More limits of description (II)

Following from the previous post, I was going to jump straight into the next part (the writing of dense, cumulative descriptions), but then I realized that post might have left some points unanswered or not appropriately explained. So, in this post, an intermission of sorts, I will try to show, almost quantifying it if possible, the limits of the “painting with words” approach to descriptive writing.

Continue reading “More limits of description (II)”

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.)

Continue reading “The limits of description”

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.

Continue reading “The Narrator and the Reader can know things none of the characters know.”

Nounfall Adverbborn, or The only type of naming convention in fantasy and nerdom

Although slightly silly and inconsequential, the issue in this post points to a more important (philosophical even!) question about the human mind and its relation to speech and language: why do people speak (and write) the way they do? Are we rational agents who, as if homunculi living inside our own skulls, have an idea, and then have to rationally choose the best way to express it? Or are we more like Skinnerian rats who use the words and expressions we use because these have been socioally reinforced and happen to be more effective to achieve a goal we might not even be completely aware of? My experience doing posts about writing and language, as well as observing how people write in what are heavily Skinnerian domains (social media,) makes me think truth points towards the latter. After all, who has never noticed a new expression that everybody seems to be using all of a sudden?

Continue reading “Nounfall Adverbborn, or The only type of naming convention in fantasy and nerdom”

Reading the Hugos (2020) Blood is Another Word for Hunger

This is the fifth of the Hugo finalists and, probably, the most important one. If you could distill the Hugo short fiction category into a platonic form, it would look very similar to this piece, Blood is Another Word for Hunger by Rivers Solomon. And now I have to review it.

Continue reading “Reading the Hugos (2020) Blood is Another Word for Hunger”

Reading the Hugos (2020) And Now His Lordship is Laughing

For this short story, you can play a little game. Thanks to the benevolence and foresight of the people at Strange Horizons, this story is preceded by a long list of Content Warnings. You can ignore those, of course, but who could resist the temptation of clicking on that button to see what awful sins it hides. It’s like a flashing red button saying DON’T TOUCH ME.

VOMIT

The game is this: Try to deduce the plot of this story just from those trigger warnings. So what sort of Gomorrah-style type of story do we have here for it to include all that stuff? A surprisingly meh one. Yes, a child dies, and that sets in motion this story of racial revenge, but I don’t even remember half of the things from the list.

Continue reading “Reading the Hugos (2020) And Now His Lordship is Laughing”

On commas. This is a post about boring commas—like, with what kind of exciting title do you think I’m going to come up with?

I occasionally proofread texts, and adding missing commas probably takes up half of my time. Removing superfluous ones is a smaller issue, but it’s a close contender. The third, if anyone is interested, is surely missing hyphens in compound adjectives. So, this will be a post about commas and, since they are related, semi-colons. However, the goal is not to remember any list of 8, 10, or 17 seemingly arbitrary rules but to understand the underlying logic, which exists.

Continue reading “On commas. This is a post about boring commas—like, with what kind of exciting title do you think I’m going to come up with?”

It’s not food; it’s water (or beer): surviving in fiction

I’m going to answer and comment on a short post I came across a few days ago, “Three Rules for Food in your Fantasy novel.” It’s a short list of common sense points so there’s nothing much to add, but I noticed this:

Can they carry a day’s worth of food or a week’s worth? Even when spread among several riders, you may have to consider a few pack animals to help carry the load but remember that even then they will not be carrying a month’s supply of provisions or probably a very wide-spread fare.

Three things here: (1) You probably can carry a month’s worth of food if you know exactly what you must carry (and you accept that, indeed, it won’t be a very wide-spread fare,) (2) notice that pack animals are mentioned, but not that they also have to eat (and they eat a lot,) and most importantly, (3) water is not mentioned.

Continue reading “It’s not food; it’s water (or beer): surviving in fiction”