School’s Out, Summer’s Here!

By K. Trian

Oh happy day. Yesterday I handed in my last school assignment (I know it’s crap, but as long as I pass the course), today the sun is shining, and it’s warm like in the Mediterranean (Finnish summers usually equal lots of rain and mosquitoes).

We also made some progress yesterday with the revision of our WIP, Solus. Took big chunks of boringness and fluff out and fought a little over how women react when there’s another naked lady in the room who isn’t supposed to be naked (I still hold women are so accustomed in the existence of boobs they wouldn’t make a big deal out of someone else’s, though, of course, individual variation is entirely possible).

I was messing with balloons before the event. I work part-time at DHL.

I was messing with balloons before the event. I work part-time at DHL.

I’m also pretty stoked ‘cause I ran 10K last Sunday in a women’s only running event Naisten Kymppi. Thanks, DHL, my part-time workplace for paying the entrance fee! 51 min isn’t much to brag about, but I had fun, and that’s the important thing. T. Trian participated in StadiCup 2013 match 2 (SSG), practical pistol shooting, on Wednesday. Their squad didn’t win medals this time, but, again, the important thing is to have fun.

I’m really looking forward to June. We’re planning a road trip to Turku to attend a big Medieval Fair, Keskiaikaiset markkinat., which is going to be so sweet! If only we didn’t have so much work, we could really enjoy the summer, the nightless nights, the warmth, the mosquitoes… Oh well, gotta put the bread on the table somehow, and find time to enjoy the sun and writing. Maybe we’ll finish the revisions for Solus during the summer, ‘cause that’d be awesome.

Have a sunny day everyone and feel free to share your summer plans (or, if your side of the planet isn’t in the summer mode… share something else :D)

Mom's West-Siberian laika, Nora, loves playing in the lake.

Mom’s West-Siberian laika, Nora, loves playing in the lake.

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Writing about Uncomfortable Things

By K. Trian

Just a little bit of light in the darkness.

Okay, different people have different comfort levels, but I’ve noticed over the course of our “writing life” that T and I tend to veer towards rather uncomfortable things in our writing.

Sometimes this makes me nervous.

Just yesterday we came up with a new sub-story line to our current WIP, but already I’m wondering how other people would react to it. It’s about a woman who coerces a man sexually. This is a subject little discussed. A man can’t be raped right? Definitely not by a woman because women are so small and weak, right? It’s a difficult subject, and in Solus we wanted to take different angles to (sexual) abuse.

In fact, our sci-fi WIP, Solus, is turning into an uncomfortable juggernaut in other ways too. The science part of it is not pretty, the portrayals of human greed and corruption in the space colony of Solus don’t warm my heart whenever I’m writing or thinking about these subjects, and sometimes I feel like crying whenever we write the most damaged characters, the victims of the abuse from above, from people who have more power. I know I want to discuss these subjects, and I want to tell these stories, but sometimes they make me so uncomfortable, I start to wonder if there’s any sense in writing like this. Should we really carry on?

We always do, though. It’s like we owe it to the characters who are trying to survive in the dark and hostile world we’ve created. If we never finished the story, I’d feel like I had forsaken them there, in the dark.

Sometimes I’m afraid what others, possible future readers, will think. Will they misunderstand everything? Think the content is gratuitous? (I know it isn’t, but as said, people are different) Question our sanity? (likely). But here we, T. K. Trian, just have to trust our writing and vision, tell the stories we think should be told. And it’s not all doom and gloom either. There’s lots of humor and romance as well. But especially with Solus, I feel the uncomfortable is always there, hanging heavily above like a storm cloud, or out of sight, like a poisonous river running underground.

What types of uncomfortable issues have you addressed in your writing? Have you ever found yourself biting more than you can chew?

A Writer in Anguish

By K. TrianpenEverything you put on paper turns to crap.
You fail to convey what you meant to convey.
You can’t plot to save your life.
Your characters feel unrealistic and clumsy.

Sound familiar? If not, consider yourself lucky! I knew this day couldn’t be avoided, that I would find myself in front of the computer and end up deleting everything I write. It’s not like anything actually triggered this feeling, I just felt it looming somewhere behind me, like it’s been there for several weeks now. It’s not a writer’s block, or maybe it is, it’s not like I’ve run out of ideas, but the ideas get garbled on their way to the paper. They look wrong. Like seeing a painting in your head, but when you try to transfer it on canvas, you realize you can’t paint. You can’t even mix the colors, and the brush you picked is of the wrong size and shape.

It’s actually quite scary. What should I do with this block? What’s the proverbial crate of dynamite I can use to blow it to smithereens? Should I get drunk? Let the stories sit a while (but I don’t wanna!), wait for it to pass? Throw up all the ideas and see if I could arrange them into a bearable form later?

But it feels like back when I tore a ligament in my foot and couldn’t run for weeks. That’s when staying in place is out of the question, but at the same time, if I try to run, it seems to only make things worse and I get more and more frustrated.

The annoying thing is that, I, myself, am the block. It’s my own standards I fail to meet, yet at times I wonder if those standards are as realistic as me trying to force myself to sprint 100m in 10 seconds. But something keeps me from lowering them; it feels like settling with the realistic 14 seconds means I’ve given up.

Anyone else been in this situation before? How did you get rid of the block?

Suck-Up

[DISCLAIMER]This post wasn’t prompted by feedback T.K.Trian has received (not recently anyway), but, rather, braces us for potential feedback when we do throw our more experimental works out there. It’s also meant to provide food for thought, especially for the more impressionable aspiring authors still searching for their voices.[/DISCLAIMER]

Suck-up. Kiss-ass. Brown-tongue. Fiction writer.

Which of the four doesn’t belong in the group? Most would say ‘writer,’ but I’m not all that sure, not anymore. You needn’t look further than any writing-related discussion forum and you’ll see posts upon posts warning you of this or that thing you shouldn’t do in order to aggravate and annoy your readers. You should avoid strange names and places, words of foreign languages, writing in speech impediments (like stuttering), grossing out the more sensitive readers by mentioning things like bodily functions (natural parts of everyone’s life as they may be), the list goes on.

In one WIP, I wrote a girl with a fairly severe speech impediment. She stutters. A lot. And sometimes can’t squeeze out the right word, so there are pauses in her speech here and there as well. Now, I’ve wondered whether I should just cut out all the stuttering and pauses, and just mention in the first paragraph that she does, indeed, have a speech impediment. But you know what? Just because so many people go on about how we, writers, should avoid anything not considered good, idiomatic English, I’ll leave it all in. I know the world has moved on since Tolkien annoyed us with his elven languages, odd names, and such, but even today I don’t mind any of that. Sure, I don’t speak Elven so I tend to skim over those bits, but so what? It doesn’t make the stories any less great.

And another thing is that the human brain is a fairly remarkable thing. Take this bit of text floating around the internet, for instance:

“I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulatcly uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.”

Could you read it? I bet you could. So could I. And I’ve noticed, when proofreading the abovementioned WIP, that my eyes “autocorrect” the stuttered speech just like they did the above text (and the stutters in the dialogue are nowhere near as “bad” as that snippet). So if someone complains about stuttering in dialogue, s/he’s just being a bitch. Maybe it’s a generation gap: I’m, like, old, 30, so maybe that plays a part here, but when I read a book, I can forgive quite a few “mistakes.” More than one author has some eccentricities, and sometimes they are annoying, but if the story is good, it’s well written, or if I enjoy it for some other reason, I forgive the annoying thing(s). In fact, just like it was with Tolkien, I’m willing to work, to put in effort in order to get to enjoy a great story. The Lord of the Rings didn’t really start until page 100 or so. In the beginning there were pages upon pages of boring world-building with many names and places to remember. We all know what those are called in writing circles, don’t we?

That’s right, I’m talking about the dreaded Info Dump. Yeah, they can be very boring, but so what? If it’s an otherwise great story, an info dump here or there won’t ruin it. In fact, sometimes info dumps can be very rewarding (I know a “good info dump” is a paradox and is generally called exposition, but bear with me): you’ve pained through one, done your best to memorize the stuff explained or introduced there, and hey, later on in the story, some things make sense to you, thanks to the information within the info dump, that you would’ve completely missed if you hadn’t taken the trouble to trudge through it. I, for one, like being rewarded like that even if I prefer well-placed exposition over info dumps. I’m just saying what looks like a dump doesn’t necessarily make a book stink and it can even have a reason for its existence. Sometimes it’s even a cultural thing: Russian literature often has multiple names for one character and multiple characters, so you can imagine how much you need to memorize in order to avoid confusion later on. And Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Pushkin are still great.

Speaking of slow starts, like with LOTR, it seems many readers (or is it just wannabe authors, such as myself, on internet boards thinking this is the case?) want every story to start not only with conflict (preferably introduced in the first couple of pages), they’d prefer it if it was action. They also often want the entire plot to become clear within the first page or so. They absolutely hate all things that don’t make sense right away; everything should be explained early on just so the reader doesn’t need to scratch his or her pretty little head in confusion. I gotta ask: what about suspense? If you learn everything necessary on the first pages, why read on?

I’m sorry (or not), but I don’t think I want to be the reader’s bitch. I assure you, I’m not so sadistic that I’d always strive to make my writing difficult to read, the plot overly cryptic, or the beginnings longer and more boring than a phone book, no, but I do reserve the right to throw in a few little challenges here and there if that’s my vision of the piece. Come on, seriously, do we really want a life where everything is served to you ready for easy digestion? Do you really like food somebody else has chewed ready for you? Whatever happened to the saying “it’s not the destination, but the journey?” Your idea of enjoying literature might be reading only the last page of a book, but forgive me if I don’t abandon my artistic vision to start catering to that particular taste.

I already said I don’t go out of my way to produce annoying reading, but the flipside of that coin is that I do expect my readers to put in at least a little effort in order to fully enjoy my work. I have poured blood (yes, a few times), sweat, and tears into my writing, to make the language good, the plot entertaining and interesting yet intellectually challenging (to the best of my ability, of course, which isn’t much), the characters compelling and realistic, in a word, I’ve worked my ass off over these stories, so I expect the reader to have a little patience because the mysteries will be revealed, the language isn’t overwrought with impossible-to-understand dialogue, and no one story is entirely about bodily functions either (what a surprise, huh?). If the reader expects me to start producing the literary equivalent of McDonald’s cuisine just because they can’t be arsed to “earn” their entertainment, they’re mistaken. I do this for my own pleasure, first and foremost, and I see no reason to change my writing into fast-food fiction just because some writers are scared shitless of challenging/antagonizing their readers.

Actually, I’ll do a favor for those writers and offer a little bit of highly classified, secret information: newsflash! No matter what you do, you will alienate, antagonize, and annoy readers! It’s pure, unadulterated impossible to please everyone: somebody will always bitch and moan about this or that (no matter that somebody else just praised the very same thing). So you might as well take a look into your heart, figure out what it is that you love to write, and write just that and to hell with everyone else. I guess it might also be a good idea to remind these writers that most things have at least two sides. Here the other side is that yes, some will hate it, but some will love it too.

Oh, and just to make things clear: I’m not blaming anyone that I’m not J. K. Rowling yet. It’ll happen in its own time or it won’t, and it’s all up to me (and a little bit of luck), but these sorts of trends can get a little frustrating to an aspiring author who’s still trying to make his or her mark and all they hear are “rules” that, yeah, intend good, but would end up making every story too similar. I know full well English and writing have their conventions, but it’s also good to remember that literature is art, people, not math.

Happy writing, and the next time you meet a bitchy reader, punch them (or if it’s a female, insult her shoes or bazooka).

-T. Trian