The sneaky “there was” and writing filler & crutches

I was going over a piece I had written when I found this seemingly innocuous sentence: “He talked to them in his crude Japanese and told that there was a group of Chinese civilians, around twenty, that was coming in their direction.” I usually do two or three proofings of the stuff I write, and this is why the second one is so important, to catch stuff like that.

Now, the sentence may not be awful, but it made me cringe a bit because I felt I heard it scream something like “I have been written by an amateur! Come and take a look!” Without much effort, I rewrote it into this:

“He talked to them in his crude Japanese and told them a group of twenty Chinese civilians was coming their way.”

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Indie self-publishing experiments, or “I’d rather eat my own gallbladder.”

I ran a little experiment a few days ago, although you can consider other of my publishing attempts in the previous years a long experiment, and I’m a strong believer in the principle of publishing negative results, not just your successes.

I knew the results wouldn’t be great, and as I began reading up on the subject my gnawing feeling got worse, but really, never for I moment I thought it would be that bad.

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Free stuff and a new short story!

I have uploaded a new short story adventure novelette,Life of the Party [I took it down as explained in a future post], and to celebrate that Cirsova #9 is out, where you can read my short story The Orb of Xarkax, both The Butcher of Greystone, a gothic dark fantasy short story, and my non-fiction book Dangerous Gamers will be free from September 3 to September 7, Pacific Time, (well, the second book from 4 to 8, so you’ll have to wait at least another day.) As far as I know, this doesn’t work for those outside the USA, but for those living there, it should already be working, at least The Butcher.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Psychology of reading and writing: recalling vs. recognizing.

In a previous post, I mentioned I believe the usual advice given to writers (or, rather, to people who want to write) may not be that good, if not downright useless. And if one wants to be controversial, you might as well start with a big bang:

Read a lot. Reading will make you a better writer,” or variations of the same. It seems logical, common-sensical. But if you think about it, it’s a bit like saying that if you want to be a good musician, you should listen to a lot of music, or look at many paintings if you want to be a painter. A kind of craftsmanship by osmosis.

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The Seven Quests/Motivations and why we can’t have nice things

Among all the lists that tell you exactly how many “types of story” exist, I like this one about the Seven Quests. No, I don’t mean the famous The Seven Basic Plots but this one in this more obscure, plain, and unsourced website: Love, Money, Power, Glory, Revenge, Survival, and Self. I don’t know the source behind it, and I don’t think it’s an exhaustive list —I can think of two other important motivations— but it’s useful, simple, and surprisingly powerful.

What I like about that list is that it actually focuses on human emotions and motivations, not abstract Jungian narratives like “Killing the Monster.” After all, what does that even mean? Killing it, sure,… but for what? Because you want to loot his treasure, revenge, or simple survival? It changes the story quite a lot whether the motivation of our hero is one or the other, and it also highlights the pitfalls of each motivation, its dark side if you will (Love -> Jealousy, Money -> Greed, Power/Glory -> Arrogance & Wrath, Revenge -> Obsession & Moral downfall, Survival ->? (this one is morally neutral as I will explain later.)

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Bad Writing: Amazon bestsellers edition

The original goal of this post was to write a mini-essay on something that annoys me about contemporary writing. As far as I know, it has no name, and I struggled to find one, so I had to settle for something as cumbersome as “mid-action or mid-description beginnings.” Essentially, the story starts in media res, but not in the middle of the plot, but in the middle of a scene, with people (sometimes a lot of people) doing, sometimes exciting or action-related, stuff… for no reason we can discern. No goals, context, purpose, or meaning are given. It’s just a picture, like a movie scene (and in many cases, it shows the writer imagined it as such.)

The protagonist can be fighting another person (and we know nothing about them so we have no reason to care,) sweating profusely from some equally strenuous activity, engaging in a heavy dialogue with a character we know nothing about, or sometimes it’s a cliché-ridden description as the character prepares to do one of those things (the standard in fantasy until a few years ago was to describe, for some unfathomable reason, the sky – usually a sunset or dawn- and how that light reflected on the local vegetation.)

The opposite, of course, is to start like all stories have always been written, with a small, perhaps only a single sentence, explanation about the why, where, and when so we can contextualize what is happening and will happen.

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Reading the Hugos (2018) The Martian Obelisk

Someone must have let his guard down because this story, The Martian Obelisk, by Linda Nagata, is an actual science fiction story, with bits of astronomy, space travel, technology, and all that jazz. Yes, unbelievable isn’t it? A Hugo story which is an actual science fiction story?! You could give this story to a random person whose only understanding of sci-fi is “stuff with rockets and futuristic gadgets” and he would concur with you: yes, this is, indeed, a science fiction story. Unfortunately, it overextends, misses the mark, and fails at it.

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