Social Pandering

 

In a world of partisan politics, debates about political correctness, and what content should or should not be in a work of fiction, it is difficult to craft stories.  Intent no longer appears to be a concern, nor age of a book when it comes to offending some people.  Years ago, this was a topic I touched on, but it is just as relevant today as it was then, if not more.

If you’ve followed my blog since it’s inception in 2014, you know that I feel it is never a story-teller’s job to pander, or to throw in content for the sake of sales.  We need to be true to the story.  After all, once a story becomes a published work it ceases to be solely ours.  Stories take on a life of their own, throwing in unnecessary political garbage or ideology severely impacts the work.  This is the issue many fans have with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Ideology took front row seating opposed to the story.  Certainly, ideology and beliefs influence stories, but they shouldn’t be jammed in to the plot for the mere purpose of attempting to appear “woke.”

The balance is delicate, but audiences can smell an agenda a mile away, and some who agree with the agenda will still get turned off.  People who indulge in fiction are open to learning things, but most do not wish to be preached at.  Fiction is a place for subtlety, leading the audience to the well of new ideas if you will, not forcing them to take a drink.

There are some, perhaps a minority, but they are a vocal bunch, who get offended when such pandering does not exist.  I cannot help but be reminded of Fahrenheit 451.  If you are not already familiar with the classic tale, books are banned because people found them too offensive.  Is that what we really want?  Perhaps that is a hyperbolic response to the growing sensitivities of western culture.  Bans for books have not been seriously proposed to governments, but there is a growing social condemnation for those who do not partake in pandering and identity politics.

Again, we story tellers are to write the stories that need to be told as they are.  Not only is this an issue with present works, classical books and films are also under fire. Yes, I will concede some are distasteful, and not all cultural norms of the past are good, but we must take care not to swing the pendulum the opposite direction, lest censorship becomes a reality.

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In Defense of Fantasy

Fantasy is a genre that has long and deep roots but is mostly attributed to Tolkien.  There is a good reason for that, he modernized the genre and largely became the father of High Fantasy.

All subsequent books in the genre have been compared to Tolkien’s works.  Most authors who write Fantasy can attribute Tolkien to be their main source of inspiration too.  However, a common critique is that all or most Fantasy since Tolkien is just a copying him.  I would be ignorant to say that isn’t the case some times.  That is one of my main criticisms of “The Sword of Shannarah” which is all too similar to both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.  However, that isn’t the case with the rest of the book series, which does a fine job finding its own voice.

In my experience LOTR knock-offs tend to start that way, but certainly don’t linger in there.  There are certain tropes people have come to expect from Fantasy and deviating too far from them in the name of originality will only exclude your audience as an author.  Yes, I think originality should be strived for, but what I’m saying is that within the confines of a genre there are expectations. People claim they want originality when indeed they want familiarity too.  That familiarity can but is not always a direct copy of the original inspiration.

For me, saying that most Fantasy books are simply copying Tolkien’s superior books is like saying Star Wars and Star Trek are the same. On the outside they look similar, especially to one who isn’t familiar with either franchise, but they are far from the same.  They have different philosophies driving them, different plots, tones, and intentions.  Most Fantasy series are like that.  It doesn’t take much of a dive into their respective worlds to see where they shine and what sets them apart from Tolkien.

But what do you think? Is modern Fantasy too similar to Tolkien or is that an unfair criticism?

Forests: The Realms of Inspiration

Forests have captivated the imagination since the dawn of humanity.  On one hand it seems rather strange, after all a forest is merely a large grouping of trees.  Sure, there are animals, vines, smaller plants, and sometimes bugs that will send most people screaming.  Yet there is something more than mere trees and animals when we see a forest.  Yes, those things are marvelous too, but I don’t believe that’s all that we find awe-inspiring about forests.

The woods provoke primal fears in some of us, we just never know what may be lurking in side.  They represent a world before towns, cities, and roads littered the world.  The way the sunlight streams through the canopy onto the ground (if the light even makes it that far) is something that’s beautiful beyond words.  The denser the forest, the more mystery there is within.  To add to this, there are also many sightings of unknown entities or beings near or within forests.  Stories of the paranormal are abundant within woodlands.  Myths and legends also surround old or ancient woods, conjuring tales of heroes of old.

These are just some of the reasons why forests are so inspirational.  There is an atmosphere within them, that I believe most humans long to experience.  Perhaps deep inside we too hope to encounter something unknown within.

What do you think?  Why are forests so fascinating to people?

Monsters!

*This is a repost from 2015

A creature advances towards his prey, his sharp, black claws dripping with poison.  The man and woman stare up, wide-eyed, as it advances upon them, knowing there is no way out. Their fate is sealed.

Such a scene invokes the imagination, and the human imagination is where fantasy thrives.  One of the greatest things about fantasy is that literally anything is possible within the established parameters of the world presented.  Most often, fantasy has beings such as elves, dwarves, and dragons, and there can be a plethora of varieties within each race.  Even with things that do exist, fantasy has a way of changing and stretching them to fit into any world.  Sometimes, the wide variety of peoples, races, and creatures that can be explored is overwhelming.  How does a writer incorporate something as common as werewolves, ghosts, or vampires in a unique way?  Do they even need to be unique to be effective?  Sometimes good, old-fashioned, classical creatures are what a story needs.  In Goandria, I try to be as unique as possible, but at the same time I like familiarity.

For example, in the upcoming novel series, the main foot soldiers are a dirty and ugly people, but I have grown weary of orcs being the staple for servants of a dark lord.  The soldiers I refer to from Goandria are called thworfs, and they were originally inspired by orcs and other similar creatures, but as time went by, I tried to make them their own race.  Orcs in fantasy are typically featured as belligerent and ugly, only capable of getting along on the battlefield.  The thworfs may be unattractive by human standards, but other than that, I tried to abandon other similarities.  I wanted to explore a race that was coerced but that was also not entirely what they seem to be.

On the other hand, I choose not to tamper too much with dragons.  Dragons are perhaps the staple of fantasy.  Nearly every form of the genre has its own take on the famous lizard breed.  Personally, I like the animalistic dragons that are all about power and terror.  There are just some elements of fantasy that do not need a whole lot of tinkering to be effective.  Ultimately, uniqueness is difficult to find, and I believe presenting creatures that are believable within the framework of the world is most important.  There are occasions in which a typical werewolf is what a story needs.  The challenge for the writer is to find what that need is.  More often than not, uniqueness is good, and that is generally my goal with Goandria.

On Low Word Count Days

Writing every day is the schtick for a writer.  I mean it is all there in the name after all.  If you call yourself a writer and write two or three times a year or when you feel like it, is that label accurate?  Writing isn’t easy.  Some people can crank out two thousand words or more every day, and that’s great for them, but I certainly am not.

Sometimes I need to think, ponder, and carefully plan my plotlines before moving forward.   I write still, but sometimes it is better to take care where the story is than focus only on word count.  As with everything in life, small steps in writing are better than standing still.

Crafting a plot without holes while driving character development is more than a little challenging.  In early drafts of my books, characters occasionally will inexplicably disappear from the scene. (This is why there is the editing and revision processes.)

Those days where I crank out large amounts of words sometimes come at a cost.  Near the end of my writing sessions there is occasionally a dip in quality and typically that needs to be cut out of the final product anyway.   Worse, I could create glaring plot holes that requires me to extensively fix the entire manuscript.  For me that means I should have quit writing much sooner and did more planning.

There will be days when the word count isn’t very high for most writers.  That’s okay.  This is a process.  In most jobs there are productive days and less productive days.  Some days are spent in meetings while projects being discussed are put on hold.

How do you feel about it?  Do you think it’s okay to write only a little bit once in a while?  Does it make you feel guilty or lazy?

Character Morality

There is an idea that if someone consumes garbage in the form of entertainment then garbage is what will come out of that person’s life.  That can certainly be true.  I’ve come across books and movies and wonder “Who would make this stuff?” or “How could this possibly be entertaining?”  The thing is that the line is different for everyone, and if we authors want our characters to be believable and relatable they must have flaws, even deep flaws in which they may do depraved things.

There is a difference between showing a character’s violent depravity for the sake of plot verses torture porn for example.  The shows I watch and the books I read does not mean I am endorsing certain character’s behaviors.  That would be insane, for if that was the case no one would be able to indulge in any form of entertainment whether it is fiction or nonfiction.   Yet there are some that approach books this way, which makes it difficult.  How can an author create characters that are real if they don’t do bad things?  On the other hand sometimes writers have used this justification to insert unnecessary content.

The line needs to be determined by the individual, but when that occurs hurtful accusations are then sometimes thrown at authors who intend to create a beautiful story instead of gratuitous content.  Ultimately whether a character action has meaning or its gratuitous depends on the writer’s intent, heart, and handling of the matter.  In a world where shock and awe are becoming the norm in entertainment, it is becoming more difficult to discern this.  It would appear shock and awe is what audiences are demanding now and creators simply give what the people want.  That isn’t right either.  Being a crafter of fiction should be about telling a story with meaning.  Throwing in sex and violence just because we can cheapens what we do, and those who cry and say that stuff is garbage have a right to do so.  On the other hand if that isn’t the case and people still complain and call our stuff garbage because characters are humans who do less than savory things than they have unrealistic standards.  No one cares about characters who are squeaky-clean and sinless.  They are boring because we cannot relate to them.

A balance for the reader must be struck and it is the writer’s job to examine the point of every scene he or she tells in the tale that’s being crafted.

Quick Reminder

Crystal Moon” is still free for only a couple more days on Amazon.  Take a look and judge if it is something you might be interested in.

Here is a the book’s blurb:

Gerald’s life suddenly changed, leaving him moody, hungry and scared. He lives in terror due to his own wife! For reasons Gerald cannot fathom, she has become a witch bent on hexing him. While attempting to survive his wife’s curse and its side effects, he discovers a new friend and a town that feels like it was made just for him. As Gerald’s plight grows worse, he begins to document his experiences, but little does he know, his wife has been keeping a record as well, and not all is as it seems.

Exploring the Unknown

Have you ever wondered if we don’t have as much figured out as we thought?  Humanity tends to crave mystery while at the same time being very arrogant in its positions.  If there are any doubts about the tinted glasses people see the world through, just spend a few minutes on social media.

In the era of scientific advancements, many things that were ascribed to superstitious causes now have explanations, often rather simple ones.  Every day sights and sounds are misidentified and thought to represent something more than they really are.

If someone claims to have an NDE, it is brushed away as merely a chemical hallucination.  Did you have a terrible waking dream? That’s sleep paralysis.  Have you seen a ghost?  There are many answers, it could be pareidolia, sleep deprivation, paranoia, or even insanity.  What about those cases which something strange and inexplicable happened to someone and simple answers fall short?  Skeptics will always be there to have an answer.  I get it, superstition is bad, it drives people to place blame on things that have no part in the mysteries of the world.

I’m someone of faith, but I also adhere to mainstream scientific findings.  It is sometimes a frustrating position to hold due to both the irreligious and faithful saying I cannot believe X while believing Z.  That my friends is called a false dilemma, and it was this false dichotomy that nearly broke me years ago, but I digress.  By seeing things through both the lenses of science and faith I believe I inadvertently created a more open mind to both skepticism and the unknown/supernatural.  Not all anecdotal stories of mysterious encounters should be believed, however throwing them out entirely is simple thinking as well.  The easiest way to coast through life is to believe everything or nothing.  For me, the fact that there are several consistencies in some of these stories give me pause and wonder if there might indeed be something more to them.

As someone who has had strange encounters myself, it is easy to feel alone and isolated.  You feel like you cannot talk with other people and that people will think you are delusional or insane but keeping it inside is sometimes too much.  Am I saying change your beliefs? Not necessarily. What I am saying is that sometimes there are no easy clear-cut answers and despite advancements in knowledge we should take care not to grow arrogant.

Free Book Time!

For a limited time only “Crystal Moon” will be free on Amazon starting today.

So what’s this book about?  Well I’m glad you asked hypothetical person. Here is the book’s blurb:

Gerald’s life suddenly changed, leaving him moody, hungry and scared. He lives in terror due to his own wife! For reasons Gerald cannot fathom, she has become a witch bent on hexing him. While attempting to survive his wife’s curse and its side effects, he discovers a new friend and a town that feels like it was made just for him. As Gerald’s plight grows worse, he begins to document his experiences, but little does he know, his wife has been keeping a record as well, and not all is as it seems.

What is the genre of the book? Urban Fantasy with some thriller elements and a little dark comedy.

If you are a fellow author/blogger I’m willing to do a review swap.  Of course I expect honesty and that is the only way I roll when I give reviews too.

 

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