Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts

Jan 18, 2021

I Too Lie for a Living

 Her Highness' First Murder (A Simon & Elizabeth Mystery Book 1) by [Peg Herring] 

Novelists are liars. As one of my contemporaries likes to say, "We make shit up."

The bad part of lying is why you do it.

For writers, it's about entertaining readers. Fiction in a story is harmless in most cases, though I get frustrated with historical novelists who twist facts to suit their story. They don't care if readers (who aren't generally historical experts) conclude that so-and-so wasn't really the villain the history books portray but was actually kind of a pussycat. 

Outside of books, lies take on a more treacherous role. We grew up bombarded daily with commercial advertising, and while some of us learned to think through the hype, others buy products they have no need for because they succumb to the tricks liars play. When I taught high school, I asked students to dissect ads looking for two things: what the specific goal is and how the ad makes its appeal. Often advertisers trigger a person's insecurities so they'll buy a product. (Beauty products are great examples.) Other products sell a vision of what people think will be a better life. Generally, the less essential/healthful a product is, the happier the scenery/actors/activity will be in the ad. (Think car companies, beer, and fast food restaurants.)

One would think that after a lifetime of that, modern citizens would easily recognize lies in politics, but recent times indicate exactly the opposite. Just as people run out to buy products that won't make them irresistible or purchase one more self-help app that's sure to fix their lives, large numbers of voters swallow complete untruths without bothering to fact check what's been said.

As I said earlier, lying in a novel is fairly harmless. Lying to sell a political candidate or idea isn't. Since it's hard to police falsehoods, the burden of finding the truth falls mostly on the consumer. When you read my books, I don't expect you to believe that Elizabeth Tudor solved murders with a commoner named Simon. It's an entertaining dive into the idea of "What if...?" 

When you go to the store, you don't have to buy products that claim to make you wiser, cuter, or more popular. You can think it through. You can look it up. (Try typing "Are some eggs better than others?" into the search bar and discover the answer. You might save yourself a few bucks.)

Most of all, you don't have to believe what any politician or analyst tells you. A few minutes on the internet, checking a variety of sites and reading objective analysis is a great way to counteract the lies that have plunged our nation into chaos. (Hint: if an article uses terms like "lying Republicans" or "socialist Democrats," it isn't going to help you find the truth.) Read the actual words a speaker used, not the edited version, not the slanted opinion that some commentator attaches to it. 

It's time to grow up and learn that lies should be tolerated only in fiction.


 

Mar 12, 2018

...and Then the Monsters Showed Up


I'm not a big reader of science fiction, but I love it when it's well done. (Michael Crichton comes to mind.) Good sci-fi writers explore interesting social questions while constructing cool plots about things that haven't happened...yet.
My complaint with SF is that all too often the story ends with "and now we must kill the aliens before they kill us." The last few chapters are the all out battle for the survival of our species, with lots of things blowing up and gallons of green blood spilt.
That's not my thing. In the most recent example I read, the story began well, with questions about how time travel would actually work and what the resulting physical and mental problems might be, but it ended up with monsters pouring out of the portal and lots of shooting. We started with questions and ended with an arcade game.

SF isn't the only predictable genre, which is why genre fiction has a bad name with literary folks. Who hasn't started a romance novel and known from the first chapter what was going to happen and who was going to end up living happily ever after together? (Sometimes it's a tossup between two men, but if you go with the less socially acceptable one, you'll probably get it right.)

Mysteries are often predictable too, and after reading them all my life, I really enjoy finding one that escapes the rules a little. An interesting (but not mean) sleuth is great, a unique setting is nice, and if at all possible, a solution that's clever and even obvious...after I read it. Too often these days I know the "who" early on, and I tend to skip chapters to get to the end and find exactly the same thing that happened in the last five books I read: The protag is bloody but alive, the cop that doubted him/her becomes a friend/lover, etc. etc. etc.

Even "literary fiction" novels, those books that are supposed to "transcend genre," are often the same old same old, and lately they seem to come in streaks. I'm tired of books about bookstore owners who are delightfully fey, tired of titles with "Girl," and tired of lead characters with no redeeming qualities who wallow in their own misery for 400 pages and end up exactly where they began.

If you're nodding your head as you read this, I know what's wrong with you. You have read TOO MUCH. YOU NEED TO STOP READING BOOKS. (YOU NEED TO STOP WATCHING TV AND MOVIES TOO.) YOU NEED TO GET A HOBBY, LIKE COLLECTING SPOONS OR WEAVING YOGA MATS OUT OF OLD GROCERY BAGS.

Or you can keep doing what you're doing, looking for the one book in ten that occupies your mind and satisfies your heart. That's what I intend to do!

Mar 14, 2016

All Kinds of Mysteries

http://www.amazon.com/Macdeath-Ivy-Meadows-Mys…/…/B00OQJG9NI
I love reading, and I especially love mysteries.
That doesn't mean all of them, of course.
I don't like the ones that are too silly. I can't stand the amateur who should stay out of the way and let the police investigate. I don't like the best friend who gets the protagonist into trouble with her antics.
I want some sense of reality in the world an author creates.
That's why I like MACDEATH. The main character is real, funny but not silly.

http://www.amazon.com/PLAN-Rory-Tate-Thrillers…/…/B00D68H8PI
I also shy away from thrillers that have over-the-top heroes (unless they have a sense of humor). I don't want anyone tortured, even the bad guys. I don't care to read three full pages of gun description.
That's why I like PLAN X. The hero has things to deal with. The action moves quickly. Nobody gets waterboarded.
http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Days-Evil-N-West-eb…/…/B007PJ5PYU

I don't like mysteries where no one is likable. I recently finished one where everyone in the book screamed insults at each other through the whole thing, and I wondered why I bothered. Yes, I wanted to know who the real killer was, but it wasn't really worth it in the end. Time spent with mean, nasty people never seems like a reward. That's where NINE DAYS TO EVIL is good. You like the main character immediately, and you want her to get her life straightened out. I need someone to cheer for,
or a book is disappointing.
http://www.amazon.com/Shakespeares-Blood-Peg-H…/…/B0053GCTLE

And if you know me, you know I love history. That's why I like (and wrote) SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD. Like the other books, it's set in modern times, but there's a connection to one of my favorite plays, Macbeth. It doesn't hurt to learn a little bit from reading a novel, even if it's alternative history.

How Doth She Bigotry? Let Me Count the Ways

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