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Friday, April 27, 2012

Watch This Space

Flash fiction entry is no longer here. Sorry. You didn't miss much.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Death By Chocolate or Mediocrity v. Excellence

Hey howdy blogpeople. I trust last week treated you well; it was uneventful here at Hubris House.


I was a bit stuck re: this week's post. I've been working and haven't really had time to get all worked up over some writing (or other) related issue. Then I read my very favorite writing blog- Terribleminds (that's where the link will take you)- and liked his latest post so much that I decided to let Mr. Wendig cover most of the writing portion of the blog today. Thanks, man!


Please, writer friends, read this and ask yourself if maybe some of your characters have these issues (um, just a bit of a warning- his language is a tad colorful so if you have problems with cursing and, ahem, bodily functions, you should probably squint while you're reading or maybe just skip it altogether.  


This is the link 

 And I think the post I linked to is just about my favorite post because it neatly, amusingly, and coherently presents an issue that's too meaningful (for me) to write about with any degree of humor or clarity.


Why do main characters matter so much?


Strong characters  make or break a book. I will sometimes read and enjoy a book that doesn't have a great story line just because I want to see the characters move around and do what they do. A book is a great way to see how people  you would never run into in real life act in situations you would probably never encounter. A well written character adds richness to the reader's life- a richness that he could never find any other way (okay maybe by watching a great movie, play, TV show, etc. but I'd like to point out that a writer had to create those characters for your viewing enjoyment). A well written character can change the way a reader looks at the world. A really well written character is a work of art.


Watching how other writers create great characters is one reason that writers should also read fiction. If you, the writer, have no clue what a great character looks like, talks like, behaves like, etc on the page you don't stand a chance at creating one no matter how many how to books/blogs you read.*


Why can't you just pull some character out of your butt and animate it through sheer skill and awesomeness? Maybe you can, have you considered writing your own blog? I'd read it.


A great artist doesn't create works of art by studying snapshots- she studies the masters of her chosen medium with a critical mind to see what works and what doesn't. She uses the tools that work for her and tosses the ones that don't. Sure the artist also takes from imagination, life, music, whatever but she learns how to manipulate the materials she has at hand by studying how other artists have used them. You can't be unique and special if you don't know what exists already. Dude, I'm serious, you will never achieve excellence if you don't experience or appreciate excellence first. 


Not everyone was raised around artists like I was so maybe that isn't the greatest analogy. I think the best way to show what I mean is to compare it to food. 


Okay, chocolate is great. Most people have eaten chocolate in their lives and most people like it. In the US the first chocolate many of  the hoi polloi  (I include myself here) eat is some sort of Hershey product- say a Kiss. It's good stuff. It's sweet, tastes like childhood holidays, and is brown and chocolaty. You bop along happily popping Kisses until one day you taste Ghirardelli  (or Dove or whatever) and you learn that chocolate can be smooth and not all sour milky. Then you maybe get your mouth around a fine European dark chocolate and you reach a whole new level of appreciation. Maybe you become a chocolate bore, I don't know what you do, but your world is bigger. Sure, you still eat Kisses and like them- it's not a sophisticated choice but Kisses are good- only now you have other options. 


You can make an informed choice. 


Maybe you decide to bake with chocolate or make candy or something. If you want to make ganache you reach for the good bittersweet stuff not the bag of Hershey's chips because you know it will make a difference in the end. If you're making fudge you know you can go for the cheap stuff because it doesn't matter as much. You have, like, this whole big toolbox of chocolate and you know when to use what.


I beat that analogy to death (pun very much intended) but maybe somewhere someone sees where I'm coming from. Writing is a craft/art hybrid and a writer can fudge (sorry) a lot of stuff and still come out with something that looks a lot like a book. There's plenty of room for mediocrity but why be mediocre if all that keeps you from being wonderful is a little education? 


Good Writing,
M.B.


 *But you have to think about what you're reading- I frequently take notes (on little sticky notes b/c I support my reading habit by being an excellent library patron and they discourage things like scribbling in the margins) that say things like "why does this character suck?" or "Why do I like this character?" and I look for the answer while I'm reading.**


**And my Dog don't do it so you can copy stuff- that's not what I'm talking about at all! If you can't read a book without trying to copy the author or her characters you shouldn't be writing.Just forget even trying to steal another writer's characters because it won't work anyway. People will know. Besides the ethical, legal, and moral issues surrounding copyright infringement, a copy of a character is, and can only ever be, a copy- at best a zombie-like copy at worst an unintentional parody- and it lacks the truth and depth of the original. You may be inspired by characters but you have to figure out what makes them great without kidnapping or reanimating the poor things in your own work. Writing is work, princess, and shortcuts rarely lead anywhere good. 



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Change is Good

Okay so the oldish blog layout didn't work. No problem. Thanks to a cool button labeled "delete" it was easy enough to ax the non working elements.


What is this blog supposed to be? 


Really, it's all about transition. The first blog (Subtle Hubris) sort of documented my journey from 'hey I just finished writing a whole book' to 'holy crap I am a paid professional writer now'. This blog details the awkward adolescent phase of my professional development. I'm (pardon me while I pat myself on the back) paddling the professional canoe pretty well now. Sure a wave can still swamp the boat but I can swim and probably won't be eaten by a shark.  The entertainment value is low. I understand. I'm not going to get eaten by a shark just to give you a thrill. Sorry.


Just to clear things up since it is rather confusing- I haven't transitioned to full time fiction writer yet- my day job is going to remain my day (and night and weekend) job for the next few years. I also do a fair bit of freelancing which includes technical writing (tell your friends). I, like any professional person have particular, often quite specific, goals. I'm on year three of my first five year plan and it isn't going exactly like I had expected but I have met each year's particular professional goal. Yay me.


Boring, I know, but just this once I do want to make my position very clear. I may look all goofy and possibly impractical but I'm not messing around. This isn't a fun game for me or some weird kind of midlife crisis. It's not even the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. This whole writing thing is my career. My ultimate goal is to make a living writing fiction. Not literary great works of art but enjoyable fiction that people want to (hopefully)  pay to read or at least take out of the library. 


None of this makes for riveting blog reading. I, believe it or not, am not a blogger. That is  a real full time job and I have enough of those at the moment. 


So what's up with the blog? I like to write about writing. I spend a good part of my life learning how to be a better writer and, even though I'm not getting paid, it's important (to me) to share all the cool stuff I've learned. I can talk about the process of becoming a better writer because I do it every single day. Maybe it'll help someone. 


And my legal training kicks in *now* ergo- my way isn't the only way. I know it doesn't seem like I get this but I am aware that other people do things differently. As a new writer or, well, anybody you're not going to find one truth- it isn't that easy even if other writers and I make it sound like it is. Authors write with authority- it's, like, a thing. I'll share what works for me with you. Sometimes I'm going to be wrong and, if I figure it out, you'll be the first to know. 


Here's to change. Goodbye old author blog. Goodbye old wanna be writer blog. Welcome new writing about writing blog. If you have something you'd like to hear more about you know how to reach me.


Yours,


S.H. I mean M.B.