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Writers' Corner / Re: Unrepentant Characters
« on: January 06, 2020, 06:41:32 PM »
My first question is why do you want to write an unsympathetic character and then want people to feel sympathetic?

Second is an observation. It's personal but I don't think I'm alone in this. I'm not much for any character who is "purely" any one thing. It's the very definition of one-dimensional, which in fiction is pretty much synonymous with boring.

To look for truly appalling characters, look outside of fantasy. The main character in John Fowles' The Collector is as shocking a character as I've ever encountered. But I was fascinated. I couldn't look away, even though that sort of story is not at all the sort of thing I read.

For another example, try Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Another beast in human form. He makes the main character of A Clockwork Orange look like the minor leagues.

But if you look closely at these stories, you'll see that however thoroughly psychotic are the characters, the author gives them more than one dimension. They are not purely evil. They are, to coin a phrase, beyond good and evil, at least in their own minds. Each story raises this question: what sort of person would do these things? And the answer for each is something more than merely that they are acting purely out of self-interest. There's more too them, however abhorrent.

Writers' Corner / Re: Characters with a mind of their own
« on: January 05, 2020, 03:04:55 AM »
My characters don't tell me things. They don't do unexpected things. What they do comes out of the end of my pen.

And yet....

I have this funny sense of obligation to them. The more important they are to the story, the more I want to do right by them, to tell a story that is worthy of them, whether villain or hero. I hate thinking that readers will get the book and not care about the characters as much as I want them to, and that if they don't care, it's my fault.

Because it is.

But saying I want the story to be worthy of the character in some way does give a kind of separate standing to that fictional creation. It's a little silly, but there it is.

As for planning scenes, I feel quite differently than Matthew (and many others). I may know what must happen, and I may even know how each character ought to react. But the excitement and the craft lie in creating that in words. If a character is supposed to be outraged by something they witness, there are thousands of ways to portray this. My job is to get the reader to feel it along with the character. That's challenging and fascinating and deeply gratifying (when I can manage it).

I've made the analogy with jazz before, but that won't prevent me from making it again. The musicians know the song. They know the key and the chord progressions and phrases of melody. But that doesn't take the life out of the performance. Instead, it gives structure to the performance. To me, "pantsing" is the equivalent of random people getting on stage, grabbing random instruments, and playing whatever each one feels like. Sure, once in a while something like a song might emerge, but why do it that way when there are better ways?

That said, I have to acknowledge that many writers write many good stories in "unexpected" ways, however improbable that may seem. At which point I just shrug and call it art and admire the results.

Writers' Corner / Re: Who is writing?
« on: January 04, 2020, 04:55:42 AM »
I R writing. Just finished second draft of a short story I'll be entering in a local contest. Yes, I'm supposed to be working on The Falconer, and I am. Really. It's just that this contest came up and I had this story idea and, well ...

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What books did you read in 2019?
« on: December 28, 2019, 04:46:49 PM »
Caliban's War
Abaddon's Gate
Nemesis Games
Babylon's Ashes
Persepolis Rising
Tiamat's Wrath
all by James S.A. Corey. Hands down the best SF going. Best in decades.

Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser. Yuck and yucky. Don't know what the fuss is about.
The Hod King, Josiah Bancroft. Bring on Book 4!
The Reverse of the Medal, Patrick O'Brian. I turn to these when I want a reliable read.
Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky. Grand design, dull writing.
Medieval Maritime Warfare, Charles D. Stanton
Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay. Very good.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini. Good early on, but toward the end he manipulated the plot too much.
Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Cornell Woolrich. Bizarre.
Malice, John Gwynne. Shrug.
A Rare Benedictine, Ellis Peters
The Story of the Barbary Corsairs, Stanley Lane-Poole.
A Red Death, Walter Mosley
Murder In Absentia, Assaph Mehr
Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson

Did not finish
Elantris, Brandon Sanderson
The Godstalker Chronicles, P.D. Hodgell

I'm pretty comfortable coming in at 20 or so books per year.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What did you read in December 2019
« on: December 28, 2019, 04:34:29 PM »
A Red Death, Walter Mosley
Easily my favorite current detective novelist. Tight plotting, clean writing, and memorable characters.

Murder In-Absentia, Assaph Mehr
Another detective novel, but this one's set in pseudo-Rome with plenty of magic. A good story with a fully-realized setting, and great use of the magical element. Recommended to detective fans and history fans and fantasy fans alike.

Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
A classic, but a decidedly odd one. I read it because Ray Bradbury said it influenced him as a young writer. Winesburg is episodic, which is fine, though back when it was published I think it caused more than a few scratched heads. More odd to me is the emotionalism, sudden changes in emotion. It's a style we rarely see any more. I'm not sure if I liked the book, but I'm glad I read it.

Writers' Corner / Re: Who is writing?
« on: December 24, 2019, 06:21:48 PM »
I'm pretty much always writing. Current project is The Falconer, which is an Altearth take on a couple of years in the life of Emperor Frederick II.

I also have a short story drafted but I'm not entirely happy with it. I'm letting that one sit for a while, over there in the corner. Every once in a while I walk by and glare at it. I think it's pouting.

Like others have said I don't tend to have many writing questions any more. I have three novels behind me, two novelettes, and three short stories. Every new project is a blind stumble, but I've come to accept that this is the Way of Things for me. It's not like I can find answers and somehow all will come clear.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Is Grimdark still popular ?
« on: December 23, 2019, 06:26:31 PM »
Too difficult to answer this question. Not only because there's too little agreement on what constitutes grimdark, but also how do we measure "popular"? Number of sales? Pretty much any genre of fantasy is going to have sales in the thousands on up. How many marks the line between popular and not popular?

Not a fan of the genre myself, no not even Abercrombie.

Fantasy Movies, Comic Books & Video Games / Re: The Witcher ( tv series)
« on: December 23, 2019, 06:21:20 PM »
DNF first episode. It was too ham-handed, poor acting, poor directing. It's fine. I enjoyed Witcher 3 and I'll keep that version in the memory banks.

General Discussion / Re: Politics and other ailments of the real world
« on: December 19, 2019, 02:13:11 AM »
The U.S. Republicans have provided the answer to two of the most frequently asked questions in human history.
1. How stupid can you be?
2. If your friend told you to jump off a cliff, woud you do it?

Alas, we are left to wonder still about the third: what were you thinking?

General Discussion / Re: How many nationalities have we here
« on: December 17, 2019, 05:52:48 PM »
America? Has the United States been counted yet? I live there!


I don't believe I've encountered this even once. I know people who don't read fantasy, but not someone who will criticize or scorn the genre. I'm old enough to remember when SF was dismissed as rayguns and BEMs, but that was already fading in the rear view mirror when I was in my teens. For point of reference, I'm sixty-eight.

Writers' Corner / Re: About ambiguous comments
« on: December 16, 2019, 04:13:49 AM »
Naw, they aren't ever going to disappear, no matter how much frowning goes on. Many of the people are clueless and don't really have anything of substance to say. They just want to be nice. The ones who are looking for clicks or whatever will still be looking and will ignore the frowns, much the same as spammers ignore their bad press.

I repeat and echo: the best course is ignore and do not engage.

Writers' Corner / Re: About ambiguous comments
« on: December 15, 2019, 05:45:05 PM »
How is it cheating? What is the cheater gaining?

How is it harmful to the author?

I still don't understand why you just don't ignore the gnats. Sure they can annoy a person, but that's no reason to try to rouse the neighborhood on a gnat elimination campaign.

Fantasy Resources / Re: Medieval History
« on: December 11, 2019, 07:20:44 PM »
I have a new essay at my history site
This one is about the last days of Acre in 1291. It's a dramatic story, both heroic and tragic.

This is the penultimate crusading essay. The next one will be on the Kingdom of Jerusalem itself (yeah, I know, it's a bit out of order). After that, I'll be offering essays on other aspects of the crusading era, but that doesn't exhaust my backlog. I have essays on other aspects of the Middle Ages, some on the Reformation, and even some on Greece and Rome.

You can find the Table of Contents for all published essays here

Small Press & Self-Published / The fae folk of Altearth
« on: November 30, 2019, 07:46:12 PM »
I just posted a short article on the fae peoples of Altearth. Those interested in such things are welcome to have a look.
I welcome all comments and questions!

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