Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Literature”

More guilty pleasures

Sometime during 1994 I bought one of my favourite albums of all time: Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins. Even today (boom-tish) that album sits proudly in my music collection and doesn’t sound dated. I can’t say the same for many other albums I own from the same time period. Superunknown from Soundgarden stands as a classic album, but I find it hard to listen to without having had the death of a pet weighing on my mind. I can only listen to Metallica’s Load if I promise myself I’ll put on one of their better albums straight after. Essentially, for me, the Pumpkins hit on music gold with that album.

I’ve commented before how I’ve essentially stopped being a fan of the Pumpkins, finding their offerings since Adore (which promised so much with the first single, and delivered so little with the remainder of the album) to be more filler than awesome. What I liked about the Pumpkins was not what the Pumpkins have been delivering since.

The 5 Worst Kinds of Album Every Music Fan Has Bought: Cracked.com

Your experiences may vary.

Which brings me to a discussion I was having recently on the Pumpkins album Zeitgeist. Despite buying the album, I’ve never bothered adding it to my digital library, because it only has one or two songs on it that hint at what I liked about the Smashing Pumpkins of old. A lot of fans and reviewers agree with me, with Corgan taking a potshot at fans for not even listening to the album (class act), further claiming the fans only wanted to hear the old music (probably). Anyway, the discussion had started because a couple of people were insisting the reason people didn’t like Zeitgeist was because it was too political or had political overtones.

Um, no.

While I’m not trying to imply that no-one was turned off of Zeitgeist due to the political overtones, it is clearly a long bow to draw to suggest that it was a factor, let alone a big factor, in listeners/fans disliking the album. So why would someone make this claim?

Well, simply, this is another example of people trying to justify their taste. Another guilty pleasure moment. I seem to be raising this point a lot (here on literature, here on genre vs literature, here on good vs popular, and here on guilty pleasures). It is perfectly okay for you to like what you like, there is absolutely no need to try and explain away someone else’s dislike for something you enjoy. Does it really matter if you like something everyone else hates? No. So why bother trying to put it down to political ideology or how terrorists did something…. 9/11….

Worthiness, guilty pleasures, justification: all of these things are actually stopping us from just enjoying stuff. I know I’m guilty of it, but I’m trying to get over myself. The great thing about the internet is that it is full of support groups for people who like stuff. So you don’t have to agree with everyone else on what music, books, movies, art, etc, you like. You can find your niche and create memes, gifs and video clips to bombard all your other friends with on Facebook.

Isabel Allende’s scorn for genre fiction

science-fiction-vs-proper-literature

Literature vs Genre: jetpack wins!

There is a storm brewing. In the latest of the long line of insults by literary fiction against genre fiction, Isabel Allende has taken a pot shot at crime fiction. Now apparently she hates crime fiction because:

It’s too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there’s no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people.

But that didn’t stop her writing a crime mystery. It also didn’t stop her saying that the book was a joke and ironic. I think the word she was actually looking for was hypocrite.

I’ve never really understood the people who read or write stuff they don’t enjoy. Sure, I read some really boring science journal articles, but that’s because I enjoy knowing stuff. If I’m going to sit down and read a book, I want that 10-20 hours of entertainment to be, well, entertaining. If I’m writing, which is a much longer and more involved process, why would I invest that much time in something I’m not enjoying doing?

So to some extent, I understand why Isabel decided that her mystery had to be a joke and ironic. But that is also the crux of the problem, she doesn’t seem to understand that she is also insulting readers and fans of genre fiction. I think the book store in Houston, Murder by the Book, that had ordered 20 signed copies of her novel, did the right thing in sending them back.

Now you can write a satirical or ironic take on a particular genre or sub-genre of fiction. But when you do so it has to be because of your love of all those little things you’re taking the piss out of. If you do it out of hate then you can’t turn around and try to sell it to the audience you are taking a pot shot at. I think this stuff is stupid, you’re stupid for reading it, but I still want you to pay me for insulting you.

I get a little sick of snobbishness toward genre readers and writers. Do genre readers and writers take pot shots at literary authors for their lack of plots, characters who have to own a cat and be suffering, and writing that is there to fill pages with words and not actually tell a story? No. We’re too busy reading something exciting.

It would be great if people just enjoyed what they enjoyed and stopped criticising others for enjoying what they enjoy. Enjoy.

See also:

http://www.fictorians.com/2013/03/04/literary-vs-genre-fiction-whats-all-the-fuss-about/

Love it or Hate it

To read genre or not to read genre: that really isn’t the question.

With surprising regularity there are articles written explaining why people should be reading certain types of books. It isn’t just books, of course, but I’m trying not to be distracted…. puppy! The thing that these articles have in common is snobbery.

From a young age we are given lessons in snobbery, certain things are cool to read, certain things have value or social importance. These are the things we should be reading. By definition this means everything else isn’t of value and often becomes termed our guilty pleasures. I agree with the sentiments of this article that mentions guilty pleasures as being one of the phrases that makes people hate you.

The idea that something is a guilty pleasure implies that we should feel bad because we enjoy something. Well that’s just stupid. Either we enjoyed reading the book or we didn’t. Do we really have to impress others with our cool choices in reading material? I’d argue that you can enjoy whatever you like and we need to stop with the snobbery and pretence that some books are more highbrow or worthy of reading. I’d also argue that we aren’t in high school anymore and you don’t have to be cool. And reading is cool…. no, you can’t have my lunch money.

Now I don’t want to get into the argument about reasons why people read. Some people read for pleasure, some for entertainment (I’m defining those two categories slightly differently), some to explore social issues, some to learn about a topic, some to experience emotional stories, and on the list goes. For example, I don’t read scientific papers to be entertained, I read them to learn things, but the novels I read are meant to entertain me. So some people will be snobby about what they read because of why they read. I’m more interested in addressing the other type of snobbery about reading things of worth, value and not the guilty pleasures.

A lot of this snobbery comes from English Literature academics, authors, devotees and columnists. They are regularly telling us that we shouldn’t be wasting our time reading genre fiction, we should be reading the important books. You know, the ones so important that the author didn’t bother to make them entertaining. They would have us believe that reading is too important to be just entertaining, that we can’t read a science fiction, fantasy, thriller, romance or similar genre book because that would mean we haven’t read the worthy books.

Is Terry Pratchett worthy? How about Heinlein? They put more social commentary and sophisticated language into their novels than most of the literature I’ve ever read (yes, I was a literary snob at one point). And here is the problem with the snobbery argument: they are closed minded to the idea of genre books having value and thus miss out on entertaining books that also happen to do a better job of being literature.

This is also why we see 38% of people responding to reading surveys saying that they finish a book, not because they are enjoying it, but because they feel they should finish books they start. This is that snobbery having an extended impact upon our reading habits. We’ve been trained/taught to finish books that aren’t entertaining or enjoyable because of the message or value of the book, which we will only truly appreciate by wading through the boring stuff between the book covers. It will make you think, we are promised. Sure. I always think, What a waste of time, I could have read several other books instead of drudging through this crud.

I know that snobbery is very important, because those literary people would be out of a job otherwise, but can people just keep it to themselves, please? It would be nice to see more than 40% of the population being avid readers (a book a month or more). It would be nice if we bought and read books based upon what interests us and not what would look most impressive to be seen reading or have on our bookshelves. Changing this mindset would stop memes like this one:

Stupid meme is stupid.

Stupid meme is stupid – can we just agree that a book is a book, DTB, ebook, clay tablet, whatever?

It’s great that people want to impress others with what they are reading. Currently my toddler has a really impressive array of books scattered all over the house. They make for fantastic things to trip over, stub your toe on, or make us look particularly well read on the adventures of small, overly cute animals. I’m sure all the other toddlers are impressed. I still can’t wait for him to stop impressing everyone and just have them all on an e-reader. We should be reading to enjoy reading, not to decorate our house, impress others, be worthy: no guilty pleasures, just pleasures.

What the author meant

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I’ll admit it: I did English Literature in high school. I wasn’t particularly good at it. I’ll exclude all my other excuses as to why I didn’t do well in Lit – like my general lack of motivation in school and desperate need to complete the final level of DOOM – and blame my poor grades on the above graphic.

Obviously not the graphic itself, that would be silly. I mean the message that the graphic is trying to relay, and not just that the curtains may be blue. In school and even now, I find that literature is often over-interpreted. I remember clearly one example of this when we were forced to study Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Studying a play by reading it already had me wanting to throw stuff at the teacher, as plays are meant to be watched, not read. But I remember the teacher being adamant that there was a very important juxtaposition and allegory in the comedic scene of the drunken porter.

If you can’t remember this scene in MacBeth, suffice to say it is one big joke about how being drunk makes you pee and ruins erections. Dick jokes never go out of fashion.

Apparently there is a lot of deep and meaningful stuff going on….. Dick jokes can be deep and meaningful. I always thought that MacBeth chucked in that joke scene because the rest of the play was so dark, and it gave his actors a chance to change costumes before the next act. Essentially, I thought that it was just a necessity and the master playwright had made it fun for the audience. My teacher disagreed.

But that is the thing, unless Shakespeare wrote down his intentions, or there are some amazing insights recorded from his time, then it is just conjecture, or playing with themselves. Occam’s Razor would have us take the simplest answer that fits and not try to overcomplicate things.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t deeper meaning in any artistic work, far from it. But a lot of the deeper meaning is about the reader’s projection as much as what is/was written. Take as an example the list that the wonderful Mental Floss put together:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30937/famous-novelists-symbolism-their-work-and-whether-it-was-intentional

Many famous authors, many misinterpretations.

Now some authors and genres love to go overboard with the hidden meanings, or at least like to make it seem deep and meaningful (see Steve Hely’s satire on this). Some authors just do it accidentally as part of including various themes and ideas in their work. But literary analysis really does take that interpretation to another level.

Essentially, why can’t people just enjoy a book?

Rejection letter bingo

rejection letter

 

Just a little something for all my fellow authors.

Reading Interruptions

Reading interruptions

 

Of course, the question is: does this constitute a capital offence, punishable by the death penalty?

Book Reviews: Velocity by Steve Worland

Velocity (Judd Bell & Corey Purchase, #1)Velocity by Steve Worland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whenever there is a new thriller author on the block, especially if they are Australian, there is always someone drawing a comparison to Matthew Reilly. You can just about guarantee that this comparison will be drawn by someone who hasn’t read Matthew Reilly’s books or hasn’t read the new author’s book/s. Finally there is an author with whom this comparison is valid.

Well worth the read.

View all my reviews

Women and words

words and men
Could have something to do with more women reading books. Just saying.

The top 10 books people claim to read but haven’t

tldr

Let’s face it, a large chunk of literature and non-fiction sales are nothing to do with people reading and everything to do with being seen to read. It was no surprise to early e-reader adopters that the romance and erotica genres took off as people on the bus to work could now read the stuff they wanted to without being judged. The Guardian posted this survey of readers (although I can’t find the source) listing off everyone’s favourite reading cred books, you know, the ones you claim to have read but fell asleep at page 2.

A recent survey of 2,000 people suggests that the majority of people pretend to have read classic books in order to appear more intelligent, with more than half of those polled displaying unread books on their shelves and 3% slipping a highbrow cover on books they’d rather not be seen reading in public.

The books most likely to be lied about are, naturally, the books most often filmed, talked about and studied in school (some of the respondents must have been lying since GCSE onwards). Are any of them in your pretend-I’ve-read/never-finished pile, or do you save your literary fibbing for Finnegans Wake and Infinite Jest? Share your guilty secrets below.

1) 1984 by George Orwell (26%) I have actually read this classic. I read it because Animal Farm was one of the only books I had to read in English Lit class that I actually enjoyed (I’m not counting plays, you’re not meant to read plays, you’re meant to see them performed!!!). I enjoyed it, but I can see how people would battle to read this one.

2) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (19%) Haven’t read this one and have no intention of trying. People always talk about battling through it in small chunks because it is such an important and blah blah blah book. If it was really important it wouldn’t have been so boring as to necessitate reading it in small chunks.

3) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (18%) I watched the old black and white film, does that count?

4) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (15%) I’ve read this many times and hated it every single time. Each time I’ve re-read it I’ve done so because I felt I was too young and/or stupid to get it, so I must re-read it because I’m so much older and smarter now. Although, John Green did manage to convince me of its literary merits via Crash Course Literature, not that I’ll bother revisiting this novel.

5) A Passage to India by EM Forster (12%) I can honestly say I’ve never heard of this book.

6) Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (11%) I’ve read it, but I will admit that I did so only after seeing the first movie. I really enjoyed the book, but it was long and waffly and I can see why others wouldn’t actually finish it. I will also say that I started reading The Hobbit when I was in school and then realised that life was worth living and stopped.

7) To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee (10%) Okay, I’m guilty of this one. It is on my TBR pile. I have it on Kindle and DTB.

8) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (8%) See #2

9) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (8%) I’m going to read the zombie version.

10) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (5%) If there is a zombie version of this I may read it.

Bookends?

Book ends

 

I still think that the best bookends are other books. Our bookshelves are actually two layers deep, and that isn’t accounting for the two boxes of young adult books that are sitting in a cupboard because they don’t fit on any shelves.

Writing program scams

scam

On the internet there is a scam born every minute. Whilst I love to receive email from Nigerian royalty, ads for another penis enlargement (the first one was enough, thanks), and fat loss supplements that promise not to kill me, there is a line I have to draw in the sand: scamming writers.

Most writers are hobbyists, writing because they love it. The handful that do get paid enough to be full-time writers are few and far between. So targeting writers with scams means that somewhere a monkey at a keyboard is not being fed today.

Yesterday in a writers discussion group a question was raised about whether a New, Amazing, Adjective, program that promises to give you the tools to write a 400 word article in 7 minutes.

Dear Fellow Article Writer (TA: read as mark or sucker),

Did you watch the video above? It’s hard to believe so many people would send me such raving, unsolicited testimonials about my product, “How to Write an Article in 7 Minutes or Less“. (TA: Testimonials!? Wow! I’m sold!)

If you did watch the video, you saw with your own eyes how I was able to take people who spent more than an hour writing an article down to as fast as 5 minutes per article! (TA: 5 minutes? I thought you said 7 minutes. Does this mean I get a 2 minute abs program as a bonus?)

….. (TA: edited out promotional garbage about money back guarantees and how only the scammer found the secret or developed it or whatever)

Here’s how it works.

  1. Open my 3 special research sites. (TA: Wikipedia?)
  2. Use my “skim and grab” research technique to find your
    3 main points (Takes about a minute).  (TA: Yes, because reading comprehension is for suckers.)
  3. Outline each main point with two “sub points.” (another minute here). (TA: What if there is only one point?)
  4. Use the “opening paragraph” template to quickly create the first paragraph (About 30 seconds). (TA: Insert generic filler paragraph, got it.)
  5. Use the “main point” template to write paragraphs for each of your three main points. (2-4 minutes total time) (TA: So, standard writing….)
  6. Use the “conclusion paragraph” template to quickly create the conclusion. (another 30 seconds). (TA: Insert generic filler paragraph at the end.)
  7. Proof read your article, and then submit it to the appropriate directory. (1-2 minutes) (TA: Click spellcheck and hope it doesn’t miss anything.)

The cool thing about using these templates is you never have to pause to think…but… you also enough leeway so each article remains 100% unique, and of the highest quality. (TA: Yes, why would you want to actually put any thought into your writing. Highly overrated for quality content.)

Don’t worry: My method has nothing to do with plagiarism! (TA: Of course not, copy and pasting clearly takes too long.)

Anyway, you can learn all about my 7 minute article technique by reading my special report, “How to Write an Article In 7 Minutes”, and by watching the videos I made showing step by step how I do it.

But that’s not all… (TA: Steak knives?)

My first thought upon seeing the claim that you could learn to write an article in 7 minutes was that it was bullshit. The fact that people would question if it would be possible left me a little stunned, a little thirsty and thinking about having a nap. Clearly some people are going to be taken in by these kinds of scams. So I want to just illustrate my critical thinking process and how I avoided being scammed for $37 (I know, huge amounts of money).

Drawing from personal experience, I know that I’d spend more than 7 minutes just copying in the links to the research I’d be citing, let alone reading those articles. So the first check is to understand just how long certain tasks actually take you. This scam works on the idea that you don’t really measure the time it takes for common activities. You may know how long you spend on a full article or day’s writing, but not on the little parts, like one paragraph or one sentence. So when someone presents you with some figures, you are bound to think, “Well, I do spend a lot of time staring at the screen and checking my Twitter feed.” Suddenly you are partly receptive to the con.

Let’s have a look how long writing actually takes the average person. Being a science nerd, I like to have a few figures around on writing, reading, average number of Facebook posts per hour; you know, important stats. The average person has a typing speed of 60-100 words per minute, which gives you 400-700 words written in 7 minutes. The page claims a 400 word article with 5 minutes actual writing time, which is 300-500 words written. So unless you are setting world speed records, then you won’t have time to do anything other than write.

What about editing? Nothing is perfect on a first draft, nothing! So even if this is a 400 word article written in 5 minutes, you still need to edit. Reading speed is not the same as proofreading speed, with average speeds of 180-200 words per minute. That’s another 2-3 minutes.

This program is essentially promising that you will achieve touch-typing dexterity and speed that will allow you to write fast. It is also promising that you’ll have fantastic reading comprehension skills at skim reading speeds. And yet you will also somehow acquire a time machine to allow you to also plan, research and create a concise article at the same time. The fact that the scam makes no mention of boosting your reading and writing speed and giving you keys to the Deloren, shows that someone is wanting your money and your credules.

In the meantime, send me $40 and I’ll send you some templates that I guarantee will add inches to your penis and bust size, whilst making you an awesome writer and friends with Nigerian royalty. Trust me, no-one lies on the internet.

History Repeating – The 7 Plots

A friend made the comment to me recently that a film we had both watched was merely a rip-off of another film. Rip-off is a bit harsh in my opinion. If we think hard about all the books and films we’ve ever watched and then break them down into their general plots you start to see a lot of patterns. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Buddies team up to do something awesome. Odd couple team up to do something awesome. When all said and done, it is hard to identify anything truly original.

As a result, people often say that there are only a certain number of basic plots and that any story is really just a variation on these plots. Depending on how detailed they want to make a “basic” plot, different writers have offered a variety of solutions. An article I found lists these

1 Plot:

Attempts to find the number of basic plots in literature cannot be resolved any more tightly than to describe a single basic plot. Foster-Harris claims that all plots stem from conflict. He describes this in terms of what the main character feels: “I have an inner conflict of emotions, feelings…. What, in any case, can I do to resolve the inner problems?” (p. 30-31) This is in accord with the canonical view that the basic elements of plot revolve around a problem dealt with in sequence: “Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Denouement”. (Such description of plot can be found in many places, including: Holman, C. Hugh and William Harmon. A Handbook to Literature. 6th ed. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1992.) Foster-Harris’ main argument is for 3 Plots (which are contained within this one), described below.

3 Plots:

Foster-Harris. The Basic Patterns of Plot. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959. Foster-Harris contends that there are three basic patterns of plot (p. 66):

  1. “’Type A, happy ending’”; Foster-Harris argues that the “Type A” pattern results when the central character (which he calls the “I-nitial” character) makes a sacrifice (a decision that seems logically “wrong”) for the sake of another.
  2. “’Type B, unhappy ending’”; this pattern follows when the “I-nitial” character does what seems logically “right” and thus fails to make the needed sacrifice.
  3. “’Type C,’ the literary plot, in which, no matter whether we start from the happy or the unhappy fork, proceeding backwards we arrive inevitably at the question, where we stop to wail.” This pattern requires more explanation (Foster-Harris devotes a chapter to the literary plot.) In short, the “literary plot” is one that does not hinge upon decision, but fate; in it, the critical event takes place at the beginning of the story rather than the end. What follows from that event is inevitable, often tragedy. (This in fact coincides with the classical Greek notion of tragedy, which is that such events are fated and inexorable.)

7 Plots

7 basic plots as remembered from second grade by IPL volunteer librarian Jessamyn West:

  1. [wo]man vs. nature
  2. [wo]man vs. [wo]man
  3. [wo]man vs. the environment
  4. [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  5. [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  6. [wo]man vs. self
  7. [wo]man vs. god/religion

20 Plots:

Tobias, Ronald B. 20 Master Plots. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1993. (ISBN 0-89879-595-8)
This book proposes twenty basic plots:

  1. Quest
  2. Adventure
  3. Pursuit
  4. Rescue
  5. Escape
  6. Revenge
  7. The Riddle
  8. Rivalry
  9. Underdog
  10. Temptation
  11. Metamorphosis
  12. Transformation
  13. Maturation
  14. Love
  15. Forbidden Love
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Discovery
  18. Wretched Excess
  19. Ascension
  20. Descension.

36 Plots

Polti, Georges. The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. trans. Lucille Ray.

Polti claims to be trying to reconstruct the 36 plots that Goethe alleges someone named [Carlo] Gozzi came up with. (In the following list, the words in parentheses are our annotations to try to explain some of the less helpful titles.):

  1. Supplication (in which the Supplicant must beg something from Power in authority)
  2. Deliverance
  3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance
  4. Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
  5. Pursuit
  6. Disaster
  7. Falling Prey to Cruelty of Misfortune
  8. Revolt
  9. Daring Enterprise
  10. Abduction
  11. The Enigma (temptation or a riddle)
  12. Obtaining
  13. Enmity of Kinsmen
  14. Rivalry of Kinsmen
  15. Murderous Adultery
  16. Madness
  17. Fatal Imprudence
  18. Involuntary Crimes of Love (example: discovery that one has married one’s mother, sister, etc.)
  19. Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized
  20. Self-Sacrificing for an Ideal
  21. Self-Sacrifice for Kindred
  22. All Sacrificed for Passion
  23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
  24. Rivalry of Superior and Inferior
  25. Adultery
  26. Crimes of Love
  27. Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One
  28. Obstacles to Love
  29. An Enemy Loved
  30. Ambition
  31. Conflict with a God
  32. Mistaken Jealousy
  33. Erroneous Judgement
  34. Remorse
  35. Recovery of a Lost One
  36. Loss of Loved Ones.

It is therefore inevitable that it is all just a little bit of history repeating.

More examples: The Seven Basic Plots summary and Google answers.

Writing breakdown

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Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing

 

Crime_writing_comic
  1. In mystery writing, plot is everything. Because readers are playing a kind of game when they read a detective novel, plot has to come first, above everything else. Make sure each plot point is plausible, and keep the action moving. Don’t get bogged down in back story or go off on tangents.
  2. Introduce both the detective and the culprit early on. As the main character, your detective must obviously appear early in the book. As for the culprit, your reader will feel cheated if the antagonist, or villain, enters too late in the book to be a viable suspect in their minds.
  3. Introduce the crime within the first three chapters of your mystery novel. The crime and the ensuing questions are what hook your reader. As with any fiction, you want to do that as soon as possible.
  4. The crime should be sufficiently violent — preferably a murder. For many readers, only murder really justifies the effort of reading a 300-page book while suitably testing your detective’s powers. However, also note that some types of violence are still taboo including rape, child molestation, and cruelty to animals.
  5. The crime should be believable. While the details of the murder — how, where, and why it’s done, as well as how the crime is discovered — are your main opportunities to introduce variety, make sure the crime is plausible. Your reader will feel cheated if the crime is not something that could really happen.
  6. The detective should solve the case using only rational and scientific methods. Consider this part of the oath written by G.K. Chesterton for the British Detection Club: “Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow on them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?”
  7. The culprit must be capable of committing the crime. Your reader must believe your villain’s motivation and the villain must be capable of the crime, both physically and emotionally.
  8. In mystery writing, don’t try to fool your reader. Again, it takes the fun out. Don’t use improbable disguises, twins, accidental solutions, or supernatural solutions. The detective should not commit the crime. All clues should be revealed to the reader as the detective finds them.
  9. Do your research. “Readers have to feel you know what you’re talking about,” says author Margaret Murphy. She has a good relationship with the police in her area, and has spent time with the police forensic team. Get all essential details right. Mystery readers will have read a lot of books like yours; regard them as a pretty savvy bunch.
  10. Wait as long as possible to reveal the culprit. They’re reading to find out, or figure out, whodunit. If you answer this too early in the book, the reader will have no reason to continue reading.

by Ginny Wiehardt

Source for Image

From Writers Write Blog.

Banned Books: The Huff Post sequel

It seems that the Huffington Post are stealing my article ideas. Only three days after my article lamenting censorship of books, they do an article on the 2013 Banned Books campaign (September 22-28th).

Now I’m not bitter, in fact, I’m currently covered in orange sherbet. So this follow-up article is to add my support to the Banned Books Campaign and talk about the most frequently challenged books of last year. The annual report of the American Library Association had a lot of interesting findings. They are still having problems with publishers allowing them to loan ebooks (sigh – I bet the same arguments were made when libraries first started lending books), the people using libraries still think that they offer a very important service, they have become technology and research hubs for people, but visit rates have dropped a bit. The really interesting thing for me – because I’m not American, let alone a member of an American library, so all of those points are belly lint to me – was the top ten list of challenged books for 2012.

Here is the Office of Intellectual Freedom’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books in 2012:

■ Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey (offensive language, unsuited for age group) TA: Exactly what were parents expecting from a book with this title?

■ The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group) TA: Oh noes, a young adult book that doesn’t treat the readers like kids!!

■ Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group) TA: Another young adult book that deals with real issues, can’t have that!

■ Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James (offensive language, sexually explicit) TA: An erotica book that is sexually explicit….. Words to describe the stupid, fail me.

■ And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (homosexuality, unsuited for age group) TA: Based on real penguins, must be evil!!

■ The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit) TA: Be warned, the characters aren’t white or Christian!!

■ Looking for Alaska, by John Green (offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group) TA: Written by John Green, so clearly the complainants were too stupid to enjoy the book.

■ Scary Stories(series), by Alvin Schwartz (unsuited for age group, violence) TA: The title clearly didn’t give the game away for some sensitive little souls.

■ The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls (offensive language, sexually explicit) TA: Real life is clearly too confronting for some readers.

■ Beloved, by Toni Morrison (sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence) TA: Someone clearly thinks that slavery is a lot more fun than the author portrayed it.

The thing I find striking about this top ten list is that the books are all multiple award winners (except that crud by EL James, which makes up for lack of awards with sales to keep a publishing house afloat). As such, I’d hazard a guess that most of the complaints are coming from people who haven’t read the book, nor let their little darlings near a book. We can only hope that next year people are too busy reading good books to complain about them.

Banning books

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I’m against censorship. Unfortunately many are in favour of censoring books. You may have heard of the outcry over the decision to edit Mark Twain’s classic, Huckleberry Finn, to stop calling the main supporting character, Nigger Jim. What you may not have heard is that schools had stopped teaching Huckleberry Finn because they didn’t want to have to explain the historical and racial undertones and themes of the book. We can’t have a literary book actually studied now, can we! Definitely don’t want to look at Twain’s biting commentary on racism in the south of America, because that would mean discussing racism, and we like to pretend it isn’t still an issue.

It isn’t just the school curricula that are being impacted, it is libraries and book stores as well. The list of frequently challenged books is far too long and the reasons cited are far too ridiculous. For example, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is regularly objected to for being: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit. Seriously? What about the other complaints?

I’m offended by the word ‘sustainable’ as it is ambiguous term that is used politically as a catch-cry to gloss over reality. Does that mean I can complain about books containing that word? And what is sexually explicit? Is it when two characters embrace for a passionate kiss, or when the ball-gag and whips make an appearance? Are parents really concerned about the level of “smut” in the books their kids read or are they trying to have books banned because readers might enjoy them?

I know I have a complaint about the Twilight books. Now, my reasons aren’t like the other complaints (Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence), I just don’t like them because I’ve been dragged to see four terrible films by my wife. Ban the Twilight books so that husbands and boyfriends everywhere aren’t tortured with Kirsten Stewart’s “acting.”

7 Types of Narrative Conflict by Mark Nichol

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Every work of literature, and much nonfiction narrative, is based on at least one of the following conflicts. When you write a story or a biography, or relate a true event or series of events, you need not focus on such themes, and there’s no reason to state them explicitly (except in passing, perhaps, to provide insight about a biographical subject), but you’re wise to identify the conflicts inherent in your composition and apply them as you write.

1. Person vs. Fate/God
This category could be considered part of conflict with self or with society (many people count only four types of conflict, including those two and conflict with another person or with nature). That’s a valid argument, as one confronts fate as part of an internal struggle and religion is a construct of society, but explicitly naming fate (Oedipus Rex) or God — or the gods (The Odyssey) — as the antagonist is a useful distinction.

2. Person vs. Self
A person’s struggle with his or her own prejudices or doubts or character flaws constitutes this type of conflict (Hamlet).

3. Person vs. Person
Any story featuring a hero and a villain or villains (The Count of Monte Cristo) represents this type of conflict, though the villain(s) is/are often representative of another antagonist in this list, whether a villain is in essence an alter ego of the protagonist (thus representing the conflict of person versus self) or stands in for society.

4. Person vs. Society
When the protagonist’s conflict extends to confronting institutions, traditions, or laws of his or her culture, he or she struggles to overcome them, either triumphing over a corrupt society (I draw a blank here – Tyson says: most thrillers have an element of this), rejecting it (Fahrenheit 451), or succumbing to it (1984).

5. Person vs. Nature
In this conflict, the protagonist is pitted against nature (Robinson Crusoe) or a representation of it, often in the form of an animal (Moby Dick).

6. Person vs. Supernatural
Superficially, conflict with the supernatural may seem equivalent to conflict with fate or God, or representative of a struggle with an evocation of self (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) or nature (The Birds). But this category stands on its own feet as well.

7. Person vs. Technology
Humanity’s innate skepticism about the wonders of technology has resulted in many stories in which antagonists use technology to gain power or in which technology takes over or becomes a malign influence on society (Brave New World).

From Daily Writing Tips.

Of course, Mark left out the most important one for writers, especially those working on a series of novels:

Person vs. Expectations.
Someone picked up your book because the publishing house put a picture of a dog on the cover, even though there isn’t a dog in the book (unless you count the love interest), and is expecting a book that will help them get to sleep in the 10 minutes per night that they read just before bed. Anything other than an easy to read, short chapter, low concept novel and the expectations will either result in a sleepless night or dire reprisals on social media. If this is not the first book the person has read by the author, then unfair comparisons will be made if you don’t manage to outshine everything you’ve ever written and will ever write – the latter for those coming late to a series or author.

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Top 40 books of all time chosen by Lee Child

Easter is here for another year. I like to celebrate this time of year with bacon (for peace) and chocolate eggs and bunnies. Actually, interesting fact, the reason we celebrate Easter with eggs and bunnies is because they were fertility and sex symbols of the goddess Ishtar (pronounced Easter). In honour of the event, we clearly need the chocolate eggs and bunnies to keep us fuelled up for the fertility long weekend. In some of the spare hours, it might be worth reading a good book.

So, have you read any of Lee’s favourite books and will you be reading any of them this long chocolate fueled sex weekend?

1 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“The greatest legal thriller ever written.”

2 Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald
“If you were there, you can’t remember – so read this.”

3 Roots by Alex Haley
“A tragic story we should all know.”

4 Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
“If you read only 10 novels in your life, make this one.”

5 Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
“Started a brief but glorious period of dissent in the United States.”

6 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
“The best what-if sci-fi ever.”

7 Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
“An elegant saga and a double love story.”

8 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
“A novel that described and defined an era.”

9 Nice Work by David Lodge
“Social realism from a recent but almost forgotten era.”

10 Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
“Iconic, for a reason.”

11 Ragtime by EL Doctorow
“What great novels used to be – and could be again.”

12 The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
“The best of the US golden age of crime writing.”

13 Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
“The finest writing EVER.”

14 The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
“How we used to live, think and write.”

15 Churchill by Roy Jenkins
“The best one-volume biography ever.”

16 The Dam Busters by Paul Brickhill
“Guys my age grew up on stuff like this.”

17 Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
“A Californian writing about Russia in a Scandinavian way.”

18 Los Alamos by Joseph Kanon
“My current favourite writer’s debut – excellent.”

19 Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
“There’s a reason she became so popular – and this is it.”

20 Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
“An amazing debut with an early ‘reveal’ that will shock you.”

21 The Glittering Prizes by Frederic Raphael
“A time, a place – how we used to live, who we used to be.”

22 Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
“The first in an amazing new series.”

23 The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carré
“The unfairly neglected jewel in le Carré’s crown.”

24 City of Thieves by David Benioff
“Powerful, entrancing, tough, wonderfully imagined.”

25 Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers
“The best of ‘golden age’ mystery fiction.”

26 The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
“An example of King’s genius – he can make a story out of the simplest premise.”

27 A Place of Execution by Val McDermid
“Everything plus that vital x-factor that makes you cross when you have to stop.”

28 The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn
“A heartbreaking work of personal history that reads like a thriller.”

29 Debt of Honour by Tom Clancy
“The best from the man who dominated the genre for a decade.”

30 The Golden Rendezvous by Alistair MacLean
“His first dozen books are all great – why not start here?”

31 The Female Eunoch by Germaine Greer
“That rare thing – a book that changed the world.”

32 Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
“I read this 7 years ago and wanted him for president right then.”

33 The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
“A huge multi-generational crime saga – a book of the decade.”

34 The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
“ ‘Book Zero’ in terms of recent thriller evolution.”

35 Green River Rising by Tim Willocks
“Maybe the best-ever prison novel – terrific suspense.”

36 The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
“Much more than it seems – a masterclass in narrative drive.”

37 Brilliant Orange by David Winner
“My favourite sport explains one of my favourite cultures.”

38 Night Sky by Clare Francis
“The multitalented Ms Francis unleashes terrific suspense and a great ‘OMG’ moment.”

39 On the Beach by Nevil Shute
“The best of 1950s style – with 1950s concerns.”

40 The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
“A big meaty epic, sprawling and inclusive – like novels use to be.”

The Muse You Need

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Choosing a location for your story

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As much as I love America, does every crime and thriller novel written have to be set there? Wouldn’t it be great if more stories chose some other locations?

Before anyone jumps on me, yes, I know, there are plenty of stories set in diverse locations. My comment is more about the way writers are so often told that people only want to read stories set in the US, that it has to appeal to the US market. I think we all know that this is a presumption on behalf of the industry for us readers. Let’s try and push for the more challenging locations in the stories we read.

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