Notes From WorldCon 2016: Day One

Writing fight scenes

  • perspective of character that has been in a fight versus one that never has is completely different. People who experience regular combat (bouncer) have different frame of mind and see things differently
  • also person not in fight can see things that those in the fight can’t
  • can use training sequence to describe the moves in great detail, and then keep it brief when the actual fight happens
  • daily exercises or training routine can serve a similar purpose
  • fight’s aftermath: talk to emts and paramedics about the kinds and causes of trauma they’ve seen
  • think of fight musically, with rhythm of blows and building to resolution in a limited amount of time
  • don’t forget: characters that have been in a fight are going to carry injuries with them for rest of book
  • remember that fight is happening because of conflict, two or more characters that want different things, and they’ll be thinking about their goals during the fight

50 years of star trek

  • people knock the new movies, but even old movies were often about finding someone to fight instead of exploring; classic series had fights, but central theme was exploration and making friends
  • jar jar abrams
  • star trek at its best when its about discovery and making friends
  • what would you want in new series? snodgrass and gerrold: shut down holodeck (or find out it causes cancer)
  • no media? snodgrass: they tried, wrote episode where they showed wesley’s cabin, with pinups on wall, and they were not allowed to show it
  • snodgrass: in original series, their time in rec room created sense that they liked each other and hung out together; she created the poker game in next generation because she felt that was missing
  • snodgrass: please ditch the bodysuits from TNG, they limited who they could cast in each role because they were not forgiving; much prefer the uniforms from the first few movies
  • star trek: new voyages: fanmade series that gerrold did an episode for
  • star trek: continues: finn fancy necromancy author really loves it
  • could we do non starship star trek? Gerrold: yes, if about star trek academy, or federation council, etc
  • house of picards

As you know, bob

  • hiding the infodump: article in april 2015 analog
  • tamora pierce: works in genre where extra exposition gets cut mercilessly
  • “teenagers pay my bills, i don’t explode them” pierce
  • exposition can get too detailed because in first draft writers are figuring out what’s happening as they write it. It’s fine, so long as they take it out later
  • know as much about your background as possible, tell as little about it as you can get away with
  • know your audience: some them can really get into detailed exposition, while others will skip it
  • don’t load it in as a block, slip it in as part of the action, because it’s fatal
  • tnh: expository chunks can happen because authors with clout can be late, and rather than push book release out, editors will edit book less than they normally would because they ran out of time
  • tnh: don’t tell people things before they want to know it; rowling is a great example of how to do it right: she intros sorting hat as just talking hat, only later introduces other properties when they’re needed
  • conflict can also be a driving force of exposition
  • or: new guy comes in, has to have everything explained to them
  • pierce: usually starts with character at cusp of new phase of life, transition drives exposition, will drip exposition into story as it goes, have characters act it out rather than infodump
  • tnh: technical master of exposition of our time is joss whedon; watch first few minutes of serenity, within ten minutes you know everything you need to know about the universe
  • pierce: early stephen king, elizabeth bear
  • jodi shapiro: new books, well done exposition and context
  • reader can infer a lot from context, can trust them more than you think
  • when chapter has ended, preferably with a hook, it’s clear that something new is coming, you can get away with slipping a little omniscient viewpoint exposition in there
  • tnh: get a 14-yr-old beta reader. Their brains are fully developed but they don’t have any tact
  • tactic: when people are angry, they’ll state obvious things (“look! Water *is* wet!”)
  • tnh: every time you explain something to the audience, you give them a chance to argue with you; great example is time machine: don’t explain how it works, because they don’t, tell me how it smells, how much cargo it can carry, how much time it needs to recharge between trips

How to write a mystery

  • clues can be great, but if characters aren’t three-d, will feel hollow
  • misdirection: all clues have to be there, but distract reader at same time
  • mystery great tool for other genres, can reveal aspects of world for spec fic using mystery tools
  • why is it important that characters solve this?
  • would this mystery have happened in any other world? What does this crime reveal about the greater society and the people that live in it?
  • harris: beat, beat, beat; explication, explication, boom! Follow the rhythm of the book
  • try/fail cycle: characters try something, fail, try something else, fail, etc
  • harris: have to provide false suspects, but not so many that you wonder why the victim didn’t get killed earlier
  • harris: when you have something that you think is too mean to do to your characters, you should do it!
  • small mystery and large mystery: can add texture to the book; small mystery small stakes, answer can be humorous; can also tie the two mysteries together, link the two mysteries
  • thematic echo: guinea pig squealing in the night out of fear; person had murdered another because they thought (wrongly) that they were being threatened
  • turn tropes on their head to try to get something new (no more detectives with tortured pasts)
  • harris: people love to talk about what they do. Undertakers? Don’t nobody ask them what they do.
  • amateur detective: has to have compelling reason to get involved and not leave it to the police
  • randall garreth; darcy series
  • the last policeman
  • nora roberts’ detective novels set in the future
  • do you read mysteries? Yes, all the time; new j d robb; anne bishops’s written in blood series; expanse series by james a corey; mike connolly; steven hunter; stewart mcbride; ben aaronovich rivers of london series

Crafting and Editing the Short Story

  • how involved are you in the process?
  • datlow: will buy imperfect stories, but will dig in and ask for changes, work with author to make it better; harder with new writers that may not take editing well
  • clarke: take everything from slush, always open to submissions, often working with new authors more; will work with author if they believe in the story
  • uncanny: usually buy more fully-cooked stories; there are enough submissions that they just don’t take the story if they don’t think it’s ready
  • swartzmann: often buy ready stories, but will sometimes pluck out a rough diamond and polish it, which makes him very very happy
  • williams: will work more with authors she hasn’t seen before; still rare though
  • what stops you from reading?
  • datlow: bad writing
  • swartzmann: pacing
  • uncanny: has to care about the characters
  • clarke: zombies…really anything that indicates they haven’t read the market guidelines
  • datlow: have to want to spend time with the character; don’t make them boring
  • what about problem endings?
  • datlow: usually means 3/4 of the way through they took a wrong turn
  • clarke: very frustrating for good story to have bad ending
  • uncanny: the sigh of having given up on a story
  • williams: wait to send stories out; your subconscious can come up with things to improve it if you give it a chance
  • uncanny: problem she often sees is the tendency to describe everything instead of only the things relevant to plot and characters
  • datlow: not supposed to do talking head stories, but can use descriptions of events around them to prevent it from being boring
  • clarke: seek out slush reading opportunities; good way to see what’s out there and what mistakes people make
  • williams: buys 6 stories a month; receives around 1,000 submissions a month
  • swartzmann: in humor, don’t try too hard, and make sure reader can enjoy story even if they don’t find it funny
  • uncanny: take chances, don’t reproduce what you see out there
  • datlow: humor a harder sell for her because she usually doesn’t find it funny
  • uncanny: many stories are bittersweet, so will look for whimsy to lighten the mood

Mind of villains

  • psychopaths are born not made
  • reactive attachment disorder comes from environment, inconsistent caregiving before age of 2
  • not good or bad caregiving, just inconsistent
  • passed around from caregiver to caregiver, start to view people as providers of services, not worthwhile as individuals
  • pdf from doj on problems with criminal justice in the united states
  • most psychopaths choose to follow the rules of society for their own benefit
  • if you have a psychopath as your villain, you need something to kick them out of their natural rule-following
  • don’t know what fear is or what love is
  • but can have long-term relationships or get married, just don’t feel love
  • 10% of murders in US are committed by children (under 18)
  • kids released at 21 have no higher incidence of crime as adults than anyone else
  • children kill for different reasons than adults; when take them out of that environment, they stop (take them out of abuse, teach them anger control, etc)
  • in court cases, often someone sitting in the back crying; usually the mother; “why are they picking on my child?”
  • hitler attached to his dog, attached to his cousin; would he have had anyone killed if he’d gotten into art school?
  • there’s a way to raise a psychopath: reward good behavior immediately and punish bad behavior immediately; give them the praise that they crave
  • BTK killer was church leader, good husband, good father
  • tend to see people that do evil as “really” evil: he was a good father but really he was a serial killer. It’s not but really, it’s *and*.
  • most people that do evil are people, with good and bad that they do
  • bones is a great example (in early seasons) of a successful psychopath
  • psychopaths are normal: 1 out of 100 people is one
  • psychopaths can empathize with other people
  • if you call psychopaths on their bs, they’ll try to spin it with them as victims or play it off as an accident
  • psychopathy and high intelligence are not correlated, but intelligence and being in prison is: prison population of us is more intelligent than general pop (though with lower education level)