For Writers…The Paths Before You

The other day through a coalescing of feelings, reading old blog posts and considering the allegorical map of my work over the past ten years a post concerning the experiences, emotions and elements which drive of A Writer formed.

I have to admit to a measure of gratitude and a smidge (a small smidge) of pride at the response. There was definitely a sense gladness at having contributed to the collective swirl which is the WP writing community.

However

For there is always ‘An However’

Of course being A Writer one piece is going to agitate the Writing part of your being, concerns would bubble up.

Could I have phrased ‘that’ part in a clearer way?

Was there repetition?

Did ‘that’ part need qualification?

You know the sort of experiences, irrespective of how much positive feedback you get, you still fret and fidget. You wouldn’t be A True Writer otherwise.

Anyway, preamble aside.

Another issue appeared into my head.

Which Way. Alone or In Team

One of the many topics/aspects of writing which are relevant to your calling and even career as A Writer and so here is:

The Path You Choose.

The question arises after you have set about writing your work, revising it and attending to some editing and you have a ‘finished’ work in front of you. This ‘finished’ work is not necessarily a completed novel, story, poem or factual work it may well be ‘a part’

Before I conduct you along to much more mystery it is necessary to consider an excellent post raised recently concerning Bad Advice given to new writers. I attach the link for you to read and consider. Then I will move along

9 Pieces of Bad Publishing Advice New Writers Should Ignore – by Anne R Allen…

It is at this stage you stand where the roads branch out into misty places. To stay A Writer you will be taking one. Fear not this place is generous for there are myriad side-tracks at which point you can change from one path to another. None are wrong. For all are You, however no longer A Writer, now it is You, The Writer. For we are at this place of choice.

(For a while on I will be using ‘I’, because my choice is an example of going in one direction. This will be written without favour for one side or the other, will not advise you to go one way or the other. This will be written in the style practiced over 40+ years of working in the UK Civil Service, detached, reporting of a situation.)

Choice

I normally work alone. Independent of anyone’s advice or guidance. To pretend in doing this I have some admirable heroic element and an aura of Rugged Individualism would be on my behalf preening arrogance and insufferable vanity. I am practical enough to understand this is down to my own stubbornness at taking any advice in general and on my writing in particular. This is how I work. A place with space to engage with my characters, I like to examine the day to day human foibles and quirks not just the dramatic ones associated with Fantasy. A central character is just as likely to stumble out of bed in an ordinary sort of tizzy, forget where they left their shirt, stub their toe and find they have misplaced their hairbrush as they are to fight valiantly against heavy odds. Matters might never reach a clear conclusion….often they don’t seem to in Life. A wise and experienced editor or beta-reader might well throw their hands up in horror when they find this happening all over the book as it would be breaking up the narrative. I doubt if I would argue with them, I would respect their judgement, but I wouldn’t act on it. For me  the way I wish to write requires me to put these interludes in, the characters grow in my eyes, anyway and since I am the one writing it is how it has to be.

For me.

I have to accept this limits the chances of selling copies of my work. If I can’t work with people at this level I could be missing the first level as to how good my work is for the public in general. Well there is a paradox to be sure. I would like to have my work known, but I won’t seek out advice. Possibly a very bad move. Something I live with. For I must write the way I want to. There again many people write the way they want to and still have the ability to work with editors, friends, beta-writers and so forth.

So. Me. Hopeless case. Probably.

OK out of the First Person Single and back to the world of A Writer.

Layer Upon Layer

No one has to take a firm and unmoveable stance at every level or turning in their writing. Common sense, 45 years of marriage and also 45 years of working in the public domain indicates to me there will always be levels and areas of compromise which give freedom for a writer to maintain their independence, while taking on board advice and suggestions.

The challenge which faces You, The Writer is which way you feel you can go and what you wish to have from your writing.

As a profession. Of course we must leave aside the laughable notion of ‘riches’. There are many folk who make a living from writing, which is quite another thing and they will tell you is a lot of hard work and pain to get there. True there are a very few who hit the target with relative ease, whether they can keep that going is another matter.

You may just wish to write, because you want to, but understandably you would like to have folk know you are doing it, maybe in the upper reaches of three figures or possible scraping four figures would be nice. That’s all you ask for. Just a smidge of recognition. No more.

And there are between the two, those variable levels of emphasis.

Evidence suggests whichever of the two you take would be advised to reach out for some level of support to get wherever you are going.

Common Denominator

Whether you work alone, or whether you are able to work with others a few sensations or experiences will be encountered in either.

There will be measures of sacrifice. Either accept do as you wish and maybe never find out how well you are writing. Or understand people are always ready to give advice, in most cases this will be well-meaning and useful, and you will have to change some of your work.

Nothing is simple. There is no magic day when you create your work at the first try, place it into public domain and it promptly draws attention. No matter how much we all would all like it to be so.

Even if you endeavour to seek a middle ground of semi-indepenance you run the same track

Ending

The choices are yours.

Both carry elements of risk. Both carry the danger of one form of rejection of another. And this cannot be avoided. You yearn to be A Writer. You are willing to take the chance either way, because the words will not stay there in your head or heart, they are bursting to be free into print.

And so unto yourself say

‘I will,’

This is sufficient to raise fire unto your cause and your course.

I wish you well

About Writers…Slouching through the Mire.

 

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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.

World Building. ‘Powers’ In ‘The Precipice Dominions’ Series

Setting the Scene

In the last post I wrote a brief overview of some of the challenges a writer will encounter in world building. This post is an account of my own experiences.

Once again I stress this is not a How To….. This was a great deal of fun putting together and honing, thus has more in common with someone’s account of a strenuous holiday. It is hoped the enthusiasm will seep across and encourage other writers to experiment in their own style, at their own pace and in their own direction.

Basic Strategy (employing my own weaknesses or inclinations)

My own imagination does not sit still on a facet for very long and so jars with my experience as a UK Civil Servant leaning for a requirement for order. To avoid these two quarrelling and getting in the way of My Muse ( delicate fellow at best) the world of my stories needed to have a degree of flexibility to aid the narrative. To help me here I called in the part of me fascinated with history, science, the history of science and the social approaches to science, religion and so forth, while trying to avoid detail. The lessons taught to us on the great panorama of Creation from cosmological scale down to the quantum, along with our own jagged historical paths were enough for me. For I needed an easy background to work with, one the narrative could dip into. The stories would centre on a group of individuals the web of relationships and personal challenges, around this would be their various ways of dealing with their world, survival and getting whatever job thrown at them done. This was complicated enough. The detail of the world had to be background.

Sleeves Up Times

Firstly I took this World of ours, or maybe a world so similar as to be nearly indentical. In a cosmos of 14+ billion years in age and at least 50 billion light years in size (I think) the situation of two very similar worlds would be perfectly acceptable; just think of the number of possible worlds in Time and Space. Whether it is this world, or another is not to be answered, great upheavals have distorted the deep historical record. The events take place after a great deal of history has passed. You might care to call it a future of our World, if you care. It is all very open. Again this gave me a great deal of flexibility, as I find rule books somewhat constricting. (my civil service career was a troubled one)

Inviting Cosmological Nature In

The event giving rise to the particular circumstances of this world was to introduce another possible aspect of Cosmological Nature. This I named The Ethereal. Whether it simply arrived in the area of this world or resulted from some incautious physics experiments is lost in various upheavals over thousands of years. Its actual nature is also kept somewhat vague. To take advantage of my own impatience and weakness in sticking to this sort of detail I relied on our current perceptions. This strategy was based on the premise of our own knowledge of physics, chemistry, weather, geology and so forth still being in an area of constant investigation. We simply do not know everything and nor do the folk of these stories. There are no tomes of all knowledge (forbidden or otherwise), lots has been written, about lots of bits and that is that. Just like today.

Powers and Utilities.

Folk can utilise The Ethereal in many ways; a force to move or destroy things, a type of communication and means of travel are the most common. Some folk have an inate ability, others uses complex, usually portable devices. Those wise and honest practitioners are the first to admit, these days they are wary of it. Whether it affects folk or folk affect it is also a complex matter subject to debate. In addition its presence has given rise to realms and pathways which occupy nearly the same place in Time and Space, some easier to access than others. It will also act in its capricious ways; like the weather.

Volume One Of Patchworks Warrior opens with a brief account of recorded history of the world and The Ethereal. Officially it is view with hostile suspicion and titled The Stommigheid (one dictionary I encountered inspired links to the Danish word for ‘folly’- I do a lot of that taking another language and its English equivalent then mangling it- lots of historical precedence). The State-within-a-State The LifeGuard name it The Astatheia, which has connotations of a warning (and I’ve forgotten where I stole the root for that from). The convent-like Libratery to indicate their independence are still terming it as The Ethereal. There are various regional terms none of which are complimentary. There are independents known as the Jordisk (another managing of Scandinavian this one for ‘Underground) and are best viewed as hackers; these having no single viewpoint but operate outside everyone’s laws. In addition there are a collection of crusty guilds collectively known as Mechanicals; these are home to cussed, conservative but inventive folk who believe the only safe way to harness this force is by solid, dependable (usually large) machines, they tend to grumble about and dismiss everyone else in particularly the Jordisk who they feel take too many short cuts . To add to the general variety and confusion, the empire in which these tales are based has officially banned the use of this power; except that all the official organs of the state have to use it to get their tasks done. All these views, contradictions and hypocrisies gives the power an unsettling quality, similar to our ambivalent views about nuclear power (as I write this it suddenly occurs to me where I got the notion from- without nuclear power’s history or detail of course!)

So there is a lot of talk and action involving this power, along with some theorising but very little of the latter. In fact the only time there is great detail arises in Of Patchwork Warriors when a conflicted captain in the LifeGuard, Dekyria is writing up a treatise on how he sees this power affecting the three central characters and speculating on whether they in turn affect it. It is therefore left up to the reader to gain an overall picture from the conversations taking place and descriptions of actions taken by individuals. A learning curve if you like.

Conclusion

This is one way to go about World Building. You may decide you have a better idea. You could think ‘This is not for me’. I am quite content with that.

In the next post I will talk about the politics, local, institutional, geo-political, religious, etc, etc, etc

Fiction and World Building

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.

A Lesson Truly Learned (Learnt….whatever)

 

So this is how it ended….

OK, thought I would start up a site dedicated to my series of novels ‘The Precipice Dominions’

Vol I Of Patchwork Warriors 

Patchwork (revised edition…new cover pending)…Old edition currently avaiable on Kindle…. (New edition can be supplied by pdf on request…..Commercially bad move…..Who cares?)

And the ready for publication……(cover pending) Vol II’Our Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace’  (Pdfs avaiable)

And I set up a site, I spent two days (daze) setting up a site….several times…..and now reports come in from friends that the link does not work.

I was vexed sturm_drang2 But not surprised…not where computer sites which have been recently revised are concerned. I took a mature and philosophical approach…..

 

Big Raspberry

And then decided it would be best if I just continued to use this site to discuss the world and the people of the books. For these are places and characters which have taken on a three (at least) dimensional form, this is quite exciting and has lent a serious level to my writing I have not used in pervious years.

Some might say this is just overblown marketing or jottings of someone who has nothing else to do with their time and just ‘gone in too deep’ (the latter would be ironic  as this is a problem one of the characters has). For me it would be a continuation of a naartive which has been going on for some time. And as is the case with most of my posts one of the intentions is to provide some basis for other writers to ponder over when producing their own work…..Not a ‘How To..’ more a ‘Make of it what you will’

OK I’m done for the present 

Risks and Things When Raising a Profile

Travelogue or Monologue. Something of Both

So this late 60s old & married white guy walks into a bar and says:

‘Nothing too strong, I need to concentrate. I’m writing this fantasy book with three women central characters, two of whom are in a gay relationship and the other one has dark skin and used to be a serving maid-but…’

And the barman says.

‘Not serving you chum. You’ve had enough already-‘

 

What?

Well I thought it was funny… in an observational ironic sort of way.

Whaaat?

Just goes to show, sometimes you are either embracing a challenge, being hopelessly naïve or just plain insensitive.

Or.

I.

Do.

Not.

Care.

It’s my damn book!

 

Anyway those of you who are still around. Pull up an allegorical chair, and if you are familiar with my posts you will already have your note books out and pages headed ‘Interesting’ or ‘Never Gonna Do That, that Way’ or ‘????’ or ‘Like, Wow!

This is not a ‘How To’; it’s not much of a plug either. This is more of an account of one writer, writing what they wanted to write and why they wrote it.

 

Down to business.

The whole idea is actually to explain about three central characters. If these books ever sold thousands of copies the profiles and depictions might cause ructions for all sorts of reasons. This account is how one writer did what they did, how and why.  As long as you subscribe to the view that at some stage the narrative and the characters may take over from a writer who themselves does not work with a detailed plan for a book

Characters in alphabetical order of First names

Arketre Beritt. (aka Flaxi)

Young. Pretty. Soldier. Likes Girls. Conflicted. When emotional or wheedling slips into her native faux US southern accent.

To avoid her being ‘alpha’ as ‘characters with an answer for everything can be irritating, she is a soldier way down the ranks, only gets told what high command thinks she ought to know, grumbles a lot; as a result of her battle experiences is in danger of slipping over the edge.

She likes girls. So what?

When you first meet this blonde, short and pretty ‘medician’ (think medic) you might believe, ‘Oh a kind, caring sort. How nice’. Then as the journey progresses, you gradually get to see her troubled side. A short blonde pretty girl tearing into someone’s face with their teeth does make for good contrast.

Southern accent. I like southern accents. Again so what? Anyway it’s part of the back story of the land of the Empire where things take place. It’s also fun to juggle with words, as long as you try and limit the use. It’s handy in that when she is being random stiff and formal she tends to speak without her accent (unless she’s being manipulative- oh she’s complicated person). ‘Flaxi’ is Karlyn’s name for her

Karlyn Nahtinee (aka Kitlin)

Uncertain of age but passes as ‘young’. Has her own logic. Doesn’t like boys. Has several ‘powers’. Athletic. Talks with a mangled London accent. Possibly not human. Uncertain ancestry was washed up on a shore.

The origins of Karlyn started long before I knew of Harley Quinn or Chyna (Farscape) and I was not going to be deterred, no sir. Even though I will be doomed to comparisons or stealing.

She is comic and irreverent, most of the time. Volatile and yearns for stable companionship. Displays an innocent emotional side when it comes to relationships. A number of contradictions; initially appearing scruffy and unkempt can be elegant and at times frighteningly regal and aloof, this hints to her possible past, which unfolds throughout the books.

A fearsome warrior, with a moral code, ‘they threaten me or mine, I kill ‘em’.

Her accent relates to her time spent in the large and morally questionable city of Elinid which is a complete steal on London and mode of speech is shared by a group of lesser characters. Again it’s fun to mess about with English, particularly as Karlyn makes up her own words, to the extent of mangling people’s names as a form of address.

Overall because she is who she is she cannot be categorised. Unlike her lover Arketre who is basically a trained soldier. ‘Kitlin’ is Arketre’s pet name for her.

Trelli (aka Whychie aka Trelyvana Waywanderer)

Young. Attractive. Trained Housemaid/Servant. Black-skinned. Orphan. Unwilling recipient of Powers. ‘Whychie’ is Karlyn’s fond name for her.

One approach in fantasy is having a character who did not want to be chosen for anything, anyhow, anywhere. Trelli as a babe was an orphan. She was raised in a sort of convent in a benign environment and found a job in a respectable household. She had spent five years building up her career of being the reason why The Hendrechan Family (her employers) could rely on their home being run very well. Because of their younger son’s dabbling in unsanctioned powers she now has these, and it takes a whole Vol I for her being sort of reconciled to them, even then because she is steeped in conventional and respectable ways is still wary of being tempted into evil ways. Still learning. Has given herself a ‘professional name’ to deal with ‘important folk’.

Because of her upbringing and her employment she is normally level-headed although being a normal person can get irritable and also has a tipping point. Has no interest in tracing her ‘natural parents’ as she feels she would have nothing in common with them.

If these books ever made it to the audio book stage I would ask if she could speak with a slight French accent, as she has grown up in land we would think of as southern France and probably came from the area now thought of as sub-Saharan Africa…..There’s no way I would try and impose any accent on her narratives!

 

The Parts Open to Criticism and Working With Them.

 

A Military Girl (in a military world)

Within Fantasy (and SF) it is often the case any major woman character  involved in the business side of warfare should be Dry, Humourless, Very Efficient but with a vulnerable side just waiting to be opened up. And very predictable. Either that or they walk about being very stiff-necked and a foil for the central characters. Not so Arketre. She is from very low ranking beginnings and comes from a rural rough ‘n tumble background. It seemed to make sense she would grumble a lot at not get told much of the picture and although trying to be orderly to begin with, once left to her own devices tends to be a bit of a loose cannon. She has been through trying times, hence her propensity to get very dangerous when in battle, survival of her and hers being paramount. Although inventive is more settled when getting direct and plain orders. Her contradictions make her somewhat free of stereotyping. When it comes to romance, she has a bit of mischievous and fulsome past.

 

The Wacky One

Maybe it’s just me but it seems when I see something Manga-ish on TV there’s always this wacky character, usually minor and with a big nose or a lot of facial hair; Karlyn is none of those.

Nor is she devil-may-care, always generous of heart while dismissive of authority and possessed of a constantly quick mind or amenable buffoonery. This works in small doses but in a central character of 400+ pages soon grows ‘old’ and worse irritating. She has, literally her bag of tricks, has ‘powers’, is nimble, tough and deadly; she constantly chatters away displaying a skewed idea of the world. And just when you are settled down with that, there comes a cold, aloof side to her, which probably harks back to her origins. Because she is uncertain of where she came from and why she is very vulnerable when it comes to personal relationships, devoted to those close to her and is easily hurt. In short you can never be sure what she will be doing on the next page, never mind chapter. Because of possible ease by which a reader will be able to identify her with High Profile characters in other realms it was important to distance her, this was not easy. I might have failed. However when I write her I am not thinking of any comparisons. And this is good enough for me.

The Ordinary Person Who Never Asked for This (and their race)

The fact that Trelli had black skin, evolved with the book. Originally this character was going to be a daughter of the family, but the narrative never worked, kept turning into a continual damsel-in-distress. A valued servant/housemaid was far more likely to, being organised, level-headed with their own sense of purpose and mildly conservative. Having ‘witchy’ powers imposed on her would be a challenge and also a burden.

The location of her home town suggested a cosmopolitan environment and the lack of comment about the colour of her skin confirmed this, it also enabled a layer in the portrayal of place where being civically respectable and orderly was a paramount quality. That, Arketre doesn’t comment on race suggests she also grew up in a multi-racial background or has grown used to people coming in all ‘shapes and sizes’. Karlyn’s initial problem is that Trelli displays ‘Whychery’ powers, something Karlyn is supposed to be against, even though she has some herself. Eventually this is reconciled.

In the narrative the complexities faced by the major characters and senior support characters are such that no one cares about race. For some its simply a way of identifying a person or their possible place of origin. Once in Vol II racism rears its vile self out of a swamp of ignorance only to get slapped (literally) down and that was a means to demonstrate Trelli’s growing physical robustness, the confidence of Arketre and Karlyn in her ability to look after herself (and a smidge of romance- handsome over-protective fellow, y’know the sort )

Trelli is therefore a person, who happens to have a black skin. What is more important in the narrative is Trelli coming to terms with the responsibility and liability placed on her shoulders, the importance of her in the dynamic of the three and her learning to cope outside of her previously safe environment.

Romance (and Sex)

In the initial early drafts there were all sorts of romances; tragic, standard, comic and any premutation, and they all fell very flat and seem to drag characters in all sorts of direction which were not part of the flow of the story. In one theme, only thought thank goodness, Karlyn is gay, but Arketre assures her ‘her secret is safe’….urrgh! (It’s what happens when I don’t have enough chocolate).

When the idea floated in out of the narrative that Arketre might well be gay, for no other reason than ‘because’ an attraction and deepening feelings with Karlyn became seamless. Of course the notion would leave the whole work open to an accusation  making lesbian women appear volatile, extraordinary, and ‘peculiar’. To which I have to say, this is a Fantasy work, folk live in a world far removed from are own, if they appear that way it’s because they are reacting to their environment. One is a soldier under strain. One is from an extraordinary background. You do not act ‘normal’ in those situations and anyway what is ‘normal’?

And of course, elderly male writing sex scenes between young women……just don’t try and defend yourself man. You have not got a hope. What can I say? I do like romance in my books, this couple are have fallen deep for each other I tried to portray their tender, caring sides in love scenes.

 

Group Dynamics

Having two (white) in love with each other and a third (black) was bound to cause issues and a certain jarring of the work, unless I went deeper into how people ‘work’ and remember my days of employment.

The central factor is the power; call it Ethereal or Stommigheid this is bonding the three women; this itself is a complex matter and it is never made clear whether it influences them or they as a trio or as individuals influence it. There is also a conjecture that even without it, they would bond anyhow. Originally Trelli is targeted as a source of concern by both Arketre’s commanders and Karlyn’s idiosyncratic mentor Meradat (think Inquisitor without all the usual tropes, predictable clichés etc), which is how they all meet.

Initially Trelli is terrified of her new situation and being ‘captured’. Arketre is sympathetic, Karlyn hostile. When later on Arketre gets ‘Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann’ on Karlyn, the latter finds Trelli is a source of friendship, through the confusion of The Ethereal. The first book lays down interactions of the three. Nominally, Arketre being Army is in charge, Trelli however by practice of her profession can be a strong influence, sometimes being dominating. Karlyn doesn’t get to lead but is a natural catalyst.

Both Arketre and Karlyn rely on Trelli for stability, the former because she is unsettled by the Ethereal/Stommigheid and as Karlyn is subsumed in it, Trellis is the reliable, understanding patient mentor in dealing with the proximity. Arketre in return being roguish is encouraging Trelli to take her careful steps into the raw outside world. Trelli understands Karlyn and why she is who she is, and Karlyn mentors Trelli in the deeper aspects of this power. Karlyn and Arketre are still in their honeymoon interlude, but are battle-hardened enough to be practical, Trelli sensing things troublingly deeper in both women is content and relieved they have each other. Having two rather physically tough folk near her gives Trelli a confidence to find her own feet in the changing world and develop her own life outside of the group

When one is threatened, the other two are there swiftly. When the three combine in battle so far they have proven to be unstoppable. Without one the others would be somewhat lost and much weaker in the struggle against malevolent forces.

Thus are the Patchwork Warriors, the Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace loose upon a world, in battle against forces malevolent. As individuals they are who they are. I am still learning about them myself

I offer this therefore as one author’s journey, no more, no less.

Make of it what you will.

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…

 

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.