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[personal profile] ceciliatan


I’m at the RWA national conference in Orlando right now, where there’s always something more to think about, learn, or analyze about writing or romance publishing. In particular one writing craft panel I wanted to highlight was yesterday I attended a great panel workshop given by four New York Times bestselling authors: Lexi Blake, Cynthia Eden, Laura Kaye, and Rebecca Zanetti. The topic was on creating a large cast of characters to carry a series and the room was packed.

The discussion ranged over various details from the nuts and bolts of creating a series “bible” to keep all the details right from book to book (character eye color, favorite catch phrases, back stories, each character’s hidden secret or flaw, etc) to developing secondary characters into primary ones when “their turn for a book” comes.

I didn’t transcribe the entire panel since I was trying to focus on absorbing things relevant to me, but two questions in particular I got down almost every word, and I’m posting to share it with everyone.

Laura Kaye acted as moderator, asking the leading questions for the panel and then finishing off giving her own answer.

First she asked the panelists to describe the pros and cons of working with large casts.

Cynthia Eden: We’ve all heard the expression that no man or woman is an island? Characters don’t exist in isolation. You’re never just writing about one individual. You are by circumstance always writing about a cast of characters. You give them an instant background with their family and friends. With my romantic suspense novels I like to use teams. I write FBI teams. You’re going to need a lead investigator, a profiler, an ME, etc. You’re going to need all these people. So that’s a major pro. And any cast leads to sequels. That’s the biggest pro because it has your reader eager to go on to the next book.

Lexi Blake: Pro of a large cast? It’s fun! I like to write a lot of dialogue and you get a lot of dialogue when you have a big ol’ cast of characters. The con is… I guess there isn’t one. Well, maybe it’s that you have to make each character unique. That can be a challenge. (But that’s fun, too.)

Rebecca Zanetti: A large cast is great to show characterization. You act differently with different people. I have one sister I tease like crazy and one that I can’t. You can show different facets of a character and that’s one I like a lot. Also the slow burn character, I love. That person who shows up in book one and they build up for a long time before they get their story. You can develop them over a series. The con is you sometimes get too many people on a page. Even if you’re on book 4 or 5 of a series, you hope new readers are picking them up. You don’t want to confuse that new reader with too many new characters all at once.

Lexi: Well, and as you write the books they get longer because you keep having to put everyone’s favorite characters in there. Then you have to do the backyard BBQ scene to get them all in!

Laura Kaye: I agree, on the backyard BBQ. The thing that is great about having all these characters is you have the built in relationships where it’s easy to have humor, and it’s easy to have stakes because there are many people who could be hurt or feel lied-to or betrayed. Lots of emotional hooks for your readers. Not just for your sequels where they buy into a beloved secondary character, but for the tertiary characters who can manage to hook interest and get pulled into the story. You can expand a series if it takes off and starts doing well. It gives you the flexibility to do spin-offs. The cons are that your POV characters can’t just absorb a tennis match of other people talking. They have to be engaged in the conversation. Then there’s the giant pronoun problem when you have, say, five military guys on your team planning a mission and you have to figure out the mechanics of writing that dialogue so it’s not monotonous to the reader. The other con is if you’re going with a traditional publisher and you have 5 main characters, but your publisher stops after three books. You can end up with disappointed readers on your hands.

What are some tips for developing such a large number of characters? What are some tips for distinguishing them?

Rebecca: One thing I like is nicknames, if he calls her honey or sweetcheeks makes a difference. Also their motivations. If you play a joke on one friend, they laugh, another one never forgives you. They’re different. There are the little tidbits you put in. I have one guy that likes grape energy drinks and if I don’t put that in readers will write and say does he not like those anymore? Also their wounds. What hurt this guy, what is he still afraid of?

Lexi: if you don’t know those characters, the reader won’t know them. I think you don’t have to know everything before you start, but you have to know what makes them laugh, what makes them cry. I’ve written a lot of small town romance. And getting to know the neighbors and walking through the town can pull you in. But even an office building can have a sense of place. Put your characters around a table and see who talks first. If you’re just putting traits in a notebook and there’s no real emotion behind them it’s going to show. I love using dialogue. Some speak, fast, some slow, and you need to be able to hear them in your head.

Cynthia: I like to work with opposites on a team. You’ll have one guy who’s the hothead and always jumps right in. Then I have a team member who likes to sit back and get all the info before jumping in. So she and the first guy are going to have a clash. My action-first character, if he’s angry, he’s not just going to sit still. He’ll be pacing and clenching his fists and all that. All this body language that this character is doing with reveal his personality. The one who is the analytical sort? She’s not going to just kick in a door. She’ll be trying to talk the person down. Those personality styles lead me into what they should do in each scene. You don’t want them doing something that isn’t their normal nature without a really, really good explanation. Be aware, though, I’ve had New York editors tell me that the way I talk isn’t real, people don’t say that. I’m Southern. Something that seems so normal to me was something they didn’t like. But I think bringing in realistic dialect is a great way to distinguish the characters.

Laura: Think of it as a shorthand for your character. I learned a lot about creating unique characters from reading JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. One is the blind king who wears the weird sunglasses. And one is the sarcastic one with the dragon tattoo who sucks on lollipops all the time. Then there’s the black-eyed, scarred one who is soulless and never speaks. I don’t even have to use their names: they’re immediately distinct. And when all twelve are in a room having a briefing session, you don’t have to use their names, because you know when so quickly from their distinguishing characteristics who’s who. Also, what are things that make the reader see them as endearing or real, that make the reader fall in love with that person? That grape energy drink or they’re a dog-lover or whatever. The more you can create those personal things the better, beyond scars and tattoos, beyond eye color and hair color. I have a lot of guys who swear but they can’t all say “Aw, hell.” Only one of them can say that and the other guys have to say something else.

As usual, the conference has been fantastic. If you are writing romance, or any kind of commercial fiction, I highly recommend attending one of these if you can afford it. In romance, I really feel I can’t afford *NOT* to be here!

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

Yesterday’s News

Jul. 28th, 2017 08:42 am
supergee: (monkeys)
[personal profile] supergee
* Dolt45 pays inadvertent tribute to George Orwell by naming a dominionist as Ambassador for Religious Freedom

* One White House staffer accuses another of wanting to perform a particularly difficult autoerotic act, thus increasing the latter’s support among the many men who wish they could do it, so as to make women completely unnecessary

* In an act of typically conspicuous courage, John McCain saves fellow Republicans from a bill they voted for in the pious hope that someone else would kill it.
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Doctor to Dragons - CoverI met G. Scott Huggins almost twenty years ago. We were both published in Writers of the Future XV, and we ended up in a writing group together for several years. He was one of the folks who helped me grow and improve as an author. I published one of his stories in Heroes in Training a while back.

In April of this year, his humorous fantasy novelette A Doctor to Dragons [Amazon | B&N] came out.

I love the premise and setup. Dr. James DeGrande is a veterinarian in a land that’s been taken over by a Dark Lord, and the whole thing is written with a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor. The book is made up of several distinct but related stories, showing the growth of James and his partnership with his assistant Harriet (a physically disabled almost-witch).

Here’s part of the publisher’s official description:

Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord covered the land in His Second Darkness.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that much better. Even then, everyone cheered the heroes who rode unicorns into combat against dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. Of course, that was when dragons were something to be killed. Today I have to save one. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because today I have to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client. I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the possibility that the old bag with the basilisk might show up.

The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant. She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t get each other killed first.

I appreciate writers who take traditional fantasy and flip things around to present a different perspective. Just as I enjoy clever protagonists, like James and Harriet. (And while this may come as a shock, I also like fantasy that tries to have fun.)

There’s one bit I need to talk about. About 80% of the way into the book, we meet Countess Elspeth Bathetique, an incredibly neglectful pet owner and generally unpleasant person, and we get this exchange:

“Dammit, my lady, you’re not even a vampire!”

“How… how dare you? I identify as a vampire, you filth! You cannot dream of the tragic destiny which is ours!”

“What? Suffering from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, keeping out of the sun for no damn reason, and torturing your poor pet basilisk? If I dreamed of that, I’d seek clerical help!”

I don’t believe it was intentional, but seeing language generally used by transgender people played for laughs by a wannabe vampire threw me right out of the story. I emailed and chatted with Scott, who confirmed that wasn’t the intention. The Countess was meant to be a darker take on Terry Pratchett’s Doreen Winkings. But he said he understood how I or others might read it the way I did.

One of my favorite parts of these stories are the veterinary details. Huggins’ wife is a veterinarian, and there’s a sense of real truth to the protagonist’s frustration with neglectful pet owners and the various challenges of keeping all these magical animals healthy. It helps to ground the book and acts as a nice counter to the humor.

I couldn’t find an excerpt online, but there’s a promo video on YouTube.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
 Oops, I forgot that yesterday was "What Are You Reading? Wednesday."  This week has been very weird for me.  But, enough of that.  I will simply move my Wednesday list to today!

I picked up a nonfiction book at the library called Gnosticism and Other Vanished Christianities by Richard Valantasis.  I've been interested in the Gnostics since reading Elaine Pagels, plus this one promised to talk about other wacky early Christian cults.  I'm about halfway through the book and I'm a little disappointed in the surface treatment of everything, but the this is a Belief.net publication, so I probably should have expected as much.

Otherwise, I've been doing my usual yaoi reading. I read After Morning Love by Fujii Mitori, which I actually liked better than most.  I feel like the official translator missed the boat with the title though, I think you'd get a slightly better sense of the plot if it were called, "The Morning After Love," just a very slight change that tells you that this starts with the classic, "Wait, why am I hungover? Who is in my bed?" and leads to romance.

But, I speak almost no Japanese, so, weirdly, no one has hired me to be a translator.

Speaking of Japanese study, I've been terrible about keeping up with it, BUT I started watching "Pandora Hearts" on recommendation and I actually had to pause at one point because I distinctly heard the hero ask, "Kimi wa?"  (Who are you?) Given my native-speaker Japanese teacher's reaction to someone offering 'kimi' as a word for 'you,' (he turned BEET RED and literally could not speak for several seconds. I had to be the one to tell the student, "Um, that's a little rude? You've shocked Tetsuya-sensei."), I thought--okay, either this person is extremely rude or... maybe we're supposed to presume previous intimacy, despite the fact he doesn't recognize this demon-woman?  

"Anata wa?" is even fairly rude for an opening gamut, in my understanding. I feel like a polite person would ask, "Dare desu ka?" (lit: "Who is?') leaving off any rude pronouns.... which are most of them, so there you go.

To be fair, this guy is freaked out, and anime heroes tend to be rude as a rule (at least in shounen). Ichigo, for instance, is not someone you want to learn Japanese from because he starts out using the pronoun "tamee" which is akin to shouting out 'Yo, a$$hole' to people you meet. But 'tamee' ...you hear it a lot in anime speech.  You hardly ever hear 'kimi' spoken (or rather I should say, *I* haven't noticed it as often since I started paying attention) except in love songs, where it seems to be used almost exclusively, because of the intimacy it implies. My gut sense of 'kimi' is that it's not the normal sort of word you'd use WITH A STRANGER.

I had a long talk about this with another friend of mine who is studying and eventually, with the help of Google, we learned that 'kimi' as a you-pronoun can be used by men of a high status when addressing an underling without being considered rude AF.  Apparently, in the right context, 'kimi' implies a strong hierarchy, and, thus, tells us a LOT about this character, in that he can presume that the person he's addressing--a STRANGER--is automatically and significantly below him in the social pecking order.  This fits with the character, in that he is presented as a lordling of some sort, though after this pronoun use, I'm going to have to assume PRINCLING of some sort, or possibly even THE prince of all the land.

Things you can glean listening to a program in a language you barely speak.... kind of fun. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, because I am absolutely NOT one of those anime fans who will lecture a fellow fan that subs (subtitles) are superior in every way to dubs (dubbed)--BUT, I will suggest to anyone who is able to handle /comfortable reading while watching to give subs a try once, if you never have, because I do believe that it is possible to pick up extra content subconsciously.  Obviously, the above is an example that only works for someone like me, who is trying to learn the language.  BUT, previous to this, I FELT things about some characters in "Bleach" based only on my impression of their voices--their inflection, etc.  Without knowing ANYTHING about Japanese, I picked up on the fact that one character had an unusual accent (Gin for those in the know) and that it was likely Significant.  I do not know what they did with Gin's voice actor in English.  Ideally, American/Western voice actor casting would have a native-speaker on staff consulting about regional and class accents. (Please don't pretend we don't have class accents in American English. You KNOW what an upperclass East Coast accent is compared to a dirt-poor Southern drawl...) I know likely don't have a person like that on staff, but in my ideal world they would, because this is the stuff I feel you get by listening to the foreign language often enough, even without ANY study.

That being said, if, right now, you're feeling like I just dissed you because you prefer dubs.....  Honey, no!  I am so happy you're watching anime!!  I would never, ever tell you that you MUST do subs. If dubs is what works for you, yay!  I watched all of Full Metal Alchemist and Black Butler dubbed and J. Michael Tatum (the voice of Sebastian in the English BB) is an amazing dude and I would FIGHT anyone who says he's not an awesome, seductive Sebastian!

Besides, if you've been watching anime long enough, there used to be things you could ONLY get dubbed.  I have no idea what the original Starblazers sounds like, but my anime fan cred is strong because, kids, I was watching that LITERALLY before many of you were born: in 1978.  Deslock was my first anime husbando. 

Wow, this turns into a long screed. My apologies.  Gomen, gomen....

Yay! happy fun time

Jul. 27th, 2017 03:03 am
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[personal profile] kengr
[personal profile] alatefeline picked up me and [personal profile] fayanora Wednesday afternoon. My favorite winged cat-person had wanted to meet Fay and Fay was willing. since Fay had Wednesday free, that was when we did it.

It was decided to go visit Powell's again.

We browsed odd items, then browsed the books and things. We wound up talking for *hours* in the coffee shop.

Topics ranged all over the place, some ancient SA stories, various books. Silly t-shirts and more.

a good time was had buy all. Since I had some books at home that [personal profile] alatefeline wanted to read (well, re-read for the first part of the series) when they took us home, I got them to come up. They were not appalled by the apartment. :-)

I had something to eat after they left and took a nap. Got up a few hours ago and had "dinner (and the required meds).

Since I'd been digging thru the freezer a few days ago (to see what I could use up to free space) I'd pulled a roast that I'd noticed had the plastic torn. Probably a bit freezer burned. It's currently in the crockpot on low with a bunch of carrots and potatoes and various bits.

Should make good eating for a day or three.
Read more... )

Dog bites man

Jul. 27th, 2017 05:44 am
supergee: (spiral)
[personal profile] supergee
There’s a new bio of Claude Shannon. The authors inform us that there were great unnoticed contributions to his work by a woman.

Thanx to Metafilter

Anime Summer Season: Early Ranking

Jul. 26th, 2017 07:08 pm
lovelyangel: (Shun Angel)
[personal profile] lovelyangel
PicTitle
Mitsuyo, Inukai, and Manami
Centaur no Nayami, Episode 3

Seems like my watchlist is established for the season. There might still be a few dropouts in the next week or two. I know that mid-August that Owarimonogatari 2 will get added, but that will be short.

My goal was to be following no more than 16 shows in a season – and preferably closer to 12. Turns out I’ve got 16 on the current list – a surprising number considering that Anime Strike has skimmed some of the better series away from Crunchyroll. I guess there’s no point in me adding Anime Strike to my subscriptions – I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Here is the current breakdown. As always, the shows are ranked highest to lowest within each category (and consequently, the entire list is in priority order).

Watching With Enthusiasm
Top shows of the season that aren’t likely to get cut
Tsurezure Children
Boku no Hero Academia
Mahoujin Guru Guru
Centaur no Nayami (a.k.a. A Centaur’s Life)
New Game!!
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
Jigoku Shōjo Yoi no Togi (Hell Girl: The Fourth Twilight)

Watching
Shows I expect to stay on my watchlist – but if they take a wrong turn, I’ll drop them
Gamers!
Knight’s & Magic
Konbini Kareshi (Convenience Store Boy Friends)
Yōkoso Jitsuryoku Shijō Shugi no Kyōshitsu e (Classroom of the Elite)

Watching With Wariness
Shows that are on the fence. Wouldn’t take much to knock them off of my watchlist.
Hina Logi – from Luck and Logic
Isekai Shokudō (Restaurant to Another World)
Yōkai Apāto no Yūga na Nichijō (Elegant Yokai Apartment Life)
Tenshi no 3P!

Floaters
Watching informally… not tracking/reporting
Nobunaga no Shinobi (a.k.a. Ninja Girl and Samurai Master)

Dropped
Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu
Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni (In Another World With My Smartphone)
18if
Jikan no Shehaisha (Chronos Ruler)
Aho Girl
Nana Maru San Batsu (7O3X)(Fastest Finger First)
Nora to Oujo to Noraneko Heart (Nora, Princess, and Stray Cat)
Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun (Aoyama-kun is a Clean Freak!)
Enmusubi no Youko-chan (Fox Spirit Matchmaker)
Hajimete no Gal
Musekinin Galaxy☆Tylor (The Irresponsible Galaxy Tylor)
Ikemen Sengoku: Toki wo Kakeru ga Koi wa Hajimaranai

Tasuku Uehara And Karen Tendou
Tasuku Uehara And Karen Tendou
Gamers! Episode 2

Distribution
Here is the list of simulcasts I watch broken down by day. (I took this from my weekly task list.) The times in parentheses are Crunchyroll broadcast times (Pacific Time). On weekdays I don’t watch the shows at the time they are simulcast; I watch the shows after I get home from work.

MONDAY
Tenshi no 3P! (Mon 5:30a)
Yōkai Apāto no Yūga na Nichijō (Mon 8:30a)
Isekai Shokudō (Mon 11:05a)

TUESDAY
New Game!! (Tue 7:00a)
Tsurezure Children (Tue 8:45a)
Mahoujin Guru Guru (Tue 11:05a)

WEDNESDAY
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations (Wed 2:25a)
Yōkoso Jitsuryoku Shijō Shugi no Kyōshitsu e (Wed 9:00a)

THURSDAY
Gamers! (Thu 8:30a)
Konbini Kareshi (Thu 12:05p)

FRIDAY
Jigoku Shōjo Yoi no Togi (Fri 9:30a)
Nobunaga no Shinobi (Fri 11:05a)

SATURDAY
Hina Logi – from Luck & Logic (Fri 9:00p)
Boku no Hero Academia (Sat 2:30a)

SUNDAY
Centaur no Nanami (Sun 7:30a)
Knight’s & Magic (Sun 8:00a)

This is the most even distribution I’ve ever had. 3 shows on Monday and Tuesday – and 2 shows on all other days of the week. It’s most telling that every day – except Monday – I’m eager to see that day’s anime. That means that Monday has the weakest shows in the watchlist. I wouldn’t miss any of the shows on Monday if they went away. But other than that, the season is quite entertaining.

Chiaki and Kana
Chiaki and Kana
Tsurezure Children, Episode 3

PWLF Gallery

Jul. 26th, 2017 06:13 pm
lovelyangel: (Haruhi Camera)
[personal profile] lovelyangel
The Photo Gallery for the Portland Winter Light Festival has some of my photos from this year’s festival. Pretty cool!
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[personal profile] elfs
( You're about to view content that the journal owner has advised should be viewed with discretion. )

(no subject)

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:49 pm
[personal profile] martianmooncrab
Got New Books aquired... my Precious.

Checked on the sister creature and she is convinced that taking the cough syrup will slow her healing process because she needs to cough up everything in her lungs, even if it might be her liver or pancreas. I would argue with her about this, but, I would have better luck convincing a wall or a cat that I have value.

I got things to do today here in the house. I should do them.

Accidental pumpkins

Jul. 26th, 2017 09:01 pm
flick: (Default)
[personal profile] flick
We decided to try growing butternut squash for the first time this year, and I thought I'd improve our chances by buying some grafted plants.

It turns out that the root stock is pumpkin:



(We've chopped off the bits with pumpkin leaves, now!)

Bummer Bunnies

Jul. 26th, 2017 09:42 am
lydamorehouse: (??!!)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
Yesterday, when I went to pick Shawn up at the History Center, I saw a baby bunny just sitting in the road, near the curb.  She seemed stunned, maybe?  So I went to try to shoo her back into cover, but it became evident that she was injured.  There was blood near her neck.  Worse, (because it's not a good sign when wild animals can be easily picked up), I was able to scoop her up and get her into a towel filled bucket that Shawn prepared.  We took her to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  

It was the longest drive of my life. The Rehabilitation Center is actually not all that far away--just on the other side of Hwy36 on Dale.  But, not long ago, I picked up a bird that was stunned and it died while in transport, and... I just.  The world is full of awful things, and I just did NOT want a dead baby bunny in the back of my car.

She made it to the Center, at least. She perked up a bit, once inside, actually. Hopping about a little.  But, who knows what happened to her overnight, if she pulled through, or if I only managed to make her death that much more frightening and strange.  I'm going to hope that my attempt to rescue her will save her.  

Then the news hit about health care and that traitor John McCain.  You know, if this were Ireland, they'd have a song about that guy already, I swear to gods. 

All of this contributed, I think, to this sense I woke up with today. I feel like I'm behind on something or I've forgotten something important.  So I spent much of the morning so far reading something that I promised someone I would--a beta reading thing.  I got that done.  In a minute or two I will hop up and do the dishes. Normally today is a day for me to go to the coffee shop and hang out with the ladies, but I'm skipping that in favor of attempting to do enough stuff around the house to banish this feeling. I suspect what I'm feeling is actually 'political hopelessness' like I did right before the election, and what I need to do is garden or sweep or do something else physical. (I have a feeling that if I were still doing martial arts, this political season would have made me an uber-athlete, because my desire to punch stuff and scream is very high right now.)

It's drizzle raining outside which isn't helping my mood, alas.

Okay, off to banish this feeling by doing something.