Category Archives: The Six Elemental

The End is Near! Sort-Of…

At one of the panels for Avalon Expo, someone asked “How do you know when to end a story?”

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I’ve had time to think about it and I thought I’d share some of my current musings. This is especially relevant since the big project I’m working on has spun so far out of control that I have no idea how it’s going to end…  Or if

Honestly, this advice is for me as much as you.

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So, how do I know when to end a story?

Short answer: Mostly intuition.

Long answer: There are a few ways…

  1. I’ve written the ending first.

Usually I know the end before I even start writing. Most of my short stories start out with that final moment, and then I just have to figure out what happens to bring me to that point.  It happened with The Gemini ProjectThe Invisible Boy; and the two horror stories I’m currently working on.

There were a few times where, when I got to the end of a longer story, I realized that the original idea no longer fit and it was going towards a new ending. But that’s not a bad thing – stories change, it happens. Sometimes you plan on killing all of your characters but a few of them end up surviving somehow. But then you write the final line (for the new ending) and you think to yourself “Yeah, that’s a fantastic ending line”. And all is right with the world again.

  1. I’ve written a really good end-line.

I love a good ending line as much as I love a good opening line. In fact, if I write a so-so ending line it bothers me to no end, because I know it can be better. It’s like looking at a row of pencils that aren’t quite perfectly in line….

Some examples are: Virginia Wolfe’s To the Lighthouse: “Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.” And George Orwell’s 1984:He loved Big Brother.” There’s something about those lines that are so final and yet mean so much more.

  1. The story I wanted to tell is over.

Once I wanted a project to have 25 chapters (for symbolic purposes), but when I reached the end of chapter 22 I realized that I was done. My character’s journey had ended. I’d said all I wanted to say about this particular story, and to write any more would do a disservice to the fantastic ending scene I’d just written. Yes, I wanted to continue with these characters, but I knew that it would be best to start a new plot, with new themes and ideas, instead of dragging this one out.

The Hobbit ends when Bilbo returns home; The Fellowship of the Rings ends with the breaking of the fellowship; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ends when Harry’s school term ends.  Even though their stories continue, their current task has ended and it’s time to take a breather before the next adventure.

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Typically, when I plan my ending, I try to resolve matters – either for better or worse. I don’t like leaving huge plot holes or dangling plot threads. It’s fun to have hints and intrigue and something to look forward to, but I’m not happy when the ending to a book is more like the ending to a chapter (yes, there’s a difference – As Fierce As Steel left me wanting more, while Mindspeak made me regret the time I’d spent reading it).

When in doubt, I think of who’s journey this is. Then I try to find a way to bring them to the end point – to let the character finally achieve their goal, or fail horribly, or realize that they need to change their way of thinking.

Originally, I had no idea how to end The Six Elemental. I tried to resolve what I could, while leaving certain things unsaid, but the end just didn’t feel end-y enough.  Finally I thought about Kit’s journey and how she had changed over the course of the story.  I thought about what I was trying to say with this story and made that the ending, so when people close the book that’s the impression they’re left with.

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And with that, I return once more into the void from which I came…

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“We were on a break!”

I’ve been a bit neglectful.

See, I started to panic about the progress of a story I was writing. I was wondering if it was going to be long enough; if I had enough plot; if I was only writing things for the sake of filling up the word-count; if I’d taken the right direction or if I was way off course.

Doubts, man, they can really get in your head sometimes.

So I took a break. I stopped staring blankly at the screen, writing half a sentence and then deleting it. Instead, I worked on a couple short stories. Then a couple more. Then I was chatting with someone who’d read The Six Elemental and that gave me an idea for another short story. Then I got distracted by an old novel I’d written a few years ago and sunk WAY too much time on that (long story short: I decided to move from first person POV to third person, and now I’ve basically got to re-write the entire 50,000 words).

But last week I decided to go back to that first story, and you know what? I started to fall in love with it all over again. I was getting new ideas, fixing problems, making motivations clearer… It was like meeting up with an old friend.

When I’m in between edits, I’ll try to take a break from what I’m working on. It gives me a chance to come back to it anew and see things that I might have missed because my face was jammed so close to it. But there are times that I need to take a step back from a project because something isn’t working, and I need the space to realize what the problem is.

It can be tough to step away. It might feel like you failed your work or your characters, or that now you’ll never get it finished. But the best part is that you can always go back to it. And sometimes, when you come back, you might see that you were actually doing a pretty great job.

 

Dude, Where’s My Character Sheet…? (AKA I am the worst at titles)

I have a very long To-Do List when it comes to writing projects. It’s so long that I’ve had to separate it into sub categories:

  • Ideas to develop further
  • Stories to start writing
  • Plays to start writing
  • Stories/Plays I’ve started writing and need to finish
  • Finished works I need to edit
  • What even is this idea/story/play and where is it going?

And, finally:

  • Reference binders to create

Continue reading Dude, Where’s My Character Sheet…? (AKA I am the worst at titles)

HUGE Lineup Changes for Avalon Expo 3!

Big news today for fans of literature and genre fiction in the province! Avalon Expo is pleased to be bringing a new guest to their Avalon Expo 3 lineup: none other than Ali House, author of The Six Elemental!

The big news for fans of Engen Books is that that this will be the first time that our entire 10th Anniversary cast has been in one place at one time! Saturday August 26 2017 only, you can see Ali House, Paul Carberry (Zombies on the Rock), Ellen Curtis (Infinity), Erin Vance (From the Rock), Amanda Labonté (Supernatural Causes) and Matthew LeDrew (The Xander Drew series) all on one stage at one time! Continue reading HUGE Lineup Changes for Avalon Expo 3!

How (NOT) To Write A Blog Post

Step 1)  Think of a topic and start writing.

Step 2)  Realize half-way through that you don’t like this topic as much as you thought you did.

Step 3)  Think of new topic and start writing.

Step 4)  Wonder if maybe the first topic was better and consider returning to it.

Step 5)  Wonder if maybe there’s a third topic out there that’s even better than the previous two*. Continue reading How (NOT) To Write A Blog Post

The Six Elemental | Review by Christopher Walsh

the-six-elemental_fireworksThe Six Elemental is suspenseful and engaging YA novel by Ali House. It’s so engaging that I started reading it in the airport in Windsor, Ontario en route to Newfoundland and had it nearly finished by the time the plane touched down in St. John’s. That included a flight change in Toronto!

The setting and plot are both realized quite well and the political spectrum of the island nations has surprising depth for a YA novel. (Or at least the ones I’ve read) The main character, Kit Tyler is brought to life quite vividly and her journey through the fantastical, dystopian world filled with magical super-humans delves into subjects that run parallel to issues faced by young adults in our own world. Continue reading The Six Elemental | Review by Christopher Walsh

Supernatural Causes by Amanda Labonté | Review by Ali House

020Fans of True Blood*, the Anita Blake series**, and other stories with tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome vampires, should definitely pick up Supernatural Causes by Amanda Labonté.

Vampires, Werewolves, and Witches live in harmony with humans, although the majority of humans don’t realize it. Liesel Andrews is a pre-med student who can see supernatural beings for what they truly are, making her the perfect choice to work at the local supernatural hospital. However, her busy-yet-mundane life gets interrupted when she’s called upon to investigate a mysterious illness affecting the vampire community.

Labonté adds to the pre-existing mythology of vampires, giving it some new blood (pun intended), and adding a level of curiosity to the virus (just… how?). As the first installment, Going Viral sets up the world and introduces key characters, giving you enough information to understand what’s going on, while leaving enough unanswered questions to keep you curious. Continue reading Supernatural Causes by Amanda Labonté | Review by Ali House