Archive | July 2014

Write your book in just a week!

Most certainly NOT an anti-NaNoWriMo rant. Great read!

songoftheseagod

One trend in what I suppose you could call the ‘creative writing industry’ at the moment is encouraging people to write books really quickly.

473px-Usain_Bolt_Olympics_CelebrationI’ve come across writing ‘experts’ who run courses and so on claiming they can teach you to crash out a whole novel in a month or even less. It’s the Usain Bolt approach to novel writing.

For the record – Song of the Sea God took me two years to write, from which I’m sure you can glean that I’m in no great rush to type ‘The End.’ To me that doesn’t seem an extraordinary amount of time. The other two books I have completed have taken a similar period. It takes roughly a year to complete a first draft then another to rewrite and polish it until I believe I have something I wish to inflict on an indifferent world. After I have finished, I…

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Getting Into Character ~ How Far Would You Go?

Brilliant article on developing deep characterization of our fanciful creations.

Elizabeth Fais

Crafting Believability From the Inside Out

To suspend disbelief and surrender to a story, the characters havePagesThatGrabYourReader to be believable. That sounds simple enough. Yeah, right. I read books that advised me to create character sheets listing descriptive features and facts about each character. I did. And my characters came out two-dimensional.

A list of facts didn’t get me inside my character’s skin. I have to internalize who the characters are  before their personalities shine through my writing.

A list of traits was only a description of the outside of a character. And while those details are important, I needed to understand my character from the inside out before I could write dialog and describe actions that were real for that character.

I was a film-a-holic before I started on my writing journey. From watching all those movies, it finally clicked that writers have to be actors, show a character’s…

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Black Egyptians: The African Origins of Ancient Egypt

I love supporting my fantasy stories with historical context like this. Great research for me! Yay!

BooksGoSocial

Black Egyptians

The false representation of Egypt

All Egyptologist’s would agree that Ancient Egypt was home to a highly advanced and civilized race. When the topic of ‘race’ is used to describe the Egyptians it is either conveniently left out, labelled insignificant or shown in the wrong image. When Ancient Egypt is shown in the media; such as movies, TV documentaries, and video games or in education; through books/articles and spoken about by everyday people and so-called scholars, the people are mostly depicted as Arab, Mediterranean or white. Just look at some examples of this in Picture 1.1. Now compare it with Picture 1.2, which shows evidence of a Black race in Ancient Egypt. There is a clear contrast in pictures; one of these has to be wrong!

What is said of the Egyptians in the academic world? The general view of the Ancient Egyptians being black by race is summed up…

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GREAT BLACK AUTHORS OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY: Past & Present

Chronicles of Harriet

GREAT BLACK AUTHORS OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY: Past & Present

Ask people to name Black authors of science fiction and fantasy and only a few names will be repeated, if any names are known at all: Octavia Butler…Tananarive Due…L. A. Banks…Walter Mosley. While, most certainly, these brilliant authors should be in everyone’s library, you are cheating yourself if you do not know of – or explore – the many other great Black authors of speculative fiction.

The Black presence and impact on the world of speculative fiction is a vast and powerful one. Some of these authors you may have heard of; some you may not have. Some will absolutely surprise you. All of them tell Blacknificent stories.

Let’s dive in and see just how deep this well of creativity is.

Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932)

Chesnutt published The Conjure Woman in 1899.  The book, a series of loosely associated…

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When villains aren’t evil

I enjoyed reading this and realized that the main Big Bad in my dark fantasy YA isn’t necessarily “evil”. Great post.

Guild Of Dreams

by Autumn Birt

Here on the Guild of Dreams, we’ve written about common fantasy tropes quite a few times. But I think one trope we haven’t covered yet is villains. Specifically, that villains are always evil, especially in the fantasy.

It is simply a fact of life. There are the heroes who must struggle against evil. Why?

Sure, I could get philosophical that we as a species are constantly searching for a way to simplify the problems faced every day. And nothing is simpler, or more validating, than good versus evil. So of course, stories are crafted to follow this formula. And it is a formula. One of the oldest.evil character

But there is so much more…

What makes a villain evil? That she/he will stop at nothing to achieve a goal? What if that goal is necessary to save the lives of friends or family? That is a lot less…

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Character Takeover: Meet Adara Trosclair!

     Well, first of all, I’ve got to say that your world is just as messed up as mine. While skimming the headlines on my creators computer screen, I just had to shake my head in disbelief, disgust, and dismay. Downed planes shot right of the sky? Terrorists abducting women and children? Wow. Whoa. No thank you.
     I come from Reath, an anagram (a word formed from another by rearranging its letters) for your planet, Earth. Basically, from what I’ve studied while hanging out here is that our worlds coexist at the same time, but in different universes. More on that later. All of that scientific stuff makes my head hurt in the worst way. Another character, whom you’ll meet sooner (than you’d like) can give you the “layman” aka idiot’s version of all of that. His name is Constantine and I do admit that he is quite intelligent; however, his arrogance just makes him look like a jackass half of the time.
     In our world, we have hundreds and hundreds of gods and goddesses and they have made themselves known. Now, there had been a time that these gods had become eerily quiet due to the compliance of humans worldwide. They asked for blood, blood tributes were given. And like cicadas, they returned underground from which they had first risen and no one heard a whisper or seen even a shadow of them for almost two hundred years.
     But, when Lucien Dieuamour, the young Lord of the City began to change things, that’s when the bloodthirsty gods emerged from hiding.
     That is when the murders began, but the victims were not just anyone. Clariusian men and women began littering the streets with their hearts ripped out. How ironic or what your people would call poetic justice. After all, it was the people of Clarius who had been chosen by the gods to offer the blood of other men, women, and children to them. Most people wanted to believe that it was the acts of a madman acting out of vengeance for the two extinct races of people who had bled and died for the gods’ appetites. Others believed otherwise and said that it was the gods exacting vengeance on the humans who dared to deny them what they desired: blood of humans.
     When I was a little girl, I used to believe in the gods and served a beautiful goddess of cool nights and comforting shadows. And as I aged, I decided that if the gods were real then they are evil and enjoyed our suffering (for how many times had I prayed for a solution to our woes – how many times had I cried out into the night for an end to our blood being shed?) OR there were no gods at all. Myths, legends, fairy tales.
     Right now, I am caught once again somewhere in between: wanting to believe in something greater than me , but willing to rely on my own power, whenever necessary, and letting gods or no gods stand in my way. And as you learn more about me in the book to come, perhaps you will understand.

Murdering Your Darlings Is Not Enough

     According to Rob Parnell, (http://www.easywaytowrite.com/ArtMurder.html), “Murder your darlings” was a phrase first coined by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (or Fitzgerald or Faulkner or Nabakov or even Stephen King, depending on who you believe). I once saw this phrase in sticker form years ago on a fellow writer’s binder. She was a delightful young lady with dandelion yellow hair, great blue eyes, and a wicked sense of humor. Her husband called her a “tamed psychopath”. I asked her about the meaning behind the sticker and she told me that murdering your darlings basically means killing or “editing” out the best parts of your stories. Moreover, those luscious, beautiful lines of writing that may have been given to you during the midnight hours of laborious writing or handed to you from above and sealed with a lacey ribbon by the Goddess-Muse-of-All-Things-Literary should be slashed out with your pen – (preferably with ink as red as blood so that it looked like you attempted suicide a la wrist on the paper). Huh. Why?
I asked the same thing. WHY? Well, some writers think that these darling, pet words, phrases, and such are keeping you from being a better writer. Crazy, huh? Maybe. Unnecessary? Well, only at first.
      After reading Parnell’s wonderful article, I have to agree with him that destroying the very lines, phrases, passages, and pages that give us an incentive to write and to write more is overkill. Words are precious, priceless, and worth protecting. As a new writer, they should be cherished. HOWEVER, as we grow and blossom as writers, Parnell makes it clear that with time and practice, the words flow easier and are no longer so sacred. His explanation was so point on that I just had to copy and paste it word for word here: “As you progress in your writing career, you become less touchy about your words. You have to. Editors hack them around without mercy. Agents get you to rewrite great swathes of text they don’t like. Publishers cut out whole sections as irrelevant.” Wow.
      Now, with that aside, I shall discuss the other “darlings” that we writers take great pride in writing about – our characters. Strong characters drive the plot of any great story. There are characters that we love to hate and characters we relish in hating to love. In middle school I read a book called, “A Hero of Our Time” by Mikhail Lermontov. The main character, Pechorin, is arrogant, cold, heartless, and as I read his page by page exploits, all the while cringing, I couldn’t help but admire him in some sick, twisted way. As literary works go, he is one of the best anti-heroes ever created. I will not spoil what happens at the end of the book, for those of you who have not read it, but I was satisfied because I knew that any other ending would not have done justice to the pages that preceded it.
      As an avid reader and a writer, I’ve often reflected on books that I have finished and adored even despite the tears of bitter sweet beginnings, middles, and endings. “Flowers in the Attic” comes to mind. I read it as a teenager and I remember quite vividly how much I hated the grandmother – but especially the cruel, wicked, and greedy mother of the main characters in the book. Yes, I did love to hate her and I yearned and yearned that justice would be swift for the Dollanganger children. Unfortunately, justice seemed so bloody slow. Andrews, the author of this classic book knew what she was doing and did it quite well. This author chose to murder her darling characters in that book – literally – so that the reader, who had become quite attached to them, would die a little too. So, once emotionally invested, one just has to read the rest of it – even if your favorite character (darling) dies smack dab in the middle, like in Tsugumi Ohba’s “Death Note”, a fantastic and beautifully illustrated graphic novel. This writer did what I call the unthinkable and yet ultimately badass. He had the ruthless audacity to murder (many readers) most favorite character in the middle of the series and this character was also (in my opinion) the only individual worthy of thwarting the main character’s plans and goals. This little juggernaut to the reader’s psyche was tantamount to killing off Sherlock Holmes and letting Dr. Moriarty play his macabre game of shadows all alone. This character’s death, in “Death Note” (who I shall not mention in case you want to read it) for me, was unexpected and I grieved and mourned for him in the worse way. HOW COULD YOU, OHBA, my mind raged and wailed! Like a petulant child I sulked away refusing to read anymore of the series, due to this great and terrible loss. And yet, (months later) only because I had learned to utterly despise the main character, Light Yagami, (an anti-hero that I loved to hate) and wanted him to pay for all of his dastardly deeds, did I decide to read on to find out what would happen to him. Would he pay for his crimes? Would he die? Or would he get away with it all? I read on. I persevered and again, I wasn’t disappointed with the ending. If Ohba had failed to paint the other main character, Light, with such a sinister brush, I don’t think killing off his foil and rival would have worked as tragically and gorgeously. As a result, I as a reader would have been sorely disappointed.
     When I was much, much younger and merely dabbled with writing – not serious writing mind you, but writing for the mere pleasure of creating – I thought myself cruel for even thinking about assassinating one of my “children” and often cringed at the idea of killing off any of my characters, be they minor or major. Like a tiny god, I enjoyed creating this emotion here, this obstacle there, but I had not yet learned the cathartic joy of killing off characters – oh yes, even my darlings – my most favorite characters whom I never thought I could treat with such unfairness I killed off or at least made them wish they had died. A fellow writer and friend of mine, Tami, taught me how writers often play god by allowing our characters to go through incredibly horrible situations because killing them is not enough. Suffering must come first. Hardships must be endured whether they are small or great. Problems that characters encounter must, as I said before, must serve a purpose and in some way be connected to the ultimate goal. My friend, Tami would often laugh and joke about how cruel they (our characters) must think we are. Sometimes, I have conversations with my characters and tell them quite lovingly, “This is for your own good. It will make you grow. You cannot have the rose without the thorns, my darling. Your friends will die, but first they will betray you and then I will rip them from the pages of your world. Endure.” Thank God they cannot truly talk back! I shudder at the thought of what they would say . . . or do if they could manifest into flesh and seek revenge for my viciousness!
     But . . . there is a purpose to all of this pain and torment. Or at least there should be. In one book I recently finished reading, the main character is not only accused of murder, the love of his life is kidnapped and nearly ravished by the true murderer . . . and finally the main character is shot and barely escapes with his life. Yet in the end he triumphed! The experiences that the main character suffered through served several purposes: drawing out compassion in the reader and making it the main character’s driving force within the book as he moved along trying to solve his own problems. Stagnant characters make stagnant stories and characters that I grew to admire were anything but stagnant. I cared about this character on a personal level and as I turned each page, skipping dinner, even skipping sleep in order to find out what happens next, I constantly rooted him on, all the while holding my breath in anticipation for his victory! It’s because the author did what Hemingway is quoted as saying best, “when writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature”.
     Likewise, as a blossoming writer, I’m learning that it is okay to let my “people” suffer. It is okay to have them fight against well placed obstacles in their path. I’m learning that it is okay for my “people” to lose loved ones, limbs, and even their very lives because even though life is beautiful and unfair that is what makes us ALIVE. It’s the “little deaths” that matter along the way. As Robert Frost said, “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader”, right?
      However, I often wonder if we writers (who I have called with much endearment and tenderness “certifiably insane” have another reason altogether for the punishment we whip out on our people (major, minor, etc.) in order to elicit tears from our readers. Perhaps, we do this to obtain the sometimes lack of control we experience in our own daily lives. Perhaps, we are creating an illusion of control? One of my favorite quotes that I have pasted in one of my journals is by Bennett Cerf, which reads: “Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer — and if so, why?”
      Maybe, just maybe we are “tamed psychopaths” hungry for power and a thirst for control that we can never truly quench during our ephemeral lifetimes?
      Nah . . .
      Fellow writers, let me know how you would answer Cerf’s question. Why do you want to be a writer? What makes you go even madder when you go a week or more without writing? Comments are always welcome and appreciated!