Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lessons from the Roundtable Podcast

I was recently a guest writer on The Roundtable Podcast's second episode. I was 'pitching' the idea for a science fiction book, and the idea is that they match me up with a veteran writer who, along with the two hosts of the podcast itself, will help me refine the initial idea into a superior form.

I met one of the hosts, Dave Robison, through the Mythic Scribes forums. He read some of the work I had put up and has been very generous with his support and advice, especially in all things podcasting (which I intend to follow up with as soon as spring - and leisure time - rolls around).

 I'll be touching on the following points in this followup:
-My Preparation/Performance
-The Suggestions of the Roundtable
-Additional Thoughts on the Process

My Performance:
I think that my pitch, in hindsight, was poor. Sadly I could not have devoted much more time to it when this was recorded. I was bringing up too many technicalities and 'neat' details when I should have been dealing more with larger points of the story and leave the details out - or bring them up later when they are more pertinent.

After that, I think I improved. I've always been open to sincerely-offered criticism and am a member of a regular online workshop. 

The Suggestions:
Overall, very insightful and helpful. It was especially useful that Nathan Lowell and I think about story telling in rather different ways. For interest, one topic that came up early and often was the concern over theme. As I mentioned in the podcast, I don't do themes - not consciously, at least. I do not write a story with the intent of pushing a theme or a moral. Some of them will certainly emerge (that is probably inevitable) and if there is a good one I might try to polish it a bit. 

However, because of the way I feel about the interpretation of fiction (and all art, for that matter) I don't usually bother trying to clarify my interpretation of my own stories. Fiction can be both a lens and a mirror, but it is up to the reader to determine which it will be at any given point. 

A couple more subjects that came up:
Early Story/Impact of Galactic Civilization - As to the possibility of taking the Avatar route, nah. Done too famously and too recently. Plus, I definitely want to stick with the idea of a resource-poor planet retarding the tech development of Proto's species. The idea of social conquest (or pollution, as it was put in the podcast) is very much attractive to me, though. The impact of high technology on the various clans is something I'll be putting a great deal more thought into.

All Aliens? - I think we were tripped up by my casual use of the term. I of course did not mean to suggest that my characters were utterly alien. I simply meant that they were not of the species homo sapiens. There shouldn't be any problem  creating a sympathetic character of another species, as we've seen in countless sci-fi and fantasy stories. 

Why is the Spaceport there? - Upon more reflection, this isn't as important a question as I was starting to think it might be. Certainly, there needs to be a reason, but beyond certain parameters (not heavily used, not there for mining extraction) I think it can remain up in the air for awhile longer.

One Book? - Possibly the most important thing I was reminded of in the podcast! Thank you Nathan! In my hurry to tell the story about the Big Dumb Neat Event (Proto's transformation) I was ignoring the fact that I have a lot of background that I need to explore. My readers need to be comfortable with both Proto as a character and the rest of the (fictional) universe before I can go turning it on its head. I'm now thinking the first book might cover an arc that ends after Proto becomes a merc, but not too far after. There is also still the possibility of a first book dealing entirely with Proto on his home planet, in exile. Won't know until I write it!

Additional Thoughts:
A suggestion to other guest writers: I think the best criteria for the story ideas you bring to the Roundtable are ones that you have serious reservations with, but plenty of ideas for. Dave and Brion are both very creative people, and the veterans they're lining up are top-notch as well. Let them help you smooth out those issues. Furthermore, let them help you consolidate all those ideas into an actual storyline - that seemed to be the way Episode 2 went. All in all, I think this is the best of my story ideas I could have brought to them. I'm glad I picked it.

My voice: I sounded like a dork, but oh well. :) Nobody likes the sound of their voice on a recording...

There are no doubt other things I forgot, but this post is getting too long as it is. Thank you David, Brion, and Nathan for your help and your support!

1 comment:

  1. That is an excellent and honest assessment of the episode, Tristan. Brion and I enjoyed the discussion immensely and I'm sure Nathan did as well.

    I'd welcome the chance to sit down over coffee and discuss your perspectives on theme in the context of storytelling. We're on different sides of the fence (which is cool) but looking at the same yard. Maybe a convention sometime (or an awards ceremony). ;)

    Thanks for helping spread the word! As of this writing, there's no rules regarding "repeat writers" so if another story idea strikes, there's always a seat at the table for you.