Showing posts with label good writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label good writing. Show all posts

Feb 21, 2021

When A Character Stinks

I've sometimes abandoned reading/watching a story because of a single character. The writer/s must think this person is funny/appealing/recognizable, but for me, they're nothing but irritating. Here are three that get to me.

With apologies to cozy lovers:  the amateur sleuth's zany best friend. When she constantly proposes absolutely dumb ideas, like having a seance to find out who the killer is, I'm out. Crazy buddies can be a hoot in a story, but they can also take things from slightly wacky to waaaay too unbelievable. 

Other characters that stop me reading/watching are self-obsessed whiners. Even if they have good reason to be messed up, I quickly get tired of their antics. Rusty on Major Crimes is a good example, as is Anaken Skywalker in Star Wars. I never finished watching the movie that explained his background, because I couldn't stand his whiny "it's not fair" attitude. I used to read Kay Scarpetta novels, but the bitchy niece went over the top, and I didn't want to be around her anymore, even in fiction.

The one person who creates, or at least courts, disaster by disobeying logic and rules. For the old folks among us, Dr. Smith from Lost in Space is the prime example. They should have shot that guy into a black hole in the third episode. Yes, I know it's a plot device, but when it's the same character every time, he/she quickly becomes tiresome. In current mystery/cop show offerings, there are officers who  go off the rails, investigating crimes they've been told not to, breaking every rule the department has on the books, and mistreating suspects. Disaster is averted when they get the bad guy, but I can't help but be concerned about all the people they bullied along the way.

I know, I know. These are accepted stereotypes for their genres. They make setting up a plot easy, and readers/watchers accept them for what they are. For me, they're deal-breakers. If you aren't creative enough to get past using mass-produced, plaster characters, I'll go somewhere else.

What type of character(s) irritate you?


Oct 21, 2020

What Are You Working on Now?

 Many writers will agree that the Corona virus has been horrible but also helpful. Afraid to go out, unable to do what we once did, what can we do besides write? Since the virus hit big-time, I've published two books (one as Maggie Pill, one as myself) and worked on one that's been a couple of years in the works and is now with the copy editor for its final corrections. Hoping that will come out before the end of the year,  I teased you with the cover above.

The downside to Corona for me is mental. With that and other national concerns, I've had trouble concentrating for any length of time, which means my work gets done in fits and starts. When I stop each day, I feel like the work is disjointed, but when I go back the next day and start reading, it's not. It's one of those, "it's not you, it's me" things. I'm writing the same as usual, but stress makes me feel like things aren't right.

And what am I writing? A book called THE CUTEST LITTLE KILLER. It begins when a private investigator is visited by two children who want their guardian dead. They're offering a very large sum of money to someone who'll take care of that for them.

Don't you love that? I do, but now comes the work. I know of authors who say they write a story once and that's it. I can't believe that's possible, but I won't call anyone a liar. I'll just say that for me, it takes many times through a MS to see what's needed and add it in. I start with a "backbone," the story itself, a plot that keeps the reader interested, holds together, and completes the story arc. Once that's done (on a rudimentary level), I know the characters better, so I go back and build them into the story with depth and background. In this story, readers are supposed to like the kids despite some oddities they exhibit, plus I have to make it acceptable for the reader to root for the success of aspiring killers.

Once I have the backbone and have fleshed out both plot and character, I go through a few more times, adding setting detail, figurative language, little jokes, red herrings, and minor characters. All those things should shine by the time the story is ready, but they aren't apparent to me until I have the main story taken care of. This is when I listen to the computer read my words aloud. It's also where I give a copy to my first reader (for whom I feel sorry, because she never gets to read the final, pretty version). At this stage I'm looking for plot holes, repetition, spots where the wording could be better, or a place for a minor additions that will make the whole thing more intriguing. When I'm done, the work is complete, with a stable structure and attractive additions.

Now it's ready for the editors to pick at, after which I'll read again and change what needs to be changed.

You'll probably read my book once. I've read it around fifty times.

Mar 15, 2020

Writing, My Precious

Image result for cartoon person readingWe sometimes hear writing described as precious, which, according to one definition I found, is some combination of
1. self-absorbed – the author inserting his own personality too much in the narration.
2. autobiographical – the story is about something that changed the author’s life, turned into fiction.
3. trying too hard to make the text sound nice/pretty
4. trying too hard to effect a style

Last night I dumped a book after about 20 pages for reasons I can't pinpoint except to call the writing precious. I felt like the author was standing at my shoulder, asking, "Didn't I describe that character completely? Isn't she stunningly beautiful?" Every character was described in great detail before he/she ever said a word. In addition, they might just as well have worn signs that said, "LIKE ME" or "DON'T LIKE ME." The "good" characters were perfectly beautiful or incredibly handsome, and the "bad" characters had beady eyes or a bald spot. Again I "heard" the author asking, "Don't I do this description thing well?" After only twenty pages, I didn't care enough to keep reading.

I've got another book going that is precious for a different reason. I'll probably finish reading it, though I have to make myself keep going. It's historical, and the author is trying (I think) to copy the style of Victorian writers, which, as anyone who's read Dickens knows, is rather long-winded and roundabout. I like Dickens, but adopting that style for a novel of today falls into the precious category. The author is trying too hard, and as a reader I want to say to him, "Just tell the story!"

As an author I admit that it's hard to walk the line. Writers aren't supposed to insert themselves into a story, but we're also told that one can't write well unless she digs deep into her emotions and reveals herself in some way. Readers expect lovely language, but too much is "flowery" and gets you nominated for the Bulwer-Lytton Award for horrible writing. We're expected to understand style and develop one of our own, but if the writer's hand shows, we're being precious. Even big-name writers reveal their prejudices at times, though it's best to be even handed. (I love the fact that people still argue about what Shakespeare did or didn't believe about race, sex, religion, etc. He was very good at offering both sides and letting the reader decide who was right.)

A writer's job is to write, hopefully so well that the reader forgets there was a writer. When we stop our reading and think, "Oh, there's the author," that's a failure on her part. That's when writing is precious. 

Oct 9, 2017

Wanna-be Writers: Here's the Scoop

Oooooh, So Serious!
The right way to get published? There isn't one!

That's really all you need to know, but of course I'm not done.

There are wrong ways, which include being in too much of a hurry and believing that your book is somehow different from the 3500 other books released each day. (Yup, I just read that figure, and while I didn't check it on Snopes, I'd say it's close with the current ease of publishing.)

Still, a lot of what's out there as advice for writers is just silly. Statistics about how many words you write per day don't mean diddly. We're all different, so we work differently. Articles that insist you must maintain a blog or dun your friends and acquaintances with emails each and every month are dumb. Ask yourself who's giving the advice: a company that wants to be your email provider? An author who thinks she's the only person who ever wrote a book? A company that wants to make money from your hopes and dreams? They all have an agenda, so take their advice with that proverbial grain of salt.

I'm going to do a workshop on getting published in Gaylord Nov. 18th, and I try not to have any agenda except sharing what I know. I will never tell you my way is best (in fact, I've changed methods over the last five years as publishing changed). In my workshops I share what I've learned in a decade-plus as a published author. A writer needs to do what works for him or her, and the best way to find that out is to ask yourself what you want from your writing. Enjoyment? Recognition? A career? The workshop starts with a quiz (that you don't have to share with anyone) to help you zero in on what you're aiming for. When you know what the target is, chances of hitting it are a lot better!

It's a long, unpaved road
Interested? The workshop, "Write, Edit, Publish," will happen at the Otsego County Library in Gaylord, MI, on November 18th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I'm not sure if you need to reserve a spot, but as far as I know, it's free. (Phone them for more info: ((989) 732-5841

I look forward to talking to wanna-bes about their work, but please understand that I won't read your work and tell you if I think it's publishable. Here's why: My opinion has absolutely no bearing on whether you become rich and famous!

New Reader Site Hits the Target

 Though I'm not sure how, I recently heard about The people there are trying to change the way we find new books to read o...