July 08, 2020, 02:47:25 AM

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Re: Insights And Questions I worry about the fridging thing as well. Supporting characters (often female, but sometimes othered or dependent in another way, such as race, age, sexuality, or disability) dying and having repercussions on the (often male) main character is such a common trope in fiction that it can exert weight on my story ideas without me being consciously aware of it, so any time I am looking at including a character death as a plot point - especially if it's a woman - I try to consciously deconstruct the element.

Some things I like to consider:
  • Is this a "classic fridging"? Is the character killed or otherwise brutalised at the start of the story to propel the hero into action? e.g. Batman's parents, Liam Neeson's whatever, the retired warrior's wife and daughter forcing him to take up the sword he had sworn never to swing in anger blah blah blah. Is there a better, more interesting, less cliche way for me to move my character?
  • Are there problematic elements to the death? Would she have survived if: she had followed his advice / he was there to protect her / she'd only stayed out of this / she was a man?
  • Does the character who is killed have purpose and significance to the story beyond their death and its impact? Is that character well-rounded and interesting in and of themselves? (Obviously we want the reader to get to know the character who dies so that they grieve as well, because we as authors are a nasty nefarious bunch who are nourished by the tears of our readers, but the character should be a character, not a collection of endearing traits.)
  • Is the character just killed to show how nasty the villain is? Is this really necessary? Can it be shown another way? Ot at least, can the death also have other plot connotations?
  • Are the surviving characters reacting more like someone broke their stuff than that they've lost a friend?
Sometimes I'll answer yes to more than one of those options, but I'll still try it out in the story because there are other elements that I think balance it out, and/or it does seem to be the best plot option, all things considered. But I think it's very, very important to consider the matter carefully, because as I mentioned in opening, this stuff just seeps into your subconscious. And I consider all of this for the deaths of male characters as well, because it's still cheap - if slightly less dominant-paradigm-problematic.

December 29, 2014, 02:24:24 AM
Re: Grace of Kings by Ken Liu Kay and Parker? Wow. This just got a bump up my to-read list!
April 16, 2015, 06:51:07 AM
Re: Do you have influences? I will note on the emulation front that I think consciously trying to replicate the style of an author you admire (or even just an author whose style is strong and interesting) is an excellent way to learn a lot about craft. It means you're consciously thinking about a) how the author created the effects that you love about their work, and b) how you can create those effects, which means you're thinking about writing as a thing you can control, not just a thing you do. It gives you heaps of tools and approaches that you can use in forging your own style.

In terms of influences, I tend to apply that name to those authors who really make me go, "Yes! This is what books should be like! I want to write books that do this!" (I'm not sure how successful I am, but that's another story.) So one of my strongest and longest influences would be Guy Gavriel Kay, in terms of story elements that are emphasised, and some recurring themes (especially end-of-empire). But I also love the desperation and irreverence of Scott Lynch's work, the rich worldbuilding of NK Jemisin, and... not sure how best to put this, but I'll say: the loose-ends of the Australian narrative tradition.

April 22, 2015, 12:19:17 AM
Re: Plot structure and pacing
This is a skeleton. It gives me the absolute core, which I can then hang with the muscles, skin and clothes of a whole story.
But isn't that the case even with the (simple) three act structure? I mean, that is just the starting point and doesn't necessarily define the pacing or even the final structure of the story once you start to flesh it out with sub-plots, twists and whatnot.  :-\

Absolutely. But as I noted, I find it easier and more meaningful to approach the construction of the story this way. It's not about what's "right", it's about what gets the job done for you as a writer. :)

April 28, 2015, 12:17:28 PM
Re: Pet Peeves: What makes you put a book down/never pick it up in the first place? Proving that we all have different tastes and that's what makes this genre so wide and exciting - I love titles with made-up terms - they fire my imagination and get me picking up the book to read the blurb to find out what the Lion of Al-Rassan is - and I am really enjoying the photographic cover trend. :)

Things I probably won't pick up:
  • Titles that are obviously about mercenary companies. These tend to be sausage-festival military-focused hack-and-slash, none of which is my thing, so I need to hear a lot of contradictory buzz about a book like that before I'll pick it up and have a closer look.
  • Books that don't mention a woman - preferably by name - in the cover summary. I have too many books to read to spend time on stories that are just going to aggravate me and make me rant on GoodReads about the lack of female characters. If no woman acts significantly enough on the plot to make it into the blurb, I've got to be being told by a lot of people that this book is amazing to even try.
  • Books where the summary just gives a lot of world history or establish the epic good/evil struggle, and then mention a character or two in passing. I love world and history, but I'm here for character struggles.

Reasons I have stopped reading a book:
  • Badly written. I want to take joy in the language, I want to enjoy the act of reading these sentences. I want to feel like the author has enjoyed crafting them for me.
  • Lack of connection. Most often this occurs because the author is telling me what the characters are feeling, but I'm not feeling it myself. Sometimes it happens because the author has used five chapters to introduce me to five separate storylines, none of which has given a compelling reason to keep reading.
  • Same old, same old. Everything is generic. This used to be RPG-party quest-prophecies, but the new black is thieves/assassins. The "ugh, another one of these" remains.

May 10, 2015, 11:25:14 PM
Re: Personal spelling habits The thing that was drummed into me when training as an editor - and that I hold to still - is that clarity is key. You're aiming to have the author's meaning communicated clearly and quickly to as many readers as possible.

So there are a lot of obscure and archaic rules that have fallen out of common usage, or that might have their sticklers, but don't really impede clarity - preposition-ending clauses and split infinitives being two excellent examples. The inner grammarian might flinch, but you know what's being said, so what is the harm?

However, a lot of other rules do impact on meaning. Possessive apostrophes are one where their removal impedes clarity. There's a lot of difference between saying "my sister's children" and "my sisters' children", after all, and if you make it "husband" and not "children", all of a sudden the situation gets very interesting! ;)

May 29, 2015, 05:58:21 AM
Re: How to Avoid Scaring Away Male Readers - Too Much Touchy Feely Stuff (literally)
The fantasy of a woman who's as free loving and promiscuous as male players and who only wants sex for the sake of having sex? When was the last time that was ever a big hit among women? She's secure in her sexuality. That's fine and good for her, but she's never going to break the box office because it's a male power fantasy.

I'm not sure what you mean here. A woman who is secure in her sexuality and herself is often incredibly threatening to most men. Experiments on online dating sites shows that a woman who doesn't need male validation - who answers "you're so beautiful" compliments with "yes, I know, thanks" - isn't sexy, she's cut down by the very men who complimented her. They don't want her to be secure. They want her to need them for security.

Which, to be honest, isn't so different from what you'd laid out for the "female fantasy". Everyone wants other people to value and need them. They want the vulnerability of the relationship to go both ways. The cliche is that men demonstrate value and need through financial support and gifts, and that women demonstrate it through sex. But that's just the cliche, and it's an old-fashioned cliche at that.

June 09, 2015, 12:42:35 AM
Re: The best female science fiction and fantasy writers you should read now Also of interest for this topic, Tansy Rayner Roberts' guest of honour speech from Melbourne convention Continuum a couple weeks back, wherein she discusses the long but often downplayed or forgotten history of influential women in genre fiction, and some reasons why they're less remembered: Fantasy, Female Writers & The Politics of Influence.
June 18, 2015, 11:26:03 PM
Re: Social responsibility for creatives (writers included)
Maybe this thread wasn't the best idea since it could lead to a fight. I have a problem with brooding over past squabbles.

Yes. Especially since I was there. Rehashing past squabbles where some parties cannot represent their views (or defend from personal attacks) isn't helpful to anyone or anything.

I agree with the general tenor of the responses received here. You have the right to create whatever you like. Other people have the right to respond. Their feelings are valid, as are yours. A little willingness to listen, consider and understand - if not necessarily accept - goes a long way. In both directions.

July 11, 2015, 12:29:07 AM
Re: What's your take on italics? Large sections in italics - like putting a flashback scene in italics, or a dream sequence, or similar - can be more difficult to read. If it's whole pages in italics, then that might present problems. (That said, I've read books recently that do this.)

Similarly, if you're using lots of instances of italics, it starts to look a little like a comic book, where it seems like every third word is emphasised, and the whole notion of italics as emphasis starts to lose its meaning for the reader.

There might not be a problem with it. On the other hand, there might be more elegant ways around it. I mean, if the character speaking another language is understood by your viewpoint character, there's no reason to note the language they're speaking in - you can just make a note when another character doesn't understand because s/he doesn't speak that language. If he isn't understood, then should the reader know what he's saying?

July 12, 2015, 12:18:10 AM