To Curse or Not To Curse

Fuck.

There, I said it.

But should I say it? That’s the question on my mind today.  At what point does cursing go from being part of a story to unnecessary vulgarity?

My generation has become saturated in cursing everywhere we go. We  hear it in everyday life; our peers are always yelling things like “holy shit!” or “douche bag”. Television, movies, and video games have all come to include one form of obscenity or another. I dare you to find a movie (not Disney or its affiliates) that doesn’t at least say “damn” or “shit” at some point. Plenty of people and organizations complain about this, pushing for more censorship. So far, books do not seem to have anyone lobbying to put a rating on the cover, or at least not to my knowledge. Thank fucking god!

I’m not so sure that cursing should be written out of everything. One group of writers I have had this discussion with have repeatedly wanted to censure all of the writing we have come across. When reading a piece out loud, they will replace the word “fuck” with just an “f”, and then the review of the piece almost always includes commentary encouraging removal of such language.

Why?

I wonder how much of that advice actually has to do with the content, and how much has to do with the need for pleasantness. Not that I blame them, that’s how most of our society behaves. Most interesting stories contain at least one element that isn’t pleasant. That’s kind of what makes a story worth reading. Can you imagine reading a story that had no conflict?

It was a sunny Tuesday morning. The mailman was delivering the mail. He walked up and handed it to me, Said “good morning”, then got in his delivery truck and drove away.

BORING!

I realize conflict and cursing are not the same thing, but conflict in the real world does include cursing. At least, it does in my world. Try stubbing your toe and not yelling, “son of a bitch!” -Okay, don’t try that. It will hurt. But you see my point, right?

One could argue that a strong writer doesn’t have to use those words to write a good story.

Agreed. But here is a counter to that argument: Aren’t words the tools that writers use to tell a story, make a point, or give a message? So what if I want to tell you that a character is bad? It is very likely that the dialogue from that character will be riddled with hatred, cruelty, and yes, cursing.  What If my character is extremely angry or frustrated? Again, cursing. As a writer, it is my job to evoke thought and emotion from you, the reader. “Bad” language is just one of the many tools that I can use to do that, and I don’t think any writer should sacrifice one very useful tool because someone’s delicate sensibilities will be offended.

It all boils down to who you want to read, and/or like, your work. If it is important that everyone in the world reacts positively to your work, the censor away. If you want to say exactly what you mean to say, censors be damned, then you might lose a few readers.

Advertisements

You’re Not Crazy, You’re a Writer.

Anyone who has people in their head talking to them must be crazy right?

Probably.

But aside from having a few screws loose, Writers sometimes describe the characters they imagine as if they are real, making their own decisions.

Your story’s hero telling you what happens next is a subject that often comes up in my writers group, particularly from one  writer I greatly admire named John. I admit it sounds pretty bonkers, but the more I write, the more firmly I believe he has a point.

John explained that he began his fantasy novel from the POV (that’s point of view for anyone who does not yet know) of a male character. A young girl, intended only as a supporting character, slowly began to impact the tale more and more. As thought she had a mind of her own, she shoved everyone else into supporting roles and took center stage. Having read large portions of John’s work, I can’t imagine the story working from anyone else’s POV. He will say she told him to boot the other guys so she could tell it how it really is.

Fantasy writers are a special breed of people who spend their lives with their heads in the clouds, myself among them. I catch myself staring off into space sometimes, a picture of some far off world that doesn’t exist dancing through my daydreams. Political intrigue, murder, magical spells, a stolen throne…

Good thing I am my own boss, or I would have been fired ages ago.

I think mental attachment to the characters in your story will serve you in the end. Let the characters go where it feels natural, and breathe your own life into them-even the bad guys. Understand their motivations, imagine how you would feel in the situation you have set for them. When you are dealing with the fantastical and unbelievable, how else are you going to make your characters relatable, or believable? You can’t really step through a portal and find yourself in a world full of pixies, unicorns, and cotton candy clouds. In order for a reader to be able to take that journey with you, the writer, you have to be able to put some human element into your character-even if he or she (or it) is not human.

Look at Anne Rice. In Interview with the Vampire, Lestat is this monster with no redeeming qualities. He steals life, and he uses people. A detestable, but more importantly, believable individual.  But behold the next book in the series, titled The Vampire Lestat. You see Lestat’s origins and begin to understand what makes the monster tick. Not far into that novel my heart was grieving for the character I was condemning one short book ago. I don’t know Anne Rice (how cool would it be if I did?) but I’d be willing to bet she had some idea of where Lestat came from when she was writing Interview with a Vampire. Without that depth, Lestat’s character would have been just a boring thing that went bump in the night, and nobody would have bothered to read it.

So my point is this: Let your characters talk to you. Listen to what they tell you. Understand where all of them are coming from. Tell the story they want to tell.

And if doing that makes us a little crazy, well, I’m okay with that.

 

Some Entertainment

Some of my best poetry comes out of an exercise I do to get over writers block, as I was telling you yesterday. I also do it when I need to vent frustration, and I don’t want to blow up at innocent bystanders. Here are two of those poems. I hope it will inspire you, or at the very least, entertain you.

The Master

I am a knight of language.

I am a painter of verbs.

I am a lord of lore.

I am a spinner of tales.

 

I am a novelist,

a poet,

a storyteller,

a wordsmith.

 

My pen can topple mountains.

My keys can make a King.

My thoughts destroy one world,

while my words build another.

 

I have sparked life into dragons,

and blown down castles tall.

I have birthed numbered races,

and contraptions no one knows.

 

My world is what I make it.

My visions what I choose.

My ideas make up pages.

Those pages form a path.

 

Come with me on my journey,

to long and far away.

Just open up to page three;

Meet the man who bears a mark.

 

Share in all his triumphs

and all his bumpy roads.

Lose yourself in places

you’ve never thought to go.

 

Fiction isn’t fake,

it’s only make believe.

The people there exist

in our hearts and minds and dreams.

 

Morality’s Yard Sale

Souls for sale, just fifty cent,

Former tenants skipped on rent.

Moral compasses from Kent,

Hardly used, slightly bent.

 

Golden halos in the box

Former owners in de-tox.

Closed up Hearts with sturdy locks

Traded in for shiny rocks.

 

I’m running low on decency,

Not so common here, you see.

But if you want a trusting key

Look no further, I’ve got three!

 

I’m overrun with useless things,

All sold out of what it brings.

I take in trade for shiny rings

the attributes that give you wings.

 

I’ll take rare items, buy or trade

But only if they are home-made.

I’ll give you highs for mortgage paid

To a dealer’s profits made.

 

What’s repossessed is on the rack

Easily enough  bought back

If you can muster up the knack

To use the strength you used to lack.

 

But hey, can you resist my charm?

My brazen claws make no alarm.

Still you’ll come with open arm

No matter how I do you harm.

Wherefore Art Thou, Inspiration?

Arg, Writer’s block.

If you are a writer, then you know what I mean.  You have this brilliant idea all set up un your head. You have a good inkling of what you want to say, and yet…

This subject is a little closer to home than I would care for today. I go to one of my writers groups on Tuesdays, where I would usually present my latest pages. Unfortunately, I have spent all week being a busy bee, doing everything but write. I even spent an hour today working on the nifty banner you see above. Putting off writing can sometimes feed into whatever is causing the block in the first place. And putting it off can become a habit. Before you know it, that novel you started three years ago is sitting in a box in your garage, underneath that burnt out set of Christmas lights you can’t bring yourself to throw away. Trust me, I know. I have a whole box of them that have piled up over the last decade, all unfinished.

Truly good writing takes a bit of work. The first piece of advice I would give any aspiring author is to keep at it; though I would caution you not to force it with the book/story/piece you are trying so hard to finish. It will sound stilted and forced, and your reader will know it. Instead, try one of the exercises I have learned to use over the years. I have them listed below.

1. One exercise I like to do when I feel like I can’t get my characters to talk to me, is to write a poem or two. It can be any style you want, but I like to make it rhyme. Here’s why: Thinking about rhythm and structure can help put your mind in the right place. Try writing a poem about one of your characters. Describe them. Describe his or her world. Tell a lyrical tale of some back story. Whenever I do this it sparks the ideas that were hiding behind that block wall in my mind. And bonus, sometimes your poem can work itself into your book.

2. Not a poet? That’s perfectly fine. Every writer’s mind works a little differently. If you like structure, here’s an idea that might work for you: Get some note cards. On each note card write a sentence or two about each event that takes place in your story. You can rearrange the note cards , or add and remove them as your story develops. This gives you a very flexible path to follow while writing, and gives some order to the chaos of free ideas.

3. free writing. I’m sure you have heard the term before. Write continuously for 5 -10 minutes about anything and everything that comes to mind. Do not correct spelling or grammar. Do not worry about sticking to any topic. Just write. The chaos will not likely yield anything usable for your book/story/piece, however it can get the creativity flowing.

4. A variation of free writing is an exercise where you ask someone to start a sentence for you, and then you continue that sentence into an article, essay, or story. Write for ten minutes. Read it aloud back to the person who gave you the sentence.  Reading it out loud will help you catch anything you could improve on, and this will spark your imagination.

“But Ashmo,” You may ask, “what if I try all of this and nothing works?”

You got me, Reader. I, like you, am still figuring this stuff out. If you figure out something that works better for you, feel free to tell me about it in the comments. Next time I’m stuck it might help me out.

Intro to Lady Ashmo

I have been a “writer” as long as I have been able to hold a pen in my hand, and my love of storytelling goes back farther than that. Some of my oldest memories are of chasing my dad around with a book, begging him to sit down a read to me. When nobody had time, I made up stories of my own. My writing has evolved with time and experience, as well as technology. Some people may say you have to earn the title of a writer, but I follow the philosophy (as do many other folks I know) that you are a writer once you commit your individual thoughts to paper (or a screen, as the fancy strikes you).  My personal passion lies in fantasy storytelling. I love  magic, the unbelievable, and the yet unexplored.

It is my intention to use this blog to talk about fantastical storytelling in all it’s many facets, though I do not promise to stay on topic. From game story lines, to TV series’, to books-including my own foray into novel writing. I will offer advice on creating worlds and characters of your own, and I will share with you any issues and ideas I come across along the path to my novel’s completion.

You may ask, “Lady Ashmo, if you are an aspiring novelist, why would you start a blog?”

What an insightful question, Reader!

My dear brother, Izlain has been a blogger since before it was called blogging. He is a member of a really awesome group called The Newbie Blogger Initiative. This is a group of bloggers that are encouraging other bloggers or bloggers-to-be to, well, blog. BLOG! He knows how much I love writing, and he thought I would be able to contribute to the online community. So here we are, and I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Until next time,

Ashmo out.