Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Randomness

First, a reminder yet again that Doctor Who starts half an hour earlier tonight on the Sci Fi Channel. I don't want to hear the wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when people tune in at the normal time and miss the beginning because You Were Warned. I've seen the episode already, but this is the last Doctor Who night on Sci Fi for a very long time, so I'll probably watch what I taped from last week (which I'd also already seen, but I taped anyway while I was out of town and haven't watched yet) before this episode. I don't know what I'll do for dinner to round out the Doctor Who party, but since there's now a Taco Cabana in my general vicinity that won't be too far out of my way for the errands I need to run this afternoon, I may pick up some fajita tacos.

The rest of this post will be very random.

My WorldCon schedule:

On Thursday at 1 p.m. I'll be moderating "What Makes SF Work? Characters, Society, or Technology," with panelists J. Alan Erwine, Ken Scholes and Larry Niven.

Then at 5:30 on Thursday I'll be moderating "Re-Telling Old Stories: The New Fairy Tales," with panelists Adam Stemple, Lisa Spangenberg and Valerie Frankel.

On Friday at 4 p.m. I'm on the "Firefly: What Would the Second Season Have Been Like?" panel with Craig Miller, Dani Kollin and Rebecca Moesta.

I have an autographing at 10 a.m. Saturday.

As always, check the program guide and other announcements for updates and changes. I'll also be helping out at the SFWA table in the dealers' room on Wednesday from 3ish to 4ish and on Saturday from 11 to noon, so if you don't make the signing and want to chat or get something signed, I'm sure they can spare me for a second or two to scribble my name.

In the interest of maintaining the illusion of at least a modicum of cool, I will not post my planned stalking schedule. That takes the "chance" out of the idea of "chance encounters." You can't exactly say, "Oh, wow, we keep running into each other" or "fancy meeting you here" when you've announced plans to stalk that person. (Though, actually, I've already met most of the people who would be on my stalking list. I can now even talk to Connie Willis without shaking violently.)

Finally, I was asked in a comment for some examples of cool techniques from that Writing For Emotional Impact book I mentioned yesterday. It's hard to choose just one or two because they sort of build on each other and weave together, but here are a couple of concepts I liked:
You can maintain reader curiosity by layering your story with questions. People keep reading to find the answers, and then as you give the answer to one question, you should raise another question, so it leads the reader from scene to scene. There should be an overall story question, but each scene also needs its own question, and even each beat within a scene should raise a question. It's like a trail of breadcrumbs through the story.

Then there's the art of subtext. In general, except for very few situations, characters shouldn't just say exactly what they think, and the higher the stakes are for the character, the more they have to lose from saying what they think, the less likely they are to be direct in what they say. So you have to convey the truth in a different way, usually through the character's actions. When what a character says and what he does conflict, we instinctively believe the actions over the words, and having the words and the actions clash heightens the emotions in the scene and creates a sense of conflict and interest. The example the author uses is the end of When Harry Met Sally, where Harry tells Sally all the reasons he loves her, and she looks at him with tears in her eyes and tells him how much she hates him, before she kisses him. We know that she actually does love him because of her body language in the way she tells him she hates him and because she kisses him, but we also know that her saying she hates him means she's actually afraid of her feelings and overwhelmed. If she'd just said, "I love you, too," the scene would have been flat.

Or, to bring this post full-circle, an example of this I like is from Doctor Who, where it's a recurring thing for the Doctor to always insist he's alright, no matter what he's just been through. He may look utterly shattered. He may be shaking and have tears in his eyes, but he'll insist he's always alright if someone asks him how he's doing. Then in a recent episode, Donna, who looked equally shattered, said she was alright, too, when he, as usual, claimed he was alright, as she took his hand and gave it a squeeze. Again, that contrast between what the characters say and what's really going on makes those scenes more meaningful than if they just said they were feeling emotionally battered. Donna's repeating his usual claim also showed that she saw through his facade, and it allowed a nice bonding moment.

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