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Oh, Hey, I Wrote Another Book

June 23, 2011 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, STUFF BLOWING UP IN SPACE  2 Comments

I have a specific, honed, editing process. When I finish a novel, I put that sucker aside and do something else for a few weeks.

Apparently, doing something else turned into write another book.

As my 37.3 readers (Google tells me I had more readers via my RSS feed than previously thought) know, I had these various characters, setting and a ton of world building love for a Space Opera novel I was calling Stuff Blowing Up in Space.

After I finished The Lightning Giver, a plot for SBUIS hit me like an exploding nova.

The plot was all I needed, and I completed the first draft last night. DONE.

People, I am officially OUT OF CONTROL. The novel needs a round of edits, but it’s far, far from me just barfing words out on the page. It’s wonderful Space Opera plot with mysterious and sexy aliens, hunky men, and, of course, stuff blowing up in space. Some cuts, some edits, some polishing and that sucker is ready for some query love.

I’ve titled the book The First Casualty of War and it stands alone but also works as the first book in a trilogy. Now I turn back to editing The Lightning Giver while recharging my creative batteries by reading a bunch of books sitting in my queue.

Below you will find the first draft of a query. It needs work, but I was somewhat surprised I could pull a draft query of a Space Opera book in 249 words.

Bad Day for a Shish Princess

Fleet Commodore Philip Connery thought nothing of giving a sish Huntress a ride to the ass-end of nowhere even knowing the mono-gendered sish used sexual attraction to feed on the blood of both enemy and friends. If the odd crewmember arrived paler than normal for his or hers shift, well, that was the price of doing business with the beautiful sish. The sish saved their humans allies in the last war. A ride was the least he could do.

The impromptu mission was going well until they encountered pirates deep in the sish core.

Sent by the Commodore to obtain reinforcements, Captain James Tilbrook was at the end of his options when the surprisingly young and beautiful sish Space Marshal of Aoe Station refused to believe his story.

So he shot her and tossed her into his ship. Now the entirety of Aoe’s forces is out for his blood. Literally.

Sish Princess Leiesha was feeling lonely and resenting her cruel mother, the Queen, when crazy Fleet humans shot and kidnapped her simply because she didn’t believe their stupid story about pirates. Humiliated and trapped on a Fleet warship with empathic humans, Leiesha realizes that far from committing a heinous crime, the humans have saved her life. Someone had poisoned her!

The Commodore, Huntress, Captain and Princess grapple with these random events, but eventually realize they aren’t random at all. Galactic war looms on event horizon and they must come together or perish separately.

Interested?

Ideas and the Creative Process of the Hack Writer

August 20, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  2 Comments

Someone asks in a recent blog post:

If you write, where do your ideas come from? Do you start with a scene? A character? A premise? Or do you have some ridiculous trigger that demands you spin a story out of it?

That is a good question. A novel thrusts itself into my poor overloaded mind based on two things: a character, and a theme.

This is the heart of my creative process. I need both a main character with a distinctive voice, and I need a unifying idea. When the two meet, it’s magic. My brain will refuse to let go of the two, and, at some point, they merge and I will have the resulting plot and setting. I am now compelled to write the story.

But where do these characters and themes come from?

Mainly, I observe. I am not a shy man, but I am a quiet fixture. Why does that smartly dressed woman at the airport waiting for the same flight as me have a perpetual frown? Why are the neighbors across the street so reclusive? Is the wife sick? If so, will she ever get better? The Sheriff Deputy in the coffee shop–if she were in trouble, big trouble, would she have the will and fortitude, beyond her training, to survive? If she did have this internal strength, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time, would anybody come to help?

Observation can give me characters, and it can give me themes.

For example, why does our society have a culture of blame-the-victim, bordering on the tolerance for the criminal? Where did this corruption come from, and where will it lead? Why do some cultures today feed off each other, becoming stronger, while others clash, causing conflict? Is a society that devalues the lives of children for the sake of control and equality doomed to failure? If so, how will it fail?

Sometimes, I will be thinking these questions and suddenly they will merge into a story. Like this proto-outline:

The Sheriff Deputy in the coffee shop is in trouble. She is a strong person but in the wrong place at the wrong time. She is a righteous woman, but righteousness is not going to save her now (this is the character, maybe the main character, or an important minor one).

Career criminals, released by our society to prey upon the weak once more without mercy, decided they were going to kill a copy one day. Our society tolerates evil men such as this. It has happened before (in the real world), and it will happen again (sadly, this is also a reality). Where did this corruption come from, and where will it lead? (this is a theme).

The righteous and the evil go at it in the coffee shop parking lot. Outgunned and outmaneuvered, the death of the female deputy is a forgone conclusion. How would she get out of this?

She gets help. A woman caught in the crossfire draws her sidearm and joins the gun battle (this is the glimmering of a plot and also a very strong character).

Why did this woman have gun? Well, she has the typical ex-husband who has threatened to kill her. She decided she wasn’t going to use a paper shield and actually defend herself (this is related to the theme, but also further characterization).

Only, she isn’t defending herself. She is defending someone sworn to defend her! She is shot. Several times. Nevertheless, everyone lives, except the evil men.

And this heroic action caused the next American Civil War (this is now the plot).

That’s my writing process. For me, only when I have a firm character, or characters, and a unified idea to generate conflict as a theme, can I get a plot that works for me. At this point, I have a novel. All that is left is my outlining process (which I do in my head) and typing.

You may think a gun battle in a coffee shop parking lot and the next American Civil War is a gigantic, random leap–but it’s not. The theme, as you recall, is “Where did this corruption (tolerance for evil) come from, and where will it lead?” With these characters and this theme, the plot burst out of me like the alien from the chest of poor Kane on the Nostromo.

This is my creative process, how I obtain ideas and turn them into novels. And it works very well for me.

Ramblings on the Bad Man

December 22, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, The Craft  2 Comments

In The Baby Dancers, the current work in progress, there is a crucial battle scene where our heroes (Zeke and Josh), do battle with the forces of… what exactly?

To be honest, I do not know. Certainly I know all the motivations, and I have a clear ending for a the book. Indeed, unless I have the last chapter outlined in my head, I do not start working on a novel.  I learned that one the hard way with Unfinished Book.

There are the protagonists, stuck in a bad situation, and all that remains is the journey to the end of the quest.

All in a good, fun story, of course. With no preaching!

There is nothing like a good old story about good vs. evil, but is that interesting in today’s world of complexity? Do young adult fantasy readers want more?

There is a price to be paid for wantonly attacking a group of martial artist who have sequestered themselves in the northern mountains of Idaho. They isolated themselves for a reason. They are the best of the best, and should be left alone. When all is done and the battlefield is covered in blood,  the antagonist is clearly the bad guy. But is he evil?

His actions are evil, from the point of view of the protagonists, just as the Indian’s actions in The Searchers were evil to Ethan Edwards. The novel The Searchers was an extraordinary book, and the film even more so.

I wonder why I can’t remember any teen novels with the complexity of The Searchers. Do publishers feel that the subject matter is too complex? Is it? I do not think so. No, to this day I remember being fascinated by the story that held no clear winner.

The Searchers anchors  around the theme of the family and personal honor, a point often overlooked. This theme runs through The Baby Dancers, but I believe I have found a certain clarity. The protagonist, Zeke, has a moral code and a divine directive. He will suffer no man’s evil. But, Zeke is a thinking young man.

When the antagonist is gray, when evil comes in bits and pieces and not wrapped in bow that is easily identifiable, the stakes are high. Once could say they can go no higher from our protagonist. For, like Ethan, when faced with the quest, the power he wields puts him on the razor’s edge. To fall the wrong way in the quest is to become the bad man.

The sword has but one purpose.

I’m not going to preach to my readers, Lord knows I have several writing friends who will kick my ass if I do.

But I am not going to make it easy. Sometimes the journey is not the the reward. Sometimes, the journey is a long, terrible path, fraught with peril and a stain on the mortal soul.

Be careful what you wish for

October 18, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, The Craft  2 Comments

Based on feedback I have been thinking of ways to interweave my subplots to make them more integrated. One subplot I want to resolve at the end of the book for a satisfying conclusion. I have a clear roadmap on how to do that.

The other I want to carry over to the next book. This one disturbs me mightily, for I came up with a way to do it that is particularly heart wrenching. I had written before about a scene that was brutal. This chapter received accolades by my beta readers, including someone with experience with the plot details in question. My story telling instincts served me well.

Last night I came up with a way to tie this remaining subplot in but it is spectacularly harsh. The story is demanding that I go this way, indeed, it would make the book even harder to put down because it carries a lot of momentum with it.

I am not sure I can do it. It is too much. It is too sad.

I am setting aside the entire decision for a day. We will see how I feel tomorrow.