Category Archives: Frank Morin

Experience: The Best Way to Gain Wisdom

Jumping off rocks

Jumping off rocksI love the challenge of this month’s theme. It catapults me right out of my comfort zone. I write big novels where I can take the time to explore concepts to whatever end and it’s common to pound out over 10,000 words in a single day.

A story made up of only 55? Bring it on.

 

There’s a great saying:

Wisdom is knowing how to avoid making stupid mistakes.

Wisdom is gained by making stupid mistakes.

My story was inspired by a recent four-day hiking trek along the beautiful Lower Rogue River Trail. Thirteen hearty souls embarked on the 42+ mile journey and most of us reached the far end intact, with a few blisters and, in my case, the loss of one toenail. And what better activity to do during a long, hot hike along a river than to find the best rocks for jumping from the heights into the cold waters below?

We had a blast.

I hope you enjoy my story: The Plunge

Everyone else had hesitated before jumping, so of course I leaped without even looking.
Weightless, exhilarated, laughing, I looked down.
What an idiot!
Definitely time to scream.
The impact was brutal as I plunged into icy depths, feet stinging, and water shooting up my nose.
I surfaced, but smiled away their worry.
“Piece of cake.”

 

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers scifi time travel thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Genre – An Emotional Journey

ice creamAsking someone which genre of books they prefer most is like asking someone what’s their favorite ice cream. Everyone has an answer, but often they don’t understand why they prefer one over another. Or they’ll cite specific examples they loved within a genre, or perhaps discuss common tropes. Those definitions of genre are limiting and exclusive.

As has been pointed out in other posts this month, genre a marketing label, but books can vary widely within a genre, or fall across multiple genres. For example, my Facetakers series is a sci-fi time travel thriller, but it also has a cool magic system. It’s hard to pin it down to a single genre. I could just as easily call it an alternate history fantasy, but it reads more like a sci-fi thriller, so that’s the slot it’s been assigned. The story is more powerful for the mash-up, but that cross-genre approach does present challenges for finding the right readers because people forget one important truth.

Rune Warrior coverGenre is all about emotion.

This truth is taught by David Farland, who has a knack for audience analysis beyond anyone I’ve ever met. He points out that genre labels generally reflect the most powerful emotional element in the story. Some genres are easy to spot:

Horror – well, obviously.

Humor – this one is often mixed into the other genres (humorous fantasy, humorous sci-fi, etc)

Romance – again – obvious

But what about science fiction and fantasy? There’s a reason these two genres are combined so often in story telling and in how they’re shelved, and it has nothing to do with the size of their audiences. These both share a common emotion: Wonder.

Think about it, whether a far distant planet is reached by interstellar flight or by flights of fancy, whether they include arguably-possible technology or unexplainable magic, the greatest draw for these genres is the wonder of discovery and exploring new worlds.

Many of our stories contain a lot of other emotions, though, and that can lead to genre mashing and a bit of confusion. If there’s lots of horror in a SFF story, it’s often called Dark Fantasy. I already mentioned Humorous Fantasy. If there are lots of action beats, it may be called a SFF Thriller. If it explores history and gives it a twist, it’s called Alternate History Fantasy or Time Travel Sci-Fi. Etc.

So when analyzing the genre of your story, or of those stories you love, consider the emotional journey the story immerses you into. What was the primary emotional beat? For those stories hard to pinpoint in a narrow genre, this might be the most accurate way to describe it.

 

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers scifi time travel thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Horses – the Motorcycles of the Middle Ages

HorsesWhat’s a wandering hero without his horse?

Not nearly as cool, that’s what.

Perhaps the second most iconic image in fantasy and many other types of fiction, behind the image of the sword, is that of the horse.

But for such a beloved and well-known part of stories set in the pre-modern world, as well as many alternate worlds, there are a number of common mistakes when it comes to how some writers utilize horses. Worse, horse enthusiasts are almost as critical as gun nuts for pointing out inaccuracies or unbelievable claims.

The majority of writers seem to understand that characters who are new at riding will get very sore down below, that the riders’ legs, not the saddle, keep them on a horse, and that bridles are usually quite important (unless both horse and rider are trained to work together by knee commands only). Horses will not usually leap off of cliffs on command, or pummel snakes and wolves to death with their hooves.

Horses are not motorcycles.

They can’t run at top speed for hours or days without rest, feeding, or care. As writers design their world, they need to consider well the distances their characters must travel. Like travel by ship, travel by horseback actually takes quite a bit of time, particularly if the roads are not good or if the terrain is mountainous.

Admittedly, there are some horses with incredible stamina, such as some Arabian horses, but unless the story is set up to make it clear to readers that such is the case, don’t fall into the trap of assuming a horse can go forever. Long journeys are covered by alternating slow and fast paces, and what’s considered fast depends much on conditions being ridden through.

Another aspect of horses that is often over-utilized is rearing and whinnying. Spend a little time around horses and it becomes clear that rearing is extremely rare, and that they really don’t whinny that much.

Transylvania horsesOne of my favorite misconceptions about horses though are the impossible feats of strength. Most often, they are seen jumping enormous gaps, often while pulling a stagecoach no less.

Take a look at this great example from the movie Van Helsing. This is the great scene where the marvelous Transylvania horses leap a gorge, pulling a stagecoach. I actually love that movie, but that scene always makes me cringe. It’s even more noteworthy because supposedly they just completed galloping non-stp across three mountainous countries too.

So add horses to stories. Horses are great and we love them, but take a little time and thought to how they are portrayed. Do some riding. Make friends with horse owners and ask them questions. They’re usually happy to help.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers scifi time travel thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Guardians of the Galaxy – Irreverence with a Heart of Gold

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the GalaxyI love this movie.

Was it the best movie I’ve ever seen, or the one that made the most impact on my life?

Nope.

It didn’t pretend to be. I knew going in that this movie was going to be a fun adventure, filled with space battles, aliens, and not-quite-heroes. And it worked. I didn’t even know it was based on comic books, but I didn’t need all that back story to enjoy a fun flick.

So what do we learn from a movie that doesn’t pretend to be the biggest or the best or the most profound?

Gripping storytelling, and the magnifying influence of humor.

Even though this one was pitched as a funny adventure, it had more heart than I had expected. The characters had some cool aspects that came out as the story progressed, drawing the audience in and linking us to them through a surprising depth of emotion, and lots of laughter. Most people I’ve talked to smile with I mention this movie, and that should be considered a win.

The movie followed an interesting plot line as this group of outcasts, renegades, assassins, and hit men are thrown together and end up bonding through the process of a very entertaning prison break. Check out this clip:

And of course, one of the funniest things is that later, Peter Quill learns that Rocket was only joking about needing the artificial leg he had to pay 30,000 credits to acquire for them. A great example of the humor so pervasive in this movie.

As they work together to try to win their big score and escape relentless pursuit, they grow closer together, learn to trust each other, and end up facing the hard reality that the universe that has dealt them so many hard knocks needs their help.

As Peter Quill so eloquently put it: “When I look at us, I see a bunch of losers. I mean, people who have lost stuff.”

Coming from such a group, who had come from very hard lives, this scene was remarkably powerful. Even when Rocket grudgingly goes along with it by claiming, “I don’t have that long a life span anyway.” we feel the power of the moment despite his attempts to pretend he doesn’t care.

The battle sequences are awesome, and we get to see the characters pushed to the limits. They don’t disappoint, like when Groot makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his companions from death in the crashing spaceship.

That’s a great scene, even more powerful woven into such a funny, adventure story. Then we take things up yet another notch when all seems lost and Ronen is about to destroy the entire planet.

And so we flip back to humor. Peter’s ultimate attempt to distract and defeat the evil Ronen is to challenge him to a dance off. When Ronen, who can’t seem to say more than three or four words in any sentence asks yet again, “What are you doing?”

His answer is priceless. “I’m distracting you, you big turd blossom.”

And the group unite to try to control the infinity stone, a power that should be too much for them to handle. Yet somehow, together, they manage.

So yeah, this rollicking adventure kept me interested with the cool action, a cast of characters that we grow to love, despite all the reasons not to, and excellent use of humor. But the end result grew beyond the sum of its parts with the deeper moments of humanity, of sacrifice, and of true friendship.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers scifi time travel thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org