Friday, August 24, 2012

Relish

How do you take your hot dogs? Mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut, jalapenos...? Sure, a hot dog is sufficient--it's still food (or something close enough to food to pass), it will still fill you up, but without the relish, the barbecue sauce, or the aioli (what, it could happen), it's just a tube of leftover meat.

The same thing with writing. Lately, there's been an outpouring against the delightful condiments of literature. Everyone says cut, trim, destroy, burn--anything to make it tighter and more concise. And, in theory, it's a good idea.

Not exactly in practice, I think. Tight is good. Fluff-free is food. The conservation of words is a fantastic concept that I fully support. But what's Harry Potter without wizard's chess? Or Pendragon without spinney-riding? Star Wars without R2D2 and C3PO?

The little things are important. Not just to show off little bits of your world, but to give your readers something to latch onto. Let's face it--humans like sparkly things. It's why we have tinsel. It's that same thing that makes us try and figure out what's shining the weird little light on the ceiling. Give your literature some sparkle. Games, sports, food, fashion--it's all good.

And there's no reason it can't be meaningful sparkle. Take The Hunger Games. The couture in The Capitol is opulent to the point of disgust. It tells you about the nature of The Capitol. And it's shiny (often literally). Or Quidditch in Harry Potter--it's used to advance the plot or establish character...all right, sometimes it's just fun.

But when did fun lose it's place in literature, especially in science fiction and fantasy? Who passed down the law that decreed we all have to be miserable? Give it a thought.

Voss

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

YOU are Not For Sale

Lately, I've been looking at eHouses. Trying to muddle through everything else before I self-publish a novella. Especially last night, I dived in and started digging through everything I could find, and always, always checking them against Absolute Write Water Cooler and Piers Anthony's Publisher Reviews. A Google search never hurt, either. If a house is bad business-wise, there are a ton of resources to find that out. Aside from the internet, talk to your network of writers, see if anyone has worked with them or knows someone that worked with them.

But, what if the business is fine, but something about them is wrong? I've now run across three (maybe more) ultra-Christian presses. Only one of them doesn't bother me. I won't name any names either way, but the two that really grind on my nerves have something in common: we don't see eye to eye. They have restrictions on content, which is fine. Every house has restrictions on content. But these houses both say that they will immediately reject anything that contains a GLBTQ character (I added the Q to make them seem more worldly--they didn't have it there, didn't even acknowledge the queer/questioning part of the milieu). One of them takes it a step further: they won't take anything anti-Christian or unpatriotic.

I'm not saying they aren't allowed to do that. In fact, I don't have a terribly huge problem with the first one at all--they have to sell to their audience, and they're audience doesn't do GLBT(Q). It's that second one that grates on me the most. If they would have said 'no religious discrimination' or forbid works that portrayed any country as the world's ultimate evil, I would be on board.

But they didn't. If somebody were to submit a well-written work where French pagans were the ultimate evil, nothing in their guidelines says anything about not accepting that.

Your work is what you're selling, not your soul. I will not submit to a house like that. To me, when I see them forbidding anti-Christian works, or GLBT(Q) works, or unpatriotic works, I start to flash on all the great bigots of history: the Inquisitors in Spain, the slave-owners in early America, the people that ship GLBTQ kids to camps where they can be 'fixed.' And, to me, that's a no-no.

Whatever your button is, whatever makes you feel like that, if you see it in guidelines (or anywhere, really), stay away. I can promise you, whatever they're offering is not worth it. It's not worth you. It's not worth that little bit of your soul.

Stepping off the soapbox,
Voss

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Bludgeon or the Rack?

I'm sitting here, watching The Golden Girls. It's one of the episodes that's hardest to watch--you find out that Rose (for those that don't know, Rose is a Minnesota farm-girl, totally innocent and a huge sweetheart) has been taking prescription painkillers for thirty years.

It's painful to watch, because everyone loves Rose, and it just comes as a shocker when you find out she's been taking these drugs. Aside from the fact that such a heavy issue has been dropped on the sweetest, kindest character of the entire series, it makes you re-evaluate her entire character: is that why she's been so happy this whole time?

That's perfectly pointed torture to a 'T,' and it's incredibly useful. Take a look at another example: Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series. He loved--true, deep, everlasting love--Lily. but, when all's said and done, she marries James Potter, the one man he can't stand, his personal tormentor fro, his school days. Fast forward a few years and they have a son. Then they die. Their son, when he grows up, looks exactly like James, except for Lily's eyes. He's also under constant threat of death from a horrible, dark wizard. When it comes down to it, their son is thrust into Snape's life. He's torn between hating what of James is in Harry and his love for Lily, and thus her son.

Torture: as far as writers are concerned, torture is a good thing. Room 101 is even better. Find the one specific torture that will break your character, that will infiltrate every second of his or her life, and pile it on. Thick. As my high school band director would say, use more peanut butter. Of course, we're talking more like cyanide butter, but the metaphor still stands.

Off to go oil the iron maiden,
Voss