|Posted on March 1, 2012 at 8:25 AM||comments (0)|
I'm riffing on this topic over at the blog of author/criminologist Jennifer Chase. Click here to check it out. You'll enjoy it.
|Posted on January 19, 2012 at 6:30 AM||comments (4)|
I'm honored to host to a guest post today from McDroll, the pseudonym for Scottish crime fiction author Fiona Johnson. Take it away, McD!
After a long and painful week I finally managed to get to the podiatrist’s this morning. A searing pain suddenly exploded in my right foot last Thursday while shopping in Asda; there I was pushing my trolley around trying to decide between Lurpak and Asda own brand spreadable butter when this almighty pain suddenly shot through my foot from nowhere, leaving me with a comedy limp!
Well you can’t just abandon your shopping trolley in the middle of the supermarket and food is pretty much essential in my house and lots of it, constantly. The thought of running out of bread, milk, butter and ‘something nice to eat mum’ is quite terrifying and no amount of pain, even if my foot had been hanging on by one skinny tendon, would ever have made me consider abandonment of my duties.
‘OK, very interesting, but what are you on about?’ Well you see, you might have noticed, and frankly if you haven’t you’ve missed such a treat, that my two published collections of short stories are called KICK IT and KICK IT AGAIN and have big pictures of boots on the front cover and here I am going on about my sore feet.
Am I a foot fetishist? No, don’t be silly, I just love boots, big muckle flat black Doc Martens and that’s what I wear everyday. So is there some connection between my KICK IT stories and me suddenly getting painful feet I started thinking to myself? Are the writing gods wreaking revenge on me for daring to stick my feet above the parapet and have the cheek to say I can write? Maybe it’s karma…
My next collection of crime/noir tales is going to have the catchy title KICK IT & RUN, maybe it should now be KICK IT & LIMP? The podiatrist said that all I need is a new pair of boots with a bit more support, YIPPEE! I need to go buy boots, as if I needed to be told twice!
How important is a catchy title for your novel or short story collection? My hunch is that it’s very important, perhaps even vital. There is such competition in the market and you, the writer, have to do something to get yourself noticed because at the end of the day, we all need people to read what we write. How does one get noticed? I think everybody would like to know that secret but I’m sure a creative title and great book cover are increasingly important.
As your potential customers scroll through the lists of books you need to make them stop at yours and maybe read the synopsis or a review, maybe then they might buy…but you are not out of the woods yet. If you are lucky enough to get a sale you then need the customer to come back to you again and again and that’s where a brand is so important.
People like to feel comfortable with a product and if you can get them to head your way once, then there is a much higher chance of a repeat visit, hence my internal debate over Lurpak and the Asda value range of butter in the supermarket. I DID chuck the Lurpak into the trolley. KICK IT is a title that can be kept and changed slightly each time I have a new collection published and McDroll is a name that is recognizable and easy to remember
I’m going to keep putting pictures of muckle black boots on the cover…I’m not superstitious…really.
McDroll writes crime fiction with a strong hint of noir and a pinch of Scottish humour. Her blog is at imeanttoreadthat.blogspot.com.
McDroll lives in Argyll, Scotland.
|Posted on July 8, 2011 at 7:59 PM||comments (0)|
Don't tell anyone, but Maynard Soloman is trying to make it as a writer. As anyone who has read the Maynard stories can attest, the ol' badger is a little touchy about his ego. Likes to inflate it as much as possible, filling it with his own blend of curse words even if he gets the situation wrong.
His inaugural blog post is over at In the Dark Mind of B.R. Stateham.
Click here to read it. Don't tell him you did, though.
|Posted on June 7, 2011 at 10:34 AM||comments (0)|
Today's guest post is from Chantal Boudreau, who is a double threat as both an artist AND author. I've always admired people who can create visual art, because I sure as hell can't. One thing we both can do is find voice in an author's writing. It's a bit hard to describe, but I think most readers know what it means. How is this voice created? She answers that question in this interesting post.
Choosing what voice you are going to use is an important part of the planning process in fiction writing. Normally, I hate writing in first person. I don’t think I’m very good at it, and I don’t think that I necessarily do the narrator proper justice, but sometimes the stories demand it, so I grit my teeth and go. I have a much easier time approaching a tale as observer. I’ve heard several writing peers suggest that writing for them is a matter of recording the movie going on in their head, and it is a similar experience for me. When writing in first person you are no longer observing but have to immerse yourself into the character completely, and I don’t like trying to present a story from inside of someone else’s skin.
When voice does give me trouble, aside from the narrative, part of the problem is language. I can usually (although not always – I’ve had my dismal failures) capture the nature of the characters in the dialogue. My novel, Fervor, was a test of skill, because the characters were very unusual children and it takes some careful explaining as to why an 8-year old speaks like a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, but the 13-year-olds he’s with sound more like (although not exactly like) typical teens. In most cases, though, it’s just a matter of making sure their personality shows through their word selection.
Accents can be difficult to master too, and sometimes I skip trying to reflect the accent in the dialogue and just note it in the description, like with my wandering barbarian, Traveller. As one of my test readers pointed out though, it’s best to try and find a way in tone or expression to really distinguish your characters in a story, so that there’s never any question as to who is speaking if you have no dialogue tags (my dialogue tags are an overused guilty pleasure, but it is not a habit I’m willing to discard.)
Returning to first person narrative – the hard part for me is not just the perspective, or capturing the voice, but the fact that the voice is coming from inside the character’s head. You actually have to think like that character. That might come easily to some writers, but my brain fights the idea of regressing to the mind-set of a precocious 7-year-old child trapped in a very traumatic situation, like in my short story, “Little Sister,” or even worse, a particularly repulsive, villainous character who is bemoaning a well-deserved, but pretty horrific fate, like in my Arabian moralistic fable, “Dry Heat.” It is a struggle to go against your better nature when it wants you to keep a character like that at arm’s length, and in a way, it comes as no surprise to me that such a story elicited very mixed responses from my test readers, some glowingly positive and others filled with revulsion. Seeing things from that character’s point of view can be horribly unsettling.
There is also the second person option, an obscure form commonly used in select-an-ending YA tales, but I haven’t dabbled in that narrative style yet. I’m not one to shy from challenge, but I think my stories will remain, for the most part, third person. That still leaves me with whether I want the story to be directed – from a single character perspective using the third person narrative – or omniscient which allows for a broader point of view. Once again, it really depends on what the story demands. In Fervor, my digital short story, “The Ghost in the Mirror,” and in my current work-in-progress, When You Whisper, the story really is from one character’s perspective, just not from inside their head, so third person directed was fitting. The majority of my novels, however, cover varying scenes with multiple characters and don’t just follow one protagonist in particular. With these ensemble tales, third person omniscient seems to be more appropriate.
I’m sure there are those who disagree with my approach (especially my use of dialogue tags,) but as an artist, I have to present things in a way that leaves me satisfied with the results, and that I would enjoy if I were the reader and not the writer. It’s good to have knowledge of technique and style, but maintain that awareness that the voice you choose should match your vision and should not adhere to someone else’s absolutes.
|Posted on May 26, 2011 at 1:31 PM||comments (0)|
Today's guest post is from Chantal Boudreau, who is a double threat as both an artist AND author. I've always admired people who can create visual art, because I sure as hell can't. She contributed to the First Time Dead anthology, and has published several standalone horror titles. That's outside of my chosen genre, crime fiction, but it's all the more appropriate for this post. Chantal answers the question, "Should authors stick to one genre?"
Search around the Internet and you’ll find the popular opinion in the publishing industry that a writer should choose a genre and stick with it. If they want to dabble in other genres, they may want to consider a pseudonym. This is sometimes referred to as “branding” yourself and is particularly championed by agents and large publishing house as a means of establishing a loyal fan base who will avidly follow your work.
Well, I for one have a problem with this. Not with the loyal fan base – but with the prescribed means of achieving it.
There are two reasons why I can’t easily adhere to this idea. The first reason is that I’m a perpetual dabbler. If its speculative fiction of some type, I’ve tried writing it – just look at what I have published, from Ghost in The Mirror to Shear Terror, I span a broad range. Horror, dark fantasy, weird fiction, paranormal tales, dystopian fiction, urban fantasy, science fiction, standard fantasy, erotica and various forms of humour, like It’s All about the Tourists – I’ve tried it all. I’ve even tried my hand at literary fiction. I’m a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none in almost every aspect of my life, so asking me to focus my efforts in my writing is asking me to go against my nature. I would rather throw myself into a new and different challenge than write something similar to the last thing I wrote, even if this means I lack a writer “brand.”
The second reason this doesn’t work for me is that I’ve never manage to squish myself into the standard mould for anything. I’ve run the gambit of trying to conquer a physical disability since I was five, grown up in a French Acadian village with a mother who was British, been a gamer-geek girl in a rustic location where the favourite local past time was drinking beer on the back patio, and I happened to be the only female in my high school honours physics class – and these are only a very few examples of how I’ve never fit in. This means I’m just not capable of boxing myself into any prim and proper package that others insist upon.
Branding might be effective in many ways but it also has its problems. For one thing, I don’t want ten different pseudonyms because I’ve ventured into multiple genres. I already have trouble enough keeping my current life and the one name straight, how do I manage adding in nine more? It also has the disadvantage of what to do with crossover pieces. Do I lump something like my novel Fervor, which I consider dystopian science fantasy under my dystopian pseudonym, science fiction pseudonym, or fantasy pseudonym? This also brings up the idea of how the “experts” suggest crossovers are a faulty concept – but I’ll get to that later.
Also, part of brand power is name recognition, and you lose that every time you write something in another genre under a new pseudonym. Why would you want to throw that away and start from scratch because you’re trying something new? Isaac Asimov didn’t resort to using different names for his mystery stories or fantasy work versus his popular science fiction. In fact, I’m not a big fan of straight mystery, so the only reason I read his Black Widowers stories was because the cover wore his name. He did write under the pseudonym, Paul French. I had never heard of the books he wrote under that name until working on this blog posting.
Stephen King faced a similar situation; he published non-horror under his proper name and who hasn’t heard of Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile, but the horror he wrote under his pseudonym never really fared all that well until it became common knowledge that the pseudonym belonged to him.
Okay, so I’m no Isaac Asimov, or Stephen King (in my dreams, maybe) but I’m struggling to market myself and establish some name recognition. Why would I throw that away because I want to play a different game? I’ve already made up my mind that that’s not going to happen – alright, it will with the erotica, but that’s for other reasons.
Branding aside, when it comes to genres, there’s the second issue of the crossover. This is a little more controversial, but the majority seems to support the idea that you should keep a particular story within the confines of a single genre, once again for the sake of that fan base. That and I’ve also seen the critique that crossovers sometimes don’t work. True – but sometimes they do, very well (one of my favourites from Piers Anthony, the Apprentice Adept series, comes to mind), and some of the genres that exist now are the result of successful crossovers, the result of daring, creative authors who decided to buck the norm of existing genres and do their own thing, even if it was frowned upon. We can attribute the very popular steampunk and paranormal romance genres to these kinds of writers. What would the publishing industry be like without those genres, genres that originated as variants of others?
So those who are supposed to know best can continue to push the notion of branding and sticking with a single genre, and I will continue to ignore what people tell me I ought to do and write anything and everything I feel like writing. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll be known as the creator of a new genre.
|Posted on May 5, 2011 at 8:32 AM||comments (0)|
If memory serves me correct, B.R. Stateham and I go way back to 2009 to that time when we robbed that bank in Mexico to finance our pirated DVD operation. The DVDs in question? The complete series of Saved By The Bell. They love that shit south of the border.
OK, I made all that up. It was actually Growing Pains.
Writing the short story. How do you do it?
Got a theory/idea on what constitutes a great short story?
Yes . . . and no, baby. I do and I don't. For the last 18 months I've been writing a lot of short stories. Playing with them. Slicing and dicing and trying to come up with a form that moves with a smooth flow; like drinking the first glass of Coke Cola of the day (my preferred drink). Kinda goes down the throat with a hot kick and a squirming growl--but tastes soooooooooo good doing it!
What I've come up with is this. First, I like innuendo in telling a story instead of throwing a brick through a store front window. What you imply in the story is as important as saying something. Critically so--since it gives the reader the luxury of allowing his imagination to build all kinds of mental images and implications around the main story.
Secondly, Raymond Chandler had it right: brevity in dialogue. Short, vicious body punches straight to the gut when it comes to dialogue. Crisp, tight dialogue--and not too much of it--is the icing on the cake. It offers the best vehicle for you to spring that surpise ending. Or tug the emotional strings of the heart in a profound way.
Thirdly--and possibly controversially--leave a few holes in the plot. Yes, the plot has to make sense. If the plot isn't laid down into a believable carpet, everything else falls to pieces. But it's not important to explain every detail. Again, it goes back to the Number One thingee--the implications. Half the joy for a reader, I think, is figuring out how the crime/hit/love note/whatever . . . was actually done/created.
Fourthly--one sentence descriptions. Vivid descriptions to describe scene settings, people, actions. In one sentence (not one sentence for all! One sentence for each item). Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely critical.
There. That's it. The Perfect Short Story!!
Or is it?
You tell me.