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March 18th, 2005

07:53 pm: Rant on authorial nitpicking, part two
Continued from the post yesterday. More things that I think authors need to watch out for.

Go look at the caveats on yesterday’s rant if you haven’t read it yet, because this is more of the same )

…That was one long-ass rant.

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March 17th, 2005

11:32 pm: Rant on authorial nitpicking
Before I start this rant, three caveats:

-I’m writing this as a critical reader, copyeditor at an e-zine, and freshman English teacher, which means I’m writing it as someone who’s thinking of an awful lot of mistakes, both major and minor, that crop up in published fiction, in hopes-to-be-published amateur fiction, and in short stories written by students who’ve told me they hope to be authors someday.

-An author may well have an explanation for something that looks like a mistake to a reader. But if the explanation doesn’t show up in the book, or the following book, or somewhere in the author’s work, the reader has every right to go on thinking it’s a mistake.

-I do think every author should develop as many self-critical and self-editorial faculties as possible, because no one knows your work like you do. Some things will be impossible to judge, others will escape your eye no matter how critical it is, but if your response to every mistake or nitpick is “But!”, you will not like this rant and should not read it.

Enough caveats, I think )

…This will have to be a two-part rant. No way I can fit everything in here right away.

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March 16th, 2005

08:17 pm: Rant on interesting villains
This is different from other rants I’ve done before, which mainly concentrated on avoiding clichés like Dark Lord fortresses, stupid villains who blab everything right before the hero kills them, and so on. This is on actually improving villains and making them interesting (at least, I hope so).

Villains are people too )

Next rant is on nitpicking, from the looks of the poll.

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March 14th, 2005

09:06 pm: Fortune-telling rant
For when you just want to toss those crystal balls down the stairs and watch them shatter into their component parts.

Fortune-telling, a.k.a stronghold of plot-cheating and a lot of clichés )

Next poll will be up in a little while.

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March 13th, 2005

08:15 pm: Transformative fantasy rant
This rant is very similar to one I did a little while ago, things Limyaael thinks would be really cool. Transformative fantasy isn’t a defined genre of fantasy as such. It’s one I’m defining. The books I like best tend to have at least one of these qualities, and the more they have, the better I like them. Summed up, they tend to add up to:

Change is Lord, and God )

Damn, that was fun. Transformative fantasy is what keeps me reading the fantasy genre, even when it seems overrun with clichés. The ones I find affect me like no other books ever have, and maybe like no other books ever will.

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March 12th, 2005

03:55 pm: Earning hell
A while ago, I did a rant on putting characters through hell. While I’m a big fan of that, I’m also a big fan of not getting melodramatic, and making it seem as though the hellish events actually fit into the story. So…

Fitting them into the story )

I will never understand authors who go to all this trouble to build up hell and then shy from it when the moment approaches. I can understand the impulse to do so. I can't understand actually abandoning the track that you've willingly followed.

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March 9th, 2005

09:28 pm: 'Balancing cynicism' rant
This is not, specifically, against cynicism in fantasy novels. I love cynicism in fantasy novels, provided that the character is expressing it in such a way that it fits the story, and not just because the author thinks it’s Cool. However, as the dominant tone of a story, it can become just as nauseating as a fantasy where the dominant tone is praise of the loose cannon who has no idea what ‘diplomacy’ means hero.

So here are ways to balance that )

Next is (I think) the ‘earning extreme situations’ rant. That shall make a nice companion to the ‘putting characters through hell’ rant.

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March 6th, 2005

03:58 pm: Interpersonal speaking styles rant
Basically, dialogue. But [info]world_wanderer suggested the wording of this (I think), so I wanted to leave that intact.

Why there are few things more worrying to me than a long fantasy conversation )

I’ve said other things before about dialogue, but they’re mainly scattered in other places on my journal, and I was trying not to repeat myself. I’ll link those rants later.

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March 5th, 2005

04:56 pm: Handling Byzantine plots
I’m really going to try to keep myself from ranting about just political fantasy here, because gods know it’s not just political fantasies that can lose their plots.

If you walk Byzantium, know the streets )

Will answer comments on the psychic powers rant later; need to go somewhere right now.

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March 3rd, 2005

09:54 pm: Psychic powers rant
I would call this the “mental powers rant,” except that that would probably bring up issues of character intelligence, and then we would be here all night. So, just to make it clear: I’m dealing with things like telepathy, telekinesis, communing with the dead, and all the rest of the froo-froo that Gets Capitalized, gets unlimited power, takes over the story, and kills characterization.

These could actually be quite good ideas, if, if, if… )

People really should work these out more carefully, or they’re the ultimate Plot Devices.

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March 2nd, 2005

10:27 pm: Rant on non-journey stories
This is the rant on non-journey stories. Like the rant on non-war plots, it’ll cover things that I have seen done, and done well, in fantasies. Too often, though, authors adopt unquestioned the need for a journey, even if that kind of plot isn’t the one that plays to their greatest strengths.

And then there’s the idea that remaining in one place couldn’t possibly be interesting )

Really, what is it about journey stories? When I start plotting, the first thing that springs into mind is “Point A to Point B.” It’s taken training to make myself start thinking, instead, “But do they really need to go anywhere?”

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March 1st, 2005

09:29 pm: Making a story a true stand-alone
This is the rant on making a stand-alone novel. And this one has a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay in it, since, unusually for a fantasy author, nearly half his books are stand-alones.

Standing in a single book )

Because Kay is my favorite fantasy author and I am shocked and appalled that he’s not better known, here’s the main URL of his site. And the reading passage that serves as a sample of Tigana (no major spoilers). And the reading passage from The Lions of Al-Rassan (brief spoiler about a minor character).

/end plug moment.

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February 28th, 2005

04:50 pm: Gaining reader empathy rant
And off we go on this one. Once again, I think I should define the term in the title of the rant as I’m using it: reader empathy, here, is the ability to tie the readers to your characters and make them feel for those characters. That isn’t the same as sympathy, which involves an element of wanting the characters to succeed. That’s because reader empathy can be for villains as well as for protagonists, minor characters as well as major. They may dislike the villains, hate them, or be fascinated by them. It doesn’t matter. Indifference and apathy are the enemies, not emotion. If you can make the readers engage emotionally with the characters, you’ve won.

Some ideas for doing that )

I think the rant on writing purely stand-alone stories is next, unless the poll makes a liar of me.

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February 27th, 2005

10:45 am: Rant on putting your characters through absolute hell
Well, this one was the winner by the most votes I’ve ever seen in a poll, so up it goes.

Real, deep-down, grinding HELL )

Not sure what the next rant will be, yet, as the poll seems quite varied.

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February 26th, 2005

05:09 pm: Non-linear narrative rant
This has a lot of Steven Brust in it, because a) I’m currently going through a Brust re-reading phase and b) he’s one of the few fantasy authors I know who’s done more than one non-linear fantasy. He’s certainly the only one I know of who’s done more than five of them.

Not that there aren’t other ways to do them )

And that’s the end of that set of rants. The next poll should be up in a little while.

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February 24th, 2005

12:15 am: Rant on adult characters
Also been looking forward to this one, since I tend to prefer fantasy books that have adult protagonists nowadays.

It’s really not harder to write adults—people just write teenagers more often )

Non-linear format rant is next.

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February 21st, 2005

09:34 pm: Ways of maintaining a really, really long novel
I want to make it clear what, approximately, I’m dealing with here. I keep reading that 90,000 to 120,000 words is the prime salable length for a fantasy novel (marketed for adults, at least). There are certainly books published that are longer, but a lot of novels do fall in that arena. Past 150,000 words or so, though, I think quality can and will fall off significantly unless the author is committed to keeping the novel alive in ways that differ from the writing techniques of a shorter story. (And I say this both as a writer who’s written several of them, and a reader who likes really long books).

So here we go… )

This is one of those rants where I break my own rules quite a lot of the time, ‘cause I don’t outline; I just fling a bunch of plot elements into the air and let them take me where they will. But then, I’m always twisting in the wind about halfway through, and relying on some sudden clicking epiphany from the story to bring everything together. This is probably Bad, and has resulted in whole novels not turning out the way I want them to. Then I go off and do it again.

So, no. Probably not the way to go. Unless you want to, of course.

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February 19th, 2005

10:55 am: Beginnings rant
And so, to begin the beginnings rant.

There are a lot of stupid things that people believe about this )

This is one of my favorite things to bitch about, given the amount of people I’ve met who insist that the beginning isn’t important. Yes, it so fucking is. How can the first thing your reader sees not be important?

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February 17th, 2005

09:02 pm: Rant on fleshing out secondary and tertiary characters
Warning: This one gets rather long )

I am quite pleased with myself at the moment.

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February 15th, 2005

02:58 pm: Transition rant
This is transitions everywhere I can think of them: between scenes, chapters, books, and so on.

You always have to come back to the story sooner or later )

I’ll answer comments later, as it’s off to class with me now.

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