Showing posts from 2022

Why Nothing Your Write is Perfect--And That's Okay

When I was first trying to capture my ideas in stories, I was always stymmied by my own clumsy words, which never sufficed to capture the story in the least. The truth is that my writing ability, my grammar and sentence structure, my knowledge of technical issues like how many words to put in a scene, how to describe setting, how to convey dialog, how to outline a novel and keep at it, until the draft was complete... yes, all that was lacking.  I carried on, which turned out to be the right thing to do. First of all, you can't learn any of the technical bits of writing without writing . But second of all, and most importantly, I learned that I will never capture that perfect novel, that perfect expression of character, that faceted jewel made of words through which the perfect idea shines, because it is as elusive as heaven. It is a dream of perfection, but books are like people, they are imperfect but beloved anyway, because they are real. They can point to something, even if they

Writing: Three Tricks for Writing Villains

Christine McConnell Villains are tough for me to write. Here's three tricks that I use to grapple with them. 1. Nature as a villain, a villain by nature I harbor a secret wish to redeem everyone, even the worst villains. In a story where I control all the parameters, it's easy to give in to this temptation.  Yet an antagonistic force is necessary for a good story. Few books can pull off using the environment alone (Person v Nature) as the antagonistic force. It's not impossible; one fantastic book to do this recently was The Martian. The enemy in that book was Mars itself: life versus death. Simple, stark and utterly believable. When you pit one man against an entire planet, any extra villains would have only detracted from the majesty and terror of the real enemy, surviving on a planet completely alien to the one where our species evolved, a planet alien to life itself. Some villains, for instance, an animal, an alien or a demonic force, could be evil simply by nature. 2.

10 Ways to Tell If You Suffer from Selective Liminal Object Beholding Syndrome

I've been diagnosed (informally, by anyone who has visited my domicile) as suffering from Selective Liminal Object Beholding, a mild but annoying brain disfunction. It's not life-threatening, but it impacts my quality of life and the lives of those who live with me. It may be contagious, but only after long exposure. It may also have a genetic component. Those who suffer from Selective Liminal Object Beholding may very well be on the same spectrum--the opposite end--as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Whereas those with OCD suffer from the overactive need to straighten things up and put things in order, often despite no objective problem in the environment, those who suffer from SLOB are able to walk through a messy house, completely oblivious of and indifferent to the sink full of dirty dishes, the oven that was left on, the unmopped corner of the floor, the fact that the cabinet door is slightly ajar, the piles of dirty clothing strewn over furniture, the wet towel hanging over

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Excerpt: The Demon & the Dryad

Naya could walk quickly when she needed to. She could not actually fly, but she could flow as fast as a river over the land, seeking out all the low spots, working with the terrain rather than against it. Her light, skipping steps quickly brought her to the spot in the river that her tree had requested. To her amazement, just as she arrived, she saw a huge pick-up truck, the kind that many of her workers used to haul wood and rocks, careen down the hill, headed toward the river. Naya realized it was going to splash into the river and possibly drown whoever was inside. She could see there was an occupant, although he appeared to be passed out. Normally, the shield around her forest kept out intruders, whether mundane or arcane. How had he smuggled his truck in here? Her spell particularly kept out any heavy machinery or vehicles because she didn’t like them driving around her forest, scarring the trees and crushing the shrubs. Either a powerful counterspell had brought him here—or for

Writing: Balancing Personal Interests with Market Appeal

  There are certain issues writers always struggle with.  When do I show versus tell? Am I using too much passive voice? Should I write to please the market or to please myself? It's always a struggle to find that balance between "write what appeals to a large audience" vs "write what appeals to me even if I'm the only one who gets a kick out of it."  I don't write anything I don't have some interest in, but since I want to earn a living... or at least enough money to support my crippling book addiction... I need to sell books that people want to read. And, to be honest, I want to write books that please a large number of readers. I write partly for the joy of knowing that I've shared a story that touched another soul, whether to entertain with a light, sprightly tale or with a deeper, more complex epic. I love it when readers write to me and tell me, to paraphrase one letter I particularly cherish: "Something in your book helped me deal wit

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Writing: Don't Kill Your Story Tension With These Three Elements

The most important factor in a story that keeps readers reading is putting a good character in peril.  The danger doesn't have to be physical. It could be emotional, financial, social, spiritual...  but there has to be tension in the story. The reader thinks that they want the tension relieved, but actually, if the tension drops off, the reader grows bored.  Yet sometimes, the writer, in a fit of misplaced pity for the character, forgets this cardinal rule, and tries to relieve tension for the character (reader), inadvertently killing the story tension.  I've seen this done in a couple of ways. I'll list just three of them here, for now, and then suggest some remedies. Problem: The All-Awesome Main Character (a "Mary Sue" or "Marty Stew" This is the worst. If you have a character who's simply a stand-in for the fantasies of the author, to the point that this character never does wrong, is liked by everyone, wins every fight, develops new skills witho

Does Reading Make You Stupider?

Today I read an article, "How To Think For Yourself, " by David Bather Woods, that discussed the belief of some philosophers that reading could make you stupider. (There are of course several layers of irony involved in such a proposition.) But this is an alternative to the view I suggested in my discussion about Sensitivity Readers, in which I suggested that reading creates bridge between minds, expanding our mental horizons rather than shortening them.  Still, let's see what the argument is, and see if it has any nugget of truth. Schopenhauer was very clear: ‘Reading is a mere surrogate for one’s own thinking’ and, for this reason, ‘erudition makes most people even more stupid and simple than they already are by nature’....Reading, he thinks, inserts ‘foreign and heterogeneous’ thoughts into our own, which never truly belong to us. Characteristically, Schopenhauer draws on a range of images to illustrate this point: reading is like ‘the seal to the wax on which it press

Sensitivity Readers - Are they a good idea?

This is the first I've heard of this as such a codified process. On Operation Awesome's blog , not too long ago, someone asked about "sensitivity readers." I'd never heard of them before. This was the answer: I know there is a lot of fear out there, particularly in kid lit, about sensitivity reads and cancel culture and how the "woke" love to pile on books, sometimes even before they are published for their perceived mis-representation of certain groups.  Is it any wonder that publishers, who hold the financial risk in this situation, are taking steps to mitigate that risk? A sensitivity reader is basically someone from a community represented in your story who isn't there to cancel you, but to ensure that the representation of that character is authentic.  For example, if you have a Taiwanese character in your story, your publisher may get a Taiwanese reader to do a sensitivity read to make sure the culture is represented in a realistic way. Obvious

The Tiktok Trend Urging Readers to Return Books

First of all, most Tiktok advice is pure trash; always take it with a grain of salt. Second, use the Golden Rule. Never do to someone else what you wouldn't want them to do to you. Is that so hard to figure out? Operation Awesome has another writer hit by the vile Tiktok inspired trend of returning author's books after reading them. What kind of person does this? Honestly, I know the economy is hitting people hard, but if you are a reader of mine and can't afford my books, email me (tara at taramayastales dot com) and simply ask for a free copy. I'll send it to you. But don't pretend to buy them, read them and then return them. That's creepy. (This is isn't happening to me right now, but it's the principle.) So, I admit, I was skeptical about this when I first heard about it, but the more I've heard, the more I understand why this is a problem. It seems to be a combination of two factors: one, scum on Tiktok urging people to take advantage of author

How Rings of Power Could Fall like Numenor

I want to to like Rings of Power. I would love to love it. But I'm extremely skeptical.  Let me be clear... when I first heard that Peter Jackson was making movies about the Lord of the Rings, I was quite skeptical as well. Even then, I didn't trust Hollywood to do those books justice. I expected something half-assed, remotely related and ultimately rather hokey.  Instead, I was blown away by the movies.  This wasn't because the movies showed the books exactly as I imagined them. Frodo, for instance, was much more heroic and attractive than I had envisioned him... and, oh, my gosh, so much better. I loved that the love story of Aragon and Arwen was woven right into the story instead of stuffed into some appendix. Faramir, my favorite character from the book, was treated fairly, and everything else was beautifully brought to life as grandly or more grandly than I had imagined. Unlike some people who thought the Hobbit prequels were a let down, I enjoyed those very much. Agai

Five Problems with Kindle Unlimited

I dislike five features of KU.  1) The worst feature, above all: KU is exclusive, even though it isn't even available globally. The advantage to Amazon is obvious. They keep readers in their own pool, chained off from rival sources of books.  But what is the advantage to writers? The writer surrenders power to the big shark for the right to swim in the same pool as the captive readers. And some writers find this lucrative, I don't deny it. Since for most writers making money is important, I sympathize, but to me this is only one step away from selling your rights to a big publisher. You sacrifice long term gain for short term gain--which is short-sighted. Also, I hate how unfair it is to readers who can't even read your books. I would have to literally deny books to some of my international fans--how sad. I've had fans of The Unfinished Song write to me from all over the world. It means so much to me to know that anyone can access my books.  2.) Two, Amazon decides how

Movie Review: Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed

Warning: Spoilers In contrast to Green Snake, a movie with fantastic special effects but a terrible theme and vile heroine, today, I'd like to review a WWII war movie that didn't look as if it had much of a budget.  At times the dialogue was clunky, at times the pacing slow, and the special effects were certainly nothing special.  There have been plenty of WWII movies, so what made this one stand out? First of all, this was apparently one of three movies made called Saints and Soldiers. I happened to catch the second one, having not seen the first. This one was Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed. The movie revolves around three men. Some movie time  was spent focused on the backstory of a soldier who had a calling to become a pastor. In fact, his mentor tries to talk him out of entering the one, telling him that his calling to serve God is more important than fighting. The would-be pastor rejects this, deciding that at the moment that the most important thing for him to do is

Movie Review: Green Snake

Warning: Spoilers I’d like to contrast two movies I saw recently to illustrate the role of theme And elevating or dragging down entire story. I enjoyed both movies for different reasons and in different ways, but one was dragged down by a terrible theme, where is the other was elevated beyond its low budget and mediocre cinematography to a thoughtful piece by its theme. The first movie is Green Snake. The special effects in this movie were fantastic, But even more fantastic was how the world building came to life through the special effects. Essentially this movie which was about a green snake shifter and her white snake shifter sister, set in a world which was an eclectic and exciting mix of the traditional Buddhist concept of the six different worlds, reached through reincarnation, and modern urban dystopia, reached through an Isekai style transportation of an adult character. At the beginning of the movie, the two snake sisters are attacking a monk defending a beautiful palace.