James Scott Bell is a published author with a diverse portfolio of fiction, from period short stories about boxing to zombie lawyer novels (don’t ask). Anyway, in the promotional material for his writer’s coaching service, Mr. Bell divides writers into two groups:
- Plotters map out their stories in advance, making sure they know how it’s going to end before they even start writing.
- Bell calls the other type “Pantsers,” but that’s an unfortunate choice of words. Puts me in mind of bullies yanking down a freshman’s shorts in gym class. Whatever you call them, they just start writing, with implicit faith that their stories will find their way to the end. They plunge ahead. So maybe “plungers?” That’s got an unsavory connotation, too. We’ll have to work on it.
Of course, most writers will find them in both camps to varying degrees at different times of their lives. For the first two published novels of my career, I have definitely been a hybrid of the two.
Continue reading “Plot and Plan? Or Plunge in Where Angels Fear to Tread?”
I have a love hate relationship with the back roads in that part of country. They are beautiful and, when you know where you’re going, a lot of fun to drive. That part about knowing where you’re going is key.
Back in the days before in-car GPS systems, I was in the Vienna/McLean/Tyson’s Corner area on business. I landed at Dulles at night and was driving to my hotel. If had gone right, I would have been in the brightly lit heart of Vienna. I went left instead and found myself in a semi-rural residential neighborhood. Back in those days (1995), the people in those parts didn’t believe much in street lighting. About once every block, the road I was on seemed to be named after a different Confederate general.
This was also before I owned a cell phone, of course. Fortunately, my search for a pay phone led me across the road where my hotel was supposedly located. If I hadn’t stumbled on that, I might still be roaming the wilds of Northern Virginia like a Flying Dutchman in a rented Chevy.
In Human X, the one and only time we see Ted, Colin’s original partner, he say he’s headed to Della and Lisa’s house. Presumably, Della and Lisa are friends of Ted’s and acquaintances of Colin’s. Their role at first is twofold. First they symbolize the estrangement between the two partners, as the two men seem to live in separate worlds. Continue reading “Anatomy of a Character: Della and Lisa”
The political background of Human X is not completely beside the point. It helps to define Colin Jeffries, and it also sets the groundwork for future stories. His father, Remington Jeffries is a U.S. Senator, but not for one of the two major parties with which have been all too familiar this year. Seriously, previous election years may have seemed like the country was giving birth to a new administration. This year felt more like we were collectively passing an especially painful kidney stone.
Continue reading “Human X: From 2012 to 2040”
When I wrote the climax of Human X, I thought I was taking some liberties when I described the missile site nestled in the oil fields of northern Orange County, Site LA-29. The site was real but I was certain that, by 2011, much less 2039, it was a neatly manicured tract of homes. Turns out I was wrong. The old site was still a decaying, graffiti-covered collection of abandoned structures. It was, however, far more complete than I describe in the book. Fortunately for accuracy, the remaining structures are marked for demolition and, by 2039, the site should be the relatively pristine wilderness described in the book.
Continue reading “The Real and Unreal World of Human X – The Missile Site”
In Human X, the character of Antonia Milos is a textbook example of the organic way I develop characters, especially my supporting cast. I put a fair amount of a planning into my major characters, while still giving them room to develop with the story. I knew who Colin Jeffries was and where he had come from before I wrote a single word. When I started typing chapter one, however, Antonia Milos didn’t even exist. In fact, when I typed the words “Chapter Two,” she still didn’t exist.
Before I finished chapter two, however, I needed to fill in a bit of Collin Jeffries’ back story. Continue reading “Anatomy of a Character: Antonia Milos”
As I said in the first post, much of the second half of Human X takes place around Orange County, CA. The safe house of the enigmatic character “Woodstein” is located in a not-completely-real place called Capistrano Canyon. Capo Canyon, as its denizens would probably call it, if they existed, is a more remote version of the very real canyon communities upon which it is modeled.
One of the nice oddities about the part of Orange County where I live is how you can go around a couple of bends and leave suburbia behind for almost completely rural community. Continue reading “The Real and Unreal World of Human X – The Canyon”
Most of the second half of my novel, Human X, takes place in and around my stomping grounds of Orange County. My hero is treated in the hospital where I was born.
Actually, it’s more accurate to say in a fictitious satellite of the hospital where I was born. Since I’ve been in this world, St. Jude Hospital has grown from a single modest building into a medical complex that now covers several city blocks. A character in the book says that the main hospital is threatening to swallow my hometown of Fullerton whole. Time will tell if he was exaggerating.
I’m not the most attentive watcher of LGBT characters in mainstream media, but I’ve been paying a little more attention than usual lately, especially since the publication of Human X. I have one observation. It’s true that gay characters are springing up all across network television, but I’m not seeing a whole of diversity in their numbers, either. And by diversity, I’m not speaking of skin color, ethnicity, religion, or any other check box on the census form.
The range of gay characters on television in the post-Will and Grace era seems to span the spectrum from A to A. Continue reading “Of Comic Foils, Sidekicks, and Tragic Figures”
One of the hardest things for me as a writer is to describe the physical appearance of my characters. I grudgingly understand the need to do so, if only because I’ve had readers complain that they don’t know what my characters look like.
Continue reading “What Do Your Characters Look Like?”