Tag: Storytelling

Challenge Completed!

At the start of this month, I challenged myself to write a new 800-1650 word blog post for every day in May, by the end of the month. It is now 9:11 PM on May 31, and this will be my 31st and final blog post for this month, completing my challenge!

 

  1. May Challenges, Past and Present
  2. Where Do I Get My Wonderful Ideas
  3. So You Have An Idea
  4. A Burgundy Evening
  5. You Know The Tune
  6. Being An Invisible Writer
  7. The Nature and Nurture of Pain
  8. Twitter, Huh, What Is It Good For?
  9. Why I Don’t Write Reviews For My Fellow Erotica Authors
  10. Why He Thinks You’re Pretty
  11. Finding Words & Thoughts
  12. Got Mentioned in the “Loving BDSM” Podcast!
  13. NOT In A Single Word
  14. Why I Don’t Use Trigger Warnings
  15. In Which I Battle Myself To Write This
  16. “This Has Never Happened To Me”
  17. How To Suck Your Own Cock
  18. Rejection Letters
  19. Stop Kinkshaming Ammosexuals
  20. Aaron Gold’s “Don’t Mind If I Don’t” Podcast
  21. Myself As Well
  22. Avatars & Objects
  23. Is It Okay To Fantasize About Being Raped?
  24. Hobbies, Skills, and Passions
  25. Is It Okay To Fantasize About Raping People?
  26. Is It Okay To Write Rape Fantasies?
  27. How To Have An Orgasm (Solo)
  28. How To Have Multiple Orgasms (Males)
  29. How To Write An Orgasm
  30. Where To Start The Story
  31. Challenge Completed!

I started my Goodreads Blog (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7514047.Richard_Bacula/blog)  

on April 16, 2014. Between that day and April 30, 2018, I had managed to write a whopping FIVE blog posts:

1. Jagermeister Night

  1. How To Be As Sexy As A Dead Deer
  2. The Nature of Storytelling
  3. Size Is Everything
  4. “Amazon.Com Has Rejected Your Product Review”

 

I’ve never been good at blogging, but it’s something that one needs to do in order to create a platform and to let the world know that you exist, and that you’re interesting. So this year–after utterly failing last year’s challenge–I got the idea of writing blog posts instead of erotic stories. As far as I’m concerned, it’s been a success.

I increased my total blog content by six fold, I got to say a lot of things that I apparently wanted to say, and I had fun. I mean, I’m tired, but it’s been fun doing this! I have more of a feel for writing blogs, and I have more practice now. This makes me more likely to write more in the future.

One of the other things that makes me more likely to write more blogs in the future is that I now have a WordPress blog set up in addition to my original GoodReads blog. It’s a better website, with lots of neat features that have helped me out, and that I think will help me out in the future.

One of the problems that I’ve had as a writer became painfully clear to me this past month: I’m not a tortoise–I’m a hare. I’m not slow and steady; I’m fast and furious. I can get a lot done in a limited amount of time, but then I tire out, and I turn to other things. Usually, the chaos of my life and my Fucking Day Job take hold, and lots of time passes before I get back to whatever writing project I was on last.

When it comes to attracting blog audiences, you need to produce regular content, and getting to the keyboard on a regular basis just isn’t my thing. I’m not capable of doing that until I can write full time, and don’t have all the distractions that I have now (like paying rent). But what I can do is to, next chance I get, write a bunch of new blog posts like I’ve done this month, and to have WordPress automatically post them at regular intervals. I can sprint, then I can rest while WordPress tortoises on for me.

That makes me a LOT more enthusiastic about blogging!

Also, I live for feedback. One of the things that has kept me motivated this past month is watching all the Notifications about people around the world Liking my posts, Following my blog, and generally noticing that I exist. This hasn’t translated to sales, but enthusiasm and morale is just as important in many ways. So I say this:
If you want me to keep writing this blog regularly, give me feedback!!

I can use the help to nudge me in this direction. It doesn’t have to be Comments on my posts (although those are ideal and awesome!). You can just send me a tweet @RichardBacula, or an email RichardBacula@Gmail.Com, letting me know that you read something I wrote here, and what you thought.

At this point, 9:37 PM on May 31, everything is written. Some of it won’t get published on WordPress until tomorrow or later, and it’ll be later still before I get everything up on clunky old Goodreads. This might be my last blog post for a while, or it might not. Part of that depends on you, and part depends on me.

Thanks for your support this past month!

(I’m gonna go drink until I pass out.)

Where to Start the Story

One of the trickiest parts of a story is knowing which slice of an infinite series of interrelated events (i.e., the Universe) to look at. You can’t start at the beginning (i.e., The Big Bang), unless the nature of your story is tied to the beginning. Similar case with starting at the other end of things. Most likely whatever story you want to tell can be narrowed down to somewhere within the tiny slice of time that encompasses a single person’s life.

The length of the work you’re trying to create matters here, because IF you’re trying to create a work that spans an entire person’s life, then you really don’t have any more decisions in this regard. Start with their birth, end with their death. Fini.

On the other hand, if you’re trying for a specific word count, that will narrow your search for the start of the story considerably. Even the best writers can only convey so much information in a certain word count, and the lower your word count needs to be, the more precise you’ll have to be when picking your beginning.

Let us say in this case, that you’re writing for submission, and you’re trying for a story that is 3,000 Words or less. That’s pretty limited, depending on what kind of story you’re trying to tell, and what kind of characters you plan to use.

One mistake that many authors make is trying to start their story on a perfectly average day, to let the readers know how things normally are, then to move on to more interesting things from there. Don’t do that. Your readers already know what an average day is–they’ve had quite a few of them themselves.

Start where things get interesting. That way, you’ll have your reader’s interest right off the bat. With a limited word count, you need to get through things quickly, which means rushing through parts of the overall story, while zooming in closely on others. You want to rush through the boring bits, and zoom in on the good bits.

With erotica, that typically means glossing over the character’s entire life and background, and focusing on a single encounter. With horror, it’s basically the same deal. None of the details of the character’s life are worth focusing on, unless they make the story move forward.

It doesn’t matter that your main character’s name is George S. Klein. It doesn’t really matter where he lives, unless the setting is unique enough to warrant a significant fraction of your tiny (3k is succinct, in my  view) word count. If it’s necessary to mention that he was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, then mention it, like I just did. Then move on, as I’m doing.

Most writing advice is telling you to “Show, Don’t Tell,” and that’s good advice except when it isn’t. Sometimes, especially when constrained by word count, it’s better to just tell the readers some stuff, to sum up.

Here’s the start of my story “Past The Bullshit”:

“If we could just cut through all the usual bullshit, and you’d just let me put this in you,” he indicated the thick bulge in his pants. “Well, then you’d know.”

“I’d know what?” She was mildly amused by the man so far, and she sipped her drink to facilitate that feeling.

He shook his head. “There’s only one way to find out.”

It was the wrong line, to the wrong girl, on the wrong crappy night, but somehow, less than an hour later, she was in his hotel room, on his bed, her skirt pushed up to her hips as she let him lick her into readiness.

I could have introduced both characters, and I could have written a dozen pages or an entire book on how and why they ran into each other in that bar, but none of that mattered for the story. All that matters for the story is that this strange man gives this woman a strange and crude line, and against her better judgment it works. Then the action takes place, then the resolution of both the introduction and the action.

All in <775 words, in this case.

Here’s the start of my 2500+ word story The Octopunishment:
Bridget Walsh brushed aside tentacle after sagging tentacle. They were dormant for a time, and this was her only chance to escape. She’d had such chances before, but needless to say, she was still here. Naked and dripping, she climbed up onto the thick layer of rubbery flesh, escaping the sea for a time. She was on the skirt of Kýrios Chtapódi, the Lord Octopus. In order to escape, she had to climb all the way up its enormous body, all the way to the head, which rose like a mountain into the sky.

It isn’t fair. The thought nagged at her once again, but as before, it never did her any good. Yes, it wasn’t fair. Why should it be? Everybody knew that life wasn’t fair; why should afterlife be any different?

I could have started the story chronologically, and taken my time. Under different circumstances, if I needed to pad the word count or flesh out the story more, I would have. I could have started off at the point her life took a fatal turn, the day that Zeus showed up in disguise to the game show she was hosting. I’d have had the opening bit be about her thinking that this one of her guests was weird. I’d have had her insult him (part of her routine), and I’d have shown the man transforming into an angry Greek god who kills her with a thunderbolt. I’d have shown her arrival in the particular Underworld that the king of gods condemned her to.

But the project didn’t call for all that–I wasn’t trying to write a novel. I could have, with this story, and that’s the problem. You have to know what story to tell, which moments are important. In this story, the important moment is a decision that Bridget makes when she reaches the summit of Kýrios Chtapódi, and she has a chance to escape. The character is on a specific journey in this story, a specific challenge, and I started the story where the challenge begins.

Everything else that the readers needed to know, how Bridget ended up where she was, the details of her kinky torture at the hands of the Lord Octopus, and everything else that was necessary for the story, I told in flashbacks here or there as she climbs up the side of this mountainous creature.

Start where things get interesting. You can always backfill details later.

Hobbies, Skills, and Passions

I’ve talked in other posts, I believe, about one of the useful elements in becoming a good or great writer being a fluency in the language of writing. The faster and cleaner you can translate what’s in your mind into what’s on the page, the easier the entire process of writing will be. On a good day, at the right time or times, you’ll be able to write as fast as you can type. If you’re a good typist, you’ll be able to write almost as fast as you can think.

At this point, one of the big bottlenecks will be what your mental speed limit is: how fast you can make story-creating decisions that fit the characters you’re working with, and that advance the plot in the right direction. As with everything else in writing, this takes practice to get really good at.

Luckily for me, I’ve spent the vast majority of my life playing Dungeons & Dragons.

More specifically, I’ve spent a huge portion of my life as a D&D Dungeonmaster (as opposed to the BDSM kind of Dungeonmaster), running games for all kinds of different players. I credit this particular hobby with a lot of my ability to come up with plots on the fly, as well as my ability to create fictional characters quickly, and my ability to envision the decisions those characters might make. All of those things are skills that one needs to varying degrees when running a tabletop role-playing game.

As with writing fiction, a Dungeonmaster (DM) tries to create or direct a narrative, to tell (with the aid of his players) a kind of story. The Dungeonmaster lays out a general plot, with a beginning, middle, and (assuming not everybody dies along the way) an ending. As with writing, any or all of this outline is routinely threatened by the often unpredictable actions of the characters involved. While the DM has full control over where the story starts, he/she does not fully control how or where the story ends, nor what happens along the way.

This is because the characters make their own decisions. Which often seems to happen when one is writing fiction, particularly fiction of any significant length.

A DM might start the story off in a tavern, intending the characters to roleplay a quiet meal getting acquainted with one another, planning the next day’s journey to the castle or dungeon where the object of their mutual quest lies. The players might choose to pick a fight, either with strangers at the tavern or with each other, and the evening might end with any number of dead bodies, and burning tavern.

The DM’s job is to adapt, to get the story back on track, but also to include the consequences of this event into the overall narrative. Surviving party members will likely be on the run now, to avoid angry mobs and law enforcement, which can be used to increase their incentive to achieve whatever their original goal was, as well as to provide additional possible obstacles that might add to the story.

It’s not so different when writing, sometimes. A writer might think they know where a scene is going, but by the time they’re done writing it, they have to re-adjust their entire outline to account for unpredicted outcomes. This is likely to happen more than once, in a longer story.

This can be frustrating as a Dungeonmaster, so most DMs try to predict ahead of time how and why scenes might go wrong, and to come up with ways of reducing the odds of disaster or major derailment. Instead of starting the scene in the main room of the tavern, for example, the DM might start the scene in a private room, where there are fewer distractions from the DM’s goal with the scene. It’s hard to start a fight with non-player characters (NPCs) when there aren’t any in the room/scene.

The party can fight amongst themselves, but this can be countered by making sure that each of the main characters, the Player Characters (PCs) have compatible backstories that can be used to avoid disastrous in-fighting. Four complete strangers are more likely to pick deadly fights with one another than a group of four people composed of two brothers, one brother’s love interest, and that love interest’s long-time friend who happens to have helped the other brother out of a serious jam on at least one occasion. It also helps if the characters have compatible personalities and overall motivations. That way, if things start to go off course, the DM can guide them back on course by reminding the PCs of their close ties and their mutual goals.

Storytelling is storytelling, and a lot of the skills that one can develop in table-top role-playing games can translate into other forms of storytelling, such as writing. It’s not the only way to develop useful skills, and it’s not even necessarily the best way to do so. It is one of the ways that’s worked for me, and I’ve heard other authors make similar claims.

Then again, writers tend to use their own experiences, and whatever a writers’ experiences are, I’ve heard them claim that those experiences have helped shape and guide their writing.

If you’ve never tried running or playing in a tabletop RPG, but you’re looking for fun hobbies that might help you with your writing, I recommend joining or starting a game sometime. If you have played or run tabletop RPGs, I recommend actively thinking about lessons that you can learn from your RPG experiences that will translate into writing skills, and vice-versa. It’s always nice when our hobbies can sharpen our skills for our passions.

Not In A Single Word

(The following blog post includes a spoiler for the musical Hamilton)

Bill Cosby once had a popular family comedy show in which he showed off his acting skills by playing a man who was not a serial rapist. In one particular episode of this show, this non-rapist character (Cliff Huxtable) is telling his daughter a story about wanting to learn to play the drums when he was a kid. He’d listened to some records, been blown away by the drumwork, and had eagerly rushed out to find a music teacher so that he could learn how to play the drums just as well as the professional musicians that he’d fallen in love with.

Here’s a 32 second clip of that story, which as far as I can tell will not provide Bill Cosby with any income if you watch it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPF3qqO1qFA

Young Cliff Huxtable tells the teacher that he wants to (insert un-writable Bill Cosby impression of somebody playing the drums really, really well), and the teacher responds by telling him to take his drum sticks and practice hitting a wood block slowly, like this: Whack…Whack…

The point is that if you want to be great at something, you have to start out small, mastering the fundamentals and the most basic elements of that something. It’s only when you’ve gotten that stuff down that you can learn to put them all together into something great. This applies not only to playing the drums, but to most things, writing included.

This is why grammar and punctuation is important: they’re the fundamentals of writing. If you don’t learn to master those, then you won’t become great. This is because great things can often hinge on a mastery of basic elements.

Most writers want to skip ahead, just like young Cliff Huxtable did. They want to jump right to the fancy stuff, without putting in the years of practice on the fundamentals. I don’t blame them one bit, but learning the fundamentals is important not only because it allows you to avoid embarrassment, but also because it allows you to do amazing, incredible things, to communicate worlds of information with something as seemingly inconsequential as the placement of a single comma.

This is where we get to the Hamilton spoiler(s).

In the musical, Alexander Hamilton marries Eliza Schuyler. One of Eliza’s sisters, Angelica, moves overseas, and she and Alexander maintain regular correspondence by writing letters back and forth. Alexander always begins these letters “My dearest Angelica,” with the comma in the proper position, after “Angelica.”
Until one day he doesn’t.

In the song “Take A Break,” Angelica sings about the importance of that comma, because it changes position:
In a letter I received from you two weeks ago

I noticed a comma in the middle of a phrase

It changed the meaning. Did you intend this?

One stroke and you’ve consumed my waking days

It says:

“My dearest Angelica”

With a comma after “dearest.” You’ve written

“My dearest, Angelica.”

 

Here we have two characters who are in love, and who cannot be together. They cannot directly express their feelings for one another, due to sense of propriety as well as perhaps the pain of putting their feelings to words, when they cannot act on their feelings. Hamilton instead lets Angelica know indirectly how he feels about her, and he does it simply by moving a comma.

Angelica asks, “Did you intend this?”, but my impression from the musical overall is that she knows he did. She’s just experiencing the “I can’t believe he feels this way back” sort of disbelief that can happen when love is requited.

In her heart, she knows. She knows that he loves her, that he holds her in his heart in some ways higher even than his wife: “My dearest, Angelica.”

That one comma placement switches the meaning from a simple and polite expression, from technically expressing that of all the Angelicas that exist, that she is the most dear to him, to a declaration that of all the people in the world–presumably his wife included–Angelica is the most dear to him, the most loved, the most cherished. That slight movement of a comma is the difference between a prefatory acknowledgment that could be skipped over, to something that consumes a woman’s waking days.

It’s the kind of thing that a writer can only pull off if they know what they’re doing, if they have the right level of authority with their reader(s). If Alexander was always sloppy with his commas, sticking them routinely in strange places, Angelica wouldn’t have noticed the comma’s movement at all. Any deliberate message would have been lost in the general mess of Alexander’s writing.

Instead, because Alexander knew what he was doing–had mastered the fundamentals–and because he had demonstrated his knowledge of the fundamentals often and well enough for Angelica to know that he knew what he was doing, he was able to convey to her an entire world of emotion–not in a single word, but in a single goddamned comma.

That’s why you have to Whack Whack, before you can dit-dit-ditta-dit while you ding-ding-dinga-ding.

So You Have An Idea…

Disclaimer: This blog post contains spoilers for my short story “Multiple O,” as I break down how I turned my starting Idea into an actual plot.

So you have an Idea. You’ve got some kind of notion that could make for a good story. What’s next?

That depends on the writer and the idea. A lot of the time, for a good writer, having an Idea is enough. In previous years, I succeeded in my May Challenges by becoming skilled at taking an Idea, and being able to turn it into an acceptable short story just by sitting down at the keyboard and typing by the seat of my pants.

Pantsing works well for a lot of writers, and it works well for me most of the time. When I wrote “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus,” all I had in mind was the title, along with the notion that I’d have human/dinosaur sex be consensual instead of the standard rape fantasy scenario. With “An Innocent Haircut,” I just had the setup in mind–a young man is seduced by the woman who’s cutting his hair–and the inspiration to try to write the story about a male losing his virginity as detailed as possible, to try to craft it in such a way that males who hadn’t lost their virginity (and females who hadn’t been male) would be able to live the experience vicariously through my words. Both of those stories turned out very well, still some of my best work, and they were pantsed.

Then there are those other times.

My story “Multiple O” is set in my Serpent’s Gifts setting, a world where the appearance of a giant snake in the sky grants various people comic-book-style super-powers. I’m a big comic fan, and there are certain powers that are staples for superheroes (or villains) and that also lend themselves well to erotics. One of those powers is the ability to make instant copies of yourself, along the lines of The Multiple Man, Silent Majority, Triplicate Girl, or Multiplex.

That was my Idea: write erotica about somebody with that kind of self-duplicating power.

But it needed refinement, because “One day, a person with duplication powers did some sexy stuff” isn’t a good story. It’s not even good micro-fiction.

Once you have your Idea, I find that it’s pretty good to start working through the Five Ws of Journalism: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. My Who in this case is my main character, my protagonist. I toyed with making a male character named “Gangbang,” and having him multiply in the middle of sex with a woman who was open enough to roll with suddenly having sex with two or twenty guys instead of just one, but my personal tastes go the other way, and I decided that I’d rather write about a woman who could turn into multiple women. So that’s my basic Who–the protagonist is female. I came up with the title of “Multple O,” and went with the first female name that sprung to mind that started with O: Olivia.

The Ws don’t have to be in order, and often the Idea itself will fill in at least part of one of them anyway. If I’d been doing them in order, I’d have focused on “What” next, but I didn’t. Instead, I focused on that sixth important question, that honorary W just because it hangs out with them so much. I asked myself How.

Specifically, I asked myself how her power functioned. Multiple Man produces copies from kinetic impact. Other characters seem to be able to do it at will. I think one character could pull alternate-reality versions of himself/herself, or maybe I just dreamed that. I needed a mechanism for my character’s power to work. Where did the copies come from?

I mulled this over for a couple days, I think.

A lot of the time, shaping and refining the Idea is mental work that I do while I’m on a long drive, or trying to beat my insomnia into submission by letting my mind wander, and so forth. Eventually, I hit on the idea of her power being the ability to pull her own image out of mirrors, into the real world. That gave her a vulnerability (her power only works when there’s a reflection nearby), it gave her a limitation (only one copy per mirror), and it gave me a start to the story: a woman is looking at herself in the mirror, when suddenly she pulls her own reflection out into the real world.

As soon as I had the How, the rest of the Ws all fell into place.
Who? Olivia and a single copy of herself.
What? A solo scene that turns into girl/girl fun.
When? Sometime shortly after December of 2012, because that’s when this setting splits off from the real world–That’s when the powers start manifesting.

Where? In the bedroom, on the bed.

Why? Because Olivia was trying to do the female empowerment thing of looking at her own vagina in the mirror, to get in better touch with herself and her body, but when she drops the mirror and tries to pick it back up again, she accidentally grabs her mirror self and pulls it into the real world. Once she adjusts to this new event, the two of her go back to doing what she was doing moments before: getting better in touch with her own body (or, in this case, bodies).

I asked myself if this story would work, and the first snag I hit upon was the issue of whether or not a person who was confronted by a doppleganger of themselves would try to have sex with it so quickly. I went back to thinking about How the power worked, and decided that since the copy was in fact a different version of the main character, that Olivia would be perfectly comfortable with her mirror-clone–it was her , after all.

This wasn’t two strangers–it was two of the same person, and they’d known themselves for their entire lives. You can’t get much more intimate than that; the sex is just a formality. It’s more like masturbation with access to a second body. Which fell nicely into the general themes of the story–a woman who is uncomfortable with herself gets to lover herself a bit more.

That’s the kind of thing that many writers tend to leave out of short erotica, by the way. They come up with characters, a plot, and a sex scene, but they leave their story at that. That’s a mistake, because stories have to be about something important. Yes, sure, sex itself is important, but not always in its own right. Creating a story about two bodies fucking is like creating a story about two people eating a meal together–if that’s all that happens, don’t bother writing it.

The meal, or the sex, or the walk through the park, or the fight in the alleyway… it has to mean something to somebody. It has to be important enough that the story is worth telling, and the reader knows it. In this case, the main character grows to accept herself a bit more. Yes, she has her first lesbian experience (kind of), and she discovers that she has superpowers, but while both of those events are exciting, a really good story needs an extra layer of significance to make it really shine.

The story “Multiple O” is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Multiple-Richa…

The Nature of Storytelling

Written January 13, 2015

I’m not going to start in with elemental structures about plotting. I’m not going to go over stuff like story arcs, character creation, or “Show, Don’t Tell.” I’m going even more basic than that with this entry. The entire point of this entry is accomplish two simple things:

1. Explain briefly what storytelling is.
2. Explain why it is important for writers to understand what storytelling is.

This sort of thing is so basic that you might be wondering why I’m bothering even writing it. If somebody is an author, then surely they MUST know these things already, right?

Unfortunately, no. I occasionally find ebooks and authors that seem to miss these fundamentals in some important ways, so many in fact that I decided to write this blog post. If you already know everything that I say in this post, that’s great! But if you run into other people who DON’T seem to understand it, feel free to direct them this way.

Stating the obvious here for those who might miss the obvious:
“Storytelling” is simply telling a story.

A “Story”is simply a series of events. If you write something that has absolutely no events (implied or actual), or only one event, then what you have written is not a story.

“Telling” is the use of words to convey information.

What this adds up to is that Storytelling is “communicating a series of events” to an audience.

Are you with me?

Here’s why that’s important:
The nature of storytelling determines to a large extent the quality of any story that you write, because it also describes your goal when writing, to communicate.

A story that communicates successfully with its readers is, in a very fundamental way, a better story than a story that doesn’t communicate very well with its readers. As an author, you have something in your head that you wish to convey to other people. You have an imaginary series of events that you construct while plotting or writing a story, and the entire point of storytelling is to get other people to understand what’s inside your head, as best as you possibly can.

If you’re describing a character, you want the audience to imagine a person exactly as you imagine the person. If you’re describing a sequence of events, you want the audience to be able to understand exactly what is going on in that scene. And as a general rule, especially if you want to make money writing, you want as wide of an audience as possible, which means that your communication needs to be structured in such a way that a wide audience will be able to read what you have written, and to get the same story in their heads as you imagined in your own.

What this means is that very often a storyteller needs to set his/her ego aside when dealing with feedback from readers, because that feedback is telling you how successful your communication with the reader has been.

If a significant percentage of your readers are confused by a passage that you have written, then–no matter how crystal clear you think that passage already is–you should probably look at it again, to see if it can be made any clearer. Likewise, if you are using any writing technique that you find personally appealing, and you find that that technique interferes with communication with the reader, then you should re-assess the value of that technique in your writing.