Tag Archives: novella

The Art of Writing: Brainstorming

So, you want to write your next big novel or short story. The first step (at least it is for me) is to brainstorm your story. Jot down all you can about your story. Start with the characters: the people around which the story revolves. Who is the main character? What characteristics define them? What are their goals? Is there a love interest? Do the same for him or her. Flesh them out. Once you have your characters straight, you can work on the plot of the story. What’s the conflict? What drives the tension? What is the story arc? Every story must have a beginning, middle, and end. Differentiate between such things here while you’re brainstorming. Don’t get upset if it’s still a little muddled, or even if you have more than one exclusive storyline in mind. You’ll straighten it out by the time you’re done. Brainstorming, as we were all taught in school, is just about stirring the pot of ideas. Write down everything you can think of. Every little detail. It doesn’t matter how small, nor does it even matter if it contradicts something you’ve already written down. Just get ideas on paper.

 

When are you done? Well, it depends on the length of the work in question. If it’s just a short story, you’re probably done when you have delineated the main characters and fleshed out the plotline. Then, you can start writing. If it’s a novel, you have to do the same type of work, but the details can be a little less clear. Many novelists change things or add things halfway through their work. Don’t feel boxed in because you’ve already brainstormed a path for your novel. Leave yourself some flexibility; it’s all part of the creative process.

 

Once you are done brainstorming your ideas, the next step is to outline your story. Of course, all of this is moot if you are a “pantser.” That is, a writer that writes by the seat of their pants. They kind of brainstorm as they go along. I used to be like that, but no more. Now I plot things out. Must be my old age, I guess. 🙂

 

Infinity Blade: Redemption (Brandon Sanderson)

Infinity Blade: Redemption is the second Infinity Blade novella written by Brandon Sanderson. From what I can tell, the novellas are being written in tandem with the computer apps, of which there are three: Infinity Blade I, Infinity Blade II, and Infinity Blade III. I have Infinity Blade I for my Apple Ipad. I’ve played it a few times, but have never completed it. It’s an interesting approach: having interspersed novellas to cover background story material between the release of each version of the app. It does have one drawback, though: I, as a reader, do not get a full story or even succession of stories out it. The first Infinity Blade novella covers material in between apps I and II. This second novella covers material between apps II and III. That was kind of annoying going in, because I had become somewhat invested in the characters and to start reading without having played app II was somewhat disorienting. Still, it was a fun novella. Unfortunately, the series will be completed by app III. So, the cliffhanger ending that I got at the end of this novella will have to suffice for me as I have no intention of playing the app.

 

Anyway, this novella continues the story of Siris and Isa in their quest to defeat the evil God-King and free the people of his land. That was the original quest, anyway, but by this stage in the game things have changed a bit: Siris finds himself imprisoned with the God King. They are locked in a perpetual struggle in a chamber neither one can escape; they take turns (not by agreement though) killing each other, until finally, Isa manages to set them free. Now, Siris finds his quest transformed. It was the famous Worker of Secrets whom Siris sought out as a potential ally against the God-King who imprisoned the two Deathless, leaving them to their hellish struggle against one another. Now, two years later, Siris must seek him out again, but not as ally, instead as foe. This novella details that quest, a quest that may find him making alliance with that Deathless he was once sworn to destroy: the God-King himself.

 

Strengths: It was written by Brandon Sanderson, so it’s got to be good! Well, it is. The characters were well fleshed out and believable. The pacing was great. The twists were good. And there was more backstory dropped in to explain how the world in question (apparently Earth) came to be the way it was. There were also hints dropped to tie the series to the ancient Egyptian gods. All in all it was a blast. Weaknesses: well, you are missing a good chunk of story if you are not playing the Infinity Blade apps (like me). It’s kind of annoying actually. And it certainly detracted from my enjoyment. If I had known that going in, I probably would never have even read the first novella. I would have skipped it: I’m not much into computer games, anymore.

 

Anyway, I’ll give Brandon Sanderson’s Infinity Blade: Redemption four and a half stars out of five if you are playing the games; otherwise, that is too much of a handicap and it warrants only three and a half stars out of five.

Novella Review: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a rather long novella (112 pages) written by H.P. Lovecraft. It tells the story of a certain mental patient by the name of Charles Dexter Ward. It begins with his early formative years where he displays an interest in all things antiquated. It then moves on into his early twenties when trouble starts. However, in order to tell the story properly, early in the work Lovecraft takes us back another 170 years or so, to the life and times of Joseph Curwen. Joseph Curwen is a practitioner of witchcraft—and I don’t mean an innocuous Wiccan. Oh, no, Joseph Curwen delves dark and deep, and has no qualms about killing anyone who gets in his way. It begins with the summoning of the shades of long dead people, but other horrors are hinted at, too.

 

The story starts with Joseph Curwen on his farm in Pawtucket, R.I. (I think it’s Rhode Island) where he is ensconced in his magical rites. His exceptional long life and other dark dealings breed sinister rumours about him. Eventually, the populace rises against him, raids his homestead, and in a final battle manage to kill him. But his activities are not through. Fast forward, 170 years to the time of Charles Dexter Ward. This young budding historian is the descendant of Joseph Curwen’s. And, when he discovers a painting of the old sorcerer, almost an exact double of the man. Ward, entranced by his own love of history and the things of a bygone era, continues to dig, and dig deep. Soon, he is traipsing off to Europe in his search, only to come back a changed man. Now, his family begin to truly worry for him. His searches have affected his mind. He has become obsessed. And, when two mysterious strangers join him in his efforts, the family’s worries multiply. The strangers are odd folk; some might even say sinister. What hold does the long-dead Joseph Curwen have over these men? And what is their ultimate design? I’ll leave that for the intrepid reader to find out for himself.

 

Strengths: this novella is horror, it is not fantasy. As I have read countless fantasy stories, horror stories never manage to “shock” me. I have to be in the right mood for a horror story to really sink in and absorb the ambience. That said, I enjoyed this novella immensely. It told a pretty gripping tale, and it told it well. All the loose ends were tied off, and yet a whole range of facets were left to the reader’s imagination to fill in. Lovecraft does that a lot. Weaknesses: I think some of Lovecraft’s writing may be overburdened with long, multi-syllabic words and descriptions. That’s usually a mistake of young writers, and I’m not sure when this particular piece was written in Lovecraft’s career. In any event, it can make his writing cumbersome at times; although, then again, that may just be because he was writing one hundred years ago (or nearly so) and the language may have changed slightly since now and then.

 

Anyway, I’ll give The Case of Charles Dexter Ward four stars or maybe even four and a half stars out of five.

Novella Review: Infinity Blade: Awakening

“Infinity Blade: Awakening” is a short novella by Brandon Sanderson (currently my favorite author). There is also a computer game out called “Infinity Blade” (I have the app for my iPad) and both game and novella are intertwined. I’m not sure which came first, but either way, Sanderson’s novella makes a kind of a cool story. It’s a mix of fantasy and sci-fi … actually, it is sci-fi where the protagonist is a primitive character that regards technology as magic and treats it accordingly. Kind of an interesting combination. Also, it is worth pointing out, that this is the first novella in a series. At the time of this writing, I believe the next book of the series is due out fairly soon. I’ll probably read it, because I did enjoy this one quite a bit; I read it all in a single day.

 

The novella tells the story of Siris, the human being chosen as the Sacrifice from the village of Drem’s Maw. According to tradition, one family has the honor of providing a single male child (the Sacrifice) to be raised as a warrior to fight the hated God-king in a single duel to the death. The God-king is one of, and the leader of, the Deathless, a race of immortals that have enslaved humanity. The story begins with the surprising fact of Siris’ victory over the God-king; he fought an unbeatable foe and won. But that is just the beginning. Now, he possesses the God-king’s weapon: the Infinity Blade; the only weapon capable of permanently slaying one of the Deathless. And the other Deathless know he has it. He returns to Drem’s Maw, but is not welcomed. Realizing his very existence is a threat to those he cares about, he sets off to lead possible pursuers away.  Along the way, he meets a female assassin named Isa who, when she’s not trying to kill him, proves to be a reliable companion instrumental to his survival. Together they set off to unravel the mysteries of the Infinity Blade and find its maker: the Worker of Secrets.

 

Strengths: like most of Sanderson’s work, the prose is smooth, the action well-paced, and the story is sprinkled with humor. Weaknesses: there weren’t many. My only complaint was that one or two places were overly-humorous. I mean, I’m reading a fantasy adventure novella not a comedy; some of the back-and-forths between Siris and Isa seemed a bit forced and overextended. Oh well. Still, it was an excellent read.

 

I’ll give it four and a half stars out of five.

 

Oh, and check out my Stupid Hobgoblin Jokes from the two weeks ago and vote in the poll … just for kicks!