Hi, Greg, hope all is going well. I've been diving into your novels, starting with Keeper and literally just finished with A Fistful of Rain. I've read you talk about Atticus' return, but I was wondering if you intend to put out some more Mim Bracca novels. I know she was in Stumptown's second arc, but I'd like to see more stories with her.
I’ve had a plan for a second Mim novel since I finished the first. It’s a question of time more than anything else, but yes, I’d like to get back to her and her story. She’s got at least one more to share.
Hey Greg. I was wondering how you plan scenes out? for instance, I usually know the opening scene in my story but possibly not the second or third, but I know what I want to try achieve (introduce characters, plot etc). So usually I write brief 1-2 sentences about what I want to happen in scenes, with no idea for dialogue (maybe I'll have one or two sentences the odd time), then I make it all work. How do you approach them?
Interesting that these questions came back-to-back. I don’t think my process is that dissimilar to what you’re describing. When I do breakdowns for my stories, I tend to note the purpose of each scene, just to keep the scene focused.
For me, that first scene is the murderous one, honestly; getting that right will — for me — reveal the necessity of the one to follow, and the one after that, and ever onward towards the conclusion. Sometimes I’ll have a scene I want in mind, a resolution, say the end of the story, or something as simple as an action and characters in a place, and I’ll be writing towards that. But scenes follow out of necessity, even if they may not appear immediately necessary to the audience. Otherwise, it’s just fat and it’s got to go.
Mind, this is what works for me. YMMV, as they say.
I've got a question about your novel writing process: How do you approach individual scenes? Do you know where it is going to end up before you put pen to paper? Do you use the Mamet formula of Character wants X, makes efforts to get X and is thwarted? Or do you just throw characters together and watch what happens?
That Mamet approach you describe is the root of all structured storytelling. Much as I admire the man’s writing (if not the man himself), he didn’t invent it. Drama requires conflict — emotional, mental, physical, any of these things work, and the best dramas are those where all those elements are working at once. A variant: one of the best writers I’ve ever known was a woman I went to grad school with, and she was fond of quoting one of her mentors who would say that every line should be doing, at minimum, one of three things — forwarding theme, forwarding plot, or forwarding character, and ideally, it’s doing all three things at once.
Which is all well and good and possibly quite true, but can also be pretentious bullshit if you stare at it too long.
When I’m working long form — and I consider novels to be long form, obviously, as opposed to say a short story or a single issue story — I have learned, through trial and error, that I need to have some sort of outline. I call it an outline, but it’s really not — it’s probably far closer to what would be called a ‘treatment’ in Hollywood. It’s essentially a document that I use to tell myself a version of the story (eg, This happens, so this happens, so this happens, so this happens, so this happens, but this happens, then this happens…unto the end, and you can see right there that any difference between Character wants X, makes efforts to get X and is thwarted are purely cosmetic).
These can be very in-depth and detailed documents for my purposes. I once wrote one that was 30K words for a 90K word novel; essentially, I just had to go back in an add the missing dialogue.
Now, the REASON I do this is because if I don’t I get horribly, horribly lost. There are some brilliant writers out there who can just throw characters together and watch what happens, as you put it, and create magic. I’m not one of them. I do that, I end up with 30K words that I end up having to scrap and start again. I get lost.
BUT — and this is a crucial, vital, I cannot emphasize this enough but — I rarely follow my outline. Speaking only for myself, I’ve found that the outline gives me the freedom to diverge where and when it suits me — when I see something I missed, or a new take or a new idea. Knowing where I wanted to go keeps me from getting lost, but it allows me to detour.
CRITICAL SPACE was pretty tightly outlined. And half-way through the book — when two of the characters were “thrown together” — it blew up in my face. It felt like the book went on strike; seriously, it’s like all of the characters got together, had a vote, and just put down their tools and walked out in protest of where I was taking them. It forced me to rethink the back-half of the book, and honestly, I ended up with a much, much better novel as a result. My map had brought me to this place where the characters showed me the real story, if that makes sense.
Now, all this longwinded response aside, specific to your question about scenes: know what the scene must accomplish. Preferably, know what several things the scene must accomplish. Enter late, leave early, as they say — get in and get out. The purpose of the scene needn’t be clear to the reader at that point, but it MUST be clear to you; otherwise you end up with saggy, boring, meandering scenes.
A few years ago I moved back to Cambridge: when I saw this shed in the garden of one of the houses I was viewing, I put an offer in on the spot. Like most writers, I’ve had to work in all sorts of inappropriate spaces, and, like most writers, always craved the perfect place to work.
“The Pro-Money Court: How the Roberts Supreme Court Dismantled Campaign Finance Law → The Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is expected any day now and the Brennan Center Center for Justice has published a detailed backgrounder explaining how this decision will fit into a string of campaign finance decisions that allow moneyed interests to eclipse those of average American voters. In McCutcheon v. FEC, aggregate contribution limits — the total amount that one contributor can give in a federal election to all candidates, political parties and PACs, combined – are at risk. David Earley and Avram Billig write, “McCutcheon threatens to exponentially worsen the political spending arms race — and to create risks of government corruption unlike anything the country has seen since the Gilded Age.””—On the Money: A New Gilded Age | Blog, Money & Politics | BillMoyers.com
An app called Audio Aware lets the hard of hearing and the distracted know when danger approaches.
By Rachel Metz on February 26, 2014
As our devices become more engaging, the risks of being distracted increase.
A startup is developing machine-learning technology that mimics the way the ear works, which it believes will make it easier for smartphones and wearable devices to constantly listen for sounds of danger.
One Llama will show some of its capabilities in an app called Audio Aware, which is meant to alert hard-of-hearing smartphone users and “distracted walkers” (an issue previously explored in “Safe Texting While Walking? Soon There May be an App for That”). The app, planned for release in March, will run in the background on an Android smartphone, detecting sounds like screeching tires and wailing sirens and alerting you to them by interrupting the music you’re listening to, for instance. The app will arrive with knowledge of a number of perilous sounds, and users will be able to add their own sounds to the app and share them with other people.
Fifteen year old Ann Makosinski was inspired when she was told that humans are “like walking 100-Watt bulbs.” She decided to harness that bulb in a human-powered flashlight. By combining peltier tiles, a hollow aluminum tube, and a light-emitting diode (LED), the 10th grader was able to create a working flashlight powered by body heat. She got 2nd place in a science fair back home and then went on to win the 2013 Google Science Fair with her invention.