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Topics - The Gem Cutter

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Writers' Corner / An example of distinct style
« on: January 17, 2018, 12:09:28 AM »
So we've had a number of terrific discussions on several topics that all point to style, and by that, I mean the collection of writer's choices in a wide range of key areas. Our discussions have ranged from determining whether to accept feedback, which rules to follow, and others - that all should be driven, in my opinion, by what it is we're trying to do. I use the word "do" because the book should do some things to the audience, and by that I mean something more specific than the true but undecipherable "entertain". We have to have specific goals for specific bits: produce shock, cultivate empathy for our protags, reader animosity for our villains, and ... whatever other entertaining situations we can contrive.

Again, the point is that before we can determine the validity of a guideline or concept or feedback is we have to know what we're trying to do. We have to make stylistic choices, and then execute them. And we should take feedback based on the execution of those ideas.

I came across this video, one of a series that does a wonderful job of looking at filmmakers and the kinds of stylistic choices they tend to make. I think this is a useful guide - for example, with some exceptions, the work I want to produce will align more closely with Christopher Nolan's favored approaches to films. I don't juggle timelines, for an example of where we differ in our objectives. ( @Justan Henner & @Not Lu - I'd be interested if you see any similarities in style between my WIP and this video's description of Nolan's work)

Anyway, we often discuss things from an execution standpoint, and this is probably several points past the area we should be focusing on. What are we trying to do and how do we plan to do it are critical prerequisites for determining A) whether we're doing it B) how well, and C) how we should carry the story forward.

Self Publishing Discussion / Novel Translation
« on: June 09, 2017, 10:15:40 PM »
Is there a need/or any interest among Indie authors to translate their novels into foreign languages? If so, how do they normally go about it?

General Discussion / Aussies! You know the ones I mean ...
« on: May 01, 2017, 06:47:24 PM »
I have enjoyed some success with my lead female character, who is the first female character I have written. This is important because the first books are her mentor's origin story, and she will inherit all the issues he gets going  ;D

People seem to enjoy her layered personality and careful responses to things. To create her, and to help guide me in crafting her responses to things, I recalled a description of Australian culture, something I know very little about - full disclosure. I had heard that Australians are fiercely independent, like Americans *can be*, but with the major difference being that Aussies do not presume to offer advice or tell people what they should do the way Americans (including myself, I do admit) are prone to do to excess.

My interactions with Aussies has been limited to a mission with their SAS (badass cowboys, the lot of 'em) and some of the most stunning, err, professional intelligence analysts that I've ever encountered. So I was curious, what other traits do Australians tend to exhibit? I am interested in their thoughts on themselves, and the thoughts of non-Aussies who've spent time with/among them.

Writers' Corner / A question of motivation
« on: April 26, 2017, 09:02:08 PM »
So I am curious about character motivations, main characters/protagonists especially. Looking around at successful works, I see a three-element formula in most.
The first is a need for someone to act, often (but not always) voiced by a mentor character.

The second is the character's stated desire or willingness to act, usually voiced. Luke says he wants to go with Ben, learn about the Force, and become a Jedi like his father. Frodo says he'll take the ring, even though he doesn't know the way. I do not recall Paul Atreides stating his intentions so succinctly, but it's obvious he has the desire to set things right.

The third is a social convention of some kind, be it Luke acquiescing to Ben's urging him to join him (listening to elders) or Paul's doing what heirs to thrones do. Frodo's an outlier here, as there's nothing obligating him to carry the ring, and I do not recall Gandalf stating his desire outright.

But beyond these points, I do not recall any solid foundations of commitment, and the more I look at the tired clichés out there, the more I see that they are most often used to attempt to build a deeper foundation. Such as "I have to [insert story goal] because I must [get princess, save world, fulfill my role as The One, etc.]."

In life, I have found that the strongest motivations are indicated by the simplest and most succinct statements. "I will run a marathon, climb Mt. Everest, be a millionaire before I'm 40, become a Green Beret", or whatever. And these people then go out and do these amazingly difficult, sometimes lengthy things.

But in fiction, there's a belief among writers that more is required. So my question is - just how much depth is needed for a character's motivation to accomplish their goal to be plausible?

I am curious if anyone has any experience on getting their books listed with major retailers. Is this feasible?
Anyone tried it?

Obviously, you'd be looking at a major investment to produce an inventory that can be spread across hundreds/thousands of outlets, the postage, etc.

Writers' Corner / Writer's Complaint of the Day
« on: April 18, 2017, 05:26:10 AM »
Once, just once, I'd like to get the "even better if" idea BEFORE I write two and half scenes that are inconsistent with it.

Writers' Corner / Beta readers sought
« on: April 12, 2017, 05:53:57 AM »
I'm looking for a couple people interested in reading my material in doses over the next few weeks.

Just in case you dread the responsibility of the writer relying on you finding their grammar and spelling errors, I am looking for impressions and opinions on content and execution. Any reader is welcome to dive as deep as they like, of course, but if that seems too time-consuming, that's cool, too.

The material is 95% to 100% free of errors and won't make you scream (often).

Writers' Corner / The Periphery - a MC No-man's Land?
« on: April 09, 2017, 08:17:04 PM »
Usually, I look for specific ideas or views, but this issue is more open-ended, and I am just curious what people think of things.

My novel has taken a creative turn.  My MC has encountered a mysterious character named the Viridian, a lone fighter opposing the Powers That Be, using his anonymity to transform himself from an individual into an idea in a very Batman-like way. I always intended for my 'everyman' MC to encounter a variety of colorful and interesting (and more extreme) people in his travels, and the Viridian certainly is that. He is an intelligent and ruthless killer (bad things) with very specific goals that are good things. I departed from Batman's "violent but not too violent" approach because I wanted to open the door up all the way - weighing beating up bad guys and killing some by accident / non-intervention (I don't have to save you...) was too removed from the Viridian's intended themes.

The idea has been that though my more centrist and more-vanilla MC's 1st Person POV, I would be able to explore these other characters' more extreme views - their ruthlessness, for example, without losing empathy for my character.

I do not recall seeing this before, but there's a trope called Hero of Another Story so apparently, I am overlooking things. Like any innovation, I think this idea requires caution. My intent is to explore things like "one man's patriot is another man's terrorist", and similar conflicted views of things - but I don't want to distract from my MC's story too much.

Any thoughts on this?

General Discussion / Your favorite spirits, beers, and wines
« on: March 18, 2017, 07:24:41 PM »
Last night I was given a bottle of Tullamore Dew, a 12-year whiskey, triple distilled. I was surprised to discover that I actually love it! It's amazingly smooth and flavorful. I've never enjoyed whiskey or scotch, until last night. Look at this old dog learning new tricks  8)

So given the wide ranging and passionate tastes we have in fiction, I thought I'd ask: what's your weapon of choice in murdering brain cells?

Writers' Corner / Book Title Epiphany - how late is too late?
« on: March 14, 2017, 01:40:18 PM »
I am curious what people think about the timing of when a title becomes comprehensible to the reader.
Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns is pretty quick about it (opening scene?), and many authors take that route, but I am curious - how late is too late?

For my part, I don't care, and don't even mind if it never ties into a specific event/statement. For example, Abercrombie's "Best Served Cold" is an awesome title, but I don't think it ties into a specific moment or quote in the book. And as I recall, there's nothing cold about the revenge achieved.
Tolkien's choice of "Two Towers" has long been considered faulty, so one might get all the way to/past the end without knowing which two towers he was talking about, but no one cared. It should have been three towers, or perhaps "LoTR Two: Towers" hahah.  Whyte's Skystone books take their time - maybe halfway through before the meteorite comes into play.

My book's working title (and my own on these forums) is The Gem Cutter's Son, because the MC is taught the craft by an old gem cutter who bequeaths to him all his tradecraft. So he's the GC's son figuratively speaking, not literally. People have always been mildly irritated about not knowing how the title fits the story in the first half, but I never intended for that to come out earlier than 75%.

This is not a big deal to me, as I've not spent great time/energy in my title yet, but I am curious about this timing of the revelation issue.

Writers' Corner / Can anyone recommend a good book on revision?
« on: February 27, 2017, 06:30:17 AM »
Anyone know any good books, guides, or other information on the art of revision?

Surely I am not the only person in this august company who struggles to devise solutions to my story's problems. More and more it seems an entirely different activity than composing a new narrative.

The good news is the bad news: I have lots of things going on, but the reaction I get from most people when I show what's waiting in the wings is "Holy crap that is a lot of stuff going on!!", so organizing things is key. My biggest issue is that I am a pantser, and I think a decent one, but I have discovered that a cloak and dagger/intrigue plot is very rigid in the cause-effect sense, which is not a place where pantsing is helpful. This is probably easy as pie for people who are good at plotting things out, but I totally suck at that. This whole exercise feels like I've been dragged from a place of strength to a land of weakness where I don't speak the language and have no map.

If anyone has any general advice, I'm interested to hear it. I've broken my narrative in half, with my causally-related events on the one hand, and the events whose order is not rigidly linked on the other, so that I can grow the intrigue plot with a freer hand. The idea is the relatively sedate sequences of learning will be intermingled with more tense situations where my hero learns about all the skullduggery going on. A delicate balance, but if it works, I think it will work really well. If it works.

Curious if any other writers have written analogies, metaphors, etc., that they are proud of or really enjoy.

Here's mine. Nothing fancy, but I think it works:  “If iron could speak, it would say that it was hard enough and did not need the pain of the forge or the skill of the blacksmith –– unpleasant things, to be sure. Only after the blacksmith has made steel of it can it understand how soft it was before."

Writers' Corner / Writers - Empathy and Lack Thereof
« on: February 09, 2017, 08:51:58 PM »
I've heard of writers who are cold fish, but for the most part, the writers I have encountered are passionate and highly empathetic. This led me to wonder how many of you other writers consider yourselves to have more than the average amount of empathy? Does the pain of others hit you harder than most? Do you find yourself angered by injustices that hit others whom you don't even know or even like?

I laughed when I started this thread, because I wondered "Do people who have little empathy realize that? Or do they just assume everyone else is a mushy bowl of oatmeal?" I really wouldn't know. I'm the bowl of oatmeal, albeit one that can set that empathy aside, though at some personal cost.

Writers' Corner / The Art of the Eulogy
« on: February 02, 2017, 05:59:38 AM »
Words have many powers, not the least of which is presenting and summarizing things with any number of priorities in mind. But few tasks are as weighty and difficult as summarizing a life. While eulogies are not uncommon in Fantasy, the link between them is tenuous. But as writers, in times of loss others will seek us out, and discussing them is worthwhile. Now, some lives are easier to summarize than others. It is not uncommon for melancholy emotions to be summoned for the moment, as is often appropriate, particularly for the young.

There are other sentiments that are sometimes attempted, and the further from melancholy they stand, the more difficult they are to achieve, and the greater the risks of failure. Often, eulogies offer notions of respect the person earned, whether professional or familial, and focus on the differences the person made in the world, in industry or their field, or in the lives around them. The sentiment I have always liked is the idea of saluting a life well-lived. And the eulogy below delivers that sentiment and a great deal of humor - a bold and, in this case, very successful approach.

Ladies and gentlemen, I offer the eulogy of the life of Chris Connors, someone I never met. I've read a lot of eulogies, but I don't think I've ever read one that showed me that a life was well-lived better than this.

Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey

Chris Connors died, at age 67, after trying to box his bikini-clad hospice nurse just moments earlier. Ladies man, game slayer, and outlaw Connors told his last inappropriate joke on Friday, December 9, 2016, that which cannot be printed here. Anyone else fighting ALS and stage 4 pancreatic cancer would have gone quietly into the night, but Connors was stark naked drinking Veuve in a house full of friends and family as Al Green played from the speakers. The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority and he paved his own way. And if you said he couldn't do it, he would make sure he could.

Most people thought he was crazy for swimming in the ocean in January; for being a skinny Irish Golden Gloves boxer from Quincy, Massachusetts; for dressing up as a priest and then proceeding to get into a fight at a Jewish deli. Many gawked at his start of a career on Wall Street without a financial background - but instead with an intelligent, impish smile, love for the spoken word, irreverent sense of humor, and stunning blue eyes that could make anyone fall in love with him.

As much as people knew hanging out with him would end in a night in jail or a killer screwdriver hangover, he was the type of man that people would drive 16 hours at the drop of a dime to come see. He lived 1000 years in the 67 calendar years we had with him because he attacked life; he grabbed it by the lapels, kissed it, and swung it back onto the dance floor. At the age of 26 he planned to circumnavigate the world - instead, he ended up spending 40 hours on a life raft off the coast of Panama. In 1974, he founded the Quincy Rugby Club. In his thirties, he sustained a knife wound after saving a woman from being mugged in New York City. He didn't slow down: at age 64, he climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest. Throughout his life, he was an accomplished hunter and birth control device tester (with some failures, notably Caitlin Connors, 33; Chris Connors, 11; and Liam Connors, 8).

He was a rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important - the simplicity of living a life with those you love. Although he threw some of the most memorable parties during the greater half of a century, he would trade it all for a night in front of the fire with his family in Maine. His acute awareness of the importance of a life lived with the ones you love over any material possession was only handicapped by his territorial attachment to the remote control of his Sonos music.

Chris enjoyed cross dressing, a well-made fire, and mashed potatoes with lots of butter. His regrets were few, but include eating a rotisserie hot dog from an unmemorable convenience store in the summer of 1986.

Of all the people he touched, both willing and unwilling, his most proud achievement in life was marrying his wife Emily Ayer Connors who supported him in all his glory during his heyday, and lovingly supported him physically during their last days together.

Absolut vodka and Simply Orange companies are devastated by the loss of Connors. A "Celebration of Life" will be held during Happy Hour (4 p.m.) at York Harbor Inn on Monday, December 19.

In lieu of flowers, please pay open bar tab or donate to Connors' water safety fund at

Writers' Corner / Most creative nightmares
« on: January 22, 2017, 03:04:20 AM »
I don't know if anyone else suffers from what I refer to as "creative nightmares", but I sure do. Always have. I have always wondered if it's from being imaginative, so I thought I'd ask if any of you imaginative writers experience this.

To define what I mean, I don't mean "bizarre", which to me is just weird crazy stuff combined with a completely nonsensical and/or unstable situation. Much of this relates to the feel of the dream - crickets exploding out of people's heads or whatever while a giant tries to stomp you and you realize you're late for an interview. That's bizarre.

What I am talking about is a situation that makes a modicum of sense, and then becomes a nightmare in a plausible, story-like way. Fantastic elements are incorporated logically, like a Stephen King film, and the sense of things remains stable, if not pleasant.

Mine is simple. I'm walking on a large frozen lake, and I pass a hole in the ice the size of a man-hole cover. Meh. I keep walking. After a bit, the world begins to tilt, and I am now trying harder and harder to continue moving forward. Finally, I begin to slide. The world continues to tilt until it reaches almost full vertical. I am now really moving fast. Ahead/below, I see the hole I passed, and icy water is now pouring out. I time it well and hook my arm into the hole as I slide by. The water is cascading out still, and is quite strong. The dream ends there.

I've fallen through ice in deep water a few times, so I'm sure that's where my mind got the source material. Why it chooses to scare me with this over and over I don't know, any more than I know why in the dream I remain surprised  :o  That said, whoever it is in my head that does the cinematography is amazing, because the view in mine would be at home in The Revenant or The Matrix.

Do any of you have these kinds of vivid, cogent dreams that revisit you?

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