jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Book!)
I forget about entertaining dialogue all the time. It's another one of those million things I'm still working on. I think that often when we write we convince ourselves we're writing snappy dialogue because the dialogue is fast-paced, but it needs more than just pace: it needs to distinguish character, show character ticks, traits, attitudes, and relationship dynamics.

I recently read "Genderbending at the Madhattered", a short story by Kameron Hurley, and ended up following the link to Kameron's blog because I wanted to see what else they'd written. And I found an article about writing character banter that's worth bookmarking, Who Cares? On the Importance of Banter and Character-Driven Narrative. I hope it's OK to post a brief excerpt here:

When I went back and looked at my own writing, I realized I was spending all my time trying to be a Serious Writer, and sorely neglecting all the humor and snark that makes life itself bearable. It was the revelation that maybe I should be spending more time figuring out snarky dialogue and fight scenes that eventually led me to write God’s War the way I did.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in something else – worldbuilding, or plot – that we forget about the people, and we forget that the world exists to make the people the way they are and the plot only exists because the characters move it.


(Also, I love that Dragon Age: Origins artwork has been used in the post, because Alistair and Morrigan are wonderful examples of character banter. Actually, I love all of the questing dialogue in DA:O.)

Black Dove, by The Daylights.
jenniferkoliver: (The Walking Dead | Daryl)
A lot of the time, what I love about a fictional character is their interactions with other characters. This is how I get to know my protags: make them talk to other people, many different types of people. It's like when you speak to somebody posh on the phone, you sometimes find yourself affecting a posh accent, and afterwards you berate yourself for doing it. My characters do the same kind of things.

I got my one-on-one appointments confirmation from Winchester Writers' Conference. I'll be speaking to one author and two editors. The nervousness solidifies! I'm currently sorting out a synopsis and ms samples, which need to be sent off by May 29th. This will be my first ever synopsis. I'm sure I'll agonise over it for ages.

Terry Pratchett on science, technology and his favourite Discworld characters - from The Guardian.

Permission Based Publishing: The NY Publishing Model (and Why It Doesn't Work) - from Huffington Post. The section in this article that struck me was Help midlist authors break out.

Considering Theme & Motif - good article by James Broomfield highlighting the differences.

Bottles to the Ground, by NOFX.
jenniferkoliver: (X-Men First Class | Charles & Erik)
Part one of my write-up can be found here.

Bit of a slow start on the second day, mostly because we didn't get to sleep until nearly 2am which for me is insanely late. Saturday offered a good selection of panels, but unfortunately it was often hard to hear what panelists were saying because the venue was much busier (kids being off school, etc) and the signing and vendor areas were close by. I also found that a lot of people were hanging out in the audience seats, chatting while they waited to meet celebs or visit the vendors. At one point me and Beth had to move seats because we couldn't hear a word of the panel. This is one of my major gripes about the weekend: discussions held in noisy, echoey rooms.

Here's a rundown of the panels from Day 2. Why the End of the World is so Popular, Fantasy Worlds and Creating Marvels, The Future is Bright but What Would Asimov Make of It? )

We didn't do quite as much character spotting, mostly because me and Beth were tired from late night dancing, but I got a snap with a dinky Predator (omg!), and Beth got a few good pics, including Dalek snogging, more robots, Area 51, me and the Ghostbusters, and Titan ) We hit the vendors a bit more aggressively this time and spent more money on books and cool nick-knacks. I nearly picked up a copy of Watchmen signed by David Gibbons, but instead bought a load of novels I've wanted to try for ages but never got around to.

Oh, and it's amusing that Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who plays Curtis in Misfits, was running late due to train problems, given what his character's superpower is (time travel). Ha!

Definitely the highlight of the day was Brian Blessed, who was interviewed on stage by Robert Rankin. What a combination, and possibly the only time when Rankin wasn't the centre of attention—he seemed genuinely honoured and awed to be sharing the stage with Blessed. Mind you, Blessed is a character in every sense of the word, and is larger than you could ever imagine. Rankin said that when he agreed to do the interview, the guy from the con sighed with relief and admitted that everybody else they'd asked was too afraid to do it. Ha! As expected, Blessed is loud and flamboyant and energetic—bounding on stage proclaiming "Gordon's alive!"—and he's also funny and charming and intelligent and interesting. He's also the biggest, loudest nerd ever, has a bunch of fun celebrity anecdotes, and if what he said is true he's also a fully qualified cosmonaut and is hoping to go into space at some point. He's so passionate about science and sci-fi that it was hard not to get emotional during his speech. Really, the perfect Guest of Honour.

One thing I'd love for next year is panels geared towards deeper discussion about writing and sci-fi. While I enjoyed the panels and really liked all of the speakers, some of them were a little safe and a bit obvious. I recently posted about higher-level writing discussion panels and how they're not always accessible. Since the con is designed for nerds, it shouldn't be too much to ask—most people will already have a grasp on a lot of the basic advice and viewpoints. This isn't exactly a criticism, mostly me wanting more of the good stuff.

Anyway, we had enough fun that me and Beth have already booked the lodge for next year. If anyone decides to go in 2014, let me know!

The World, by Nightmare. Japanese visual kei / rock live at Nippon Budokan.
jenniferkoliver: (Predator | Hand)
I planned to blog each day of the Weekender, but yeah, I should have known there would be too much going on. This is a bit lenghty (hence why it's taken so bloody long to finish it!).

The journey to north Wales took about seven hours, but because me and Beth were full of squee about the con it didn't seem that long—not until we got to our lodge and stepped inside out of the cold, and the wall of tired hit. The lodge was gorgeous, with modern fittings and a rooftop balcony, and a panoramic view of Cardigan bay and the marina below. It was a bit of a writer's haven; I could have happily stayed just to hang out there.

OK, but we did make it to the con. Friday's opening ceremony was short and sweet, and we got a promising taste of Area 51, the weekend's performance entertainment who were spectacular and present pretty much the whole time.

Early on Friday morning, on our way to drop things off in the car, me and Beth got Darthed ) Vader accused us of squeezing his butt, which was a complete lie and you should never listen to a word that guy says. Does he even have a butt?

Anyway, there was a huge vendors area full of merchandise, books and trinkets, and even though we visited it three times during the day we only managed to chip away at maybe half of the stalls. There was a gamers area too, where you could hang out and play. I bought a Thundercats clock made from the cover of an old 1980s annual (Beth picked up a Danger Mouse clock for her husband; unfortunately I didn't have the excuse of a spouse or kid!). The venue itself was huge, split between two main buildings, with a cinema showing sci-fi movies around the clock, and various places to sit outside and grab food. The layout looked great upon arrival, though I did have a few issues with the panels being so close to the signing and vendor areas—more on that in the next post.

Then we settled down for some panels. Here Come the Girls, Here Come the Boys, No Airships Required (featuring Robert Rankin), and Vampires in Love )

More photos under here, mostly giant robots and Area 51 )

We popped back to the lodge to freshen up, but because we ended up chatting we ran a bit late to the cabaret. The entertainment had its moments of WTF (the Dalek impersonator from Britain's Got Talent, accompanied by brightly coloured dancing Tardises) and also its moments of WOW, like Mental Dave the illusionist and his teleporting rabbit (gah, so cute!), and again, Area 51. Vid of them in action ) Oh, and Titan the robot was kinda cool. I also caught part of its spot which you can watch on YT here. Me and Beth were planning on getting an early night but there was a party after the cabaret—super cheesy music, and the robots joined everyone on the dance floor. We danced until nearly 1am, and then headed to the lodge for some well-needed sleep.

Although I've posted about some of my highlights, there were a few sucky bits that I'll mention in the next post. From what I've read on other write-ups by people who stayed in the caravans on-site, we did right booking the lodge in town. Yikes!

Part two of my write-up is now online here.

On the Run (Feat. Jenna G), by The Qemists.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Blah Blah Blah)
I'm sorry for dropping off the face of the planet there for a while! I didn't realise I was going to be kept away from the laptop for so long, otherwise I would've made a hiatus announcement. I originally went away on a writing retreat a couple of weeks ago, but ended up becoming swamped with life stuff afterwards. Today I'm home and free and planning to do a spot of catching up with the blogosphere. I hope everybody is doing well!

I'm going to talk a little about the writing retreat, because there were various workshops I found useful and it's nice to keep a record of these things for future reference. I'll cut it for length: World building and getting to know your characters and universe—some simple tips we tend to forget )

Today I'm working on my short story, which I finally finished during the retreat. I've just got to type up my hand-written notes and then it's down to editing. Aaah! I'm excited about this one because it's a strange idea, and I hope there aren't many like it out there.

And tomorrow, I'm going to be away again as I'm off to London with a friend. We will be raiding Camden market for most of the day, so expect a loot post at some point in the near future. ;)
jenniferkoliver: (True Blood | Eric)
Over the last few weeks, I've been struggling with a serious mental block concerning the first chapter of my novel. At first, I wondered if I'd started it at the wrong place, or not managed enough momentum in the first few paragraphs - my main character wouldn't speak to me, wouldn't do anything I asked him, and his actions and dialogue seemed forced and unnatural. I was getting worried, as I was having way more fun with my second chapter (told from another character's POV) which isn't helpful when you need to snag readers from the beginning. After a few failed attempts at re-writing my opening scene, I decided to go work on a short story instead, see if any inspiration hit me when I wasn't thinking about it.

(Just to add, I can't move forward if something isn't working for me. That just throws up even bigger and uglier mental blocks. This is why I wasn't able to put it aside entirely, continue to write the rest of the story, then go back at the end and edit.)

And then I stumbled across a link to a website that listed hundreds of baby names, and ding! I realised where I was going wrong, and why my main character was being such a stubborn git. He had the wrong name. The name I'd originally chosen for him wasn't as fitting as I first thought, and once I admitted I was only using it because I liked it, I was able to let it go and give him a name that befitted his character.

Now, with his new forename and surname, the first chapter is unfolding with a natural pace, and better still - he's talking to me, finally! *pokes him for holding out*

It does make me wonder, though, how different I might be if I'd been given another name at birth. ;)

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Jennifer K. Oliver

March 2017

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