There’s a common misconception about people with high pain tolerances. They tend to be big, beefy, and burly, usually men, and if female they’re all badasses. They shrug off bullets and sword-thrusts like they’re minor distractions; they grunt from the pain and rarely, if ever, scream.
Now, I frequently impress people around me with my high pain tolerance. Most of that is in awe; some few, such as my doctors and a close friend who helps me exercise, approach it with worry, because pain is an important thing. I have such a high pain tolerance that I often automatically ignore signals that I should really stop what I’m doing and rest. I threw out my back (a little over a year ago) and my knee (a couple months ago) precisely because I could just work through the pain . . . until I suddenly couldn’t.
How do I do that? Well, it’s not because I’m tougher than other people. I’m not beefy or burly, and I’m only big if I’m standing up and haven’t turned sideways. It’s never about your mass; it’s all about what you’re used to. Establishing that difference is the key to writing action heroes and other characters that deal with pain through the course of your story. Continue reading
Whenever I talk characters and worldbuilding, at conventions or in classrooms, I always recommend several books. One of them actually isn’t a book at all, and it’s the only one that I mention in both contexts.
It’s a lecture series from The Teaching Company, titled Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are. This is intended to be a course on understanding world cultures, but it’s a vital resource for creating cultures in both fantasy and science fiction. It’s also a great secondary resource for creating different personalities between characters.
As of this post, it is currently on sale at The Teaching Company’s website, starting at $35 for an audio download. I cannot recommend it too highly. You should all go get it now. If, however, you’re reading this after the sale has ended, I’ll explain why it’s worth getting. Continue reading
In my review of Ant-Man, I mentioned how the movie couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it was a caper film or a superhero origin story. I laid out the reasons why those two types of stories are, if not incompatible, then at least problematic to mix together. I also mentioned I might do a post on how I might have adjusted the movie if, for some strange reason, they came asking for my advice.
So how would I have done the movie differently?
This is actually a more dangerous question than it might appear. I’m a prose editor. I’m a pretty good one. I’m also pretty good at analysis, developmental/structural rewriting, and closing plot holes. None of that means that I’m good at scriptwriting. Visual media is a very different ballgame. I know just enough about the differences to talk about them, and not enough to actually put them into practice. I’m a professional editor, but I’m an armchair amateur when it comes to script-doctoring. I know my limits and I’m not going to pretend that expertise in one form of fiction extends to another.
So, disclaimers aside, here’s my armchair amateur opinion about what I’d have done if I’d been asked to give a developmental edit (also called structural editing) on the film.
Four things you can learn about writing from Soulless:
- Regency/Victorian stylings. If you want the feel of 19th century England, it’s obvious where to go: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and other authors who lived in that period. Sometimes, though, it’s refreshing to look at someone taking that period and messing around with it, allowing you to see what’s essential and what isn’t. If inserting vampires, werewolves, and ghosts into everyday Victorian society isn’t “messing around with it,” I don’t know what is.
- Sexual humor without vulgarity. It’s a fine line between joking about sex and being crude. There is a lot of sexual humor in this book, but it is funniest when couched in Victorian speech patterns and indirect phrasing. See what you find funniest, and ask yourself why.
- Floating perspective. There’s a reason why floating perspective is frowned on in modern fiction: it can get hard to keep track of which person you’re supposed to identify with. It works in Soulless mainly because the literature of the real-life period did it; but to make it work, you have to avoid getting too deep into one character’s perspective before shifting into another’s. Pay attention to where the POV shifts in the middle of a scene, and why Carriger keeps it from being jarring.
- Avoid infodumping. Read the first chapter and identify the information that is just placed there before it’s truly needed. Compare this to other parts of the book where information is not given so quickly. How would you rewrite the first chapter to give a steadier, more gentle flow for information?
There are books on my shelf written by a man with two names. Those names are David Wolverton and David Farland. Why he publishes under two names is irrelevant to this post. What is relevant are these facts:
- He’s good.
- He’s entertaining.
- He’s an excellent teacher.
- His son is currently in the hospital, fighting for his life.
Yeah. Heartstrings are tugging. Continue reading
This afternoon, I saw an ad related to creative writing. As you might expect, with my web activity, I get a lot of those. (It’s a lot better than [CENSORED] or [BLOCKED] offers, neither of which I will actually mention for fear of generating ads for them here!) This one was advertising “the only system you’ll ever need to create a compelling narrative.”
That sort of claim makes me feel sorry for the would-be authors who fall for these schemes. Continue reading