Pulp Adventure Generator

I stumbled across this the other day, and it’s just too cool not to share!

Grab your 10-sided dice, because someone has turned Lester Dent’s classic Pulp Adventure Writing Formula into a full-on Pulp Adventure Generator for use with any role-playing game or in your own writing.

Pulp Adventure Generator Sample Page

The above is a sample of the 9-page document, which is for sale here for $1.99, but you can find a free preview of the whole thing here. Grab your fedora’s and get to kicking some Nazi butt!

Also, you might find the Random Action Adventure Plot Generator useful if this is your cup of tea.

Rob

 

How to Write a Murderously Good Mystery

On her excellent writer’s blog, writer Karen Woodward has written and put together a fantastic collection of articles on writing mysteries that anyone wanting to move into the genre should definitely check out. She covers setting, victims, making sufficiently intriguing murders, and even delves into the techniques used by Agatha Christie in order to explore how to write the perfect mystery story. Check it out! And while you’re there, read some of her other excellent articles on writing as well, Karen really knows her stuff!

Rob

Plotting Thread

As I discussed in Prepping Your Novel, there are a vast number of different ways you can go about plotting a story. Currently in the Writer’s Cafe on Kboards (the un-official Kindle discussion forum) there’s a discussion going where different writers are sharing their approaches to plotting their novels. And you know what? Almost every one of them is using a different method, and one that works for them.

These run from:

Writer Nicolas Andrew’s very traditional approach:

My outlines are rarely finished, usually because I get tired of summarizing and just start writing. I usually know what the end is going to be, anyway. It’s the middle that gives me trouble. I’ve always used the method of outlining I was taught in middle school, which looks like:

A. Setting
  1. Time
  2. Place

B. Characters
  1. Main Character
  2. Main Character

C. Plot

And so on. For plot, the subheadings used to be a mere list of events. Later on, to cut down on subheadings I would divide it into the five points of dramatic structure (exposition/introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution/denouement). But since I’m not likely to forget these points or their functions after twenty years, these days I simply divide the story into Act I, II, and III. 

I don’t decide what event goes into what chapter at this point. That comes out of the actual writing. I use my instincts on where a chapter break should occur, whether it’s on a cliffhanger, or important information being revealed, or a decision being made. Most times it’s a subconscious thing for me.

To writer Lady Runa’s Half and Half Approach:

I guess you could call me half-plotter, half-pantser. When I begin writing a book I plot the hell out of it but it’s never enough. This is how I do it:

1. Idea: the initial setup and a few main characters. Then I follow Larry Brooks’ structure system (the MC’s journey):

2. I take a sheet of paper and divide it into four parts: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, Martyr. This is my hero’s arc.

3. Then I brainstorm the story (it may take a few days or weeks) trying to come up with as many relevant and memorable scenes as I can. Normally they fall within the first two parts. I make sure that every part has its own arc and climax. I also plot out the midpoint (Big Fireworks, Great Revelations) and the third plot point (The Bad Guys Win!)

4. I come up with all the characters using Dwight Swain’s character sheet (it’s AWESOME). As he suggests, I make sure that my cast is as varied and contrasting as possible. I come up with all their arcs making sure they’re relevant to the story. I never bother with petty stuff like “what school they went to and what music they like”. This is what I love about Dwight Swain’s sheet: it only includes what’s really relevant.

5. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about novel writing it’s you can’t overdo on drama. You can, but it’s extremely difficult. So I try to make sure every scene is dramatic and memorable. Using Holly Lisle’s term, I try to make every scene a “candybar scene” – something I itch to write. No fluff.

6.  Now I plan the living daylights out of the first two parts: scene by scene. I plan every scene very closely, spelling out the setting, the characters involved, the conflict and the chars’ secret agendas. I also plan as many scenes of Part Three as I can – and a few of Part Four.

7. I plant my backside firmly in a chair and write Parts One and Two based on my scene sheets. Normally, as I do so, all sorts of little alterations start to pile up. New better ideas force me to change certain things, which is why I never plan rigidly after the Midpoint. Normally, by the time I reach Midpoint, I have a whole lot of new better ideas and characters that force me to change a lot of the story.

8. So after Midpoint, I sit down and plot out the rest of the book. I’ll change certain things and add more dramatic and memorable scenes based on those alterations. One rule I never break comes from Larry Brook: I never introduce a new major character after Part Three.

So I guess, I’m a half-pantser because as I write the first two parts from my spreadsheet, I end up with new ideas that ultimately improve the book. I’ve got a few traditionally published novels now and work on the next one so it seems to be working – for me at least. I do recommend this “flexible planner” style to those who feel they can’t just sit down and write a book (I can’t!) but who disagree with the “rigidity” of planning.

 

To writer AnnChristy’s unique “Ellipticaller” Approach:

To an observer, I’m a pantser. Total and complete Pantser.

But that’s not quite true.

Instead, I’m an ellipticaller (Is that a word? If not, it should be.)

I get an idea and then I elliptical a great deal, building the story as I do, rearranging it, tearing bits out and putting bits in, building characters and all of that. I logged 22 hours on the elliptical creating the story for Strikers over a short period of time. 

Then it took me the time to write it. But I don’t use notecards or whatever. I build it entirely in my head. Small details like exactly what everyone looks like and their preferences (handedness, a nervous tick, whatever) I do put in a separate scrivener page.

Whole process: 3 months for about 400 pages. 

If I try to use a more written outline method, I would never get done because I’ll constantly reference it and confuse myself. The only way it works for me is to absolutely memorize it and know it like you know your favorite TV show.

 

So, if you’re on a quest to find what kind of plotter you are, give the thread a look! There’s lots of great perspectives there and you might just find something that works for you!

Rob

TNG Theme on an NES Keytar

The coolest thing you’re going to hear today:

Flashpulp Podcast

flashpulpicon

Each Summer, as part of my change in routine, I go through the list of podcasts that I listen to and swap out a few old ones for something new. I might go back to the old ones in September, but to keep things fresh I like to try out new shows during the Summer when my news and politics podcasts tend to fall prey to the Summer doldrums.

One recent podcast I’ve begun listening to is the Flashpulp Podcast, written by fellow Ontarian JRD Skinner and produced by his partners in crime. For those who don’t know, The Pulps were magazines and books named for the cheap pulp paper they were printed on and filled with genre stories like detective stories, horror stories, romance, westerns, and whatever else people wanted to read. These were simple stories that focussed more on action and lurid details than any attempt at art or style, and they were churned out by an army of writers who were paid by the story and wrote fast and forumulaic. Characters like Doc Savage, Conan the Barbarian and John Carter of Mars were all pulp heroes from this period. The other half of the name, Flash, comes from Flash Fiction, which as a general rule are short stories under 1000 words in length.

So the Flashpulp Podcast is twice-weekly stories of (very) short fiction in a pulp-style genre and written by JRD Skinner, who has so far written and produced 337 of these little tales covering pretty much every genre you can name- detective, zombie horror, sci-fi, urban fantasy, he does them all. Each story stands on its own, but is part of a larger set of stories about a huge cast of characters in different places in time and space who may or may not be connected to each other in some way.

Having listened to some, I have to say I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard so far. He keeps the stories short and punchy because of their length, and not a word is wasted as he tries to pack everything into his limited time. Of course, I do have a few quibbles with his definition of a story (I’d describe some of them as scenes rather than stories) but since he’s limited for time I can forgive him. Also, his music is almost all period 1930’s and 1940’s music, but the stories are set in many time periods, which I find disconcerting since it can be a bit jarring to have what feels like a 40’s gumshoe story where the lead suddenly mentions his mobile phone!

That said, Flashpulp has developed quite a following, and now I understand why. If you’re looking for a few (hundred) fun, quick listens for your Summer commutes, then check it out! You might find yourself carried away into a world of two-fisted adventure you never expected to find!

Rob

Brilliant Anti-Texting Ad

Texting while driving is now the leading cause of automobile accidents in North America, and one of the leading causes of deaths. This is a beautiful way to make that hit home!

Rob

Tom Cruise on The Nerdist Podcast

After having seen the amazing film Edge of Tomorrow on the weekend (go see it, now!) I noticed the Nerdist podcast had an interview up with Tom Cruise and so I decided to give it a listen. I’d heard Tom was an incredibly nice and gracious guy in person, and this podcast totally confirmed that. It’s a great and very personal chat between him and The Nerdist crew, which mostly focusses on his experiences in the movie industry and his thoughts about film-making in general. Given that he’s been in the business 34 years, he has quite a bit to say, so it’s worth a listen for that alone.

But, what this Podcast really made me realize about Tom is that he really isn’t that smart. In fact, I would say in terms of intelligence, Tom is a completely average guy, and if anything might even be a little dense. He’s a guy with a pretty face, a bit of charisma, and average brains who lucked out and got into the industry with his raw talent, and you know what? He knows it.

But, Tom has three things going for him that made him the star he is today- 1) he’s got an incredible memory, 2) because he doesn’t understand easily he’s extremely curious, and 3) he’s an astoundingly hard worker. He asks questions constantly, he remembers everything people tell him, and he puts that knowledge to work for him- and this is how he’s become the man he is today. He’s the perfect example of what one can achieve with hard work and a good attitude, and I have to say I admire that quite a bit. I may not be a fan of his religious choices, but this interview really made me respect him as a person and as an artist.

He also said something that stuck with me, a bit of advice Paul Newman gave him while filming The Colour of Money– “Just ignore all the white noise and do what you do”. Don’t worry about what other people think or say, just be true to yourself as an artist and be the best you can be. The world (and internet) is filled with people advocating causes and screaming about a million things, but we as artists need to just focus on making art which is true to us and our experiences. If we try to do what everyone around us wants, we’ll just go crazy or get nothing done.

Sage advice for an artist of any age or time.

Rob

Udemy- A New Educational Model?

Udemy is a site where people can create and post online courses in subjects they’re experts in and then charge for those courses. It’s a lot like the courses people stick up on YouTube, but with extra materials, a group learning forum, possible interaction with the teacher, and possible actual certification in those subjects. Think of it like a giant online community college, and you’ll have the right idea, but one where you learn at your own pace and all teachers and courses are constantly rated- so you only have to learn from the best.

I first heard about Udemy on the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast, where a guest who specializes in non-fiction was talking about how he created short Udemy courses in the subjects he was writing about that covered the basics and then referred the students to his books for the more advanced materials. He made the course free so that many people would take it, and used Udemy as a place to show his expertise and funnel people toward his paid book. Apparently it wasn’t giving him amazing sales, but he felt he was definitely getting some benefit from it.

I, on the other hand, was more interested in the idea of taking areas that I’m an expert in (I’m a college teacher who has piles of materials I developed for my own courses) and turning some of those into Udemy courses. I mean, if all it takes it setting it up and letting it run by itself while I make income, why not, right? All it takes is some screen capture software (Udemy courses are almost all videos), a Powerpoint-type setup (like Google Slides or Open Office Impress), and a little video editing know-how and you’re off and running!

One tip I also picked up was to use screen capture software which allows for an image of you (the instructor) as well as the screen. With the instructor’s image usually in a little box, so that the student feels they’re dealing with a real person they can relate to instead of just a disembodied voice over a Powerpoint deck. Of course, if you’re not the photogenic type, maybe you should just skip the image of yourself, or replace it with a cartoon image- who knows?

Why Your First Draft Should Suck (and That’s a Good Thing!)

Superhero

I’m a couple chapters in to my newest work-in-progress, and it kinda sucks.

But that’s okay, in fact, that’s great!

Let me explain.

Of the many pieces of advice often handed out to new writers, two are in my head at the moment. The first is “It’s okay to suck.”, and the second is “The first draft is the writer telling themselves the story”. These two combine nicely to explain my feelings about the story I’m working on, and how I feel differently about it than the first draft for any story I’ve written in the past.

Let’s break those two statements down, and then talk about how they work in harmony.

It’s okay to suck,” which I first heard said by Mur Lafferty, is advice to writers who find themselves paralyzed by the quality of their writing. Now, she doesn’t mean it’s okay to publish a work that sucks, that would be a huge mistake. No, what she means is that when you’re writing your first draft of your story, some parts of it might be really bad, but that’s okay. You shouldn’t let your desire to produce a perfect work of art keep you from writing, because rough drafts are exactly that- rough. They have parts that don’t work and will later be replaced and thrown out. So, if the part you’re working on now sucks, that’s okay, because that’s just a placeholder for something really cool you’ll come up with later on during editing and revisions.

This leads us to “The first draft is the writer telling themselves the story,” which I’ve heard credited to Terry Pratchett (and others). This piece of advice is a little trickier to understand, but in essence he’s saying that the first draft isn’t the story that the world will see, but a draft only for the writer themselves. It’s a version of the story that exists only for you to understand and explore your story and characters, and is not meant to entertain anyone but you.

So, what do we get if we combine these two?

We get freedom.

The first draft is a playground in which you can suck as hard and fast as you want to, and not be afraid because nobody else on Earth is going to see it. You can (and will) change anything and everything later, so who cares what parts are placeholders and what parts will get erased? This is you, the writer, mucking around and seeing what kind of story you can put together for your own fun and pleasure. Some bits will rock, other bits will be less-than-awesome, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s all for you, and you alone.

Stephen King, in On Writing, suggests that you never let anyone see your first draft of a story, no matter how tempting it might be. I think he’s right! Because if you at any moment feel that another person will see this draft, you will start to edit and censor yourself as you’re writing, which completely defeats the purpose of this rough first draft. Get it out onto the screen (or paper, Luddite!) and then worry about making it presentable to the world during revisions. Right now, it’s a mud castle like you made when you were a kid, and you get to play in it and shape it how you want- so don’t hold back.

If you do, you’ll find writers block and procrastination wait to tie you up and hold your creativity for ransom- don’t let them!

So, it’s okay that the stuff I’m working on now sucks.

It’s laying the groundwork for the writing that comes later.

And that, will be glorious!

Rob

 

Picture Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/2303174468/ 

Cozilla: The “Lost” Italian Godzilla Release

Grab Mary Jane and prepare to ride the Galaxy Express! We’re going back to the 70’s!