March 21, 2011

If a spaceship leaves Alpha Centauri at .95 the speed of light...

...and a spaceship leaves Earth at .87 the speed of light, where will they meet?  Thanks to Eric James Stone's blog, I've stumbled upon Space Math.  With their easy-to-use calculators, I could actually come up with an answer to that question.  Let's be glad I don't teach math class, or these are the kinds of story problems I'd want to use.

March 17, 2011

How Toddlers Help Plot Novels

I have a toddler.  This equates to a lot of things -- like toothpaste on the carpet and pots all over the kitchen floor.  One thing I didn't think my toddler would do was help me learn plot structure and how to layer conflicts.

Every afternoon, he wants to watch a movie.  Often the same one.  Watching the same thing over and over with him helps show me how the movie's put together.  His latest favorite is the old Speed Racer.  All the episodes layer conflicts -- Speed Racer never just needs to win because he wants to win.  There's also his father's prized drawings of the Mach 5 at stake, or some villainy that will go unchecked.  His goal -- winning the race -- comes with layers of stakes, all tied up in the same goal.

However tired I am of humming the theme song, this is pretty good plotting -- multiple threads all hanging on a single resolution makes for a tight, impaction climax.  

Thank you, toddler.

March 1, 2011

Twitter Pitch Contest!

The blog Beyond Words is holding a Twitter Pitch contest here.  Agent Michael Carr will be looking through the various pitches.  I've been impressed with his patience and fortitude on a long thread, answering writers' questions.  Anyway, if you have a book to pitch, hurry!  They're only taking the first seventy-five submissions.