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Month: December 2015

Valar Morghulis

Posted in Characters, Heroes, Plot, The Chained Adept, and The Chained Adept

ValarMorghulis
“All Men Must Die” — The motto of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones

We're part way through a multi-day marathon of the entire 5 or 6-season run of Game of Thrones on cable, and it's been on non-stop for the last couple of days, downstairs in this small cabin. Periodically I go and get some lunch or dinner, and make sure my husband is still breathing, in front of the TV.

No doubt about it — this is quality programming, and I've seen all the episodes (and read the books). Upstairs at my writing desk, where I can hear snatches of the dialogue, much of the music, and all of the screaming, I'm having no trouble following along with the episodes as they go by.

This is having two effects on my writing…

I am oh-so-glad that George R R Martin is not the god of my personal universe

When novels first became popular in the 16th/17th century, readers felt that they held up a mirror to life. My opinion is: yes, and no.

Yes, in that the characters must emulate real people, or the story they tell has no foundation, no reality, and is nothing but fable, with puppets moved at whim by the author.

No, in that the author is the god of his created world, and it is only a pretense to abdicate that responsibility. It is not fate that kills his characters, or accident, or evil — it is the author's pen, disclaim it how he may. Even when writing a novelized version of historical events, the author cannot help but take sides, offer explanations, create a reality where the events make some sort of fictional sense. It's his story, and he has shaped it as he wants it.

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Words and history

Posted in Fantasy, Language, The Chained Adept, and The Chained Adept

Anachronisms
Anachronisms

There's one thing a writer of fiction learns early — don't knock a reader out of your story because of words that mean what you want, but that the character would never have used.

If you're writing a work of contemporary fiction, that usually means matching your dialogue to your characters. The impoverished nine-year-old is not likely to use gold-plated words, except perhaps as a comic gesture.

For non-contemporary fiction, the bigger problem is anachronism. When you remember that “khaki” comes out of British imperial rule in India, you are well-advised to avoid it as a descriptive term in a book on the Crusades, or in a fantasy world where neither Britain nor India have ever existed.

When I read books, I find the worst offenders are phrases based on technology that the author forgot is modern, or at least, too modern for the context. “He's never learned to put on the brakes”, “He's just blowing off steam”, “He's a real live wire, isn't he?” — these are a slap in the reader's face in the wrong context.

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Lost in the tepid swamp of niceness

Posted in Plot, The Chained Adept, and The Chained Adept

Lost in the swamp

There you are, writing along at a good clip, and suddenly you find your story buried in mud, all its energy lost.

Now, I'm still rather new at this fiction writing life — a bit shy of my first million words. Aside from working on the craft itself, which I enjoy, much of the challenge is understanding your own psychology well enough to control your productivity.

In my case, there are two issues: what to do when the story grinds to a halt, and how to avoid procrastination. Now, I don't know anyone who can successfully discipline their work habits through will alone (if we had that much will, we'd all eat healthy and exercise regularly, not to mention watch our budgets and clean our houses). Most of us are better off coaxing ourselves into a regular routine and lowering all barriers that might derail it.

Alas, I have an alarm system that slams a wall down in front of my creativity when it senses “wrong path taken” for the story. I push my way forward from that point with great difficulty and at my peril, and I've found it's always a mistake to do so.

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