Reading by Writing

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

Who am I writing for? What is my audience? That’s actually a hard question to answer.

Firstly, on a superficial level, I’d hope that the age group that I would hope that I’m writing for would be “Young Adult” and above. I looked up what that means and there is no real consensus on the definition, but it can refer to children from the age of 12 or 13 or up. That’s a little low, I think, for Young Adult,

However, that’s not an issue so far as my writing is concerned as my characters don’t go beyond a smooch and a hug or two. What they get up to in private is entirely up to them.

I’d hope that the absence of any salacious bits doesn’t restrict the upper age limit of those who read my books and stories. It’s the story that matters, of course, and the characters.

Speaking of characters, I’ve discovered that, so far at least, I haven’t created a decent villain. I’ve created characters who could have been villains, but have turned out to not be villainous as the story develops. A vampire. An assassin. The few villains that I have created have been unimpressive. An insane Khan who quickly gets killed off. A few inconsequential Kings.

Photo by emre keshavarz on Pexels.com

On the other hand, it seems that I find it easy to create heroines. When I look back at my stories, a big majority of them have a heroine. I wrote ‘feisty’ there but took it out. Nasty word. My heroines can be dominant, but they aren’t, as a rule, aggressively so. They are, in general, the equals of my heroes, but they have a larger role in the story. Maybe they are the prime characters.

My signature characters are the Mage and the Boffin, and they demonstrate this well. The Mage specialises in magic and the Boffin specialises in science (or physics, they would say), but there is a crossover. The Boffin is very much the mother figure, and the Mage is a father figure.

The Boffin quite often takes the lead in their adventures, but it is evident that she believes that the partnership is 50/50. The Mage doesn’t disagree. He follows where his wife leads, but without exception, they are always headed in the same direction. They very rarely differ, and each respects the other and the other’s view of the world.

The Mage does not feel dominated by his wife. In fact, he often finds her direct approach amusing. For example, the Boffin blasts a cell door when someone incarcerates them, and he merely inquires whether or not she is feeling tetchy, since they could have simply ‘stepped’ out of the cell.

So, what would I say my genre was? I’d say ‘fantasy’, but isn’t all fiction fantasy? Technology in my stories tends to be simpler than our technology, but some more modern stuff does creep in now and then.

I’m not too concerned about anachronisms. I’m not worried about inconsistencies, except within a story, and if the same character appears in more than one story, I don’t expect him or her to be exactly the same, to remember the same things, to do the same things.

Photo by James Frid on Pexels.com

I could explain this by pointing at the core mechanism that occurs in many of my stories – the idea of multiple worlds, and multiple versions of a character – but that’s not really the explanation. No, the real reason is that the stories are seemingly linked, but are actually independent.

I do like to keep my storyverse consistent though. It’s just that I don’t fret if it isn’t.

But to come back to my original question – who do I write for? Well, my stories are up on my website, and I know that people do stumble across it. I don’t know, because I haven’t looked, how many people have downloaded them.

Similarly, some of my stories, collected into books, are available as eBooks or even paperbacks. I have looked to see if anyone is buying them, but so far as I can tell, no one is.

So, I still keep writing them and polishing them and making them available, which means that I am, simply put, writing them for myself. I enjoy the process of writing, and when I start a story, I often don’t know where it is going to end. It’s a process that might be called ‘reading by writing’.

I’m happy to keep doing this, for as long as story ideas come to mind. Sometime someone may read on of my stories and enjoy it. That will be a bonus.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Some of my stories have been published on Amazon (as eBooks and paperbacks) and Kobobooks and Smashwords (as eBooks). Here are the links to my Author Pages on those sites.

Writing and Arrogance

Arrogance
Arrogance

Have you ever written a word and wondered if you spelled it right? You say to yourself, “That word looks weird!” But the spellchecker doesn’t underline the word. It must be right, mustn’t it? I typed “arrogance” above and it looked wrong, but it is right.

Anyway, that is an aside. As I’m taking a break from the GIMP and Blender, I decided to do some writing. I had an idea in mind, but when I started to write, another story decided it wanted to be written. I mean this seriously, though, obviously stories can’t actually decide anything. It just feels like that.

I had vaguely thought of submitting the story, when I had finished it, in a competition, but it got longer and longer and by the time I had tied up all the loose ends, it had exceeded the competition limit. Rats!

So, I took a copy of the story and set about shrinking it. That’s not too hard, in practise, but it does change the story. I got it down below the limit, but then I had doubts about whether or not it was good enough in the shrunken version. Or for that matter the full version.

Reducing the Size
Reducing the Size

So I asked my daughter.  I didn’t show her about the story, but I asked her questions like “How would you react if this happened….” At the end she said something which shocked me. She said something like “It has to be really different from <a TV series>, otherwise it is not worth writing.”

My story did have similarities to the TV series. Was it different enough to make it interesting? It’s a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears, to write a story. Now it appeared that, not only do I have to ask myself, “Is it good enough?”, but I also have to ask myself, “Is it too similar to anything else?” Ouch!

OK, I took that on board and I’ve parked the abbreviated version for a while, and I’m working on the slightly longer version. I’ll see if I can polish the shorter version until it glows like a pearl later maybe.

This is Weka
This is a Weka. He came up in a search for “short” and “long” for some reason.

So, around the time that I was revising the shorter version, I came across several web pages which categorised adverbs as bad. If a famous writer like Stephen King thinks that adverbs are bad, then they must be bad, right? Well, I invite you to go on a search for articles about adverbs and writing, and while they mostly stop short of demonising adverbs, the consensus is that it is best, and usually more descriptive, if you don’t use them.

OK, I’m convinced. Mostly. So I had a look at my stories and replaced or removed as many adverbs as I could find. That added a few dozen words to each version, so I still had work to do to get the short version down to the limit. Oh well.

This is where the arrogance comes in. (The word still looks weird!) I’ve never read any articles or tutorials on how to write stories. I always just sit down and write. I don’t have even so much as a skeleton of a plan, and indeed, my stories often end up in places that I hadn’t even thought about when I started. I have generally been thinking about the story for some time before I start. I usually have a character or characters in mind and one or two scenes (for want of a better word).

Wooden Dragon
Dragon without her rider

Maybe the lead character sits on her dinosaur at the top of the mountain pass and contemplates the view before she descends to the peace conference. Or the big battle. She and I will find out which it is as she follows her friends and comrades down into the valley.

So, I searched out a few articles on how to write a story. I’d expected them to all insist on a plan or a synopsis. A character list, a world for them to interact in, and a reason for them to interact. Days, weeks, maybe months before I would get to write a word.

Of course some do suggest that sort of thing, and sometimes they even suggest using spreadsheets! For the record, I’ve tried that, even before I read the articles, before I’d written much at all. It seemed logical. Get the ducks in a row and you can knock them off one by one.

It might work for some people, but it didn’t work for me. As my story grew, it deviated from my plan, and I didn’t go back and change it. Change it? I didn’t even look at it. But it did give me a start.

People on a Beach
People on a beach. (The logos imply that they are probably filming turtles)

OK, the Prince didn’t rescue the Princess from a dragon. No, the Prince rescued his Prince from a forced marriage to the Princess, who was pleased because she was über-friendly with the strapping female leader of the Guard. Only the Princess’ parents were miffed.

I might use this seed of a story sometime. But it started with the idea of someone rescuing someone from something, and I was already vaguely dissatisfied with standard boy saves girl and they fall in love thing. That’s just the Hero Syndrome. Boring. The above scenario still uses the syndrome, but it does give it a bit of a twist.

But anyway, he said, returning to the point, I discovered that the articles on how to write a story were full of useful advice, including in some cases, suggesting the avoidance of adverbs. Who knew? Well not me obviously.

Problem
Problem or Puzzle

The articles were full of good advice, techniques for pressing on when you are stuck, which is something that doesn’t happen to me. Many of them emphasise the trio of people, problem, and place.

What I mean by that is that almost every story needs characters. Oh, of course they needn’t be human. Almost every story needs a reason for the characters to interact, and they to have somewhere to interact.

Take the film “Lost in Space“. The ‘people’ were the Robinson family, together with the Robot and Doctor Zachary Smith. The ‘problem’ was that, because of Smith’s actions they had crash landed on an alien planet and couldn’t make it home. The ‘place’ was obviously the alien planet. Consideration of these three components no doubt helped the writers of the series. I’ll bear that in mind in future.

I’m going to read more of these “How to Write” web pages, to see what I can glean. It was arrogant of me to think that they had nothing to offer me. If I come across something that seems to me to be extra useful, I may write about later.

Alien landscape
Alien landscape

Please read my books. The paperback versions can be found Amazon, and the eBooks can be found there or at your favourite eBook store. Just search for my name, Cliff Pratt. I mainly write fantasy fiction.