Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blog Face Lift

In case you haven't noticed, my blog has received a lovely face lift. Many thanks to the Blogger Tech Team that has made some new templates and options, thus allowing the double-sidebar and other nifty features. More room for gadgets that way.  

Just kidding there. I won't go crazy with the gadgets and things. Promise. But it certainly does make the blog look a little neater. And perhaps a bit simpler to navigate? Do go nibbling to see a few of the things I added and look for my next post on Wed. Video Games 101

Saturday, March 20, 2010

C. J. Cherryh Pacing the Floor

At the moment, I am continuing to enjoy my "author kick" as I like to call it, where I devour any and all books by a particular author that I enjoyed. For now, I'm going to focus in on two aspects of the book Hammerfall that were done very well. Pacing and Information Control.

Can anyone guess what today's topic is?

In the book, one of the larger, overhanging plots was the journey. Much like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, there is a cluster of characters that travel, and on that trip things happen that change them, change how they view their world, and also drive the plot forward.

With Hammerfall, Cherryh demonstrates how to know when to summarize a day/week/month, and when to expand out and slow down by days. The best rule of thumb: measure your tension in the scene.

The greater the tension, the longer you should stretch the moment, and the shorter your sentences should be. The less your tension, the quicker the scene should whip by, and the longer, more introspective and descriptive sentences should come into play.


There is a point in the book where the main characters are trapped in a tent, with sand storm raging all about. The days that passed lasted for almost two chapters. We felt the urgency with the short sentences, the descriptions of the danger and the animals bawling and etc. And with the insistent "voice" in his head crying for him to move onward toward the east.

However, at another point, when a long caravan is traveling across the desert for a much longer time, then the events passed rapidly. We covered the days in short paragraphs that used very little detail.

And it worked. There is no need to give me many details and information during small tension scenes that are intended as almost bridges from one moment to another. Save those for when you need to stretch out a scene and give it enough time to develop and prolong that tense moment.

Last example: For those of you old enough to remember, or at least see the re-runs, there is the show "MacGyver"

In the show, as the man tries to make these outlandish things out of duct tape, crowbars, and metal hangars, there is always a timer involved. Ever noticed how the scene leaps from the timer to his work, and it always seems to take him forever to finish his contraption?

Did it increase or decrease your feeling of tension?

But, on the other hand, when he's traveling from his home to the "secret hideout" of the villain, do they show every moment of that drive? Or just a general idea that he moved from one area to another? Why? Because there's a very low threshold of tension there, and it's best to move on quickly.

Project for the Week:

Pick out four random scenes from your latest WIP (work in progress). Rate them on their intended/needed tension from 1-10. Now, read those scenes and rate them on their actual sense of tension.

Do they match?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unofficial Blog Post : Jane Austen

 Out of the normal scheme of things, but I was browsing some blogs and found this short little quiz on Christine's blog.

Here's what I ended up with. What about you?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hammerfall by C. J. Cherryh -- Tools of the Trade

This is part 1 of what will be a three part posting, since Cherryh does so many things right with this book, and illustrates very well some of the points I have been discussing in the last few weeks.

To start, we have our book rave. During my lovely router troubles, I had more time on my hands than I expected. I worked on my WIPs of course, and did some research, but I had a little bit more spare moments to do my casual reading--for fun and not to learn something or discover something or etc.

This book was an impulse buy at a local library sale. $1 for the hardback. I had never heard of this author before, but the back cover sounded intriguing, the first page didn't start with a load of descriptive crap on the purple sky or something,  (a common enough occurrence in my preferred genre to make me gag) and it mentioned that she had won a Hugo award. Not that those always mean anything--since I've bought several "Hugo Award" collections and been severely disappointed.  But hey-- a buck. Why not?

I was pleasantly surprised. The book Hammerfall by C. J. Cherryh delivers as only a good "crossover" can. [Crossover, for me at least, is something that combines elements of science fiction and fantasy. Children of the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl, and the accompanying series Enchantress from the Stars, are good examples]

We start out in a desert world--which is intriguing because of the wild ecology that can develop-- and with a main character, Marak Trin Tain...who insane. Not something you see every day.

That is, he hears voices, sees visions, and feels drawn toward the east. From there, we meet Ila--an immortal "god" who wants to know what the mad are seeing, and sends Marak eastward with the rest of the madmen she's collected.

And from there, the plot grows more convoluted and interesting. Especially when one character mentions "nanoceles". Hmm....

As a whole, I enjoyed this greatly. I was kept continually guessing as to what exactly the Ila wanted, and what Luz (another immortal) truly wanted. Which was good. Which was bad. I love when I can't figure out who is the "villain" in a storyline. The world was enjoyable as well. Good, solid ecology and ideas and descriptions that pleased my muse greatly.

She also illustrated the art of pacing--using her sentences, her style, and many other things to either speed up time, or slow it down. To give a sense of time's passing without stating "three hours later".  She also showed skill in delivering information. Never once did I feel like an author's intrusion, or that the author was info-dumping all about this world, or the language, or the "secret" of the sci-fi elements to come.

Those two things will be the topics of future posts throughout this week. I gave this one a 4.5 star rating, because at the very end, there were a few loose ends--for me at least--I wanted tied off. Not a big deal, but I had a few questions about things at the very end. Beyond that, this is an excellent book.

Here is the link to the author's blog, in case you want to peruse. C. J. Cherryh