30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 26: Priorities

 

I have to be up by 5 AM tomorrow. I just calculated my optimal time frame for the morning session, and “5 AM” is what mathed out.

That means this post is going to be a little short.

And with it, I’d like to say time’s a bitch.

Today, I wrote a scene that I’ve had planned for years. I think of it as the emotional hook of the story–the moment that defines what the novel will be like, locking Modis and Sydney together. Like anything else I write in first draft, it needs a lot of work…

But I enjoyed writing it so much that the morning’s session became a game of chicken between me and time.

“Ten minutes left?… I bet I can finish this scene in ten minutes.”

“Five minutes. Goddammit.”

“Three minutes.”

“Okay… I should definitely be leaving right now, but I can take an extra ten minutes.”

It got to the point where I just forced myself to leave the last line of the scene, knowing I’d be late if I didn’t. And man was I almost late–one of the only times I’ve ever gotten to work at the new job with minutes to spare.

Somewhere in here, there’s a lesson about priorities. It’s completely lost on me though.

Because the real lesson feels more like, “Maybe wake up with two hours of writing time?” Which is a beautiful pipe dream. Cause I’m not waking up at 4 AM. 5? Sure. But 4 AM doesn’t exist. It’s a made-up time; everyone knows.

Whatever. The point is, it’s 11 PM and I should be thinking about my priorities…

Go to bed in a few minutes.

Wake up, get dressed, have coffee.

Figure out the last line of today’s scene.

And continue on to the end of the first two chapters–the point where the actual adventure begins.

I’m obviously not finishing H&T by the end of NaNoWriMo, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost. Knowing that is an amazing feeling. The NaNo Police aren’t going to knock my door down and arrest me.

The only thing that could possibly keep me from writing is me.

Just thinking that makes me want to wring my hands and laugh maniacally. I’m sure some disaster will pop up–some hurdle to figure out.

But right now… it just feels like I’m getting away with something.

Words for the Day: 798

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,247

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 25: Let’s Do This

I got home today and didn’t worry about writing. Because I’d already done it this morning.

I was extremely confused.

I woke up an hour early today, showered, got dressed, and hammered out a quick few hundred words before heading to work. It was bizarrely casual.

It almost felt… healthy.

I know I shouldn’t be making light of it–I should be enjoying it actually; I had a late shift today that ended earlier than usual, meaning I had hours more free time than I usually do, so writing on what I keep thinking of as “the schedule” (writing when I wake up, then going to the day job) was a lot easier today. In two days, I’m back on my normal schedule, which means I’ll have to be up before the sun does. And that means… I’ll have to start heading to bed at Old Man o’ Clock. It’ll be worth it.

But it’ll also be more difficult. Getting home at 11PM and waking up at 5 or 6AM is going to be rough.

So, really, I should be grateful that I got to play an extra hour or two of Warframe and watch some things.

And happy that being consistent–writing something every day–isn’t really challenging anymore.

The thing is, knowing that–feeling that lack of challenge–is why I’m thinking of this schedule as the schedule… I think I can actually use it for the rest of my life. As in, “I can imagine waking up every single morning and writing something, first thing. Every single day, until I die.”

I’m grateful for that.

I’m also… super intimidated.

Only for a moment though. Just–come on–let me have this. The veil has been lifted and I’m finding that there are suddenly no excuses between me and writing every day. It’s heavy.

I find myself thinking, “Did… did I work out the stupid kinks? Is this for real? Do I actually just write now? Like… write everything?”

Well… Okay then.

Let’s do this.

Words for the Day: 452

NaNoWriMo Total: 10,349

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 24: Freshly Reset

So, today, having a day off with good rest… I completed the Double Scene experiment I’d come up with over a week ago. I woke up today, edited heavily, then waited for a few hours and got a second session in. And it didn’t feel like I was straining at any point; I didn’t have to slog through the scene I just wrote–I only had to be careful about writing it before I got tired (or drunk–I got wine and pie for Thanksgiving).

But, of course, I did have to write a second post today, because I realize that, now, in the final stretch, I have to go in hard on the new writing schedule: wake up really early, write before I go to work, then write a post when I get home. That meant posting twice today, or else 30 Days would actually be 29 Days.

It’s weird to think that I only figured out this schedule now, on the home stretch of NaNoWriMo 2016. One more week, and then it’s back to silently toiling away with my writing projects.

Which just means that I’m going to be continuing to write this novel (because hitting pause part way through a novel is like sending it out to die; there’s no way you’ll return to it in the same state-of-mind, with the same feelings and intentions). Already, it’s a huge contrast to 30 Days 1; at the end of my first NaNoWriMo, I had a complete novel that needed a lot of work.

Now, having written three books–two of which were terrible–it’s nice to be confident about the progress I’ve made on a new novel. Confident… and tolerant about how I make that progress. Because, for a while, I was caught up worrying that I wouldn’t be able to write something that I liked more than Memorythat it was going to be the one project I cling to desperately. That I’d keep throwing it at publishers, hoping it would get picked up. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to write something new. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that a lot of writers probably have fears like these at one point or another.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m grateful that, at least for tonight, I can just smile about the novel I’m working on. Tonight, I get to be excited. I’m back to loving what I do instead of being afraid of it.

And that’s worth  30 days of hard work.

Words for the Day: 659

NaNoWriMo Total: 9,910

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 23: Giving Thanks for Editing

The nap worked. Well, in the sense that sleeping for 10 hours is technically a nap, it definitely worked.

After yesterday’s post, I went to work, thinking up another route with the exchange I was worried about.

And then I worked on my feet for an entire day, until my legs were killing me. I walked home like that, hips actually aching, worried my one bad leg would give out.

But it didn’t. I got home, had dinner, relaxed for a bit, laid down to a nap without worrying about how long it would take.

And then I woke up today, refreshed, excited.

I proceeded to read and edit all 40+ pages of my manuscript in one sitting, editing for a consistent tone as I went, adding new names and changing terms to make the MS cohesive. It was a little sad to hit the points where I’d obviously written while half-asleep, made obvious by question marks in really strange places.

But it was a huge relief to get to the exchange I’d written last and immediately realize exactly what was wrong with it.

With life being so tough the last few days, the first version of that back and forth between Modis and Sydney was incredibly tough. Serious and heavy. And sad. Modis got upset enough to cry and Sydney got angry. It just didn’t match up with the first 30 or so pages, in which Modis is generally light-hearted, smart, and determined, and Sydney is tough, curt, and untouchable.

So, without even really trying, I rewrote it, bringing myself right to the end of the MS with a ton of excitement to spare.

What I’m really trying to say with this post is, if you’ve been struggling with a part of your NaNoWriMo project (or any writing project really)–if it’s been difficult to make time and you have to push yourself to write when you’re exhausted–maybe just don’t write when you’re exhausted. Maybe rework your schedule so you’re writing when you aren’t tired. Because, having just experienced the two back to back, writing when you’re completely refreshed is significantly better than doing it when you’re worn out.

And, I mean, of course, right? Duh. But I say this anyway because I think that it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in being productive regardless of how we feel. We’re writers; everything has to be done on hard mode, even if we don’t realize it. It’s incredibly easy for us to be too hard on ourselves, especially if we’re working toward a word goal, like NaNoWriMo’s. At a certain point, writing becomes more about getting x-amount of words and less about the quality of those words. And I’m not blaming NaNoWriMo; I’m just saying that, as eager writers, we’re all in danger of stumbling into the word goal hole.

So, if you don’t already know, just keep in mind that, regardless of word goals, there’s a limit to what conditions you can write under as a responsible writer. Our brains are our tools, so if you have a choice between working with a dull tool or a freshly sharpened one, go with the sharpened one, for your novel’s sake.

Words for the Day: ?

NaNoWriMo Total: 9,251

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 22: Fundamentally

Something’s not right.

This isn’t the post where I start talking about the walls making funny noises–I promise. I’m not completely insane yet.

But something’s fundamentally wrong.

My job hasn’t gone 13+ hours mode yet, but these days, when I get home, after eating and watching something–after taking a moment to relax and not work–I’m finding it impossible to write well.

And, instead of beating myself up about it–about not writing at all last night, for example–I’m going to figure out why.

It’s not the story. It’s not the drive. I like this story and I can absolutely get behind the themes it supports. It’s also a novel I’ve wanted to write for ages, so I’m not reluctant about actually writing it.

No… It’s something else, fundamentally wrong.

Last night, my writing session was only minutes long. I opened my MS, got to the beginning of the exchange between my protagonists, started reading, and, already in a haze at 10PM, I absolutely had no idea if what I’d written was good or bad. After telling myself during the day that I could rewrite the scene–and knowing how to go about it–I was finding that there was just something stopping me from remembering how.

And what that “something” was became pretty obvious as I tried to read the entire exchange, editing as I went… and suddenly snapping awake after what felt like 10 minutes of sleeping at my computer.

I’d rewritten one sentence, didn’t give it end punctuation and then rolled on to write half of the next sentence, which I’d started in the middle, without punctuation–without even the prepositional phrase I’d intended to start it with. During the middle of that broken sentence, I’d just fallen asleep.

I actually said to myself, “I… I actually just can’t do this.

“I can’t write like this.”

But… a week ago, I’d had the same schedule and I’d been fine. So, why couldn’t I write now, with the same schedule?

Because, a week ago, I hadn’t been the face of the seasonal event at my job. A week ago, I had solid chances to either sit down and write.

Or at least sit down.

Now, I have to stand up every day. I have to watch people walk around, full of the holiday spirit (which, in America, means that they’re 5,000,000 times more ready to argue with you, as backwards as that is). Now, my job is way more physical.

So, when I get home, I’m way more tired than I’ve ever been after work.

And, while being determined to write is always a good thing, actually writing while completely exhausted is probably a terrible idea. It’s why I couldn’t figure out how Modis got out of that cell a few days ago. And, without a shadow of a doubt, I know it’s why I’m not sure if the tones for Modis and Sydney’s first exchange are right. Possibly because I don’t remember half of it.

My schedule for the first half of NaNoWriMo 2016 just isn’t going to work for these next few weeks.

So, tonight, I figure out a new schedule. When I get home, I’m taking a nap. At worst, I’ll wake up at 4AM to write for an hour or two before work. Or at 12AM. Whatever–the point is, I’ll wake up with a clear head.

Which I need if I’m going to get any more real work done on this novel.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,714

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 21: Expectation

30 Days 2 is starting to teach me things about myself as a writer.

Primarily… I’m starting to realize that I have an issue with expectation.

Well, expectation and gratification.

I’m finding it harder and harder to actually feel gratified when I do any writing. At least for this novel. And that inability to feel productive scales with me; if I don’t write, I feel bad for not writing. If I do write, I feel bad for not writing enough. If I write enough, I immediately wonder if it’s any good.

To a degree, I think I do this because of my experience with Memory. I loved writing that book. It was legitimately a blast.

But that was partially because I was still being a little headstrong with it. Some plot lines were stagnant when I was done. The intro was unwieldy. There was a lot that I had to fix about that novel, to the point where I was editing it without knowing if it was good at all anymore.

So, now, with H&T, everything is baby steps. Everything is metered and measured and extremely careful. Everything is second-guessed.

The result of all of this is, on a day like today, when I wrote 600+ words, I feel bad because I was aiming for a ton. I sit back and question everything I wrote. And I think, “Ugh… I have to be back at work tomorrow; I can’t just take another day and figure this out.”

And, really, that’s true for all writers. We all have to just go through the motions–work the day job–then come home and try our best to be productive with our passion.

The thing is, you have to do that and not go crazy doing it.

And not going crazy means not feeling like you lose every single day.

So… Hey, guys. I got 600+ words today, which is pretty good, considering I was at home with a ton of distractions. What I wrote was a little rough–a tense, first exchange between my protagonists–but I’m super familiar with turning a scene I don’t like into something amazing, so I know that I can do it.

That… is how a writer should think. That’s how I need to start thinking.

Because I think I’m starting to just get… scared of writing. I’m starting to make excuses for myself constantly. And maybe it’s because I got published; maybe now I’m just expecting myself to be able to make everything perfect right away. But that’s not the way writing works. That’s not the way anything works. I need to know that.

Because everything sucks in my life, but writing has always been the one thing that didn’t.

I need it to stay that way.

Words for the Day: 618

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,714

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 20: Late Success

Yesterday, at work:

Louis: He’s sitting during a morning meeting, already tired, having gotten a max of 4 hours of sleep.

His Boss: She talks about the day’s proceedings. At some point, sensing everyone’s lethargy, she perks up. “Well, at least it’s going to be a shorter day, right?”

Louis: He blinks.

His Boss: “We close at six? Seven?”

Someone Else: Chimes in. “Seven.”

Louis: He blinks again.

Louis’ Brain: “Is it possible that the no-sleep has made your mind-brain all backwards and side-to-side, at the same time?” It giggles.

Louis: He almost says, “Quiet you!” Instead, he checks his schedule on his phone, and finds that he’s “only” working 8AM – 7PM. “By Escribyr’s hoary beard…”

~~~

And thus began a day of victories.

Work sucked. It was boring, which it always is.

But a coworker invited me to work with his production company. It’s a thing I’m wary of because helping build start-ups has always gone really, really poorly in the past, but it’s a different field (film), and I have faith in the drive of the guy starting it. I also get to be a consultant instead of a major cog who’s expected to relinquish a ton of his writing time, so I can’t complain. It is, at least, an exciting prospect.

But, far more exciting was getting the solution to yesterday’s problem. In the end, I think it was the no-sleep; there were countless ways for Modis to get out of his cell, but I was way, way too tired to figure out the right way two days ago.

Yesterday at work, however, I was able to figure it out. Of course, the day was so busy that I actually wanted to relax during lunch (instead of working more), so I didn’t get to write before getting home. I did get to imagine the scene thoroughly though, excitedly piecing together all of its fun bits.

When I got home I was so tired that I fell asleep on myself again, so I just wrote the solution, saving this post for today–a few hours later than usual, but still done, at least. And, more importantly, not typed sentence by sentence, falling asleep repeatedly as I go.

For today, I have a day off from job one, which means I get to finish up my scene and roll into the next one. The goal for today is to finish this chapter. I don’t usually set intense goals for the day, but I want to reach the point where the story finally opens up. I want that fresh-out-of-the-pilot feeling.

Either way, thank God for solutions. And the exciting prospect of collaborations. And sorely-needed days off.

Words for the Day: 332

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,106

A Quick Note about My NaNoWriMo Total: Updating it now, I can’t help realizing that, yeah, I really did lose words yesterday. It’s the editing; I haven’t been adding my words together as I’ve gone, I’ve just taken the word total from my doc and pasted it here. Of course, that doesn’t really give a clear idea of how many words I’ve written for the month, but eh. I’m more about the manuscript total; if I wrote a scene but wound up cutting it because it didn’t work, does that scene actually count as progress? Whatever. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Update: The Age of Submissions Already Sucks

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I wasn’t intending to do another update immediately; last weekend was the first weekend without Saturday morning cartoons, as you may have heard. That made this past Monday the perfect time to launch my Cliché Showcase series (I’m starting with cartoony villains).

But when the time came, I just wasn’t feeling it. Although I was excited to write about Albert Wesker and the Red Skull, I was also days away from hearing back about my very first submission. And I thought, “No matter how that turns out, I’m going to have something to talk about.”

Yep. I was right.

Before I launch into this, I have to clarify that it’s more of an update on my life; I’m not trying to share any interesting thoughts here—just laying down an experience.

So, what is it about submitting a story that really sucks? There are many, many answers:

At first, it’s the insanely tense need to make sure it’s completely perfect. Not just the story—the submission itself. There’s proper formatting to worry about, of course. But there’s also your cover letter—the need to write a single, short line about yourself that’s both unobtrusive and interesting. There’s (for me at least) the magic of repeatedly comparing submission guidelines to the email / submission portal you’ve already filled out, combing for mistakes—something I did until my eyes glazed over, looking at the two windows on my computer monitor without actually seeing them anymore. There’s hitting “Send” and immediately checking your submission again, unrealistically expecting to find an error despite the countless rechecks… Maybe I’m being way, way too open about my own neurosis here, but I think these are things that will nag any writer who’s being careful with their submissions.

The post-Send waiting is fine. The hardest part about it is being honest with yourself—knowing that the story probably won’t get picked up.

The worst part, despite all of that prep for rejection, is being rejected. Opening a reply and letting your eyes shoot straight to the familiar shapes of “Thank you,” and, “not what we’re looking for.”

Because, despite what you’ve told others and yourself, you can’t stop wondering if you’re doing it again; I came from a background of cringe-worthy writing that I was too young to second-guess, so the first question I asked myself when I got my rejection was, “Is everything I write still horrible and I just don’t know it?” If you’re like me, chances are you’ll do the same.

And you might go on to ask yourself, “Or is it just not a right fit for them?” And, “But what if it’s too weird? What if it’s not a good fit for anyone?” “It’s Fantasy/Horror. Did I mess up by not submitting this in time for Halloween?” “Is anyone even going to accept a story like this outside of Halloween?” “Is it even actually scary enough for next Halloween?” And it goes on and on…

… Until you get a hold of yourself.

Somehow, despite everything that sucks about submissions, the best feeling is finding another magazine and continuing to submit your work. Cover letters and emails will always suck for me, but sending a story to someone else, sighing out the worry and accepting that everything’s fine (understanding that this is another hurdle to jump over—another part of the impossible process you’ve chosen) is oddly grounding. You don’t give up because you’ve already passed other points where anyone else would have given up.

You’re a writer. You get back to work.

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I’ve already submitted “The Drowned God of the Silent Realm” again. I will continue to do so until someone bites or until I move on to a different story. Either way, I’m pulling it’s Progress Bar—it is adequately “Sent!” after all.

And now, onto the next grind. The last edit of War of Exiles. And, in the near distance, a much tougher breed of submissions.

A Mess of Small Goals

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Man did April blow up in my face.

If you follow this blog, you’ll know I had an incredibly clean, specific plan for April. A plan that started with a content edit of War of Exiles, the book I’ve been working on since 2005 through various phases of my writing career. A plan that was so clean and so simple that I should never, ever have expected it to go smoothly.

Because, hey, we’re writers, right? Writing comes first… until work and life come first. Without getting into it, I had a family crisis that thankfully resolved itself, but before I knew that, I was preparing to move and resigning myself to fail at paying my mother’s debts like I promised I would a year ago. No big. No problem. Just an epic personal failure and a disruption of my life plans.

Of course, the crisis being a dud was nice, but the effect is, I’m starting the content edit for War of Exiles way later than intended.

The odd thing about it is how incredibly guilty I feel. I’ve already opened up a lot more than I usually do with my posts, so I’ll keep leveling with you here; I feel like a lazy scumbag because I haven’t started the edit yet… despite having perfectly good reasons. The reasons being the crisis, the fallout (compiling and sending a bunch of story files from my ancient iMac to myself because that’s Writer Priorities right there), the second fallout (trying to catch up on work hours I missed because of the first fallout) and maybe a matinee of The Winter Soldier somewhere in there (shut up—it was essential).

The thing is though, those were perfectly legitimate reasons… to not write. So why am I beating myself up about it? As my friend and fellow writer, Justine Manzano, put it in an email, “I love how you say you weren’t diligent enough because you were working.”

And why is that, when I clearly see how unrealistic that guilt is, my reaction is still a distracted grunt and, “Damnest thing… You write today, btw?”

I really don’t have an answer for this one; this is absolutely not one of my workshoppy, peer-counsel posts.

All I can say is, I’m… actually glad that I reacted to that guilt… with pressure.

Is that horrible? I have no idea. But regardless, I’m making absolutely no effort to change that writing pressure reflex, even though it sucks. Because, to put it into the most mature terms I can think of, every writer… wants to be that Lvl. 99 Master of the Iron Quill. I used to be completely incapable of writing anything if there was any noise in the room… until I forced myself to work through the cars blasting music outside and the party going on upstairs. That’s Lvl. 5 nonsense of course, but the point is, if I ever trip, I should hit the floor with red correction pencil and the final page of a manuscript in hand.

And, as obviously unrealistic as that is, it’s always better to strive for that than shrugging and thinking, “Meh. I’ll get to it next week,” isn’t it? Or do I have this all wrong? This is the profession where you compound super unhealthy mannerisms like staying inside and shunning the real world with totally unrealistic personal standards, isn’t it? Phew. Thought I was in the wrong place for a minute.

At any rate though, through a mess of small goals, I’m finally ready to start the content edit of War of Exiles (the Project Progress Bar at the top right of the page has already been changed—that’s commitment).

To summarize, I finished March with a solid short story outline for The Hand and the Tempest with lots of extra plot details and a much looser novella outline I’m planning to expand on after the content edit of War of Exiles is done. Of course, I have to own up and say that March wasn’t as productive as I was hoping and, as it always goes with writing, I wasn’t able to finish a large project in the tiny, unrealistic window I gave myself. But I promise to continue striving for “Still not good enough.” : )

~~~

I will be busy with the novel, but I’ll keep taking time out for posts (and I promise I’ll get back to the usual, workshop content in the weeks to come). Although not necessarily in this order, another Games for Writers is coming up along with a post about compiling old notes (because, seriously, all of us with the notebooks and the sticky notes everywhere, amirite?). There may even be a third issue of Red Comics, that web comic I put together whenever I seriously, seriously want to procrastinate.

So maybe pass by again or subscribe. But no matter what you do, thanks for reading!

The 3 Great Fiction Sins

First, apologies for taking so long to get another post out; things are a bit rough at the moment and the article I finished last week and was intending to post just wasn’t up to snuff (and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time with a post that didn’t offer readers anything). I was going to settle for more generic life update this week, but this idea came first, so let’s get to it instead.

So, The Day of the Doctor happened. And I absolutely missed it; I enjoy Doctor Who a bunch, but I haven’t watched in a long time. I’ll be completely honest about my bias: the 10th was my Doctor, and before you say anything, yes, I have watched a bunch of Matt Smith and I like him, but he’s not David Tennant. Bias aside, I think I actually fell behind because of some of the story elements of Smith’s run.

I won’t get into them because that would be a whole other article, but I will say that one of those elements that nagged me… led to this article, my 3 Great Fiction Sins. What are they? The elements that I believe any fiction writing can easily fall victim to. There are, of course, way more than these three, but I feel that these are the three I’ve seen prevail in professionally produced works of fiction (so more obvious things like creating plot elements that don’t make sense didn’t make it onto this list). These prevailing sins are, however, still extremely obvious and jarring… and sometimes incredibly awkward… So let’s jump right in!

1) Clear and Obnoxious Character Bias

This is not the worst of these sins (worst for last, baby), but it is absolutely the most common. As writers and creators (or finders—whatever) of characters, you’re bound to like some of your characters more than others. The plot may result in some characters being stronger and (very naturally) more awesome than others—perhaps more cunning than others. One character may be particularly funny and, if that’s the kind of character we like, we’ll be drawn to them immediately, wanting to put them at the front of every scene and have them present for every situation. And, for the most part, that’s fine.

What isn’t fine, however, is stopping the flow of a story to include a completely unnecessary scene that is completely focused on:

Omfg! Isn’t he/she/it BADASS!?

If, say, the main characters are trying to achieve something in a limited amount of time, but, unrealistically, everything stops so that we can watch, say, a cyber ninja (the first archetype that came to mind—honestly not drawing comparisons here) cut through a full brigade of soldiers… it’s almost like the writer has slapped the book out of our hand / TV to the floor / controller into the garbage only to jump in front of us, hands held forward, eyes manic as they say, “Okay… PICTURE THIS…” For me, these moments are always that degree of awkwardly invasive—particularly because the intent is always (pretty honestly) to fap over a single character.

Which, of course, cheapens everything else about a story; suddenly, the characters are actors again, the scenes are a plot. To put it simply, your adventure stops being an adventure and turns into a piece of writing a writer wrote. Maybe this is just how I think as a writer, but chances are, scenes like this will still annoy anyone if they very naturally don’t like the writer’s favorite character as much as that writer does; if the audience doesn’t really care about the cyber ninja, they’re immediately going to roll their eyes when he jumps out with his sword in his mouth and starts chopping up dudes effortlessly… without arms (I seriously just remembered that part of Metal Gear Solid 4, so hey, I guess I was drawing comparisons—subliminally. Somebody writing this article suuure hated that scene).

Most times, a writer can handle this kind of character well, showing them off in ways that are natural and—most importantly—non-invasive.

Every other time, though… Well, let’s just say that if there’s any chance you’ve done this, seriously reconsider slapping your audience right out of the moment to hold a loose leaf sketch of the one character in front of them. “He can grab his sword… with his foot clamp!”

2) The Tea Party

For me, this second sin is really bringing it back.

I did not make this one up—a friend back in high school brought this to my attention when we were talking about Xenogears (aaand I just dated myself). Very likely, we were playing it together and got to a scene where a town was burning down during an attack from a mech (if I remember correctly). The main characters were in the process of escaping… when one of them stopped in the center of the town to talk about things I can’t remember—I’ll be honest. The thing was, it didn’t matter what they were talking about while the town burned around them and people ran, screaming, children and possessions theoretically clutched to their chests.

No, what mattered was that they were talking.

And talking.

And fucking talking.

At the time, I was too naïve about writing to realize something was wrong, but my friend said something along the lines of, “I hate these fucking tea parties.”

When I asked what she meant, she explained: tea parties were incredibly suspenseful moments in which characters who are actively running from a very real danger suddenly stop and kick up a conversation, against all logic. Depending on the eminent danger, tea parties can either be as short as a single line or as inordinately long as the full 3 minute long conversation I witnessed in Xenogears (as I remember it anyway). However, no matter the length, characters always stop running / escaping for the duration of the tea party, brazenly defying all common sense.

I immediately took her explanation to heart. And ever since, it has destroyed a surprising amount of reading, watching and playing experiences immediately for me.

In the case of a fantasy read, this sin was at its most annoying when the main characters were in a house that was actively being crushed by giants. An escape vehicle of some kind (I forgot—read this ages ago) arrived a distance from the house and the characters decided to run for it. Most of them ran.

Two immediately stopped running so that one of them could shout about how excited he was to be escaping—particularly to their next destination.

There’s absolutely a chance that I’m being too critical on this one—the intent was to be cute and funny; the excited character was a zany old man if I remember correctly and the character with him was trying to get him out of the house.

But at that point, the giants had already pummeled the house for so long that there was no sense of danger; and perhaps that’s the best definition of a Tea Party: a moment in which all sense of danger is defeated by a clear contrivance of the writer. The player stopped caring about the town burning down around them because none of the other characters seemed to. And the reader just rolled their eyes at the author’s attempt at a laugh because the house—very clearly now—was never going to actually collapse under the tree-hammering the giants were giving it.

3) Incredibly Awkward and Creepily Open Displays of Sexual Fantasies

Best for last, baby.

I watch South Park, so I’ve seen the recent jabs at George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones focusing so much on sex. Before I go on, I haven’t watched the Game of Thrones show because I didn’t like it for reasons I also won’t get into here (my favorite character is completely different—for starters) but one of my big problems with it was the sudden persistence of sex and sexuality in the show. In the books, sex happened when it felt like it should’ve; in exactly the same way that characters used the bathroom on occasion and it wasn’t glossed over, Martin also didn’t gloss over occasional sex because it’s a thing humans do, like urinating. I have heard that he has a lot to do with the show, so I throw my hands up with all of this and say, ‘I dunno—whatever.’

But what I absolutely know is that Martin never wrote 100+ pages of Jon Snow being tortured by a dominatrix with a magic dildo.

Yes, I read that book. And yes, it was an Epic Fantasy novel; not (openly) a hybrid of Fantasy and Erotica. Should it be deemed Erotica? No idea. But 100+ pages of anyone being tortured by a dominatrix with a magic dildo, is a very clear, very awkward, and very open display of sexual fantasy being mass produced and sold to the public.

And it just skeeves me out.

Nothing is wrong with a sex scene. Although I wouldn’t write one, nothing is even wrong with a detailed sex scene.

But something is extremely wrong with dragging out sexual scenes for inordinately long. And yes, any sexual scenes, not just scenes that are fetishistic.

I don’t want to go on because I’m sure I’d just repeat myself, each time getting more and more insulting, but I’ll end on the most tactful comparison I can think of:

Focusing on a character’s sexual adventures in a story that’s going to be mass produced for the general public in a genre that’s not known for sexual exploits is like introducing yourself to someone, shaking their hand with a smile, and then leaning in and whispering, “I like anal.”

Everyone’s reaction: “… : ( I need an adult.”

~~~

Well, I know it’s short and not especially helpful, but I hope you enjoyed. As always, thanks for the read and from this weird void where I never get around to thematically celebrating holidays, I hope yours are awesome. Happy that day you celebrate!