Author Archives: Scott Eder

About Scott Eder

By day, Scott is a Champion of software quality, breaking code, and squashing bugs. By night, he’s a slinger of fantastical words, creator of places and people undreamt, and smith of heroic tales. Oh, and an adviser/coach/fanatic for competitive youth bowling. Ask him about it … he dares you. Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

The Series Arc – A Story Within a Story

Writing a series is the process of telling multiple complete stories within the context of a greater story arc. Each book must be a complete tale in and of itself—with a standalone beginning, middle, and end all sparkling with vivid settings, rich characters, and intricate conflict. Each book sheds only enough light to reveal its portion of the grand design while steadily building tension, book to book, until all is revealed in the final installment.I speak to beginning writers all the time about crafting series. And, after leading off with the whole complete story deal above, I break out the Inception-esque logic of a book-within a book-within a book. Because, really, that’s what we’re writing. The story arc is our overall plot and each book can be seen as an act within the epic structure.

 

As a hardcore story plotter, or outliner, I need to flesh out the high-level arc enough to figure out where each book begins and ends along with the major concepts or plot points that need to be introduced or even resolved. But nothing is set in stone. The outline is more of a guideline as opposed to an absolute. During the writing process, the story and characters evolve. As they do, they affect the overall series arc, kinda like what Doc Brown harangued Marty McFly about—Be careful, Marty, changes in book one could alter the planned events in book four. Yes, they surely will. And that’s all cool and groovy with me because it means the story is deepening, the events stretching between books tightening, interweaving, becoming more connected to the main line.

Let’s see…talked about writing a complete story, shedding light, book within a book, each book like an act…what else? Ah, the hooks. Gotta keep the readers reading.

Just like when ending a chapter on a key revelation or decision point to keep the reader turning the pages, in the case of a series, we do the same. Only, it’s done on a grander scale. In the first book of a series, the writer introduces the conflicts that must be resolved in that book and sets the stage for the main series conflict. Of course, that can’t be resolved within the pages of a single book. If it could, we’d call that a stand-alone novel. The writer builds up the action and leaves the right open conflict threads to ensure the reader comes back for the next book. After the denouement, some riveting scene should occur that grabs the reader by the eyes and says, “OMG!”, whetting the reader’s appetite and leaving them wanting more.

Hooks in books in arcs.

Later,

Scott

“No mind.” – Scene Resonance in The Last Samurai

When developing characters, scenes, and storylines, writers strive to build a deep, emotional connection with the readers—resonance. The concept seems easy and obvious, right? I mean, we write in a couple emotional tropes, tie them in to a common experience, like going to the Prom or playing spin-the-bottle or shooting a game winning goal, and sprinkle liberally with sensory details to create an everyman’s scene likely to connect, at least at a basic level, to the majority of your readers.

While the above may build a connection, it’s probably not going to be compelling. It might evoke a memory or grunt of acknowledgment, but not generate the richer experience you’re striving for. It’s too heavy handed and obvious. Readers can spot that crap a mile away.

No, what I’m looking to build is that true connection, that bond that forever sears a memorable event into a reader’s psyche through an unexpected sharing of perspective wrapped in details and emotional beats. Different events/scenes hit readers in different ways based on his or her life experience. For me, a writer, bowler, and youth bowling coach, a great illustration of a scene grabbing hold and becoming a part of your life can be found in the movie, The Last Samurai. The Last Samurai [Blu-ray]

After being wounded and captured by the samurai enemy-at-the-time, Tom Cruise’s character, Nathan Algren, an ex-army Captain hired by Japanese politicians to train their army to fight the insurgents (samurai), is taken to their remote mountain village. Trapped through the winter, he’s given some measure of freedom under close supervision to heal and walk among the villagers. During that time, he comes to appreciate the samurai way of life and finds the peace within himself he so desperately needs. Great stuff. Love the movie. There’s one scene, though, above so many other great moments, that truly resonated with my writer/bowler/coach self and has become part of, well, part of me really.

Once he recovers enough from his injuries, Algren begins to train with the samurai to get back into fighting shape. In an early training scene, surrounded by dueling warriors, villagers going about their business, and curious spectators, Algren gets repeatedly trounced. After another quick defeat, Nobutada, the son of the samurai leader, Lord Katsumoto, apologies and introduces the martial arts concept of mushin, or no mind (focus). In basic terms, Nobutada instructs Algren to ignore the other fighters doing their thing, ignore the villagers doing their thing, ignore the spectators, and focus on the task at hand. He’s got his mind on too many things, not focusing on what’s really important at that moment.

Image may contain: one or more people, basketball court and indoorI get chills whenever I watch that scene because it speaks to me on multiple levels. As a competitor, I’ve been in tense situations where it seems like entire world is watching every move I make. As a coach, I’ve seen how surrounding distractions pull a bowler out of the “zone” or out of the moment. The mental aspect of bowling is a critical part of the sport at the higher, competitive levels, and this scene beautifully encapsulates the mushin concept in a simple, accessible, amusing way. I’ve used the scene to explain the concept to my bowlers and hear the dialog in my head every time.

Now my wife, also a bowling coach, watches the scene and appreciates the concept, but it doesn’t resonate with her. It hasn’t become part of her. And that’s fine because no two people come at any given story or scene with the same background, same life experiences. What resonates with me, will not necessarily resonate with her.

To increase the chance to resonate with your reader, imbue your scenes with life–include sensory details and emotional hooks, relatable thoughts/experiences and clear storytelling. I guess that sounds like Writing 101. The skillful use of basic writing tenets can lead to extraordinary results.

2018 – Hello, Universe Calling, Is Scott There?

Waiting. In 2017, I spent too much time waiting on…everything really. On the job front, I waited for things to change—for process, for people, for workload, for salary options and opportunity to change. On the home front, I waited for my youngest child to go away to college. Once there, I waited to hear from her, waited to watch her next tournament, waited to see how she blended in. I waited for my son to move out. He’d talked about it for the eighteen months, looked at a few places with his crew, and finally made the move the last week of the year. On the writing front, I waited for my first book to be relaunched by a new publisher. On the public/political front, I waited for the nightmare of 45 to end.

I waited.

If it hadn’t been for last week, I’d still be waiting. Sometimes you need that phone call from the Universe to change your perception.

Last week I got sick—a real ass-kicking flu. I haven’t been down and out like that in years. It got so bad after several days, that I called the doctor. Of course, the doctors in my usual office and all their doctor friends and doctor neighbors had no appointment availability. Desperate for some relief, I went to an Urgent Care clinic. These guys don’t know my medical history or medications or anything. They just know that I’m sick and need treatment. Having no known medicinal allergies, the kindly old doctor ordered me up a pack of hella-strong antibiotics and a fistful of steroids. I kinda liken it to a flu-scouring treatment of Liquid Plummer.

The combination worked…well. It cleared my yuck, both in my chest and throat, and scoured away the crust, grime, and self-delusion amassed by waiting for shit to happen for too long.

Thank goodness. I needed the wake-up call.

I know I’m not the only one out there realizing they’ve been trapped in mediocrity fueled by banal time-fillers and spoonfuls of quasi-accomplishments.

I’m stepping out of the Matrix. Care to join me?

It’s easy, now that I can see the pitfalls and habits that spun me down and tied me up. The key is to keep moving forward. Don’t stop. Don’t settle. Strive for more.

I could throw out a laundry list of goals for 2018, but I’m not the list-maker in the family. That’s my wife. She lists making a list on her To-Do list. Crazy. But it works for her.

I’ve boiled down my plan for 2018 to two simple words – take action.

I’m going to take action. No more. No less. This is my story and I’m the main character. Time to do hero-stuff. Job. Family. Bowling. Writing. I’m all in.

I’m done waiting. Time to step up and kick ass.

Are you with me?

2017 – A Very Good Year – Guest Post by T. Allen Diaz

As we prepare to close out 2017 and move into 2018, it seems a good time to reflect on what has gone well and what has not gone so well. It’s the traditional time for the dreaded “New Year’s Resolution” that is normally dead and in the grave before the first week of February. Because of this, I usually look upon our annual tradition of making-and-breaking promises to ourselves with suspicion or even a little scorn. But, when I was asked to do a piece on the year in review and lessons I wanted to apply in the next year, I was happy to do it because this year several things have lined up for me and I’ve learned a lot I hope I can pass on.

This year has been a banner year for me: my novel, Lunatic City, picked up by WordFire Press, hit the streets in July, and I sold a Four Horsemen short story, Hero of Styx to Seventh Seal Press in November. I’m in the final stages of getting another of my short stories The Witch published in different anthology, but I have no contract, so that’s as much as I feel I can say about that one. In addition, there are some other very exciting projects lined up for 2018, including my big project, the rough draft of The War of the Gods Saga is in the home stretch of “preproduction”. I hope to have it ready to go by February-March. I think that is doable. There is also a sequel to Lunatic City which is in post-production, a follow-up story to The Witch, and at least one more exciting project I dare not comment on, but will be requiring lots of my time.

 

Which brings me to one of my biggest challenges I have really struggled with: time management and, more specifically production. I have traditionally struggled to do two thousand words on any given day, though I’ve done seventy-five, once, that was a seven AM to ten PM marathon while writing Lunatic City. I have a day job and kids and many complicated personal life demands on my time that frequently conspire to steal my hours and minutes, just like everyone else.

If I’m not going to be able to create more hours in the day, I’m going to have to make better use of the time I have. First order of business: remove distractions. I traditionally listen to music, but I had taken to running You Tube videos while I wrote, and, without exception, I would find myself becoming distracted and slowing my pace. It had to stop. So, now, I listen to instrumental music, usually movie scores. This is a nice background noise that keeps my surroundings at bay while allowing me to concentrate.

My second major change: I’ve stop going back and fixing things I’ve decided to alter mid-story. That’s what rewrites are for. The way I have been doing things has been to stop, go back and find the piece I wanted to change before continuing with my story. It not only takes me out of the scene I’m writing, but often ends with me getting lost in my manuscript, looking for specific scenes or even passages. It must stop.

Lastly, I must come to the writing table with real forethought on what I want to write. When I have things thought out, or even better, jotted down. My little fingers fly over the keyboard and I can get upwards of a thousand words a minute. That’s moving! I have also maximized my time by getting out of bed at the wee hours of the morning, usually between five and five-thirty, though I’ve been known to get up earlier. This has two benefits: two hours of writing I don’t normally get and the opportunity to use my brain when it is freshest and at its best: right after coffee.

There are other things I’m hoping to do better in 2018: get the website I abandoned in favor of a FB page up-and-running, book signings, attend more conventions, do some panels, email lists, and much more. Some requires money which I’m hoping to start pulling from my soon-to-be arriving royalties. Others require time and commitment which I’m hoping to have after I’m done with the first War of the Gods manuscript. Either way, 2017 has been great. Here’s to an even better 2018!

 

T. Allen Diaz is the author of speculative fiction, including the dark space epic series the Proceena Trilogy and his gritty, moon-based noir Lunatic City. He lives in the Tampa Bay area with his wife and three kids where he has lived for his entire lifeFollow him on Twitter as @Proceenawriter and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/T.AllenDiaz where you can stay up-to-date on all of his latest news and events.