Posts Tagged ‘novel’

Writing Comedy

Posted: May 27, 2015 in Pointers
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It is quiet, your keyboard is making its pitter pattering and then… your dog runs into the room and slips on the tiles as he chases after a cat. His nose hits the wall. He is sneezing all over your curtains. Your characters are busy discussing serious things. The dog is yelping and you sit there… snickering.

I am no comedian, but I have found that people always laugh at my speeches. So I studied humour and I found that it boils down to a simple thing. Flaws are the core of comedy. I think it is a gift from God that we also misuse. We laugh at misery to make things better. Stereotypes are based on a preconceived notion of a particular person, usually because of a singular trait. We have seen them all, but they still make us laugh. I decided to deliver a speech on humour and I did it in the way a stand up comedian would do. I was scared to death. My tie was shaking and my hands too, but I did not care. I knew I could make people laugh with my world-view. You see, I am a bit of a pessimist or I can pretend to be. So I used my hands as a joke right there. I worked with my immediate flaws to showcase that my audience would laugh. I was not wrong. They did laugh… at my speech and at my flaws, because they are human. Life is one fat man constantly stepping on a banana peel.

Even though I had found a way to entertain my friends like the sad clown I was, I still had no idea how I could make my characters funny, but as I was writing I discovered that it only takes a little conflict and a little sarcasm to tune up the comedy value of what you have written.

How do I know if something is funny? I read it and reread it. If I find a trace of anti-laughter (lame humor) I run away and apologize to my cat for having to endure my stupid jokes. I have found that if you go into your character’s point of view and act a little cynical you can do wonders for your humorous writing. After you have done this you need to get it to your alpha-readers. Comedy never changes. Timing is always important. You don’t want to seem too eager to make people laugh.

Keep these things in mind. Be a pessimist for a day and write down your thoughts. They will be funnier than you might think. You can only have this high with some sort of low.
Comedy is acceleration. Happiness is speed. Think about it.


Fear (part 2)

Posted: May 26, 2015 in Pointers
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I have written about this a long time ago, but I can never address this enough. Fear is the enemy of creativity. It is a trap that can suffocate a writer and suck him or her into its abyss of self-doubt and worrying.

Across the ocean, east,
beyond the dangerous land.
A hop from there lies
a fun lair. Rugby balls and extreme sport… they have something to teach.

“Enough with riddles, man.” I am talking about New Zealand. Those people practically breath adventure. I have heard many New Zealanders love the outdoors. Also, they have the best rugby team in the world. I am a South African and I also love our Springboks, but that does not change the fact that we are a step down from the Kiwis. They handle the ball with such skill that you can’t help, but admire them and their creativity.

The other day I heard a coach giving his perspective on why they are the best in the world. You may be asking yourself what this has to do with writing, but I shall get to that in a moment. The coach told reporters that South Africans are too quick to criticize. We do not allow players to make errors. One bad game and the player gets a booing of a lifetime. This leads to order and precision of course, but never… ever, creativity. The All Blacks embrace the errors as part of a learning curve. Their fancy moves and ball skills just don’t happen. They may even mess up in a game, but the players aren’t being scolded into oblivion. They give room for creativity that ultimately leads to better players. Even from a young age they encourage the kids to master the basics and then develop their talents freely from there. In a way they love the sport more than winning.

This brings me to writing.You can try to hammer people into a system so that they will write in a way that will make them best-seller, but this will not make them the best writers necessarily. Being passionate about something is one of the most important things and fear strips you from this. Now, growing a thick skin is also a process that takes time. Criticism tears through your muse like a hot knife through butter. Just keep in mind that you can not change what you have shown. Your grammar could have been poor or you could have had many plot holes or (insert criticism here)… The point is that fear is your enemy, because creativity is your friend. So do not be afraid of messing up, but be afraid of cradling yourself in a corner where you convince yourself that you can be the best with fear.

Embrace your flaws like a friend and then stab it in the back. Be brave… you will make errors.

Art is part of the human nature and there is no way around it.

Writers, you probably have heard the saying: You can’t write if you don’t read. (there are hundreds of paraphrases) Usually an author or reader tells you this smirking, whilst having a firm grip of a five hundred page monster beneath their arm. Sometimes I wonder if they can be used as some sort of armour. Anyway… the person telling you this have a logical case for interrrupting your thoughts. There are many writers out there who are better than you and you need to learn from them.

What do you have to learn from them? I don’t believe you need to make it your mission to adapt your writing, but  rather that you need to read their work critically and make mental notes. However as soon as you approach your story you need to have forgotten about them. Reading will only make you a better writer in the same degree studying art makes you a better painter or photographer. Even though you can be influenced. It is through the trials of errors that we learn and really hone our skills as writers. I would suggest that you read less, but that you do it more critically. If we can pick up good habits subconsciously then surely we can learn some bad ones too. Just take a hard look at life and I dare you to disagree with me. Your subconscious does have faulty filter.

If I still haven’t convinced you, I want to present my logical argument that reading should not be glorified to the point that authors miss the point by neglecting their writing. Take a literate human being and give him some novels to read. He does not have to be an avid reader. He just needs to be fluent in a language. Now tell him to critique the novels. The chances are that his critique will be almost as valid as a critic’s. Why is that? Remember my opening? Art is part of human nature. We know if narrative isn’t working. We know what bores us. We know what excites us. We know what makes a story good. We know these things… not because some great writer told us these things, but rather that we are part of a curious species that wants to be entertained.

So I wholeheartedly disagree that reading a lot makes you a much better author. If you can speak, you can write. (assuming of course that you are literate) I laugh at the fact that authors preach this idea of reading like an obsessed person, yet they fail to tell us to watch more movies or to go see plays. I am not saying you shouldn’t read. No, I am saying that you should write more and read more critically, because there is a little voice inside of you that knows the truth.

Write till you can’t. Read your own work and others’. Criticize it. Do this over and over and over again. Broaden your skills using any method necessary… even if it is only watching TV and reading the occasional book. (critically) I am telling you… art is in our nature.


Posted: May 12, 2015 in Pointers
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As days have passed by and it came to my mind that certain people think that they are unique… I want a grand return to my blog. I am the hero of this white page. My action is saving it from being utterly boring.. with the coming and going of the #hipstercop, I was so delighted by the wit of people. Enchanted, one may say.

This is my return. It may be slow and you should not expect much, but that (↑) is not my voice. So without further ado. With no more hesitation. It is time for me to speak about the ins and outs of a writer’s mind, my journey and some or other nonsense.

So what is grandiloquence? (I had to find the word) It is an essence of pretention. It can also be called verbosity and since I trust my Wikipedia writers- here is a list of synonyms “wordiness, verbiage, prolixity, grandiloquence, garrulousness, expatiation, logorrhea, and Sesquipedalianism.”

How often do writers use grandiloquence? Such a matter is up for debate and if you contemplate about it….( ←)TOO OFTEN!
Now, I don’t mean to boast, (this is a white lie) I do not use grandiloquence often .Here(↑) it was on purpose. I don’t want to make writing sound technical, because then I would be wasting your time, but here is another secret. ( you know… those common sense secrets)

Say it like it is and how you know it will be said. Always use appropriate language or language that applies to the character. If you do not do this you are making the character less believable. And believe it or not, (see the wordplay) ←(oops)↔ subtlety can be the writer’s greatest asset. (maybe that’s a tad diplomatic) You can not for the sake of your soul write without subtlety. It is also the master characterizer. Grandiloquence is the enemy of subtlety. A story is best told if the writer is not playing a trumpet announcing his grand vocabulary. A story is best told when the writer fades into his world and his voice becomes a part of the story without any reader suspecting it.

Do I have some hidden knowledge or am I a master of English? No. Is my vocabulary the greatest? No… but even without those aces up my sleeve I still consider myself to be a good writer and even if I am not, one thing is sure- I do not beat around the bush and neither should you.


Posted: January 17, 2015 in Pointers
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Let it not be said that writing is free. It is not. It takes a lot of thinking and time. I don’t know if I am a good writer, but I can write and found writing a novel quite easy when I was sixteen. Now it is easier and the word counts keep going. Write’s Block is a monster from a children’s dream and I am loving the journey. Every now and then people tell me that they would never be able to complete a novel and I understand. There is something you need to do before trying to write a novel.

I am talking about immersion. Though this can also be coupled with method acting and writing I set this apart. Any author can become a character or act like one of his character. Maybe it is a form of method writing. It would be an extreme form and I will tell any non outliner like myself to use this. The act of knowing characters like real people and considering them as such. If this is done you won’t talk to them as pieces on a paper, but rather as friends and enemies. Their goals become like the goals of a friend. Yes, the more I think of it, the more it becomes like method writing. This can also be the danger. Sometimes your characters become much more likeable than real people, because lets not lie… people can be irritating. There is no greater bond between a writer and his characters. They are a part of you. Don’t question my sanity… this is the lengths I have gone to create characters and it is emotionally draining as their losses become real in your mind. Let it not be said that you can’t fool your own mind. You can. This immersion drains you emotionally and mentally.

That’s the reason I listen to music when I write. It is like a quick charge. At first artificial… then real. Listen to me… I am not a mentor. This is my journey and besides, if your need a mentor I will gladly redirect you to some of the best outliners in the business. The outliners tend to be the better teachers. K.M. Weiland for example. Writers don’t write the same way and rightly so. It would be a crime against humanity if we all were to do things the same. That’s why if you are not outlining you will need some form of immersion for a number of reasons.

  1. Avoiding logical errors: Doesn’t make sense? This guy sounds nuts. The mind works around them because the author is in his own world. (Still nuts, but not my problem)
  2. It creates more real characters. Like people, your characters will seem like living beings.
  3. Fun. Yes, this makes writing more fun. More fun leads to more working hours

This is not the plotter versus pantser debate. This is the price I had to pay to write. This is one of those lonely pieces of advice I can give.

sCold comes the night terror

Posted: December 27, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I am not afraid of many things. I don’t have many phobias, but the ones I have are so highly irrational that I keep them to myself and debate my conscience into oblivion. Every other night I lie there thinking: What if I wake up tomorrow and I lose my ability to tell stories. I hate that thought. I’d much rather be chased by a monster probably because I can extract a story to tell from that. In fact I love to have nightmares, because they work like stories.

So I wake up and start speaking  to myself and my characters. ”What if?”

That is probably the strongest line a writer can speak and also the biggest danger. What if the readers and critics hate me? What if I get a two star review and then another? What if my mom never makes me coffee again? What if I am so poor one day that I can’t even buy coffee or what if I grow intolerant to caffeine? What if I get panned by critics and have to hide in a cave for years?What if these what if questions become so boring that my fellow bloggers leave it?

A year ago, a sixteen year old boy asked the question: what if I write a novel? Simple yet so elegant. And then I started to ask myself some questions. Characters and plots became a tide of water and I did not care what the world thought. The story I wrote is my biggest gain. I got to know some imaginary people. I had fun. I am not a positive speaker yahoo. I know life sucks and that is how I see so many plots around me, but I will keep my phobias at bay by reminding myself why I write.

Post your most irrational fear if you want to. By the way I am not afraid of heights and no that afraid of falling… I am afraid of breaking my body after the fall, but oh am I in love with climbing. That’s true and also an analogy for writing.

The lenses we gain

Posted: December 27, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I doubt many authors will disagree with me if I told them they changed the way they look at life literally. I am talking about observational skill and effort to observe. It became so natural after I became I writer. I would look at people and see characters and listen to their worries and their joy to see plots. It became a nuisance quite frankly, because an author can’t resist and perhaps that is a good thing. I am the kind of author that will only write a sentence then start writing a novel. So it became a good bad habit to observe people and situations. I think about their lives and their jobs and how that can be translated into a work of fiction.

I believe many authors do this because they know what is necessary to stay ahead. Tell tales. Simple as that and we don’t want to tell the same thing over and over again. We want to be innovative, but since true originality doesn’t exist it is nice to ”borrow” certain pieces from peoples lives and create a story. I can exaggerate their role and I probably will. I am a collector. I break down and I build up. A piece here… a piece there. That kind of thing works for me. I have my own creativity and certain aspects that I clearly thought up somewhere. The chances are that I got the information somewhere. This is what we do. We need to tell tales worth telling. We need to tell them well.

That said it, is good to read, but I won’t say necessarily to get ideas but rather to improve skill. Ideas can be found anywhere. I mean anywhere. Under a plant or on your roof or in a coffee shop. Mmmm coffee. I am currently reading Sand by Hugh Howey and I will write a review later.

Watch and Tell

Posted: December 9, 2014 in Genres
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No one wants to be branded a Jack of all trades, because ever since mankind became dumb we only thought of  the ”master of none” tail to the saying. However, this was not always so.  In the old days some people did many things and were great at some and good at others. Some were masters at many trades. This used to be positive saying. This is my refutation to the argument that specialists are always better. I am not saying that being a specialist is bad, but if we take writing as a skill with different aspects and different genres many people will call themselves an ”insert genre here” writer.

Now, how can this only apply to the creation of fiction, but not in the observation? Few skills are as writing where there is a great relationship between user (reader) and creator(writer). The statement that a writer needs to keep to a certain genre and get good at it rather than do one and then another is absurd considering we like different tales. Sure, we like some more than others and loathe certain genres, but again this boils down to a thing called taste. No one can convince me that a great writer of any genre can’t attempt to write a novel in another. The only reason many writer’s stick to one or two is because it has worked before and they do really like it. In fact many people will grow to only write in a few genres.

My first novel is horror, but this is not the only type of novel I’ll ever write. I had a story to tell and I did. My second novel is going to be science fiction. I always had a tendency to write science fiction for school. I know I will complete this story. However, it can be guaranteed that my second novel will be written better, because writing is a skill improving in a detached manner from it’s genre. It improves as a whole. The writing of a certain genre does improve, but this can easily be accomplished and this increase in skill is nothing compared to what writing does to a writer as a whole. Your mind does not shift from thriller to drama, but you do apply your skills differently. You may want to focus on atmosphere in the former and maybe more on relationships in the latter. This may also vary. You can’t put a definite genre on your life and neither can you do it to your characters. So stick to what you are good at, but be good at learning so you can stick to what you love… writing.

Let me tell you right now that I hate to classify books in age groups. I do believe that there should be books for young kids to learn about stories, but do not dare to tell me when you are thirteen your mind can’t comprehend good stories or that you do need certain genres to read fiction. Genres should be personality bound and not age bound. Also, I don’t believe we all only like one type of story. Certainly certain types appeal to us, but that’s where it ends. This is my pain with the Young Adult hype. I am not a hater of the genre. However, there are certain things I can’t wrap my mind around. The best novels are those that appeal to all ages.

I know the young adult counter arguments. I should say hype rather as that is what bothers me. That this generation wants guidance in an unsure world yadda yadda. I read about their arguments. This is where dimensions come into play. Are your stories so deep that only an ancient Greek philosopher can decipher it and be wrong too or are your stories so shallow that it makes the Twilight romances look good. That was a cheap shot and I’ll admit that. Certain aspects of the famous Hunger Games do not makes sense to me, but that is nitpicking and truth be told I did like the Hunger Games. What I’m getting at is a style of writing that appeals to everyone. This can be found in television too and the genre where this blossoms is animation. Take Up as an example of a film that appeals to all ages. Young children may not get the double meanings or some of the depth, but the character that is a child keeps them hooked. Another important thing to note is that  the two main characters are opposite and young and old can relate. If I take literature, the Little Prince is one of my favourite novels ever. It is a small book written by a French guy. On the surface it appeals to children, but from page one you can tell that teenagers won’t even comprehend its depth. This is not a novel for all ages, but I like the way it blurs the lines. Some people argue that that is exactly what young adult fiction has done. That is an absurd statement. Worst of all the hype began after someone had received a lot of success. Pray tell me how many authors do you think started a new young adult novel when someone received international acclaim.  I may be wrong, but unless the reason for this is an absolute love for the new authors owns story there is something seriously wrong.

This is not rocket science and I wish all authors were like this (in love with their own stories), but if a hint of greed enters an author’s mind it pollutes the story telling mind.

Pretty Bad

Posted: December 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
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When done right this character will always attract people. We love to hate them and sometimes we love to sympathize with them. All stories need the effect of war. A civil war, a metaphor for inner conflict or more often than not just plain war. For this we need circumstances and usually of course an effective antagonist. All stories don’t need them, but aren’t they just so interesting to work with?

Antagonists. I can spend hours telling people why I like them. Sometimes I can’t pinpoint it, but it is the truth. What would Batman be had the Joker never existed. He’d be alright, but let’s agree he would be much less. This has to do with the mysterious part of some antagonists. We seldom go into their point of view, but they play an integral part in our stories. Sometimes they are just so well defined and this can be seen in their action and then they turn out to be a rounder character than the protagonist. There are a bunch of antagonist types and I won’t even dare to say I know all of them, but I will discuss the two main branches.

The delusional type who believe they are doing right and the other type the: evil embracer. There may be a balance between the two types as a character believes some of the things he has done can be wrong. What many authors often miss when working with arcs is the antagonist’s arc. This is not always possible as the antagonists isn’t usually the main character, but when working with an antagonist you can work with his moral decline or increase and this is a very interesting subject.

Most often we don’t see the deluded bad guy in his extreme state because that shifts the focus on the antagonists. It is thus understandable, but I adore the deluded antagonist, because some readers will have sympathy with the character. That said, most antagonists are deluded to morality in general. They do what is right for them. What is the difference then between the deluded bad guy and the one that embraces evil. Simple, the embracing part. It is all about belief in what is right and wrong. If the character admits what he is doing is wrong, but does it anyway you will know he isn’t deluded. The Joker for example blatantly admits he embraces chaos. This is not delusion. However, most of the times we have a mixture of delusion and admittance of evil doing. Then we can still tell by their intentions.

A big question that many antagonists will face and will give away whether they are believing in a lie is if the end justifies the means. An evil embracer doesn’t even bother with the question. That is a tell tale sign: The “I don’t care about justify, I do what profits me.” Some will argue that that in itself is a justification from their view. That justice doesn’t matter. It’s a dog eat dog world. The truth is you will know the balance and if your antagonist is truly evil. When it comes to video games and movies I remember the quotes of those antagonists. In videogames the antagonist is usually the focus and that is why I love them probably. IF you are familiar with Borderlands, two words… Handsome Jack. This guy actually was some hero, he did save lives and he hated the idea of murder, but then the disillusioned part kicked in. He got stabbed in the back by heroes who thought that he would turn evil with power. (they maybe had a point) This in turn turned him into a vengeance seeking maniac. He is a well defined antagonist and his wit is amusing at worst.

You will know you have a great antagonist if you off him. If you don’t, just imagine you ending him. If it makes you sad… well and if it makes you feel pretty bad… just know that the bad can be pretty sometimes and authors need to utilize this.