April 28, 2010

Late last month, a couple of bloggers were discussing the use of the F-Bomb, and other cuss words in books, so I thought I share my views here.

In my opinion, swearing in novels is becoming more and more frequent in newer novels. When I first started reading ‘adult novels’ they didn’t contain any swearing in them at all. Now days, I read novels, and find the F-Bomb everywhere. The words are tossed around, thrown into any old sentence. Some authors use it so much, it loses its emphasise.

What I hate however, is swearing in writing other than dialogue. For me, dialogue is alright to swear in, because, well, most of the human population swears. So naturally, your characters will swear. However, some authors use swearing in descriptions of things. For example, the truck was f***ing massive. In my opinion, the cuss word is unnecessary, and looks like the author is trying to be tough. The truck was massive would be suffice. (Of course, if the narrative was written in first person, then the F-Bomb would be alright, as it’s the character saying the sentence).

What are your thoughts?


Henchmen Motivation

April 25, 2010

One thing I’ve been wondering about the past couple of weeks is Henchmen. The expendable thugs that do the bidding of the villain. In particular, I’ve been wondering where they come from, and why they are so loyal. In other words, their motivation.

(Henchmen can be stereotyped as being dim-witted idiots. For this post however, I’ll be referring to smart henchmen.)

My WIP has several thugs. When I first planned my novel, one of the problems I faced was their motivation. Why are they sticking around when things go bad? Why are they sticking around when their boss, the antagonist, is trying to wipe out humanity/the world? Because, to me, the average man who works as a security guard for the villain never seemed realistic to me. I would think that the average man would quit soon after all his security guard mates started getting killed.

So, in the end, I chose mercenaries as the henchmen. The motivation was obvious – they were for hire, willing to do whatever their employer wanted. They knew the risks that accompanied their occupations.

I soon realised that the mercenaries could only be a temporary thing. I couldn’t have mercenaries as thugs in every novel. So, what kind of henchmen could you have?

As I said before, their motivation is  clear as day. They’re doing whatever their employer wants, because they’re in it for the money. But as soon as their boss is killed/jailed, they’re out of there.

Gangs/Mafia/Chinese triads are all fiercely loyal to their leader. No doubt, they’ve killed before. Perhaps the antagonist is their leader or Mafia boss. Or perhaps the villain has befriended one.

What other variation of henchmen are there? What type do you use?

Introducing: The Bookshelf

April 21, 2010

If you visited my blog within the last day or so, you may have noticed a new page at the top of my blog.

The Bookshelf is a new page which houses all of my writing. At the moment, I only have a few stories on the shelf, but will be adding more over the next few weeks. Most are short stories I wrote for school assignments, but a couple I wrote without prompting from teachers. When complete, I also hope to have a few sample chapters from my WIP, and my first novella An Inside Job posted up there.

Go on. Take a look!

A New Goal

April 17, 2010

Over my Easter holidays, I addressed a word count issue regarding my WIP. The WIP was estimated to be 105K, which is waaay too long. (Why I didn’t fix this problem a long time ago, I don’t know.)

So, I’ve trimmed down the plot, taking out everything that isn’t needed, and pulled the word count down to about 80K. Much better for a first novel. That cut in words should have brought the expected due date for my to complete the writing forward by a long time (previously September). But by slimming down the plot, I had to cut the latest chapters out. Chapters I just wrote. Which means that anything I wrote after mid February has to be scrapped. Not good.

Now I’ve estimated my novel should be complete by 30 June (using the assumption that I’ll be writing 250 words every day).

Wish me luck!

Why We Write, by Graham Storrs

April 12, 2010

There is much written online, in ebooks, and in print about how to write fiction. What I’d really like to know is why people write it. One thing I’m sure about is that writers are not driven by the need for publication – not many of us anyway. As a one-time psychologist, I’m pretty sure there is no innate human drive to see your work in print, and I can’t actually see the evolutionary advantage in such a drive. It certainly won’t put food on the plate. Authors’ earnings are pathetically small. Even a ‘successful’ author (one whose books hit the NY Times best seller list) is liable to be earning about as much as a high school teacher. And the number of authors who are that successful is very small.

Personally, I do it because writing fiction is very much like reading it – only way, way better. It’s like having the book you’ve always wanted to read unfolding in your head. And, if the story starts to get a bit dull, you can spice it up any way you like. If the character you introduced in chapter five is getting a bit tedious, you can toss him out the airlock in chapter nine. If you like aliens, drop a ship full of them into the field next door. If you don’t want the broad-shouldered hunk to get the girl, give her a quirky preference for the scrawny intellectual type. Writing fiction is truly just the very best way to entertain yourself ever invented.

This has to be the main reason so many people do it. Making up stories is fun – even if your execution of them is terrible. As it happens, my writing is OK – good enough to get me published anyhow. But I know I’d keep writing even if I was completely incapable of putting two coherent sentences in a row.

How do I know? Because I write music too and (it seems) I’m truly awful at that. Even my own wife can’t bear to hear it. No-one, even out of pity, has ever said they like it. So many people don’t like it that I really have to accept the fact that it really can’t be any good. Yet I keep doing it because I love doing it and I love listening to what I do. (I was thinking of pointing you to a sample or two, but I think I’ll spare you.)

I’ve often thought about trying to publish my music. If I had tried, I expect I’d have got lots of rejections and the poor people I’d inflicted it on would yield that same cry of disbelief that agents and editors do when they pull truly awful writing out of their slush piles, “How could anyone who writes this badly ever believe they have a chance of being published?” Well, my musical tin ear must have its writing equivalent because, if it hadn’t been for all the objective evidence to the contrary, I could have gone to my grave thinking I was a pretty cool songwriter.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a great little prayer, which I’d like to bastardise if I may.

Grant me the Serenity to accept there are things I cannot do well, the Courage not to focus only on the things I’m good at, at the expense of what I enjoy, and the Wisdom to know that other people can tell the difference.

People get too hung up on publication. Yes, it’s good to have the validation, and it’s great to have loads of people you’ve never met reading your stuff. And there is a kind of magic aura that surrounds you once it has happened (although my therapist told me I shouldn’t mention that.) But the real pleasure in writing is creating the story, its world, and its people. To have a mind that can do that is what is really special about being a writer, whether anybody else likes your work or not.

Before I go, I’d just like to say a big thank you to Scribs for hosting this stop on my blog tour. If you haven’t been here before, I suggest you stay a while and look around. There is much sage advice here.

The TimeSplash Blog Tour
Graham Storrs is the author of TimeSplash, a fast-paced time travel thriller. This post is part of the TimeSplash blog tour running from 16th February to the 5th May. To find out more about the book, go to the TimeSplash website and check out the blog tour schedule page at TimeSplash  – The Blog Tour 2010.