In the Water: old stories by me

It’s been a long time since I wrote this. I feel like it has been ages and like I haven’t been doing much since, even though I know I have. Time is weird like that.

Well, it’s free again, so I hope some new people will read it, and possibly even comment what you think about it. I love hearing people’s thoughts on my writing.

This one is about aliens, consciousness, and adventure–It’s free today and tomorrow (saturday, sunday) so give it a go and let me know what you think:

STOP MAKING SCIENTISTS THE VILLAIN PLEASE

science

I’ve had it up to my frontal lobe with this bullshit. It is 20 god damn 17, we should not be afraid of knowledge and learning anymore. We should not see a person in pursuit of understanding as an automatic enemy. What is wrong with all of you writers out there? Seriously, what is your problem?

I understand the distrust of the new that old people have, and I get that change is uncomfortable and makes you wring your hands and shift your feet like a child being told they have to do a chore they don’t like. But get over it. I am sick of your petulant fears showing up in all my fiction. Because I for one admire those on the frontier of knowledge. I look up to those explorers making the discoveries that save lives and make living easier. And I am so sick of them being the villain in every single popular story I read that I am ready to toss the book in the trash when I encounter it.

Please stop!

Even in the story of a zombie apocalypse(yes, the Girl with all the Gifts again), the lone scientists trying to find a cure is still somehow portrayed as a villain. She’s cold, heartless, (read: driven, determined) and we are supposed to instead feel for the murderous zombies she’s cutting up.

Can I please have a story where the person seeking knowledge and understanding is the hero, and the Luddite simpletons wishing for the status quo are the villains trying to impede her? Please? Can I please cheer for the hero of the story instead of the villain? Is that so much to ask?

This must be another reason I only read sci fi.

Screeching, hissing, and clicking sounds… must be a Hollywood monster nearby.

spider

It is a well known fact that across the galaxies, worlds and dimensions, all predatory life-forms invariably evolve to make the same sounds when attacking. These include very loud screeching, hissing, and or clicking noises. While at rest, alien life will make a deep, rumbling growl. These are the traits of all alien life, and are unbreakable natural laws of biology.

This endless prevalence of the screeching and hissing monster is another of my peevs. Even silent creatures, such as spiders, must hiss or screech when in Hollywood. This, ironically removes one of the creepiest parts of a spider. Utter silence coupled with stealthy speed is creepy. Much creepier than something that shrieks warning of its presence to you from across the road.

In the age of the jump-scare, though, silence is a lost art, drowned along with subtlety in the swamp of ever bigger action scenes and ever further over-the-top gore. Everything must slap you in the face with how terrifying it is, bellowing its approach with discordant violin music and ten-times-the-volume-of-the-rest-of-the-film howls. Horror in films is now all ‘tell’. We are told to be scared by the blaring music and the loud sounds that make us jump in our seat.

Is it the fault of lazy film makers? Or lazy viewers who can’t be bothered to pay attention long enough to be scared by something subtle? Either way, the silent, creeping creature is a lost art.

Or maybe it never existed.

All I know is, most the time when the alien or other creature appears, all I can think is ‘wow, that might be pretty scary if it wasn’t screeching and hissing so much.’

Will the undead ever die?

zombie

I for one, am quite tired of this genre. Zombies, vampires, ghosts, and so on. They never go away. Even the current book I’m reading, ‘The Girl with all the Gifts’, turned out to be a zombie story– although they put a small twist on it. The story is good in spite of the zombies, not because of them.

Maybe I’m alone in wishing for new monsters. People do seem to be more comfortable with the familiar, in general, but I’m really just worn out by it. Zombies, dystopias, the ragtag group of survivors trekking through a broke-down world. When will the public tire of it? Will they ever? It’s been 60+ years of telling the same stories over and over and it hasn’t so, who knows.

Maybe this is why I almost exclusively read sci fi. It’s where the new ideas are. Stuff that hasn’t been worn so thin you can see right through it to the other side of the story before you even open to the first page.

I wonder what the next fresh idea to be ground to dust, pressed back together, and ground away again will be…

Motivate your characters clearly

untitled

All my posts seem to be about ‘Girl with all the Gifts’ lately…

I’m still enjoying it a lot, but there was one character who was really annoying me, because I couldn’t understand anything she did. All her choices seemed insane, and it felt almost like she was there just to move the story along. Her weird behavior in such a good story was like a fly sitting on a delicious, gourmet bowl of soup.

Then, we learn a piece of her backstory and everything clicks into place. All the ‘crazy’ things she’s been doing suddenly make sense, and all my dislike and annoyance vanished. How satisfying!

It was just a nice reminder that motivations are very important. Sure, your character can be a bad-ass doing all kinds of cool stuff, killing enemies, jumping over buildings, saving the victim. But if we don’t know why she’s doing it, then it loses a lot of its impact, and if it seems stupid, or against her own interests, then it becomes a big detriment to the story.

All characters are the hero of their own story, they shouldn’t just be there to do the thing that needs to be done, unless they need it done for their own reasons.

 

Your characters should save themselves

fighting

Still listening to ‘The Girl with all the Gifts’ and it’s still very good, but another of my peevs has appeared. And again, it’s not a deal-breaker, and is hardly worth mentioning except I need stuff to blog about if I’m going to do this every day, so, you get to hear me whine about it.

I’m going to make up a situation that has nothing to do with the actual story to avoid spoilers. But this kind of stuff happens all the time in all kinds of books and TV and movies and it really grinds my gears.

Imagine our protagonist is hanging out at home, and doesn’t realize that a sniper has a shot aimed right at her head through the window. He’s about to pull the trigger, but at the last second, the door opens behind him on the rooftop he’s on and a maintenance person pops out to work on the air-con unit up there, and our sniper is forced to duck for cover. When he goes to take the shot again, our protagonist has moved out of range.

This won’t be a pivotal scene in most stories. Maybe it’s just a quick thing to establish that the character is in danger, or being hunted. But doing it that way is so annoying to me because it means that from then on, the entire existence of the character and the continuation of the story is only due to luck.

This is not satisfying. I want the hero to have agency, I want her to affect what’s going on. If her survival is due only to a luckily timed distraction, it is very very unsatisfying and frustrating to me.

And this happens SO OFTEN in entertainment. If your point is to have the character be a helpless victim of the world around her, just floating through life living by pure luck and the help of others, then okay, but I don’t think most people want to read about a character like that.

Again, most of these are small, inconsequential scenes. It’s like, the writer thinks ‘well, since I’m going to have an explosion anyway, it would be more exciting if that explosion knocked the badguy down right when he’s about to shoot the hero!” but, no, that’s annoying. When the character is saved by a random explosion instead of their own skill, strength or charm, then it is not only a missed opportunity for character development, but cheapens the story over all.

Please have your characters save themselves, I guarantee it will make your readers love them way more.

Harnessing the excitement of a blank page

blankpage

The new year is a blank page, full of endless possibilities. People feel they can start over, be anyone, do anything. If only there was a way to keep this feeling going past the first few weeks.

For me, the excitement of starting fresh, of having no boundaries or guidelines or boxes to work within, is one of the main feelings that inspire me to write. When working on something longer, though, it’s hard to get through numerous chapters without that feeling fading.

I’ve found that starting a new document when I reach a new chapter or section can help me extend this excitement a little bit when I’m working on a longer project. The new, blank page does not have the weight of thousands of words hanging above it, and I can feel for a moment, like I really can write anything. That impression of freedom alone is often enough to sprout some new ideas I wouldn’t have considered before.

Try it!