The Fictorians

Archive for the ‘Frank Morin’ Category

Can You Hear the Voices?

12 July 2014 | 1 Comment » | frank

Do you hear the voices tooGrowing up, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I was such an avid reader, it just made sense. My mind naturally turned to stories and I invented whole worlds. I could see the fantastic places, hear the voices of the characters.

Hearing voice is not considered healthy in most professions.

I tried to drive the imaginary friends away, tried to tell them I didn’t want to hear their stories, and for a few years I was successful. But they kept coming back.

Eventually I admitted I had to write and I dove into the process, not caring how long or hard or difficult it might be. That proved I was in the right frame of mind to become a writer. I absolutely love the process of exploring my own little worlds and actively seeking out those voices that I alone could hear. And even though some people look at me funny when I tell them I write fiction novels, this is the one career where you’re supposed to hear voices, where it’s all right to carry on conversations with yourself for days at a time.

I have so many people to talk to, I could sit silent for days just listening.

But even better than exploring worlds of imagination, I love it when I can bring those worlds to life for other people. I love talking with someone who has read one of my stories, looking them in the eye and seeing their excitement as they discuss a scene or a character that they felt a particularly powerful connection with. They heard the voices and they saw the scenes.

The story came alive for them.

Power of Books

By Mladen Penev

Those are the moments that encourage me to keep writing, keep striving to improve my craft to bring these stories to life. It’s incredible to think that a few marks on a page can trigger visions of unseen worlds and make real the personalities and relationships of people who never existed anywhere except inside my head. A lot of people love a good story, but not everyone is a storyteller.

I am.

A little crazy I may be, but I’m loving the journey and I’m bringing a lot of other people along for the ride.

 

Go Big or Stay Home

9 June 2014 | 2 Comments » | frank
Go Big or Stay Home

Photo by Jimmy Halliday, Aurora Photos

The official definition in the Urban Dictionary for “Go Big or Stay Home” is that it is used to goad someone into an outlandish or awesome act.

It’s a challenge phrase.

This month we are checking in on our progress with the goals we set at the beginning of the year. It’s also a great time to reflect on whether or not we set the right goals. Did we choose to do something beyond the normal and really commit to getting it done? Those are the scary goals, the ones we aren’t quite sure we can meet.

Those are the challenge goals, the ones that drive us to accomplish something.

So you set a writing goal or a personal goal this year? Was it a challenge goal, or was it a safety goal, one designed to make an incremental, tiny step forward, using the same stride used in the past? One that let’s us celebrate repainting the same-old situation?

It’s easy to plod along doing the same thing we’ve done before and celebrate GOBOSH 2minuscule progression, but sometimes the only way to really get where we want to go is to completely change and try something totally different. To challenge ourselves to take the leap we dream of taking but which scares us to death.

For example, when I first started writing seriously, my first novel took way too long, partly because my writing was just awful, but partly because my schedule did not allow much time for writing. So I set the goal to rearrange my working schedule to allow more writing time. It took a few years and some pretty big risks and sacrifices from the entire family to accomplish that goal, but I did it.

This year I realized I was not taking enough advantage of that newfound freedom, so I set a huge goal of completing four new novels this year. Sure I had started outlining them, but did not have any first drafts completed. And yet, that’s what it would take to reach the next level. So I set the goal and began to work it. Last week I wrote 26,000 words to complete one of those novels on time. One piece of the overall goal is complete. Lots more to go.

No matter our individual circumstance, we can all set change goals and decide if we’re going to go big or stay home. Most people don’t bother.

They stay home.

Most people are content to go to work, fill an honest eight hours, and then literally just go home and watch tv. Those people have a safe existence. They do not have to take risks, do not have to stretch and grow, do not risk failure and ridicule. But they also never go big. They never accomplish challenge goals to celebrate incredible victories and learn to take control of their lives.

GOBOSH graphOf those who decide to make a change, who say they are going to Go Big, most of them don’t make it. Sure, from a writing perspective some people are just so bad that they simply lack the capacity to do it, but those are the exceptions. Most people COULD write a competitive book if they REALLY wanted to, yet most of them fail. It’s not because they CAN’T do it, but because they lack staying power. Like the graph illustrates, saying you have a great idea is nothing. Starting a book is when we first get some skin in the game but doesn’t mean a whole lot either. Actually finishing a book is huge, but even that’s not the ultimate goal. We want to finish something someone else will pay to read. Challenge goals are the vehicle to take us there.

So what if you have to write ten years before you make a sale? Those ten years are going to pass anyway. So what if you get rejected? The best writers rack up dozens, if not hundreds, of rejections. It’s not the rejection that defines success but the overcoming of that rejection and the continued consistency.

I spoke with Brandon Sanderson earlier this year and when I mentioned I had been writing for almost ten years he nodded and said, “Great, then you’re just about ready to break in.”

Before lightning can strike, you have to make yourself the lightning rod.
Before you can be the lucky winner, you have to compete.
Before you can become an overnight success, you have to work for years to prepare yourself and develop the skills to break out big.

Some people just need a push, someone to challenge them to make a change goal. If you’re one of those, the music video by Switchfoot for their song “I Dare you to Move” might help. Check it out here.

So this month as we reflect where we are with our goals and compare that against where we want to be in six months or one year or ten years, let’s ask ourselves, “Am I going big or staying home?”

Go Big.

Anti-heroes Actually Work Sometimes

13 May 2014 | 1 Comment » | frank

WaylanderI was an avid reader as long as I can remember, from reading The Hobbit in 3rd grade to reading so much in middle school that my teachers started confiscating my books. I devoured everything I could get my hands on, and that love of reading helped spark my interest in writing down my own stories.

When I think back to stories I really loved, ones that perhaps are not so well known and yet are still ones that powerfully impacted me, one novel immediately popped into my head: Waylander by David Gemmell.

I picked up this novel in a bookstore in Sydney, Australia in 1990 and it sucked me in even though up to that point I preferred more traditional heroes. Most of the time I’ve found that authors just could not pull off a successful deeply flawed anti-hero. They usually came across as unbelievable, or depressing, or just plain uninspiring, so I was surprised to get so deeply sucked into Waylander.

Waylander, the main protagonist, is a ruthless, heartless killer who embraced anger and thirst for revenge when his family was murdered many years ago, and who seems to have lost any chance of ever feeling joy again. And yet the story depicts with a deft touch his journey toward redemption, his reluctant shift back across the line to hero.

What really makes the story work however is the supporting cast of characters, all of whom carry significant flaws, and all of whom face their own very real arcs of growth within the story. I think this was the first book that coupled a great anti-hero with complex supporting characters and opened the door for me to see there is so much more that can be done than many authors I had read bothered to do.

  • First there’s Dardalion, the oh-so-pure priest who sacrifices some of his own self-assured goodness helping Waylander and earns a bit of grit in return.
  • Then there’s Danyal, a woman who faces the destruction of her homeland with courage, a survivor who possesses the raw will to live, the courage to withstand whatever tragedies might strike. Together, she and Waylander might provide the missing element in each others lives, but do they dare risk opening their hearts to allow affection to grow?

Other characters proved just as fascinating, but you can read the book to learn about them. The story also included some great twists like:

- Can the assassin who murdered the king and pushed the kingdom to the brink of collapse under the weight of invading armies really be trusted to secure the one weapon powerful enough to turn the tide?
- What happens to a villain when offered a chance to be a hero for a change?
- How will an assassin respond when his quarry neither flees nor turns to fight?
- How do you defeat werewolves who will starve to death unless they eat the flesh of their appointed victim?

It’s not the best book ever written, but I loved it. It contained plenty of depth to open a few doors to a teenager just beginning to explore writing his own stories. For that, I’ll always consider this book an all-time favorite.

It’s funny, I never even knew the author had written other books in the series until I looked this one up recently to buy another copy. I might just have to read the sequels, and I definitely plan to re-read Waylander again very soon.

It’s great to visit old friends sometimes.

When to Rein in Your Characters

8 April 2014 | 2 Comments » | frank

SquirrelEver gone to a school performance where the one kid who’s supposed to be a supporting character, like a tree or a second line singer, either breaks out of character and does something hilarious, or performs with such enthusiasm that they steal the show from the lead actors?

Or, imagine this: Two aliens walk into a bar. One is an intergalactic hit-man and the other is a mind-reader helping him hunt down his next target. They scope out the bar and begin closing in on the target. At that point, the story is locked in and the readers are focused either on rooting for the hit-men or for the hapless victim.

But then imagine one of the serving girls stumbles into them, spilling beer all over their clothing and short-circuiting the electronics of their laser guns. When they try pushing past to chase their escaping quarry, she sets their alcohol-soaked clothing on fire and handcuffs them to the bar.

The story focus just totally changed. If that was the intention, perfect. Great twist. If not, then the waitress either needs to become a major focus of the story, or that scene needs to be cut. All depends on what the author has in mind and what the real story is being told.

Sometimes letting a secondary character really roar pays off in spades. The easiest examples can be found in movies:

  • LokiThe saber-tooth squirrel in Ice Age
  • The Joker from Batman
  • Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride
  • Loki from Avengers
  • Even Wilson the volleyball from Castaway

Sometimes when a secondary character bursts free of the originally-planned constraints placed upon them, it can be a good thing. Perhaps it’s your subconscious mind trying to explain that you picked the wrong protagonist or that there is more story to be explored there.

However, sometimes those secondary characters are just unruly and despite how funny or distracting their antics might be, they threaten to derail the real story. In those instances those characters need to be reined in and controlled.

How do you tell the difference?

Well, it depends.

I hate it when people use that answer because it always feels like a cop-out. The reason it works here is that it really does depend on the situation, and only the author can really tell.

For example, In the novel I am writing now I chose to explore some side characters and develop secondary conflicts in greater detail than originally planned because I had not outlined that part of the novel in great depth and I was still searching for the best way to pursue the heart of the story. I accepted the cost and spent the time exploring the characters and the setting and,
although I’m planning to cut most of that work, it helped bring the setting to life and solidify in my mind the most important scenes. Those secondary story aspects threatened to derail the focus on the primary story line, and there is not enough room in the book to follow both. So I’ll kill those upstart character arcs, re-focus the narrative, and consider it time well spent instead
of a waste.

Then again, in another novel where I had to create a secondary antagonist, the resulting character was so fascinating they really became a primary antagonist, and readers loved it. The ‘real’ bad guy carries over into sequels, but this secondary character is the one that helped the first novel shine and set up the other antagonist for greater success later in the series. So in that case,
exploring the secondary character’s fascinating potential really paid off.

In another twist, in my YA fantasy novel, a couple of the secondary characters needed to take a larger role in the story because they provided comic relief and I chose to focus more on the humorous aspects of the story. The resulting changes make them some of the best-loved characters in the story even though they are not the primary protagonist, but their arcs interweave closely with his and result in strengthening the story instead of breaking it.

Inigo MontoyaSo, when to let your characters roam free and when to rein them in? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help decide:

  • If I explore the new ideas, will they fundamentally change the story? If so, is it an improvement?
  • Will this diminish the power of what I’m trying to accomplish with the main character, or will this add complexity and interest to an already strong story?
  • Do I have any idea where the changes are leading? If not, and if I follow that road, I accept the cost in time and rewrites when I hit the likely dead end because that cost is offset by the pleasure of following that road through the fog to find out where it goes.
  • Should I switch to a more interesting protagonist? Or is there something fascinating I can borrow from this secondary character and imbue my protagonist with it to make him more powerful?
  • Are the antics of this secondary character making improvements or are they just hamming up the stage with no long-term gain?

Enjoy the process, make your plan, but be open to flashes of inspiration that might just make it better by derailing it.

Who are your favorite supporting characters, and why?

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