NO, NO, NO. DO NOT DO THAT.

stop sign

I have an idea for a story. I enjoy Battlestar Galactica, so I think Apollo or Starbuck should be in my story. I love watching Dr. Who, so the much discussed Clara will have a place. Oh yeah, the doc from BSG is great, so he will be there.

Clichés are good, yes? I love clichés, it makes the story run so much smoother.

How could I forget? Explanation for every little action any of my characters make is a no-brainer; because, duh, how will anyone know what is happening without detailed exposition for every action?

Intense action sequences must be broken up with internal narrative; and inconsistencies during those scenes will go unnoticed, so I just gotta stick to the detailed explanations.

And this, this is the most important I have to remember: the tough, grizzled guy gets the woman who instantly falls for him upon meeting him, but she must also act stern and show she doesn’t give a shit when he reacts like a silverback gorilla challenging an intruder. People just won’t find it believable if she doesn’t show a little backbone.

facepalm

Let’s break down the reasons why the above is so wrong.

STEALING CHARACTERS

It is okay to take inspiration from a fictional or real person to create your fictional person. That’s perfectly okay. Nearly every single fictional character ever created has been inspired by person(s) of myth or reality or a little of both. What is wrong, is stealing wholesale from a character someone else has created.

For example: The Chief of Medical on Battlestar Galactica is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news.

So, if your doctor is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news; you’re not inspired from the doc on BSG, you’re just being lazily and stealing.

CLICHÉS

  1. The soldier with a lot of tattoos is a hot head and great in a fight.
  2. The man from a country in South America, he prays with a rosary before every mission even though he’s agnostic.
  3. A settled new planet has a bazaar, homes made out of rock, and low wealth, and is, of course, settled by people from Middle East nations.
  4. The tough guy leader has a checkered past, doesn’t care about himself cause he’s a leader, and he gets the girl.

The above are called, “clichés”, although I think number 3 is also an overt racist stereotype, and number 2 makes you seem ridiculously uneducated.

I wish I could say people hate clichés, but if that were the case The Big Bang Theory would not be popular. Clichés do ensure you’ll have a ton of really terrible reviews, and not nice things coming from word of mouth because of the lack of originality. You’ll never get away from every cliché, but don’t over do it and stay away from the stereotypes.

EASE UP ON THE EXPOSITION

No. I’ll say it again. No. You do not need to explain every little goddamn thing. If you are writing a military sci-fi book, you do not need to tell the reader what MRE stands for. If the person reading a military sci-fi book does not know what MRE stands for or what a MRE is, they are in a super duper tiny minority and they will look it up.

Explaining precisely why a character is going to do something, and then having the character do exactly what was in the previous two paragraphs is called, “telegraphing”. There is no such thing as good telegraphing, unless you are using a telegraph to send a message to another telegraph. You’re not though, you’re typing on a keyboard.

Ease up on the exposition, and while you’re writing, pretend for just a minute that your reader has an iota of intelligence and can figure something out without you having to paint the Mona Lisa in every paragraph.

INCONSISTENCIES

If you are in walking with maglev boots on the outside of a spaceship in the vacuum of space and you jump off…You will not land with a thud against the ship.

THE DAMSEL

Take a moment to look at what year it is. You’re reading this on a web browser; the date is going to be somewhere within eyesight.

It’s the year 2016 CE. It is not the Mad Men era in the 1950s.

If you create a character who is a giant asshole with mood swings so violent, he has an armed guard to meetings, the woman he talks to will not instantly fall in love with his rugged handsomeness and manly attitude when she meets him for the first time. She will not tell the guard to leave the room while he slams his fists on the table because his authority is being challenged. Seriously, if you think this is perfectly okay for a story…

book and coffee

I love reading; great stories, wonderful stories, just okay stories, it really doesn’t matter. However, authors are supposed to uphold some sort of standard with storytelling. Not everyone on Earth writes stories, which means being the bulwark against terrible storytelling falls to just a small percentage of all alive.

Let’s do the world good.

Let’s create magic with words.

 

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4 Detrimental Effects Of Reading On Ereaders

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History is full of epic battles; David and Goliath, Axis and Allies, Rocky and Apollo; but there is one battle more epic, more divisive, than any other:

Paper books versus Ebooks

Find someone who reads (more than just emails), and ask them if they prefer to do their reading on a real book or on a fake book like Kindles, and you’re guaranteed to get a response that does not straddle the fence. And even though the answer—which is better—is obvious, some people still choose wrong and say a fake (ebook) book is better.

The next time you hear such heresy, you now have four direct hits for why ebooks are the loser in this battle.

 

YOU’LL FORGET HOW TO READ LONG SENTENCES

Reading long literary sentences is a skill you can actually lose if you don’t use it. A study in 2006 shows that reading on screens changes the linear fashion in which we are taught to read, to an “F” pattern, where we read the first line then skim the left side looking for keywords. Good luck enjoying a novel by only reading thirty words on every page.

 

LACK OF ABSORBTION

Quick, name the first three significant plot points in the latest book you read. If you read the story on paper, you’re likely able to rattle them off; if you chose to read it on a Kindle or other ereader you’re “significantly” less likely to accurately answer that.

 

PAPER BOOKS ARE MORE COHERENT AND NAVIGABLE

By halving the topography of a novel—rather than eight corners and two clearly defined domains that help you navigate the terrain of words, an ebook gives you just a single page of text with no way to orient yourself—you are turning a joyful reading experience into an incoherent mess. Oh, and that literary map the domains—left and right pages—create also helps with reading comprehension.

 

YOU’RE HURTING YOURSELF

You heard reading can prevent mental decline and increase your empathy so you don’t come off as such a jerk to people, so you started reading with vigor. Good for you! Fantastic! I just hope you didn’t choose a screen to read that book on, or you may end up damaging your health more than helping it.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh man, I gotta read a book?

READING

Reading [ˈrēdiNG]

NOUN

  1. the action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud

 

Three years ago when I was still writing ANDROID HUNTERS, a coworker told me something that shocked me so intensely I just sat down—a little bummed truth be told. He said, “I don’t read books, just watch TV. I don’t have enough time to read.”

How was I to respond to that?

  • “I hate you, because my dream relies on people reading.”?
  • “Can you at least buy my book?”?
  • “Uhh, stop watching TV and you’ll have more time to read.”?

I didn’t have a clue how to respond, so I sat down and began responding to emails like he had said nothing. It’s been at least three years since I’ve heard those words, and they still haunt me; so much so that I passively look for research into reading that I can share with a person I will likely never see again.

INCREASE THAT VOCAB OF YOURS

TV relies on imagery and sound to get across most of the points the show is making, in turn exposing you to precious few words. What words are said are catered to the lowest common denominator so everyone can understand.

Why do you need a larger vocabulary when a TV show doesn’t need it? Well a TV show doesn’t need confidence to talk to a supervisor at work. A TV show doesn’t need to sound articulate in a professional setting. So, crack open those books, expose yourself to some new words, and start speaking with new found confidence with articulation that stuns even you.

STOP SPENDING ALL LUNCH BREAK READING THAT TWO PARAGRAPH EMAIL

Without exposing yourself to the written word, automaticity and word recognition speed are greatly delayed. Not recognizing leads to less involvement in reading, which leads to less word recognition, until you’re communicating in grunts and hand gestures. *

*Okay, maybe not grunts, but you won’t have to spend ten minutes reading a two sentence email.

ANALYTICAL SKILLS, YAY!

We all love solving puzzles, being able to spot a pattern someone else can, winning at games. Hooray for competition! How about improving your odds of beating that total stranger/friend/coworker by showing off mad analytical skillz gained by reading.

WRITE BETTER

Do you like writing? Do you want to one day write the next great American novel? Do you just want your emails to not sound like a five year old wrote them? Good luck doing that without reading. A LOT.

DON’T BE THAT PERSON

It’s easier to talk to someone who is empathetic, something everyone learns eventually.

Studies have shown that by broadening your horizon through reading, your mind will open and be more receiving to lives outside your insular one. In other words, you may never have known someone who suffered through cancer, but by reading books with people going through sickness, you will literally increase your empathy for a real person suffering from an illness. And be realistic, at least one time in your life someone will look to you for empathy; do you really want to have to give them the cold shoulder because you don’t understand?

ENTERTAINMENT

Books can be consumed in more areas than watching a TV show. You don’t have to worry about putting away a book on an airplane before departure and landing. A book can be read in an area without cell signal. It doesn’t need to be charged. You don’t need to wait for a company to throw tons of money at a show just so you can see something different, because there’s a never-ending barrage of new and interesting content waiting to increase your vocabulary and make you a better friend.

BEST OF ALL, READING IS FREE

Go into a library (for free), get a library card (for free), and start entertaining yourself without waiting for a computer that has a timer (for free).

 

 

 

 

 

Reading with no luck until Peter Watts saves the day!

Private-library

It’s been a while since I’ve made a post about a book I just completed. If you look on the Hi There, you’ll notice I won’t bash books. What does that disclaimer have to do with anything?

it left zero lasting impression on me after I turned the last page

Well, I’ve started and stopped maybe twenty books since the last one I finished and posted about. I did manage to finish one book completely. While it wasn’t terrible by any stretch, it left zero lasting impression on me after I turned the last page.

This is the problem with not being able to just read anything I get my hands on. There’s a book I was reading for the last eleven days. Normally I finish a book, on average, in five days. I stopped reading it today, 2/3 finished with it, because I found no compelling reason to finish the book.

The unfortunate part of that visual is, it’s how I feel about most books I read.

There’s a weird alien thing in a host body. They’re fighting other weird alien things, and this cardboard character-duo may die or may get the girl. Who knows. I just kept picturing particleboard in the shape of a square, only it was all sawdust and no glue. The unfortunate part of that visual is, it’s how I feel about most books I read. The stories are just a bunch of sentences strung together to create either an incoherent mess or something that loses steam around the halfway point and hopes to coast to a finish.

It’s how I feel though, which is why I won’t publicly bash another author’s work. Bad form.

The voice of his stories is hauntingly captivating.

I have not given up on the written word of other authors, no matter how many “good stories” I find to be quite trite and not worth reading. Nay! I continue to plod along, starting and stopping these “good stories”, for I know I will eventually come across another story that sings to me, and I finally picked up that story. I am enjoying it with such intensity that I’m reading every single word.

ECHOPRAXIA by Peter Watts.

Peter Watts is amazing. The voice of his stories is hauntingly captivating. I really do feel the world is going to shit for the protagonist, but in an utterly gorgeous way that is quite oxymoronic. Don’t worry, my post where I gush about ECHOPRAXIA, will be more well thought out than this paragraph.

Now I just have to steel myself to be let down by another dozen books, before I find another one that I’ll finish, or…Maybe I’ll get lucky and the book after ECHOPRAXIA will be one I stay excited with from cover to cover.

Summer Vacation (for the daughter)

Great vacation photo by Flickr user: kalexanderson https://flic.kr/p/a276pY

Great vacation photo by Flickr user: kalexanderson
https://flic.kr/p/a276pY

First day of summer vacation! Hooray (that’s my daughter yelling that)!

The first few hours after school let out were a fantastic start to summer vacation; reading books and eating cookies at Barnes and Noble, then swimming in pouring rain and then cartoons. Everyday should be reading books, eating cookies, and swimming. That’d be the life. Quick, someone bequeath a few tens of millions of dollars to me. You’ll get a shout out on Twitter and this blog if you do. How’s that for thanks?

But we need a schedule even if someone gave me tens of millions. Don’t let that stop you from giving me that money. She needs to learn how to ride a bike with no training wheels and these dogs need training. We gave the cats wet food last night and one of the dogs, Ariel, followed us into the room we feed the cats in, as if we were walking around with dog food. She did walk out, but then walked back in and ate the food two seconds after I got out of her line of sight.

Schedules can be hard to figure out, and my personality resists schedules, but my daughter is like her mom, my wife, they love schedules. They can be hard, but I think I got it figured out and in a way that will still make it feel like summer vacation should feel. Just gotta figure out how to slip in some writing time during the day, that’s gonna be the hard part.