I love the information and the humor of this blog entry. I’ve always been intrigued by the nuances of language, but don’t have the discipline (or time) to truly understand how English developed and how to approach it with historical accuracy. I know far too many inappropriate words sneak into my writing. I appreciate all you kind folks who put up with them.
Languages are anything but static. Some change very slowly, like French- which owes much of its ponderousness to a government department specifically tasked with rooting out heretic words that creep in from the outside. Other languages undergo periods of very rapid change- the English of Chaucer (late 1300s) would be very confusing to Shakespeare (late 1500s and early 1600s). Two hundred years seems like a long period of time, but in the history of an entire country, it’s a drop in the bucket.
English doesn’t just borrow words; it lifts whole phrases and grammatical ideas from other languages without so much as a by-your-leave. With the coming of the Saxons to Britain, Germanic languages crashed headlong into Brythonic and became Old English. Then the Vikings went for a multi-century beer run starting in the late 700s and left behind a bunch of Norse words, because who doesn’t invent a new…
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As if the average writer doesn’t already have too many story ideas on their plate (or should that be writing pad?)! But I do love the idea of mixing up both real history with myth and folklore.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about using folktales in fiction, especially fantasy. I bought a CD of Songsmith, filk written to go with the novel of that title. The book was a collaboration set in Andre Norton’s Witchworld, and the songs are about events in the book, or are referred to by one of the main characters (a bard). Norton uses a lot of folk tale and historical references in the Witchworld series, but so deftly that unless you are really looking for them, you’ll miss how she weaves them in.
That’s what I want to focus on. Not on re-working fairy tales and folk-tales as Mercedes Lackey, Diana L. Paxton, Robin McKinley, and others have done, but using details from folk-tales and history as story elements.
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I am so pitifully naive. It never occurred to me that people would do this sort of thing. It seems like no matter how cool an item is, someone out there is ready and willing to corrupt it.
While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.
Yep, they’re doing it again.
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I think my stuff is definitely character driven. I cannot claim to have had anyone speak to me from my backseat before,though. And I must also admit, that in general, I am too absorbed in whatever I’m doing to notice people around me enough to consider giving them stories. I’m more likely to get ideas/characters from stories. I once developed a character, and an entire book, around the Fleetwood Mac song, “Rhiannon”.
Character stories seem to be some of the easiest for me to write, at least until the characters flip me the Hawaiian Peace Sign and head off into parts unknown-to-author.
What is a character story? Oh boy, I’ve found three different definitions, and I don’t entirely agree with any of them. One, Orson Scot Card, says that character stories are driven by the character’s desire or need to change something about herself or her situation. An English textbook says it is any time an individual is the main plot driver, and an academic paper went so post-modern that I gave up trying to understand what the author meant once I got past “the main character is also the protagonist.”
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Doing a workshop like this would a be both a nightmare and a dream come true. Reading about the experience takes away some of the uncertainty. Still, scary, is a word I think aptly applies. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it in a heartbeat if the time, money and opportunity presented itself. What’s a challenge without a little scary to help with the motivation?
“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” – Norman Vincent Peale
One-point-two million words.
Why sign up to write six stories in six weeks without knowing a single thing about what you were going to be asked to write? Well, one answer is, to see if I could do it. The other answer—the real answer—was that what I really, really, really, wanted was the feedback.
I went into this expecting to sell nothing. As a first-timer, I knew that the likelihood that any of my stories would make the buy pile was going to be extremely low. And I was fine with that. What I wanted was an insight into the editorial process of some real pros, people who have been doing this for decades.
When you want to learn, learn from the best.
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This article had me at the silly kitty picture. The guy the image is based on only wishes he looked so cute.
I would argue that to be a good writer, you need only to understand the human psyche. To be a great writer, you must delve more deeply into the interactions of humans, social and otherwise, than most people think possible. Not, necessarily, to psychoanalyze people – I have issues with psychology as a science, hence the title – but to truly understand what makes them tick, and to be able to predict what they will do faced with a given situation. Only that reaction isn’t going to be the same from person to person. One will freeze and be unable to react when the sound of gunfire rings out. Others will run toward it, knowing lives are at stake and even if they must lay down their life, they must respond in times of crisis. As a writer, one of these is the hero, the other the forlorn sidekick –…
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I need to reread and reread and reread this piece. And then I need to try to apply her lessons to my own horrible copy. I pretty much break every rule.
Okay, a bunch of you requested blurb clinics. And I was innocently sipping my coffee when I looked up and saw a swarm of fingers pointed at me, including one from Sarah as she rapidly ran away. I get it, I get it. The other people on this group blog write actual, y’know, books, and then try to write a blurb once a book. I write blurbs, and only every now and then try to write a book. So, blurb clinic!
To start with, I’m going to repost the text from the last blurb clinic, with three added notes:
1. Readers like characters with agency. This means the characters go places and do things, they don’t just have life happen while they’re there. Blurbs must reflect this agency – they must show your character going and doing and plotting. The shorthand for this is “Don’t use passive voice”, because nothing…
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