Tag Archives: Bringing a story to life

Focus Change: Video

Construction-Site-Safety-Best-PracticesAs part of the continuing tweaks to my online presence I am changing the way I communicate information to readers, with a focus  on video.

I will also be streamlining the focus, sharing information on the novels rather than the process of writing.

Or being a writer, which is unique to each one of us.

elizabethmaxim.com will serve to introduce readers to my stories, and my style and provide updates .on upcoming releases.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Bringing a Story to Life: Location Scouting

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Note:  This article is lengthy.

Having a location to visualize when writing a scene puts the writer on the stage with the characters. For me the process of selecting locations for my work is complex even as it’s fun.

The Why.  Choosing a setting for a novel is an important step in its creation.  It sets the tone for the reader so they can identify with the tale but it also provides the foundation for character behavior.  A number of factors encompass the location.

  • Time
  • Place
  • Locations within locations (i.e. business, residences, infrastructure, etc)

When Dragon Core began to take form as a viable idea for a story, the only location piece I had was a bar.

There is a historical element that factors into the plot but that was easily dealt with.  I simply needed to do a bit of research on historical events to get a feel for that environment/location.

Just prior to Christmas I came up with the name of the bar – Aesop’s Cove – but otherwise had no details on the location or setting.

Outside that it would be in an urban environment.

Urban Fantasy. For several months I considered whether to use a real urban environment or make one up.  In the end I decided on a hybrid.

The decision to use a hybrid came from the need and desire to pull elements from a variety of locations.

Considerations. Portland and New Orleans were both in the running for a long time but each presented unique challenges for my story.

New Orleans.  To represent the city with justice I would need to provide insider details that add vibrancy to the story, and I haven’t lived in New Orleans for decades.

There would also be elements I didn’t want to bring into the story, such as Cajun lifestyle, Mardi Gras, hurricanes, and the oil and gas industry.  These don’t fit into my storyline but would have to be dealt with if not included were I to choose this city.

Portland.  The layout of this city – that it is on a river as opposed to the coast – meant I would have to make alterations to the overall environment.  There are also cultural norms for this city that I didn’t want to use as a focus in my story.

Hybrid to the rescue. In spite of the challenges, these two cities definitely provided potential by way of locations within the location.

In other words, neighborhoods within the city at large that held elements conducive to scenes in the Dragon Core series.

These neighborhoods provided some of the vibe I was looking for.  They also contained businesses and/or architectural uniquenesses that I was happy to include in the location I was building.

Living within the location.  I decided the characters would not only work in an urban environment; they would live there. This led to the need to choose the type of living situation they were going to have.

  • Condo, loft, apartment, or house?
  • Roommates or not?
  • Walk to work, take public transportation, or drive a car?

These were some of the details I needed to work out.  Having lived in several urban environments throughout my life I was able to draw from my own experiences for these details.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit other urban environments throughout the years, traveling for work, so was able to pull details from those experiences as well.

Work within the location.  In this case, it helps to have an understanding of what any specific urban environment is known for.  Large metropolitan areas are often associated with a specific industry and the nuances that go along with the people, places, and businesses that feed that environment.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the industries and the communities that surround those industries.

  • Detroit/Midwest with its auto industry and union influences
  • New Orleans with its Voodoo culture, Mississippi River, and oil and gas industry
  • Los Angeles with its Hollywood and Bel-Air vibe along with being the land of dreams if not dreamers.
  • San Francisco/Silicon Valley with its tech and Gold Rush boom bust history

I pulled from a number of cities along the west coast when creating Dragon Core’s urban environment.

  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Portland
  • Seattle

I also pulled in from a specific neighborhood in New Orleans.

History within the location.  In addition to where the characters currently live, I needed to decide where they came from.

While important for cultural influences such a location isn’t as detail dependent as the current location/setting.  In fact, it was more important to elaborate on personal experiences than environmental details as they have more impact on my character development.

The stage within location.  I use the term stage to refer to a scene setting within an overall environment. In the case of Dragon Core there are a few main stages.

  • Aesop’s Cove
  • Clare’s office
  • Warehouse Square

Each of these stages requires a location and setup of their own.  I drew from personal experience when creating them.

Warehouse Square.  For this location setting I drew from Washington and Jackson Squares in San Francisco, the area in and around Portland’s Chinatown as well as the area near Voodoo Donut, and Pioneer Square in Seattle.

Clare’s Office.  For this setting I visualized the building I worked in my senior year in high school as well as the area around one of the police stations in San Francisco.

Aesop’s Cove.  This was a toughie.  For whatever reason I felt I had to really be able to “wear” this location when writing.

In order to get into the vibe of the interactions with the characters as well as the mood of the place and the people within that place as it changes throughout the story.

I visited a couple of prospects for locations that would fit the vibe I was looking for.

I visited new locations as well as bringing to mind various pubs or bars I’ve been in over the years.

Goldilocks would be proud.  There is a scene in Cauldron of the Gods where I have the character – Clare Edwards – reflecting on the fact her friend described Aesop’s Cove as gritty sophistication.

She tells him she doesn’t want to go to a dive bar to which he replies “Have you ever been in a dive bar that could be described as sophisticated?

To be in the vibe when writing scenes taking place in Aesop’s Cove, I needed a bar that was “just right” (aka gritty sophistication).  It was more difficult to find than I thought it would be.

  • Some bars were too gritty.

gritty = dive.

  • Some bars were too sophisticated.

Sophistication = yuppy and/or beautiful people and/or trust fund babies

With a little imagination I was able to find one that worked though it had enough differences that I needed to meld it with a different location in my mind to get it just right.  The result is Aesop’s Cove, a combination of a place in Pioneer Square in Seattle and a brewery in San Diego.

I’m not going to disclose names only because I don’t want to leave anyone with the wrong impression since Aesop’s Cove, while inspired by real locations, is made up.  It doesn’t exist.

Synchronicities.  I did have a pretty cool experience visiting the bar that serves as the primary inspiration for Aesop’s Cove.  One of the distinctive features of the character who owns Aesop’s Cove – Lage McAskell – is the color of his eyes.  When visiting a very cool bar in a historical part of Pioneer Square, I explained to the lady behind the bar what I was doing and would it be okay if I took a few photos of the place.

I’d also taken photos of the area that I can reference when trying to pull up an image for a scene in the story

She had no issue with it and after I placed an order for food and wine, she gave me her name, Amber.

Amber is the distinctive feature for the main character, the color of his eyes.

I do so love synchronicities.

It’s like life giving you a thumb’s up.

Bringing a Story to Life: Alien Romance

1920x1080_px_abstract_angel_artwork_demon_fantasy_Art-774620.jpg!d-2Just listening to the playlist I created for the upcoming Dragon Core series and finishing final edits on Analysis:  Book 12 in the Metatron’s Army Series.

I need to remind myself I have upcoming projects as I wind down this series.  It’s been with me so long I occasionally feel a twinge of anxiety about it ending.

As I wind down the series, two elements have taken center stage.

  • Reveals
  • Relationships

Reveals. In coming along on a journey that traversed thirteen installments, readers of the series have put their trust in me.

The nature of the story necessitated this format where each book in the series is like a chapter in the life of the main character, who was born in one universe, raised in another before returning to her home universe to fulfill her destiny.

To end a century’s old war and save a race of energy beings which are not always complimentary objectives.

My focus in these final books is to ensure I share various secrets and individual and collective character motivations that reveal the numerous plots within the plot in a way that honors that trust while not revealing too much at one time.

I need to keep the reader entertained – and guessing.

Relationships.  Relationships between a variety of characters definitely take center stage in these final books for the simple reason I need to answer the question Then what?

Through much of the series, the characters have worked together for a variety of common goals that included

  • training to do the jobs they need to do
  • doing those jobs to the best of their ability while continuing to grow as individuals
  • protecting each other and themselves while keeping their eye on the overall objective.

Having something in common does not equal compatibility though I have created characters who not only respect each other, they generally get along well, even as they often work at cross purposes.

Alien V. Culture. Most of the characters have grown up in a universe where different species are akin to what humans would consider a different culture.

It’s just no big deal to have different physiology or physical characteristics that make you stand out.

That doesn’t mean the different species trust each other, even as they work together for a common purpose.  Focusing on how those relationships evolve and transform throughout the series has been fun and something I only had an overarching understanding of.

I knew the overall goal but not what any specific character(s) would do to fulfill that goal. 

I’ve had the joy of allowing characters to evolve in such a way as to transform from being a minor background character to a main character that contributes significantly to the plot and the saga.

I didn’t plan for these changes, they just happened as the story progressed and I got to know certain characters better.

I also need to deal with interdimensional relationships as I’ve brought people from Earth to the Vetria system.

From Analysis:

“Look, can we file this under the Light Beings don’t understand humans category and move on to the reason you are in my apartment?”

“For the moment.”

Fuck.  He so did not want to get roped into the help the Light Beings understand the subtle nuances of intimate relations.

There is also the necessity of addressing how characters move from one type of a relationship to another.

  • From being team players to individual leaders as their careers transform
  • From reporting to someone to becoming a peer as the roles evolve
  • From colleagues to lovers
  • From culturally different species to lovers

On the path to love. Those last two points have been surprisingly less challenging than the two above.  It’s not only been a joy to take various characters from soldiers to lovers, it’s been relatively easy.

The key has been to think – really think – about the challenges they would face.

  • As an individual
  • A couple
  • A team
  • A community

Individual.  When dealing with different species I needed to take into account individual expectations based on social customs as well as individual likes, dislikes, expectations.

There’s Two.  I had to address the challenges of being a couple.

Emotion isn’t a switch to be turned on so imagine being involved with a species for who emotion was forbidden for centuries, for example.

Team Player.  I had to consider how the characters would view themselves in terms of their professional roles, as well as how their teammates would view any changes in relationships.

How do you go from soldiers who fight side by side to lovers? 

Who’s coming for dinner?!  Imagine bringing someone considered the enemy into a community with the implicit expectation that he would be entering into a romantic relationship with a member of that community.

Assuming the individual would have them to being with.

In this situation the relationship is under a microscope as every member of the community takes note of every move.

Which actually happens with multiple characters who enter into romantic liaisons.  As Christine puts it, the universe is watching.

To facilitate the process, I simply looked at each relationship through those four filters.

But wait!  The challenge has been to pace the development of the relationships relative to upcoming plot developments and the reality that such relationships typically evolve over a period of time.

As Christine says at one point, loving someone isn’t the same as being in love with them.

I have to think ahead to what the characters will be facing and make sure that their feelings and thoughts about the relationship are in line with where they are in the progression of the story.

There’s more!  And of course, there’s the whole physical side to the relationships.  That has been a lot of fun to deal with as I’ve had the challenge of incorporating different cultural and personal views on sexuality.

And stopped to think what would each character be worried or excited about in taking that step with the one they love.

This last was a central focus of multiple characters in Promotion: Book 11 in the series.

Front and Back. As I wrap this article before going back to Analysis, I will add that another facet of relationship development is the need to shift the romance from front and center to back burner out of necessity as characters remain true to their roles.

There’s still a war and they are still soldiers, even if some of them are now “closer.”

It has been fun even as it has been, in spite of the implication of emotion, an intellectual exercise.

Analysis will be available August 1, 2019.

Note:  This article is cross-posted to metatronsarmy.com.