Reading by Writing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 is dangerous

Old rickety bridge
Photo by Raphael Pto from FreeImages

Writing is dangerous. When you put that pen to paper, or more likely, hit that first key, you don’t know where you will end up. You set up a situation, a garden, say, with God, a tree, a couple, and a serpent. The serpent urges the woman to eat fruit from the forbidden tree, but, of course, she doesn’t because God forbade it, and she and her husband live happily ever after in the garden.

Hmm, that’s a bit of a dead end, but I’d guess that you could think of improvements. Let’s say that God visits them one day.

“Adam, Eve, are you happy here?” asks God.

“It’s brilliant. We love it.”

“”How do you know?”

“You told us. You’re God. You must be right.”

“Just eat one of the apples on that tree, guys, please.”

Sounds of munching.

“Erm, God, what’s it like out there?”

“There’s misery, pain, trouble and worries, and there’s also joy, love, happiness. There’s also kids, who roll up all those things into one delightful, infuriating package.”

“Can we go and see?”

“Yeah, but you can’t come back again.”

“OK. We understand. Where’s the door?”

Stained Glass - Adam and Eve
Photo by Janet Burgess from FreeImages

So, I didn’t know where that was going and I’ve only just started! Obviously, I began from the Garden of Eden, and had Eve resist the blandishments of the serpent. Then I had God urge Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, and consequently Adam and Eve became curious about ‘out there’. God’s going to have to cut them some slack out there, since it was He who encouraged them to eat the fruit, but I’ll leave it there, for now.

In “The Lord of the Rings” Bilbo Baggins recites a poem several times. Bilbo is referring to a real journey of course, but writing a story is much like a journey. You start off with the first word, or the first step, and you have no idea where your journey or story may take you. No idea at all.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

At some point, your feet, or your words, come across a broader way. Your feet may encounter a highway, and other people. Your words may lead you to a larger narrative, in which are embedded new characters. These characters all have ambitions and objectives. They may help or hinder you. And so the road or narrative goes on, leading you to who knows where. Whither then? You cannot say.

As a writer you live your characters. You say their words. You fight their demons. You love their loves, and sometimes you die their deaths. You experience their defeats and their triumphs. You are the hero and the villain.

Pears on a tree
Photo by Linda DuBose from FreeImages

At the same time, paradoxically, you can’t predict what happens. Any writer knows the feeling of surprise when something unexpected happens. When Adam and Eve eventually find their way back to the Garden and politely request entry, God lets them in, because, after all, he told them them to eat fruit from the Tree of Curiosity. What? You thought it was the Tree of Knowledge? If the fruit gave them knowledge, why did they have to leave the Garden? They would have known what’s out there just by eating the pear from the Tree.

And God and Adam and Eve would sit down and Adam and Eve would relate their story. Oh, God would already know it of course, but a story, even if you know it, always sounds better coming someone else. They’d introduce their kids,  and God would ask them if they wanted to stay. Adam looks at Eve and they shake their heads. Nah, Eden is OK, but it’s a bit boring, duplicitous serpents aside. They’ll take real life. God saw what He had done, and it was good.

Writing is dangerous. You never know where it is going to take you, and you never know how long it will take. You start with one sentence and the next thing you know you have a whole book. You will have agonised with your characters, you will have been surprised or shocked at what they get up to, and you will discover that the house is a mess and the dog will have left you.

Yellow Labrador
Photo by ! Dujazz from FreeImages

Writing is dangerous. It soaks up you time, your energy, and possibly your money. You will have forgotten to do your washing, your diet will have lacked balance and vitamins, and your garden will resemble a jungle.

Writing is dangerous. You sit back having completed your story. And rewritten it, perhaps several times. And altered it, added characters, removed characters, changed characters. And spell checked. And grammar and syntax checked. Dozen of times. And then you have a thought. The serpent. Embodiment of evil? Or God’s loyal servant doing God’s bidding, maybe?

Writing is dangerous. Even after you’ve finally, finally finished, you sit back, momentarily satisfied. Then you jolt upright. That documentary on waterfalls! What if the world was split by a single humongous waterfall. Those living at the top would naturally look down from above and see the lands below, but they wouldn’t be able to reach them. Those down below look up and see the towering waters and wonder if there is anything up there. Then some intrepid top-dweller invents a hot air balloon and floats over the waterfall and his craft descends to the lands below. And then…

And then you type the first sentence and everything begins again.

Empty Valley
Photo by Wim Delen from FreeImages

A Long Long Way to Go

River valley (Blender)
My first attempt at a landscape with river valley in Blender 2.8.

I’m pressing on with Blender, using the 2.8 beta, rather than the current 2.79 version. I figure that if I’m going to learn Blender, I might as well use the version that will be the current version when I get up to speed.

I’ll get to Blender in a minute but I’d just like to mention that I have a few writing ideas floating around in my head. I’ve completed one story and I’m mulling one story line in my head, but the characters want to do something that I’m not completely happy with. Yes, that is how it seems to me. I have little control over the characters and what they do!

The way that they want to act is within character, so I suppose I will put pen to paper, or rather, pound the keyboard, eventually. Sometime soon I’ll drop Blender for a while and switch over  to my word processor, but for now I’m still learning Blender.
The image is from FREEIMAGES (, supplied to them by Joseph Hoban.

Blender is complex because real life 3-D objects which artists are trying to draw are complex. For instance, in real life there is rarely a single source of light. We may say that a an object in a scene is lit by the sun, but really it is lit by the sun, by the ambient light from the sky and the surroundings, and by reflections from other objects in the scene.

The image above shows a studio set up for television, and it shows multiple sources of light and the stage on which the scene, whatever it is, is to be set. The stage is illuminated by a lamp, but there is also a shadow on it. The shadowed part can be seen because it is illuminated by other lamps. Things in the unlit areas around the stage can be seen dimly because some light is reflected from the stage or it spills over from other lamps.

Lighting is complex and one of the things that Blender does is emulate some of this complexity. When someone builds something in Blender the object that is modelled is colourless and textureless. It’s like one of those dressmaker dummies that is merely a shape and a framework for the clothes to be are created on it.

No materials
Some of the lighting has been set up for this object, but not enough. No materials have been applied.

The object in the above image is illuminated by a light source (or rather the object is drawn as if it is illuminated by a light source). It stands on nothing, is surrounded by grey, and is visually it is not that impressive.

For a number of reasons I recreated the tower and this time I gave it some colour by adding colour to the background and another light source, and some ambient lighting.

Cartoon tower
Cartoonish tower, with background, something to stand on and some ambient lighting. There is some other lighting, but it is a bit dim and hard to see.

That still looks cartoonish! It’s still decidedly unimpressive, but I am, I hope, making progress. I’ve learned a lot and hope to put some of it into practise soon. I’ve watched dozens of videos, some of which helped and some of which didn’t. Some of the people making the videos are very good. Others click rapidly on the various windows and menus, leaving me confused.

Some videos seem to refer to earlier versions of the software, which means I have to figure out some of the steps that the video creator just quickly clicked over. Some show how to do specific tasks, like create a floating island, or realistic landscapes, and I have to extract from those the techniques that I need. But I believe that I’m making progress. Maybe by 2020 or early 2021…

I forgot to mention that once the model has been built and been decorated with materials and  textures, it is finished but only exists as a Blender file. To produce images, like those above, the object needs to be rendered. The 3-D object needs to be converted to a 2-D image file. Rendering of complex Blender files can take hours as it is a complex mathematical task. The above images, and the one below that I am going to leave you with, took only a minute or less.

The last image is an early version of the river valley that I started this post with. Since then I have dialled back the ambient lighting and added some “materials” to colourise it. It’s probable that I will rebuild the river valley completely.

River valley (early version)
An early version of the valley and river.

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.