About Writers…Slouching through the Mire.

Some things have to be said. Not in an upbeat way, nor in a method as if lecturing a group of new students. Somethings require airing not as a rallying call or a rousing appeal to follow things’ my way and all will be well’.

Some things need to be warned about.

If a writer doesn’t go through the following experience they are either very lucky, blessed, not telling the truth, or not writing properly.

Of course I am writing about those dread episodes when everything seems either pointless, hopeless or fearful. (The latter turns up after success and the writer fears they will never better that).

These demons come in various forms; for instance either in a slough of grey despondency when even opening the cover of the laptop seems to be a supreme effort, OR the sharp pain when you happen to spy someone else’s (never mind who) success which appears to you to have come out of thin air (being in this state of mind you are of course not being the least bit rational). There are of course other variations on this theme. All coalesce into these similar themes

I can’t write (sometimes this has ‘anymore’ added on)

Why do I bother writing?

In such wretched countries the last things you want to come across would be either

A cheery rallying call to never mind all will be well in time (‘Are we talking centuries here?’ You ask)

A bright and peppy post telling you how to get on and get yourself noticed AND how serious a business marketing is ( At the first juncture you have a sarcastic image of yourself dancing frenetically on a high building hurling copies of your work at the folk down below while crying out ‘At least read the damn thing!’; at the second juncture you either are so scared at the seemingly hopeless prospect that you hide under a table OR as snarling at the writer’s post you make it known you have been doing this and do they think you a drivelling idiot- by now you usually are drivelling, though in frustrated rage).

By some monumental effort of charity and spirit you do not lower yourself to the gutter by being spiteful at anyone who has posted up their first success, you manage a ‘like’ and maybe if you’ve got your favourite brew just write (sic) you squeeze out a ‘Well done you’ because despite everything you are feeling you actually mean it, only you wish some of that would come your way.

It has to be acknowledged, said, enunciated, lamented and admitted that in general for the vast majority of writers of blogs, tweets, stories, novels, factual works and any permutation the odds are stacked heavily against you. The mixed blessing which is the Internet has enabled many folk to be able to put the electronic version of pen to paper. In fact I wonder if writers out-number those who read but don’t write in any form. Thus amongst this oceans of talent, polluted by sewerage of hack-writers, hate merchants and fabricators is anyone going to notice you little wave or splash?

‘Ah me,’ you say sadly, or something of the general equivalent.

At this stage some folk say ‘Writing is not for me. Anyway I have been wanting to do….’ Whatever it might, and away they go to do whatever and feel released of the weight and live happier lives. Which is a perfectly sensible approach. It’s much better to have tried and say, ‘I have been there’, than to ponder of ‘What might have been’

As for the rest of us. Us who cannot let go of the urge to Write, who feel restless and unsettled unless words are being put to paper or the electronic equivalent. Us who despite all previous past evidence simply will not let go and opt to carry on despite the fact of feeling sorrowful and wondering if there will ever come a day when we can rise at the sunny dawn and with light breakfast and a gladsome heart pen another contribution for a waiting public.

If you count yourself amongst these serried ranks you must evident be A Writer. The creative urge runs deep within your blood, stirs as part of your spirit, roams your restless mind and simply will not let you go. Irrespective of the results or lack of them you will forge on for one more effort. You are determined, in a dogged way. You believe you have something to say and will not be stifled. It is how you are. You are fated to be this way. You will not let go.

There are some lesser mortals who mask their soulless ways by applying what they delude themselves as being wise and witty words such as ‘Every person as a book inside of them and in most cases that is where it should stay’ or ‘Insanity is trying the same thing over again and expecting different results’. These dry and vapid folk know nothing of the ceaseless urge to create and are to be ignored, pitied or simply sneered at. Their cousins ‘Though Who Would Be A Critic’ and have never tried to write anything other than what they may consider ‘harsh truth’ are equally pointless in their efforts. Between them and their professional mentors these folk have done more to stifle creativity down the ages than even the strictest of authoritarian regimes. Ignore them all. True it is not easy. Ask any writer who has actually broken the barrier you yearn to and sits in the public domain.

So back to you, unknown, doubtful and weary.

You will sigh, you will feel dispirited, you might not produce anything for weeks.

And then the urge starts up again and once more the words started to bubble up, from deep within, the writing begins again. You are drawn out of your comfy little retreat.

You would wish it could be a lot easier, less painful, more hopeful.

But you cannot, will not stop.

Not you The Writer.

One day you may break through, even in a small way and for you this would be a happy time.

And I will celebrate for you.

Until then as you must slouch on, movement is progress.

Accept this is the way you are; it makes you an individual.

Never take your pain and frustrations out on other writers, it is beneath you.

Continue to write and never destroy your work for you never know who the Ages will view you.

Always Write. For it is in your nature.

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Fiction and World Building

Introduction: The Commonality of Writing

Whenever a writer embarks on a tale they are to a certain extent world building. If the story takes place in our ‘Here and Now’ this usually involves taking a scene familiar in day to day life and creating a small world of characters and fitting them in. Therein are many difficulties and challenges all of their own; authenticity, atmosphere, credibility (even in wacky comedy) and all the factors which go to making a narrative whose background the reader can relate to in some way. Therefore in most forms of fiction story telling there has to be an element of a credible creation. Something the reader can comprehend even if this is that situation is completely bizarre.

Otherworldly

When addressing SF & Fantasy this takes on a global and even cosmological scale.

There are those in SF who are versed in taking science facts or speculations and melding complex scenarios in which adherence to some laws of a physics must be adhered to. Others would have a broader view and leave the detail ‘as read’ while concentrating on the social implications (something I can relate to). There will be writers who will tend to ignore physics, some succeed because they have written a very compelling narrative with vivid characters.  Whatever path is chosen there will be a lot of hard work to make the story readable.

Fantasy and Its Own Requirements

Fantasy might see an easier option with a temptation to have wands waved and spells uttered. Whereas in some scenarios this works quite well, again if the narrative is compelling. However if handled sloppily it fails, the reader will know the writer has not been trying. Fantasy requires a certain measured approach and a respect for what might be possible and impossible in the world in question. If this is not adhered to then characters are leaping around the place at their own convenience and all suspense, tension and interest fade. If you are doing parody or satire, this might work even there it’s a tough call and requires a great deal of effort in honing the humour otherwise it comes across as just plain lazy. (a luxury only some established ‘names’ have got away with, I daresay due to the demands of publishers).

In some cases the writer has manage to meld sf with fantasy in a rich and complex scenario while at the same time inserting laws of physics and chemistry. My favourite example being Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ series.

A writer must bear in mind their own limitations, inclinations, weaknesses and strengths when going about this as these will have an unconscious bearing on the creation, after all you will be doing this in your own image (as it were). Of equal importance is the universal maxim for all writers…Remember Who You Are Writing For. By all means have fun but remember you would like someone to enjoy the result.

Fantasy is my own preferred choice. I have a smattering of understanding of some branches of science and this would cause me, personally a  great worry when writing SF just in case I was making some fundamental error. Fantasy gives me more scope to indulge my own peripatetic imagination, while mixing a smidge of science in.

Where this led me will be the subject of the next post.

The Precipice Dominions- One Writer’s Journey

At the commencement ….keeping it simple.

Any time you see ‘The Precipice Dominions’.

For anyone who is new to my blog……All about my series of Fantasy novels and the misadventures in getting to where I am now….Not just in the writing thereof, but also the gremlins in Word Press, The Publishing ‘Thing’, The Marketing ‘Thing’ and so on

At the foot of this post are links to previous posts which are about this journey. There is some repetition, mostly because I am inclined to explore a subject from several angles or styles.

This series of posts also arose from the need to keep the experiences and ideas from the first two volumes fresh thus enabling a reasonably smooth transition into Vol III, which as usual does not have a plot, nor plan of a plot or anything like. One day we arrived at some location in the world of these books (usually the empire of The Oakhostian, which is sort of based on Europe, in a geographical sense, that is), something is happens; the main characters are going about their more mundane businesses and away we go; several drafts and re-writes later and something will arise….actually I have an ending; it’s the rest of the book needs work.

And I am content in this world of the books, here I visit, ponder of what might be happening, footle around with my own cover designs (just in case- must have back up plan).

The subsequent posts with be about such topics as World Building (most important in Fantasy & SF), Balancing Plot with Character development, Continuity, Rational & Rationales, Politics, Religion (you can discuss both of these from a Fantasy novel perspective without getting into fearsome arguments- well most of the time), Societies, Violence, Humour and others I’ve not thought of yet.

That’s about it for the present. Just one writer’s journey.

A Lesson Truly Learned (Learnt….whatever)

Risks and Things When Raising a Profile

Travelogue or Monologue. Something of Both

Stereotyping. Did I? or…. Did I now?….Or….No that’s Not What I Meant…Or…Oh Heck I Wish I’d Never Started This…

Writing Your Book- When The Feeling Arrives- Embrace it!

Writing Your Book-A Journey Barefooted and Treading on Glass under a Hot Sun- facing challenges you’d prefer to avoid

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

 

Stereotyping. Did I? or…. Did I now?….Or….No that’s Not What I Meant…Or…Oh Heck I Wish I’d Never Started This…

Introduction

Currently, mostly for better, sometimes for worse, we have more opportunity for self-expression. The ‘worse’ aspect is the amount of filth, hatred, lies and self-righteous indignation being spouted out on social media displaying hideous levels of ignorance, even by those who claim to espouse enlightened views. Give me a regular bigot over an intolerant liberal any day at least with the former you can get straight down to the argument and not have to wade through distractions on the grounds of alleged ethics, contradictory bombast, fashionable buzz-words, and painfully obvious self-righteous indignation. With free expression should come responsibility….a word these days which it seems should only be applied to others.

Anyway as usual I have digressed, but only slightly, sort of. Because this post does walk hesitantly on the borderlines between the justifiable, the questionable, the excessive and the downright hypocritical.

Trouble with those borders, they are prone to shifting, as do the myriads of factors which make up the weather. And like the weather too much of one sort can be harmful to our survival, although in this case the survival would be artistic.

Currently as the fourth paragraph takes shape I am wondering whether I am in the process of producing an erudite opening statement or simple procrastinating. Ah me, thusways without anymore endeavours at rhetoric time to step in.

 

A Walk Through The Minefields of Writing Fiction.

Gender. Race. Religion. Politics. Social Groupings. Humour. Violence. Sex (didn’t want to disappoint some of the readership there).

Any of those by themselves contain enough combustible material to illuminate a social media site to nova proportions, even when the hapless author was writing with the very best of intentions. Here and now we may as well ALL admit it; we all contain a capacity to be not just be offended but to seek out reasons to be offended. If you have yours under control and just rage at the most obvious injustices, bigotry and hate then I salute your maturity; otherwise, c’mon guys, you and me know the guilty secret, we all get a kick out of it.

Meanwhile for the innocent and well-meaning fiction writer there is a charge which will get levelled at you straight away.

The charge will be because you are not one of the ‘whoever/whatever’ you are writing about you are stereotyping. As with most reasonable criticisms there is an element of truth buried deep within. AND to be fair this is something the writer has to grapple with. HOWEVER when taken to excess this would limit me to writing about retired married Caucasian males in their late 60s resident in the North East of Wales (UK). I hasten to add there is probably a wealth of material in such a theme and some very good books could arise….But not from me. I write Fantasy Fiction and am wont to throw lots of elements into the mix, for me writing anything else would be, to say the least…not very good, and meandering.

This initial accusation can give birth to portrayals being ‘demeaning’ ‘offensive’ or ‘typical view from a….’ (fill in the character-type and then the ‘type’ of the writer, you’ll get the idea).

Should the writer be trying to avoid this and miss a step they can be accused of ‘pandering’ by creating an ‘alpha’ or ‘saintly’ or ‘magician’ or ‘too perfect’ Annnnddd if they try and balance they risk getting slammed from both sides.

I tell ya folks…

You.

Just.

Can’t.

Win.

You can’t please everybody and since you are an ordinary human being, whereas you might get a hundred ‘likes’ and ‘favourables’ those three or four ‘dislikes’ ‘angrys’ and ‘kritiks’ (sic) will really sting you off of your game.

Like most good causes, subjects which started off with nobles aims and clear projections get side-tracks and distortions added in because of The Human Factor in its multitude of forms.

Somebody somewhere will not like something you have written on some sort of grounds other than your style of writing.

 

Down in The Shelter Prior to Starting.

OK, you and I are probably never going to create works whose portrayals will be argued over in the columns of prestigious newspaper or causing massive flurries through the Social Media-verse. And yet, fragile creatures that most writers are, being aware of these controversies can hamper, stifle and even frighten a writer into not producing their very best.

So what are we going to do about it? I say ‘we’ because I am proud of the struggling writers who finally get into print, ok maybe the genre is not for me, but heck they have got there, and for me that is a victory for us all.

 

(Pause fer thought: Here’s an example of the problem I am writing about. Look at me using military phrases ‘minefield’; ‘shelter’ ‘victory’. I am willing to bet if this was a popular blog someone somewhere would object to at least one of those words, for some reason or another…..I could write the objections myself…and that’s before we get onto those angry at ‘the theme’ )

 

Back to the ‘We’ and the ‘What’.

Remember, unless you are going to try and write about you own group which when you take into account age, gender, social grouping, race, religion (or not) etc, etc is going to be narrow (ish), you will always be writing outside of your comfort zone and will likely to be making assumptions or be seen to be trying ‘so hard’ not to be so. Accept you will upset someone, somewhere, sometime. The important aspect is try not to antagonise. (unless you are being deliberately provocative, if this is the case you had better have a pretty good balanced ethical reason otherwise I will be in the kicking line.). Nor patronising by giving the character all the goodies. Therefore just do the best you can…. as simple as that.,

In doing the best you can, try and familiarise yourself with the whosoevers you are writing about. This does not mean you ostentatiously try and hang out with them and ask stupid questions like ‘How does it feel to be….’. That is painfully offensive and patronising. There is enough material out there written by folk of the various groupings (and don’t forget those groups do cross-pollinate) for you to get a general idea to break down your own assumptions.

When breaking down your own assumptions try not to shoe-horn a type of character in, just because you want to prove you can write about ‘that sort of person’ or they ‘look good’ in the narrative. Try that and oh my, you really will be heading for a lot of trouble…..unless of course you are writing something wildly comical and even there can await deadly traps for being offensive and stereotypical. Fit the person in naturally, where you would expect them to be, which truth be known would be a lot of places. You don’t need to force them in.

Once you have eased in a possibly ‘sensitive material’ character (which could in some febrile corners of society could be anyone irrespective of age, race, gender, orientation, beliefs etc, etc) into your narrative then do not try and have them skirting about trying to be perfect, or exceptionally empathetic, witty, brave and all good things (see above ‘goodies’)….OR…fall into another trap of trying too hard not to make them so, so they end up as a spare villain. Give them depth, let their purpose and motivations. Then defend them and their inclusion against all comers outside of the book. They are a person, who happens to be…… (fill in your blanks)

 

No One Gets It Exactly Write (sic) for Everyone, Everytime, Everywhere, Everywhen.

Being plain about it; to reapeat.  Do your best. Meld your characters. Check yourself from time to time to see if they are fitting in naturally to the situation you are writing about. Avoid a preachy style if you can (unless you really don’t care what folk think; it’s your narrative kiddo. What do I know?)

 

Conclusion

Sounds like one of those ‘How To’ pieces yeah?

[Whoever writes those is not going to win either.

If they are famous, many will be the sceptical person who will say ‘Oh fine. That might have worked for you…BUT…..(and then they go off on a tirade)

If they are not famous (let me get my mirror function on this laptop), then folk will say ‘Ha! If that’s the case, how come you are not famous?…..AND….(then they go off on a tirade).]

Just accept folks, if you write, someone is not going to be happy with what you have written. (When you think about, that could be pretty cool because it means you have reached a wide audience…Whooo-hoooo. Embrace it!!)

In the next post I will endeavour to illustrate my own journey and justifications in getting from conception to written…..an act which will have its own pitfalls.

 

On Reaching a Place You Want To Be

Writing.

These days: when you see the word do you think of steep mountains reaching above the clouds, wastelands stretching beyond the horizon or lonely bleak shores lapped by cold seas and stroked by chill forlorn winds?

Before you started out it all seemed to promise much fun, redolent with pleasant spring and summer locations. Of course there would be challenges. Naturally.

And here you are. Weary. Discouraged. All those spring and summer places struck by a cold unforgiving winter.

It happens. It’s not you.

Thus this is another essay addressed to folk who feel they are getting nowhere with their writing. Here I will add my regular rider. This blog is the last place you should be if you want to seek advice on being published or making your work well-known. This writer is hopeless (and hapless) at such things. Here is where we talk and write about the basics which allows you get reach such the fortunate situation where you have to plan for publishing and readerships.

For the new writer a season’s worth of effort will lead them to the inevitable associations with:

Frustration at thoughts not forming into words

Refusal of plots or characters to behave

A sudden drought of inspiration

The misery of believing whatever they are writing will never be as good as…..

The horror of reading the first draft back to themselves. With typos, syntax, holes in plots and failures in continuity all combining with malicious glee to assail the confidence.

Problems with staying power and not drifting off to look at YouTube.

And those are only the first tranche of challenges.

Small wonder there is many of promising First Draft lying in a draft, gathering whatever. Or even worse is tragically out of disillusionment lost to a shredder or fire.

Been there, lived there, ached there, drunk bitter wines of envy too.

And yet, despite it all…

Just for this interlude, I am in a Happy Place.

Now those of you experienced in writing will be think ‘Shush…don’t.. .Not out loud’ Yes, I appreciate I am just begging for The Writing Muse to empty something allegorically unpleasant all over me and from a great height too. And I don’t blame other fellow writers in the weeks ahead to be saying, when things go wrong ‘You had that coming. Damn fool thing to say! You should know by now,’

Of course you are right, however this interlude of writer’s joy cannot be helped.

Two books in a series completed just the way I wanted them to be (let’s just not talk about typos write (sic) now). All is needed are the covers, which are in process and not in my hands this time.

Finally the narratives came together smoothly, the main and the principal support characters are satisfied with my interpretations, everything which needed to be put in is there. You can read one book and finish there, you could read the two books and be satisfied everything has ended there as far as you are concerned….never mind the other two which are in the metaphysical pipeline.

Yeah…yeah…never mind the typos already!…(Anyway Grammarly and Word are often not in agreement)

Uh?

Oh yes, sorry, I forget some of you might not have read earlier posts.

These are fantasy novels y’see. Mash-ups of humour, romance, war, crime, traditional fantasy ‘stuff’, politics, bits of observations, smidges of satire. Lots of characters weaving in and out. Heroes, of course. About 3 to 4 years in the making (with a back story of 30 years of terrible mistakes). Write, re-write, re-re-write etc. Launch, re-launch.

There is a very high probability these works will not even cause the least of ripples on the horizon. There is an even higher chance of obscurity. These are chances every writer with a minimal profile has to accept could be their fate. And I have written often that unless you are hoping to make a living out of writing this does not matter.Just a Smidge

What does matter is these books are together and they have turned out in a very satisfactory way, for me anyway, my own series

The Precipices Dominions

Volume I – Of Patchwork Warriors. On Kindle; edited twice and now ‘Revised’ . Just waiting for a cover.

Volume II – Our Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace. Waiting for a cover, and then ‘launch’

Volume III-To be started- Working Title : Adjudicators from The Mists

Volume IV- To be pondered on- Anchoring Title for the thoughts: Saviours in Blessed Oblivion (it’s meant to be very opaque)

And Game of Thrones; Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie to reference a few….these an’t. That is all I should say- we shouldn’t give out spoilers.

The reason for this post is the moral, therein.

Follow your initial nascent spark. Never give up. Keep on writing and re-writing. Let no one suggest to you otherwise. Never expect fame nor fortune, even those small sorts where your followers/readers number; say 750 and you make enough to buy (ooooh I don’t know; a new laptop?). Just write, write for its own sake, write for your soul and your heart’s sake. Rise up onwards, create and set sail your craft. It is enough for you to have there, in a public domain a finished work which you can point to and say ‘This is mine,’

And if someone should say, one day:

Well, one of the many things which kept me going, was this series of blog posts about writing by this guy Woebegone- wonder whatever became of him?’

That would suit me fine.

Writing Your Book- When The Feeling Arrives- Embrace it!

Firstly to the new writer, just starting out.

Yes, you’ve made progress on your work, but suddenly you are assailed by a whispering dread. ’Is it worth all this time and effort? What happens if someone reads it and doesn’t like it?’

If those sly words haven’t reached you yet, they will.

Follow me as I turn to writers of some experience, not all of it good.

Hi folks. I have a new writer here who I’ve scared a bit about the ‘D’ word. Yes, I agree with you, would that ‘doubt’ were banished from the lexicon of the writer’s experiences, but what can we do? We’re all human and apart from the most obnoxious egotists we are all prone to it, being part of the human composition.

Let us consider not those tendrils curling about your creativity in an effort to stifle your efforts. Instead let us consider those signs pointing out you are doing your level best.

I Really Must Catch Up On Everyone’s Blogs….Sometime, Soon

This one needs addressing promptly because it is the most challenging. You’re reading this  thus you are in the blogosphere. You read them, your write them. You form bonds with other bloggers. You like their posts and you get to ‘chat’ with them, exchange views, support, ask questions and so forth. You might do this on a daily or other regular basis. And then one day you suddenly drop off the radar. Why? Well you know don’t you?

Yes, you are caught up in your writing. The time you have available to ‘tap’ the keyboards have been inexorably taken up with your latest project. It’s not that you don’t care about these folks, got bored with them, or become selfish. Oh no, you have been drawn into your work, deep. There is exploration on plot, motivations, characters to be attended to. Re-writes, checking for typos. You try and snatch some time on WP to let folk know you are there and well, for you know the dear genuine folk will worry if you are not around, it’s that sort of good community. Meanwhile it is back to your work, for this has become the principal attention of your creativity. Within the part of you which is the writer a spark has ignited, one beyond the usual chemistry of writing. You are now in the centre of the  writing equivalent of the nuclear fusion process which brings in birth a star. And here you are. Your writing has ascended and drawn you upwards. Embrace this, the future of your valuable work is calling you.

Hey! How Have You Guys Been? I Missed You!

You finally find the time in your day to sit at your laptop and pick up where you left off. You want to speak with your characters, you’ve been thinking about them all day, wondering how they will react to your latest idea. You want to know if this will work for them. You’ve missed their approach to life or been worrying how they’ve been coping. There are various views about characters taking hold of the narrative from a writer or whether they should be kept under control. Whichever viewpoint you take if you are engaging with your characters to the point, they are not pieces on a gameboard or out of cliché central to move along the Plot Above All Else, then they are alive and they are vibrant. Work with them for sometimes you just have to listen to them.

Are You Feeling OK?

Yes, it can be a bit disconcerting for the person who happens to be in the same room as you. They are sitting there working on some craft project, doing a jig-saw, reading or attending to their own laptop, you are ‘tip-taping away when suddenly from your direction they hear a sibilant ‘Yesssssss!’ and notice one of your fists is clenched and shaking in what can only be described as a gesture of triumph. Then there will be the occasion when odd words spring from your lips such as ‘Alll-right!’ Got—-It!!’ ‘Rock AND Roll!’ or other such random and statements unconnected to the current surroundings. There might even be a gentle laugh followed by ‘Oh yeah. It works,’ or even nothing apart from the laugh.

After a while a patient and astute companion will realise you are simply expressing delight that amongst all of the words you are producing there are some passages which you are particularly enthusiastic about or proud of.

We all have to admit we are plagued by worry over parts of the book and if left to our own devices might be tinkering with the thing for decades. However if you do encounter yourself lapsing into one of these episodes of vocalised joy, you should realise you are certainly on the right track. Those nagging little parts might just well have to be steam rollered over. If you are connecting this way with even one small part of your work you are mining your true potential. Keep on keeping on.

So What? I mean, Like So **** What? You Don’t Like It? This Is Me Not Caring! 

This may be a ‘just me then’ interlude. However I do feel it is worth voicing. There are many useful, cogently constructed and intelligently helpful posts, blogs, even books about what to do and what not to do when writing. I accept this to be so.

However where my teeth start to bare (I picked up the habit from one of my characters Arketre, fierce person when provoked), hackles rise and fists clench in a not happy way is when would be krit-tiks, folk who never wrote anything apart from snark and the literary fashionista start to pick, pry and come up with cliched or lazy commentary which proves they never read the whole thing, or it offends them(Hah!). Where I dig my heels in and snort derision or scratch my head around above my left ear and say ‘yeah, yeah’ is when someone tells me my work is ‘interesting’, but……..

In short, if you have written it, it is yours. You did a damn good job to get it completed and if some part of the world doesn’t like it, or not understand it, you cannot be held responsible for their lack of comprehension.

If you believe your work has the right to be put out there in one form or another. Then, you dear writer are cookin’. Advice is one thing. Guidance is helpful. As for the rest…LIKE I (bad word) CARED!

Might not sell books, but it will ensure you get your book completed.

 

Therefore fellow writer, if you are experiencing one or more of these , you are on your way and more power to you. If you are not, well keep on they will turn up sooner or later.

Keep writing.

The world might well be waiting for you.

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Writing Your Book- The Plot Thing

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

Writing Your Book-A Journey Barefooted and Treading on Glass under a Hot Sun- facing challenges you’d prefer to avoid

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

Characters eh?

 

I swear by the blade of Dark Agnes and the pen Robert E Howard I cannot explain why the creative process of writing within me always leads to the principal characters being women. Particularly as it causes some much initial bother.

As a male to mention I find it easier to write women as principal characters in a Fantasy setting and some folk think ‘Uh-huh male in his late 60s writing about fantasy girls…yeh got it!’.

So part-time psychiatrists and psychologists form an orderly Q. Tea and biscuits will be served while you are waiting.

Now it’s no use citing other male authors who do this either in Fantasy or SF for a few commentators are bound to say ‘Yes but the characters are sssso stereo-typical’ or ‘Oh another alpha-female’ (this is often quoted by males who are secretly scared of girls and also are wont take tape measures with them on visits to the bathroom)

The whole business if fraught with difficulties. By happenstance since my work is only destined to be self-published and not as a source of income, therein lies my freedom to continue as my writing muse leads me.

Which is, truth be known, of small comfort.

So let us, dear reader, travel down one writer’s path, signposted ‘Problem With Principal Characters’ and see if by the spirits of The Parallel you can relate with your own problems getting the folk to fit into the narrative.

The first problem most authors meets is they are usually not in the same mould as the character. In my case this would be fairly flash-light- in- one’s- face- obvious, ie how does a male writer relate to a female character? Well in my case having been married to the same gal for 45 years, having two daughters and one granddaughter in her twenties is of some help; having worked in an office environment for 40+ years where the majority of staff were women was another plus. This however does not the answer to all the issues, maybe 15%’s worth in that there as many types of women as there are men, and that surprisingly women and men are different, physically and in perspectives. This as far as I dare go without being lynched (allegorically). So characters might not think as you do, you have to work outside of your own head, imaginations, experience and contemplation on the subject are necessary.

Next problem, when confronting the issue of gender-specific (sorry I’ve been itching to use that phrase, I’m sure I don’t know why) fantasy-genre figures (as opposed to ahem…fantasy figures; heck this post is tougher than was first envisaged!). Now unless we are dealing with the area of comic book novels let us try to avoid the warrior woman who for some reason finds it easier to fight in a costume more suitable to the beach or as underwear; I mean do you know any women who walk about snowy mountains in bikinis or underwear…Uh? So, girls wear clothes, and since I’m setting this in northern climes heavy duty clothes. Why are clothes important in a novel’s narrative, because they in part define the characters.

Yes ‘Characters’. Despite what was written earlier, falling into stereo-types is something to be wary of, we all do it, when it a hurry, or making a point, or…(fill in the blanks). My own solution was to bring in three central characters, each with their own jumble of features. (As I see it, we are all a ‘jumble’ of gifts, flaws, quirks, sensitivities, strengths etc). This avoided the danger of a narrative of many parts ending up revolving around one character. It also allowed me to have characters engage with each on level terms, wherein one could be ‘up’, one ‘down’ and one in the middle, or any permutation, but not always the same ones in the same order.

This is how they panned out in order of introduction:

Karlyn Nahtinee. The standard trope in Fantasy would be the mischievous acrobatic thief who has a heart of gold, a cheeky sense of humour and is a bane to authority. Karlyn’s propensity to set fire to places or folk she thought were ‘evil’ wiped out some of the trope. The principal danger though was for folk to read a few lines and yell… ‘Ha Harley Quinn!!’ or ‘Chiana-Farscape!’. Mindful of this meant a great deal of effort trying work with Karlyn to ensure she did not do things these two would do while still retaining her skewed sometimes comic viewpoint. Bringing a vague back-story that her ancestry might not be all human, explained her ability to ‘talk’ with trees, various animals, birds, insects; smell things which can’t be smelt and walk between worlds. This would evolve with in her a general air of confusion and irritation at the way others see the world. She starts a new career as the assistant to an unconventional Custodian (think inquisitor) Even so the cloud of Harley Quinn still hovers. In a way it’s good, made me concentrate. She still develops, sometimes she shifts in character to a more regal type indicating her possible heritage.

Arketre Beritt: The standard trope; woman soldier/warrior. Women soldiers in Fantasy aside from sometimes being alpha-leaders tend to be hard folk, short on humour, often taller than average and either voluptuous or plain and everyone reading the book is waiting for the ‘right man’ to come along. Arketre was thus shorter than average, pretty, the equivalent of a ‘medic’ with apparently a tender heart, but able to stand up for herself. In short, in common parlance she started out as ‘a grunt’. Initially a counterpoint to some of Karlyn’s more acerbic characteristics, but as time goes on some military truths come out. She is part of an elite organisation The LifeGuard a cross between special forces and secret police like they had an ethical streak.  As a solider she complains about the equipment, she moans about officers, she dislikes being left without orders when she has responsibility. She sometimes kills in a rather unsettlingly detached manner. She can suffer from the ‘red mist’. She was content as a ‘medic’ but embraces the role of fighter. She is volatile. She has been made suited to war. But she will not let her friends down. She is ill-at-ease with the power Karlyn and Trelli embrace or come to terms with.

Trelli, aka Trelyvana Waywanderer: The innocent abroad. A once humble housemaid who accidentally ended up with powers and became the focus of a hunt by officialdom in the form of the Arketre’s LifeGuard and Karlyn’s Custodian, which is how all three meet. This type of character can spend their time being terrified, rescued and being the recipient of long involved explanations. Yes, she was terrified, yes, she was sort of rescued by the other two, but shows an ability to grow up very quickly and have the good sense not to take her powers for granted even to be suspicious of them. She also brings a level of domestic practicality and is therefore a sometime leader of two otherwise very assertive but mule-headed folk. She can reach a ‘enough is enough’ stage and speak her mind, forcibly. Somewhere along the developing of her back-story she became an orphaned babe whose parents were of what we would call sub-Saharan Africa. Living in a modest but thriving port town in a sort of European setting fitted in to this origin. Most of the time the colour of her skin simply does not matter. In the environments she encounters it is ability which counts.

The three of them were thus learning to interact, sometimes leader, sometimes being lead, bonding, while stumbling through a web of situations which none of them had much understanding. This enabled more development of quirks, foibles, strengths and general characteristics. Thus by the second book I felt I knew the three of them quite well, although each would surprise me from time to time. Trelli is asserting herself and not to be pushed around by various authorities, Karlyn struggling with her ancestry while Arketre becomes subsumed in the aggressive side of soldiering (and we learn she had been quite the rogue when off duty).

Fantasy wouldn’t be Fantasy without romance which was another problem for me when one involved Karlyn and Arketre. Aside from trying to avoid prurient, set-piece, out of context gratuitous scenes (that’s a whole different post!), there was now the dynamic of not having Trelli as the proverbial third wheel. This was an issue, but gave me a greater opportunity to bring out Trelli’s strengths, level of compassion, friendship and maturity. In addition this gave cause for a sisterly/friendship bond between her and Karlyn; Karlyn confessing she thinks Trelli understands the relationship the ‘the power’ better than Arketre, now Karlyn’s lover.

As the second volume involved a great deal of action, the three were relying on that original bonding dynamic to keep each other and themselves alive (Actually Trelli has her own romantic ‘moments’ which also allowed for some divergence of opinions between Karlyn and Arketre and added depths to their own characters).

Thus by the time this second Volume comes to an end I felt I had three people, who all happened to be women, one of whom had black skin, one of whom might not be quite human, two of whom were involved with ‘powers’, one of whom didn’t like those powers and two of whom developed a lesbian relationship and all three relying on each other to survive.

Two books in it has been quite a journey. Another book is twitching away to start. The challenge, not to repeat the same events of the first two in different places and different times. There will probably be a large scale disturbance of the empire which should present opportunities.

I think I have avoided stock-characters in the three.

But is an author ever certain? Not when they have to read through the narrative again to look out for spelling mistokes, typos, syntax issues etc.

Hope this is of some use to compare and contrast.

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