If Walls Could Talk: Time Travel

M.H. Norris

There’s a lot of talk about time travel this week. It seems to be becoming a theme, and, as we know things, themes tend to come in threes. I decided to make this week’s blog post the third in the set.

What are the other two, you might ask?

  1. The TVCU crew interviewed the authors of So You Created a Wormhole. I even made a cameo as the guest host of the week. Let me take a second and brag on these guys. They spend a lot of time getting the show ready and talking things through. It was an honor to get to work with them for a week to get things ready and to talk time travel with people who enjoy it. You can listen to it here.
  2. Kairos Kore, a new podcast that focuses on time travel, aired its first episode yesterday. Hosted by yours truly, week to week I’ll be discussing various aspects of time travel from mechanics, to its place in popular media, to anything and everything temporal. You can listen to it here.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the fact that I have a writing bucket list. Writing about time travel in it is high on the list. And, eventually, I plan to get to it.

But what are some things to look for when writing time travel?

We all have our story of when we fell in love with it. When I was young, I don’t think I realized just how in love with the subject I would fall. I was too young to notice paradoxes or inconsistencies, but the story of Marty McFly and Doc Brown is one I fell in love with.

When writing time travel, here are something things you need to consider.

Define Your Terms

This might seem obvious, but when writing your own time travel universe (or writing in someone else’s) you need to have your terms defined. Such as:

  • Paradox
  • Alternate Universe
  • Parallel World
  • Multiverse
  • Time

Some of these may seem obvious, but I know of people who spend a lot of time trying to determine these (myself included).  Knowing you have set meanings to these terms will help you when you are writing. Otherwise, you might find a paradox the size of Belgium in your book.

Know Your Method

Also may seem obvious but how are you getting to your temporal destination. DeLorean? Transdimensional Police Box? Hot Tub? Space Ship? Magic Stones in Scotland?

This method is yours for the choosing and you might not reveal everything, but you need to know all of the details. Knowing your stuff helps you to write.

Should your book blow up and be a best seller, nerds like me will come out of the woodwork and question your every temporal move. Make sure you can outsmart us (within the confines of your own universe, at least).

Know Your Rules

Can time be changed, or are travelers just observers? Can the same person have two versions in the same spacetime coordinates? How flexible is time? Are there fixed points?

All these things, and more, need to be figured out. They will come up (either in your book or when the nerds come with their crazy amount of questions).

After all, this is your universe and you should take great care in worldbuilding while working on your story. And, if you are breaking one of your rules, make sure you have a reason.

Be creative

I’ll admit, it’s this one that’s holding me up from cranking out a time travel epic. I’m trying to find a fun, unique concept that uses time travel and hasn’t been beaten to death. And trust me, that’s easier said than done.

Be creative when coming up with your premise. Cliches and Tropes are like landmines when it comes to time travel and you should take caution lest you step on one.

Don’t Let Anything Else Slide

Don’t let your characters, plot, writing quality, or any other element of craft fall through. Because you may think you can fall back on “Oh, look, I’m writing about time travel,” but Iit won’t work.

Make sure you have great writing, good characters, a solid world for them to live in, and a plot for your readers to love.

That being said, good luck and see you down the time line.

The World of the Wall:

  • 18thWall Productions has two podcasts currently out and running along. Stuff and Nonsense: Beyond Wonderland and Kairos Kore. Keep your eyes peeled here and on iTunes–more will be coming in the near future, and our podcast homepage will be launching soon.

If Walls Could Talk: The Pulp Ark New Pulp Awards

James Bojaciuk

M.H. was given a break this week. In my head, I fancied I’d know exactly what to write. Instead, I have paused over this blog post for days, stunned. Words resist me.

Thanks to you~thanks to each and every one of you~18thWall Productions had an excellent showing at the Pulp Ark New Pulp Awards. You didn’t just vote for us, you voted for us with enough force that we won, and won in significant categories. Thanks to you, J Patrick Allen and From the Dragon Lord’s Library: Volume 1 were chosen for best short story, and thanks to you Morgan Fitzsimons’ cover for From the Dragon Lord’s Library: Volume 2 was named best cover.

As much as I could climb on my soapbox and crow about how great Nicole is at curating collections (and she is), and how great J Patrick is at writing (and he is), and how great Morgan is at her art (and she is), and how great a publisher I am (I flatter myself to think so)…that approach doesn’t feel right.

We didn’t give these awards to ourselves. You saw something in our work, and you remembered it until voting started~months later. You gave us these awards. This was your work, and your effort.

Thank you, on behalf of myself, Ben, and all of 18thWall Productions. We’ll do our best to make this year even more rich in reading pleasure~all for you.

If you’re new to 18thWall Productions, and you want to get a taste of what we do here and why people chose to give us an award, we’re running a special Get Acquainted with 18thWall sale.

Until May 2nd, From the Dragon Lord’s Library: Volume 1 and Volume 2 will be available at 50% off. Our big winners will also be represented in another way–Nicole Petit’s The Dragon Lord’s Secretary (featuring a cover by Morgan) will be 25% off, and J. Patrick Allen’s novel Dead West: West of Pale will be 25% as well. If you liked their award-winning work, be sure to pick up these novels. Both novels spin directly or indirectly out of From the Dragon Lord’s Library.

While you’re at it, feel free to pick up a copy of The Return: A Novella of Sherlock Holmes, which is permanently free for your enjoyment.

If you’d like even more of our award-winners, you can find Nicole Petit on the web here (and listen to an interview with her here), find J. Patrick Allen here, and Morgan Fitzsimons here.

[Please note that this sale is exclusive to 18thWall Productions’ online store, and that our online store can only serve customers in North America.]

If Walls Could Talk: Crime Fiction & Miranda Rights

M.H. Norris

When writing crime, I often find myself having to look up legal jargon, previous cases on various levels (usually State and a few Supreme Court cases), protocol for various things, police procedure (in fact, I have a couple books for that), and of course laws. James and I often discuss my ideas for this column and in my traditional round of  “I don’t have a topic what am I going to do” James came up with the idea of doing a sub-series talking about various aspects of crime fiction. So here’s the first post of that little sub-series, “Crime Fiction &…”

While doing research for Badge City: Notches, I found myself having to have a crash course in police procedure and one of my favorite things was reading about the Miranda rights. Of course with Deidre being a detective, those would come into play and they got mentioned in a book I read.

Often with crime shows and books, we hear about the Mirada rights and people getting Mirandized but until I started working on Badge City, I didn’t know a lot about them.

The Miranda rights earned their name in the 1960s, but have their basis in the Fifth Amendment. Here’s my first writing tip for this blog post, if you are going to write crime, become familiar with the Bill of Rights. (Most writers aren’t lucky like me and have a little brother who has a copy of the Constitution handy.) Granted, there is Google, but you’ll find you know your way around those first ten amendments.

Here’s the Fifth Amendment: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The clause that the Miranda rights focuses on is where they can not be compelled to be a witness against themselves, the right against self incrimination.

But where does it get its name?

A lot of people are like Madea and refer to Miranda as an actual person. She tends to come and visit when you’ve gotten yourself into a nice bit of trouble (or not, as in Madea’s case). But, while they are right about Miranda being a real person, Miranda was actually a he. Ernesto Miranda was charged with kidnapping and rape in 1963 and found guilty and sentenced to 20-30 years in jail. In 1966 the infamous Supreme Court case, Miranda vs. Arizona, came to court and found that Miranda hadn’t been properly informed of his rights under the Fifth Amendment. In his retrial a year later, he was once again found guilty and sentenced the exact same way as before.

Of course, we’ve heard the familiar words on many a crime show, but in case you haven’t here is what is traditionaly said when a person is Mirandized.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” On a show, we traditionally hear these rights being “read” to a criminal as the detective/agents of insert agency here is slapping the cuffs on them. I read in Police Procedure and Investigation that that is often not the case.

Often times, one doesn’t get Mirandized until you are in the interrogation room and not only are you read your rights, but you are given a paper with them and are asked to sign saying you understand your rights. When doing research for this post, just to brush up on my facts, I read a statement that confirmed this. The Miranda rights aren’t necessary for an arrest to be made, they are necessary for an interrogation to happen. Granted, this information doesn’t come into play with your name, age, address and the like, but everything else…

Upon his release, Miranda got into a violent barfight and was stabbed. He was declared dead upon arriving at the hospital. His killer claimed his rights under Miranda v. Arizona.

History does have a sense of humor at times…

The World of the Wall:

  • Our fourth Science of Deduction novella, John Linwood Grant’s A Study in Grey, will be out this Friday. Keep your eyes narrowed on our homepage, and on Amazon. You can find John online at his should-be-awarding-winning website, greydogtales.

A Study in Grey_Grant_Cover

If Walls Could Talk: Let’s Talk Characters Again

M.H. Norris, with some words from James Bojaciuk

Why do we watch TV shows? What makes us come back episode after episode, season after season? What makes us buy merchandise and plan parties?

I’ve said a few times that I’ve learned that people often come for the premise and stay for the characters. Something in the pilot must make you relate to at least one character, and make you want to keep watching.

For example, in Psych (one of my favorite shows, and yes I will happily have a long discussion with you about it if you ask) we are introduced to a couple of character dynamics. On the one hand, we have the infamous duo, Shawn and Gus who have been best friends since diapers and because of an odd string of events they are given the chance to live out on of their childhood dreams. I know I’ve several times compared which one I am versus a friend. I’ll let you guess which one I get the most often. But there itself is something people can relate to. Everyone has a best friend, someone that they would love to grab on go on this kind of adventure with. Whether you’re the impulsive Shawn or the down-to-earth Gus, this goofy duo is endearing and makes you want to keep watching. Then there’s Shawn and Henry. Henry has some of the shortest screen time of the main characters but what little he has in the pilot we quickly see the dynamic between him and Shawn. And for a society where strained relationships with fathers is more and more common, it’s something a lot of people related to easily.

The Dragon Lord's Secretary_Digital Cover

Books take us a to a deeper level when it comes to knowing characters. We get inside their heads, and know more about their thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Just recently we released The Dragon Lord’s Secretary, the first book of Nicole Petit’s Magic Realm Manuscript series, and Josh Reynolds’ “The Door of Eternal Night.” Nicole’s Miss Scarlet Chase and Josh’s Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass have this in common: they’re expertly developed characters that beg you to turn the page and turn the page until you’ve reached the end, counting the characters old friends by the end of the experience. (For a more in-depth look at their work, take a look at two recent interviews I conducted with them. Nicole Petit, here, and Josh Reynolds, here.)

book cover the door of eternal night_Final

What makes these characters so endearing?

First off, characters have to be three-dimensional. I’ve mentioned a few times that I was watching a show and while the writing wasn’t bad, the characters fell flat and I found myself a season in and not caring one way or another what happened to any of them.

Good guys can’t be all good, bad guys can’t be all bad. There is a lot of grey in this world, and your characters should show it. That is, if you’re not explicitly choosing to paint in black and white. Superman, Galahad, and Captain America are captivatingly pure because the best of their authors understood the special touches and flourishes necessary to make white shine. Similarly, Hannibal Lecter and Fargo‘s Grimsrud wouldn’t be half so enthralling if flecked with white. Painting with strong colors requires your total attention and talent, though it can be well worth doing if you do it well~though a nightmare if you can’t tell white from black, as in the case of Zack Snyder.

Superman Saves Suicidal Girl_All-Star Superman

One of my favorite things to do with characters is to give them an odd quirk. In Badge City: Notches, Detective Diedre Tordano is addicted to Starbucks (I’m fairly certain she broke records making it to Gold level on the app). In “Midnight,” my All the Petty Myths novella, Rosella Tasoni is hooked on tea (like me) and struggles with a family who loves to butt in on her cases.These quirks can endear a character to your readers. Sometimes it’s fun letting them see that these characters aren’t perfect. Deidre finds the case in Badge City becoming personal, Rosella has a variety of problem that find their way into the heart of the case.

But even then, their problems can help win a reader over. We all have problems here and while books, and television, are used as a form of escape at time, we find it refreshing to see the characters have problems and then overcome them. Maybe we can overcome the problems we’re having, since they overcame theirs. Isn’t that why Cinderella’s story has existed for centuries in various forms? We all want that happily ever after in the heart of some unpleasant circumstances. We all dream and hope.

Names. I can’t write a character without a name. They’re essential to creating characters, for me. When you write a character, sometimes the hardest thing is the name. Sometimes, you want a name that means a specific thing. Google can be your best friend. Lately, I’ve been a fan of the name generator. I use Scrivener to write and whoever had the idea to put a name generator into the program and I should be friends. However you name your characters, I know I’ve spent a lot of time. Maybe I want a regional name, maybe the good old name generator can help me out, male, female, long short, nicknames, like I said, naming can be complicated.

After a name, you can start to work on more about this character. Who are they? Why is their story starting here? What are their hopes, dreams, fears? Why do they do what they do? Best friends, families, I’ll admit that sometimes I can get lost in creating a character.

My first few stories I did anthologies and while there were original characters of my own, many of the characters were created by someone else (so some of this work was already done). But even then, you still have to flesh out the brief description you get; these descriptions are often less than fifty words, so your full imagination is required. That isn’t always enough to write a whole story. It all comes down to the author’s creativity, for better or worse. For example, I had a character given to me for an anthology that was a big flirt, and it was funny imagining that he flirted with a character of mine. When you’re in an opportunity like this, you’ve got to play up the traits given to you, invent new quirks, and have fun with the characters.

Closing up, even with writing, people come for the premise and stay for the characters. If your character doesn’t change and grow won’t be able to sustain a story.

From there, people take a variety of approaches to creating characters. There are websites dedicated to helping you develop your characters. Some people need to fill out several page long questionnaires. Scrivener has a really simple version. I tend to have a name, some traits, some quirks, and an idea of their motivation. In the case of “Midnight,” where I know I’m writing a series, I have an idea of what’s coming ahead not necessarily the mystery itself but in Rosella’s life.

Wherever you find your inspiration for your characters, make sure you take the time to make them well-rounded, relatable, and fun. That way, when your readers come to your book for your premise, your characters make sure they stay until the last page.