Author vs Character

Or, this soapbox is not big enough for the both of us

There are three different people involved in any given story at any given time.

There is the writer, who brings to it all of their own preconceived notions, ideological dogmas, cultural prejudices, and all that goes into the baggage that any average living human being carts around with them all their lives.

There is the character through whose agency the story is being told.

And there is the reader.

Let’s leave the reader out of it for a moment, because the things that the readers bring to the story are not remotely in the writer’s bailiwick.

But the character and his or her creator can sometimes square off in epic battles which the reader will never know anything about at all.

An interviewer once asked Patrick Stewart how he could play a gay man in a movie. The heterosexual actor said, somewhat testily, that he had also played a starship captain but nobody had ever asked him how he had approached THAT role.

Starship illustrationBut you could see what the somewhat awkward questioner was getting at. In one sense, anyone can know what it takes to play a starship captain since every beloved starship that ever existed only lives in our minds, our hearts, our imaginations. Starships are non-threatening because they are, currently anyhow, impossible.

 

But playing a gay character on screen could be seen as challenging to a non-gay actor’s image or threatening his personal world view just because it IS possible.

As a real-life issue, as perceived by that interviewer and many like him, an artist – like actor or writer — must approach the possible somehow differently from the things rooted purely in the imaginary realm. The actor or writer is supposed, even expected, to have a personal opinion about about being gay in a manner that would never have been expected when it came to playing imaginary captains of non-existent starships.

Real-life issues have real-life agendas, and are thus subject to heated polemics.

And as every writer knows, it is entirely possible that a character will have strong opinions about such matters.

A character who may (unlike the writer who created him or her) actually BE gay. Or fat. Or black. Or Muslim. Or a Communist. Or simply a foreigner who comes from a place that someone else, reacting to him, may not understand or fears because it is seen as unfamiliar, odd, or strange. Worship a different god, and you’re suspect. Have a relationship with your body and your sexuality which is at odds with what is considered by society to be “the norm”, and you are suspect. Follow a different ideology than your neighbor, and you are suspect. Is it surprising that characters laboring under these burdens would have strong opinions about them, and about the society that created them?

The strongest, the best, characters will not be mealy-mouthed about these things.
They will, or should, be outspoken.

Someone fighting in the Russian Red Army may believe heart and soul in the Soviet, and is willing to die for those beliefs in a place like Stalingrad of apocalyptic reputation. A Muslim girl from an immigrant family may be reviled for wearing the hijab to a secular school. The Big Girl in the corner, who gets catcalls along the lines of “hey, Thunder Thighs!” every time she walks into her college cafeteria, might have extremely strong opinions about the people who are doing this, and about the body that she is wearing. That attitude towards her body can be an abysmally low self-esteem, a defiant acceptance of her shape, or a complex psychological elixir which contains both of these things mixed together in explosive proportions.

The point is, these characters will have thoughts and feelings about the circumstances in which they find themselves and the way they present themselves to and interact with their worlds.

They will have opinions. These opinions – and pay attention now, this is important – MAY BE COMPLETELY AND DIAMETRICALLY AT ODDS WITH THOSE OF THEIR CREATOR AUTHOR.

Some authors find it impossible to keep their own ideological opinions in check, and will use stories – and characters – as mouthpieces for their own beliefs, be they faith or ideology. The temptation is there to simply assign villain roles to those characters who happen to disagree with the author.

The trouble with this scenario is that it is painfully obvious that the author is the one on the soapbox, NOT the character, and that the character is either a limp ventriloquist’s dummy or is fighting valiantly against the muzzle bound on him by the author.

The soapbox is not big enough for both of them.

And in the best stories, told in the best manner, it is the AUTHOR who steps back, and leaves the characters to live their lives according to what the characters themselves believe.

This is a hard thing to do, because it requires, literally, carrying somebody else inside your head while you are writing the character who is not-you. The onus is on you to make that character live and breathe and not merely serve as a convenient place to hang the blackest villainy of your world. The best villains are not those who are mindlessly evil, but rather those whose thoughts and feelings you, the reader, can see and feel and understand and even empathize with – without EVER being asked or required to sympathize with them.

In my books, “The Hidden Queen” and “Changer of Days”, I had to portray a bastard prince who who nearly destroys his kingdom because of what he perceives to be the slight given to his mother, whom the King had bedded but not married, because she didn’t have certain powers which the legitimately wedded Queen had. And that, in his mind, would have been the only reason, COULD have been the only reason, that the King had spurned the prince’s mother. The son grew up with a chip on his shoulder, and turned on the bearers of the gift possessed by the Queen but not by his own mother. He swore to destroy them all before they blighted any more lives in the manner in which his own had been blighted.

He was a black villain indeed, and did some deeply, desperately, terrible things. And yet, in the end, I aimed not for implacable hatred in the reader… but for pity. Because they would have understood, in the end, what had driven him. And it would have been very much a reaction along the lines, of, “Well, but what would I have done different if I had been in his shoes…? There but for the Grace of God…”

In a different book, “Embers of Heaven”, I portrayed a pair of star-crossed lovers who had violently opposed ideological and moral values. I gave them both EQUAL STAGE TIME. I took no sides. It was up to the reader, eventually, to figure it out. That’s because neither of those characters was purely right or purely wrong – but acted according to their own lights and their own faith, in the best way they knew how. Again, no black villains. Only real people with real pain.

And I let them ALL speak for themselves. Not an opinion amongst them was something that I had climbed up on the soapbox to expound.

The soapbox was not big enough for the both of us, my character and myself, and I was just the amanuensis, the hand that wrote down the words of the story – but the story did not belong to me. It belonged to its protagonist. The opinions therein are the protagonist’s, not the author’s. It is not the author’s place to reveal their own within the auspices of that story.

I, as the author, have had to learn to listen, have had to learn the art of silence. I have had to learn how to raise a character well, like a mother would raise a well-behaved child, and teach that character all that needs to be known in order for the story to happen. But after that… I step back, and get off the soapbox. If I have opinions on something, you will find them elsewhere. The story I am telling does not belong to me; it is the starship captain (whether or not he is in fact gay) who decides in which direction to take the ship, and which stars to aim for.

All I do is provide the ship. As for the rest… it’s over to you, captain. If the story, if the faith, if the beliefs, if the ideas are strong enough to shine through… they will. I have never in my life written a tale which was meant to “educate” the reader in any kind of overt way, or to be obvious propaganda aimed at changing that reader’s own set of ideas and beliefs.

The basic concept is this: what I do when I write a story is that I create a character to carry it, and then allow that character to develop a personality (which consists of ideas, and thoughts, and feelings, and faith) which is the best possible fit to the story in question. What that character then tells the reader who reads that story… is between the character and the reader.

By the time it gets to this point the writer is – or should be – back in the crowd of listeners, listening to the character speak his mind, and if that writer has done the job properly the writer’s voice and opinions and ideas (whether or not they match that character’s) will never intrude on what the character has to say.

This soapbox is not big enough for the both of us.

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Quote of the Day

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And she wasn’t kidding!

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Too many characters?

Books Of Character illustrationFrom Lovereading infographic

The Lovereading site explains that they love epic books with swathes of characters creating a wonderfully complex plot, but ask rather plaintively:

“Sometimes is it all too much?”

They have created an infographic about 15 books with increasing casts of characters. Books like: Shogun, Bleak House, The Stand, and Game of Thrones.

You can see the infographics at the link below, but first I decided to look at a few of my own books as to number of characters.

The Secrets of Jin-shei:
Eight protagonists, or nine if you count the ghost, and several times that number of named characters. When asked about the writing of it, I sometimes suggest that if I ever have a similar idea for another book with so many major characters, I plan to go lay down until the impulse passes.

Embers of Heaven:
The sequel-that-is-not-a sequel to the The Secrets of Jin -shei — it takes place in the same world but hundreds of years later — has only two major protagonists, but more than twenty named characters.

Abducticon:
On the other hand, my science-fiction romp has an entire SF/fantasy con of named characters and ensemble protagonists, at least half a dozen other important named
characters and four time-traveling androids.

Empress:
My newest book, coming out next month, has two main protagonists, at least four secondary “important” characters with agency on the plot, and more than twenty named characters

The Were Chronicles:
It is a series and thus tougher to count. There are three MAIN protags, one per book, but each one also features as characters in each other’s books, so it’s hard to know if you’re counting them twice. And numerous other named characters, of course

Worldweavers:
There is only one main protagonist in this four-part series, unless you want to count Coyote The Trickster, along with 25+named characters, some of them from other worlds.

Spanish Gardens:
There are five protagonists, or perhaps six counting the enigmatic bartender named Ariel, and several other named characters, although they are less importance in the scheme of things

Check out the Lovereading infographic HERE

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Man Vs Robot photoBoston Dynamics’ new robots don’t give a damn about weak human attacks.

But then…are we really sure they’ll ever forget this ridicule?

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS & THAT

Lucy is going to the park and she is taking the dog for a walk.“Why it’s impossible for you not to read this sentence”

A psychologist explains how we’re all brainwashed by words

Read the explanation HERE

 

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Bitcoins are Cheaper & Healthier than Cash

photo of dollar bills sleepBills, coins and credit cards are dirty, carrying bacteria, fecal matter and drugs, The Optimist reports.

In 94 percent of bills tested, pathogens, including staphylococcus, were found.

Using bitcoins has many intended and unintended benefits. But one such unintended benefit is minimizing your risk of bacteria exposure and becoming sick.

Read more HERE

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extinct squash grown from seeds in  ancient potA native American Pot full of extinct squash seeds found by archaeologists

 

So they planted the 800-year-old seeds..

Read the whole story HERE

 

 

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Denmark opens first food waste supermarket selling surplus produce

‘It’s ridiculous that food is just thrown out or goes to waste,” says Danish minister.

Read the whole story HERE

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illustration of a master Penman at workHe Does Something Only 12 People In The World Can Do…

…and you will just have to see it to believe it.

The story and video HERE

 

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New York Public Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online

More HERE

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Quote of the Day

Einstein Quote photoWell, even I knew that!  🙂

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Telling off the author

I’m off to New Hampshire to be a guest lecturer at the Odyssey Writing Workshop to give a class on building characters.

I’d like to bring along some of my own characters, but no matter how real they are to me, they don’t appear at my command — only when they I tick them off.

Like the night Chalky turned up in my dream.

Chalky is the protagonist of Shifter, the third book in The Were Chronicles. He’s nineteen years old, pushing twenty, just a kid. He’s had a helluva twisted childjust hood (of course he did, he’s one of my characters) and he’s never been a ‘kid’, not really. He’s cocky, and he’s vulnerable, and he’s a wretched little know-it-all, and there he was, sitting on the side of my bed, kicking his heels on the bed frame. *Lounging*. Smirking.

“You’re doing it wrong,” he said.

“Oh, what now?”

“That scene, The new material. You’re *rushing* it.”

“Am not rushing it. I need to…”

But dammit, he’s right.

“I have to know certain things,” he points out. “You haven’t given me time to learn them.”

I’m areadly unpacking the scene in my head. It’s a frigging SYNOPSIS. there’s four pages’ worth of material behind each paragraph.

I’m growling.

“What if you…”

“Shut UP,” I snap. “Did I ask you for advice?”

He shrugs, “Just thought I’d point it out. And another thing.”

“What?”

“You need to figure it out.”

“Figure WHAT out?”

“What I want. What my motivation is.”

“Now you go all Galaxy Quest on me?”

“But I”m not a rock,” he points out. Helpfully.

I seem to be doing a lot of growling. But I”m still kind of asleep. At this point stuff happens (cat sticks nose in my ear) and I come awake, and he’s gone, of course, with just that smarmy voice left in my head. You’re doing it wrong…

That voice stays in my head like a gnat. I barely choke down breakfast. Then I take a cup of coffee down to the computer thinking that maybe it might help me clarify things.

He’s RIGHT the little sod. The scene IS rushed. I had to have him visit me in my dream to tell me I’m screwing up the book??? That’s just *rude*.

Whatever. I go back to the beginning of the problem. Then I discover that isn’t the beginning of the problem, and go furher back. Then something else falls down in a heap and mocks me. I take a large swallow of coffee, crack my knuckles over the keyboard, and hit “delete”. This scene needs to die.

I start again from the beginning. A different beginning.

This time there’s… something. There’s a note of truth in it (yes this is a story about Were-creatures. Yes, every word of it is ‘true’. Why do you ask?)

I keep typing, scowling at the scene. The dialogue comes down the riverbed of story like somebody just blew up a dam upstream. Yeah, Chalky, I saw the fuse string dangling from your pocket.

But this water is clean. it is clear. it is deep.

I keep scowling. If there’s something I always resent it’s when my characters refuse to cooperate with me until I finally agree to cooperating with them, and withhold their participation in my story until this is accomplished.

I mean, I can write scenes for them. I can write dialogue for them. They’ll say it because I said they must say it. But they will say it without inflexion, without passion, without any kind of feeling, and they’ll sound like robots until such time as I grit my teeth and let them say what they want how they want. And then all of a sudden they’re frigging Shakespeare and everything they say sings. I hate it when my characters are better writers than I am.

I really hate it.

Particularly when they haunt my sleep to tell me so.

I lift my hands from the keyboard. The coffee’s long gone and the light is different outside. And he’s sitting there on the edge of my desk, kicking his heels against the side, smirking for all he is worth.

It’s a beautiful scene.

“Didn’t I tell you so?” he says.

“I want to SLEEP tonight,” I snarl.

He grins. “You did well. I might let you.”
~~~

See my Odyssey interview HERE

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At EpicStream, Jake Vyper shows us

17 Things You Learn From Growing Up on Books

“It is an addiction that comes to children at an early age. And it creates an insatiable craving for more… These are some of the things you learn to cope with when you are a book-addict. (It’s better than crack!)”Curled up by fireplace“I fantasize about this scene. I will know that I have made it in this world – made it to the pinnacle of existence – when I have a very nice glass of Riesling in one hand and a favorite epic fantasy novel in the other (selected from a vast personal library) while the snow falls down outside and I am next to the fireplace curled up in a very comfy, very expensive armchair. That is my goal in life.”

Read the whole story HERE

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The moral, so to speak, of this story by Elizabeth A. De Wolfe in Downeast is that if you leave home unmarried, you end up a streetwalker in New York City without friend or succour. Young women, sit down, shut up, and remain nicely invisible – or else LOOK, just LOOK, what fates await you…

50 Shades of Chambray

Being a thrilling account of how the Saco-Biddeford cotton empire gave rise to a trashy 19th-century literary craze full of torrid affairs, horrendous murders, and ruined females.ruined femaleAnother “ruined female” ends up in a watery grave in an illustration from The Life of George Hamilton. Image courtesy of the author.

Read the whole story HERE

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Flying used to be an adventure as and of itself – but in today’s climate of fear and loathing, where everyone is a suspect before they are a potential friend, the art of travel has been reduced to having to endure the journey so that you can get to the place where you are going. But it used to be that the journey was part of the voyage, not just the destination. So many things get LOST along the way as the world grows cynical and old.

Still. There is always the option of sitting back in a comfortable armchair with a cup of coffee at your side and your own sweet purring cat on your lap… and a book about faraway places in your hand. Traveling in the mind has the advantages of being cheap (no fares, no tchotchke souvenirs which weigh down your luggage and which you really can’t understand the reason for wanting by the time you get them home – you just had to BE there to get it…) and positively sybaritic compared to the travel hell of today. Just sit back, relax, let your mind off the leash… and journey into the world of a good book…Wanderlust(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Wanderlust is notoriously difficult to manage, Suzy Strutner writes in The Huffington Post.   Once you’ve tasted the adrenaline rush of travel, it can feel unbearable to sit at home, knowing that adventure is out there waiting to be had.

But if you can’t always get out and explore, then it’s best to let a book do it for you. The wanderlust-quenching adventures below aren’t the same titles you’ll find on run-of-the-mill lists of “beach reads.” Instead, they’re a collection of tales — both quippy and dense — that’ll take you from the beach to a mountaintop to the outback to Paris, all in a matter of pages. Read up!

Read the whole story HERE

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Speaking of travel… How this place holds my imagination. At Masable, Tim Chester offers us

34 photos that will make you want to grab a map and travel Britain

Romney Marsh
Romney MarshImage: Russell Dawson

See all the photos HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Mysterious tiny doors open Zephyrhills eyesTiny doorsMia Wead, 18, discovered this tiny door on Main Street Zephyrhills. (gary s. hatrick)

What does it mean?

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Spain formally buries Cervantes, 400 years later

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Quote of the day

QUOTE Great book~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Love the Madness

7 Essential Books Starring Dysfunctional Families

Dysfunctional families are no laughing matter”, Off the Shelf reports, “more so when you’re a part of one. Who can stand your mother’s fiery tongue or your brother’s penchant for the absurd? Does Uncle Al always have to preach life lessons around the dinner table? Can’t we just eat for once?”

The Family Fang

The Family Fang

Kevin Wilson’s take on the art of surviving a masterpiece of dysfunction.

Meet The Family Fang, an unforgettable collection of demanding, brilliant, and absolutely endearing oddballs whose lives are risky and mischievous performance art.

 

 

See the others

 

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Excerpt from Mike Reeves-McMillan’s thoughtful review of Random, the first book in The Were Chronicles

“Depth and resonance and significance”

“There’s a group of YA authors – I’m thinking of Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Justine Larbelestier, and a few others – who write the kind of books that snooty adults who look down on YA in Internet articles have clearly never read…

“This kind of YA has depth and resonance and significance. It shines a light on the path for young people (young women, in particular) who are looking for courage and a place in the world…

Random, The Were Chronicles“…this book is itself an example of what I mean. The experience of being an immigrant, the experience of being different, the experience of being treated unfairly by self-righteous authority and being powerless to do anything about it, are all here, beautifully depicted, unflinchingly described, shown with all their terrible consequences.

“…The book closes with a stunning revelation that left me unable to say anything but “Wow. Wow.”

 

 

Read the whole review
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Free copies of Random

I am extending my offer of free copies (the ebook version) of Random to an additional 10 people who pledge to leave a review — on Amazon, Goodreads, their own blog, what have you.

Send an email HERE with the subject line “Free Random Offer”

Include:
(1) a valid email address to send the ebook to
(2) a single sentence in the body of the email acknowledging that a review will follow.

Random isn’t just a story about shape-shifters, it’s a story about humanity. It’s about what it means to be a member of a family, a culture, a race.” ~ Angela’s Library review

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All too often, boys shy away from novels which have strong girls as protagonists or major characters; all too often, men refuse to read women authors for fear of … what…? Frankly I don’t know, but I’ve seen it.

Jennifer Schaffer of BuzzFeed offers some suggestions for the next time someone tells you they only like books by dudes.

If You Like This Book By A Man, You’ll Love This Book By A Woman

For example:
The LoverVladimir Nabokov, Lolita → Marguerite Duras, The Lover

If you were enthralled by Humbert Humbert’s twisted tale in Lolita, try Marguerite Duras’ The Lover. Both novels feature a love story between an older man and a young girl, but Duras tells us the tale from the eyes of the girl — all grown up.

Quotable line: “Suddenly, all at once, she knows, knows that he doesn’t understand her, that he never will, that he lacks the power to understand such perverseness. And that he can never move fast enough to catch her.”

See the others

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Hate peopleIra Madison III of BuzzFeed offers some advice and tells you whom you should give them to after you read them.

e.g.
The Talented Mr. RipleyThe Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

“The fact that I killed this man. It’s not going to change my life.”

Tom Ripley grew up as an orphan and, bitter with his lack of a place in high society, kills a rich guy and steals his life. But the murders don’t stop there, because two can only keep a secret if one of them is dead.

For: People who hate rich white boys in boat shoes.

 

See the others

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Top 10 imaginary friends in fiction

All characters in fiction are imaginary friends, AF Harrold writes in The Guardian. “We spend time with them, listen to them, laugh with them, sometimes fall in love with them. No one else knows them like we do. It can be embarrassing to talk to them when other people are in the room. But they’re not what this list is about.This list is about imaginary friends characters in books have had, so the imaginary friends of my imaginary friends, you might say.”

And the best example is, of course:
Hobbes and Calvin(sodahead.com)

Hobbes, from Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes

To me, the most important imaginary friend, the most moving, the most delightful, the most grrr-ry, the most graceful, the wisest, most forebearing, most put upon, the funniest and handsomest (certainly the best drawn) is Hobbes. He’s a tiger and he’s perfect.

See the others

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THIS ‘n THAT

Says it all
Schools without libraries are a disgrace” ~ Russell Brand:

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Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the winner of a Canadian literary prize, has donated the $25,000 award to a grassroots coalition against the Tar Sands pipeline, sparking a wave of contributions.

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Quote of the Day

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” – George Orwell

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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A character tells me off

It started last night.

He turned up in my dream, Chalky, the protagonist of my current WIP. He’s nineteen years old, pushing twenty. He’s a kid who has had a helluva twisted childhood (of course he did, he’s one of my characters) and he’s never really been a ‘kid’, he’s cocky, and he’s vulnerable, and he’s a wretched little know-it-all, and there he was, sitting on the side of my bed, kicking his heels on the bed frame.

“You’re doing it wrong,” he said.

“Oh, what now?”

“That scene, The new material. You’re *rushing* it. I have to know certain things but you haven’t given me time to learn them.”

“Am not rushing it. I need to…”

He interrupts me. “It’s nothing but a synopsis,”

Dammit, he’s right. I’m unpacking the the scene in my head. There are four pages worth of material behind a single paragraph there. I growl.

“What if you…”

“Shut UP,” I snap. “Did I ask you for advice?”

He shrugs, “Just thought I’d point it out. And another thing.”

“What?”

“You need to figure it out.”

“Figure WHAT out?”

“What I want. What my motivation is.”

“Now you go all Galaxy Quest on me?”

“But I”m not a rock,” he points out helpfully.

I growl again. I seem to be doing a lot of growling. But I”m still kind of asleep. At this point stuff happens (cat sticks nose in my ear) and I come wide awake, and he’s gone, of course, with just that smarmy voice left: ‘You’re doing it wrong.’

That voice stays in my head like a gnat. I barely choke down breakfast. Then I take a cup of coffee down to the computer thinking that maybe it might help me clarify things.

He’s RIGHT the little sod. It IS a synopsis. I had to have him visit me in my dream to tell me I’m screwing up the book??? That’s just *rude*.

Whatever. I go back to the beginning of the problem.

Then I discover that isn’t the beginning of the problem, and go further back. Then something else falls down in a heap and mocks me. I take a large swallow of coffee, crack my knuckles over the keyboard, and hit “delete”. This scene needs to die.

I start again from the beginning. A different beginning.

This time there’s… something. There’s a note of truth in it (yes this is a story about Were-creatures. Yes, every word of it is ‘true’. Why do you ask?) I keep typing, scowling at the scene. The dialogue comes down the riverbed of story like somebody just blew up a dam upstream. Yeah, Chalky, I saw the fuse string dangling from your pocket.

But this water is clean. it is clear. it is deep.

I keep scowling. If there’s something I always resent it’s when my characters refuse to cooperate with me until I finally agree to cooperating with them, and withhold their participation in my story until this is accomplished.

I mean, I can write scenes for them. I can write dialogue for them. They’ll say it because I said they must say it. But they will say it without inflection, without passion, without any kind of feeling, and they’ll sound like robots until such time as I grit my teeth and let them say what they want how they want. And then all of a sudden they’re frigging Shakespeare and everything they say sings. I hate it when my characters are better writers than I am.

I really hate it.

Particularly when they haunt my sleep to tell me so.

I lift my hands from the keyboard. The coffee’s long gone and the light is different outside. It’s a beautiful scene.

He’s sitting there on the edge of my desk, kicking his heels against the side and smirking.

“Didn’t I tell you so?” he says.

“I want to SLEEP tonight,” I snarl.

He grins. “You did well. I might let you.”

The Were Chronicles

 

The Were Chronicles

by Alma Alexander

 

 

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Spamology et al

DEARLY BELOVED, SAVE HUMANITY!” says the subject line on one the messages in my spam box.

I am tempted to send an autoreply.

“You have reached the Messiah Hotline. We value your call. Due to the heavier than usual call volume, you may have to wait a little longer than usual for a response. Your expected wait time is approximately 2000 years. Please stay on the line and someone will be with you momentarily.”

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Sea of Voices, or, A Question of Character

“How many people are in this room?” I asked the audience at a recent Cascade Writers Conference. They began turning around to count heads.

“No,” I interrupted, “not how many warm bodies. How many people?”

I paused as they puzzled over this, then went on.

“Let me introduce you to the ones that are currently up here at the front of the room with me.”

And then I spoke, in character, as character, as four of the characters from my own stories.

There was Coyote, for example, from my Worldweavers books:

CybermageShe called me Corey, in the books. She had to call me something. But you might know me better as Coyote…

I am a spirit; I am a god; I am an avatar. I am chaos. I am a rock in a stream; I do not block the water flow but I act as a dam and I make the water find a way around me if it wants to move forward in its bed. I am a lesson to be learned….

We all carry it within us, all the writers, we all swim in this sea of voices which whisper nto our ears as we work, as we eat, as we sleep, as we dream. We contain multitudes, That person sitting in the back of the bus having a passionate conversation with thin air? He’s probably a writer arguing with a recalcitrant character who will not do what is needful because they know better (the worst thing is that they usually DO…)

I talk about this in detail at Storytellers Unplugged.

Read the Article

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Okay, then. Okay.

I was procrastinating like crazy, trawling the Net, when I found something on the blog, Writing Advice: by Chuck Palahniuk.

“For this month’s homework, pick through your writing and circle every ‘thought’ verb. Then, find some way to eliminate it. Kill it by Un-packing it.” (If you want to read his whole column, you can find it here.)

UNPACK, he says. And then he gives challenge sentences. Here’s my answers to the challenge (his sentence first, my (long -winded) responses following straight after):

“Marty imagined fish, jumping in the moonlight…”

“Ripples spread out in circles silver-edged by moonlight, spilling on the surface of the dark water, as though something had been thrown into the river, or something had jumped out – for terror, for joy, perhaps for both. It might have been Marty’s own heart, beating too fast against his ribs as he struggled to catch his breath.”

“Nancy recalled the way the wine tasted…”

“It all came flooding back as soon as the wine spilled into her mouth, and she could all but taste the wintry sunshine outside the half-empty cafe where she had last sipped of this particular vintage, watching the door close slowly just as Joe had walked out, leaving her alone with the half-consumed bottle of wine and the dregs in his own glass, unfinished, still stitting there on the table across from her, mocking her dreams.”

“Larry knew he was a dead man…”

“There was a metallic taste in Larry’s mouth as he crouched behind the packing cases. He could be certain of at least three of them, out there in the warehouse, too far spread out for him to do anything about; for all he knew there were a dozen more. But it didn’t matter, either way. They were between him and the exit, and there were only two bullets left in the gun. ‘Well,’ he muttered under his breath, out loud just so that he could hear his own voice one more time,  closing his eyes briefly and holding the cold metal of the gun’s barrel flat against his forehead in a gesture that was almost a salute, ‘I guess the only thing left is to make it count. I won’t go without taking at least two of those bastards with me.”

Of course, “unpacking” means MORE WORDS. But eh. I can live with that.

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A hilarious video for all lovers of language
LanguageMatthew Rogers used the words of Stephen Fry in creating this kinetic typography animation. It’s wonderful. Watch it.

Watch the video

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35 of the Internet’s Most Influential Writers

Some are young authors, others are firmly established, Jason Diamond writes at Flavorwire. Some of them are publishing industry veterans or new media superstars who want to use their clout to talk up writers they love, while others command small armies via their Tumblrs. Some start hashtag trends, while others have scored book deals with their clever tweets.

Whatever it is they do on the Internet, these 35 people do it better than anybody else in the book world, and that’s why they help steer literary conversations and tastes.
Melissa BroderMelissa Broder: We’ve already explored this poet’s uncanny ability to tweet magic, but it bears repeating. If you haven’t followed her yet, what are you waiting for?

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day
hemingway quote~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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Comments welcome. What do you think?

An author confesses

1. There are times that I have sat and watched words which *I am typing* appear on the screen in front of my eyes… and not recognized them. That’s how much my characters – or sometimes just my story – take over when I’m in “writer mode”. I sometimes think it’s a mild form of possession.

2. There are characters I have created that I actively dislike and there are times that it’s HARD to be fair to those characters. I like to think I generally come out on the side of the angels, but I don’t know…

3. In my stories, people *die*. Sometimes they do so for a really really good reason, or a good cause. Sometimes they do it willingly, in the hopes of achieving something with that death. Other times their death may appear meaningless or wholly arbitrary. But see, this is the way things work in the real world, too, and I don’t think that my fictional realms should be any the less “real” for being created by my mind.

4. I don’t work from outlines or to rigid pattern. My stories are organic. I stick a story seed into the ground, water it copiously, and it sometimes astonishes even me when something weirdly exotic comes up out of the good earth.

5. There is a time, after the completion of every single one of my books, that I wander around the house chewing my nails and driving my poor husband nuts with the whine that “Nobody wants my book!” I go through phases of absolutely believing that every sane reader out there simply HAS to hate this thing I have just completed.

6. I flinch at bad reviews. Silence, however, is far worse. At least a bad review means that someone has READ the book, even though they hated it. Resounding silence makes an author wonder if the book actually does exist, or if the previous months of frenetic editorial activity and galleys and copyedits and proofreading have all been just a figment of one’s imagination.

7. There is something frankly terrifying the first time you see your book in the hands of a complete stranger.

8. You never stop learning in this game. Even when you start teaching, you learn from the people who call themselves your students.

9. There are times that it’s a royal pain in the ass, being a writer. You learn to THINK like one. You sit down to watch a TV show, or go to a movie, and the rest of the people watching the same thing will sit rapt for an hour or two and then drop their jaws in utter astonishment at some twist ending… which you worked out halfway through and were waiting with increasing impatience to be vindicated.

10. It never gets old. Every time a new book arrives, it’s like the first time. Every book is a little piece of a dream come true. It’s a little bit like sitting outside on the porch just as the clouds break on a gray day and the sun streams through, and everything that was monochrome is suddenly part of a bright and vivid world, and you understand perfectly just why you were born – simply to be the one to see those colors come to life before your eyes.

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ForecastStorm Warning:

Bookshop Sidewalk Chalkboard Edition

The Owl & Turtle Bookshop, Camden, Maine, issued a storm warning July 4 via the store’s sidewalk chalkboard, which noted:

“Working hypothesis: Putting this chalkboard out on the sidewalk causes rain (We’re 50% sure).”

 

 

 

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Best Of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art
Kerem Beyit
The Scroll of Years, artwork by Kerem Beyit.

Every year, the art world chooses the best science fiction and fantasy illustrations — providing a visual feast for the rest of us. The Chesley Awards just chose its 2014 finalists, and there’s an astonishing wealth of beautiful artworks to spend your afternoon admiring, Charlie Jane Anders tells us at io9.

Lost CovenantBest Hardcover Covers: Jason Chan – Lost Covenant: A Widdershins Adventure by Ari Marmell; Pyr

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Top 10 dogs in children’s books
LassieFrom Best Mate in Michael Morpurgo’s Born to Run to Lassie and Toto, author Cliff McNish picks the 10 most memorable hounds in children’s fiction for The Guardian.

When I was asked to put together a top 10 list of children’s books with amazing dogs the first thing I realised is that mutts in children’s fiction have brilliant names. What self-respecting child called Jack or Emily wouldn’t really rather be Pongo or Missis Pongo from Dodie Smith’s The 101 Dalmations? Or the mashed-up pit-bull from Larry Levin’s Oogy?You can even go to hell if you want, as boy Conor does with Scrote in Anthony McGowan’s Hellbent, proving that even in the afterlife you can have a loyal hound at your side.

Buck from Call of the Wild by Jack London
Buck

The great children’s dog ever? My favourite, certainly. There’s a paragraph in the novel where his owner, Thornton, asks Buck to haul an incredible pack-weight on his sledge. An impossible weight. A weight no dog should ever be able to pull.

“Thornton knelt down by Buck’s side. He took his head in his two hands and rested cheek on cheek. He did not playfully shake him, as was his wont, or murmur soft love curses; but he whispered in his ear. ‘As you love me, Buck. As you love me.'” And does he? You bet he does.

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Quote of the Day
Doug Adams

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Alma Alexander
Check out my books
Email me 
Comments welcome. What do you think?