Thursday, April 17, 2014

good and bad advice and deciding what to follow

Instead of hunting for writing advice, this person simply asked for it on Quora: How do I write a spy novel?
A lot of the advice is to read Ian Fleming.  I guess.  I sure like the movies but not so much the books and here is why.  Bond succeeds but often not from his own actions.  I suppose that is more like real life, but dissatisfying in a novel.
Ignoring (bad) advice.

Be More Specific!

—Dimitra Xidous
I used to be part of a writer’s group back in Canada—myself, four other women and one man. One evening, I brought in a poem, ending on the lines:
I confess that I laid myself down then
like a dog, for love

The women ‘got’ it. Understood what I meant by ‘like a dog’. The man kept asking ‘how, like a dog’ exactly? He wanted me to make it explicit, to take away all the ambiguity—which, to my mind, and to the other members’ minds—was the reason the poem worked. He went on—‘was it salivating’, was it ‘hungry’ etc. And everything he suggested only served to lessen the impact.
David Foster Wallace on grammar.
There are only five grammar points - probably good ones for me to review but above the level of most of my students - but there is a lot of other information about DFW that makes me want to know more about the man.
Rules vs Guidelines in Fantasy.
One of these rules is that all fantasies shall be quests; another is that no fantasy world shall ever approach the Industrial Revolution.
Obviously, these rules get broken all the time, which is a good thing. But they remain in the background, like the ceiling in “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” that could lower and squash you at any time. And it can be very hard to think around them.
The Goblin Emperor was an attempt to contravene both rules. There is no quest, and this is a world with both magic and a lively technological and scientific community. (I never have understood why magic would negate technology, even though many stories I love take that as a guiding principle.) And the technology turned out to be decidedly steampunk.

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