Thursday, February 28, 2013

Character-Driven Prose

The current short fiction market is ruled by character-driven prose.  Almost every literary magazine site I look at states that they are looking for character-driven fiction.  That realization has changed my writing a good bit.

Before I had always written with a combination of style and plot as the most valued attributes.  Now my characters tend to be better developed and more active in the story.  The real slap-in-the-face moment for me was my first (and only at this point) personal rejection on paper.  I have it somewhere, but I'll just paraphrase for you.  It went something like "Not a bad scene, but I didn't really care who won because I didn't know any of the combatants."  I read over my story and found that my character felt a little distant.  He needed to be pulled to the forefront a little more.  My POV since then has always been a bit more 3rd-person limited (assuming I'm not in 1st or in a couple instances 2nd-person horror) than 3rd-person narrative as before.  The voices of my protagonists are a lot "louder", more like they are in middle-grade and young adult, even when I'm writing for adults.

Is character-driven prose the only way to go?  No.  I don't consider Robert Jordan's work to be overly character-driven, yet he's pretty much my favorite author despite the fact that I've only read two of his books.  Literary fiction with flowery wording is going to woo some people to the end of their days in spite of character and bulky epic fantasy is best kept mystic and plot-driven.  That's not to say that character isn't important; character is still at least a quarter of the battle even in the most plot and setting-centered writing.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Beware of straw men.  (That rhymed.  No, it wasn't intentional.)  Archetypical straw men can only do so much as protagonists outside of paperback thrillers.  If your characters are flat everything will feel flat.  And that's a serious problem.

Verdict: character-driven prose is the way to go for most people.  Exceptions exist, as I've pointed out, but for the most part a heart-warming, sympathetic protagonist will get you miles further than an amazing setting.  Although, just to be safe, you should probably have both.  And a wicked plot.  No pressure.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mixin' It Up

I'm not much of a poet, but I wrote a fantasy poem recently, sent it off to two places consecutively, and was rejected both times (I pretty much expected as much).  Rather than a multi-paragraph literary criticism today, I'm going to post that poem and a miniscule Tolkein critique.

Tolkein had the ability to narrate every inch of a setting without it seeming egragious.  I am yet to read beyond The Hobbit and the first 100 pages of LOTR, but I'll surely finish his trilogy soon.

[7/29/16 Update: LOTR isn't a trilogy, and I still haven't finished it.]
Reunion of Creatures
The wind in the mountains,
Whistles an arcane song,
Drawing in every magic beast,
Scurrying from the east.
They pool together in a throng,
Mixed from mightiest to least,
Each furry head bent to hear,
The magical melody of the druidic seer.
He sings ballads of the glorious feast,
Eaten by monsters in campaign or career,
Munching of vermin or human bone,
Meal ended by daybreak or they’re turned to stone.
Fortified with zeal to cause fear,
Each bickers of limits to their hunting zone,
Then sets off for home,
Under the pale light of night’s full dome.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


This is some pretty experimental rhyming horror that I wrote a while back.

     The hallway goes ever on. You wish you were gone. The lights flicker off. You scoff. A door opens far into the void. The being is humanoid. It has a vicious form. Like a solid storm. It dashes forward. You thrust backward. Your back is turned. If only you had learned. Never turn your back on darkness. The gap between you becomes quite less. It reaches out with one jagged claw. It pulls you to its maw. Razor fangs embed. They crush into your head. Crimson oozes. Skin bruises. Bones crunch. You're lunch.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Writing Is Like Preparing Potatoes

I had a shocking revelation in Honors Geometry a few days ago.  Writing is a lot like preparing potatoes.  Sounds weird?  Allow me to explain.

1.   You pick up a sack of potatoes at the grocery store and bring them home.  Comparitively, you think up snatches of plot, intriguing concepts, cool character names, etc. throughout everyday life, then write the best of the ideas down or keep them within the recesses of your subconcious.

2.   When the time comes for dinner, you choose how to prepare your potatoes and pluck out the cream of the crop.  In your "writing persona", you need to start a new project, so you choose some ideas that could go well together, pick a genre, and mix everything together, perhaps in an outline, or otherwise a loose swarm in your mind.

3.   You plunge your knife into the first potato and realize that its not as perfect inside as you thought.  Some of your ideas crash and burn.  It's a looming evil for all.

4.   You have your potato wedges and decide to carve off the skin.  Your first draft is kind of depressing you.  Revisions can help you immensely.

5.   The skinned potato chunks look less than professional.  Even after a round of revisions, problems are sure to linger.

6.   You pull out a paring knife and fix up your potatoes.  Proofreading and a few more slight revisions take you from depressed to indifferent, or even happy.

7.   The oil is ready.  You plunk in those potatoes for thick-cut fries.  Bon appetit!  The market isn't getting any easier.  There goes your queries (or manuscripts).  Good luck!


Uncanny, isn't it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Over There

Over There is a pretty crazy novelette.  Published in Asimov's the tale begins in a lab where a team of three conducts an experiment involving the wave function.  From there, reality splits.  And so does the story.

Never before have I read anything that changed from one column to two independent columns.  It was incredibly disorienting at first.  Several pages passed by before I realized that there wasn't a formatting error, one reality took place in one column, while the other resided in the second.  Better yet, columns ended mid-sentence sometimes!  Crazy.  I'm not quite sure if it's crazy genius or just...crazy.

The writing was overall high quality.  There were a few bits that could have been edited more, but it gets an 8/10 or so in that respect.  I would have preferred it without the swearing, there wasn't too much point to it, yet that wasn't a deal-breaker.  I'd give the writer's other work a go if I had the time.

I haven't read a whole lot of sci-fi, but Asimov's has opened up the genre a bit to me.  What I've read of it so far, including Over There, has been satisfying.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Troll Hunter (Part 2)

     Lady Edlewine glared at the knight beside her.  Sir Henry is such a dunce, she thought.  Yes, I’m a troll hunter and a lady. 
     Henry stole a glance toward her again and frowned.  Edlewine raised an eyebrow, then ducked her head, concealing a smirk.  She set her eyes on the neck of her new steed.  Her palms rolled gently across its stiff tendons.  The stallion let out a low neigh even as it galloped.
     From the front of the party, Prince Luther announced, “Gretmot lies near.  A mile separates us from a pack of blood-thirsty hill trolls.  Ready yourselves.  They have an ogre amongst them.”
     The greying man behind him, Baron Raymond of Timberbridge, chuckled.  “An ogre?” he said.  “I haven’t fought one of those half-wits in years.”
     Edlewine spit off to her side.  “He’s not one to laugh over, Baron.  He’s a fully-grown, northern brute with more war-marks than the Archtroll.”
     The Baron twisted to display a deep scowl.  “So I cannot handle him, you reason?”
     “Not without the full of Aramel’s grace,” she replied.  Her eyes were cold.  “And I doubt the Luck God cares much for an old, cocky tracker.”
     “Your grace,” the Baron said to his prince.  “Do you teach nothing to your sellswords of respect?”
     Prince Luther shrugged.  “All is lost on her, I fear.  But the Lady Edlewine is the most adept hunter in my court.  You must forgive her crude speech.  Talent is far more valuable than tact, in her profession.  She’ll prove an asset soon enough.  The fortress lies just beyond this ridge.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Writing Demographics

Quick post, complements of a headache:

I am a fifteen-year-old white male.  However, (as far as I can remember) I've never written from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old white male.  Most of my characters are adults, and the handful of younglings are either older males or female.  Amelia, the protagonist of my serial Fifteen that I still haven't finished (one day I'll write that final battle...), turned fifteen on my fifteenth birthday, so she's the closest demographically to myself.  I don't specify race generally, so I can't really speak for that, although I see my characters as white, just because I'm more used to seeing caucasians.  The main characters of my epic fantasy W.I.P. are males around there 30s (20s-40s I think, although I haven't pinned much down).  My failed NaNo project has a female protagonist around 13, and her counterpart in my novelette is a tad older.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Factotum (Partial Analysis)

You would think that an orphan who aspired to be a sailor on the vinegar seas, spend several months lighting lamps on the Imperial Highroad, then joined up with a woman possessing specialized organs to cast lightning could not possibly be in a boring situation.  That's only half true.

Don't get me wrong, Factotum is a great book, it's just not up to my par at the moment.  The pacing seems to have slowed from the previous two books (Factotum is the third book in the Foundling's Tale series).  I'm about one-third of the way through and nothing gut-wrenchingly amazing has happened yet.  That's a problem.  D.M. Cornish's style is very archaic.  His books read almost like Shakespeare, albiet they're prose not poetry.  I've gotten mini headaches reading his works in the past.

The setting in Factotum is good enough for tastes.  It's world-built wonderfully and feels real.  The variation in settings from scene to scene is great for the most part, although some places have felt a little overused.

Few well-developed characters have been added so far, which is a disappointment.  Mr. Cornish is great with characters.  The existing characters have suited the story well, accompanied by temporary additions duely.

Overall, I'd be wrong not to recommend Factotum to anyone who loves fantasy.  It's on the epic side, mind you, yet I doubt it would be a problem for most.  Even young adults can enjoy it (as I do), for it's technically a YA book.  Happy reading.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jasper, the Anorexic Penguin

     Roaring winds swept across the tundra, whipping snow across Jasper’s beak. He raised one dainty flipper to shield his face. Waddling away, he headed toward a glacial hill to stay out of the wind. His depressed belly was numb and painless for the first time in weeks. It wasn’t that Jasper had no way of getting food, fish were overabundant in the area and he was very near a patch of ocean filled with fish, Jasper was just odd. He was an anorexic penguin.
     When Jasper at last removed himself from the wind, huffing and puffing away, he threw himself to the ground. Soon he was snoring softly.
     Waking a few hours later, he gasped. In the dark ocean water beside him was a gargantuan leopard seal! He squawked and set to hobbling away. Alas, the seal snatched Jasper’s feet in its maw and slammed him against the surface of a nearby pool. Jasper's bones cracks. His flesh tore into several dozen dozen pieces, floating only a moment before entering the mouth of the victorious predator. Farewell, Jasper, the anorexic penguin.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I don't comment on blogs a whole lot.  Most of the time I haven't anything to say.  However, when I do decide to leave a comment, I think first how I should write it.

Blog comments should be as short as possible while still driving your point home, just like pretty much any type of writing.  Generally a compliment is in order, if you so choose, followed by a statement or question regarding the post.  Comments can be warm, friendly, and informal.  I'm not sure about others, but I really appreciate comments when I can get them, whatever the content may be, although personable comments are the best.

Really thinking about it, I should probably leave more comments.  Maybe I'd recieve more if I did...Anyways, happy blogging!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Xenocide (Partial Analysis)

I loved Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.  I was torn through both, the second in three days, which is pretty much unheard-of for me.  However, Xenocide has been disappointing so far.

My hypothesis is that Orson Scott Card wasn't meant to write 600+ page books.  Under 400 seems to be his sweet spot.  His prose is too dense when strung out as far as it is in Xenocide.

The new characters in Xenocide are well-written, although they're a bit of an oddity amid the others.  I can deal with English and Portugese speaking people together in one book, but throwing Chinese in as well makes it feel weird.  The purpose of them is clear: delving into religious psyche, in this case the way of Path.  This is fitting for speculative fiction.  I only wish he would have chosen a more similar religion.  Whatever, all is well enough.

When I've finished the book, I'll be sure to post a full analysis.  I can't think of much else to add thus far off the top of my head.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


     “Breaking News!  Mr. President has been shot.  He’s alive for the moment, but eyewitness reports of the wounds reveal that they are bound to be fatal.  This is a testament to you, JFK, a man who changed the world.

     You were born in a flaming chariot in the back-woods of West Virginia.  At the age of seven weeks you delivered a persuasive speech to your parents asking for better living conditions.  You moved out of that hot ride and into a cool villa in California.  California, the worst time in your life.

     During your time in California, the only celebrity you saw in fourteen years was the man in the mirror.  And Michael Jackson, but, you usually don’t count him… In school you were bullied for being just plain too handsome.  Those California girls were intimidated.  While there, your parents hit big as gold miners.  Unfortunately, the San Francisco 49ers didn’t do so well.  Your father ended up bankrupt after betting his profits on a lost cause.  After that, your family shifted into the shadows.  You joined a boxing club and taught the Italian Stallion a thing or two.  With a swift right hook you changed his last name.  Then you moved again, to Texas.

     In Texas you put a few pieces of bread in the toaster, and voila, Texas toast.  It soon became a national craze.  After that, you single-handedly reenacted the Battle of the Alamo dressed as Davy Crockett, and thus his legend was born.  You would later play the greatest game of dodgeball seen on Earth, against the Lone Ranger. 
     At the age of sixteen, you decided to attend college.  Brigham Young University was your choice, as a joke to your personal tutor the Pope.  There you married half a dozen women, cheated on them with Marilyn Monroe, put their names in a hat and drew one, divorced everyone else, and decided to run for President.

     When being sworn in as President, you criticized the Chief Justice for his foul language.  During your reign, I mean presidency, you became a savior for minorities, because you felt a common bond with them as no other person could possibly be in the same category of sheer awesomeness as you.  On November 22, 1963, you rode in a parade in your old home of Texas, where you were ironically hit by two fragments of misfired Cuban missiles. 

     So, here we are today, the Day Fitzgerald Died.”