Archive for June, 2010

Well, my lovely WIP, working title “Flower Zombies” is finished. I’ve mostly decided that my next project will be the story of how Zerieth, from “The Open Hand” switched from the Red Road to the White Road. It will be a first-person narrative, something I’ve only done once before.

I mentioned this to my partner and he told me he can’t really see/doesn’t really understand the distinction between first and third person. As I tried to explain more thoroughly and we discussed it, I realized several things. One, there are a lot of details and specifics about grammar and things like person and tense that I myself dont fully understand. For example, even when writing in third person, characters refer to themselves in a first person manner in dialogue (of course dialogue seems to be a bit of an exception to a lot of things.) This all led me to two, which is that in some cases, many of the linguistical and grammatical distinctions we make are rather fine ones…my other half, several times, said the differences in terminology and execution seem a lot like “splitting hairs.”

In my experience in workshops and the like, we as writers are strongly encouraged to use a very close third person POV/style in our stories. I do feel that once you get into an ultra close third person POV, the distinction between third and first becomes rather blurry…in many cases it seems to consist primarily of pronoun use. Often writers are, however, discouraged from using first person, especially if they are relatively knew to the craft, and third person omniscient is, it seems, generally looked down on.

Funny part is, a large part of the reason I’ve elected to do this particular story in first person is because Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a professional, SFWA recognized publication, seems to publish a very large proportion of first-person narratives (I haven’t read that many of their stories, but every one I’ve personally read has been first person, and I know from numerous rejection letters that the editor is big on being “in the head” of a character.) The other part of the reason is that the story is going to be largely internal, it just makes sense.

Before I started participating in writers workshops, I knew there was first person and third person, but that was basically it. I didn’t know about all the 8,888 variations of third person, or anything about writing in second person, nor much about tenses. I’ve learned a lot and I think those things are important and useful to understand. However, I think it’s also important to remember two things. One, all of that all those terms and concepts are things somebody made up somewhere along the way…they are terms and tools. Two, I don’t really believe most regular readers pay much attention to or are even aware of those types of distinctions. The conversation just reminded me, once again, that as an artist it’s not good to get to hung up on terms and rules.


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Got two very pleasing emails when I arrived home from work today. One from the editors at Electric Spec, telling me that “Damsel in Distress” is being held for voting. It’d be especially appropriate if they do publish it, since its a story featuring my two characters, Thomas and Hashito, who starred in “Kitsune-tsuki” the story Electric Spec published for me last year.

The second email was from NewMyths, tell me that “The Festival” has passed into their second reading stage. All very pleasant and exciting.

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What Next

My current work in progress (working title “Flower Zombies”) is coming along very nicely. I expect to have it finished sometime this week.

This of course raises the question of, what shall I do next?  There are many possibilities, but so far none of them have popped up and insisted that I do them. I could…

Write the story of how Zerieth, from the story “The Open Hand” came to switch from the Red Road to the White Road. I think increasingly that it might be a first-person narrative, something I’ve only done once.

Work towards trying to write a novel. Either one set in the “Roads” world, or one set in my ultra-industralized rusty world, probably based more or less directly on some existing short stories

Write my motionless-yet-moving silent gigantic monsters lying around everywhere story (from my “Monsters” post)

Write a story involving that aforementioned rusty world…or one much like it…wherein a strange man goes around killing people at the behest of a face on his bathroom wall composed of graffiti and rust stains (I like me some rust stains)

Re-write my “careful what you wish for” story, wherein Emrys plays the role of the genie/monkey’s paw/etc.

Re-write my “Carcosa” story (how many people here know what Carcosa is?)

Decisions decisions…whats the most interesting to you?

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I’ve noticed some changes in the way I create and write stories in the past few months or so. Whether they are good or bad or simply are, I’m not quite sure.

It seems that I plan out my stories much more so than I used to. For a long time I was a nearly entirely “seat of the pants” writer. I’d have the basic idea or inspiration, think about it a bit, take it maybe halfway mentally and start writing. I’d then just make it up entirely as I went along and/or let the story/characters itself flow in whatever manner.

And, I guess I still do that. But more of it happens in my head, before the writing actually begins. I still don’t “outline” in the manner I think most people talk about. I don’t write out a sort of flowchart or anything. I may, occasionally jot or type down a few small notes. Usually character names or other character bits, or a possible solution to some problem of plot or motivation.  I think it has improved my ability to perform both those functions of storytelling, since I work out…or try to work out…those issues with a given idea before I even begin the actual writing. As many of you who know me know, I’ve always felt plot was one of my great weaknesses as a writer and indeed it was the fear of basically not being able to put together a coherent story that delayed my start in writing.

Another reason behind this, I think, is a desire to be able to finish a story more quickly. It used to be that generally a short story would often take three weeks or a month to complete. Now, sometimes it still does. Sometimes the flow, and the desire to write just stops. And sometimes, in the past, part of the reason a story would take a long time was due to my simply not devoting the time too it. But for example, a few months ago I wrote an entire short story of some several thousand words in a little less than a week…something totally unheard of in the distant and even not so distant past of my writing.

The only negative I’ve noticed is that, sometimes, I find myself getting impatient when doing “connector” scenes or some types of exposition and stuff, because I know what “interesting” stuff is coming and want to get to writing that. It also has the side effect of causing me to sometimes go blank in the middle of work or whatever as a plot problem or some such seizes my mind and refuses to let go. But thems the breaks, I suppose. It’ll be interesting to see how this relates and unfolds if I ever get to working on a novel.

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Just out of curiosity, I’d like to ask my beloved readers to go and read my page on the Nine Roads, then comment here or there with which Road you would walk if you were a wizard of that world.

I myself would most likely walk the Blue Road (big surprise, right?) White is a close second though, and you will notice that the two have some similarities (of course, there is crossover among many of the Roads.)

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I’ve added a page on the blog for The Nine Roads, an important part of the magic in many of the stories I’ve been writing recently.  It will change and grow as I continue to flesh out the world.

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A few weeks ago, I saw an excellent horror movie called Session 9. Its several years old, but sadly, I’m often behind in these things. So, I watched it, and it scared the ever loving fanny pants off me.  Afterward, as I so often do, I went on IMDB to read about the movie and see what peoples thoughts were. I’m not going to spoil any of the movie for anyone, but lets just say it engendered considerable debate as to whether its a psychological or supernatural horror movie. Also woven in this I saw where some people seemed to feel that if it were supernatural, it would “cheapen” the movie. Also, many expressed that they find the darkness of the human mind more frightening than the supernatural. At least one person brought up Stephen King’s comments, from Danse Macabre, about “inside” versus “outside” evil.

The thing is, for me there isn’t really a difference. Evil proceeds from choice. Even demons were once angels that choose to do evil. So to me, whether the evil in a story or movie is from a human, or a spirit, or a demon or whatever, it’s “inside” evil. I don’t really make distinctions between humans and other conscious, sapient beings. So to me, the difference between, say,  Norman Bates from Pyscho and the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers, is one of cosmetics and abilities. The Creeper is far more dangerous, but they are both sapient beings that choose to do needless, malicious harm to others.

So for me I guess, the difference between psychological horror-that is to say, movies meant to be scary but without supernatural elements-versus supernatural/paranormal horror such as Stephen King’s work, if there is one beyond the cosmetic, is that in some psychological horror (such as Session 9, if you interpret it that way) we get to see a human mind’s descent into evil and/or madness, whereas in supernatural horror you’re generally dealing with something already evil. Although there are exceptions…and blendings. The Shining, for instance, is very much both and the two feed on each other.

Of course I realize that for a lot of people, when they see a movie monster, they aren’t thinking about how or why it became evil. They just see it as evil and probably figure it always was. So for many the idea that a human being could do awful horrible things is more striking than a monster doing it.  For others, though, this is already a given-people do horrible things all the time. So the very presence of a supernatural being with bad intentions is enough in itself.

Anyway, the thing I found most interesting was, there were quite a few people who love the movie, interpreted it as psychological horror, and felt it would be a “cheap” movie if it were supernatural. And it seemed to me as though these people were coming from a very materialistic/secular worldview. The type of folks that have a lot of trouble suspending disbelief.  And the attitude seemed to be “This is a great movie, so there’s no way it could be about cheesy supernatural crap!” I have trouble understanding people who extend their lack of belief even into fiction…but anyway…

So it seems some people feel “psychological” horror and supernatural horror are 1) mutually exclusive and 2) that psychological is inherently superior in “quality” and scariness to supernatural. Obviously, I disagree and I also don’t feel that “inside” and “outside” evil are inherently linked to “supernatural” or “not supernatural.” Of course, since I believe in the supernatural and don’t make distinctions between humans and other theoretical or fictional sentient beings the differences are, for me, mostly superficial.

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