I love how the beginning of Sourcery states:
"This book does not contain a map. Please feel free to draw your own."
And about ten Discworld novels later, Pratchett realises that people have actually followed his advice and begun writing letters to him:
"Readers are perceptive. They notice little details. If a journey that takes someone three days in one book takes someone else two hours in another, harsh things get written. Irony is employed." (The Discworld Mapp)
And this is still a far cry from the Discworld maps we have nowadays…
But the funny thing about that is we (as readers/viewers) sometimes miss out on information that might have been interesting. The author didn’t think it was, but fans? Most fans will soak up content like a sponge (see: LotR extended editions, cutscenes, etc). And so we’re likely to ask ridiculous questions like “What is laundry day like at Avengers Tower?” - not because it’s important to the narrative, but because we’re curious.
Not to mention: every narrator is an unreliable narrator. Especially the ones who seem the most straightforward. Which means there are a wealth of stories not being told hiding right behind the story that is.
Which, I think, gives an inkling of the primary difference between original fic and fanfic: original fic is declarative, saying “here is the story, these are the important events and characters and aspects of the world,” while fanfic is exploratory (even when it’s got a cracking good plot).
Fanfic exists in the interstices, in the ellipses and the enjambment. Fanfiction exists in the moment before the wave function collapses.
NOTE: I had incorrectly attributed this quote to the wrong person. Thanks to splashikins for pointing out my error!
Weapons: Helping Descriptions Feel Natural
The biggest challenge when working with description isn’t the act of describing itself. It’s knowing the when or where. Sometimes, describing weapons can get awkward. This happens a lot for me in fiction, especially when an author plunks all the description down in a place where it doesn’t belong. It’s important to remember even when writing Third Person Omniscient that when a character thinks about their weapon or talks about their weapon, they need to do so in a manner which feels natural to how the character thinks and acts.
Think about this, which sounds more natural.
Gerald’s hand shifted back and pulled his Glock 17 9mm off his Sam Browne belt.
Gerald’s hand shifted back and he pulled his sidearm off his Sam Browne belt. His fingers locked easily around the silver grip. It was a Smith & Wesson 5906. No longer standard issue in the LA Department, they’d moved on with the times to other, newer, models. Still, Gerald thought, can’t beat a classic.
The thing about description is you need to find reasons why you’re characters are describing the object to begin with. The Glock 17 is standard issue in most police departments around the country, while the reader might not know that a cop like Gerald certainly would. If his gun isn’t important or special to him in some way, then dropping description of it randomly into a sentence feels out of place. It’s just his sidearm, standard issue, nothing special. Comparatively, in the second example Gerald uses his weapon as a stand in to tell the reader that he’s out of date. It was standard at one point but we’ve moved on with the times, Gerald has a reason to tell us about his gun and we get some character development out of it too.
This transitions into working with a sci-fi or fantasy setting, even if the weapon the character wields is like nothing we’ve ever seen on this earth they still need to treat it like it’s normal (unless it isn’t). There’s a time and a place for extensive navel gazing about what the weapon can do, but if it’s slowing down the scene then chuck it.
Sam swung her XLJ452 lasgun around and pointed it at the dreaded bug monster. She fired, reducing the beast to a smear of chunky, blue salsa.
Let’s change the scene and compare:
“And this one?” Drill Sergeant Martez’s finger dropped, pointing to a long silver cylinder with a bulky handle. The full collection of standard issue lasguns and pistols sat on the wide table.
Sam straightened. “The XLJ452! Marine issue! Fires a beam of light straight down the bug humpers gullet and reduces them to a blue smear.”
“A blue smear?” Martez lifted an eyebrow.
To be honest next to the XIL321 and the XLJ456, the XLJ452 looked a little like an oversized penis. “Chunky salsa?” Sam asked.
“Chunky salsa, Private?”
“Yes, ma’am. Chunky salsa, ma’am!”
The idea is to give your characters a reason to talk about details in your setting and not just drop them in at random. Make them a natural extension of how your character feels, thinks, and talks about their weapons. The explanations need to feel natural and support who your character is supposed to be and what they are supposed to know. If your character works with their weapon often, they may not have a reason to share exactly what it is and the story behind it unless they are pressed. Or they are nerds. Or it’s their job to know.
every time you use the term “mary sue” or “manic pixie dream girl” in a way that blames the character for her shitty narrative an angel loses its wings
and I mean one of the super scary angels with a billion eyes and a fucking lion’s head, not the cute babies with trumpets and drums
the fucking terrifying ones that will eat your souls
stop taking their wings it’s pissing them off
every time you hold women’s work up to lower standards than men’s and female characters to lower standards than male ones i seriously doubt you fucking mud-swallowers on tumblr actually understand feminism
"a woman wrote it" is not a fucking excuse for accepting dogshit levels of fiction, it is an insult to women
1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.
2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)
3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’
4. Never ask a publisher or agent what they are looking for. The best ones, if they are honest, don’t have a fucking clue, because the best books are the ones that seemingly come from nowhere.
5. In five years time the semi-colon is going to be nothing more than a fucking wink.
6. In five years time every fucking person on Twitter will be a writer.
7. Ignore the fucking snobs. Write that space zombie sex opera. Just give it some fucking soul.
8. If it’s not worth fucking reading, it’s not worth fucking writing. If it doesn’t make people laugh or cry or blow their fucking minds then why bother?
9. Don’t be the next Stephen King or the next Zadie Smith or the next Neil Gaiman or the next Jonathan Safran fucking Foer. Be the next fucking you.
10. Stories are fucking easy. PLOT OF EVERY BOOK EVER: Someone is looking for something. COMMERCIAL VERSION: They find it. LITERARY VERSION: They don’t find it. (That’s fucking it.)
11. No-one knows anything. Especially fucking me. Except:
12. Don’t kill off the fucking dog.
13. Oh, yeah, and lastly: write whatever you fucking want. Matt Haig, “Some Fucking Writing Tips” (via alcantrez)
Like most authors of writing advice articles, this guy doesn’t know the first fuck about semicolons; the rest is good.
describing eye colors isn’t actually v helpful as a description??? talk about the makeup smeared on the left side, the lines under their eyes, the sloppily cut hair obscuring their eyes from view, how bloodshot or sunken they seem in the face, how wide they go at the slightest sound, how glassy and unblinking they seem, how they’re always darting away
all of that tells me a bit more about the character than whatever shade of gemstone they most resemble, seriously
Hemingway Takes the Hemingway Test
A new app inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s contained style aims to simplify overly complicated sentences. But would the famously terse writer pass the app’s tests? http://nyr.kr/1bsU3VB
Photograph: Torre Johnson/Magnum