Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

BOOTCAMP LESSON 10: Overcoming Obstacles.


Welcome to January’s writing game!



            After explaining the importance of failure within a story line, I thought it would be a good idea to practice what we learned. The goal of today’s game will be to have a character find a solution to a difficult scenario, while failing their first attempt.



Lesson 10: Overcoming Obstacles


Previously, I explained how Conflict is the interaction between two opposing forces. In a storyline, we see this phenomenon when the protagonist is confronted by a conflicting force or an antagonist, which hinders the progress between them and their goal.


Obstacles suggests the protagonists may not succeed in achieving these actions, thus adding uncertainty and tension to the storyline. The risk of failure can also be beneficial to the protagonist and the antagonist, by adding to their personal growth or credibility.


The goal of this writing exercise will be to take the four offered scenarios and find ways for the characters to overcome the respective obstacles. However, before succeeding at their task, you must have them fail their first attempt, before successfully achieving their objective.


So here are today's guidelines!


  1. Below are three scenarios to work with.
  2. Following each scenario, you will find five criteria;
    1. Confrontation: Moment of interaction with the conflict.
    2. Failure: Failed attempt at reaching the goal.
    3. Recovery: Retreat/distance from the conflict.
    4. Contemplation: Understand why they failed.
    5. Planning: Change of strategy but at a higher cost.
  3. Write a short description of how the character will go through each step of the failure process.


Scenario 1:
Dark alley.


It’s nighttime, and Lindsay is running down a dark alley at a frantic pace. Lindsay is desperately trying to stay ahead of whoever is pursuing her. In her haste, she fails to notice a street vendor who is putting away his merchandise, running right past him. The old vendor looks at the woman questioningly, before being knocked down by a tall dark stranger. The brute kept running without even slowing, too intent on catching up to his next victim.”


The situation here is Lindsay is being pursued by mysterious assailant. Her goal would be to escape safely. How would Lindsay deal with the situation:
  1. Confrontation:
  2. Failure:
  3. Recovery:
  4. Contemplation:
  5. Planning:


Scenario 2:


Cafe.


“John is sitting at a table in a coffee shop, working on a school assignment on his laptop. He actually hates the food in this establishment, his only reason for eating here is to flirt with the waitress he has had an eye on for several weeks. Just as John is working up the courage to ask the beautiful blond for her number, Evan arrives. This handsome young man is John’s lab assistant at school, and proceeds to take a seat at the table next to him. Evan immediately gets the waitress's attention and starts flirting her.”


The situation here is John is attempting to approach the cute waitress. His goal would be to ask her out on a date before Evan does. How would John deal with the situation:
  1. Confrontation:
  2. Failure:
  3. Recovery:
  4. Contemplation:
  5. Planning:


Scenario 3:


Retirement home.
   
“At a local retirement home, Larry is enjoying a cup of green tea in the communal area before returning to his room. While doing his crossword puzzle, Larry overhears one of the orderlies mention budget cuts and how it will affect the recreational activities for the residents, one in particular being bingo night. A huge fan of bingo, Larry refuses to accept this situation, and plans on dealing with it in anyway possible.”


The situation here is Larry is protesting the decisions taken by the retirement home administration staff. His goal would be to stop the cancellation of bingo night. How would Larry deal with the situation:
  1. Confrontation:
  2. Failure:
  3. Recovery:
  4. Contemplation:
  5. Planning:


For those who aren’t afraid to share their entries, feel free to submit your entries as a reply to this post. Remember, this is a game, so no posting bad comments about other people's entries. If some simply want to share in private, send me a message via twitter @OzmosisCoH.


Now go! Create! And most importantly, have fun!


Until Next time!

Patrick Osborne

Thursday, January 21, 2016

By the Book: Republic Commando: Hard Contact.


Welcome back!



Like a large portion of the world's population, I am guilty of being swept up in the latest Star Wars craze. The movie brought back a lot of fond memories for me, so out of nostalgia I decided to do the January book review on a novel inspired by this popular franchise.


Though not a hardcore fan of the franchise, I’ve enjoyed Star Wars ever since being exposed to it at a young age. My parents had recorded Episode IV when the french version originally aired on television back in the early 80’s. I remember watching that recording repeatedly until I knew it by heart (to this day, I still remember what commercials had been recorded when it aired). I also remember the first time my family rented Star Wars Episode V on VHS, and when we returned it, rented Episode VI. Needless to say my parents saw I was hooked and got me a bunch of Star Wars toys the following Christmas, including the Millennium Falcon! There are a lot of childhood memories attached to this franchise.


The story focuses on a newly assembled squad of clone commandos. Each soldier are the sole surviving member of their previous unit, now placed together to form a new group. This situation helps emphasize the theme of individuality, as the story explores how each clone deals with the loss of their previous unit (the closest thing they have to family), and how they find their place in this new unit. Their first mission together is to go to a planet named Qiilura in order to rescue a missing Jedi knight and his padawan. The planet is also where a group of Mercenaries are hired to protect a scientist and his work on a nano-virus meant to target clones. The story sees the squad locate the Jedi before tackling their mission against the merciless Ghez Hokan and  his forces.


Image result for star wars hard contact


Back of the book:

“As the Clone Wars rage, victory or defeat lies in the hands of elite squads that take on the toughest assignments in the galaxy—stone-cold soldiers who go where no one else would, to do what no one else could…



On a mission to sabotage a nanovirus research facility on a Separatist-held planet, four clone troopers operate under the very noses of their enemies. The commandos are outnumbered and outgunned, deep behind enemy lines with no backup—and working with strangers instead of trusted teammates. Matters don't improve when Darman, the squad's demolitions expert, gets cut off from the others during planetfall. Even Darman's apparent good luck in meeting a Jedi Padawan vanishes once she admits to her woeful inexperience.



For the isolated clone commandos and stranded Jedi, a long, dangerous journey lies ahead, through hostile territory brimming with Trandoshan slavers, Separatists , and suspicious natives. A single misstep could mean discovery … and death. It's a virtual suicide mission for anyone—anyone except Republic Commandos.”


What I learned
  • Background knowledge: When writing a story based on someone else's franchise, especially something as well known as Star Wars, it is important to do your research in order to avoid any mistakes. Karen Traviss has proven to be very knowledgable about the Star Wars universe, and was faithful to the content. However, this story was written with the hardcore connoisseurs of the franchise in mind, not the everyday fan. I say this because the story gives minimal descriptions to places, people or species, assuming the reader is already familiar with them. Thankfully, elements or characters invented by the author are fleshed out, giving the inexperienced fan a better idea of what is going on. Being only a casual fan, this had me looking up the Star Wars wiki on more than one occasion to figure out what they were talking about.
  • Individuality: A theme that stood out in this story is individuality. Ii displays an army of clones that originate from the same biological donor, look identical and are all trained the same way. However, despite all these similarities, the main characters have grown into individuals, each with different character traits and opinions. I found the author's approach to highlight this fact quite interesting.
  • The sense of family: Having been in the army cadets when I was younger, I know the feeling of camaraderie one gets when working on a team with others. The story does a great job of showing how important a sense of family can be and how it can find itself even within manufactured lifeforms. This aspect added a nice sensitivity to an otherwise action filled story.


Karen Traviss is a science fiction author who has written content for novels, short stories, comics, and videogames. For those interested in learning more about the author, Karen Traviss, please check out her websites here:




In closing, I would like to thank my step-son Shawn for lending me this book. I would also like to thank my wife, family and followers for all the encouragement and support you keep giving me during my journey.


Until next time!


Cheers,


Patrick Osborne

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Importance of Failure


Welcome back!



As the holiday season comes to a close, we finally get the time to sit back and relax before our lives get back to normal. However for some of us, this time of year means anything but returning to a regular routine. New year's resolutions are a popular tradition for many people wanting to have a fresh start with the beginning of another year. Sadly, many of us will fail those objectives because we often set goals too high or lack the motivation to reach them. Failure is an important part of the learning process which everyone goes through.


Though this might sound like the beginning of a motivational speech or a self help book, I do have a point to make. As in life, failure plays an important part in fiction.


You must fall before learning how to pick yourself up.


Here is a condensed recap from some of my previous lessons:
   
A story is a series of interconnected events, built around a setting and cast of characters, which leads the audience to an intended conclusion. This outcome is the central objective of a story which motivates the Protagonist to act. Before reaching their goal, the Protagonist is usually confronted with a conflict or an obstacle, hindering the progress between them and their goal.


In literary terms, failure is easy enough to understand; it is a negative consequence to an action if success is not achieved. But how does this apply to fiction? Look at consequences as a coin toss; your possible outcomes are heads or tails (win or lose). The concept of “win or lose” can therefore be considered as an integral component of both the goal and the conflict. Without failure, (or at least the possibility thereof) the characters in a story would have no challenges to overcome, making the story stagnant.


Making the audience believe the Protagonist might fail is important, as it adds tension to the storyline. Failure is also vital for character development, as it adds credibility to their existence as well as being a part of their personal growth throughout the story. The risk of failure also makes the pitfalls or antagonists more threatening, because if the source of conflict did not have the power to defeat the Protagonist, they would seem irrelevant.


Failure can be happen in many ways, but usually originates from one of two sources: either from lacking or misinterpreting. In terms of lacking, the Protagonist simply does not have what is needed to achieve his goal. This could be anything from not being strong enough to defeat a monster, not having enough charm to win someone’s attention or not having enough money to buy a car. In terms of misinterpreting, the Protagonist fails to achieve his goal through a mistake on his part. An example could be when a trap backfires because the Protagonist did not take into account a certain piece of information (à la Scooby Doo).


However, correctly integrating failure in a storyline can be a challenge in itself. Here are eight steps to incorporating failure in a story.


Guidelines to proper failure:


1. Goal: Before we can show how the Protagonist will fail, we need to determine what they will fail at. The plans the main character decide upon must be defined and shared with the reader in order to see how failure will affect their expected outcome. Goals must also be important in the eyes of the characters, so as to amplify the costs of failure.


2. Conflict: The conflict is the obstacle preventing the Protagonist from reaching their goal. Conflict needs to be clearly defined, as it is the why failure has occurred. Keep in mind, the more imposing the conflict, the bigger the threat of failure will be, creating more tension in the process.


3. Confrontation: A confrontation is the moment the Protagonist interacts with the conflict. It is the pivotal moment where the audience witnesses the results of the Protagonists planning and decision making. A story will usually have more than one confrontation, often being series of failures leading up to a final, overall victory.


4. Consequence: The outcome from a confrontation is either success or failure, depending on actions taken or decisions made. If successful, the conflict is rectified, the goal is reached and the setting returns to normal. If unsuccessful, the Protagonist must now deal with the new situation resulting from the failed attempt.


5. Recovery: Having lost the confrontation and failed to achieve their goal, the Protagonist will temporarily distance themselves from the conflict in order to recoup from the new situation. Depending on the type of story, the recovery phase can be anything from narrowly escaping a dangerous situation to storming out of a dinner party.


6. Contemplation: Having distanced themselves from the conflict, the main character takes time to react the situation resulting from their loss. They evaluate the consequences, analyze any new information and try to understand why they failed.


7. Planning: In this phase, the Protagonist changes their strategy and considers a different approach to resolve the conflict. These alternatives should prove to be a bigger challenge than the initial attempt, requiring new elements the main character must acquire before proceeding (these elements could be abilities, items, knowledge, etc.). Once these new requirements have been obtained and a plan is chosen, the Protagonist makes the necessary preparations for another attempt to reach the goal.


8. Repeat: Armed with a new plan, the character confronts the conflict again. Go back to step 3, and repeat the process until the Protagonist is successful is step 4.


There is no limit to the amount of times a character can fail in a storyline, as no one ever accomplishes a difficult task on the first try. However, like everything else in literature, there must be balance. If the character fails too often, the reader will begin questioning the Protagonists abilities and motives. If a character proves to be so talented that they always succeed, the story will have no tension and the reader will lose interest. In both cases, the story risks losing credibility with the audience.


Who ever thought learning how to fail would come in handy! That is all I have for now, I hope you all take away something from this lesson. Until next time.


Cheers,

Patrick Osborne

Monday, January 11, 2016

Interview - Cheing L. Winston


Welcome back!


    For this month's interview, we have the pleasure of meeting the published and prolific author, Cheing L. Winston.  


Like so many other authors, I have met Cheing on the Facebook page called The Better Writer’s Group. She works in many different fields, such as a director, a writer and a consultant. She also offers help to aspiring writers through her book and a periscope segment.


   




Short  Bio:


My name is Cheing L.Winston. I am a screenwriter,  ghostwriter, writing consultant, film director and novelist. I have written over twenty screenplays and two short screenplays which I wrote and directed that were featured in the Washington metropolitan film festivals. I currently hold a weekly periscope segment each Tuesday, at 7:30pm eastern time, entitled “The Frustrated Writer”. Also have a book of the same title that provides a resources for aspiring writers. The book and periscope segment explores various avenues of creativity such as screenplays, web series, blogging, journaling and many other creative art forms. I am also a writing consultant and I provide services to assist aspiring writers, such as developing a writing plan and outline before your put the pen to paper or finger to the computer, and I assist writers with ways to garner inspiration and identifying your target audience as well as how to market your product using social media and online networks.

Current Projects:


My recent projects includes the upcoming “The Frustrated Writer” book and a children's animated series entitle "Puppy Love", which is currently slated for spring 2016 on a local cable channel.  I am also working on a new screenplay entitled "Life's Fight"  that is in discussion with two production companies. As a ghost writer, I have written three feature length screenplays and two novels adaptations into a screenplay. And I will never forget where I got my start, in academic writing. I still write for several local colleges in the area of finance and investment analysis theory.

When did you begin writing?


Well like most young people, I started doodling and writing poetry at the age of 13 to amass the difficulty of being an awkward adolescent. I did not realize I enjoyed writing until I was in my twenties when I worked as software developer writing scripts for computers. I know that is not  what most people call creative writing, however I believe all forms of writing can be a creative expression. Let me answer the question this way, I started my creative writing track about twelve years ago. I wrote a theatrical play for a group of youth at my church hence my creative genius emerged.


Did you receive any special training or attend a school?


Yes, I attended several writing courses at Georgetown University in Washington DC to hone my craft in creative writing. There were screenwriting courses, writing for television and a creative writing book course respectively, and I had courses in business writing that now fit perfectly with my writing career.


Where do you get your inspiration from?


My inspirations comes from life itself. I usually write screenplays that address circumstances in many people's lives. For example, I was a college professor and I noticed many of my students used prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them, hence I penned two screenplays in a college setting about illegal prescription drug usage. The majority of my inspiration comes from observing people, mainly young people. The innocence of life is quite rewarding and it gives me a perspective I lost while in the pursuit of aging.

Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)


When I write, I often use my IPad and iPhone because I like to take pictures often as a way of inspiration for the subject that interest me. Of course the usual laptop and, on occasion, a pen and paper for that doodling I  began years ago. I find it is a great way to jog my mind during times when my devices are not readily available. When I write screenplays, I use Script pro and Celtx, Final Draft screenwriting software to outline my screenplay and of course word processor to create a synopsis and story outline.


What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?


The most important things to remember when writing is a subject I speak about in detail in my new book entitled “The  Frustrated Writer”, is to know why you write. Let me explain, not everybody is going to be the next New York Times best selling author or win an SaG award for their screenplay. I believe if we realize that upfront, it minimizes the frustration and in turn, allows us the freedom to be creative and enjoy the writing process. The second most important thing to remember is who you are writing for, your intended audience. For example, if you  create a journal for your family reunion you already know your audience, so you don't spend months and days posting your journal waiting for feedback from a book club that is intended for friends and family. The frustration and disappointment I speak about in  "The Frustrated Writer” book comes when you write a manuscript with hopes that a broader audience will enjoy and they do not.  Please remember, it is nothing against you or your writing style, it is more based on knowing your audience and your market reach. It is a very important aspect to consider even before you put the pen to the paper.


What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?


The most challenging part about writing, I believe, is understanding why you are passionate about your story. What I mean is, there are many people who have a story or idea inside of them, but the best writers are the ones who take the necessary time to research and develop their story. For me, I believe every story needs to be developed properly, understanding your characters, what drives or motivates them, what's the journey of transformation that you want you readers to embark upon, and don't be afraid to expose yourself. Even if it is a personal story, I believe you should develop a great back story. I guess to minimize your challenges in writing, research and development is a necessary evil.


Did you use an agent, and how did you get your book published?


Yes, I am currently working with an agent on my animated project. The benefits of an agent or manager is access. You gain access to opportunities and people you alone may not be aware of. Also an agent can assist you with getting a literary manager, someone who can assist you in development of your writing career. I must also say there are projects I have worked on without representation of an agent and there has been advantages and disadvantages with each approach.


Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?


Absolutely. I use an editor, as I believe their skills are invaluable. Meaning, if you have the right editor they will assist you in story structure, grammar, pitch and tone, something you alone cannot do. As a writer, I believe your best usage is to be creative and get the story written while allowing the other professional to assist you from getting your story from good to a great. On my previous periscope entitled  "I got your back", it is a segment dedicated to knowing when to seek assistance to get your project to the next level. I have enclosed the video for your audience consideration. (http://www.pikore.com/m/1074657658805801678_1836679467)


My publishing needs have been through self publishing for “The Frustrated Writer”, as it is a short read. But since then, I have sought out the assistance of a vanity publishing company for my next book entitled " The Secret". My reason for this is simply time constraints. I find for self publishing if you have the time and limited resources it is great, with the vanity publishing their is shared time where I pay a little more and the publishers provides more marketing, press releases and online features such as book clubs and feedback platforms.


Do you handle your own marketing?


Yes, I handle some of my marketing. What that means is, for certain projects I have several social media sites where I solicit, my network of individuals and groups for certain projects. But other facet of my marketing, I spend a fee each month for email blast and screenplay blast that market my up-and-coming projects to multiple film directors and producers. As well, I occasionally use twitter marketers to send out my synopsis of my books daily to a few thousand subscribers. At the end of it all, you as a writer/author are responsible for marketing your product, and in "the frustrated writer" book, I discuss several ways to build your own network and do informal engagement to solicit your target market.


What is your best marketing tip?


My best marketing tip is before you start writing, gaze at your target market before you have skin in the game. Meaning when an idea for a manuscript storms your mind, develop a small focus group of friends and family, causally discuss your project without committing the details. Basically, secretly build a consensus on your project, take their feedback and comments, and build your audience. Secondly, causally put a few sentences of your project on your social media account such as Facebook, twitter, Instagram, where you can garner interest and feedback. Beware when you expose your projects. Have thick skin, meaning everyone will not have a favorable opinion of your work, use that to hone your story but don't take it personally, keep writing.


What advice do you have for other writers?


My advice for writers is know and be passionate about what you write. Write whether you get monetary gain or public acknowledgement, because for many of us, that might never present itself. Unleashing your creative genius should be your goal. Why is this important? Because there will be many days where inspiration is fleeting and motivation struggles between bout of nothingness and disappointment. To remember, you write because you have a great story to tell and that you believe what you write will provide inspiration and education in someone else's life. That will be the motivation to continue when everything around signals that you should give it up.


I found this interview very informative, and I hope everyone here did as well. I would like to thank Cheing Winston for taking the time to take this interview, as it was very much appreciated.


Until Next time,

Patrick Osborne