Yurika S. Grant's Author Site

The Yuri Retreat

So… let’s talk about 2018

As per the title, let’s talk briefly about next year. Yes, I know next year is still a few months off, but regardless, I have a project I’m planning to write for next year and feel like talking about it. The basic idea is this: I want to try my hand at something similar to Persona, a work that will run over the course of a full year, with each day of the year being a single chapter.

Some chapters might only be a few hundred words, others might be a few thousand, and each chapter will be published on the appropriate day of 2018, starting – I think, subject to change but I’ll get to that in a moment – on April 1st… which I admit might not be the best day, so maybe I’ll go March 31st instead, lol.

And special days, events, and times of year (summer, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine, etc.) will of course get special chapters. One of the main reasons I’m thinking April is a good start point (rather than, say, January 1st) is because there will as usual be a degree of influence from Japan on the work, and school terms start around April 1st or so over there, which will affect my setting directly.

But more importantly, it’ll take a good few months before all the characters are introduced, so having Valentine’s happen when not all the main cast are even around yet would be pretty bad. Summer is kind of the first really big thing, and by that point I should have all 8 mains introduced at which point Halloween, maybe a November fireworks event (Guy Fawkes or similar), Christmas, New Year, and Valentine’s can all happen and be enjoyed by the whole cast.

As for the story itself, I’m not going to spoil it here, but I’ll just say this: it’ll be an academy setting of some sort, and will be heavily influenced not only by Persona (a series I adore), but also a few lesser-known works such as Alundra. So expect supernatural shenanigans and general weirdness 😀

So why am I telling you about this now? Simple, a work like this will need to be fully written in advance, all 365 chapters. Intrigue, plotting, mystery, they all play a part, but they’re also things that have to be carefully set up by the writer. And I’m well aware, thanks to copious experience with my previous serial works, that fresh ideas for hints and foreshadowing and similar can occur late in a work, which would require edits to be made to the earlier parts. And that ain’t going to work if I write this week by week.

With that in mind, consider this my announcement of intention to write a good portion of this work as my Nanowrimo project for this year. I have the next month to plan and prepare the major bulk of the work (characters, setting, plot, antagonists, etc.), at which point November will be the start of my month-long hell for the fourth year running 🙂

I’m going to write as much as I can for Starlight and (another work I’ve not announced yet, coming soon!) over the same October period, so I have content to put up in November without needing to actually write it, leaving me free to plan this new work. Who knows, I might even share some things with patrons as I plan them, though only for the opening sections of the story, don’t want to go spoiling later events, do I? ;p

Lastly, while I really like the idea of the 365 days as chapters thing, it’s also possible that might end up not working too well. As such, the other option is to make it 52 chapters instead, and make it weekly. I prefer the daily idea… but we’ll see how that works out once I start writing it.

That’s all for now, will update on this for patrons when I have something more solid to share. I already have the basis for the work (setting, major plot, antagonist’s motivations, a couple of main characters) pretty sorted, so we’re not talking ‘completely from scratch’ here. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, but eh, I figure it’s time to properly go forward with it, given Nanowrimo is just around the corner.

Music Choice When Writing

Music Choice While Writing

Do you listen to music while writing? I do. More or less without fail, in fact. Humans are sensory creatures, and music can help put you into the right frame of mind to write particular scenes. So let’s talk quickly about music choice while writing.

In general, I’ll normally have something easy to listen to (for me, your mileage may vary) such as late 90s trance. It’s a genre of music I have a particular fondness for, for personal reasons involving my own misspent youth, and therefore has a positive effect on me when I listen to it. That’s great when writing, because it puts me into an overall happy state where I’m likely to write more effectively.

But what if I’m writing something specific, something where I want to evoke a particular feeling or emotion in the reader? Ah, well then I’ll break out my playlists. Romantic scenes? That’ll be my romance playlist, including various tracks from the eras I like. Energetic trance for fight scenes or similar high-stakes events. For creepy or chilling I’ll use soundtracks from games such as Silent Hill (obligatory #FucKonami). Something epic and grand in scale? I might use this amazing piece from the final level of Serious Sam 3 (it’s actually 4 pieces stitched together, keep listening, it ramps up in epicness as it goes). (more…)

Describing Characters Through Environmental Details

There are nearly as many ways to describe a scene or character as there are stars in the night sky. Sometimes a quick description with additional hints sprinkled through the following action and dialogue works well. Other times a more thorough description, with metaphor and simile, might work better. And for some things, a description is barely even necessary, it might be enough to simply hint through clever placement of objects in a scene. It’s the last option I’ll be talking about here, describing characters through environmental details.

Describing Characters Through Environmental Details

This is possibly a bit ‘too’ much…

Indirectly describing a scene, location, or character is a great way to give your reader a good idea of what’s what without needing to overtly tell them. In other words, this is a form of the old ‘show, don’t tell’ technique. First, let’s take a quick example from one of my own works, Starlight:

Meg moved across to the kitchenette and stared at the cooker. Then at the sink. A variety of pots and pans, plus several plates and a number of pieces of cutlery lounged there, awaiting her attention. She turned to the centre of the room where her sofa and TV stood. T-shirts, random pairs of pants, and various jeans and trousers lay strewn across her sofa.

This simple paragraph of description gives the reader some hints as to the sort of girl Meg is. Potentially a little lazy—not necessarily true but a reasonable assumption for now. Untidy and disorganised—plainly accurate based on observation, but could also indicate she simply hasn’t had time to tidy. Not hugely interested in cleaning when she has other things to be doing—it’s previously been shown that she’s an art student at a university, and artists are often portrayed as untidy, so this is again an okay assumption.

By showing that Meg attends university, the reader is given the general idea that she’s probably fairly busy a lot of the time. Then showing her flat in a disorganised state gives additional clues about her personality, without ever using the words ‘untidy’ or ‘disorganised’ in the actual prose. (more…)

Writing Large Groups

Writing Large Groups

Feeling sheepish about writing large groups?

Excuse me a moment while I scream. YAAAAAAAARRGGHHH!11!!!!ONEone. Okay, that’s better. So now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about writing large groups of characters, a topic of much hair pulling and flustered frustration.

There are a few basic ways to handle more than, say, four characters in a scene. The easiest is to simply not do it. This is normally my preferred method because I like to keep things focused on specific characters, pairings, or small events.

But there are always exceptions, and I do occasionally bite the bullet and write anything up to eight characters. Or even ten to twelve in very rare situations. So let’s go over some of the ways I handle this when necessary.

Split the Group for the Whole Chapter/Scene:

Potentially the easiest option for a large group, simply split it into two or three smaller, more manageable groups. For example, I have a group of eight characters and a part of my story demands that all eight characters be taken on a special trip/event together. So I split them into two groups: Group A, the important group, and Group B, the less important group.

Group A has the four characters this part (chapter, scene, whatever) mostly focuses on. Group B has the more incidental, background characters. By determining which were most important to this part of the work, I can easily focus on them while still keeping the others around for cross-group dialogue and events, without confusing matters by trying to have eight characters talking in one scene. (more…)

Revelation Isn’t Always Desirable

Revelation Isn't Always Desirable

Revealing the mysteries of the universe.

Mysteries can be tricksy things to handle. Reveal too much and you’ll leave nothing for later. Reveal too little and you could frustrate your audience. Similarly, some mysteries work better when left mysterious, because speculation and hype are great marketing tools. So let’s chat briefly about why revelation isn’t always desirable.

I’ll be talking about Prometheus here, in relation to the Alien franchise. First, a disclaimer: I’ve not seen Prometheus, nor am I likely to. I’m the type of person who loves lore, who enjoys reading all the history and back story and world building behind any franchise I like. Babylon 5, Stargate, Fallout (excluding Bethesda’s), Lord of the Rings, and so on. Anything like this that has a wealth of background to be immersed in beyond the immediate story is my jam. (more…)

The Importance of Word Choice

The Importance of Word Choice

So let’s discuss the importance of word choice. Today on Twitter I noticed a brief excerpt a writer had tweeted out from their in-progress work:

So why am I mentioning this? Well, the title of this post should give a clue, because choosing the right words for your scenes is important. Before I say anything further, I’ll just point out that this tweet clearly indicates a first draft, the #AmWriting tag is used by writers to share things they’re working on right now, so I’m not actually critiquing this author’s work, merely using it as an example.

With that said, let’s take a quick look at the one word I feel drags the sentence down as it currently stands: scent. Scent is more normally associated with positive smells; the scent of a lady, scented clothing, scented oils, etc. From etymology online:

late 14c., “scent, smell, what can be smelled” (as a means of pursuit by a hound), from scent (v.). Almost always applied to agreeable odors.

In the current example, the writer is using a positively associated word with a negatively associated scene such as torture. There are instances where this can work well, as it produces an unsettling dissonance that can make the reader uncomfortable, a good thing when writing horror or thriller type works.

However, in this instance I’d argue that use of a positive word like scent actually produces a less impactful scene. It’s not a strong description precisely because the word evokes a positive image in normal use, and the lingering stench of urine and copper in a dark and dank location where torture was perpetrated really requires different word choices.

I just used the word stench as one good example. Odour also works as it often has a similarly negative connotation (body odour, an odour of decay, etc.). For a first draft, a word like scent is perfectly adequate, first drafts are meant to be crap, they’re the potter’s clay being slapped onto the wheel and shaped into something basic before refining and perfecting.

But once that first draft is complete and you can start looking more carefully at word choice? That’s where the real fun begins, at least for me. Picking the right words is incredibly important for setting the scene in the reader’s mind, and a single well-chosen word can elevate a good scene to something truly great.

The Horrors of Marketing

 

The Horrors of Marketing

Patreon is an excellent service that lets creators earn from their work, and – with any luck and a ridiculous amount of hard work – I hope to one day be earning a living from it, alongside other income streams (because having only one is never a good plan).

Still, while Patreon is indeed excellent… boy oh boy is it also hard to figure out good marketing strategies. I’ve been there a while and, admittedly, I’ve not done a brilliant job so far. I hate marketing, hell, I think most creatives hate it, it’s a hard thing to figure out and it takes time from doing what we actually love; creating.

There’s a reason the likes of Hollywood spend millions of dollars on marketing, because they know it’s key to getting butts in seats at the cinemas. But small-time creators like me don’t have the luxury of massive budgets for marketing our works.

But market we must, if we want to get anyone to read our books, listen to our music, or play our games, so that’s why I’m writing this brief post. To talk a bit about this most vexatious of topics, to try and give you some idea of the horrors creatives go through attempting to figure this stuff out. (more…)

Getting Started As A Writer

Getting Started as a Writer

How do you get started as a writer? Simple question with a simple answer: just do it. I realise this isn’t particularly helpful advice, however, so let’s expand the simple answer into something a bit more useful. I’ll link a few good resources, both free and paid, at the end of this post as well.

First, the most important thing: to be a good writer, you must be a good reader. This is an absolute truth of the writer’s craft, simply because without having read a lot of other authors’ works, how can you expect to write anything worth a damn yourself? So step one would simply be to read as much as you can.

Not only does reading the work of others – whether that be fiction, blog, non-fiction, or anything else – give you ideas, hints, and tips on how to write in the mechanical sense, the story and plot and structure side of things, it’s also a great way to learn new vocabulary and ways to form sentences that you may never have thought of.

But beyond this, it’s also important to learn how to be effective in your writing. Readers know fluff when they see it and padding your work out with unnecessary cruft will frustrate and annoy more than entertain. Trimming the fat and tidying your prose happens during editing, but you can save yourself time and effort in the long run by writing effectively from the very first word of your first draft.

One last thing before moving on: write down anything that pops into mind while reading! Story structure, interesting twists and turns, vocab, sentence structure, character traits or quirks, anything and everything you find of interest. Write it all down so you don’t forget it and can refer to it when you write your own works. (more…)

Character Variety

Character Variety

A veritable cavalcade of variety.

Let’s say I want to write a political thriller set, in part or in whole, in Hong Kong. It’s an interesting location because, while it is technically a part of China, it’s also an independent state with its own laws and cultural and societal pressures.

As such, one of the first questions I’d ask would be: what race should my main character be? Chinese? If so, are they natural-born? From mainland China? Grew up in Hong Kong but travelled the world? Or could they be an American or British or French or German person who simply lives there and ends up being involved in something rather more than they bargained for?

The story will largely dictate at least part of the answer to this question. If there is some overriding reason for the character to be a particular race, then I will make them a particular race and build everything else up from there. But let’s say, for sake of argument, that this is just some random, regular guy who gets caught up in a dangerous spy game. Does their race matter then?

The easiest test for whether a character’s race is important to the story is to simply change it. Make your white British newspaper reporter African-American instead. Does it change anything in the story? Or in your plans for the story? No? Then mix things up a little!

But if the answer is yes? That’s even more reason to mix things up! Having them be of a different race or ethnicity or gender or sexuality can change your characters in ways you might never have thought of. (more…)

Youthful Problems

Youthful Problems

Have you ever played Rise of the Tomb Raider? If not, no worries, there are plenty of examples of what I’m going to talk about in other media. Either way, in this game the main character Lara Croft talks about a MacGuffin that can unlock the secrets of immortality. She talks about how it would change everything, stop sickness and disease, and all the usual nonsense people think up in these situations.

So let’s think for a moment about why this line of thinking is naïve and catastrophically flawed. First, yes, the basic premise Lara is discussing here is correct. A fountain of youth or other immortality device would have the potential to change the world and, more appropriately, humankind. But for the better?

Hardly. It’s true that a variety of human maladies could feasibly be either eradicated or heavily improved by something like this. But given humanity’s bloody and unpleasant history, do you honestly believe this is the outcome we could expect? (more…)