Friday, July 02, 2010

Writing and Believing

American Country Life,

Currier & Ives,

Museum of the City of New York.

For pleasure and relaxation I've been reading once again The Talera Cycle (Sword of Talera, Wings over Talera and Witch of Talera) a heroic fantasy series by Charles Gramlich and enjoying Charles' deft treatment of action scenes and sword fights.

I have a peculiar fondness for stories utilizing sharp pointy things and Charles does them extraordinarily well. If one wants a short course in the use of appropriate, active verbs, they could do much worse than read the Talera books. Moreover, one never receives the impression he wrote with one finger marking a place in a dictionary of synonyms.

When things settle down a bit, I want his collection Bitter Steel.

As usual, the analytical part of my brain could not be entirely suppressed and I came away with several craft observations and one general conclusion.

Assuming we all know our craft reasonably well in terms of character and plot and all that stuff, two types of detail applied (as Charles does) will lift the prose of a story from merely competent to really good and memorable.

One is the the judicious use of a striking figurative phrase or image ("we walked along inside our own silences like ghosts".) Any descriptive passages should be clean and vivid, of course, but some should be deeper, unique.

The other is the brief interpolation of minor observations, almost asides, to which a reader may relate. These might be something as simple, as small and intimate and human as the effects of a hangover, a realization one hates the taste of liver, or two characters comparing the size of their feet.

Serious heroic fantasy demands themes and examples of honour, courage and nobility. I don't think a cynic could write the genre effectively unless he believes in those virtues and disdains their opposites. So I suppose my conclusion is a variation of the standard advice to "write what you love."

Reading with Tequila, under her June 2010 Wrap-Up picked Dark and Disorderly as her favourite Book Read in June. She had given it 5 shots.
An interview with Lillie St. Claire at Southern Fried Chicas.

I screwed up. The Question-and-Answer at Wicked Jungle will be posted July 5.


writtenwyrdd said...

I liked Charles' Cold In The Light for so many lovely descriptive passages. I think I tend to be too literal and try to write phrases like the quoted example, but mostly have to add them in during edits, which I believe can make them sound forced, lol. Sigh. We all have our little problem areas!

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, and I am so glad you are continuing to get wonderful reviews for D&D. I hope it comes out in print soon so I can have a copy for my shelves!

BernardL said...

I enjoyed the 'Talera' series. Writing what you love makes a real difference, especially when you have to edit it. :)

Bernita said...

"Forced?" Pfui!
Written, these extra images can strike at any often during editing as in the first draft flush.
Thank you. The onlt word I've heard is that the audio version will be released by on July 21--baring the usual glitches, of course.

"especially when you have to edit it."
Bernard, that is so true! And wise! You need to love it or you'll never get there.

Charles Gramlich said...

Write what you love. Absolutely. I think when you really respect a genre you want to do it proud and give it your best. Thanks very much for the kind words. Glad you've enjoyed the books. And thanks also do D and Bernadl. Glad also that you've enjoyed my stuff.

laughingwolf said...

grats on the ongoing goodies you're getting for d&d, m'dear :)

i read his set, and agree... he has a way of storytelling

my fave of his is still: cold in the light

Bernita said...

Charles,in addition to their other strengths, these are honest books, and I'll be re-reading them again and again.

LW, thank you. I'll admit to being overwhelmed by the reception.

I have deliberately avoided Cold in the Light. An excerpt was enough to set my heart pounding. That doesn't often happen, but Charles made it too real for me to handle in just a short passage. He's that good!

Gabriele C. said...

Sounds like some books I should check out.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Fights with pointy things?! In pixie warrior, the malevolent beast is killed with a sword drop. I asked an expert in medieval weapons to read it. He made me change it because, "it wouldn't work that way." The change made the story better I think.

My great gramma wore hat pins though they'd gone out of fashion. If you’ve never seen one you’ve missed out on an important piece of American fashion. They were about a foot long, resembling a think knitting needle. And they were very sharp.

If you asked why she still wore them, she'd tell you it was in case "some man" wanted to molest her eighty-year-old self ... She'd use the hat pin to "stab him in the vitals." Someday that will find a place in a story. ...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

think = "thin"

Barbara Martin said...

Bernita, Charles has a deep love of that genre which translates itself onto the pages.

Bernita said...

You will especially like the action, Gabriele. Charles doesn't stint them.

Sha'el, I don't think I've seen ones that long. More like 6-8 inches--a later version, no doubt--but I do have a blue carved glass head from my grandmother's button box that would need something that long to balance it.

Barbara, that was clear to me the first time I read this series, and I hope my post did not imply otherwise.

Angie said...

I don't think a cynic can write anything well outside of the parody or barbed social commentary field. I'm willing to believe that a writer who's an excellent craftsman could turn out decent stories in a genre they don't love, but I have a hard time imagining someone doing a really good job in a genre they don't respect.

It reminds me of one writer who was writing a romance. I critiqued the first chunk and pointed out that a lot of her dialogue was really over-the-top, the characters fell in love too fast for no reason I could see, and did I mention the dialogue? She just shrugged and said, "Well, I thought it was supposed to be sappy."


Seriously, how many romance readers who love the genre and who number at least a few romance writers among their very favorite authors would describe romances as "sappy?" That's a clearly pejorative word; she might as well have said she thought it was supposed to suck. I got the distinct impression that she was writing a romance only because it's the single largest market. Unfortunately, "Yeah, I could bang something like that out and cash in," isn't likely to motivate one to produce an excellent example of any genre. [sigh] The scorn showed in her writing; that's never going to work.


Bernita said...

Well said, Angie, and I agree.
I've thought about this off and on , after reading adequate novels but novels that seemed( to my eyes anyway) rather cookie-cutter, without spark; and the contrast between those novels and the Talera books brought it to mind again.
This may be one of the reasons why some novels are uneven as well, besides skill.

laughingwolf said...

check out janet reid's contest?

Bernita said...

Not for me, but you should, LW. You're really good at it.

laughingwolf said...

it's easy, 101 words or less... using the words she posted

a neat book to be won

i used about 30-35 words in total ;) lol

info on my page...

laughingwolf said...

i lied... 22 words! ;)

wv: curlyhes

Anonymous said...

Another great launch!

Lana Gramlich said...

Ironic you mention "the effects of a hangover," as we both had a little to drink last night...

laughingwolf said...

nothing in the jungle about d&d :(

SzélsőFa said...

i happen to have read many of Charles's blog entries and i'm sure he does his job with accuracy and love for the subject!

flowers with matching colors to the cover of your book - how pretty an idea!

laughingwolf said...

still nothing on wj...

archer said...

For sharp pointy things I never quite got over the murder weapon in No Country for Old Men. Click! And there's a guy who definitely does not do thesaurus.

archer said...

You really got my interest with "honest books," btw.

laughingwolf said...

wj lied... still nothing there on your book! GRRRRRRRRRRR

laughingwolf said...

yaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyy! finally up on wj :D

Bernita said...

( am so behind!)

Thank you, Jason!

I'm sure it was worth it, Lana.

Straighforward fun, SzelsoFa.

Pretty and sweet.

Archer,some scenes we can't shake because the writer does viseral so well.
No pretensions, Archer.

LW, I probably screwed up her schedule and she has been ill to boot.