My Beef with Fantasy-Writers

Some time ago I joined an online fantasy writers group who we shall call FWO (so we don’t get sued). It was a good way to practice writing, meet people interested in the same genre and discuss our experiences in the forums. They do a monthly challenge which I looked forward to. The challenge would be put up early in the month and consist of the writer following certain instructions, example; ‘Write a story where the main character has to face a difficult decision and s/he chooses the wrong path,’ or ‘Write about a romance in a battle scene.’ At the end of the month they would pick a winner, 2nd place and 3rd place, as well as a Favourite. The winners got nothing but their stories put on the site’s main page for everyone to see, and that way, I guess more traffic and people reading it and commenting.

I started being quite active in the forums, talking about bending the ‘rules’ of fantasy by trying to change and invent new and exciting ways to portray old myths. I had written a story about a werewolf called ‘Moor Blood.’ The topic was to write a story that came from lyrics from a song. I chose ‘Werewolf in London,’ by Warren Zevon. In the story, a couple are driving through the moors when they hit a wolf. Jim, one of the main characters, is catapulted through the window and is severely hurt. He ends up drinking the wolves blood and turning into a werewolf and runs off into the cold night.

Now, FWO had a small problem with the violence, but they let it go up on my page anyway. Several people read it and told me how outrageous it was to turn into a werewolf from drinking wolves blood. I told them this is fiction, right? Where you can make things up and bend the unwritten laws of werewolves? Apparently not. I received a good lashing about changing the myth. Who was I to change it after so long? Well, this set me off on a tyrant rampage. From then on, any story I posted never really got looked at. Few people commented and the average score I got was a two and a half out of five. Once, four people entered the monthly competition. There was 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Favourite…and then me. I really felt like I had be ostracised for trying to change Fantasy’s rules and was paying for it.

The other beef I had with them is that one of the mods (moderators) kept telling people to ‘stop trying to get published’ and that it was a ‘waste of time’ because it was ‘never going to happen.’ This guy looked in his late forties, early fifties, he was married with children and acted like a god amongst men in the forums. I told him once that he shouldn’t say things like that to the new writers because motivation and determination is what keeps a lot of people writing, and if you take that away they might stop and then maybe a really great book won’t be written. He told me he was only pointing out the ‘reality’ of the industry.

This mixture set off a small explosion in me. I had had enough of this site and their clique groups. So, I changed my AVI (Avatar) picture to a Zombie Jesus pic I had found on Google. It was a cartoon, with bright green skin and crazy red eyes and underneath it said ‘Jesus was the first Zombie.’ The next morning when I went to check my account I saw it had been removed. So I put up another picture, this one was of the ‘Lady of Guadalupe.’ Then my modem broke. It took me several days to find a modem/router to buy that was cheap enough. Then, when I finally got back online my account was closed and I had been kicked off.

The following is a discussion between myself and two mods:

Me:

What is a TOS? that might help if you spelled it out. I have no idea what that is?
‘an equally provocative avi?’ it was the Lady of Guadalupe! whats wrong with you? how is that offensive. And i didn’t write an email saying i had no intention of sticking to the TOS? i don’t know what it is! Did you read the email? or just got told about? do some research. Maybe use an unbiased eye to looking over it, i don’t want back in the site, just stop saying things that are wrong.

MOD 1:

Terms of Service. You know, that thing that you clicked, “I agree” to when you signed up for your account?
The site has a strict non-religious policy. And, your “Lady of Guadalupe” avatar was done in defiance of a request to change your previous “zombie Jesus” avatar.
Yes, we did read the e-mail, and yes, we were all in agreement that you needed to be removed from the site. We’re not morons, Mitchell.

Me:

i think you might be. You tell everyone who wants to take up writing as a profession to not bother. Instead, you tell them to write for ‘womens magazines’ and ‘romance novels.’ You have a negative effect on peoples beliefs and motivation. Just because you didn’t make it, doesn’t mean others can’t. Fantasy is fiction, right? Jesus and the lady of guadalupe are all fiction too. I didn’t say you were a moron, so if you want to start slinging offensive words than that is up to you. but i’m not going to stoop that low. keep writing about dragons and have a nice day.

MOD 2:

OK, since you’ve made a point of it, you were merely asked to take that down, since it violated the TOS you agreed to (and no, it wasn’t just a “picture of Jesus”). You then sent an offensive PM indicating you had no intention of sticking to the TOS and immediately posted an equally provocative avi.
I’ve posted this to set the record straight. I shall not be entering into any further discussion about it.

Me:

Thanks for kicking me out of FWO for posting a picture of jesus up as my avatar. Have you no soul? Really disappointed. For anyone on the site that wanted to contact me directly just join me as a friend.
xxxmitchellsbooksxxx

 

I was angry. It seemed to me that they had a little club where the same six or seven people keep winning and leading all the forums. It was difficult to be around people who absolutely insisted that fantasy stick to the rules. But I believe by changing or bending the rules you can rejuvenate a genre. Not that Fantasy is dead, but you can bring it into the new Century and attract more people, and breathe new life into it. Horror movies were all but gone until ‘Scream’ came out, and you can argue this if you like, but it did revive a dead genre. As mainstream as it was, Scream was able to appeal to a whole new range of people that may not have gone to see a horror movie before. They cast well known actors, young, hip, used modern music, made it look slick and gave the main ‘murderer’ character a comical mask. After that, there was a horror movie out every four months- not all of them good.

By putting the religious icons up as my avi, I guess I was trying to get attention to point things out. It didn’t exactly work, or maybe it did? I haven’t been back for a year or so and when I did log back on, it was to check my stories for comments. I don’t read anyone else stories or participate in the monthly challenge. If a book of mine does come out, I just might send one to Mod1  – ‘See what a little determination can do?’

 

Mitchell Tierney.

 

Published in: on February 27, 2011 at 8:43 pm  Comments (3)  

50 books 52 weeks

I like books. I also own a lot of them. You see I’m a collector (not a hoarder) of books and at current count not including the books in my bedroom and ones I got for Christmas I’m at over 800 books in my collection. In fact, recently while cataloguing them, I realised how many, through continued rereading of favourites had been neglected and not read. I actually grew more aghast as the list of unread titles grew. This was the end of last year. So for this year I set myself a challenge. This year I promised myself I would read 50 of these neglected and unread books by the end of the year.

So via my facebook I have been updating my list of read books. I’m keeping up so far, reading between two jobs, studying, and life in general. Since then I seem to have discovered that I have inspired people. I saw my best friend begin his own version of my challenge, then another friend and another! So I CHALLENGE YOU faithful reader, how many can you read this year. One a week? Two a week? Join the epic adventure through fantasy forests, far reaches of space, deep under the water or shooting through the sky.

And in case you’re wondering I’m at 5 books so far and halfway through another three.

Book 1. – Stephen King: All Dark, No Stars

Book 2. – Jim Butcher: White Knight

Book 3. – Robert J Sawyer: Flashforward

Book 4. – Douglas Adams: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Book 1

Book 5. – Jim Butcher: Small Favour

~Sabrina R G Raven

Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 11:26 am  Comments (1)  

Pre-Trilogy Anxiety – The Second Book Syndrome.

I’ve noticed this trend amongst writers – Every writer wants to write a trilogy. The idea of writing three books would turn most writers stomachs, because they know the amount of effort and time that would be involved. But there’s always that up side. There’s the chance to stretch your writing legs and write a story, both with depth and with length. You can take characters to places you couldn’t in a singular book. More ground can be covered, metaphorically and literally. You can extend each character, spend time bringing them to life, aging them, killing them. You can give them more of a background, making them more three dimensional. They can change each character throughout the books, because you have time. They can become different people, change ideas and become great or corrupt.

But why can’t this be covered in one book? Or two?

I’ve written several books that I’ve often thought could easily have a sequel or two. One book in particular, Monster Detention, was written as a single book. All the characters changed or grew, or didn’t in some cases. The questions were answered and the finale was huge and concluded nicely. But, a little spark in the back of my mind always wanted to know what happened to them. I often thought, ‘Once the kids leave school they would go to high school.’ That could be book two. I remember mostly everyone I knew in primary school changed in high school. You stopped hanging out with the friends you had in primary school, you made new friends, you joined cliques and found yourself. Then another thought occurred, ‘after high school is adult life.’ That would be interesting to see these children I’ve created turn into adults. What would they be doing? Who would they be fighting? And would they still be friends? What would bring them back together? There was clearly a book there, and one that wouldn’t be too hard to write. I remember thinking, as they get older (and it would take a few years in between for the books to come out) the readers would get older too, so the writing would have to change. Then the last book would be written for adults, concerning adults that had experienced something tragic and life changing as children. Right then I wanted to write it, but I stopped. Monster Detention is good on its own. There is enough information and ideas to keep going, but I’d rather let it rest in peace as a solitary book.

From time to time you read books, or see movies, that would have just been better being a one off. The author, or director, maybe was given the chance to do one book or movie, and that’s how the story was written. You know enough about each character to care about them, or not. You know enough to make decisions about their lives. Why stretch it out?  Sometimes it calls for it, unanswered questions, unfulfilled characters. Ghostbusters should have stayed a one off movie, but since two had come out there was always this itching feeling that a third should be made, to ‘round it out.’ The Matrix had a lot of questions that needed answering, and it was always an open story that needed to be shut, but a lot of people would have preferred it to stay a one hit wonder.

I had written a  trilogy long ago and found it hard to do without some serious drafting. I have another one planned and started, but what I find difficult is that second book. That long walk between two ends. The Second Book Syndrome. Book one is easy to write, you have a lot of establishing to do, characters, environment, backgrounds, who to love, who to hate, baddies, goodies, etc. Everything starts in the first book. It’s also important to keep the reader’s attention here if you’re going to write two more. You wouldn’t want them bailing out in the first or second book.

The third book is obviously the  most important because it brings to an end all your hard work and planning. All the characters must reach the end of the road, you want to see them come through something, be it bad or good, it doesn’t matter. You were there with them for the ride, that’s all that counts. All the trials and tribulations should be wrapped up, every door shut and leave no questions unanswered. The third book, in retrospect, should be easy to write. It’s that bridging book that’s the clincher. What do you do with it? You have to set it up for the big ending, get all your characters in their right spots. Maybe that’s all the second book is, a set up for the ending. But when I write a trilogy, I want it to be more. I want people to remember the second book as much as the first and third. D.M Cornish’s Monster Blood Tattoo has three books in the series, but what I didn’t know, maybe no one did, was that it was going to be a trilogy. First I thought ‘Foundling’ was a single, and then was surprised that a second book was released. By the end of the second book, ‘Lamplighter’,  I was craving the next one. Book two had opened new doors and asked new questions instead of bridging the gap between one and three.

Out of all the books I’ve read and written, I have noticed that there are two types of Trilogies. One that is planned and one that is not. With the planned trilogy you can plan out your character development, know where to take your story and how things are going to unfold. With an unplanned series, you have the added advantage of surprise, not knowing where things are going to go, you have that spontaneity that is sometimes a great motivator. Either way, a trilogy will always test your writing skills, hone your story telling craft and attach you to characters that you may know better than some of your friends.

Mitchell Tierney

 

Published in: on February 2, 2011 at 9:02 am  Comments (1)