Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Braiding Stories

One of this Friday's releases from Musa Publishing, Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl, is a "braided" anthology. Writing one poses its own special challenges and benefits. Before we go too far, let's pause for my definition: a "braided" antholofy is a group of interlocking stories with either a common event or character. Rashomon is a braided story. In Rashomon, four characters tell their version of a rape and murder. The stories are knit together by this common event.

In this case, the anthology title, Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl, tells you the common threads: Jack, and he's cut by a female in every story. With those very loose guidelines, and two additonal ones (Jack could not get laid, or be killed), the six writers went to work. Months later, Celina Summers, our editor and head Muse, sent us the first draft of the anthology. Celina had the unenvyable task of taking six very different visions (three contemporary stories with various levels of magic, a steam punk story, am alternate world fantasy story and a science fiction story), and come up with a plausable storyline. She is so amazing that she made this daunting task seem easy.

The next hurdle was making the "Jack" character consistent across six stories. This took several Skype chats.

But what did we do?

First, there were the small tweaks. Variations in Jack's physical description were voted on and standardized (subject to point of view issues)- an easy fix.  We also needed to make location or event references consistent. As an example, Heidi Berthiaume's story (Kzrma Coyotes), the second in the anthology, had Jack staggering out of a bar. In this round of edits, we substituted the name of the bar she'd used for the one in Goldeen Ogawa's story. We decided the type of beer Jack would buy. Several of the stories were adjusted for this. If Jack carried an item out of a story, that item had to be dealt with in the next or, if an item was needed in a story, we had to show the reader how Jack acquired the item in a previous story. Some of these tweaks were minor, some required new sections to ensure internal consistancy.

We also had to have the same method of moving Jack in to and out of the stories. This discussion required some help from Celina. Once we understood her rational for the story progression and vision of what was happening, this detail fell into place. Again, we all needed to add to our stories to incorporate this common element.

What I had the most fun doing, however, was standardizing Jack's many idiosyncrasies. We created a list of Jackisms (some of the sayings I've been Tweeting for the last week), and then needed to decide if our Jack would really say that. There was a lively discussion about whether Jack would say "piss" or "whiz." (FYI - We went with "piss.")  The merits of "silly boy" versus "sissy boy," and keeping the "g" in words ending with '-ing" were discussed.

In three stories, Jack quoted from movies or television shows. This quirk we wanted to keep, but there was a hitch. Sometimes Jack quoted the movie correctly, or mostly so - "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" - and sometimes he butchered the quote - “Ooh, watch out, Toto. I think we’re in Narnia.” We decided that having Jack  misquote was funnier. So now, Jack references the "Ruby City" instead of the "Emerald City." Of course, once we made these decisions, some more rewriting was in order.

Small details like which profanity Jack would use bring the stories to life, but they also make the six very different tales a complete whole. This braided anthology borders on collaboration. The interweaving of the story elements made Jack Gorman a lot more work, but a lot stronger. And from a personal prospective more fun.  

I would definately participate in another braided anthology. If I could convince Celina to edit it, or any of my co-authors on Jack Gorman to write again, I'd be there before the sign-up sheet was posted.  I hope you enjoy reading about Jack's exploits as much as we did writing about them.


Jack Gorman would rather spend his time swilling brewskies, scoring with the babes, and watching football. Instead, he's been cursed by sword-bearing girl he harassed while on a bender.

Now, karma is dragging Jack's sorry ass across time, space, and alternate histories. The curse can be broken if Jack manages to learn his lesson, but Jack is nothing if not consistent. From small California towns to a steampunk past, a magical future, and a space odyssey of narcissistic proportions, Jack flirts and drinks his way across reality only to discover that girls with blades are everywhere.

Will Jack ever break the curse? Or is he doomed to an eternity of getting cut by girls? Regardless, Jack still can't get a break. As he learns the hard way, karma kicks ass in all timelines.

Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl


Doretta Mills said...

I am an aspiring writer and love your blog. My blog is at http://lifeontheedge-doretta.blogspot.com. Welcome

Nancy DiMauro said...

Thank you Doretta. I'm glad that you like the blog. If there's anything specific you'd like me to cover, just let me know. I'm off to check out your blog.