Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Flashpoint Launch Radio Broadcast

In case you missed it or want to hear it again, Wendy Bergfeldt's CBC Mainstreet radio broadcast from the Flashpoint launch on December 5, 2014 at the McConnell Library in Sydney is now available here: Flashpoint Broadcast

Sherry, Nancy and Julie would like to thank all the participants in the broadcast: Katrina Nicholson, Patrick Charron, Steph Snow and Larry Gibbons. As well, we appreciate the contributors who read from their stories that evening. Thank you Flashpoint authors Patrick Charron, Kerry Anne Fudge, Jenn Tubrett and, reading from her new novel, The Murder Prophet, Sherry D. Ramsey. We also appreciate the goodies that so many people volunteered to bring. It was a great spread as usual.

And finally, many thanks to all our contributors, to DC Troicuk for the introduction and to Wendy Bergfeldt who graciously and beautifully helped us launch this book of wonderful stories.



Saturday, November 29, 2014

Flashpoint Launch Date

We're set to launch Flashpoint, Volume 4 of the Speculative Elements series, on Friday, December 5, 2014 from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the McConnell Library in Sydney. Flashpoint features short stories by new and well-known Cape Breton writers, and an introduction by writer and past contributor to Third Person Press anthologies, D.C. Troicuk.

The public is welcome to come for refreshments, book sales (all Third Person Press titles will be available) and to meet and have their books signed if they wish by the writers in attendance. Patrick M. Charron, Kerry Anne Fudge, and Jenn Tubrett will read from their Flashpoint stories. As well, Sherry D. Ramsey will offer a reading from her latest novel, The Murder Prophet, along with copies of her book for purchase.The CBC's Wendy Bergfeldt and Mainstreet Cape Breton will be on hand to broadcast from the launch.

If you have someone on your Christmas list who'd love a book this year, this is a perfect time to get some shopping done! We hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Call for Submissions

Third Person Press is pleased to announce that we will be open to submissions of novel-length manuscripts during the month of February, 2015.

What we’re looking for:

Completed speculative fiction novels, YA or adult, of between 70,000 and 100,000 words.

Submissions must be in the speculative fiction genre. This includes: science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic realism, paranormal, steampunk, etc. and all their various sub-genres. Manuscripts that combine genres, such as mystery and science fiction, or romance and fantasy, are welcome, but all stories must include some speculative element.

For this submission period, we will be open to submissions from writers in Atlantic Canada.


What we're NOT looking for:

  • stories or chapter books for younger readers.
  • fan fiction, pornography, erotica, or excessive/gratuitous vulgarity, violence or gore.
  • collections of short stories

DO NOT SUBMIT ANYTHING YET!

Submissions received before the submission period opens will be discarded unread.

Full guidelines for what to send us will be posted here by January 15, 2015.  A three-to-five page synopsis will be required.

If you wish, you can join or subscribe to our site to be notified of updates.

If you’re not sure what constitutes speculative fiction, or want to increase the chances that we’ll love your submission, please read our general guidelines. You might also want to check out this essay and our series of blog posts aimed at helping writers fix story problems.


We're excited to be embarking on a new venture with Third Person Press. Get those novels ready!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Nine

Sherry here, with another tip on how to avoid wrecking your story. This one grows out of the mildly famous "white room syndrome," possibly first mentioned in that critical manual for SF workshops, the Turkey City Lexicon. In that instance, the main character wakes up in a "white room"--largely because the writer has failed to invent the details of that setting but has forged ahead with the story anyway. This problem is even more insidious than that initial white room, however. Maybe we'll call this one the Out-of-Focus-Background.

The Problem
You know that portrait photography technique, where the focus of the picture is sharp and clear on the main subject, but all else around them is a fuzzy blur of colours? That may produce a beautiful portrait, but it doesn't work so well for stories. In a story with an Out-of-Focus-Background, we might know generally where the character or characters are situated, but there's little description or concrete detail to help ground us in the world of the tale. Characters may live in a house or work in an office, but we never find out what these places really look, smell, or sound like.

To compound the problem, characters may move through these blurry backgrounds in equally fuzzy ways. We don't know how they get from A to B, how long it takes, or what they encounter along the way.  Characters seem completely disconnected from, and unaffected by, their surroundings.

The Fix
Take some time and visualize your characters' world. Make "sensory cheat sheets" for locations in the story. Imagine you are standing in your character's place in a particular scene, and jot down a quick list of words that describe the surroundings: temperature, smells, sounds, colours, textures. What's above you? What's below? What's the light like? What objects surround you? What's the general condition of the place, and how does it make you feel?

Then use a few of these sensory impressions in every scene--choose the ones that have the greatest impact on your characters or their actions. Don't include your entire laundry-list of sensory details in your story for every setting, but have that list fixed firmly in your head, and sprinkle in the most appropriate details for the scene you're writing. Those details might change from scene to scene--for example, when your character checks in to a hotel room, she might briefly notice that the bedspread looks clean and tidy and the room smells of disinfectant. Later, when she's settling in for the night, she notices those odd stains on the carpet and the chill in the air that the heater can't banish.

Have characters interact with the objects you've placed in the scene. We touch things, pick them up, move them around, straighten them, clean them, and generally interact with items all the time, and--staying within the boundaries of what serves the story--so should your characters. We notice colours and details, pick up on scents, react to the temperature--and so should your characters.

And if characters are going from apartment to work, or castle to battlefield, or spaceship to colony planet, they have to get there somehow. Sometimes it's important to show the reader how they do that, and what happens along the way. Occasionally it's fine to say that "X arrived at the office the next morning, freshly shaved and barely hung over," but don't forget that sometimes we need to know if he drove, took the bus, or slept on the subway train.

Unlike the subject of a portrait, who comes to the forefront and is removed from their surroundings, your characters need to fully inhabit the world they live in. Don't leave the background out of focus. Make it as sharp and clear with detail as everything else, put your characters firmly in the middle of it, and your story will come to life for the reader.

Photo by artM

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Larry A. Gibbons

Our Flashpoint interview today is with Larry A. Gibbons, whose stories will be familiar to regular Third Person Press readers. Larry's stories have been published in anthologies, magazines and newsletters in Nova Scotia, Ontario and the United States, and a book of his short stories, White Eyes, was published by Breton Books in November, 2011. Larry's website can be found at http://www.larryagibbons.com/.

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Larry A. Gibbons: My birth place is Kingston, Ontario and I believe my childhood days in Kingston influenced my writing. I know I had quite an imagination. I can remember, for instance, standing in the backyard peering at the sky through a prism, my mind stretching to reach out and grasp the magic I knew was inside the colors.
And in my early years our backyard bordered on massive fields which gave me lots of room to run and make up exciting adventures.

When I was young I used to hang out in the living room, sitting on an out-from-under-their-feet chair or footstool, and while the adults talked their big people talk, I’d hurriedly try to transcribe their words into my little black notepad. I wish I still had those notebooks. My mother probably caught them in one of her clean-ups.

Then high school hit me like a bomb. Partly because I was a member of a very strict church which believed many of the normal activities you might find going on in a high school to be immoral and not conducive to getting you a ticket to the heavenly big house. This didn’t help me easily find a peer group and besides all that, the classes bored me. I wanted out. One of the ways I escaped was to write stories about imaginary characters and places. That helped me deal with the school and church world.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
LAG: My three favourite writers when I was young were C.S. Lewis, Jack London and Walter Brooks.

It’s hard for me to pick my three favourite authors. I read a super good book and that writer is my favourite until another comes along. I’ve read many Stephen King books but don’t now because they began to bore me. But the three authors that have impressed me over the last while are George Eliot, Morley Callaghan and Karin Slaughter. I’m now reading George Eliot’s ‘Daniel Deronda’. I have to admit that I’ve been tempted to buy a small dictionary to keep next to my bed. She uses some mighty big words.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
LAG: When I’m not writing I’m either reading, hiking the highlands, cycling, snow-shoeing, skiing, playing hockey, skating, splitting, chain sawing or carrying wood, bumming around Baddeck or playing shovel-the-massive-pile-of-snow game.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
LAG: As a rule I write for about two hours, five or six days a week. My computer is often turned on before breakfast. After breakfast I spend a half hour to an hour reading different non-fiction books along with one or two poetry books I keep on tap. I’ve almost finished wading through the Bible.

When I’m ready to write, I walk into my tiny office, pick a CD, put it into the player, beg, hit and plead with the CD player to play, and when it does, I sit down and begin to type. About an hour into it, I might do some quick exercises while a cup of milk warms up in the microwave. The milk is used to make a hot cup of Ovaltine. I then continue to write.

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
LAG: I have two favourite beverages that I drink while I write, Ovaltine and tea. While I’m not writing, well this is rather hush hush, but besides diet Pepsi and tea, beer is a favourite, but only for medicinal purposes.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
LAG: I would be Telenviro Man - a superhero who protects the natural environments of the world. If a wild place necessary for wildlife or our earth’s health, was developed I would use the power of my mind to telepathically restore it to its original state. Thus, a golf course one day would become a nature-friendly woodland or wetland the next day. Clear-cuts one day, rejuvenated forest the next. What joy that would be! Although I believe there would be some folks who would see me as an immoral, evil super-hero and a scourge to their insane world view based solely on economics and development.

Thanks, Larry!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437

Monday, October 6, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Donald Tyson

Today's Flashpoint interviewee is Donald Tyson, a prolific author of short fiction, novels, and non-fiction on all aspects of the Western esoteric tradition. You can find out more about his writing on his website, http://www.donaldtyson.com/. His story in Flashpoint is "The Fire-Eater."

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Donald Tyson: Halifax, Nova Scotia, is where I was born and lived most of my life. When I was young it was a quiet little city, but as I aged the city grew. All of the places that were green forest or old farms when I was a kid are subdivisions or industrial parks today. I was happy to move to Cape Breton five years ago and get back to the scale of community life that I remembered from my childhood. I like a slower place. The rush of the big city never appealed to me.

I started to read adult novels on a regular basis when I was nine years old. The very first paperback novel I read was Robert E. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. I was spellbound by it and read it in one sitting. I couldn't stop reading it until I finished it. I began to spend all my allowance money on paperback books. They were mostly science fiction novels, but there were also horror anthologies and novels, some mystery novels, and of course the classics.

I actually read Jane Eyre when I was seven. We had large hardcover editions of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in the house. I remember that the quality of Charlotte Bronte's prose fascinated me. I had to stop every few sentences to look up words in the dictionary, but I loved reading it, and I finished the book. I tried Wuthering Heights at the same tender age of seven, but Emily Bronte’s story was too much for me, and it was several years later before I was able to read and understand it.

As for influences that made me a writer, there weren't any. No one on either side of my family that I was in contact with wrote or had any interest in writing. My father was a reader, which encouraged me to read at an early age, but he never suggested that I might have talent for writing. Neither did anyone else, including my teachers. I had to figure it out for myself and that took me some time. I always knew I could write. That was never a question for me. But the idea of becoming a professional writer just never occurred to me until I was in university, and I realized that I didn't want to do anything else. But I was definitely hindered as a writer by the complete and utter lack of any kind of support or encouragement.


TPP: Who were your three favourite writers when you were young? Who are three favourites now?
DT: When I was young, my favourite writers were science fiction writers. Robert A. Heinlein was far and away my favourite. He was my god. I’d have to say that these three were my favourites, in descending order of importance:

Robert A. Heinlein
Arthur C. Clark
Ray Bradbury

Presently, I read mostly horror, mystery, suspense and action-adventure fiction. I stopped reading science fiction around the age of twenty. I just lost interest in it. I’ll rank my three favourite writers that I’ve read recently as follows:

Robert Crais
Cormac McCarthy
Hunter S. Thompson

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
DT: I hike in the Cape Breton woods, and kayak on the lakes and ocean inlets. Lately I’ve taken up motorcycle riding. I got my motorcycle license last year. When I was a teenager, I rode for two summers, but I didn’t have a license at the time. I wanted to get back on two wheels while I was still young enough to enjoy it.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
DT: It’s always been the case that I do my best writing after midnight. When I’m working hard on something, I tend to stay awake until four in the morning, and then sleep in to noon. That’s just always been my natural creative cycle. I can write at any hour of the day or night, but when the air is still and quiet in the wee hours of the morning I probably do my best work.

When I write, I fall into a kind of trance. Even though I’m not consciously aware of this trance state, time will pass without me noticing its passage. Three hours will seem like a few minutes to me when I’m working. Often I’ll end up writing all night.

TPP: What's your favourite beverage while writing? While not writing?
DT: I drink tea, and a lot of it. This habit I picked up from my parents, who were both heavy tea drinkers. I don’t really drink much of anything else. I’m not fond of coffee because I find it too harsh on my stomach.

When I was a boy I made a conscious decision not to drink anything with alcohol in it, because I didn’t want to turn into a drunk in my later years. I’ve never drunk any hard liquor, wine, or even beer for this reason. It’s not that I don’t like these alcoholic drinks (I have tasted them out of curiosity), but I just believe that it would be too easy for me to like them too much. Around the age of nine or ten I decided to stay away from them, and I’ve done so ever since.

I also decided when I was a boy that smoking was a bad idea, and I’ve never smoked for that reason. By the same logic, I don’t take illegal drugs of any kind – I think they are bad for my brain, and I need my brain in order to write well. I even avoid prescription drugs, although I have asthma and can’t entirely keep from taking medication for it.

TPP:  If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
DT: If I had to pick an existing comic book hero to become, it would be Doctor Strange. I’ve always been fascinated by the occult and have made an extensive practical study of Western magic. Most of my nonfiction writing has been on various aspects of the occult. Dr. Strange is a superhero who achieves his goals with his skills in magic, which he acquired through years of intense study and the discipline of his mind and body.

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
DT: At present I’m working on a connected collection of contemporary occult stories that have the same central group of characters and take place in the same city. The circumstances of the characters progress over time from one story to another. What happens in earlier stories affects what happens in later stories.

It’s very similar in this regard to my collection of stories titled Tales of Alhazred which is due to be published in an illustrated edition by Dark Renaissance Books later this year or early next year. This also concerns the adventures of a single character, the poet and necromancer Abdul Alhazred, author of the infamous Necronomicon, who interacts from story to story with the same locations as a backdrop and the same general set of central characters.

I am fascinated with this creative form, which as far as I know doesn’t even have a name. I believe its potential to be enormous yet largely untapped. It is intermediate between a novel and an unconnected collection of stories. By making events progress in time from one story to another, so that the characters evolve and change from story to story, in effect the stories become chapters in an interesting kind of loose, episodic novel.

Thanks, Donald!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Sherry D. Ramsey



Sherry D. Ramsey is one of the co-editors at Third Person Press, but she can't escape the Flashpoint interrogation...er, interview. Her story in Flashpoint is an urban fantasy titled, "B.R.A.N.E., Inc."

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Sherry D. Ramsey: I grew up in Cape Breton, and I do think my childhood influenced me as a writer. I grew up surrounded by books, especially the big wall bookcase at my grandparents' home. That treasure trove offered everything from manuals on animal husbandry and astronomy to classic literature to mystery novels and Harlequin romances. Stories were also a big part of family life, so I think the storytelling gene plays a part as well.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
SDR: When I was young, I'd usually come home from the library with something by Edward Eager, Walter Farley, or Carolyn Keene. It's difficult to choose favorites now, but I rarely miss anything by Terry Pratchett, Connie Willis, or Janet Evanovich.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing? 
SDR: I'm a bit of creativity addict, so I have a lot of other creative pursuits. I make jewelry and like to dabble in art, and spend summer days in the garden. I also sew, edit projects with Third Person Press, and, of course, read. I don't understand it when people say "I'm bored."

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals? 
SDR: I like to clean up my office before embarking on a new writing project—or maybe that's just procrastination? I'm not sure, but it seems to help. I'm not much of an outliner or planner, but I do like to think about a story for a good while before I start writing it. I have a lot of unfinished projects that attest to the fact that I used to start writing before I'd done enough thinking, so I try not to do that any more.

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
SDR: Coffee for writing, tea for relaxing, especially green tea or chai. Very occasionally a glass of wine, but that's about it.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
SDR: If I were a superhero, I'd be Chrono, with the ability to stretch time so that I could fit in everything I'd like to do!

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
SDR: I'm gearing up to write a new novel first draft for NaNoWriMo in November, and trying to plan it a little more than I usually do (not an outline, but a plan. There's a difference, right?). Before that I'm hoping to finish off a few manuscripts that suffered from that "not-enough-thinking" thing I mentioned earlier.

TPP: Bonus: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. :)
SDR: I get asked a lot of questions during school visits, so I don't think there's much that's been missed. The question I most enjoy answering in that setting is "Do you listen to music while you write?" It's funny to see the students' reactions when I name all the video game soundtracks I like for writing music. My "cool factor" gets an instant bump. ;)

Thanks, Sherry!  

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437

Friday, October 3, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Eight


The Encased-In-Carbonite Story

 

Nancy here, with a simple-to-fix but often ignored element in story telling: the Character Arc.

In real life, when things happen to us, we change--at least a little. Sure, maybe we make the same mistakes over and over, but some kind of change happens, even if doesn't show in our behaviour. That should be true of characters--especially the protagonist--in your stories. Having a static main character, who goes through the whole story as if she's encased in carbonite, is a good way to wreck your story.

The Problem

The story may have a perfectly good plot and interesting setting and characters. Things happen to the characters and they deal with the challenges put in front of them. But if the main character ends the story without having learned something, had an insight, an emotional reaction, grown or evolved in some way, the story will fall flat. Something will feel 'off' and your reader will wonder why they bothered to read it.

The Fix

The evolution of major characters is called the character arc or growth arc. Every story needs one, even if it's subtle. That doesn't mean that a flawed character has to become perfect, or a supervillain has to change into a superhero. Not at all.  In fact it's very interesting to read a story where the main character regresses in some way--maybe ends up more depressed or angry or cynical. It's trickier to pull off because the reader will always root for the character they identify with, but there's nothing wrong with that kind of "negative" growth arc. The character arc can consist of growth, failure, or subtle shifts in worldview, but there needs to be some kind of change.
The good news is that this is an easy fix. After the first draft, look for the growth arc as you're doing your first revision. If it's not there, put it in. Show your reader how the experiences your character went through have affected them. Does it make them want to change their life in some way? We don't necessarily have to know how, but we would like to know that the urge is there. Does it make them surrender to something they've been fighting? Show us, and give us a hint of what that means to them. Does it enliven them, or destroy them? Or perhaps it has done nothing that dramatic. That's fine. Just be clear that it's moved them one direction or another, given them a small insight or a new idea. They should look at their world differently when the story ends.


Remember this, because if it doesn't even have an effect on your character, you can't expect it to have an impact on your reader.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Steven Fraser MacLean

New Third Person Press contributor Steven Fraser MacLean stops by the blog to day to answer our questions. Steven's story in Flashpoint is "Burning Fear", and is his first published story.

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Steven Fraser MacLean: I grew up in Bras d'Or and Frenchvale, Cape Breton. My High School English teacher Mr. Andrea was a positive influence - he gave my class a 15 minute writing challenge; "they call me Pops" was the title we were to wrap our vocabulary lesson into. He read just one to the class and said it was very creative. This recognition stuck with me. 

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
SFM: I appreciate many writers; I would only cite one as gripping and leaving an impression on me, and that one is Stephen King. .

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
SFM: When I am not writing, I enjoy TV or entertaining people at my cottage. 

TPP:  Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
SFM: I tend to scribble some thoughts on a scrap of paper and later collect the scraps to write a story. I always hand write and then type my stories. 

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing?
SFM: I like coffee or a glass of red wine while I write. 

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
SFM: I think I would want multiple powers if I was a super hero, like Superman. If I only had one power it would be the ability to stop time, and move through time past or future. 

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
SFM: I am working on two Sci-Fi stories currently. One is called "the Lucky Ones" 
Thanks, Steven!
 Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Stephanie Snow

Flashpoint contributor Stephanie Snow drops by the blog today to answer our questions. You might know her from her blog, Bare Knuckle Writer, or from previous stories from Third Person Press. And if not, get to know her now! Her story in Flashpoint is "A Year and A Day."

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Stephanie Snow: I grew up all over Atlantic Canada, the result of job migration. Because of that, I read a lot; it was easy to do in the car while we drove to a new town and books kept me company until I made new friends. That had to influence me to write, because sometimes I couldn't find the town library, or it was closed, and had to make up my own stories until I found new books. I guess it became a habit.


TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
SS: When I was a kid, my favourites were J.R.R Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, and David Eddings. Now, Pratchett has stayed on the list, but has been joined by Stephen King and Patrick Rothfuss. But this changes day to day, depending on my mood.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
SS: Tabletop roleplaying, working my way through my giant to-read pile, blogging over at Bare Knuckle Writer, or editing whatever the hell I just wrote until it makes sense.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
SS: Get up, get coffee, read over the previous day's writing while drinking it, make notes on what needs to be done today, go for a run, shower, get more coffee, start writing. Any or all of these steps may happen out of order, more than once, or not at all...I may be defining 'ritual' loosely.

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing?
SS: Coffee: strong as death, black as hell, and bitter as a broken heart.
TPP: Sounds...invigorating. :) While not writing?
SS: Same as above, but in a smaller cup. Or a single malt scotch so smoky it's like drinking a bonfire.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
SS: There is no universe in which I acquire superpowers and don't become a supervillain. Doesn't matter what the power is. I could spontaneously develop the ability to talk to fruit and would still use it to raise a kumquat army and overthrow the Apple Cultural Hegemony. But if I get to pick a power, then I'll take electricity and lightning. And I'd be known on Wanted Lists the world over as Lux. Except, sexism being what it is, they'd probably call me Lady Lux or some bullshit until I vapourized someone over it. This? This is why I end up a supervillain.


TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
SS: Right now the Big Project is the re-rewrite of a novel I crapped out a zero draft of two years ago. Next project? Not sure yet, but maybe the re-re-rewrite. Or a western, because I like westerns and haven't written one yet.


Thanks, Stephanie!
 
Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437
 

Monday, September 29, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Seven

 Nancy tells us about one of her writing pet peeves:

The I-Know-But-I'm-Not-Going-To-Tell-You Story

©NancyWaldman,2014

A big part of writing is structuring the flow of information, managing what should be withheld, and when it should be revealed. If you want to surprise your reader with a plot twist at the end, or if there's a mystery that your protagonist must solve, it requires a thoughtful, planned release of facts, feelings, insights, discoveries, motivations, actions. However, this isn't the same as being vague.

 

The Problem

Some inexperienced writers misinterpret the process of withholding information by making everything elusive. They think this will increase the aura of mystery or suspense. Aspects of the plot are ambiguously hinted at, but for reasons that aren't necessary they are kept from the reader. This is a good way to wreck your story
 Perhaps a protagonist has a superpower that came on suddenly late in life. The narrative is about how it has affected her: she's isolating herself, feeling a bit crazy, running away from the world because she finds people's interest in her too oppressive, but the author doesn't tell us what her power is.  Instead it says vague things like, "Her ability heightened everything, but also set her apart." "She began to avoid situations where her powers would be needed."

Even if you think you have a good reason for not telling your reader, it's probably not good enough. Because when we are aware that crucial facts are being withheld it takes us out of the story. We think about why the author isn't being forthcoming instead of being wrapped up in the narrative. 

 

The Fix

Be specific about any information that is given to the reader. If you don't want us to worry about something we can't know yet, don't tell us it exists or tells us part of the truth. We can deal with incomplete information if we are given enough concrete details all the way along.

Here are two ways to deal with the above example:
  1. Let us know early on what her power is. This can be incomplete, but it must be specific. We learn that she hears people's thoughts, but--if this advances your plot--won't find out until later that she can intercede in what she overhears.
  2. Don't mention the fact that she has a superpower until you're ready for that information to come out. This option is harder to pull off than the first, because you don't want your reader to feel tricked, but it can work as long as the clues you put in all along are specific. She seems crazy, as if she's hallucinating. Late in the story we realize this is not mental illness, but an explained--though unexpected--superpower.
You want wonder in your story. But that should be wonder as in "awe," not as in "I wonder why the author is keeping things from me," or even worse: "I wonder what I should be doing instead of reading this story."

To keep your story a page-turner instead of a head-scratcher, root out vagueness.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Patrick M. Charron

Today, Patrick M. Charron drops by the blog to answer our questions. Patrick's story in Flashpoint is "Battle Scars," an epic fantasy tale.


Patrick says this is "all you need to know about me."
Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? 
Patrick M. Charron:  In a small village outside of Windsor Ontario, named McGregor. I grew up on the outskirts of the small community; it was a rural environment with a forest on one side, a 50 acre wheat farm on the other, and a cattle pasture across the street. There wasn't a lot of inspiration in the area, aside from the landscape. Our games as children were rather limited, mostly involving the agitation of said cattle. Though I have since tried to replicate the sheer terror of having an entire herd of cattle charging headlong at an 8 year old fat kid, thus far, I haven't been able to reproduce the feeling.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
PMC: As I noted previously, our play was somewhat limited as a child, and as an adolescent I spent a great deal of time playing baseball. I spent very little time reading; the only pleasure reading I enjoyed were biographies of famous baseball players. It wasn't until I was nearly twenty that I began to read for pleasure, finding the sci-fi and fantasy genres for the first time. My current favourite authors, if I have to limit it to three, would be R.A Salvatore, Brandon Sanderson, and J.K. Rowling. If I'm allowed to extend it a bit, I'm also partial to J.R.R Tolkien, Stephen King, Robert Jordan, and a writer by the name of Sherry Ramsey - you should definitely check her out.
(Editors' note--haha, Patrick, we see what you did there!)
 
TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing? 
PMC: I am not a terribly interesting person, as I spend most of my time working my day job as an accountant with the Provincial Government and my night job as a supervisor at the local Marion Bridge grocery store. My free time is spent enjoying time with my family. I do however enjoy gaming and we go to Hal-Con as a family every year.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals? 
PMC: I typically write late at night, in short bursts. I do envision, at some point in the future, spending time on the deck or by the pool, writing while the gentle breeze moves among the trees, with a hot cup of coffee within easy reach.
 
TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
PMC: On both counts, coffee. Morning, noon and night, writing, working, or relaxing. Coffee. Can't live without the Caffeine.
 
TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
PMC:  As much as I would love to be a super villain, I just don't have the mean streak necessary. And as much as I love Super-hero stories, I've never really considered being a super-hero myself.  I've always seen myself as part of the supporting cast, the guy that makes sure the guns are loaded and the plane is all fueled up.

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
PMC:  I'm working on a fantasy novel (shocking, I know) with a wayward dwarf who forms an allegiance with a venerable elf warrior, a disgraced military captain and hungry for adventurous Halfling cook. They endure prisons, portals and persons of ill-repute in an effort to imprison an ancient demon the dwarf was fool enough to release.

TPP: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. :)
Q: What is the one thing you worry about most when writing?
PMC:  That my characters will refuse to behave as I want them to, will run wild and dominate my story in ways I can't foresee.
 
Thanks, Patrick!
 
Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Nancy S.M. Waldman

 Today's interview is with Third Person Press co-editor, Nancy Waldman. Her Flashpoint story is "Hearth's Glow" and there is absolutely no truth to the rumour that it's at the end of the book because it took her so long to put the puzzle together. Read to the end. It will make sense.

typical Texas girl



TPP: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer? 
NSMW: I grew up in Texas—mostly Houston, but also Austin, San Antonio and from age 7 to 9, the little coastal town of Freeport. It was exciting and fun to live near the beach and the experience left me so full of sense memories that I set my first novel there. 
I come from a family of writers. The walls of our house were lined in bookcases. I have fiction, poetry and memoirs written by my grandparents and my father; my mother has hundreds of journals that she's kept. We all write something. So I figure that writing is in my genes—as are, presumably, the toxic chemicals produced by the Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, Texas back in the days before we'd ever heard the word "pollution." My dad used to say that it was the smell of money. But don't let the sparkly photo of me fool you. We didn't have much of it. The fabulous lavender and gold costume was made by my mom for our dance recital with teacher, Almeda Lobella. But that's another story.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now? 
NSWM: As a little girl, Carolyn Keene—the pen name for the writers of the Nancy Drew mysteries. Ray Bradbury when I was a teen. Anne McCaffrey, as a young adult. Now? That's a hard question. I just discovered Ruth Ozeki. I've only read one of her books, but loved it (A Tale for the Time Being). I think Connie Willis is wonderful. Finally, Elizabeth Moon—a fellow Texan. 

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing? 
NSWM: You can find me wasting time on the Internet, checking Facebook, Twitter, writing forums or my favourite fashion blog, Tom and Lorenzo, Fabulous & Opinionated. But wait! It's an addiction I'm actively attempting to modify. I love to do art, digital or otherwise. I quilt, play the piano a little. I love to cook and garden—when my body lets me—and read, of course. And, I fully intend to go back to websites and blogging someday. After years of doing my own creativity site and other blogs, I ran out of steam for that and had to let it go for a while.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals? 
NSWM: I'm drawn more to variety* than habits or rituals. But, I've recently re-instituted a dedicated two-hour writing time (usually from 12 to 2)—with a strict "No Internet" rule. I put on my headphones and stay focussed. At the end of those two hours I can let it go and do something else for the rest of the day—or choose to keep writing if it's flowing. 
But it's ridiculously easy for me to get into non-productive ruts, so I try to mix it up. If I am into a negative period I [eventually remember to] use short meditative practices to get that censorious, left-brained thinking out of my way or do timed writing sprints. I write Morning Pages (see Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way) to release mental logjams. I also use a treadmill desk; walking while writing can change things up and if nothing else, get the blood circulating—hopefully all the way to my brain. 

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing? 
NSWM: I drink two cups of strong coffee with lots of milk in the morning and a cup of green tea in the afternoon. Did I say I'm not one for routine?* I don't really like green tea, but they tell me it will allow me to live forever, so I'm up with that. After hours, I enjoy white wine.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? 
NSWM: Living in Canada with most of my family far away, I would prefer my superpower to be: Being in Two Places at the Same Time. 
My name: Echo? Doppelgänger? Duplo. Yeah. 

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project? 
NSWM: So Many Things. I'm half-way through the first draft of a superhero story involving bees. I am focussed on short fiction right now because my goal is to get stories published in pro magazines. We shall see whether that's a short or long term goal. The odds are terrible! I do love to write novels, but since I might have Dow Chemicals lingering in my body and because that green tea may not work as effectively as I've been promised by the Internet, short fiction seems wise until someone's beating down my door for something meatier...or until I change my mind.* 

TPP: Bonus: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. :) 
NSWM:
Q: What's your best analogy for story writing? 
A: I thought you'd never ask. I think of stories as puzzles. But, of course, not a ready-made puzzle that comes in a box with a picture and a known number of pieces. It's a puzzle that I have to find the right (and right number of) pieces to and then fit them together in the proper way so that the final result is perfect. Sometimes I provide too many pieces so the result falls off the edges of the coffee table. Or maybe the first draft looks more like a pre-school puzzle because it needs more pieces. Often there are ragged borders or holes in the middle. Thinking of it this way helps because a puzzle is a game. And games, while sometimes frustrating —"They forgot to put all the pieces in this box!"—are more often fun, and ultimately do have a solution. With this in mind, I can stop taking it all so seriously, remember that there should be a whole and satisfying "picture" at the end, and know that any problems I'm having can be fixed, because it's all under my control. 

Talk about super-powers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Six

The “Swallow-An-Elephant” Story

Sherry, here, with another way NOT to wreck a story. Every story asks the reader to suspend his or her disbelief to a certain extent—to willingly enter into the world of the story and accept its context for the duration of the tale. However, some stories ask or expect too much. That’s the “swallow-an-elephant” story.

The Problem
This story problem asks the reader to accept something they simply cannot. This is not a problem of genre—it’s entirely reasonable to ask a reader to accept the existence of magic, vampires, FTL travel, or other things that don’t exist in what we fondly think of as “the real world” if that’s the genre in which the story is written. The reader should come to the genre story with those expectations—in that case the onus is on them to be prepared for what they will find in the pages of the story.

No, this problem presents the reader with something far more challenging. It’s usually an aspect of the world or plot that:

- is not properly explained so that the reader can accept it

- does not make sense within the context of the story

- brings in story elements without proper setup

- requires all the characters to be complete idiots in order for it to work

The Fix
Depending on the particular flavour of the problem, the fix can entail a few different things. Sometimes you, as the author, need to bounce the idea around with some trusted readers or friends. “Does this make sense to you?” “Would you buy into a world where...” “Could you believe that the characters would do this?” Ask them to be honest. Maybe it all makes sense to you, because you know the one crucial element that makes it make sense—but you’ve failed to share that with your readers.

You may need to look at the elements of your story to make sure that you’ve set up what’s necessary for those aspects of the plot to be believable. Why would a government allow a particular practice? Why would experimenters deem a certain procedure acceptable? Why wouldn’t characters have seen a certain event coming, and prepared for it? Your problem might be in the setup at the beginning of the story, or in the way a problem is solved at the end, or anywhere else along the way. Everything needs to make sense within the context of the world and the story you’ve built.

And finally, does the story only work if your characters are completely blind to consequences, lacking in common sense, or making inexplicable choices? If so, you need to fix something. Readers usually won’t cut your characters a break or root for them to succeed if they’re only in trouble because of their own incompetence.

Don’t ask your readers to swallow an elephant. It’s simply too much work for them, and they’ll soon turn to something less challenging.

Photo Credit: SpencerCarbone

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Katrina Nicholson

Katrina Nicholson drops by the blog today to answer our interview questions. Katrina's story in Flashpoint is "Hair Trigger." For those of you who read Kat's story in Unearthed, "One Word," you'll recognize some of the characters in this story.

(Not a photorealistic representation of Kat)
Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Katrina Nicholson: I grew up here in Sydney. My parents fed me a steady diet of books and wacky invented games. If that's not encouraging for a young writer, I don't know what is.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
KN: The following are AMONG my favorite authors. I have a lot.

Then:

Robert Munsch
Because the princess calling the prince a bum is still the best ending to a fairy tale ever.

Anne McCaffrey
Because girls who want a pony have obviously never heard of dragons.

Bill Waterson
Because if you think Calvin and Hobbes is over a 9-year-old's head, you didn't know me when I was 9.

Now:

Jack McDevitt
Because spaceships + archaeology = you just blew my mind.

Kelley Armstrong
Because oh dear, have the werewolves misplaced their clothing AGAIN?

J.K. Rowling
Because I want to BE her, dammit.


TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing? 
KN: Working (girl's gotta eat) or reading through the massive pile of library books that have followed me home (occupational hazard).

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals? 
KN: Outlines. WRITE ALL THE OUTLINES. My first draft ritual involves not pushing past the point where I know exactly what's going to happen. I go for walks to watch head movies and work out what I'll write the next day. Rewriting, however... I make a list of things that need fixing and plow through it. My ritual involves not being interrupted by things like phones, food, and bedtime.

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing?
KN: Candy.

TPP: While not writing?
KN: Candy. My brain is fueled by candy.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
KN: I'd have teleportation powers and no dorky superhero name because I'd be so sneaky that no one would ever see me to call me anything.

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
KN: I'm not writing anything now because I just got a new job. The last thing I did was a YA short story about a Vodou mage in an alternate history Haiti. As for the next thing... I'm not sure. Possibly a romantic comedy screenplay involving bomb sniffing seals.

TPP: Bonus: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. :)
KN: I'd be very surprised if no one saw this coming...

Q: May we pay you buckets of money to publish your novel and turn it into the next Hunger Games?

A: Yes, you may.

Thanks, Katrina!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Julie A. Serroul

Today, Third Person Press co-Editor Julie A. Serroul answers our interview questions. Of course we wouldn't let ourselves off the hook! Julie's story in Flashpoint is a rather unusual foray into science fiction for her, titled "Spark."


Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Julie A. Serroul: As a young girl, one of the most exciting days of my week was bicycling the 3 km to the end of the road to meet the Bookmobile. Climbing up into that van which was literally spilling books from its shelves onto the floor felt so exciting and looking around in it was like a treasure hunt. Even though I was quite “outdoorsy”, the tree-house that I built was yet another place to hide away and read. My appetite for books never waned, and when you love them that much, wanting to put your own thoughts and ideas on paper has an irresistible pull. Also, when you are a natural introvert, which I was as a child, “speaking” on a page was far less intimidating. After all, in a story you control both sides of the conversation…although some characters are quite willful and disobedient.

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
JAS: As a kid I loved Carolyn Keene, C.S. Lewis and Lucy Maud Montgomery. Now I love many writers, but my lasting loves are Dean Koontz and Bob Salvatore. I have a love/hate relationship with George R.R. Martin who really needs to be less blood-thirsty about killing my favorite characters.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
JAS: Reading, Zumba, Turbo-kick, Drinking red wine, Watching Movies, Four-Wheeling, I have a lot of hobbies, unfortunately, which means lots of distractions from writing. I also have a day-job that allows me to do everything else I love.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
JAS: Pour a nice hot cup of coffee or peppermint tea, depending on the time of day and my mood, and then either stare out the window at the scenery and think for a while, or at some of my lovely fantasy/sci-fi art pieces. I do a substantial amount of “head-writing” before I set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. And I am sometimes in the mood to curl up in my comfy chair with a pen and paper instead of at my computer keyboard which sometimes reminds me too much of my day job and can stifle my creativity. The process of “head-writing” reminds me of when I was a kid and used to “day-dream”. This practice was hugely frowned on by my teachers, but now serves me well!

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
JAS: See answers above!

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
JAS: I’d likely be an Anti-hero named “Crank-porter” and my superpower would be to transport all cranky, irritable, disagreeable people onto the same island where their punishment would be to have to deal with each other!

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
JAS: I am currently revising a story about a couple of Anti-heroes, coincidentally. After that I’m going to re-visit some other stories that I have abandoned to see if I was too hasty. I often fall in love with new work and out of love with the pieces that are at the editing phase - when the fun is over and the work begins…it is a very bad habit!

TPP: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. :)
Q: Have you ever used eavesdropping on the public conversations of strangers to inspire a story?
JAS: Yes, but I prefer not to hear the whole conversation, only a snippet of something intriguing. Firstly, I don’t want to intrude on people’s privacy, and secondly, what I imagine them to be talking about is usually a lot more interesting and fun than the mundane ordinary thing it turns out to be if you listen to the end!

Thanks, Julie!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437 

Friday, September 19, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Five

Julie offers this installment:

The Info-Dump – Slamming the Brakes on your Pacing 

There are so many details that need to be in your story to add richness, flesh out your characters, bring in their backstories, explain the history of what brought your story to this point, etc. But inserting these details should be more like scattering bird seed than using a backhoe. In order to understand info-dumping, you really have to have a good grasp on Pacing and its multi-layered impact on your story.

The Problem
If “Pacing” is the car that your story is driving down the road, an info-dump is a fistful of pointy tacks thrown in the way. Whatever the pace of your story at that point, info-dumping will slam on the brakes. The Pacing of your story is its movement and momentum and you want your reader along for the ride. Making them stop to read huge road signs of detailed information will make them get off the ride in frustration.

Here is an example– If your Main Character joins a circus as a roadie and is now on a dangerous mission to steal the abused horses and escape, you, as the writer are going to want to explain how she got there, why she is motivated to do this, the fact that she is very talented with horses, and so on. And your reader will want to know all this. But mostly they want her to save the horses before the one in the worst shape dies, and to get her own butt out of there! Reading four pages about her past and her skills set is going to frustrate your reader. You need to weave it in small bits all the way through, painlessly.  

The Fix There are many tools in a writer’s arsenal to accomplish this, including:
  • External Dialogue with other characters--comments about how differently they used to do things back home on the ranch, or comments about evil bankers foreclosing on hard-working people, and so on, spread into numerous conversations throughout the story. 
  • Internal Dialogue--comparisons in her head of the vast differences between this setting and her past world (this allows you to paint the current setting, and draw in details of her past). 
  • Sensory induced memories--smells in the circus could give her brief flashes of memories from her past. 

These are just some of the ways to scatter the “birdseed” of information throughout your story. If done skillfully, your reader acquires the knowledge without even realizing it. They never get off the ride, and every relevant question is answered by the time the car crosses the finish line. Victory Lap!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Peter Andrew Smith

Next up is an interview with Peter Andrew Smith, whose story in Flashpoint is titled, "Invasive Species."

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Peter Andrew Smith: I grew up in southern New Brunswick in a household filled with books and in a family who loves to read. I can remember weekly trips to the library and eagerly working my way through the bookcases around the house. With a head filled with so many stories there is little wonder I began writing!

TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
PAS: As a boy I loved Robert E. Howard, J R.R Tolkien, and L Spague de Camp. I have so many favorite authors now it is hard to name just three so I'll go with the writers of the last three books I read- Mike Moscoe, Larry Correia, and Gini Koch.

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
PAS: Playing with, singing to, or chasing my three year old daughter around the yard.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
PAS: I tend to write either early in the morning before everyone gets up or late at night after our house gets quiet.

TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
PAS: I never drink and write. When not writing I enjoy a good cup of tea.

TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
PAS: If I were a superhero I would be "Nappingman" with the ability to sleep at any moment and wake up refreshed and ready to go (did I mention we have a three year old?).

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
PAS: I am currently half way through a draft of a book which needs to be finished and back to my editor by June 2015 (which seemed a long way off when I signed the contract). After that I'm going to pick up some short stories in progress about a war of liberation which only lasted eight minutes and thirty one seconds, a medic trapped in a pregnant giant spider's crashed spaceship, and a dragon staging a protest on the Canso causeway.

TPP: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer.
Q: What inspires you to write?
PAS: Reading. When I read something that is well written and engaging my mind heads off in a hundred different ways and I want to write. When I read something that is poorly written and unengaging I start to think about how I would write the story. Either way the more I read the more I am inspired to write.

Thanks, Peter!

Remember to click over and read more about the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flashpoint-anthology/x/1156437