The limits of description

There are four broad categories of text you can write (exposition, narration, description, and dialogue,) and descriptions are what can give more problems to a fiction or genre writer. To sum up, description isn’t even a good kind of text. We tolerate it because it is required, but the least there is, the better, for reasons I hope will become clear in a moment.

Textual versions of visual phenomena are not good conveyors of information, at least not the kind of information most novice writers believe they should convey (raw visual data.)

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The Narrator and the Reader can know things none of the characters know.

The Narrator is the medium through which storytelling occurs, and the writer is the man behind the curtain that pretends to be the former. The characters in a story should know as much about the two as an ant is required to understand thermodynamics to live and die.

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Reading the Hugos (2020): A Catalog of Storms

This is the final nominee (Disregard that, I actually forgot not just to review another one, but actually to read it! There’s still one more story left) for this year’s short story Hugo Awards, A Catalog of Storms, by Fran Wilde. If you were expecting a roaring end to this review series, you are going to be disappointed.

Fran Wilde wrote years ago one of the few Hugo stories I actually liked, mostly due to its raw, angry energy and somewhat autobiographical content, but A Catalog of Storms has none of those things as far as I can see. To me, it feels like a by-the-book Hugo finalists: wandering, dreamy, with florid language, oozing with magic realism, and with barely any plot or real tension.

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A short note on the literary offenses of modern writing

As many of you who follow this blog, I came across this yesterday. Naturally, the general objection was about calling out a dead man while profiting from his name and all that.

(click on the tweet to see the image and see what I’m talking about)

Well, sure, but before my mind was even able to process that, what struck me the most was how uncomfortably written the entire thing is (or, at least, the first paragraph.) And I don’t mean typos, grammar errors, and such, but something that is deeper and harder to explain but is quintaessentially modern.

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Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense Out Now!

The Spring issue of the All-New Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense is out now!

The big star of the spring issue, of course, is the brand-new Tarzan story Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Tierney. Based on a fragment […]

via Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense Out Now! — Cirsova

There’s a piece of forgotten literary history there (the Tarzan story) and just the cover of the magazine is probably worth the price, but I also have a story there, “The Elephant Idol,” so you might want to check it out. And by might I mean should. How many times have you read a story with a blind protagonist and not a single visual reference or visual descriptions in the entire text?

For those interested in background, creative work, the initial inspiration for the story was a not-so-subtle scene situation from the video game Thief (Gold,) the map The Song of the Caverns, to be precise, which is about the thieving protagonist getting into an opera house through a cavern (and I was aware that Cirsova’s editor is a great Thief fan, so this was a great way to subconsciously manipulate him into buying it something I guessed he might enjoy.)

I know not exactly from where, although I believe it came as I was thinking about what makes a first-person narration truly tick or not and about the descriptive excesses of some modern writing, but I got the fancy idea of writing a story with a blind protagonist, almost as a challenge. It was a risky and experimental move because I chose to write it in third-person, with a free yet at the same time limited narrator tied to the character’s senses, but I believe it worked well in the end. That’s something for the readers to decide, though.

I honestly had no idea of where the story would lead from there, and at first my idea was to make it somewhat humorous, but as usually happens in my writing, it evolved into horror as everything is thrown into The Warp, which is probably for the better and it also gave me the option to play around with the peculiar situation of a character whose handicap, at least at first, actually helps him because it shields him from what is going on around him.

You can buy the issue on Amazon (and other places as stated in the link above)

Psychology of writing: word accessibility

You can pick out a skilled painter or draftsman because they keep their eyes on the canvas or paper without having to constantly check every line they draw by comparing it to the model or original image, or having to look up, again and again, pictures of what they have to draw on google images. They trust their instincts and skill, and their lines are precise, and they have developed the necessary muscle memory that allows them to be skillful artists.

All the arts have that, a combination of skill, knowledge, and automatism that baffles the uninitiated. It’s mostly years of experience and practice. Well, I said all the arts, except writing apparently. There doesn’t seem to be a writing equivalent for that process of learning the fundamentals that other arts have, like painting has color, tone, and values, while draftsmanship is mostly line, shadow, and perspective.

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November 9 post: Deep POV is shallow (and harming fantastic fiction)

I don’t feel like writing a story today so I’ll make a post on writing. This post will pull together different issues I have hinted or referenced in other posts, focusing on what I believe has become a serious problem in fiction literature, especially what is known as ‘genre writing’: the death of the narrator. I blame what is known as Deep Point of View, although perhaps a new term would be needed for what I will talk about, perhaps Character-Only Narrative, but Deep POV will have to do because nobody would know what I’m talking about if I start talking about CON.

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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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