Storybuilding: A Ramble

Jul. 26th, 2017 06:45 pm
kiya: (rune)
[personal profile] kiya

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

I’m working on this story.

I have… nine tabs of reference material open, assuming I haven’t lost some somewhere, all of them about real-world culture and organization of the Marines (both US and Royal). That’s not counting the brief things I have opened, researched, and closed (“How would a Marine address their Navy corpsman?”).

Or the other things I’ve had open. Common world surnames, say, that’s one I keep having to pull up every time I get another speaking part. The aliens’ names are easier, there are only two of them in the platoon, and I can just make something up that’s in accord with their vocal apparatus. Trying to reach out for names that paint the suggestion that there’s a broad world full of human beings that contribute in the subtext, though, that requires some actual thought. And some thought, because just snagging ‘most common surname’ by continent or something is still lazy. Just a slightly broader lazy than before. But if the worldbuilding wants to include breadth of humanity it has to actually show it in the interstitial bits.

And then there’s more overtly political questions. I sit with this story, this story that I’m trying to root in a particular military experience, while proclamations are being made about trans people in the military, and I go, “… is there someone trans in this platoon?” Because that’s as conscious a decision as having women in the platoon, as having names for people that reach beyond European standards, and the odds are good that someone like Karou the hyenoid alien does not exist but I am damn sure that Chelsea Manning does. It’s easy to just grab the easy names, the assumed genders, the just-like-every-other-story bits, easy and lazy and anyway if it’s just like every other story why am I sitting and writing it in the first place?

And it goes on. Trying to articulate a plausible Space Marine ethos means spending a bit of time sitting with actual Marine expressions to try to figure out how that would translate, how to include it, how to express it in the story without sitting down and doing the “This Is What It Means” talk from people who are busy with their actual mission. It means coming up with story twists and angles that will let that actually show, rather than remain entirely invisible underneath the events. Which isn’t a different writing problem than questions of human diversity at all – it’s all about how to take the things that are true in the storyworld and make them visible and plausible.

I did a little mini-tweet-thread about this question of breadth of humanity, mostly talking about Cracked Pots, the novel in progress, but it holds here too. My gods, it’s full of PEOPLE. And figuring out the people means figuring out the things, the details that make them all real. All the effort into the little telling details and right moments.

This particular story is capped at 5000 words for the market I’m writing for.

Longer stories produce… notably more tabs.

"You get nothing!"

Jul. 25th, 2017 02:26 am
rosefox: A cartoon figure slipping toward a gaping hole in the paper. (slipping)
[personal profile] rosefox
I'm having one of those "parenting is so hard, when does it stop being hard, oh right, never" days.

I was watching Kit play on their own and glumly thinking that happy Kit is independent and only wants parents when they're sad. Then they toddled over and handed me a stuffed fox, just because. So I know that what I'm feeling is just a feeling and has very little to do with reality. But it's still a big feeling.

Relatedly, having a tantruming toddler scream directly into your ear for several minutes is really quite challenging.

"Kit is so chill," I thought, once upon a time. "Maybe they won't really get toddler tantrums." I was so wrong. Soooo wrong. Tantrums aren't about personality. They're about cognitive and emotional overload. A scream into the void.

(My right ear is the void, apparently.)

(But was I going to stop cuddling my screaming child? Of course not. My ear can cope.)

And now I feel like the worst parent in the world because I couldn't really help my kid, even when they were bottomlessly miserable. There is no cure for the tantrum because it's an existential crisis. You just hold on and say "I'm here" like it means anything. And eventually they stop crying long enough for you to get some calories into them, which almost always helps. It turns out that kids are always basically one minute away from a massive hunger crash, and that rather exacerbates the existential angst.

You could not pay me enough to be a child again. No way. It's genuinely a wonder that kids are ever happy at all. Their bodies do weird things, the world is baffling, everything is too big, they have no control, safety is elusive and fleeting. It's like a fucking horror movie, 24/7. And yet my child comes over and smiles at me and puts their head on my knee for sheer love.

I guess maybe they wanted to say "I'm here" like it means anything.

I guess maybe it does.

"Close enough for jazz"

Jul. 23rd, 2017 03:13 am
rosefox: Me snuggling a giant teddy bear, entirely contented. (sleeping)
[personal profile] rosefox
Vacation to-do list/wishlist summary: not too bad! Especially given that today was totally eaten by stressful unexpected circumstances. (Everyone is fine now.)

Things without deadlines (fun):

* Watch Voltron: Legendary Defender and do some knitting
* Stroll in the Botanic Gardens (I didn't do this but did go read in the park near our house)
* Maybe steal the baby from daycare early one day and get extra baby time
* Read (three books! in one week!)
* Cook
* Lunch with my mom
* Sleeeeeeeep

Things without deadlines (productive):

* Shower and dress in real clothes every day (mostly)
* Tidy room enough for vacuuming
* Unpack
* Vacuum (well, I swept, but it's pretty clean underfoot now)
* Catch up on laundry
* Celebrate the 1st anniversary of Story Hospital (!)
* Call insurance company about that bill
* Call doctor's office about that prior auth
* Finish setting up Tinybeans
* Remake OT appointment for next week
* Do a family Readercon debrief/postmortem

Gleefulness!

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:16 pm
brooksmoses: (Default)
[personal profile] brooksmoses
I just looked at the Schlock Mercenary comic for tomorrow, and the sound effect for firing the Very Large Gun that was introduced a storyline or two ago is making my vibrate and clap my hands with utter glee.

It works well as a standalone strip even if you're not familiar with the comic, too, so I'm going to make you click through to see it rather than spoiling it.

"You can't always get what you want"

Jul. 19th, 2017 01:31 am
rosefox: A Victorian woman glares and says "Fuck's sake, what a cock"; someone out of the frame says "mm". (disapproval)
[personal profile] rosefox
Archiving some Twitter threads here regarding cons and congoing.

Thread 1: You are not entitled to be a panelist at a convention.  )

=====

Thread 2: Cis People Please Don't Do This. )

Comments are off because I'm on vacation and don't feel like moderating them. Feel free to share the link to this post.

"R&R"

Jul. 18th, 2017 04:26 am
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (relaxed)
[personal profile] rosefox
Once more unto the vacation to-do list/wishlist. A whole week of vacation when I'm not ill! Such luxury!

Things with deadlines:

* NONE AT ALL

Things without deadlines (fun):

* Watch Voltron: Legendary Defender and do some knitting
* Stroll in the Botanic Gardens (needs to happen today if it's going to happen, because the weather's going to be too hot and unpleasant the rest of the week)
* Maybe steal the baby from daycare early one day and get extra baby time
* Read
* Cook
* Lunch with my mom
* Sleeeeeeeep

Things without deadlines (productive):

* Shower and dress in real clothes every day
* Tidy room enough for vacuuming
* Unpack
* Vacuum (or ask J to if my arms are sad)
* Catch up on laundry
* Celebrate the 1st anniversary of Story Hospital (!)
* Call insurance company about that bill
* Call doctor's office about that prior auth
* Finish setting up Tinybeans
* Remake OT appointment for next week
* Do a family Readercon debrief/postmortem

"The travel-model baby"

Jul. 17th, 2017 02:29 am
rosefox: A zombie from a Nintendo game. (zombie)
[personal profile] rosefox
We are HOME. I have rarely in my life been so tired, and I have spent much of my life being tired. This is non-Euclidean tired that collapses in upon itself. I'm sort of impressed by it.

As usual, Sam was thrilled to see me, Sophie was thrilled to see X, and Alex pretended to have entirely forgotten our names until we ordered pizza and he decided he wanted some. Tili took very good care of them. She also pointed out that our inexplicably huge basil plants grew enormous flower spikes during the three days we were gone. The leaves are yellowing a bit; might be time for more fertilizer.

I cannot overstate how tremendously lucky we are to have such a good travel-bean. They were really clearly Done With Everything around 2 p.m. yesterday, and very polite about our inexplicable failure to take them home right then. They didn't nap much on the train today, though they did sleep on me for about half an hour—it's such a pleasure to be slept on by a baby, and we were all jockeying a bit to be the one that Kit napped on; I only won because J needed to get up to get something and I snagged the sleepy baby and the blanket—but they were generally cheerful and amenable to distraction nonetheless, and as soon as we got home they chugged a bottle and sacked out. They even signed "train" while we were waiting for the train, and they made friends with another toddler who was riding in our car, trading many high-fives and handshakes. They really liked the train trips; we should do more train travel with them.

Next year, more and better planning. Definitely. But on the whole it was a very good con.

"Gonna fall down any day now"

Jul. 16th, 2017 02:11 am
rosefox: The Readercon logo flipped to read R F. (readercon)
[personal profile] rosefox
We are at Readercon! We are having a very good time.

We took the train up instead of driving. There was a mess leaving Penn Station—we had to get off our broken train and get onto another one at the last minute—and a friend couriered much of our luggage, so that was all a bit of a logistical headache, and it's stressful being bound to an external schedule. But I actually haven't missed having a car (or even thought much about leaving the hotel) and I definitely haven't missed being the only licensed driver for a long trip. Maybe the train again next year; maybe not.

Me being sick for the crucial two weeks (two full weeks! June 26 to July 10! let's never do that again!) when we would usually do all our planning led to many hilarious planning failures, including not packing enough underwear, packing the wrong bra, not bringing enough warm clothing for a freezing cold hotel, never getting around to going swimming (after much fuss about making sure we all had swim gear—though of course we forgot Kit's swim diaper!), not bringing toothpaste, not bringing enough cash for housekeeping tips, forgetting that my new eyeglass prescription means my hoarded last pair of contact lenses was useless, and not scheduling enough babysitter time. Rarely has my behavior.planning.agley tag been so apt. X and J did their very best to make up for my incapacity, but we're all used to me being the primary planner, and at this age Kit is very distracting and makes it hard to focus on planning. I suspect that we're going to go home, sleep for a week, and then plan out our entire schedule for next year in advance.

I gave a talk on habit reversal training for writers that was extremely well received. That was very gratifying and enjoyable, and set a good tone for the rest of the weekend. I attended a few panels, was on a couple more, read none of my book and knit none of my knitting, had a really lovely time hanging out with friends, stayed up very late—the usual.

Some of it has been a bit strange. I'm now at the age where my friends tell me about their divorces; I was not quite aware I had reached that age, but it's happened twice in two days, so here we are. (To be clear, I am very glad I could be there for those friends. I just wasn't expecting it.) No one's slept much except Kit, who remains an absolute champion traveler and has taken a solid two-hour nap every day we've been here, including on the train on the way up (and will ideally do so on the train home). But we're coping.

I was nearly falling asleep during my own room party, and then after it was done I went out to the patio because 1 a.m. Readercon patio conversations are a superb vintage I only get to taste once a year. We talked about consciousness upload and replication, which led to digressions on neuroscience, parenting, and karma. Good times.

I must go sleep a lot now. A whole lot. Tomorrow: home.
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