Dog Ear
You might remember (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 14 June 2018 00:00

 

he above comes from a flashy new space opera on WebToons, a little tale that is still finding its legs. The reason I note it was the speedbump reaction I felt when I read it. It’s that rocky little literary trick when two characters who should know something overword it so that the reader can pick up a fact they need. While not quite as bad as the writer specifically conversing with the reader (“…for you see, Dear Reader, they had been searching the entire station…”), writers have been struggling since stories got complex and backstory important. Once you got past Gilgamesh, you ended up with characters talking weird and unnaturally.

I remember a friend in Virginia Tech noting this once. In Star Blazers, a space opera we Hokie-geeks dearly loved, the captain of a base on Pluto tells his sub commander, “Have you forgotten our new weapon, Bain? The Reflex Gun?” And my friend smirked, “Of course, commander. We only had to ship it here, get dozens of satellites into orbit to support it, dig a huge gun under an ice sea, place huge power generators and computers to help it fire along with all the support personal required for operations. Forgot all about it.”

Part of writing stories with any sort of interesting secondary (yet possibly important) information is how to convey this to the reader without your characters acting like they’ve suffered a stroke or lived through a gas leak. Keep an eye out for this, in others (so you can see how to and not to do it) and in your own writing (when suddenly things get stupid). Possibly weave the tale a different way, so we see these characters just finishing their full search (or complaining about it). Another method is to have a passing NPC (non-player character, for those who aren’t D&D Hokie-geeks) pass the point. In our example above, possibly someone else asks, “Say, I hear you boys searched the entire station”. Sometimes it might just take a review of your wording, to make something a little more clear.

Like everything in editing, half the trick is spotting it with your inner writer’s ear, catching an unnatural conversation and ironing it out before it goes to print.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 June 2018 19:39
 
Clich├ęs (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 07 June 2018 19:13

rostitutes have no substance-abuse issues, perfect hygiene, elegant poise and hearts of gold.

Retiring cops have plans to fish. Their demise is certain.

Hackers earbud heavy-metal music and spin in their seats, banging on their keyboards.

Fighter pilots all hang around the bar and address each other by call-signs.

Patriot-warriors (ex-seals) always live simple lives in book-lined cabins until a senseless killing rewinds their bloodletting clocksprings.

Villians always kill off a mook, just to show how bad-ass they are.

Robots rise against the slavery of their manual work.

Mothers are always Buddha-wise, kids razor-clever in family matters, and fathers clueless.

Doctors always have stethoscopes  around their neck and don’t give harried-shits.

Police detectives work crazy-hours on a single case.

Responding police officers are always sloppy and inobservant until they are killed.

Millennials are fragile and innocent to the world.

Boomers are jaded and don’t understand tech.

Children are tech-wizards. Parents are helpless.

Adopted children are always met with open arms by their birth-mothers.

Writers – don’t allow yourself to fall into these cheap clichés. And if you are given a manuscript with any of these in it, light up the grill and burn it. The world is a wide and wonderful place. There is no reason to walk the same path that others have beaten down.

>>>AND YES, ELISHA IS A PHOENICIAN PRINCESS WHO ATTEMPTS TO USURP THE THRONE. AND FAILS. WHAT SHE DOES NEXT IS TOTALLY OFF THE BEATEN PATH. FIND OUT MORE IN FIRE AND BRONZE<<<

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2018 19:16
 
Villains (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 31 May 2018 07:30

t work I sit next to a hypothetical guy – he loves asking off the wall, unexpected questions. And that’s fine – I enjoy finding myself thinking up answers (one was, “Which Greek hero represents you?” My answer, Achilles. You gotta love how he went on strike because of bad management practices). But this time he asked me, “What are your three favorite villains?”

That’s a very interesting question, and I was amazed at how quickly it stumped me. Sure, I read a lot of novels, scifis and fantasies. But really, are there truly villains you’ve read that aren’t just cardboard cutouts, that give you a chill or a thrill? Even extending it to films and all media, it’s a very curious question.

My first thought was Rudi von Starnberg, the organizer of the prince-switching plot in Royal Flash. He was just the sort of guy I liked (and wished I could be) – ornate and cool and funny. He really captured it for me. But the more I thought about it, I liked him for being him, not for being a villain. So I had to withdraw him.

Immediately after that, I decided that General Woundwort from Watership Down was a great villain. He’s all powerful, he’s frightening, he’s missing an eye (and yes, he’s a bunny, a bad, bad bunny). He doesn’t make overly stupid mistakes, he has great lines and his character flaws aren’t artificial. As it was later said, General Woundwort's body was never found. It could be that he still lives his fierce life somewhere else, but from that day on, mother rabbits would tell their kittens that if they did not do as they were told, the General would get them. Such was Woundwort's monument, and perhaps it would not have displeased him.

Yeah, so he’s in.

After about thirty minutes and a scrum call later, I came up with the second: Sauron from the Rings trilogy. Like Woundwort, he’s got an unbeatable army at his back. But he’s so perverse and far-gone that you don’t even know if he’s even recognizable as a human anymore. All he does is lurk in his tower and sweep for the hobbits. His efforts are sound, he doesn’t do stupid-leader-stuff, and his end feels earned. So, yeah, I’d put him in.

The next-pod-guy and I kicked ideas back and forth and finally he mentioned Darth Vader. Yes, I’d go with that (even though I no longer follow the movies and find it too much of a grinder for my tastes). But the classic Vader, the bad guy you eventually feel sympathy for, he’s a great Villain. Choking the shit out of admirals, classic.

Only after I came up with mine did we look online to see what others mentioned in various articles. Sure, there were famous books, many of which I’d not read and some villains that baffled me (Captain Hook? What are you, four years old?). But the surprising final one I wished I’d thought about was Milo Minderbinder from Catch-22, who turns all of World War Two into a gigantic corporate venture. Yeah, he was a good villain, an unseen villain, who only comes out of the woodwork near the end when he has his own army, a monopoly on brothels, and his own air force. Perfect.

Oh, and one I came up with much later that nobody picked, Moby Dick. Yeah, there’s a villain for you. Or would it be Ahab. Both?

Think about it. What villains define your fiction?

>>>IN EARLY RETYREMENT, IT IS ALEXANDER THE GREAT. YEAH, HE WAS SCARY AND HE’S GOT AN ARMY TOO. FOLLOW THIS LINK AND BUY A COPY<<<

 
Good words, bad sentence (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 23 May 2018 22:42

emember last week? I was sitting on the train, worried about the rain coming down and what I’d do when I ran out of train to hide in. And I thought (as I studied the puddles for raindrops, the cyclist’s gauge) about how this could be a good piece. Nobody sharing my rail car with me would know the tense drama unfolding. But once it becomes known (this fixation for drops as we worked progressively south), it adds something to the scene. Suddenly I’m not a guy on the train. I’m a guy on the train with a backstory.

Okay, so I thought it was pretty clever, pulling a writing lesson out watching raindrops licking at puddles. And then I wrote this…

I’m on the train, my nonplussed reflection reflects back at me against a leaden sky.

Really?

How did I miss using the same word twice? I was looking at my reflection doing what reflections do, i.e.reflect. So there I was, punching up the text so it would read really sharp and interesting. I probably liked that word so much that I focused my mind on it and described what I was looking at, not looking at the words together but as clever indivuduals.

I play the game Go, where you need to focus tactically but also look at the long game. And if there is a Go moment I’ll remember, it’s when I thought I was stalking my buddy Omar into a fix. I was so focused on my schemes that I didn’t give the board much more than a glance. Placed my evil move and went to lunch. Came back to find his move and four dead stones on the side of the board, my stones! While I’d stalked him, he’d stalked me and had reasoned that I’d get nailed before he would. So I blundered right into it, counting my unhatched chickens and all that.

So last week’s piece was a little like that. I was so focused on making each word right that I didn’t make each sentence right. So always keep that in mind.

And now I’ll let this sit for a few days and then look again – carefully – to make sure a piece about bad wording doesn’t contain… bad wording.

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