is that the earth is so huge that the tiny pull of gravity is amplified enough to keep us pinned.

Earth spinning: at the equator, a spot moves 24,000 miles in 24 hours. Simple math: 1,000mpg.

About 8 feet from the geographic pole, you could draw a circle 24 feet around. Stand (float) in one spot, and make the 24-foot trip in the same 24 hours.

That spot is moving 1 foot per hour. The bit at the equator is going 5,280,000 times as fast (1,000mph = 5,280,000 feet per hour.)

structure
… more … “Bringing Some Reality to Your Writing”

Editing: Finding the Right Words

dripping red inkWe need new words for all the things we mean when we say the word “editing.”

Proofreading is a separate word for a separate process and yet I’ve seen the word editing used where the writer clearly means finding and correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Let’s all agree not to call that editing. It is proofreading.

Professional editors may divide editing into even finer gradations, but I practice two: line editing and developmental editing.

A line editor ensures that each word is the right word, that each sentence says what you mean, the best it can be said. They make sure that each paragraph is properly constructed. And they do it all without stripping your voice from your writing or overlaying theirs.

A developmental editor looks at the big picture. Their job is to determine if the book as a whole is a whole. Are there sections or chapters missing? Does everything happen in the right order? (This applies to both fiction and nonfiction.) Is there extraneous material?

A developmental editor will tell you if your novel contains the 12 essential waypoints in storytelling. They will tell you if your business book clearly teaches the points you’re trying to convey in the most effective manner. The developmental editor’s job is to determine in the broadest perspective whether or not your book works. Then, in either case, to offer suggestions and refinements to make it the best version of your intent. … more … “Editing: Finding the Right Words”

Forget Rules, Follow Principles

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1209888 http://www.freeimages.com/photo/936476 http://www.freeimages.com/photo/787898Split infinitives.

“That” vs. “which.”

Punctuation inside or outside the quotes or parentheses?

One space or two after a period?

Rules regarding writing are nearly infinite. The Chicago Manual of Style outweighs my youngest child (and, perhaps, my first car.)

Rules are important.

Except when they’re not.

And that’s why principles trump rules.

If you are writing a technical manual, legislation, or medical procedures, you should adhere strictly to the rules.

If you’re writing for your own fans, your chosen audience, it’s far more important to consistently follow a set of principles. … more … “Forget Rules, Follow Principles”

How Long is a Book?

measuringI write this because I’m trying to talk myself into doing something I’m terrified of.

My so-called “next” book was sent to beta readers in December.

Of 2012.

I wanted to up my game, refine my craft, make it better.

Also, and here’s where the nerves start, to make it longer, because I am (or was) convinced it’s just not long enough. … more … “How Long is a Book?”

Back Into Your Ending

reverseThe world would not be complete without Jeeves and Wooster.

Most of you know Hugh Laurie as the irascible Gregory House, doctor extraordinaire, human being just barely. But years ago he and his best bud and comedy partner Stephen Fry played the leads in A&E’s televisation of some of P. G. Wodehouse‘s Jeeves and Wooster stories. Track them down if you like a good story and some 1930s English wit.

In one adventure, Bertie (that is, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, whose last name was, in the mists of the distant past spelled “Worcester” like the shired sauce you put on your burger) and his greatest detractor, Sir Roderick Glossop, are both in black face (as in, we were going minstrelling down the pub with Al Jolson) hiding in the shrubbery outside Glossop’s own house, tearing and dirtying their formal dinnerwear (that would be tuxedos.)

How in blazes did they get there? … more … “Back Into Your Ending”

Why Knowing (and Respecting) Your Genre Matters

isn't it cozy?Another musical analogy: young bands call their music “like nothing you’ve ever heard” so often it’s a cliche.

Really? Klingon opera has some similarity to music I know. Hey, Ornette Coleman’s free jazz has similarities to music I know, and that’s more of a reach than Klingon opera.

When I tell folks my music sound like Bob Dylan meeting David Gray for drinks at Roger Miller’s house, that doesn’t diminish my artistic individuality. It just gives potential listeners an idea what they’re getting. It prevents lovers of Klingon opera or free jazz from showing up for my living room concert and smashing up the furniture because they don’t like the music, thank you very much Igor Stravinsky.

But if they show up and don’t witty lyrics, a country feel, and occasional darkness or melancholy, they’ll have every right to riot because I set expectations I failed to meet. … more … “Why Knowing (and Respecting) Your Genre Matters”

More Than One Way to Write a Cat Story

carved in stoneWhen I talk about your time writing, what picture comes into your mind?

For most of you, I suspect it’s about clattering away on a computer keyboard. (Or, if you have a Mac, gently gliding over its delicate surface, nudging the keys toward their destination.)

Have you ever tried writing whatever it is you write using some other method?

… more … “More Than One Way to Write a Cat Story”

Check Your Edge

another set of eyesUsed to work with my buddy Mike. He serviced pet grooming equipment, which is way more fun and interesting than it sounds. Huge mobile workshop.

Biggest part of the business was sharpening clipper blades. Clippers have two blades sliding back and forth past each other so unlike knives, which need a beveled edge, clipper blades need to be flawlessly flat on their face, the surfaces where they meet.

When Mike first started training me, sometimes I’d ask him to check my edge. Are these sharp enough? Am I overdoing it, grinding too much metal away, shortening the life of the blade? Am I working fast enough?

Because he’s the closest friend I’ve had in my whole life, our conversations included a bunch of personal sharing you might not expect to find in a greasy hairy machine shop on a truck. Life, the universe, and everything — we covered it all.

In time, the phrase “check my edge” came to mean more than the mechanics of blade sharpening. I’m almost 20 years older than Mike. He grew up in the country, having adult responsibilities when he was quite young. We each had a vast storehouse of experience and knowledge the other didn’t. We shared. A lot.

When one of us asked the other, “Hey, check my edge?” it was about the value of another mind and heart, another set of life experiences, weighing in on a choice, a challenge.

… more … “Check Your Edge”