Thursday, June 28, 2012

EPIC E-Book Competitions

EPIC’s (the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) annual e-book competition started a couple of weeks ago. The deadline for entry is July 15, and some categories are still very low on entries. They are:

  • PO - Poetry
  • SS - Short story
  • F10 - Spiritual/Metaphysical Fiction
  • R04 - Horror Romance
  • R08 - Spiritual/Metaphysical Romance

    If you’ve had an e-book in one of these genres published between June 1, 2011, and May 31, 2012, consider entering the contest.

    Also, EPIC’s Ariana cover art competition for this year has a shortage of entries in many categories:

  • A- Children/Young Adult
  • B- Erotica
  • D- General Fiction/NonFiction
  • E- Historical
  • F- Horror
  • G- Mystery/Adventure
  • I- Science Fiction/Futuristic
  • J- Spiritual/Metaphysical

    Here’s the page with all the information on rules and how to enter:

    EPIC E-Book Competitions

    Margaret L. Carter

    Carter's Crypt
  • Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    Finding The Story Opening Part 2: Avatar And The Day The Earth Stood Still

    Two blockbuster classic SF films based on an essential child-fantasy (rescue me from this oppressive life; or "Get Me Out Of Here" -- or "Beam Me Up, Scotty!") are worth comparing because they are the obverse of each other.

    When you add in Harry Potter, it's even more interesting.

    Last week we discussed Finding the Opening of a story.

    Avatar and The Day The Earth Stood Still have the same opening, while Harry Potter has a different opening. 

    The "opening" moment of a story is when SOMETHING CHANGES.

    In film, you "lay pipe" as Blake Snyder puts it in his Save The Cat! Series -- you orient the viewer within the life that is about to change, within the framework of the Hero's situation, or the society or civilization's situation. 

    In a novel you CHANGE SOMETHING, then orient the reader. 

    Each venue borrows the other venue's technique, just to keep people off balance and interested, but those are general rules.

    If you're teaching yourself to write, first do 5 or 10 stories with one of those techniques, then another 5 or 10 with the other technique, master doing them, then interchanging them.  After you've fully internalized them and succeeded in placing stories using these techniques and analyzed your reader feedback, then venture into inventing variations.

    But to start off, study why each of these works reliably with wide-wide-WIDE audiences. 

    In Avatar, we meet Our Hero at the moment when he WAKES UP -- generally in text narrative storytelling that "Hero Wakes Up In Strange Place" is a recipe for failure to engage the reader.

    But in film you have the two channels of communication with the viewer that you don't have in text.  In film you have VISUALS that contain information (we're on a space ship and the hero is waking from cryostorage is all conveyed by visuals in a space of time that narrative can't achieve), and you have SOUND that can carry information as well as mood and build suspense. 

    With just words in front of a reader, you are much more limited.  In fact, in screenwriting you are limited to words and a lot of white-space on the page to engage a producer's imagination.  So in essence, a writer has the same problem in both media.

    The question is, "What will interest the reader in this story?" 

    You have two parameters to fit your imagination into so that what you're thinking will be couched in interesting terms for a readership/viewership:

    a) Where is the origin of the conflict that will be resolved at the end of this story?
    b) What is it about this story that this readership/viewership will find FASCINATING? 

    In other words, the opening of the story has to presage, (technical term is FORESHADOW) the PUNCH you are going to deliver, but not deliver that punch at the opening.

    If you open on a PUNCH (i.e. an action scene, army combat, explosions, destruction) then you have to keep PUNCHING with each punch coming harder, bigger, longer, more spectacular and with higher and higher and HIGHER stakes. 

    In classic theater, there is the adage "less is more" -- and so the quiet, slow, creeping opening which is much LESS than what you will deliver, is actually MORE effective.

    So look at the story of AVATAR.

    The story actually has two beginnings that many writers might be tempted to write out in detail:
    1) When the twin brother dies and how that grief hits Our Hero
    2) When Our Hero becomes paralyzed, and all the usual angst/grief/remorse/shock/anger etc that goes with the story of such a physical loss for a physical person.

    Note in AVATAR the combat-grunt-corporal loses use of his legs, but the intellectual-trained-knowledge-oriented twin loses his life, leaving the physically oriented twin a means of regaining the use of his legs.

    What a potent story, what deep textured drama, what karmic questions and tormenting ethical decisions?

    A novelist who "has the idea" for this story would be tempted to dive right into the tale where the two brothers have their conflicts over being physical or being intellectual, then race headlong into the major tragedies that spin off into the horrendous decisions regarding the extremely expensive Avatar body.

    The film maker, however, STARTS way after the end of the novel and barely mentions in a couple of lines of dialogue the situations that "must have been" ever so dramatic.  Our Physical Hero barely mentions his Twin Brother The Genius, and we have no idea if there was resentment or strife between them! 

    So AVATAR the film starts where Our Hero who will hurl himself into an artificial body for the rest of his life (which decision is never debated with all the angst it deserves) first wakes up at his new job -- driving an Avatar body on an alien planet where he can't breathe the atmosphere as a human. 

    Think about that.  AVATAR starts not where the Hero DIVES INTO A NEW LIFE but where he actually hits the water.  The story doesn't start where he decides to take the job, or where he sets foot on the ship -- no, the story starts where he wakes up. 

    Note after "pipe is laid" -- the first scene is Our Hero running free in his new Avatar body.  Think of the symbolism of that, and how we discussed icons on this blog. -- see the two iconic images, the poster of Face/Off and the cover of  Gini Koch's novel TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN 

    Avatar as a film takes off on the fantasy that sucks the young into videogames and creates the yearning to enter that alternate reality and stay there.  The very title of the film suggests gaming because plays choose an "avatar" (just as we do when creating a social network profile.)

    So look again at a) and b) requirements for an opening.

    a) conflict that will be resolved in AVATAR is "to walk or not to walk again."  It exists in this OPENING scene only as the inoperative legs of the Hero, which situation is not explained until we've already become fascinated. 

    That conflict is not defined until Quaritch offers Our Hero (Jake Sully of the jarhead clan) the side-job of spying on his employers, the biologists studying the planet.  The "pay" for this side-job for the military against the scientists is to get his human body's legs fixed and walk again.  His background is military (jarhead) so he seemingly has no conflict about taking this side-job.  The resolution is that our Hero does walk again, but in his Avatar body which he now inhabits permanently. 

    b) the conflict about Our Hero's legs is NOT what's fascinating to the target audience.  This film baits in the audience by a glimpse of the vast POWER of a huge corporate structure exploring space, gaining ownership of a whole PLANET and the "right" to mine that planet for "unobtainium" -- the most valuable substance known.  The real villains of the piece (as in real life) never appear on screen.  A "corporation" doesn't have a face.  You can't argue with it, you can only defeat it.  That vast power is glimpsed manipulating "the little people" who have their own life-agendas (pure science; getting legs back; proving military dominance).  Space exploration per se is not what's fascinating here.  POWER in the hands of the venal, short-sighted humans who would destroy life to strip-mine for wealth is fascinating. 

    So the STORY OPENING for Avatar is where CORPORATE POWER resurrects LITTLE HERO to a NEW LIFE.  The ENDING is "little guy wins."  It's David vs. Goliath or Gulliver's Travels.  There's nothing original in this film except the special effects technologies (which were new then.)  Check out the writer/producer/director's career on  You don't start a film  career with a script like this, nor will it work well to start a novelist's career. 


    The HERO is the plain, ordinary human woman with family, ordinary professor, ordinary but somewhat flaky minded dreamers on Earth. 

    The Story Opening of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL  is where THE UNKNOWN comes into the ORDINARY LIVES (space ship lands on White House Lawn).  The ending sees "ordinary life" changed forever, and as in Avatar "Love Conquers All." 

    Notice how the ending of DAY is the story before the beginning of AVATAR?  In DAY our Hero hurls herself into The Unknown, into the spaceship.  DAY ends with the decision to seize the unknown, get on the ship.  AVATAR begins with what happens after seizing the unknown, getting off the ship.

    Ends and Beginnings have something in common.  Study that.  Stories are circular, or at least sine waves.

    Life is full of cycles and epicycles which is why the study of Astrology is useful to writers regardless of whether you "believe" any of it. 

    One common error beginning writers make is to confuse the ending and the beginning of the story they are trying to tell.  The Opening and the Closing points are not necessarily the same as the beginning and the end.  Very often drama is better served by "closing" before the "ending" and letting the reader imagine their own ending. 
    So compare DAY with AVATAR again.  In DAY, THE UNKNOWN comes into THE ORDINARY.  In AVATAR the Story Opening is where ORDINARY LIVES come into THE UNKNOWN. 

    It is the same opening in obverse. 

    And this is the mainstay of the "formula" for the opening of any story -- where two contrasting elements meet and conflict, changing both in the end.

    A story does not necessary OPEN at the BEGINNING of the story, and it isn't always necessary to recount or dramatize the beginning if you have a good opening.

    Now consider HARRY POTTER -- go back to the first novel.

    Harry is ORDINARY BOY living in oppressive but ordinary circumstances it seems.  What's extraordinary about his home life is revealed as his history is peeled back, and most of the extraordinary part is in his distant family or deceased family, not the adults who are raising him or his intolerable cousin-in-residence whom we meet in Chapter One.

    But many kids feel oppressed and out of place at the threshold of adolescence.  Part of the job of the YA category of fiction is to rationalize that formless fear/fascination of adulthood's confrontation with Identity. 

    This is a biological process common to all humanity.  We all live with the conviction that who we really are is not who friends, family, employers etc think we are.  Hence the gamer's Avatar, the avatar on your profile, and some people's cherishing the ability to post online anonymously -- or the utter fascination with Second Life as a game - can be seen as the adult extension of that state of mind. 

    So Harry Potter is growing up in a family that doesn't seem to him to "know" who he is, and he doesn't know who he is.  Worse, he has no clue (he discovers) who his parents were. 

    Into his ordinary, dreary, intolerable life comes THE UNKNOWN -- the message carried by the Owl, sweeping him away to a boarding school where he can become a new person to himself. 

    But it's not THE UNKNOWN from outside that comes into his life -- as in DAY where a UFO lands, or in AVATAR where a human lands.  With Harry the Unknown is inside him, unbeknownst to him.  The Unknown doesn't come from outside, and he isn't lured, bribed or injected into the Unknown -- he discovers it inside himself, as we all do at adolescence.  He doesn't get to leave his horrid life behind and emerge as a butterfly from a cocoon as in AVATAR.  And he doesn't get rescued from mundanity by Love as in DAY.  He meets himself in the legacy of his parents, a legacy in his genes but denied by those who raised him. 

    Compare all three openings, and notice the similarities among the obvious differences.  When you've nailed that, you'll nail the opening of your own story, if not the beginning.    

    Think about how, with the years, Harry learns of all the baggage left him by his parents and matures into the young man who can handle it all.

    But the STORY OPENING occurs long after the STORY BEGINNING (where his parents die). 

    Harry arrives at his new school and doesn't know he's starting a mad scramble to catch up with his life and learn the truth about what happened to his parents -- and prevent that from happening to him (and others).

    Imagine what it would have been like for him to know what he was getting into before he first boarded the train (or spaceship, depending how you look at it) to his new school.  He would have been tied in knots with dread and terror.  He wouldn't have behaved as well, found his feet and begun to unfold into an adult able to handle Situations. 

    Imagine what AVATAR'S Hero would have done if he'd known he was going to end up stuck in an alien body when he first woke from cryosleep. 

    And what Earthwoman could really consider bonding to an Alien? 

    Uh, wait a minute.... isn't that what we imagine on this blog?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Pooh-poohing Copyright

    I apologize for ranting over the course of the last two months about how the DOJ's vilely worded complain and remedies may have the unintended consequences of undermining existing copyright protections for authors.

    However, I am not the only one to point out that Ebooks are content. Ebooks may not be re-sold. Ebooks are of no value to anyone without the presence of a device (computer, phone, pad, ereader etc). If eBooks cannot be resold, and the content is Intellectual Property that remains the property of the creator, then the DOJ settlement would strip copyright from authors and award it to Amazon.

    Please take the time to read these letters to John Read and the DOJ .

    Bob Kohn

    Peter Glassman

    You may link to more here....
    including some pro-settlement letters from authors who do not see the big picture or question why Amazon owns its own cloud, and imposes conversion fees, and encourages exclusivity.

    The deadline for comments to John Read is June 25th, so as of tonight, I'm moving on the the next issue.

    All the best,
    Rowena Cherry

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    Our Internal Galaxy

    New research about the 10,000 species of microbes that live in our bodies:

    Human Microbiome Project

    Most of these creatures are harmless or benign, comprising an internal ecosystem we couldn’t live without. Furthermore, each person has a customized population of microbes. In the typical human body, 100 trillion individual nonhuman organisms live. In fact, we harbor more of them than we do human cells. Kind of makes you wonder to what extent the entities we call ourselves really belong to us.

    These facts remind me of A WIND IN THE DOOR, sequel to Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME. In WIND, Meg and her friends get miniaturized to enter a cell in her seriously ill little brother’s body. There they meet a farandola, an unimaginably tiny organism living inside a mitochondrion in that cell. To this creature and his clan, the cell is a planet, and Charles’s body is a galaxy. Yet the farandolae have intelligence and souls. One of the book’s themes is that value doesn’t depend on size. A child or a farandola is as important as a star.

    Or, as Dr. Seuss’s Horton the Elephant would put it, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

    Margaret L. Carter

    Carter's Crypt

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Finding the Story Opening, Part 1, Action vs. Character

    On Twitter I found a screenwriter to follow - new to twitter, veteran screenwriter:

    This tweet was retweeted by @JustinWHedges
    @fieldink 12:35pm via Web
    Action or Char to open ur scpt? No 1 answer. Depends on genre. Either character drives the action or action drives the character #writers

    Ooops!  A long time ago someone asked me to do a blog entry on OPENINGS and I forgot until I saw that tweet.

    Here's the twitter bio of @fieldink that made me follow him:

    Screenwriter, Teacher, Lecturer, Author of Screenplay, The Screenwriter's Workbook, on faculty at USC's Prof Writing Program, Hall of Frame Inductee

    He is on the website -- that's why he could explain "opening" in such a succinct way.  You have to admire that, but I wonder how many of you understand what he's talking about well enough to go, "Aha!" and then just change the way you find how to open your stories?

    I've written about crafting the opening of an Action Romance in this blog entry:

    But we need to examine this "find the opening scene" process more carefully because it is mostly done subconsciously.  It's just that it usually takes years and lots of failures before the new writer trains the subconscious to formulate the opening correctly.

    Take for example my novels MOLT BROTHER and its direct sequel CITY OF A MILLION LEGENDS.  Here are the links to refresh memory:

    Paper, ebook and audiobook versions of both books are available, but Amazon isn't linking them very well for City of a Million Legends.

    The idea for those novels came to me (while waking up) as a SCENE, and at the time I thought it was the opening scene.

    It's a powerful scene -- but what appeared in the final published book was very different.

    What was the scene?  The one where Arshel is in molt and Zref is standing outside the closed space ship cabin door where she is in anguished distress understanding what she's going through, what he should do, and what he should not do -- and then doing what he should not do because he must do it.

    That's no opening scene, and it's not an ending scene either.  To me there were layers of emotional and alien-emotional conflict criss-crossing the scene, and reams of esoteric karmic drama driving Zref's decision, but it was all there in one flash of a visual scene -- the door or air-lock portal, Zref's hand raised to the door, and a telepathic vibrancy shimmering in the air. 

    Notice the opening of MOLT BROTHER is a scene between Arshel and her parents -- and the parents never appear again.

    Or do they?

    Aren't her parents "there" inherently in every event that happens because of how the parents handle this scene where she declares herself bonded to a human -- and a male at that!  The parents aren't entirely clear on which is worse, his gender or his species! 

    Scarred by that moment, trapped with no way to go home, no way out, no way back, Arshel plunges forward into life with Dennis Lakely and sticks it out longer than any of us would, until that moment when she's utterly bereft, trapped in that space ship cabin and all alone.

    The second chapter opens on Zref and his bonded companion trying to lay plans for their future together, hustling tourists for cash to go to college together offworld. 

    Because of things that Dennis Lakely's parents do, Zref is left without that bond. 

    The reason he opens that door into Arshel's life is the same as the reason Arshel got trapped in that plight -- no way back, no way around, no way but forward.

    The walls of the trap are largely emotional, but that emotion closes in from all sides because of (unrevealed until the second book) karmic connections, decisions and actions and results of long-ago lifetimes. 

    But when I "had the idea" all those emotions were tangled up and layered.  Though the moment was vivid in my mind, and the drama apparent, it wasn't the story opening.

    CITY OF A MILLION LEGENDS is the story I wanted to tell, and though it opens with a Kren baby hatching, it's real beginning is in that moment when Zref opens the door to Arshel's life and makes vows he isn't allowed to make. 

    If you've read the book, you understand how much "worldbuilding" went into creating that moment of choice for Zref. 

    How do you do that?  How do you untangle a vivid, single-scene IDEA into a linear story-line that allows you to explain worldbuilding, whole cultures, interstellar civilization, interstellar archeology, without much exposition? 

    Many new writers would just start with Zref's hand on the door, then fill in 20 or more pages explaining (in exposition - years ago, this happened, then that tragedy, then he made this choice, and now he's committed to this course of action, but he wants to open this door because).  It would be so boring!  Yet it's high drama in the extreme.

    That little tweet from an expert screenwriter tells you exactly how it's done.

    If it's one genre - start with character. Romance, for example, is emotionally plotted but the emotion is driven by character.

    If it's another genre - start with action.  Science Fiction and most Fantasy is action driven plot, so you have to leap into the ACTION with an opening scene where people do things, and then later you find out who they are and why they did this crazy things.

    But what genre is MOLT BROTHER?

    On the back cover of the Berkeley mass market paperback of MOLT BROTHER there's a quote from C. J. Cherryh (whose Foreigner universe novels I rave about!) 

    "Jacqueline Lichtenberg has taken a new and interesting direction with this book, partly technological, partly alien cultures, in a very intriguing interrelation." 

    I had forgotten that quote was there. 

    It's quite clear -- this is one of the earliest Mixed Genre novels, more mixed than my later award winner, Dushau. 

    There's also a quote from Andre Norton on Molt Brother:

    "Imaginative and outstanding.  It captures the reader and won't let go."

    THAT is what openings are supposed to do! 

    But how do you do that?  What do you do with "an idea" that turns it into a "captures and won't let go" novel?

    Ever seen a movie run backwards?  Ever done a rewind on a recorder - harder to understand with a DVR that skips frames on backwards, but visualize it.

    That's what you do.

    You take your "idea" separate it into "layers" (his story; her story) and run it backwards in your head until you get to the "right" moment.

    How do you identify or recognize the "right" moment that is a "beginning" moment?

    Aha, that's easy and I've talked about it here before in posts on structure and theme.

    The general formula for beginning a story is to find the moment in time when the two elements, forces, or characters who will "conflict" to generate the plot first come together.

    Last week we mentioned Marion Zimmer Bradely's novel CATCH TRAP -- which opens with the first memory of one of the main characters -- the circus tent being burned.  But that's not happening in current time.  Nevertheless it works, because the novel not only starts with an emotion-laden action denoting the setting (tent-circus), but one of the themes, (an industry changing as a result of the impact of technology - a science fiction theme guaranteed to captivate any SF reader). 

    That moment then unravels into the life story of the artistic vocation of this character as a circus performer.

    Her first novel, SWORD OF ALDONES (later rewritten and retitled, but I love the first version best) starts with a thought, "We were outstripping the night."  I think that's the best opening line of any novel I've ever read -- ever!!! 

    By comparing the opening line of each of Bradley's novels to the end-line, you can learn everything there is to know about structure. 

    Sometimes an idea comes to you from the ending, or any random place -- sometimes the idea appears as a scene which does not and can not belong in the novel at all! 

    Every character's life consists of a variety of intertwined conflicts that don't all run to resolution during their lifetime.  Any set of characters probably deals with a set of conflicts that are maybe the factorial of the number of characters in the set -- multiply a lot to get the number. 

    As you know from my posts on Astrology just for writers, every life has cyclical affairs running like the planets -- a very complicated clock.  Every character has a conflict denoted by such a planetary cycle.

    The highest drama events are denoted by Pluto -- Sexuality rather than love, car wrecks, being wounded in war, a transition Event that establishes a New Normal. 

    Pluto, however, does not denote "sudden" events (that's Uranus).  You can always see a Pluto event coming -- but you never (almost never-ever) do!  You can see it in retrospect, but never in prospect.

    An example would be drunk driving.  Watching a character who chronically drives drunk, you can easily expect they will get into a wreck at some point.  The character, though, even if they've wrecked a car or two, can never - ever - see that they are going to be an amputee or paralyzed or on trial for manslaughter and become a three-month wonder to the media.

    Heart attacks are another kind of Pluto-event -- any onlooker can see this character's eating and exercising habits are leading to no good, but the character is shocked-surprised-offended by the event of a heart attack -- "Why me?" 

    So, if your story is about a person whose chronic habits are going to produce a dramatic, life-changing Event -- you have to decide if your story lies before or after the Event.

    Is this a story about misbehavior (such as bullying?) that eventually produces a comeuppance (such as losing a job and ending up in jail framed for embezzlement?).

    Is this story designed to deliver a whopping sense of justification to the reader?

    Or is this a story about rehabilitation, having learned a hard lesson by the Event, now a life is being rebuilt, and maybe teaching others who are making that mistake to pull back from it?  Such as a drug addict or alcoholic teaching 12-step? 

    Once you know what the story is about -- by analyzing what kind of pay-load the story delivers at "the end" (how you want the reader to feel about herself and the characters at the end) -- then you can "frame" the story by nailing the beginning.

    Remember the structural beats of a novel -- usually 4-act rather than the powerful 3-act structure of a screenplay. 

    The usual length novel (75,000 to 100,000 words) is divided by climaxes into 4 parts or "acts." 

    A) Beginning
    B) 1/4 point
    C) Middle
    D) 3/4 point
    END and/or denoument.

    The quarter-points have their own specific formulas.  "Pacing" is just another term for putting the quarter point Events at the quarter-point page-number. 

    When checking a book for reviewability, (as an editor checks a manuscript for publishability) the first thing I look at is the Beginning, Middle, and End by page-count. 

    If the Events delineated at those points are connected in a developmental Arc that makes sense, I'll read the book.  If not, not.  If I get hooked on the Beginning and when I get to the middle, the Event on that page is not a "Middle" Event -- I might check the End event, page a little to find what goes in the Middle and if it's not anywhere near where it should be, I won't bother finishing.

    Most writers think of that as a flaw.  It isn't because a book that has its pacing "off" by too much will not deliver to the readers the emotional payload they paid good money for. 

    This is why finding the right beginning Event is so crucial.  Once the Beginning is determined, the Middle and End are absolutely known.  You can't fudge it.  It is what it is.  Readers who read a lot of books (the very people most likely to pay for your book) are used to finding what they pay for right where it should be. 

    You wouldn't sell them a dress with the seams only basted, would you?

    So don't sell them a novel with the Events in the wrong places.

    You avoid that by choosing the opening point.

    But the thing is, when you start writing a story, you really don't actually know the ending!  Or if you do, you probably don't know the Middle or Beginning precisely.

    Just because the end-product has to be paced "just-so" does not mean the process of producing the first draft will be that clean or orderly.

    Nevertheless, outlining --- writing down the beginning, quarter, middle, 3/4, end Events -- is necessary.  You have to take a guess, and try for it.

    Sometimes characters insist on finding their own karmic solutions - however temporary - and you just have to go along for the ride.

    In that case, you change the outline to match and test it to make sure the Events conform to reader's expectations (with surprises, of course).  If you don't keep that outline updated, you very likely will have to rewrite and you may need to junk everything you've written and start over.

    To avoid putting more hours in than you can get money out, you keep the outline updated, and make sure the Events fall at the right story-points. 

    Events are on the plot line, emotional peaks and valleys delineate the story going on inside the character, the internal conflict. 

    You want to get the story and the plot to END in the same Event, as discussed last week.

    Where the peaks and valleys occur (by page count) and where the plot Events happen (by page count) depends, as @fieldink said, depends on genre. 

    If you're heading for a happy ending (an up ending) then the Middle is a DISASTER (a valley, a Pluto-driven Event) such as a maiming car wreck, so the End becomes asking the physical therapist to marry and getting a yes. 

    That car-wreck scenario tells you that your opening scene is in a bar or at a party where the character who will wreck the car first gets hooked on booze or drugs or whatever behavior will impair judgement.  Most likely the Opening would involve an association with an inappropriate character -- maybe someone who then gets killed doing whatever they introduced the main character to. 

    It doesn't have to be booze or drugs -- it might be the first encounter with car racing, and just plain enjoying speed and winning until the adrenalin of it becomes the drug. 

    If it's a Romance, of course you start with character, displaying in show-don't-tell the character trait that makes that character the perfect mate for the Physical Therapist who enters later.

    Or your character might be headed for a car-wreck that ends him up in court where he meets the Lawyer (prosecutor?) he falls in love with -- and eventually proposes to. 

    You find the opening of your story by plucking apart the threads of the character's life until you can see one whole cycle of Ups and Downs leading to the ending that delivers the punch the genre readers are looking for. 

    In my case, it's always the Relationships (not always sexual!).  I always look for a character whose life is malfunctioning in some regard (sometimes several regards).  My personal life-philosophy shows me how the real world functions on Relationships, and how human psychological health (and thus sane life-choices) depends on functional Relationships.

    My mission as a writer is to bring that character's life up to a functional level that feels, at least to the character, as Happy. 

    One very common mistake beginning writers make is to start their story too late -- when the character is already Happy, or when the character already knows that they are miserable.

    The Happily Ever After ending works best  when the story starts with the character unaware of the real problem deep inside.  The story opens with the character making a decision and/or taking an action (accepting a date; accepting a particular college entry letter; quitting a job; getting fired and getting drunk over it), so that everything else that happens during the novel is a direct consequence of that opening action.

    I call that plot technique "the because-line" -- because the main character did this, that happens, to which the main character responds by doing that, which causes this to happen, to which the main character responds etc, right to The End.

    That's why, given impeccable story-logic, any beginning contains within it a very specific ending. 

    After you've chosen the beginning, you don't get to choose just any old ending that you think would be neat.  The ending is determined by the beginning.

    Or the beginning is determined by the ending you've chosen.

    Beginning and Ending make the Middle obvious and irrevocable. 

    There are many genres, and all kinds of Literary forms that don't use this structure.  If you don't like it, don't try to write it. 

    Here's what to do.

    Take a pile of your 10 most beloved novels, the ones you've read so often you can chant the lines in the shower.  Spread out ten sheets of paper, take a pen and at the top of each sheet write the TITLE and opening Event (in your own words; describe that Event that kicks off the story and plot). 

    Look at the page number of the end of the last chapter or epilog, divide by two, and look at that page plus or minus 5 pages, and write down one sentence describing what happens at that point in the novel.

    Look at the end Event - not the epilog, but the climax Event, and write that down. 

    Study the set of sheets -- you may need to rephrase a few times to bring the elements buried in symbolism up to consciousness. 

    If you can see a consistent beginning/middle/end pattern, that's the sort of book you should set out to write because it's what you most love to read.

    It could be that your favorite literature doesn't have this structure.  Some very fine classics don't, but they are much harder to learn and to duplicate. 

    There is a type called "stream of consciousness" - and many new writers think that means they can just write down what they are thinking and it'll be a story.  It doesn't work that way.  There is a very real, very precise skeletal structure behind these apparently formless writings.

    The more formless a piece seems to be, the more heavily it relies on that internal structure for its effectiveness -- like poetry!  And its correspondingly hard to duplicate.

    One way to learn "stream of consciousness" structure is to practice and internalize the Beginning/Middle/End structure.

    The "formless" fictional genres are usually composed of several different structures intertwined, and the only way I know of to learn to do that is to master each of the structures separately -- learn to chew gum and walk by first walking, then chewing gum, then combining.

    So again, you always find the Beginning by looking at the Ending -- and the Ending, as @fieldink said depends on the genre.

    The best place to learn modern genre structure is in the screenwriting books by Blake Snyder, SAVE THE CAT! series.  These are now out in e-book, too, which is handy.

    Here is Blake Snyder's Amazon page with all the formats of all the books, including 2016 releases

    Here's the Book Description from STRIKES BACK:

    Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat!® and Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies, is back with the book countless readers and students have clamored for. Inspired by questions from his workshops, lectures, and emails, Blake listened and provides new tips, tactics, and techniques to solve your writing problems and create stories that resonate:
    The 7 warning signs you might have a great idea or not
    2 sure-fire templates for can t-miss loglines
    The difference between structure and formula
    The Transformation Machine that allows you to track your hero s growth step-by-step
    The 5 questions to keep your story s spine straight
    The 5-Point Finale to finish any story
    The Save the Cat!® Greenlight Checklist that gets to the heart of every development issue
    The right way to hear notes, deal with problematic producers, and dive into the rewrite with the right attitude
    Why and when an agent will appear
    How to discover the potential for greatness in any story
    How to avoid panic, doubt, and self-recrimination... and what it takes to succeed and dare to achieve your dreams
    Get ready to face trouble like a pro... and strike back!

    All of this is just another way of explaining what everyone who is selling fiction knows.  You just have to find the one explanation that hits you right.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Dear DOJ For The Last Time

    Several of my correspondents asked me where they could find the Complaint and Request For Relief upon which the public has until June 25th to mail or email comments.

    I am transcribing from pages 34 and 35 of the .pdf "e-books_complaint.pdf (49 pages)"


    104. To remedy these illegal acts, the United States requests that the Court:

    a.     Adjudge and decree that Defendants entered into an unlawful contract, combination, or conspiracy in unreasonable restraint of interstate trade and commerce in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C.  (squiggle that I don't have on my keyboard) 1;

    b.     Enjoin the Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys and their successors and all other persons acting or claiming to act in active concert or participation with one of more of them, from continuing, maintaining, or renewing in any manner, directly or indirectly, the conduct alleged herein or from engaging in any other conduct, combination, conspiracy, agreement, understanding, plan, program, or other arrangement having the same effect as the alleged violation or that otherwise violates Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. (squiggle that I don't have on my keyboard) 1, through fixing the method and manner in with they sell e-books, or otherwise agreeing to set the price or release date for e-books, or collective negotiation of e-book agreements, or otherwise collectively restraining retail price competition for e-books;

    c.      Prohibit the collusive setting of price tiers that can de facto fix prices;

    d.      Declare null and void the Apple Agency Agreements and any agreement between a Publisher Defendant and an e-book retailer that restricts, limits, or impedes the e-book retailer's ability to set, alter, or reduce the retail price of any e-book or to offer price or other promotions to encourage consumers to purchase any e-book, or contains a retail price MFB;

    e.       Reform the agreements between Apple and Publisher Defendants to strike the retail price MFN clauses as void and unenforceable; and

    f.        Award to Plaintiff its costs of this action and such other and further relief as may be appropriate and as the Court may deem just and proper.

    In my opinion, every author in America ought to peruse this "Request" and ask himself/herself whether this "relief" punishes the CEOs, or whether it punishes authors.... including authors who were not in a position to benefit from the Agency Pricing during the period covered by the Complaint.

    Moreover, authors should ask themselves whether the DOJ is setting a precedent that undermines any copyright owner's right to set the price for their work, and also to exercise or refrain from exercising any aspect of their copyright.

    If any aspect of this "REQUEST FOR RELIEF" troubles you, you have until June 25th to write to:

    John Read
    Chief Litigation III Section
    Antitrust Division
    US Department of Justice
    450 5th Street, NW
    Suite 4000
    Washington DC 20530
    The rights of the copyright holder also permit him/her to not use or exploit their copyright, for some or all of the term."

    Extremely interesting old piece about the precedent for copyright that would be set with the Google Book Settlement.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    The Zombie Menace

    A new book on vampire films by Jeffrey Weinstock devotes its first chapter to the erotic dimension of vampire cinema. It’s headed by a quote from Lev Grossman commenting on the appeal of vampires in contrast to zombies. Vampires, says Grossman, are sexy, and zombies aren’t. Nobody wants to sleep with a zombie. I confess the current zombie craze leaves me cool. I get limited fun from watching mindless monsters whose essence is that they’re a threat to be fled from or destroyed. The Baltimore SUN several days ago ran an article about this trend:

    Zombies in Pop Culture

    I can see why zombies are scary, though—scarier than vampires, even the old-fashioned evil type. In fiction and film, vampires almost always have minds and personality. Depending on your theory of vampirism, a friend, rival, or lover returning to life (or unlife) in search of blood may retain the same personality he or she had before death. You can make a connection with him or her. Most vampires have interests other than blood. They accumulate the memories, wealth, and skills of centuries. And, yes, they’re sexy. They use their allure to seduce victims or, if they’re “good” vampires, for mutual gratification with donors. Zombies (the contemporary type based on the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD model) just shamble around and eat people.

    You can talk with a vampire, no matter how evil. You can stop a zombie from ripping you to shreds only by running away or applying brute force. No conversation is possible. Also, unlike any natural destructive creature or force of which the same could be said (e.g., a shark or a tornado), a zombie is a repulsive parody of a living human being. Unnaturally rising from death, it’s an animated corpse without mind or soul. If the corpse is that of someone you knew in life, it’s still more horrifying. Definitely scarier than a vampire, who, even if you subscribe to the concept of a vampire as a demon possessing a dead body, can perform a convincing simulation of life and intelligence.

    Margaret L. Carter

    Carter's Crypt

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Targeting Readership Part 4

    Last week, I posted a list of previous posts on Worldbuilding in case you'd missed some: 

    I'm on the program at ChiCon7, and I just volunteered to do a number of writing-craft panels on Worldbuilding.  Apparently it's a core interest for new writers today, and boy have I got a lot to say on that.  There will be 3 more posts on it here in July. 

    Worldbuilding won't do you any good unless you build the world to intrigue an audience.  So lets look at how to do that.

    Targeting Readership Part 1 is:

    Part 2 is inside this post:

    Part 3 is inside and woven into the following post in my Astrology Just For Writers series which by mistake has the same number as the previous part but is really Part 7:

    As I've established in earlier posts in this sequence on Targeting a Readership, Publishing looks at the age of the main protagonist to determine the demographic of the target audience.  That process may be an error, but it's what they do, so writers have to take it into account. 

    Here are some clues about how to capture the older demographic -- which Hollywood insists you must do to have a 4-bagger, a film that appeals to a wide enough audience that it can make money.  A kid's film has to appeal to grandparents who'll take the kid to the theater! 

    So how do you target such a broad and undefined audience? 

    You pick a theme you can treat from a variety of "angles" with each character portraying a different, but plausible, opinion. 

    Well, I've been saying that here for a while, but it begs the question, "What theme?" 

    I ran into an intriguing post on Google+ -- a "sampler" (an image with WORDS), and the words were a quote from Richard Dawkins: "Faith is belief without and against evidence and reason; coincidentally that's also the definition of delusion."

    It had drawn 375 comments (really high #) after only a few hours. 

    I looked at it, nodded, thought, "good theme for a long novel" and scrolled on by.

    Then I checked my Yahoo news feed page where I follow Discovery News.  And I found the following bit of research in an article about a survey of faith vs. age:
    Participants answered three main "belief" questions, including their level of belief (from strong to atheistic), their changing beliefs over their lifetime and their attitude toward the notion that God is concerned with their personal lives.
    -------END QUOTE ---------

    At first I'd thought the article would miss the idea that "faith" might (or might not) change with age.

    In fact, they did ask about how people's attitude toward faith in God had changed with age, and they found that as people age, they tend to find belief that God exists to grow.

    Today, in the USA, there's a cultural trend or shift taking place toward disregarding, disrespecting or just ignoring elders.  Most people will deny that, but if you're old enough to remember your mother's attitude toward her mother who had been born in say 1890, you might have a different feeling for how things have changed.

    Could seeing a parent experience an increased faith that God is real be a source of the scorn for the Wisdom that comes with age, that can only be acquired via decades of experience?

    I used to think (when I was very young) that Wisdom was either a myth or something you were born with, or not.  I found my elders due "respect" simply for surviving all they had survived -- but I didn't think they were smart enough to learn from experience. 

    That changed in my twenties.  And today I can look back and see how my elders went from being young to being older-and-wiser-because-of-being-old. 

    I see a "because" relationship between surviving the blows of life and finding Wisdom.

    Now, the Wisdom that is found might well be a Wisdom that convinces the elder that God is a myth propagated by those who would control vast populations in order to drain their wealth and keep them poor and ignorant. 

    Or it might be the opposite, the conviction that God is real after all, and the myth-spinning is indeed a smokescreen put up to keep people from learning how very real God is.

    Or it might be that old brains just deteriorate and lose the ability to do critical thinking.

    Look at all those possibilities, invent a CHARACTER to portray each point of view.

    Remember, the characters need to change as a result of the events in the story -- events cause character change, the change in the character then causes another event, and that process is called "plot." 

    Character Arc -- especially in a Paranormal Romance story -- is not separate from plot, but integral to it. 

    In any realistic Romance (and SF or Paranormal Romance must be more realistic than reality because of the odd-ball elements) there has to be that pesky "meet the parents" scene with the potential in-laws interrogating the hapless suitor.

    This gives you the multi-generational character spread you need to tackle the thematic issue of "Does The Conviction That God Is Real Require Discarding Critical Thinking?" 

    Of course, if all your readers are well versed in Kaballah, that's a no-brainer and you have no story because critical thinking (in that world view) is required. 

    If you are writing a novel you want to sell to the film industry, you must include an international audience, and this study did survey people in a lot of countries.

    Here's another quote:

    Support for the concept that God is concerned with people in a personal way ranged from 8 percent in the former East Germany to 82 percent in the Philippines. About 68 percent of individuals in the United States held that personal view of God.

    Over the study period, just five of the countries showed a consistent growth in their belief in God: West Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia and Slovenia. Meanwhile, 16 countries showed a consistent decline in belief: Australia, Austria, East Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway and Poland. Some countries showed a mixed pattern, with some measures moving toward belief and others away. [See full list of countries ranked by God belief]
    "Belief in God has decreased in most countries, but the declines are quite modest, especially when calculated on a per annum basis," the researchers write in their April 18 report of the survey.

    Though modest, this decrease could add up to a real effect over time.

    "If the modest, general trend away from belief in God continues uninterrupted, it will accumulate to larger proportions and the atheism that is now prominent mainly in northwest Europe and some ex-Socialist states may spread more widely," they write, adding that it is possible the trend could go the other way, with belief in God seeing a rebound.
    ----------------END QUOTE ----------------

    If you know about the political trends in these countries, you can probably put political parties to the characters' beliefs (or anti-beliefs).  Today there are more political parties than just Communist that advocate atheism.  Don't try that unless you really know what the attitudes of those parties are. 

    The point here is that the readers -- or film audiences -- will be composed largely of people whose beliefs are in flux.

    People who are changing belief attitudes generally experience uncertainty or even fear, free floating anxiety, and other emotional symptoms they don't want to name.

    Fiction is a wonderful way to calm down when anxious, but the writer has to understand the sources of anxiety better than the reader does to pull off that trick.

    Explain and discuss the growth of Wisdom, and how useful, practical, accurate and trustworthy that new Wisdom might be, all in show-don't-tell -- in images, symbolism, and character "Aha!" moments. 

    This is where theme infiltrates worldbuilding.

    If you take the general theme, "As You Age, You Begin To Understand How Life Is Orchestrated By God" -- then you build a World where this or that Religion dominates, and maybe people convert from one to another Religion as Love happens.  You find your characters, some on this side, some on that, and some in transition, and you will discover what conflicts have to play out because of the theme.

    Changing any parameters of the worldbuilding (such as the tenets of the Religion you're dealing with) will force a change in the nature of the Conflict driving the characters to act and resolve that conflict.

    To capture the widest possible readership or audience, you must have a character for each audience segment to root for -- and that character must achieve some kind of triumphant resolution of his/her conflict. 

    All of the characters conflicts must resolve in a SINGLE EVENT - in one scene, not a chain of scenes.

    A good example to study for this plot structure does not involve Religion much, unless you consider "Circus Flying" a religion (which in this book, you could!) is Marion Zimmer Bradley's circus novel, CATCH TRAP. 

    This novel is ostensibly about a gay couple in the era when gayness per se was anathema, but it was especially forbidden in the largely Catholic world of Circus performers.  That's their conflict -- they must choose between their love and their art, and discover that art is fueled by love (not sex, love, though there's plenty of gay sex in this novel.)

    This is one of the novels Marion Zimmer Bradley used to teach me the craft of writing.  I watched her wrestle the ending into that single scene structure, raising the powerful punch of the ending and clarifying the theme.

    This novel is an example of how multi-generation changing belief systems should be handled.  This is not about Religion, which is why you can learn to write about Religion by studying how this book is put together, you can gain an objective perspective.  This book is about a change in CIRCUS PERFORMING as profound as the change in our society from Atheist to Believer and just as generation-specific.

    It took her 20 years to write this book - drafting and re-drafting, changing the characters and the plot.  But the plot had to have two disparate parts, two basic conflicts joined by the theme of Art must be fueled by Love, and in her mind sexuality was inseparable from Love (in mine, it is not.)  This is a master-work you likely can't duplicate (yet), but Religion is going to be central to the next generation's favorite entertainment. 

    See the Pluto by generation in various signs in the post for Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    That blog post also tracks Neptune through the signs and what that might imply for our generations. 

    Pluto was in Sagittarius 1995 - 2008 (and there was a baby-boom in the USA in the mid-1990's).  Sagittarius is the Natural 9th House in Astrology, and the 9th House represents philosophy  (12th is "Religion" as in "The Church" the institution; 9th Represents the concepts intertwined with Justice, with Jupiter and kindness.)

    9th House is also international publishing, communicating over vast distances (not the discovery of planets out there -- re-energizing the modern youth into wanting to communicate with "them.")

    This is the generation that will find the matter of belief in God, and how that changes with age, to be very entertaining.  They'll want to read about religious conversion, and maybe conversion from atheism to some belief -- or vice-verso. 

    Also remember that Uranus makes a complete circuit around the Sun every 84.3 years or so, and mystics attribute the beginning of venerable wisdom to living through your 80's.

    According to the study quoted above, people seem to awaken to the reality of God in their 50's, so what's left to learn in your 80's? 

    Neptune takes 165 years to circle the Sun, so whatever it tracks won't turn up in your characters unless you're writing about Vampires and other immortals.  You wouldn't do that, would you?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    Bad Seed

    I told Margaret L Carter (in her post "You Are What You Read" that I had an encyclopaedia by my bed. I lied. By omission. An Encyclopaedia is there, but there are other things, too.

    The November 2011 issue of "DISCOVER" magazine, for instance, which talks about Cannabis Clones (I read it at a glance as Cannibal Clones, which is why I picked it up) and False Convictions.... of victims for arson they did not commit, owing to bad science used by prosecutors, also a major piece on Dark Matter, and another on Drinking Sewage In Texas.

    Yes. I must confess. There are some famous politicians from Texas, and I did rather hope to read that they had been drinking sewage. Nod to Margaret L Carter's most recent blog post.

    However, the article that inspires today's post is "Can Science Save The Human Sperm?" which was penned by David H. Freedman, and which informed me greatly, and amused me not a little.

    One of the very popular plot lines of Futuristic Romance and also Science Fiction Romance is that alien females have become infertile for one reason or another, and therefore alien males turn to human women. Susan Grant is one of the few (STAR KING) to bring us an infertile alien hero.

    From what I have gleaned from David H Freedman's piece, it would be a lot more plausible if alien females abducted human males for stud duty (or not, given the male problems Mr. Freedman lays out). Maybe I mean that spacefaring human women of the future will need to prey on hapless alien males.

    In no particular order, here's why Mr. Freedman thinks our great-great-grandsons will be duds.

    1. Modern men are taking testosterone supplements which have a side effect of shriveling the testicles and lowering sperm product.

    2. Modern men keep their testicles at unhelpful temperatures, which could be because the men have too much hot belly overhanging places that ought to be cool, or because they have varicoceles (hot blooded varicose veins) snaking around their scrotums, or (I am extrapolating) because they wear inappropriate underwear that bunches everything up into a neat, hot package, or because they exercise too much and thereby get too hot all over.

    3. Modern men aren't in good shape. They don't eat right. They are over-medicated. They have infections down there....

    4. Modern men have lost what Mr. Freedman compares to the seminal equivalent of a Klingon cloaking device, so women's antibodies recognize the sperm as foreign invaders, and attack them.

    5. Modern technology and the wonders of in-vitro fertilization is subverting the "Survival Of The Fittest" safeguards of the natural world. Unhealthy old rich guys (or politicians, or union guys with Cadillac health care plans) are able to pass on their inferior genes.

    David H. Freedom does say something about the unfortunate decline in female promiscuity, but I will put that comment down to male bias.

    Given that there is now a strain of gonorrhea well on its way to being incurable, not to mention all the other horrible diseases that men can give women, I think any alien females would be well advised to look elsewhere.

    Thursday, June 07, 2012

    You Are What You Eat

    You've probably read about the naked man in Miami who attacked another man on the street, tore off his clothes, and ate his face. Have you heard about the recent arrest of a man in Joppa, Maryland, for murdering and dismembering another man and eating his heart and brain? How about the man in New Jersey who reportedly pulled out his own intestines and threw them at police?

    A person in the office where I work declared (jokingly, I hope) that these events signify the onset of the zombie apocalypse. As Dorothy Sayers says in GAUDY NIGHT, it is the "unpleasant habit" of writers to transmute incidents from life into scenes in books. When I heard that the face-eating mugger "growled" at police before they shot him, my first thought was, "Of course, werewolf." The self-disemboweler, however, fits better into the zombie hypothesis.

    Writers draw together unrelated events and observations from daily life to combine them into new creations. In CELL, Stephen King developed the trend for people to walk around apparently grafted to their cell phones into an apocalyptic horror novel in which a signal from their phones turns them into homicidal pseudo-zombies.

    The Baltimore SUN last Friday included an article speculating on why cannibals eat their victims. The face-eating mugger is supposed to have been high on "bath salts." Most such cases doubtless involve psychosis, but even psychotics have motives in their own minds, such as Jeffrey Dahmer's belief that by eating his victims he could absorb part of their essence into himself. A lifelong horror fan and writer can't help imagining some incitement more bizarre, even supernatural. Demon possession?

    An acquaintance of the Maryland cannibal killer described him as "always in his own little world, preaching everywhere he went and talking about how he was writing a book." Aha, writing books—obviously a symptom of a deranged mind! :)

    Margaret L. Carter Carter's Crypt

    Tuesday, June 05, 2012

    Worldbuilding Link List

    I was asked on twitter by @MatchesMalone for "the" URL to my article on Worldbuilding.  I had no idea which article was referred to!  I've done at least 16 and have 2 more in the hopper.   

    Here's a summary list of the Worldbuilding items I've done so far -- though worldbuilding is referred to or discussed in many other posts here because it's the most glaring story element in Fantasy or SF universes when it is done wrong -- and totally invisible, imperceptible to the reader, when done right! 

    I will revisit this topic from other angles, so here's a chance for you to catch up on entries you might have missed.

    (this has links to previous items in the Astrology Just For Writers (no expertise required) series of posts here.)  This one is about High Drama which is the signature of a Pluto transit to a natal chart.  Some people live in High Drama all the time and live "soap opera" lives -- or what I call a "pillar to post" life.  They make great characters for series, but the writer has to work hard to make the life-shape plausible to  readers.
    This is a real-world news item that could be used for worldbuilding. 
    An explosive mixture of science, religion, and the Romance Story.
    Controversy makes excellent fodder for a writer's worldbuilding, so here's how to rip a news item from the headlines and make a story out of it that self-generates a theme.
    And more on referencing your reader's reality to get a rise out of her!
    Here are some thoughts on how the typical romance trope can lead a writer astray when worldbuilding for a reader from scratch.
    So when a romance writer injects Fantasy, the Paranormal or Science (or all of the above) into Romance Stories -- you've got mixed genre, and confusion that takes serious writing discipline to make into pure entertainment.
    Is an index to my review column articles where I discuss "The Soul-Time Hypothesis" for the first 6 months of 2007, as explored in several books and novels, not least among them Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT! which I talk about a lot on this blog.
    This is Part 6 of a series of posts on LOVE as a story element, and has links to the prior parts.
    Is part 7 of the Big Love series of posts.
    Discusses poetic justice -- done wrong, this story element comes off as the writer "cheating" or resorting to the deus ex machina ending.  The writer must understand Justice in all its esoteric and practical aspects to pull off a Poetic Justice driven plot.
    This is Part 2 on Poetic Justice. 

    In addition to all that, there is a series called Worldbuilding With Fire And Ice which focuses on the interface between politics and religion, referencing our "real world" surroundings to target an audience.  There will be 3 more posts in that series starting July 2012.  Links to past posts in that series will be provided.
    You might also want to read my column on Poetic Justice: The Fragile Universe -- scroll down to the February 2009 column.

    Worldbuilding is something most new writers don't even think about - especially if they're working in a contemporary, real world, setting.  All the readers know what an ashtray is, and how the object is becoming an antique now, and is seldom seen inside a doctor's waiting room. 

    The presence or absence of an ash tray on a side-table, or dining room table next to the salt, is WORLDBUILDING.  You might use description or dialogue to indicate that the object is there, discuss the design (maybe it's high-tech and draws the smoke in?  Maybe it's antique marble?  Or gem-encrusted?), or maybe exposition to plant it as a clue to a murder.  An ash tray might be part of the characterization (consider BURN NOTICE: the quintessential mother-Florida-retiree who smokes).   Historically, people didn't "smoke" because there was no tobacco in certain parts of the world.  Perhaps on another world, tobacco won't grow and nothing else is smoke-able.  So the presence of an ashtray would be remarkable, odd, an anachronism. 

    The object itself is worldbuilding because it builds the world outside the scene, and outside the story.

    It's not enough to know all about the world outside your story.  You then have to encode that knowledge into a visual object, a symbol, a work of art, a process (such as a photograph rather than a painting?), and artfully place that object where it evokes that outside world in the reader's mind without the reader having to wade through paragraphs of tedious and irrelevant description of that world, you, the writer, knows so well. 

    To the writer, the world outside the story is sometimes more interesting (and vital to understanding the real meaning of the story) than anything else.  The new writer doesn't understand how and why the reader is not likewise interested in what fascinates the writer.

    "Worldbuilding" is the writing technique whereby the writer induces fascination in the reader. 

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg