Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dear English, why are you so lame?

Sometimes I wish I spoke a different language. As if somehow that would make my writing better. As I sat grinding out more writing this morning, or trying to at least, for whatever reason I found myself remembering things I'd learned long ago. Words and phrases which exist in other languages, but never quite seem to be able to be encapsulated by English.

It started with nakama. Nowadays just used to mean a companion or friend, traditionally nakama was a word for a bond so close no other language could ever hope to adequately describe it. And there was a Portuguese word I learned once. I know how to pronounce it but not spell it, and considering the very odd rules of Portuguese it is definitely spelled differently from how it is pronounced. But it was a word they use to refer to a feeling of something lost; that sense of what we had then can never be again.

Even Latin, a rather basic and simplistic language, has phrases and words like these. But English doesn't. And attempts to reconcile them into English always fall flat at best or spend forever never coming anywhere near the target at worst. I think maybe that's why I like learning other languages, despite the fact that I have always been bad at learning languages. Maybe it's because English is essentially a gradual assimilation of all other languages, but something about it is just so dull. Not even just in terms of things like Italian or Portuguese sounding nicer. Russian and German certainly aren't easy on the ear, but compared to English there's something so incredible about them.

Maybe I'm just weird.

(Definitely rambling here. Oh self.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Have a song

So right now my brain is absolutely blanking on a post for today, Character Month or otherwise. Ordinarily I would just wait to see if I have any ideas tomorrow and grind something out late in the evening if I still have nothing.

But I'm leaving very early tomorrow to go visit bestie, and so much of tomorrow will be spent driving and then while I shall in theory have internet access, in practice I will probably not be online at all. So unless something comes to me before I go to sleep, enjoy this placeholder post and I will do my last two CM posts in the last week and a half-ish of March.

(I am far too addicted to Bruno Mars for some reason)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Characters should be like your sweetheart

Sort-of continuing on from my last, rather slapdash post...

As has been noted by plenty of writers, you always wind up knowing more about your characters than makes the page. And as I have noted here and there in the past, I always end up knowing a lot. So much so that the characters may as well be people I live with. Full names, dates of birth, maybe not their entire life story but a very good chunk of it up to the here and now, even an idea of what their mobile phone and cars look like.

I stated in a recent post that the Addie (protagonist of recent WIP) is a closeted lesbian. Whether or not this actually comes up remains to be seen, but as of this moment I'm thinking it won't actually actively be raised in the story. At best, hinted at. So if it's not coming up in the story itself, why is it important? Because that's who she is. Take everything else the same and make her heterosexual and she's not Adeline Carrow. Each and every piece of information helps me to write her more accurately.

(There's also the added fact that her being straight rather diminishes the point of another character, but that's another ramble for another time)

The same is true of the fact that Jack Walker smokes a very particular brand of cigarette (Gitanes Brunes) and carries a modified Makarov PM. Or of the fact that Ashley is allergic to peanuts. Or that Addie's car is silver.

To know their clothes and their tastes and their personality is to write them. These characters are not mine. They are people, just the same as you and I and the Eastern European guy who lives across that street and I swear is a mafioso or a spy. The only way you can ever hope to do them justice is to know them just as well as you know yourself, or your partner, or a dear friend.

To know a character is the only way to write them. To know their story is the only way to write it.

That's why I like knowing everything about a character, or as near to everything as you could ever hope to know about someone. Otherwise, I wouldn't be doing them justice. And if I can't do them justice, who am I to try and tell their story?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mostly just an excuse to post some pictures

I was just going to post pictures from my latest trip to Scotland because I was bored, but then I was reading a thread on an SC Braga forum ahead of our Europa League tie there, and immediately had three responses. One: Braga fans seem like top blokes. Two: Go look up Braga because I’ve never been to Portugal and boy howdy does it seem like a nice place. Three: I love the way people can get about places. And this made me think of writerly things, so enjoy Braga and Scotland-inspired thoughts punctuated by pictures of my holiday.

There’s no doubt that a good setting is one which feels real. Indeed, it’s the way any setting should be. Otherwise it’s just a place, and who cares how many bookstores or houses there are or how perfectly you can draw a map if it’s just a place? True, setting shouldn’t overshadow everything. But it is integral. A story set in Marseille will be inherently different than one in Lyonnais, even if the bulk of the narrative itself suffers little to no change.

And I think the real trick is to take into account the way someone feels about a place. Even if they dislike it, even if they hate it, I have never known anyone to be “GRRRAWRSUCKZEVULZRAWR” about every last little thing. People are complex, just like the places they inhabit. To just say “I hate this place” or “I love it here” isn’t strictly accurate.

But what is it about a place that makes someone feel the way they do? Certainly someone proud of Braga says “If you’ve never been in Braga, you have never been in the real Portugal”. But that pride doesn’t come from nowhere. And indeed, my own love for Scotland doesn’t come from nowhere either, but it’s such that in my original post I had closed with “Seriously, Scotland is an amazing place full of brilliant people and if you’ve never been what are you doing with your life?”

Ultimately I don’t know. I wish I knew, but I don’t. But I think understanding that, understanding both the way someone can love or hate a place, and why they do, is the only way to write it. Rankin’s Edinburgh is both the real Edinburgh and Edinburgh filtered through the eyes of Rebus. Just as if I were to write about my hometown, it would be my hometown and my hometown filtered through the eyes of myself. Or if I were to write about Scotland, it would be irrevocably linked to my Scotland.

Indeed, even these pictures are not Scotland as it is, but Scotland as I love.

But seriously, Scotland is an amazing place full of brilliant people and if you’ve never been, what are you doing with your life?

(These are mostly pictures of nothing because while I really have little issue with posting images of my friends (i.e. semi-liveblog from August) I feel like it kind of goes against the point. They are by and large full of snow because I was there for most of January, and, well, Scotland's climate)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The most important day of the year

That's what this is. Playing Manchester United at Anfield. Time to show those filthy Mancs who's boss.

Gut's been right for the past two. Felt like a draw, drew against Wigan. Bad feeling all week, got a 3-1 drumming at West Ham. But this? Fuck it. Ever since I woke up Monday morning I've just been feeling so, so good about this one. Really think we can tear those bastards apart.

In advance of the day's events, time to once again remember one of our better recent performances against the Mancs:

And of course, the last time we faced them at home:

Friday, March 4, 2011

In which I change my mind

Early last month I gave a bad, rough overview of death of the author while staying up to all hours. In that post I said I don't really have an opinion on death of the author, and while that still holds true from a standpoint of analysis and criticism, the more I think about it the more I realise that, actually, I'm a bit more in favour of word of god when it comes to characters. When I say a bit more I mean absolutely.

Not to say that there isn't room for some degree of alternate interpretations, but I think that the author's view of the character isn't just a view, it is the character.

We always know more about the characters than the page conveys. We have to. To know a character is to be able to write that character. Knowing how someone behaves now without understanding why they are the way they are gets you nowhere. The character falls flat. But just because you know the reasons behind their behaviour it doesn't mean you have to include them in the narrative either.

A story is just that. A story. You only have so much time, so many pages to tell a story. Even if you had a million million pages, it's important to keep the story to the story. Sure, you probably will end up with some degree of information that could be left out.

I don't have to mention early in my current manuscript that Ashley usually just slaps together jeans, hoodie, sloppy bun: good to go. But I do, because it isn't an entirely unnecessary divergence, and it tells you more about her (and also spares me having to describe things every so often, and I don't describe characters much because I like to leave the physical bits up to the reader).

The story is the story. But you have to know your characters to write your characters. So, invariably, a lot more detail will make the cut than actually makes the page, either through implication or direct statement. Yet the lack of this information being apparent on the page doesn't make it any less true.

An author doesn't necessarily know everything, but we know more than we let on. For me at least, when it comes to characters, word of god is precisely that. No comprise, no discussion. A character is who they are, and who they are is on the page and in the author's mind.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Literature is a bad influence

Things I ought to be doing
1. Keeping the animals out of trouble
2. Cleaning
3. Coursework
4. Cooking and ingesting foodages
5. Running/weight lifting/something to that effect
6. Telephoning people
7. Getting ready for classes
8. Cleaning
9. Feeding the animals
10. Did I mention the cleaning?

Things I have been doing
2. Writing. Not really a lot.
3. Repeat above ad infinitum.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011