To Future or Not, a Bloodsucking Dilemma

If it’s the 10th, it’s my turn to blog.  Welcome readers and blogerites.  This is my first time so you can expect a little awkwardness.  Maybe you won’t find it, but it’s there.  A lot like writing my first novel—a long and smelly proposition….

So, there I was, not a writer, (I hated writing) but someone with a story to tell, a story that had its beginnings when I was immersed as a young teenager in the science fiction section of our rural county library.  The section covered one whole wall—I read it all.  Then, there were the other books from at home, the ones that came first, Tarzan, Robinson Crusoe, The Black Knight; books left over from grandma’s attempts to get her children to read the classics—all hundred of them for whatever they were charging then.  Then came romance, old Harlequin books with dynamic men and womanly women having adventures in foreign countries.  Many of those old books were written by obviously English writers and I didn’t care.  The foreignness was part of the appeal.  Those English writers got around.  They wrote about Spain, Italy, and South American countries.  My eyes burned up the pages.  Then I discovered Regencys.  Ah, my heart.  Manly men with swords.  The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer earned me an A on an oral book report as well as the scorn of my fellow classmates.  I was supposed to talk for three minutes—fifteen minutes later the bell caught me mid-sentence and a classroom full of teenagers ran for their lives.

So much for the beginning.  Now to the end.  I wrote a story.  It ended up a novel.  I was such a novice I didn’t know how long a novel was so I called a publishing company to ask.  Their answer: it depends.  Imagine the conversation that followed as I pressed them for concrete details.  The conversation resembled a comedy club act.  However, I now know the answer to that question if you need it.

Writing that novel was absolutely the most addicting fun.  Some days I didn’t want to go anywhere but to the computer.  I’m sure that if I’d not had people who pulled me back into real life occasionally, that I’d have been found, a dried up smelly relic, sometime in the murky future.

Here’s the real problem.  I wrote another novel.  The first one was a futuristic, survival romance.  (See why I told you what I read?)  The second novel was set in the same location, futuristic and survival romance.  There are over twenty more story lines set in the same location.  But, being a futuristic world, someone was supposed to know or should have kept track of the special stuff.  You know, like what a knockert is.  A hitsnake?  How high can a camine jump? By the way, is the first gate to the Proving zone in the east, or the last step located in Randar in the west?  Fine, so a bunnyhop is obviously a rabbit.  But what is a whorlcat and what are its attributes?  How about that flower that Tory sipped sweet nectar from?  Where was that again?  Yup, the second novel was pretty dicey, but I can see the writing on the wall.  I should have been writing the special things, people, society, animal, places, down as I went in some sort of information keeper.  I didn’t.

Second novel finished.  I guess I expected divine intervention.  I didn’t keep anything on the second novel either but coped by making up mostly new stuff for the second novel.  Do you see I just compounded the problem?  In my own defense I have to say I didn’t know I was going to be a writer or that anyone would want to read what I wrote.  I did, they did, now I’m really facing a problem.  Novel number three.  So, I coped again, I switched genres. I’m writing a historical.  By the way, I can see the same problem developing there too.

So what’s this whole long post about?  Caution.  You’ll want to think not only about your characters and about the joy of world crafting but of determining a way of handling the storage and recollection of details.  Details, which may be needed again for the next story.  I’m running out of genres….

Where does your story fit in the Science Fiction, Futuristic, Fantasy, and all the rest of the not-so-easily-pigeonholed variety pack?  Science Fiction has more scientific world crafting.  It relies on the intellect of science.

Futuristic is far enough in the future that society or people are changed substantially enough to not be what we’d expect to see next year.  The time may also be far in the future.

Fantasy stories are crafted with myth being integral in their world.  The myth factor can involve fanciful creatures or everyday ones.  However, fantastical abilities are essential.  These fantastical abilities may or may not be very nice.  Creatures/characters may have many different degrees of humanity or not be human at all.

One overlying fact is true of all of these types of stories, whether from Jules Verne’s’ science fiction classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to The Huntress, a sexy alien erotica sizzler by Barbara Karmazin, the qualities that excite us are the ones we identify with emotionally as humans.  In a true alien story, we wouldn’t know their toes from our ears.  In fiction that appeals to us, it is the human qualities we inject into those alien places that have us attending fantasy fairs dressed as our favorite sprites hoping to excite a little vampire action or hoping to ride on the Star Ship Galactica.


Becky A said...

Miss Nina, since no one else is up yet, I get to be the first to comment on your post. It was great, but you are all scaring the begeebers (mythical word that my mama taught me!) out of me with your wonderful writing. When it's my turn it's going to sound like a lot of blubbering interspersed with wails of agony. I sure understand the "story to tell" but "not a writer" part. Writing contains a a lot more than you imagine and then when you're in too deep to get out you run around like that crazy chicken screaming, HELP!! ps: Did you ever read any Andre Norton?

Reese Mobley said...

What a great post about the importance of world building. Your writing has such depth and I continue to be in such awe of your skills!

Joan Vincent said...

A fantastic post with important distinctions explained. I do not think of myself as a sci fi/futuristic reader but then I also devoured Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series in the 80's and my sister has me hooked on JD Robb aka Nora Roberts futuristic ____ in Death series with Roark and Dallas. Jayne Castle has a wonderful paranormal world. My tastes run more futuristic and mythical I suppose. How would class Robert Jordan? My kids love his work. I liked the prequel which I listened to very much.

I do understand the aspect of keeping tract of pesky and numerous details. I bought a family tree program to keep track of the characters in my Napoleonic series (as real as my physical family--just as cantakerous and numerous) and Excel has many uses not involving numbers or accounting! Can't wait to read more of your writing.

Rox Delaney said...

Great post with super info! I especially love your journey to becoming a writer. That's something we all can relate to.

I've read only a little paranormal in the past 30 or 40 years and can't even name one, that's how long it's been. There are definitely fans with individual tastes and wants, but that's a good thing. It gives each writing a broader range to choose from and write about.

Concerning the tracking, I'm LOLing. I went from a seat-of-the-pants writer to a detailed one who keeps more records than is probably necessary. I started doing age charts for my characters several books back and have progressed to a full list of characters (even those only mentioned in the story) and a calendar to keep track of events in the book so my timeline doesn't get muddled. Just what I need, more paper to keep track of!

Building worlds fascinates me, but I've only attempted it once and have never finished. Not because of the world-building though. Maybe I'll revisit it soon.

Thanks, Nina!

Starla Kaye said...

Again, wow! Each of you ladies starting a blog line have done an amazing job. My turn comes tomorrow and don't look for such a Wow effect.

What I enjoy most about each of these blogs (the definitions are, of course, excellent) is the chance to learn more about the author. Thanks so much, to all of you, for sharing a little about yourself.

Nina Sipes said...

Ahhhhhh, you people...(gulp) say the nicest things.
Becky, I'm right there with you being scared of looking like an egg next to all the wonderful writers we have in this group. My writing is pretty well untested, unlike so many of you. My novel writing voice is so very different from this too. I think it will be fun when we get to that blog....

Yup, I've read Andre Norton. He's a classic with some really good stuff.

Many authors write blends/crossover novels. Robert Jordan I would classify as a myth writer. He works in the time past with the Conan series. (My nephew was named after the character!) But, I believe some of his stuff also would crossover slightly into fantasy. I love some of Jayne Castle/Jayne Krentz's individual Science fiction novels and there are some she now writes that are excellent crossover serieses (can't spell either) which are a very good blend of now-ness with future.

Rox, I'm going to have to do something about my detail avoidance. I can screw up so well in the midst of a book. In the last novel I started out with my hero two years older than when his parents got together--not good. I've a good friend with an eye for that kind of thing. She's a voracious mystery reader with a talent for noticing silly little things like that detail. I rely on her a lot.

Perhaps on down the blog subject list we could have one on continuity/detail tracking? Obviously, I stink at it.

Thanks, everyone, for being so supportive of my ramblings. You're all the best!

Pssst..Rox. See, your hand holding worked out. I POSTED!
PS: How can some of the posts have pictures? How come mine does?

Pat Davids said...

Great post. I've been out of town and I'm trying to catch up on my reading. I'm trying to start a series in an Amish community and your caution will come in handy. Joan, great idea about the family tree thing.
I learn so much from you people.

Penny Rader said...

Nina, I would so love to have a discussion about storage and recollection of details and continuity. I struggle with that, too.

I've never been much of a science fiction/fantasy reader which is why it took me so long to find my favorite series: JD Robb's "In Death" books.

When I first saw this series I thought "Ick, I'll never understand it." But one day while I was in the backroom of the book store I worked for, I picked up "Seduction in Death." I was hooked right away. After finishing the book, I went back to the beginning of the series and now eagerly await each new offering.

My fears about not understanding were unfounded. Ms. Robb uses terms like credits (for money) and tubes of Pepsi to keep me grounded.

I also enjoy Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. Love her use of myths. I guess these would be considered romance fantasy?

Not sure if paranormals fit into this discussion, but stories about psychics, ghosts, magic, etc. fascinate me.

Penny Rader said...

Joan, I forgot to add that using a family tree program sounds like a great way to keep track of characters. If we do have a discussion on worldbuilding and storage and recollection of details as well as continuity, I hope you'll share more about how the program works and elaborate a bit on the uses of Excel that you mentioned.

Jeannie said...

LOLOLOLOL! Nina, I love the way you write! You have a turn for humor that cracks me up every time. Your tale of how you got sucked into writing was a familiar one. Only mine happened in high school. I think the strongest statement your opening makes to writers everywhere is to write the book that you want to write. Write the story that fascinates or intigues you. It's the best way to be a writer.

I had to laugh because in Joan's post I said I was too lazy to write historicals. I don't want to do the research. :-) Like you, I do a lot of world building. If I need a war, I just make one up. lol. It's true you have to keep track of your details. I didn't have a problem until we moved, and I lost all the originals of my manuscripts, both hard copy and computer files. I went back to one of those stories recently for a rewrite and discovered I couldn't remember all the names of the planets in the systems.

I agree with you and the other writers here. Keeping track of things in timelines and family tree progams would be helpful. And if you're writing fantasy, futuristic or paranormal, there are tons of details like whorlcats, and hitsnakes, not to mention the plants, that come along with the process.

I love Andre Norton's books. I've collected them since high school. Lost a lot of them in the move, which stank, but it's been kind of fun replacing them. My favorite book by Andre is YEAR OF THE UNICORN, which is a classic romance, as well as an excellent fantasy.

I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but Andre Norton was a woman. Her name was Alice Mary Norton, and she wrote F and SF under the pseudonym because at the time she began selling her books "women didn't read science fiction, so men wouldn't read science fiction by a woman writer." Guess we and Andre fooled them all.

I also think you have confused Robert Jordan with Robert E. Howard. Howard wrote the Conan stories, and was one of the best storytellers to ever come down the pike. He had a distinctive voice, that couldn't be copied. He wrote prolifically for the pulp fiction magazines and had stories in men's fiction, detective fiction and horror. His story "Pigeons From Hell" is one great creepy read.

Poor Penny. She has patiently put up with my strange tales for years now, and always asks very good questions. She's an invaluable critique partner, and I've become a better writer for having known her. (I love Roarke and Dallas, too. Nora just amazes me.)

Thanks Nina, for a good post on the trials and tribulations of writing the "weird" stuff. Look forward to hearing more from you.