Sunday, August 26, 2012

Prey on their fear

Fear is an interesting thing.

Everybody has different fears. Not everybody is afraid of death (or not everybody admits it). Not everybody is afraid of sharks. Not everybody is afraid of getting struck by lightning.

Not everybody is afraid of getting cancer from smoking, despite what anti-tobacco wants to do. In Australia, they've passed a law that no brand names will be on cigarettes, only the horrible pictures of diseased organs. In the United States, the court said "yeah, no, you won't be doing that diseased organ thing." Really, we've known for many years what cigarettes can do. Do they do it to everybody? No. But there's always the chance.

Not everybody is afraid of The Bomb. Frankly, not everybody even knows to anymore. I was alive during the Cold War, sure, but not really aware of it. I was alive when the Berlin Wall came down (and recently bought a piece of it at Salvation Army for $5!) but didn't know. I know now what Duck and Cover is; I know now what happened at Chernobyl (well, as much as any non-Soviet civilian might). I've watched nuclear test footage, I waited at the edge of my couch when the Fukushima reactor was going up. I'm nervous about Iran and North Korea having The Bomb; I don't understand how people can think that The Bomb Isn't a Big Deal. Japan certainly hasn't forgotten it. I've watched enough anime to know that.

Not everybody is afraid of monsters, per se, but many people know and are fascinated by man become monster (serial killers, spree killers, kidnappers, terrorists). Not everybody is afraid of "nature" as such, but there are certainly enough Natural Disaster movies that made a bajillion dollars (The Day After Tomorrow, The Perfect Storm) that it still works.

A story that makes people afraid, either of the situation itself or for what happens to the characters, is a good one. If you can evoke that sympathy from your audience, you've succeeded either in some small way, or in a major one. Good writing is visceral, and makes  a certain mindset happen. It dazes the reader when they look away from the page, because they've been transported by your words.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Use of the word "That"

So, not only have I been remiss in blogging here, but I sort of dropped off the face of Absolute Write as well. That's all right, they probably don't miss me. Not because I've made myself a nuisance there; more because I haven't made a name for myself there yet either. No big.

But, one thing I keep in mind when I write, or think about writing or revising, is a thing that the Absolute Write-rs really try to hammer home when people are all "LOL, I have a first draft I just finished, will somebody read it for me?" is a very simple trick, really: look for instances in which you use the word "that". You can probably remove them safely, leaving the meanings of your sentences intact.

I'd never heard this before, and it boggled and intrigued me. I of course went to the anthology which I'm editing and hit "Find", and typed "that". Then I read every sentence which continued the word "that", and damn if they weren't right. Most of them, I could remove. Some I left intact, because really, that's how people talk. They say "that" all the time, sometimes twice in a row. I kind of like a colloquial voice, depending. It's once reason I enjoyed Stephen King for as long as I did, I think; the writing is very easy to read, which might draw you in.

I haven't tried counting the "that"s in published books I have laying around. I wonder if there will be fewer in fiction versus non fiction? Fewer in a classic versus a contemporary work? It's an interesting thing to have brought to your attention.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Things that happened since I posted here last

So, since I posted here last (July 11, if you're keeping track!)

I turned 30 (I'm rather ambivalent about this, and that topic will be a post in and of itself. I promise.)

There was a fight in the library gazebo (no, it didn't involve me really in any way. but it was certainly an event!)

I totally forgot about the August CampNaNoWriMo Until like, August 4. So, another fail. November will be better, right? Right.

I watched the movie Chronicle. Which was freaking awesome. I recommend it, definitely.

I rewatched original Fantasia. Elka watched it with me, at least the beginning part, which is mostly shapes and colors.

I've worked on editing a short story anthology that I intend to publish through Amazon.

I made pancakes on my own from scratch for the first time. I'm not typically a pancakes kind of gal. I'd made pancakes before in the past, but mostly as the flipper, without having a hand in the rest of the process.