Skip to content

ADDING THAT UNIQUE TWIST

February 24, 2021

            Everybody, especially publishers, are always looking for something different.

            Authors, writers, and readers get bored with, tired of, the same old same old.

            True?

            Well…depends on who you ask.

            This leads to a lot of experimentation. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

            What it usually boils down to is that, especially publishers tend to push writers and authors to do something different, yet when they do, these same publishers resoundly reject them as too off the beaten path and “not marketable” or “too radical” or “too something.”

            Say what?

            They want different but then they reject it right off.

            In other words, they can’t be pleased.

            It’s like they’ll know it when they see it, but they rarely, if ever do.

WHEN QUIRKY DOESN’T WORK

            You, the writer and/or author, come up with a brilliant idea for a story. It’s either in the way you market the book, the way you write it (as in style), or something about the plot.

            Since it’s more than likely fiction, you have to deliver a finished product before an agent or publisher will even talk to you. There are some instances where you can query an unusual idea and may get a yea or nay response from a “potential” agent or publisher. However, once executed, there are quite often a lot of second thoughts, plus due to the turnover rate, the person you pitched to may not even be available anymore.

            How are you supposed to market something like that?

            Maybe you should try a test audience.

            The barriers start to evolve.

            Need I say more?

WHAT IS THAT UNIQUE TWIST?

            Like I alluded to at the top, it can be several things.

            Packaging:

            The book could be presented in a unique format such as a catalog, which was done successfully in one case I just read. It might be a coffee table book. It might be in a plain brown wrapper and be about sex or have a sex-related or some other sensitive plot. I covered that in a recent article.

            The problem with this is shelving it and making it alluring to the reader. Having it mistaken for something else.

            Plot:

            The plot could have any number of twists, convoluted and turned back on themselves.

            The problem with this making it too weird or complicated for the average reader to either follow or enjoy. Plus, you have the issue that just about everything has been done before.

            Writing style:

            While not new, this is something that is especially tricky. Writing without punctuation. Writing with no point of view. Mixing point of view all over the place. All dialogue. No dialogue.

            No paragraphs. All paragraphs.

            These weird formats and styles can turn off any number of readers.

BEING DIFFERENT BECAUSE YOU’RE AN ARTISTE

            Oh boy, here we go.

            There is for the writer that writes purely for themselves and could care less if anyone reads their work. We all are to some extent, a little or a lot. At the same time, the majority of us would love to have others enjoy our work.

            When a writer refuses to bend to any convention at all, because it’s their art, they expect other like-minded individuals to “find them.” If not, they’re okay with that. In this case, the unique twist is that they write what they write, and could care less for convention, whatever that is. Publishing and the world is wrong. Eventually, the world with discover their genius and flock to them.

            Ever hear of the starving artist?

            The caveat of that is my old tired but true saying, “lightning in a bottle.”

            It can happen, but the odds are extremely high against you.

SUMMARY

            I’ve personally been reading for sixty plus years and have seen plenty examples of the twist. Some I’ve enjoyed. Most I have not. Some that I’ve enjoyed were not really unique at all. They were reflections on something already done before but just in a different voice.

            What goes around comes around, again and again and again. When the publishers want something different, it really boils down to they want something different but not too different.

            Go figure.

            You’re next big unique twist, whether it be plot, format or style, may be the next big thing since sliced bread.

            Just remember, the slicing of bread hasn’t changed all that much since it was created. Just the thickness, if that says anything.

            Happy writing!

YOUR WRITING IDOLS

February 17, 2021

            Every writer has other writers they tend to idolize, emulate, admire, copy, give a nod to, or at least are somehow influenced by. For many, it’s a host of authors.

            My list is long. I’ve mentioned them numerous times here at Fred Central.

            If you go to the thank you and dedication pages of many a book, you’ll often find mentions of these authors. Some authors don’t, while some writers, who are not published yet, may or may not tout their favorites.

            Nobody starts writing from a vacuum.

INFLUENCES

            Many writers develop styles that emulate their favorite writers. It comes naturally. After reading obsessively and enjoying the writing of someone for years, maybe decades, when one takes up the passion (or hobby) of writing, it’s a natural progression to be influenced by those you admire. It could be one writer or a blend of many.

            I’ve seen a lot of blends, such as myself, which, depending on which genre I’m writing, can emulate, to a degree, everyone from Clive Cussler to Carol Davis Luce to Lester Dent, to Edgar Rice Burroughs to Franklin W. Dixon, to R. Karl Largent, to well…the list goes on.

            I just read a book not long ago that emulated the style of Cormak McCarthy and I almost stopped reading. I ended up finishing it, but the lack of punctuation was so off-putting, I struggled to get through it. It was a horrible experience.

            On the other hand, I’ve read plenty of novels influenced by my favorites, such as Clive Cussler or Lee Child, or Preston & Child, or James Rollins that were outstanding. These novels kept me glued to my seat.

            I’m sure the same could be said for genres I don’t read.

EMULATE VERSUS COPY

            This gets into the realm of being a clone, something writers worry about all the time.

            The thing about copying or emulating some other author is that unless you use the exact same names and exact same plots, or exact same devices, even though you may be emulating a favorite author, you’re still telling a story in your own voice.

            If you recall from past articles here, I’ve said repeatedly that every plot and every possible story twist has been done before. What makes them unique is that no matter what way you tell it, it’s in your voice and your voice is unique. THAT’s what makes your story yours. Not the plot, or the trope or the cliché, but the VOICE.

            You can emulate a favorite author all you want, but as long as you choose your own path and don’t try to copy their book exactly, you can own your own story.

            That, my friends, has been going on since books first existed.

            Some schmuck wrote a story.

            Then another schmuck wrote that same story with a twist.

            Then another schmuck wrote that story again with another twist.

            Mix and match, so on and so forth.

            What made each one different?

            Voice.

SUMMARY

            It’s great to emulate your favorite writers.

            It’s not great to copy your favorite writers.

            Unless you rewrite their novels and add a new title, you can’t help but add your own outside influences and make them your own. That voice of yours makes them a different flavor in the mix, something unique.

            When someone asks you what your book is about, you can say it’s about such and such and it’s similar to so and so. That’s it. You don’t need to add that it’s not a clone of so and so, it’s just similar, or in the same style. You shouldn’t have to make that distinction.

            I write Agatha Christie type mysteries.

            I write Clive Cussler type adventures.

            I write Lee Child type thrillers.

            I write Zane Grey type westerns.

            I write Nora Roberts type romances.

            You can say you’re not like anyone else, but more than likely…

            Happy writing!

THE PURE FUN AND JOY OF CREATING

February 2, 2021

            I guess I should break this down a bit, right up front. There are writers that are plotters and there are writers that are pantsers. I’m in the pantser category.

            What this means is that I don’t spend days, weeks, or even months plotting out my story before I ever type a line. The sole planning of my story is that in my head, I figure out A and then B and then the title right up front. After that, my plotting is dun didded.

            That’s it.

            Case closed.

            Upward and beyond (to quote someone ((Galaxy Quest??)).

            Following an outline, would turn the writing into a task rather than a pleasure. Consequently, it would suck all the life right out of the whole process, though I’d still somewhat enjoy it because it IS writing. Instead, I follow a seat-of-the-pants approach.

            In other words, I write freeform, with the goal being B, or, the end of the story.

            As soon as I start from A, the adventure begins. It’s a pure pleasure.

A PURE PLEASURE

            It’s no secret I love to write. Here I am, Sunday morning, everyone else is asleep and what am I doing? I’m writing this. I could be sleeping, or reading a great book (the current one is by Preston & Child, two great authors). Instead, I’m plonking down another Tuesday article.

            Why?

            Because I love it.

            I this case, it’s not one of my novels, or a short, plotted story.

            It’s a weekly blog article.

            It’s still writing.

            When it IS one of my plotted stories, when I sit down to write, I go off into my own world, my own adventure.

            It’s hard to describe what it’s like.

            It’s a pure pleasure.

            For some that profess to love writing, it’s a torture, an effort, a source of agony.

            Why?

WHEN WRITING IS OTHER THAN A PLEASURE

            Writing can be other than a pleasure for a multitude of reasons.

            A very common one is that a person gets an inspiration to be a writer. They have great ideas for stories. The issue is that when they sit down to put it to practice, the mechanics of the actual writing don’t pan out the way they think it will.

            Uh oh…

            Another one is that a writer has certain chops but they’re trying to emulate their tortured artist hero. This person is of the impression that every word, every phrase is pure torture and that’s what makes their output a great work, when and if they ever get done with it.

            Another one is of course, most people. They want to be a writer, but they haven’t yet developed the skills to be able to sit down and just write. This is the most common. They know they don’t have the skills yet, are willing to learn, but get too hung up in the mechanics of it to enjoy the process. This is similar to the first one above.

            Another common one is someone who’s good at writing, but doesn’t get immediate results for their effort. They expect a big bang for their buck, and have allotted a certain amount of time to be a success. When it doesn’t pan out, the virtual tears come. They like writing, but their main motivation is money, rather than pleasure. They’re out to make a living at something they love doing. There’s nothing wrong with doing both. It would be great to be able to do both, but this is a very difficult bid’ness to break into and very frustrating to most, like any other profession. It can stifle pleasure and creativity in a short time.

            Those are a few examples of typical writers, but not all-inclusive.

WHY I WRITE

            I have described my writing processes numerous times here at Fred Central, but I can only stress that when I write, when I create my stories, my “big lies,” to be facetious, I go to a different place. I’ve done that since I was at show and tell in kindergarten and told the class my sister went down the drain at bath time, or showed the ladies in the cul-de-sac my “polka-dot-sewer” drawing. I’ve never been at a loss for strange new worlds, and now I have an outlet.

            What makes it easier is that once I seriously took up writing, I discovered I actually had the chops for it. When I sat down at the keyboard and hammered out The Cave, way back in 1995, I discovered for myself that I could pull it off. I finished that novel, as crude as it was, in about three months. This was in the evenings after work.

            At this moment, I am now editing it. I have been quite surprised and shocked at how this very first attempt is not nearly as bad as I first thought it was. I’d never had any intention of publishing it until I found the original manuscript and scanned through it. Then I decided to go through it, sentence by sentence and clean it up. It’s slow going because my chops have improved immensely, but story-wise, it’s not that bad, and I think I have something that might just work.

            When I wrote it, I went off into another world. I did not stop to think, I just did. Right there and then, I figured A, the start, and B the ending. I even had the title which I figured while I was contemplating B. After that, it was a matter of going off into my little world and typing away at my very crude computer.

            Somehow it worked, despite the quirks of the software, and whatever other obstacles I had to deal with at the time. I went off into my dream world and because I could type almost as fast as I could think, which admittedly can be rather slow at times…kept me at a rhythm and pace that worked.

            It’s almost impossible to translate that feeling to a non-writer, or even to some of you that don’t possess the skill to write that fast, or that on-the-fly. I take my ideas and just spill them out. That’s it.

            Pure joy and pleasure of creating.

            There’s no high greater than that for me.

            THAT’S why I’m a writer.

            How about you?

            Happy writing!

MADE UP WORDS

January 27, 2021

            An interesting subject came up the other day on one of the Facebook forums. It was about made up words. The gist of it was how the English language is ever expanding with how invented words are being added to our language and whether authors should make up their own.

            Of course, the “opines” varied, from “sure” to “you shouldn’t mess with English.”

            For those that know me, I’m definitely in the “sure” camp. I not only continually play with words, but make them up, make fun of words, subvert them, distort them, invert the first letters, and change them in all sorts of ways.

            This doesn’t always translate to the written page, of course. I DO have my practical limits, but once in a while, something might sneak into my published prose.

            Now, as for my everyday chatter, either oral or written, no holds barred.

WHY NOT USE WHAT’S ALREADY THERE?

            The English language has 170,000 to 220,00 words already available for use (if you include the obsolete ones). Why not make better use of the more obscure ones?

            Oh…kay…

            First off…many of them are obscure for a reason.

            Try unpronounceable, or close to it.

            Try obscure meanings.

            Try obsolete meanings.

            Try college level.

            Try upgraded by simpler or more direct meanings.

            If you’ve been a reader here at Fred Central, have you ever heard me use the phrase, “throw the dictionary at the reader?”

            There you go.

            There are some authors that love to do this. While these complex and college level words are legitimate and right there in the dictionary, they’re also little used, and come off as snooty and pretentious to the average reader. Sure, nothing wrong with whipping a little education on the “unwashed masses.” However, some words go into obscurity for a reason.

MODERN TERMS ARE MORE FITTING FOR THE TIMES

            There’s nothing wrong with bringing in the new and throwing out the old, to an extent. While the root of the language is the basis to call it what it is, in this case, English, terms and definitions can vary based on changing times. That’s called evolution.

            Nobody in 1500 had likely ever heard of the word skyscraper.

            Just like nobody in 1700 had ever heard of a jet or jetsetting.

            Therefore, new words need to be added to the “dikshunerry” all the time.

            That, of course, does not account for deliberate misspellings. That’s just me, like wyberry, or dun didded.

            That’s me, playing with words.

            Those words I sometimes use in my personal communication, but unless I have an opportunity to use one in dialogue someday, they’re not appropriate for narrative.

WHEN YOU MAKE UP TERMS OR WORDS

            When, in the course of your book, whether fiction or non-fiction, you make up a word, you’re not committing a major crime against humanity. You’re making up a word.

            That’s it.

            They key to doing so is that you must define the word and have a good reason for doing so.

            What good reason?

            This is the sticking point.

            Defining good reason can mean a lot of different things.

            To me, what it means is that it’s important to the story. That’s it.

            It can be technical, key to the plot, or no other reason than humor. Those are all good reasons.

            If your book becomes a best-seller and the word catches on, guess what? You may be the source of a new word in the dictionary!

I PLAY WITH WORDS

            I’ve played with words since I was a little kid. Maybe that’s why I’ve had such an easy time coming up with names for creatures, places, characters, plants and such for my fantasy world in Meleena’s Adventures. Same can be said for any of my fiction writing. When I need a fictional technical term, guess what? Boom! Off the top of my head.

            I love to make fun of the English language, or any language I’m exposed to. I love to play with words, manipulate them, and change them around.

            Therefore, it only comes natural that I can make a mess of things when I want to.

            On the other hand, to do that, it means I also have to have an intricate knowledge of English to be able to make fun of it and manipulate it, at least to the level I do.

            I couldn’t write what I do with out that knowledge. I can’t say that for other languages, of which my skills are much more rudimentary.

            I’ve picked up a lot from listening to kids, or recalling kid talk from when I was one back in the day. Those years being a kid, or raising them has provided a wealth of words to covet.

            Listening to groups of people around the country has provided the same thing. Every region and sometimes even neighborhoods has their own wealth of variances and quirks of the English language, full of gems to be exploited.

            Now these gem words just need the Fred touch to be utilized.

SUMMARY

            Some authors are dead-set against made up words, and they have a point.

            We already have plenty in our language.

            On the other side, our language is evolving all the time as times change. Obscure words get shelved for a reason. New ones take their place to keep up with current trends.

            Pick one.

            Happy writing!

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW OR NOT?

January 20, 2021

            The debate about writing what you know or not comes up quite often. I’ve discussed it directly or indirectly here at Fred Central in numerous ways, but now is the time to address it directly.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

            When writing your big lie, it’s always best to stick as close to the truth as possible.

            Why?

            Simple. The closer to the truth it is, the less likely you are to get real details wrong.

            This line is one used quite often in fiction, and it applies just as well in real life. When we write a fictional story, it is, after all, a big lie. It’s a made up story. If it’s not fantasy, in which the entire world is made up, it sticks to certain rules that one must know or adhere to for the story to come off as believable. If not, the reader is going to scoff at the page and likely put the book down. The reader is going to think the author doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

            Your big lie is busted.

            Therefore, when you construct your illusion of the truth, you need to get your facts straight. Following this philosophy, it’s much easier, and better, if you at least somewhat know what your talking about coming out of the gate.

            To save on time, effort and research, if at all possible, it’s best to start with writing something you know.

            Whether it be time, place, talent, profession, or whatever, the more you already know, the more realistic the lie is going to be. The better your story is going to be.

WRITE WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

            There’s a faction out there that’s of the philosophy that when you construct your big lie, it’s all about the research.

            Research research research.

            You should write about what you don’t know so that you challenge yourself, you force yourself to get better educated, to delve deep into the unknown, to learn new things, to adventure into new horizons.

            This way, you can craft a much better and mor exciting story because you’re picking up the energy of discovery and translating that to the page.

            Plus, you aren’t restricting your creative freedom to what little you know right now.

            A great philosophy if you have the time and money.

A PRACTICAL PERSPECTIVE

            As for right now, I personally own the luxury of having lived in a lot of places I can use for my thriller and icky bug novels. I have a wealth of ideas brimming over. I’m in no short supply. I’ve lived the places I want to write about. Therefore, my actual cost of research is minimal compared to someone more homebound and wanting to branch out.

            Would I want to write what I don’t know?

            Fat chance. I have so many ideas for places I already know, I probably won’t run out in my lifetime.

            What about you?

            For those of you with more limited travel or means, you have to follow either your inspiration or your limits.

            You can do either or both together.

            If you write what you know, all of your work can center around one location, the subject matter involving one occupation or hobby, or be from one genre.

            Or…

            If you want to write what you don’t know but are homebound or have no means of travel, you can challenge yourself and leave your inspiration open and travel through others.

            If you want to write about another location, time, occupation, or hobby, it boils down to a good internet connection, a good phone, library, and communication skills.

            For instance, do NOT get frustrated when you read the bibliography, final thoughts, or web site of some of these big-name authors who took six months to research a thriller. So and so author traveled to exotic locations, swam with the dolphins, went to remote Nepalese temples, trekked into the remote Amazon, bla bla bla just to write a few paragraphs of detail into their story.

            It’s nice if you can flaunt it.

            However…

            You don’t need to do that to get the nuances of your story.

            You can do the same thing with books, the internet, letters, phone calls, etc.

            Or, the most universal of all…

            Be vague.

SUMMARY

            Everyone has had some experience going somewhere or doing something. If you have a desire to write, whether you desire to write what you know, or challenge yourself to write what you don’t know, the means are out there for both.

If your inspiration takes you to unknown places for you, don’t be afraid to reach out. Once you get there, that mental trip may change your inspiration. Once you get the facts, you may decide that it wasn’t for you after all, especially when reality sets in. On the other hand, maybe the trip into the unknown inspires you even more.

            Then again, when you already HAVE the experience, the skill, the inspiration from something you’re familiar with, why not use it rather than let it go to waste? Don’t let someone talk you into forging a new path you don’t need to take.

            Whatever you decide, don’t let either writing what you know or don’t know become a roadblock.

            Happy writing!

USING HOLIDAYS IN YOUR WRITING

January 13, 2021

            This subject is as much for world-building as it is for color, but also for plotting.

            Do you use holidays as part of your stories?

            If so, which ones?

THE “USUALS”

            Since Christmas and New Years have just passed, probably the most common ones used in books would be those two. Maybe add Easter and Halloween to the mix.

            What about the lesser used ones like President’s Day, Three Kings Day, Kwanzaa, Groundhog Day, or so many others?

WHY USE HOLIDAYS AT ALL?

            There are basically two reasons to use holidays.

            Color:

            In world building, the setting is important. As a writer, you want to build, populate, and color your world as vibrantly as possible. You do this by building it from the ground up. That not only includes the environment such as the climate, geography, population, and customs, but also the time of year and for the added touch, local or even national holidays.

            Plot:

            Your story may center around a holiday as part of the plot. A crime thriller may be due to a robbery or a murder on Black Friday. Or, a horror story may be set on Halloween (and no, not THAT one).

IN A FANTASY SETTING

            In a fantasy setting, the same thing applies to both color and plot. The difference is that you, as a writer, have the freedom to make up your own holidays.

            Say what?

            That’s right. You’re not restricted to any norms or traditions of our real world. In your made up world, which you’ve possibly created from scratch, you have the freedom to make up holidays based on anything you want.

            The only catch is: It has to make some kind of sense, and you need to stick with your own rules!

            The above rule is a mantra I repeat often here at Fred Central when it comes to fantasy. In a made up world, while you have certain freedoms, the only real-world constraints need to be that #1 whatever it is has to make sense in some way the reader can understand, and #2, once you make this thing up, you need to stick with your own rules throughout the story or series. IF you ever bend or break those rules, you’d better have a good reason and be prepared to explain it to the readers through the narrative or dialog, once again back to #1, SO IT MAKES SENSE!

DO YOU HAVE TO USE HOLIDAYS?

            Absolutely not. In fact, many stories never refer to them, even in an oblique sense. There’s no mandatory requirement to do so. However, it’s fun to add in a holiday and they’re another color on your artistic writing palette.

            The biggest rule to remember is to use them correctly.

            That sounds rather obvious but if you think about it, even something as simple as Halloween, Easter, or Christmas can be screwed up if the author uses it improperly.

            Why?

            The writer makes an offhand and improper remark about some aspect of the holiday or gets some detail wrong.

            This is especially true if the author decides to throw a little historical or political perspective into said holiday.

            Here we go…

AVOID POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS DIATRIBES

            If you’re going to use a holiday, make sure you use it correctly and don’t spew propaganda or improper rumors or religious biases.

            There, I’ve said it.

            There’s nothing that can jerk a reader out of a story than to use a real-world holiday in a story and have the author add in a personal bias with something factually untrue. Or, a religious or political opinion that is highly polarizing, regardless of any real or perceived truth.

            I’m not talking about something like the brash commercialization of what used to be the innocence of youth or tradition for a holiday. That almost seems to be a universal truth nowadays. I’m talking about religious or political biases that teeter or veer into polarization and browbeating.

            Logic arguments about the origins of holidays border on political or religious diatribe, which can alienate the reader. This is getting into facts versus fiction.

            It’s best to use holidays at face value. Maybe a snarky remark is okay and leave it at that. Diatribes on the other hand distract from the story and show the author’s bias. They jerk the reader out of the story, even if the diatribe is in the context of the character, which can be borderline author intrusion.

            The exception could be in a fantasy world with a made up holiday, unless the holiday is a thinly veiled real-world one.

            Then again, it’s your story, so you be the judge. It all depends on how many readers you want versus how many you want to piss off. The fact is that you’re not going to convert the already converted and are only going to piss off those that don’t agree with you. Plus, maybe (probably) you’ll lose some potential new fans.

SUMMARY

            Holidays make for great color in your world, whether used as such or going full out as a plot device.

            Use them wisely.

            Happy writing!

THE IMPACT OF MUSIC AND YOUR WRITING

January 6, 2021

            A question that comes up often on the forums is “Do you listen to music when you write?”

            While I’ve addressed music to some extent here at Fred Central, I want to take this a step further as well.

            First, do you listen to music when you write?

            Second, does the music influence your writing?

            Third, do you name-drop bands if you’re writing a real-world story?

            Fourth, what would the soundtrack be if one of your stories was made into a movie?

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHEN YOU WRITE?

            I’ve talked about this before in my articles on writing environment. From the forums and personal experience talking to other writers, the answers cover a wide spectrum.

            Some, like those who write at coffee shops, are subjected to whatever soundtrack the store plays, unless they wear their own headphones.

            Speaking of which, many writers go into their own world by wearing headphones (regardless of location) and play everything from Pagan music to disco to rap to classic rock to country to heavy metal (and a few other genres I left out).

            Others who have the capability, turn on the stereo and blast out while they write, or have it on low volume in the background.

            Others prefer the TV in the background.

            Me? Silence. I don’t even have a soundtrack in my head.

            Why?

            I have enough going on in my head with the creative process that I don’t need two things going on at once. It used to be that I had jets taking off, callsigns blurting out from a radio and people talking in the background, all of which I blanked out as I wrote. Now, I’m either writing in silence early in the morning, with the occasional car going by outside, or it’s late in the day, and TVs are on in the other rooms.

            Those are my soundtracks.

            While I could be playing a CD on my computer, I choose not to for the simple fact that I don’t need a cacophony to just ignore. Plus, I cannot stand to wear headphones if I don’t have to. I had to deal with earmuffs for two decades in the Air Force, and I have to desire to relive that!

DOES THE MUSIC INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?

            This can be a mixed bag. When the subject or plot of the book is music oriented, of course. Most books are not, so the question is, does music somehow influence what you write.

            So far, in my experience, I’ve heard a bit of this and that. Song lyrics have inspired people with their story and plot lines. Bands have inspired certain stories either directly or indirectly.

            There are series out there where certain types of music play a significant role in defining the characters. To name one, Jazz is a significant coloring in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly.

            In my Gold series, rock and metal are significant coloring.

DO YOU NAME DROP BANDS IN YOUR STORY?

            So far, I haven’t mentioned fantasy writing. It’s obvious certain types of music cannot play a role in a made-up world, unless the genre is urban fantasy. In that case, contemporary music is all in.

            With that in mind, and including all other genres of fiction, do you name-drop bands?

            I’ve seen plenty of bands name-dropped into stories, from Aimee Mann to John Coltrane to Dwight Yoakum to GWAR.

            In my Gold series, I drop the names of some of my favorite bands, plus a few not so favorite, mainly for shock value. It’s no secret that the original Alice Cooper Band and Lothar And The Hand People are a significant part of my series. Many of my readers are too young to even know who Lothar is and they only know of Alice Cooper, the solo artist. So be it.

            It’s the same with any author that name-drops bands. Not everyone is going to get it.

            Now, how about fantasy writers?

            Outside of urban fantasy which blends real world, when concerning hard fantasy like my Meleena’s Adventures, nope. Not going to happen. In her world, there are no bands, per se. There are probably groups of musicians, which could be considered bands of a sort. They’d be more like travelling troubadours. So far, I haven’t addressed music all that much in her world. I will eventually, as in the next book, but I can’t reveal much more about it yet.

            The same for science fiction, which all depends on the setting, which may or may not include real-world Earth.

WHAT WOULD THE SOUNDTRACK OF YOU BOOK BE IF MADE INTO A MOVIE?

            First off, there’s no way you’re going to likely have any influence on the soundtrack, let alone much else if your book is ever made into a movie. Time to get that right out there!

            On the other hand, one can only hope.

            Michael Connelly did it with the Bosch series. If you get big enough, anything can happen. However, for the most of us, we must dream on.

            I can see you already picking the songs.

            For me, with either the Detach or Meleena’s Adventures, I can only hope there’s some rock and roll in either one. In the Gold series, the influence slaps you in the face. As for Meleena’s world, hey, they did rock with A Knights Tale, why not Meleena’s fantasy world?

            Happy writing!

WRITING THE OPPOSITE SEX

December 30, 2020

            A question came up the other day about writing the main protagonist in the opposite sex. The gist of this question was that it was a male, and he was worried about writing a female protagonist and being too misogynistic.

            Throughout the history of writing, authors have written using protagonists of the opposite sex. It’s nothing new.

            Maybe it’s a millennial thing, but at the same time, it’s still a valid question.

            So far, I haven’t heard that question coming from female writers.

WHAT’S THERE TO WORRY ABOUT?

            A biggie is, of course, getting it wrong.

            A biggie is, of course, using stereotypes.

            A biggie is, of course, assuming.

            Wait…that’s a lot of biggies.

            There are a bunch of little ones too.

            What’s missing here?

OBSERVING

            As writers, we observe things. When we create our stories, we observe everything around us. It should be a given that it must include the people! That would naturally be people of both sexes, right? Well…unless all the action takes place in a segregated setting, it’s unlikely both sexes wouldn’t be involved somehow. That’s picking at straws.

            We, as writers, must observe, absorb, and reflect what we see in our writing.

            With that in mind, we should be comfortable writing both male and female protagonists, regardless of which sex we are.

            Right?

NOT SO FAST

            There are still things about each sex the other doesn’t always see or understand. While males see women as complex and can never understand them, women see men as simple and predictable. Now, aren’t those two predictable cliches?

            How do you write to that?

            You can read plenty of examples in books already out there and emulate them. The problem is that many of them may or may not get it right. Or, they portray the opposite sex (from you) the way they should or you want them to be for your story.

TODAY’S WORLD

            The world is a lot different than what it used to be in the “good old days.” Let’s not even go there.

            Let’s just say that men are not rocks and women are not weepy and helpless.

            On the other hand, no person, regardless of sex, is one extreme or the other. Everyone is full of strengths and faults and deserves to be portrayed as an individual, not a stereotype. It’s way past time that you, as an author, look past the typical and go for the new and extraordinary.

            Quite often, someone will say something like “a guy” or “a girl” would never do something like that.

            Oh yeah?

            Says who?

            “Guys don’t think like that.”

            “Girls don’t think like that.”

            On the basis of past norms, that may very well be true. However, is that so not only in today’s world, but in the world you’re creating?

            Maybe that man or woman, boy or girl would never do what you’re having them do in your story in the real world.

            Does that mean your main character isn’t being realistically drawn because you’re not of that sex?

            Does that even have value in today’s world?

            Maybe not anymore.

SETTING

            This is where it gets tricky. If there is any real-world historical setting to your work, and your protagonist is the opposite sex, you’re darn right you’d better do your research and know how that character should react to the setting! In this case, your whole world has changed. You no longer have the freedom to change the actions and reactions of your opposite sex.

            When those same questions I outlined above are raised, you’d better have a very valid explanation for saying why you went against the norm. While there may be a plot-driven reason, and one or the other sex may have reacted a certain way, you’re skating on thin ice.

            Men have not always acted like men and women have not always acted like women throughout history. We have well-established societal norms that are taken for granted and expected. Yet, as history shows, that’s not always what happened behind closed doors or in the shadows.

SUMMARY

            As a writer, when you portray the opposite sex, to do it realistically, you need to make sure you have your stuff together to make it believable or you’ll lose your readers. Justify it.

            Happy writing!

HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT TAKE TO WRITE WHATEVER?

December 23, 2020

            How much time does it take to write…whatever?

            This is a question that comes up a lot on the Facebook writing forums.

            When I think about it, for a beginning writer, it’s a good question. However, for those already into it, not so much.

            Before we go on, you may wonder the disparity in my two answers. I’ll get to that in a moment.

TIME

            Everything takes time, no matter what it is. Writing is no exception. It’s taking time to write this article. How much? I can tell you that the average time it takes me to write one of these articles, which average 800-1200 words is about twenty minutes.

            So what?

            That’s a big question.

            Why would anyone care?

            How about a short story of say 4,000 words?

            On average, it takes me about an hour for the initial draft.

            A novel?

            It used to take me about six months because I had plenty of extra time at my job. Now that I have to do it at home on my own, it can take up to two years.

            How many words?

            65K to 130K or thereabouts.

            Now that I’ve given you actual statistics, once again, who cares?

WHO CARES?

            When new writers are starting out, many want to know how hard it is. They also want to know how much time they must invest in something to compare with where they are.

            They also want to know if they’re spinning their wheels on something they’re working on.

            They want to know if their pace is too long or too short.

            This would seem like legitimate questions. It is, to a point.

ISSUES

            First off, to me, the speed in which you write isn’t a competition. It isn’t a measurement of your worth, or of how much better or worse you are compared to someone else. If you think that way, writing may not be a passion for you. It may be a sport or a hobby.

            If writing is a true passion…

            You’re going to be compelled to write regardless of time.

            If you’re looking at time because you’re worried you’re in a rut, or because you think you have a problem that needs to be addressed, that’s only natural.

            Time management can be a part of the learning process.

            However, when it’s being used as a competition process, or to measure up against someone else, here again, you’re turning it into an ugly sport instead of a pleasure and a passion. That’s not good.

WRITING SPEED CONTESTS

            The most infamous contest, which I’ve discussed here at Fred Central before, comes up once a year and it’s a great way to hone your chops and to see if you can do it.

            On the other hand, why do it at all? Why write a full novel in a month? Why churn out something instead of taking your time, doing it right, doing it for fun instead of under pressure?

            To me, that’s once again turning it into an ugly sport.

            If you’re competitive minded, I guess that feeds your competitiveness. I sincerely hope it also feeds your passion for writing as well.

            I’ve never had even an inkling of desire to participate in something like that.

            I have my own pace and my own passion, and no speed contest has ever even entered my radar. I personally find it destructive, but that’s just me.

            If it encourages other writers, I’m all for it, even if I find it personally demotivating.

MY STANDARD ANSWER & SUMMARY

            Even though I’ve answered the technical side of how long it usually takes me to write something, the answer I give on the forums is always the same.

            When someone asks how long it takes to write this or that, I always say:

            “As long as it takes.”

            Why?

            Simple.

            There’s no way to gauge how someone writes. Everyone’s different. You can’t standardize the capabilities of any one person. A five-hundred word essay is not going to take everyone the same number of minutes, hours, or days to write.

            It all depends on the person’s skill level, inspiration, and passion to write it.

            This is not a speed contest, like some new writers seem to think.

            This is about quality and passion.

            Why is that so hard to comprehend?

            Happy writing!