Me — Where to Go After the First Draft?

As you may or may not know, I’m putting together my second short story anthology, which will be collected stories from three established universes as well as several standalone shorts. I’ve been bringing a few of these into my writer’s group, and depending on the story, I’m getting lots of varying types of feedback. What I mean by that is, I’ve heard everything from “this is perfect, don’t change a word” to “it’s a solid concept, but it needs a lot more polishing before it’s ready” (which is a nice way of saying it’s terrible).

When you’re getting lots of feedback that wildly contradicts one another, it can be difficult to know what you should think. It’s easy to agree with the person who loves it and simply move on to the next story, but it can also be soul-wrenching to hear that somebody doesn’t like the thing you’ve worked so hard putting together. It might even be enough to make you want to throw it in the garbage and start over completely.

And maybe that’s what the story needs, but I’m of the opinion that you should never destroy your work. Instead of deleting the file where you keep your first draft, if you must start over from scratch, why not simply make a new file titled “second draft”?

That being said, how are you supposed to know when a story needs to be rewritten completely, or if it simply needs some edits?

As with virtually any writing advice you receive, what comes next is going to be hearsay, so take it with a grain of salt.

In my experience, when I go to my writer’s group I will already know if a story needs to be rewritten from scratch, but it all depends on what I’m trying to do with that piece versus what it actually does.

For example, I wrote a short story in my Spear Gate universe that was essentially written for the atmosphere and the scene. I fell in love with the crazy weird locale the story was set in, so I wanted to make it about the locale. This meant thorough descriptions and a narrative style that matches the mood of the setting. But what ended up being written was a story about a mom with a robot butler worried about her son, and the mom happened to live in a weird place with odd descriptions. The difference is the focus of the story. Instead of writing about Neda and how anxious she was that the sun was setting and her son was supposed to be home by now, I should have written about the cold steel of the walkway she sat on, and the warm cup of coffee doing little to stave off the chilly breeze.

This is a flaw that edits would not fix. Or rather they could, but the wording would have been altered so drastically that it would become a ship of Theseus. If you have to change every sentence, is it really the same old story? In this case, it’s clearly better to simply rewrite it. So I did, and as you might imagine, I think it works much better than it did.

If, however, the story is accomplishing your basic goals, whether it is an interesting character, or a cool plot twist, etc., then more than likely the only thing you’ll need to change is how well the story accomplishes those goals. Maybe the plot twist could be better if it was more subtly foreshadowed, or the interesting character needs a longer interaction to really shine. In this case, you don’t have to tear the whole scaffolding apart, you just need to go back and reinforce what’s already there.

Now this is a huge topic, so I might discuss it more thoroughly later, but the main point here is that you’re the author, so you’re the deciding factor on what the story needs. Don’t let somebody tell you your story sucks if your character simply needs clearer motivations. But if they have good points and you agree that your character simply isn’t interesting enough to be the protagonist, maybe a rewrite is in order. Just think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your story and look at how critical the flaws are, and woven into the story those flaws happen to be.

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 4

More voice acting sample monologues with which to practice silly voices! I’m writing these for D&D, but you can use them however you’d like. If you’d like me to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

Previous posts can be found herehere, and here.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Optimistic Adventurer:
    I believe that an adventure should be more than killing a dragon and taking its treasure. The journey is more important than the destination, as they say. It isn’t the dragon the heroes defeat. It is the wonderful places they go, the friends they make, and the moments they share along the way. It’s the one-too-many pints of ale in the rundown tavern. The soft whistles of an undetected dart trap. The thankful smiles of the people helped along the way.

    I want to dance to every song I hear and tell a spooky story at every campfire I have. I know it won’t all be fun and games, but I think life can sometimes be most precious when it is at its most trying. I can tell that it isn’t my purpose to lie and wait for destiny to find me—I have to go and make my own, and even if I can’t solve every problem I’m faced with, I want happiness to follow in my wake as best as I am able, like sunflowers in the thick of spring.

    Life is what you make it, and I want mine to be like the ones told in fairy tales.

 

  • Surfer Bro, doesn’t have a care in the world:
    Well well well, if it isn’t my main man! What is up my dudes? How’s it going? I see you have a few tag-alongs this time around, that’s cool. It’s all chill, man. Listen, I know the last one I sold you wasn’t so hot, but I got a buddy of mine that says he’ll sell you a boat for eighty gold. This guy is the real deal, I swear. Matter of fact, he patched it up himself. Got a full mast and a working rudder and everything. And I know what you’re gonna say. You don’t want to pay that much money after the last time we talked, I get it, that’s chill. But hear me out. I like you guys, you really did me a solid by saving me from those thugs a few months back. So here’s the thing. I’ll front twenty gold to help you pay for it, and if it blows up, no big deal, that money is yours. If you like it, next time you’re in town you just pay me the rest of the dough and everything is solid. You guys game?

 

  • Ogre/Giant. Not too bright:
    Lookie here, Enk! We got a little peoples tryna sneak by! Says his name is… whadya say it was again? Nunya? Stupid peoples and their stupid names. What should we do wif em? I’m still kinda full from the last ones we ate. Maybe we could ask em to stay so we can eats em later? Whadya say little peoples? Do you wanna stay around so we can eat y—uh, I mean, we won’t eat you, oh hey. Where’d he go? …Enk, I lost the little peoples. I think the bugger ran off while you was distracting me. Shut up next time, okay? We almost tricked em!

 

Learning! — You, Me, and the Rule of Three

“The Rule of Three” is something that gets thrown around a lot in many fields. I’d say they’re especially prevalent in my fields of writing and theatre/improv, but it appears everywhere.

In fact, saying “the rule of three” is immediately misleading because there are so many rules of three. That’s simply because 3 is a magic, holy number. You have the Christian trinity, the 3 act structure, the 3 Musketeers, you name it.

To put it very briefly and very simply, 3 is the perfect number to establish a pattern or a group without overwhelming the audience of the message. It’s easy to describe the function of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but as soon as you add a fourth, it starts getting exponentially harder to remember which is which. It’s the same thing with the 3 Musketeers.

If you have 7 of something in a story, you can’t reasonably expect to teach the audience about each individual thing and expect them to hold interest. Their attention span will only last for about 3 or so.

The logician in me thinks its unfair that 3 gets so much praise for being the holy number. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, you see.

So this is to say that when you’re writing something, whether its a story, a piece of worldbuilding, or a plot, you know whatever—use the rule of three. Don’t put five characters in a story that works with three. Don’t put 2 try-fail cycles unless you have a good reason for doing so. When you write a passage using lots of repetition, communicate the idea thrice. (I was about to quote Marc Antony’s usage of the phrase “honourable men” in his famous monologue, but he actually states it 5 times, not 3. Damn Shakespeare and his 5’s!)

You get the idea. But this rule is a bit different in improv (and comedy writing in general). In fact, it’s a lot more specific than just “use the number of three because it’s a good psychological tool”.

When you’re writing a sketch, or performing in an improv scene, the first time you use a joke it’s funny for it’s own sake. When you later repeat this joke it becomes a callback—it’s funny because of the reference. But when you use this joke again, you can’t simply repeat it, because then it becomes repetitive in its own sake. You’re milking it. Instead, you find a way to turn the joke on its head and present it in a way the audience doesn’t expect. In The Three Stooges’ “Slowly I Turned” sketch, you see lots of uses of the rule of three. Funny enough, the actual punchline of the joke is used 4 times, but the last two times its used in a way that isn’t expected.

All this is to say, in conventional writing the number three is a good rule of thumb to know how many times to use a trope or with establishing rules/characters, and in comedy it’s a good way to get punchlines, but only if you subvert expectations on the last use.

 

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 3

I’m having a lot of fun writing these voice acting monologues, so I’m just gonna keep doing it! Previous two posts can be found here and here! As usual, I’m going to try to keep these gender neutral and vague so they can be practiced with a myriad of voices. Feel free to use these at your leisure, and if you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Naive youngster:
    I just don’t understand why people can be so mean sometimes. I know it’s not a big deal, and it wasn’t really any of my business, but today when I was walking down the Green Row I saw a bunch of kids bullying one of the shop owners. One of those small-time guys that barely has a stall of peaches to sell. He wasn’t bothering anyone, he was just trying to live his life and these kids come up and toss all his peaches into the street! I didn’t want to make any more of a scene, and those kids probably would have just beat me up if I stepped in, but I just can’t believe how cruel people can be. I mean it’s not like they got anything out of being mean, they just did it to ruin that guy’s day. Whatever. I’ll get over it. I’m going to go find a cat to pet.

 

  • Eloquent Elf:
    Greetings, friends. Welcome to the Embassy of Glass. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Feel free to make yourselves at home here, take a walk amongst the fauna, if you so wish. I might caution you away from any of the flowers that look too pleasant, though, these gardens cultivate a number of carnivorous plants, and it would be inconvenient to ruin any perfectly good specimens in order to rescue you. Also, if you please, be mindful of the stones you tread upon. These walkways were built from stones of the Feywild, and a number of them don’t take kindly to being stepped on if they aren’t acquainted with your feet.  Don’t worry too much, though, the more irritable ones are few and far between, and I’ve taken care to place them outside the typical areas of foot traffic. Enjoy your stay.

 

  • Amiable Barkeep:
    Hey, how goes it? It’s always a nice change of pace to see some new faces around here. Oh, wait a minute. You must be the adventurers from Wakefield I’ve heard about. Everyone’s been talking about you! I shouldn’t do this, but the first round will be on the house, okay? Don’t be shy, don’t be shy. Here, stay a while and let’s have a chat about the news from outside. There’s been talk about increased fey presence in the woods, you know. Apparently they’ve been getting aggressive and coming closer to settlements. Is that true? I’ve got a boy that works down at the mill just outside town, and I’ve been getting a bit worried, to be honest. Oh, there I go again, talking about me. Here, I’ll shut up… So, got any fun stories?

 

  • Dragonborn Oracle (enunciating the ‘s’ sound):
    You come to me seeking answers to your quest to attain peace? Your kind is so foolish. Always pretending you want peace but only starting new fires once you succeed in putting the old ones out. No, you will find no answers from me, humans. Like everyone else that shares your blood you seem to be lost in your delusions that I owe you something when you have only just set foot in my home unannounced. It is as though the world is built to accommodate you and to bend to your every whim. I have helped you one too many times, and you shall find no more assistance from me. In fact, you can—wait. What is that you wear on your arm? …it has been some time since I’ve seen those markings. The influence of the Grovewardens does not often reach this far south, but it is a pleasant sight to see. Fine. I will answer one question, but then you must leave, and quickly.

 

Bonus (This is a snippet from a short story I wrote):

  • Excited Fairy:
    Oh, right. Old Lady Picnic. Anyways, she sits down under the tree I’m in and takes out a little blanket from her basket. She unfolds it and lays it on the grass. It’s this cute pink and white quilt patterned with baby elephants and rabbits. Stars above it was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. She probably made it herself! I would never sit on something like that. A work of art like that should never be laid on the grass. But she put it there and started taking out food. Bananas, tiny sandwiches, potato salad, and a gorgeous apple cinnamon pie, and in that moment I knew that if that pie was half as good as it looked and smelled, I would die a happy fairy, wings earned or no. Have you ever felt like that? Where you’re so sure of something that hasn’t happened yet? What am I saying, of course you haven’t.

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 2

In my last post I mentioned how I have a hard time finding good pieces of dialogue to practice voice acting on—for fantasy character archetypes in particular. Well, I’m continuing the series, and I foresee even more of these posts in the future. Feel free to use at your leisure. If you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Grumpy Old Man:
    What are you lowlifes doing in my fields traipsing all over my petunias?! You’re going—oh. Don’t tell me. You’re adventurers, aren’t you. Always the adventurers that come around here bringing trouble with no regard for the working folk around them. You’re probably going to ask me about the Lost Cave of Cadavra. Only reason your type comes this way. It’s about a mile north of here, but you better make sure your affairs are in order if you mean to go that way. I send a group of travelers that way once every few months, and none of them have come back yet, so I can only imagine what horrible beasties are lurking in there. Now get out of here, and watch the petunias!

 

  • Demon Lord:
    Mortals of Aleor: behold my visage and tremble! For I, Thruz’kel, once again set foot on this realm. This time, no power of man or god can stop me—all shall lie broken beneath my feet. Even now my legions lay siege upon your cities like the surging tide of the sea. Bow before me, and I may yet spare your miserable lives. Resist, and you shall know suffering the likes of which have never been dreamed. The end is nigh. Embrace or resist: it is of little consequence to me. This realm will be as ash before the next moon rises.

 

  • Tiny Sidekick. Never been sure of anything in their life:
    Oh, dear. You’re, um… you’re going to go fight the demons? Oh, well, umm… okay. That’s very brave. Umm… Would you maybe… umm… no… Okay, yes. Would you, uh, maybe consider… umm… bringing me along? I know I’m not, uh… as strong, but… umm… it’s my home, too, and, and, umm… I want to help. Even though it’s really scary! I don’t know if I could… uh, fight demons all by myself, but… umm… with you and me together, they won’t stand a chance, right? Umm… I mean… if you want, to. I don’t want to… you know, umm… be too pushy… I won’t come if you don’t want me to, but, um, if you want me to, uh, we can beat them!

 

  • Merchant. Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer:
    Hey, how’s it going? Come to buy some masks for the festival tonight? I’ve got a variety of wares. Made them myself you know. Cotton, wood, resin, you name it. You folks look like the type to be looking for more exotic masks. Don’t deny it! I can see that look in your eye. Yeah, you, the tall one. I see one has caught your fancy. Oh! You must be eyeing the dragon mask. Rather perceptive I see. That one’s the best of the bunch! Took me a full week’s work to make it, you know. Those are real dragon horns affixed to a nice resin. I wanted to use real dragon scales, but it made the thing far too heavy. Now, I won’t lie to you, that one’s the most expensive of the batch, but I’ll make you folks a deal. If you tell people where you got that mask, I’ll give you a bargain of 500 gold pieces, what do you say?

 

Any character archetypes you’d like some samples for? Let me know and I’ll include them in the next post!

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 1

Any time I try to look up bits of dialogue to practice interesting voices on, I’m always disappointed because I invariably end up with ad copies (commercial scripts) or cheesy dialogue from anime 20 or more years old. So you know what? I’ll do it myself, internet. Thanks for nothing. Feel free to use at your leisure. Here are the first four, with more to come in the future.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Shady thief-type. Face is probably covered in shadows:
    “A little birdie told me you were headed for the Swindler’s Claw. Dangerous place if you don’t know the right folks. If you’ve got the coin I can take you there. I’ll introduce you to some colleagues of mine. Just don’t make the mistake thinking that anyone you meet around those parts is trustworthy. Half the town would shiv you as soon as look at you, the other half will just pickpocket you. The good news is, if you give me your coin now, you won’t have to worry about misplacing it when we get there.”

 

  • Lord of the Realm. A valiant hero everyone respects:
    “This is a daunting quest you speak of. As far as I’m aware, there have been none brave or foolish enough to venture into the Sundered Wastes in ten years. I’m afraid I must decline your request for a detachment of my guard to accompany you. For as noble a goal as this is, I simply do not have the disposable resources for such a task. I’m afraid you’ll have to go alone. Still, I would never hear the end of it if my son caught word that I left you empty handed after all you’ve done. Here, take my signet ring. It bears the emblem of House Raidell, and can serve to protect you in times of dire need. I bid you a safe journey and a speedy return.”

 

  • Sword-master who’s getting too old for this:
    “There is no weapon made by man or elf that can harm the likes of Thaleus. His control over the darkness has grown too absolute. the only way to stop him is to shatter the crystal atop his staff. That crystal is the true source of his power, but it is also his greatest weakness. If you’re clever, you can find a way to separate him from his power. Without that crystal he is no more powerful than any typical conjurer. Now go! Time is of the essence, my friends. Thaleus grows more powerful with each passing minute. And remember—take the staff, then break the crystal. Only then can you defeat him.”

 

  • Evil Wizard. Might be nasally, but could instead be quite sinister:
    “It’s a shame you’ve come so far in your quest only to be defeated at the hands of mere pawns! Who do you fools think you are, anyway? That minotaur skeleton was hard to find, you know. He was my favorite, and for that you’ll pay dearly! Come to think of it, I do seem to be short a few undead servants now. How would you like to join the ranks of my minions? It won’t be so bad. You’ll never have to eat, sleep, or contemplate your meaningless existence ever again! Oh, what am I saying, you don’t have a choice! Now, hold still and I’ll only make this hurt to a moderate degree.”

 

Future dialogues to come! If you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

  • Grumpy Old Man:
  • Demon Lord:
  • Tiny Sidekick. Never been sure of anything in their life:
  • Smallfolk. Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer:

 

Me — Committing to Writing

I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. Not trying to brag, as I don’t think that it’s even all that impressive, but at this point it’s nearing half my life. I’ve written loads of things, listened to podcasts on how to write, read books and blogs on how to write, and I’ve been attending a writer’s group for roughly three years as well. Throughout a lot of my journey, one specific post stands out: Jim Butcher’s last Livejournal post about writing.

I’d recommend reading the whole post, there’s a lot of gold in there, but out of everything, these words have been in the back of my head for years.

In fact, the vast majority of aspiring authors (somewhere over 99 percent) self-terminate their dream. They quit. Think about this for a minute, because it’s important:

THEY KILL THEIR OWN DREAM.

And a lot of you who read this are going to do it too. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s just human nature. It takes a lot of motivation to make yourself keep going when it feels like no one wants to read your stuff, no one will ever want to read your stuff, and you’ve wasted your time creating all this stuff. That feeling of hopelessness is part of the process. Practically everyone gets it at one time or another. Most can’t handle it.

But here’s the secret:

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD WHO CAN KILL YOUR DREAM. *NO ONE* can make you quit. *NO ONE* can take your dream away.

And for me, 2018 was pretty much the year of failure for me. I started a very ambitious project—12 Lisa Stenton novellas, one a month, with the intent of publishing them as one book around this time. Well, I wrote one good one, one bad one, and got halfway through the third before I ran into that roadblock the Lisa Stenton universe still has. (The huge question of “How does the supernatural work really?“)

A few months after that I stopped writing short stories altogether. I did a few neat things, but I’ll leave it at that. As you probably know I even stopped writing the blog for the last months of the year. The only writing I was doing at that time was short scenes of plays for school.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently, with Jim Butcher’s words rattling my brain. Am I doubting myself because it’s natural for a writer or because writing isn’t my path? I genuinely don’t know. I think, as a creative person, I have some good ideas.

But I have never enjoyed sitting down and writing. It’s always a chore. A chore I can feel accomplished for doing when I’m done, but it’s more of a necessity out of needing to put the ideas in my head onto paper than a love for the craft.

That said, what I do love is those ideas. I never get tired of playing around in a world and coming up with cool ideas, whether it’s the infinite, soundless tunnel of the Passway or the enormous interplanetary structure of the Spear Gate system. I love squishing inklings of ideas and molding them into sculptures of “Whoa, that’s cool”. I recently joined a collaborative project with some friends that have a lot of that, and after every meeting I’m left driving home with a stupid grin on my face because of all the cool new pictures and scenes that are now floating in my head.

I have never enjoyed the act of writing. It’s very difficult for me to envision myself as an author a decade from now. But a developmental editor, or somebody who does the story writing for a game or some such… Well, I don’t know what that job would entail, but I think I could sit in meetings doing brainstorming for 8 hours a day.