Archive for ‘On Fiction’

September 12, 2011

What the F*** did you Say?

I’d be interested to know what people think about this.

Swearing is a part of colloquial language, whether we think it’s appropriate or not. And whatever is true of spoken language will find some way into dialogue embedded in a narrative. I think that swearing is an important part of language, making the meaning of a threat heavier and causing insult and often shock when used in certain situations. All of this stuff is good for the writer.

The use of swear words can be effective to arrest the attention of the audience. Blue words tend to leap off the page. It can also create a shock, particularly if it is used in a social situation that prohibits “improper” language.

For dialogue, swearing is particular important. If you wish to directly quote obscenities rather than avoiding it with a “He cursed” or “She swore profusely”, you should not water down your dialogue. If it’s a rough, male character, he is more likely to say “bugger off” or “fuck off” than “oh, go away”. Similar he would curse saying “oh shit”, not “dash it” or “fiddlesticks”. Language causing less offence can be equally effective, especially if your characters use it often, such as “damn” and “blast”, which have the connotations of swearing attached rather than slapping you in the face. In contrast to this, gentry at a dinner with ladies would not use anything so blunt as that mentioned above, choosing more of a eupemism.

As with all “rules” of writing, there are ways of using a set “rule” against itself for a certain purpose. An upper class character or dame using excessively rough language is a source of comedy as well as an interesting contrast. I would normally suggest using swearing in narrative sparingly and in dialogue too. An exception to this rule is if you would like a really rough character who uses swearing consistently.

Your audience must always be considered when writing with the intention of using obscene language. Having said that, there was a “children’s” book (really for the parents) called “Go the Fuck to Sleep”, which shows me up quite well in terms of censoring your audience.

Tell me what you think, if you agree with what I said or if you think other things about it. And if you use swearing to a certain degree or try to abstain from it.

Advertisements
September 7, 2011

Just Start Again

I’m not in favour of writing prologues, unless it is more of an introduction and fits on a single page. This is because prologues are boring. They hold up the entry into chapter one, and the real beginning of a story. For me, calling something a prologue is like telling me that it’s optional to read. If it’s worth writing, call it chapter one and start properly.

I try not to write prologues, because they bore me for this reason. I have often found myself writing a prologue for the sake of writing a prologue. Information in the scene before the story (hence pro-logue, the bit before the story happens) can be conveyed in the main bulk of the story.

One of the worst things I find about writing is thinking of a better way to start a book I have already written the beginning for. Beginnings are very important to me for setting the tone, style, progression of a novel. Having to change everything I’ve already written to fit the new beginning is a pain in the arse.

Does anyone here write prologues? Or drop them, like I do?

September 5, 2011

First Liners

I enjoy thinking of first lines for a book. I am guilty of trying to create a book out of a single first liner. I like things like:

“It was an ordinary morning for Lucas. He washed his feet in the loo, brushed his teeth in the shower and pissed in the bath.”

or

“I killed Jon Smith and I have no regrets.”

or (one which I am slightly hesitant to write in a blog and is set in the Second World War, sorry for any offence taken)

“Go back to fucking hell or fucking Germany.”

I always find interesting openings difficult to think up when I’m writing something specific but I come across loads as I’m doing other things and not really thinking.

Anyone else got first liners they have used that they like? Or come across any particular good ones?

September 3, 2011

Umm, who are you?

I tried writing a character once, from a 1st person Point Of View but I realised I didn’t know anything about this guy. I didn’t know how he would speak to the reader. It’s pretty stupid since I invented the man.

Something I tried to overcome this (and have yet to see if it works) was to ask the characters questions in an interview format. I chose questions like: what is your strongest childhood memory? Tell me something about you I didn’t know. How do you introduce yourself? What one thing do you want the world to know about you?

These are what I would call “big” or “life” questions, but some writers ask questions about their characters like what colour shoes they where and what they eat for breakfast. I’d rather ask the character, he knows best.

It might sound stupid since you’re asking the question and answering it but it makes you think what this character is really like and it builds up. If you give an answer and you think “actually he/she wouldn’t say that” then you scrap it.

Anyone ever done this? Does this work for anyone? Do anything else?

I might interview my characters but I’m not crazy. Was kinda awkward writing this in a straitjacket though

September 3, 2011

“Pick a Genre, Any Genre”

If you’re an author then you get asked by people what genre you write, or what sort of things you write. I don’t feel that I write in any set genre, or maybe I’m unaware of it. I’ve written a few different things in different genres and some that I wouldn’t put in a genre at all. I’ve settled on a title for one book (Not Science Fiction) which highlights the genre it should belong to but purposefully excludes it as well.

I think that writing to suit a particular genre is limiting on writing. I prefer to write and see what the genre is once I’ve finished it. Sticking to tightly to the features of a genre stops you writing freely.

There is always the possibility of genre crossing. I am lining up a novella to write in the style of Raymond Chandler, with the features of 30’s/40’s American crime fiction, but set in the context of a Shakespearean play, where there is a murder to be solved and the characters speak in verse (my own, imitating Shakespeare, hopefully) but the narrator speaks in American slang. Genre crossing is effective if you want to parody a certain genre, as it draws attention to the features of that genre by applying them to something not associated with it’s features, such as Raymond Chandler’s private eye, Philip Marlowe, investigating the death of Humptey Dumptey, for example.

I’ve written coming-of-age/young adult sort of thing, science fiction comedy, spy thriller, alternative history, fantasy alternate reality.

If I had to say that I had any favourite genre to write in it would be “people”. I like characters and they make a genre. Write about teens you get coming-of-age. Astronauts you get sci-fi. Characters make a book. A genre is a set of features a writer chooses to repeat or adapt. A character is a new creation which reflects the individuality of the writer, much like plots are re-worked with different characters.

Any preference on genre? Any interesting cross genre ideas/experiments/examples?