Friday, 31 January 2014

Writing Satire, Telling The World What Is Wrong

Satire is a long lived and converted art, that really only became a true art from thanks to the likes of Alexander Pope and the Romantic Poets and writers of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is something always under censure and even in present society it is still in effect every day, restricting what we say and hear.
            This form of writing has been around since not too long after the form of writing, used to express an opposing political opinion, which at one point could cost you your ears or fingers! It came to a head when censorship laws were passed to restrict the press. The centuries above are in my opinion the most fascinating time to see writers express their opinion that the world is ruled by morons and that things needed to change.
            Satire is the practice of criticizing a person or group of people, there are many ways a writer will go about doing this, which I will name three types for today and let you all experiment with them:
Caricature: used for the effect of exaggerating for comic and satiric effect one particular feature of the target, to achieve a grotesque or ridiculous effect. This type of satire mainly refers to drawings, rather than writing, but of course, blowing up something in literature works just as well.
“He was a large man, eating a burger, and the sweat that glistened from his pours formed greasy globs, as they slid down his fat face’.
Burlesque: No, it’s not what you think, this form of Satire involves a person who plays a specific social role, such as a musician who speaks like a politician.
‘In his grimy jeans, which drooped down to the floor and run-of-the-mill band t-shirt, he turned to the crowd “I would like to address the people down below, thank you for your patience, but we really cannot tell you the situation involving our music as it is regarded as top secret, however, what you may have heard from a certain website was unfortunately stolen by someone who does not agree with what we sing’.’ Though I would love a musician to say something like that on stage at a concert!
Irony: This is probably the most confused literary term, but here it is, the academic definition is when the real meaning of the words is different from (and opposite to) the literal meaning. Irony, unlike sarcasm, tends to be ambiguous, bringing two contrasting meanings into play. For example,
“I think that students shouldn’t be given money because all they do is read all day”. In a sense the sentence is considered ironical because working for students involves a lot of reading, and also most of the money a student is given is part of a loan which they will repay once working.
            These are your three types of satire to try out, and personally I think we should be writing more of it, however there are rules to writing good satire, not just knowing the theory. You must always keep in mind that you need to know what you’re talking about, or you’ll be no better than the cleaner saying they will be a millionaire one day, you must learn to never say sorry for your beliefs, if you’ve written it then it’s your view and that is okay! Finally you need to know that you will receive the same in return in greater and more painful portions, but no one smarts so much as a fool, so if you’re ashamed of something, don’t do it, it’s how to avoid being the subject of satire. Now go out there and tell the world what really bugs you the most, but be careful where you use it, or you may find yourself subject to censure!
As always you lovely people, read, write, live!

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Friday, 24 January 2014

The right conditions

This week I'm going to step out of my depth and talk about having the right environment in which to write; or rather, the right conditions to evoke the writing condition – yeah, not my best one-liner.
            I think it’s important for a writer to have their own space in which to write; personally, I've tried lots of different environments during my years of practising the art. I've found many work for me, generally they have all had a positive atmosphere, a surplus of coffee and have been laid out to encourage positivity. Now I know you’re asking, what is he talking about? Laid out to encourage positivity sounds a little far-fetched, I know, but it’s all to do with an ancient Chinese practice called feng shui. Which is literally the art of decorating in order to encourage good energy to flow in your surroundings, or at least that’s as much as I understand as a novice to the whole concept myself.
            I have made some progress in implementing it at home, my own room has a bonsai, which I call ‘leafy’ when it actually has leaves… My very basic approach is to keep a wide open space around my desk and a few of my writing charms at hand. I eventually lose myself in my rush. When I'm out and about, I obviously can’t change my surroundings too much, but the wide open spaces of good bars and caf├ęs, typically symmetrical and full of life do more than enough for the writing buzz, especially when married with caffeine.
            Now I know, hold up a second, writing charms? I've never heard of them, what are they and why mention them now? Right? Well they’re something I've made up for myself, I'm no doubt the first, but I may well be a minority for all I know; there are all sorts of spiritual stones and such like, so why not play a trick on your mind and have objects that inspire you mean a little more than just a reminder, for me I have an earring, a necklace, a silver spoon, a pocket watch and a scarf as mine, I suppose my lamp would count, but I think I’d just not see the keyboard as well without it. Each of these things hold some significance to me, I didn't just go out and say hey I need a writing charm and this is pretty.
            I can’t really say the latter of these two topics of the day work for everyone, but I recommend arranging your working space is not something you want to be in and if out and about, then try to find somewhere that gives you all the feelings I've described here, or make sure their cappuccinos are at least worth the money you pay for them!
For now, that’s me out. Read, Write, Live.

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Friday, 17 January 2014

Filling in the gaps, or not!

When I found myself unable to find a relevant topic for this week’s blog post and decided now was the time to write about nothing in particular did this, rather clever, topic hit me squarely between the eyes. See what I did there? No? Look again. Still not sure? Then this week I’m talking about the dos and don’ts of fillers. Naturally we will start with the question of what is a filler, what is its use and the pros and cons of using them, when and where. Let’s do this.
            Fillers – are words or phrases inserted into a sentence which have no use other than to make the sentence flowery, or add a little more detail. They are much more common in full length novels and older works, but you will rarely see them in fast-paced novellas or thrillers.
Fillers are used in a whole variety of ways to give your reader time to immerse themselves in your scene from more than just the passer by point of view. Even in language we use terms, such as ‘like’, and ‘y’know’, all used in a way that does not convey their inherent meaning; but these examples only apply to oral language, great for when you want to write speech, but not literature around it.
In a simple sentence you may often see a filler in between two commas, for example ‘Mike’s ball, which was red, flew out of the park with a single swing of his leg’. The filler here being ‘which was red’ it isn’t essential to our understanding of events, but also ‘single’ it was not essential to the clause either.  For those who have studied English at a higher level, it’s all a case of –spot that non-essential clause.
Moving on, we now know what a filler is and why we use it, now when and how to use them, that is their pros and cons are our next focus. Fillers are really useful in chapters where you, as the writer, want to slow down the pace of the story and give the reader time to catch up with evens and deliver some more complex information. The idea of sentences including fillers is, that they are rarely contained to what we call ‘simple sentences’ that is a sentence with one verb and one noun, not strictly true, but it’s less common.
            If you want to write good action, or good horror, that leaves the reader reeling from every blow you inflict, and each limb you sever, you must remember the golden rule of these genres and scenes. Simple sentences win. Your aim in these scenes is to contain any action to a simple sentence for maximum speed and impact, that way you are able to reflect on events later in each gruesome detail; we will talk more about these genres another time.
Final note on this topic, do not abuse the filler, and avoid overuse like the plague. Common filler errors; unless you write in an older style, eliminate 90% of the words like, seemed and was. If it is like something, then show it, nothing ‘seems’ like something, it is or it is not! And was is too passive, make things active. More on some of these again another day
Until next time; read, write live.

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Friday, 10 January 2014

An Author on the Edge

So for the last few weeks now I’ve been either giving advice or pushing out some motivational words in the hopes that someone who started off this year like I did, will finish it in kind of the same manner. Today, I am not going to do either of these things.
There remains about a month until my first book, ‘Mr Locke’s Diary’, becomes available for those of you out there who are interested to buy can finally do so. I don’t know your individual interest levels in this, but let me say that I’m sweating pretty hard right now! I’ve learned a writer not only suffers for their art, but their art does a pretty good job of rounding off the experience on its way to the public. I don’t doubt the quality of my work, as many painstaking hours have gone into preparing it for its maiden voyage, but I, like any chef or parent out there fear its rejection.
This, I suppose, after the dreaming, planning, editing, begging, publicising, cover art designing, more editing, more campaigning and dreaming and once again editing we arrive at publishing. The last step is no less difficult than all the previous steps, even if it is the goal.
Of course, anyone who is serious about this line of work knows the writer’s job does NOT end at this last step, your role just shifts slightly to marketing. If you have been good you’ve already amassed online followers, blogged regularly and talked avidly about your achievement since you first signed that contract. I think I would score well on my effort. When I first found out that I was being taken on, I wasn’t sure, in honesty, if it was my friend or I who was the most excited, either way I found myself pinned to the ground in a hug as we were both shouting for joy.
Now I’m at my desk, checking, rechecking, getting myself out there (and sometimes I’m actually doing University work) all in preparation for my and my book’s futures. I’m still as elated as that first day, because after many reasonless rejection letters, I will soon be in print.
I suppose two words of advice to round off this mostly intimate talk; a rejection letter doesn’t always mean you’re a bad writer, it just means, ‘we have enough people’ or ‘it’s not what we’re interested in’; and secondly, you can always benefit from having a friend on hand for the tears and to pop open the champagne.
Until next time, read, write, live.
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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Writing Fantasy, a quick how-to introduction

This time, to spark off the New year; lots of people will want to start off the new year saying, ‘this year I will write a book’ and then have no idea where to start. I’m going to borrow words from many well respected writers, to name one, Terry Pratchett, who have donated words of pure gold in the leaves on our shelves, and given us threads of silver to stich and weave into our own masterpieces.
So let us tackle some theory; for all those aiming to be fantasy writers, we have to ask the question of what is fantasy? Then we must ask, how is it written well? But finally a third question, what genres of fantasy are there?
Fantasy is a difficult genre to pin down, like Science Fiction (which I’ll tackle another day). This is because it bears the features of many other genres, fantasy can talk about a love story between mythical creatures and humans, it can be an adventure to destroy some dark artefact, or even about people waving magic sticks at one-another. The main defining feature of Fantasy is that it involves some kind of supernatural, or other-worldly (rather than extra-terrestrial) power that takes a foreground position throughout the work.
A final note on this is that in some cases where you create realist fantasy, something I’m very interested in due to my dissertation subject, Fantasy does not have to contain anything I have just mentioned, but it can simply borrow from what has been, and transform it into a story. where nothing and everything can be based on fact. Again, it’s a hard genre to pin down unless you spend a lot of time with it.
Secondly, how can we write it well? I refer you back to my post in December about how to write well generally, but here I will expand on how you should treat your reader, gently. I was told once, back when I started seriously chasing my dream by a much more experienced writer that ‘a reader is like a child, they do not like to be shocked or alienated. You must make each step small, take them by the hand and guide them, still filled with wonder, into the world you created’. Pratchett says something very similar, though I will only paraphrase his words; Fantasy is a genre where there are no rules, as long as you can explain why that person has two heads, or why this sword is the only one that can defeat the king of darkness, you can do anything your heart desires.
Finally, what other genres does Fantasy interact with? Well this is why it is the easiest genre (and for some the hardest) to write, it can interact with all of them! A short list of examples, in no particular order could be: High Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Comic Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy. Fantasy can be funny, scary, charming, mysterious, in-your-face, anything at all, so long as it is written well.
I leave you with this thought, if it’s fiction, it can be Fantasy, but it is not we the writers who ultimately define our book’s genre but the readers. Aim for what you want, write it well (which means learning the rules of that literary genre, a more advanced talk) and then doing it well.
Until next time, read, write and learn.
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