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About LShelby

  • Birthday 02/16/1971

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  1. I tend to write from the pov of extremely driven characters who don't leave much room for distractions. If I have a worry for the current WIP, it's that it's too darn serious all the time. :( ...I wonder if I could come up with a statement of intent that would help me fix that.
  2. When I first started to write many of my ideas were historical novels, but when I decided to start take myself seriously and try to get published and all that, I discovered that there were certain benefits to sticking with one particular genre. And if I had to stick to one, it had to be fantasy/science fiction because I'm just a little too fond of making stuff up. :) About the mesoamerica thingy: Yesterday my son dropped by my room to inform me that according to recent scientific surveys, the scope of ("I think it was Mayan?") civilization has been discovered to be far, far greater than previously suspected. But I'd be worried about trying to set something in that culture too directly, because I don't feel that there is enough material for me to get a good feel for it at all. I mean, if we are now suddenly going "Oh, my gosh, look at the size of those cities!" Then that means what we thought we knew, we actually didn't. Ooh, I like it! Sounds fun. :) I'd love to swap books with people just to read and not to critique -- just so I have a better idea of what people here are writing.
  3. She seemed to think she was speaking for all fantasy/science fiction. But even as a reader looking for "escapist" entertainment, the reader she was describing still wasn't me. I want to go on the adventure with the main character -- I don't want to be the main character. Just that much of a difference, and already so much of what she was doing was working against my enjoyment of the story, instead of for it.
  4. I feel almost as if I'm off topic here, since this has nothing to do with most of the recent posts, but I built myself a website to track my worldbuilding with. The keystone of the site is a custom-made database where I store all my the facts I'm trying to keep track of: stories, series, character info, locations, important dates, glossary, as well as other resources such as images, and inter-relationships between each type of data. The website then creates as needed, timelines, character sheets, dynamic maps and etc. For example, when I recently noticed the map thread, I went to my website, hopped over the picture gallery, asked it to show me the maps, and picked one to share... Or, a few days ago, I realized while writing that I needed to know how soon the rainy season would start, so I opened the perpetual calendar I had built for that world, entered the current story location and rough date, and checked the seasonal information. I've got another calendar I built for another world that helps me track the "xodiac" information for use in horoscopes, including the current phase of each of the four moons. All this stuff is up online at www.lshelby.com (start with "Explore my Worlds"), but it's spoilered so that guests can only see information from before the start of the first story set in each world. BUT!!!! I actually collect most of that information after I've written the book. I look it up again when I need it for the next book. :) All I really need to be able to write a book is an understanding of the rules by which the world works (ie: what the magic is) a basic idea of the climate, geography, and political environment/history and some idea of what the culture is like. I tend to start worldbuilding really big with a map of the entire globe, and then I do some broad sweeps of history and then when that's in place I work my way down to smaller and smaller details.
  5. So, um... the capital of the largest nation for which world and during what point in history? ...Am I the only one who finds this question boggling because I don't know which nation counts as "largest"? I'll just fake it. In my duology Lioness, the heroine travels from the mighty city-state of Tolsequo, up-river, by ox-powered paddle-wheel boat. Because the river has cut deeply into the land, she can see little of the countryside beyond the towns that line the river-valley, which become gradually sparcer as they go, giving way to bushy growths. Eventually, the boat can go no further, and she continues on foot, up the great escarpment, and then across the endless Serengeti-like plains of the inner highlands. This is exhausting and painful for her, because she is the spoiled daughter of a merchant, so eventually her bridegroom spots a familiar herd of elephants, and cadges a ride for them.
  6. Across a Jade Sea, has six maps in it, two per book. :) This is the one that was the most fun to draw...
  7. Character voices are important to me. I have been told I'm good at them. But I really want to reiterate this. Two brothers (for example), stylistically are likely to sound very similar. Same culture, same economic background, same upbringing, and probably the same or similar social groups. But their distinct personality will come out in the way they talk. That's good enough. You don't have to give them verbal ticks just so nobody mixes them up ever. And now I will wander off into some vaguely related anecdote. :) I remember I was working on a graphic novel, and I felt space-constrained in a way that I never had when writing novels. I worried if that would erode the "voice" of my characters. And then a bit character called out to one of the two major characters I was currently working with, and my major character answered "Yeah, what?" And I realized that no matter how space constrained I might be, the other major character would never, ever, answer "Yeah, what?" if someone called his name. Never. "Yes." or "Yes, what is it?" or "Is something wrong?" but not "Yeah, what?" So I stopped worrying about it. :)
  8. I learned to tat specifically as research for a book... and now my tatting patterns have been pinned on pinterest hundreds of times... (I wish I had that much interest in my books.) Which I guess is the opposite of what was asked. What research I did for writing ended up being useful in real life? ;)
  9. I'm primarily interested in humans, myself, I think. (Although the case where someone complained about my work because all the characters were human wasn't fantasy, but a science fiction project. ) But I also like variety, so in spite of my human-centrism I've still done pretty much everything. Agreed. That's why it took me four fantasy worlds and two sf universes to cover the ground of "pretty much everything". I don't like worlds where none of the details seem to add up to a comprehensible big picture. It really spoils the fun for me. :( This is also why my dragons hibernate. (Or rather, estivate, if we want to be technical.) But the dragons are really the only 'standard' fantasy species I have that needed special care in the ecology department. All my other ones fill recognizable niches in the food-web. The really big and strange creatures found in one of my other fantasy worlds, are, (like what Tyrannohotep apparently also likes to do) inspired by prehistoric animals. :)
  10. Er... That's a startlingly clueless thing to say. ... I'm a one-trick pony too. All my main characters (so far) are human. Tsk! I should be ashamed of myself. That one sucked me into feeling bad about myself for a long while too. I've stopped doing that. I don't guilt myself for not writing. It's not helpful. I write when I can, and I don't write when I can't, and I've finished 16 novel-lengthed manuscripts. I can't stop people from claiming I'm not a real writer, but I don't have take them seriously either. Okay, Bad advice: I just posted elsewhere some writing advice I got from one particular author. Her collection of writing rules that I intend to not follow included "Don't USE dialog". The advice wasn't quite as bad as it sounds on the surface, she didn't mean you couldn't have dialog... you just weren't supposed to have the viewpoint character say anything the reader didn't already know. Therefore, you couldn't USE the dialog for any of the many story purposes you see beyond being dialog: narrative at a remove of viewpoint, establishing background, characterization... Good Advice: How about Zelazny's "Trust your Demon"? I don't remember the exact wording, but the basic idea is this: Sometimes you don't know why you are writing what you are writing and how it ties into everything, but you're not just writing it to put down words, there's this inner demon urging you to write this thing in particular. Trust that Demon. There's usually a very good reason that you just haven't figure out yet. (I'm sure the way Zelazny originally phrased it was funnier, though.)
  11. Her logic actually seemed rather sound, assuming that she was correct about what THE READER wanted. According to her "THE READER wants to BE the main character." In her opinion, third person, structurally, does the best job of achieving that goal. I think she may be right. According to her, the reason books that aren't in tight third are still reasonably popular is because they do enough other right things that THE READER forgives them for not doing tight third. Also because the people who wrote them are geniuses and little would-be authors like us (except I was already professionally published at the time) mustn't try that at home. I don't know why she assumes that people want to be fictional characters so that they can be the best at something, though. Personally, I don't even want to be the main character. Every reader has different things that they want out of a book, and figuring out how to deliver really well on a specific subset of those things probably is the road to success. But I'd rather write for a reader who is more like me. Back to the subject at hand: All my major projects have been in first or third, but I recently wrote a "side novel" in omniscient. For me it is a strange and interesting challenge when the person telling the story is outside of the story looking in. I'm used to a more involved viewpoint -- someone that is inside the story is telling the story. When, as an omniscient narrator, you can hear and see everything, how do you decide what to look at when? So far, I've mostly been choosing a particular person to follow around, only unlike in first or tight third I can see what is happening behind them, and on the other side of a wall, etc. But I worry that I've been limiting myself too drastically and I'm not making full use of the story telling potential in this choice of viewpoint. I also have a couple shorter projects in omniscient: In one I tried to create an imaginary outside-the-story personality to tell the story for me, and sadly, I don't think I pulled it off. That one is on my "need to figure out how to fix" list. (An example of doing something like that right is Steven Brust's Pheonix Guards. And IIRC Mike Resnick has done something of the sort also, although more subtlety.)
  12. I can only vaguely grok the need to "focus a plot" but I'm totally believing that having some kind of statement of intent would make it easier. Oh, hey... I like that. (Am I allowed to admit that?) A "statement of intent" could be plot based for people who need to focus their plot, but for authors who need different kinds of focus, it could end up being more about the moral or the mood or whatever, and still be a useful tool. In the third book of my epic high fantasy, my statement of intent was "I want this to be as romantic as possible for a story in which the romantic interest hardly makes an appearance." I didn't need to worry about focusing the plot, I already knew what all the major plot points were. But the devil's in the details, they say. That statement helped me figure out a lot of important not-plot stuff. But it's not very "high concept". :) A plot summary would have been on the order of "Leaving [romantic interest] behind, Prince Asond and his guards head into the wilderness in search of [plot coupon B], and must deal with the many dangerous creatures inhabiting the area, harsh terrain, and the onset of another fierce northern winter." As for what's unique about it: "In order to prevent the girl he has reluctantly come to care for from accompanying him on yet another dangerous journey, Prince Asond has agreed to take a powerful wizard in her place. Unfortunately, the wizard travels with a juvenile pixie who despises the snarky prince, and has an endless stream of magical pranks to play on him. Finding a lost city deep within enemy-inhabited territory is hard enough. Doing it with his hair turned three different noxious shades of green, his bootlaces knotted together, and his bedroll full of bugs and thorns seems too high a price to pay." I can believe that, and I can also believe that if that's the natural way for them to work that they do a good job with it. It just irks me a lot when certain agents go around saying that authors should just start there all the time, so I tend to rant a bit. ::rueful:: ::giggle::
  13. That's a lot of why my published trilogy is early diesel, late steam. I think of it as "the time period wherein the world suddenly got a lot smaller". The next step in the process was, of course, airplanes, but they only get a few mentions in the trilogy. One of the sequels I have planned will let me do a much better of job of early airplane geeking. :) (Alas, I still have a great many stories ahead of that one in the queue.) But I'll be frank, some of history I find so painfully depressing that I wish there was some way to fix it. But even when I'm doing alternate history, when I do the research some things really do seem inevitable, and although many details change, the world I end up with isn't really better -- it's just different. But I still get to choose which stories I want to tell. Just because a world is far from perfect, doesn't mean I can't find a few hopeful, (and perhaps even occasionally amusing) stories in it. :) Sad but true. I think because they are geared to the masses rather than the individual. IMHO, that doesn't work. "The masses" are too generalized to be a valid target. Trying too hard to appeal to almost everyone leads to cliched, formulaic and dull material that almost nobody can like. I was told to write what I know. And, well, I grew up in a family with eight kids. :) But I'm not sure how interesting it turned out. One of my betareaders said something to the effect of: On the surface it looks really cliched, but everything is slightly different that what you're expecting. Getting back to the topic, for that world I don't do any specific historical research, because it's really hard to find direct equivalents of anything. I mean, there isn't actually anywhere in the historical world that is "generic medieval". Which is probably why I have heard some would-be fantasy authors claim that they don't need to do research: they just make everything up. But I think otherwise. When you are making everything up you need to do MORE research, because you need to really, really, really understand how a world works in order to build your own from scratch. You need to understand cosmology and geology and climatology and ecology and social and political and economic systems. Including, yes, the patterns of history. :) Fortunately the more specific research I do for other worlds also achieves that goal. (Two for the price of one! Or perhaps more accurately: buy four, get two for free.) Right now I'm researching Ohio in the early 1800s for a story set in the alternate history fantasy world. I just finished a biography of Tenskwatawa, "the Shawnee Prophet", brother to Tecumseh. Neither of the brothers exist in my world, and the political situation they faced has been rewritten a bit: but the pressure on the native people's lands by the immigrant settlers remains, and I imagine the people in my world will attempt to deal with those pressures in many of the same ways.
  14. For me, the main character is inherent in the story concept, and I've never had that change. But just because I know who the main character is, doesn't mean I know who should be telling the story. :) I had a similar experience. For one story, Cantata in Coral and Ivory, the main character's voice was too matter-of-fact and serious for the tone I was after. I tried switching from first to third and and it didn't help. I tried the heroine's pov instead, but it wasn't much of an improvement and she wasn't there when I needed her to be. Finally I had my main character's scribe describe what was happening, and suddenly the story started working for me. (This scribe is the most reliable unreliable narrator I've ever encountered. He desperately wants to tell the true story, but so much of it is just not sayable according to his culture. So he lies constantly. And very, very badly. On purpose.) The scribe in Cantata isn't really active in the story, he's mostly just an observer. But in the WIP, the main character's bodyguard and his romantic interest are the viewpoint characters. Unlike the scribe, both these characters are always doing things, and I discovered that this confused my beta readers a bit. They complained that my viewpoint characters weren't acting quite main character-ish. So I put the main character's name in a subtitle on the first page, declaring that this was his story. I haven't had a single complaint on the subject since. :) Which brings us to what makes a main character interesting. For me, I'm looking for characters who have goals they are working to achieve that I can get behind and cheer for. If they don't have goals, or they can't do anything to push forward those goals (like Banespawn's young male tribesman), then it's really hard to make them interesting. And it also helps if they feel like a real person rather than a puppet. (If at any time while reading a story I ask myself "Why did x happen?" and the answer I get back from myself is "Because the writer wanted..." then I have been pulled out of the story world.) IMHO. YMMV. Other disclaimers as required. ...I had one workshop leader tell me that firstly you had to write in a tight third person view point of your main character (or main characters), and secondly that main characters had to be "the best" at something. But I'm not buying it. Her explanation of why was "that is what best delivers what THE READER wants", and when I tried to tell her that I didn't want it, she said, essentially, that I wasn't a normal reader so what I wanted didn't count.
  15. "It's about 100 thousand words." ;) Okay, seriously, I can see why it's handy to have a nice little one or two sentence description worked up. But I almost never end up in an elevator with anyone, so I don't bother to memorize mine. I couldn't write to one if I wanted to: my brain just doesn't work like that. The characters walk into my head dragging their stories behind them, and so there it is. I have to figure out how to describe it after it has already happened. Furthermore, as a reader, I don't find that the ability to distill the story down to a "high concept" makes it any better. Frequently, I find myself thinking that "high concept" stories feel gimicky. I'm not reading for a cool concept; I'm reading for good characters, solid plots, a sense of place, and some fun. If you give two different writers exact same concept to work from, I could easily hate the one resulting story and love the other. ... and as a result, I'll try reading almost anything that doesn't sound too dark or icky or stupid. Fortunately I'm not one of those people who can't bring themselves to put a book down once they've started it. :)