Uncategorized

Being Telepathic

I’ve been writing for years now, and the one consistent thing I find that new writers do is write these great ideas, scenes, and stories that only they understand fully. And it usually means that the greatness of their writing is lost to the reader. It’s the terms they use, or the world-building, describing something in an awkward way or even, if it’s sci-fi, the alien races or concepts used. To them it makes perfect sense, and if I was in their head it would to me too. But that’s the thing, I’m not in their head. They have to get into my head.

Not as tall an order as you might think.

But it’s done with care and purpose. Deliberation. And it’s not the lack of this ability that makes a bad writer, because it’s a teachable concept. No, it’s just the vision the writer’s have isn’t fully formed for their readership. They haven’t explained it with a precision and conciseness that leads to understanding.

And this is important.

A friend once told me that it’s one idea to a sentence, not the three or four that I see in some new writers work. The professionals I read (King, Modesett Jr., Butcher, Brooks, Harrison) these writers lead me along, with precision, to the point they are making, the idea or the concept, so it takes form under my imagination and tells me exactly what they wanted me to know. Stephen King called this a form of telepathy. Taking the single idea / sentence concept further, a paragraph would add detail to the first sentence, refine it for our senses. And then the author would lead us on to the next thing, be that scene, or character detail or plot point. But each sentence, paragraph, scene, and chapter has this concept in mind: a clear understanding of the elements of the story that the author wants us to see the way he or she does.

Here’s an obtuse example: read a tech magazine, or any mag, on a subject you know nothing about. The language, jargon in this instance, are words you may know, but they are being used in a context and a way that may make no sense to you, but if it’s an engineering manual, the engineer does know it. This is what a truly good author knows and understands when they write; not everyone knows what they know. The writer lends their knowledge of language to make understandable a subject that isn’t normally comprehensible. Like that alien race that can transport instantly to anywhere else, but the author doesn’t use the term Translocation Malleability of the Universal Constant of Dark Matter Jump Quotants to tell you what he means – I made that term up, make what you will of it – No, he tells you that the creature can relocate itself in space, and maybe time, in such a way that you know a scene change has taken place. And you know it’s the creature that has motivated that scene change. It’s true this becomes a balance act between giving out to much information as compared to not enough.And what to give out when.

But that’s another blog post. Today, it’s about telepathy. Yours, mine and what comes in between. A small hint; keep this to your writing, do it with family and friends and they will stop hanging out with you.

Be telepathic.

Be kind. Write well, and don’t give up.

Mistakes

We all make them. See them published and wonder how they got there.

It happens. From writing too fast, or using a particular typing technique for so long mistakes are promoted automatically.  Or just being in front of a monitor for most people, see, the eye gets fooled by display monitors in ways it doesn’t on paper.

Or the ever important deadline.

It’s a distraction though, when our favorite works have a mistake in them and it throws us from the story. And yet, in the last ten years or so, I haven’t read a book that didn’t have some kind of typo in it. Before that I don’t remember seeing them, ever. But then editors jobs are changing as fast as the publishing industry, well, maybe not that fast. There used to be only one way to publish a book, though. Now it’s different.

And maybe it doesn’t matter anymore, short-form typing for social networks is a norm for many people, nowadays. What would have been a mistake could now be an accepted form of speech: WTF…you say.

No way.

Way.

Of course if you’re older than forty chances are it’s unacceptable, too. I sort of live in both worlds; my age is of an era when spelling was more important, my sociability is more of a culture that says it’s okay. But I strive for the purity of language that comes from an age even before me. Where sentence flow, and word choice mattered.

Does it stop me from reading, not a typo, no; but a destruction of sentence structure that makes meaning and concept unclear. Yes, I toss that kind of book aside all the time. I want to feel the emotion and the world of the writer in their details and that’s only possible through concise writing, in the many forms it takes. Because there is more than one way to write, more than one way to convey a story or the meaning behind it. That’s part of the vision of writing. But if the meaning becomes unclear because of mistakes too broad to accept, that’s where I draw the line. I try to emulate and learn from some great writers. LE Modeset, Frank Herbert, Asimov, Anderson, King, Jim Butcher, or even Brent Weeks. The first book of his I read had about fifty typos, I’m sure it was a deadline kind of issue, because his later books in that series improved to show the usual one or two mistakes that are common today. But the story was great, well worth reading.

My point here; mistakes are okay, we all make them, even the writers we consider great. Even the publishers, but don’t stop striving to be a better writer, because it’s a never ending learning curve that’s about…

Story.

Be kind, be well.

God is in the Details

Writing is about perception. Yours, and the characters you write about. What you see, personally, as a writer and a human being, How someone smiles, how they show anger, passion, or love. Your reactions in response. It’s the details you give that speak to your audience. It’s those same details in character that make them speak. And I’m saying this the easy way, because detail is more than how a character puts on his pants in the morning. It’s about layering, it’s the reasons behind the details and and how those minutiae  transform the character within the story. How the story makes the character change. Because your character has to change, all of them to some degree, even the secondary characters. It’s how good authors produce characters we like, or hate.

It’s how many authors tell their story, through the characters eyes. And that’s perception. Can you describe your landlord in a few lines that gives someone the idea of who they are and your relationship to them. How about the woman, or man, that you love? Would that description show someone how you feel. Would they get the one thing that keeps you with that person, the connection that transforms you when you see them every morning for the first time. Does it exist after a year, two, twenty. What’s the difference between the first sight of that person and the last? Is there regret, hope, a quiet companionship?

You get to choose. You have control over these details and what they mean to yourself, your reader, to the story itself. That probably being the most important part of the equation, and then the reader. I would put self last in this equation because you’re not telling a story about yourself, unless it’s a memoir. You’re telling a story about something else: a moment in history, a character that influences countries, and governments, or even a theme that moves individuals to change.

But it’s the details that show this, and you have to do it in the right place and time in the story so that your not dragging down the action, or making the hero a hero before he has any right to that lofty title. He has to earn his stripes and that means the details have to come in the right place. The right order.

Think of a movie that made you cry in all the right places, that made you stick to your seat and want more, but in the end you felt absolutely satisfied with the story as you wiped your face and tried not to let anyone else see that effect. Your friends just wouldn’t understand; unless they were moved the same way. You’ll know when that happens. Because the story was told right. The details were there.

When your descriptions in the written word hold the same visual context as a movie you’re putting God in the details, or the Devil, if you prefer that particular saying instead.

Look at your perceptions, break them down into components, put in the details you never have to include when it’s a thought or picture in your own head. Because you understand what your thinking, does someone else? That’s the trick about good writing. Someone else will understand it as well as you do, better,  they feel it the way you do. That connection will exist for them. Steven King calls this a kind telepathy between writer and reader.

I agree with him.

Write well, tell well. Give us the juicy details in between.

Be kind. Just not to the characters you write about.

Knowledge of Craft

I deal with several workgroups where I get to meet with some really great writers. They keep me honest, they show me my mistakes. They encourage me to become a better writer, sometimes by what they say, sometimes by what they point out as plot holes or inconsistencies in my work. Because lets face it, nobody sees everything.

They can’t, it’s impossible.

And yet I know people who insist they do. Not usually writers though. Some of what they’re doing is their own form of voice, I’m sure. It’s the way they speak, or the syntax they use, even the tense. And for some it’s their passion, and they insist other people see life through that filter.

I can get down with the passion, we all need that, somewhere, somehow. But here’s the thing, that insistence, I’ve read a lot of characters that do that very thing in the context of their story.  The author wants you to believe, needs you to believe, for the story to work or to accept the protagonist or antagonist, the character that can draw you into the book faster than almost anything. Pushy people in real life don’t always work, how often will you not associate with someone that is always telling you how your life should run and how it’s wrong if you don’t agree with them.

For some people it’s almost dogma, that insistence.

But in a story, voice, passion, and believability is important. That “dogma” might be the difference between a great character or someone the reader just hates. It’s a fine line, and a good book on writing will help you learn the things you haven’t thought of, or didn’t see right away. Knowledge of your craft, if you’re aspiring to be a writer is a never ending lesson.

Here are several books on craft, all of whom I’ve read and agree with:

For Grammar:

Strunk and White’s: The Elements of Style, Lynne Truss: Eats Shoots, and Leaves

On  Craft:

Stephan King: On Writing, Donald Maass: Fire in Fiction

On Story Structure:

Larry Brooks: Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies

There are more, but these are are the ones that held my attention because they were well written by passionate people who knew how to say more about the craft and keep it interesting than many I’ve read.  They’re worth listening to, and learning from.

Keep writing, keep being kind, smile at children, pat the neighborhood dogs.  Dream with applied action towards your goals. See you on the shelves.

How do you Know…

How do you know you’re a writer?

The easy answer is because you do. You write every day: grocery lists, wish lists, reports for work. Most people think they have the right to critique writing or that they could write a book. Maybe. But would they think that if they had a brush in hand, would they try to paint a landscape and when that failed, at first, would they gain new respect for the artist. The art itself. It doesn’t always work that way with books and the writing there of.

But most people write, and have been doing so since they were six, seven years of age, and hey, we all have an opinion. Isn’t that what a critique is, another person’s opinion. Which, if you go to a place to get critiques, called workshops, and I do, two to three a month. I listen, mostly, to the opinions that repeat. That’s how I know it’s not just someone’s pet peeve, or personal issue coming up, a dislike based on personal emotion. The broad sweeping kind that include everyone under one umbrella. But, and this is a big but, every opinion can be helpful. Writer’s listen, too.

So are you passionate? Did you write a book yet? Have a friend that did? I know several, also a few that just talk about it, they have great ideas though. And they do, I’ve heard several of them. But here’s the thing; and you’ll hear this, a lot:

Writer’s write.

Most every day. Most can’t help themselves, they have to get rid of that itch that makes them crazy. And then they have to improve it, make it a better itch, the best they can. So they rewrite their insanity. I wonder sometimes if this is how God started his career.

I write fiction: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, I think I’m terrible with humor, but people laugh in the right places occasionally. So don’t let your own opinion get in your way, writer’s get better with practice.

Trope

Trope means to turn, to direct, to altar, or to change. Today the word also means the device or ploy of a particular genre. Movies, as well as books, have tropes. Horror movies are a good example, and the Scream series have taken this to a new high, giving the tropes rules and evolving the series through an ever twisting set of rules, constantly upping the anti of what is expected for the new serial killer in horror movies.

Dr Who has several of these ‘tropes’, so does science fiction in general, and fantasy. I noticed one the other day that I thought was cool, one that I noticed it, and two, in how well it has evolved Dr. Who in similar ways to the horror genre. The Trope: have a character that regenerates into a different character every time he dies. It not only allows for new story lines and cliff hangers, it allows the producer to get rid of an actor and replace him with another tall skinny, weird-guy if there is a problem. Which leads to another trope, the sidekick. used for comic relief, emotional support or just plain fun in a script, play, movie, or book. Karen Gillian is the current favorite of Dr. Who. Well warranted in my opinion, she makes him better. So did Billie Piper. It also gives viewers two different heroes to identify with. The storyline of the first episode in the new season, is based on this very trope, not because I think they’re writing out the main character, but because it turns that particular device on it’s head. Again.

Showing a gun in the opening scene of a book is a trope. It means the character is going to use it in some way. It sets you up for it and lets you know all in the same moment. Jim Butcher use a fantasy trope in his Harry Dresden series of books. The wizard with a staff, only the book is set in Chicago, in modern times, and no one believes in magic. It was well done. Not to let Jim Butcher go, he has another series of books – The Codex Alera. It has, at the heart of it, the premise of a Roman Phalanx that has disappeared as it’s trope, and it was subtle and brilliant in it’s execution.

Tropes are everywhere in movies and books, it’s a trick and when it’s done right it’s masterful.

Jim Butcher is one of my favorite writers and anything he writes is worth a read. Twice.

Be kind, often you don’t get a second chance. It might be God on the bus seat next to you; who knows what he’s really asking for.

Video games, really?

Do you think video games don’t have story, or are they something to while away time. Or so you can get mad at the person playing them, or use them to ignore a person. Maybe they’re just fun. Well, the publishers of these games are starting to catch on, story matters. And it matters to the people who are entertained by video games. What’s the demographic? At a guess? Age ten to  fifty-five – seventy-five. I’m not kidding, the age goes up for those that have been playing since gaming inception. And the age goes down for anyone new to the entertainment.

And the money matters as much as story, tied hand in hand, I’d say. Look at the AAA publishers: Bioware, EA,  Bethesda. CD Red Project, not Triple AAA but if The Witcher 2 takes off the way they hope it might not be long. There’s more publishers, but that’s who comes to mind at the moment. And the stories, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Dead Space. Even Portal.

Dragon age was a game that allowed the choice of the player to affect the world he was playing in, same with Mass Effect and Fallout, And the upcoming Witcher 2, which has a total of sixteen different ending you can play into. And Dead Space and Dead Space 2, nothing but compelling goals and conflicts that drive you forward in the game. It’s about storytelling. And if you don’t think so, go talk to Glados, from Portal 1& 2 she has a test that will prove it, I’m sure.

George RR Martin

Is a great writer. He writes epic fantasy with great detail and characterisaztion, making you love the people in his stories, then he kills them off.

Game of Thrones has come to HBO, and it carries the voice and purity of George RR Martins vision. It’s great storytelling.

In the first episode, Bran, son to the new King’s right hand man, is thrown from a tower window. He’s seen the Queen consorting where he shouldn’t have and her lover takes the only choice possible for survival. And just like that I’m hooked. I want to know what happens.

In last night’s episode, Bran wakes up after an assasin has tried to kill him, and his mother, who’s only crime was being in the same room with Bran, is attacked as well. They are saved, and in such a way that I know it’s going to matter through out the story arc of the series.

The scene execution is perfect.

Bran isn’t the only character this kind of stortelling happens to, he’s just very likable. There are other characters, worth hating, too.

For fans of Geoge RR Martin, I doubt they will be disappointed.



Branding 101

That’s what this is about, branding. Recognition. The desire for other people to see me the way I do. Better than that, because I have doubts. Which, I think is normal. So I’m going to move forward, continue learning new skills in relation to craft and technical experience. As far as story goes, that’s a matter of detail that weaves back and forth and makes the reader feel connected. That process is moving forward, too.

The Internet is changing publishing.

A writer can create an e-book for little or no cost today. Minimal, at least. Just look at Amanda Hocking. And she’s a good writer. her dedication to the reader shows up in her work, because her craft is good and her stories connect.

I’m considering self-publishing. One, I need a book I feel is good enough, and two, I need to connect to my readers. I don’t want to through out any manuscript for publishing. I can do that now with what have in my computer drawer, most of which are good stories but I don’t feel the technical prowess is there. Not throughout, the way it should be. I have good spots, scenes, chapters, and poetic prose in the right amount, but it’s not enough. I think the next book is though, so that’s my goal.

And this website is part of that process. So we can connect, find a place to start. That’s the point of author and reader. It’s a trust I find important. My favorite authors do it.

So can I.

chapters, and poetic prose in the right amount, but it’s not enough. I think the next book is though, so that’s my goal.

And this website is part of that process. So we can connect, find a place to start. That’s the point of author and reader. It’s a trust I find important. My favorite authors do it.

So can I.