Glove or Glass Slipper

Glove or Glass Slipper

YEAH, yeah, I know. Another post about something not fitting. I promise it is not a trend; it just seems to be trending in my writing and plotting lately. But there’s a true reason why I am writing this post.

Back in the day, I used to keep a binder of all my pre-writing stuff so that I could quickly access data regarding characters, settings, languages, maps, etc. with a quick thumbing through of the tabs of the binder. Actually, because it was so extensive, I had a binder alone just for the languages of my still-unpublished series (perhaps more on that later). While it was technically quite efficient, at least more so than a collection of scraps of paper with scribblings on them, it was still an antiquated way to organize everything.

And that was just how I organized my pre-writing—how I wrote was quite outdated and restrictive as well. I was what is referred to in the writing community as a “pantser” — no, I didn’t go around pulling down the pants of unsuspecting victims, it simply means that I wrote by the seat of my pants, that I had no road map. I remember some days I would sit at my computer attempting to write and the white page anxiety was crippling, and I stubbornly wouldn’t move onto some other scene in my book until I figured out the one I was working on. Seems stupid, now that I think about it, and I probably wasted so much of my time not writing when I could have moved to a different part of the book and worked on that part instead while I let the other scene stew in my brain and work itself out.

SCENE WRITING

WHEN I met my writing coach, Joe Nassise, back in 2011, I had never really heard of plotting. I mean, I vaguely outlined my projects, but only in the sense that I knew the parts of the novel/story that I was forced to study in all my literature classes: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. And those are definitely crucial parts to have at least softly worked out before you start the writing process, but the study of literature and process of writing it are far different. In actuality, a story is not comprised solely of these 6 parts; each part could have multiple scenes within it, meaning that the scenes have to make sense within their respective parts (having a high-energy climax scene during the falling action of the story might make the resolution seem rushed, etc).

If you think of your story less like a linear path of writing and more like scenes of a movie—like how a director might film certain scenes of a movie first and others later,  joining them together in seamless sequence during editing—it might reduce that white screen anxiety and make your writing process a lot less daunting. So how does one do this? 

When I worked with Joe, he had me think of my chapters as scenes and had me write out the chapter/scene name on the white side of a 3″x5″ index card, and place the basic bullet points of each scene on the lined side. I could pick up any of those index cards on any given day and write that scene. So, if I felt worked up or combative, writing a fight scene that day might be better, and writing a love scene on a day I was feeling extra emotional, romantic, or sentimental would yield a better product because of my respective mood.

GLOVE OR GLASS SLIPPER?

BUT here was the other great thing: I didn’t have to get it right the first time. If in writing a scene I realized it didn’t make sense or didn’t fit in that spot, I’d pull the card out (saving the scene for later) or shift it and make another card for the scene that did. I went into this “Glove or Glass Slipper” style of writing with my scene cards. Now you might be asking yourself: “WTF is he talking about?”

Let me explain, and it will (hopefully) make sense.

Some of of you reading this are probably too young to remember the OJ Simpson murder trial, but starting the fall of 1994 and spanning over a year, that was pretty much the thing to watch and follow on television. There was a famous line from OJ’s Defense Attorney, Johnnie Cochran: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” referring to the glove found at the crime scene, saying that if the glove didn’t fit on OJ’s hand, then he couldn’t have possibly been the one to commit the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. As asinine as that logic is, it’s what returned a not-guilty verdict from the jury, which meant that whomever’s hand fit that glove must be the murderer. Right?

Here’s the issue. Gloves are made to fit more hands than just one person. You know, something something capitalism. In fact, all apparel on the market is generally mass constructed so that it fits multiple buyers and increases profits. Unless it’s custom, like a Glass Slipper, which fits only the person it was designed for. Yes, yes, I am sure you could argue that someone with an identical foot could slide on into it, but those would be few and far between.

Sometimes scenes are Glass Slippers—they fit the gap between their bordering scenes with the precision of footwear formed by a fairy godmother; but other times, a scene can fit like a generic glove—too loosely that the scenes around it seem disconnected, as if it belonged somewhere else, or even too tightly, and leaving it in place would be almost criminal, like getting away with murder.

PLOTTING WITH PLOTTR

SINCE I started writing again after my hiatus, one of the tools I’ve grown the most fond of is Plottr. It acts as both binder and index card holder, keeping information such as places, characters, notes all in one place while also acting as a timeline of your story with Scene Cards—much like those trusty index cards of yore—which you can move around, even to another book in the series if you realize that the scene you just finished writing belongs at a different place in the whole scheme of the overall plot.

THIS past weekend was spent doing damage control on my own Plottr timeline for Wonderspark. What I had originally plotted was fitting as well as the foot of an evil stepsister, and the more I tried to make it fit, the more holes I created in the plot further down the line. But the great thing about Plottr is that instead of just scrapping all the scenes within the existing timeline that didn’t fit, I moved them with one click to a “bucket” project from which I can pull from later, even for an unrelated project altogether.

STILL LEARNING

WHILE I am still learning the software, I love its capabilities. They offer YouTube tutorials and both free and paid seminars to get the most out of the software. I’ve learned they creators of the software are very receptive to feedback and suggestions, so I have already made a couple of suggested features that would enhance user experience and functionality.

As I learn how to use it better, I plan on giving my own tutorials and creating my own templates for it, so stay tuned!

Square Peg, Round Hole

Square Peg, Round Hole

OFTEN writers are told to trust the process, to let the story unfold naturally, and to listen to the characters as they guide us through their journeys. Yet, despite this sage advice, there are moments when we find ourselves grappling with a stubborn plot point or a character arc that just won’t seem to cooperate. It’s akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole–frustrating, time-consuming, and ultimately, counterproductive.

In my own writing journey this past week, I encountered instances where I was trying to force a storyline to conform to my initial vision, only to realize that it’s like swimming against the current–exhausting and futile. The truth is, trying to shoehorn a square peg into a round hole not only impedes the creative process but also robs the story of its authenticity and vitality.

BRING HIM HOME

I spent several hours this week outlining, scrapping, and re-outlining countless scenarios to coincide with what I had already plotted. In my original outline, I was trying to weave together several existing parables and mythologies to strengthen the base familiarity of my series, a trick in Speculative Fiction to help readers associate with themes or threads within the story so that disbelief is more readily and easily suspended.

Originally, the backstory I had plotted out involved three brothers, loosely paralleled with the Biblical brothers Cain, Abel, and Seth, and interwoven with the Prometheus myth and Garden of Eden—an undertaking, I know. I would get one or two threads to work and the other would fray from the tapestry. At one point, I had the brothers in Israel, by the Sea of Galilee; at another point, I had them in the Greek Isles; and before I finally decided to let the characters talk to me and tell me their story, I was trying to force them to tell the story from Denmark. And none of these backstories worked because they ultimately weren’t meant to.

Now not every writer from Maine needs to base their stories there—and I am leagues away from having Stephen King’s talent—but why not have the story set in Maine. It’s mystical and majickal, a bit treacherous and rugged, with some of America’s oldest histories and oldest tales… I sat back in my chair and decided to bring it home. Literally. And by doing so, I changed the locale of the entire story (from Boston to Downeast Maine) even if only by 360 miles or so. 

THE THREE BROTHERS

ONE of my favorite areas of Maine is its Downeast coastline of sea caves and high cliffs, islands and inlets, all dotted with lighthouses to warn incoming sailors of the dangers of its jagged shores, a literal beacon of light to ward off darkness and disaster.

I decided to move the timeline of my backstory further into the future than the outlines I scrapped; although there’d still be generations between the backstory and the main plotline, putting centuries between them just to fit the original outline that, well, honestly didn’t fit, made no sense at all and only left plotholes and a heck of a lot more research for me to do—research that theoretically would never make it into the story if only with slight references. It started feeling contrived, forced, hammered into a spot it wasn’t meant to go. It started to feel like overbuilding.

As I did the research of migrations to the Downeast area, it all started falling into place. Instead of making my outline fit to a time or place, I first found a place and then the time when it would all fit. While I still had to find the exact size round hole for it to fit, I was no longer working with a square peg.

Eventually, three McKenna brothers were sparked into creation, fitting the world to which they were born versus being born into a world in which they didn’t fit.

RORIK "ROOK" MCKENNA, AGE 16
RIORDAN "RORY" MCKENNA, AGE 15
ROONEY "RUNE" MCKENNA, AGE 12

CONCLUSION

SO, why do we persist in this futile endeavor of forcing? Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid to deviate from our meticulously crafted outlines or reluctant to let go of our preconceived notions of how the story should unfold. We cling to the familiar, even when it’s clear that it’s not serving the narrative. But here’s the thing–writing is a fluid, organic process. It’s about being open to inspiration, allowing the story to evolve naturally, and embracing the unexpected twists and turns along the way. And sometimes, that means being willing to abandon the square peg in favor of the round one.

In my experience, some of the most compelling moments in storytelling arise when we let go of our preconceptions and allow the characters to drive the narrative. It’s about relinquishing control and trusting in the creative energy that flows through us, guiding us toward the story’s true essence. So, the next time you find yourself struggling to make a square peg fit into a round hole in your writing, take a step back. Reassess the narrative, listen to your characters, and be open to alternative possibilities. Remember that writing is a journey of discovery, and sometimes, the most profound insights come when we surrender to the flow of creativity.

In the end, it’s not about forcing the story to conform to our expectations but rather about embracing the beauty of serendipity and allowing the narrative to unfold in its own time and in its own way. After all, the round peg may lead us to places we never imagined possible, enriching the story and our writing journey in ways we could never have anticipated.

World Building Series: Navigating the Power of Majick—The Importance of Limitations & Boundaries

World Building Series: Navigating the Power of Majick—The Importance of Limitations & Boundaries

IN the enchanting realms of fantasy literature and folklore, majick often reigns supreme as a force of limitless potential and wonder. From spells that defy gravity to incantations that summon mythical creatures, the allure of majick knows no bounds. However, within these fantastical worlds, a crucial element often overlooked is the concept of limitations and boundaries that govern majickal abilities. Today, let’s delve into the intricate balance between the awe-inspiring power of majick and the necessity of setting clear constraints to enrich storytelling and world-building.

THE ESSENCE OF LIMITATIONS:

MAJICK without limitations is akin to a river overflowing its banks—an uncontrolled force that can lead to narrative inconsistencies and diminished suspense. Limitations, whether imposed by inherent rules of magic or societal norms within a fictional world, add depth and realism to magical systems. They force characters to grapple with challenges, make strategic choices, and undergo personal growth, all of which drive the plot forward and engage readers on a deeper level.

Consider iconic examples such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, where majick is governed by strict rules and limitations. Wizards and witches must master spells through study and practice, wand movements must be precise, and certain magical feats require innate talent or knowledge of ancient incantations. These limitations not only ground the fantastical elements in a sense of believability but also create tension and excitement as characters navigate the boundaries of what is possible.

RESPECTING BOUNDARIES:

IN addition to limitations, the concept of boundaries in majick plays a crucial role in defining ethical and moral dilemmas within a narrative. Just as real-world societies establish laws and norms to regulate behavior, majickal societies or individuals in fiction must navigate ethical boundaries to prevent misuse or abuse of power. This thematic exploration adds layers of complexity to characters and storylines, exploring themes of temptation, redemption, and the consequences of unchecked ambition.

Take, for instance, the classic tale of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The One Ring symbolizes ultimate power, yet its corrupting influence highlights the dangers of unchecked majickal abilities and the importance of respecting boundaries—even when wielding immense power for noble purposes. Characters like Frodo and Gandalf exemplify the struggle to resist temptation and maintain integrity in the face of overwhelming majickal allure.

Balancing Wonder and Realism::

ULTIMATELY, the importance of limitations and boundaries in majick extends beyond narrative cohesion—it fosters a deeper connection between readers and fantastical worlds. By establishing rules and consequences for majickal actions, authors invite readers to suspend disbelief while maintaining a sense of wonder grounded in relatable challenges and dilemmas. This balance between the extraordinary and the plausible is what breathes life into majickal realms and keeps readers eagerly turning pages, eager to explore the next enchanting revelation or harrowing trial.

In conclusion, while majick in literature and storytelling dazzles us with its endless possibilities, it is the careful crafting of limitations and boundaries that elevates majickal narratives from mere escapism to enduring works of art. Whether traversing Hogwarts’ hallowed halls or embarking on epic quests across mythical lands, let us cherish the nuanced interplay between boundless imagination and the structured framework of majickal rules—a testament to the timeless allure of fantastical storytelling.

Restoration & Relaunch

Restoration & Relaunch

AFTER much deliberation, while browsing through the original Bearded Scribe Blog, I have decided—against what I initially stated in earlier posts—to restore a great deal of posts from there to the new site for posterity and reference.

Looking through the multitude of Book Spotlights alone that appeared on the site, I’d be stupid to turn my back on the content that was the foundation for this new site. There are so many great titles that were reviewed by The Fellowship of Scribes, and to not have that library of content on the new site when I can still view it on the original blog still would be asinine…

So, over the course of the next few weeks, I will be reaching out to the old team to see if they would like to be a part of the restored site; for those that don’t, I will be posting their spotlights as the admin account for posterity, with a link back to the original post on The Bearded Scribe Blog.

This will also help re-establish the depth of history this site actually has, and broaden the titles featured on the site versus just the brand new stuff.

If you are an avid Speculative Fiction reader and would like to read the latest books coming onto the market before they make their way to the shelves in the form of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), then please feel free to fill out the form HERE to be considered.

Writer’s Unblock

Writer’s Unblock

ABOUT a month and a half ago, I decided to bite the bullet and start writing again. I had been postponing doing so for years because I know myself—I can get pretty single-minded in my focus, and it’s hard to break from writing when you’re in a groove, hard to stop thinking about the story as you’re trying to complete other tasks. So while I didn’t have actual Writer’s Block, I was blocking myself from writing because I was afraid of it consuming all of my free time.

Yes, I know. BAD WRITER! How could I continue to call myself one if I refused to actually write? And it’s rather funny that what “unblocked” me was a logo design project for a client with my Graphic Design endeavor, FORGE. One of the options I presented to the client was a logo for Wonderspark—I am forever grateful that the client went with DreamQuest, because I kept staring at the logo I presented for Wonderspark and a whole story started to unravel.

And haunt. And pester. And then the characters started presenting themselves, and it got to a point where I could no longer avoid them or the story they wanted me to tell. Little by little, I started doodling and scribbling. Notes. Character descriptions. Place inspirations. Plots. Subplots. And at that point I realized I needed a better way to organize my notes and doodles and scribbles.

As if to answer me, the Universe gave me a well-placed ad for a software I had yet to hear of—Plottr. As I learn the program better, I hope to offer tutorials on how to best use it, but in the meantime, it’s a great tool for plotting out your story—either using pre-made templates or your own. You can organize characters, settings, notes, research, etc—all in one place, which can easily be exported to Scrivener and other writing tools.

GETTING back into has been both exhilarating and frustrating—exciting because it’s been a long time coming, but a bit difficult getting back into the flow due to the long hiatus I took. It’s like taking time off from the gym (I may have done that, too… SSHHH!), and when you get back to it, muscle memory eventually kicks in, but not without the soreness. It’s like rekindling a long-lost passion, rediscovering a part of yourself that may have been neglected amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Whether it’s journaling, crafting short stories, writing a poem, or tackling that novel idea that’s been lingering in the back of your mind, returning to the written word offers a sense of fulfillment and creative expression that few other pursuits can match. It’s been cathartic and has definitely elicited a fair amount of smiles lately, like a missing part of me has returned, one that has been wandering and lost and has finally spotted the porch light through the thicket of trees, beckoning it to return home. I’m excited to share my progress as I write my new series, delving into the exciting venture of plotting with Plottr (I can’t rave enough about this program!) and finally knocking out the manuscripts scene by scene.

PART of me hates that I am not revisiting old projects, dusting off half-finished manuscripts or abandoned notebooks, and breathing new life into them. Unfortunately, the chance to reconnect with characters and stories that have been waiting patiently for their voices to be heard will have to wait a bit longer. For now, I am moving forward with a new project, a 7-book, YA Urban Fantasy series called Echoes of Eden, which is a re-imagining of the Prometheus myth. Sometimes the newness of building a new world, embracing the blank page and exploring new ideas, letting creativity flow without constraints or expectations, is a lot less daunting than re-visiting a world you more or less abandoned—the guilt alone can create focus blocks.

Echoes of Eden follows twin protagonists, Asher “Ash” & Ember McKenna, who navigate everyday conflicts most teenagers face while also facing more other-wordly conflicts, such as stumbling upon a dimensional rift, discovering a hidden world of magic, and uncovering their family’s hereditary ties to a secret society of artifact hunters and protectors. The series is intertwined with themes of Light versus Dark & Good versus Evil, pulling from ancient myths & stories of the Garden of Eden, the spark/fire of Creation, and even the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

I soft-plotted the story arc, which (at the moment) stretches over seven books; it will change as I write them, of course, but at least I have a route planned even if I decide to take a different path to the same destination. You might say it’s a bit ambitious, but I wanted to give myself room for the story to develop and grow at a good pace without feeling rushed to cram it all in fewer.

The first book, Wonderspark, opens up just before a mysterious stranger shows up at the McKenna residence. Summer plans with their parents are cancelled as they are called away for an impromptu dig in the Pyrenees, and the twins, Asher and Ember, are forced to spend the summer with their grandparents on the quaint island town of Willowycke. When their parents go missing, their stay with their grandparents is extended.

The story picks back up three years later; Ash & Ember lead seemingly ordinary lives until a chance encounter with a mysterious rift thrusts them into the hidden world of magic. As they navigate newfound abilities and uncover family secrets, they discover their pivotal role in the age-old battle between light and shadow. With the help of their grandparents and a band of allies, the twins embark on a thrilling journey to uncover the truth about their parents’ disappearance and unlock the secrets of the Wonderspark. But as dark forces gather and ancient prophecies unfold, Asher and Ember must harness their newfound powers and embrace their destiny before it’s too late. The fate of both worlds hangs in the balance, and only they can unleash the true magic of the Wonderspark.

Over the course of writing (but without giving too much away), I hope to share some of the world-building—settings, mythos, characters, et cetera—as I build it, as it builds itself. It’s been nice re-entering the writing world with tools I didn’t have before—like the aforementioned Plottr, Scrivener, and even Artificial Intelligence.

Now I know there are a lot of naysayers of AI, but before you jump to conclusions, know that I am not using it to actually write the manuscript, but instead using tools like Midjourney, where I can feed in descriptions and have the prompts spit out beautiful renderings of my characters so I can upload the images into the other tools and reference them frequently while plotting and writing. And, let me tell you, seeing life breathed into my characters who normally only live in the written word and in my mind, makes the world that I am building more tactile. More tangible. More real. And living within it becomes a lot easier, which makes writing within it that much more believable because it’s no longer just in my head.

AS a treat, I am going to reveal the renderings of the two main protagonists of the series, Asher Rune McKenna and Ember Reign McKenna. The first of each set is how I initially described them into the prompts of Midjourney, which is how they look at age 13 in the opening chapter of the first book; the second of the set is how they look three years later when the second chapter opens. I was blown away at not only the precision at how my descriptions were executed, but also the character continuance of the characters being fraternal twins, and in seeing the aging process to my description while still keeping the physical features of the younger character in mind.

Asher Rune McKenna
Asher @ Age 13
Ash @ Age 16
Ember Reign McKenna
Ember @ Age 13
Ember Reign McKenna
Ember @ Age 16

Echoes of Eden

Echoes of Eden

Eden still exists. Those who protect the secret of its existence are starting to disappear at the hands of the Shadeshifters. And twins Asher & Ember are the only ones that possess the power to thwart them.

Series Plotting Progress
14.76%
Series Writing Progress
0.433%
Series Editing Progress
0%
THE BOOKS

WONDERSPARK

Plotting Progress
33.33%
Writing Progress
3.03%
Editing Progress
0%

NIGHTSHADE

Plotting Progress
10%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

SHADOWFLAME

Plotting Progress
10%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

EVERDARK

Plotting Progress
10%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

EMBERHEART

Plotting Progress
10%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

NEVERGLOW

Plotting Progress
5%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

EDENFIRE

Plotting Progress
15%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

Edenfire

EDENFIRE

Echoes of Eden, Book 7

SYNOPSIS coming soon…

Plotting Progress
15%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

Neverglow

NEVERGLOW

Echoes of Eden, Book 6

SYNOPSIS coming soon…

Plotting Progress
5%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

Emberheart

EMBERHEART

Echoes of Eden, Book 5

SYNOPSIS coming soon…

Plotting Progress
10%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%

Everdark

EVeRdaRK

Echoes of Eden, Book 4

SYNOPSIS coming soon…

Plotting Progress
10%
Writing Progress
0%
Editing Progress
0%