August 27, 2020

On the Third Day…

I got a request from Rhyen, which is great because I still haven’t really hammered those ideas on endings or comedy quite into shape. So that’s still some stuff for the future. Or, y’know, somebody else could ask something.


Rhyen wanted to know about worldbuilding. Not just “our world, but with secret werewolves” but full-on, hardcore fantasy worlds, sci-fi worlds, and so on. How (and when) do you come up with histories, cultures, and all that other stuff?

Y’know what? Let’s make this post super-active rather than me blathering away. Right here, right now, let’s look at werewolf world. The other version of it where everybody knows werewolves are real.

Now, I know, we said we were going to do more hardcore settings but just go with me for a minute.

I’ve mentioned Charlie Jane Anders once or thrice before, and her little note that there’s no such thing as “a world just like ours, except…” because any noteworthy “except” is going to change everything. If there really were werewolves and everybody knew about them, so much would be different in the world. Tonsof things.

Don’t believe me? Let’s go over a few things real quick. Just off the top of my head…

Here’s an easy change. There probably wouldn’t be any silver coins. In WereWorld anything with even a scrap of silver would’ve been gathered up and turned into anti-werewolf weapons or defenses. The government would be treating silver like uranium. 

Which, hey… how would warfare be different? Forget atom bombs… imagine if the Manhattan Project involved deliberately infecting a hundred or so troops with lycanthropy and then dropping them all on Nagasakiand Hiroshima on the night of the full moon. A hundred unstoppable killing machines running wild in each city. That’s a terror weapon, right there. And of course, if the Japanese capture two or three alive, now they’ve got their own werewolves.

But now without the USpouring all that money into nuclear warfare and missile programs… where does it all go? Infrastructure? Social programs? Schools? Would there be a Cold War? A Bay of Pigs? And if the Soviet Union leaned into werewolf warfare… what kind of arms races would there be? Would the USSRhave financially collapsed?

And we haven’t even talked about dating or sex in WereWorld. Hunting laws? Home security? Profiling? Legal issues—if I kill someone as a werewolf, am I legally responsible? Is it murder, which requires a degree of forethought, since the werewolf’s essentially an animal (or is it?)?

And all of these assume we just “discovered” werewolves somehow back in the early 1940s. What if it was even earlier? How would global exploration and trade have gone differently five hundred years ago if every twenty-nine days  one of your crew members might kill everyone on the ship? How different would the world map look right now?

Again, this is all off the top of my head. Seriously, I’ve spent maybe ten minutes on this. But I’ve completely rewritten the world, just by being aware that things would inevitably change in this situation.

So, with that in mind…

Creating a setting, any setting, is a lot like creating a character. I want to know them backwards and forwards. It’s fantastic if I have lots and lots of factoids about them easily on hand (you may remember that back before we all took the pandemic plunge, I talked about characters and their underwear choices).

I’ve mentioned character sketches once or thricebefore, and I think worldbuilding can be approached the same way. We come up with the bare basics and then we start fleshing it out by asking questions and maybe following a few paths to their logical outcome. Like I did up above with WereWorld.

Or let’s do something even more divorced from our world. Let’s say it’s going to be a fantasy world, maybe one with some gearpunk elements. So, easy one—is there actual magic in this fantasy world? Is it kind of rare or very common? Does it need components? Are they rare or common? Do people have spell-component gardens the way we might have an herb garden?

How about the gear-tech? How precise is it? Do you need mathematically perfect brass gears or do lots of people carve wooden ones after dinner? What do they use for power? Springs? Counterweights? Two or three big guys turning a crank?

Does magic dominate the gear-tech, or vice versa? Is one notably newer than the other? Does either have detractors, vocal or secretive? Are magic and/or gear-tech novelties or parts of everyday life? Do they ever cross-pollinate, so to speak? Are they expensive or so common everyone has access to some aspect of them?

Considering all of this, now… is this mostly an agrarian world? Are more people farmers? Hunters? Are there gearpunk tractors or crossbows? Magic millstones or knives that can skin anything? And if none of this ever filters down to the common folk… how do they feel about that?

Has the magic or gear-tech made travel easier? Are people still isolated in villages or are there much bigger cities, made possible because of these advances? Do people know more about the world?

Heck, how fantasy is this world? Are there supernatural or mythological creatures? Are they common? Domesticated? Are there things we know or all-new creatures? Does the farmer have a six-legged hexox dragging his plow? Are there gods? Demons? How do they feel about humans playing with magic and gear-tech?

Or heck… is it even humans? Is this about magical halflings or gearpunk elves? I just pictured a gearpunk lizardman and that seemed pretty cool.

If you’ve answered a lot of those questions, I bet you’ve got the beginnings of a pretty solid world in your head. And probably spun off a question or three of your own. Enough so that you can start setting up your plot.

And one thing to keep in mind—just like with characters, this might change as I go along. As the story grows and progresses, I might change a lot. I might add even more. It’s an ongoing process. Halfway through my outline or my first draft, I might realize I need to address currency. And, hey,  maybe this world has a really crappy exchange rate, so it matters if you’re getting paid with glowing quartz or brass gear-coins.

Again, the world is here to serve the story. You’re going to change and tweak it as you go. Maybe all the way up to your last draft. And just like with characters, you’ll keep coming up with cool little details and anecdotes.

Now… there’s three key things to remember…

First, I know I talk about editing things down a lot, but we can all breathe a small sigh of relief here. If I’ve got a story set in another world—a drastically different world—most editors are going to give me a little bit of leeway, word-count wise. They understand I’ll need a few extra pages to explain why Yakko is riding a gearpunk tractor powered by magical crystals.

This doesn’t mean I can go crazy listing details. Or that I can be really blunt with them. No pausing for two pages to randomly describe the wooden sun-and-planet gears in Yakko’s trailer. Or the long history of the mining guild that provides those magic crystals. One more time—say it with me—the world is here to serve the story. It’s okay to have a little extra flavor here and there, but I shouldn’t lose track of what my book is actually about.

Which brings me to my second point. Whenever I create a character, there’s a lot of things about them that are never going to come up in the book. Or maybe they come up, but they’re never explained. I might have tons of rich backstory and weird little details, but a lot of it just never becomes relevant.

For example, in the Threshold books, I know a ton of things about Veek. I know why she’s abrasive with most people. Why she likes wearing men’s suits and ties over women’s power suits. Heck, I made a note of when/how she lost her virginity. But the truth is, none of this has been relevant to any of the books she’s been in. It’s stuff I know, and it helps me make her feel more three dimensional on the page, but ultimately… it’s all kind of irrelevant if it doesn’t have anything to do with this book—with the plot I’m telling and the character’s arc through that plot.

Worldbuilding is the same way. No matter how fantastic or amazing the details of this world might be, they only matter if they’re going to have some kind of impact. While it may be very interesting how this society ended up with a hexadecimal/base sixteen number system, do we need to know any of that history for this story? Yes, WereWorld does have eleven continents and there’s a fascinating story behind it… which has nothing to do with this book.

And even then, I’d argue that if there’s no real reason for something to be different… maybe it shouldn’t be. I think one thing that confuses some people is they see this rich, historied world that the story’s set in and forget the world only exists to serve the story, not the other way around. If you look back at my A2Q discussion about the world Phoebe and Luna live in, I made choices based on what would be interesting for the plot and story, not what would make for an interesting world.

So I shouldn’t be coming up with (and using) new things just to come up with new, different things. I mean George RR Martin just uses leagues for distance in worldbuiding heavyweight A Song of Fire and Ice(perhaps better known by it’s Hollywood stage name, Game of Thrones). It sounds good, a little archaic, and he doesn’t have to waste half a page explaining what hekkrets are.

Or heck, here’s another example… any of you remember that old 70’s indie movie, Star Wars? There’s a great scene where Ben and his would-be-protégé are trying to hire a ship from some lowlife smuggler. And Ben tells him “We can pay you two thousand now plus fifteen… when we reach Alderaan.” Remember that?

So… two thousand what?

No, no, no. Don’t run to novelisations or books or articles that retconned this. Right there in the movie you watched… two thousand what?

Truth is, it doesn’t say and it doesn’t matter. For this story, the type of currency’s irrelevant. I don’t care if it’s Imperial credits or Old Republic scrip or gold-press latinum or Jawa skulls. Okay, I might care if it’s Jawa skulls because WTF Kenobi why do you have two thousand of these laying around?! What the hell have you been up to out in your little desert hut?

Anyway… no, all we need to know is that two thousand is a good amount (judging off everyone’s reactions) and fifteen more makes it a very good amount. Past that, we just don’t need to know why Solo wants all these Jawa skulls Kenobi’s collected. It’s not important. The dialogue’s solid and sounds believable, which is far more important that a brief segue to explain the various types of Galactic currency and their exchange rates.

This brings me to my third and final point.

Worldbuilding is, in my opinion, a really easy trap to fall into. Because worldbuilding is fun. Seriously. That question game we played up above? We can do that for weeks with worldbuilding. Months. Maybe even years. My world is going to be so huge and so complex with so many races and creeds and economies and social structures and seriously we can spend so much time doing this instead of…

Y’know, actually writing the story.

And that’s how I generally approach worldbuilding. You may need to change this approach a bit, depending on your own story and the kid of setting you want for it, but hopefully this’ll get you a little further down that path. Or help you find your own path.

Next time… endings.


Until then, go write.

March 12, 2020 / 6 Comments

A2Q Part Five—Setting

We’re still in the early days of creation. I know that seems weird. We’re five parts in, but I’m still saying it ‘s early days. Not quite halfway through, going off my rough outline for this whole thing.

One of the things I’m trying to do with this A2Q thing, especially with these first few parts, is point out a lot of elements we need to think about before we sit down and get going. I really think the reason a lot of writing projects hit a wall is ‘cause people get one or two cool ideas, start writing, and then hit that first big gulf those ideas don’t cover. And that gulf will always appear, because one or two cool ideas don’t make a book.

Like I mentioned last time, it’s a lot like trying to cook. I want to make sure right up front I’ve got everything the recipe needs, because I don’t want to get halfway through and find out I don’t have that half-cup of brown sugar. We’ve all been there, right? Suddenly I’m wasting time digging through the cabinets or looking online for brown sugar substitutes and going through the cabinets for those. Now the oven’s smoking because it’s been preheated for a while and the dough’s been sitting half-mixed for fifteen minutes while I’m trying to figure out if I really need the brown sugar and wow cookies were a bad idea and jeeeeez I shouldn’t’ve tried this.

I don’t want any of you to go through this with your writing. So that’s why we’re going to make sure we’ve got everything we need before we sit down and start with the serious writing. And why I want to continue this gathering-up-of-elements by talking about settings a bit.

I know at first glance, the setting might not seem like a big deal. I mean, if I’m writing something super-sci-fi set on another planet or a fantasy in some alternate world… well, sure. Setting’s important then. People are going to be blue with orange hair and swords will talk and everything’s going to be different.

Thing is though, almost every fictional world is going to be slightly different from the real world. Especially the real world of the reader. Maybe I’m writing about spy thrillers in Europe or werewolf hunters in northern California or a galactic hit man who just crashed on an unnamed alien world. There’s going to be big, obvious differences and small subtle ones, too.

Charlie Jane Anders made a wonderful observation a while back. To paraphrase, if my setting is “a world just like ours, except…” then it’s not really a world just like ours. Like that butterfly effect I mentioned last time, any change worth noting is probably going to have a ton of repercussions across all levels of society.

And if I don’t see those repercussions in the manuscript… it’s going to ring false. In a world where anyone can turn invisible and everyone knows this, why wouldn’t I have better safeguards in my home? Why would I assume “the wind must’ve knocked it over” or those footsteps upstairs are “Just the house settling in for the night.” That kind of thing makes my characters (and me) look dumb. They should understand the world they live in and not be shocked or surprised or caught off guard by it.

Another key thing to remember here is that a lot of the setting is my character’s view of the world. So even if they’re in the “real” world, their day to day experiences may not be just like mine. Odds are really good they’re not. Simple truth, I don’t live in the same world as somebody who lives in Egypt. There are so many elements that make our day-to-day experiences–our thought processes—different. The climate. The economy. The history. The government. The society. And all of these little differences—these excepts— make for a very different world.

Heck, my world’s radically different than someone living in Canada. Just the simple fact that they don’t worry as much about healthcare. Or childcare. Seriously, just take those two items off your plate right now and how is it going to change your view of your job? Does it matter as much that you didn’t get that two dollar raise? Or the extra overtime shift? And if you’re not working overtime, how does that affect your life?

And just what a character knows can change their view of the world. Maybe they learned an ugly truth or got the veil peeled back, and now the world is a very different place for them. The best example I can think of this is that old-timey flick of yesteryear, The Matrix. For the first third of the film, Neo thinks he knows and understands the world. But later, after learning some ugly truths, he goes back and is shocked just to see a noodle shop he used to go to a lot. Because now he sees the world as a very different place.

Let’s talk about Phoebe’s world for a little bit and flesh some things out.

We’ve established she doesn’t make a ton of money, and she’s responsible for her teenage sister. These two things are going to be big factors in a lot of her decision making throughout the book. For example, we know she’s not living in a mansion, and even though she’s renting a house, it’s not going to be a great house. Not too big, probably some faults here and there. Maybe crap plumbing or an old, too-small water heater. And the wiring’s from the ‘50s so don’t try to run your laptop and a hairdryer while the lights are on. Plus, this lack of money’s going to be reflected in her diet, her wardrobe, and probably—to some level—her self esteem.

Of course, this isn’t the big element. Phoebe lives in a world where werewolves are real. We already know some of the changes this implies—there are professional werewolf hunters, with lots of related jobs and organizations.

But one of the other things we’ve kinda been dancing around is… who knows? Is the werewolf-hunting world hidden away from prying eyes? Or is it commonly known and you can buy werewolf-repellant spray at every Home Depot?

(seriously, don’t buy that stuff—it’s a scam and it never works)

See, this is really going to change the book depending on which way we go. It’s going to affect who Phoebe can talk with about different things. It’s going to affect her day job. Heck–it’s going to affect how she dresses at different times. If people don’t know werewolves are real, it’s going to be tough explaining why every four weeks or so she goes out wearing a heavy leather trenchcoat, heavy boots, a quiver of crossbow bolts on her belt, a bandolier of silver-plated knives.

Again, it’s a world just like ours, except

I’ve gone back and forth on this while talking about plot and story and character, and I’m going to say people in general don’t know about the werewolves. They exist, they’re 100% real, but to the vast majority of the population, they’re just fiction and folklore. These folks all believe they’re living in the regular real world you and I are living in right now.

Why am I going this way?

First, the more I played around with it, the more it felt like making werewolves something everybody knew about would make my book lean a little more into comedy. Not a full fledged comedy, probably a lot of gallows humor, but it’s still just not the direction I want this to be going. If we’re going to talk about lycanthropy as a global problem, it just seems like we’re going to be very serious (which I don’t want) or pretty goofy (which I also don’t want). Making it so most people don’t know gives me two worlds, essentially, that Phoebe can move back and forth between. This will give me some nice, believable transitions when I want to shift tone a bit one way or the other.

Second is that if everybody know werewolves are real, it’s logical to assume the lodge would be publicly subsidized somehow. Maybe even fall under a state or federal government office. The CDC or maybe the DOD, depending on how I approached it. Heck, maybe the Department of the Interior. This’d put a different tone to the underpaid/undersupplied aspect of Phoebe’s story that I don’t want to deal with.

Also, kind of a third thing, somewhat related to the above point. If we follow the logic that the lodge is connected to the government, then like it or not this story’s becoming a bit of a metaphor. The government having licensed contractors eliminate “undesirables” or the underfunded government office that’s woefully unprepared for a major outbreak. Hahahaa, yeah, no way any of that could seem political in this day and age. I’m not at all against political elements in work, but—for what I want to do with this story—it just feels like it could easily be a little too much right now.

Plus—on a more positive side—I kinda like that werewolves being unknown will add a little more conflict in Phoebe and Luna’s lives. It’s a big aspect of both their lives they have to keep hidden from people, like a good old-fashioned secret identity.

Worth mentioning that thinking about all this solved another small issue and added a little more depth. Why would Phoebe be using a crossbow in this day and age? Well, to be honest, I just said crossbow a couple of times at first because it’s kind of a werewolf-hunter standard. But thinking of the setting and financing made me think of something else. Silver’s expensive, even for the lodge. Oh, sure, if there’s a major outbreak there’s going to be boxes of silver 9mm and buckshot for everybody, but nowadays, on regular patrols, crossbow bolts are reusable, which means they’re cheaper.

Heck, they could be heirlooms you leave to your daughter for when she takes over the family business.

This is also a good place to point out something I see crop up. Some of you might be seeing a contradiction here. I said earlier that characters need to understand the world they live in, but now I’m saying most people don’t know there are werewolves. This really isn’t a contradiction, though. If most people don’t know werewolves are real, then their world is built around the idea that werewolves aren’t real. As I also mentioned above, their day to day experiences tell them they live in a normal, werewolf-free world, and they’re going to act and react to things accordingly.

I know this seems silly to point out, but it’s amazing how often I’ve seen this kind of thing pop up in manuscripts (or geekery movies). Characters are confused/ surprised by/ completely ignorant of the world they live in, and behave in unbelievable ways because of it. I can’t say everybody in the world can read minds, than have one of my characters surprised that somebody read his mind, followed by “Oh, of course—you read my mind. Hahahaa.”

Again… I’ve seen this exact sort of thing.

So play around with your setting a bit. Figure out what it is and how your characters see it. Try to work on a couple of those sharper corners now so we don’t get snagged on things later.

I’ve got one other thing I want to talk about in the A2Q before we (finally) start putting stuff together. But that’ll be in two weeks.

(unless you’re all seriously loving this and just want me to focus on the A2Q for a while. The comments have been kinda dead so I have no idea)

Next time, I’d like to talk a little bit about information and noise.

Until then, go write.

February 7, 2019 / 1 Comment

In Context

            I’m writing up this post as I levitate upside down in my office.  Which—cool thing about this new house—exists in an orbiting satellite that’s only accessible through a teleport array we found in the attic.  Really cuts down on the commute to work, let me tell you…
            Okay, we’ll get back to that.
            I wanted to expand a little bit off something I touched on last week, and that’s the idea of context within a story.  When we talked about it before, I was using it to show how I can’t pull random elements from that story, copy them into my story, and expect them to work the same way
            Quick semi-related question.  What does it mean if I walk up and smack someone?  Full on, five fingers, hard across the face.
            Well, it could mean any number of things.  It could mean they’re a complete jackass.  Or maybe I am.  Maybe they deserved it.  Maybe they’re in shock and I’m trying to bring them around.  We don’t know enough about the circumstances, the background, the existing relationships between me and the person I smacked.
            What if I just walked up and kissed them?  Or slapped their ass.?  Kinda the same thing, right?  We don’t know enough.  Maybe I’m a complete sleaze.  Maybe this is my partner of several years.  Hell, this could mean different things depending on where it happens. Doing it at the office could be extremely inappropriate, but in the locker room this could be a congratulations, and in the bedroom it might be foreplay.
            All of this additional information—the stuff we don’t know in these situations—is the context.  It what makes actions creepy or exciting or exciting in that other way.  As I’ve said before, there can be many different interpretations of the same thing depending on all the other things around it. 
            This becomes extremely important in genre fiction, because one of the big aspects of genre is that we tend to tweak the world a bit.  Maybe superheroes are real.  Or dragons. Or cybernetic implants.  Maybe they’re not just real, they’re common.  Boring, almost.
            For example, take my opening paragraph.  It probably made you smile, because it’s absurd in two or three different ways, right?  Complete nonsense, because we all know how the real world works and I am, no matter how many times I’ve wished otherwise, part of said real world.
            In a genre story, though, all of that could easily be true.  Then it isn’t laughable—it’s setting.  Possibly important plot elements. 
            Charlie Jane Anders made a wonderful observation a while back about how some of her least favorite stories were the ones that got pitched as something like “it’s a world just like ours, except everyone can turn invisible.”  The problem with these stories is that if everyone could turn invisible… well, the world would be completely different.  Views on privacy would’ve changed massively, possibly in different directions depending on how long this power’s been available.  Social views would be different, because anyone might be listening.  Heck, traffic laws would need to be adjusted because what if an invisible three year old wandered into the street?  Technology would be different, because there’d be whole-new priorities in this world.
            And if none of these things have changed… well, that just doesn’t make sense, does it?  Try to think of an aspect of your life that wouldn’t be different if there could be two or three invisible people in the room with you.  Any room.  At any time.
            Context lets me know what is and isn’t possible in this world.  By extension, it lets me know when people’s reactions are appropriate or wildly inappropriate.  If my story doesn’t explain what the limits of my world or characters are–or if I don’t give my readers enough to figure it out—it’s going to limit their investment and immersion in the story.
            For example…
            I watched this movie a while back where a guy hires a live-in maid (occupations and genders may be changed to protect… I don’t know, surely somebody deserves it).  Nothing weird or unusual there, right?  Except when the maid shows up, she’s kind of… well, unnatural.  Pallid, almost gray skin.  Dark circles under the eyes.  Blank stare.  Never speaks.  Tends to move in a kind of slow, lurching way.
            You can kinda see where this is going, right?  Zombie maid.  Clearly.
            But here’s the thing.  Our protagonist and his roommate don’t notice anything unusual about her.  They act like she’s totally normal.  One of them even thinks she’s kinda hot.  Same with other people who stop by.  They all just treat her like… well, the maid.  Or, at the very least, the woman staying at Yakko and Wakko’s place.
            And let me save you an assumption.  This wasn’t a comedy movie.  It bordered on melodramatic horror, really.  Except… nobody was horrified. 
            Well, maybe me…
            So what was going on?
            I watched the whole damned movie and I still don’t know.  Was she a normal woman who just happened to look and act like a zombie for some reason?  Maybe?  But if that was the case, wouldn’t people comment on it?  Since nobody in the movie ever mentions that the new housekeeper looks like one of the walking dead, it seems like this might be, well, a common thing.  In fact, there are two or three scenes where the characters pretty much treat her like an appliance, even putting her in a storeroom at one point.
            But if she wasa zombie maid, shouldn’t that come up?  Heck, even if it’s the most normal thing in this world to have undead people cleaning your home, you think someone would mention it.  And plus… the rest of the time they’re talking to her and acting as if she’s a completely normal person.  Hell, like I mentioned before, the roommate’s even mildly obsessed with “how hot she is” and more than once talks about trying to get her in bed.  Which is a bit odd if she’s supposed to be a zombie.  At least worth a small discussion, yes?
            The real problem was that I couldn’t tell how to feel about any of this.  Were the guys being jackasses who objectified their maid—which would imply I shouldn’t like them, right?  Or was this a normal reaction, the way you or I would treat the vacuum cleaner when we weren’t using it?  Was the roommate’s desire to have sex with the maid kinda weird?  Full on creepy?  Hell, maybe even normal?  I don’t understand the world, so I don’t have any context to base these reactions in.
            And just to be utterly, completely clear—there’s nothing wrong with a story about zombie maids.  That’s the basis for a very cool story.  I’d never say otherwise.  Heck, it’s the basis for Fido, a really fun movie.  But if this is the world I’m setting my story in, I need to be clear this is… well, the world my story’s taking place in.
            All that said, it’s really common to start off with a story set in “the real world”  and then it suddenly veers off into the realm of magic, aliens, and/or elder gods.  We’ve all seen it.  If you like hearing about three act structure, this kinda thing is a common way the first act ends.  Again, nothing wrong with this.  Like I said, it’s really common and I bet we’ve all got a favorite story or six that does this.
            Why can they do it?  Well, if you look at these stories, the big reveal that zombie cyborg lizard men are secretly running Wall Street is pretty much always structured as a low-level twist—it doesn’t alter the context, it enhances it.  These reveals force us to look at a lot of earlier story events in a new light.  They don’t actually contradict anything we’ve already seen in those first two or three chapters.  And since they happen early in the story, they’re not asking us to rethink a lot of assumptions or beliefs about these characters or the world they live in.
            There’s also another way to pull off this context shift, and it’s one that you’ve probably seen done a couple times.  I do it in Dead Moon.  Heck, J.K. Rowling copied it from the original Predator.  No seriously.
            Okay, not seriously.
            Just tell them right up front.
            Most people tend to forget, but Predator begins with an alien spaceship doing a fly-by of Earth and launching a landing pod as it zooms past.  That’s the very first shot in the movie.  Seriously.  And then it’s half an hour of Arnold and Shane Black shooting guys in the very real-world jungle before we see another hint of the alien.  Same with Harry Potter.  Sure, there’s all that stuff about Harry’s miserable childhood with the Dursleys, but the first chapter’s all about magic cats and a flying motorcycle.  Rowling all but openly says right up front there’s a magic world the Dursleys are desperately trying to ignore, despite their clear connection to it.
            What this does is establish right up front these are genre worlds, no matter how normal they may seem as we ease into the story.  When they take their sharp turn, it isn’t out of nowhere. It’s just a reminder of what we’ve already been told.
            Y’see, Timmy, without this context, my readers are left in a kind of “anything goes” situation.  Which it makes it really hard to have stakes.  Which means they won’t be able to make any kind of investment in either the plot or the characters.
            And no investment means no reason to keep reading.
            Next week is a double-header for me.  It’s Valentine’s Day and I have a new book coming out.  Have I mentioned Dead Moon?  Two or three times?  Today?  Okay, just checking.
            Anyway, I’m going to be busy on Thursday.  But I’ll probably put something up earlier.  In the spirit of the holiday, I’ve been thinking it’s about time we talked about… you know.
            Until then, go write.