[Night Bazaar] My essay about Readings and Signings — What They Mean to Novelists at The Night Bazaar: http://night-bazaar.com/readings-and-signings.html
Weekly post at The Night Bazaar: Heroes and Heroines by Thomas Roche at Night-Bazaar.com.
Here’s an excerpt from my new post at The Night Bazaar, “Heroes and Heroines:”
I’m never quite sure what makes a hero, which I think is probably the key to knowing what makes a hero.
I look at it this way: if being a hero was easy, everyone would do it. But it’s not just that being a hero takes work or sacrifice…on the contrary, it takes knowing what to do to remedy a grievous situation, or at least prevent it from getting any worse. That’s actually a really tall order for most of us.
A hero is somebody who’s willing to get the knowledge necessary to understand what can be done without screwing up the world even worse than it’s screwed up. That doesn’t mean all protagonists are heroes — far from it. Many, even most, might have some heroic qualities…especially in adventure fiction. But that doesn’t make them heroes.
I was asked to participate in a recent Mind Meld over at the science fiction blog SF Signal. The question was “What book did you last read that you would recommend to a friend.” I love the answers — it’s always great hearing what other readers are enjoying. In keeping with my recent Steampunk reading (though I don’t know if source materials can be steampunk, at least the first time around…), here’s part of mine:
Currently I’m formulating some ideas about a character who writes Victorian science fiction, so the last book I read is one I’ve read before and totally love: The Huge Hunter, or The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward Sylvester Ellis. It is one of the first examples of the boy inventor genre, a genre that John Clute (well after the fact) called the “Edisonade,” although the main character of The Huge Hunter is actually not a boy — he’s a little person…
This week we’re talking about narrative point of view, a topic close to my rotten, diseased heart. My nearest and dearest will tell you that there is nothing I love more than annoying the living bejeezus out of readers by using an atypical POV.
Mind you, this only really works (for me) in short fiction. With novels, I always gravitate toward first-person. But more on that later. First, let me brag about my bad-ass POV-fu, and how annoying it is. I swear, sometimes I think I’m going to get myself knifed! Like the time I opened a story with a long passage in second-person future subjunctive. (“If you were to go downtown on a Saturday, maybe you’d be looking for this particular corner…then if you were to knock on the door and say, ‘I’m here to annoy readers’…”)
You woulda thought I’d just been caught in public badmouthing Joss Whedon!
Of course, far more common is my fondness for second-person. I love this shit, because it calls into question who exactly the viewpoint character is. My love of second-person narration is well known among my small circle of beta readers. (I even co-wrote two romantic books all in second-person.) Lots of people hate that.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that I love present tense. That’s not POV, but it certainly relates directly to it; tense and POV are the two most central (and easily variable) things about any piece of fiction writing.
Hey! If you’re in the San Francisco area, come see me read with Richard Kadrey and Naamen Tilahun at Borderlands Books on Valencia Street tomorrow evening (Saturday 10/15/2011). It’s part of Litquake’s Litcrawl, the annual orgiastic celebration of the spoken word. You can find more details at my blog, or go to Borderlands-Books.com or Litquake.com. Hope to see you there!
This week we’re talking about writing advice I hate. I hate a lot of it, if not most of it. I think writing advice is fine…in its place. But my view is that writing advice should be considered a “rule of thumb,” not a rule. When writing advice starts to look like “rules,” it too often shows the cognitive, social and creative shortcomings and prejudices of the person who came up with it.
Mind you, please don’t think I’m talking about the rules of grammar, composition, POV, etc, which I think if possible you should know like the back of your hand, and respect; however, you should also break them willy-nilly if that serves the Work. (See what I did there, with the capital “W”? That’s an example of messing with The Rules to make a point. There! I did it again!! Wasn’t that awesome? Doing it just because you’re pretentious is also allowed, but it will annoy the hell out of everyone around you, as I surely just did. But that’s their problem, right?)
Beyond those very limited rules of grammar and composition, I think advice that makes the jump from rules-of-thumb to rules-to-live-by is anathema to creativity. Every work of fiction is different, and it should all exist on its own terms.