Author Archives: David Heyman

True lies

Since joining the Fictorians last year, I’ve found my post for each month’s topic was pretty easy to put together. The ideas would flow quickly and I would have a very strong idea of what I wanted to say and do.

This month, well I’m not going to lie to you. It’s a bit trickier for me. I’ve struggled to come up with books I’ve read that contained outright lies or shocking twists. Maybe I’m just not a fan of the right types of books. I don’t read a lot that is in first person, and I think that had shielded me from our friend the unreliable narrator. If nothing else, this highlights for me and area I should explore more.

Surprisingly I use twists quite a bit in my own fiction. I think they are a lot of fun to pull off, and a lot of fun for the reader to experience. I think we want to be lied to, as long as its fair. The plot twist that comes out of nowhere with no foreshadowing is frustrating, but the surprise that we had the clues for and just didn’t expect is very enjoyable.

I think the plot twist I enjoy the most come in two general categories: “I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING” and “OH, I HAD THAT WRONG”. I’ll give an example of each below. For me, I think the former is a lot easier to pull off and mostly involves putting a few signposts (but not too many) on the way to the reveal. The second is much more like a magic trick, relying on misdirection.

I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING

If you’re my age, there’s no example of this more burned in most folks memory than Darth Vader’s reveal at the end of Empire Strikes Back. There is no scene in the movie (or for me, in the series) that carries as much emotional weight as this moment, and I am lucky enough to have experienced it live in the theatre. It also makes so much of Luke’s arc make sense, and introduces a great deal of peril to his future.

(For being a famous twist, it did feel like a bit of a cheat though. Even as a pre-teen, I immediately thought back to Obi Wan’s story in Star Wars, which now seemed untrue. I love Obi Wan, but his ‘from a certain point of view’ speech always felt like an attempt to rationalize the mis-truth.)

OH, I HAD THAT WRONG

I think this model is even trickier. You have to actively steer the audience in one direction while getting them to avoid the second option, all without that action seeming so heavy handed that they catch on. Pulled off correctly, there’s this wonderful moment where the reader or viewer feels this moment of satisfaction that you’ve tricked them, but it was fair. The stakes are higher here though, since you are actively trying to deceive and manipulate your audience. They *want* you to do this, but only if they can’t tell you are doing it. It’s a delicate dance.

A very good example of this is in the first X-Men film, where everything leads up to the moment where Magneto comes for the mutant he has been tracking. At the moment of the reveal, everyone thinks the target is Wolverine. Wolverine thinks it, the other X-Men think it and the audience thinks it. Magneto then reveals the trick: “My boy, who ever said I was looking for you?” Rogue is his target and the viewer goes back and does the math. It all adds up, makes sense and is fair. We just assumed Wolverine was the target because of how the film presented him as the primary character. The filmmakers played on our assumptions and used them against us. As I said, done well I find this very satisfying. We do, after all, want to be lied to.

In my own fiction, I have used both of these models. I particularly enjoy hiding my main antagonist in plain sight, only to reveal his or her true nature and intentions later in the story. To what level of success, well I’ll have to wait until after publishing to get some real feedback on that.

See you next month!

 

You never walk alone

Well friends, we’ve reached that time. It’s been a great month, but we’ve hit the last day of this topic and with April the Fictorians will bring you a whole new angle on which to explore. All throughout March our members and guest posters have explored the friendships they loved in fiction, the friendships they add to their own writing and how real life friends have helped them in their careers. On my previous post I departed from the model to address the friends of writers directly, but now I will return to the theme of the month and provide an example of each.

Like many people, my first *real* fantasy trilogy was The Lord of the Rings. I was maybe 10 or 11 when I read it, and I was very struck by the many strong relationships in that story: Frodo and Sam, Gimli and Legolas, Gandalf and Aragorn. Well trodden ground for most readers though, so for my fiction example I’d like to highlight a friendship from the *second* fantasy I read, which was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. No, I’m not going to discuss that series’ extremely problematic main character (to me, anyway) but rather the Giants.

The Giants in the Thomas Covenant books are just such amazing friends to the people of the Land, and I found them as a group to be both inspiring and heartbreaking. Long lived and incredibly powerful, once stranded from their home they could have easily conquered the native people but instead they entered into a millennia of friendship and service with them. They built Revelstone, joined the Lords in their war against Despair and embraced the concept of service to the land itself. Their ultimate fate is incredibly tragic, yet their enduring legacy for me as a reader is one of positivity and optimism. The wonderfully named Saltheart Foamfollower said “Joy is in the ears that hear!”, capturing the spirit that embodied these friends of the Land so well.

In my own fiction, I wanted to explore the concepts of friendship on both sides of the story equation. My current project has a male and two females as the primary protagonists, all of whom end up friends but with no romantic entanglements added. As a trio they learn to trust each other and provide support, even as they endure some remarkable hardships. I also wanted my villains to have friends too though, and that dynamic has been a fun one to explore. The best antagonists for me are ones who have some redeeming qualities, and seeing my primary bad guy still show loyalty and even compassion I think makes him all the more interesting.

It would be impossible for me to provide all the examples of how my friends in real life have helped me. It is through friends that I first found the Superstars Writing Seminars, which led me to the Fictorians. Friends were there to encourage me through my first Nanowrimo and my first story submissions. Friends who helped me through rejections, revisions and beta reading.

Without my friends I’d still be that guy who had a novel in his head but that was it. Thanks to my friends I’ve written three novels, a novella and a whole bunch of short stories. Each person who offered support or advice has walked me a little farther down this crazy writing path I’m on. I may be by myself most of the time the fingers are hitting the keyboard, but I’ve never walked alone. I don’t suspect that will change anytime soon, and I hope I can be as good a friend to the writers I know as they have been to me.

Thanks for taking this journey with me this March. See you next month!

No man is an island

No man is an Island

(Guest post by Gama Ray Martinez)

“No man is an island entire of itself.”

John Donne wrote those famous words almost four hundred years ago. With very few exceptions, they are as true in fiction as they are in life. Keep in mind that most stories are from the point of view of the hero, and for the vast majority of stories, you know the hero is going to triumph in the end. That’s not why you read the story. We read the story to find out what the hero is going to have to go through to get that victory. what price are they going to have to pay? Usually, the very first price is who they are. The character at the end of the story is not the same as the character in the beginning. They’ve often lost their innocence. They have changed, and they have changed those around them. No here is this most apparent than in their closest friendships. There are a couple of ways to do this. The one that I’ve found the most success with is finding what your main character lacks.

In my recently completed Pharim War series, the main character, Jez, has two strong relationships. The first is Osmund, one of the first people he meets when he goes away to magic school. Throughout the first book, Jez discovers strange powers inside of himself that indicate he may not be entirely human. Osmund, an exile because of his own partially inhuman heritage, has already been through that. By the end of the first book, the pair are inseparable. By the end of the second, not only have they accepted their inhuman side. They have embraced it. Through the rest of the series, their conversations with each other often inspire awe and fear in others, not because they are not entirely human, but rather because of the adventures their inhuman side has led them too. What they can casually discuss with each other, no one else can understand. That leads to scenes like this, if the fifth book of the series.

***

“Fine,” Jez said, “but the question still stands. Can’t we just go and face Sharim’s army ourselves?”

Fina smirked. “And how many demon armies have you faced?”

“Two,” Jez said without hesitation. Then, he glanced at Osmund. “Do you think that time in the beast men’s valley counts? I mean those animals were possessed.”

“True, but we didn’t really fight them. That was all the beast men. You did battle that giant lake monster, though.”

Jez shook his head. “That wasn’t a demon.” He smiled and looked at Fina. “Just two.”

Lina groaned. “You two are hopeless.”

For a second, Fina just stared at them. Then, he threw back his head and laughed. “For a moment, I forgot who I was talking to.”

***

The air of casualness with which they speak of something so amazing is a quality that characterizes their relationship throughout the series.

Jez’s second important relationship is with Lina. Lina actually started as an antagonist, of sorts. She was the rich spoiled daughter of a noble, and she hated Jez, essentially for being a commoner. It was only in the second book when I explored the noble class of the world of the Pharim War that I found the depth of her character. Throughout the series, she, more and more, represented Jez’s link to his human side. The more he had to embrace his other half, the more precious his human side became to the point where he makes sacrifices for her that he would make for no one else. Of course, it works both way. Just as she is Jez’s, and to a lesser extent Osmund’s, link to humanity, their relationships with her serve as a catalyst in Lina’s life that allows her to see that just because someone isn’t noble doesn’t make them of less value. In short, she helps them be human, and they help her be humane.

***

Gama Ray Martinez lives in Salt Lake City area and collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion. He greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. He secretly dreams of one day slaying a dragon in single combat and doesn’t believe in letting pesky little things like reality stand in the way of dreams. He has recently completed the Pharim War, a series about angels and is working on The Nylean Chronicles, a series about unicorns.

We’ve got a friend in you

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying our month-long look at the many concepts of friendship in fiction as much as I have! I’ve been thrilled to see all the different perspectives and interpretations that my fellow Fictorians and guest posters have brought to the table.

For my own look at friendship, I’d like to take a slightly different tack. Rather than covering a favorite friendship in a story (I’ll do that in my second post later this week) or discussing how my friends have helped me in my own career, I’m going to talk directly to that most important of friends… your friend. There’s no more valuable resource than that dependable friend of the writer. (Family members count as friends too, of course!) Thus, I’d like to take my post to address those reliable folks who have our backs. 

Go ahead, invite them over. Are they here? Seated comfortably? Great. First off pal, on behalf of all writers everywhere we want to say: Thanks!

Being the friend of a writer is not always an easy task. There is the time we take away from the friendship to (hopefully) bang away at a keyboard, or alternatively softly bang our head against our desk. There’s the staring off in space when you’re trying to talk to us, knowing our head is a thousand miles away chasing plot bunnies. We can’t help it, and we love you for understanding.

In truth, knowing you understand and care about our mad quest is all we need. If you ever wonder if there is more you can do to help us, I have a few suggestions:

  • If you like to read, you might ask if we’d like you to read something of ours. We might say yes, we might say no. We know you will understand either way, but I’m guessing many of us will say yes. In fact, some of us were probably hoping you’d read our stories, but we were too shy to ask you.
  • If you read our stuff, please understand you don’t have to like it. Tell us what you really think, what you liked and what you didn’t. Often times the most valuable feedback we can get is what a story made you feel, and at what points did you have those feelings. Even the bad ones, like boredom for example. It is so valuable to know where a reader loses interest. Good stuff is great too of course! We want to know what you loved, where you cried, what villain you hated. Give us the real truth, good and bad. We were friends before, we’ll be friends after – no matter what feedback you give.
  • If you’re willing, let us bounce ideas off you. You don’t have to be a writer to be a great sounding board. Writing is just another form of storytelling, most people have strong reactions to storytelling no matter what the media it’s in. Sometimes that fresh perspective on a problem is just super helpful. Next time you see us lost in thought chasing those plot bunnies I mentioned, maybe offer to help us talk it out? You may have a bunny trapping method we never would have thought of.
  • Finally, if you truly like our stories we can never get enough promotion. Many writers are pretty shy by nature and self-promotion comes hard for most of us. Just sharing a Facebook post or re-tweeting a book announcement is such a great gift to your writer friends. Additionally, “buy this person’s book, it’s awesome” often just carries more weight than “buy my book”

None of the above is required of course. We’re so thrilled to have you as a friend even if you never read a word of what we write. Just the fact that you are supportive and understanding of our strange creative mania is enough for us. We may not say it as often as we should, but I’ll say it clearly here:

Friend, we couldn’t do this without you!