Harry Potter and the Portrait of what Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash

hp01

 

Ron’s Ron shirt was just as bad as Ron himself.

 

If you haven’t yet encountered “The Handsome One” – a short computer-generated chapter of an imaginary Harry Potter book entitled Harry Potter and the Portrait of what Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash – you owe it to yourself to give it a quick read.  One of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while!

 

Bene scribete.

When in Doubt

Facebook presented me with these two entries in direct sequence the other day.

 

libraryisclosed

 

I can’t help but feel there’s some sort of existential metaphor here.  (>^-‘)>

On a related topic, the closure of that and other local libraries is due to the greatest amount of snow this area has ever received since I’ve lived here.  My car is stuck on the street and none of the usual tricks have been successful extricating it.  It’s not very cool.

Except in the literal sense, I suppose.

 

Bene scribete.

Holiday Sale/Giveaway from Shauna Scheets

Shauna Scheets's Holiday Sale

 

My good pal Shauna Scheets has discounted all of her eBooks (including the Caillte Saíocht series and the Steampunk Serials) to 99¢ for the holidays!

You can pick them all up on Kindle and other eBook retailers, or you can even get them for free on Smashwords via name-your-price.

Here’s a great chance to check out her work if you haven’t yet!

 

Bene scribete.

Realism

Unrealrth?

 

When writing fiction, ensuring that your characters’ actions and motivations feel natural is key to telling a relatable story – or at least one that doesn’t have your readers shaking their heads in disbelief.  We can only take so many plot contrivances before we lose the ability to take a narrative seriously.  But does that mean everything in a story should unfold in a strictly realistic manner?

It can be a tricky balance to strike.  Minimizing the required suspension of disbelief is a worthy goal, but it’s also important not to use realism as an excuse for bad storytelling.  After all, real life isn’t often that interesting, and things not happening as they usually would is the gist of what makes a story worth telling.  No one excitedly calls up a friend to explain how normal of a day she had.

The premise and certain major plot points of a story may not always be particularly realistic, but if they are in service to a theme – a powerful driving force in narrative by which reality is not bound – then that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  We can usually swallow a few unlikely coincidences for the sake of poetic meaning, especially when they can (and should) still be grounded by the details surrounding them and characters’ reactions to them.  It’s also good to keep in mind that when people complain about unrealism, what they’re often actually harping on are stereotypes and clichés, ironically because they are, much like reality, regularly encountered.  What they truly want to see is something fresh and different.

Internal consistency is imperative, and reality is a good base model for how events might unfold in a given scenario, but don’t let a singular pursuit of realism steer you away from weaving a cohesive narrative.  If being unrealistic tells a better story, then tell the better story. We’re all just making stuff up, anyway. (>^-‘)>

 

Bene scribete.

Steampunk Serials: Folio 4 Now Available

 

The fourth volume of Shauna Scheets‘s Steampunk Serials is now available for purchase!

You can pick up a digital copy of it and the three preceding issues for 99¢ each at Amazon and other eBook retailers.

 

 

Bene scribete.

Laiton en Vogue

Fish Notes

 

I was recently tasked with whipping up a piece of trailer/promotional music for Shauna Scheets’s Steampunk Serials (say that five times fast) to be used for its upcoming fourth volume.

I ended up doing a less techno-oriented (and more appropriately clock-y) rendition than this for production, but I like how this one turned out well enough to share it.

 

 

Folio 4: Stars of a Type is available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle.

 

Bene scribete.

Describing Protagonists

A man being drawn

 

The other day, I encountered a conversation on Facebook prompted by a question on how best to describe the main character of a book, and when several responses amounted to “don’t”, I figured it was a topic worth discussing further.

Descriptive minimalism is all the rage these days – and don’t get me wrong, I hardly yearn for a return to multi-page-long tangents of flowery irrelevance – but I always find my reader side irritated when an author can’t be bothered to describe the protagonist without a thematic reason not to do so.  In short stories, sure, it’s not so big of a deal, as they’re usually more about ideas than characters, but if you’re going to have me follow someone for an entire novel, at least give me a clue as to whom I should be picturing. I can fill in the blank, but it’ll probably be with something pretty stock, and I’m reading for a glimpse into your imagination, not mine.

Physical appearance should certainly take a back seat to personality and actions as far as defining a character, but it’s still an avenue for interesting subtext, and something worth taking advantage of.  Personal imagery is a powerful thing; we’re visually oriented and strongly wired to pay it mind.  Let your readers make assumptions about how characters might act based on what they look like, then challenge or confirm them as you see fit – a motif equally applicable to reality.  Forcing your readers to assume what characters look like based on how they act is something that doesn’t make sense outside the context of a story – assuming the characters interact with others and aren’t invisible.

As to the how of the original question, there are plenty of non-intrusive methods to describe a character.  As long as the narrative isn’t strictly perspectivized (and the perspective has no reason to draw attention to it), there’s nothing wrong with a simple declarative sentence or two: “He was a short, tan, and lumpy fellow, not unlike a potato.”  Sprinkling adjectives onto actions (“She tied back her long, brown tresses”) or using dialogue from others (“Aren’t you a little too tall for that?”) are quick and seamless.  Even reflections, as tropey as they are, are a natural way to bring up appearance within the bounds of the narrative if the perspective character is self-critical, vain, or recently changed in some way.

All of that said, though, this is one of those things that ultimately comes down to a matter of personal preference.  So, as a reader (and/or writer), what’s yours?

 

Bene scribete.

Lost Time

Lost Time Cover

 

Just wanted to spread the word that Shauna Scheets‘s Lost Time – second volume in the Caillte Saíocht prequel trilogy – released this week!

As a promotional bonus, the first volume – Ascha – will be free on Kindle today and tomorrow (9/7 – 9/8), so go check it out if you haven’t yet!

 

Bene scribete.

Free Books from Shauna Scheets

Free Books from Shauna Scheets

 

Just wanted to pass the word along that my good pal Shauna Scheets is offering the current Caillte Saíocht books (The Tower of Boran and its prequel, Ascha) and her short story “Mirrored Worlds” for free on Kindle today through Monday (6-16-14).

If you haven’t checked them out, yet, here’s the perfect chance!

 

Bene scribete.

Artist-Signed Covers?

Signing things

 

A Facebook post I came across yesterday prompted an interesting discussion that I thought I’d entertain here.  An author had posted a photograph of a proof copy of his novel, and I happened to notice that the cover artist’s signature was on the cover itself.  I pointed out that such a thing is a bit tacky from a professional standpoint, and recommended asking the artist to provide a clean copy.  Other commenters, however, cast their voice in favor of the practice, asserting that the artist deserves credit.  Some went so far as to claim that it was normal (I assure you, it isn’t.  (>^-‘)> ).

Cover artists most certainly deserve recognition for their awesome work, and the appropriate place to ascribe credit is the colophon (i.e., copyright page), particularly when most artists’ imprints aren’t exactly the clearest way to read their name.  The artist has every right to sign display and standalone copies of the artwork in question, but the actual cover is production material, which is no place for embedded autographs.  Can you imagine, for instance, watching an animated film in which the contributing artists had overtly signed each cell they worked on in-frame?

It strikes me as an insecure and amateur move that needlessly diverts attention to the artist’s self, rather than letting the work stand as a representation of the story and author for which it was commissioned.  As an editor, I don’t require credit at all, let alone to sign the footers of every page I touch and point out which sentences are mine in the finished book.  As a composer, I don’t whisper my name at the end of tracks I provide for a film.  Even as an author, I don’t stamp my name within the narrative itself.  Again, as artists we are definitely entitled to credit for the work we do, but credit should go where credit goes, and art – particularly production art created for someone else – should be allowed to shine unblemished by our desire for recognition.

(As an aside, I should note that I’m excluding such instances where the artist seamlessly weaves his or her imprint into the image itself, at which point, as attention-seeking as it may still have the potential to be, it should be judged for its own artistic merit rather than at this external level.)

But this is just my take.  If you’re an author, how would you feel if your publisher or cover designer handed you a proof with the artist’s name on the cover alongside your own?  If you’re an artist, do you feel there’s a case to be made for autographing the work you provide for another’s project?

 

Bene scribete.