Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sky Leviathans of Tomorrow


PSMOct1923 Well, the tomorrow of October of 1923.

Another article from my favorite techno rag, Popular Science Monthly. Once again, a little overboard in the predictions and definitely in the realm of dieselpunk. This is not the Akron catching parasite fighters, but a full-bore — and way too small — landing strip on top of a dirigible. The article on page 30 gives more on the “dreadnaughts of the clouds” (if that wasn’t an Early Dreamers story title, it should have been).

And remember, folks, cut out those party balloons. It’s important to conserve our helium supply as a war material.


You’d Think They’d Know Better …


PSM1922JulWhen I began work on my Failed Flyers project, I thought I’d be ending it about 1914. After all, you’d think that the aerial demands of the Great War would have knocked most of the silliness out of aeronautical designers. But no …. Thanks to the covers of Popular Science Monthly, and even more short articles inside, I find myself with no shortage of proposed, designed, but never built and flown aircraft on into the 1930s!

In Failed Flyers, I include plenty of things that never got past planning, and this is one of them. In this case, we have the airliner of the future, “as pictured by Eddie Rickenbacker,” WW1 ace and now motor car company executive. If you think this is glorious lunacy (those tubby lines, really? observation deck like a train’s Vistadome?) or previsioning (multiple engines and room to walk around and a lounge like on a 747 or Concorde) you can see more in B&W pencil drawings at the article, here, on page 35.


Revision 04.3 — Speculative Fiction Story Templates


These are the templates.
These are the Themes or Motifs. These are the Categories.
These are Mechanisms. These are Settings.

You may notice that many of the examples are very early specfi. I spent 2008 and most of 2009 reading almost nothing written after 1912. Finding early versions often made the template clearer because the author wasn’t trying to disguise it.

I. Science Surge: inventors, mad science, new technology in our society or the indistinguishable near future: Read the rest of this entry

Revision 04.2 — Templates: Over 6000 Years and Still Going Strong


Templates are underlying structures of kinds of invented story, whatever genre or media they may be created in.

Templates are not formulas, so wipe “formula fiction” right out of your frontal lobes. Fiction formulas are laid down by editors, often rather arbitrarily, and may apply only to one publisher, not even the whole industry.

Templates are universal and human. They arise from the audience, and date back before writing, though we can only see them as far back as they are written down, whether the myths of Ishtar harrowing Hell or Isis seeking a dead mate’s resurrection, or the heroic quest of Gilgamesh for eternal life, or the wanderings of Odysseus, or the wars of the Rg Veda.

On the other hand, at least one template was founded as recently as the 1950s. Collecting and sorting them has been a hobby of mine for some years, based in a chance remark of a workshopper and my broad basis in myth, epic, folk tale, and fairy tales.

Not every story you write will fit a template, but most will because you are as human as anyone else, and as much imbedded in the culture of fiction. If your story is close to a template, it will be stronger if you move either onto the template, fulfilling its satisfactions, or move well away so you don’t look like you just missed the boat.

However, you may find that outside of litfi you can’t avoid templates. Many genres are built on, not just a single template, but a single sub-template, like mysteries are basically the Mystery Template.

Templates of Fiction
These are the Templates.
These are the Themes or Motifs. These are the Categories.
These are Mechanisms. These are Settings.

Read the rest of this entry

Revision 05.1.2 — Map Your Course


Time to mark things up and see not only where you are going but how to get there.

“Oh, master, how do I make a statue of an elephant?”
“Get a big block of grey stone, then chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant, especially the elephant you’re after.”

Revision is often done holistically rather than linearly. While one could go through correcting just one thing, like passive writing, then make another pass just for dialog, most people carry a whole swarm of things to look for on any one pass. Also, when you change something late in the novel because it makes your lip curl when you read it, Read the rest of this entry

Revision 05.1.1 — Make a Star to Follow


I started using this in 2004, and it works for me as part of the revision process. Using this, I actually find I don’t loathe writing synopses, either. Working from the shorter ones up seems to help. So does simply doing more of them.

Step 1 — Write what the book is about in 25 words or less.

Yes, “less” is a joke. Avoid conjunctions, particles, etc., as you can, but it must read like a sentence, not a computer randomization of disconnected words and fragments. This focuses you from now on.

What you describe here would be the most important part of the story, the aspect that made you write it, the reason you’re here. Try writing Read the rest of this entry

Revision 05.1 — The Method


Just what you’ve been waiting for — “Now that we have templates and genres and stuff, what do we do with it?”

First off, re-read every good how-to you can get your hands on. Yes, you already wrote the damned thing. If you had remembered everything in the how-to list, in theory you wouldn’t even need to revise. So you want to re-stuff your head, re-activate your Inner Editor, and keep close watch for where you dropped the ball. That includes where your characterization is inconsistent, where you gave the reader too much or too little information (you’ll have to figure out somewhere to stick in that bit of background that foreshadows how the climax works), where dialog is stilted or if everyone talks alike, where you can drive a Diamond Reo through the plot holes, etc.

Writing is re-writing, and that means re-writing, revision, is a case of Read the rest of this entry