Writing

Indie e-Con: Science Fiction Retellings

Retellings have become increasingly popular lately…it seems to me, anyway. And I am no exception to this rule. With the explosion of Indie authors due to affordable author sites like Createspace, KDP, Ingramspark, Draft2Digital (just to name a few), it’s never been easier to see yourself published. With this ease of publishing, however, comes a new challenge:

Writing stories that are fresh and original.

outer_space_by_cracklerIt’s impossible to sit down to write a story and NOT ask yourself, “Now. Did I read this plot somewhere and forget about it? Has this been done before? Like, a billion times?” Many of us have discovered that fairy tale and mythological Retellings are an amazing way to take something tried and true and give it a fresh spin. With all this amazing literature at our disposal, the possibilities are endless. Fairy Tales, Greek legends, Norse mythology…you name it. It’s all available.

Today, I am here to talk about a new genre that is growing increasingly more popular in our technological age.

Science Fiction Retellings

By far, the most popular Science Fiction Fairytale retelling series out there is The Lunar Chronicles Series by Marissa Meyer. Cinder truly made a big splash with its fresh take on a cyborg Cinderella. But you will also find other, less known stories out there–such as some of the novellas in the Rooglewood anthologies. Annie Douglass Lima and DJ Edwardson are two authors in the Indie community that I personally know write in the science fiction genre. But, honestly, there are not NEARLY as many science fiction stories as there are fantasy ones. This creates an amazing opportunity for authors who are willing to dabble in faraway galaxies. For the purpose of my post, I will be referencing more films than books, simply because there are more of them out there. And I love movies. Ahem.

So. You want to write a fairy tale set in outer space: What makes a good Sci-fi Retelling?

  1. The core elements of the fairy tale are present. Whatever tale you choose to use, keep the heart of the tale. There are some things you simply can’t do without. You can’t have Snow White without some sort of sleep/death scenario. You can’t have Beauty and the Beast without some sort of sacrifice or beast. There is no Peter Pan without the Lost Boys. So choose what elements from the original storiesCinder_Cover resonate most within you and then use those to fashion your otherworldly story. In Cinder by Marissa Meyer, for example, the elements of Cinderella are clearly there. There’s the poor girl. There’s the prince. There are stepsisters. There’s a party of some sort. It’s been so long since I read the book I can’t remember how the glass slipper was handled, but if I remember correctly the emphasis was more on her cyborg parts than a shiny glass slipper, but the parallels are there.
  2. Do your research. Science Fiction is, obviously, inspired by SCIENCE. It’s not like fantasy, where you can widely make your own magical rules and stick with them. No, with Science Fiction you need to have some level of realism to keep the story believable. Like Historical Fiction. Without the Historical. And with aliens and planets and hyperspace and black holes… Now, this isn’t to say you can’t have magic in your science fiction. Um, hello, Star Wars. But you do need to handle the hard science in your story to some extent. Instead of worrying about the rules of magic, you’ll be worrying about black holes, spaceship design, intergalactic travel, and probably life on other planets (I do mean aliens).
  3. Choose your sub-genre. Science Fiction, like fantasy, is extremely broad, with dozens 424MxHQe5Hfu92hTeRvZb5Giv0Xof layers you can choose from. Everything from the space opera, to Apocalyptic, to the space western, and science fantasy (again, Star Wars). The space opera is one of my favorites, with an emphasis on sweeping dramas, intergalactic conflicts, chivalry, and romance. But I’m also a big fan of space westerns such as Serenity and Firefly. Christian Science Fiction is even its own sub-genre (think C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.)
  4. Lean more toward the science than the magic. You can use both, but if you’re trying to sell Science Fiction, people are going to expect more Science than fantasy. Just simple math.
  5. Terminology. This will also play a big factor in your story telling. For example, a young boy in my current WIP (a Snow White/Peter Pan Science Fiction story for MG readers) has a hand held device he carries around that allows him to connect to wi-fi, gain access to ships’ computers, and generally create technological mayhem. I have so many choices: is it a tablet? a datapad? a com unit? a cell phone? some sort of cybernetic implant? Seriously, whichever word I choose will help define the tone, location, and time period of my story. If I call it a cell phone, people will assume this is a near distant future story, while an implant would make it much further into the void.

In the end, I think the most important thing to remember is to try to make the retelling your own. This is your story, your fairy tale, your world…give it YOUR spin. Keep the core elements of the fairy tale and the hard science in mind, but let your own heart drive the story. I’m excited to see what faraway galaxies you take us to.

Writing

Indie e-Con: Foreshadowing

Today I am going to talk about Foreshadowing your Mystery. Just in case some of my non-writing readers are following my posts this week, when I say “Foreshadowing” I am not talking about a shadow. I.e. The one Peter Pan loses and chases around Wendy’s bedroom. I am talking about laying the groundwork for surprises, for the big reveals, for the shock “I did NOT see that coming” moment we all love in a good story.Tumblr_n2ew2i5INU1qhcrb0o1_1280 Yes, we want to be surprised…but, let’s face it, we like to know it’s coming, and when it arrives, we NEED to know that it makes sense. Back to my authors, this post can be applied to any story in any genre, whether you are writing that timeless Detective mystery, a romantic thriller, suspense, a fantasy or science fiction story with a mystery weaved throughout…every story, every one that is well-told, will have foreshadowing.

First, let’s talk about some of the best surprises in literature. Whenever I think of a POW moment in fiction, I almost always think of The Hunger Games. That moment when Peetae375eaa7-4f14-49c5-8a52-04562c813ec7 says that Katniss is pregnant? Even though I  know it’s coming because I’ve read the book before…I still LOVE that moment. I’m totally surprised, because Katniss is totally surprised. She wasn’t let in on the secret. However, the play makes sense because the author had previously established that Peeta has a way with words and people. You believe this amazing twist of Peeta’s because the author FORESHADOWED that he has the gift for surprise moments like this. Every time he opens his mouth, you feel like grinning because you know what he is capable of. Peeta isn’t just the baker’s homely, quiet son who’s going to try to kill his opponents with big sacks of flour. And the author gives us glimpses of this as she spins her tale and develops his character.

You-know-luke-and-leia-27817111-1280-854For my fellow geeks, another big reveal I’ve always loved in fiction is when we find out that Leia and Luke are siblings. (Let’s not get into the whole, I kissed my brother thing, because that’s just gross). When you get to that moment, you’re like: That makes so much sense! I believe this! The reason for this is because George Lucas knew this plot twist when he began writing the story and he PREPARED us for the revelation.

IzhPlo9One of my favorite screen writers is M. Knight Shyamalan. He has such an amazing gift for suspense, and the way he foreshadows the stories he is trying to tell…truly, it’s brilliant. My two favorites are The Village and Signs. Have you ever sat down and watched Signs for the pure pleasure of tearing it apart? From the moment Dad sits up in bed because he heard something outside, to the rumors being spread around town, to the last moment when he  and his brother look across his living room and see all the glasses Bo has left around that he can use to defeat the alien that’s about to kill Morgan…who survives because of the asthma that was clearly threaded into the story…it’s brilliantly done. Every step is planned, every twist is prepared for. If you’ve never seen this movie, you seriously need to.

The most important thing to remember as you are making your big reveals is that you need to prepare for them. Leave bread crumbs. Don’t spoil the surprise, but use the other resources you have at your disposal to prepare us for the shock.

  1. Use your character development, like we talked about with Peeta. When your characters do something shocking, we should already see the signs that they are capable of doing the shocking thing. Don’t give us a sweet heroine who never raises her voice above a whisper who suddenly faces an angry mob and shouts them into submission. Because…eh…we won’t buy it. We need to see her losing her temper with her pesky brother earlier in the story. We need to see her saying something quiet but sarcastic to her slightly annoying love interest. We need to see her quietly standing up for a friend in need. Then, by the time we get to the climax where she has to put herself out there and quiets an enraged mob…we will BELIEVE it.
  2. Use your setting and descriptions to set the tone. It’s totally fine to shock us, but set the stage with appropriate descriptions. Let us know the night is quiet and still but in an eerie sort of way, so when the assassin melds out of the shadows we alreadycoverfinal4 copy believe he could be there because you told us something wasn’t right when you described the setting. Here is a snippet from a favorite book of mine, So Sang the Dawn. From the moment I read these first lines…I knew what kind of a story I was getting into–I could feel the tension and the drama…and the lion plays a huge part in the story. But Miss Pavese doesn’t just throw a giant lion at us in the middle of the action sequence. No, she begins from the very first word of the story. Literally.

“A lion.

A massive lion, as tall as a house…Its fur was as black as the surrounding night itself, swallowing any light that dared to reach out and touch it.”

So Sang the Dawn by AnnMarie Pavese

3. Plan ahead of time. I’m a terrible panster who has had to learn the necessity of plotting. If you know ahead of time where you are going, it is so much easier to plan for it. You already KNOW what you have to foreshadow, what kind of clues you need to lay out for your readers, and even where you need to put them. It’s easier to plan and then remove later than to get to the end, realize you have a problem, and then try to figure out a way to fix it.

I could say a lot more on the subject, but time is running short. To summarize: Know where you are going and plan how you mean to get there. Use the resources you already have in place–your characters, your setting, your dialogue, your mood and tone–and don’t forget to leave us those bread crumbs.

Your readers will be thankful you did.

Writing

Indie e-Con: “Love Triangles”

Writing Romance is like navigating a rough sea. It’s almost impossible to do it smoothly, or perfectly right, or in such a way that you make everybody happy and nobody sea-sick (or love-sick, as the case may be).

Some people like it sappy. Some like it raw and real. Some like the Forbidden Romance. Some like any story as long as it has romance in it somewhere. Some don’t like it all.

Today, I am going to talk about one small niche in the Romance genre: the Love Triangle. And you will have to forgive any unintentional ranting on my part because…well…I hate the Love Triangle. But I’ll explain why and be sure to tell you how to write a Love Triangle that I CAN enjoy, so don’t despair if you are a writer of tangled triangles.

Gale_or_Peta_

First, let’s talk about what I don’t like about Love Triangles. I’m going to share some of the most popular move triangles just for kicks and giggles as we go along, so hang in there. Some of you will be groaning along with me, and others will be like, “Aw, I love them.” And that’s okay. No judging here.

Why I don’t like Triangles:

  1. Someone always loses out. Yeah, I’m an empathetic romantic who doesn’t like anybody suffering a broken heart. I want everybody to get their happy ending.
  2. The party who loses out is often painted into a villain just to “justify” their losing out. I’m like, It’s bad enough the poor guy doesn’t get the girl, but we don’t have to make a villain out of him to prove she doesn’t belong with him.triangles-pirates_610
  3. It’s cliche. It’s been done. SO MANY TIMES.
  4. I just don’t get the whole “I can’t choose between these two guys” thing. I mean, is it even POSSIBLE to be kind of in love with two people at once? I don’t think so, not if you’re focused on the heart rather than the physical attraction. You may disagree with me, but love is a choice, and you have to commit to it. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that someone can be so torn between two guys or girls that they don’t know which one they like better. casablanca-love-triangle
  5. If your characters are married…just don’t go there.

NOW. You’re all wondering how this article is going to be helpful and constructive. Hang in there, for me, we are about to get there. Let’s talk about a good Love Triangle, the kind that won’t make Savannah groan in agony and roll her eyes. If you’re a writer thinking about using a Love Triangle, keep some of these ideas in mind for those of us who have a difficult time with them.

  1. Two potential love interests early in the romance. This is a big one. This means, nobody is in love yet. There is no snogging Edward, and then turning around and smooching on Jacob, and then changing our mind and going back…ugh! None of that. We’re talking friendships here. Just normal, healthy relationships that COULD turn into romance. I dig these. But once you start developing a romance, let that poor, superfluous soul slip to the sidelines and accept their defeat gracefully.Edward-Bella-Jacob-twilighters-31600408-500-356
  2. Keep it realistic. Draw on your own life experiences and things you’ve actually witnessed. Most of us don’t have half a dozen guys/girls chasing us around wanting to be our Valentine. So, don’t write that Drop-Dead Gorgeous Heroine with a long line of pining suitors. Give her one or two followers and that’s it. She doesn’t need a harem.
  3. And this is my big one…make your Triangle original. For example, I am writing a story right now that kind of has a triangle. I know, I already told you I hate them, but I love the RIGHT kind of triangle. In my story, I have a girl who has a crush on a boy, but he isn’t interested and never will be. Girl has a life long friend who is sweet, kind of homely, who has been in love with her since they were practically in diapers. She is clueless and has no idea how he feels. So there is no “I kinda like them both,” no “well, let’s see who’s the best kisser,” no “let’s duke it out with our fists and see who can win her.” It’s just a simple crush from a naive girl who needs to grow up, put aside her romantic notions, and realize that the right guy for her might not be the one with all the muscles and the cute dimple but the one who has been there her entire life. And, yes, Sabrina is one of the few Love Triangles that I absolutely adore. I enjoy the remake as much as I do the original.

    So, the moral of today’s little rant is this: if you’re going to use a Triangle, try a fresh approach, something that will make your readers respect and cheer for your characters as they navigate the dangerous waters of romance. We will all love you for it.