A commentor here observed that the Merchant and Empire books are set in a small world. It’s an interesting observation, and one that deserves some thought, because a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books seem to sprawl. They cover an epic-worth of territory, sometimes by design, sometimes just because it seems traditional.
But not all stories need sprawling worlds. Some books, even novels or series, fit better in a small space, a human or other person sized space. Which is sometimes difficult to do.
When I started thinking about writing this post I was torn between two topics: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and Conan the Barbarian not-the-story-but-the-movie. I’m not going to try and analyze the latter based off the former, as tempting as the ridiculousness of that is. I’m not, because I haven’t finished the movie. I was watching it as homework for a short I should be writing. I actually bought a DVD player (we had never needed one before as we don’t really consume film type media), and my dear First Reader and I cuddled on the couch (also a first, we tend to abandon the living room to the teens who take up every available square inch of flat space) and we turned on the flick. We expected cheesy, corny, all the tropes of B movies. What we didn’t expect was that about half-way through (Conan and his sidekick are about to find the temple of the two-headed snake) we’d get bored, really bored, and wander off to do something else. We’ll come back to it. It’s homework for me, after all. It’s just that, on that hierarchy of needs, it’s not even on the scale. Read more
Most weeks I don’t have a lot of time to read. At least, that’s been the case recently. Work, life, writing. The writing is a very good thing. Ok, all of it is good. Reading has been ranking way down there, I’m afraid. I’ve fit in a fair amount of research reading, and one pleasure read (I do love our own Alma Boykin’s Familiar tales!). What I have also been doing, to give my brain crunchy little granola nibbles while my hands are busy at work, is listening to podcasts. I know they aren’t for everyone – especially not my peculiar blend, I suspect – but there are times something really catches my mind and gets it going. Read more
You should know, before you start reading the words that come after this, that before I started writing them I sat here staring at the blinking cursor on the pristine screen for far too long. I often approach Mad Genius like this. ‘Who am I,’ I ask myself silently, ‘to offer any advice whatsoever on writing? I still don’t know what I’m doing, much less how well I’m doing it.’ But here I am, and I am determined to honor the privilege of my position because… Because I was given so much help when I first started. And now I’m here, a little way in on the journey, able to reach behind me to give some encouragement to those still staring at their blank screens. Read more
Last month, PBS wrapped up a costume drama based on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It was very well done, although I got impatient with some of the characters for the same reason I got impatient with them when I read the novel. Hugo wrote for a different time and different readers.
But the character of Inspector Javert remained one of the most intriguing. In part, this is because he was the first antagonist I ever encountered in screen, as opposed to a villain. I was probably 6 or 7 when I first saw Les Miserables. It was on TV, on a Saturday afternoon, when they ran Dumas and Hugo dramatizations. Javert’s actions didn’t make sense, and my poor parents had a lot of difficulty trying to explain them in language a child would understand. Later, after the musical came out and I read the entire novel, he made sense.
Javert is virtue turned to vice. Which makes him such a fascinating antagonist. Read more
Or: I recognize that bit of sausage!
Recently, I was reading a few friend’s books – Sabrina Chase’s Soul Code, and Cedar Sanderson’s Possum Creek Massacre. (They’re both very good books in their own right, though if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series, there’d be a bit of a learning curve to get up to really enjoying it.) And knowing both authors, I’ve been around for their lives the months before and during the writing… and so I started seeing bits of pieces of real life incidents, accidents, hobbies, and conversations that I recognized converted into fiction.
There’s a psychological phenomenon that means when you make yourself smile, you begin to involuntarily feel happy. The well-known cliche ‘fake it till you make it’ has a kernel of truth. I don’t know about other writers, but I use mood music while I’m writing to get me in the right frame of mind to create war/love/melancholy or whatever my story requires of me. I can’t wait on inspiration. If I want to do this on my own terms, I can’t follow the will ‘o wisp that is the muse. I don’t want to wind up drowning in the swamp of my own doubts and insecurities.