value drawing

Beautiful People – August Edition

It’s that beautiful time of the month again, and I’m going to bend the rules a little (as I usually do).  I’m featuring three characters–Wilson, Mary, and Durant–from my dawn-of-the-west, fantasy-of-manners story (Gentle Fire).  Mary and Wilson are husband and wife, and Mary and Durant are sister and brother.  And if you’re wondering why I refer to the gentlemen by their surnames, it’s because I first wrote a military portion of the story, and it made sense to use surnames rather than Christian names.  And the naming convention stuck.

Note: I’m still developing these characters, and so some of these details may change.  But as of now, this is what they’re like!

Wilson

(This is actually Wilson and Mary, and it’s the only picture of Wilson I have in my portfolio!)

  1. What is he addicted to/can’t live without?  Coffee.  Mary once joked that maintaining  good supply of coffee was a higher priority than getting glass windows for the house.  (Which is also kinda true, since Wilson made shutters for the windows that work quite well).
  2. Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.  Wilson is easygoing, yet hardworking, and cheerful.  However, he has a type-A streak that makes him stubborn; and though he leads his family, he’s not the sort to step up in community leadership (he says he doesn’t know what would give him authority to do so).  And he doesn’t like to be restrained or controlled, and he becomes an absolute grouch if such a situation continues.
  3. Is he holding onto something he should get rid of?  Not that I know of.  Unless it’s the memory of working his parents’ farm, which his family eventually lost due to financial trouble.  This disturbed Wilson deeply, as he wanted to be able to work the land and pass it down to his sons.  And it’s one reason he moved his family to the colonies: to be able to gain and work their own land.
  4. If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where does he fall on the scale?  *sarcastic laugh from Mary*  3 or 4.  He tends to be tidy or at least careful with his tools and farm equipment, but everything else…no.
  5. What most frustrates him about the world he lives in?  Winter.  (His answer.)  He gets stir-crazy after being cooped indoors for a while.   And he hasn’t seen fit to share a serious answer with me yet.
  6. How would he dress for a night out? How would he dress for a night in? Night out: clean shirt and his nice coat.  And that’s about it.  His preferred outfit is sturdy comfortable clothing in earthy tones that won’t show dirt.  And he always wears boots, and usually has his sleeves rolled up and his hands stained with dirt, sap, grease or stains from iron…in fact, he looks as though he’s in the middle of manual work.  This is because he usually is.  And even when he’s not, he still looks casual and somewhat rumpled; he’s never been a sharp dresser and has no sense of fashion.
  7. How many shoes does he own, and what kind?  Work boots and one pair of shoes…assuming he still has them, that is; he may have given them to someone who needed them more.
  8. Does he have any pets? What pet does he WISH he had?  If you count the temporary and accidental ownership of the snakes and squirrels that get into the cabin.  (His answer.)  He doesn’t wish for pets, but he does want animals for the farm: two goats, a pig, and some chickens.  The family already has mules.
  9. Is there something or someone that he resents? Why and what happened?  The creatures the get into the cabin.  (His answer, again.)  And he definitely resents losing his family’s farm back east due to financial trouble.  But he’s not the sort to spend too much time thinking about it; he found a different way to get land to pass down to his sons.
  10. What’s usually in his fridge or pantry?  Potatoes at the very least.  Mary may have added more foodstuffs since he visited the cupboard.  (His answer.)

Mary

  1. What is she addicted to/can’t live without?  She loves knitting.  She once said she could be happy living in a rock field if only she had colorful yarn to work with.
  2. Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.  Mary is no-nonsense, but caring and hardworking.  But she gets overly frustrated with lack of common sense, she is sometimes too blunt, and she’s not much of a people person–she’s polite and gracious, but not naturally diplomatic or outgoing.
  3. Is she holding onto something she should get rid of?  Not that I know of; Mary doesn’t tend to get stuck in the past.  Or hold on to material things.  For one thing, there simply isn’t room in the cabin.
  4. If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where does she fall on the scale?  5-6.  She tends to be tidy, but she also doesn’t fuss about everything being just so.  She has more important things to think about.
  5. What most frustrates her about the world she lives in?  I think it’s the lack of responsibility and initiative from other people, especially from those who are needed to pull their weight in the community or the government.  (Mary is the sort of person who can easily see what needs to be done and why.)
  6. How would she dress for a night out? How would she dress for a night in?  For a night out, she would probably fix her hair in a more elaborate style and wear her nice calico dress (red-brown  sprigged with pink and green flowers).  For a night in, she’d just wear her normal outfit: hair in a low bun, her sturdy work dress, and her favorite red gingham apron.
  7. How many shoes does she own, and what kind?  Her work shoes, and one nicer pair for special occasions.
  8. Does she have any pets? What pet does she WISH they had?  Pets, no.  Vermin that intrudes upon her territory, yes.  (Her answer.)  And she doesn’t really want a pet; there’s not enough room in the cabin for a dog or cat underfoot.  Although she let her son Alex keep the frog he caught, as long as he kept it away from the kitchen table.  (The frog later escaped, though.)
  9. Is there something or someone that she resents? Why and what happened?  Not that I’m aware of; Mary is not a complainer.
  10. What’s usually in her fridge or pantry?  Potatoes, cornmeal, flour, beans, bacon, salt, coffee grounds, the herbs she found in the woods, sometimes leftover meat pie, sometimes cheese from their neighbors, and spices and molasses when the family can afford them.  Mary loves to cook and takes pride in making good meals for her family.

Durant

  1. What is he addicted to/can’t live without?  He keeps his notebook on hand and records what happened during the day and any expenses incurred–usually a line or two as a memory aid.  He also records his nephews’ antics; and whenever he’s teaching, he keeps a record of his students’ progresses and skills and what they struggle with.  He doesn’t trust fallible memory with something so important.  As such, he would be upset if the book got lost.
  2. Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.  Durant takes his responsibilities seriously–so seriously that he’s keenly aware of the consequences of failure, and this fear affects his ability to assess and decide.  He’s a hard worker, but sometimes gets distracted from the big picture.  And he’s persevering–to the point of being stubborn.
  3. Is he holding onto something he should get rid of?  He sometimes gets too easily discouraged by his own failures and setbacks, and he should let that go.  He tends to drive himself harder the more frustrated or discouraged he gets.  Also, in hindsight, he could probably have brought fewer books out west…but on the other hand, they are valuable possessions.
  4. If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where does he fall on the scale?  This depends on what’s at stake.  His notes, letters, and papers are tidy, as are the lesson plans whenever he works as a schoolmaster, but everything else…no.
  5. What most frustrates him about the world he lives in?  The inefficiency of the colonial government.  The whole purpose of the government is to govern and dispense justice, and if the government can’t do that job, something needs to change.  He is also annoyed by any public attention–Durant never knows how to handle it and would prefer to work in the background.
  6. How would he dress for a night out? How would he dress for a night in?  For special occasions, he has a nice blue coat to wear, though he always wears his boots.  Otherwise, he wears his boots, his shabbier brown coat, and work clothes.
  7. How many shoes does he own, and what kind?  Durant wears his boots almost everywhere, but I think he does have one pair of dress shoes.  He just rarely wears them.
  8. Does he have any pets? What pet does he WISH he had?  No pets; and he’s neutral-minded about them.  He likes horses, though.
  9. Is there something or someone that he resents? Why and what happened?  He usually resents his own failures or weaknesses more than anything else.
  10. What’s usually in his fridge or pantry?  He has no idea (his answer).

 

Save

Save

Save

value drawing

Artwork Post – Long Overdue

I’m so sorry, guys.  I didn’t mean to wait this long!  Initially, I had very little artwork to post; then I got busy; then I got sick.  But when sick, I always get the urge to draw (putting the down time to good use, I guess), so behold an avalanche of artwork!

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a colored pencil tutorial book at Hobby Lobby and studied it thoroughly.  One technique looked interesting: laying down the values of the drawing with a black (or brown) pencil before adding color.  So I gave it a try…

The black-and-white values as the first layer…

…and here’s the finished product!  I like this technique!  Though it’s not the only one in the book; I’ll try some of the others later.

Another pencil drawing with the same technique (called “grisaille”), except this time, I used a black pencil to draw the values of the trees and a brown pencil for the values everywhere else, since the rest of the picture wasn’t supposed to be as dark.

The book also explained how to get rid of that white-ish waxy buildup that happens after several layers of color: rub the picture, lightest parts first, with a cloth or paper towel until the colors are uniformly smooth.  It’s one way to get rid of the sketchy pencil look that I complained about in my New Year’s artwork post.

Sloppy doodle of Charles Darnay on computer paper, done while listening to A Tale of Two Cities musical soundtrack.

Sketch of James Barbour as Sydney Carton, done while watching A Tale of Two Cities concert (and simultaneously dying inside of feels).

Slightly crooked drawing of Lennox, my character from Empty Clockwork, laughing at something.  He’s a generally cheerful fellow.  🙂

Drawing that I intended to be Mary, from my western story, but it didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted.  So it’s just a random girl putting her hair up.

It’s a head canon of mine that Susan Pevensie reads her mother’s old Good Housekeeping magazines, so here Susan is, curled up and studying household economy.  Also, I drew that pose entirely from my head with no reference!

Although I chickened out at drawing feet and so covered them with the blanket.  🙂

Once the children grew up in Narnia, Lewis describes Susan as “a tall and gracious woman”, so here she is, welcoming visiting dignitaries or ambassadors, or people like that (and hey, at least I tried to draw hands!).  I don’t see Susan being a flashy dresser or weighed down with elegance and jewelry; she’s sensible and practical, and would probably favor a sensible and practical style, though also one that befits her rank.  The place she would splurge with ornaments, however, would be her hair; you have all that gorgeous hair, and you’re going to want to do something special with it.

The Pevensies and Caspian discover fanfiction of their stories.  From left to right: Caspian, Edmund (standing), Peter, Susan (also standing), and Lucy.  Behold also my awesome back-of-the-computer-screen drawing skills (haha), though I am inordinately proud of that mouse and mouse pad, for some reason.

Drawing may or may not have been inspired from a real life pet peeve.  🙂

That’s all for now!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

value drawing

The Art of Storytelling – Creating My Compass

(Thanks to Bella for her title suggestion!  I was truly stuck.)

NOTE: I initially published this back in January, but decided to tweak the style and post it again.  This isn’t a guide for How To Write the Perfect Story; but the principles that have worked well for me.  😊

I once had no idea how to keep my stories focused.  I had good ideas, but I had a lot of ideas and couldn’t discern which ones truly belonged in my work-in-progress.  Was this phrase a better explanation of the theme?—or that paragraph a couple pages later?—or that note on my digital sticky notes?  Cue the pile-up of 172 pages of notes.  And I inevitably got overwhelmed.  Even more frustrating, after I sorted through those notes and reworded ideas (again), the story pieces added up—to the wrong picture.  Finally, through trial and error and through analyzing books and films, I created this list of points that help me build my story more easily and to keep it focused.

Articulate the Story Concept.  Or the general idea behind the story.  It could be a question to explore, such as “Where to draw the line in giving loyalty?”  It could be a character or situation: “A girl who was never taught to discern properly,” or a simple plot: “A girl takes up multiple hobbies to find her passion and talent.”  Or it could be a general theme, such as “different kinds of power (social, legal, abusive, and others) and what they can and cannot accomplish.”

Actually, I know the concept from the get-go; whenever I say, “Well, I have an idea for a story about…” that’s the concept.  But it could be narrowed a little–a general idea can become many different stories (which cleverly disguise themselves as plot bunnies).  So here’s a question that narrows the field: What draws me to this idea?  What do I love about it?  This not only helps keeps my story focused, it also explains what’s original about the idea, and it articulates my own passion for the subject.

As an example from my writing, one story idea is about two families whose children marry for mutual social and financial benefit.  This is the general idea.  The more specific idea is how these characters respond to the various social and familial expectations of them.  And what I like about the idea is the mindsets, values, and relationships of the characters as they handle situations in which they do not have a lot of control.  All very general, but it tells me at once that my idea about the fight between Enlightenment vs. Romanticism doesn’t belong in this story.

And then I tinker with the wording of the concept until it expresses exactly what I have in mind.  My ultimate goal is to understand what story I’m telling.  Not just the genre, but what I’m personally trying to say.  (More on that later.)

Specify the Story Conflict.  This definitely helps me discern which ideas (and subplots and side characters) belong in the plot.  And when I fail to specify the conflict, my story becomes crowded and confusing.  (*stares sadly at mountain of unfinished drafts*)  So do other writers’ stories—I may offend people with this example, but the film God’s Not Dead had a plot thread completely separate from the main conflict.  The conflict of the film is ultimately between skeptics attacking faith in the God of the Bible and Christians defending that faith.  While this is going on, a liberal feminist news reporter learns that she has cancer, and she eventually gets saved.  (Whoops, spoilers.)  But she does not meet or influence any of the other characters.  And since she gets saved near the end of the story, she doesn’t have time to contribute to the main point by defending her newfound faith.

I get why this plot was included: so that a character (and by extent the audience) could hear the Gospel.  But that character and her story does not enhance or contribute to the ultimate conflict.  That detour simply uses screen time that could have been spent on the main characters.  And on that note, a better way to include the Gospel would be to have the ex-Muslim girl remember the Gospel to strengthen herself in the face of persecution or perhaps try to share the Gospel with her family.  That would have contributed to the conflict, and it would have been an awesome addition.  (Seriously, the writers should have explored that character and her situation further!)

So, defining the story’s conflict will thin down those plot bunnies.  But here’s a catch: conflict often has two layers: surface conflict, and then what I call “root conflict.”

Surface conflict is a clash that fits the story’s concept, but that happens apart from—or because of—the root conflict.  The root conflict is the ultimate battle of the story, the clash that explains what’s really at stake.  It’s often internal conflict (but not always).  A good example of these two layers is the film Inception.  The “surface conflict” is the attempt to plant an idea in a man’s mind through his dreams.  This is something that had never been successfully done—oh, and there’s a deadline for this attempt.  But the root conflict is Cobb battling his own guilt and fear and grief.  He cannot let go of the past, and at first refuses to confront his problems.  His stubbornness and his burden endanger his goal and the safety of his team.

So I write down the obvious conflict in my story and then ask how that conflict came to be, which helps identify the root conflict.  (Or vice-versa, and I think about what action might be prompted by the root conflict.)

Make the Setting Influence the Action or Affect the Characters.  Years ago, I entered a short story contest with several guidelines: the required setting was the Titanic, and the contest theme was “Women and Children First.” I wrote the story of a couple who met on the ship; and though they weren’t close friends, the man stepped back so the woman could get into a lifeboat and escape.  Measured by the contest guidelines, the story and setting worked.  But when I looked at that story a few years later, I asked: how does the Titanic enhance the plot?  Sure, the event is a classic example of chivalry, but without the contest parameters, my characters could do what they liked and could be moved to a different setting with no big change to the plot.  Red flag that the setting was just painted scenery, and not a place with impact.

In my story Empty Clockwork, however, the setting is a late-Victorian world with strict social norms and tradition but with a steampunk twist:  scientific dabbling is a popular hobby for the rich.  And “secret” labs in the basement are an essential part of any grand house.  This setting creates conflict for Lord Fredericks, a brilliant, self-taught scientist, who can’t capitalize on his skills because he is also an aristocrat and not supposed to do manual or tradesman’s work.  The setting also affects Henry*, a doctor who is passionate for his work, but who can’t get the wealthy hobby scientists interested enough in his ideas to fund his experiments.  The third character affected is Lennox, a young man who teaches classics at Cambridge and therefore can’t get anyone to take him seriously as a scientist.  Because art and science don’t mix, y’know.  And Susan, heiress and Lord Fredericks’ ward, can’t find an endeavor she thinks worthy to support with her money because of the complacent attitudes in society.  The setting directly affects the main characters, creates conflict, and points to my theme (which I will not reveal here because spoilers).

*inspired by Henry Jekyll from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.  As such, I might eventually change his Christian name so as not to be sued by Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse, and the ghost of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Discover why the Story Matters to the Characters—and to Me.  Goal, stakes, conflict…those can be found anywhere.  A character could set the goal of opening his own business, with the stakes of providing for his family, and face obstacles in the lack of money and an affordable building to rent.  But why doesn’t he go another route to provide for his family?  Why does he choose this hill, the hill of the story, to fight and possibly die on?

This point is a cross between the character’s motivation and the stakes of the conflict–it’s why the goal matters to the character.  Not just the external repercussions of failure, but the internal consequences.  The more personal the story conflict and stakes, the more the readers will care about the characters and their struggles.  For example, Inception deals with complex concepts: the actions of the subconscious, the unique nature of dreams, and how each can be manipulated.  Truly engaging stuff—but the principles matter because of how personal they are to Cobb.  If he can complete the inception attempt, he can go home to his kids—but ironically, experimenting with dream manipulation and inception is what tore him from his family in the first place and created the guilt that plagues him throughout the story.

The author also needs personal motivation, and a second question I ask is: why does this story matter so much to me?  What are my own personal stakes?  This is partly practical; I’m more likely to finish the story if I’m passionate about it.  But understanding the personal stakes is another tool that narrows the focus of the story.  Suppose a writer believes that it’s ridiculous for 18-year-olds to choose their life passions before college.  They only just got out of school; they haven’t observed and experienced life to the degree that a 30-year-old has; how on earth can teens be expected to know what they want to do with their lives?  With that question, that drive behind the story, the writer can quickly discern that his other story idea about how the elderly are ignored doesn’t fit in the plot of this story.

Work Backwards from the Conclusion.  Articles and tutorials say “figure out your ending first.  Write toward your ending.”  I never understood this.  Doesn’t the outcome depend on what the main characters choose?  Won’t choice A create one outcome and choice B create another?  Should I just make up events regardless of what the characters chose to do?

Not necessarily.  The ending is more than the final dramatic events.  It’s also the conclusion of what the story says.  Which is an extension of what the author is trying to say.

Oh, please.  There’s no need to ask “What am I trying to say?”  Stories are just to entertain, right?

Right.  And wrong, because every story, even the fluffiest, feel-good novel makes some statement.  Even as untrue as “everything will turn out okay if you dream hard enough.”  Or whatever.  Continuing to offend people with my examples, The Battle of Five Armies film had no idea what it was ultimately saying.  Fight Ye Olde Evil?  All Gold is Evil?  Something Vague About True Love?  Reclaiming the Characters’ Ancestral Homes?  Hobbits Are the Saviors of the World?  (Epic fail on that last point, as Bilbo was demoted.)

By contrast, the Lord of the Rings (book and film) made a clear statement with its ending: sacrifice is the price of freedom.  When Frodo leaves Middle Earth, it highlights the price that warriors and defenders pay so that others may live in their homes in peace.  This theme is shown throughout the story.  Didn’t Frodo leave the Shire in the first place to protect it?  Didn’t Sam help Frodo no matter the cost to himself?  Didn’t Aragorn conceal his lineage and walk in humility for years and protect the Shire unseen? Didn’t Tolkien lament the fallen defenders all through his story?  Sacrifice is the conclusion—sacrifice for the land and peoples of Middle Earth.

Once I recognize what I’m saying with my story, it’s easier to work backwards from that and figure out what events and final conflicts would fit the story.  (And I often have an inkling of how everything will turn out, even if it’s cliche and obvious.)  Then I ask: where do the characters need to be, emotionally, physically, and mentally to drive the final events?  Then I create conflict and events that push the characters to that stage of readiness.

What’s ultimately important is that I understand what story I want to tell.  This means more than the genre.  It’s the big picture: the concept of the story, the tone, the stakes, what I’m trying to say, and what I want the story to accomplish.  Do I want it to be lighthearted or a cautionary tale?  Is it just a practice project or something I’m passionate about?  Do I want it to amuse or criticize or inspire?  If I don’t know what story I want to tell, it will end up dissonant.  It will read as though it tried to say one thing, but ended up saying something something very different.  It has happened in the past–and I’ve seen it happen to too many other storytellers.  The makers of the Hobbit films clearly did not know what kind of story they were telling.  In a film trilogy called The Hobbit, Bilbo is almost a side character, and the story focuses on the other races of Middle Earth.  The franchise tried to be dark and epic, but the slapstick humor and roller coaster chase-and-battle sequences undermined that tone (not to mention that when Smaug’s fire doesn’t burn rotting tapestries, tension vanishes anyway).  The main plot was the quest to reclaim Lonely Mountain, but the subplots didn’t really enhance that—Thranduil’s white gems, for example, and the romance between Kili and Tauriel, and Tauriel as a character in the first place.  *ducks volley of rotten avocados*  The result is three films with some good aspects, but with so many conflicts, characters, and plot threads that the story feels stuffed.  *ducks more flying vegetables*  And the root problem is that screenwriters didn’t seem to know what story they wanted to tell.

Now, confession time: I don’t have every one of these points articulated for every one of my stories.  Several are missing the ending.  A couple are missing the general concept.  One does not have specified conflict.  And that’s okay.  Stories take time to develop.  Some take more time to grow than others.  And these points are just general guidelines to help me build a strong foundation for my story.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

value drawing

More About Lennox

So in this post, Lana wanted to learn more about Lennox, my character from the steampunk story (which now has the working title of Empty Clockwork).  So here is the long-promised post, complete with artwork!

First of all, Lennox didn’t grow up in England.  He was born in Brittany, France, but his artist father had difficulty finding work there.  The family moved to Switzerland, but faced the same problem, and so finally removed to Italy where the father found employment painting for wealth British, French, and Italian families.  Lennox grew up in Italy, speaks Italian fluently, and even after moving to England, he retains a faint Italian accent which becomes more apparent on certain vowels and syllables.

When Lennox was 18, he and his mother moved to England so he could get a university education, and he attended Cambridge.  (His father had died in an influenza outbreak some years earlier; see here.)  But Lennox ended up teaching himself much of what he wanted to know, particularly about chemistry and general science.  Mainly because he was curious about things that the curriculum there didn’t cover.

Random facts:

For all he’s a caring and friendly guy, he has a horror of tears.  He never knows how to handle such a situation.

When Lennox is around, there is rarely an awkward silence.  Or at least, it doesn’t last for more than a few seconds; he always finds something to say, especially if the pause is uncomfortable.

He always makes a huge mess whenever he gets a project out, such as paints or research; and if the work space is his own, he leaves the mess until he’s finished or until he gets tired of the chaos.

His mother taught him to play the piano, a skill he fought tooth and nail as a child because he thought it was a sissy pastime.  But his mother persevered, and Lennox finally learned to play in spite of himself.

His father also taught him to paint; Lennox didn’t mind learning this, although he says he doesn’t paint very well, didn’t practice enough.

He cannot swim, and nearly drowned after falling off a bridge once.  Fortunately, someone went after him and pulled him out.

He’s 23 at the beginning of the story.

He adheres to social requirements to please his grandfather, but he doesn’t give a rip about convention in the privacy of his home.

Lennox is the sort of person to pull a book off the shelf and then stand there in the walkway reading the volume.

Feeling just a wee bit lost in London society…

He cannot resist exploring new things and places…he’s incredibly curious, and sometimes even explores places he shouldn’t…

He never means any harm, he just wants the answers to his questions.

Now I forgot to link up with Beautiful People last month; the time for the link-up has expired, but I’ll still post the questions!

What’s his favorite place he ever visited?  Hard to narrow down; Lennox likes seeing anything and anywhere new.  He definitely enjoyed different parts of the Italian countryside as a child, as his family moved from place to place, seeking employment.

What’s one mistake he made that he learned from?  Erm…if this means during the story, I can’t say, because spoilers.  Before the story, however, it was probably something around the lines of “don’t perform chemistry experiments an hour before dinner if there’s any chance of a stench or a mess.”

What was his favorite subject in school? Or favorite thing to learn about?  Scientific history, physics, and chemistry.  He taught himself all three.

What’s his favorite flower/growing thing?  He likes painting landscapes, but I don’t think he has a favorite plant.

Has he ever made someone cry? What happened?  Nope, and if this ever happens, it will be a complete accident.  Lennox is the sort to go out of his way to make sure a conversation partner or friend is comfortable in the situation.

Would you consider him a reliable or unreliable narrator?  Unreliable, only because Lennox is too trusting.  And sometimes misses details, especially if he was focused on something else or just not interested.

What does he dream about at night?  Lennox says this is really nobody’s business.

He’s gone out for a “special meal.” What would he eat?  Definitely cake (spice cake with currents or sponge cake with frosting).

Does he have any distinguishing or unique talents?  He find and exploit loopholes like a boss.  He’s generally cheerful, regardless of the circumstances (on the other hand, if Lennox isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy).  He can also see the potential in almost any idea.

What’s at least one thing he wants to do before he dies?  A lot…but one is definitely to figure out what to do with his life.

So, that’s a little more about Lennox!  Thanks for reading!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

value drawing

Beautiful People Link-Up: About the Author

This month’s BP features the author of the characters instead of the characters themselves, which is a fun twist.  🙂  You can find the link-up and questions here.

How do you decide which project to work on?

It’s very rational: I sit down and calculate how many story elements are inherent in the original idea + an estimation of the time it will take to finish + how much time I actually have + how much coffee I’ll need to complete the project, and–

Just kidding!  Usually, ideas for characters grab me and won’t let go, and so I have to follow and see what the story is.  It’s  entirely out of my control, I assure you.  Other times, the process is a little more rational: sometimes based on whichever idea is the most vivid and interesting; sometimes it’s based on which story idea has the most pieces put together (e.g. one with the concept, conflict, etc. worked out); and sometimes, it’s whichever idea looks like one that I can finish quickly.

Which often turns out to be a complete fantasy.  🙂

Even when I settle on a project, I tinker with others on the side, and jot notes for any new ideas. Sitting now in my digital folders are at least 10 novel ideas (with tons of notes for each), along with notes for a couple of characters and concepts that don’t have proper stories, but that won’t leave my imagination either.

At the moment, I’m actively working on my semi-western Gentle Fire, and I tinker with my steampunk story here and there.  Also, the steampunk story finally has a working title: Empty Clockwork!  And speaking of, I’ll get that post about Lennox up sometime before the apocalypse hopefully soon.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

In the words of Ebeneezer Scrooge, circa 1850–something: “Why do you delight to torture me?”

I don’t finish quickly, partly because of my health problems and fatigue–but partly because my concepts end up fleshed out into a Very Long Novel that will take more than a few months to pound out.  But I comfort myself with the hallowed words of Charles Dickens:

“It is delightful to find throughout that you have taken great pains with it [the story] besides, and have “got at it” with a perfect knowledge of the jolter-headedness of the conceited idiots who suppose that volumes are to be tossed off like pancakes, and that any writing can be done without the utmost application, the greatest patience, and the steadiest energy, of which the writer is capable.”

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

I listen to music that matches the tone of my story (e.g. The Alamo soundtrack before I work on Gentle Fire) and sometimes crochet a little before I write, using that time to think about the story and what I’m going to write.

What time of day do you write best?

Always in the early morning, when the rising sun melts the grey sky into soft blush and liquid gold, and the house is a still and peaceful place where my imagination can soar–

*dog barks at someone walking by the house*

*a sibling gets up earlier than I expected*

*air conditioner breaks*

Kidding!  It changes from day to day, and I think it has to do with however much brain fog I’m dealing with.  Sometimes I write best in the wee hours of the morning; other times, I can barely comprehend English during that time.  Other times, I write best in the late morning; still others, late afternoon is the sweet spot.  Keeps things interesting, eh, what?

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

Erm…I have no idea.  I’d like to think I have a style like Dickens’, but it’s probably a cross between Bronte and Austen.  I asked my siblings, and Chris lovingly reminded me that he hasn’t read any of my stories because I haven’t finished one yet.  (Thanks, bro.)  Gingersnap said she couldn’t think of any comparisons and that I kind of had my own style.  Enkie said Louisa May Alcott, but also said that’s the only author she could think of off the top of her head, and that it wasn’t correct at all.  That I kind of have my own style.  Emmett also said he hasn’t read any of my stuff, and so he also couldn’t think of any comparisons.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I started writing because I always have story ideas bouncing around in my head, and at age 12, I hit upon one that I thought was good enough to become a book.  (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.)  But it was enough to start me on this journey, and I keep writing because story ideas still bounce around in my head–stories that I would love to read someday.

I also truly enjoy the process and the artistry of it all, despite how hard it gets.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

Either the travel brochure for a writing class assignment (that brochure was as dry as ashes, people)–or the picture book I started in order to finish something before I die.  The picture book was hard because it was short, and I didn’t have room to explore or flesh out its concept.  It felt like shutting my mind up in a box.

Here’s a fun fact: Gentle Fire was supposed to be a short story.  But I kept wondering what brought Durant to the very situation in the opening, and also what happened after the story.  And then I thought of some answers.  And the ideas wouldn’t leave me alone.  See Question #1.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

My English political novel with the working title of Method and Manner.  Actually, I’d love to focus on this one (Chris told me the other day he would put flowers ‘pon this story’s gravestone), but I don’t have time for the hefty research required.  When I have time for that research, however, I shall thoroughly enjoy it!

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I hoped to finish the draft of Gentle Fire by the end of the year, but as it’s nearly August and only the beginning of the outline sits in my folder, that will probably not happen.  I hesitated to set any other goals because I so successfully fail at meeting them year after year.  It’s quite the impressive record.

Maybe I should switch to creating Mid-Year Goals?  Breaking out of the cliche box and all its expectations might help.  🙂

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

Help, coffee, help!

Kidding again!  It’s more like Think, Organize, Write–only that order gets shuffled around a little.  Okay, a lot.  With confusion thrown in.  Also a constant sparring match between my inner critic and artist’s soul.

And coffee does fit in there somewhere.  🙂

value drawing

Artwork Wednesday – A Small Twist

Today’s post will feature quotes from my characters, not pencil-and-paint work. Two reasons for this: 1. I have no artwork prepared for this week, and 2. I’m working on drawings of Lennox for my upcoming post about him (stay tuned!)  Hopefully, I’ll have drawings to show next week, but for now, I’ll post verbal artwork instead.

Now, not all these quotes will make it into the finished story–but they reveal a good deal about the characters.  🙂

Quotes from my unnamed literary novel (set in Yorkshire in the 1820s–30s):

“Tell me quickly,” said Charles, nearly exasperated.  “I am late already.”

“By a full two moments?” called Thomas from the other room.

 

“Charles, if Lord James thought our station an impediment, he would not pay me such marked attention,” Dorothea said.  “Are we not to trust his judgment as well as ours?”

Charles sat down.  “His judgment might be impaired by his need for money.”

Dorothea lowered her work and sent her brother a severe stare.  “That is not fair to Lord James or to his father.  They do need money,” she continued, resuming her sewing, “but Lord James is prudent and honorable.  If he feared our new wealth would corrupt his family’s rank, I do not think he would pay me any attention.  And we are honest with each other.  If he finds me lacking in any thing, he will tell me, and I shall attempt to satisfy him.”

 

“You will forgive me for being indelicate,” Dorothea said, looking up at her brother “but you apprehend a good deal that does not happen.”

 

“Really, James, you are newly-married and ought to be a good deal more punctual than this,” Harriet said, “–especially since you are escorting your wife.”

Dorothea was about to reprimand this remark, but James said, “At least I have made some improvement.  Where is Father?”

“Papa!” Harriet called down the hall, “Even James is ready now!”

 

James, as always, refused to take coffee; he had for years observed the peculiar sway it held over his otherwise self-controlled friend, and would himself remain free of such mastery.

 

“The only dissatisfaction I have with curls,” said Harriet, “is that they become untidy with the least provocation!”

 

“I am all right,” Charles insisted.  This was not as consoling at he intended, for he would say the same if he were in the final stages of consumption.

 

Alice suddenly pointed at the dog and announced: “Buppy.”

Mr. Carter smiled and knelt by the dog’s head. “Would you like to pet her?”

Alice glanced up at her mother and then ventured forward, but she looked at Mr. Carter very seriously.  “He bite,” she prophesied.

“No, she will not bite. But let her sniff your hands first.”

 

“Will you sit down?” Alice asked. Mr. Carter nodded and sat on the small chair nearby. Alice stared at him and patted the grass with both hands.

“Oh, on the ground,” Mr. Carter said, lowering himself to that level. “My mistake.”

 

James raised an eyebrow.  “Are you flirting?”

“Yes,” Dorothea answered lightly, “but with impunity, as we are already married.”

James laughed.

 

The whole plot is kicked off by Dorothea and James deciding to marry–so there’s no point in keeping that secret!

 

value drawing

Weekly Artwork Round-Up

No point in calling it Artwork Wednesday, because this post is (a) not featured on Wednesday, and (b) ridiculously late.

One art problem I’ve faced recently is how to deal with reference photos. Printing every photo I want to draw from uses a lot of paper and ink. Sketching with my laptop precariously balanced on my knees is not only bad for the laptop and my arms and legs, but eraser crumbs get between the computer keys. So…why don’t I just rest the laptop on a table? Because I hate, hate, hate people seeing the reference photo on the screen or seeing my drawing when I’m first sketching. It’s not so bad if the drawing looks like a human with clothes on, but before I get the sketch to that stage…

Anyway, I have  five pictures to show this week!

First up is Sanchia, a character from my semi-western story with a working title of Gentle Fire.  I picture Sanchia so vividly that it was great to capture that on paper more or less easily!  Also notice that the wool skeins drape over her wrists so that I don’t have to bother drawing hands like yarn skeins do in real life.  Especially since she’s paused her work to listen to someone talk.

This is the cabin that Durant and his family live when they first move to the western colonies.  The table is just slabs of wood set on sawn logs, and there are no proper shelves, cupboards, or even beds yet.  But it’s their own house on their own property, and that’s enough for them once they survive the journey.

Nonetheless, Wilson promised to build proper shelves and beds as soon as possible.

I drew this with charcoal–and there’s a funny story to go along with it.  Ever since I began drawing, Dad tried to get me interested in charcoal drawing, because we had a kit and tutorial series somewhere in our detached office.  I was too busy learning to use pencils, however, to turn my attention to charcoal.  Fast forward a couple of years to when I bought an art set only for the little art mannequin to use for drawing poses.  But charcoal pencils were included in the set–and out of random curiosity, I used them to draw this.  And–

I. Love. Charcoal.

I promptly informed Dad about this and thanked him for mentioning that medium and the art set out in the office.  And for the record, my parents are right 99% of the time.  🙂

My brother Chris suggested I draw concept art for my story to get an idea of the atmosphere and aesthetic–so I took his advice and started watercolor sketches in my leather sketchbook.  This is the rancho of another character: Barros (father of Maria, whom I mentioned here, and Teresita, whom I haven’t mentioned yet. 🙂 )

Another watercolor sketch, this one of the books Durant brought to the west.  The bottom one is a book of natural science; the next one up is a biography; the third is a small volume of poetry; the fourth is a novel of some sort; the fifth is  a brief history of the nation; the sixth (the long, grey one) is a primer; and the topmost book is Durant’s personal record book where he jots down financial information, a brief description of the day’s events, and sometimes his nephew’s antics.

Speaking of nephews, here’s Alex, Durant’s eldest nephew.  With his uncle’s hat on his head–Durant has a habit of dropping his hat on the head of whichever nephew is nearest!

Part of me wants to draw Lennox again, and get back to A Tale of Two Cities fanart–but I can’t stop drawing my Gentle Fire characters!  So who knows what artwork I’ll have to showcase next week!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

value drawing

Artwork Thursday – New Art Supplies!

Late is better than never, right?  My internet connection kept breaking yesterday, and so I couldn’t log on here and get the post up.  *sighs*  But here we are now!

While at Hobby Lobby the other day, I saw a beautiful leather sketchbook with soft pages that might hold watercolor nicely.  I decided to take the risk and buy it…

Isn’t it gorgeous?  And when I’ve used up the pages, I think I know how to remove the leather cover and re-use it for another journal.

I also picked up a portable watercolor set…

…which was an impulse purchase, but a good one.  I’ve wanted for years to have a portable watercolor set so I could paint outside and use the scenery around me as reference.

Here I am painting outside!  After getting nearly blinded by sunlight reflecting off those white pages, I prudently relocated to a shady spot.  The journal pages did hold watercolor pretty well–not as perfectly as my professional watercolor paper, but well enough for sketching!

I also tried sketching with pencil in the leather journal…

…but it’s rather hard to erase without shredding the page.  This is my character Sanchia, from my semi-western story.

Same character with some shading and detail.  Not sure which version I like better!

This is myself caricatured as a walnut.  And before you all blink in disbelief and unsubscribe, let me explain: I was goofing off with a friend through text and making her laugh…and then got this hilarious image of myself as nut with a posh hat.  So I doodled the image!  Also, I shall make “sass with class” my personal motto.  🙂

I’ve kept up my crocheting…

…and made a cover for a chair cushion.  I even followed a crochet pattern–sort of.  I’m one of those crocheters who change the pattern as suits their needs.  🙂  No harm in being flexible!

Then at the last minute yesterday, I realized it was Flag Day…

…so I doodled this (and the leather journal holds colored pencil pretty well too–good to know!)

I also left off the stars because it would take until next Flag Day to draw them all!  🙂

And I finally finished a drawing I’d started weeks ago…

…this is Maria, another character from the semi-western.  She’s quiet, but fun-loving, and so she’s jumping off rocks or something like that here.

That’s all for now!

Save

Save

Save

Save

value drawing

Artwork Wednesday – Back to Watercolor!

Before my watercolor painting frenzy began, I drew a couple of pictures with dry media.

I drew this in the car.  The highway was a long smooth stretch, and so I was able to sketch without worrying about bumps in the road.  And without getting car-sick, which is the real miracle.  🙂

This is my character, Mary, (from the semi-western story) and half of a quote from Pinterest.  The full quote says:

“Typical MBTI Description: INTJs are the cool-headed geniuses of the 16 types.  With their love of objective reasoning and  uncanny intuition, no one can fool this intellectual mastermind.  Actual INTJs: Where are my socks?”

Which is definitely Mary, so here she is, a bit confused.  Although she does use objective reasoning and generally points out the principle or detail that everyone else missed.

I started this one weeks ago, got extremely close to finishing, and therefore, didn’t bother finishing until now.  *headdesk*  Yet another victim falls prey to the “Oh-there’s-plenty-of-time” mindset.  Anyway, I absolutely loved painting all that mist in watercolor–it was difficult keeping an eye on the paint to make sure it didn’t drift into an area where it shouldn’t–but the work paid off!

A tulip tree blossom.

Some daffodils that didn’t turn out quite as detailed as I’d hoped.

But while painting the daffodils, I watched The Fellowship of the Ring–and got a sudden urge to paint a Shire landscape.

So I did.  This is a very small painting, maybe 3″x5″, but that may have actually helped me not go overboard with detail.

That’s all for now!

Save

Save

Save

Save

value drawing

So, About My Steampunk Story…

Apparently, I’ve made some readers curious about this work-in-progress by featuring Lennox in two Beautiful People link-ups.  So, time for a full disclosure, eh?

First off, it’s not really steampunk.  I dubbed it that before I understood what this genre actually meant.  And what that term means is…actually a little crazy.  Steampunk.com says the term can refer to a lot of tropes, from the Industrial Revolution aesthetic to a lack of technology altogether in favor of supernatural/paranormal aspects.  Whereas Writersdigest.com defines the genre more generally as built around the idea that technology never advanced beyond steam engines.   When I mentioned all this to Chris, he and I both thought it was a little silly to have an entire genre limited by steam technology and Victorian aesthetic.  We continued calling the story “steampunk,” to convey the idea of anachronistic technology in the 19th century, and not because my story actually conforms to the genre.

After further research, we concluded that my story is actually a cross between alternate history, social sci-fi, hard sci-fi, with maybe a dash of steampunk thrown in (depending on which definition of that genre you like best).  See why calling it “steampunk” is easier?

The story starts in 1891.  The setting is the typical late-Victorian London with strict social norms, but with a twist: scientific dabbling is a popular hobby for the rich.  And “secret” labs in the basement are an essential part of any grand house.  Lord Fredericks is a brilliant, self-taught scientist, who can’t capitalize on his skills because he is also an aristocrat and not supposed to do manual or tradesman’s work.  His ward, Susan, will inherit a fortune when she comes of age, but she can’t find an endeavor worthy enough to support because of the complacent attitudes in society.  Henry is a doctor passionate for his work and research, but he can’t get the wealthy hobby scientists interested enough in his ideas to fund his experiments.  (He is also torn between giving his services to the poor and needing income from his practice.)  And Lennox is a young man who teaches classics at Cambridge, and therefore can’t get anyone to take him seriously as a scientist.

When Lennox comes to London to live with his grandfather, he hopes to meet influential men of science and to have opportunities to test his ideas and do further research.  To his frustration, these hopes seem misplaced due to the strict traditions holding London society together—yet when he meets Lord Fredericks and another-influential-character-who-doesn’t-yet-have-a-name (I’m so organized), these five characters are drawn together to combine their ideas.

All the characters have scientific specialties (except the unnamed one; still working out his role and personality).  Lennox’s is chemistry and maybe physics.  He’s also an artist (though not a very good one, he says) because he learned to paint from his artist father.  Henry’s expertise is biology (naturally); Susan’s is natural science of any kind, and she’s picked up a bunch of information about other sciences through reading and through helping Lord Fredericks with his own research.  And Lord Fredricks is a jack-of-all trades, interested in nearly anything, but he specializes in electromagnetism and mechanical engineering.

Keep in mind that all this is subject to change—I’m still taking notes and playing around with concepts.  Inspirations for this project have been Jekyll & Hyde (both the book and the musical), Batman Begins, Inception, The Prestige, the inventions of Nikola Tesla and other experiments with electricity and electromagnetism in the final decade of the century, photographs of clock towers and lamplit streets at night, and my own thoughts and theories about science and art.

Shots of the (secret!) character boards:

Lennox’s board:

Henry’s board:

Lord Fredericks’s board:

Susan’s board:

I do not own these images!  I use them solely for personal inspiration; no copyright infringement is intended.

One last thing: I’m not actively working on this story.  It’s still in the concept/idea-gathering/note-taking stage.  I fiddle with it when I get burned out on other projects.  Or when inspiration hits.  🙂

Still, if anyone would like to know a little more about it or about these characters, leave a comment and let me know!

Save

Save

Save

Save