Tag Archives: perspective

Identify Yourself

A Guest Post by Anton T. Russell

In this writing game, the whole literary world and all that, I’ve listened to many discussions and have read many articles on the subject of being an author vs. writer vs. novelist … etcetera. For the life of me, I couldn’t find the title that best identified me. Many others involved in the discussions also could not quite agree on where they stood.

Since I’m not a bestseller, or widely known, finding a measure of success was very difficult for me, as I didn’t have those good days where I sold X amount of copies. As a result, I had always thought I was failing. I mean, really … I had just published a book and was also contracted by a publisher. Surely I could do better than that.

Uh, no. Write it and they will read it? Yeah, that wasn’t working out the way I had planned it. Clear failure, right?

It wasn’t until I talked with some trusted friends that I was able to understand that I wasn’t failing. Oh, they didn’t tell me what to look at, or how to measure my efforts. All they did was have that same ole discussion about being an author vs. writer vs. novelist … etcetera, and I was actually a part of it. Then it hit me.

I am a storyteller.

Beginning—plot twist—middle—plot twist—plot twist—end, and any other formula you’ve heard can be thrown in. It’s part of why I call it, “The Writing Game.” But that’s a-whole-nother-topic.

At any rate, by defining myself, I can now measure my successes and failures. See, I know where I stand, what I’m trying to accomplish. And let me tell you; I can pen one helluva story. That’s how I determine my successes, of course. The failures are just as clear. They’re the revisions that feel a whole lot like re-writes. The reader doesn’t know this happens, though. Still, when I have to re-write nearly a whole story, I’m not the easiest person to get along with. It means dumping more than 20k to 50k words. It that ain’t failing…

Yeah, so I tell stories. It’s a passion that grows within me each time my hands are idle and my mind wanders. Sometimes I find myself running to grab my super-secret notebook and adding details to a story-line I’ve yet to start working on. Then, when I’m in the writing groove and my office door is closed, I am as focused as a surgeon. For me, that’s winning. It is a tremendous victory, I tell you.

Succinctly, know what you’re doing, know how to get to where you want to be, and know what you are. Until you do those three things, you will forever measure yourself against others. The thing about that is; they WILL have had different experiences and backgrounds than you do. Oh, and success might mean something entirely different to them.

Although setbacks, stumbles, and missteps will seem hound your every effort, if you do YOUR thing to the best of your ability, you will find true measures of success.

A writers tale, perspective on success, failure and living the dream

Guest Post by J. Nathanial Corres

In retrospect, there have been hints all my life that I was destined to be a storyteller or writer of tales. My favourite class in secondary school and university was creative writing. My only obstacle was, and still is, myself. Specifically, not putting up barriers such as measuring myself versus others in terms of success. All the truly great storytellers of our time simply wrote from the heart and let all else fall into place.

To elaborate, they told their stories in their own words. This is crucial in an age where the proverbial norm has been to cookie-cutter authors and stories—follow fads instead of the readers’ hearts and desires. This leads to one of my big pet peeves with the industry. The two terms that, over the last two hundred years, have changed very little if it all and only aesthetically.

Those would be “unproven writer” and “there’s no market for this.” The big guys seem to forget the history of the industry and all the times those terms have come back to haunt them. Starting with Mary Shelley and even up to Joann Rowling. The short memory of the big publishers has cost them dearly.

Additionally, there is an article I read a while back that said publishers relied on editors for a final vote of approval despite the fact that many, it seems, have rejected perfectly good work as rubbish just to spite their employers in a vain effort to bolster themselves. Politics as usual in the corporate sector.

As for myself, I’ve not paid any heed to the criticism or rejections from such places. I never listen to criticism anyway. I write as I envision the story with minor clean-ups here and there for grammar, unless it’s for dialogue, and then everything remains unless I forget to finish my characters’ thoughts. The optimum for any writer is to excite the senses and imagination of the reader so they can see each scene as it plays out, to depict the world or setting of the tale as it takes place and bring the characters to life.

When a reader can tell me they could see the protagonists and antagonists as clearly as they can see themselves, I feel as if I’ve done my job: basically, give the reader their own personal cinematic experience without leaving the comfort of their own home.

To summarise, my idea of success is painting an effective picture with words. To me there’s no such animal as an unproven writer, especially when they have pages and pages of manuscripts either physically before them or on a computer. The difference between a good and great publisher is that a great publisher never seeks a market, they let the work create its own. Don’t believe me? Ask J.K. Rowling or Rick Riordan. Tolkien isn’t available.

The Right Voice for a Dick

The music was a dirge, some long-forgotten Celtic lament full of wailing. It washed over me like surf over a half-buried corpse at low tide. Ira stood behind the bar cleaning the same glass he’d been running a dirty towel over for the past ten years.

I raised an eyebrow in his direction, just a flicker. It was all I needed. A beer slid down the bar at me. I smiled. We’d been doing this a long time.

I didn’t turn when I heard the door open. Didn’t have to. When Ira’s hand froze on the glass, I knew there was something worth looking at. I peeked at the mirror behind him. The thing in the doorway definitely wasn’t from around here. Neither was whatever it had on a leash, a beast of roughly the same species, but down on all fours.

Both of their heads turned in unison, the noonday sun casting a halo around, squat, inhuman forms. Their bloodshot eyes locked on me, and on they came. I lost an angle on them in the mirror, but the thump of bare, leathery feet and hands placed them right behind me. I took a sip of beer and stared straight ahead.

Your move, I thought as the stench of sulfur wafted around me. Seconds ticked by. A strong hand clamped down on my shoulder, turned me on the barstool, slow enough not to spill the beer still in my hand. That was polite, I thought.

It was the one on all fours that had the intelligent eyes. Strange, that.

“Hoar’thuft. Moid dan sul bree ik rael Jonny Stiles?” it croaked in a voice that was equal parts whisper and bandsaw.

I stared at the little one for exactly three seconds. “Yeah? Who’s asking?” My eyes shifted to the one standing. It smiled, or, at least did what demons use for a smile… all teeth and wide eyes, the sort of look that wakes old church ladies up with screams and sweaty sheets.

“Wuldrix cu sein Beelzebub,” the short one growled.

It was an order, not a request.

My eyes never left his… or its… I could never tell with demons.

“Ira,” I said slowly, “hold my spot. I’ll be back in an hour.”

It was the little one’s turn to smile.

 * * *

Colette started April off with a prompt about aliens and bars, the intention being a discussion of voice and perspective in fiction. It sounded like a writing prompt to me, so I came up with what you just read.

(NOTE: Don’t be surprised if you see that in a short story from me one of these days.)

What’s germane to this month’s Fictorian topic is what we can deduce from just 380 words:

  • This is going to be a first-person POV story
  • We’ll pretty much only know what the protagonist Jonny Stiles knows
  • The tone and word choices throughout let us know this is noir fiction and probably detective noir
  • “Alien” doesn’t have to mean from another country or planet
  • Jonny Stiles is a regular in Ira’s bar and might have a drinking problem
  • Jonny isn’t surprised by the presence of demons
  • Jonny speaks the language of Hell
  • Demons know him by name
  • Jonny isn’t surprised to hear that the Devil wants to see him
  • Jonny is cool as a cucumber at the thought of going to Hell

I like to think this is the sort of prose that sucks a reader in and prompts the following questions:

  • Who is Jonny Stiles?
  • Why is he so calm about meeting the Devil in Hell?
  • Why the hell does the Devil want to see Jonny?

It’s these kinds of questions that prompt a reader to care about a protagonist, and, more importantly, encourage the reader to keep going. Furthermore, the advantage of first-person is that the reader knows—or at least hopes—that they’ll be visiting Hell as “I” not as someone else. The reader has a vested interest in the outcome, because it’s happening to them as far as their brain is concerned. That little use of “I” rather than “he” or “she” makes a mountain of difference in the experience. Just imagine… a free trip to Hell, answering the question of one half of the afterlife, without having to pony up one’s immortal soul as part of the bargain.

There are few among us who don’t have that deep, dark little part that is just the teensiest bit curious about Hell, about the seedier side of human endeavor. When a writer offers up the tantalizing promise of feeding that desire, most are willing to take the bait, especially if the price of admission is just a few more words… and a few more… and a few more.

In many respects, that’s what writers need to do: convince the reader to invest the time for just a few more. Writers are crack-dealers when it comes right down to it… feeding brains with a very different sort of drug.

If you’re writing genre fiction, you really do need to consider two things. The first is what and how much of the story you want to expose to the reader. When using first person, the reader should know only what the protagonist knows (with very few exceptions). Using third person opens up doors to getting the perspective of other characters in the story. There are reasons to use both of them, and it’s important for the writer to understand and implement the right one.

The second thing to consider the tone of your language. Word choice is what differentiates your writing from another author’s. It also differentiates noir from tea-cozy from western. There’s a language for damn near every genre, and the people who read that genre speak it fluently. You need to work hard to get your words right, and it’s this process that sets the great writers apart from the good ones… and the bad. The good ones frequently ponder and haggle and angst over a single word. They hold it up to the light and determine if it’s as potent as they need it to be.

So give thought to your words. They can be as potent as crack cocaine or as bland as American cheese.

On a side-note, I have crafted this meaningless bar chart below (tongue in cheek, naturally) as both an experiment and an inside joke with my fellow Fictorians.

barchart

 

Q.