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WRITING MAGIC

November 20, 2019

This has nothing to do with writing about magic, or magick, or about the fantasy genre. This has to do about a subject near and dear to my heart. This is something I’ve covered many times here at Fred Central.
This is when the book is close to (or is) perfectly written.
That’s right.
This is when the writing does not get in the way of the story.
This is when what’s on the printed page is merely an avenue in which you’re grabbed, and you never let go until THE END.
When you sit down to read, before you know it, you’re absorbed into the story. You never get jerked away, are never stalled, never hesitate, nor have to flip back to re-read something. You never have to slow down to slog through a spot, or skip something. You never have to dread coming across “one of those spots again.”
You read a scene or chapter, get to the end, and cannot wait to start the next chapter to find out what happens next.
This is called writing magic, and maybe it’s not a common term, but it’s mine, at least for today.
WRITING MAGIC
There’s no experimentation with voices. There’s no endless narrative. There are no long passages of italics.
The story doesn’t bog down with backstory.
The author doesn’t foretell.
The point of view is solid, and doesn’t jump around every sentence or paragraph.
GRABBING YOU
No matter how fascinating a story might be, if not done right, the writing can get in the way. Clunky writing is a story killer.
There’s always the “artiste,” out to throw their values on the unsuspecting world. I suppose they need to be out there as a counterbalance for those that want to actually sell a book, or those that just want to get people to actually read them. These artistes will garner fans in the intellectual crowd, but for the general masses, well…
Do you want to grab your reader?
I know that as a reader myself, that’s what I seek in every book I pick up. I read a lot, and when I fork out the bucks for a book, and invest the time to sit down and read it, I expect that author to grab me and take me away to another world. Most of the time, it beats television. The reason I read in the first place is to escape.
You won’t see me reading much non-fiction. That’s just not my thing, and it’s not an escape. I see enough reality in the world as it is. I DO keep informed. When I read, I read for pleasure, therefore, I expect the author to present it to me in the best and most efficient way possible.
I’d expect most people are the same way. Not all, but most.
I also know some people’s tolerances for bullshit are different than mine.
I’ve had over sixty years to experience and analyze what does and doesn’t work best. I KNOW it doesn’t fit everyone, but I also know by sales numbers that I’m right a good bit of the time.
The books that possess that writing magic always do well because they grab you. Period.
SUMMARY
There are plenty of books out there that grab you by subject matter, yet the writing has no magic at all. The writing is pure crap. Unfortunately, because the subject matter becomes so popular, other imitators copy the writing style and more crap churns out.
In other words, there’s even less magic out there inadvertently, because of a hot subject matter. It’s written like crap, but the style becomes popular because people are not only imitating the subject matter, but the horrific writing.
Happens all the time.
There are no absolutes.
Oh well…life goes on.
Happy writing!

RAMBLING

November 12, 2019

In January, 2018, I had an article called Rambling On And On. In this article, I’m revisiting it because this is a subject near and dear to my heart and it recently came up on a fantasy forum on Facebook.
The question was about what sub-genres or how much fantasy do you read? I’m paraphrasing here.
My answer was that I hardly ever read fantasy, even though I write in the genre.
Why?
Many of the authors tend to ramble on and on too much and I find it a real slog to get through all of that to get to the point. Once again, I’m paraphrasing myself, but that’s the gist of what I said.
While I expected some flack from that, I was quite surprised to not only get several likes, but written responses with like-minded words to the same effect.
ONE LITTLE THING…
My most glaring example is an un-named author, who I struggled through four books in his series of thousand-word tomes. He would take one hundred pages just for one little thing to happen. I’m not kidding.
His books were a real slog.
I completely lost interest in the series, and cringe every time I see those thick books on the shelves.
Whenever I see a six-to-nine-hundred page fantasy novel, I automatically skip it.
Why?
The authors can’t seem to get from A to B in an efficient manner.
SOME PEOPLE LOVE IT
Undoubtedly there are many fans of these writers, otherwise what publisher would want to invest in these endless tomes which apparently sell enough to keep the publishers in business?
However, there are plenty of readers like me who would rather spend their time and money on a story that gets to the point.
There are two sides to this coin.
GETTING TO THE POINT
If you go to the bookstore and browse the fantasy/science fiction shelves, you’ll notice the majority of books are quite thick. The majority.
There are thin ones out there.
I guess for some fantasy readers, they feel cheated if the book isn’t at least five-hundred pages.
On the other hand, I’ve deliberately selected a thin one or two just to see the difference and ran into another issue. So far, they were all either first-person or present-tense!
I still haven’t found a thin fantasy novel that’s readable by my standards of third-person, past-tense yet, at least at the bookstore!
Once I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I’M NOT DONE YET
I wouldn’t be fair, simply restricting myself to the bookstore.
I have read thin fantasy novels that never made it to the bookstore shelves because they were traditionally published, but by a small publisher.
I could list them, but I’m not here to plug any particular author.
Let’s just say they were great! I mean that sincerely because I not only loved them, I reviewed them to let everyone else know. These stories were true fantasy. They got to the point, told a great story, and didn’t need five-hundred plus pages of rambling to do it!
They’re written in solid third-person, past-tense, and are all available on Amazon. I wish they were available in the bookstore, but oh well.
A GREAT FANTASY (OR ANY) STORY ISN’T JUST ABOUT WORD COUNT
I’ve never bought into this idea that you have to describe everything including the kitchen sink. You don’t have to delve into ever characters inner thoughts and feelings, ad nauseum.
Give enough of everything to make the story come alive and absorb the reader, but get to the point. Your book is an escape, but not a prison!
Happy writing!

FOOD IN YOUR WORLD

November 7, 2019

It’s the little things that color your world. Some you never really think about but just do. When you’re world building, whether in a fantasy world, science fiction, or in the real world, one way or another, your characters are eventually going to eat or drink something.

How’re you going to handle it?

Not everyone is going to buy off on McDonalds.

USING REAL-WORLD FOOD

Even in a fantasy or science fiction world, there’s nothing wrong with using real-world food. This is a case where maybe you just give this real-world food different names and slightly altered the descriptions.

Also, you probably shouldn’t take a modern-day, current recipe and use it in a fantasy setting. On the other hand, in a science-fiction world, maybe you could use it but call it an antique or ancient dish of some kind.

The last thing you want to do is jerk the reader out of your world because you use some meal that doesn’t belong.

On the other hand, steak is steak. Chicken is chicken. However, in your fantasy world, maybe you’d call it cow or bird or some other variation to keep it a bit isolated from the real-world. If it were science fiction, maybe make it synthetic, or make it real but rare, because in the future, real meat is a rare and valuable commodity (though this seems to be a trope nowadays).

Then again, there’s nothing wrong with world building real steak and chicken right into your fantasy world along with…

MADE-UP FOOD

In world-building, part of the fun IS world-building. In other words, you’re making this all up. That includes the minor details that bring it alive. Food is a good example. Exotic to mundane dishes dredged up from your imagination (that you’ve cleverly disguised to seem more than they really are) make for great dressing (ha ha) for your meals.

My only suggestion is that you don’t make these dishes either too complex, or too revolting so that they turn off the reader. At least keep them less revolting for the main characters, or at least some of them. Then again, it would be kind of fun to see some characters eat stuff that is completely revolting. They’ve done this with science fiction and fantasy. The point is that you don’t want the food to distract too much from the rest of the story. It should enhance the story, not give the reader nightmares!

REAL-WORLD FOOD

There are no restrictions on what you can do here. You can go for simple, snooty exotic, to anything in-between. That’s entirely up to you, and the character of your characters. In fact, food can be a key part of your character’s character. It should be an enhancement though, and not a distraction.

SUMMARY

We don’t eat, we drop dead.

Therefore, it’s a critical element in any story, whether real-world, fantasy or science fiction.

How you use food in your story is up to you, but it should enhance the experience and not be a distraction.

Happy writing!

ANYTHING BUT WORD

October 29, 2019

More and more I see writers seeking some form of writing software that isn’t Word.

They’re constantly looking for something…anything as a tool to write with.

One might get the impression they absolutely despise anything Microsoft.

That’s not necessarily the correct assumption.

Why?

DEVICES

Many people nowadays don’t write on a conventional keyboard or computer. They use apps and devices. So guess what? As I’ve learned in several painful incidents, apps and what I know of as conventional software aren’t one in the same.

Therefore, from the feedback I’ve obtained, Word somehow has lost the ball when it comes to the world of apps.

I do know that at least when it comes to Facebook, I’m no fan of the Facebook app, which I’m forced to use on my phone. If that’s any indication, then…hey, come to think of it, I’m not all that crazy about any of the apps I use on my phone.

Okay, if I was a writer and had to use an app on a device, I’m all sympathy.

THOSE WITH KEYBOARDS

There are those with keyboards who STILL don’t want nothing to do with Word. Maybe they’re Apple people who hate Microsoft “juss cuzz,” or they somehow came from some other word processor that’s obsolete. Of whatever the case. They’ve heard there’s something else out there.

ORGANIZATION

Many writers are disorganized. They’re scattered about, or have several different programs to compile their characters, plots, towns, locations, statistics, chapters, outlines, special words, bla bla bla. That has brought up the rise of all-in-one writing programs.

This is something Word doesn’t do. It doesn’t organize, fold, bend, staple, and mutilate all of this for you in one easy to access place. Some of these software packages do it for you on the fly, or supposedly do.

Some people are gleefully happy to discard Word for this stuff.

One problem.

Learning curve.

LEARNING CURVE

While writing software packages can be a cure-all for some people, there is the caveat that you have to learn all this crap. Since you have a complex bunch of programs melded together, you have to learn said complex melded programs, and all the ins and outs. This doesn’t happen overnight, though the learning curve may not be as hard as some things.

It all depends on how much effort and time you want to put into it and how much you want to take away from your actual writing to get it all done.

It could be worth it.

DEPENDS ON THE TYPE OF WRITER YOU ARE

If you’re just starting out, it might be worth it to invest the time, money and training in learning one of these complex writing packages to get a step ahead.

If you’ve been at things a while and are struggling, it might be worth it.

If you already have a system that works and are just restless, you’re better off spending all that pent up energy on a plot twist.

If you’re like me, I already have my methods that work, like yellow stickies on my computer desk, an encyclopedia for my fantasy series which I update as I go along, linear plots, and seat-of-the-pants writing style for everything else. I have no need to fix something that isn’t broke, especially after thirty years of experience with the Microsoft package.

SUMMARY

You’ll notice I didn’t mention a single other software package or writing program. First off, this isn’t an instruction article on any of them. I attended a single session on one of them conducted by our own Amanda Skenandore of the Henderson Writer’s Group. While an outstanding instructor, I knew after just a little while, the one she taught, Scrivner I believe (and don’t quote me on the spelling), wasn’t for me and instantly forgot the correct spelling of the name of that software package. She had a few converts at the meeting, but I wasn’t one of them. Everything she taught sounded great for someone who needs organization, but it was also stuff I already do in my own way, already using what I already have, with Word alone. I’m not sure if she still uses that software package, but whether she does or not, she’s come out with some outstanding stories and that has more to do with her writing skills than whatever software she uses.

Happy writing!

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

October 23, 2019

Have you ever run across the situation where you wrote something and then someone pointed out to you that you just said or implied something off the wall, or something you never intended?

I know I just said something three times within the same sentence, which in this case, was intentional, but more to my point, what if it was unintentional?

Since this is my article and I just brought it up, I’ll be the sacrificial lamb and use myself as the perfect example.

A PERFECT EXAMPLE

This is not a blatant plug, but why not?

In my latest work in progress, Across The Endless Sea, which is the third Meleena’s Adventures fantasy novel, I referred to a particular tome as “fake.”

During the course of the story, I referred to this “fake” book multiple times.

At one reading critique session, one of the reviewers pointed out to me that given it’s a fantasy world, and while it IS my own creation where the word “fake” could be a part of the local lingo, there’s another issue. With real-world events taking place today, the word could be construed as a political slur, or a political comment or maybe even hint at my political leanings.

While some in the group considered that a stretch, myself included, at least at first, I had to think about that one.

I’ve been using the word fake for over sixty years. It’s been a part of my language a loooong time. Only recently has that word been thrust to the forefront by the national news. Should I let that force me to delete it from my arsenal of useful words?

Then I had to pause and consider the consequences.

The last thing I want to do is give my readers the impression I lean one way or the other politically. Those that know me personally know where I stand, but I don’t want to alienate my audience and any potential readers by imposing any political, religious or sexual beliefs on them. I just hate when celebrities or non-political personalities do that.

Therefore, here come the unintended consequences. This harmless little word, “fake” has been hijacked by recent media. While I still personally find a wide array of uses for it, because of the political implications, I don’t want to give the impression to anyone that I lean one way or the tuther.

Therefore I’m changing this “politically charged” word to something else (undecided yet) and adding a new word to Meleena’s world. If somehow this new word isn’t right for normal fantasy, well it IS now for Meleena’s world and just tough if it doesn’t fit the genre. I bend it enough as it is and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone!

YOUR UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

This can be a single word like mine, a character, a plot or sub-plot.

What you intend and what comes out, you may have a blind eye to until a second set of eyes or maybe third of fourth sets of eyes look at it and tells you what you don’t see.

The thing is, what do you do about it?

Are you going to change things, or defy everyone?

Are these consequences hurtful or just something different? Are they something you might find as a happy accident? Or, will they change the entire outcome of your story?

Will changing things change your direction, or keep them the same and make things better? Worse?

SECOND AND MORE SETS OF EYES

I repeat this over and over again.

There’s nothing more important that multiple sets of eyes.

You can’t always see the forest through the trees.

Someone else may need to help you see the “fake” out there for you.

SUMMARY

I could just as easily have left things be and not worried about it. However, as my fellow critiquers suggested, as far out as that fake word may be in today’s world, it might give someone the impression I either support or am making fun of certain people in power. That’s the last thing I want to do. In fact, the last thing I want to do is even make people think of what’s going on in today’s world…at all. The whole point of going into Meleena’s world is to, for a little while, forget about today and drift off into a fantasy world.

Hopefully, those of you that are fiction writers want to do the same thing…well…most of you.

Happy writing!

REPEATING YOURSELF

October 16, 2019

Okay, I’m over twenty-five, so basically, I’m like…old! What’everrrr…

Given that extreme disability, and after all, I really AM a grandpa, I’m allowed to repeat myself. That’s a given.

However, when you do it just to annoy your friends and family, or simply don’t care is one thing. When you do it unintentionally, and not because you’re losing your marbles (let’s not even go into that reality here), that’s something different.

As authors, we write hundreds upon thousands of words, from hourly to daily to annually. We write one-off stories to series.

It goes without saying, we’re going to write something that eventually repeats.

WHAT’S THE HARM?

Here’s the real clincher for you.

What’s the harm?

Absolutely nothing.

Well…there IS a caveat to that.

Unless you’re out to slander or damage someone, repeating something you said basically does nothing but maybe, and I mean maybe annoy your reader…if that.

TO SLANDER OR DAMAGE SOMEONE

Look at the news, juicy gossip and snide innuendo. This stuff tends to be repeated endlessly.

Don’t think this stuff is restricted to just newspeople. It’s just as prevalent in literature from both sides of the aisle. I’ve seen plenty of fictional stories ruined by it.

MORE BENIGN WAYS

Now, more to my point here today, the sneaky ways repeatability gets into our lives as writers.

The prime example is me, here at Fred Central. I can’t even tell you exactly (at the moment) what number article this one is, but it’s getting close to #300 since I started this blog back in 2012. Since I write about writing, there’s bound to be repeated subjects in there. Not only have I revisited (my term for repeating things), but I’ve flagrantly (a few times), recycled old articles. Why? It was not only time, but many of you weren’t even around Fred Central in 2012 or 2013 when I started this whole thing. It’s also not likely you’re going to slog through all my old articles looking for them.

So…repeatability isn’t going to kill anyone.

Plus, I’m not reluctant to occasionally (well, maybe sometimes more than that) hammer home certain points when I’m on a rant.

After all, writing is my platform as well as my passion. Writing is what I do.

On the other hand…

REPEATABILITY AS PART OF YOUR FICTION OR NON-FICTION

When you write a memoir or non-fictional account, the best way is to try not to keep repeating the same thing over and over again. I’ve read many bios where the author kept repeating the same incidents over and over again, incrementally changing details or referring back to the same things as the rest of their life progressed. Tell it once, which is enough, then move on. It just makes the story flow better. I was still fascinated by things, but even admittedly by the author themselves, they could’ve edited things down a bit better.

Historical accounts you would think should be linear. They should be, unless the author doesn’t take a linear approach, and due to disjointed timelines, keeps overlapping and repeating the same stuff.

Now, as far as fiction goes, repeatability creates issues when the author uses multiple points of view, but doesn’t write in a linear fashion. They create a separate timeline for each character, which means, they repeat the exact same time-space for each character, as told through their eyes. While this is great for keeping within the head of each character, it also repeats an awful lot of the exact same things over and over again.

Now, given a multi-character story where everything happens in real time, but linear, with no repeatability of the same sequence, except minimally, that’s great. It’s much easier on the reader.

REPEATABILITY OF PLOT OR DEVICES

This is far more common than the others.

The author has a favorite plot device, or has characters do something over and over again. This is especially true for series writers.

Then again, some authors agonize over never repeating themselves to the point they hardly ever publish a book. This also provides a conundrum for their readers because they never know whether they’re going to love or hate their next book.

One reason I like and stick with an author is because I like what they write. Usually.

Why?

Repeatability.

They don’t repeat the same story over and over again. They repeat the same quality of writing, the same character or characters, the same style, and most importantly, the same theme in their writing. They give me AC/DC and don’t fix something that isn’t broke!

Happy writing!

MARKETING VERSUS BADGERING

October 2, 2019

I’d Shout it out!

Many of you probably don’t even know what I’m talking about.

There used to be a commercial on TV back in the 80’s for a laundry detergent. Back in the day before remotes were reliable and people still had dial TVs, there were a few commercials that just badgered you on TV. That was one of them.

I absolutely despised that stuff. Even though I wasn’t usually the one that did the laundry, I still hated even the sight of that stuff. My wife did as well. We never bought it just because of the commercial every TV break. They were relentless.

SOCIAL MEDIA

While I try to do my part, I also try not to be annoying when I promote my books. That means that I keep my promotions on Facebook and Twitter to weekly posts. Not only that, but I also post something relevant to go along with them. I don’t just post the same ad over and over again. I give trivia, something about each story or the world my heroes live it. This is something to keep the fans engaged.

I’ve noticed lately, well actually for a long time, that quite a few authors just post the same ad over and over and over and over and over again, day in, day out. I will like it once, then ignore it the next hundred times.

REPETITION BREEDS ANNOYANCE

Like the old Shout commercial, repetition can breed more negative reaction than cement the brand into anyone’s memory.

A little moderation might be more the trick here.

It’s hard enough being out there begging for people to buy your book.

However, badgering them, day after day, with the same old crap isn’t going to do any good. It’s going to piss them off.

Think about it.

THE CHOICE IS YOURS

We’re all on a budget. When it comes to marketing, many of us work for a living. That means we’re short on time and money.

Social media can be a great (well jury’s still out on that) tool to get the word out.

My best advice is to use it wisely, not as a weapon of annoyance.

Happy writing!