An exploration of what makes a book readable and hooks readers, in which I alienate beer drinkers… .
Readability is not a joke. Of course, this is how I treated it a few weeks ago when I first noticed the readability of Peter V. Brett’s debut novel The Warded Man. The speed at which I read the first book of Brett’s Demon Cycle series and the way I kept going back to reading it–and actually enjoying it–left me thinking it was just really easy to read. This was funny because a book should be easy to read, and if it’s a pain to read, and you have to drag yourself into reading it, then why are you reading it? It reminded me of a billboard for Bud Light that hung over the entrance to the O’Neill Tunnel in Boston: “Superior Drinkability.” If you’re selling a drink it really ought to be drinkable, or else something is wrong. Continue reading “Superior Readability”→
I signed up for National Novel Writing Month this year for a few reasons, but chief among them was that I had resisted doing it in previous years. NaNoWriMo seems set up for people who have a different set of problems with novel writing than I do, and I used that as a reason to not participate. My problem is not that I don’t add words every day or that I procrastinate or that I have “writer’s block.” My problem is that I have a bunch of animals in my house that will starve or (more likely) eat each other if I don’t stop writing for a few minutes a day. Four thousand words a day would be no problem for me if I didn’t have anything else to do, so NaNoWriMo didn’t seem like something for me. Continue reading “Nah, NoWriMo”→
Why write weak characters? To see them become strong people.
Last month after watching The White Queen I questioned the compliment “you write strong female characters,” by saying there’s no good reason to write a weak female character. Weak female characters, or passive ones, are simply not as interesting as strong characters of either sex. There’s no compelling reason to write a character who’s boring, at least not in a fantasy or historical adventure. Even a weak side character can just use up valuable space. “Every character should want something, even if it is just a glass of water.”
I’ve now found an exception to this. A weak main character can be quite interesting because, of course, characters need to change.
I read a very informative and helpful article on short story writing by David Farland this week. As everyone should, I have submitted a few stories to Writers of the Future, and one got an honorable mention last year. I write very few stories that are appropriate for the contest, as they demand a PG-13 rating, but I have submitted plenty of stories to the usual publications, and haven’t gotten much more than a few personal rejections (this is a good sign, but it’s not publication). Fortunately Farland’s blog post included usable information that writers can use to improve their stories, maybe even sell one. Continue reading “Short stories: what the hell?”→
In which I alienate still more people who liked Arrival
The main thing I’ve been doing other than working toward the climax in the rewrite of Firesage is studying screenwriting. Since The Queen’s Night is on submission and people seem to like the characters (despite my efforts to make them horrible people bent on nothing but pleasure, power, and geometry) I have thought it would make a good movie. A lot of readers and writers think about their favorite books in a sort of filmic way, and when readers get their favorite books adapted, it’s a sort of validation. A lot of the heroic and dramatic can be succinctly expressed in film, and so a lot of us get our sense of the dramatic from the movie screen, and seeing our favorite story on that screen gives it a larger existence. So naturally I thought of adapting the movie myself, and learning about screenwriting in the process.
In which I alienate the people most likely to buy my book.
Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorite books, so I was pretty excited when I heard Hulu was adapting it into a series. Of course, I also had my trepidation. I don’t care much whether an adaptation fails or succeeds, but my expectations for adaptations these days are pretty low. Nevertheless it’s nice to see such an excellent book advertised and interpreted. I watched the first episode last night and found myself thinking I would rather be re-reading the book. If you were confused or disappointed by the episodes you’ve seen, read the book.
In which I alienate the entire sci-fi short story readership, fellowship, and mothership.
I just got back from Paris. Yes, I’m fancy. It was great, thanks for asking. I wrote a short story while I was there (which, given what I’m about to tell you, probably will never get published). On the way back I got to watch two recent sci-fi movies and I found them interesting to compare, particularly given my previous arrogance about “entertainment” (he said disdainfully), I was surprised which one I enjoyed more. Continue reading “The Nifty, Geeky Story”→
In which I alienate Robert Jordan fans and Harry Potter fans in one swell foop.
The other night in our writing group at the Fairlee Public Library I read a passage from my novel-in-progress Firesage. I spent a little time building up the world for my fellows, then read the passage. I explained that the sorcerers who are the main characters live in an academy, and a little bit about the scheming that is tearing it apart. I almost forgot to mention that the main character is pregnant. That wasn’t so important for the passage I read, but it’s most of the basis of the conflict in the novel. I didn’t stop and fill in the background as I went along, because the passage was a flashback to a time before the novel begins, when the main character was “discovered” in a different setting than the one I had just explained. Continue reading “Crunchy Complexity”→
What is it that makes readers connect? Sincerity and honesty. The kind of sincerity I’m talking about might be called being “serious” but as Alan Watts pointed out, the word “serious” has a sort of dry unfunniness about it, and that isn’t what I’m getting at. Fantasy literature in particular has this problem, much less than it used to, that it’s hard to take seriously a book about wizards and dragons. Ursula LeGuin seems to have eventually convinced everyone to take such books seriously, but not without plenty of books getting written to convince people otherwise. Wizards and dragons sound like childish topics, until you read Gene Wolfe, Stephen R. Donaldson, or dare I say Robert Jordan?
People all have their own reasons for loving or hating Jacqueline Carey’s books, but they all agree she is a great writer.
It’s no secret that Jacqueline Carey is one of my favorite writers, and if you’ve read any of her work it should be clear why. The skill with which she crafts her work is evident from the very first word, and even when she’s writing stuff that I can’t stand to read (like her Agents of Hel series), I still acknowledge she’s doing it better than almost anyone else. She’s most well-known for her Kushiel books, set in Europe with an alternate history where Christianity never really took off, but an early offshoot of it took off like crazy. Continue reading “Miranda, Caliban, and Jacqueline Carey”→