Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chrome vs. Sheetmetal

I have been thinking about description and stylistic prose in novels, and
along these lines, when less is more. Books that use simpler language and
sentence structure seem to have a few clear advantages. First, you can read them
really quickly. Second, the details that are omitted tend to get filled in by the reader's imagination, provided the author gives the reader some type of mental hook to draw their mind's eye into the story. There is a place for this type of writing.

For better or worse though, I have chosen to write more descriptively. Or, perhaps
it isn't a choice as much as an intinsic style. But for my next novel, I have
made a choice to keep the more descriptive portions of my writing to a
relative minimum. I think this is a good choice, because like any
superlative, the detailed descriptions will be made more striking by comparison to the more conventional writing that they will contrast with.

I think the risk of using a simpler writing style is that your scenes might start to seem cliche to the reader. If an author describes a city of elves the reader will probably be able to imagine that, but chances are that it will be a kind of mental pop art stand-in prop rather than a fleshed out and unique locale in the author's
fantasy universe. And that lack of detail detail could hamper the reader's ability to suspend disbelief for other parts of the story.

It's a wonder that authors write at all, given all of these dangers {wink}. But, I guess the editing process is often used to address these types of issues. We indie authors do edit, right? {wink}{wink}

On a personal note: ARGH! I haven't been writing much in the past week. I hope to make amends for this tomorrow.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

There's a certain majesty to a work that is crafted to pander to specific appetites, and eschews the social mores and conventions of the time that it is made. I suppose this is another way of saying that the vulgar can be beautiful--especially when it's classification as being vulgar is the by-product of a value system that is gilded and stratified, and, perhaps, already falling aside under the ponderous weight of old thinking.

Take the movie "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!". If you aren't familiar with this movie, check out the trailer on youtube. This movie was considered vulgar in its day, yet the roots of modern films like Tarantino's Kill Bill are there to be seen. And the movie is no longer shocking--because the idea of a woman kicking some serious butt is no longer so completely outside of the gender archetype that society has defined for women.

I think fantasy stories are on a similar track. When Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, although the story was evocative of age-old myths from multiple cultures, I don't believe there was a fantasy tale like it in mainstream consciousness. The Arthurian stories were around, but they didn't focus as much on wielding a power that could destroy the world. Lord of the Rings pushed our society forward in a subtle way, as we came to grips with nuclear weapons and other truly terrifying end of the world scenarios.

Now, all manner of stories about magical powers abound. We have wizards, vampires, werewolves, superheroes, etc., etc. As a collective, humankind seems to be preparing for enhancing ourselves through genetic engineering. And we're using these stories and fantasies to explore the morality of these issues before they become a reality. It's a pretty amazing thing, really.

So what is the next story after this? What writer will write the defining myth for the 22nd century, in the 21st?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lexicon or Leprechaun?

It's been a long week. The transition from vacation back to real life was predictably difficult. What has been the toughest is the contrast between my most productive days of writing in, well, years (this past weekend), and a week of relative inactivity on the writing front due to fatigue from work. This feels like a week where I could have written a lot if circumstances were different. But I have written some little fragments here and there. So, some progress has been made this week. I have a busy weekend coming up, with a possible family day trip and prep work to have a new carpet installed in my basement. Hopefully I'll be able to get in some writing time.

I also had a strange feeling this week. One night, I was listening to some inspiring music and looking at some inspiring art, and I got a very vivid feeling of flying high above my imaginary world like I was an incarnation in it. I don't really know how to describe it other than a very vivid and literal flight of fancy. Maybe imagining very intensely brings with it a certain pathological tendency. If I go nuts, or something, at least people will be able to read this blog post and mark my descent into insanity from this point on. :)

When I wrote my first novel, I made a decision not to create an entire lexicon of terminology for my fantasy "universe". I didn't want the reader to have to learn a bunch of new terminology in order to connect with the story. I did use some unique names--mostly for monsters or creatures that were unique to my story. But for creatures that were based on real world mythological ones, I decided to describe them first and then use the real world name for them ongoing.

An example of this is the Griffin in Hemlock and the Wizard Tower. Now, I could have called it a GrifflePottenSnort, but would that have added anything to the story for the reader? My take then (and now) is no, it wouldn't have. I'm curious to hear from anyone that feels that learning a deep lexicon for a fantasy setting added significantly to their enjoyment of the story. I have decided to use a few more unique terms in the next novel relative to the first, but it will not be a dramatic change.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Just enjoyed another True Blood episode on HBO. Sometimes I wish I was writing contemporary fantasy/paranormal, since it is a genre I enjoy. But I haven't had the urge to write in the genre with the exception of a half forgotten idea that is coming back to me as I type this. I think it had something to do with werewolves and a laundromat. Maybe it's good that that concept apparently got thrown into my mental trash bin, because it sounds kinda silly as I read over what I just typed.

I feel like the new novel is taking on a life of its own now. It's established some strange inertia that is propelling it from my head onto the virtual page. It's a great feeling, but it also leaves me with a sudden feeling that the story has left my control to some extent.

Now this may sound odd, because, obviously, I am writing the novel and I can change anything I want to at any time I want to. But I know better than to try to get in the way of my process now that I am just basically dictating the story into my word processor.

I think what I can conclude from this is that I have already written this novel in my head. It is almost a completed draft, and the incomplete parts are filling in as a necessary consequence of their context within the larger story. If I wanted to make fundamental plot changes, I probably should have done it months ago when I was imagining the core concepts and plot points that are making up the story.

Of course, I could be getting ahead of myself. Maybe I'll hit a conceptual wall and I'll need to go back into full bore imagination "mode" in order to get through it. But after this weekend, I think that that is an unlikely scenario. The writing has been flowing as quickly as I can type. But it does come with a concomitant mental energy expenditure. That could slow me down as I head back to the reality of my day job tomorrow. We shall see...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Travel Without to Look Within

I'm back from a very nice vacation. I have to confess, however, that I'm not intrinsically a traveller. I get comfortable in a routine and I like to stick with it. Vacations force me just a little outside of my comfort zone. And this is a good thing.

There is a quote from Frank Herbert's Dune that comes to mind as I think about this topic: "A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep within, allowing them to grow. Without change something deep within us sleeps, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken."

I didn't write too much while I was away. This was largely due to spending most of the time with my family. But I think that there will be indirect benefits to my writing from this vacation time. Hopefully my sleeper (third eye?) has been awakened. And I hope that I will be able to craft some good, elegant writing and tell the story that I am so excited to get onto (virtual) paper.

I hope everyone had a great week (it's almost over). I plan to do some writing tomorrow, and I should be tweeting about it then.

One more quick note. Soon after writing my last blog post about my arcade games, I went down into the basement and fired them all up. They still all work (phew). You need to run these old electronics from time to time to keep them free from decay and atrophy.

My recent vacation was to the NJ shore. And during my trip I realized that the boardwalk arcades, which were the final bastion of some of these tired old gaming warriors, have either gone away or changed over to redemption games. No wonder the arcade collecting hobby has slowed down in recent years. There simply aren't many more old machines coming out of arcades, any longer. And the machines that are left are starting to need repairs and restorations, as they enter their fourth decade of duty. So, my last post was probably hasty. At the very least, my perspective on the arcade collecting hobby has changed.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

To Remain Happy One Must Always Change

The fortune inside the cookie read: "To Remain Happy One Must Always Change". I slipped it into my wallet, feeling that this was a piece of wisdom that I should carry with me always.

I was listening to a radio feature on nostalgia this week. Apparently nostalgia used to be considered more than a benign remembrance of the past. It used to be a medical condition associated with a longing for the past with an accompanying melancholy.

For the past fifteen years or so I've been interested in collecting old arcade games. I have filled my basement with these relics of past gaming glory. Many of them are now showing their age and in need of repairs. And for the first time I find myself uninterested in playing them.

Now I've gone through periods of disinterest before, but this has been several months in the making--the longest period yet. I have to consider that, perhaps, this hobby has passed me by. Part of me is sad at the idea of the passing, but another part of me feels that the time is right.

I'm going to wait for a few more months before I make any decisions about selling arcade cabinets. There are a few cabinets that I would keep, but I would sell many of them, I think. I don't want to have regrets down the road. But I guess that life doesn't offer guarantees about not having regrets, does it?

In other news, I leave for vacation this weekend, so I'll probably be scarce on the internet. I get paranoid about hotel wi-fi and its security weaknesses. But it will be a great opportunity to think about the new novel and write down some scene fragments.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Back to the Future / On to the Past

Now that I'm done with the flashback in chapter three, I need to go back to the of the story. I need to go back to Chapter Two and write quite a bit of it. The scenes are all mapped out in my head, so once I sit down and start writing it, it should go pretty quickly.

I've also been adding some chrome to the flashback chapter three. Chrome (in writing parlance) means specially crafted language or description. I am bending the meaning a bit here to include making a scene more fantastic and cinematic.

Once work on chapter four starts, I'll be into the real "meat" of the story line for this new novel. I'm looking forward to that (and it shouldn't be far off). I have pre-planned some aspects of the journey that will be happening in this part of the book, but I am hoping for some good off-the-cuff organic growth to emerge here as well.

...And on to the Past! I've also had an idea for the next flashback sequence. I'm really charged up to write this one--almost as much as I was to do the first flashback that I recently completed the draft of. I wonder if I'm going to write this one in another 5000 word marathon session like I did the last one... I hope not, for my endurance's sake.

I've always told myself that I wouldn't self-impose any dragonian writing deadlines on myself. (This just in from the Crypto Doggerel Department: "Hey, was that a pink floydian slip in that last sentence? What is the significance of it, I wonder?")

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Writing Fatigue

Yesterday, I had the most productive writing session that I've had so far on the new novel. As I mentioned in my last post, I had some good ideas for the first flashback, and I wanted to "strike while the iron is hot" and get them written down asap to ensure that I didn't forget any of the details.

I had a small block of time between family duties and other responsibilities, and I wanted to take about half of it to write and the other half to relax. But as I started writing, and things started to flow, I didn't seem to be hitting a stopping point. And I just couldn't stop myself since I was writing so productively.

Last night we went to see fireworks and we had an unusually late night out waiting for them. I was a mess: I was tired and a bit grumpy. I guess I was already tired from the week at work, and writing right through my small window of relax time really took it out of me. Sitting in gridlocked traffic for 90 minutes after the fireworks didn't help matters... I told my wife that we are getting fireworks on Blu-Ray next year. I was only half kidding...

Oh well, at least I doubled the word count of the manuscript yesterday. If I could keep that pace up, I'd be done in a matter of weeks. But it's fairly clear that I can't keep that pace up and be a reasonably cheerful human being. So it's time to put the brakes on a bit.