Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tesla Fire - Writing Hint?

Recently here in the state of Washington a Tesla made headlines by going up in flames—and the fire started in the battery. Is there a writing lesson here? 
photo by Plug In America
People assume that batteries are safe compared to something nasty like gasoline—and I’m certainly not saying this is evidence that Tesla batteries are unsafe. But consider: A tank full of gas has to contain enough energy to propel a car weighing thousands of pounds at freeway speeds for a considerable distance. A battery in an electric car has to contain a similar amount of energy. A moment’s reflection will reveal that the potential for fiery disaster exists with either sort of propulsion.

I already had this concept in mind because of a steampunk discussion at a science fiction convention. An artist there was an enthusiastic fan of a Victorian author who wrote about a fantastical machine that could fly from the temperate regions all the way up to the polar regions. The author glossed over the fuel problem by saying it was battery-powered. But the artist pointed out that a battery that compact that would contain that much energy would explode if it were bumped a little.

So go ahead and write your artful accounts of powered machines that don’t use a petroleum product. But acknowledge your readers will have a brain: incredible concentrations of energy will be dangerous. On the other hand, that can make for interesting plot complications. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays—Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. We’re to post two random sentences from our current reads. Mine happens to be from Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics

Both sentences are from Spock, referring to chess: 

“I wouldn’t call it brooding . . . But I have estimated the probability of your beating me at 47.3%”  —p. 122. 

Most people don’t remember the Star Trek comic strips that started in 1979.  Since the stories would continue from one comic strip to the next, this collection has the feel of a graphic novel, composed of a number of short stories.  As the cover above shows, the artwork was more than decent for a daily strip.   

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rhiannon Held’s Tips on Writing

I’ve seen Rhiannon Held a few times at conventions or readings.  Her current book is Tarnished, available at the usual places.  She’s given some helpful writing tips on her blog, based on the movie Pacific Rim. 

And she appears in period dress

I never saw the movie, and it’s not necessary to benefit from her tips.  When she took her first tip from the movie, “Establishing scale” and applied it to writing, I knew she had something insightful going on. 

So look at her blog and see if it helps with your overall writing.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moving Paragraphs

While revising my werewolf story (don’t worry, it’s not a sexy werewolf story), I realized a few paragraphs were dragging things down.  They were meant to increase tension, carry the story forward, and give personal insights into a couple of the characters.  As Jess says, every scene should have multiple functions, right?  Well, these didn’t work, so I planned to delete them. 

The paragraphs are struck through with heavy Xs

Later on in the same chapter, I realized these paragraphs would work.  The main character is getting fed up, and adding these same paragraphs would get him to the point where he’s just had it. 

What’s important is not to just copy and paste them into the other scene with mild adjustments to make the grammar work.  It’s best to rewrite the paragraphs word-by-word while putting them in.  Why?  In that act of rewriting, the author may make changes to match the word rhythm of this other scene, or realize it’s necessary to tighten up parts of the writing, or explain some concept with more detail.  You wouldn’t want some other guy to plop down paragraphs in your story, would you?  In this case that other guy is you, and what you were doing in some other part of your story.  


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