Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scene, Sandy and Sophie recording, pt 1

I've been continuing to play around with various scenes from Street Glass and have been able to expand one whose roots go back to the early 1980s. It was inspired by a song that I only heard once. I recently was able to track it down and it was a great help with the scene. I decided to make the scene the best I could, as if it had primary importance in the story, as practice for scenes that really are essential.

It came out well enough that I'd like to share it on the blog, but it's too long for a separate page like the other scenes I have up. So I'll break it up into 4 or 5 parts and add it as the main post.
This scene takes place somewhere in the middle of Street Glass, so the year would be '89 or '90. As currently written, this scene is not intended to be included in the novel. Its purpose is to practice writing, explore the earliest beginnings of Sandy and Sophie’s relationship, explore a bit of her relationship with Adam, and have some fun that wouldn’t be appropriate for the novel. As everything is in this novel, the scene is in close third POV.

Background: Adam and Sophie are members of the rock/pop band Xenith. Sophie has also started the band Obsession to showcase her solo work; she’s active in both bands. She and Adam went through a very public and acrimonious breakup of their romantic relationship a few years prior, though they’ve continued to play in Xenith.

The term “track” is sometimes used here as a synonym for the verb “record.” The term “cans” is used as a synonym for “headset.” Lennie is producer as well as engineer for Sandy’s song, with only Neal assisting him; that’s why I don’t mention anyone else. The term “studio” can be a bit confusing. Used here, it refers to the specific room that the artist stands in to sing or play, not a building. If anything else confuses you, drop me a comment.
In the studio to lay down the vocal track for one of his songs, Sandy wrapped up another effort. That hadn’t sounded right either. Standing at his mic in the studio, he shook his head at Lennie who sat in the control room with Neal. “I don’t know, maybe I don’t do this enough, but it somehow doesn’t feel right. Your piano must be off.”

Lennie laughed. “I don’t think so! Maybe the fact that’s it’s 2:30 in the morning and we’ve been at this for four hours has something to do with it.”

“Maybe it’s knowing that you’re staring at me while I’m trying to do this.”

“Oh good, how are you going to handle this live, then?”

“Ah, that’s different, I won’t have you in front of me.”

“Thirty thousand people in front of you will be better?”

As Len spoke, Sandy heard knocking at the control room door. Neal got up and went to the back of the room. Sandy swiped his bottle of water from the floor and took a drink. Four hours, damn. He should’ve been able to track a simple vocal in less than that.

Movement through the control room window made him look up. Oh God, Sophie and Adam! Sandy almost dropped the bottle. What in the world were they doing at the studio? And look at Len and Neal, chatting up Sophie. Adam looks like he might throw up.

Sandy hung his headset on the hook clipped to the mic stand and reached the door in a few long steps. Adam was in his usual jeans and dress shirt. Sophie wore a flowy deep blue dress with a sparkly necklace that dripped down the front. She tugged at a curl of her long, dark hair. She must be closing in on forty years old but man, she was hot. “Hey, hi. Those two aren’t the only people here tonight.”

“Hey ace,” Adam said. Sophie smiled.

Lennie said, “Aren’t you supposed to be working on something?”

“I need a break after four hours. It is really good to see some different faces.”

“Seriously, are we interrupting?” Sophie asked.

“Damn, no! I’m not even sure I like this song anymore, and I wrote it.”

“What’s the problem?” she asked, looking in at Sandy.

“It’s the vocal. I can’t put my finger on it, something just doesn’t sound right. I know what I want from myself but somehow it’s not coming.”

“Offer to help,” Adam said to Sophie. “That problem’s up your alley.”

She crossed her arms. “I’m not here to push myself on anybody.”

“Hey, a problem’s a problem.” He turned to Sandy. “She can nail a track in one take. Vocals are her thing.”

Lennie raised his eyebrows at Sandy. “I wouldn’t let this chance get away if I was you. Getting home before sunrise would be, like, really great.”

Adam bowed his head in Sophie’s direction and held out a hand toward her. “Miss Sophie Linn, fixer of vocal issues. Problems in the studio don’t stand a chance against her.”

She narrowed her eyes at him.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So you know, I've updated the character interview page and the scene of Sophie's Christmas tree. I've also deleted the page with the scene of Neal and Lola, because it's no longer accurate. I've added a Cast of characters page. My posts often refer to people that casual blog readers may not be familiar with, so the list is an easy reference. It'll be adjusted as necessary.

Character fracking - in this case, it's good to keep digging

I've been asked about the interview I did with Neal to figure out what it is he wants at the start of the novel. It's a short interview so I'm including it here. I'll have some comments afterward. Since I talked to him while he was still with the gang, I refer to him by that name.
Owlie: Here you are, member of a street gang, with no permanent home and no family. What do you want to do with your life?

Razor: I wanna get away from Coyote. What’s this shit, nobody can look at his woman? She stands in front of me, what’m I supposed to do? If I can’t touch her, I don’t wanna be around her.

Owlie: That’s a start. What else? You must think about your life, up there on that roof you like to sit alone on.

Razor: I look at the little lights, some close, some far. Some of my friends let me help with fixing cars. I could do that, if I got out of MF. My friends make enough money to live on. But that’s just a dream. Coyote don’t let nobody out.

Owlie: He doesn’t let people out, but Flaco got out. You’re pretty sure his family, scattered around L.A. County, hid him. What if you got out too? Imagine MF is no longer in the picture.

Razor: Yeah, well, that’s hard because MF is everyplace. I used to want that, y’know, it was good to know they had my back. I had nobody else so it was good to see MF stand up for me. But Coyote got real crazy, rivals act up and you gotta defend your territory, there’s always shit happening that ain’t as cool as I thought it was.

I just want to know why mi madre left me to MF, y’know? What kind of mother just takes off and leaves a 10-year-old, when she knows there ain’t nobody to take care of him?
Mi padre, who knows who he was. Lola married some Anglo, but I ain’t Anglo, so who was he? Why didn’t she leave me with him?

Owlie: He might have died, like her husband Edward.

Razor: Both of ‘em kicking the bucket? What, did she slit their throats? No, I don’t know why she married somebody else, but I know she left me. Sonofabitch, I was ten years old! Who’d she think was gonna take care of me? Maybe she died, maybe she got jailed for the rest of her life. Blood family is everything and mine fell apart. It’s not knowing that kills me. I just gotta know why.
I think there was more going on behind his answers, and it's important to be aware of that because he may be holding out on me. At this stage of his life, it's very hard for him to be honest with other people.

Wow, that line of thought just led to a whole cascade of things. See, never accept the first couple of answers your characters give! Maybe Neal also wants to figure out who he really is. Before leaving Mi Familia, he was known to others as Razor, one of "that gang". His non-MF friends know him a little better, but he feels he can never completely let his guard down. MF always comes first.

Wanting to know more about his mother is a very personal thing; he must think about other personal things.

Why am I different? I'm in tight with MF, but I ain't got my own cantón, my own place to live. I got women and kids, but no other family. I live in the barrio, but my given name is Anglo. I got half a handful of lots of stuff, but I ain't got a whole handful of anything. But here I am - I'm alive. What am I, really? I wanna see stuff, do stuff! I wanna take these twisted up thoughts and feelings inside me and do somethin' with 'em.

That came from sitting up on the roof alone, as Neal often does. He likes to go up at night; everything looks more alive with all the lights. Wanting to know more of who he really is ties in with deciding to take an active part in co-creating the non-profit group. He wants to know not just his family background, but who he is personally. He doesn't think of it this way, but he wants to know what he's capable of.

Always pay attention if you sense something with your characters is not quite complete. Your intuition about these things is usually right.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's going on

I’m putting Street Glass on hold because I’ve found an online course I think will help with the plot, but the course doesn’t start until February. I strongly feel I need a more experienced hand to guide me.

My plot problems, I believe, arise from Neal not having a strong enough goal at the start of the story. I may need to intensify things before he even meets Sandy. Readers have to care about Neal and sympathize with him very early on, or the chance to leave the gang won’t mean much.

But I’ll still play around with scenes as they catch my interest. Moving to the forefront is an idea I’m turning into a short story, with an eye toward making it the first of a series of shorts. I aim to submit the first story to some as-yet-unfound contests. This will keep me writing, and will help with the all-important skill of reducing my words. You may have noticed I like to talk J

This story is a fantasy, set in a medieval sort of era. It concerns the rediscovery of magic. Be assured it will not be a clichéd piece! Using this magic has definite physical consequences, unpleasant ones. This magic cannot do everything though it has certain attractions. I’m still filling in some of the details, but it’s already quite a bit of fun.

One of the members of my local writers’ group gave me a copy of yWriter5 to try. I’ve just started playing with it. It looks like it could be helpful for keeping people, places, and plots straight. Sure, you could use a spreadsheet, but yWriter lets you keep the lists and the story in one program. Okay, you could make lists in Word too. In fact I do that for Street Glass and I have two spreadsheets that I use less often. I’ll let you know what I think of the program in another week or two.

Speaking of lists, the discography for Sylvyr Star has been completed. You’ll find it on a separate page, here. It starts with the band’s first release in 1980 and goes up to 1991. I had to work hard to convince them to tell me the whole catalog; I think they had copyright concerns ;) I assured them that there’s nothing to worry about.

Neal tells me that at some point after he’s become comfortable playing rhythm guitar, he does some CCR covers with Star. He’s gotten so wrapped up in the project that when I listen to CCR, I can hear Star’s versions playing just underneath. It’s a weird effect, let me tell you. Just when I get a handle on the character voices in my head, I get fictional music playing along with the real stuff (insert googly-eyed smiley here!)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

what do you want and why do you want it?

Multitasking here; writing a blog post and working on my plot at the same time. You’ve probably heard it before—your Main Character needs to have a strong goal in order for the story to work and for readers to care about him. Case in point: the reason I have plot holes in my outline is because Neal does not have a strong enough goal that would drive the plot.

Don’t ask me why it took nearly three years to figure that out, but at least I realized it before cobbling together a shoddy plot then sending the manuscript out J

How do I find out what he wants? Why does he want it? One night, after having given up on the notion of sleep, I interviewed Neal to try to find out. He told me that beneath his hatred of his mother for abandoning him, he wants to know why a mother would leave her ten-year-old child to the clutches of a street gang.

With that as his original goal (the secondary goal being making a better life for himself), and seeing that Sandy has so many more resources than he ever did, he could become obsessed with finding out what happened to her. This of course leads to all sorts of questions I’ve barely started to realize—would the band’s “people” be able to find any trace of her? If not, how does the plot advance? My muse shakes her head at me:

“Come on, it’s obvious. By the time Neal moves in with the band, Lola’s been involved in Tony’s illegal activities for eight years. She doesn’t want any attention. So Tony would have to step in, leaving Neal with an ever-shifting series of tantalizing clues that may or may not be real.”

Well fine, I say, but how do you expect to pull that off? She just gives me that enigmatic smile. Maybe her name is really Mona Lisa.

So what I pull from this is to question your characters’ motives often. I thought that it was enough to show readers what an awful life Neal was stuck in. I forgot one of Art Edwards' valuable lessons—make your major characters more than you think they should be. Give them truly powerful motivations and they will drive your story. Art calls it “overshooting the runway”. He’s not only great for ways to bring a rock lit novel to life, he’s a straight-to-the-point, excellent general writing teacher. Best money I ever spent was for his class in Basement Writing Workshop!

I also want to say that this new goal of Neal’s makes me a little uncomfortable, because it changes the way he’s always been. However, changes are necessary to make the story better. It’s okay to need time to adjust yourself to character changes, but it’s really important to accept that sometimes big changes need to happen. Don’t let your attachment to anything keep your story from becoming the best it can be. Michelangelo saw the form of a finished sculpture while the marble was still uncut, but for most writers, it usually takes more work J