Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Madrigal of Clarity

I was summoned for jury duty recently, but it conflicted with travel plans. I just got the following letter from the Sheriff's office:

Dear [you],
Re: Jury Duty

You have requested to be excused from jury duty.

You are excused.

Therefore you do not have to appear on [redacted date] for jury selection.

Yours truly,
[et cetera]

I am kinda in love with this letter. Talk about ascribing to the principle of "omit needless words"! This is clear and complete, and a third grader could understand it.

It reminds me of something an American friend, who immigrated to Canada, but who had also worked with new immigrants in the States, once noted: You can tell a lot about the mindset you're up against by the language that gets used on you.

If you want to immigrate to Canada, the forms you need to fill out are written in fifth-grade comprehension level English (or French.)

If you want to immigrate to the United States, the forms you need to fill out are written in legalese.

Guess which country is more open to the idea of you moving in.

I read Tara Road by Maeve Binchy recently, and I was struck by how effectively the author communicated her protagonist's turmoil after that character's husband admits he has made a younger woman pregnant and is leaving his wife. Ms. Binchy did it solely by changing the protagonist's voice; a previously bubbly and bumbling personality was abruptly delivering lean, razor-edged dialogue. She didn't sound anything like how she had in the rest of the book, and it worked beautifully. You knew this woman was both shattered by and hostile to the future her husband was forcing upon her.

In your writing, do you ever alter the way a character speaks to betray their mindset? Even beyond changing the rhythm of how they speak in order to show emotion, do you change their voice?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Congratulations! | Dude, you okay? | Twilight of the Fans' Expectations

I haven't been blogging much lately, so cheers to anyone who's still around. Happily, Stuart Neville, a.k.a. Conduit, has given me an excellent reason to break radio silence--he just got a publishing contract! Congratulations, Stuart! I'm so happy for you and I can't wait to read The Ghosts of Belfast.


Dwight, you gave me awesome advice once and I'd like to repeat it back to you, in hope it will help: Get those keys a-bobblin', soldier.

Don't stop doing what you love. Just stop needing what you can't get (yet.) You're talented, and you're definitely missed, buddy.


I'm fascinated by the craze over the final book in the Twilight teen vampire series. Breaking Dawn is suffering some backlash from fans of the series, just as the final book in the Harry Potter series did.

The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows backlash was due to very invested fans who were disappointed the author didn't end the series the way they envisioned. Perhaps a favourite character was killed, or a much wished-for romantic pairing never happened. Whatever the case, these fans were irate. Many started writing fanfiction to "fix" the author's mistakes.

"Positioning" is a marketing term. It means giving your potential audience an idea of what to expect before they put their money down. If you title a book Desert Passions and show a scantily-clad couple groping each other atop a camel on its cover, then your potential customers will expect a steamy romance set in the desert.

If that story turns out to be a murder mystery instead, then even if it's a really great book, the reader will be angry. They didn't get what they thought they were paying for.

I think the backlash for both Breaking Dawn and Deathly Hallows is due to the fans having positioned themselves. The marketing departments were no match for fandom. In the space between publication dates, the fans thought so much about the series' storylines and characters, and formed such detailed expectations of what was coming in the next book, that the author's vision proved a disappointment. The fans didn't get what they thought they were paying for, and they frothed and raved mightily; woe and alack.

This is an amazing phenomenon. On one fang, it's a massive compliment to the author so many people loved her series that they created an autonomous and complex community for themselves. On the other, it's absurd the community would be so self-contained they reject the author's next work because she didn't cater to their whims (using her psychic ability, presumably.)

I haven't read the Twilight books, and while I think there are elements in them that would make me angry for political reasons, they strike me as simply being really enjoyable trash--cheesy, addictive and insane in the best possible way. (Sparkly vampires. Need I say more?)

I could be depressed that people get so excited over fluff, rather than things that matter, but at the same time fandoms really endear me to humanity. We can't agree on the important stuff, but we can unite in our love (or hatred) of sparkly vampires. It's kinda sweet.

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