when keene was writing ghoul…

I just found this hidden in my backup cd from June of last year:

I even considered going back to the cemetery and finishing the book there, but it’s raining, and it’s cold, and there’s nowhere to plug in my coffee pot.

Brian Keene
Hail Saten

writing process

We were discussing this at Louise’s board, so I just pasted my post over here! 😉

I create a “working notes” and a “working timeline”.

The notes document is more a “this is what needs to go into the story at some point” more than an outline-outline. Anyone looking at it wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails out of it, as it’s more of just a list of “actions” and “character thoughts” than anything else. As those are included in the manuscript, I cross them off.

And the timeline is just that. With the exception of Midnight, my Harlan Vampires stories range from September of one year to March two years later. So, I create a columned table in Word – month/year – ch # – event – brief notes (8pt courier new with the smallest row height). I end up with a list that looks something like:

* 2099
* march…ch 8…6th eldering…brooke

By the time I’m finished, I have a list of what’s where and how. I label my individual files the same way (though with the “ch #” first to keep them in chronological order in the files list) – so when I add them into the completed document, I know what direction I’m going, at least.

writing directory / directoriesI smudged out the “spoilers”.

(you can see more of my “writing process in pictures” here)

the shape and the power of the voice

The Shape and the Power of the Voice

…The single most important element of fiction is storytelling. And that can be broken into having a good story to tell and telling it in a compelling way, i.e. strong voice. It is one of the more difficult aspects of craft to master, and the vast majority of writers begin by copying someone else’s voice. To have a strong consistent voice that is distinctly yours is a significant achievement.

There are series of steps where it comes to voice which most professional writers must pass through on their way to mastery…

family accents

[repost from Multiply blog from Nov ’05]

family accents
Nov 25, ’05 5:02 PM

Last night, I was heavy with the ink in reworking a crucial chapter in “Book Three” (still no clue what to call it – maybe one day it’ll tell me!). Yes, I’m writing this one out-of-sequence, as well; I learned my lesson with Midnight – I’ll never push myself to write “chronologically” again! When I finished, I handed Preston the pages to read, which he hates because he never knows what’s going to happen or what’s going to be said next, especially since that one crucial chapter in “Book Two” … He hates this particular chapter just as much, if not more, as the one in “Book Two”. (Honestly, I have to read both chapters with Kleenex in hand – and I wrote them!)

But he made some interesting comments that have my mind racing – I didn’t sleep much last night because my mind wouldn’t shut off (again; this is becoming more and more “normal” for me).

Anyway. He said something about one thing he liked about my books so far is how I have the Family organized, that the Family is very structured. He said that the organization of the Family has a White Wolf-ish city structure, but at the same time, the everyday terms and customs have a very “old Appalachian family” feel to them.

Yet another thing I did subconsciously, I think. I bleed words, you see, so I do things sometimes and don’t realize I’ve done them until someone reads my stories and points those things out to me. I’ve had a lot of “Oh, I see!” moments while rereading Midnight lately …

While I was putting “Book Two” together, I created the Harlan Vampire FAQ to help keep myself straight on terminology, abilities, structure, etc – the further I got along, I realized that the FAQ would be useful for readers of the series, so I posted it up on my website. I knew that the Family had to “be” a certain way. No group, no matter how large or small, thrives without a given structural ladder. A strong, long-lived Pagan-vampire Family requires clear-cut hierarchy and hard-and-fast rules. I guess I just have Anethdraeg [An-eth-dray-ehgg] worked out in my head more than I ever realized I did. (And perhaps it’s time to update that FAQ!)

Too, the bits about “old Appalachian family” … I guess it stands to reason since I grew up in Appalachia that my characters’ lives would be colored by that. Appalachian families tend to look after one another and are (usually) close-knit. (I say “usually” here because my own is anything but – but that’s an entry for my personal journal at another time! – and if you read there, you already know how it is, anyway.)

As well, Appalachian people have words and phrases that others don’t – and these vary from region to region, adding complication. I’ve done my best to weed out any “nobody from here would ever understand that” words and phrases, with the exception of one or two characters (Lynn, for example, from the prologue of Midnight; he speaks exactly like someone from my hometown would.) Preston has been a great help with this sort of thing. “Honey, I don’t think you want/need to say this here,” he’ll tell me. “Your characters sound like they’re from Harlan again.” (Which brings up a whole other issue – people in different parts of Harlan County have their own sayings, customs, and accents! Yes, even the accents are different!)

So, where am I going with any of this? I’m not quite sure right now. Just thinking out loud mostly!

dialogue and names

[repost from Multiply blog from Nov ’05]

dialogue and names
Nov 25, ’05 5:09 PM

(this is mostly for my own notes and such more than anything)

* Most people don’t speak in perfect grammar
* Underlying emotion and conflict bring dialogue to life
* People have habitual words/phrases
* Use dialogue and the description around it to convey what might otherwise be described with adverbs

But yes. Having spent all of my life (‘cept those thre months in CA) in Kentucky, I know that some people “talk funny” – use poor grammar (like splitting infinitives), make strange contractions, use strange slang …

… and names.

Am torn between Shayla, Shauna, and Shayna …

preston and i chatted about heir

Preston and I had a chat about Heir last year, when it was still in developmental stages. Here’s a repost of that discussion:

Q – Knowing what I know about Michael from the second book, when they go to Sugar Run late that night (in the first book) and Sami exclaims that she used to have picnics there when she was younger, I almost see it as an attempt to connect by Michael to the youth he didn’t get to experience with her, because he already knows how she is to him.
A – Thing is, Michael was driving by Sugar Run as that was the closest route to take from Middlesborough to his house out in Bum Fuck. Although, since you mentioned it, in retrospect his conversation with Sami about family would more qualify for what you’re discussing here. Remember, vampires are telepathic. So Michael heard Sami wondering to herself why she had almost yelled “Mom” when she was scared. He said that she never spoke about her family, but he could hear the things she left unsaid. This is, of course, why he left the room so quickly, when otherwise he wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving her alone and upset.

We see a glimpse of his knowing her in the first book when he introduces her to the Family gathered around the dining room table, when he says, “Everyone, this is Samantha.” You get a sense that he’s discussed her with them, or at least with some of them, at some point. I always felt that she missed the inflection in his voice when he said “this is Samantha”, particularly given her mood and emotional state at the time–and perhaps because he wanted her to miss it? And I feel that maybe the “dark-haired girl” who touches Sami’s arm is Elissa from the second book.

Q – Michael gave Sami more than she realized when she became the new Elder. And at some point, might she realize that…the act of transferring his power is what began his decline in vitality? Will we see a steady decline in Michael’s vitality as well as realization from Sami that this is happening?
A – Yes, Michael begins to decline the night he and Sami exchange blood and energy; we see the outward, physical signs in the way he looks and behaves. Of course, as time goes on, Sami does understand that something is wrong, but she doesn’t see just what until it’s too late. The realization likely comes in retrospect. (ie, I’ve not gotten this written yet!)

Q – At some point does Sami begin to realize exactly how much power she gained from Michael? Not secular power, but real spiritual magical power…vampiric power.
A – Of course she does! 😀

Q – How are Houses identified? Do they have names? Are the names based on the person who is their leader?
A – Well, there would be no true Family identity or continuity if the House names changed with each new Elder every thirty or forty years. Houses are named according to Family identity and heritage. For example, “Michael’s” House is called Anethdraeg, which is a bastardized Anglicization of annedd and draig, house and dragon in Welsh, respectively; even though the family bloodline is more likely English, they seem to identify more strongly with Welsh heritage.

Q – The mysterious other House in the area that Michael mentioned once in the first book and never mentioned again–anything about this in the future?
A – Perhaps. :warped: