Sunday, 26 September 2010

Author's Commentary: This-That and the Other

This-That and the Other

I love it when I write something like this. Fairy tales and simple strangeness. I rarely set out to write this kind of thing (despite it probably being my favourite kind of writing) which you might think is odd, but really, I think it's the kind of thing that won't be forced. When there is the right conjunction of mind and fingers these words happen all by themselves.

I think it falls into the magic realism category. Although I would normally think that a little more 'real world gone sideways'. This isn't really long enough a piece to explore its relationship with the real world.

At the same time as I was editing this, or rather, in parallel, I was also turning it into a picture book script; which is an entirely different experience. The common fallacy, I suspect, would be to think writing picture books is easy. It's not. Not only do you have to consider the story, but also language and positioning the text and image: directing, if you will. I suspect my first attempt has a few too many pages of This-That and Other just talking to each other. Which may not be that visually stimulating even if I think the words are good.

I also need the right artist, who will listen to my suggestions as well as bringing their own talent to the table. To be honest, while I have in my head a vague visual aesthetic, and while I have storyboarded the book, I only have the loosest sense of what the two characters look like. Which is the artist's challenge... shape two characters that have to look right, when the best I can do is tell you how they feel to me...

Friday, 24 September 2010

Author's Commentary: These Killing Fields

These Killing Fields

(In which I don't actually write much about the piece at all)

Have you ever started writing one morning and suddenly realised you're writing from the point of view of a raven? No?

Writing for an hour or two every morning is fine for micro-fiction (or flash fiction, if you like). The shorter the better. You can write it in one morning (or two if it's being awkward or running long), and edit a whole bunch another morning. It's fine for blogging.

An hour or two is less good for writing anything longer. It takes a while to get into the right mindset. You have to start the ideas and plotlines and characters swirling in your head, then toss the right style into that mix. It's like juggling, you have to get everything moving, everything up in the air, and then you have to settle yourself into a regular pattern before you can relax, before you can start to do the really interesting stuff...

I really like These Killing Fields. I can't remember where the story came from, maybe it all came from the first line. Right now, however, I'm trying to write something a little longer, so I'm going to stop procrastinating and go and make myself a cup of tea. I mean, go and write it.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Author's Commentary: This Most Unfrabjous Day

This Most Unfrabjous Day

The word fictionaut fascinates me.

Most recognisably similar to astronaut. From 'nautes', greek for sailor, tells me. Someone who sails space, travels through space. Fictionaut, someone who sails through fiction, who enters fiction, and journeys there.

In some small sense it's what we do every time we read a book, a short story or a micro-fiction. I can't help but imagine more of the world. Sometimes I will put the book down a moment and the story carries on in my head, I am so lost in a world that the words distract me. I honestly yearn for the ability to truly travel in such a fashion, to create a world and enter it. Or to enter someone else's world and explore it.

There is a lot of fiction that explores this concept. In Warren Ellis' excellent Planetary series their is an expedition into a fictional world, similarly in Grant Morrison's Filth, characters fly straight out of the page of a comic into the 'real world', into the comic you are reading (to the characters in the comic they fly out of, they simply seem to have disappeared). Mike Carey's Unwritten is all about blurring the lines between fiction and the real world. Three excellent series, from three of my favourite authors.

If you prefer less pictures... Then you could try Jasper Fforde's Eyre Affair. I'm sure there are more I haven't read, or have forgotten, too.

I think it would be interesting to review books as if you had actually travelled into them, an eyewitness to the events of the book. A good tell of how immersed in the world the author can get you.


Talking about This Most Unfrabjous day in particular now... I could probably have removed the few lines after the stars. However, unlike the lines I removed from the previous story, I think these lines create more without denotatively telling you how it is, a further mystery to lodge itself in your mind. The final lines are not just so much exposition as the ones I removed from This Alien Land were.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Author's Commentary: This Alien Land

This Alien Land

A two-pronged commentary for this one.

The first prong concerns editing and possessiveness. Sometimes it can be difficult to let go. The hardest part of editing is not the tweaking (although that can be difficult in its own way), but the cutting. Just before posting I cut three paragraphs straight off the end. Just before I wrote this commentary (4 days after posting) I've just cut another couple of sentences again. (Naughty maybe, but the beauty of digital copy is that you can edit a piece after publication.)

I'll put the missing paragraphs at the end of this post, but it's up to you whether you read them or not. They reveal a bit more background. They flesh out the world a bit. But I felt they were not really essential to the core image.

Speaking of tweaking, I like the last paragraph, but I'm not sure it's quite right just yet...

Onto prong two... flash fiction vs. micro-fiction. This is the first piece I've added the flash fiction tag to. The two terms are fairly interchangeable, amongst a whole host of similar terms (wikipedia entry). Wiki redirects all to the flash fiction page so maybe that's the most commonly used term, maybe. I prefer micro-fiction, but since I want people to find me, and read me, I shall include the flash fiction tag too.

Until next Sunday... the missing paragraphs:

And saying that, she knows now that she can move on, finally. She can mourn her husband properly, as she should have been able to two months ago, when he died. Now she begins to tremble, tears welling in her eyes.

He leans on one forearm to raise the other and touch her shoulder gently, with a lightness belying his great strength.

“I am and I am not. This planet, its ecology is so different, its biology so difficult to reconcile with our own. On Earth, the creatures of this world would be subject to the Earth’s way, if they died, they would just be gone; but here, the creatures of Earth are subject to Barl’s way, they remain.

“Because of our world’s ecology our view of such things is so narrow, so stunted. I must prepare, and help this planet prepare. As more humans die here they will become a part of Barl too. They will change as I have, though in different ways, and Barl will change with them.”

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Author's Commentary: This Old Man, Once Mighty

This Old Man, Once Mighty

I like this old guy. You just know he's about to go and kick some arse, and then, unfortunately, probably die in an act that inspires the new generation of heroes. Or not, I reckon he's just canny enough that even though there was no way he could possibly have survived... well... you know...

I think I maybe thought of the title before the story on this one. Because thinking about it, he wasn't really mighty before, sure he was in 'the League', but his powers always supplemented the big boys (and girls), he was an essential part of the team, but by himself he wasn't so hot; he wasn't super-strong or invulnerable or super-fast or super-smart. I like the idea of the retired hero though, called back into action one last time. It's a cliché, but what isn't these days? You just have to write it right and it doesn't matter. Look at Ellis' Red (soon to be a major motion picture ;) ) or Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. (I'm talking superheroes, so I've gotta talk comics)