swan_tower: (Default)

Those of you who were at Borderlands on Saturday already heard this; now I reveal it to the rest of the world.

Many people have pleaded for the Memoirs of Lady Trent to continue. I have always responded by saying the series was planned to be five books from the start, that I had a set arc in mind that I wanted to tell, and that having brought that to a close, I am done.

That’s still true.

. . . but it doesn’t preclude other stories in that world.

I don’t have a good working title for this yet, but my next novel will be the story of Isabella’s granddaughter, rapacious private art collectors, black market antiquities smugglers, and the translation of a lost epic from the Draconean civilization. The book will be structured like a mosaic novel, interspersing segments of the epic with the lives of the people translating it, as recorded in diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, and more. So it will once again have the intellectual rigor of Lady Trent’s memoirs (this time aimed in a predominantly linguistic direction), the pulpy adventure of its time period (the antiquities market is a lot more colorful than you might think), and the meta-textual setup that lets the heroine’s voice come through so clearly. Plus, the epic will let me put on my folklorist hat with full panoply of ribbons and bells and run cackling down the streets make good use of my folklore background: my research right now consists of reading or re-reading the Mahabharata, Epic of Gilgamesh, Popol Vuh, and more.

This idea is literally less than two months old. At the Tucson Festival of Books in early March, someone asked me a question about other books set in the world of the Memoirs, and inspiration mugged me out of nowhere. Over the next couple of days it morphed around a bit until it arrived in this form, at which point I pitched it to my editor, saying, “I really think this is what I ought to be doing next.” She agreed, so here we are: setting a personal record for shortest time elapsed from “huh, there’s an idea” to “okay, let’s do this!”

So now you know. And now I need to go read the world’s collection of epics to gather material. 😀

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I’m starting to think there are two kinds of research — or rather, a spectrum with two ends. Quite possibly it’s a more multi-directional spectrum than that, but there are two ends that seem particularly applicable to my life.

The first kind is reading for facts. This is the type of research I did all the time for the Onyx Court books: I’m writing about a specific thing, and so I need to know stuff about it. What route did Elizabeth I’s coronation procession take? Where were the imprisoned members of Parliament held after Pride’s Purge? When did somebody calculate the moment of perihelion for Halley’s Comet in 1759? What actions were taken by Fenian terrorists in the later Victorian period? This extends to more general questions; a lot of my reading was to fill in broad topics along the lines of “what was life like in this period,” not because there was a specific detail I knew I needed, but because I needed a large mass of specific details to draw from in shaping my plot and laying out my scenes. And often one of those elements would suggest a new dimension to the story, so then I’m off down a new fact-reading rabbit hole; rinse and repeat until my deadline starts breathing down my neck and I have to quit adding to the pile.

The other kind of research is one I used to do all the time — but I didn’t really think of it as “research” back then. It was just, y’know, my life. I took an odd assortment of classes and read an odd assortment of books, and they all poured material into my head, and out of that came stories. This is reading for fodder, and I’m finally back to doing it, because I have several projects in the hopper that are all secondary-world, as opposed to urban fantasy (the Wilders series) or historical fantasy (Onyx Court) or what I think of as world-and-a-half (Memoirs of Lady Trent, halfway between historical and invented). It isn’t that I won’t wind up using specific details out of what I read; the difference is that in the end, I’m not actually writing about those things. Lately I’ve been reading a book on Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan, the Mahabharata, a book on the Sumerians, a bunch of Wikipedia articles on ancient Greek philosophy and society because I finished Jo Walton’s The Just City. Am I planning on writing anything set in Georgian England, Tokugawa Japan, ancient India, ancient Sumer, or ancient Greece? Not necessarily. But it’s all going into the mental compost heap, to intermix and break down and become fertile soil for ideas.

Some subconscious part of myself feels like I’m skiving off of work reading these things, because it’s been trained by nine books of historical or quasi-historical fiction to think the only real research is the kind done for facts. I need to do this, though, or else the worlds I invent will stay firmly in the box of “modified analogues,” places that can easily be mapped to single real-world origins. I need to throw a bunch of different things into my head at once, so that I come up with a society where there’s a deified emperor (a bit Roman, a bit Egyptian) and a caste system (a bit Indian) with a meritocratic way of changing your caste (a bit Chinese) and a clockpunky tech level (a bit Italian Renaissance) and so forth, without it being straightforwardly any of those things. If they wind up having an architecture a little bit like Tokugawa Japan or a schooling system like ancient Sumer, it will be because that happened to click into place, not because I had to use one of those societies for inspiration.

As I said at the beginning, these aren’t clearly divided types. “What was life like in this period” is closer to being a fodder-type question than “how rapidly did the plague take hold in 1665,” because it’s designed to help me come up with ideas for that specific period. And you’ll see the Mayan calendrical system with a minor fictional paint job showing up in Lightning in the Blood because years ago I read about it for fun and wound up incorporating it into a story more or less wholesale, complete with fiddly little details about Year-Bearers. But it helps me to remember that fodder-type reading is a form of research, and one that’s very necessary for my job.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Man, 2016. It’s been such a . . . thing . . . that when I sat down to write this post, I thought, “should I bother? I mean, I didn’t have much out in 2016.”

Uh. This was actually one of my busier years, in terms of publications. But the first half of this year might as well be the Neolithic, it feels so long ago. Thank god I have a website to remind me what I’ve done! Courtesy of my own bibliography page, I give you the list of the things I published that came out this calendar year:

So that’s two novels, a novella, and three short stories, not counting the three backlist ebooks I put out (Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and the omnibus In London’s Shadow). All in all, I’d call that a pretty good pile.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Rambling thoughts, as I try to name a character.

Lots of fantasy and science fiction feature made-up names. Some of them look more made-up than others — but there are ways and ways of looking made-up, aren’t there? When The Tropic of Serpents came out, I recall reading a review where the person complained about having difficulty with the made-up fantasy names in that book . . . in a way that strongly suggested they had no trouble with Dagmira, Vystrana, Drustanev, or any of the other equally invented names from the first book. But of course those are all recognizably European in style, while names like Ankumata n Rumeme Gbori are meant to look African instead. I don’t recall anymore what Smithsonian article I was reading at the time, therefore can’t look up the place name I came across in it, but it was something from a Pacific Northwestern Native American language, and it looked like the kind of thing beginning fantasy writers get told to avoid at all costs: a mash of “unpronounceable” consonants and apostrophes. But it isn’t unpronounceable, of course; it only looks that way to your average Anglophone reader, who isn’t used to dealing with phonemes in that configuration. Result: a name of that sort often looks fake and made-up, even when it isn’t.

And then there’s the other direction — what I’ve mentally dubbed Babar names. CVCVC, consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant. There are a LOT of these in fantasy, because apparently when an Anglophone brain is fumbling for letters and trying to arrange them into a name, this is the pattern it’s most likely to default to? Or else strong influence from somebody in the genre, but I don’t know who; Tolkien was not very prone to Babar names at all. (Rohan, sure, but you can’t say it was a dominant pattern with him. He was too much of a linguist for that.) These can be perfectly real too, of course, in a variety of different languages. But they’ve started to look fake to me in fantasy novels simply because I’ve seen so many of them. There are so many other ways to put phonemes together! This character I’m trying to name, he was originally Khimos and now he’s Ilan and I’m not happy with either of those in part because they’re just one step away from a Babar name, CCVCVC and VCVC. There’s someone else in that story whose name comes from the same language and she’s Vranatzin Iskovri. That looks like a real name to me. It has internal logic, even if I’m the only one who knows what it is. And yeah, it’s more difficult to pronounce, but if I only stay within the zone of what’s familiar and easy to an Anglophone reader, I’m ignoring a whole swath of possibility. I just wrote a series where people have names like Iljish and Yeyuama and Heali’i and Nour and Thu Phim Lat. I intend to keep that kind of variety going.

I just need this guy to cooperate. You’re important to this story, dude; you need a name I’m going to be happy with, something that will look real to me. Aadet took forever and a day to accept a name, but even he had one by the time I got to him in the story. You? I’ve got a complete first draft and I still don’t like yours. C’mon. We can do better than this.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (natural history)

There are certain kinds of transition scenes I detest writing. One of them is the “holy shit, the supernatural is real!” scene common to so much urban fantasy; it was a source of great pleasure to me that I could more or less skip that scene in Midnight Never Come, on the grounds that the reaction of a sixteenth-century gentleman would not so much be “there are faeries under London?” as “there are faeries under London?” (You’ll note that nearly every pov character for the remainder of the Onyx Court series already knew about the fae by the time they showed up in the story. This was not deliberate, in the sense of being a thing I consciously decided to do . . . but I wouldn’t call it an accident, either. The sole exception that leaps to mind is Jack Ellin, and I had more than enough going on in the story to divert him, and me, while that transition happened.) It’s boring to me because the audience already knows the supernatural is real (or at the very least has no reason to be surprised by this fact), and we’ve seen that conversation so many times, making it fresh is really difficult. Your main hope is to undermine it in some fashion, like the time on Buffy when they told Oz vampires and demons were real. “I know it’s a lot to take in –” “Actually, that explains a lot.”

I’m dealing with a similar kind of thing in the fifth Memoir right now. The scene isn’t about the supernatural being real; it’s a different kind of transition, one I don’t really have a name for. And of course I can’t get into specifics, but it’s one of those deals where something very complicated is going on, only the complication is of a type that doesn’t actually make for great narrative. After the initial drama of the moment is over, there’s a lot of explaining that needs to happen, and a lot of very tedious suspicion that can’t be laid to rest with the right words or a single decisive action. Inside the story, the whole thing is going to drag on for days — probably for weeks. Making the reader sit through all of that would be dire, starting with the fact that I would have to write all of that.

It’s at moments like these when I love the retrospective, consciously-framed first person viewpoint of this series. Because I can 100% get away with Isabella saying “what followed was very tedious and dragged on for weeks, because there was nothing I could do that would resolve it with a single decisive action. But X, Y, and Z got settled — not without a great deal of wrangling and suspicion, but settled all the same, and now let’s move on to the next interesting bit.” Any viewpoint can skip over things, but this one gives me greater latitude to summarize what I’m skipping, without making it seem like the elided material is simple to deal with in real life. Isabella can acknowledge all the complications without getting bogged down in them.

I had no idea, when I started writing this series, all the advantages that would come with framing the entire thing as a series of memoirs. It just seemed like a period- and subject-appropriate way to approach the whole thing. But my god . . . it’s probably the best craft decision I’ve made all series long.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

I’m delighted to announce that Titan Books, publishers of the Memoirs of Lady Trent in the UK, will also be bringing the Onyx Court to its homeland!

Long-time readers may recall that the first two books of the series were published there by Orbit UK back in the day, but the mid-series publisher shift meant the latter two never saw UK shelves. Titan have picked up the entire series and, as you can see from the above, are reissuing them with splendid new covers — not to mention UK spelling and date formatting, like God and the Queen intended. ;-) My understanding is that they’ll be coming out in rapid succession, on a three-month cycle, so by early 2017 you’ll have the whole set. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hold ’em in my hands!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Done.

Aug. 14th, 2015 01:01 am
swan_tower: (*writing)

I have finished my eighteenth (!) novel. Final tally, for those who have been following the dance of the yo-yo: 56,583 words, which means it ultimately fell about 3.5K short of goal. It will need some expansion during the revision stage, but that’s okay.

Yes, that wordcount is closer to the YA range than the adult range. More news on this front when I have any to report — but don’t hold your breath.

Now, I go to sleep.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

As some of you know or have guessed, I’m writing a book on spec this summer — a Sekrit Projekt. It’s going pretty well, though right now I’m kind of wondering if I can fit the remaining plot into my remaining projected wordcount.

Earlier today, I was freaking out a bit because I didn’t have remotely enough plot to fill out the wordcount, and the book was going to run short.

Now, if you’re a normal person, you probably assume this means I thought up some additional plot in between then and now. You would be wrong. Before I freaked out about insufficient plot, I was convinced I had too much plot. And before that, I knew I didn’t have enough, not by a long shot. Because I’m at That Stage of the process: the Traditional Mid-Book Yo-Yo.

It happens every time. This is the seventeenth novel I’ve written, and so I know quite well that because I am not the sort of person who outlines rigorously, I have to eyeball the amount of material necessary to get from where I am to the target length. (The only time I can think of when this didn’t happen to me was with In Ashes Lie. I knew a quarter of the way into that book that there was no way in hell it would fit into 110K: I emailed my editor, and she gave me permission to run over, so long as I warned her if it was headed north of 180K. So that one didn’t have a target; it was as long as it needed to be, which turned out to be 143K.) As I draw near, I have to keep checking in with my brain and gauging whether any adjustments are necessary. And I’m constantly changing my mind.

But at least I know that. Which means I can take the yo-yo in stride, trusting that I’ll be able to tell if I’m really going to miss my mark in either direction. And since this book is a spec project, it isn’t the end of the world if I do miss: the worst that happens is I have to look for ways to flesh the book out during revision, or I don’t manage to complete it before my self-imposed deadline. Either of which is fine, if annoying.

I think I’ll be in the target range, though. I usually manage.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

There’s a certain margin of error in this, because the word counts I record are for final drafts (when I remember to go back and update them from the original number), and sometimes final drafts don’t happen in the same calendar year as first drafts. But I just crunched the numbers, and while last year was my worst for short fiction* since I started actually writing short fiction — only 7700 words in two stories, one of which is a Bad Draft that needs a complete rewrite — it was my best year for total wordcount since 2001 . . . which was, not coincidentally, the last time I wrote two novels in one year. (I also wrote ten short stories that year. It was not long after I figured out how to write them, and I was on a roll.)

I like crunching these numbers occasionally because it puts things in perspective. My default tendency would be to mope and castigate myself for not writing more short stories in 2014; ergo, it is useful to be able to look at the number 192,700 and tell myself that no, actually, that was a pretty good year. I will never be one of those people who cranks out half a million words a year: trying would kill both my hands and my brain. But that’s two full-length novels and some short fiction. It ain’t bad.

. . . of course, it also makes me ambitious to top both of those metrics this year. I’ve already written two pieces of short fiction, so it’ll only take one more to cross that threshold. And with one of those “short” pieces being a novella, and a novel already under my belt with another one planned for this summer, I might actually make it. Depends on how long this second novel turns out to be . . . .

*not counting fanfiction

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

I have this novella I’m trying to title, and the search . . . isn’t going well.

In the course of hunting for a suitable title, I’ve been thinking about the structure of such things. And, of course, having thought about that, the next thing to do is look at my own ouevre and investigate what sorts of patterns I use more or less frequently.

(What? I may not be a biologist, but Isabella gets her scientific turn of mind from somewhere. Also, procrastination.)

The material below the cut is a breakdown of every title I’ve put on a piece of fiction — and in one case, a piece of nonfiction — since I produced my first piece of theoretically professional work, leaving out those where the title was not wholly up to me. (Mostly pieces that amount to work-for-hire.) I’ve included unpublished works and fanfiction in the mix, since that expands the data set by quite a bit, but not titles that ended up being discarded along the way.

Data below the cut )

***

Despite my general allergy to the “Noun of Noun” structure (which I consider to be the most overused thing in fantasy), it’s hanging in there in second place. Ah well: at least I do what I can to liven it up, either by complicating the structure, or by picking unusual components to plug into it. I’m also somewhat started to find that I’ve got that many simple “Noun” titles; I would not have guessed it was so common in my work. I’m not surprised to find “Adjective Noun” leading the pack, though. When I first learned to write short stories, there was a stretch of time where pretty much everything I wrote had a title in that format, until I kicked myself into thinking up other possibilities. On the flip side, I’ve made remarkably little use of the “Noun’s Noun” format, which most of the time is just “Noun of Noun” doing a do-si-do.

The two I find particularly noteworthy are the “Phrase/Quotation” catch-all category, and “X Prep X.” I hadn’t realized I used the latter so frequently, though I knew it was a structure I liked. As for the former, the Onyx Court novels and stories notwithstanding, a lot of the examples there are from fanfiction. That suggests I feel more freedom to play around with fanfic, as opposed to my professional work. Given that back in 2005, a part of me was concerned that “Nine Sketches, in Charcoal and Blood” was too overwrought to use, I suspect I could stand to loosen up more with my titles in general — though maybe not to the extent of the “Ridiculous” category. ;-)

(Actually, that’s exactly the kind of thing I want to do with this novella title. The problem is, my brain has latched onto “In Your Heart Shall Burn,” which would be perfect except for the fact that it’s the name of a main plot quest in Dragon Age: Inquisition.)

Does this get me any closer to having a title for the novella? Nope. But it’s interesting to look at anyway. I’d be curious to hear what patterns exist in other people’s work, and what titles — of your work or others’ — you find particularly striking.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

WARNING: this post is about rape in fiction, and considerations to bear in mind when including it.

Last week I posted some thoughts on Twitter about rape scenes in fiction — specifically, thinking about the possibility (the likelihood, sadly) that someone in your audience is a rape survivor, and contemplating what effect you want to have on that person. Those thoughts are the epiphany I arrived at while thinking through the larger issue; I want to write about that larger issue now.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Final guesses on the novella I finished last week included “Haitian loa” and “kitsune” — both incorrect. But then two people guessed correctly! So when I get home, tooth_and_claw and sarcastibich, I’ll send you a list of what books I have on hand, and you can tell me which ones you want signed and mailed to you.

This was actually even harder of a question than I thought, because it turns out that one of the giveaway details has never been mentioned on this incarnation of my LJ. If you conducted a search (which wshaffer almost did), you would have had to do so on my old blog, the one I was using up until 2006. The number of people who have been following me since all the way back then is quite small . . . hence admitting this was a difficult challenge, one I didn’t necessarily expect anybody to get. The best chance for the rest of you was to have a good enough memory to remember that I linked to one of those songs last year — in fact, precisely one year to the day before I posted it again as part of this series. That, I believe, was the last time I said anything on here about Ree Varekai.

I mentioned her before and during my tour last year, because music had put her back into my head, and I found that the core of the concept still held a lot of power for me. Enough power that I started poking at it . . . and coming up with a cosmology where she could exist without copy-pasting the game world she came from . . . and then working out a plot for a novella that I really need a title for, so I can stop thinking of it as the “proof of concept” story where I’m test-driving my idea to see if it works. And then during this tour I decided to buckle down and try, and now I have a draft of the novella and this is a thing that might actually happen.

So what were the clues? Well, that fourth song was from the Cirque du Soleil show Varekai — that’s why it wound up on Ree’s game soundtrack, because of her name. (I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted her full name since the old journal. Mea culpa.) The third one, as I said, I linked to precisely one year previously; it’s also from her soundtrack, and stood for the moment when she hit utter rock bottom, just before the transformation that made her whole once more. The other two are recent additions to her score: “Bad Moon Rising” for the way her fatalist aspect is linked to the lunar cycle, and “I Will Not Bow” just because it fits. That’s what she sounds like when her fatalist aspect is dominant over her survivor aspect, when a pragmatic understanding of the obstacles has become “fuck everything; I’ll just take you all down with me.”

If you didn’t guess, don’t feel bad — you basically have to know Ree to guess most of those songs are pointing at her. (Both of the people who did guess were players in that game.) But hey: the bright side is, now I have all kinds of other things that apparently you all think I should write about! :-)

As for the novella, I don’t know what will happen with it. I need to revise it, and then see about trying to sell it somewhere. News on that when I have any to share.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I’ve had two more guesses, one non-serious (but it made me think I should write a Medusa story someday); the other was “werewolves” — which is amply suggested by “Bad Moon Rising,” but alas, is not correct.

So: last shot! This is about as obvious as it’s possible for me to get — which means still not that obvious, but enough that there’s a fighting chance:

A change of pace from the three depressing songs I posted before. :-) It isn’t all grimdark over here at Swan Tower . . . .

Any takers? There’s a signed book in it for you, if you guess right . . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I’ve had two more people take a stab at guessing, but no successes. One was in email, and wasn’t so much a guess as “I feel like I should know the answer based on X context” — which was, sadly, off-target — and the other was a tongue-in-cheek guess of “Lune,” made by someone who knows exactly what I’m writing about. :-P A third person said the songs would be appropriate to Supernatural, but they don’t think I’m writing fanfic; indeed I am not. This is a piece of original fiction, written in the hope of selling it, and not for an official tie-in anthology or anything like that.

Since nobody has nailed it yet, it’s time for a third hint! If you missed the first two, they are here and here.

Getting less subtle as we go along; if this doesn’t do it, I have one more I’ll post on Monday, that’s about as blatant as I can get (at least as far as musically-based hints go). Which still isn’t that blatant: you need a pretty good memory to recall the pertinent details and think “oh, so that’s what she’s writing.” But there are people reading this blog who might be able to pull it off — and besides, I’m entertaining myself posting these songs. And isn’t that what really matters? ^_^

Remember that I’ll give a signed book away to the first person (if any) who correctly guesses what I’m working on. You don’t need to guess the exact plot, just a general description of who or what I’m writing about.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I finished a draft of the story in question last night. It’s officially a novella: 18,100 words. I need to add in a few bits, but I also need to tighten up other bits, so I expect the word count will stay in that general ballpark.

Someone on the previous post said that “I Will Not Bow” made them think of Julian, which was eye-opening for me: I firmly associate that song with a different character, but upon listening to it in that frame of mind, I can see where there’s a resemblance. But no, the story in question is not about Julian, which means you get a second musical hint!

This is less subtle than the first one, though still obscure enough that the list of people who could spot the connection is pretty short. (And several of the people on that list are disqualified on the grounds of too much insider knowledge.) I will say, though, that if anybody manages to guess what I’m working on before I run out of hints, I will send that person an autographed book of their choice out of my pile of author copies — subject to availability, of course.

If you still can’t guess, never fear — there are more hints to come . . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

While I’m on tour, I’m taking a crack at drafting something new. I’m pretty sure it’ll be either a novelette or a novella, but if this piece works, it might also be a launching-point for something bigger. And I figure, to keep you all entertained while I bounce from city to city, I’ll give you a chance to guess at what it is!

Here’s your first hint:

Ignore the visuals; it’s the song itself that’s the clue. It rather perfectly encapsulates the character this story is about. Mind you, it’s a bit of a long shot that anybody might guess this one; you kind of need insider knowledge to put it together with things I’ve said before and realize there’s a connection. But don’t worry; if nobody guesses it from this, I’ll provide another hint to make it easier.

(If you’re one of the people I’ve talked to in person about wanting to do this story, then you are disqualified from guessing, for obvious reasons.)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I just sent the first draft off to my editor; that makes the fourth Memoir a Real Thing now, ’cause other people are going to be reading it.

Doing the final polishes before kicking it out the door, I came upon one scene where I felt like I needed to amp up the emotional force a bit. So I went to the middle of the scene, stuck in a few line breaks, and started typing a new paragraph that would take what was going on and foreground it a bit more overtly. I wrote a sentence . . . started another one . . . deleted it . . . wrote a second sentence . . . started a third . . . deleted that and the second sentence . . . and after a lot of fiddling, I had a new paragraph, which I joined up to the following text. I looked it over, polished it a bit, tweaked some words — and then deleted the whole paragraph.

Because I was trying to play the wrong game.

These aren’t the sorts of books in which the narrator lays out her emotional state for the reader to marinate in. Those lines I had so much trouble writing? They were too overt. They were modern in style, rather than the buttoned-up Victorian tone I’ve been aiming for this whole time. I don’t pretend this will work for every reader, but: as far as I’m concerned, that scene has more impact, or at least more the kind of impact I’m going for, when I keep it simple. Less is more.

This is on my mind right now because my husband and I just finished watching Agent Carter, and we’re also nearing the end of the first season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I realized tonight that I’m starting to crave passionate, operatic, heart-on-sleeve declarations of love, because both of those shows feature a lot of very proper characters having All the Feels but never talking about it openly. I said before that I ship Peggy Carter and Edmund Jarvis in a totally platonic way, and I stand by that — but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t flailing during one of the last scenes of this last episode, with the two of them being so very Britishly reserved at one another. And my god, if Jack Robinson and Phryne Fisher don’t kiss by the end of this season, I might throw things at the TV. (A real kiss, I mean. Not a “no I only did that to keep the murderer from noticing you I swear that’s all it was” kiss.)

My reaction means the writers are doing their jobs correctly, of course. And this is the thing romance and horror have in common: they both carry more impact if they tease you for a while first, hinting at stuff and building it slowly before finally delivering the emotional payoff. If you rush the process, it doesn’t work as well. But if you play the tension right, if you see only hints of the monster or the occasional Meaningful Gaze between the characters . . . then you don’t need an enormous payoff to get a lot of energy out of it. One kiss can work as well as — or better than — the characters falling into bed; one brief shot of the monster’s face can horrify you more than seeing the entire thing.

When it’s done well, I adore this sort of thing. Too steady of a diet, though, and I start feeling like I need some characters with a bit less self-control. But tell me: what are your favorite “oh my god this tiny thing was so incredibly meaningful” emotional payoffs in a story, or your favorite “and then we pulled out all of the stops and fired up the jet engines and went so far over the top we couldn’t even see it with binoculars” moments?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Draft!

Feb. 13th, 2015 04:37 pm
swan_tower: (*writing)

Ladies, gentlemen, and those who for reasons of gender or misbehavior count themselves as neither, I am exceedingly pleased to announce that I have a finished draft of the fourth Memoir of Lady Trent, at 88,748 words.

(What’s the title? You’ll have to wait to find that out until after Voyage of the Basilisk has been released. Because I’m mean that way.)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

In my recent discussion of The Name of the Wind, one of the things that has come up is the way in which Kvothe is an unreliable narrator, and the text does or does not separate the character’s sexism out from the sexism of the story as a whole. This isn’t solely a problem that crops up with unreliable narrators — it can happen any time the protagonist holds objectionable views, or lives in a society with objectionable attitudes but you don’t want to make the protagonist a mouthpiece for modern opinions — but it’s especially key there. And since I brought it up in that discussion, I thought it might be worth making an additional post to talk about how one goes about differentiating between What the Protagonist Thinks (on the topic of gender, race, or any other problematic issue) and What the Author Thinks.

I don’t pretend to be a master of this particular craft. That kind of separation is tricky to pull off, and depends heavily on the reader to complete the process. The issue is one that’s been on my mind, though, because of the Lady Trent novels: Isabella is the product of a Victorianish society, and while my approach to the -isms there hasn’t been identical to that of real history, I’ve tried not to scrub them out entirely. Since the entire story is filtered through her perspective (which, while progressive for her time, is not always admirable by twenty-first century standards), I’ve had to put a lot of thought into ways I can divide her opinions from my own.

There are a variety of tactics. Because I think things go better with concrete data rather than vague generalities, I’m going to continue to use The Name of the Wind as an illustrative example.

Read the rest of this entry � )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

There’s a lot of inspirational dreck out there — well, I shouldn’t call it dreck. No doubt it inspires somebody. Generally not me, though, because the sentiment is too saccharine, too happy-fuzzy-warm to have any real impact on me. And yet, things like the demotivators are too cynical: they’re good for a brief laugh, but when you need something to get you going, they probably aren’t going to help. (Unless they do. Brains are weird things, and each one works in a different way.)

Which is why, when I found an inspirational thing that worked on me, I ran out and bought a poster of it. (Mine is green. The color is unfortunate either way: oh well.) The inspirational thing is a video by ze frank, An Invocation for Beginnings:

It works for me because it’s not happy-fuzzy-warm. It’s funny and it’s random and every so often it hits the point right on the nose. If I tried to quote my favorite bits at you, I’d end up quoting half the speech, but I’m especially fond of “Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes but he’s a little bit of an asshole and nobody invites him to their pool parties” and the whole part about the pencils. And then the last bit: “And god let me enjoy this. Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done.”

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I don’t feel like doing it. I don’t want to be working on that bit of the story, or I don’t want to be working on that story, or I don’t want to be working at all. The Invocation helps me remember to enjoy that night’s work for what it is, to sink myself down into it and have fun. Maybe this isn’t the big thrilling climax to anything . . . but I can still get a cool turn of phrase or add in a detail that wasn’t there before. I’m not just waiting for this book to be done.

Let’s start this shit up.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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