Uncle Josh Builds his World

I wanted to write about this on the third, but other things were pressing on my mind when I wrote this. After re-reading my first three posts, it almost sounds like I’m exclusively using one source for “how to write a book” which isn’t the case. Bell’s books are very good, but the great bulk of my world building and basic story was done going through Mark Teppo’s Jump Start Your Novel. It was very helpful to get the parts of my novel sorted out that I normally wouldn’t develop all that well and then peter out mid-way through.

The most important example of this is my antagonist. It’s not a person, it’s a “raw creative force of the world” which was harder to wrap my head around until I forced myself to write out the exercises in Teppo’s book. Now I understand the power structure of the book and how every major character plays into that structure. This has given me a ground work to half-pants the work. I know where I’m going most of the time and I have a built-up sense of everything but so far nothing has constrained me into a plot hole or an impossible situation.

There is still space for that, I will admit. It is possible that in the scenes between my big signpost scenes I’ll find myself sticking thing into plot points from which there is no escape.

Today’s actual writing session was not at 6 AM. I set my alarm for 7 and had a breakfast, then I came home and worked out and then we went to see Thor: Ragnarok and then I sat down to write, unsure about myself and not sure which scene to work on so I did the follow up to Thursday’s work which pushes things past the disturbance and towards the First Door of No Return. I was a little afraid of it and I found myself back in my old writing habits in that I have about 13 pages of pure dialog sitting here now. According to the NaNoWriMo wordcount I did 1,900 words  in that hour. I’m a little shocked that I did that much.

Uncle Josh Builds his World was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

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Uncle Josh Ends the Novella

This morning’s writing session was the end of Bell’s triangle of the story. I wrote the core “what is the character’s main question” bit on the first, then wrote the lead in to that, the “hell no I won’t change” bit, and this morning the resolution, which is pretty much the end of the story. In the first five minutes I realized that I wasn’t quite emotionally prepared to write the ending. I stuttered a bit but pressed on and accepted that it will probably need to be re-written, but then again, practically every thing I write is potentially re-writable by the end of all things. No worries. So I wrote and ended up 25 words shy of the daily goal in an hour.

Another thing that bothered me about writing the ending was there’s a bit of an emotional punch there, and my narrative character and her best friends participate in a ritual among themselves I called “Crying Night” and there were tears of joy and not joy and the catharsis of watching tearjerkers. I wrote it and thought “this is potentially horribly sexist.” I already ask my beta readers to tell me with brutal honesty when my writing goes sexist. I will admit to blind spots in my life.

So now I’ve written the emotional triangle and I need to start filling in the rest of the story. I’m not sure I’m up to write the opening yet. It hasn’t changed from how I first imagined the hook when I first came up with this story, but I’m not ready. I’ll probably work on some of the other top-tier scenes from Bell’s outline.

But not at six in the morning. I plan on taking the weekends off of the 6 AM writing call and write in the afternoon.

Uncle Josh Ends the Novella was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Begins in the Middle

One thing that stops me, or at least slows me down, is getting the opening right. I had a horrible habit of writing the opening scene and not liking it or not having enough to keep going so I’d write it again and try to get that killer first line that would somehow make the rest of the novel just flow and the plot work like Lily Hevesh in her studio.

So my plan this NaNo was to not write my opening scene. I know what happens. I know where it takes place and I know the key phrases that need to be said, but I’m not writing this novella that way. I am taking the path of James Scott Bell’s Write your Novel from the Middle and I spent day one writing that middle scene, the midpoint Bell describes in his book. I figure when I get to writing the opening scene, I’ll be ready to write it and I won’t second guess myself every sentence.

This morning I worked on the bit Bell calls the Argument Against Change, which sets up the protagonist’s inner transformation.

So tomorrow, by that logic, I should write the transformation, which is pretty much the end of the story. Thankfully I know what happens there as well. It’s really an epilogue sort of thing and that will be nice to write if I choose do write that in the morning.

I’ve also been using Bell’s companion book Super Structure where he fleshes out the ideas from the first book.

So as of today I’m over 4K, which the NaNoWriMo site tells me at this pace I’ll finish by November 25. I’ve seen that before. Life will happen. OryCon will happen. Changes at work will happen.

But for now I am writing again and that’s what I need to do.

Uncle Josh Begins in the Middle was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Writes Again (NaNoWriMo 2017)

I’ve had this idea bouncing around for probably the better part of a year, so the exact source of inspiration is lost to memory, but I’m sure I have the note in some app or file somewhere. I had been thinking about wizards and apprentices and how the progression of knowledge got passed down in some stories. The Sith “Rule of Two” seems to have been the rule. The idea I had turned that around. I had an apprentice who needed to find the wizard, because reasons. I’ve since managed to come up with reasons and call it a back story.

I have not been writing a lot and haven’t submitted a story for a couple of years. I got tired of rejection. I took a break. I played around with a few ideas but nothing has really gelled so this is all about butt-in-chair and getting my fingers moving in manuscript format instead of Python. I purchased a second-hand mechanical keyboard and moved the keys around and it kind of works well except I need a tall wrist pad because my arms got very tired in my first hour-long writing session this morning.

I also tried writing on the train to church and experimented with a qwerty layout and two thumbs and that lasted about five seconds before I got frustrated and went back to my left-handed dvorak layout on my phone. I managed a pretty good clip of about 1,000 words an hour which is what I used to do regularly, so I was satisfied with that. I also managed to salvage the obvious typos. “Yadda yadda yadda” turned into “baccalaureate baccalaureate bocce” for some strange reason that only Google understands.

I did feel good about writing, though. I have a loose outline and a few signposts. It’s looking to be a good NaNo year.

Uncle Josh Writes Again (NaNoWriMo 2017) was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Thinks About Men

A tweet that crossed my feed a couple of days ago (and is now lost so attribution is a mystery) that asked (in paraphrase):

Do men ever look around and ask “what’s wrong with men?”

My answer is this: No.

Naturally, this is a highly personal answer, and I don’t dare speak for all men, but I suspect in the case of the Straight White WASP-ish Male, I share some common habits with my demographic. Being a representative of the Dominant Culture where I live, not only do I have the ability to think to myself (and say out loud) that I treat everyone as an individual, I have the cultural freedom to be a prick and think this is actually true.

In fact, when I am dealing with other men, I do categorize them into one of three groups: Idiots, Assholes, and Heroes.

Idiots

These are the easiest to spot and this is the easiest bucket to fill. It doesn’t take very long in conversation or just listening to a dude to determine that they are an idiot. When a guy says oil is never running out, he’s an idiot. When he says tax-cuts for the wealthy creates jobs, he’s an idiot. The problem with idiots is you have to give each bit of useless misguided noise they present a chance, because it is possible that the idiot may know something about the subject.

Assholes

This second bucket is a little harder to fill because usually they spend time in the idiot bucket first, and it takes some prolonged exposure to determine that the idiot is really an asshole. Of course, some people land there immediately. Racists, sexists, homophobes, white nationalists, and others who take stands that require other people to suffer, are assholes. Assholes are easily dismissed without worry of the ad hominem fallacy rearing it’s head. I don’t listen to these people because they’re assholes, not because I think they’re wrong about a subject. They may be right, but I don’t have to listen to an asshole. In the same vein, as a capitalist I don’t see movies starring Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson. I don’t criticize their acting, I just refuse to give them my money.

Heroes

This is not the bucket for supermen and there is no sense of worship involved in this bucket. Heroes, in this context, are people who have attributes I can admire and emulate. My friend Rob is a kind man, and his kindness defines him in a way that I wish I could be more like Rob. My co-worker John can understand the vast wodges of idiocy I encounter at work and the overly complicated systemic idiocy that big companies collect like dust bunnies. My father-in-law has incredible self-control (unless he’s being snarky), and my own father was able to talk to anyone without fear.

When I described this to Stephanie, she thought there would be a bucked for Bros, and I suppose extroverted men may have that bucket, but Bro to me is not a relationship but an attitude and most Bros I meet end up in the Asshole bucket.

So what about women? How do I think about women? When I look at women as a whole do I ever think “what’s wrong with them?”. No. I tend to place them into the same three categories. There are women in my life who are idiots, assholes, and heroes.

I am sure that anyone who really knows me will read this and call me on bullshit. I hope they do. I’d hate to be living a lie.

Uncle Josh Thinks About Men was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Tackles Blade Runner 2049

To prepare for the new movie I did not manage to re-watch any version of Blade Runner but instead re-read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time anyway. I walked away from the movie in a definite love-hate relationship with the movie. It is a movie for the hard-core Blade Runner fan and the disciples of film as an art form. It should be needless to quote River Song here…

–cut

Memories of Blade Runner

I remember the basics: Deckard sent out against his will to retire a group of Nexus-6 replicants. He tests Rachel and has a strange non-love story with her. He hunts and kills and finally meets his match with Roy Baty who dies after a hell of a fight and a great speech. The movie’s theme for was empathy is the key to being human, and Deckard is a human with so little empathy and the replicants seem to have a lot more, but it’s all faked. Of course there are the visuals, the crowded always dark nearly always raining city and the cluttered combinations of food carts and ad-hoc labs and omni-present advertising.

Memories of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

My long term memories from first reading the book decades ago was challenging the idea that Deckard was a human, or could be a replicant himself. The re-read made me realize that this was not what the book was about. The switcheroo with the fake replicant cops was a smokescreen that barely lasted a chapter. The replicants are evil in their callousness. They cut off the legs of a spider because they are certain it could get by with only four legs, and when it doesn’t move they set it on fire to prove their point. It is cruel and uncaring. The book emphasizes this as a theme over and over again.

Blade Runner 2049

As soon as the music started I knew I was back in the world of Blade Runner. Seeing the devastation of California in the opening shots let us know exactly how bad things were, even worse than in the first movie. The bounty hunter and the prey. This is how it works. The reveal in that first fight that K is a replicant was a little disappointing. It made it harder to care about the character. It made me think that we need to get to Deckard sooner, because it’s nice to have a human to root for.

The memories of childhood introduced the idea that K is actually a human, somehow and for some reason convinced he his a replicant. This was great. The best part of the PK Dick stories is questioning basic foundational realities. That gave me some investment with the character. Because K begins to question who he is, I begin to spin out the possibilities and predictions and watch them play out.

The other great question was the mixup in the genetic profile of the missing child. This played out well. I was surprised that it turned out to be Dr. Stelline. I didn’t catch her tears at the memory as recognition, but basic human empathy. So that’s on me.

I even liked the effects of the gratuitous sex scene, but it was still a gratuitous sex scene. The idea that a holographic home companion would fake that much emotion to a replicant didn’t feed into the central question of the first movie as much as seem, well, odd. I can buy the replicant living in a grotty little apartment in an ugly neighborhood instead of living in a closet. I can buy that part of emulating a human is to have a human need for companion. One of the ideas in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is presented by JR Isadore who decides that it’s good to have neighbors and people around because it helps keep us human. Even once he realizes his new neighbors are replicants and he could get a major reward for turning them in, he desires their company more than the money. K even has a “gift” for the JOI he owns. It’s a strange relationship for a tool to want a humanish tool.

What did shock me about watching the film is how impatient I’ve become as an audience member. When K realizes he’s in the set of his memory and he looks to confirm the wooden horse is still there, the descent down the stairs took too long. I was impatient because I knew where he was going and what he was going to find ind would have been surprising if he hadn’t. I felt there were a lot of scenes that just took too long. It fit visually with the first movie as I remember it, but in several scenes I realized I was thinking “get on with it.”

The idea of the replicant army seemed plugged in to set up a sequel, if this movie gets one.

Finally, Wallace seemed a strange uber-villain to the whole thing. He didn’t have a clear goal. Yeah, he wanted to improve his product, but to what end?

I will probably re-watch it down the road, back to back with the first movie, and come away with a different reaction.

Uncle Josh Tackles Blade Runner 2049 was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover

A student had built a small rover and packed in its brain an algorithm for finding sunny spots so it could move into them and keep itself charged through the solar panels on its shell.

The student set the rover on the ground in the lab and aimed it away from a sunbeam that highlighted the floor, hoping it would rotate itself and move into the sunbeam. The student beamed in satisfaction that the algorithm was working, in a way.

On the other side of the lab one of the clumsier students bumped a table, which caused a sheet of paper to land on the floor in front of the rover. The algorithm was not based on heat sensors but differences in brightness, so the the rover charged toward the paper, which to the rover appeared bright against the darker gray tiles of the lab floor.

The clumsy student, still trying to correct their lack of balance, crushed the rover with a falling boot.

The lab instructor, observing all this, told the student “your zeal shouldn’t override caution; use the testing room instead of a busy lab.”

Adapted from The Thirsty Pigeon

Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much