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Posts by Margaret Ball

A modest proposal

I’ve been under the weather again and devoid of great thoughts about writing other than yeah, sure would be nice to sit up and do some. So in lieu of exciting new stuff, I’m going to repeat a recent proposal from my personal blog. Hey, it’s about language. Writers use language. It’s relevant.

Recently I came across an opinion column in the New York Times whose author, whom I’ll refer to as F.M. because I don’t want to give F.M. extra attention, complained bitterly about the oppression of traditional English-language third-person gendered pronouns. Yes. Referring to someone as “he” or “she” isn’t just a feature of the way our language developed; it would never happen if, in F.M.’s words, “we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel.”

Huh? Read more

Surprised by Joy

I read a lot of posts and comments – not just on this blog, but on writers’ sites all over the Internet – subscribing to a world view which I would characterize as “Live is real, life is earnest, and everything worth doing is hard.”

Well, yes. Can’t really argue with that. But I sometimes fear that with all the comments like “Writing requires butt in chair and fingers on keys,” and “Just force yourself to do it,” we’re lying by omission – leaving out the most important part of the enterprise, as though it were marked TOP SECRET. Read more

Characters We Love to Loathe

No, not the Evil Warlord or his minions. I’m thinking of the characters that spice up a story by being Good but Irritating, or even Morally Neutral but Obnoxious. The ones that keep you reading not just because you want to see your hero save the world, but because you want to see Obnoxious meet his comeuppance, or because you laugh every time Monumentally Tactless splashes the other characters’ social strategies in their faces, or because it looks as though Good but Irritating may frustrate the hero’s personal desires even while helping him save the world. Read more

The Language of the Dragon

Sorry, I got nothing about the writing business today. I’ve been under the weather to the extent I can’t even concentrate on the current book and the Witchy Widow’s card party and the gossip going on between bids — and darn it, that scene was supposed to be fun to write!

But I do have a new book out, and what’s more it’s the start of a new series, and furthermore it will be only 99 cents for the next few weeks. So if you enjoyed the slightly perverted mathematics of the Applied Topology series, you might want to take a look at what happens to human beings who twist their mouths around a seriously vowel-deficient language that came from a very alien brain… and what they can do to the fabric of the universe with that speech.

The Language of the Dragon

Seeing through a glass, darkly

Unhurried imagination.

That phrase occurred in a passage Amanda quoted in her Tuesday column, and it… so to speak… caught my imagination. Because that’s not how my imagination – or Amanda’s, to judge from her comments – works. Ha! Imagination should only be so polite as to present itself in long, leisurely segments that fit my typing speed! It tends more to arrive with the speed and finesse of a runaway train!

A long time ago Diana Gabaldon told me something about her writing process that exactly described my own (Yeah, I know, too bad my results aren’t as wildly successful as hers). I’ll try to paraphrase from memory: Read more

The Three Roads

The book I’m supposed to be plotting resembles a vast desert sprinkled with various artifacts — a couple of characters here, some dialogue over there, an enchanted swan in the distance — with nothing but echoing emptiness between. The part of my mind that’s supposed to be dedicated to writing seems to be skittering merrily around, pulling up bits of old stories and chattering about current events. Hence this irrelevant and probably unimportant meditation on Thomas the Rhymer, the Wise and Foolish Virgins, and what I am reliably assured is a college loan crisis. Read more

The stories we shouldn’t be telling

I don’t really know how much of a “trend” this is, but in my casual, work-avoiding browsing of current events I sure have seen a lot of stories about “trans” women, i.e. men who have decided to call themselves women, running away with the prizes in women’s sporting events. Apparently the Doctrine of Infinite Sexual Mutability trumps minor considerations of reality, such as the fact that individuals who were “men” up to and throughout adolescence before “transitioning” are going to be bigger, faster, stronger than actual women in later life, regardless of how they manipulate their testosterone levels.

So? What did we expect? Read more