I adore Shakespeare’s plays.  I love to see them performed but I also enjoy reading them.  I’ve had a copy of his complete works since high school.  Much like my writing and other preferred reading, I am a character-driven person.  My favorite plays have great character interaction, like Much Ado About Nothing and The Twelfth Night. I will also freely admit that I like the comedies best; I am a sucker for a happy ending.

One thing you have to keep in mind with Shakespeare is context.  Most of his plays are set in a different time period than they were written, but the time when they were first performed says as much about the play as the setting.  Because of this there are things (besides the language) that become hard for us to understand.

A friend of mine is a tutor and she told me a story today about working on Romeo and Juliet with a teenage boy.  He couldn’t get past the (to him) ridiculous details.  “Isn’t she 13?”  “Didn’t she just meet the guy two hours ago?”  “What?! They were kissing without even knowing each other’s names?”   These are things that seem silly to a modern teenager but were not so foreign or difficult to the original audiences for the plays.

My favorite take on these modern-disconnect scenarios is the series of YouTube videos done by Second City called “Sassy Gay Friend.”  The premise is that Shakespeare’s women often went a bit overboard in their reactions, and if there had been someone around to call them on it, they may not have died.


Moving My Stories

I’m considering moving my stories over from Serial Central, or at least putting copies of them here.  It’s just a matter of figuring out the best way to handle it.

I could post them here as serials again, as they are in the right format from Serial Central.  The trouble is that those of you who wanted to read them in serial probably already have, and if you haven’t read them you probably don’t want to wait week after week if you can just go read them in their entirety on another site.

I also don’t want to take up weeks of Sunday posts with old serials.

I could just add them as pages, or post them each as their own huge post with an old date, so that they are available here but not really in the way.  It seems like the best way to handle it.

The biggest challenge now is all the cutting and pasting to make it happen.  🙂

Steps to a Story: Timeline Trouble

I’ve discovered the problem with injuring the main character of a story: it takes time to recover.  I’m going to pause for a warning here. There are spoilers in this post.  It’s not anything you couldn’t have predicted, but technically I’m giving some of the story away.  Consider yourself warned. 

Working on the next section of With Honor, I have run into a timeline problem.  Three things are making it difficult for me to get the next section to work.  First, even cleaned and stitched perfectly, it will take at least a month (probably more like six to eight weeks) for Matthew’s wound to heal properly.  Second, the army will want to catch Golden Wolf as soon as possible.  Third, I would like Matthew to be part of the catching of said antagonist.

Can you see the dilemma?  I need a plausible reason for the army officers to sit on their hands and simply watch Golden Wolf until Matthew is healed.  I know the role he plays in the scene, I know how to sketch out his recovery within the story, I’m just not sure how to delay the capture.

Of course, writing out the problem is making me think about it, and a few possible reasons have come into my head just in the time I have worked on this post.  🙂  You’ve just become a virtual version of my friends who let me talk out my story while they patiently listen.  Thanks!

The Weirdness of Time

Isn’t it funny how a change in your routine can impact your perception of time?

I’m used to getting off work everyday at 4pm, which means I am also used to having a certain amount of time between work and sleeping to get things done (like blogging, for example).  Tonight I got off work at 5 instead of 4. 

It threw off my whole night.

Somehow it is magically after 9pm already.  I’m just now writing my blog, I haven’t showered yet; I’m not certain where the last four hours went.  (Some of it was hijacked by butter-coated broken glass, but that doesn’t explain all of the missing time.)  I’ve written before about the benefits of a routine.  Tonight I get to experience the challenges that come from having the ways I am set in get changed.

The other unpleasant fallout from this tweaked time is that my creativity is somehow also impacted.  My brain simply does not want to work on writing (or anything else for that matter).  I have a couple of broad ideas for upcoming blogs; maybe I’ll jot some notes about those and consider my writing requirement complete for the evening.

Hopefully tomorrow’s repeat of the working time change won’t cause a repeat of the blogging block!

Productivity begets productivity, or how I got a query sent before dinner

Last weekend I got an unexpected burst of productivity, and managed to de-clutter and clean my entire apartment.  There were a few tasks left, like sorting through a pile of accumulated papers, so I made a giant to do list of things to get done eventually.

The productivity seemed to continue as the week progressed.  I made it through the pile of papers, then continued to get other things done.  I called the insurance company about a chip in my car windshield.  I hung pictures that had been sitting in my room for weeks.  I cleaned off my bulletin board.  Yesterday I checked the websites for agencies I hadn’t been able to query in January.  The requirements for one of the agents, one I was particularly interested in querying, turned out to be similar to requirements I’d seen in the past.  This meant they were already complete; it was just a matter of revising my query letter and assembling an email.

So tonight, while I was waiting for dinner to cook, I put it all together and sent it.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Choosing the Best Common Name

Crayfish.  Crawfish.  Crawdaddies.  Mudbugs.  The little tasty critters have lots of different names, which is why different regions have different names for the same animal.  This is the reason biologists use scientific names, in this case Procambarus clarkii, so that everyone in the biology community can know they are talking about the same creature.

This matters for an author.  You can’t call an animal Felis concolor in your story; most of your audience won’t know what you’re talking about.  The cat has a lot of common names, though, with different regions and cultural groups, so it falls to you to know which one is appropriate for the setting of your story.  In the midwest they are usually called cougars; Californians call them mountain lions, and many of their colorful common names like painter, red cat, and catamount come from different areas of the Appalachians. 

For a fantasy author, there are multiple decisions when it comes to using a wild animal in a story.  Do I use an existing animal or create one?  If I use a real animal, which common name fits better with the story?  Remember if you use a real animal but create a new common name, you’re going to have to spend several sentences describing the animal so your readers will recognize it.

I have a personal example of needing to reconsider an animal choice in my story.  Between the first draft and the second of my novel I made a change to a character’s costume.  I had her dressed as a raccoon for a masquerade ball.  This bothered a couple of my zoology-minded first readers, because the raccoon has a very specific range in the real world: it is only found in North America.  Knowing this, it pulled them out of the created world of the story.  Every other animal I had used for the masquerade was generic enough that the setting wasn’t ruined, but a raccoon was not a good choice.  I ended up changing her costume to that of a squirrel; it worked equally well for the theme of the ball, and squirrels are generic enough that it didn’t interrupt the flow of the story for my friends and readers who are familiar with zoology.

With Honor, part 10

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 10

Lieutenant Lewis sat basking in the sun.  A small, startlingly green lizard was doing the same on a fence post nearby.  Sarah White, Charlotte’s mother, had made Matthew sit on the bench in the garden every day, insisting that sunshine helped a body heal.  Not that he minded; he rather enjoyed the time to simply sit and watch the ever-present chickens as they scratched the ground and foraged for bugs.  Matthew hoped that the little lizard managed to avoid the chickens.

From the open kitchen window he could hear Charlotte humming to herself as she went about her household tasks.  He grimaced slightly to himself.  As much as he was enjoying this moment, he couldn’t get past the feeling of guilt that nibbled at the back of his mind.  He had been laid up here, recovering, for nearly a week now.  The stab wound in his leg had been a clean cut, and the army surgeon had come by a few days ago to see how it was healing.  The man had sewn it up well in the field, and the muscle and skin were closing up neatly with no signs of infection.  Unfortunately, the location of the injury precluded him from standing much, let alone walking or lifting, before the pain would set in.  Although he wanted to contribute to the White’s farm, there was nothing he could do at the moment to help. 

Lost in his thoughts, a gentle hand on his shoulder surprised him.  He looked up to see Charlotte standing nearby.  “I’m sorry,” she said as she slowly withdrew her hand, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

He smiled at her and slid to one end of the bench.  “It’s fine, I was just thinking.  Would you like to sit down?”

“What were you thinking about?” she asked as she carefully sat down next to him.  Adjusting her skirts a bit, she grinned back at him.

Suddenly finding himself a bit shy, Matthew paused to scratch the back of his head.  He looked away from Charlotte, focusing on the field nearby.  “I was just wondering if there was any way I could maybe help out while I’m staying here,” he replied.  “I’m afraid that with my leg the way it is, the things I would normally offer to do are a bit beyond me. “

Charlotte was quiet as she considered his words.  The silence stretched comfortably between them, the peace of the afternoon preventing any rush.  Matthew glanced back at Charlotte, taking the opportunity while she looked off to study her.  He was finding that the person behind those entrancing green eyes was just as lovely as the face that held them.

He could tell she’d thought of something when her face lit and she turned to him with a smile.  Matthew blushed a little to be caught staring, but Charlotte was excited enough by her ideas that she didn’t seem to notice.

“There are some things that could be a great help around the farm, if you’d be willing to do them.  You couldn’t lift the pails, but a second set of hands at milking is always appreciated.  The walking to the barn and back would be good for your leg, too.  And some of the tack could use mending.  It’s usually something Poppa does in the winter, but by then some of the things get fairly ragged.”  She paused before adding, “You do know how to mend tack?  You’re a cavalry soldier, so I assumed, but maybe…”

“I would be happy to mend tack,” he replied quickly, realizing that she was a little embarrassed by her excited speech.  He made a bold move, to distract her, and put his hand over hers where it rested on the bench.  “It’s a wonderful suggestion.  I’d also be willing to help with milking, although you’ll have to teach me how.”

Her eyes were wide and she seemed a little nervous, but her small smile and her hand still resting below his told him that his response was exactly the right one.

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