21 October 2014

Steampunk theme park


Very cool theme park. Which one you ask?

In a 337-hectare island in the centre of the city of Nantes, on Brittany’s western edge, some French designers have created a theme park inspired by Jules Vern (especially stories like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Steam House).
That’s right a real-life steampunk theme park.

There’s a giant elephant – who’s prone to spraying water on unsuspecting visitors.
Or what about a giant ant – passengers can be invited on-board to manoeuvre the legs, the head, and the mandible, while 2 machinists guide it, one on the ground and the other sitting out in front of the animal.


Description: Ile de Nantes, France, Nantes


Or maybe you’d prefer to ride an oversize spider, or an inchworm.

Description: Les Machines de L'Ile, Ile de Nantes, Nantes, France

  Description: Ile de Nantes, Les Machines, France


Or a giant Heron
Description: La Galerie des Machines - © Jean-Dominique Billaud


Or ride in a carousel populated by weird sea creatures.
Description: Le Carrousel des Mondes Marins -  © Jean-Dominique Billaud Description: Le Carrousel des Mondes Marins -  © Jean-Dominique Billaud  Description: Le Carrousel des Mondes Marins -  © Jean-Dominique Billaud

And I couldn’t leave this oddly cute critter out J

Description: La Galerie des Machines - © Jean-Dominique Billaud

14 October 2014

eBook Reader - oooo exciting

I'm a eReader gal, have been for a good few years now. Love 'em. When I go on holiday I don't have to make the difficult call: clothes or books. Books usually won then either I want something I didn't bring, or I'd have to wash my clothes more often. So now I throw my reader in my handbag and voila, many books to read, many choices at my finger tips.

But if you know me, then you know this already, so what's go me excited. Two new readers peaking their noses over the horizon.

1. Kobo Aura H2O
The Canadian manufacturer has announced the Aura H2O, the first waterproof eReader, will on sale in October. That's right waterproof!
"Kobo says it spoke to its customers when designing the Aura H20 and found that reading revolved around what it calls the five Bs:
  • Bed
  • Bath
  • Beach
  • Backyard
  • Bus"

Bath and Beach just shouted out as an opportunity and Kobo is filling it.
You know what other problem it solves? ... Reading in the shower. You just can't put that book down, no time for a bath, reluctantly you jump in the shower. The Aura H2O solves something even paper books didn't do. Rest it on the soap rack and hope you don't get shampoo in your eyes.

What makes this so special is the screen. 300 pixels per inch, which makes text incredibly sharp and readable, plus the screen is higher contrast. Front-light with ambient light detector. The screen also sits flush with the front of the Voyage, making a single flat pane of glass. Yes, it's glass instead of plastic, but Amazon has "micro-etched" a matted texture to it so that it's non-reflective in sunlight. (which has always been my issue with reading on iPads / phones)

Summary


Kobo Aura H2O
Kindle Voyage
Display size
6.8”
6"
resolution
265 ppi
300 ppi
size
179 x 129 x 9.7 mm
162 x 115 x 7.6 mm
weight
233g
188g
front light
yes
yes
wi-fi
yes
yes
storage
4 GB
4 GB
battery
Up to 2 months
six weeks
formats
EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR, XHTML and MOBI
AZW3, AZW, TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion
waterproof
yes
no


07 October 2014

Scene Structure

Last time we had a craft session we looked at scene openings. So, we've opened our scene, now what? Our readers and anchored and engaged, but what about the rest of the scene? We've got a whole lot of blank paper and a need to fill it. It helps if you know the structure. The skeleton to hang the words on. 

I’d like to thank Randy Ingermanson for the structure that follows (and apologies where I’ve grabbed straight from his website). You can get more detail on Randy’s website – so go there, what I’ve got here is just the basics. I’d also like to say Randy’s an excellent speaker if you ever get a chance to hear him. Thanks Randy!

Randy breaks a scene down into two parts: The scene & the sequel. However since we’re talking about scene’s calling one part a scene is a little confusing (they're terms he got from Dwight Swain’s book, Techniques of the Selling WriterI like to think of moving through a scene bite by bite, so I refer to these two parts as Bite 1 and Bite 2.
Bite 1 has the following three-part pattern:
  1. Goal                2. Conflict                   3. Disaster

Bite 2
 has the following three-part pattern:
  1. Reaction          2. Dilemma                  3. Decision

What does that mean? Let’s break it down.

Goal: 

A Goal is what your POV character wants at the beginning of the Scene. The Goal must be specific and clearly definable. The reason your POV character must have a Goal is that it makes your character proactive, not passively waiting on events. 

Your character is going after what they want. It's a simple fact that any character who wants something desperately is an interesting character. Even if they’re not nice, they’re interesting. 

Your character’s goals don’t have to be big, “Save the President, or Catch the killer”, they can be small “Get the groceries and get home before favourite TV show, or “Eat lunch today instead or working through”. As long as they have a goal. Because, and this leads us to the next piece of the pattern..

Conflict:

Conflict is the series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching their Goal. If your character reaches the Goal with no Conflict, then the reader is bored. Your reader wants to struggle! No victory has any value if it comes too easy. 

Nalini Singh on her website says: Be mean to your characters.

When it comes to our characters, the easy way out is ALWAYS the wrong way. Our characters have to earn their victories and they have to earn the reader’s respect by fighting when things are hard. Readers need to care about the characters and the decisions they make, the outcomes.

Disaster:

A Disaster is a failure to let your POV character reach their Goal. 

When a Scene ends in victory, your reader feels no reason to turn the page. You can have success in a scene, you have to, or your character is never achieving anything. 

But you need to ask what else is happening in the scene. If things are going well, your reader might as well go to bed. Make something awful happen. Hang your POV character off a cliff and your reader will turn the page to see what happens next. 

Okay that’s Bite 1. (goal, conflict, disaster) Now let's look at Bite 2 . . .

Bite 2 has the three parts Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision. Why? Because when you've just been hit with a setback, you don’t just rush out and try something new. You've got to recover. That's basic psychology.

Reaction: 

A Reaction is the emotional follow-through to a Disaster. When something awful happens, you're staggering for awhile, off-balance, out of kilter. show your POV character reacting viscerally to their Disaster. 

Show them hurting. Give your reader a chance to hurt with your characters. This is not a time for action, it's a time for re-action. Eventually, your POV character needs to get a grip. To take stock. To look for options. That let’s us to…

Dilemma: 

A Dilemma is a situation with no good options. If your Disaster was a real Disaster, there aren't any easy choices. Your POV character must have a real dilemma. This gives your reader a chance to worry, which is good. Your reader must be wondering what can possibly happen next. Let your POV character work through the choices. Eventually, let them come to the least-bad option . . .

Decision: 

A Decision is the act of making a choice among several options. This is important, because it lets your POV character become proactive again. People who never make decisions are boring people. They wait around for somebody else to decide. 

So make your character decide, and make it a good decision. Make it one your reader can respect. Make it risky, but make it have a chance of working. Or if you make it a bad decision, make sure your reader knows why your character is doing it. Do that, and your reader will have to turn the page, because now your POV character has a new Goal. 

So: goal, conflict, disaster…followed by…reaction, dilemma, decision.

I find this most useful if I’m struggling with a scene. 

NB: Your bite’s don’t have to follow one by one, they can be interspersed with the other scenes…other character’s POV etc… to add suspense. E.g. The reaction to the disaster can be held off as we flash over to another character, this leaves the first character in a state of disaster and the reader wanting to know what happens next.

Little example below, see if you can spot the pattern: goal, conflict, disaster… reaction, dilemma, decision

e.g. 

Bob pressed harder on the accelerator, he had to get to the hospital before Meredith gave birth or she’d never forgive him. 
Without indicating an SUV in the next lane swerved in front of him. Bob slammed on his brakes and swore out loud, berating the other driver.
The impatient SUV swerved lanes again and Bob’s eyes widened as he watched helplessly as the car behind the SUV failed to slow in time. Metal crashed and screeched as the two car’s collided. Bob’s foot hit the breaks again, as the cars slid partway into his lane.
Bob was trembling as his car came to a stop. He stared in horror at the mangled cars beside him. 
Shit, what was he going to do now? He should stop and check to see if anyone was hurt, call an ambulance, and wait to make a statement. He glance at his watch, but damn it he needed to get to the hospital. 
Reluctantly, he pulled around the smash and onto the shoulder. Parking the car, he opened his door while dialling 111, he needed to check for survivors.

Goal: hospital before baby born
Conflict: Stupid SUV in pulling in front & him swearing
Disaster: accident
Reaction: shock at accident
Dilemma: help or hospital
Decision: stay to help (this could well lead to the next conflict as he’s not going to be late to hospital)

Anyway that’s a little look at scene structure. 

I suggest you go to Advance Fiction Writing for more – Randy even breaks it down lower, the pieces within the pieces.
On top of all that, it goes almost without saying, if this doesn't work for you - don't do it! Writers have their own ways of doing things, this may not be the way for you. To be honest I don't really go through this as I work on a scene, the time I find it most valuable is if I'm stuck or if a scene isn't working.
Happy Writing.

30 September 2014

The power of small words

I read an interesting article the other day about what our use of little words can reveal about us.
Our Use Of Little Words Can, uh, Reveal Hidden Interests.

The article talked about how the author was at a speed dating event and became fascinated by the volume of sound - all those words in one place, then about what the people were saying. The author spoke topsychologist, James Pennebacker, who is interested in our use of pronouns and function words (e.g. The. This. Though. I. And. An. There. That. ...). 

People generally don't listen to pronoun & function words, and most writing coaches will tell you they don't read them either. We know they're there but we let ourselves skim them. People focus on the important words. This allows us to process information much faster.
e.g I was in a swimming competition and I won first prize. -- the words the listener is interested in are: swimming competition won first prize. 

So if we mostly ignore these words, what was Pennebacker's interest? What he found after years of research was quite revealing. First let's look at what he learnt as it relates to speed dating. 

"Specifically, what Pennebaker found was that when the language style of two people matched, when they used pronouns, prepositions, articles and so forth in similar ways at similar rates, they were much more likely to end up on a date. ... 

This is not because similar people are attracted to each other, Pennebaker says; people can be very different. It's that when we are around people that we have a genuine interest in, our language subtly shifts. 

"When two people are paying close attention, they use language in the same way," he says. "And it's one of these things that humans do automatically."

What about more generally...
Pennebaker has counted words to better understand lots of things. He's looked at lying, at leadership, at who will recover from trauma.
But some of his most interesting work has to do with power dynamics. He says that by analyzing language you can easily tell who among two people has power in a relationship, and their relative social status.
"It's amazingly simple," Pennebaker says, "Listen to the relative use of the word "I."
What you find is completely different from what most people would think. The person with the higher status uses the word "I" less.
To demonstrate this, Pennebaker pointed to some of his own email, a batch written long before he began studying status.
First he shares an email written by one of his undergraduate students, a woman named Pam:
Dear Dr. Pennebaker:
I was part of your Introductory Psychology class last semester. I have enjoyed your lectures and I'velearned so much. I received an email from you about doing some research with you. Would there be a time for me to come by and talk about this?
Pam
Now consider Pennebaker's response:
Dear Pam -
This would be great. This week isn't good because of a trip. How about next Tuesday between 9 and 10:30. It will be good to see you.
Jamie Pennebaker
Pam, the lowly undergraduate, used "I" many times, while Pennebaker didn't use it at all.
Now consider this email Pennebaker wrote to a famous professor.
Dear Famous Professor:
The reason I'm writing is that I'm helping to put together a conference on [a particular topic]. I have been contacting a large group of people and many have specifically asked if you were attending. Iwould absolutely love it if you could come... I really hope you can make it.
Jamie Pennebaker
And the return email from Famous Professor:
Dear Jamie -
Good to hear from you. Congratulations on the conference. The idea of a reunion is a nice one ... and the conference idea will provide us with a semiformal way of catching up with one another's current research.... Isn't there any way to get the university to dig up a few thousand dollars to defray travel expenses for the conference?
With all best regards,
Famous Professor
Pennebaker says that when he encountered these emails he was shocked to find that he himself obeyed this rule. He says he thought of himself as a very egalitarian person, and assumed he would never talk to people differently because of their status.
In fact, since this article first ran, Pennebaker has used his big data computer analysis to look at a wide range of new questions.
He's become a kind of literary detective, using the program to determine if a lost play was written by Shakespeare. (Results of that search should be published soon.)
He's also trying to figure out if function words can predict students' performance in college through an analysis of 25,000 admissions essays.
And he published an entire paper on the use of the filler words — um, like, uh, I mean and you know. One of the things that he found was that the use of these words — in addition to their function of annoying older people — was associated with conscientiousness.
Pennebaker has several other projects underway as well — using our simplest words as a window into our souls.
Fascinating stuff - I recommend the whole article