Friday, January 30, 2015

Writing, Again: Part IX - World Building with Language

In my post-writing phase, I intend to put up entries on all manner of topics related to (and maybe not) BSG, Lords of Kobol, etc.  Here's the first.

Language.  When you're writing a book, language is pretty damned important.  It's casts a tone over everything.  Word choice, dialogue choice, dialogue styles, ... it makes the world you're creating feel familiar or alien.  Whichever one you need.

For Lords of Kobol, I've tried to walk the line between familiar and alien.  Since the stories take place thousands of years before BSG, I have a wide degree of latitude when it comes to the world I've made and how the characters speak.  It needs to be familiar enough so that the reader is comfortable with it, but I want to inject things that make it feel foreign.

For example, in all of the books, I've managed to avoid having any character say, "OK."  That's actually harder than you might think.  If I had to guess, I'd say that some of the characters on the show said "OK" on occasion, but not in my books.  "OK" dates to the early 1800s when there was an "abbreviation fad" (holy crap, life must've been boring then).  There also appeared to be a "misspelling fad," because "OK" came to mean "oll korrect."  Apparently, "okeh" is a Choctaw word meaning "it is" and that came to be known at about the same time, so perhaps the two origins are intertwined.  Regardless ... I felt "OK" was too colloquial and decided not to use it.

Another one?  The word "luck" doesn't appear in the books.  Characters might say "good fortune," but they'll never say "good luck."  Why?  I don't know.  It's just another way for it to feel alien.

One of the biggest traps for writers, particularly those who dabble in scifi or ancient times, is the use of idioms.  You know what an idiom is, right?  It's a phrase that doesn't mean anything logically on its face, but we understand what's being said.  For example, "fine kettle of fish."

Because this is set on another planet thousands of years ago, in Book Five, I use a variety of idiomatic substitutions.  Here are a few:

  • "elephant in the room" = "tiger in our face"
  • "carrot and stick" = "hook and worm"
  • "icing on the cake" = "sauce on the steak"
  • "heart of the matter" = "middle of the 'choke" (short for "artichoke")

See?  Even if I didn't warn you about the new idioms, you probably would have figured them out easily enough.

Another means: tone of dialogue.  Think about historical films.  Let's choose a Roman epic, since that fits with Book Five.  Everyone has a British accent because, apparently, everyone spoke with British accents back in the day.  The rich patricians and the emperor will speak with a highly educated accent.  They'll enunciate all of their words.  They won't say certain things.  This conveys high class.  The plebians, the soldiers and other rabble will speak with a Cockney accent.  Something to convey low class.  That's the way these things work.

In Book Five, I do much the same thing.  The Caesar and his associates often speak in bigger words with a slightly more archaic tone.  The plebians in the story do not and they often employ contractions.  Zeus and his people speak like "we" do (modern Americans), with lots of contractions and an easy familiarity.  That's because this is the way they spoke in the previous books and also because we're supposed to be paying attention to them more intently anyway.  Lastly, the Messengers (BSG's angels) speak in a more "ethereal" manner.  Their word choices and tones are nearly biblical or Tolkienesque (just like all of Book Four).  This puts them at a distance from us; it makes them feel ancient, alien and out of reach.  (The narrative around the "tenders" also tends toward the Tolkieneque to aid with this feeling.)

That's all I've got for now.  Back to the reading and editing.  More posts to come in the near future.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing, Again: Part VIII - Setting the Scene

As I settle down for the reading/editing process, I thought maybe one or two of you might be intrigued to see where the "magic" happens (click to enlarge):

  1. Map of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol.  A portent of things to come.
  2. Snacks.  Dark chocolate M&Ms (brain food!) and water with a squirt of lemon juice.
  3. Reference books.  Classical Myth and Wheelock's Latin.
  4. Nook.  Loaded with the previous four Lords of Kobol books for quick reference.
  5. Notepad.  Loaded with ideas more than a couple of years old.
  6. Map in progress.  Basically a blank map of Larsa; I scribble in city and country names as I write.
  7. Post-Its.  The ones on the left are ideas that occur to me throughout the day and I slap them there so I can remember to incorporate them later.  The four or five on the right are lists of names, mostly.  All of the Olympians, Titans, in what order did Cronus eat Zeus' siblings ...
  8. I don't know what to call these.  They're things I mess with as I type or think.  There's a pasteboard cylinder with a lid that opens and closes.  The air resistance is nice.  A pair of Lego plates that I connect and disconnect in one hand.  One of them developed a crack a few weeks ago.  On the day I finished Book Five, it finally broke.  I don't know what that means.  I used to have an old glowstick that I gnawed on like a cigar but my wife took it away from me.
  9. Universal remote.  I use it to control my Blu-ray player which is always playing Bear McCreary's thirteen hours of Galactica-related music.
  10. More notes.  That drawer is filled with notepads and scraps of paper on which I jotted ideas.

Enough stalling.  Back to work for me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Consummatum est

Now for weeks of re-reading and editing.

Let's just hope it doesn't suck.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More to come ...

Just a few chapters to go ...

Once I finish the first draft, I'll begin the re-reading and the editing phase of everything.  Once I'm in that swing, I'll be in a better headspace to post on a regular basis.

And I have plenty of things lined up before Book Five's release.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing, Again: Part VII - Overcoming Stumpings

I'm still here.

For whatever reason, on Book Five, I find that I've written in spurts.  Mentally, I have the whole thing planned.  On the screen, I outline several chapters (I type the chapter heading, followed by a brief description of what happens).  Then I write those chapters.  This gets me from one "part" of the book to the next.  Once I've written one "part," I find myself stumped.  I'm not sure why.

The first stumping was profound and I took quite a break.  Subsequent stumpings have been far briefer.  I just came off one.  It was the wrap-up of one section of the book before a time jump and the big goings-on pre-holocaust.  After a few days of nothing, I sat down and banged out the final twenty-plus chapters (in outlines, of course) over the weekend.  Now I have the full structure of the book in front of me.  I just have to fill in the blanks.

One thing I am worried about, though, is the length.  My personal target for Book Five was 120,000 words.  That's how long Book Three is.  I figure if I can keep it under that, I'll be doing well.  I've got 87,000 words so far.  I don't think I can keep it under 120,000.  Of course, there will be editing later and maybe even some serious pruning, so who knows?

Does the length bother you?  Seriously, I want to know.  Hopefully, the book is interesting and entertaining enough so you don't notice it, but I'd like to see how many of you would be put off by having a 130K, 140K, or 150K word book to read.

Let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, here's a piece from the book I enjoyed writing.  I hope you'll enjoy reading it:

On the banks of the Tiber River, east of the city, the commanders of the artillery looked to the trees on the opposite side.  The Gargano Forest was an ancient sanctuary, but it was a tactical detriment today.

"Do it," Magister Sivius said.

Seconds later, after generals spoke into their radios, explosions rippled behind the tree line.  Flames clung to trunks and reached the leaves.  Smoke poured into the sky and the vast crackling was only overshadowed by the sounds of breaking wood.

The trees glowed and ebbed a sickly orange.  The winds were kind and kept the smoke away from the assembled army.  Flames dotted the forest and kept it alight.

Just before dawn, the first shot was fired.  A commander near a large machine gun emplacement slumped over, dead.  The men ducked and looked around. 

"In the forest!" a centurion yelled.

Sivius and his tribunes raised their telescanners and saw blackened and ashen trees, still glowing red.  Some were on fire.  In that hot forest moved Cyclops.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Lords of Kobol - Book Five" ... the First Five Chapters

I've reached the (planned) halfway point in writing and I decided to celebrate by posting the first five chapters of Book Five: Of Gods and Titans.  Click the JUMP to read on.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Writing, Again: Part VI - Mapping

You know me, I love to make maps.

If I have a world-spanning story, it helps.  Because of the politics and cultures involved, Book Five spans the world moreso than any other LoK book I've written.

If you have not yet read the Lords of Kobol trilogy, go do so now.  I cannot further discuss anything without spoiling everything.

Click here for the trilogy.

Readers of the trilogy, click on the JUMP for some details of the newest map.