Month: November 2009 Page 2 of 4

Twitter Updates for 2009-11-22

  • Quote @Three_Star_Dave "Ah, those halcyon days when it was D&D (not Teh Gayz) that were a threat to our children." #
  • Write! Write like it's your day job! #
  • @doycet Hey, I want to name one of my chapters "Hidden Things." Mind? #
  • Write! Write like you're getting paid! #
  • On Desc: For tight POV, check the desc of a thing doesn't happen before the chars run into that thing. #desc #
  • @Knippling I hope you're feeling better. in reply to Knippling #
  • Done: 23/32. "I'm the details guy, as sad as that is. I mean, I can't remember to change my shirt from day to day." #
  • Write! Write like you have adoring fans! #
  • I blog about description: #
  • @serafinowicz Alas, sometimes the chickens DO break down and eat their own eggs. in reply to serafinowicz #
  • Write! Write like your agents wants the first draft by tomorrow! #
  • @Knippling Ohhhhh. I haven't seen it, but what little I do know makes that makes sense. in reply to Knippling #
  • Write! Write like you're going to buy your own book! #
  • Write! Write like you want to be surprised by what comes next! #
  • Done: 24/32. "Can't a man take a piss in peace?" #DeNoReWriMo #
  • I'm getting toward the end of the book, where everything gets all intense. I DON'T WANT TO STOP EDITING. Freakin' miracle, I know. #

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Description: Initial thoughts.

Due to (or exacerbated by) my background in drama (I had a really, really good playwriting teacher), I am pretty solid on dialogue.  I can’t explain how to get good at dialogue–I’ve never really had to think about it.  But description?  Pfft.

On the one hand, this is good news.  My previous fear and loathing, when it came to writing, was plot.  So the fact that I’m not dwelling on plot means that I’m better at it.  Not good, but better.  Right?

On the other hand, I have to figure out how to get better at writing description.  And I hate writing descriptions.

You know those books where you have pages of riveting description where nobody speaks–not “the forest was dark, even at midday” type thing, but description of action.  Fight scenes.  Love scenes.  Murders.

Yeah, I even suck at those.  Instead, I write dialogue with stage directions.

I asked around, but nobody yet has given me the magic key to writing good descriptions.*  I suspect the people who are good at it don’t have to think about it and assume the reader knows things that I, in fact, have no freaking clue about.  So I’ve been rereading Steven Brust’s The Phoenix Guards, because I’ve always liked the description in that, and because I picked up an extra copy recently, so it was on my book-stack.

I’ll go into more detail later, but here are my initial thoughts on description in general, based off things I read in SB.

  • POV and description are in bed together.  A third-person omniscient book can do things with description that a first-person can’t, and vice versa (3rd:  see anything, anywhere, that the characters know nothing about; 1st:  everything described is distorted by the character’s perspective).
  • But the shift between first and third person POV does not need to be absolute.  How that works, I don’t know yet – but I see SB doing it, for example, when he first describes Kaavren, he uses paragraphs of plain, absolutely third-person description–K’s wearing this and this clothing, by which we deduce he was XYZ, etc.  But then SB ends his descriptions with little character hooks that come out of the way K sees himself:  “…which was proved by the color of his garments, where they could be discerned beneath the dust he wore as his outer, and, no doubt, inner layer of clothing.”  “The purse, upon close inspection, looked rather anemic.”  “…and since the Tiassa’s countenance was one of friendliness, neither one was inclined to take offense…”  Telling us that K feels dirty, is acutely aware of being broke, and takes pride in his charm.
  • Description doesn’t have to be a decription of what the characters see and do, moment by moment, in order to be effective (except maybe in action sequences?).  It can be other things:  “‘Well, and does that matter?’ said one of the ladies who had been steadily losing to Tazendra.”  Is that a description of the look on the woman’s face?  The tone of her voice?  No.  And it’s more effective than a straight description would have been.
  • Pace comes from descriptions, or maybe pace is set by description.  The leisurely tempo in SB’s PG is set by Paarfi’s convoluted sentences and necessity of breaking off to describe the history of carriages, etc.  “Tazendra slowly turned her head, which had been directed to Pel, until she was facing the lady who had spoken.”  Even the length of the sentence affects the pace:  T turns her head for the length of time it takes to read that sentence.
  • Transitions are description.  Not just “here’s the time that passed from one chapter/scene to the next.”  The transition into and out of backstory is just as important.  “And now at last we return to a discussion of the lodging which our friends found for themselves.”  “As to their duties at the Palace, we must pause here to explain something of the structure of the Imperial military hierarchy at that time.”  “…this observation was shown to be particular astute, as we will take it upon ourselves to demonstrate.”
  • Description isn’t just that which is seen.  It includes indirect description–how other characters react to an action, not shown.  “He paused, seeing that Aerich was uninterested in the details.”
  • Description within dialogue.  “‘I would like a sword,’ he said.  ‘It is to be three and three quarter pounds…'”
  • Description as a placemark of where the characters are, physically, in a setting.  “The counter-attack…went well until the Guardsmen had succeeded in pushing their enemies to the far wall of the room, where upon two things happened:  first, the press of the bodies and the force of the charge itself served to squeeze soldiers around the sides…”
  • Description sets the milieu; for example, description can have a political effect.  “Shortly thereafter the Teckla coachman emerged from the kitchen wiping his face on the sleeve of his dirty black tunic…”  (showing the prejudice of the nobleman narrator).
  • Description can be a statement of what something is not, or what is normal (if the thing is not normal, or as expected):  “…Pel had occasion three times to point out to Aerich that they were passing a weapon-smith, but each time the latter merely shook his head.”

…More thoughts as I get them.

*Goddamned magic keys, anyway.

Twitter Updates for 2009-11-20

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Twitter Updates for 2009-11-19

  • @DaphneUn You're right, you're right. It's "luhvahs." in reply to DaphneUn #
  • Done: Chapter 20/32. "Do you know how hard it is to keep these lines straight, even when they aren't infected?" #DeNoReWriMo #
  • I wish I could give one of my characters a hug: she's carrying a big burden, combined from a lot of people I knew/know. #
  • Done: Chapter 21/32. "Another visitor. Maybe I should put my clothes on." #DeNoReWriMo #
  • Two chapters edited. I think I get a bubble bath for that. #
  • All I've tweeted about this month is writing. I walk away from the computer and think about what I forgot to tweet…nah. #burnout #
  • Frex, speeding ticket. I'm on a new road, in the dark, no idea what the limit is. Suddenly, everyone brakes. Crap. Why am I in front? #
  • Writing advice from Carrie Vaughn: Just so. #

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Twitter Updates for 2009-11-18

  • Spent an hour and a half changing the span of the book from 4 years to 1.5. Feel better now. #
  • Drinking beer and eating chili. #
  • Happy Left 4 Dead II day! …If you can download, that is. #
  • What? I have to turn off the new Norah Jones so I can read aloud my chapter? What is this, common sense? Must be some kind of conspiracy. #
  • Done: Chapter 19/32. "I took another shower, smelled my pits, and declared myself even less stinky than usual." #
  • Done: Chapter 19/32. "I took another shower, smelled my pits, and declared myself even less stinky than usual." #DeNoReWriMo #
  • I'm looking forward to tomorrow's chapter. I may do 2, they're short. "Bamboozled" and "A Whole New Woman." #
  • After that is "Lovers." Which title was inspired one day when @DaphneUn said it over…and…over…and…over… #

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Twitter Updates for 2009-11-17

  • Done: Chapter 18/32. "I'd never actually lied to him; he'd never actually arrested me." #DeNoReWriMo #
  • Ugh. Long, ornery day. #

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Twitter Updates for 2009-11-16

  • @ChuckWendig @doycet Three times for humor – gave rule of three to daughter to explain that sometimes a lot of a good thing is too much. in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • Snowed last night. Not too bad. Still planning to go to chocolate festival. #
  • @mightymur What church DO you go to? in reply to mightymur #
  • I'm getting better at this editing stuff. At least, faster. First pass on a 13-page chapter done in just over an hour. Read-aloud time. #
  • Done: Chapter 17/32. "Remind me what I'm wearing black for? Oh, yeah. All my clothes are black." #DeNoReWriMo #
  • I ate so much chocolate at the chocolate festival that I came home slightly dizzy. I want to try out a chocolate drink, but don't dare. #
  • My personal best of show @ chocolate festival: #
  • BTS Chocolate was a close second. The puns…the kilt…the yummy… #
  • A lot of the booths at the chocolate festival were small businesses, working out of their homes. Awesome. #

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Twitter Updates for 2009-11-15

  • @Three_Star_Dave Literarily speaking. Excellent. in reply to Three_Star_Dave #
  • @ChuckWendig @doycet I want one of you to write a couple of blog entries on DESCRIPTION, when how and why. I suck at it. in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • I finished Act I of the book yesterday, in which the main character, in his 40s, decides to grow up. A coming of age story. #
  • I'm almost HALFWAY THROUGH the book! #
  • Huh. I guess that means Act I is really long. #
  • The lesson for the week on editing: Know how the main character changes in each chapter before sitting down at the keyboard. #
  • Another lesson: See it from the main character's point of view – not "what happens now" but "what does MC do about what's happening now." #
  • @ChuckWendig I can do theme. Definitely Woo. in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • Yet another lesson: if you have that figured out and you're still not excited about your chapter, brainstorm again. #
  • Done: Chapter 15/32. "I didn't say it was a good idea. I said it was a favor." #DeNoReWriMo #
  • @doycet @ChuckWendig How about settings? in reply to doycet #
  • @doycet @ChuckWendig I under-desc. So is that also remember at least 3 things? And when/how to set that up? in reply to doycet #
  • Done: Chapter 16/32. "Damn. The greatest scientific invention mankind will ever know. And they'll never know about it." #DeNoReWriMo #
  • @DaphneUn Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Tomorrow: The chocolate festival @ Broadmoor. in reply to DaphneUn #

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Sometimes I write blog posts already knowing, more or less, what I’m going to say.  This is not one of those times.

Steven Brust is discussing the ethical use of humor over on his site.  To sum up,  in one case, someone used humor against a friend of his; the friend was hurt; the offending person didn’t understand why.  In another case, his daughter, a comedian, participated in a show with the theme of mental handicaps, and her friends were offended.

He said:

The dilemma, as I see it, is something like this:
1. No one has the right, through humor or any other way, to needlessly hurt someone else.
2. No one has the right to decide for another how and when to use humor to relieve suffering.

It stopped me.  Of course there’s a way through, I thought.  So I posted, “It hurts worse when they laugh at you; it hurts less if they laugh with you. The screwups come when people mistake laughing together at someone else for laughing with someone.”

But I continue to think about it.  I’d rather blather on here than post multiple comments on someone else’s site.

I had somebody make an unforgiveable joke at my daughter’s expense the other day.  I’m not going to say the joke – you’ll be offended.  I wasn’t.  I laughed.  Because I knew the guy; to know him is to know that he limps through his day with one foot in his mouth.  Most common quote:  “What?  What did I say?”  And in fact, he told the joke so ineptly that I didn’t get it at first, which made me laugh harder when I did get it.  Guy’s making an ass of himself, and he can’t even spell.

But that’s okay.  I know he didn’t mean any harm by it.  It…just…came…out.

I’ve been far more offended by less offensive jokes from other people, the kind of jokes that are an attack, with a sly wink that says, “I’m testing you…if you don’t laugh, we both know that you’re a frigid, prude @#$%.”  Those are the ones I hate.  Buddy, you don’t know me well enough to tell me off-color jokes.

For example – the joke about the Muslim woman who, after being “liberated,” still follows her man by four feet–because of bombs.  I am SO sick of that joke.  I’ve received it, via e-mail, about once every two months for the last three and a half years.  But I find that the joke is offensive or not depending on who’s telling it–it’s told via e-mail, mind you, so not really dependent on tone of voice or facial expressions.*

Some people can send me offensive crap, and I laugh my ass off.

Some people can send me something just slightly off the mark, and I hate them for it, because of that sly look in their eyes.

Are you sharing something with me or not?  Or are you trying to take something away?  If you want to see me squirm, screw you.  If you want to see me fall over on the floor, unable to talk I’m laughing so hard, bring it.

–Unless it’s just not funny.  Meh.

*But seriously, please stop sending me that joke. I am SO OVER IT.

Twitter Updates for 2009-11-14

  • @doycet I think it's a poem,too. I was cruising through poetry sites, waiting for the hiccups to stop, and there it was. in reply to doycet #
  • Grats! They were great 🙂 RT @cmpriest My first royalty check from Tor arrived today. The Eden series finally earned out! Wooooo! #
  • @doycet Now I want to know whether my alien is believable. in reply to doycet #
  • The girl is off to karate with the spouse. If only the cat hadn't crapped in my office. #NaNoStinkMo #
  • Sounds WONDERFUL. Why do I live in the only place in Colorado that doesn't get slammed? @ianthealy Thunder and lightning and SNOW. *sigh* #
  • After tweeting my love of storms, I realize my favorite chapters are the blizzards (literally speaking?). #
  • Hey, IS it "literally speaking" if you're making a metaphor, but it's about your fiction? #
  • Done: Chapter 14/32. "The aliens come from hell, Bill. No sex, no drinking, no dancing, no airplanes." #DeNoReWriMo #
  • Me, on humor: #

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