Monthly Archives: October 2013

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride my bike

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride it where I like

Okay, so corny opening using the lyrics to a Queen song, but I thought it was appropriate since I’m going to talk about bicyclists today.

Bicyclists are starting to annoy me. They’ve always been around everywhere I’ve lived and for the most part they were off my radar completely. Occasionally one would pop up on the state highway and I’d think “Gee, what a dumb thing to do—you could get hit by a vehicle traveling 60 miles per hour. Worse yet, that vehicle could be an 18-wheeler!”

With the move to Orlando and traveling back and forth between two campuses (I live near one and travel to the other, a distance of about 12 miles), I see a lot of bicyclists. Ordinarily, it still wouldn’t be on my radar. But many of them are just plain rude…AND—if I remember my bicycle safety classes—they break the law and then get mad at car drivers. I nearly hit one recently (which spurred this blog post) and it was his fault! Unless the laws have changed, and I realize that is a real possibly—and no, I didn’t google it before making this post because I’d rather write about it than look it up. That is, after all, the way of the internets, right?—what I remember of the law is that you GET OFF YOUR BICYCLE AND WALK IT ACROSS THE STREET at intersections. This to keep you safe. Only yesterday I witnessed a car hit (not hard) a bicyclist—but the dude was bookin’ through the intersection trying to beat the flashing “walk” sign and then he swore at the car driver for hitting him!

And see, there it is again: WALK. It’s a “walk” sign, not a “ride your bike through this intersection” sign.

It’s hard for me to feel sympathy for folks who act like idiots. And while I’m talking about bicyclists right now, that’s close to a blanket statement for me. NO, I don’t want them to get hurt, but when you point a loaded gun at your foot, don’t complain to me when you shoot your toe off.

One question I have is where did this come from? I realize my own bicycle safety training program was a long time ago…but don’t they still teach that? Or is it that—unlike cars—there is no “licensing” process for bikes. And no, I’m not advocating that, just thinking out loud here.

I saw another guy just this week that shocked me and made me think the same as the highway cyclist mentioned above. As I was sitting in the left turn lane waiting to turn left, the traffic to the left of me began making their left turns (so they were moving from my left to straight ahead). After about 4 cars, a cyclist came zipping through—must have been moving 45 miles per hour. Granted he was traveling faster than most of the cars in the lane and his garb told me he’d logged plenty of miles on a bicycle…but it still struck me as both dangerous and idiotic.

With all of that idiocy, I’ve only once seen people in a vehicle yell at bicyclists. A pair of well-dressed Mormons were crossing the street—walking their bikes—when a car sped by and called out Jesus and some words that I won’t repeat here. To their credit, the pair of well-dressed cyclists ignored them and continued to move through the crosswalk…WALKING.

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Plotting for Multiple Characters (part 2)

I want to pick up right where I left off last week. If you missed part 1, you can get it here.

So, once I have this down with 4-6 entries for every character on my chart, I start weaving them together to build a timeline. Essentially, what I’m doing is deciding what has to happen before the other thing happens AND—maybe more importantly, in what order I want them to occur in the story. Back in the day when I wrote everything longhand, I’d draw lines and put numbers beside the entries. With excel, I just shift things around. I’ll use numbers for my example here. You’ll also note that I know I want the protag to have the relationship with the love interest; I’m not sure how they meet at this point. That’s okay, because as I begin to fill in the blanks, I can manipulate that to make it happen.

Protag 1 Protag 2 Antag Love interest
1 Parents killed. Lost in woods. Discovered by Mountain Man 2 Wins award for science essay. 3 Comes in 2nd with science essay. Wins nothing. Completes high school under care of single mom.
4 Lives with MM who teaches tracking, hunting and other survival skills. 5 Kicked out of college—accused of copying essay but did not. It was, however, based on research from Mom. 6 Father kicks out of house for losing. Immediately moves across country. 9 Graduates college with computer science degree. Hired by NSA to hack Chinese government computers.
8 Leaves MM to go to big city where he meets Protag 2 in an alley near death. 10 Begins job at high tech espionage firm. 7Joins gang in Eastern coastal city. Quickly establishes reputation for brutality. HOW DOES SHE MEET PROTAG 1?
While “espionaging” is captured and tortured and brainwashed. 11 Promoted in gang to a capo and given a territory. Moves (takes some of his underlings)
Dumped in an alley in the big city. Catches Protag 2—remembers her. Attempts to kill—THINKS he has.

This gives me a rough outline to start working from. Now, keep in mind that before I get to the task of writing, I figure out the goals and motivations for all the characters (at least the primary characters) and I have an idea of what I want their big character arc to be. In fact, I do that before I start charting this out—I’m kinda going by the seat of my pants for the characters in the example and I hope/trust you can look past that for the bigger picture. But what it also means is that the characters can change as I create, but that’s okay, it’s part of the creation process. It also means that my chart/grid is considerably longer than what I’m showing you, and it’s also wider with more characters. One of the things this can help you do is get all your characters “screen” time.

I’m hoping you can use your imagination and fill in the blanks with your own characters and ideas.

I’ve seen it done a different way, but it always felt more formulaic to me. It looked something like this:

A Character
A Character B Character
A Character C Character
A Character B Character
A Character

At which point in time, your A character rotates off (to the left or rather, to the far right) and the B character becomes the A character while the C character becomes the B character. This is mostly a formula for EPISODIC work.

Like I said at the beginning, though, this is just the strategy that I use…Hope it helps you some.

Now, GO WRITE!

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Plotting for Multiple Characters (part 1)

Seems my writing posts have been popular lately, so this will be another one of those and I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it.

I’m often asked how to plan out how to interweave storylines with multiple characters, or to create “B” and “C” stories. So this blog will walk you through my process and hopefully give you a new strategy for working multiple plots into episodic, short or long form narrative. It’ll be tough to cover them all effectively, so I hope what I do cover you’ll be able to translate to whatever format you’re personally working in. Keep in mind, too, that this is how “I” do it and it is certainly not the only way to effectively work with multiple characters. It’s worked for me, so I’m sticking with it.

So the first thing I do when I know I’m working with multiple characters is to create a grid chart. I use Microsoft Excel these days, but I still have—somewhere in a box—the hand written copies of the charts I used to plot out Cat & Mouse and some of my other early comics. I write my characters’ names across the top, generally the more prominent characters first. Like such:

Protag 1

Protag 2

Antag

Love interest

Support 1

Support 2

           

After I’ve got that figured out, I start dropping in the important events of the characters, usually leaving a few spaces between each entry because I know I’ll add stuff and move stuff around. I try to stick with things that are visual and have high conflict content or are major events in the life of the character. When I’m done entering stuff in, my chart looks something like this:

Protag 1

Protag 2

Antag

Love interest

Parents killed. Lost in woods. Discovered by Mountain Man

Wins award for science essay.

Comes in 2nd with science essay. Wins nothing.

Completes high school under care of single mom.

Lives with MM who teaches tracking, hunting and other survival skills.

Kicked out of college—accused of copying essay but did not. It was, however, based on research from Mom.

Father kicks out of house for losing. Immediately moves across country.

Graduates college with computer science degree. Hired by NSA to hack Chinese government computers.

Leaves MM to go to big city where he meets Protag 2 in an alley near death.

Begins job at high tech espionage firm.

Joins gang in Eastern coastal city. Quickly establishes reputation for brutality.

HOW DOES SHE MEET PROTAG 1?

 

While “espionaging” is captured and tortured and brainwashed.

Promoted in gang to a capo and given a territory. Moves (takes some of his underlings)

 
 

Dumped in an alley in the big city.

Catches Protag 2—remembers her. Attempts to kill—THINKS he has.

 

This is just for an example, so don’t get worked up about it. You’ll notice I’ve a little more about P2 than P1, but it’s usually not that way. Besides, I don’t ever worry about that at this stage because the characters are still being formed (you’ll also note that much of this reads like “backstory” and would likely be cut ANYWAY—just bear with me so you can get the idea). While I don’t do it in my sample here for you, I do try to take the entries to MAJOR conflicts because what I’m working to do is make sure the character intersect with one another at those points of conflict. After all, we know that’s where the heart of our stories are, right? CONFLICT?

Okay, I’m already at 600 words…so you’ll have to come back next week for the rest.

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